Author: Scott Dye

Jul
18

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Why Close Panda Encounters in China are No Longer Legal

Posted by on July 18, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

If you have yet to hear, there’s something happening in the field of wildlife conservation that you really should know about…the animal rights movement is growing. This decades-long form of activism has created meaningful change – especially as of late. A great example of this is with the famed giant panda. Pressure from activist groups, along with other factors, has led to a significant policy change by the Chinese government: close panda encounters in China are no longer legal.

Officially, those visiting the Dujiangyan Panda Breeding Center or other panda centers in China can no longer pay an extra fee for a hands-on panda experience. For many, this is a surprising move by the government, so let’s look at the reasons for this change and Discover Corps’ stance on the issue:

Safety Concerns

Several recent incidents involving what officials referred to as “bold travelers” led to visitor injuries caused by the pandas during the experience. The facility has since stated that it was a safety issue because they could not guarantee the protection of clients who chose to experience this close encounter. This also leads us to believe the pandas may have felt threatened by travelers coming so close. 

Panda Encounters in China
An example of the now-banned panda encounter

Income: A Key Motivator Has Now Been Eliminated

Historically, a key motivator for research centers to offer these hands-on experiences was the additional source of income (as the experience was very lucrative by Chinese standards). But the change in policy also brought a new financial source, as the government has stepped up to provide funding to centers, thus reducing the impetus to continue the experience given the risks mentioned above.

Reputation Concerns 

Perhaps the final straw for this issue was the increased push back and negative publicity from animal rights groups opposing these close panda encounters. This, understandably, put heat on the government to act. As a highly controversial subject, many in the public view these types of experiences as the manipulation of pandas for profit, rather than providing any real benefit to the animal. As such, this is the primary reason why Discover Corps never formally included it in our itinerary, but only as a non-compulsory activity at the travelers’ discretion on our China: Panda Conservation Adventure trip.  

What This Means for Future Travelers to China 

We fully agree with and support the new panda-related changes. If the health and well-being of animals are ever in question, we will consistently air on the side of caution in support of wildlife. As the issue of animal rights continues to evolve, Discover Corps pledges to continually evaluate best practices and seek out the best outcomes for all animals that we encounter.

If you are considering going to China and were looking forward to a panda encounter, the Dujiangyan Research Center still has much to offer, including: an incredible educational tour, the opportunity to volunteer in panda enclosures and learn what it takes to take care of pandas, the ability to prepare food for and feed pandas at a safe distance, and much more. Importantly, all funds from these experiences go to support panda conservation.

You can learn more about Discover Corps China: Panda Conservation Adventure here

Jul
12

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10 Amazing Gorilla Facts

Posted by on July 12, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

For two hours now you have been trekking through the dense jungle of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, hyper-aware of every detail of your surroundings. The heat and bugs, however, have zero impact on your level of concentration. You are on a mission. Just as you start to feel a hint of fatigue, the moment arrives. Your guide spots a family of gorillas resting just 20 feet away! The alpha of the group turns and your eyes meet. It’s both terrifying and familiar.

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Jun
10

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Peru: Children of the Andes | Adrienne’s Interview

Posted by on June 10, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

Discover Corps’ Travel Operations Assistant, Adrienne, has the important role of preparing travelers for both the pre-departure process AND in-country adventures upon their arrival. So needless to say, she really knows our trips inside and out. To stay on top of her game though, Adrienne puts in the work! This includes going on-location to walk in the footsteps of Discover Corps’ travelers. Most recently, she visited our Peru: Children of the Andes vacation, and sat down to discuss the unique experience in the video below:

May
29

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Ask the Alumni: Peru through the Eyes of a Discover Corps’ Traveler

Posted by on May 29, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

Sometimes in travel, as in life, it is better to know what you don’t want from your experience than what you do desire. This was certainly the case for Kai, on her recent Peru: Children of the Andes trip. A seasoned traveler, Kai had chosen to travel by herself in the past but learned it was not for her.

“Previously, I have had the experience of being a solo traveler… planning the trip alone, traveling by myself the entire trip. I learned that I don’t like that! I need someone else to arrange details, introduce me to the culture and local people and customs and places, and other travelers to share experiences with.”

This awareness made her Peru volunteer vacation with Discover Crops a perfect match, as Kai details below:

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May
22

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Is Purposeful Travel a Cure for Loneliness?

Posted by on May 22, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a Great Time to Reflect on Travel’s Role in the Space.

