WWF Shares Their “Must Pack” List For The Rainforest

World Wildlife Fund has a list of items they feel are essential for traveling in rainforest areas.  See their list then see which items I agree with.

  1.  Hand Fan – I don’t normally use one.  Trying to juggle a camera and binoculars is enough!
  2.  Mosquito Repellant – absolutely!  Especially with Zika, Malaria and other nasties about!
  3.  Long Pants – another yes!  They add extra protection against mosquitoes.
  4.  Long socks – sort of.  I hate shoes and socks but will wear them if I absolutely have to, though I tend to stick to established trails when birding.  I do have leech socks and have worn them in Sri Lanka.
  5.  Poncho – yes, I bring one more for protecting my camera than myself!
  6.  Bandana – sort of.  I have lead bands to keep the sweat off and I recently bought a Buff (as seen in Survivor) for more variety in headgear.
  7.  Pencil – not really.  I probably should take more notes while birding but I really prefer to to my bird list back at the lodge, preferably with help from my guide.
  8.  Trail Mix – OK, not trail mix exactly but I usually bring some kind of snack and definitely lots of water.

And I have to add

9.  Scottevest – love all the pockets to carry stuff in!

I Bought My Own Rainforest

Yeah, I wish!  Owning a rainforest where birds and other wildlife could live freely and without fear of capture or losing their homes to loggers has long been a dream of mine.  I do know a couple in India who have fulfilled their dream!

Wildlife photographer Charlie Hamilton James

And now wildlife photographer Charlie Hamilton James has just bought 100 acres of the Peruvian Amazon.  Has his dream come true?  Watch and see!  His fascinating story has been aired in the UK and is now airing in Australia.  I am not sure if and when it will air in the USA, but VPNs are your friend!

In the 2nd episode he tries to persuade a local man not to cut down a huge tree.  The man is logging illegally and wants to sell the wood for his kids’ education.  When the tree is cut down, it is dead inside and there is no wood that can be sold so the tree was cut down for nothing.  This tree would have supported several bird’s nests, it was HUGE!  Now the man has no tree and no money to educate his kids.  How much better off he would be if he could work as a guide, make handicrafts to sell to tourists or work in an eco-lodge!

Watch online at BBC UK

Watch online at SBS Australia

Ophidiophobic? Don’t Let That Stop You From Eco-tourism

If you are Ophidiophobic, you have an intense fear of snakes that goes beyond fearing the reaction to their bite and poison.  You probably can’t stand the sight of them, not even on tv or in a zoo.  If you see one unexpectedly, you may scream and/or run away even if the snake is in the firm control of an experienced handler.  If one comes on tv, you may change the channel or leave the room until the segment with the snake is over.

You’d be in good company, Indiana Jones is ophidiophobic…………………..and so am I.  So are a whole lot of people as ophidiophobia is one of the world’s top ten phobias!

The good news is you don’t have to let that fear prevent you from enjoying birding and eco-tourism travel.  There are ways to avoid them in the bush and rainforest.

1.  Take a local guide.  They know the area, know where snakes are commonly found and can avoid these areas if you ask them to.  Snakes in a rainforest are difficult to see but the guides will have better eyesight than you do.  I always ask my guide to steer us away from any snake he sees and to not draw my attention to it as I would rather not see it.  This tip alone has spared me from even seeing snakes on 95% of my birding trips.

2.  Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them.  If I had a dime for every time I read that, I could buy my own rainforest!  And I have yet to hear about a snake that can read!  But it’s true, snakes want nothing to do with humans and if they know you are coming, they will get out of the way.  As long as your guide is walking in front, they will sense his approach through vibrations and be gone by the time you get there.  If you are walking alone, which I don’t advise; then walk heavily to make sure any nearby snakes can sense your presence.

3.  Avoid situations where you could surprise a sleeping snake. Watch where you step.  If you need to sit on a log to rest, ask your guide to inspect the log first.  Don’t touch or climb tree branches.

