Wild about animals? Try voluntourism!
Responsible travel options abound around the world! Learn about wildlife parks and sanctuaries that allow travellers to volunteer and work closely with animals — including elephants, cheetahs, monkeys and jaguars.
Spending time with animals is a big draw to the tourism industry. There are the safaris. The zoos. The circuses. Even the random elephant riding in parking lots.
However, these chances to see animals up-close doesn’t mean they are being treated humanely. Or that there isn’t a better opportunity to see them in a different environment.
What if, while visiting Thailand, you could walk right up to an elephant, put a cluster of bananas in its trunk, and then give its thick hide a good scratch?
You can. In fact, all around the world, there are opportunities just like this — where you get to spend time with animals without causing them harm. We have listed three places below, and there are others. Check out ZoQuest Explorer and Animal Experience International for other options and to learn more.
In many cases, taking time to visit one of these places would actually help these animals. It also sends a message to the tourism industry that you will not support the abuse these animals face in the name of making money.
Elephant Nature Park, Thailand
We’ve been talking a lot about Elephant Nature Park the past couple of weeks in these posts: Elephant riding in Thailand, From Voluntourism to activism, Travel choices for change and Voluntourism in Thailand at Elephant Nature Park. And with good reason.
Located just outside of Chiang Mai, Elephant Nature Park is home to more than 30 elephants rescued from the trekking and illegal logging industries. Here, there are no rides. There are no performances. But, there are plenty of chances to spend time with these creatures. You can feed, bathe and pet these animals, and learn about the tourism industry and how you can help put a stop to the abuse these animals face. Opportunities to experience elephants at the park range from a day visit from Chiang Mai, an overnight visit to week and two-week volunteering opportunities.
Jaguar Rescue Center, Costa Rica
The Jaguar Rescue Center in Playa Chiquita is an inexpensive option to get hands-on time with monkeys, wild cats, sloths, marsupials, amphibians and more. Here, these animals are being rehabilitated and will then be introduced back into their natural habitat in protected areas in the country. Guided visits Monday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia
The Cheetah Conservation Fund, located in Namibia, gives travelers a very unique opportunity to interact with predator cats living on a conservation. The crisis facing these magnificent creatures is sad – they are being killed by farmers for encroaching on their land. Fortunately, CCF is working to rehabilitate cheetahs and create programs to aid farmers so they don’t kill these animals. Volunteering doesn’t come cheap, but for those who want to help these animals and the organization, it is a great way to do so (and spend time/learn more about these animals).