It’s 2023 and it finally feels like travel is back on the cards for good! But as the world speeds up again post-pandemic, today’s post is your reminder to slow down, smell the roses (so to speak), and experience the many wonders of the natural world around us!
Let’s be honest, you can live in a beautiful place (indeed, many of us do!), spend your time surrounded by incredible nature and yet experience none of it! Or rather, appreciate none of it. When we are busy moving through our daily routines and racing to cross items off our to-do lists, we can be completely oblivious to the wonder and beauty of nature in our everyday lives. It’s one of the main reasons I loved working as a bird tour guide – because showing guests around our backyard helped me to appreciate it so much more than I might have otherwise. Indeed, while we often know in the back of our minds that we live somewhere lovely, we don’t always spend the time each day taking moments to observe and admire the small details and stories that play out in the natural world around us.
While this certainly sounds like a plug for practicing mindfulness (and in part, I guess it is), todays post is all about experiencing and appreciating nature, ultimately as a tool for conservation. After all, one of our most recent #itsawildlife guests, Ryan Manette of Trinidad and Tobago, so eloquently said-
“It’s hard to love what you don’t know. And it’s very hard to protect what you don’t love”
Slowing down to experience wildlife is an incredible way to travel through life. And of course, wildlife travel is an amazing way to experience the wonders of the natural world outside of your own backyard. And with many companies worldwide, like NatureTrek, offering wildlife-focussed encounters, there’s never been a better time to experience the big cats in India, bears in Romania or birds in Belize.
Today we consider four benefits of wildlife travel (either at home, or abroad) in 2023.
One. Broadening your perspective of the (natural) world.
As someone who has spent a large part of the past 12 months travelling the world to experience nature, I can certainly testify to the value of travelling! Travel can broaden your perspective of the cultural and natural world – allowing you to step outside your regular frame of view and consider new ideas, share knowledge and see patterns across a broader scale.
In this way, travel can be humbling, formative and educational – even if you don’t mean it to be! I know for us, we set off simply to see lots of cool birds and came away with so much more than that!
Two. Bringing your bucket list to life.
You may not have a written wish list so to speak, but most people have grown up with a dream to see some of the world’s more iconic wildlife species: lions, tigers, elephants, bears to name a few… These encounters often leave visitors lost for words and filled with appreciation for the experience, in at the idea they have finally fulfilled an often childhood dream of seeing these animals in the wild. After all, no story book or nature documentary or magazine spread truly compares to a wild encounter in real life.
And yet, many of these flagship species are considered threatened with extinction and if drastic action is not taken to conserve them over the next few years, they could disappear on our watch. This certainly adds a time pressure for wildlife-watchers looking to experiencing many of these incredible creatures for themselves in the wild. It also creates an urgency to engage as many people as possible in the conservation efforts for these species to protect them into the future.
Unsurprisingly, wildlife encounters are a wonderful way to connect people with these animals in a way that is both intimate and profound, and engage support for their conservation.
And furthermore, supporting sustainable wildlife tourism, either as an independent traveller or as part of a wildlife tour group, you can help support local conservation efforts and livelihoods. So many issues for nature conservation have deep roots in social injustice – the two are intimately linked. And consequently, hiring local guides and supporting local community operations around wildlife tourism will not only enhance your experience, but it will contribute towards better outcomes for the wild animals you have travelled to encounter!
And, when you have a truly amazing tour guide who interprets the natural world, shares their knowledge and keeps everything comfortable and safe, the experience is always unrivalled.
Three. Dedicating the time.
In the busy world that forms the backdrop to our everyday lives, it can often be a lot harder to put time aside to experience wildlife or connect with the natural world. Even as someone who works closely in nature and appreciates the importance of spending time with her, I still find I need to remind myself to get outdoors, take time to observe and notice the smaller details. In reality, we have deadlines, meetings and expectations that keep our pedal to the metal as we chase productivity and follow strict routines and structures.
By booking time aside to travel somewhere that’s been on your bucket list for as long as you can remember – or spend time searching for an animal you’ve always wanted to experience, you are taking the first steps. After all, your time should reflect what you care about right!?
And, although documentaries and other nature-related media have misled us to believe that intimate wildlife encounters can happen quickly and without a huge amount of effort, we rarely peek behind the scenes and appreciate the time and energy that is required to obtain this footage. Often when searching for rare or threatened wildlife in places we are unfamiliar with, we either need to dedicate a huge amount of time to it, or we need to hire a local expert to heighten our chances of success.
Although this may sound harsh, it is something to consider. After all, you wouldn’t want to spend the money and set aside the time to travel halfway across the world to not experience your bucket list tiger, would you?
Four. Valuing the experience.
As much as we choose not to believe it, the jury is out and the evidence is overwhelming on this one: spending money on something helps us as humans to place a value on it. And when we value intimate encounters with wildlife, they become truly transcendent moments that stick with us for the rest of our lives.
In conclusion, these four reasons are by no means an extensive list of the many benefits to slowing down in life and experiencing wildlife in nature, whether in your own backyard or abroad. Rather, I hope they serve as inspiration to fuel your next wild adventure in 2023!
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