Splurging On Travel Comforts – Yea or Nay?

Eco-tourists are a breed apart yet the one thing we have in common with “normal” travelers is the decision to be frugal or splurge.  Conde Nast Traveler has their suggestions but do they work for us?

1.  Checking a bag – I say nay.  We don’t really need a big wardrobe for birding.  Who’s going to be looking at us when there are so many stunning birds to look at?  Besides, who wants to risk having a bag go astray or waste time at the carousel?  I never bring more than 3 days worth of clothes and wash along the way.  I can fit everything I need plus camera gear between the eBags Motherload convertible backpack and my Scottevest

2.  In-flight Internet – I say nay.  There’s enough to keep me amused while in-flight with the airline’s AVOD and I can always keep a few movies or eBooks on my tablet.  Or just get some sleep!

3.  Out-of-Hotel Breakfasts – Usually necessary due to birder’s hours unless it’s a transit city stay.  If breakfast is included in the rate, I’ll take it.  Birding lodges will have breakfasts served at birder-friendly times.  Otherwise, we grab something at a supermarket and bring it along.

4.  Taxis – I say mostly nay unless there is a safety issue.  I wouldn’t want to walk around some town late at night with my gear.  Plus there is just something wasteful and un-green about taking a taxi if there is safe public transport available.

5.  One lavish meal – I’m not a foodie so easy for me to say nay on this one.  Birding lodges usually provide meals in the package.  If birding from a city with short drives into the bush such as Panama, we are happy to just grab takeaway and bring it back to the hotel.

6.  Souvenirs – I say YEA!  But only if they are locally made items, preferably by people who are honoring their native wildlife in the artwork.  Always support local communities to encourage eco-tourism!  Molas from Panama, numerous paintings, batiks, statues and arpilleras from Peru’s Amazon have all found a place in our home and serve as wonderful memories of our trip!

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Shopping In Antananarivo – Souvenirs Of Madagascar

The one disappointing thing was that there weren’t many handicrafts being sold at any of the places we visited and I always like to bring souvenirs home.  Preferably ones that are made by locals and contribute to the local economy so they benefit from eco-tourism.

Since I live in Australia where the quarantine laws are very strict about bringing in anything that is of plant (such as wood carvings) or animal origin, I try to avoid such things unless the item is a rare find and of course not made out of any endangered species.  I really like paintings, embroideries, batiks and jewelry depicting birds.  And no trip to Madagascar is complete without a few t-shirts to proclaim to all your friends back home you have been here!

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There are a few souvenir shops in downtown Tana, some of which accept credit cards.

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There is also a market out near the airport with about 50 small shops selling all kinds of handicrafts.  Cash only but bargaining is expected!

IMG_5804 IMG_5805 IMG_5810 IMG_5806 IMG_5807 IMG_5808 IMG_5809I ended up buying a table cloth with embroidered birds, a few fridge magnets and a couple embroidered wallets.  Word quickly got out that I liked birds espececially and a few stall holders came running up to me clutching any merchandise with a bird on it!

Back at the airport, after we paid the taxi, checked in and had no further use for Ariary, I spent the last few notes on an embroidered doily at one of the kiosks in the lobby.


Christmas Tree Of Memories

When you travel to such exotic places I have it’s hard to resist bringing a small piece of the visited country home.  One of my favourite things to collect are Christmas tree ornaments.  They are small, pack easily and don’t cost a lot!  I’ve even been known to convert keychains into Christmas tree ornaments.  Many of these were bought in local markets or gift shops attached to bird parks where the profits go towards conservation projects.

IMG_4249a IMG_4250a IMG_4251 IMG_4252 IMG_4253 IMG_4254 IMG_4255 IMG_4256 IMG_4257 IMG_4258I never used to look forward to the holidays but now I do, knowing that every time I decorate the tree it will bring back fantastic memories of birds seen in the wild all over the world!