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Zoological Wildlife Foundation
Photograph: Courtesy Zoological Wildlife Foundation

The best wildlife sanctuaries in Miami and South Florida

Encounter animals and learn about conservationism at these top wildlife sanctuaries in Miami and South Florida

Megan duBois
Written by
Megan duBois
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Animal lovers, rejoice! While you might think the only thing that's wild about Miami is the beach scene, there are many wild animals to encounter if you know where to look. Around the city and south towards the Everglades, there are wildlife sanctuaries rehabilitating birds, monkeys, and more. At each of these incredible locations, you'll get the chance to get up close to the wild animals and learn more about conservation and respecting nature in the process. 

These wildlife sanctuaries are a great place to bring kids or animal-loving adults who can't wait to snap the perfect selfie with a sloth or feed birds who may land on your shoulder, making you feel like a real-life Disney princess. Before you head to one of these incredible sanctuaries, be sure to keep reading for everything you need to know, including what types of animals you might see and if tours are offered. These are the best wildlife sanctuaries in Miami and South Florida. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Florida

Best wildlife sanctuaries in Miami and South Florida

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Since opening in 1927, Flamingo Gardens has been allowing guests to experience the flora and fauna of South Florida. In 1990, the space added the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary, where guests could encounter many of Florida's most ominous predators. Around the facility, guests can learn about American alligators, birds of prey, flamingoes, otters, big cats, black bears, and more. There's also a free-flight aviary where over 250 tropical birds may just land right on your shoulder thinking you're a tree. 

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The Zoological Wildlife Foundation is where the public can get up close to many endangered and rare species of animals through educational tours. All tours are by reservation only, so don't just plan to pop into the facility and hope there's room. Animals that guests may encounter on tours include cougar cubs, kangaroos, sloths, and owls. You can also try your hand a tug-of-war with a big cat to see how strong you are compared to the king of the forest. 

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Since 1980, Pelican Harbor Seabird Station has been caring for native animals. While the mission started with brown pelicans, the wildlife sanctuary will now take injured birds, mammals, and reptiles. Guests looking for some behind-the-scenes looks at the refuge can do a tour that includes pelican feeding, animal encounters, and possible bird releases. The sanctuary also offers birding cruises throughout the year, where they take groups of people out to spot some of the native species in the wild. 

 

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Since 1991, Bob and Barbara Freer have been rehabilitating and releasing animals back into the wild at Everglades Outpost Wildlife Rescue. Animal encounters here are abundant, with behind-the-scenes tours and the opportunity to swim with alligators. If you want something a little more calm, consider seeing the rescue's wildlife show that educates visitors about each animal. Don't forget to stop by the archaeology and history exhibit before you leave, which also includes the option to join a real dig site to search for pieces of history buried right in the dirt. 

 

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McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary is closed to the public except for those with a reserved tour. Each tour is a small group of people, but children under five are not permitted. The sanctuary plays host to over 100 animals, including tigers, snakes, lions, and various birds of prey. While on tour, you'll learn how the sanctuary rehabilitates some animals to release them back into the wild, and why some animals will call the sanctuary home for the rest of their lives. 

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Monkey Jungle is a discovery center and eco-show park. While here, your guide will take you into the forest for a look at the monkeys and other wildlife living as they would in their home environment. There are currently four different shows offered with animals like Cameroon gorillas and Amazonian jungle species. Each show is timed out so you could see them all during your day at Monkey Jungle. Before you leave, check out the parrot sanctuary to learn about these beautiful birds and why they may not make the best pets.

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