In Ashford and Tenterden a world's-worth of animals gather in a charming corner of Kent. So you can encounter big cats, reindeer and rabbits without leaving English soil.
For oodles of 'ahhhh' factor, head to the Rare Breeds Centre, near Ashford. This 100 acre expanse is filled with utterly adorable farm animals. Cows, ducks and chickens sit alongside rescue donkeys, Shetland ponies, new-born piglets, lop eared rabbits and bottle-fed lambs. Play with animals in the Children's Barn, then head off for the tractor-trailer rides, woodland walks, discovery gardens, pig-races and falconry displays.
You don’t have to travel to Lapland to meet Father Christmas' four-legged helpers. At Bethersden's Reindeer Centre, a 100-strong herd roams a 40-acre farm with its very own Santa's Grotto; you can even feed these iconic creatures here too.
There are some 50 tigers, leopards and lions at the Big Cat Sanctuary of the Wildlife Heritage Foundation. The unforgettable events on offer here have to be booked in advance; they include Big Cat Encounters, Ranger Days and luxury overnight stays. Check in, then get treated to a guided tour and gourmet dinner, before feeding a big cat and taking a puma for a stroll. At night snuggle down in a lodge within earshot of roaring lions.
And then animal experiences don't get much more exotic than at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park. One of the largest attractions of its kind in the UK, safari trucks ferry you between exciting environments packed with colourful creatures. See giraffe, zebra and wildebeest roaming the savannah in the African Experience. Watch endearing gorillas play amid the foliage of the Primate Trail. Thrill at the lions, cheetahs and tigers roaming Carnivore Territory. Get closer still with a range of activities encompassing everything from being a keeper for the day, to bespoke, dusk safari tours and sleep-overs in deluxe lodges.