Most people would agree that swimming lessons are dreadful and frankly deceitful about how the water is "not that cold," but what if we told you there's a nonprofit organization called Nurtured by Nature that allows otters to swim in the pool with you? It exists, and it's the exact opposite of a dreaded swim lesson.
You read that correctly. Otters. Swimming with you in a pool. That fact alone makes this organization possibly the best thing on earth, but it somehow manages to get better.
Their website explains that Nurtured by Nature was founded by husband and wife team, Kevin & Wendy Yates, in Valley Center, CA after Southern California wildfires destroyed their home and surrounding area in 2003. The Yates were so touched and overwhelmed by the support from their community to help rebuild their home, that they decided to give back. "Kevin & Wendy's appreciation for family, community, and nature has fostered the idea of Nurtured by Nature - to provide solace in times of misfortune or trouble."
The program extends beyond otters (which we'll get back to in a little bit.) Browsing through their Facebook page you can see guests get to touch and feed a two-toed sloth, an African crested porcupine, several kinds of armadillos, a kangaroo, an African ground hornbill, hedgehogs, and horses.
Let's quickly address any concerns you have about how the animals were acquired and are treated. Rest assured, Nurtured by Nature provides their animals with the utmost care and loving attention and were acquired in one of three ways:
- Animals were born at the facility as part of a conservation breeding program.
- The animals are surplus from other zoos.
- The animals are rescues.
The organization is a USDA and California Fish and Wildlife permitted and inspected facility and are in excellent standing with both of these governing organizations. They work closely with veterinarians and have nearly 25 volunteers who come from the veterinary and zoological world.
Armed with this knowledge, odds are you've stopped reading this article to go sign-up for this experience, and have returned, having learned that reservations are sold out through 2018. Though this isn't great news for your weekend plans, it's incredible news for the organization and the animals and people it benefits.
While healthy able-bodied guests are welcome, the program focuses on providing a once in a lifetime experience to children who are less fortunate. Nurtured by Nature's mission is to "foster hope and well-being to children with life-threatening to terminal illness through physical interactions with nature. And to promote a healthy life outlook and healing for children who have suffered severe emotional trauma through physical interactions with nature."
Pretty incredible, right? Now, back to those otters! The highlight of the program is interacting with Asian small-clawed otters. Weather permitting, visitors are able to swim and play with these adorable fur buddies. There are some truly astounding otter swim stories. Nurtured By Nature has worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant over 45 wishes since 2013. You can get lost scrolling through the videos on their Facebook page of visitors experiencing a once in a lifetime experience. Or lose your mind over this video of one of their otters playing with a french bulldog!
If you're looking for a way to comfort yourself about the year long waiting list, we have great news! You can get yourself an adorable otter t-shirt or hoodie right now! Proceeds go towards giving seriously ill children an experience at the facility. Thus the wait list, kids get first priority. Or if you're good on t-shirts, there's a bunch of other ways you can help, and they're all listed on Nurtured by Nature's website.
But before you go, let's take one last look at those adorable otters!