Sustainable Wildlife Travel Adventures

Nature vacations have become quite popular for families who love to travel. Specifically, wildlife tourism is on the rise as well as families look for ways to connect amidst the busy schedules and noisy, demanding realities of home. Wildlife travel adventures give you and your family an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. As you seek out destinations and tours, I would like to give you a few things to think about. In this blog post, I’ll share some valuable tips and tricks for sustainable wildlife travel that will make your family adventures even more meaningful. Get ready to create lifelong memories while making a positive impact on the world around you.

What is Wildlife Tourism?

In a simplistic sense, wildlife tourism is when you actively or passively interact with wildlife in their natural habitat while travel. It accounts for upwards of 20% of global travel. Wildlife tourism accounts for nearly 22 million jobs worldwide and contributes to the GDP of a multitude of nations around the world. One could say wildlife travel is wildly popular.

Active interaction might include hunting, fishing, feeding animals, swimming with animals, playing with animals and more. Passive interaction would include observing wildlife in their natural habitat, taking photography of animals or being educated about wildlife in a specific destination.

teen boy holding an atlantic crab in a safe and resonsible way

What is Wrong with Wildlife Tourism?

There is a dark truth in the global tourism industry. Many animal encounters offered to tourists include unethical practices. Animals are often drugged, baited, held in dire captivity, and treated poorly if they do not perform for tourists. If it feels wrong to you, it is. If you are paying for an encounter that isn’t natural for an animal, it is indeed unethical. A word about wildlife sanctuaries-these places are typically trying to trick you by using that word. Unless the organization is providing conservation efforts and educating the public on ways to preserve wildlife, it is most likely they are using unethical practices.

Some red flags to look for when you book wildlife adventure tours:

  • Animals that are leashed or chained
  • Tours that include being up close to typically wild animals like elephants, tigers, or dolphins including activities like feeding, bathing, taking pictures with, cuddling, riding, etc.
  • Animals that are held in enclosed spaces
  • Animals that are baited and lured with food to perform tricks
  • Animals that are treated harshly if they do not perform tricks
  • Breeding animals in captivity
  • Companies who exploit wildlife for profit
a young woman posing with a tiger in a cage-used to show an inappropriate way to experience wildlife while traveling

Find Sustainable Wildlife Adventures

When it comes to wildlife encounters, it’s important to prioritize ethics and responsibility. Instead of supporting activities that exploit animals for entertainment, opt for experiences that focus on conservation, research, and education. Look for wildlife sanctuaries, nature reserves, and national parks that allow you to observe animals in their natural habitats without causing harm. It’s a fantastic opportunity for your teenagers to learn about wildlife conservation firsthand.

Support Local Conservation

Let’s become advocates of sustainable travel! By supporting local communities and organizations dedicated to conservation, we can make a real difference. Look for tour operators and accommodations that actively contribute to protecting the environment and supporting local economies. Choosing responsible operators will show your teenagers how we can have an amazing time while positively impacting the world around us. Conservation also plays a big role in sustainable travel. There is a responsibility to protect animal species and their habitats so that we as humans do not overstep and demolish these precious ecosystems.

sloth in costa rica

What is Sustainable Wildlife Travel?

Sustainability means that you are able to maintain or support a process continually over time. Sustainable wildlife practices support the health and vitality of the animals, which is centered around preservation. These practices not only ensure the longevity of the animal’s life and the species as a whole, but also the future opportunities for tourists to enjoy the same experiences.

zebras taking a drink at a water hole in south africa with a sunset in the background

Educate Yourself and Others

Knowledge is the key to fostering a deeper appreciation for the wonders of nature. Encourage your teenagers to learn about the local flora, fauna, and conservation challenges of the places we visit. It’s an opportunity to ignite their curiosity and passion for wildlife conservation. Sharing what we learn with fellow travelers and friends back home can inspire others to join the sustainable travel movement.

Family adventures are not only about having fun but also about leaving a positive impact on the world. By choosing ethical wildlife experiences, supporting local conservation efforts, minimizing our ecological footprint, respecting wildlife and their habitats, educating ourselves and others, and offsetting our carbon emissions, we can become responsible global citizens. Together, we will embark on a journey that will inspire, educate, and connect us with the incredible wildlife and natural wonders that our planet has to offer.

two elephants shown at a sanctuary in a natural habitat

The Best Sustainable Wildlife Travel Destinations

Costa Rica

Known for its abundant biodiversity and commitment to conservation, Costa Rica is a dream destination for sustainable wildlife travel. Explore the lush rainforests of Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can spot monkeys, sloths, and vibrant bird species. Head to Tortuguero National Park to witness sea turtles nesting along the pristine beaches. Don’t forget to visit Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, home to an incredible array of plants, mammals, and birds.

South Africa

Embark on an unforgettable safari experience in South Africa. Kruger National Park is a must-visit destination, offering the opportunity to see the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo) in their natural habitat. Take part in eco-conscious lodges that promote conservation efforts and support local communities. The Wild Coast region is also worth exploring, where you can spot whales, dolphins, and other marine life along the stunning coastline.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

For a truly unique wildlife experience, head to the Galapagos Islands. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a haven for diverse and endemic species. Explore the islands’ volcanic landscapes and encounter giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and playful sea lions. Choose eco-friendly tour operators that prioritize sustainable practices and support local conservation initiatives.

Pantanal, Brazil

Head to the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, located in Brazil. This vast region is a haven for wildlife, including jaguars, caimans, capybaras, and an incredible diversity of bird species. Choose eco-lodges that prioritize conservation and offer guided wildlife tours. Take boat trips along the rivers and venture into the heart of this biodiverse landscape for unforgettable wildlife encounters.


Whale watching in Hawaii is a truly extraordinary experience, and each island offers unique opportunities to witness the annual migration of humpback whales. Whether you choose Maui, Oahu, Big Island, Kauai, or the less frequented Lanai and Molokai, it’s important to select sustainable tour operators and follow responsible whale watching practices. By combining the best spots with eco-conscious choices, you can enjoy an unforgettable whale watching adventure while ensuring the well-being of these magnificent creatures and their delicate marine ecosystem.

whale tail flipping water into the air with a boat in the background showing appropriate distance from the animal

For more travel information or more on outdoor adventures with your teens, head over to my profile with Fora Travel where I provide travel advisory services or to my tab on tips and tricks to adventure with teens.

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