Here’s a complete guide to packing when you are visiting a wildlife sanctuary…
Explorations of wildlife sanctuaries are thrilling. Be it for an hour, one day or ten – the unpredictability of the experience is unlike any other!
Unpredictability, however, brings along with it other factors. For one, the possibility of extreme weather or those unthinkable situations that make for incredible, lifetime adventures. Either way, ‘ALWAYS BE PREPARED’ is the infallible mantra when in the outdoors.
Here are our recommendations when packing for a trip to a wildlife sanctuary in India:
- Research: This is probably the dullest part of travel itself, but we cannot stress the importance of good research. Get to know your location well; especially study the season in which you are travelling as this will determine what you pack. With special regard to wildlife sanctuaries, get a clear picture of the weekly holidays, daily timings (opening and closing hours), legalities, permissions for entry and local habitat.
- Planning: Activities will be determined by specific time slots so get a basic understanding of what you want to do – go for treks, bird watching, safaris – then schedule your time/days accordingly.
- Attire: This depends entirely on the season in which you go. Find out about the current climate so you have sufficiently cool or warm clothes. For instance, visiting in the monsoon calls for an entirely different type of luggage compared to a summer or winter trip.
- Water bottle: Each traveler has to carry his/her own water bottle and refill it at every opportunity. A common source of water (20 liters) is a good idea too, for large groups.
- Monsoon: For the monsoon, a durable raincoat or poncho is a must; in regions of heavy, often continuous, rainfall, an umbrella is not going to cut it. A dry bag is a handy thing to store important documents and electronics. However, if you do not feel the need to invest in one then zip locks also work well. Needless to say, ensure you have made arrangements to keep electronic equipment (phone charger, batteries, camera and so on), currency and identification safe and dry.
- Footwear: When packing for outdoor trips, shoes with good grip – suitable to the habitat – are non-negotiable. Ensure you have the right kind of footwear, ankle protection for trekking, airy material for wet regions and so on. Shoes are compulsory because they provide additional protection from snakebite when walking through forest or overgrowth. In case of a long-duration trip, we recommend carrying a pair of flipflops/sandals for the sake of convenience as shoes can be cumbersome to slip in and out of.
- Torch: Light in the outdoors is essential, and we mean a proper torch of substantial lumen. Neither consider the wind-up ones, nor the feeble flashlight on your phone. If your torch has rechargeable batteries, ensure you charge them in the day. Use light when moving about in the dark; this is crucial to avoid snakebite.
- Mosquito repellant: Odomos is your best friend; always remember to slap some on as evening approaches. If you have other stronger repellant, bring it along but never forget repellent altogether or you’ll be in for a hell of a time. Burning coils, agarbatti or flash cards are ineffective in an outdoor setting.
- Basic first aid: Your kit needs to have the medical equipment to be able to stop bleeding, clean and disinfect a wound, wrap a sprained limb and/or bandage a cut. Carry antiseptic, antiallergenic, paracetamol, painkillers, epipen and muscular balm/spray. Further, if you are travelling in a group, it is due diligence to check on whether your co-travelers have allergies (food and/or medication) or require any specific medical attention. Note down people’s blood group beforehand, inform yourself of the nearest hospital and how you can get there in case of emergency.
- Binoculars: Silent observation is the most effective way of spotting wildlife, and binoculars can go a long way in helping you do this.
- Sun protection: A cap or hat is essential for travel in the hot summer months, and sunscreen for those with sensitive skin.
- Safety knife: Keep a multi-tool or safety knife with you at all times; you never know when it will come in handy. We refer to situations where you might have to cut dense overgrowth or if your clothing gets caught up in a thorny bush. Do not ever attempt to use knives as weapons against other living beings, no matter how big or small.
- Field guide and notebook: A small field notebook and pen/pencil are always good to note your observations or new things you learnt along the way. If you have field guides for birds, snakes, insects or mammals, carry them along; however, asses your overall weight and take a call as books can be heavy.
- GPS: This can be a life saver in difficult situations, depending on the trail you are pursuing, availability of local guides and such.
- Maps and visual landmarks: You simply must orient yourself with the terrain, and what exists in each direction (north, south, east and west) prior to setting out on the expedition. As you hike, designate unique visual landmarks (by noting them down in your field notebook or committing them to group memory by mentioning the out loud) that will come in use at a later time.
- Survival skills: Knowledge of basic techniques and presence of mind can help you out of a tough spot. In general, seize opportunities to learn, innovatively use common materials to meet functional needs like starting a fire for cooking/warmth, reading tracks of wild animals and exploring in a safe and respectful manner.
- Food: You will need to pack rations; it is best to go with high-energy food packed with nutrition. Fruits, dry fruits, granola bars and hi-fiber biscuits are preferable to junk food.
- Thumb rule: Pack light because chances are, you’re going to be the only one carrying your bag throughout.