Conscious travel

15 Cruel and harmful animal attractions to avoid when traveling

Do you know that more than 550,000 animals suffer every day from cruel and harmful tourist attractions? Most tourists are completely unaware of this and do not know that most of these animals are mistreated or live in horrible situations.

As a social scientist and travel blogger, I am highly concerned about the environment and animal’s welfare. I believe it is our job to protect the environment where possible and to share our concerns about participating in these harmful animal attractions.

In this post, I will share 15 cruel and harmful animal attractions that you better should avoid.

Riding camels

Camels are used as tourist attractions in many countries. Either you can take pictures with them or take a ride through a dessert. Most of the camels that I have seen, were treated badly and looked not healthy. When camels do spit or scream, they are nervous or afraid.

If you ever plan to ride a camel, choose a local farmer, who treats his camels well and who only provide private tours. Don’t ride a camel in touristic places. Often these camels are treated bad and you will just contribute to harm them even more.

15 Harmful animal tourist attractions to avoid by Girlswanderlust - Riding camels

Cage diving with sharks

This is one of the most harmful animal attractions most people don’t think about, but I see it as an unnatural and harmful experience. The sharks will be lured to the cage by chum and this will disrupt the sharks’ natural behavior and feeding patterns. Environmentalists even state that cage diving with sharks might increase in human shark attacks. I don’t want to take the risk, and rather observe them naturally.

scary shark opening mouth in water
Photo by Mile Ribeiro on

Riding or posing with elephants

Elephants are known as sensitive creatures and family orientated animals. They are wild animals and should not be kept in captivity. Usually they are tied up and tortured for days until their spirits break. Please do not ride on elephants or pose with them.

When people travel to Asia, a ride on an elephant or bathing elephants is high on their bucket lists. I must admit, I have bath an elephant in Nepal myself. At that time, I was not aware of my contribution to this harmful attraction. While bathing the elephants in the river, I was the first person doing this that day. I massaged the elephant gently and in the end, I got a power shower. It did not seem like a harmful experience at all. The elephant seemed to enjoy my massage, but then when I was done, more people came to bath with the elephant. The elephant was after my experience only used to give power showers to the tourists…. At this moment, I did regret every minute of the bathing.

Elephants do belong in the wild and should not be held in captivity or be used as a tourist attraction. The same can be said about circus elephants. Avoid pictures with them! These elephants usually live in horrible conditions and should be free!

Note: also feeding elephants is a harmful animal attraction.

15 Harmful animal tourist attractions to avoid by Girlswanderlust - Elephants

Visiting marine parks

I see a visit to a marine park as a harmful tourist attraction. Many animals from the ocean, like dolphins or whales are in captivity. I am convinced they shouldn’t be kept in tiny pools of water, but in their natural habitat. Millions of tourists visit marine parks every year, but are unaware of the abuse of dolphins endure to perform in shows.

Feeding pigs in the Bahamas

The Caribbean, especially the Bahamas, are known for the swimming pigs in the ocean. On photos and videos, they look adorable and tourist often seem to interact with them. Some tourists do ride on the pigs or feed them. This is not responsible to do! Some pigs have died, because they were fed something poisonous by tourists. If you decide to go there, keep in mind not to feed the pigs, but only look to them from a distance.

white and gray bird on the bag of brown and black pig swimming on the beach during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on

Swimming with dolphins

Dolphins should not be kept in tiny pools of water, but in their natural habitat. Don’t swim with them. Dolphins are wild animals and they are normally not used to swim with people.

Also, be aware of taking part in dolphin watching trips. Not every trip is safe for the animals. I have done dolphin watching in Tenerife and Lovina. The experience in Tenerife was fine. I was on a big boat and within 3 hours, we only saw around 5 dolphins in their natural habitat.

However, my experience in Lovina (Bali) was completely different. Together with more than 50 small fisher boats, we left in the early morning to spot dolphins. As soon as the dolphins were visible, the fisher boats hurried their way to them. While in this tiny boat, I felt very sorry for the dolphins, trying to escape the fisher boats all the time. If I had known this in advance, I wouldn´t have participated.

