How to take great wildlife photos on your travels

From urban geese and snowy stags through to underwater habitats and forest close ups, the standard of images at the 2014 British Wildlife Photography Awards was incredible (you can see the winners’ gallery here). If you’ve been inspired by the amazing images from the competition, professional nature photographer Paul Hobson shares his top tips for amateur photographers looking to capture the great outdoors on their travels.

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Taking wildlife close-ups

Taking extreme close up photography, also known as macro photography, is a great way to capture a new perspective of your destination. But showing intricate details in a larger-than-life way can be tricky. Here are Paul’s top macro tips:

Try to get low: Lying down on the ground to photograph close-ups creates a lovely blur effect before and after your subject, helping it really stand out.

Find interesting subjects: Macro subjects are everywhere. Think about patterns such as tree bark or leaves resting on moss. Every season is different – autumn not only adds lovely colours but is the best time for fungi which make brilliant macro subjects. The main thing is to experiment and look for different patterns and textures.

Learn your equipment settings: Paul says “I always shoot in Aperture Priority (Av). I choose my F number when I consider what depth of field I need. However if you have a compact it will usually have a macro setting, choose this. Depth of field is very small when using macro lenses so you often have to use large F numbers like 11, 16 or 22. Learn to understand ISO and use this to increase the speed in low light situations. Be careful though; if the ISO gets too high the image becomes grainy (called noise).”

Buy a large lens: If you are considering purchasing a macro lens try to get the largest size you can afford. All dedicated macro lenses produce an image that is 1:1, i.e. life size. A 90/100mm macro lens produces the same image size as a 60mm macro lens but you are nearly twice as far away. A 180mm macro lens will produce the same image size but at twice the distance of a 90/100mm lens from the subject. The further away you are reduces the chances of disturbing or scaring away skittish subjects (like butterflies).

See more of Paul’s macro photography tips

Taking photos of animals

Woodland animals are notoriously shy, which makes capturing that elusive moment you see them so exciting:

Stalk or wait? Forest animals are very timid. You have to decide if you are going to stalk them or wait for them to show up in one place. Some animals, such as deer in forest parks, are used to people so will allow a closer approach. It’s often better to practise with animals that are used to seeing humans so you can build up your skills.

Get up and out early: Most mammals and birds are most active just after dawn, during the early morning and towards sunset. The light is always better at these times generally. Check out the location you want to photograph a few times before actually taking your camera to work out where you want to aim the lens. A few days watching and learning can make all the difference to your success rate before that first early morning with your camera.

Use a tripod: If you are going to wait for your subject, such as birds coming to food you have put out, use a tripod. It means you don’t have to keep holding the camera for hours. A comfy chair or seat also helps. In some situations you may also need a hide but in others such as a fox walking down a well-used path you can snuggle down and wait.

Research: Reading about your subject is always a good idea. There are lots of good books and websites to help. Learn when your animal is most active, what’s the best time of day (and time of year) to spot it, what behaviour you can expect and how good its senses are. For example, badgers have poor eyesight but have brilliant hearing and sense of smell.

See more of Paul’s animal photography tips

Taking nature landscapes

Seek out shadows: Shadows can play a key part in any landscape image and add drama and depth. Think about how they will move, lengthen or shorten during the day and plan your time when you will create your image to get the best effect from any shadows.

Pick a lens size: The best landscape lenses tend to be the smaller ones, depending on whether your camera has a crop factor sensor (most do). Choose a small zoom, say 16-35, 17-40 or 24–105mm. A 70-200mm can be an effective landscape lens but it’s always a good idea to have one that allows a wider angle approach as well.

Think of the composition: For landscapes, think about the sky and if you are going to include it. If you do, try to avoid having the horizon straight across the middle of your image. Sometimes a point of focus in front of the image, say a fern or mossy rock helps to lead the eye into your landscape.

Use a higher ISO and F number: Most landscape images are shot at high F numbers like 16, 22 or 32 to create a big depth of field. You may have to move your ISO up to make sure you get a good speed if you handhold your camera. Better still though is to use a tripod.

See more of Paul’s landscape photography tips.

