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Wildlife holidays, vital to conservation - The where and how guide


Wildlife tourism is probably the key factor to safeguarding the wildlife of the world. Where wildlife has a monetary value, it is much more likely to be preserved, whether for tourism or, sadly, hunting. It may be called Eco-tourism, green tourism or responsible travel, but it shouldn't just be about using less fuel and recycling your rubbish. Money on the ground and in the hands of the local inhabitants is by far the most important factor in the conservation of the wildife and habitats of the world.

Why is there much more wildlife left in Kenya or Botswana than in Ethiopia or Mozambique? Because there is an established wildlife tourism industry that provides a living for the local population, so there is a sound reason for them to preserve their wildlife. To put it in the revolting modern vernacular, they become stake holders.

This doesn't just apply to African safaris. Whales have proved that they are worth a lot more alive than dead; the Galloway Kite Trail in Scotland is boosting the local economy by around £750,000 + every year, and the coral reefs of the Caribbean provide some $4 billion of revenue to the region from dive tourism and fishing.

It is only when people can afford to eat and live well that they will start to worry about their environment.

On safari in East Africa. Copyright Wildlife Extra.

On safari in East Africa. Copyright Wildlife Extra.

Fast growing, and vital to many communities 

Wildlife holidays are one of the fastest growing areas of the holiday market, and UNEP stated "As well as providing enjoyment for millions of people, wildlife watching tourism is a significant source of income and employment for a growing number of communities, particularly in developing countries, and underlines the value of conservation. In 2000, Kenya received 943,000 international arrivals which generated international tourism receipts of USD 304 million. For Tanzania the figures were 459,000 arrivals and tourism receipts of USD $739 million, and for Uganda, 151,000 arrivals and receipts of USD $149 million."

What to look for - Be wary

Be wary of holidays that seem very cheap - this especially applies to wildlife holidays. If something looks very cheap, there is probably good reason for this, perhaps an untrained guide or shoddy transport.

  • Check time spent actually wildlife viewing. A 3 day trip might only include a few hours of wildife watchign on the middle day.
  • Ask about the guide, their experience and expertise.
  • Ask about travel - How much time & distance and what sort of vehicle.
  • Check the season. Some seasons are much cheaper than others. This can be because it is outside of school holidays, or it might be that it is a poor time for wildlife viewing in that area.
  • Check for bonding, accreditation, longevity and recommendations.

Where to go

This is a limitless topic. Every country has some wildlife, and many of the less obvious wildlife spectacles can prove to be the most rewarding. Safaris in Africa and India, and the wildlife of the Galapagos and the Antarctic, and the submarine life on the Great Barrier Reef are well documented, but there are so many other places that can provide equally rewarding experiences, and yet more unusual wildlife experiences that will leave their mark for ever.

Top wildlife watching destinations off the beaten track.

  • Valdes Peninsula, Argentina - Right whales, orca, elephant seals, guanaco, Magellanic penguins and rhea
  • Guyana. Jaguars, monkeys, extraordinary birdlife.
  • Ghana. Elephants, bats, monkeys, butterflies, extraordinary birdlife
  • Kangaroo Island - South Australia
  • Vancouver Island, Canada. - Grey and humpback whales, orca, seals, bears, wolves, extraordinary sea life.
  • New England - whales.
  • Azores whales watching
  • Western Scotland - Red deer, Golden and sea eagles, basking sharks, bottlenose dolphins, seals and birds.
  • Svarlbard - Polar bears, sea birds and whales
  • Yala National Park - Sri Lanka
  • Coto Donana National Park, Spain.

Unusual wildlife watching experiences

  • Cheetahs in Iran
  • Elephants in Mali
  • Ethiopian wolves and Gelada baboons.
  • Snakes in Lamington National Park, Surfers Paradise, Australia
  • Romania - Bears, wolves and lynx
  • Gambia river - Herons, ospreys, curlew, kingfishers, wading birds, crabs.
  • Kamchatka - Bears
  • Ireland whale and dolphin watching.
  • Salisbury Plain, UK - Great bustards

Small group holidays

You will travel with a group of perhaps 12 - 16 people, sharing transport, guides and experiences. Generally you will be on a set itinerary and on set dates, and in a twin room (very good for single travellers as usually no single supplement). Groups will usually be a wide range of ages and of several nationalities, you can always ask who else is booked before you book.

They tend to spend time on other aspects as well as just wildilfe, such as the culture, wildife, cuisine and people of the place you are visiting. Avoid younger groups as they tend to be less interested in getting up at 5am to see the wildlife!


  • Ideal for single travellers, and usually there is no single supplement
  • Sharing the cost with a group of up to 16 or so others keeps the cost down
  • Sharing the transport is much more environmentally sound
  • You will meet like minded people and usually several new friends
  • Generally you will be more secure traveling with a group


  • Most groups have a great mix of people, but not all.
  • Although some flexibility is built in, you will be on a set itinerary
  • There will be a higher guide to client ratio so you will have less attention
  • It can be difficult to blend in when with a group of 12 - 16 people. 
  • Inflexible dates

A selection of holiday companies who run small group holidays

  • The Adventure Company - Family and small group wildife, cultural and wilderness holidays. Click here.
  • Wildlife Worldwide - Wildife specialists. Click here to go to their website.
  • Out of the Blue - Whale and dolphin watching. Click here to go to their website.
  • Steppes Discovery - Wildlife trips and conservation focused holidays worldwide. Click here for their website.

Tailor made holidays

Tailor made holidays are designed to your exact specifications, so you get to where and when you want. You get to choose the dates, accommodation, transport, side trips and everything else. Sounds great, but unless you are an expert, make sure you take advice from someone who knows the destination. Even if you are traveling with a group of friends, tailor made holidays will generally cost more due to the work involved in putting them together, even if you do it yourself. But if you have the budget and you know what you want to do, tailor made is the way forward.



  • You can decide exactly where you go and what you do
  • Ideal if you just want to travel with whom you choose
  • Dedicated guide for personal attention


  • Will usually be much more expensive as the planning and operation all have to be tailor made.
  • Usually worse for the environment
  • Much less opportunity to make new friends

A selection of holiday companies who run tailor made holidays

Holidays with a set itinerary

Buy an off the shelf itinerary and you can get some of the benfits of the tailor made while just travelling as a couple (single travellers usually have to pay single supplement). The research and work has already been done, generally by someone who knows what they are talking about. You can generallly make some changes to these itineraries, but that causes extra work, and thus extra costs.




  • Much of the set up work is already done, which helps keep the costs down
  • Ideal if you just want to travel with whom you choose, though you may share some facilities
  • Usually you will have a dedicated guide so you will have more personal attention


  • Usually worse for the environment
  • Less opportunity to make new friends


A selection of holiday companies who run holidays with set itineraries

  • Wildlife Worldwide - Wildlife watching holidays all over the world - Click here to go to their website
  • Kicheche Camps - Luxury safari camps in Kenya - Click here to go to their website