There’s something wonderful about encounters with creatures of the animal kingdom, but knowing that those encounters contribute to the animal’s conservation rather than their depletion should be a critical point in your decision on whether to take part in that encounter or not.

There are still many places around the world where an encounter with animals is contributing to their conservation, and here in the Philippines we want to share with you three encounters where your visit can provide more than just your average travel snap.

Swim with Sea Turtles on Apo Island

Apo Island is located 7 kilometres to the south of the Philippines Negros Island. This small island is the first successful community-based marine conservation program site in the Philippines. It was established due to the threat to the island’s high population of sea turtles who visit hear to feed on the abundance of sea grass off the shores.

Prior to the conservation area becoming established, this poor fishing village would rely on unethical fishing practices for their livelihood, including dynamite fishing that was destroying the coral reefs and sea life. Nowadays the village relies heavily on tourism and promotes the conservation of their environment and the sea turtles that reside here. They work in conjunction with LAMAVE, a marine conservation organisation whose main objectives are protecting turtle nesting sites, rescuing injured or stranded turtles, building a photo ID database for use in scientific investigation, and conducting environmental awareness and education campaigns.

How your money helps 
Your money is used as an alternative income for the local people so that they ensure the protection of the environment and the sea turtles. Funds are used to keep the area protected and monitored so that turtles can use the area as a safe place to nest.

How to get there 
Make your way to Dumaguete, a large seaside town on the main island of Negros. There you can get a boat to Apo Island, the ride takes approximately 1 hour.

How much will it cost? 
You can get join a boat tour at Harold’s Mansion for 1000 pesos, which includes lunch, snorkel and flippers hire.

Sea Turtle The Philippines

Visit one of the world’s smallest primates in Bohol

The Philippines is one of the few places in the world where you can visit one of the world’s smallest primates, the Philippine Tarsier. About 100 millimetres in height, this small nocturnal creature that will warm your heart with its big round eyes and tiny frame. However it’s this cuddly-looking nature that has sadly put the Tarsier on the list of threatened species here in the Philippines.

Exposed to threats of habitat destruction and illegal pet trade, the Tarsier’s numbers have been steadily declining over the years. Thankfully the Philippine Tarsier Foundation established the Philippine Tarsier Wildlife Sanctuary in Corella Bohol, with the aim to protect the Philippine Tarsier and its habitat from extinction. The sanctuary has dedicated 8.4 hectares of forests for conservation and currently over 100 Tarsier’s are living in these forests, some of which have been released after being born in captivity, proving a successful breeding program.

The sanctuary also provides economic and social development opportunities to the local people and provides them with eco-tourism-related livelihoods, preventing the need for illegal logging or animal trade.

How your money helps 
Your money goes towards facilitating education programs at the Philippine Tarsier Research & Development Centre, contributing to a decline in threats and increase in Tarsier numbers in the near future. Your money also helps to provide much needed funds to the foundation, which currently operates as a not-for-profit endeavour.

How to get there
The Philippine Tarsier Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Corella, Bohol. You can reach the sanctuary by motorbike from any main city in Bohol, or join a private tour.

How much will it cost? 
The entrance fee is 60 pesos per person, however donations are always welcome.

Swim with Whale Sharks in Donsol

A very popular encounter in the Philippines is the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. However it is important to choose the right kind of experience, one that is going to help with the conservation of the creatures and not harm them.

Here in Donsol organisations such as WWF and LAMAVE are working to monitor and protect the species by documenting their movements and numbers. Introducing Whale Shark Conservation Tourism, WWF aims to reduce the environmental impact on these sea creatures and educate visitors about the importance of marine conservation.

The local people in Donsol are also benefiting from the tourism program, becoming one of the first lower class municipalities in the Philippines where people now earn higher income and live in better conditions. Conservation and tourism are binding together to create the right kind of travel experience.

How your money helps
The money that you spend in Donsol goes directly towards the local community. Each boat tour employees a BIO (Butanding Information Officer), a boat driver and a spotter, as well as providing income to a village who, prior to tourism, were very poor and relied on unethical fishing practices, including fishing the whale sharks themselves.

How to get there
Donsol is located on the Philippines main island of Luzon. You can take a night bus from Manila (10 hours) or fly into Legazpi airport and get a bus from there (2 hours). Note that whale shark season runs from February to April.

How much will it cost?
A 3-hour boat tour will cost 3500 pesos and can accommodate up to 6 people. You can usually join a group once you arrive at the registration office. Registration will cost you 300 pesos, and snorkel and flippers will cost 300 pesos.