About Paul Hobson: Paul has received many awards for his images, including being Highly Commended this year in the British Wildlife Photography awards with his image of a toad underwater. Before becoming a full time nature photographer, Paul worked at Sheffield College as an Environmental Science Lecturer. Paul has been photographing wildlife for over 20 years and is committed to raising awareness of the tremendous beauty and fragility of Britain’s wildlife. His work is regularly used in BBC Wildlife, Birdwatch and Natural World.

All images courtesy of Paul Hobson

5 digital ways to ‘green’ your travels

With lightweight laptops, tablets and smartphones, finding advice and inspiration when travelling has never been easier. There is a wealth of apps, websites and social media platforms out there focused on eco travel advice and inspiration helping you to pick the best eco-friendly options.

But don't let digital rule your life - switch-off properly when you're away!
But don’t let digital rule your life – switch-off properly when you’re away!

However, at Goodtrippers, we’re advocates of enjoying the here and now so this post comes with our best advice – only look at your digital screen during some genuine downtime! Never miss the sights and sounds around you, even on supposedly boring car journeys, by losing precious hours to Twitter, Reddit and all the rest. Put that laptop or phone AWAY for the most part of your trip. When planning a trip before you go, and you need some advice and inspiration (that’s a little easier to access than a bulky guidebook), you can have a peek at these apps and sites…

Pinterest – What Pinterest may lack in comprehensive detail, it more than makes up for in sheer aesthetic inspiration when it comes to eco travel. Just search for “eco lodge”, “ecotourism” or ‘eco travel” and you’ll be greeted with streams of beautiful and unusual places to stay, eat or visit. With most images linked you’ll be able to find out more a particular location or hotel in no time. Start re-pinning your favourites and you’re on your way to planning your trip of a lifetime!

Ecorio app – Free to Android users, this new app helps users track their personal carbon footprint when travelling. Once you’ve set-up with your initial location, it will constantly track your carbon usage based on whether you’re travelling by bike, public transport or specific model of car. It also gives tips on public transport options available wherever you are, and ties in to the carpooling community ZimRide to help make journeys less carbon hungry.

Lonely Planet app – one of the leading travel guides and websites also has a range of very comprehensive apps for the iPhone, Android and Nokia. Even though this may be more a location guide for several countries, the Lonely Planet ethos ensures you’ll be enjoying your travels responsibly by choosing low-impact travel and respecting local cultures.

Locavore app – Available for free on the iPhone and Android, this foodie app is a must for any ‘locavore’, or lover of local, seasonal food. Wherever you are, it will list the produce in season in your area, pinpoint local farmers’ markets and shops selling fresh, local, sometime organic food. It appears quite USA-heavy at present but they are intending to build up a more comprehensive picture covering other countries as the community builds…

The Guardian: Green Travel – The Guardian has always been strong on green travel and this section of their website pulls together all of their ecotourism news and features. It’s definitely worth a thorough browse before or during your trip as one of their intrepid journalists may well have been there and reviewed it before you! From staying in treehouses, taking high-speed trains across Europe or readers tips covering everything from organic cafes to the best natural woodlands – it’s all here!

That’s just a few to get started. Let us know your favourite eco-friendly travel apps and social sites in the comments below…

8 ways to revise your travel code of conduct

The adage “leave only footprints; take only photos” is probably well known to most of you, but it’s always worth revisiting those lessons for being a responsible traveller. Here are eight quick ways to revise your code of conduct for good travel:

backpacker on a hike

Learn the language – If you can at least muster a “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Please” and “Thank you” you’ll get far as people will appreciate your attempts to communicate. If you can go one further and try a “My name is…” or “Your country is beautiful”, even better. We sometimes kid ourselves that we’re doing very well because we’ve picked up a few key words, but chances are your local hosts will be attempting to hold more of a conversation with you, in your native tongue. Learning more than the basics and you’ll really be impressing!

Check your body language – Before you go on your travels spend some time reading up on local gestures. An innocent hand motion in the UK may be the height of bad manners in Japan. Showing the soles of your feet is incredibly offensive in many Asian countries so think before you relax and put your feet up.

Dress appropriately – You may be in a hot country but depending on local religion or customs, it may not be appropriate to wear skimpy clothing (this is for both men and women). In Muslim countries it may be better to wear a T-shirt when swimming (this also saves you from a sunburnt back!). Visiting churches and temples usually requires clothing that covers knees, shoulders and sometimes hair.

