Travel guide: Top 10 Anti-Tourist-Attrac­tions

Helping where help is needed and making a difference – volunteer work is in all means a benefit. Unfortunately, more and more organizations turn out to be traps, exploiting the volunteers' good will and only being after the money they can make.

Travel Guide

Helping where help is needed and where help can make a difference – volunteer work is, by all means, a benefit and especially young people strive to support nonprofit organizations. Unfortunately, more and more organizations turn out to be traps, exploiting the good will of the volunteer and only being after the money they can make. This is why it is so important to critically check the project and provider to ensure to the benefit of nature, animals and the people.

Especially volunteer work at orphanages has got a lot of negative attention recently. Volunteers often only stay for a short time and travel back home thinking that they have left a positive impact. But the kids living at the orphanages, who already have to manage the loss of their parents, just lose another contact person – in many cases not for the first time. As a result, anxieties and fear of commitment can develop and can cause problems not only during child age but also for the grownups.


Furthermore, there are known cases from the Asian region where families get paid to leave their children at orphanages, so that these orphanages can make profit from the helpfulness of foreign volunteers. Another critical aspect is the fact, that most volunteers do not have a pedagogical training and in most cases, do not speak the local language, so that the kids can be affected during the process of learning their native language.

Choosing a sustainable volunteer project, especially in developing countries, needs to be done carefully. It is important to make sure that volunteers do not get exploited and that due to cost cuts the volunteers take away jobs from the local population.

Another important point you should be aware of while travelling are animal attractions or volunteer projects allowing direct contact to wild animals. Many of these projects are irresponsible, because instead of supporting nature and species conservation they harm both – nature and animals. Most of the time the projects only exist to attract tourists and make profit. In the following we will inform you about the 10 most merciless attractions, which you should give a wide berth in the future.

Captive Breeding of Lion Cups

In Southern Africa a whole tourist industry around the direct contact with lions has developed, which is why lion breeding has increased. Within the first month after birth the lion cubs are separated from their mothers, to cuddle for hours with tourists and serve as photo motives. But due to the regular contact with humans and the loss of their mother the young lions cannot develop their natural behavior. If the animal’s behavior frightens the tourist they will get punished most of the time. The lions are not able to interact socially with other lions and cannot develop any hunting skills.

These animals cannot be released back into the wild and would not have a chance to survive there due to the circumstances under which they were raised. When the lions are too big for cuddling they will get trained to walk with tourists and get used to a leach. Others will be sold for canned hunting, where they can be shot by paying tourists ( But even at this point the exploitation of the animals does not stop, because in many cases their bones will be sold to Asian countries where they are traded as tiger bones with healing effects.


Selfies with Tigers

Already at a very young age the tiger cubs are separated from their mothers to be held in captivity as tourist attractions in countries like Australia, Mexico, Argentina, or Thailand. Tourist can play with the young animals and cuddle them. Adult animals are often chained, living on hard ground in small cages and serve as models for tourists who can pose next to them for a picture.

Dancing Monkeys

In Thailand Macaques are trained to act more like a human and are forced to show tricks and dance in front of tourists. As soon as they are not in front of the public anymore they are often held on chains in small cages.


Riding on Elephants

Again, young elephants are separated from their mothers to make them compliant through pain with the help of wooden sticks or sticks with metal tips at the end. They are held in small cages with ropes and chains to limit their movements and break their will. Due to the loss of their family and the isolated capture the elephants are often not able to build up a social connection to other elephants again and suffer from mental health problems. Especially in Thailand riding elephants is a tourist trap, which attracts many visitors. Also in South Africa, this trend has increased within the last 10 years.


Dolphin Shows

Hundreds of tourists visit dolphinariums and are not aware of the mistreatment of the animals. In the US it is forbidden by now to capture wild living dolphins for these purposes. The usual procedure to capture wild dolphins is to drive them into a corner, before they are pulled onto the boat or caught with nets. This causes a lot of stress for the animals and many of them die before they reach their destination. In the dolphinariums the animals, no matter if they are captured from the wild or born in captivity, have a woebegone life and are limited in their freedom of movement as they are mostly held in swimming pool sized tanks. The tanks are often treated with chlorine which causes painful skin and eye irritations.

The animals also can get sunburn as they cannot dive down into deeper zones which they normally do when living in the open sea. Also, the echo communication is influenced by the tank, as the surface acts different then rock and corrals. Many dolphins suffer from heart attacks and stomach ulcers caused by stress.


Bear Parks

Bears are often kept in sterile, meager pits or cramped cages, where they do not have the possibility to play and follow their natural instincts. In their natural habitat bears are not living in groups and pairs and roam alone while looking for food. The cages or pits are often crowded with bears, and the animals tend to get sick because of stress and living in captivity and are more vulnerable to bacterial infections and wounds caused from fights with the other bears. In some cases, bears are also forced to show tricks and to wear cloth as part of shows.


Keeping Turtles

The last sea turtle farm can be found on the Cayman Islands, where the animals are held as tourist attractions. The tourist can hold the turtles for photos, which causes a high level of stress to the animals and weakens their immune system which makes them more vulnerable to infections. Just recently around 1300 animals were killed due to an infection. Sea turtles are very shy animals and start to panic when they get in touch with humans. They instantly start to move their flappers and often lose their claws or incur fractures. There are also known cases where tourists got scared or surprised and dropped the turtle which suffered from severe injures due to the fall or potentially lethal cracks to their loricate. Furthermore, the animals are part of the menu in some restaurants.


Visiting Civet Cats in Captivity

A single cup of the well-known Civet Cat coffee (Kopi Luwak) can bring up to $100. Civet Cats love to eat fresh coffee fruits and the Kopi Luwak is made out of the beans which Civet Cats egest at the end. Collecting the excrements in the wild, does not cause any harm to the animals. But when people plan to sell more Kopi Luwak the cats are captured and kept in small, crowded cages. Due to the cramped living conditions, the animals suffer from a lot of stress and diseases. Furthermore, the cats are forced to live on an unhealthy diet consisting only of coffee fruits. In Indonesia tourists can visit these farms to look at the cats and taste the coffee, which leads to an increasing number of civet cats in captivity.

Snake Charming and Kissing Cobras

Snake charming is a centuries-old way of entertainment in the streets in certain countries and in most cases Cobras are used for these shows, as it is known that their bite is poisonous and can even kill a human. The recent trend in Thailand is to kiss a cobra. The snakes are captured from the wild and their poison fangs are damaged so that the poison streams are blocked or their fangs are removed completely (most of the time without sterilized instruments). These interventions can lead to painful infections and often to death.


Crocodile Farms

For many years crocodiles have been bred for their skin and meat. A couple of years ago these farms started to invite tourists to visit the farms and have a taste of crocodile meat afterwards. The conditions on these farms are often terrible and as crocodiles are very stress-prone they suffer from diseases and infections. Due to the cramped keeping of the animals there are regular fights over room, water and meat which can cause severe injuries and in some cases can lead to death.

You would like to learn more about voluntary work with animals? Then take a look at our info pages about volunteering with animals, learn about typical tasks as a volunteer and receive an overview of the animal welfare projects we offer.

Sources,,, (23.06.2016)

Adventures to get you dreaming

Our blog