Asia is a wonderfully diverse and beautiful continent, so it’s no surprise that it is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Traveling responsibly and ethically is not limited to packing cruelty-free products and seeking out vegetarian restaurants. It also involves deliberately avoiding tourist “attractions” that exploit animals. We’ve compiled a guide to animal-friendly activities for the best and most compassionate vacation ever.
Every year, tourists flock to Thailand and snap pictures with cute baby elephants or take an elephant ride. Some facilities make elephants paint pictures or perform circus-style tricks. What many people aren’t aware of—and what the industry tries hard to hide—is the dark and ugly existence that these elephants endure in order to provide them with such an experience. But there are a number of ways to experience these magnificent animals that don’t involve cruelty.
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization in Sukhothai, Thailand, dedicated to helping elephants and other animals at the sanctuary, invites guests to take part in a hands-on experience that includes gathering the animals’ food and hiking with elephants.
Other sanctuaries in Asia accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries include those handled by Animals Asia in China and Vietnam as well as Yayasan International Animal Rescue in Indonesia.
Any circus that uses animals inevitably subjects them to terrifying and cruel training methods as well as barren, cramped living conditions. You can see many entertaining circuses that present spectacular human talent.
Phare, The Cambodian Circus, which is thematically infused with Cambodian history and culture, was founded by the nongovernment organization Phare Ponleu Selpak to empower street children in Siem Reap with circus skills.
Cirque du Soleil, a Canadian entertainment company based in Montréal, often gives shows and performances in Asia.
Animal-Free Theme Parks
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Animal-free theme parks such as LEGOLAND Malaysia offer a great way to have fun with the entire family. LEGOLAND Malaysia also features a water park with slides, tubes, and many other animal-free activities.
Snorkeling/Diving by the Beach
If underwater life piques your interest, there’s no need to impale fish on a hook or visit aquariums to see these fascinating animals up close. Asia is home to some of the best places to scuba-dive and snorkel, which are excellent ways to experience a huge variety of tropical or freshwater fish, sea turtles, eels, rays, and other animals in their home, on their own terms.
Parks and Botanical Gardens
Frequenting parks is a relaxing and inexpensive way to spend time with nature and observe wildlife such as birds. Singapore Botanic Gardens is more than 150 years old and yet still captures the hearts of many visitors. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
Asia features many of the highest mountains on the planet, from South Korea’s Seoraksan to Tibet’s Mount Everest. Those who might not be ready to climb Mount Everest can trek from Dingri to the mountain’s base.
You don’t need to hire a horse-drawn carriage in order to have a rewarding historic cultural experience in Asia. Every Asian country showcases a rich history that’s observable through centuries-old structures and well-preserved artifacts in museums, which you can tour on foot or by bicycle. From Indonesia to Japan, the region boasts many beautiful shrines and temples—some already in ruins and others active religious sites.
Written by PETA Asia intern Alexandra Bichara
Have you visited any other cruelty-free destinations in Asia? Let us know!
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