Nature and Wildlife Tourism Experiences: Feelings of Well-Being and Restoration

This source preferred by Susanna Curtin

Authors: Curtin, S.C.

Start date: 11 December 2008

Wildlife tourism is an important and growing sector of the tourism economy with an increasing number of destinations and operators offering tourists the opportunity to take part in wildlife-orientated tours as an entire holiday or as an activity whilst on holiday. The relationship between experiences in nature and human quality of life and well-being is relatively well-established in the literature. The general consensus is based on a number of theories such as The Biophilia Hypothesis (Kellert and Wilson 1993) and the Attention Restoration Theory (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989). However the psychological benefits of watching wildlife on tour are less well researched.

To this end the researcher joined a number of wildlife tours in order to experience the phenomenon from the inside. The analysis of on-site observations of wildlife tourists, personal field journals and narrative interviews enabled the discovery of a number of themes which provide a rich understanding of how such tourism experiences provoke feelings of well-being and satisfaction with life which extend far beyond the holiday-self. These ‘expressive indicators’ include ‘wonderment and awe beyond articulation’, ‘experiencing a state of ‘flow’’, ‘sensual awakening’, ‘time to stand and stare’, ‘voyeurism and contemplation’, ‘spiritual fulfilment’ and ‘feelings of well-being’. Together these act as ‘food’ or ‘sustenance’ for the return to everyday life and concerns. Nature and wildlife therefore have curative and sustaining properties beyond the mere aesthetic.

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