Tiger King inspired travel: Incredible trips promising ethical wildlife experiences

Tiger King is a Netflix original documentary that follows the life of big cat owners in the US and discusses the reality of the trade of wild animals and their life in captivity. Though heartbreaking at times, and simply bizarre at others, the documentary does also highlight just how beautiful these big cats are, along with the other wild creatures that star alongside them.

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Perhaps now you are dreaming of seeing these animals in real life.

While the documentary highlights the bad sides of captive tiger welfare, there are a number of ethical wildlife organisations that care for tigers and other unique, exotic animals, where you can spot a tiger in real life.

Travel experiences provider The Travel Corporation and its non-profit environmental organisation TreadRight, have been working with animal rights and welfare organisations to source the best spots for you to catch a glimpse of one some incredible creatures.

Tigers

If much like Joe Exotic’s infamous song, you too hope to “see a tiger” then the eight-day Essence of India with Ranthambore could be for you.

Travel provider Luxury Gold, which hosts the itinerary, describes it as the “quintessential Indian expedition.”

Over the course of the journey holidaymakers will take in some of India’s bustlings cities, renowned temples and exotic jungles.

However, it’s a stop off at the former royal hunting grounds of the maharajas of Jaipur that allows travellers to really get a look at tigers and their life in the wild.

The Bengal Tiger now roams freely through this land, and travellers will be treated to a special experience with visits at dusk and dawn guaranteeing a unique sighting.

Not only does the experience promise tigers, other wildlife inhabits the area too, including wild boar, monkeys, spotted deer and antelopes, as well as stunning scenery, including lakes, ruins of palaces, traditional Chhatri, and a majestic 1,000-year-old fort within the park.

Luxury Gold is currently taking bookings for late 2020 and 2021, for those keen to explore in the future.

Lions, leopards and cheetahs

Joe Exotic and his fellow big cat enthusiast friends don’t only hold an affinity for tigers, with the documentary also featuring lions, cheetahs and leopards.

While the unethical treatment of these animals is certainly not something to aspire to, a trip to Africa presents the opportunity to see these magnificent cats in their natural habitat.

Travel firm Trafalgar boasts a specialist African Safari Adventure spanning 14-days and led by regional experts.

Over the course of the trip, adventurers will journey through Kenya and Tanzania, taking in the natural wonder of the vast plains of the Maasai Mara and Serengeti which are home to countless big cats.

Though tourists won’t have the chance to get too close to these animals, it does offer the chance to see how they really live in the wild.

What’s more, the trip also offers travellers the chance to connect with local people and learn about their day-to-day lives, work and culture.

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The Cape leopard

Tiger King also sadly highlights the reality of the dwindling numbers of many big cats now in the wild.

Multiple conservation efforts have been set up around the world to protect these endangered species, but for many, the chance to see them in their natural environment may be a once in a lifetime moment.

One such species is the Cape leopard, which calls the open plains of South Africa its home.

Though wild sightings are reserved for the lucky few, a wildlife reserve-turned-retreat nestled in foothills of the Cederberg Mountains on South Africa’s west coast is renowned for sightings.

In partnership with The TreadRight Foundation, the hotel has joined forces with Cheetah Outreach and The Cape Leopard Trust to protect the Cape leopard through a number of initiatives and campaigns.

The hotel also offers guided nature drives and walks which explore the region’s surroundings, educate on the native flora and fauna, and of course, promise some stunning views.

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Elephants

The captivity and care of elephants has been a hot topic in the world of animal welfare and travel for some time.

Historically elephants are an important part of Thai culture, which is why sightings there are so frequent, however, sadly the demand for these sightings has resulted in their mistreatment.

With more travellers becoming aware of the unethical treatment of elephants for tourism, many of the once popular, yet highly unethical elephant viewing zoos are now being boycotted.

However, our provider Contiki offers its guests the chance to visit a sanctuary which cares for and rehabilitates elephants which were once the victim of torture for training purposes.

As part of an eight-day Northern Thai Highlights trip, explorers can pay a visit to the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary in Chiang Mai, where they will see the animals up close in a natural and loving environment.

Guides educate guests about elephants and how to interact with the gentle giants, and there’s a bucket-list-worthy opportunity to give the carers a helping hand to feed and bathe them.

Monkeys and more

From monkeys to turtles, travellers can get a close-up experience with an array of South American wildlife as part of Trafalgar’s 8-day Monkeys, Jungles and Volcanoes experience.

The adventure will take tourists across Costa Rica, not only taking in the incredible natural landscape of the region – including overnight stays in three of its most famous national parks – but also allows them the chance to meet the locals working to protect the wildlife who also call the country home.

In addition to spotting monkeys, caimans, crocodiles, exotic bird species plus rare and endangered ocelots, sloths, river otters and manatees, guests will also enjoy a special turtle experience with local specialists from the Sea Turtle Conservancy Foundation to learn about the turtles that nest in Tortuguero.

The trip also promises thrills and beauty with activities including zip-lining through the jungle, volcanic walks, day trips to thermal mineral pools, and countless hours spend sunning on white sandy beaches.

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