Gift Ideas for the Wildlife and Travel Lover

This year, finding that perfect gift seems an ultimate challenge when the option to peruse the shops is rather limited. It took me a long time to come up with ideas to add to my own wish list because I like to look at things in person, rather than online before I choose what I would like to ask for. I did however manage to come up with a list and I have a varying list of ideas to suit a number of different budgets and interests within the wildlife and travelling sector. Wildlife lovers are often travel lovers and so all of these gift ideas cover both areas. 

As helpful as Amazon is, I’m trying to avoid using them so much for the reason that supporting smaller businesses and independent businesses need the support more than Jeff Bezos. 

Gift Idea 1

A very simple, yet amazing idea for that wildlife lover in your life is wildlife books. There are so many available, covering the whole range of wildlife interests from butterflies, to birds, to mammals, to fish and even reptiles. There are so many different books to suit everyone’s interest that it is rather difficult to go wrong (unless they already own the book you have gifted them, so maybe sneak a peak at their bookshelf before you buy). 

Some websites that I can recommend include: 

My trusty binoculars, purchased from The Safari Store around 6 years ago now. Absolutely brilliant pair, although they could use a bit of a clean. Some Southern African Bird Books too, one was a gift and the other was ordered on Amazon, but please check your local book stores or even charity stores first if you can.

Gift Idea 2

Optics! Any wildlife lover could always do with a good pair of binoculars, or an optic scope. Yes, these can be expensive depending on the brand, but there are some really good ones that you don’t have to fork out hundreds of pounds for. Camera stores quite often sell binoculars and scopes as well as camera gear. Binoculars come in a variety of different optic abilities, for example 8×42, 10×42, 10×21 etc. The first number, so 8 or 10 are the magnification of the lenses, the second number i.e. 42, is the diameter of the end lens. To make binoculars worthwhile, the best recommended optics are 8×42, these can usually be found for slightly less than higher magnification binoculars. Mine are 10×42, I’ve had them for about 6 years and they still work perfectly. 

Some website recommendations to find binoculars:

Gift Idea 3 

I’ve already brushed over it slightly, but camera gear is a great gift if you have the budget for it. There are multiple options for a range of different budgets, and wildlife lovers are often passionate about capturing photos of wildlife to either hang on their walls, or to print and sell for others to have. Some tips for camera gear: find out what they already own, find out if they prefer telephoto lenses or wide-angle lenses, find out which brand they use (Canon, Nikon, Sony), remember second-hand kit is just as good as brand new – provided you get it from a reputable place. 

Camera gear website recommendations:

My current camera gear consists of only 1 camera body and one lens, but if I add more to my kit I’m sure going to check mpb first to see if I can save myself a bit of money.

Gift Idea 4

Camera bags can also be great presents. Maybe the photographer in your life needs a bag upgrade to fit more kit in, maybe they’re sizing down and need a good quality, but smaller bag. I’ve asked for a smaller camera bag this year, mainly because I’m looking into travelling carry-on only in the future and my current camera bag would cause issues with that. 

Camera bag brands and places to shop

My Mindshift Gear camera bag, although it’s a little big, so depending on what I find under the tree this year, this bag might be going up on eBay at some point after Christmas.

Gift Idea 5

The wildlife lover and traveller in your life might appreciate a new travel bag. Maybe they want a more luxury safari style bag, maybe they’re downsizing and starting to travel more minimally, or maybe their current travel bag is just trashed and they could really use a new one. I’m asking for a travel bag this year to fit with my new love of minimalist travel; the bag I’m hoping for is the Osprey Fairview 40 litre backpack. 

Brands and places to shop for travel bags:

My Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack. An absolutely awesome bag, although a little on the pricey side, the quality and design of this bag is perfect for travellers to stay organised.

Gift Idea 6

There is nothing more annoying (at least to me personally) than having a disorganised travel bag. One of the easiest ways to fix the chaos is by using packing cubes. Packing cubes would be an awesome present for that travel lover you know, and are fairly cheap to buy as well. There is such a variety out there that you will be able to find one to suit the person’s needs. I got mine from Amazon a few years ago, but there are multiple brands out there that make them. 

Places to buy packing cubes: 

I managed to get all my clothes for a 10 day holiday in just this 1 medium sized packing cube. It came with a set of 7 so I have more should I need them.

Gift Idea 7

Eco-friendly toiletries. As boring as that sounds, there are people who basically live out of their backpacks and so it is unfeasible to buy them large presents because they might not have anywhere to keep it. Eco-friendly toiletries means that you’re being kind to the earth, as well as purchasing your travelling friend something that they will be able to use wherever they are, you can always use toiletries and you never know, they might be in need of a top-up. A lot of eco-friendly products also come in bar form which is accounted for as a solid, making it easier if they are travelling carry-on only. 

Eco-friendly shops for travel toiletries:

Some of my eco-friendly products, the face masks are now especially important as you will have to where them on any public transport that you take.

Gift Idea 8

Wildlife art or photos. A lot of wildlife lovers like having pictures of their favourite wildlife hung up somewhere in their house. Sometimes these pictures and artworks can just add a bit of a cheery atmosphere to a home when it’s dark and dreary, or remind someone of an amazing wildlife encounter they just had. An even better idea is if they are a photographer themselves and they’ve taken an amazing photo, sneakily getting it printed for them because you love it as much as they do would be an amazing surprise. There will hopefully be wildlife photos available to purchase from my Etsy store next year, so next year I’ll be recommending myself in the list. 

The list of recommendations for this year includes:

Gift Idea 9

Anybody who works with wildlife, watches wildlife or is just simply passionate about it will need a nice field notebook to record their findings. List making is very important to some of us in the community so that we can remember everything we have seen, whether it’s just a day out at your local nature reserve, or a big adventure abroad. 

Notebook shopping recommendations:

Gift Idea 10

Well, if you used the previous idea and bought them a wildlife themed notebook, don’t you think it would be a good idea to buy them some wildlife themed stationary to go with it? Sometimes it’s fun to decorate your notebook to make it more your own, so wildlife themed stationary such as washi tapes, sticky notes, and other things are great ideas (especially stocking fillers if you still do that).

Stationary shopping recommendations:

Gift Idea 11

Experience days. Although this year might make it difficult to arrange experience days, quite a lot of places have very long waiting times to actually book these anyways. You can always gift an experience day voucher which often is able to be used up to 12 months after it’s purchased. There are so many different experience days, for example, keeper for a day experiences, falconry experiences and many others. If this pandemic is sorted out, I would love an experience day in falconry, but I’m waiting it out for now. Experience days are also great to gift people who might be down-sizing their lives to live more minimally or people who just don’t like actual things as gifts. 

  • Local zoos
  • Falconry centres

Gift Idea 12

Animal adoptions. Animal adoptions are great presents for wildlife lovers, usually they require a very small donation, maybe £20 for the year or something like that. These adoptions then usually have gift packages that come with them such as a plushie animal, photos and updates about that animal. The money you spend to adopt the animal then goes towards conservation efforts or care efforts to look after those animals in the wild or in captivity. 

  • Local zoos 
  • WWF
  • The Wildlife Trusts
  • Born Free

Gift Idea 13

Wildlife clothing. There are many new brands appearing that design clothing with animals as the main feature, and a lot of these companies also give back to conservation. A lot of these wildlife clothing providers and charities now stock reusable, wildlife themed face masks in their stores, so if you’re in need of more, go check them out.

Gift Idea 14 

On the subject of clothing, outdoor clothing and gear makes a good present. Maybe you’ve heard the person you’re shopping for talk about wanting safari clothing, or a good winter coat, maybe they want packable jackets which are easier to travel with. There is all sorts of outdoor clothing and gear available these days to suit everyone’s travel needs, whether it’s to somewhere cold, hot, travelling minimally or not.  

