Traveling changes you as a person and opens your eyes to something you can’t describe until you’ve been there and done it. I have often been asked what are the key things that travelers need to know when it comes to being responsible on their journeys around the world. Through my travel journeys, I have learned that responsible tourism is all about leaving a positive impact on not only the environment but also the people who wish to visit the places I’ve traveled to.
During my travels to South East Asia, I have become increasingly aware of how common it is to do elephant rides as a tourist activity. Humans love to be near elephants. Actually, Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair once said that; “We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.”
During one of my recent game reserve visits, I have learned that to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit. It involves ripping baby elephants away from their mothers and confining them in a very small space, like a cage or hole in the ground where they’re unable to move. The baby elephants are then beaten into submission with clubs, pierced with sharp bull-hooks, and simultaneously starved and deprived of sleep for many days. The real battle here is awareness, for if people knew what it takes for the world’s largest land animal to be submissive to humans, we would never, ever ask for it.
However, if you are as lucky as I am to live in a beautiful country like South Africa, there are lots of ways to view elephants in their natural habitats without causing harm!
Viewing elephants in the wild is a breathtaking experience. I got to experience this during various trips to game reserves this year. Watching them graze in their natural family groups was so much better than being up close to captive elephants in Asia! I truly believe that if Western tourists stop being customers for elephant rides, this will immediately change the scenario and improve the welfare and lives of elephants across Asia especially.
Two Game Reserves that especially stood out for me this year in terms of animal conservation were Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape and Sanbona Game Reserve in the Western Cape. Both Shamwari and Sanbona aim to promote conservation and protect their elephant species and their habitat, whilst maintaining a compassionate approach to the welfare of these beautiful animals.
Both reserves strive to deliver a safari experience that leaves you feeling educated revitalized, refreshed and relaxed.
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