Responsible wanderlust – How to plan your next whale and dolphin watching trip

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The global Covid-19 pandemic has put an automatic lockdown on many travel and tourism activities. Impacting the whale and dolphin watching industry in particular, travellers across the world have been forced to alter itineraries and cancel their trips.

This doesn’t mean we can’t spend some time planning our future travels – in fact for many of us having our freedom to explore taken away has resulted in us adventure-daydreaming more than ever before!

So when we eventually do get to book our next trip, how can we make sure we are investing in travel companies that are doing the right thing by wildlife, the marine environment and the planet overall?

The WCA has pulled together some tips to make it as easy as possible for you to do the right thing and ensure your next whale and dolphin watching holiday experience is a responsible one.

Look for a WCA Certified Responsible Whale Watching Operator.

The WCA’s Responsible whale watching logo is a sure sign that you are booking a trip with the best! WCA Certified operators have proven that they conduct their business responsibly around the animals and are dedicated to environmental, social and economic sustainability. Whether it’s researching,  gathering data, providing education to the next generation of ocean advocates or introducing innovative technologies to reduce carbon footprints, WCA accredited operators are truly helping protect whales and dolphins –they are world class!

Currently the WCA has certified operators in 13 countries worldwide, (correct as of 13.05.2020) so there is plenty of choice, but if you are visiting a location where there are none then read on. We have lot’s of advice on what to look for to make a great choice for your next whale watching holiday experience.

© Eagle Eye Adventures

Look for operators that follow local, national or international regulations and guidelines.

These rules are in place to protect wildlife and the safety of guests, they ensure that your trip is enjoyable and ethical and are often clearly displayed on responsible operator’s websites. For example, guidelines should specifically restrict how many and how long boats can spend around wildlife and how close they can be to the animals. Tour operators must adopt measures to avoid disrupting whale and dolphin behaviour, these include reducing underwater noise, minimising viewing times for each encounter and creating clear corridors for whales and dolphins to travel. If in doubt, ask to see your tour operators permit and look up the marine mammal regulations for the area you are visiting.

Responsible companies will give back to the community and environment.

After all, being out on the water all day with a boat full of guests means operators can contribute to citizen science. Research could be in the form of taking images for marine mammal identification or recording whale and dolphin behaviour. Perhaps they might donate a percentage of their profits to charities connected to the wildlife or environment. Often operators will have a knowledgeable guide or naturalist on board, demonstrating a commitment to educate guests so that you can take their message of conservation home with you.

© Verballenas

Is their advertising ethical?

Avoid companies that promote “hands on” and “up-close” encounters. If they are a responsible whale watching operator, they will not hesitate to provide realistic and responsible customer expectations – especially for distances kept from and time spent with the whales.

© Trinity Eco Tours

A few minutes of research can make all the difference to your experience out on the water. Look at social media posts made by the operator and read reviews from previous guest experiences on sites like Trip Advisor.  If in doubt, do not be afraid to ask questions before booking!

To begin your search, visit the WCA  website and have a look at our WCA certified whale watching operators. You can also download our Global guidance for responsible whale watching and familiarise yourself with overall best practice.

By reading this blog, you are already participating in responsible wanderlust, so thank you! Please share your experience with us and encourage your whale watching operator to join our WCA Certified Program and be part of a global responsible team.

Happy Travels!

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