Orange, black and white-winged butterflies fly by your face and land on your shoulder. Animals frolic in the forest and catch your eye as they play. Drive through the floodplains of Mozambique and watch as waterbuck and other big game appear before your eyes. Millions of bats perform acrobatics around each other and you as you watch them take to the sky. Experience animals and their ways of life in a whole new way by taking a trip to a place where you and the animals can get up-close and personal. If you want to interact with animals on your next holiday, take a look at these top travel destinations for animal-lovers.

Animals are an important part of our lives and whether you have pets that are like children, volunteer at a local shelter, or just love looking at and learning about the wild and exotic animals that roam the planet, you can incorporate this appreciation of animals into your next holiday. Experience something new when you watch or participate in the amazing habits and actions of animals from around the world.

Surround yourself with butterflies in Mexico

Every October as the temperatures plummet in the United States, the Monarch Butterfly starts its annual migration from north to south, an activity which no other species of butterfly are known to do. Each autumn up to a billion butterflies travels over 4000km to the fir forests in central Mexico where they gather in massive numbers to hibernate in the warmer climes. The monarchs carpet the forest floor and create a sound like rain falling when thousands of them take off at once.

Take advantage of the opportunity to immerse yourself in the billion Monarchs that come to central Mexico—specifically El Rosario, Sierra Chincua, Piedra Herrada and Cerro Pelon—and see how quickly these little beauties transform the landscape of the fir forests they call home for a few months. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site designation, offers visitors the chance to see trees so covered in butterflies that their trunks and branches bend under the weight and appear to be bright orange.

Play with pandas in China

The black and white furry animals have always drawn massive crowds when they become a part of a zoo, but there are plenty of ways to get to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitats. Chengdu, China is known as the panda capital of the world and is the best destination for panda lovers. You can find Panda Base in Chengdu, an important breeding and conservation centre that is home to more than 90 of the iconic panda bears. Chengdu is open year-round but August and September bring the added bonus of babies. There are always some in the nursery as pandas often have twins. Here, you can see the cubs being bottle-fed and they are comfortable with visitors.

Get to know Pandas and watch them play, snack and tumble together in central China’s national parks. Pandas can be found in China, one of Cover-More's top destinations for animal-lovers.

Sichuan, China is another place where you can visit a sanctuary full of pandas—they have seven nature reserves and nine parks. In fact, Sichuan is home to more than 30% of the world’s population of pandas. Try visiting the National Bifengxia Panda Reserve which is about 160 km south of Chengdu to see the black and white furry bears that moved to the reserve in 2008 after a bad earthquake hit their first homes at the Wolong Panda Reserve. When you travel to China, take your pick from the sanctuaries and conservatories found throughout the country to get up close and personal with the playful pandas from China.

Participate in a game drive at dawn in Mozambique

Visit Gongorosa National Park and reserve a seat in their guided game drive at dawn—or dusk, if you’re a night owl—and catch glimpses of the park’s most famous inhabitants. As the park’s website states, 'your Mozambique safari begins as you drive out into the bush just in time for sunrise. All around you the forest is filled with Gorongosa’s unforgettable dawn chorus, the air bursting at the seams with birdsong. On the floodplain, huge waterbuck appear like ghosts in the rising fog.

'By now, Gorongosa's untamed wilderness is coming to life. Like wary soldiers patrolling a jungle full of hidden enemies, huge troops of baboons cautiously leave the safety of the trees to go foraging on the savannah. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a pride of lions returning from a night’s hunting: mouths bloody, bellies bulging, flopping down in the shade to sleep it off'. For a small fee of NZ$30, you can get close to and see almost all of the game that thrives inside Gorongosa’s Park borders.

Dogsled on a glacier in Alaska, USA

Need more of an adrenaline jump for your holiday with animals? Try tearing across the Tongass National Forest in Alaska with a herd of dogs pulling you along the icy and snowy ground towards your destination. Alaska Icefield Expeditions allows you to experience the official state sport of Alaska in a truly memorable fashion. First, you travel to their dog camp where 250 friendly Alaskan Huskies anxiously await to meet you. Then you meet their Iditarod and Yukon Quest mushers who work with the dogs day in and day out. Gain an appreciation for their close relationship and play with the pups before saddling up and heading out on the glacier where you can help the musher drive, or just enjoy the ride. Before returning you can play with husky puppies and learn more about the lives of mushers and sledge dogs.

Trek through the cold terrain of Alaska with a team of tough huskies and their Iditarod mushers.

Watch 20 million bats take to the sky in Texas, USA

On a nightly basis close to 20 million bats take to the sky from the Bracken Caves in Comal County, Texas in an awe-inspiring reminder of how cool nature can be. These critters perform aerial acrobatics as they head out to get their fill of insects for the night. North of San Antonio, tours for the area last from four to six hours and with the price of admission you will be able to explore the National Bridge Caverns in addition to the bat's display. It’s recommended that you bring binoculars with you as oftentimes hawks and other birds of prey can be seen during the time the bats are leaving. Get swept up in the spectacle of 20 million bats their roosts and watch as they spiral and twist through the air without hitting each other or any of the spectators.

When you choose to include animals in your holiday plans, you will get to connect with your favourite creatures and get up close and personal with an amazing animal you’d never be able to see at home. As you finalise your next holiday, consider protecting your trip with online travel insurance coverage from Cover-More New Zealand.