Don’t take natural souvenirs – That shell, stone or flower may look pretty on your mantelpiece back home but (as my parents always said), if everyone took one, there would be nothing left. Take a photo if you’re really taken with that piece of nature. Similarly, when shopping for souvenirs in the local shops and markets, always ask what they’re made of, especially if you’re unsure. Sadly, rare woods or derivatives of endangered animals are sometimes used to create souvenirs. If in doubt, buy something that’s clearly ‘safe’.

Avoid exploitative attractions – It’s all too common to witness animal cruelty wherever you are in the world. Whether it’s badly-run zoos, tourist-heavy safaris, circuses and performances, even exploitative animal attractions dressed up as conservation projects, you will need to be on the look out for poor welfare and always ask ‘is this OK?’. Check out an attraction’s animal welfare credentials online or ask them in person. A general rule of thumb, if an animal is displaying unnatural behaviour, it’s a sign that all is not well. Don’t patronise these outfits and even report any bad practice you see to the authorities, your tour operator or WWF.

Use resources sensitively – Those living in remote, rural areas are often used to conserving any limited resources such as water or energy. Don’t be the one leaving the lights on or the tap running unnecessarily – a lot of work goes into obtaining those resources so use them sparingly and sensitively.

Tread lightly – You may find yourself in locations where humans are rare and the environment belongs to the local wildlife. Keep that in mind and try and have as little impact on your surroundings as possible. Keep to the existing paths, don’t touch or damage the flora and if you meet any animals, remember it’s their home first and foremost!

Smile! – Don’t forget to smile; it transcends language barriers and needs no translation. You’re a visitor in someone else’s country, or even home, so show them that you’re grateful, happy and enjoying it!

Do you have any more tips to add to this code of conduct? Let us know in the comments below, or via Twitter @Goodtrippers

This post was originally published on Frontier’s Gap Year Blog

Why responsible travellers should beware of lion parks

Guest blogger Erin Sparks, Placement and Volunteer Manager at PoD Volunteer, reveals the hidden shame of lion cub attractions

For many people, the idea of getting to play with, cuddle and even bottle feed lion cubs comes high on the ‘to do’ list lion cub (PoD Volunteer) when travelling to Africa and offers a once in a lifetime opportunity. However there is a darker side to this attraction.

This form of petting tourism is becoming increasingly popular, especially across South Africa, both to tourists who visit a lion park for a couple of hours and to volunteers who choose to spend a few weeks helping at these parks. Visitors and volunteers are told that they are saving lions in the wild by supporting these parks – but here are just some realities to make you think twice…

Problems for hand-raised lions

Many park owners claim to be releasing their hand-raised lions back into the wild. There are numerous issues with releasing hand-raised lions into the wild. These lions will always associate humans with food (as they have always been provided with food from humans while they have been growing up). Hand-raised lions will still have their natural instincts; however they will not have the same natural fear of humans that wild-born lions have, which will make them more likely to come into conflict with humans after their release.

Welfare of lion cubs

These lion parks make a considerable amount of money from tourists who pay for interactions with cubs. Generally, cubs that are aged between one and three months are used as these are most ‘suitable’; they are small, photogenic and at an age where the size of their teeth and claws mean that the damage they could do to tourists is limited. However, young animals (like humans) need a lot of rest and sleep whilst growing. On busy days when there are a lot of tourists wanting their chance to play with a lion cub, the cubs are not given time to rest. Regular interaction with humans can also cause health problems with the cubs. Many cubs in these facilities have been known to die of stress-related diseases and they can suffer injuries by being incorrectly handled by inexperienced staff, volunteers or tourists.

Damage to health

In order for the parks to be able to offer interaction opportunities with cubs, they are taken from their mothers after just a few days to a few weeks (depending on the facility). This can lead to viral, respiratory and nutritional problems with are common amongst hand-raised predators due to substandard milk formulas being used to replace the mother’s milk. This can lead to lower immunity and the regular contact with humans can cause the cubs to contract diseases such as ringworm (often passed from visitors’ own domestic cats at home).

Pressures on lionesses

The removal of cubs from their mothers at a young age also leads to problems for the mother herself as the lioness can go back into oestrus sooner than she should. This allows the park owners to breed from the lionesses at a much more regular rate than lionesses in the wild would reproduce. This in turn allows a constant supply of cubs that can be used for interactions.

