The truth behind touristic animal encounters

One of the best things on my travels is definitely seeing wild animals. I love to see a pod of elephants stroll past the car I am in. Or watch a group of waterbirds flocks to a pool in great numbers.

The closer I get, the better.

But there is a ‘too close’ too.

Sometimes you see advertisements for animal encounters. Which is great. Unless they promise, guarantee, or give 100% chance for an animal encounter.

Because animals are not guaranteed. And if they are, you should not support the abuser that makes it happen.

There is a fine line though. Some places like sanctuaries can promise an animal encounter. Be sure to research though, to make sure everything is done in regards to the animal? Instead of money.

How to be an animal-friendly traveller

  • Book a safari: you might not get the guarantee of seeing an animal. But when you do, it’s so rewarding. Your guide will definitely know how to behave and make the animal at peace. Which helps you to get as much time near this animal as it will allow.
  • If you are able to get close to a lion, a tiger, or an elephant. Don’t. Just don’t.
  • If the animal is restrained so it can’t avoid you, then you shouldn’t go near. You like your personal space too!
  • Riding an elephant is never okay.
  • Petting lion cubs is everyone’s dream. Except for the lions. So don’t do it.

Animal tourism activities to avoid

In general, it’s just best to avoid the following activities involving animals:

  • Elephant rides
  • Tiger and lion experiences
  • Holding animals: like turtles,
  • Dolphin shows (or other aquatic mammals)
  • Performing monkeys
  • Dancing bears
  • Snake charmers

Animal tourism activities to enjoy

So, let’s not focus too much on the “Don’ts”. Let’s talk about the do’s. Where can you go? There are still a lot of options you can explore and ‘encounter’ animals with.

  • A safari: you’re safe in the car, the animal is safe in its own environment.
  • Visit a sanctuary
  • Go Gorilla trekking
  • Support organizations that use the money for the animals and their habitats.

The kind of people of The World Pursuit compiled a nice list of ethical wildlife encounters.

There is a lot more to say about this. And by no means am I an expert on this matter. Make sure to research when booking a trip to a place with animals. Harmless activities like a selfie with a sloth seem fun, but they are devastating for the animal.

Because it’s such a sensitive subject, here is some more reading material: