Over the past couple of weeks, I have shown you the different elements to consider when building your customized ecotourism adventure and how to facilitate it with miles and points so you have more to spend on the eco-lodges and supporting the local economies. During the course of this blog, I will be adding MANY destinations that are ideal for birders and eco-travelers in general but this is a good start!
1. Identify the goal of your trip. What bird species are you most interested in? Are birds the only focus or do you want other animals too? Use the right guidebooks and resources to help you plan. Use the maps in the book to help you locate the best places to see your target species.
2. Be familiar with airline alliances. There are 3 alliances: Star Alliance, One World and Sky Team. Know which one can get you to your destination as easily and cheaply as possible. Check this example of using miles to get to Lima, Peru. Know how to use airline partners such as credit cards, online shopping malls and services you already use such as phone companies, internet providers, supermarkets and insurance companies to get free miles for paying for things you already use. Don’t shop more, shop smarter! Check the resources tab at the top of this blog for advice on this.
3. Know how to save money by using hotel points for free nights at the gateway city before you head off into the bush. Depending on your flight schedule, you may need a gateway hotel in your home country before the flight and/or the destination country between your international connection and domestic flight to the staging point. See this example of Lima, Peru.
4. Research how exactly you get to your main destination. Can you fly? Drive? Take a bus or riverboat? Or maybe a combination? What do you have to pay for and what is included in the cost of your eco-lodge’s package. See this example of Tambopata National Reserve for ideas on how to do this.
5. Know how to choose an eco-lodge in an area where there are many options available. How do you find the various options? See this example of Tambopata National Reserve’s lodges and how I analyzed an area where there are a lot of choices and sorted them out by my priorities.
6. Read as many reviews as possible of the lodges and try to get a feel of the people who posted them. For example, one lodge may get a bad review because they were too remote and hard to get to by someone who likes more of a bar/social scene. Or one lodge may get a bad review because there were or were not facilities for kids. Trip Advisor, Fat Birder and Surfbirds all have lodge reviews or trip reports from people of all walks of life so try to find reviews by people who are similar to you. Here is a review I did for Tambopata Research Center. My priorities were sustainable, helping conservation efforts, abundance of parrots and other birds and preferably adults or at least teens only(no small kids). Remoteness, social life not an issue but I did need to keep in a budget. They have packages of various sizes to suit most anyone.
7. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Use the comments on any of my posts if you have a specific question or want to request advice on a specific location.