The truth about Wildlife tourist attractions and venues to avoid

You may have seen photos of people on social media posing with tigers, walking with lions, holding sea turtles, riding elephants, swimming with dolphins, watching sea lions or monkeys perform…the list is endless. You may have even participated in one of these unknowingly. It is sometimes things people want to do as a bucket list experience, or because they love animals. However, there is a lot of information freely available about these activities and so please please do your research before booking anything.

I will put my hands up here and say when I honeymooned 10 years ago in The Bahamas I swam with Dolphins. I regret it to this day and will NEVER do it again and always discourage anyone who is considering it.

These activities cause lifelong suffering for wild animals and are a form of animal abuse.

Whether you have 1 follower on social media or 1 million, the minute you share a photo on your platform, e.g Instagram, you are giving the impression that this activity is totally fine when it is not. This also applies if you share these images on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat etc.

We as humans have a responsibility to not promote unethical activities. We all watch Sir David Attenborough’s shows and can see the impact that there is on wildlife and so we must do our bit to eradicate the unfair treatment of animals, especially for tourist attractions.

In the first instance, places that offer these activities should not be visited and people should not be encouraging people to visit these places either. It is a vicious circle. Demand for these places fuels further acquisition of animals that are subject to some horrific treatment just so that they are suitable for humans to interact with.

I have created this page to share information about these activities and a list of places to avoid. This will be evolving as I gather more information from witness accounts and from reading up articles on different places. If you are aware of a place that I have not mentioned please message me and I will add it on. You can find out interesting facts about wildlife, by checking out FactRetriever

Elephant Riding

The facts

Venues often masquerade as “sanctuaries” and this is when alarm bells should start ringing, especially if they offer elephant rides or charge you for photos with elephants while they are chained to the ground. This is extremely unethical and I will tell you why. The elephants that are used for rides are taken away from the wild, where they belong, or bred in captivity and then, to break their spirits so that a tourist can ride them and get a shot for the “gram’, they are cruelly beaten into submission. Their handlers, who are rough with them, discipline them using a bullhook (a stick with a sharp metal hook on the end – sounds painful right?). When they are not being used for rides, they are chained down with chains wrapped around their ankles.

Venues to avoid


  • ElefantAsia
  • Elephant Village Sanctuary and Resort, Luang Prabang

South Africa

  • Knysna Elephant Park
  • Kwantu Game Reserve
  • Buffelsdrift Game Lodge
  • HESC Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre


  • Phuket Elephant Trails
  • Baanchang Elephant ParkElephant Mahout Project Pattaya
  • Thai Elephant Home, Chiang Mai
  • Chiang Dao Elephant camp Chiang Mai
  • Patara Elephant Farm Chiang Mai
  • Elephant Stay Royal Elephant Kraal Village, Ayutthaya
  • Thai Elephant Conservation Center Lampang
  • Surin Elephant Round-up
  • Anantara Golden Triangle Camp. This luxury hotel has an onsite elephant camp/mahout village.


  • Imire Safari Ranch

Sri Lanka

  • The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
  • Millennium Elephant Foundation, Kegalle


  • Mason Elephant Park and Lodge
  • Taro Elephant Sanctuary
  • Tangkahan Elephant Sanctuary


  • Amer Fort in Jaipur
  • Kodanad Elephant Training Centre and Orphanage
  • Elephant Junction, Thekkady, Kerala

Tiger Selfies/Interactions

The facts

Tiger cubs are separated from their mothers to then “tame” them to be suitable to interact with humans. When they they grow bigger they are sadly still confined to small, barren cages, chained and subjected to harsh training.

What’s worse is when they are too big to be used as a source of profit, they ‘disappear.’

So that they don’t attack humans they are sedated and so are almost in a trance like state. This is so wrong and Tigers are wild animals and should not be subject to such treatment for the sake of  a photo to be proudly shared on social media.

Venues will claim they don’t sedate tigers but use your common sense. This is not an activity to encourage anyway and so please just avoid all together.

