Nowadays, traveling has never been easier and more accessible. It’s great that a lot of destinations around the world are being discovered by more and more people each day. However, traveling also has its negative effects. What I realized is that every little deed has an impact on the environment. It is important to keep in mind that we should not just be travelers, we should be responsible travelers. It does not hurt to be mindful of how we do things in order to lessen the negative effects our travels could have on the environment.

Here’s the thing: Not all tourist destinations are safe for the environment and animal welfare. Some activities involve unethical practices such as inflicting harm on animals and other environmental issues. If you learn that the destination on your list is unethical, you might as well take it off your list. But don’t worry, CVMN came up with some suggested alternatives that you can opt for.

1. Explore Oslob’s hidden gems instead of swimming with the whale sharks.

Photo courtesy of @thepharchipelago on Instagram

There have been talks about the negative effects of the whale shark encounter caused by unethical feeding practices and unnatural migration. Most tourists don’t follow the whale shark interaction code of conduct and they tend to accidentally kick and touch the whale sharks at times. The worst part is: they do not penalize the participants who breach the guidelines.

Great alternative: Instead of swimming with the whale sharks, you can just explore the places around Oslob. You will be surprised at how much the town has to offer. Some of the attractions that you must not miss are Tumalog Falls, Sumilon Island, Cuartel Ruins, and Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church.

2. Visit an elephant sanctuary instead of riding elephants in Thailand.

Photo courtesy of @phuketelephantsanctua on Instagram

A lot of tourists want to ride elephants in Thailand, but we should definitely refrain from doing so. The fact that elephants cannot support the weight of a person is enough reason to stop you from riding on their backs. They may be gigantic, but their spines and leg joints are fragile. Instead of being tied up and tortured for the sake of entertainment, elephants deserve to be roaming around their natural environment.

Great alternative: If you would like to see elephants up close, you can visit sanctuaries in Northern Thailand where elephants are free to roam around and no one is allowed to harm, ride, or even touch them. Just research carefully because some so-called rehabilitation centers still practice maltreatment on these gentle giants by letting visitors take countless photos with them and some even offer activities where tourists can bathe them repeatedly just for the experience.

3. When in Bali, drink any kind of coffee but luwak.

Photo courtesy of @doyoutravel on Instagram

One of the top attractions in Bali is the kopi luwak or civet coffee which is made from partially digested coffee cherries, eaten and defecated by civets. The civets are put in small cages and forced to eat coffee cherries so they can defecate within 24 hours. Their poor diet and captivity can cause mental duress and illnesses. Luwak coffee is known to be one of the most expensive cups of coffee in the world and for the right reason. However, by trying luwak coffee, you are also enabling and supporting the captivity of civets.

Great alternative: If you ever visit Ubud, Bali or Tegallalang Rice Terraces in particular, just admire the view or try other activities such as the popular giant swing. You may also opt for tea, as some coffee plantations in Bali also offer complimentary tea for their guests. But by all means, avoid luwak coffee.

4. Admire wild animals from afar in South Africa instead of posing with them at local zoos.

Photo by @annecurtissmith on Instagram

Animals such as tigers, lions, and snakes belong in the wild and they should be free to roam around their natural habitat instead of catering to tourists. A lot of local zoos and tourist attractions offer photo opportunities with these kinds of animals. Just so the tourists can take selfies, there are also attractions where they drug the animals to make them docile. Do not support activities that hold animals captive just to entertain visitors. Some zoos treat animals cruelly by using chains and hooks to inflict fear.

Great alternative: Instead of petting tigers and lions, you can go to a wildlife sanctuary or a refuge center where you can observe wild animals from a safe distance. The best country to go to is South Africa. The financial cost may be higher, but it will definitely be more worthwhile and fulfilling.

5. If you want to see tarsiers in Bohol, head over to Corella, not Loboc.

Photo by @thefermont on Instagram

Seeing the current status of the species in Loboc is disappointing. The place was underwhelming–and do not get me wrong, it has nothing to do with the tarsiers. The few ones that I saw actually left me in awe–but thinking of how many hundreds of them used to occupy this particular place and how they are held captive in such poor conditions, I cannot help but feel sad and angry for them.

Great alternative: The Tarsier Conservation Area in Corella, Bohol is dedicated to the rehabilitation and preservation of tarsiers. In this place, you can see the tarsiers in their natural environment. The next time you visit Bohol, remember to visit the one in Corella, not in Loboc.

As travelers, we should be responsible for educating ourselves so that we can avoid doing harmful things to the places that we visit. Supporting unethical tourism activities means we are enabling abusers to continue maltreatment on the environment. Don’t just travel for selfies, but travel with meaning and purpose. See the world and make it a better place at the same time. You will be amazed at how traveling can change not just your life, but of everyone around you.

With that said, travel on and explore our home planet responsibly!

Header image by Ravi Kant

Article cover by Sebastian Pena Lambarri