The lion breeding industry is growing and with it so are concerns of welfare issues for these lions. Most volunteers and tourists who go to these parks do so unknowingly and with the best of intentions. When questioning the conservation ethics of them, they are told that they are helping to increase numbers of lions in the wild, but evidence of this is hugely lacking.

Canned hunting

Male lion (PoD Volunteer)These facilities need a constant supply of cubs at the right age for interactions, where they are still cute for photographic opportunities, small enough to cuddle and of little danger to visitors, which begs the question, what happens to these cubs when they are too old for interactions? There is no straightforward answer to this but there are a number of agreed possibilities that are widely accepted within wildlife circles. Many of the lions are sold to private collectors but the most commonly acknowledged destination for these lions is into the canned hunting industry. Canned hunting refers to the highly controversial act of raising an animal within a confined area and then hunting the animal within a confined area in order increase the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill. Therefore visitors and volunteers at such facilities are unwittingly supporting the canned hunting industry.

There is a lot of money in this industry as people are willing to page large amounts of money to shoot a lion, and canned hunting makes this possible for people who have limited time and hunting skills as the animal is in a confined area. The money that can be generated from selling lions into this industry is enough for lion parks to sell their lions that have previously been used as interaction cubs to canned hunting facilities where tourists can have the ‘ultimate hunting experience’ by shooting a lion.

Avoiding the worst

It is of paramount importance that PoD only works with projects which are sound in their conservation ethics, where the project is truly needed and where volunteers are needed to assist with their work. We do not believe in working with projects which offer nothing towards the conservation of the species that they work with or where they simply offer an ‘experience’ for the volunteer such as hand-raising and cuddling lion cubs, especially when the future of these cubs is so bleak.

To view PoD’s carefully selected animal placements click here:

To read more about PoD’s responsible travel policy click here:

Have you had an experience of one of these lion parks or projects? How do you separate the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ in terms of animal conservation projects? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter using @Goodtrippers.


Volunteer guilt: the symptoms and how to cure it

Let’s be honest. While volunteering overseas is generally considered a worthy way to spend your time, there are plenty of cynics out there – and sometimes those questioning voices are in your own head… Is this project really making a positive difference? Am I properly skilled to do this work? Do people really think I’m just a ‘poverty tourist’? Should I really pay for the privilege of volunteering?

Sounds like a common case of ‘Volunteer’s Guilt’ – but you can overcome it, and still be a responsible and decent traveller! Let’s tackle the issues one at a time…

Is this project really making a positive difference?

Unfortunately, the volunteer travel industry doesn’t currently have a worldwide accreditation scheme which means that among the majority of genuine projects, there are a few bad eggs.  At best, some travel companies may ‘dress up’ overseas trips to undeveloped countries as ‘voluntourism’, getting tourists involved in activities which have little or no positive impact on the local communities or environments they purport to help. At worst, projects may be mismanaged or blatant cons – this is, thankfully, rare.

The cure: Ensure you’re booking with a reputable organisation with plenty of experience in volunteer travel. If a particular organisation is unfamiliar to you, it doesn’t mean it’s dodgy – just ask questions about how long they’ve been working in the area, check if they have links with local groups on-the-ground, and search for peer-to-peer reviews online.

Am I properly skilled to do this work?

Sometimes everyone can suffer from a lack of confidence. You may feel overwhelmed by what’s being asked of you and that more ‘qualified’ volunteers should be involved. But you probably have all the skills you need – quite often that’s as simple as the will to get involved! However, if you feel uncomfortable about any of the tasks asked of you, don’t book the trip. There have been stories of orphanages letting volunteers, unqualified in childcare, to do more than they should (this is an area that’s currently under the spotlight as tour operator recently removed orphanage holidays from their site). Ask yourself if you would expect to take on a similar role back home – if you wouldn’t, don’t book it.

The cure: All genuine projects will be up-front with what skills are required. Always ask before you book, and even suggest what other skills you could offer on site.

teaching during a gap yearDo people think I’m a ‘poverty tourist’?

This can be quite a common worry for travellers in undeveloped countries – the thought that they are only there to get a first-hand glimpse into cultures and lives very different to their own, do a bit of ‘work’ to feel good about themselves, and then leave back to go back to their First World comfort without any lasting support given.