Gift Idea 15

This one may be a little out of reach for most peoples’ budgets, but there might be a rare few who read this who are capable of this one. The best gift of all, in my opinion, would be a surprise holiday to their favourite wildlife location. Perhaps a trip to Africa (hint, hint to my bf (one day)), maybe they want to explore the Galapagos or go diving in the Seychelles. The holiday could even be a volunteering experience to go and work with their favourite species; volunteering experiences are often a lot cheaper than a fancy holiday. The budget could also be smaller with a more localised holiday, such as for UK residents, Snowdonia, Yorkshire, the Cairngorms in Scotland, the New Forest, so many places that maybe we don’t think about because they don’t seem like exciting places compared with destinations further afield. This present however is huge and requires a huge budget, so this might need to be saved for a very special occasion, or something that you and your partner could discuss and arrange together. 

Some great wildlife holiday/volunteering companies

I hope that you can gain a range of gift ideas from this list that I’ve tried to create for you guys. The links I’ve provided are a tiny range of what’s out there, but please remember to find and support those small businesses if you can. None of these links are affiliate links and I earn nothing from you using them at all. I have simply provided the links in this blog to try and give you guys some good starting places for a number of the different things I have mentioned. Always remember to be careful when you do your online shopping, and I hope this blog can help you to put a smile on that wildlife/travel lover in your life.

The Basics to Wildlife Photography

Selecting the right kit

The first step of getting into photography is actually choosing your kit; from the many options available it can be rather difficult to decide. Budget is the biggest factor in kit selection and can often be the reason you have to go for something other than what you were hoping to get to start with. Note* this blog is concentrating on DSLR photography as it’s how I photograph and it’s how I started out. 

My first kit consisted of the lower/beginner levels of Canon camera gear; my kit consisted of a Canon 1200D, an EF-S 75-300mm lens, an EF-S 55-250mm lens and an EF-S 18-55mm lens. My camera had an APS-C sensor, or what’s commonly known as a crop sensor; there are two types of sensor, the crop-sensor and the full-frame sensor. Beginner cameras will always be crop-sensor cameras as these are cheaper than full-frames. Canon crop-sensors mean that you are technically getting 1.6x worth of extra “zoom”, the same effect can be made with a full-frame in post-production editing where you would simply crop the image to the same size. A full-frame camera’s sensor is made to be equivalent to the classic 35mm film you would have used in an old camera; the full-frame sensor is reckoned to be about twice the size of the sensors used in crop-sensor cameras. 

My boyfriend started with Nikon as he was used to it from using his dad’s camera. His first Nikon was the D3300, and with that he used 18-55mm lens and a 55-300mm lens, both of which were Nikon lenses. He then swapped both of these for the Sigma 18-300mm lens however the quality of this lens was less than satisfactory. His current kit is now made up of a Nikon D7200 with which he uses a Nikon 18-140mm lens and a Sigma 150-500mm lens, of which he uses both frequently for wildlife and aviation photography. 

Don’t forget as you go along, your skills in photography will grow and so you may outgrow your first photography kit, and hopefully your budget will grow so that you can level up. I’ve changed my kit a couple of times, moving from the 1200D to the 760D, a slightly higher spec camera. The 760D was probably a silly purchase as it wasn’t much above the 1200D, so I would also recommend a 760D for beginners. I now shoot on the 7D mark ii, the highest spec crop-sensor camera in the Canon line-up, I think they now have a mark iii, but I’m very happy with my mark ii and don’t feel the need to change it. I also owned a 5D mark iv at one time, one of the highest spec full-frame cameras and it produced beautiful images, unfortunately I had to sell it due to needing the money, but I hope I can upgrade to a full-frame again in the future. I only use one lens now which is the Canon L series 100-400mm mark ii lens; with this lens I also use a 1.4x extender when I need a bit more reach for my subjects, an important thing to consider when photographing wildlife and animals. 

I have used a variety of different lenses, the biggest I ever used was my 150-600mm Sigma lens, an absolute beast and was my choice of lens for my Tanzania trip, which is how I was able to photograph things so far away. I struggled to hold that lens however and my 100-400mm lens is more appropriately sized for me and I used it in Botswana and my Kruger holiday last year. 

I think if you can, play around with different kit and see what works for you based on your subjects and also your skill level. There are sites where you can rent kit out which might be a good idea so you can try things before splurging out and buying them, or you could look at buying second-hand kit, a good way to find what you want and save a bit of money. When I’m looking for kit to buy, I quite often surf mpb.com to see what they have, and I also use them when I need to sell my kit. 

What kit to use in what situation

Close-up photo using my 100-400mm lens and my 7D mark ii.

So, I already mentioned that with wildlife photography, it’s important to consider how much “reach” you are going to need to get those awesome photos, but you also need to understand when you should be using those big lenses, and when you should use a wider-angle lens. 

Cheetahs photographed in the Serengeti using a 150-600mm Sigma lens on my 7D mark ii.

A big lens with a long focal length should be used in situations where your subject is quite a fair distance away from you; a lot of these big lenses will have a limit as to how close you can be to be able to focus on the subject. My 100-400mm lens can focus subject that are 1 metre or more away, however, 1 metre is rather close for such a big lens, and so if you’re that close, you should really consider using a shorter lens. I forgot to mention it before, but one of my favourite lenses I’ve ever owned was the Canon L series 70-200mm lens. This lens produced some beautiful pet portraits and was great in those up close situations, it’s also the lens I used to photograph the Datoga woman in her very dark hut. I will say that you must also watch the environment when your subject is very far away; in Tanzania, due to the heat there was a lot of heat haze over the ground which made photographing very far away subjects rather tricky as the heat haze affected the lenses’ ability to focus. 

Zooming out and using a shorter focus length to show the elephant in his environment.

Short lenses, such as the Canon 24-105mm or 24-70mm are great for landscape photos, but also for photos where you want to include some of the environment into your wildlife photos. Sometimes rather than just having a close-up portrait of an animal, you want to include its environment to tell a little bit of a story with your photo.

My best advice is to just play around with your different lens options, learn the modes and settings you need to use (coming up in the next sections), and see what images you come up with. Photography being a creative area and a subjective art at that means that you are able to bend and break the rules within reason to add a more creative scope to your images. 

The camera modes you should be using

If you have a DSLR, you should never ever, ever just whack it in auto-mode and take photographs. You have spent hundreds, possibly thousands on this kit and so you shouldn’t be using a mode that any old Joe can use on their phone or point-and-shoot camera, oh no! There are three modes that you should be using and those are full Manual mode, Shutter priority, or, aperture priority. The mode can be changed using that dial on the top of your camera, these modes on Canon will be shown as M = Manual, Tv = Shutter priority, and Av= Aperture priority. On Nikon, these modes are shown as M = Manual, A = Aperture priority, and S = Shutter priority.  

Using manual mode to balance the settings to show how dark the stormy sky was in Tanzania

Selecting which mode to use depends on the situation you’re shooting in, to be able to determine which of these modes is best, you need to understand the settings you’re controlling by using these different modes. Manual mode means you have full control of all the settings and you can adjust each of them yourself to perfect a specific shot; shutter priority means you have control of the shutter speed and the camera will adjust the aperture and ISO settings to match and expose your image properly. The last one is aperture priority, just the opposite of shutter priority really, you have control of your aperture and your camera does the controlling of shutter speed and ISO. So I’ve mentioned 3 different settings here, the shutter speed, aperture and ISO, but maybe you don’t understand quite what these are yet? Keep reading to find out. 

The settings to think about

Shutter speed, aperture and ISO, in my opinion, the only settings you really need to know about to create some amazing images. These are the only settings I adjust, maybe other than white balance, but you learn different things as you go along and to start with, the three settings I’ve mentioned are the only things you need to concentrate on. 

