You wouldn’t even consider a vacation that didn’t include prodigious amounts of fresh air and hopefully a wildlife encounter or two. Right? You’re not alone!
Nature experience travel is the fastest growing segment of the U.S. travel industry. And wildlife viewing travel is the fastest growing segment of the fastest growing segment! We love nature – but hey, just like a tiger is different from a leopard, we nature travel lovers are different too.
We’ve identified three species of nature and wildlife tourists – which one are you?
GRAZER, NATURE-IST, or ENTHUSIAST?
Answer these 6 questions and see!
# 1. You are:
New York State.
It's approaching high noon on May 15th. You're (still) enjoying fresh air and sunshine on a semi-wooded hiking trail in upstate New York outside of Kingsbury. This is a prime stopover spot for migrating songbirds following the Atlantic Flyway from their southern winter homes to their northern breeding areas. Your guide points out the first yellow warbler of the day - however, breakfast was 6 a.m. and you have seen at least two dozen other kinds of nice birds in the last five hours. You say:
A. “Nice bird; did you say they served lunch by the pool?
B. “That's a warbler? Where did he come from?
C. “That’s a male Yellow Warbler, setophaga petechia, one of 50 warbler species. This guy migrated all the way from the mangrove forests of northern South America."
# 2. You are:
On a Photo Safari
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa
You’re on safari in South Africa taking a late afternoon game drive. Under a lone tree, hidden in the shadows the guide sees movement - it's a cheetah with fresh kill. You say,
A. “This will look great on Instagram! What time’s the sundowner?
B. “Is that cat a leopard or a cheetah? What’s he eating?”
C. “Let's wait here a couple hours. Hyenas are notorious for stealing big cat left overs, they should show up by sunset.”
# 3. You are:
Cruising the Pacific
off Isla Mujeres, Mexico
The ocean waters off Isle Mujeres, Mexico are calm today as you cruise around looking for marine life. The sun is warm but slight breeze keeps you cool. Suddenly a fin appears on the surface, you see a length of yellow dots underneath it. Whale Shark! You say,
A. “HURRY get me in the picture - Gotta get this on Facebook NOW – does Wi-Fi work out here?”
B. “Whale sharks endangered right? Will they attack if we get in the water? ”
C. "Great opportunity to contribute pattern images to that Wildbook for Whale Sharks, world-wide tracking study! Glad I brought my underwater camera and snorkel gear.
# 4. You are:
Catching Early Spring
Saratoga County, New York
Spring comes late to upstate New York. You’re looking for its first signs along the slippery banks at Moreau Lake State Park on the first week of April. The sky is overcast. The ice had begun to thaw and thin over the past few days but suddenly the temperature plunged to 35º F (2º C), not enough to re-freeze the water, but your exposed hands say "enough"! Your guide mentions an approaching storm and advises your group to take a final look a the beaver lodge in the middle of a half-frozen water before heading back. You say,
A. “Looks like no one’s home. Hey, there's hot chocolate back at the warm hotel.
B. “That's a big beaver lodge, how many animals live there? Is it true that muskrats sometimes share them?” Are they freezing cold too?
C. "Those beavers are bound to come out eventually. This is a good vantage point to get a photo, I'll just walk a little way out on the lake for a closer look.”
#5. You Are On A:
Before-the-Heat Morning Photo Game Drive
You’re in hot, arid Namibia at the end of an early morning game drive where you caught a few good pictures of springbok, oryx and a great shot of a zebra herd, not to mention a couple of lionesses with their cubs. Now the temperature is climbing past 90 F (32 C). Cold drinks, food and the only internet connection in the last 3 days are waiting at the lodge. The land rover rounds a bend, your guide spots a couple of young male lions waiting out the heat napping, half hidden in a sliver of shade. You say,
A. “I love lions! Maybe we'll see again them on our balloon ride this (much cooler) evening!”
B. “Are they a pair, why are they alone, are they sleeping?”
C. “Pink noses and small manes indicate they're young males, probably brothers, who've left the pride to find their own females. They'll hunt when it gets cool, let's stay here a few more hours to see what prey they go after."
