What to bring on a birding tour

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Those who have never joined a bird tour of course need guidance as to what to bring along on the holiday (or as some may call it, an adventure). But even the most experienced birding tour veteran of course also needs the specifics about each new destination on his or her quest to see the world’s birds. We have started adding “General Information” tabs under each tour on the Birding Ecotours website, which helps with these specifics (e.g. what electrical adapters to bring along on your trip to fit the power socket in the country you’re heading to for your bird tour, and what weather to expect so you know what clothes to pack for your birding vacation). So, this blog provides you with a general checklist of what to pack on most birdwatching or birding photography tours, rather than specifics for a particular destination.

What to bring on a birding tourThe bright and noisy Knysna Turaco can be seen on many of our South African birding tours.

We often joke that as long as you remember your binoculars (and yourself!), that will suffice. But in reality you’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you also bring various other items listed below.

Please note that space in the vehicle may be fairly limited, but we understand that birders do need lots of equipment!  There will be opportunities for laundry.

Also, sometimes domestic flights during your birding tour have lower weight allowances for both checked luggage and carry-on baggage than international flights, so do check with us whether this will be an issue for you; this can be a real challenge for bird photographers, but we can advise as we have accumulated experience over the years as to how to solve the problems in different countries.

What to bring on a birding tripGrey-headed Albatross can be seen on an Antarctic cruise.


Here is a list of items you probably should not forget:

  • Binoculars
  • A bird field guide – see here for the guide we recommend for every country on the planet
  • A spotting scope and tripod or window mount (optional, especially since our guide almost always has one for the group)
  • Any other birding equipment
  • Bird photography equipment. Some people bring a point-and-shoot camera to photograph African megafauna and scenery during the birding safari along with their big DSLR birding cameras/lenses.
  • Spare batteries for photographic and other gear
  • Flashlight/torch/headlamp with spare batteries
  • Toiletries
  • Personal medication (where applicable including anti-malaria drugs). We recommend packing important medication (and a change of clothes) in your hand luggage in the unlikely event of lost luggage.
  • Some countries might require a valid Yellow Fever Certificate (or waiver if your doctor or travel clinic advises you to not get the vaccination). We certainly advise visiting a travel clinic or your family doctor and perusing the Centers for Disease Control website travelers’ health section.
  • Rain gear
  • Alarm clock
  • Passport and, if required, visas
  • Copies of passport, medical insurance policies, and other important documents, which can be left with the Birding Ecotours office or at your home (we can electronically file anything you want us to if you send it to us in advance)
  • Cash for visas, drinks, gifts, tips (although tips at restaurants during the tour are included with very few exceptions – see here for our tipping guidelines for birdwatching tours), items of a personal nature, etc. Traveler’s checks are rarely if ever used any more, but Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted (Amex less so), including for drawing local currency at ATMs. But it’s essential to always have cash as a backup.
  • Hiking boots plus another pair of shoes and sandals
  • Swimming gear
  • Cap/hat and sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and lip sun protection
  • Mosquito repellent: Repellent containing Deet works best. Deet is mildly poisonous, but if used modestly and as instructed it should pose no real threat. It is not necessary to spray profuse amounts before going into the field, unless you are hiking in chigger-infested areas (on some of our tropical tours). You should protect all rubberized or plastic areas of binoculars, scopes, watches, etc., before spraying, as repellents have a tendency to partially melt rubber and plastics.
  • Long-sleeved clothes as a precaution against biting insects

Please see here for further blogs to help you prepare for your birding tour.

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