For a lot of people, a key thing to do when on trips is look for wildlife. This goes for anything from roaming the massive reaches of Yellowstone National Park to snorkeling in Hanauma Bay on Oahu. Nothing beats the charge of seeing an incredible animal in it’s natural environment.
That being said, some people don’t seem to understand that difference between wild animals and zoos. The rules are a lot different, and there are no guarantees as to what you will and will not see. Just do your best to not be a jerk about it.
The joys of wildlife tourism
While zoos can offer a lot of unique experiences and build great memories, it’s hard to compare this to the experience of seeing an animal living its life in the wild. There’s just something special about spotting an animal you didn’t necessarily expect to see.
Yellowstone National Park is certainly famous for providing thousands of such opportunities per year. The park is teeming with life, including the largest free roaming bison herd in North America. Beyond that, there are innumerable species to spot, including a large population of bears.
On the other end of the spectrum is Hawai’i. While there are not a lot of endemic mammal species, there are a lot of birds to spot, not to mention an entire ocean’s worth of life to check out. Snorkeling from shore is as big of a blast as taking a cruise to go whale spotting.
But that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are spots all over the world filled with wildlife, from Costa Rica all the way to Antarctica and back again. But as fun as wildlife tourism is, there is one simple fact you absolutely have to keep in mind.
YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL
The one thing that a lot of people just don’t seem to get is the fact that wildlife is wild. A lot of people have seen those lists of ridiculous travel complaints. And a surprising number of them are related to wildlife.
Many visitors to places like Yellowstone are of the belief that they are guaranteed to see wildlife when they go. That’s not how it works when it comes to wildlife tourism. There are literally no guarantees whatsoever.
Wild animals come and go as they see fit. That’s what make them wild. Bears don’t sit at the edge of the forest, politely waiting to be photographed at a tourist’s convenience. In fact, they will do whatever is necessary to avoid humans.
Whale tours in Hawai’i work the same way. They can take you out on the ocean to where you’ll probably see whales. That doesn’t mean that you are remotely guaranteed to see whales. It seems obvious but this apparently needs to actually be said to some people.
An extension of this is the fact that people think that a full grown bull moose is the same as their dog and try to get their kids to take pictures with it. Stay away from wild animals. Bad things happen when you don’t respect their personal space.
Again, you are not in control of this situation. Wild animals will not magically appear just because you are there and they certainly do not want to take selfies with you. Zoo animals just barely tolerate your presence. Wild animals generally do not want people around.
Wildlife tourism can still be a lot of fun
None of that is meant to be a negative, just realistic. And being realistic about wildlife tourism certainly doesn’t mean that the experience can’t still be fun. At the same time, keeping realistic expectations in mind doesn’t hurt.
Go into every wildlife tourism experience accepting the fact that you might not see the animals you’re looking for. You also might see something else really cool. The dolphin tour you signed up for might not come across any dolphins but you might spot some cool sea turtles.
If you do find any animals, you should also be respectful of them in every way. They’re not there for your amusement and you’re in their home. As such, take off your proverbial shoes and ask if it’s okay if you sit on the good couch before you plunk your butt down.
In the end, you could have an experience of a lifetime if you’re realistic and respectful. There are a lot of cool animals in every corner in the world, and even more ways to enjoy viewing them. The memories you come back will be forever.