Can you remember the last time you were lonely? When the thought of reaching out to others for a social outing left you feeling anything but…social.

Interestingly, our bodies provide key indicators into how being lonely affects us. Research has found those excluded from social interactions have a noticeable drop in skin temperature. This is likely a protective mechanism, but it brings an entirely new meaning to the expression, giving the cold shoulder.

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May
17

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Interview from Peru: Discover Corps’ Guide Miguel

Posted by on May 17, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

The name of our Peru trip, Children of the Andes, gives a great indication of what you can expect on your vacation with purpose to this special part of South America. You will spend quality time teaching, learning from, and connecting with children that each have a unique story to share. This time is precious and much needed for all involved, but it’s hardly the only aspect of this dynamic experience. Discover Corps’ guide for Peru, Miguel, agrees:

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May
3

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Ask the Alumni: Tanzania through the Eyes of a Discover Corps Family [Q&A and VIDEO]

Posted by on May 3, 2019 · 2 Comments  

Tanzania is a game changer, or more aptly put, a perspective changer. Cosette and Brian DeCesare and their three daughters Genevieve, Theresa, and Maria are evidence of this phenomenon after their recent Tanzania Safari & Service family vacation with Discover Corps. Cosette put it best, “I was in awe of the happiness and disposition of the people. Especially the children. This was not so much a surprise but an observation. These people know struggle. But they have a level of apparent joy and contentment that would make a lot of Americans blush with envy.”

To elaborate on their family’s time in Africa, Cosette and 16-year-old Theresa kindly agreed to share a few thoughts below on what they called an experience of a lifetime. Their words are complemented by a video recap (after the Q&A) of the trip, creatively made by Theresa.

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May
2

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The Havana Jazz Festival – An Incomparable Celebration

Posted by on May 2, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

Jazz and Cuba are as interwoven as any genre of music and country can possibly be. The centuries-old form of creative expression is forever linked to the soul of this nation. For jazz fans and aficionados, no better time exists to experience this intoxicating art form than the Havana Jazz Festival, happening January of 2020. This month will mark a weighty milestone in the history of the festival as it celebrates its 35th year.

If prior occasions are any indication, the festivities are sure to be filled with the same energy and excitement that jazz regularly releases on Cuban airwaves. Allow us to take you inside the happenings of this incomparable celebration to discover what makes the event such a sublime experience and why you simply must be there:

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Apr
25

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Tourism and Elephant Sanctuaries: Where Do We Draw the Line?

Posted by on April 25, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

Is working in an elephant sanctuary an ethical tourist activity? In recent years, this question, and wildlife tourism as a whole has been hotly contested. There is much debate as to whether the industry is truly beneficial. Many oppose such operations, with the belief that we should not exploit wild animals for monetary gain. This concern is certainly a valid one. Still, others argue that these practices show poachers that animals are more valuable alive and in their natural environment. Respectfully, Discover Corps believes it’s possible to find a middle ground on this important issue. One that protects the health of wildlife foremost and appeases tourists second.

To do so, it’s important to understand how our presence impacts the natural environment, both positively and negatively. More specifically, careful consideration must be given to what flora and fauna we engage with, and how we do it. This and other complex issues regarding wildlife require thoughtful solutions. One option is sustainable travel, also known as ecotourism. This form of travel seeks to protect nature and wildlife worldwide and enhance the lives of local people. A great example of this brings us back to our original question about elephants. The fact that these gentle giants are a huge driver for Thailand tourism means you, as a traveler, will have many options to choose from to encounter the beautiful creatures. As such, here are a few important questions to ask yourself before traveling to Thailand for an elephant experience:

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Apr
18

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Interview from Cuba: Discover Corps’ Guide Orelvis

Posted by on April 18, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

The passion of Discover Corps’ guide, Orelvis, is clear from the moment you first meet him. His enthusiasm for his country and showing you his country is infectious. As you explore Havana and the surrounding region “Elvis” provides colorful commentary that only deepens your experience. It’s no wonder, that many travelers can’t help but form a strong bond with their insightful guide.

“I remember one time, some [travelers] came back again [to Cuba] through Discover Corps with us, and I remember waiting in the airport. When they saw me and I saw them it was like seeing family. That was a unique emotion and feeling.” – Orelvis

So what better person, to share in his own words, what a trip with Discover Corps like Cuba: Preserving Nature’s Wonders is really like. Take it away Elvis!