The reality is that there are many unethical operations exploiting animals for profit and it can be confusing for tourists to find ethical experiences. If you'd like more information regarding this, please read this blog post Responsible Tourism: An Easy Guide to Ethical Animal Tourism

I never want to see anyone mistakenly end up in questionable wildlife encounters so I spent some time researching and collecting favorites. These truly are bucket list adventures.

GORILLA TREKKING IN RWANDA

black Gorilla near tree

This is definitely bucket-list worthy; little else is comparable to standing a few metres from these magnificent, peaceful creatures. Despite its legacy, these days Rwanda is a country of beauty, hope and prosperity. And one that doesn't come cheaply. There are a maximum of 96 gorilla tracking permits available each day. As of May 2017, the costs of the gorilla permits doubled to $1,500 USD per person, for a one-hour visit. The country's mountain gorillas are luring an upscale crowd, with the funds that are generated helping to sustain the rare apes. The price aims to strengthen conservation efforts and support the development of local communities. This is an extravagant vacation you can feel good about.

Trekking at high altitude to see these animals can be tough, but this type of raw experience is the very essence of adventure travel. A small population of gorillas live in the Parc National de Volcans, nestled high up in the mountains and shrouded by mist in early morning. It’s breathtaking, as is the whole of this verdant country.

ELEPHANT NATURE PARK IN THAILAND

two elephants near trees

Established in the 1990s, Elephant Nature Park is primarily an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre located in the mountainous terrain of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. Besides elephants, the sanctuary is also populated with buffaloes, dogs, cats, birds and many other rescued animals. These animals are typically rescued from the abuse they face doing trick shows and tourist rides.

A visit will allow for many opportunities for you to get up-close with the elephants; without any elephant-riding of course! Some of the activities that you can engage in at the sanctuary include feeding and bathing the elephants, water-rafting or just observing the carefree elephants eating, bathing and swimming at their own pace.

Elephant Nature Park also has projects in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. They also offer a flagship programme called ‘Saddle Off!’, where you can go up to different villages and enjoy walks with elephants.

Website: elephantnaturepark.org

A WALKING WILDLIFE SAFARI IN SOUTH AFRICA

lion lying at the wild beside bare tree during day

Spectacular. A perfect mix of walking, game viewing and history amongst the stunning diverse landscapes of the northern region of South Africa. Hike through forest, plains and mountains and track wildlife on foot, by foot and 4WD. Rising high above the veld, the Drakensberg, which translates as ‘Dragon Mountain,’ forms an imposing, dramatic and quintessentially South African scene which is explored on foot. Along with the fantastic walking opportunities,there is time to discover the country’s amazing wildlife and hope to see the likes of elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, giraffe, cheetah and much more. Complementing the journey are more walks and visits of Swaziland, St. Lucia and the Battlefields.

ORANGUTAN SPOTTING IN BORNEO

brown monkey near plants

A journey to meet Borneo's diverse nature and wildlife will be an unforgettable experience obtainable once in a lifetime. You simply can’t come to Borneo without trying to catch a glimpse at one of its most famous residents: the orangutan. Chances are pretty slim that you’ll actually rendezvous with one of these primates just swinging around on branches in the wild rainforests. But there are a few nature reserves and sanctuaries scattered throughout Borneo where your odds become substantially greater.

Within these wildlife sanctuaries, many orphaned or formerly captive orangutans have been reintroduced into the wild. Since these guys have been accustomed to life in captivity, some of them still haven’t quite caught on to foraging for themselves. Therefore the wildlife sanctuaries provide these reintroduced-to-the-wild orangutans with twice-a-day feedings in which visitors can happily gawk at these ginger-haired primates who come down to snatch a banana or two.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabiliation Centre, located on Sabah, is perhaps the most known among these facilities. The entrance price, which goes back to aid these rehabilitation efforts, is a mere 30 RM (-$8 USD) per person.

Website: http://www.wildlife.sabah.gov.my/?q=en/content/sepilok-orangutan-rehabilitation-centre

DISCOVER THE MARINE WILDLIFE OF THE MALDIVES

person diving underwater with shark

The necklace of islands that make up the Maldives is characterized by beautiful blue oceans and tropical islands with swaying palm trees and sugar-white sandy beaches. IT is a dream destination for many. Being an ocean-locked nation, the majority of the wildlife in the Maldives is aquatic and there is an incredible diversity of sea life from numerous corals to over 2,000 species of fish, ranging from tiny, colorful reef fish, moray eels, turtles, and rays, to giant pelagic fish, such as tuna, sharks, dolphins, and whale sharks. Other marine life in the waters surrounding the islands includes octopus, squid, giant clams, various kinds of anemones and jellyfish.

AMAZING ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS IN THE GALAPAGOS

seal laying on bench

No other place in the world offers wildlife viewing quite like the Galapagos. With very few external predators and limited human interference, the species that inhabit the Galapagos have always shown a near-fearless attitude to man. Close encounters are assured and you may find yourselves stepping over snoozing Sea lions and iguanas or watching up close the courting rituals of Blue-footed boobies, albatross or frigatebirds. A mask and snorkel will reveal an exciting underworld – turtles, sharks, rays and colourful reef fish are abundant and Sea lions love to come and play! Each island in the Galapagos is known for a different kind of snorkeling adventure.

These are just a few suggestions for ethical wildlife tourism experiences. If you would like a personalized recommendation or to create a tailor-made adventure, please contact me at shariblock@findyourhappytravels.com

If you are interested in more responsible travel tips, get my free resource now: 10 WAYS TO TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY - GREEN TRAVEL TIPS