To have a slight understanding as to how to use these settings, you need to understand what each of the different settings do. First of all, when you’re going to change any setting, whether it be ISO, shutter speed of aperture (also known as f/stop), you must consider that the changes you make has an effect on the amount of light reaching your sensor. Selecting the correct settings takes time to learn, however, the combination of the three settings should allow for the photo to be correctly “exposed”. Exposure in itself is pretty much just referring to the amount of light that you have allowed to travel through the lens, bounce off the mirror and onto the sensor. 

Datoga woman, photographed with a 5D mark iv, a 70-200mm lens and using an ISO of 6400.

ISO is a good place to start, by changing this setting, you are changing the camera’s sensitivity to light; this means that when it starts to get dark, if you “push” the ISO, which is how photographers describe it, you are able to brighten those photos so that they’re not under exposed. ISO however is what also causes photos to appear grainy if it is too high. Most beginner cameras will start to show some grain at 400 ISO, but it was still acceptable to about 800 ISO, anything above that just didn’t look good to me. Full-frame cameras have a much bigger scope for pushing the ISO, for example, my photo of the Datoga woman was taken on a Canon 5D mark iv, one of the best full-frames out there and I used an ISO of 6400 to achieve that shot. 

Photographed at a cat cafe in Cardiff, using a very low f/stop, maybe f/4 or lower to create a very shallow depth of field and some nice bokeh in the background.

The next setting is aperture, or f/stop. This setting will show up on the back of your camera as f/4.5 for example. The aperture setting is what determines the depth of field in your photo, so how much of the photo is in focus. A low number such as f/4.5, means a big aperture which will produce a shallow depth of field. The aperture affects the lens more than the camera; there are blades inside the lens that open and close depending on the aperture you’ve set which makes an internal hole bigger or small, the bigger the hole is, the shallower your depth of field will be. For something like an environmental shot, you want to use a higher f/stop, something like f/10 or higher to get more of the environment in focus around the animal. You must also remember that this setting has an effect on the amount of light reaching the sensor. With a small f/stop, you will be allowing a large amount of light onto the sensor, so you will need to adjust the other settings accordingly.

The last setting to concentrate on is the shutter speed, this is what controls how fast the shutter flicks to capture an image. The cameras that sound like a rapid-fire gun are using a high shutter-speed; the ability for your camera to keep up however will depend on its processing abilities and also set frame-rate. My 7D mark ii has a frame-rate of 10 frames a second I think, and so setting a high shutter speed means I get very nice rapid fire shots, which are especially useful for animals flying or running past. My camera also uses compact flash cards rather than standard SD cards, meaning it’s able to process a run of images faster than a lower level camera than can only take SD cards. To use shutter speed effectively, you should always aim to set it 1/the length of your lens. So, say you’re shooting at 100mm, your shutter speed should be set to 1/100, this will reduce the effects of camera shake, especially when hand-holding a lens. If you’re shooting particularly fast wildlife, really push that shutter speed up, you may need it set to at least 1/1000. Shutter speed also affects how much light reaches the sensor and can be used in really cool ways to create different effects in an image. You can set it slower and pan through an image to create some motion, just remember to try and focus on the animal. If you get yourself a tripod and a shutter remote, you can leave the shutter open for a long time and capture the stars, but night photography is an entirely different topic that I don’t really know much about. 

Where to practice your photography

At the moment, it’s difficult to go abroad to take those epic wildlife shots of lions and cheetahs in their natural habitat, but how do you practice so that you know what you’re doing when the time comes when you can travel again? 

Black rhino of Chester zoo, a great enclosure as there are no fences or glass to photograph through because they’re kept in by using ditches and stone walls.

Zoos! Zoos are great places to go to practice photography; yes, there are challenges such as fences, glass, many people in your way, but they are great places to practice and I have regularly gone photographing at zoos over the last 5 years which has really helped my photography to improve. 

My gorgeous girly enjoying the garden.

Pets are also great subjects to practice on. I can’t tell you how many thousands of photos I have of my dogs and cats, but the reason they’re so useful is because they move and behave like animals. Animals can be unpredictable in most circumstances, you don’t know where they’re going to be looking, what they’re planning to do, or maybe you’ve studied a bit of animal behaviour and you can kind of guess, but pets are amazing to practice on. It will teach you how to focus quickly, you can change your settings to try out different things, you can try different lenses and you can practice as much as you want because they’re right there in your home. 

I was once told that it takes 10,000 terrible images to make a good one, and whoever told me that was absolutely right. I went on a photography trip to Africa 5 years ago and didn’t understand what I was doing wrong the whole time I was there. When I came back home, I went to zoos, photographed my dogs and cats and suddenly the penny dropped, and I started to really understand how to take a good photo. 

I was going to add a section on the basics of editing, but I really don’t know much about it. The only things I adjust are the white balance, warmth (blue and yellow slidey bar) and the contrast really. I use Adobe lightroom to edit my photos, this will show a graph right at the top of the editing tools and the only thing I know is that the graph should be spread out fairly evenly from left to right, the height of the graph doesn’t matter so much. I will also say that you can’t fix a cr*p image so it should come out of camera pretty much as it should be. If it’s not in focus, nah, get rid of it, if the image is incredibly blurry, bin it. The only thing you should really be adjusting to make it look good is the exposure. My last piece of advice is cropping your images; the best crop that seems to fit on Instagram particularly well is a 4×5 crop. 

Minimalism Mini-series 4.

The final part of the minimalism blog series. I’m hoping I’ve given some convincing evidence as to why you should try this lifestyle, but I’ve summed it up in this last blog and also included a little bit on how to get started with your own journey to living with less.

One bag of stuff from my latest declutter. Four years on and I still find things I’m not using or I don’t need anymore.

Why you should consider minimalism

The previous blogs in this series have covered a large range of reasons as to why minimalism is so great an idea, so I think it is definitely worth considering. Who wouldn’t want a lovely, tidy house that’s easy to clean, the ease of picking out your outfits every day, the ease of travelling with one bag or even just the money it saves you over time? Minimalism is also proven in some cases to reduce anxiety because for all the reasons I’ve just mentioned, you spend a whole lot less time worrying. Less worry about where things are because you only have your favourite things, a lot less worry about your finances because you’re not spending money on useless stuff, and when it comes to travelling, a whole lot less worry about your bags not making connecting flights or just getting lost because all your stuff is with you in the cabin. 

Other benefits to minimalism can include better time management, although I’m yet to achieve this. Time management can be greatly improved when distractions are removed from your life, especially distractions that don’t add value to your life. Minimalism, when practiced to its full potential can teach you self-discipline so that you are able to use your time and space more effectively. A minimalist desk set-up (only having the things you need in sight) can really help to diminish distractions. While you’re working, do you really need your phone nearby with constant notifications and distractions popping up, or could you leave your phone somewhere else or upside down and on silent so that it doesn’t disturb you? If your work requires your phone, by all means it needs to be there with you, however, for me I find it incredibly distracting, so at times when I’m working, such as writing the blogs, I will leave my phone on silent and put the screen face down so that I can’t see the notifications popping up, therefore distracting me less. 

You don’t have to be restrictive as I’ve said before but be more mindful and intentional about what you have and bring into your life. Even if you don’t stick to living this lifestyle, in my opinion I think you should at least give it a little go to see how you feel. Whether it’s in an extreme form where you only give yourself access to a few things for a week or something, or if you follow the process to truly minimising your possessions. There are many different ways to be a minimalist and it never has to be extreme or make you uncomfortable; I am in no way an extreme minimalist, I have way more than 100 possessions still, however, it’s my consumerist mindset that’s changed and I hardly ever purchase things unless I absolutely need them in my life (unless it’s wildlife books, but then I’ll still only buy 1 or 2 at a time). 

