[This column was written in October 2002 for a Polish aquarium hobby magazine -- Magazyn Akwarium]
Traveling in a tropical country can be quite an adventure. I prefer to
plan transportation and accommodations well ahead of time because
"winging it" in some countries can be difficult especially if your time
is limited and language barriers exist. I generally use a travel agent
who knows exotic "nature" travel well. A good way find such a
knowledgeable agent is to speak with people who have visited places you
are interested in seeing. You can also look on the internet -- though
it can be difficult the gauge the quality of an agent based on a web
site. Occasionally it may be possible to join a group of researchers
traveling/working in some far flung location. I have been lucky to work
at research stations in the Amazon, Borneo, Costa Rica, and Madagascar.
Do your research before you embark on a trip. Learn about local customs
and taboos and be respectful of cultural differences. It always helps
to learn some phrases in the language especially if you are going to be
working with a local guide. A good local guide can make or break a
trip. Guides are easy-to-find -- knowledgeable guides are not. Ask
fellow travelers, knowledgeable travel agents, and people who've made
the trip before for guide recommendations. Sometimes travel books can
offer insight on finding a good guide.
When traveling in a tropical country it is important to stay calm, cool,
and flexible in all situations. Always be aware of your surroundings
and avoid standing out (which makes you an easier target for crime).
Always be ready for the unexpected -- if something can go wrong it often
will. Be patient for the inevitable delays and hassles that are a part
of traveling in many countries. Remember that when dealing with customs
agents and bureaucrats that a smile and well placed "tip" can go a long
way in solving "problems."
Keep a positive attitude and an open mind, while remembering that
sometimes the best experiences on a trip are the unexpected. Most of
all, enjoy your travels.