Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Paddleboard with corgis and cuddle cows: Airbnb launches animal experiences across the world

The travel accommodation site is hoping to connect tourists to critters around the globe with ethical programmes

Paddleboarding with corgis is one of the excursions offered as part of Airbnb's new animal experiences. Courtesy Airbnb
Paddleboarding with corgis is one of the excursions offered as part of Airbnb's new animal experiences. Courtesy Airbnb

It sounds like the name of a new children's book but tea with naughty sheep is, in fact, something visitors to Scotland's Loch Lomond can now experience.

The traditional British afternoon activity in the company of two unruly Herdwick sheep is just one of the encounters included in Airbnb's new Animal Experiences, a programme full of excursions that let you get up-close to the world's creatures.

The travel accommodation site has collated 1,000 experiences as part of the just-introduced category, including paddleboarding with corgis in Miami, caring for abandoned dogs in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and volunteering at a gibbon rehabilitation centre in Thailand.

Courtesy Airbnb
Taking afternoon tea with a pair of 'naughty' sheep is also an experience on offer. Courtesy Airbnb

More than 300 species of animals make up the experiences on offer, with Airbnb claiming the programmes are designed to "allow people to better understand animals through caring".

Airbnb has vowed to not work with tour operators that showcase animals performing for entertainment, as part of its vow to encourage responsible, ethical animal tourism.

“With technology taking up so much of our lives, it’s easy to feel disconnected from nature and animals,” said Brian Chesky, chief executive and co-founder or Airbnb. “Life is better with animals, but for many busy people, looking at them through a screen is the closest they can get. With Airbnb Animal Experiences, locals and travellers are just a few clicks away from being alongside them in the real world.“

Whether hiking with rescue dogs in LA, releasing macaws in Costa Rica or working with a horse-friendship coach in New Zealand, each experience has to be in line with the site's new animal welfare policy, created in collaboration with the World Animal Protection organisation.

As part of the policy, no experience will give direct contact with wild animals and any working animal can only carry one rider, who should weight less than 20 per cent of the creature's own weight.

Courtesy Airbnb
You can get up-close to horses on several experiences around the world. Courtesy Airbnb

Airbnb has vowed to not work with tour operators that offer elephant rides, big cat interactions or showcase animals performing for entertainment, as part of its vow to encourage responsible, ethical animal tourism.

“We know people love animals and want to see and experience them when they travel, but we also know they most want to see animals in a setting that respects their wellbeing,” said Alesia Soltanpanah, executive director of World Animal Protection.

As part of the packages on offer, more than 100 options are marked as "social impact experiences" – such as visiting a dokey sanctuary in Spain – which means profits will go towards supporting conservation, animal rescue and care charities.

Among the options is the chance to kayak around Abu Dhabi's mangroves, where you can view native wildlife and bird species, and visit Dubai's desert on horseback.

Updated: October 7, 2019 12:03 PM

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