The cure: Make sure you’re happy with the level of work you’ll be required to do on your project. Quite simply, the more hours you put in, the bigger the difference you’re making to the local people and environment. And if you’re happy skipping the occasional leisure day, you could even ask if there is an opportunity to do more good work!

Should I really be paying for the privilege of volunteering?

Many people still grapple with the notion of paying for a volunteering holiday: ‘If I’m already volunteering my time, isn’t that enough?’ Most volunteer travel organisers will set a price for your place on the project, alongside the costs for transport and accommodation.

The cure: Volunteering holidays still cost money to run. All reputable operators will be up-front with what these costs are for, and will provide a breakdown if requested. Quite often, a large proportion of these costs will be going straight to the local community involved – to pay for homestays or camping accommodation, food and the services of cooks, cleaners, local guides and project leaders. 

So don’t feel guilty about doing something amazing and worthwhile. As the majority of people don’t even take volunteering holidays, you’re already well-ahead of the pack – that’s nothing to feel guilty about!

Let us know what you think in the comments below…

This blog post originally featured on Frontier’s Gap Year Blog

A camping style survival guide

Guest blogger Victoria Moretti gives us her guide to camping in style…

Summer’s not quite over yet and, as Goodtrippers readers have long since known, if you can’t afford that luxury spa resort camping can be a cheap and fun alternative. For the uninitiated, ignore preconceived ideas of mingling with the great unwashed, sleeping on hard floors and dressing in grubby clothes – camping can be a slick and stylish experience when you know how!

Here’s a look at how to make your camping holiday a chic affair…

camp site at night
Gopal Vijayaraghavan, Pofu Camp – Northern Circuit, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Choose a good ‘glampsite’

The number one step to nailing a stylish camping experience is to pick the right campsite – a glamping site! Glamping (or ‘glamorous camping’) is gaining ground with plenty of incredible venues to choose from up and down the UK. Instead of the traditional cramped plastic tent you can opt for a grand canvas yurt decked out with a proper bed, dining facilities and sofas.

The glamping experience is all about the finer details – things you wouldn’t expect from a camping holiday: real pillows, soft bed throws, pretty china, scented candles and even free-range eggs laid by the on-site chickens.

Of course, your budget will have a strong influence on the level of glamping you can afford, but even a basic tipi with plenty of space and an open fire is a massive step-up from a 2-man!

Get your camping fashion right

Bar festival goers, typical camping fashion doesn’t have the best reputation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable when you’re roughing it in the great outdoors. Even the most practical garments – like anoraks and wellies – can be found on the high street in stand-out neons and funky patterns. While tents themselves have had a recent overhaul with Cath Kidston leading the way in pretty designs.

For an effortless camping look, keep things simple with a mix-and-match wardrobe that’s comfortable and elegant. Team skinny jeans or leggings with printed slogan T-shirts, layered with soft cardigans or a denim shirt. Forget hiking boots and opt instead for comfortable hi-tops or (if you’re not venturing anywhere too muddy) gladiator sandals.

When it comes to luggage, try and pack light. Opt for an easy-to-carry patterned rucksack that will not look out of place on those pub lunches but is still a practical choice when you’re rambling across the countryside laden with supplies.

Invest in a dongle

For those who can’t live without mod-cons, having to leave them behind can be the trickiest part of camping. But with digital tablets and mobile broadband an option, you don’t need to cut yourself off from the outside world for long. If you’re going on an extended camping trip, consider packing your laptop and an internet dongle so you can still make the most of the web: being able to get internet may be a welcome diversion on cold and rainy nights, or for when you want to plan which fancy restaurants to head to in advance. (Although we recommend a ‘digital detox’ to be invaluable when on holiday! – Ed.)

Camping may not be for everyone, but with a little preparation it can be done in style. Even the fanciest glamping sites may not have all of the facilities you’d expect from a 5-star hotel, so always go with an open mind and a sense of adventure!


Top 10 Tips for Responsible Travel

We love to hear your ideas for how best to enjoy responsible travel. Here Gemma, Placement Manager at PoD Volunteer, a leading non-profit volunteer agency, shares her top tips for travellers.

PoD volunteersVolunteering is a great way to get to know the local community and a fantastic way to travel responsibly by helping local projects. However, when you are travelling abroad there are extra steps you can take to avoid your actions causing offence or harm to the local environment. Here are top tips from PoD Volunteer ( that can help you become the best ethical traveller!

