Striking the perfect balance between witnessing your favorite animals roaming their natural habitats and not wanting to destroy that very same habitat through your own selfish touristy needs can be difficult. You don’t want to endure tourist guilt simply because you ached to see the silverback mountain gorillas of Uganda beating their chests and launching themselves through the rainforest trees. Being a wildlife lover, you understand the importance of conservation, sustainability and protecting the planet’s resources for all species. To fund conservation projects tourism is often necessary. However, it’s the way in which we embark on these tours that can make or break the success of a conservation project. Take a look at these destinations that will allow you to get your wildlife fix when on vacation while traveling ethically and sustainably.
The Galapagos Islands
Being an island nation full to the brim of endangered creatures, the Galapagos Islands have the conservation of habitat at the very heart of its tourism vision. It craves to create an industry that allows paying travelers to witness iguanas spitting across black volcanic rocks, explore the tropical bird life inland and marvel at the spectacle of the giant tortoise.
If your keen to improve your ethical credentials even further you can volunteer with a conservation project while you are there. You could find yourself recording the number of tagged penguins returning from migration. Or you may be fortunate enough to record data about the number of endangered turtles returning to the islands to breed. By doing your bit to help, you can feel proud that you have contributed in a worthwhile way to a conservation project.
After the volunteering is over, you can spend your time getting a further wildlife fix snorkeling with the vast array of tropical fish off the coast surrounded by a stunning coral reef. You could go hiking on the more volcanic islands and take leisurely walks across the grasslike plains of others.
Many people dream of venturing off on safari and witnessing majestic elephants of the Masai Mara down at their watering holes, lion prides seeking shade under the trees in the midday sun and giraffes feeding form the highest branches of fauna. A safari with a difference could see you staying at a base camp that puts the ending of elephant poaching at the heart of its motivations. Killing elephants for their tusks to sell on to make ivory ornaments or merely to keep as trophies is abhorrent to most of us, yet still continues. By staying at one of these camps, you know that a proportion of the money you’ve spent on your vacation is going to a worthwhile project. You can actually head out on one of the camp’s education talks and help deliver the message to local communities that there are alternatives to elephant poaching and why the practice needs to stop.
Venturing into the deep rainforests of Tanjung Puting National Park in Indonesian Borneo will allow you to spy the elusive orangutan in his natural habitat. He might choose to spend the day relaxing in the mangroves of the jungle or be a tad more energetic, swinging from the vine like treetops. You may choose to hike to reach the best vantage points, or you could head down river on a houseboat, trying to spot the flashes of burnt orange through the trees. The most ethical aspect of these vacations is the chance to visit Camp Leaky, an outstanding world-class research facility that aims to restore the natural habitat of the orangutan and preserve every inch that is left. It locates sick animals in the wild, restores them to full health and then releases them back into the jungle.
While in Indonesia you may also choose to visit the Komodo dragons and attempt to find the famous birds of paradise. The best way to hit all these wildlife spots on the island nation is to take a tour. You could stay in an apartment while on your travels. To get a flavor of the furnished apartments available take a look at the type of properties sold by RumahDijual that are bought by investors to let out. These make great bases for the ethical traveler.
A little more unusual may be a trip to Brazil to see wild jaguars. Although not as popular in Western culture as the lion or tiger, jaguars are elegant felines that need protection. More unreputable tour operators will allow tourists to see chained up big cats and caged creatures. This is not ethical in any way and by embarking on a trip like this, you are merely perpetuating the practice. Instead, head to Taiama Reserve. While you cannot get too up close and personal to the jaguars, you will be able to see them in their wild habitat, living happily and free within their massive compound. You might be lucky enough to spy them stalking cayman or relaxing by the river. Tours are conducted by scientists, conservationists and biologists who care deeply about protecting the jaguar and want to see them thrive. If you want to stay a little longer than a day or two, you can head to a camp and try to track anacondas, go on a riverboat tour to spy cayman and take some guided hikes looking for the most elusive birds of the rainforest.
To adore wildlife and care about our planet is an admirable trait. However, even more admirable is your refusal to see wildlife to the detriment of the animals themselves. When hunting for an ethical wildlife vacation, make sure you check the credentials of the tour operator or company you plan on going with. There are a huge number of wildlife tour companies that are in the industry purely for the financial gain. It’s vital that you source companies that employ biologists and reputable tour guides, have an active conservation program and will allow you to ask questions regarding the animals that you are going to see in their natural habitat. Why not become an active participant in the nature tourism industry and make a worthwhile contribution to aid in the conservation of endangered animals.