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Old 31 July 2016, 11:36
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Gear and related planning for Wildlife Photo trips

Considering retiring from corporate hell, and spending a year trekking in Nepal and Southeast Asia. (cheaply/independantly).

Any thoughts, tips, tricks, on minimal equipment and planning?
Also how to fit into the cultures? Wildife opportunities.
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Old 31 July 2016, 12:12
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You can see my posts at the end of your Krav Magna thread. : )

Just pack a small carry on bag ruck, and go. It is pretty simple. Most of the things you need, you can buy overseas. Fit into the culture? Just dress nice, act polite, have situational awareness. Have a couple of long sleeve shirts and a pair or two of khaki pants and you have all bases covered.

Wildlife opportunities? In Asia? Best place to actually see wildlife, unless you want to spend some serious time in the bush and all the hazards that come with it, is to go on over to Sri Lanka. You could go to Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal, and may....see something. I of course have seen much wildlife in Cambodia, but that was my job. And was out in the very remote backcountry/bush considerably.....and even then it was rare. You are not going to see much in Thailand or Cambodia, unless you go to those extremes.

As I stated in the other thread, Hoi An, is a very nice place to hang out in Vietnam IMHO.

But, gear wise, just throw in a couple changes of underwear, a extra shirt or two, extra pair of pants. Good pair of hiking shoes and some good smart wool light hiking socks.

Take a I Pod Touch with you and, this is very important, a paid of Bose sound canceling headphones. The i Pod touch ....music, camera, video, internet/email, notes, alarm clock, calendar. If like reading, get a kindle and put a bunch of books on there.

I am not really into photography, for years just used a 35mm Olympus point and shoot camera, and now use my I Pod. So no advice on what type of professional camera you should take, if you planning on serious photography.

Pretty much anything else you need, clothing, gear, sleeping bag, hammocks, knife, torch, toiletries, hygiene/medicine, etc. can be locally purchased. Hec, if you are in Hoi An, you can have any article of clothing you want custom tailored for you at very inexpensive prices. I had a couple of 5.11 shirts copied and made for me for around $15 a piece.

As the ole traveling advice says, "take half as much clothing and stuff with you as you think you need, and take twice as much money as you think you will need". Lot of truth in that statement.
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Old 31 July 2016, 13:12
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Originally Posted by leopardprey View Post

As the ole traveling advice says, "take half as much clothing and stuff with you as you think you need, and take twice as much money as you think you will need". Lot of truth in that statement.
One of my friends gets to work remotely and has for the past 10 years or so. He is constantly in Thailand, Indonesia and Greece. He comes back to the states for about a month each year to visit his mother in Annapolis. He pretty much couch surfs and works from whatever bar he likes. He sleeps on the beach a lot, using his backpack as a pillow with his laptop inside it.

He has said almost the exact same thing with one addition:

Have someone back stateside who knows where you are going next and whom you can trust to send/ship you items if/as you need them, especially more high-dollar comfort items like good walking/hiking shoes that you may not be able to pick up on the local economy. You can always find things to get by on if you lose luggage, but it helps to have someone who will agree to buying/shipping online for you if you need it. He says he keeps a second go bag at his Mom's place with his favorite kind of shoes and socks, etc, etc. It's packed in a box. All she has to do is slap a shipping label on it and drop it at FedEx.
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Old 31 July 2016, 13:17
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Great posts! Man I'm getting the call for a change bad! Life's to short, and I should do it while I still have reasonably good health.
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Old 31 July 2016, 13:56
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Great posts! Man I'm getting the call for a change bad! Life's to short, and I should do it while I still have reasonably good health.
I should have taken this trip right after the army. I was offered the money to take 6 months anywhere I wanted, but went ahead and did more dumb shit instead.

I'm at the point where I need to quit doing security, take a leap with my coffee business, and run, but man, a month or two of this in between would be invaluable. Once I take the leap, I"m not going anywhere for a long time.
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Old 31 July 2016, 14:28
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Yup, and I don't think I need anything fancy for camera equipment just a little pocket digital (with a 10x Zoom for wildlife), combined with a tablet/i-pod-type setup. All about minimal-simplicity. And local cultures.

The wife will be back at home with the son getting his CPA, so I'll have a good Fedex support base, as necessary.
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Old 31 July 2016, 15:03
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KidA View Post
One of my friends gets to work remotely and has for the past 10 years or so. He is constantly in Thailand, Indonesia and Greece. He comes back to the states for about a month each year to visit his mother in Annapolis. He pretty much couch surfs and works from whatever bar he likes. He sleeps on the beach a lot, using his backpack as a pillow with his laptop inside it.

