Travelling in a safe, ethical and eco-friendly way isn’t always easy, and it is something that I know I wasn’t as conscious of when I was a newbie traveller. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about it, I honestly just wasn’t fully aware of the ways that my travelling could have a harmful impact on myself, other people and the environment.
I have become much more aware in recent years, and as a result, there are certain things that I’ve done while travelling that I look back on and can’t help but cringe.
1. Non eco-friendly shark cage diving
You may be wondering how shark cage diving could be considered ‘eco-friendly’, but I assure you – there is a way!
I have cage dived with great white sharks on two separate occasions, and having done it once in an ethical way and once in the standard way, I would never recommend anyone do it in the ‘typical’ way.
When you think of diving with great white sharks, the first thing that would come to mind for many people is big ass sharks trying to aggressively bite a cage in the waters surrounding South Africa – which is why I keep referring to it as the ‘typical’ way.
I have cage dived this way once before, and I will never do it again.
I hated the way the sharks were chummed, aggravated and sometimes even actually hit by the tour operators! People want to see a show, and it is these companies job to provide, even if it means hurting innocent animals. I love sharks, and I wanted to cage dive so that I could appreciate their majesty, not so that I could watch someone harming them.
Luckily, there is an alternate way.
In the tiny seaside South Australian town of Port Lincoln, great white sharks live and thrive. So naturally, several shark diving companies are making the most of it! Of these companies, just one stands out.
Adventure Bay Charters pride themselves on providing an eco friendly experience. Instead of attracting great whites with chum and aggression, they do so, and I promise this is true – by playing the music of AC/DC under the water.
They have tried many different types of music to attract the sharks, but have found that they appear to find good old Acca Dacca the most favourable.
When I went on my cage dive, the sharks were relaxed, chilled out and showed absolutely no aggression. They just kinda casually circled our cage, checked us out and let us do the same in return. I already thought positively about sharks, and this dive just made my opinions about sharks even stronger. To anyone who believes that sharks are just evil killing machines, I urge you to seek out an experience like this – it may just help you see them in a new light.
Also, for anyone who wants to have a great white encounter, I urge you to have a good think about whether you agree with the way these sharks are treated by most companies, and if that doesn’t feel right to you, head down to Australia and do it in a more ethical way.
2. Getting in the car with a drunk driver
On a rather boozy night in The Crags, a few of the guys in my hostel had the bright idea to drive the 45 minutes to Plettenberg Bay and go for a bit of a party. In my inebriated state this seemed like a great idea, and luckily everything went fine. However, the next morning it dawned on me that I had taken an enormously big risk the night before. Not only did I get in a car with a driver who was very clearly drunk, I was also just sitting in the back of the empty van. There were no seats, and definitely no seat belts! If we had crashed, I would have likely been killed – and that is the scary truth.
I risked my life on that night for no good reason, and it is something that I will never do again.
3. Walking with lions
Funnily enough, when it came time to walk with lions, ethics actually were on my mind. I asked a lot of questions of the venue and was reassured repeatedly that these lion walks were ethical. I was assured that these lions were rescued as cubs from the game parks which allow high paying punters to hunt wildlife. However, I can’t help but look back now and wonder if this was the truth. Surely these cubs would have been better off being released into the wild eventually?
I still can’t claim to know for sure whether such walks are actually ethical, but since I don’t know, from now on I’ll be erring on the side of caution and avoiding these kinds of animal attractions.
4. Crocodile cage diving
We are getting into a little bit of a theme here! Basically, I did a croc cage dive when I was 19, and looking back, it was a far from ethical thing to do. These crocs are kept in tiny little enclosures and with so little space, their lives must be nothing but boredom and monotony. I definitely would not be doing this again.
5. Drinking to excess (in a non safe environment)
Let me first state this.
No victim of sexual assault is ever at fault for what happened to them. Each and every sexual assault happens because of the person who does the assaulting, and no victim should ever be blamed, and they should never blame themselves. We should never need to be teaching people how to avoid being raped, we should be teaching people about consent and that it is wrong to force people into sex (whether by coercion or physical force) – but unfortunately, this does not seem to be the world that we live in.
I wholeheartedly believe the above statement, but despite this, I still know that had I not been so careless, I wouldn’t have been raped when I was 19 years old.
When I was that young I felt carefree and invincible. I regularly drank to excess without giving it a second thought. You know that these things happen, but you never really think it will actually happen to you.
Until it does.
On the night I was raped I was incredibly drunk, and having so much fun that I never wanted the night to end. However, it was hot and sweaty inside the bar that I was in, and I found myself wanting some fresh air. Without thinking, I wandered away to a more quiet and secluded spot outside before being pulled into an alleyway and brutally sexually assaulted.
I have to live with what happened to me for the rest of my life.
For many years I blamed myself for being drunk and stupid.
I no longer blame myself. My rapist is who was at fault – not me.
We should live in a world where people can safely walk alone at night. We should live in a world where women can enjoy a boozy night out without worrying about the repercussions. We should live in a world where every single person can live without fear or risk.
But this just isn’t the reality.
So even though I no longer blame myself, I will never be so reckless again.
I still drink, but I am much more controlled. I am much more aware of my surroundings, I always have an exit strategy and I never drink so much that I become careless.