Animal House: Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue and Education Centre

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Tasikoki Nature Reserve

Creature comfortsTasikoki is home to 46 species of animals, cared for by volunteers

It may be an NGO on a shoestring budget, but the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue and Education Centre has a location that would send any five-star-resort manager into paroxysms of envy. The panoramic view of the Sulawesi Sea alone is worth the trip to this corner of Indonesia's North Sulawesi province.

Situated one hour from the provincial capital Manado, the center was founded by the Dutch-born (but naturalized Indonesian) conservationist Willie Smits. Although Smits is known as an impassioned campaigner on behalf of orangutans, the center takes in all kinds of endangered creatures. The current animal population of 200 includes orangutans, sun bears, Javan leopards, gibbons, macaques and 25 species of birds. There are 10 usually foreign volunteers living on-site at any one time to feed, clean and care for the menagerie — rescued, for the most part, from animal-smuggling rings or from homes where they were being kept illegally as pets. "It's nice to be involved in a place where there is hope," says Alexis Chaves, a 23-year-old American taking a year off to work at Tasikoki.

To help fund the center's activities, two spacious rooms have been set aside for visitors, who can join the volunteers on their rounds. For $200 per night, you get basic but comfortable en suite quarters, laundry service, air-conditioning and wi-fi. You also get a home-cooked meal of either the fiercely spicy local cuisine or more generic Indonesian fare. Afterward, stroll down to the deserted beach, take in that million-dollar view and ponder the thought that while the world doesn't need another beach resort, it does need many more places like Tasikoki.

See or check out the Tasikoki page on Facebook.

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