He has said almost the exact same thing with one addition:

Have someone back stateside who knows where you are going next and whom you can trust to send/ship you items if/as you need them, especially more high-dollar comfort items like good walking/hiking shoes that you may not be able to pick up on the local economy. You can always find things to get by on if you lose luggage, but it helps to have someone who will agree to buying/shipping online for you if you need it. He says he keeps a second go bag at his Mom's place with his favorite kind of shoes and socks, etc, etc. It's packed in a box. All she has to do is slap a shipping label on it and drop it at FedEx.
I would say unless you have size 14, or EEEE wide shoes, you should be good to go. In Bangkok, Jakarta, KL, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. there are all high end outdoor gear/clothing shops. I have bought shoes like nike and keen hiking shoes (I am a size 10), Northface outerwear, Benchmade, Spyderco and Leathermen, etc.. all at specialty shops in Bangkok, Jakarta, and KL. In Bangkok, at Amarin Towers (next to Chit Lom stop on sky train, and next to Erawan Shrine -where there was the terrorist bombing recently) there are a whole bunch of big end speciality outdoor shops and also two "tactical shops" with full selection of high end knifes, torches, etc. Prices are about 20% higher than the USA though. Hec, probably 90% of the stuff you buy at a REI these days in made in Vietnam, Thailand or China. 20 years ago, hard to find stuff, but not the case anymore. I use to eat lunch at a place in Chiang Mai, right across from a Puma Store and a Starbucks. Sigh. I kind of miss how it was back in the early 90s, before "globalization".

The way I see it, if the country is advanced enough where they have Fed Ex delivery, then it is probably advanced enough where anything you need can be bought - unless it is something very specialized and specific. Plus, will cost a lot to ship. Like say you want a Randall knife...probably not going to find. So bring it, if you must have it. ; ) But, for example, in Phnom Penh there is a custom made knife shop, with some really good stuff. You are going to laugh, I did bring my custom Blackwidow traditional Bow and arrows with me on one trip to Cambodia, so I could practice at the Ranger station. But, guess what, found out the custom knife shop, the owner also made some really nice traditional bows and had a good selection....so instead of the pain of bring my bow with me, could have just bought a real nice hand made bow there.


In Cambodia, two years ago, I equipped around 50 conservation LE rangers with full kit purchased all locally in Phnom Penh (rucks, multi tools, hammocks, water bottles, machetes, boots, etc...all of the more modern "tactical" style" . Pretty good hiking shoes, bought two pairs for myself. Only thing that was difficult to get them, was the individual and team first aid kits with quick clot, which I bought in the USA and brought over. But, you can get together a pretty good first aid kit from supplies at the various pharmacies.

Literally, once could just get on the plane with no bag at all, just a I Pod Touch and Bose Headphones and fly over to one of Asia major gateway points (KL, HK, BKK) and buy whatever you need as you go along. Hec, shopping for stuff in these cities is pretty fun, and a good way to get acclimated. Camera shops? More than you can shake a stick at.....Asians are way more into photography than we are. Forget your I Pod? No, problem, Apple stores in all the big cities. Apply products in BKK, same as the USA. Don't buy in China though. much more expensive. When my brother was living in Beijing, he would have me buy any Apple devices they wanted in BKK, then when I flew up to visit him bring it.

I would though make sure you have a good first aid kit with you at all times, once you hit the ground - if going out to more remote areas, trekking, etc. . Iodine, Antibiotic cream, cortisone, couple first aid dressings, a cravat, Quick Clot, band aids, tape, thermometer, tylenol, ibuprofen, and if in malaria country - doxy and melarone. I would also buy some antibiotics. Big cities like Phnom Penh or Chiang Mai, don't worry - decent international clinics. I would recommend getting a good travel-medical insurance plan, with a medical evac coverage, though to cover you in case something severe happens. If a Helicopter has to come out and get you on a trek in Nepal, you could end up with a $50,000 bill, or selling your kidney in a back alley of Kathmandu to one of the local crime bosses. That is if you did not already get drugged and have it removed after falling asleep at a bar in Soi Cowboy.
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Last edited by leopardprey; 31 July 2016 at 15:19.
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Old 31 July 2016, 20:11
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LP, man I can't say enough about your outstanding posts!

