From elephant rides to tiger selfies, many wildlife experiences around the world are problematic, often using cruel methods behind-the-scenes to “train” wild animals for the entertainment of tourists. These wildlife attractions cater to largely ignorant guests, so how can you know which facilities are ethical? You’ll find that the best wildlife experiences occur in an animal’s natural habitat and are run by trusted conservationists. Here’s a shortlist of five wildlife experiences that are animal-friendly…
1. Go dolphin watching in the Maldives
The Maldives is home to 20 different dolphin species, including thousands of spinner dolphins best known for their acrobatic displays. You can hop on a traditional Maldivian dhoni and set off on a sunset sail just as pods of wild dolphins come out to feed.
2. Walk with giant tortoises in the Galapagos
The most famous resident of the Galapagos Islands is the giant tortoise, a threatened species found only here and in Seychelles. Because of their dwindling numbers, most wild tortoise habitats are off limits to visitors with a few exceptions. Visitors wanting to get a closer look at the island’s magnificent tortoises — whose average lifespan is 100 years or more — can visit breeding and research centers dedicated to conservation efforts.
3. Feed orphaned giraffes in Kenya
Visitors to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi can feed giraffes from a raised observation platform located inside this wildlife sanctuary. The center has been rescuing orphaned giraffes since the 70’s and runs a breeding program and important educational tours for guests.
4. Observe elephants in Thailand
Riding elephants in Thailand is a popular activity for many visitors, but it masks the abuse these animals suffer when being taught to carry people, along with poor living conditions. If you want to get a closer look, try observation-only facilities like ChangChill or Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, which doesn’t allow any interaction with the animals.
5. Go on a tiger safari in India
Ranthambore National Park is a wildlife sanctuary in northern India that gives visitors a chance to see Bengal tigers in their natural jungle habitat. With jeep tours available across the tiger reserve, spotting these big cats depends purely on luck — but the experience can help foster a greater appreciation for these endangered animals which are thought to number less than 2,000 in the wild.