6. You Are:
Exploring & Camping
at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming - in Winter!
January in Yellowstone is cold - very, very cold. You’re insulated in super-duper scientifically approved Arctic exploration gear, but three hours into a snowshoe hike the cold is starting to freeze the only thing left exposed on your body: your eyeballs. The guide and one member of your group thinks this is a great place to camp out. You say,
A. “Even that buffalo looks cold, the lodge has a sauna, and indoor plumbing - I'm ready. Now”
B. “I'll bet the stars will be gorgeous tonight, glad we have insulated sleeping bags”
C. “We are witnessing a scene thousands of years old: the largest land mammal in North America. We may hear wolves tonight too and see Milky Way. I could camp out here all week!
Get the picture? Tally up your score and see which wildlife traveler you are - then keep it handy to test any potential travel companions - before you take your leap into nature!
So What Kind of Wildlife Traveler are You?
4 or more “A”answers?
Grazers: all about timing and varied experiences - lots of them please!
You want to see wildlife but also try everything else available in a very specific allotted time: Animals, birds, museums, amusements, shopping, sports, great dinning and nightlife - everything! Wi-Fi is not a perk it's a necessity. Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat etc. keep your friends updated on your adventures.
Grazers: energetic, easily bored and always ready for what's next.
Traveling with Grazers?
Get set to run! You’ll experience everything the area offers in record time and be planning your next vacation destination before you've checked out of the hotel! Kids are natural Grazers, so always have a Plan B, C, D ... list of what's next.
4 or more “B” answers?
Nature-ist: enjoys the adventure as it unfolds.
You're curious, you ask a lot of questions and want to be educated about your destination especially the little details that make it special. You’re excited about what nature offers; sure you’d like to see a black rhino on safari but if not – well, you can’t schedule nature! You’re excited about those meerkats and elephants and a funny kind of bug that you did see. And you learned about them too from that great local guide. If you are like me you also like to get back to civilization (read:hotel with plumbing) in the evening to relax, remember and process the day's adventures.
Nature-ists relax into the environment. They are curious, flexible, amateur naturalists and probably "people" collectors.
Tell them a story about the person, place or thing and you have them hooked.
Traveling with a Naturist?
Be open to the moment. You won’t see everything you planned but will have memories of things you never dreamed of and come home relaxed, refreshed and with a greater understanding of the habitat, wildlife and cultures you encountered. You’ll also enjoy good local food and accommodations, and probably collect the life stories of a few new friends.
4 or more “C” answers?
Enthusiasts: They don't just "plan" - they research!
You have specific goals for specific destinations: Not just any elephant, the Namibian desert elephant; not just any bird, a returning yellow rumped warbler. You know every stat (or will find out fast!) and will forgo food, dry clothes and a comfortable bed to see what you came for. You also have the coolest equipment and a life list of adventures and sightings. And you tend to speak a slightly different language then the rest of us more laid back nature explorers.
For an Enthusiast:
No mountain is too high, no valley too low, no weather too hot, cold or wet, no equipment too complicated to keep the Enthusiasts from their goal.
Traveling with an Enthusiast ?
You may come home 10 pounds thinner and with frostbite or moldy clothes, but with a whole new world opened up. You’ll see and understand things in a way you could never have imagined. And you will have enough obscure fun-facts to impress the socks off your Grazer and Nature-ist friends at every coffee brake and cocktail party for the next year.
What ever travel species you are:
Stories & Information
Stop - Look - Listen
A Granddad's gift is a game of stillness & observation for children - young and old.
Birds, Bees & Butterflies: Wave Hill, New York
Near New York City? Bring the kids for a wonderful nature exploring day trip.
Pterodactyl or Backyard Bird? What is a Pileated Woodpecker?!
Newly arrived from the city, our friend meets his new (feathered) neighbor.
Wildlife Photographers Kate & Adam Rice: Catching the Animal's Spirit
Insights from KAR on photographing wildlife in the American west - and great images too!
Story written by Roberta Kravette for Destination: Wildlife. All rights reserved.