How to start/ The process

Starting your decluttering journey can be tough, especially if you don’t know where to start or how to make the process easier on yourself. There are a number of different techniques out there on the internet, the two most famous being the kon-marie method, or the 30-day minimalist game. The kon-marie method focuses on different categories, rather than different areas and was developed by a Japanese woman called Marie Kondo. There is a book you can pick up which goes through Marie Kondo’s method called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying”. The book goes through the categories to tidy, the thought process during decluttering, which in Marie’s case concentrates on the idea of your items “sparking joy”, and also organisation ideas for when you’ve finished decluttering. There are so many topics covered in this book that I think it’s definitely a good idea to pick up for yourself if you’re unsure of where to start in your minimalism journey. 

The 30-day minimalism game was designed by two best friends Joshua Fields-Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, otherwise known as “The Minimalists”. This process doesn’t require you to start in any specific area, or with any specific category, but just the number of items you’re decluttering. The game works like this, on day 1, you declutter 1 item, on day 2, you declutter 2 items, and so on and so forth. So at the end on day 30, you declutter 30 items in that day, making this a good challenge to start on the first day of a new month. You then declutter the appropriate number of items each day, you could even go to 31 days on a longer month, meaning by the end you will have decluttered 465 items by the end of a 30-day month, or 496 by the end of a 31-day month. This could be a good thing to do if you kind of know the items you want to get rid of, but they’re all from different categories. 

My process of decluttering didn’t really follow either of these methods, but it worked for me. I sort of went room by room, rather than by category as it was easier to re-organise after the declutter rather than moving things to one room, decluttering and then having to re-organise the entire house again. I first started with my clothes, a fairly good base to start for anyone really as clothing tends to have the largest amount of items with the least use or purpose. If you’re anything like me and stopped growing before the age of 13, the clothes just pile up because everything still fits you. In the end, I think I decluttered something like 8 bin-bags of clothes between my house and my parents house. I kept buying clothes that weren’t things I would wear which included dresses, skirts, shorts, frilly and girly tops, pink clothes, purple clothes you name it. If it looked cute and girly, it was somewhere at the back of my wardrobe or chest-of-draws, unworn and unseen for many years. I am now very much aware of what my “style” is, be it lacking in fashionable sense but it’s comfortable and it’s what I like. My style is very much baggy t-shirts and trackies (or cargo trousers), but most definitely my khakis (if only I lived in Africa, I wouldn’t wear anything other than khakis). So knowing my style and what my favourite clothes are made it incredibly easy to declutter, the dresses were gone (I still own 2 or 3 for when absolutely necessary), skirts, crop tops, anything pink or purple, all gone and it’s surprising how much of that cr*p I had. Just think of the money I could have saved by not buying all that stuff I was never going to wear! 

I decluttered my shoes next, I think there’s still a couple pairs I’m probably not in need of anymore, but I wear through my shoes fairly frequently because I only have 5 pairs I wear on a regular basis, plus 2 pairs of high-heels for dressing up (plus I’m 5’2” which makes pictures with the bf easier when I add some height), and a couple extra pairs of shoes. Still quite a few shoes, but nowhere near the 35-40 odd pairs I used to own. 

So I guess my process is going through a category in a specific area, this means you can work at your own speed without getting overwhelmed by the process. Sentimental items are the hardest category to declutter and most minimalists will suggest decluttering these things last as you will have built up some practice on your general decluttering techniques by the time you get to these things. In my mind, I would say that you should declutter these things when you’re ready, no one else can tell you when to get rid of things or what to get rid of, this is your journey and everyone else should respect that. 

Before you start decluttering, remember to set those goals I mentioned in a previous blog in this series, this will really help you to make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. But now that you’ve decluttered and have massive piles and bags of stuff to get rid of, what do you do with all of it? For clothing that’s in good condition but not new, donate it, there will be someone out there who will greatly appreciate finding it in their local charity shop; if it’s unworn and still has the tags, sell it, make a bit of money back for that useless item you bought but never used. With most things, selling or donating is a good way to get it out of your house, but keeps it out of landfill. If it’s old paper, get them shredded or send to recycling, only really worn out, unusable, and unrecyclable items should be sent to landfill, although there are many ways to repurpose a bunch of different things and I’m sure in this instance google would be a great help. Try and do everything you can to not send things to landfill as it will really help out the environment, but once you’ve decluttered, remember how tough the process was and how difficult it was to clear everything out of your house before going and splashing the cash on things you don’t need again. 

Some YouTube channels I find are really useful and inspiring to watch when it comes to minimalism are:

  • The Minimalists
  • Matt D’Avella 
  • Break the Twitch
  • Clear Your Mindset 
  • Heal Your Living 
  • Simple Victoria
  • Marie Kondo  
Some more things waiting to be donated. So annoying that all the shops are shut, this has been sat in my house for months.

Minimalism Mini-series 3.

Changing a consumerist mindset

The consumerist mindset is a funny one, I think people have misconceived perceptions of what their shopping habits are actually like and they like to pretend like they don’t really go to the shops every weekend. Now, I’m not saying going shopping in all its entirety is bad, but consistent purchases of useless stuff is. You go to somewhere like Primark for instance to get those jeans, or you need a top in that colour or something, once you step into the shop, it’s a battlefield for the mind and eye. You see bargains and sales and reduced items and for whatever reason, you can’t help but pick it up and put it in your trolley or basket. Trust me, I know the feeling, the snack isle of Tesco is especially dangerous if I’m hungry when doing the food shop. You think to yourself, it’s reduced so I’m saving x amount, and you go round the store doing this with every bargain and sale item you find. 

Here’s a fact for you: even if the item is on sale, if you did not need it in the first place, you are not saving money. I’ll let you digest that for a moment, but I’ll explain why. If you have a list of things that you absolutely need, say at a food store and you go and the list is: milk, bread, cereal, fruit, veg and burgers (or something along those lines) which might cost you say £20, you then go down the bakery isle and see the doughnuts are on sale, get 2 boxes of doughnuts for £1, get these choccy-chip biscuits for £1 down from £1.50, you then explore the toiletries isle and pick up this nice smelling shampoo for £3, even though you have 7 unopened bottles at home. You’ve now just spent £5 more than you needed to because you got the “sale” items, it was only a sale if you absolutely needed to get them, and now that’s £5 out of your holiday fund, or wedding fund, or fund for getting that new camera you’ve been wanting. See where I’m going with this? Primark sales, sales on cosmetics, sales on anything, are only saving you money if you needed to get them in the first place. This is the consumerist mindset that you need to change. Let’s go back to our original shopping list, and let’s say the cereal is £2 instead of £4.50 and the burgers are £3 down from £5. You will be saving yourself £4.50, and you are actually saving because you needed those items. Buying what you ACTUALLY need, especially if it’s on sale, will save you money. Look at what you already have, and be very strict with yourself not to be tempted by deals and sales that may try and convince you that you need something when you actually don’t. 

One method that is the most effective of all, in my experience, is just not going to the shops constantly. I used to go to town out of boredom when mum was at work when I was a kid, or I would go into Cardiff as entertainment with my boyfriend. Just being near the shops was temptation enough, going in the shops was fairly devastating to my bank account. I wouldn’t buy masses of stuff, but I was still buying stuff that I didn’t need. As a minimalist on YouTube once said, not buying stuff you don’t need now, saves you from having to declutter it later. 

Purchase allowances

Within minimalism, you are still allowed to buy things; one of the biggest things that scares people away from minimalism I think is that they assume they’re never allowed to buy anything ever again. This is completely untrue. In fact, minimalism doesn’t just come in one form, there are so many people in the community with so many different outlooks on what minimalism looks like, it is pretty inspiring. Some people live with more things than you might think they do, the reason being is that all the things they have serve some kind of purpose in their life. Many minimalists may not have a lot of “stuff” per say, such as clothes, makeup, cooking utensils etc., but they might decide to bring in lots of house plants because having a lot of greenery inside helps to lower their negative thoughts perhaps. 

