Best Destinations for Responsible Wildlife Vacations

Responsible Wildlife Vacations

Wildlife destinations are some the of most popular places to vacation, seeing animals you don’t find in your backyard can easily be the top priority when planning a trip.  There are locations at all ends of the globe to learn more about different species and see more wildlife.  The important part before taking that dream trip is making sure you’ve booked a sustainable tour and ethically responsible tourism along with animal welfare should be the highest priority to ensure the animals we are wanting to see will be around in the future.  Here is a list of my top places to find responsible wildlife vacations.

Turtles Lay Eggs In Malaysia

A small island off the coast of Sandakan, Malaysian Borneo, there is Turtle Island.  This national park monitors Hawksbill & Green Turtles and helps to ensure the endangered species hatching grounds are safe & secure.  There are several restrictions to the island, one being there are only a certain number of visitors allowed, and to be able to witness the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs you need to stay overnight.  The hatcheries are monitored so predators or poachers can’t collect the future generations.  Flash photography is not allowed, as well as handling of the turtles is off limits.  They want them to keep this as natural of a process as possible while helping to increase the population.  It’s truly a memorable experience to sit quietly on the beach, in darkness with starlight shining down, witnessing a turtle leaving her eggs in the sand where she would have hatched herself years before.  It was one of the highlights of my time in Southeast Asia.

Observe Orangutans In Borneo


Borneo is THE place to find Orangutans, they are only found in Sumatra or Borneo so the rainforest is the only option to see the “man of the forest” in the wild.  Due to poaching and deforestation, these two species are, like many on this list, endangered.  The Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary has a protected land reserve where the orangutans can roam free and live happily and without harm.  They are given small snacks twice a day on platforms above viewing areas near the reserve but most of the Orangutans find food for themselves in the forest, so seeing them is never guaranteed.  There are orphaned baby Orangutans that are given time in the nursery to learn to climb and then eventually they join groups of older Orangutans so they can be taught skills to use when they are reintroduced to the wild.  When visiting be sure to set aside time to see th endangered Sun Bears that have a conservation center not far from the sanctuary.

Saving Elephants In Thailand


Thailand is one of the places in Asia to find elephants, both in the wild or in the cities.  The country keeps them as a symbol, a work force or a tourism generator, these big-eared, peaceful creatures have a complicated history.  Many elephants have been domesticated and used for the logging industry or for tourism (riding, entertaining) and so it is important to find an ethical place to see them living without having to work for people.  Elephant Nature Park is famous for being a powerhouse of a sanctuary, saving dozens of elephants and offering a volunteer program for backpackers and travelers in Southeast Asia to visit and make a change in the Thai tourism industry.  If you’d like to feel horrible, google the “crush” procedure, how they break down an elephant’s spirit.  You’ll have just as much fun feeding them, watching them interact with each other in peace and bathing them in the river.  Don’t let the Instagram pics fool you, they are not meant to be ridden!

Hiking with Mountain Gorillas In Uganda


Mountain Gorillas are yet another endangered animal on the list and much like some of the other animals they are only found in a few specific places.  It’s not often that you climb a mountain and be moved to tears, but you just may in Uganda.  Sitting on the ground mere feet from a group of gorillas, seeing how much like humans they are interacting with each other and the land around them is a life changing experience.  Mgahinga National Park in Southern Uganda has permitted trekking so you can also have the opportunity to see this endangered giant outside of the zoo and in it’s natural habitat.

Hanging Out With Sloths In Costa Rica


Costa Rica, in addition to its beautiful landscapes is also home to an amazing amount of wildlife for the size of the country.  You’ll be able to see turtles, reptiles, birds, monkeys, the biodiversity here is unparalleled.  The one animal I did want to encounter when visiting was a sloth.  You have a chance to see many of them in the sanctuary outside of Puerto Viejo in the Limon province.  The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica is a space for injured sloths to be rehabilitated.  You won’t be able to handle these little cuties but you can book a spot on a tour where you are allowed to see the little guys in their Nursery.  I recommend the behind the scenes tour to take in as much sloth cuteness as possible.

Watching Whales In Mexico


Whale watching can be found along many coastlines and I have seen different whales off the coast of Seattle, Maine, Ecuador, and the Philippines to name a few, but one of my most memorable trips was visiting the Baja region of Mexico and whale watching in the Bay of Loreto Marine Park.  The water is a remarkable color blue, the whales and dolphins are always prevalent and the sun seems to always shine.  Blue Whales, the largest animals on earth, migrate through the Sea of Cortez and so it is the perfect place to observe these massive mammals.  If Jacques Cousteau calls a body of water “the aquarium of the world” you know it must be good.  In addition to being a marine conservation site, UNESCO also named it one of it’s world heritage locations.

Behind the Binocular With Birds In The Galapagos 


The Galapagos Islands are a mecca for wildlife lovers, especially for marine animals.  Sea lions, sharks, marine iguanas, giant tortoises are only some of the inhabitants of the islands.  Another highlight of the island is the large amount of endemic birds and for bird watchers you will have a field day, especially once you get to see the Blue Footed Boobies!  The Galapagos Islands have long been a protected area with animal conservation as a top priority.

 

What is a good way to know your wildlife vacation is responsible?


Conscious travel is about doing a little bit of research before your trip to ensure that your tour will be a responsible way to see the world.  Make sure tour operators are adhering to rules like not interacting with the wildlife, maintaining a safe distance, making sure you are leaving their home like you found it.  Sustainable travel should be a standard, not a luxury and there are many locations and tour operators that will help wildlife & it’s surroundings, not hurt it.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and demand a higher standard!

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