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Preparing for any holiday can be stressful but preparing for a birding trip can be as important as the trip its self!

There are so many things to consider regardless of the end destination, whether it be north, south, east or west, or in winter, spring, summer or autumn. It is vital to get it right from day one, for some, day one might start at least six months before you step onto the plane, board the boat or step onto the bus.

So where do you start? For me one of the most important checks is your passport if you are on a foreign tour. It is critical firstly to make sure the passport is current and at least valid for six months after your return date. Make sure, if you are applying for visas, there are blank pages for visa stamps and of course check with your tour company if a visa is required as this can take several weeks. Also, take a photocopy of your passport information and keep it on your person through out your trip.

Doing your homework on the birds and wildlife you are hoping to see requires buying field guides and various apps with calls and specific id information. Do this several months in advance as this will save so much time when in the field.

As the days get closer to your departure its worth checking airline schedules haven’t changed and if you want to keep in touch with folks at home sign up for an international data plan for your mobile phone. Same goes for informing your bank that you maybe using your credit card abroad as most countries now have ATM machines.

Check with your doctor for any health regulations, as they will advise on what precautions you need to take, and remember some malaria tablets require taking a week or so before your departure.

Packing needs to be very carefully thought through. There is nothing worse than over packing and struggling with heavy bags through airports, loading into buses etc. I divide my luggage into two, one is Carry on and the rest important but if it got lost I can still get by for a few days until the luggage is found!!!

In my carry on bag will go passport, plane tickets, visas, health certificates and personal medical tablets, copy of travel insurance, cash and credit cards, binoculars, camera equipment , light weight telescope, mobile phone with apps, notebook, torch and change of clothes. I always take my driving licence as you never no when you might get called to drive or hire a vehicle.

My main bag will be a soft case with wheels!, as this will take up less space in vehicles. Your destination will dictate the type of clothing you require and if you are travelling with a tour company, they will send you a list but independent travellers will need to check local conditions. In addition to your clothes, I pack my tripod (a number of airlines refuse to allow them on as carry on luggage), water bottle, penknife, umbrella, hat broad brim for sunny destinations, sun cream, headlamp for evening bird lists, washing kit, all recharging equipment plus international plug adapters, spare batteries, insect repellent and my main medical bag.

I hope that with careful preparation, your wildlife trip of a lifetime will be as smooth as your preparation and your memories of all those “lifers” will speed you on to booking yet another amazing lifetime experience.

Tim Appleton
Blue Sky Wildlife Team

Originally Published: 5 Dec 2016

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