With all the talk of Cecil the lion in the news lately, I was thinking about how one might go on safari responsibly. Anyone know any good companies or places that really respect the animals? It would be nice to see them in the wild at some point but not if they're being taken advantage of. Doesn't matter where in the world--the main thing is that they're being well looked after.
This question is strange -- why would wild animals be "looked after"? It's not a zoo! :) A true safari really brings you in touch with wild animals -- if anyone is in a cage, it's you the safari-goer who has to be very careful to leave the safety of your car. Highly recommend an East African safari, especially the Serengeti in Tanzania. In the national parks the rangers do a good job trying to stop poaching and making sure the animals have an undisturbed habitat as much as possible. We went to Kenya/Tanzania for 3 weeks a few years ago and loved the experience, but it really brings you out of your comfort zone of being in civilization.
I see where you're coming from, and I think the distinction between a public and private game reserve might help you. In most public game reserves, at least in the African countries that we typically send our clients, the land use is very strictly controlled, and 'interaction' such as hunting, luring predators with bait, even just chasing animals, etc, are prohibited. Thus, in these reserves any 'exploitation' that happens is purely because the reserve doesn't have budget for rangers to enforce its rules, and given how tourism keeps a lot of our economies alive, the parks really make an effort until they absolutely can't (e.g. warzones).
However, there are a lot of privately managed reserves as well, for example all around the border of the Kruger National Park in South Africa. In a private reserve, there are less restrictions on what land owners can allow (and these vary greatly depending on where the land is)... if you want to go to one of these reserves, the standard assumptions don't apply because it's down to whomever is currently managing it, and you need to do a bit more research. On the flip side, due to the looser restrictions, some of the absolute best wildlife experiences are found on private reserves as well - most of the best conservation talent gets hired by private lodges because they have a better income than public parks.
So, don't be put off private reserves; they simply require a bit more homework :)
I recommend East Africa as a wildlife destination.
Recommended travel company: Incentive Travel, Nairobi.