I have seen this on Instagram where people have posed with a clearly sedated tiger, ignored any comments from people about the unethical nature of the activity behind the static photo and even gone so far as turn off comments to avoid criticism. All because those 1350 likes are some sort of narcissistic validation for them.

Worse, I have seen a sedated tiger on a leash used as a photo prop for a fashion shoot and the model deletes any critical comments and blocks anyone who dares question her morals.

What people should remember is that not is this only unethical, the tiger can maul you at any time and that is not the tiger’s fault. They are solitary animals and should not be surrounded by humans.

Venues to avoid


  • Tiger Kingdom in Phuket
  • Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai


  • Casela World of Adventures

Swimming with Dolphins

The facts

I am guilty of having done this myself 10 years ago and one that I regret to this day and will NEVER ever promote or encourage.

I know now the full extent of how this impacts dolphins, who are not used to being confined to small swimming spaces compared to the wide ocean, and how not being able to be social with other dolphins can really affect them.

I fell for the “these are rescued dolphins from the hurricane’ story and I know now to be very suspicious and always assess the conditions in which animals are kept. There are so many places that offer this and I really hope that through this post I can discourage people from paying to do this activity.

Venues to avoid

Anywhere that the dolphins are in a confined place, made to perform and interact with humans in shallow water. Use your common sense.

  • Atlantis Bahamas
  • Atlantis Dubai
  • Discovery Cove Orlando
  • Various places in Cancun

Walking with Lions

The facts

Lion cubs are bred and taken from their mothers within a month of being born and then used for photo opportunities for tourists.

When the cubs grow too big for tourists to pick up and hug but are still young enough to control, they are used for a different form of monetisation – the ‘walking with lions’ experience. The lions are trained to ‘safely’ walk with tourists, sometimes on leads.

These lions are captive animals and can never be released back into the wild because they have been ‘domesticated.’

Venues to avoid


  • Casela World of Adventures

South Africa

  • Lion and Safari park
  • Walking with Lions, Pretoria
  • Kwantu Game Reserve
  • Marakele Predator Centre
  • Sondela Nature Reserve
  • Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm


  • Lion Encounter
  • Antelope Park


  • Mukuni Big Five Safaris
  • ALERT (African Lion & Environmental Research Trust)


Other tourist attractions to avoid

Holding Sea Turtles in The Cayman Islands

The world’s last remaining sea turtle farm, The Cayman Turtle Farm in The Cayman Islands should be avoided at all costs. Here, tourists can hold turtles and even eat them during their visit.

Donkey rides

Donkeys are usually offered for rides. The more people choose not to do these activities the better as eventually the demand will die down.

Where to avoid

Anywhere in the world

Swimming with Jaguars

Avoid the excursions offered by Little French Key, in Honduras which include swimming with Jaguars. Whilst Jaguars do like swimming, they are not meant to with humans cuddling them!

Swimming with Pigs in The Bahamas

Peta warns: ‘Pig Island is no paradise for pigs. They’re not native to the Caribbean, so their pale, sensitive skin can easily burn when exposed to the strong sunshine day after day.

‘With little vegetation on the island, they rely on food from tourists – some of whom have purportedly been plying them with alcohol. To control their populations, adult pigs are reportedly slaughtered to make way for babies.’

How to avoid unethical animal activities

  • Stick to wildlife encounters in their natural habitat
  • Do your research and use trusted operators: Google search, Trip advisor (ban on wildlife attractions)
  • Any tour that lets you ride, cuddle, or manhandle wild animals should be avoided.
  • Ask questions: where do the animals come from? Where is my money going…
  • Any humanised animal performance like dancing is a ‘no-go’

A great reference by World Animal Protection

What to do if you have visited one of these places and regret it.

Delete your photos or don’t share them on social media.

Educate others about it.

You can report these venues and activities on this link by Born Free Foundation:

If in doubt, don’t go.


If you are aware of venues that are unethical that I haven’t listed please email me on so I can add it to the list.

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