Tips for the First-time Wildlife Tourist


When most people think of wildlife tourism, visions of African safaris generally come to mind. But did you know that the U.S. is actually ranked at the top of the wildlife travel index thanks to its rich biodiversity, plentiful national parks and strong conservation efforts? From kayaking with manatees in the Everglades to spotting bison in Yellowstone National Park, the U.S. abounds with wildlife attractions to enjoy in an RV rental. Here are a few things to keep in mind before booking your wildlife adventure.

Add Some Gear to Your Bag

Camera. Tripod. Binoculars. You don’t have to have any of these items to have a great time at a wildlife attraction, but they can definitely add to the experience. 

For viewing wildlife from a distance, either a pair of binoculars with 8X or 10X magnification or a camera with a telephoto lens really come in handy. That way you can get up close and personal without being TOO up close and personal. There are even some nifty telephoto lens clip-ons you can get for your smartphone, if you don’t want to invest in a new camera. 

If you’re hoping to get really good images on your camera, a tripod will make all the difference between crisp, clear images … and one of those blurry shots where you’re wondering if you got a picture of Big Foot. 

Be a Solution, Not a Problem

Before going to an animal sanctuary and wildlife attraction, it’s important to note that not all wildlife tourism locations are created equal, especially when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of the animals. Please do your due diligence before booking an excursion to ensure that you are supporting ethical treatment of the animals.

Don’t Be “That Guy”

When traveling to wildlife attractions, always keep in mind that these are wildlife animals. Always maintain a safe distance and follow all national park materials for how to safely interact with the animals. Remember – you are in their homes, not yours. 

Location, Location, Location

The greatest thing that will make or break your wildlife tourism experience is the location you choose. Here are some show-stopping spots for enjoying wildlife on your RV camping trip.

o    Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – Bison and bears and moose – oh my! Yellowstone National Park is America’s version of the Serengeti with its abundance of wildlife including bison, wolves, bears, elk, moose, deer and array of birds. Not only are animals plentiful in the park, but RV campground options come in high number as well, making this an ideal location for RV vacations. 

rv-rental-yellowstone-national-park.jpgPhoto Credit: Goutham Ganesh Sivanandam on Unsplash

o    Katmai National Park and Preserve, Arkansas – Want to watch brown bears test their salmon-catching ability? Then Brooks River in Arkansas is the place to be. From June to October, the brown bears take over spots in the river for the salmon spawning season, entertaining families and wildlife enthusiasts alike. You can scope out the scene ahead of time on one of the online “bearcams” provided by the Katmai National Park. Demand for RV campgrounds is high during the brown bear viewing season, so make your reservation well in advance.

rv-rental-katmai-national-park.jpgPhoto credit: R. Wood, NPS

o    Estes Park, Colorado – Unique to the Rocky Mountain area, hundreds of elk and big horn sheep roam this park. The best viewing for elk is during their rutting season in the fall, when the 700-pound adult males will “bugle” to find a mate. There are also nearly 300 big horn sheep grazing in the park. Estes Park is right next to Rocky Mountain National Park, so visitors have a lot of campground choices. 

rv-rental-estes-park.jpgPhoto credit: MissMushroom on Unsplash

o    Everglades National Park, Florida – Interested in more of the water-based animals than the prairie and mountain variety? Head south to the Everglades where you can see manatees, dolphins and amazing birds. It’s also the only area in the world where alligators and crocodiles live together; study up before you go so you can tell the difference between the two reptiles. We recommend visiting in the dry, cooler spring and fall seasons to avoid mosquitos and other insects.

rv-rental-everglades-national-park.jpgPhoto Credit: Karl Bewick on Unsplash

o    Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ohio - If bird watching is your thing, venture to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in northern Ohio along Lake Erie. It’s the warbler capital of the world, with thousands of birds and more than 20 species that migrate across the Great Lakes from late April until the end of May. The region features several RV camping options, but if you want to get one that’s close to the lake, we recommend making a reservation through Ohio State Parks.

rv-rental-magee-marsh-wildlife-area.jpgPhoto credit: SK Yeong on Unsplash

Share Your Adventures

Have a neat wildlife photo from an RV adventure? We’d love to see it! Share it with us by including the hashtag #BeThereNow or tagging out handle @CruiseAmericaRV on social media.