Let me just start off by saying I got to cuddle with a fox.

You may not need to read any more to be convinced that you need to book a tour at Wild Wonders.

Wild Wonders is a hidden gem of a fun, educational experience in Genola. It offers two one-hour tours: the Basic Tour, which is geared toward families with kids 9 and under, and the Close Encounter Tour, which is limited to guests 10 and older. I would definitely recommend the latter, which I experienced, if your group is old enough; it’s worth the extra price.

The tour is very intimate, and in my opinion a treasure of an opportunity — zoos and animal parks rarely offer this kind of interaction, and if they do they charge much more than Wild Wonders’ pricing.

Highlights of our tour included feeding raccoons — their dexterous, hungry little hands snatching up the food from us was hilarious; having a little kinkajou fiddle with our sleeves and climb up our arm; snuggling with amazingly soft chinchillas; and holding a skunk — hesitantly at first, but little Stinky grows on you. We also got to see coyotes, an emu, and a variety of birds and reptiles, among others.

But the hands-down best part of the tour, for me at least, was stepping into a fox enclosure. Wild Wonders has several foxes, and Sarah Jacobson, our tour guide and Wild Wonders’ owner, had us interact with one of the more playful and friendly ones. It was high energy, bouncing around from person to person in the group, but also liked to get up close and cuddle. I know this is definitely a cliche, but words can’t really describe the experience.

I never realized how doglike foxes can seem at one moment, and then turn around and do something completely catlike. You learn all sorts of new things on the tour both from simply being able to observe and interact up close with the animals and from Jacboson’s wealth of wild animal knowledge.

Jacobson was a superb tour guide both for us and the animals; she made sure everything we did was completely safe, and she patiently answered all of our questions (even the ones that she probably gets a million times), but she also didn’t force any of her animals to do anything they didn’t want to do. For example, when we entered the kinkajou’s, Dobby’s, enclosure, she had us take turns resting our arm on the ledge Dobby was housed on, to wait to see if he felt comfortable approaching us and interacting.

Some animals at the rescue love interaction, others don’t like humans to even come near them, and Jacobson smoothly works the tour in a way that accommodates all the animals’ comfort.

Throughout the tour it was quite evident that Jacobson has a big heart for these animals — you really have to to continue cleaning up that much poop every day. She works hard at Wild Wonders, and puts all the money she takes in from facility tours, traveling programs and more back into the animals’ care.

Wild Wonders is a nonprofit wildlife rescue, which is not to be confused with a wildlife rehabilitation center. The latter takes in animals with the goal of reviving them back to full health to release back into the wild. As a rescue, Wild Wonders takes in animals that physically or legally cannot be returned to the wild; some animals are confiscated illegal pets, and others are brought in from the wild, zoos or other places.

While I saw a specific lineup of animals during my visit, Jacobson explained that over time the types of animals she has at the rescue varies, and all tours are different to some degree.

In addition to tours, Jacobson also offers traveling programs around the state, for everything from school assemblies to Boy Scouts to special events. The facility is also happily open to money and supplies donations along with volunteer work.

All-in-all, my experience touring Wild Wonders was amazingly fun and highly memorable, and I’d recommend the experience to anybody, especially to all the local animal lovers.