Traveling for the Itinerant Conservationist & Photographer

By Brendan Moyle 02/10/2013

Traveling is one of those things you can end up doing a lot of as a conservationist. Generally I seem to spend a fair bit of time in the Asia-Pacific region.  There are a few things that are useful to be aware of.


A sharp knife for instance, can be very useful in all sorts of places. Once certain parasites reach a suitable size under your skin, it’s straightforward to dig them out with a sharp knife (and oh, it feels good too).


If you intend to risk being arrested by the local army, then it’s wise to remain calm & polite. Having your camera loaded up with photos of wildlife will mean you will look less like a Western Spy. Bottles of whisky are still a suitable gift or bribe in many jurisdictions.


A suspicious looking photo

Road is a much more elastic term in many developing countries. It can merely mean a boggy surface lined by jungle. In which case, the purpose of your vehicle is to hold your bags while you get out and push the vehicle through the mud. Road can also be a very temporary phenomena. In a good rain, the road will be washing away faster than your rate of progress. This gets even more exciting when you’re driving over mountains.


If you need to sleep somewhere rural, try to find a hut with lots of geckos. Shake out your bedding first to evict any cockroaches. Then with luck, the geckos will take out all the cockroaches before they make it back to the safety of your bed.


A shotgun in your land-cruiser can be a useful negotiating tool with local bandits. Be aware however, that bullets holes in your land-cruiser are often a hindrance to driving in remote locations.


Try to learn enough of the local language to avoid inadvertently agreeing to marry any villager’s daughters. Four very useful phrases to know in any language are “hello”, “thank you”, “goodbye” and “I’d like a beer”. Try not to get ill. Local medicines may be unpalatable and worse than your actual disease.


Local Medicines


While some camouflage attire is often comfortable in tropical areas and can be an aid to wildlife photography, it can also make local rebels nervous. Eschew the paramilitary look.


If you are going to work in conflict areas, try to find regions where the insurrectionists have poor bomb-making skills.  This way the bombs are less likely to go off. Also, there’s an important difference between a short haircut and a military-looking one. It is only funny being confused with the bomb-disposal guy weeks after the event.