Your Essential Guide to Planning Eco-Conscious Wildlife Travel
Whether you are an animal conservationist or simply long for a vacation experience unlike any other, there is no denying the appeal of wildlife travel. Being able to view large cats, whales, elephants, and giraffes in their natural habitats is an awe-inspiring event that makes you appreciate just how incredibly precious our wildlife populations are. However, wildlife travel is not always good. There are an unfortunate number of places that use wildlife tourism to make as much money as possible without regards to the wellbeing of the animals.
So, what can you do to ensure both you and the animals have a great time? Once you have decided to go in search of exotic wildlife, take a minute to consider the following tips when planning your trip. This will ensure that you not only have the best experience viewing the wildlife, but do so in a safe and positive way that will benefit the environment and the animals.
Enjoy Safe Whale Watching
From the humpback whale to the blue whale, orca, and beluga, whales in the wild are a sight to see. You can book some extraordinary whale watching outings in Canada, Norway, Iceland, California, and South Africa, among other places. Unfortunately, the increase in tourism focused on whale watching is often at a detriment to the whales, whose migratory patterns can be altered due to the overabundance of whale watching vessels at sea. The key is to book your whale watching excursion with a company focused on sustainability, like Ocean Ecoventures. There are also small ways to help, like the purchase of an ocean ring that will contribute to marine conservation and serve as a reminder of the beauty of the sea every time you look at it.
Stay at a Sustainable African Lodge
Going on an African safari is a truly remarkable experience that not many get to have. If you have always dreamed of seeing the Big Five — the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo, then book an eco-conscious safari. There are quite a few reserves and lodges in Africa who prioritize maintaining a low carbon footprint. The Mombo Camp in Botswana, for example, is completely solar powered while the Bisate Lodge in Rwanda has a large reforestation program.
Volunteer for Conservation Organizations
If you want to make a big impact on wildlife tourism, consider volunteering with a non-profit conservancy. You get to travel and take care of wildlife up close, plus you are helping a greater cause. There are endless ways to volunteer, including working on a nature reserve, supporting wildlife rehabilitation, and doing research. Some popular trips include protecting giant tortoises in the Galapagos, working on giraffe and lion reserves in Kenya, and doing marine conservation in Mexico.
Seek Out Veterinary Work Opportunities
If you are a veterinarian or an aspiring vet, there is a great deal you can contribute to a wildlife conservancy. Expand your horizons, your networks, and your resume by traveling overseas to aid exotic animals who need care.
7 Tips for Consciously Participating in Wildlife Tourism
Make Sustainable Choices
Whenever possible on your journey, make sustainable choices. From choosing local products and food to staying in eco-friendly hotels, there are endless ways to minimize your carbon footprint while you travel.
Look into Alternative Travel Methods
Flying is undoubtedly a huge contributor to your carbon footprint. While it may not be feasible to take a boat to Africa, you can minimize the number of planes you take by traveling by car or train once you arrive in your destination country. Always travel with others where possible, both for safety reasons and also as a means of carpooling to avoid excess emissions of greenhouse gases.
Don’t Wear Perfumes and Lotions on Safari
Unfamiliar smells like perfumes and lotions can either cause an animal stress or attract them to you, both of which are to be avoided. Leave the scents at home for this particular type of travel.
Be Quiet on Safari
On a similar note, don’t draw a lot of attention to yourself while on safari or working at a conservancy. This is important as both a safety measure and also to avoid disturbing the animals.
Leave No Trace
When it comes to safaris, whale watching, and any other wildlife travel, be sure to not leave behind garbage or food. To avoid disturbing the natural environment, it should be like you were never there.
At the end of your trip, consider donating to the organization you travelled with to support them in carrying on the important work they are doing. Wildlife travel isn’t just a vacation to see animals, it should be an ongoing effort to protect them and make their lives better.
Offset Your Carbon Footprint
Finally, you can take measures to offset the carbon footprint from your trip. The best way to do this is to plant trees, which naturally absorb carbon dioxide in the air.