I'm cutting/pasting to a word document (then eventually to PDF) I'm starting as a guide to making all this actually happen. A "dreamsheet" so-to-speak. This will help at corporate hellhole.

The info, is much appreciated, but even more so the motivation!
Convincing me that it's not so damn unrealistic after all.
Very cool.
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Old 2 August 2016, 17:01
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poison View Post
I should have taken this trip right after the army. I was offered the money to take 6 months anywhere I wanted, but went ahead and did more dumb shit instead.

I'm at the point where I need to quit doing security, take a leap with my coffee business, and run, but man, a month or two of this in between would be invaluable. Once I take the leap, I"m not going anywhere for a long time.
Sounds like what you need to do. Take a month off. A week in Thailand, Kanchanaburi, and then go to Nepal (5 days to hang out in Kathmandu and 8-10 days for a trek). After your trek in Nepal, fly over to Vietnam (Fly into Danang) and spend a week in Hoi An, Vietnam. That would be my idea for a good month or so.
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Old 2 August 2016, 17:22
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Camera wise, if you want to stay light , unless you're doing something professionally you can probably get away with an iPhone 5 or newer and/or maybe a go pro or equivalent. My wife is an artist and most of the stuff she sells these days is taken on her iPhone. Her expensive ass Canon DSLR gathers dust because it's "too big" and for the kind of photography she does iPhone quality is plenty good. If you need to geek out, olloclip makes lenses for the iPhone.

Great advice by Leopardprey on the rest, just to reemphasize take way less clothes than you think you need. As far as getting along with the locals, it's been my experience that "don't be a dick" goes a lot farther than most people think. If you end up doing the whole year, I am envious....you should keep the thread updated with progress.

Last edited by hawkdrver; 2 August 2016 at 17:28.
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Old 2 August 2016, 20:25
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I'm going to shoot for Apr2017-?. It all depends if I get promoted out of the cubicle I'm trapped in, or get stroked off with a 3% raise like everyone last year. I'll take a few months, maybe a year, then come back and work a hobby job till I'm mid-60's in 10 more years. I'm super jealous of LP's protection of wildlife work. Maybe something on the periphery like that. Fk-it, maybe a greenskeeper! Surprising how much wildlife there is on a golfcourse...especially at o-dark-thirty when you go out to cut cups or mow greens. Got to get back outside! This corporate pussification and lack of having each other's backs wasn't how I was raised...I don't fit-in. I tend to speak too directly. ;-) Step on political toes. My work ethic usually saves me...but for how long. Gotta get back outside!

For the trip, I'm thinking of just taking the small pocket digital. It's an old 5-megapix with a 10x zoom. Should be fine and easy to carry. Upload 300-500pix each night to the cloud, is pretty typical for travel. I shoot a lot.

Last edited by Tycon; 2 August 2016 at 20:34.
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Old 2 August 2016, 21:33
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Not gear, but have you addressed potential medical issues and how to resolve them in a foreign country? There are several insurance companies you can sign up with that cover international travel. Prudential is the best, I think. But even beyond that just having info on local areas you plan to visit ready in advance could prevent many problems. For example what if you get a really bad case of something you cannot handle like dyssentary or a bad insect bite that turns?

But I would also say the most important piece of gear for a wildlife photography trip, would be a camera.

It would be great if you posted some of your pics!! Good luck!
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Old 2 August 2016, 22:30
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^ I can speak from a bit of experience, as had a bad run of Flaciparum Malaria while in Cambodia. Local clinic in Battambang, and a local Doctor took care of me. My insurance reimbursed me. But, if things had gone south, they were planning on medical evac me to the tropical disease hospital in Bangkok.

One thing to keep in mind, if you have the symptoms for malaria and test negative, test again. Test at least 3 times. I came up negative my first two tests. We lost a young Khmer lady, a biologist, to Malaria in 2010, due to a misdiagnosis. Lost one of my rangers in 2005 as well, cause he decided to do traditional medicine that his family insisted on instead of going to clinic and getting the proper treatment. Carry two malaria test kits with you. If you have the symptoms of Malaria, start popping your melarone. You can go into a coma in 72 hours if not treated right. You could also have dengue fever, which will really make you feel like crap. I once also got stung twice by a scorpion, and whole leg started to tingle and go numb, had a 4 hour motorbike ride back to station, followed by a 3 hour drive to the nearest town with a clinic to get a couple of shots to treat. So that is what you are dealing with. Also, never underestimate how cold it can get in a tropical environment, had cases of hypothermia up in the mountains with some of my rangers. I caught pneumonia pretty bad once also, and had to go on antibiotics and get treatment at a clinic in Battambang. Respiratory infections are very common, especially in the dry season.