Therefore, please do some good research before taking part in those tours and don´t make the same mistake as I did! It is good that we nowadays have Tripadvisor and other review channels. Read about other tourist experiences. If they experienced a tour harmful for the animals, don’t participate!

15 Harmful animal tourist attractions to avoid by Girlswanderlust -  Dolphin cruise.jpg


Visiting a bull fight

This is something I also not like. Bull fighting still happens at many countries around the world, but especially in Spain and Latin American countries. It is considered as a (blood) sport and part of the culture heritage of many countries. The bull gets stabbed by humans and in the end, it gets killed in a very slow and painful way. I will never ever step a foot inside a venue that provides this kind of ‘sport’.

Posing with large jungle cats

Posing with lions, tigers, or jaguars, is just not a good idea! If you would come across them in the wild, you would be very scared and try to avoid any interaction with them, so why posing with them while they are drugged and chained up? It is cruel! Most of the cats live their entire life in cages and are just hold captive for profit.

Famous tourist attractions for posing with tigers can be found in Thailand and with lions in African countries. Please avoid those places! It would be much more fun, to go on a safari and see the cats living in their natural habitat.

Watching snakes perform

In some countries, like India and Morocco, you can find snakes performing tricks. They are often lulled by a charmer playing a flute. You can try to reduce this act, by not paying any attention to it while walking by.

Posing with Koalas

Posing with koalas is also a harmful animal attraction. The koalas are animals that usually sleep for many hours during the day. They should not be forced to become a cuddle that have to stay awake for a long time for photo opportunities.

Drinking coffee made by civets

Drinking coffee made by civets is also one of the 15 harmful animal attractions tourists don’t think about. Civets are used to produce coffee. When I was living in Bali, I got in contact with these little creatures. They live in cages, eat coffee cherries that get digested and after 24 hours defecated by the civet cat. During this process, unique fermentation occurs which flavors the beans very special. Yes, your read it right, the coffee is made from the poop of the civets! The coffee is sold as one of the most expensive coffees in the world.

I would recommend you not to try this coffee. By trying it, we support the captivity of civets!

15 Harmful animal tourist attractions to avoid by Girlswanderlust - Civets

Visiting bear parks

Bears are wild animals that should not be held in a park or circus and definitely should not perform tricks. Please do not visit any of these parks or pose with them in circuses.

Holding sea turtles

Sea turtles should not be touched or hold! At some sanctuaries, you can hold little baby sea turtles, which is very cute, but also very bad for the sea turtles. It can cause stress and weaken their immune system. Also, some tourist might ‘drop’ a sea turtle by accident. This often causes significant injures like a broken shell.

It is also recommended not to touch a sea turtle while snorkeling or diving with it. This is a non-natural act and can causes symptoms of stress or injuries.

15 Harmful animal tourist attractions to avoid by Girlswanderlust -  Holding sea turtles.jpg

Supporting crocodile farming

Nowadays large numbers of crocodiles are being kept on farms. Their skin is used for the fashion industry and their meat for food. The crocodiles are mostly housed in overcrowded- and small pits. Try not to wear or use any leather from crocodiles and not to eat the meat. Please don’t visit crocodile farms or crocodile shows.

Watching monkeys dance

Like the snakes, there are also many monkeys used for street entertainment. While traveling around in Morocco, I came across several dancing monkeys. They are often trained from a very young age to perform tricks and appear more like humans. During the nights, they mostly stay in small cages. Monkeys should not entertain, but live a free life in nature! Like the snakes, you can try to reduce this act, by not paying any attention to it while walking by.

15 Harmful animal tourist attractions to avoid by Girlswanderlust -  Morocco - Monkeys.jpg

I hope this post provided some clarification about why these harmful animal attractions are cruel and why you should better avoid them. After all, we shouldn’t put ourselves, but the animals on the first place and try to do as little harm as possible to the places we visit.

Author: Daphne

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