The current state of my book shelf. Up to the Switch controller on the top shelf from the left are my books, the rest are my boyfriend’s. The second and bottom shelves are entirely my books and I have a few in the bottom of another bookshelf. At least I’m fairly set if the internet suddenly disappears.

For myself, I like to purchase books, not just any books though, they have to have something to do with natural history and mostly wildlife at that. They can be field guides/ID books or textbooks about conservation or ecology or even stories about people’s lives such as David Attenborough or Ben Fogle. No, my bookshelf doesn’t look very minimalist to an outsider, but I curate it with books that bring me a lot of happiness. Being somewhat of a nerd and loving to learn about wildlife, having lots of different books to read and flick through is important to me. However, this is really the only section of my house that is allowed to expand. I hardly ever buy new clothes and if I do it’s usually because I’ve managed to wear out something and need to replace it, or I’ve thought about it for weeks before purchasing the new item to see if I would actually have a use for it. I don’t buy makeup anymore as I haven’t worn it in years, and if I do need some, I don’t need a lot; my makeup routine is limited to foundation, concealer, eyeshadow and mascara if I were to wear any at all. I used to have so much makeup that I would never have been able to use up with how often I wore it, so no wonder most of it was out of date by the time I came to clear it out. 

When setting purchase allowances for yourself, I would suggest identifying the things that really bring you joy that you would struggle to live without. I’m not saying it has to be something you use on a daily basis, but maybe you love looking through wildlife books quite often, or you love art so you need sketchbooks and pencils or maybe you love having a new outfit every so often. Allow yourself these purchases, but be mindful about how often they happen, and also with clothes and makeup, be mindful about where they come from to try and lessen your impact on the environment. 

Minimalism doesn’t have to be restrictive in anyway but can be used as a tool to help you make better purchasing decisions. As well as being mindful of what you purchase and bring into your home, remember the goals that you have set for yourself (refer to the second blog in the minimalism mini-series). Always remember that something you don’t purchase now, saves you from having to declutter it later. 

Minimalism Mini-series 2.

Setting goals with minimalism, and thinking about how compatible this way of life is with sustainability

Goals

When starting your minimalism journey, it’s important to have some goals in mind so that you know what you’re aiming to achieve. Is it to have 50 items and be an extreme minimalist with the freedom to travel wherever you want with everything you own in a small backpack? Or is it to have a nice tidy, clean open space in your house that brings a level of calm when you return home from work?

Goals will help with the decluttering process, even though it takes time, a slight toll on your emotions depending on your attachment to your things and quite a lot of determination, having goals aids your process and sometimes guides you in the right direction. 

I have some goals which might be considered extreme to some people, but if I really need things, there is always an opportunity to acquire them again. 

I don’t really have a specific number of items that I want to own in mind, but one of my goals is to always have a tidy house. Being such a messy youngster, it still is sometimes a challenge to keep on top of the house cleaning and organising, but the fewer things I own, the easier it will be. 

I also want to be able to keep all of my clothing in my side of the wardrobe, rather than having an extra two draws in the dresser as well. At the moment, I still need to go through my clothes and see what I wear regularly, if there’s anything I can sell or donate, or anything that is completely worn out. I wouldn’t say I have an over-abundance of clothing as I have done quite a few declutters, but I have a number of different clothing categories that I segregate into different areas. For instance, I have the classic underwear draw, which is now decluttered enough that it is just the one draw. I don’t even know how I ended up owning so much underwear before but it would never fit into the spaces I envisioned it in. Now I just have the one draw and it makes it so much easier to not have to sift through a number of different places just to start getting dressed. I then have a draw for workout clothes and swimwear, so basically a sports draw. I haven’t gone and done a proper workout at a gym since the week before the first lockdown started as I can no longer afford my gym membership, but if I can convince myself, I would maybe use these clothes for home workouts whenever I decide to start those. Then I have a bag dedicated to my safari clothing; sounds weird keeping clothes in a bag, it’s not like I’m going anywhere right now, but I know exactly where these clothes are the next time I need them and it saves me a bit of space in my wardrobe.

All I use for my showers now.

Other goals include reducing my toiletries a lot and once used up, switching to more environmentally friendly and sustainable products. I’m doing quite well with this. I used to obsessively buy creams and cleansers and lip balms and all sorts, but not being a girly-girl, or particularly caring what I look like, I never used these products regularly and they all just sat there collecting dust. I am now on my last two face moisturisers, and I now have no spare body washes or shampoo bottles, I have switched the body wash and shampoo over to bars. The worst thing with toiletries is when clearing them out, if you find expired ones, you have to throw them away because they can’t be given to someone else. The other problem with unused toiletries is that if they have been opened, even just to smell them or use them once, they can’t be donated to any charities that excepts these. The good thing is, just a couple of months ago, Boots announced that they have placed some recycling areas in 50 of their stores, so you can take old products to these stations, even if they weren’t purchased from Boots, saving them from going to landfill. 

The greatly reduced toiletries shelf
Greatly reduced things in the cupboard. I now only take up the one shelf with a couple of creams.

One of my other goals is to have an under-control med kit; I used to buy a lot of first aid/medical products because I have this habit of getting ill or injuring myself on a semi-regular basis. The problem was, I would forget I already had something and then go and buy more of it such as paracetamol, neurofen, lemsip pills, creams and ointments. This then led to a bunch of things going out of date because by the time I found them, they were years old. Please remember that if you clear out medicines, creams or anything you might find as a medical use item in a pharmacy, you must take it to your pharmacy to be disposed of as these items shouldn’t be sent to landfill as they may enter the environment, get eaten by animals or enter the waterways. I now have a greatly reduced medical kit and I always check it before buying anything just in case I already have the product I’m thinking of. 

These are the only other toiletry items I use regularly. I have some others which I’m currently trying to work through as best as I can.

A very big, and slightly unrealistic goal at the moment is to live out of just one bag. This bag would include all my clothes, toiletries, meds and entertainment, maybe leaving one or two small boxes of things at my parents’ house that I might want at some point in the future. The aim of this would then be to travel the world, easily, comfortably and sufficiently. This would take a lot of decluttering, and a lot of convincing myself that I don’t need a lot of things that I’m still hanging on to. I can see myself doing this one day, but I don’t think right now is the time for me to do this. I asked myself and my boyfriend the question “what would you do if you won the euro millions lottery and ended up with a ridiculous amount of money?” My answer: I would sell and donate everything that doesn’t fit into one bag, pack the rest of my stuff up into one bag and travel the world forever, staying in volunteer houses at different wildlife experiences and really live my life without stress or worry of having to be a part of the real world anymore. What others might say: I would buy a huge house, buy a fancy car, buy designer clothes and shoes and bag, buy expensive jewellery, eat out at fancy restaurants etc. 

My question to you, what would you do if you won the lottery? Would it be about buying lots of fancy stuff, or would you go and have some amazing experiences and come back with adventurous stories to tell. Just remember, it’s your experiences that go to your grave with you, not your stuff. I have done some pretty good thinking about this question, and if you won even 10 million pounds, you could probably work at volunteer places and have experiences without ever having to have a real job again, obviously budgeting properly. Or you could buy a bunch of fancy stuff where the money would eventually run out. I know which I’d rather do, plus going and volunteering at wildlife rescue centres, or wildlife research projects, means your putting your time and money towards important issues.

Compatibility of minimalism with sustainability 

These two topics are not mutually exclusive, just because you’re a minimalist does not mean you are automatically part of the sustainable living society, but minimalism can definitely help you get there. The fact that minimalism alters your consumer habits helps you to cut down on your environmental impact, but whilst you are buying less, you can also start to be more mindful and intentional about your purchases. There are so many different sustainable shops and brands that sell sustainable toiletries, kitchenware, reusable water bottles etc. One of the things to really concentrate your efforts on though is where you buy your clothes from. The fashion industry, particularly the fast-fashion industry which is the second highest polluting industry in the world, just after fossil fuels. I hardly ever buy new clothes, keeping up with fashion trends isn’t the most important issue in my life, and I think that not keeping up with fashion trends is one of the biggest things that keeps my clothing purchases low. In the last 3 years, I have probably only bought maybe 10 new items of clothing, it might be less, it might be a couple items more, but I’m not buying new clothes every week or every month. If you already have hundreds of items of clothing, why do you need to buy more? I asked the same question in my blog about a minimalist trip to Cape Town, but do these people not know about doing laundry? And the fact that once you do laundry, you can wear those clothes again? 

