Life

5 resorts where you can vacation with exotic animals 

Giraffe Manor in Kenya.
The Safari Collection
Giraffe Manor in Kenya.

As an animal lover, I've been all over the world to have cool, up-close experiences with the animal kingdom.

I've been on African safaris in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe to see the "big five" (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo). I've cruised down the Amazon in Peru to see colorful frogs, Pink River dolphin and piranhas. I've even snorkeled with whale sharks off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.

And there are places you can stay around the world where wild animals are right there with you at the hotel.

Here are five resorts that are special for having animals right on property.

Watch elephants stroll through a safari lodge in Zambia

In the safari region in South Luangwa in Zambia, there are a lot of game, like giraffe, hippos, buffalo and crocodiles, many of which you'll see in a safari jeep on a game drive. But at Mfuwe Lodge, you can see these animals right on property, as it is located on the banks of two lagoons from which they drink.

From October to December, guests get a special treat: Families of wild elephants walk through the lodge's triple-height, vaulted lobby and reception area, lured by a wild mango tree on the lodge grounds (to get to the fruit, the elephants must go through the lobby).

"When the wild mango fruit is in full season, the elephants come several times a day," Andy Hogg, founder of The Bushcamp Company, a safari operator, tells CNBC Make It. "There's usually an early morning visit, presumably to get anything that has fallen overnight. Then throughout the day, other single elephants, or sometimes groups, will stop by to see if there's anything new to snack on."

The elephants have been coming since the 1990s, according to Hogg. You can't touch them or use flash photography but you can stay at a safe distance to watch, usually behind the reception desk.

Get wolf kisses at a farmhouse in Norway

Most people go to Norway to catch the Northern Lights or to take a cruise through the breathtaking fjords. Many people also go for the wolves.

In Polar Park, a park within a forest near the town of Narvik where people go to see the Northern Lights, local wolves are born and bred in large enclosures and socialized. When you visit, the domesticated wolves will be brought out with a guide and trainer (a wolf whisperer, so to speak) for guests to pet. They'll even "kiss" you by licking your face.

Book a stay at Wolf Lodge, which is a contemporary farmhouse with floor-to-ceiling windows set within the sprawling wolf enclosure within the park. Wolves surround the lodge, so you can sit inside by the fireplace and watch them. If the guide is around, he will allow a wolf inside to greet you.

Breakfast with giraffes at a manor in Kenya

On the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, the historic, 1932-built Giraffe Manor sits on 12 acres of private land within 140 acres of forest. In the '70s the manor was the home of Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville, who were giraffe preservationists who bought the place to provide sanctuary for the creatures. In 1984, it became a hotel.

What makes Giraffe Manor special are the 14 giraffes that visit the Manor in the mornings and afternoon tea (around 4 p.m.) to sniff out snacks and greet guests.

The giraffes come to the windows of the manor in the mornings while the guests are having breakfast. At this time, a giraffe will poke its entire head and neck inside a window (even on the top floors since they are so tall), eat special pellets (provided by the resort) out of guests hands and even lick their faces. This is repeated at afternoon tea for mid-afternoon snacks.

The giraffes roam freely around the hotel during the day time and there is no other hotel in the world that offers a giraffe experience like this, according to Giraffe Manor.

Hang with sloths at a rain forest resort in Costa Rica

Native to South America and Central America, sloths are exotic mammals known for their slow movements, and they spend most of their time hugging trees in tropical rain forests.

When you stay at Nayara in Las Fortuna, Costa Rica, you can see them right from your villa's porch or window.

Nayara, a luxury property, is known for having a sloth sanctuary right on its land. A sloth sanctuary is a secondary forest area where Nayara helps with reforestation, and the sloths have always been there.

Swimming with sea animals in the Maldives

The Maldives is known for over-water bugalows, pristine beaches and crystal clear waters, and it's one of the top travel destinations on Earth, according to young people. It's also a place where you can vacation with marine life.

Because it's built around a coral reef in a protected marine reserve, Milaidhoo resort guests often find exotic birds on their deck, or they can swim with sea turtles, dolphins and even nurse sharks right off the resort's beach (or just take a plunge into the sea from the bungalow).

Huvafen Fushi resort has an underwater spa that moonlights as a night aquarium after hours where you can see all sorts of fish, eels and sharks. At One & Only Reethi Rah's Tapasake restaurant, which is built on stilts over the ocean, underwater lights illuminate nurse sharks swimming around. And Conrad Maldives, which opened the first underwater residence in November, has an underwater restaurant with glass walls where you can see all sorts of sea creatures, even sharks and manta rays, while you have a cocktail.

Don't miss:

9 best insider tricks to help you travel super cheap

9 places in America you have to see in your lifetime

These are the top 10 travel destinations on earth, according to 100,000 young people

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to show that Conrad Maldives opened the first underwater residence in November.