I saw a lot of wild animals on my recent trips to South Africa and Mauritius. Every encounter felt surreal. Every time the child in me thrilled at seeing animals I loved so much with my own eyes, and not just on the screen of a television or in the pages of a magazine. Some encounters were better than others.
This moment at the Casela Nature & Leisure Park in Mauritius was very sad for me.
These Bengal tigers are obviously incredibly majestic and no matter that the one in the top right most definitely looks like it wants to eat me — I was still enraptured. Yet Casela is different from the safari I had just been on. It’s a zoo. The beautiful tigers I saw were enclosed in what I thought was a very small habitat and we drove into it, bothering them in their environment to get as close as possible, in a gas-powered, cage-enclosed jeep. While it’s likely we couldn’t have gotten this close to the big cats any other way, it still made my heart heavy.
Their beauty and their wildness was heartbreaking when held up against the fact that they were enclosed in a very large cage. Even if it was filled with living plants and trees and open to the sky……. it was still an enclosure.
I’ll be spending some of my free time now that I am home, trying to learn more about the zoo system and animal tourism around the world because my feelings about all of it have very much changed following my recent encounters. Unlike when I was a girl, and I saw animals from very far away behind the bars of cages, I’ve now looked directly into the eyes of animals in their native habitats, I’ve been stalked by wild animals, I’ve heard the roar of a lion in the pitch dark of night as it shook the trees around me. I am forever changed because of the intimacy of those moments.
I’m starting with the site Ethical Traveler and if you have any tips yourself, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.
I had this experience during the #UltimateMauritius trip, created and managed by Constance Hotels & Resorts and Qube Media, in association with the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority and Air Mauritius. As always, I maintain full editorial control of what I choose to publish about the trip.