So yes, I think we can agree that minimalism and sustainability are compatible, but it does take some intention and effort to make sure you see it through. One of the best ways to sustainably buy clothes is to buy second hand. The clothes are already made and exist, therefore, no extra process (other than postage) is going into you owning them. There are so many places to pick up second-hand items, such as charity shops, Ebay, this app called Vinted and probably many more. The next time I’m looking for some khaki green cargo trousers, I’m going to start searching for second hand because I’m sure the perfect ones I’m looking for will be out there somewhere. 

Minimalism Mini-series 1.

Today is the day that I am finally addressing the “mini” in my blog name. Yes, I would consider myself a minimalist, although I haven’t reached my decluttering goals yet, I have adopted the mindset of a minimalist and I’m adjusting the way I live to fit into this category. 

I began my journey into minimalism in January 2017, a time when I was suffering from a huge amount of anxiety and distress after leaving university because I couldn’t cope with it. I had nothing else to do in the day as I wasn’t fit to work at the time either and so after watching hundreds and hundreds of YouTube videos, I finally started my own journey to a life with less. 

This is the majority of my clothes with just a couple of other draws containing workout clothes and PJs.

Background

A little background to how different I am now from my younger self, a very much non-minimalist. My family are the type of people who like to hold on to things for sentiment. Well, my mum’s and dad’s things, my mum was constantly clearing out mine and my brother’s things but hasn’t ever really touched the masses of clutter of theirs. My dad is especially bad for holding onto things and even getting new things that he doesn’t need; the second hand shop at the tip is an exceptionally dangerous place for my dad to go on his own. 

Even with the decluttering efforts of my mum, my room constantly looked like a bomb had gone off, or I was living at a rubbish dump. There would be numerous toys and items of stationary all over the floor of my bedroom. My room wasn’t tiny, but it also wasn’t huge, and it was very difficult to move around it. When I was very young, maybe until the age of 10, my parents basically had no money and so I lived in second-hand clothes, most of which were boys’ clothes and that’s probably where my “style” if you can call it that, comes from. However, as soon as mum announced that I was allowed to start getting brand new clothes of my own, I went absolutely wild with the Next catalogue, asking for huge amounts of clothes that I probably never even wore because they were way too girly for me. It was at this point that it all started to pile up in draws and cupboards and the infamous chair where you chuck things that aren’t dirty enough to go in the wash, but you don’t want to wear it again just yet. I also collected masses of toys and things at this point, my two favourite collections being Sylvanian Families and Breyer horses.

One of my problems with having so much stuff was that I was constantly reorganising my room, but never getting rid of anything. These reorganising phases happened every few months because, excuse my language, crap just kept getting everywhere. I would tidy up the floor and shove it all into the already overflowing draws of my exhausted desk, put it in plastic bins, try and fold my clothes to find out that most of them didn’t fit in the furniture so then they would end up in bin bags and shoved in the loft. 

Anyway, turns out that the clothes stopped being decluttered at about the age of 12 or 13 as that’s approximately when I stopped growing. I only found out about the problem when I went home maybe at Easter after I started my decluttering journey and filled 6 Bin Bags with clothes I didn’t wear anymore! These were just the clothes that hadn’t been deemed good enough to take with me when I moved to Wales for uni, or I had simply forgotten about their existence because I only wear about 4 different outfits consistently. I had another closet and chest of drawers full in my own house which was majorly reduced. 

Why I’m working towards being a minimalist

So although I call myself a minimalist, I don’t think I’m quite done with reducing the amount of stuff I have, but I’m definitely on my way there and doing a lot better at it than a lot of my generation. There are some things that strongly influence my decisions on being and becoming a minimalist that might influence you to make some changes. 

One of the biggest things that influenced me to make a change that came up again and again when watching YouTube videos was the hugely reduced time it takes to clean your house. Not having to move things out of the way constantly to clean and not having to find a space for everything all the time because it all has a place makes it so much easier when cleaning. I used to just leave things where they were rather than putting them away, but now that there is space to put everything, it is so much easier just to put it back where it belongs, making it easier to keep tidy in the long run. 

Having less things also meant having more space. The last two places I’ve lived with my boyfriend haven’t been particularly large. Our first place together was a two bedroom flat in South Wales, where the rooms were also quite small. After the first huge clear out, it felt like we’d added another room to the house, the floors had never been clearer before that. I still had a long way to go but the first clear out made a massive difference to how big that flat felt. We now live in a two bedroom terraced house in Chester. It’s not a particularly big house due to the fact that Chester is an expensive place to live and so we probably live in a house that’s a similar size to the flat, just split into two levels. I’ve had another declutter but at the moment I’m waiting for the charity shops to be open so I can donate a few bags of things. 

Another reason for becoming minimalist is that it is making me more intentional when it comes to purchasing things and bringing them into my home which is helping to reduce my impact on the environment. I now only bring in things that I know I’m going to use, or that I absolutely need, such as plastic free bathroom items etc. Being more intentional and thoughtful with what you bring into your home can really help reduce the amount of unnecessary waste you produce. 

With buying less, comes the benefit of spending less. I don’t have a huge spending budget anyways, especially now because of the pandemic, but even before then it was tough. My boyfriend and I now budget our monthly spending on an Excel spreadsheet and it really does help to see where your money is going. Our priority spending is obviously rent, bills and food, but also care for our two cats. After that, we have to be particularly careful about what we spend as we don’t really have the money to just shop anywhere at any time. We hardly eat out anymore, something that you don’t realise how much you’re spending on until you see it written down. Quite a shock to see takeaway spending when you have all that lovely food you’ve already bought at the shops. Also, when you have takeout or eat out all the time, is it really a treat anymore or have you become reliant on it? We treat ourselves to maybe one or two takeouts a month, otherwise we cook everything else. It is a challenge to make all our meals, especially when my boyfriend works until 9pm, but I can’t eat late because it makes me sick so a lot of meal planning comes into it and it’s a lot of effort but it saves us a huge amount of money at the end of the day. Just as a little insight, our weekly food shop is usually between £50-£60, and only goes above that if I need lots of cleaning supplies. Our average Mcdonalds takeout is about £15, a huge amount to spend on one meal, when if you think about it, it’s probably about £3-£5 per meal out of our food shopping. 

It sounds strange but having less stuff can greatly reduce stress and anxiety. I’m not sure of the science behind it, perhaps it’s to do with less time having to tidy up, or knowing exactly where everything is, but my anxiety reduced by almost half after my first big declutter. It’s now become habit that if I am feeling quite stressed and anxious, I’ll start to look at my things to see if there’s anything I can declutter. My boyfriend has made it very clear, and I respect his choice, that I’m not allowed to touch his stuff or pressure him into decluttering. This is actually very important to remember, you can’t force someone to be the same as you, you have to worry about your own stuff and let everyone else do their own thing. They may see the benefits of minimalism once they see you thriving from your decluttering journey and ask for a bit of guidance on how to get started, but you absolutely cannot force someone into it. 

A very simple benefit that I’ve mentioned a number of times by now, but I know exactly where everything is. Having less stuff means you know where the important things are, such as finding your phone, or your wallet, or even that top you like to wear. If you’re not sifting through hundreds of items of clothing that you don’t wear, it’s so much easier to find the 6-9 tops that you do wear and enjoy wearing. 

Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t, but there is a thing called Decision Fatigue. You can actually become tired of making choices throughout your day depending on how many you’ve had to make at the start. One of the biggest choices people make is deciding what to wear every day. On average British and American girls will have anywhere over 200+ items of clothing at any one time in their lives, that’s average so there will be girls with a lot more than that, and guys might too. This means you might spend half an hour to an hour trying to decide what you want to wear, taking up a lot of important decision-making power from later in your day, such as which tasks need to be completed at work etc. I haven’t done an item count for a while but it’s probably in the region of 60-70, maybe a little more and I feel like I might need to go through my wardrobe again at some point. I know exactly which clothes I love to wear; it takes me less than 5 minutes to pick my clothes out, I’m happy and comfortable and that’s me ready for the day. 

Minimalist trip to Cape Town

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to travel somewhere afar with just one bag? Ever considered the benefits of travelling this way? Or have you ever just questioned how to make it possible? Well after having done it myself, I’m about to give you some insight to what travelling like a minimalist is like. 

In November 2019, I booked a rather spontaneous, last minute trip to visit my best friend in Cape Town, South Africa. I kept in mind the fact that I wasn’t going to the bush this time, and I would be in a very well stocked house in a city. These thoughts provoked my choice to try travelling as a true, one bag traveller, or as other people call them, minimalists. I perhaps pushed the boundaries a little bit and I may be considered an extreme minimalist for doing this, but all I had on me was a 25-litre backpack. 

The backpack I used was the Tom Bihn Synapse 25

Before I dive into the nitty-gritty packing list, at this point we can already discuss one huge benefit of travelling with one bag, or with cabin baggage only, and that is how much money it saves you on your flights. Did you know that airlines will charge £30 or more per flight for you to take hold luggage? At least British Airways does, and by only travelling with my one bag, over four flights (Manchester to London, London to Cape Town and back again), I saved £120 on my tickets. 

You might feel uncomfortable with the thought of not taking very much, maybe thinking you won’t be prepared enough, not have everything you need etc, but there is a way to pack to make sure your basic needs and comforts are easily met. You may choose to travel with a slightly bigger bag than I did on this trip, I think the largest backpack style bag allowed in the cabin is about 40 litres, but you should always check this on your chosen airline’s website. The first step to knowing how much you need is knowing how long you’re going for, and for this trip I would be there for 10 days. At this point you have to start being very realistic in your thinking, how often do you actually change your clothes, and did you know about this thing called laundry, making all your clothes reusable? For this trip, I knew it was going to be very hot when I got there, but I decided on taking only 3 outfits with me because of the fact I only change what I’m wearing every few days, and the fact that I can put my clothes in the wash. So, my outfits consisted of 3 tank tops and 3 shorts; I also needed something to sleep in, so I packed 2 sets of PJs with me. Just in case (not a phrase that minimalists tend to use, but I thought viable in this case) I also packed 2 workout outfits consisting of 2 pairs of cropped leggings and 2 workout tops for any situation of doing intense activities. We were planning to do a bit of hiking and although those plans didn’t come to light, I was ready to take on those sorts of activities. Then all I had left to pack was my underwear. I took 5 of everything in that category, I needed maybe 1 more set, but I got by and made it work. I also packed a bikini just for in the event we went swimming as she lives literally 5 mins from the beach and there are some other pretty nice swimming places around. 

To fit what sounds like quite a lot of clothing in a rather small bag, I made use of a packing cube that I had from previous trips. Packing cubes are a god send when trying to fit lots of stuff into small places as they will compress your clothes slightly. I also rolled all my clothes when putting them in the packing cube, and by doing this, it means you can see most of the items you have, as well as compacting them and making a little bit of extra space to fit in everything. 

When packing in a carry-on, the most important thing to think about is toiletries, this is because of the amount of liquid you’re allowed to pack in a carry-on bag. You can take up to a litre, which all has to be in 100ml bottles (Again please check this with your airline). Seeing as I was visiting a friend, I knew I could use some of her toiletries, so I didn’t need to take too much with me in this category. I took a few things such as a special suncream for my face as being a natural redhead I have to be particularly careful about sun exposure and things like that; but this time I didn’t need to pack shampoo, body wash or anything of that sort. I took a small, FDA approved, clear washbag from the same company as my backpack (Tom Bihn), as that was all I needed on this trip; there is however a way you can take everything you need without causing a problem at airport security. I am researching into it for future travel as and when my next opportunity arises (that is to say the pandemic and my bank account need to get their acts together), I want to travel with everything I need in 1 bag and also try and be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. With this in mind, you should consider using shampoo and soap bars. Depending on where you get them, these are usually made with natural ingredients, meaning no harsh chemicals or substances for your hair, skin, or the waterways, but also, they are now starting to be packaged in paper-based packaging, making it easy to recycle. To transport your soap bars, invest maybe £2-£3 in some soap tins which you can find on most eco-friendly websites. Soap and shampoo bars last as long, if not longer than regular shampoo bottles, so not only are you saving space in your bag and the environment, you will be very unlikely to run out if travelling for less than a month. Also being solid, the soap and shampoo bars won’t get flagged when going through the scanner at the airport. 

One other thing that is incredibly important when travelling is taking a small first aid bag/med kit with some things you might need. Typically blister plasters, normal plasters and paracetamol will do (maybe some wound wipes and rehydration sachets as well), but also make sure to take your prescription meds (whether taken regularly or not just for any instance where you might come a cropper and think “darn, I should have brought those meds”). To fit meds into my tiny little pouch, I take the trays of pills out of their box along with the instructions sheet and pack them in; the boxes take up a lot of space and as long as you thoroughly check what it is as it will say on the back of the foil tray, you really don’t need the box (just please put it in your recycling bin). 

With those three categories fulfilled, you are pretty much set to go anywhere at this point. You have your clothes, toiletries, and meds. So, no matter what happens, whether delayed, diverted, or whatever you are ready and raring to go with just a bag on your back. Imagine the stress you’re saving yourself when they make an announcement that your hold baggage didn’t make it to your connecting flight. Everyone else will be there panicking because their clothes and makeup are lost in an airport many hours away, but not you, you thought about what you ACTUALLY NEEDED, and have it all with you, so no worries there, you’re good to start enjoying yourself. 

The other things I included in my pack was a packable raincoat, travel guide and Afrikaans phrase book, a notebook, my phone, wallet, obviously passport, and also my reusable water bottle. A bit of a random collection of things but I have my reasons. We actually did have a very heavy downpour, albeit during the night, but I had my raincoat if I had needed it. My friend speaks Afrikaans, so I wanted to learn a bit whilst I was there, unfortunately we had too much fun to sit and do learning. 

The ease of travelling with just my one small backpack is undeniable, from moving through airports easily, and also being able to make my connecting flights closer together because I didn’t need anything to be transferred across was such a blessing in itself. It also meant not having crap everywhere in my friend’s room. When I go to stay at hers, I sleep on a mattress on her bedroom floor, having been there before two uni trips with so much baggage, we never had space to move around. This time, my backpack fit perfectly in a small space by her wardrobe and it was so much easier to make space to hang out. I basically kept everything in my bag when I didn’t need it. The only thing I wish I did have was a small day bag, something like a little 12 litre backpack from Mountain Warehouse or something, just to put the stuff I needed for the day in (suncream, wallet, phone, travel guide etc). 

Of course there are some downsides in travelling this way, maybe you constantly feel like you’re missing something if you’re used to taking a lot with you, or maybe you don’t quite know how to pack in a way to make it work for you. There are other things like if you lose that bag, that’s it, all your stuff is gone, but not having much to replace means it’s easier to start again. 

I would seriously urge people to try and travel with just 1 bag once in your life, just to experience the feeling of freedom and preparedness that it brings (at least that’s how I felt). The ease of getting through airports, the space you have at your travel destinations, the feeling of being able to go at pretty much the snap of your fingers because it takes less than maybe 10 minutes to pack a bag the size, maybe under half an hour for anything a bit bigger. 

