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What to expect when you’re expecting planet-friendly travel

As we see a resurgence in post-pandemic travel, we have opportunities to see the world in a way that ensures an equitable, sustainable and thriving future for aquatic life and people. But there can be a lot of information to sift through that make finding real experts in conservation travel and real opportunities to benefit nature tough! Shedd’s Director of Conservation Travel, Shannon Fuller, dishes out details on upcoming Shedd Adventures and reveals five things to expect when making your own planet-friendly travel dreams come true with a conservation travel partner.

A whale shark is seen just below the surface, observed by people in a boat.

Photo by: © Colin Ruggiero

1. Expect: a long track record of responsible, planet-friendly travel

Not all nature travel is created equal. Choosing a travel partner you trust can help you avoid tour providers that only pay lip service to responsible travel experiences that bring benefits to local animals and people. For decades, Shedd Aquarium has offered responsible tourism opportunities to the public, bringing travelers to see whale sharks and other incredible animals and aquatic life in the wild. When you travel with Shedd, you join world-class marine biologists, researchers and animal experts in destinations shaped by their aquatic ties. With an experienced travel partner and established experts, you can enjoy spectacular wildlife while minimizing your impact on their habitats.

2. Expect: ways your dollars can really make a difference for animals (and people)

Let’s take a closer look at whale shark ecotourism in La Paz, Mexico. Conservation-minded organizations can partner with global and local organizations that are focused on protecting wild animal populations, creating a sustainable experience for both animals and the local tourism economy. "…[W]hale shark watching alone is responsible for roughly 40,000 tourists per year in La Paz Bay, driving a $3.5 million industry through which some 1,500–2,000 families derive significant income,” according to newly published data by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Seascapes Coordinator, Mexico’s Dr. Eduardo Nájera-Hillman. As is always the case, healthy nature equals healthy humans.

“Since regulations were put into place in 2016, La Paz Bay has seen a 34% decrease in whale shark boat strikes, as monitoring data from early 2022 reveals, even as the number of boats and tourists continues to increase.”

3. Expect: partnerships to increase animal protections

To sustain the whale shark watching industry, protection of the whale sharks themselves is paramount. WWF, its partners, the government and local outfitters are working to mitigate negative impacts (like boat strikes) by implementing stringent regulations in a designated whale shark sanctuary. Since regulations were put into place in 2016, La Paz Bay has seen a 34% decrease in whale shark boat strikes, as monitoring data from early 2022 reveals, even as the number of boats and tourists continues to increase.

4. Expect: knowing where in the world to go

Not surprisingly, you find whale shark tourism exists wherever you find whale sharks around the globe. But as a responsible travel partner, know you can choose to visit places that prioritize animal welfare and contribute to ongoing protections and enforcement, like La Paz.

““Tourism at its best is a force for good—let's make best the new normal."”

Sven Lindblad, CEO of Lindblad Expeditions

5. Expect: asking the right questions

When planning our Shedd Adventures travel program we look to our tour partners to help us minimize impact in ways that go beyond responsible wildlife viewing activities. This means asking our partners if they are taking steps to be sustainable. Some specific questions we ask to address this include:

  • Do you meet (or exceed) all rules and regulations to protect animals when viewing wildlife?
  • Are you contributing to conservation research and action in the areas we are visiting?
  • Have you eliminated single-use plastics wherever possible?
  • Are you taking steps toward being carbon neutral and adopting energy-efficient practices?
  • How do you support cultural preservation and local communities?
  • Are you supporting local businesses and employment?

With that in mind, we have planned an incredible line up of responsible Shedd Adventures close to home and across the globe. We hope you will join us! As Sven Lindblad, CEO of Lindblad Expeditions put it, “Tourism at its best is a force for good—let's make best the new normal."

For more information on upcoming Shedd Adventures, email Shannon Fuller at [email protected], or visit add trips landing page link here.