“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit”

As we flock to live in urban areas, nearly 70% by 2050, we are still irresistibly attracted to wilderness. It is so deeply rooted in us that we seek ways to return to it and discover and rediscover Nature’s uniqueness. It is also what keeps us in balance and reminds us that it is this very wilderness that makes life on Earth possible.

Each year over 12 million people travel to catch a glimpse of wildlife: from bird watching to whale spotting and safari riding. Ten time as many seek discovery, adventure and relaxation in the wilderness.Â
Here we explore the different aspects of wilderness and wildlife travel and the positive and negative impact of our travels on the local environment and surrounding communities and cultures.

Positive impact of wilderness and wildlife travel

Travelers become increasingly  conscious and mindful of their impact as they travel. It is enough to Google “tips on responsible or sustainable travel” to get a full list of does and don’t on:

How to pack? What to eat? Where to stay?
How to spend your money? etc. etc.

All of this is creating a generation of mindful and conscious travelers. Thus, we are more likely to choose destinations and ways to travel where we can reduce our negative impact and select activities that will benefit positively the environment and local communities. By definition wilderness and wildlife travel have a positive impact on the planet and people. Right! And here are some example:Â

  • Most wilderness travelers do not only what to see but also learn about the places they visit.
  • They are more likely to stay in places and do activities that have conservation and/or local community projects.
  • Part of their money (from entry fees, taxes, etc) go to wilderness and wildlife conservation
  • Wildlife “tourism” contributes to keeping wildlife in their natural habitat, rather than have animals in captivity or use them to amuse and entertain tourists.

But is this always the case? Let’s have a look at the negative impact of wildlife travel.

Negative impact of wilderness and wildlife travel

We tend to associate wilderness and wildlife travel with pristine and pure natural views, as well as unique and spectacular animal experiences.

However, we should also consider the following:

  • Access to wilderness and wildlife in their natural habitat requires an infrastructure, i.e. roads, accommodation, etc. This may disrupt  Nature’s balance and eco-systems..
  • As visitor numbers grow ground keepers and authorities start to struggle to manage  trail impact, litter impact, water impact and wildlife impact.
  • In terms of wildlife this creates dependence, overfeeding and malnourishment (i.e. inappropriate and perhaps dangerous food or packaging). this can also lead to attraction or aggression towards humans, altered behaviors and disrupted ecological relationships.
  • Local communities may lose their livelihood as land is being converted into natural parks and reserve and is claimed for tourist infrastructure.
  • Ofter only a fraction of “tourist” income goes to local communities, undermining the real social and economic benefits of wildlife “tourism.

Into the wild tips

Therefore, if you decide to go into the wild made sure:

  • You do your research in advance, choose locations and activities that truly embrace the natural habitat and wildlife protection principles.
  • A significant portion of the money you spend goes back to local communities.
  • Take a local guide or at least take time to attend talks and speak to locals to understand the contact and environment you are in.
  • And last but not least, avoid wildlife activities that exploit or hurt animals in anyway.

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