|Any good trip starts with
planning so whether you are joining us or going alone we have
added some tips that you will find helpful.
There are pros and cons to using a tour company.
To properly plan a birding trip takes an
enormous amount of time and a certain amount of travel savvy Even with our itineraries there are never any absolute guarantees that things will work out as planned - in fact it is always a good idea to assume they won't and build some flexibility (and a certain amount of 'Plan Bs') into your schedule!.
With a good tour company that can be avoided to a certain extent - although the unknown is whether the company itself or its' local representatives are any good.
In addition, a good company will have up to the minute local birding information - enabling you to go straight to the spot where the birds can be found - saving time and covering more species although you can achieve the same by hiring a local guide for the time you need them.
One of our concerns with group tours is whether there are too many people in the group. Birding can be different in different locations - watching shorebirds can be fine with a large group but trying to catch a glimpse of a forest bird in Thailand is challenging enough for one or two people but would be impossible for a group.
While everyone has a different view of what they want in a trip, our dislikes of organized tours are as follow:-
- they are most often just about listing - while clearly an important reason for going is to see as many species as possible, birding 14 hours a day can be a bit much
- if the group is larger than 10 people, it is extremely difficult to see the birds - by the time you catch up with the guide and they have pointed the bird out to everyone it has gone!
- you are restricted to the activities chosen by the guide which often doesn't include time for enjoying other aspects of the country such as the culture, architecture, history etc.
Questions to ask
So if you want to use a company make sure you ask:-
- how many people in the group
- how many guides in the group
- what is the experience level of the guide
- how good is their English
- are there any alternate activities built into the itinerary
- what level of accommodation are they providing (some countries assume that birders want very basic accommodation)
- what is the vehicle like (getting people in and out of vehicles can be very time consuming and result in the last person missing the bird!!)
- what is the degree of physical fitness required for the tour ( i.e. are you climbing mountains or strolling in the woods)
I am an
organizational nut so planning is my thing – as that isn’t for
everyone here are a few tips – if you are coming on a trip with
us many of these will be taken care of for you or you will be
notified if there is something specific required but this list
is worth keeping in mind for any trip you plan on taking:
- What are the current visa
- What vaccinations are
- Do you need to take a course
of anti-malaria tablets?
- Do you require an
International Driver’s license?
- Are there any travel
- What are the roads like? –
do you need a 4WD?
- Is the car rental agency
- What car insurance is
required? – will your credit card coverage be adequate?
- Have you left phone numbers
with people at home?
- Will your cell phone work
there ( and what are the costs!!)?
- What are the international
dialing codes for your phone card?
- Do have the phone numbers
with you for your hotels and airlines?
- What is the electrical
voltage? Will your plug fit?
consideration in your planning is the physical requirements of
terrain too challenging ?– will you be able to keep up with
adventurous travel, can you take the rough driving
Have you got
medications that you need to take with you?
Do you have
health issues that will be a problem to you OR your tour
companions ? ( it is unfair to go on a trip where you may be
a problem to other people)
Will you be
able to handle the climate?
There are so many
wonderful birding spots in the world, make sure you choose a
location that agrees with you and then read up as much as you
For a birding trip (especially if you are going
without a tour group) we recommend purchasing at least one of
each of the following
- General tour guide ( Lonely
Planet is great)
- Field Guide of the birds
- Field guides for other flora
and fauna that is of interest to you
There are many considerations
- limitations on weight for
- weather & terrain
- first aid & toiletries
Even though the main airline that takes you to your country of
destination may have the standard luggage limits, if you are
taking other flights once you get there, check their limits –
they are normally quite a bit less – you don’t want to find you
have to leave your scope behind!!
Weather & Terrain:
Even though you maybe visiting a warm climate, remember when you
are birding that you won’t just be sitting on the beach. The
chances are you will be going to a number of different eco
systems which will all require the appropriate clothing.
require different footwear
will be cold at the top –no matter where you are
will be wet
leaches and ticks (we can provide leach socks – a must for
grassland means there is no protection from the sun
may be very windy
When traveling to some countries remember that not all the
accommodation you stay in will be up to western standards.
Especially in birding areas some accommodation maybe very basic.
So consider taking a few items with you to make your trip a
little more enjoyable. Some suggestions are:
First aid &
toiletries: We always recommend a first aid kit in your day
pack when birding and some additional items in your wash kit.
Day pack –
Bug spray (
with DEET )
Additions to your
for stomach upset
(for jet lag)
porridge ( a couple of pouches of instant porridge could be
really useful is you have an upset stomach and can’t eat the
An ample supply
of toilet paper and/or tissues is a must for many countries –
keep them with you at all times – you don’t want to be caught
Laundry supplies - take a bag of laundry detergent and a piece of sting to use as a clothes line.
- various sizes can come in handy for everything from a
picnic to packing a wet bathing suit.
Flask - great
for hot or cold drinks.
Journal - We
love to write a journal (along with our bird list) each
evening, stick in ticket stubs, pictures from brochures,
record names and contact info of people we meet along the
way – wonderful to look back at when we get home.
– these hang off your day pack or your belt and are great
for rain gear, snacks, bird books etc.
We have found
that back packs work well for trips where you are staying in a
number of different places because there is a lot a repacking
Use a backpack
with a large central chamber and several small ones – preferably
with a detachable day pack.
Use bags ( cloth
if possible but plastic will do) to pack your clothes in groups
(pants, shorts, socks, long sleeved shirts, T-shirts etc) it will
make repacking much easier.
Purchase a travel
cover for your back pack – it serves several purposes:
packing hiking books etc down the outside of the back pack
space as a separate bag when you are moving from hotel to
bag for all those souvenirs on the way home!.
Don’t take too
much! Especially when birding, you would be amazed what you
Plan your clothes
based on layering – you can always add or remove a layer and
that means not having to pack bulky items.
If you have too
much optical equipment to take as carry on baggage - we
recommend purchasing a separate back pack specifically for this
purpose. They are padded to protect your equipment in transit
and work extremely well when moving around a lot. We prefer to take our hand luggage just in case our checked baggage doesn't arrive.
Much of this is common sense but
it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself.
Keep your money, bank
cards and credit cards separated. If you have a travel companion
split them between the two of you and keep them in separate bags
when you travel.
Make use of hotel safes for money and
Take a photocopy of your travel documents and keep
them separate from the originals.
Leave your jewelry at
home – ladies, if you really need something, consider purchasing
some cheap items to take with you.
Check if you can drink
the water – or even use it to clean your teeth ( this maybe
where the water purification tablets come in handy) – and make
sure when you use bottled water that the cap is sealed when you
If you are in an area where food maybe a concern,
we recommend that you avoid fish and seafood – and check locally
with people as to other food dishes that maybe a concern.
Don’t assume that gas stations and food/water will be as
available as at home – always make sure you have snacks and
water before leaving town and (gentlemen this is for you!!!)
confirm the location of the next gas station before heading out.