1. Buy locally – This way you get to explore the markets and shops, sights and smells, plus try new local delicacies (which can be quite an experience!). By buying directly from the farmers and small businesses you are helping to ensure they are paid a fair amount for their goods.

2. Haggling- We all like a good bargain but there are right and wrong ways to bargain when travelling abroad. Top rule is to be friendly, smile and remember it’s all about compromise (but don’t show that you like the item too much!). Remember. you can always walk away if the price isn’t right and don’t worry if you ended up paying 10% too much- you wouldn’t even notice this extra mark up when shopping at home.

getting involved

3. Understand and respect local customs- The last thing you want to do is offend locals when you arrive so it’s good to check out what is socially regarded as rude. In Malaysia it is rude to point with a finger (you should use your thumb), in Thailand the head is the most sacred part of the body so you should not touch anyone’s head, and in India when eating with your hands you should not eat using your left!

4. Use water carefully- Clean water is very valuable in many countries so try not to waste water by taking long showers or leaving taps running.

5. Ask before taking a photo- In certain societies around the world people believe that taking a photo takes their soul too so it’s always polite to ask before talking a photo of someone. They may want to see their photo on your digital camera once you have taken it.

herd of elephants6. Carefully think about the souvenirs you buy- When buying items it’s good to carefully consider purchases and make sure you are not supporting activities that damage the environment or are a result of illegal activity. Make sure you are not buying a souvenir made from ivory, endangered hard woods, ancient artefacts or endangered animals.

7. Use refillable water bottlesMany countries do not have recycling facilities so each plastic water bottle you throw away will end up on a rubbish heap. Use refillable water bottles wherever possible by filling up with water from clean water dispensers or use water purification tablets.

8. Respect the environment– When trekking keep to the well-walked paths, do not damage coral when diving and do not remove anything from its natural environment. Read and follow local national park rules and regulations.

9. Travel Green– Explore the country by using public transport, bike or simply walking when it’s convenient. It reduces pollution and carbon emissions plus it’s a fun way to meet locals!

10. Get involved with local communities- The best memories can be made from joining in with local communities but don’t forget to ask first before entering a holy place and make sure you respect local cultures, traditions and are dressed appropriately (many religions prefer visitors to have covered shoulders and legs before entering certain building or areas, if in doubt just ask).

And an extra one for luck!

11. Hellos and Thank Yous- It’s easy to learn two words before arriving into a new country. A smile and even a badly pronounced “hello” or “thank you” will get you a long way and they will respect you for trying!

At PoD Volunteer we want to ensure that a volunteer’s impact is always positive and never damaging so we advise our volunteers on our social, economic and environmental policy in our project information booklet when volunteers apply for a placement overseas.

If you would like to explore the world and volunteer you can view a range of project options from PoD Volunteer here:

Animal tourism: How to spot the ‘con’ in ‘conservation’

Watching animals can be one of the pleasures of travel. If you’re lucky enough to take a safari or go whale watching, it can be the experience of a lifetime. But sadly, animals can be exploited for tourists’ amusement (and money). Philip Mansbridge, CEO of Care for the Wild which runs the RIGHT-tourism initiative, offers some guidance on how to spot the good from the bad.

Marine parksMany adventurous holidays will bring you into contact with animals in some way; whether it be trekking with elephants in Thailand or riding camels in Morocco, seeking out the local zoo on a city break or bird-watching in a national park.

But when faced with an animal ‘attraction’ on holiday, we should always ask ourselves – ‘Is this okay?’ As we become increasingly aware of potential cruelty or poor animal welfare on our travels, how can we tell the good from the bad on holiday?

It’s not always easy, but there are a few basic rules:

Don’t leave your morals at home:  Here’s an easy one – bullfighting. Would you pop up the road to see a bull tormented and stabbed to death for a cheering audience? Wrapping it up in silk and calling it ‘culture’ doesn’t change the fact that it is cruel. What about Pamplona? That’s just running with the bulls, surely? Well no – they are running the bulls to the bull ring, where they will be killed. And some tourists are contributing to keeping these ‘traditions’ alive by watching, or even joining in.

