CANBIRD

WORLD BIRD TOURS

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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.
 Why use a tour company


There are pros and cons to using a tour company.

Pros

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.

Cons

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)



 Before you go

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 requirements?
  • What vaccinations are suggested?
  • Do you need to take a course of anti-malaria tablets?
  • Do you require an International Driver’s license?
  • Are there any travel restrictions?
  • What are the roads like? – do you need a 4WD?
  • Is the car rental agency reliable?
  • 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?

Another important consideration in your planning is the physical requirements of the trip:

  • Is the terrain too challenging ?– will you be able to keep up with adventurous travel, can you take the rough driving conditions?

  • 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 can.

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
  • Map(s)
  • Field guides for other flora and fauna that is of interest to you
Considerations for what to take with you

There are many considerations when packing

  • limitations on weight for internal flights
  • weather & terrain
  • accommodation
  • first aid & toiletries
  • miscellaneous

Weight: 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.

  • marshes may require different footwear

  • mountains will be cold at the top –no matter where you are

  • rainforests will be wet

  • what about leaches and ticks (we can provide leach socks – a must for many places)

  • open grassland means there is no protection from the sun

  • beach areas may be very windy

Accommodation: 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:

  • Mosquito net and coils

  • Inflatable pillows

  • Pillow case and sleeping bag liner

  • Heating coil to boil water ( we need our cup of tea in the morning)

  • Flashlight

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 – Band aids

  • Antiseptic cream

  • Alcohol swabs

  • Bug spray ( with DEET )

  • Bite cream

Additions to your wash kit:

  • water purification tablet

  • medication for stomach upset

  • neo- citroen

  • melatonin (for jet lag)

  • pain killers

  • instant porridge ( a couple of pouches of instant porridge could be really useful is you have an upset stomach and can’t eat the local food)

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 short!!!

Laundry supplies - take a bag of laundry detergent and a piece of sting to use as a clothes line.

Miscellaneous

  • Plastic bags - 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.

  • Stuff pouches – these hang off your day pack or your belt and are great for rain gear, snacks, bird books etc.

 How to pack

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 required.

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:

  • Protection on the flight

  • Room for packing hiking books etc down the outside of the back pack

  • Extra packing space as a separate bag when you are moving from hotel to hotel

  • An additional bag for all those souvenirs on the way home!.

Don’t take too much! Especially when birding, you would be amazed what you don’t need!

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.

When you get there

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 travel documents.

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 buy it.

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.

 

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