Travel opens up our minds to different cultures around the world, and lets us see places we otherwise would just experience in guidebooks. With that, though, comes side effects to the environment and local communities. Without proper knowledge, many tourists end up supporting unethical, money-making attractions. Yes, we’re talking about taking selfies with sedated tigers in the temples of Thailand just for a Tinder photo — which definitely guarantees a left swipe, FYI.
While we traverse the globe seeking new experiences and appreciating all that Mother Nature has to offer, it’s important to keep in mind that the earth is not ours alone. Camping in rainforests, diving in the ocean or passing through villages means that you’re entering someone else’s territory — and you should behave as such.
We don’t mean that you should just retreat into the comforts of city life, and avoid venturing into the wild completely, though. There are organisations that believe in ethical travel, which promotes conservation efforts to protect the wildlife, environment and locals of an area. From admiring polar bears in the Tundra to rehabilitating the big cats in Africa, here are experiences you can relish without leaving a mark. As the saying goes: “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.”
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
When it comes to the wildlife authority, nothing gets more official than WWF. The world’s leading conservation organisation has been working to protect the future of nature for the past 50 years, after all. The organisation has partnered with US-based Natural Habitat Adventures to provide a range of trips where you get to experience the wilderness in its full glory, without causing harm to the environment.
WWF focuses its efforts on endangered species such as tigers, rhinos, whales and marine turtles, as well as protecting whole landscapes or marine areas. From a Tundra adventure where you can spot polar bears in the wild, to exploring the Galapagos and Botswana Safari, WWF and Natural Habitat Adventures offer a variety of memorable experiences.
Jacada Travel, a luxury tour operator and expert in private guided travel, takes every measure to ensure all trips are true to the company’s social, environmental and economic values. The operator believes not just in luxury travel, but responsible travel, thus embracing a low-impact way of travelling.
The company recruits local guides and drivers to show travellers around their motherland first-hand, which benefits the community economically and gives visitors a glimpse into the authentic ways of life. For each trip sold, Jacada donates a portion of its profits to charities, which include Uthando, Rhinos Without Borders, Building Schools for Burma, World Land Trust, Condor Trust and Kids Saving the Rainforest.
See The Wild
An advocate for responsible wildlife conservation experiences, See The Wild promotes a list of tour operators that conduct expeditions dedicated to this cause.
The Ultimate Namibia Safari programme, for instance, lets you discover untouched areas of Africa. This includes a visit to the AfriCat Foundation, a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to research and rehabilitation of Africa’s big cats, such as injured or captured leopards and cheetahs. Another expedition, the Uganda & Gorillas Overland, takes you to Ugandan Forests where you get to quietly observe endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Volunteer in Dubai’s sand dunes with Biosphere Expeditions. The organisation is focused on providing ethical wildlife holidays, and offers travellers the opportunity to visit remote places around the world — where others don’t usually venture to. How’s that for learning new skills, and experiencing conservation in action?
One of the programs involves working alongside scientists from the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to monitor the Arabian oryx, Gordon’s wildcat, sand fox, mountain and sand gazelles, among many other flagship species of the desert. Sounds more interesting than riding a camel across the desert, doesn’t it?