4.  Don’t walk through primary rainforest.  Stick to well-trodden trails and avoid grasses and bush where snakes could hide.

5.  Wear protective boots and long pants.  They won’t help your ophidiophobia but at least you can hopefully avoid being bitten.

6.  Look down!  Birders are always looking up-where the birds are.  Don’t forget to look down and at the road ahead frequently so you are not surprised by a snake.

7.  Look up!  Some snakes do live in trees (unfortunately for birds).  Don’t rest under a tree.

8.  If you do see one, stay away from it!  I probably don’t have to tell ophidiophobics twice about this one, so tell your friends who are traveling with you as some people do like snakes or at least don’t fear them.

Notice how there are no pictures in this post?  Mark of a true ophidiophobic!

Choosing An Eco-Lodge

This will be a reference post I use often when analyzing the lodges in any particular area.  While I will only do a REVIEW of a lodge I have actually been to, I will use other resources found online to determine the lodging options in any avian eco-tourism adventure.

There are several things to consider when choosing an eco-lodge.  In some cases, you will be choosing a location because of a bird species you want to see which may have only a small range.  An example of this is Crimson-bellied Conures (Pyrrhura perlata), which are only found in the central and south Amazon basin.  The only eco-lodge in their habitat is Cristalino Jungle Lodge based in Alta Foresta, Brazil.  So in this case, the lodge is chosen for you by the species.

Crimson-Bellied Conures

In other cases such as Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), they can be found all over South and Central America so you have many choices. Even in cases such as Tambopata National Reserve, the Pantanal, Carara National Park you will have many different lodges to choose from in the same area.  So how should you choose?


Is the lodge affiliated with a conservation project?  Do they sponsor scientific research?  Do they have an education program for foreign volunteers and local employees?  Do they make an effort to be sustainable and “Green”?  Do they have a program to protect wildlife from poachers?  Do they train former poachers to be guides?  Do they financially support any conservation causes?


Are they in the reserve or park, or in a town nearby?  How do you get there?  Can you drive in yourself?  Do you have to use their transport if it is a remote location?  Can you afford the transportation to get there?  Are the local people actively involved with the lodge?


Is there a bird list and animal list on their website?  Which lodge reports more sightings of the species that interest you?  Are the species easily found?


How large is the lodge?  Is it so big that it will feel crowded?  Is it too small that you worry about the level of service?  Do they prepare their own meals or do you have to self-cater?  Do they accept children as guests?  Are you looking for opportunities to socialize or to get away from people and be with nature?  Do they have separate bungalows or motel-style accommodation?  Does the lodge blend in with the environment?


If you are not part of a pre-organized group, you will be using the in-house guides and probably put into small groups with other guests.  Where do the guides come from?  Who trains them?  How well do they know the bird calls?  Do they know the habitat well and likely places to find birds?


What options of accommodation do they offer?  Do they have a dorm for backpackers?  Do they have family accommodation? Do they include meals?  What other extras are included in the package (guided walks, boat trips, photography instruction, etc)?  Are there seasonal rates?  Group discounts?  How do you pay?  How much in advance?  Do they take credit card on a secure serve?  Paypal?  Is the only way to pay via bank transfer (which has fees involved)?  Can you use a portal such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com?  What is the cancellation or rebooking policy if your plans change?  Do they take credit cards for incidentals or will you have to bring cash along?


What do other people say about them on Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, Facebook and birding sites such as Surfbirds, Fat Birder, etc?  What do people like?  What do they not like?  Does the lodge manager communicate on social media and seems like they want people to be happy?


You are unlikely to find one lodge that has everything you want so you will have to know what is most important to you.  The species you want may only be found at a small, remote lodge that is expensive to get to and stay at.  You may have to take a long trip down the river in a small boat which some people may find uncomfortable.  The menu may be limited at remote lodges and you may end up being the only ones there in the off-season.  One lodge may be in your budget but it may be a larger one and more crowded.  A lodge that accepts families may have you waking to screaming kids instead of warbling birds.  You can never do too much research when it comes to choosing an eco-lodge!