Ask a Scientist: Why you should always go on guided tours

I know, it’s been a while I’ve been blogging but the final year of getting your doctorate pretty much claims all of your writing time. But today is Anniversary day here in Auckland, and public holidays are always borderline for graduate students…

Today I’d like to encourage all wildlife enthusiasts out there to consider guided tours if they want to encounter marine life and I’ve compiled a few bullet points below to tell you why:

- Experiencing wildlife is not just about looking at or photographing animals – Guides often have an incredible knowledge they can share with you if you want to learn more about certain species, their biology or the threats they face in their habitat.

- Safety has priority in wildlife encounters – To ensure you’re safe is one of the main duties of a guide. Especially when you happen to be inexperienced or nervous, skilled guides can enhance your wildlife experience by providing comfort and giving assistance where needed. If an emergency occurs, they’re often the first ones to respond – even if the emergency is just you getting seasick and they’re handing you a bag so you can go about your business…

- You have to play by the rules – Guides also make sure that you as a guest follow the house rules, e.g. that you’re not running around on the boat, that you keep quiet or in general, you’re not doing things you shouldn’t do. This is always in your best interest because it’s often related to your personal safety and those of others on the trip or the safety of wildlife.

 

While naturalists and guides are indispensable on boat-based trips, they are even more important when you’re entering the animals’ habitat. Skilled guides have sound knowledge of animal behaviour and generally can tell when it is safe to start an approach which is often difficult for inexperienced folks. If you feel uneasy in the open water, they can make a real difference whether your trip was enjoyable or distressing - encountering large marine life can be quite intimidating! Even if you usually feel comfortable in the ocean, conditions may change quickly, and you may be glad you’re with someone who is looking after you. Or you may have a medical emergency (e.g. a cramp in your foot) that needs immediate care. Many guides have a rescue diver certification and are familiar with the procedures if you require help.

As you see, there are various reasons why you should choose operators who provide a guided tour addressing your personal safety and the welfare of wildlife targeted in commercial operations, two paramount aspects in marine wildlife tourism.

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