Keepers of the Wild founder Jonathan Kraft has always loved animals. As a child in Holland, he rehabilitated and released injured birds every winter. When he became a magician performing grand spectacles in Vegas, his affinity for animals led him to raise two baby tigers to integrate into his act, then eventually acquire and train more big cats. At first Kraft didn’t see the connection between his chosen career and the prevalence of animal mistreatment, but gradually he began to realize how cramped, stressed, and unhealthy his peers’ animals tended to be. His first steps toward rescue weren’t ideal—he didn’t have the space to give each animal the sprawling habitat it craved. So the next step was Keepers of the Wild a place designed to rescue exotic creatures from inhumane conditions and let them roam both safely and freely.
The center, located on historic route 66, now hosts more than 175 animals that include lions, tigers, leopards, and monkeys. Walking and hiking trails lead to enclosures where cougars lie in the sun or wolves trot between bushes. Plenty of lookouts offer photo ops or a chance to spy on capuchin monkeys’ poker games. Visitors can explore the grounds on their own or hop on a guided tour, where they’re shuttled to various habitats and can watch the predators feed.
Eleven detached pine cabins house visitors at Grand Canyon Ranch, a historic Western ranch sprawled over 165 square miles just two hours from the Vegas Strip. Woodwork interiors lend the standard cabins a rustic ambiance complemented by Western artifacts such as saddles and wagon wheels. Queen beds proffer a restful night's sleep, and separate bathrooms come with antique cowboy tubs for showering after long days of horseback riding or lassoing bandits plundering the hotel's towel supply. In the morning, diners gather at the Historic Ranch House restaurant for breakfast (included in the package), and nighttime visitors dine on homestyle fare illuminated by an open fire and candlelit tables. Beer and wine flow freely next door at the Diamond Bar, where Western performers regale guests with live music and banjo fights.
The experienced air chauffeurs of Heli USA Airways—an FAA-certified air carrier—chaperone adventurers into the sky aboard luxurious Agusta 119 jet helicopters. Daily departures from the Las Vegas Atlantic Air terminal put each pilot's 10,000 hours of flight experience to use with tours of the Grand Canyon and the Las Vegas strip, during which the captain’s narration illuminates famous landmarks, such as stunning ancient rock formations and the elegant Trump Hotel’s crowning toupee. Overnight and weekend getaway packages grant guests unobstructed views of Vegas’s sprawling luminescence as choppers hover toward the historic Grand Canyon Ranch Resort, a 165-square-mile ranch outfitted with custom-built log cabins, dining facilities, and old-fashioned western entertainments, such as lassoing televisions. Tours are available in several languages, including English, French, Japanese, and Spanish.