Travel + Regrets | The Things I’d Never Do Again

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.

This lion isn’t drugged or chained up, but that doesn’t make this right

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.

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30-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

16 thoughts on “Travel + Regrets | The Things I’d Never Do Again

  1. Love this! I’m heading to Egypt in November and plan to do some research on meeting camels and elephants. It can be hard to know if what you’re doing is humane or not when it’s so popular among tourists

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, I think it’s really brave and I mean it. I, like you, wish we didn’t need to be so cautious, but until then it’s still good to remind us to at least try to protect ourselves in the simple ways that we can. Keep living your life to the best!

  3. Regarding the lions: I have noticed over the years that so many girls on a certain internet dating site (and I’ve looked through a good few, as is my lot in life) have an almost identical photo they had taken with a chained up/caged cub whilst they were on holiday somewhere. I think it’s supposed to make they look different, or out there, or adventurous, but they make me sad.

    And, having seen so many of them, I don’t think they realise how beige it makes them all look. Also another popular one is one of those “professional studio photoshoots” where everyone comes out with similar prop/backgrounds that it could have been taken in Manchester or London but they all look the same. Life, eh?

  4. Haha, AC/DC! Good stuff! Lovely photos. I didn’t know you were raped – big hugs my friend. I have some ideas on how to handle people who do that but it’s not fit for print. Be well.

  5. wow thank you for sharing your story, I know it’s not easy! I never get drunk abroad…I’m usually too tired from visiting places – I just go to the hotel room and sleep. I would add to my list – not visiting ethical elephant places in Sri Lanka. I went to pinnewala and read about the atrocities afterwards :/

  6. Good article, especially the last part. My generation was victim-blamed. My daughter was taught the PC version in school and dismissed my warnings. She was in her mid-20s before she came to this realization and it broke my heart what she had to go through to learn it. I put it this way: if I took up BASE jumping and smashed my legs to pieces on a mountain, it would not have been my choice to have broken legs, but it would be a consequence of the risk I had taken.

  7. Great post, I am in full agreement with all you have said. The lions are a hard case to determine. Caught so young they are hand fed and become so involved with humans they do not learn how to catch food and take care of themselves which makes it hard for some to release these magnificent animals back into the wild where they might not survive. An ethical quandary for sure that will be debated by both sides for a long time. But I agree with you error on the side of caution and what you feel comfortable with. Zoo’s and caged animals always seem lethargic and pace back and forth very bored. I have stopped going to them as I get so sad to see this action. Animals parks might be a better option but won’t guarantee that you would see what you like. Baiting any animal into viewing or behavior is totally unethical. It is used on animal safaris in Africa in some instances as they do not want bad reviews if someone pays all this money and sees nothing. Vetting a guide and company you are using is the best way to get unethical treatment to stop, we don’t go, they go out of business. I just wish all humanity was thinking in these terms at all times. Safe travels.

  8. Well done for sharing your story. You are so strong and brave. And thank you for speaking out on behalf of all women. I hope you’ve found healing since then. And I loved the idea for this post. I also didn’t realise the ethical problems behind a lot of the animal related things I did in my past travels until after I had done them. xx

  9. So sorry to read your last point. Really brave of you to share it and for it not to put you off your solo travels. Totally agree with everything you have said.

  10. Sweet Ellen, that must have been a tough one to put down in writing and I am hoping it is part of the healing process – most of us get a raw deal handed to us over the years of living and you have certainly had some handed to you, and of course it is how one manages their house of cards that helps you through.

    About the shark diving, it has been reported that the unethical shark diving companies are what encourages sharks to attack divers and surfers. Apparently they see dark wet suites as food due to the way they are jibed and encouraged to be aggressive towards the “customer” in the cages. Nice to know we do it right down here in good old South Aussie. Love Vicki xxxx

  11. I learned to avoid most Animal Tourism while in Thailand, and I’m so glad. I occassionally see photos on social media of friends engaging in non-ethical forms of Animal Tourism, and it always makes me cringe.

    And it is completely unfortunate that we live in a world where people take advange of others who are intoxicated. I’m glad you’ve been able ot reach the understanding that the rape was not your fault, though! That’s a powerful thing to rise above.

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