Where: Ely, Minnesota, at the Wildlife Research Institute
The Action: The Black Bear Field Study Course also includes a behind-the-scenes visit to the North American Bear Center—where one new friend actually licked our writer.
Cost: Now $2,000 ($1,900 of this is tax-deductible), the four-day course includes bunk-bed accommodations at a field station and three home-cooked meals a day.
Where: Cahuita, Costa Rica, at the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary
The Action: Get face time with wide-eyed baby sloths as they spend their days nibbling on vegetables and cuddling with stuffed animals donated by volunteers.
Cost: Visits are $25, including an optional forest hike.
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand, at the Elephant Nature Park
The Action: Make friends with sanctuary herd members—including rescued street beggars and orphans—by feeding them sweet fruits. Then bathe the animals in the Mae Taeng river. (Scrubbing encouraged!)
Cost: $81 for a day-long tour, including lunch and transportation to the reserve.
Where: Riudellots de la Selva, at Spain's Mona Foundation
The Action: As a caretaker of the program's 16 resident chimps—most readjusting back to their wild ways after working as circus performers—you'll prep their meals and closely observe the primates at play.
Cost: $328 for two-day entry.
Where: Burnie, Tasmania, at the Little Penguin Observation Centre
The Action: Stand inches away from little penguins as they come ashore to nest and feed their young every night at dusk from September to March. Tip: January is the best time to spot the fluffy hatchlings.
Cost: Daily tours from Sept. to March are free.
Where: Fort Pierce, Florida's Manatee Center
The Action: Fans can paddle kayaks among these 1,000-pound mammals, who head to the fresh water surrounding the Center in winter.
Cost: 2.5-hour kayak trips, $35.