Wadi Rum by Camel
Follow in Lawrence of Arabia’s sandy footsteps by riding a camel through the Mars-like desert of Wadi Rum, 40 miles east of the Jordanian port Aqaba. Bedouin chief Saleem Alzalabieh runs two-night treks (from $190 per person; jordantracks.com) that roam the golden expanse along dramatic canyons inscribed with ancient Nabataean carvings. The trip includes traditional meals like chicken roasted underground; sleeping in a carpeted tent; and, come dawn, catching the moon-soaked silhouette of the otherworldly landscape (Wadi Rum, after all, means “Valley of the Moon” in Arabic).
Kruger National Park by Elephant
Micato Safaris runs elephant-back jaunts inside South Africa’s Kapama Private Game Reserve (from $210 for three hours; micato.com). Wildlife conservationists will match you with an elephant based on temperament (both yours and the pachyderm’s), hoist you up, and you’re off—treated to elevated views of treetops, giraffes, and lilac-breasted rollers flying overhead. Choose between an afternoon or sunset ride, or opt for a nighttime elephant safari where you move through the Bushveld under star-smattered skies, then tuck your ride into its stable at Camp Jabulani, a home for rescued elephants since 1997.
Algarve by Donkey
Trekking alongside a donkey through the pastoral landscapes of southern Portugal is surprisingly relaxing: You have no choice but to adapt to their famously slow rhythm. Algarve-based Burros & Artes runs donkey-accompanied hikes (from $39; donkey-trekking-algarve.blogspot.pt) along the newly unveiled Rota Vicentina, a 211-mile trail that hugs the Atlantic coast between Santiago do Cacém and the Cape of St. Vincent. Jeko, Mocca, Ticktack, and other long-eared Sherpas carry your load (and kids) for an afternoon, or, if you wish to hike from rural inn to rural inn, up to two weeks.
Nicaragua by Horse
The village that La Bahia Beach Hotel (from $150; labahiabeachhotel.com) is located in is so small it doesn’t even have a name—and yet it’s this off-the-map rusticity that makes a stay here so singular. To help navigate the Nicaraguan backwoods, the hotel equips lodgers with a horse and local guide for $40 a day. Gallop south along the nearby beaches till you reach Santa Maria, a nanoscopic fishing village marked only by its well-worn boats hauled up on the beach. When the sun grows tiresome, cut inland onto residential roads for a closer look at the farms and abundant wildlife hidden in the shade of teak trees and bougainvillea.
Breckenridge by Dog
Dog sledding in summertime is hard to come by, but Colorado’s Snow Caps Sled Dogs program (970-453-7855; snowcapssleddogs.com) is making it happen anyway—sort of. From mid-June through September, ride solo on a scooter for about 90 minutes, pulled by two Siberian Huskies, or join up to four others on a cart towed by ten dogs for 70 minutes (from $55). Guides lead tours of the kennel that include a meet-and-greet with some of the outfit’s 140 dogs. Should you fall in love with one of the canines, you might just be able to take him home; Snow Caps runs an adoption program for retiring pooches.
Oudtshoorn by Ostrich
Big birds are big business in this town of 80,000, tucked in a valley on South Africa’s Western Cape, and the best way to get up close and personal with them is to pay a visit to one of the area’s many ostrich farms. The 75-year-old Highgate Ostrich Show Farm (off R328; highgate.co.za) lets visitors feed, pet, and even ride the 300-pound creatures. Like a mechanical bull, the bareback turns usually last a minute or less before guests slide off the bird and into the arms of a guide. Each hour-long tour (from $12) ends with a local jockey ostrich race, and most include a meal of ostrich specialties: liver pâté, egg, biltong (like jerky), and steak.