Also had a bad case of E-Coli once, had to be admitted to the SOS International clinic in Phnom Penh. Had to give me several IVs and keep me overnight, then bed rest for over a week. Ironically, living for several months in remote villages and the bush...no problem. But, got it when was back in Phnom Penh eating at some 5 star restaurants.

Had real bad dysentery and a fever in India. Got some pills from a local clinic, and laid up in a shit hotel in the Punjab for a week. Guess the pills worked. Had another bad case of the runs in Dharamsala. If in India, it is not if you are going to get the runs, but when.

For another project, we had medical evac plan set up to go to Bangkok. If anything really serious happens, that is where you are probably going if in Cambodia, Laos, or Myanmar.

Best thing of course is prevention. Take Doxy, carry melarone, avoid mosquitoes. Eat hot, clean food. No ground beef.

Stock up on what you need, and know how to self treat. Have a good international medical insurance plan, that covers evacuation. But, for most minor stuff, most of the local clinics of major cities, you are ok. While out trekking for a couple of week in Nepal would be your biggest concern.

Stay of motorbike taxis!!!!! Pay the extra a take a Tuk Tuk or a real taxi. If you are doing some motorbike traveling, dress for the crash..full gear and a helmet. Never, ever, get on a bike without a helmet.

When looking for wildlife, you have to remember that most mammals are going to be nocturnal and going to avoid humans like the plague. There are many animals in protected areas within Thailand and Cambodia. But, if you see one it is by chance. We had a group of around 60 elephants in my area. How times did we see them? Hardly ever. You may see tracks, fresh dung, but you will be very hard pressed to see one. We know they are there cause we set up camera traps and did surveys, and saw the other signs. Had some really good photos and video. And seeing fresh signs of elephant activity in area was always good, cause meant no illegal loggers or poachers in the area. Elephants avoid humans if possible. It always amazes me how such large animals, usually traveling in groups can move so quietly and be so elusive. Same issues with bears, guar, leopards, etc.

You may get lucky and see a snake or two, or some deer.

Now if you are into insects? or into Flora? It is a paradise. Bats also very plentiful, but again nocturnal.

Not to mention, some of the protected areas in Cambodia, are near border areas....so there is a UXO and Land mine threat. We lost one of our border patrol police working with us in 2010 to a mine near the Thai border. Stay on trails, do not go off. But, even then it is high risk, as due to rain, erosion, logging, everything shifts, gets in the the streams and creeks. We had after one rain, a land mine become exposed a couple of meters from our ranger station volleyball court...talk about a pucker factor. And remember, any area that has been "Cleared", well that means 90-95% cleared.

You want wildlife, Sri Lanka or Africa. I saw more wildlife in Africa in two weeks than I did in over 5 years in Cambodia.
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Last edited by leopardprey; 2 August 2016 at 22:46.
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Old 2 August 2016, 23:00
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Great posts everyone, but LP...you are the MAN!

I am saving everything you post to my Travel Guide (eventually PDF, to have with me when I travel!), and your information on Nepal and Cambodia is amazing!

I knew this would be GREAT!
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Old 2 August 2016, 23:34
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Originally Posted by ramzmedic View Post
But I would also say the most important piece of gear for a wildlife photography trip, would be a camera. It would be great if you posted some of your pics!! Good luck!
Thanks RM!
Here's a couple shots from past trips. Most of these were just simple pocket digital or old-school scanned film. So I'm thinking just the newer pocket 10x should do me fine. One of the themes I like from LP's posts. Simple and Minimal. Local cultures! Hell YEAH!








This was a coyote pup from when I worked the local golf course, I found their den. Then sat 50' away and waited for them to venture out and sit in the sun. Too much fun!

I really need some Cambodian Elephant pictures, though! And some serious Yeti stuff. ;-)

Last edited by Tycon; 2 August 2016 at 23:42.
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Old 3 August 2016, 20:55
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Couple more. Anyone else do any photo trips? It's a lot like hunting with many of the same skills. It's just a hobby for me, but helps blow off stress. Just getting OUT is good therapy.






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