Take a second to think: Most of us now realise that bears ‘dancing’ for money is cruel (this still goes on in places like India and Russia). But what about that cute monkey dancing in a hat? Elephants giving rides in Thailand and Cambodia? Tigers frolicking at the Tiger Temple? The question we need to ask is, ‘Is this natural behaviour?’ If not, how did the owner get the animal to do that…?

Birds of a feather: This one’s not about birds, but about tourists. The joys of seeing a lion on safari or a dolphin from a boat are immense – but how much fun is it for the animals if they are constantly surrounded and harassed by dozens of land rovers or boats. Pick tour operators who respect the animals and aim not to disturb them or their habitats.

Swimming with wild dolphinsDo your research: If you’re thinking of visiting a zoo, sanctuary, aquarium or such, take a moment to read about them online. Do they mention the welfare of the animals and actively ensure their natural needs and requirements are met? If not, give it a miss.

Those are just a few of the things we can do, as tourists, to ensure that our holiday doesn’t cause an animal to suffer, hurting the very thing we want to see.

On the contrary, we can actively do things that encourage animal welfare, for example going to a sanctuary where animals are rescued and kept in their natural environment, rather than a zoo. But beware – some places have cottoned on to this and use the word ‘sanctuary’ without justification. Again, a bit of online research, including review sites, should tell you if it’s more ‘con’ than conservation.

How do you spot the ‘con’ from the conservation when on holiday? Have you experienced bad animal tourism, or been in a difficult situation that you want to warn other travellers about? Share your thoughts via the comments below…

About the author: Philip Mansbridge is CEO of Care for the Wild. The organisation runs the website where tourists can get information on animal ‘attractions’, customs and issues for every country in the world.

5 ‘must do’ tips for any volunteering holiday

From working with children on the streets of India’s slums, to teaching English in Cambodia; surveying big cats in Costa Rica or marine conservation in Madagascar, volunteering can make a positive impact around the world. Maria Sowter, of NGO Frontier, looks at the more personal benefits for the volunteer…

1. Learn some of the language

Learning a few phrases in the language of the country you’re about to visit is going to ease your transition into this new culture. It will also give

hanging out with the locals

you a base to build upon during your trip that will help you get the most from your time volunteering: you’ll be communicating better with the people you aim to help. Even learning a small amount of any new language is an accomplishment that will boost your confidence and feelings of personal development in addition to your volunteering project.

2. Get involved and be flexible!

This may sound like an obvious one but always be looking for what could be done. Whether it’s from helping out around the accommodation you’re staying in to going the extra mile on the project, you’ll be more likely to get a feeling of satisfaction from making a tangible difference. Think outside the box! You get out what you put in from a project. Just because you signed up for a medical volunteering project in a rural village, doesn’t mean that you can’t offer your service in the local school if you have the chance. Being flexible like this will ensure you help where it is needed most whilst getting the most from your project.

Host family Fiji3. Make the most of your free time

It would be a mistake to view a volunteering project as a holiday abroad but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy yourself in your spare time. Volunteering is all about experiencing a new culture first hand, so use your free time to travel around the country or to socialise with the locals

4. Eat local food

Getting to know locals is key to understanding a different way of life, and if you want to try out new experiences then food is a great way to start. Eating where and what the locals eat will not only open your eyes but quite literally your mouth to exotic and foreign tastes. Food is often the lynchpin of local customs, celebrations or the day-to-day way of life – you won’t just be filling your stomach, but also making friends and strengthening bonds with communities.

5. Keep a journal

Keeping a journal is a great way to record your time as a volunteer. Reading back over it once you return home will help keep memories all the more vivid, and may help you learn more about yourself as a result of your placement. Keeping track of what you have learnt as a volunteer will also aid you when it comes to updating your CV or LinkedIn profile (which is always good for improving career prospects).

If you’d like to find out more about all of Frontier’s volunteer opportunities you can view all our projects by viewing the website –

Keep updated with project news, photos, videos, and competitions by joining the Frontier community online with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or Flickr.

About the author: Maria Sowter works for Frontier, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and building sustainable livelihoods for marginalised communities in the world’s poorest countries. Check out the wide variety of opportunities to volunteer abroad with Frontier: whether you’re looking for placements involving teaching abroadwildlife conservation volunteering, or simply someadventure travel, Frontier is sure to have something suitable.Visit