So you got that job, internship or volunteer placement and you are heading to a remote and amazing part of the world. Time to get ready! It might feel a little daunting, but as long as you are careful and take the precautions needed, then you will be prepared and ready to make the most of the experience. I still remember that feeling I got when I found out I was given my first official job researching a group of gorillas. It was so exciting, but I knew I had to pack wisely. I’m going to give you an idea of how I prepared for my conservation placement and of the kit I just could not do without.
Vaccinations & Malaria Tablets
Many of the common destinations for conservation work will require to get those jabs (don’t worry, they aren’t as bad as they sound and Nomad nurses are lovely!). Always check the Nomad Destinations Guide or book a consultation to find out which vaccines are recommended and if malaria is present in your destination. When I did conservation work in Madagascar, I had the usual Yellow Fever & Typhoid vaccinations. As I was working with animals, I also got a course of Rabies. The last thing you want is some horrible illness to ruin your experience, so the vaccines were my priority.
Medical Kit & Diarrhoea Treatment
Which kit you pack will depend on where you are going and what sort of work you are doing. I used to travel with a basic first aid kit, but since my trip to Madagascar I’ve really seen the benefit the more advanced Ultimate Medical Kit. My trip included a visit to the local hospital, where they used a needle on me from their own supply. I swore then & there I would always take the more advanced Ultimate Medical Kit in future as it includes your own sterile kit for medical professionals to use on you in emergencies like these. You can never be too safe and little injuries can easily happen when you’re working in remote places. Having a well stocked medical kit will help you fight off any infections from small cuts and splinters.
The first time I worked in conservation, in Gabon, I made the mistake of barely taking any medical supplies with me. When I burnt my finger (I did not realise someone put out the firewood moments before I decided to move one of the branches…ouch) the only thing I had to use was toothpaste!! Needless to say I learnt from my mistake and now always travel with a well stocked medical kit. The burns gel & dressings in the Ultimate Medical Kit would have really saved the day!
Whenever I move to a new country I need to try all the local cuisine. I remember when I first saw a little food market in Madagascar and just could not help myself! I had only been there a month so my body was still adapting, but my greedy eyes took over and I tried some of the most amazing things I ever tasted. However, it did not end well for my stomach. If only I knew back then about Worldwide Diarrhoea Kits, it would have saved me a lot of problems and I could have treated my symptoms quickly and easily. Because I was living there for over a year, I made sure in future visits to the market that when I did get street food it was fresh from the grill and still hot. Any fruit I ate, I washed with water from my own purifier bottle. It is always better be careful and make sure you do eat safely, but every traveller will go through moments of ‘Traveller’s Tummy’ so having the Worldwide Diarrhoea Kits, which comes with antibiotics, can just make the whole experience a lot shorter and less of a nightmare.
Insect repellents can truly make or break your experience! There have been times when I entered the forest to gather data, but had forgotten my insect repellents and I would sit there trying to quietly swat away hundreds of mosquitos without frightening the species I was studying…..trust me, you learn quickly that you always need to have it with you! Make sure you follow the recommendations to work out how much insect repellent to take with you. Mosquitoes & insects can carry lots of diseases, it’s not just malaria to be wary of, so always follow the guidance on how often to reapply repellents.
If you are working in a place where there are lots of ticks, I would recommend packing a tick tweezer. You wouldn’t believe how much a little tick can hurt, and if it’s not removed properly it can easily become an infection. The last thing you want in a humid country are little open wounds as they take that much longer to heal, so clean up the wound and dress it with supplies from your Ultimate Medical Kit.
Safe Drinking Water
After seeing the Aquapure Traveller Bottle in action, I must admit, I will be always be taking this with me when I travel. Some days I would drink so much water on conservation trips, much more than I expected, and of course you can’t just pop to the shop and buy more. Being able to refill my bottle from a local stream and drink safely meant I didn’t go thirsty & get dehydrated. I also used it when staying in the local city, refilling with water from the tap. This meant I didn’t buy loads of bottled water, which not only saved on money, but reduced the amount of plastic waste I created.
Convertible Travel Trousers (where you can undo the zip and they become shorts) – I have started off early in the morning in search for my Gorilla group when it is a little bit chilly, but soon after hiking and sweating I was desperate for shorts!
In my experience working in conservation, you will usually be based in remote places with no electricity. It often got dark early, too, so packing a head torch means you can still sit with friends and chat or pop to the loo without struggling through total darkness. Also, if you’re playing UNO you will need your hands free! If you will be working with turtles, penguins or other animals at night, be sure to get a head torch that has the red light option for the safety of the wildlife, we don’t want to blind them.
I know it may not seem that important but when you’re in humid areas things can take ages to dry, and having a quick dry towel compared to your massive home towels will make a huge difference. They are much easier to pack, too, with a handy carry case.
It can be hard to stay clean if you’re working somewhere remote. An all purpose travel wash can keep your hair, clothes, body & dishes clean. Some don’t even require water, which is ideal if you’ll be away from a decent water supply.
I would often spend anything between 6-10 hours a day out working, so I would bring water, packed lunch, my GPS, a compass and a waterproof notepad in my daypack. Find one that fits well and has all the features you’ll need so it’s easy to find things without lots of rummaging!
Working in Gabon, West Africa, where I lived in a tent for 15 months, hiked for 10 hours most days and showered in lagoons, were some of the best experiences I have ever had. Going from barely being able to see the silver back to having him sleep 10 m away with the females all around him and the little babies playing & “charging” us with their tiny little chest beats, was just so rewarding. Some of the moments I have been lucky enough to experience just can’t be put into words, and they encourage me to pursue my goals. The best advice I can give you is just go for it, but make sure you are Nomad ready!