I can’t wait to travel again as Cape Town is the last place I managed to go before the world turned into a shambles; I also can’t wait to pack just the one bag and go, maybe a slightly bigger bag next time with a few small adjustments to the packing list, but just the one bag. 

Next week I’ll be posting a minimalism mini series throughout the week, hopefully containing some handy tips on how to start, how and what goals to set and a few other topics within the minimalism realm. 

Adventures in Africa – Story 5

Adventure 5 was organised mostly by my university as it was a field work trip for one of my modules. I, however, arranged the first 5 days of my trip to go and see my best friend who lives in Cape Town, South Africa. The same friend’s house that I sadly had to leave before a previous university trip to Africa due to a rather difficult period of dealing with anxiety. 

The time I spent in Cape Town was incredibly fun, with trips to the beach just down the road, exploring part of the garden route, and also visiting a sort of wildlife rescue centre that specialised in rescuing lions from circuses etc. 

After my few days in Cape Town, I was off on a flight to Johannesburg to meet up with the rest of my group at the Holiday Inn. Once at the hotel, I started organising my things, so I was in the right clothes to start a very wild adventure in the very hot African summer. 

The actual trip was based at the Ecotraining Mashatu Camp in Botswana, just north of the South African border with the Limpopo river being the cut off between the two countries. At the camp, we were all sleeping in two-man canvas tents, which were incredibly hot due to the summer heat. Daily temperatures averaged around 30-35°C with the hottest day reaching 40°C. This trip was in mid to late March 2019 which is the very end of the summer before the southern hemisphere starts going into autumn. I much prefer the winter in South Africa where the days are still fairly warm at an average of 25°C with the nights being much cooler, making it easier to sleep. I didn’t have a choice as to the timing of this trip however, so I just had to put up with it. 

Being a severe sufferer of insomnia, I have to be in very specific conditions to sleep, one of which is a very important one, and that is actually being very cool. I averaged about 2 hours of sleep a night as the temperatures didn’t really drop until about 2:30am and we had to get up at 5am. How I was able to concentrate at all with that little amount of sleep I have no idea, but sometimes the excitement of being in Africa takes over and you just get on with it. 

Our daily schedule started at about 5am, where you would meet in the dining tent for a cup of coffee and a rusk, or in my case, just the rusk. We then started our first activity at about 6am, being either a bush walk or a game drive depending on the group you were in. This activity would last until about 9:30am, with breakfast starting at 10:00am. After breakfast, we would have a lecture given to us by one of our two lecturers, or one of the guides from Ecotraining. The lectures usually lasted an hour, maybe two hours at most. We then had time to fill in and update our field journals to make sure we had recorded everything from previous bush walks and game drives, including species records, animal tracks and tree identification, and anything else we had been taught. We could then just relax and wait until lunch and the afternoon activity, which was quite nice as it meant we had time for showers and washing our clothes etc. I learnt very quickly that you do not have a shower in the dark as your torch attracts a whole array of bugs which try and jump on you while you’re starkers in the shower, a very unpleasant experience if you ask me. 

Woodland Kingfisher, a resident member of the camp

Lunch was served at 3pm, giving us enough time to eat and get ready before the afternoon activity which started at 4pm. The afternoon activities were bush walks or game drives again, switched from what activity your group had done previously. The afternoon activities went until 7pm, or until it was starting to go dark with the bush walks. We then had dinner at 7:30 or 8pm and after that we were free to go to bed. 

The walks were absolutely exhausting in the heat, which was so intense in fact that even when sitting still in camp you would be sweaty and gross. It was incredibly important therefore that you were drinking enough water to stay hydrated as once you start down that road, it is very difficult to treat in the middle of nowhere especially when you will constantly be losing water due to the heat. One of my rules was to sip water throughout the day, as being raised with a mother in a medical profession I was taught that once you’re thirsty, you’re already on a dangerous path to becoming dehydrated. You shouldn’t allow yourself to ever need to gulp down water, especially as doing this could cause you to wash out your electrolytes which will also make you not feel particularly well. I carried a 2-litre camelback pouch in my backpack so that I could constantly take sips throughout all the activities. Another tip I would suggest is to carry some rehydration sachets with you, as you never know when you might get into trouble with this sort of thing and the closest hospital with similar standards to UK hospitals is 6 hours away in Johannesburg. (Please bear in mind that I’m not a medical professional but following these tips may help keep you safe). 

Some other useful things you may want to bring if you embark on a similar adventure are some gaiters. Gaiters cover the tops of your shoes and work very well at stopping a little beasty known as a devil thorn from slicing your feet up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any gaiters with me, but I adapted the bottoms of my zip-off trousers with some spare shoelaces to do the exact same job. I would highly recommend this piece of kit as it will save you from a world of pain. Any safari store will usually have them and they cost maybe £10-£15. I have used thesafaristore.com to buy my gear for years of work and activities in the bush. 

Going back to the Packing for Safari blog post, the colour of your clothing is particularly important, especially when on a bush walk as you are trying to blend into your environment. The colours I generally wear in the bush are greens and browns, greys are also acceptable as long as they’re not too dark. You shouldn’t wear any bright or reflective colours or any very dark colours as these will make you stand out and an animal will definitely notice you. 

Footwear is another important consideration due to the terrain, distance, and thorns etc, that you may find on your bush walk. I wore a sturdy pair of Brasher walking boots, they have a very thick sole and upper part so my foot was completely protected from most nasty things that may injure my foot such as bugs, snakes, and acacia thorns. The only thing I was not protected from were those darn devil thorns. Another thing to note is to be very careful around camp. You may see the guides walking around in bare feet, but they are very knowledgeable and capable of dealing with the nasties you might find. For example, I went to the loo one night and a centipede walked right past the edge of my boot, something that you really don’t want to bite you as it can be very painful, and depending on the species, it could also be venomous. Summer is most definitely the worst season for bugs as they like to come out especially after the rains. We had a huge rainstorm one evening and then there were spiders, scorpions, and a range of other beasties pretty much everywhere. In the winter, you will hardly ever see insects and for me, that is another reason not to go in summer. 

The activities were exhausting but exhilarating at the same time with so many possibilities to see so many different animals. I had my first sighting of Brown Hyenas on this trip which was so special to see. We also saw leopards, lions, elephants, and so many bird species I can’t even list them all, but it was incredible. We also had a small spotted genet who very much fancied one of the trees in camp, an animal who I’ve never seen so close or so brave before. 

Overall, other than dealing with a few personal struggles, the trip was an experience of a lifetime. We got to experience a sleep out under the stars with only a sleeping bag as protection. Although it is something I have experienced before, seeing everyone else’s excitement of noticing just how big the night sky is was awesome. You never forget an experience like sleeping out in the wilds with no tent, toilet or other commodities, and I think it’s something that everyone should experience at least once in their life. 

The food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten, being served three hot meals a day, and everything was delicious. We were even served homemade cakes at every single lunch, a little treat when there’s no chance of popping to the shops for a chocolate bar which would melt instantly. Even though I ate as much as I possibly could, even with all the meat and carbs in the world, I still ended up losing ¾ of a stone from all the walking and sweating. 

I think next time I’m on a trip with a similar itinerary, along with the sheer wildness of it and not being near human civilisation, I would like to try and pack a bit more minimally. I took an absolutely huge duffel bag, I think 120L or something in capacity, a 40L backpack and a small padded bag for my camera. My goal would be to travel with just a 40L backpack that contained all of my clothes, toiletries, and anything else I thought I might need. I took a ridiculously large first aid kit, although having had as many medical emergencies as I have in my life, that was probably a good thing. I think just about every single student ended up having some kind of minor accident. Mine was probably the smallest accident, although I still have a mark. I slid of the side of the Land Rover and caught my leg on the metal step. I didn’t cut it but got a very large bruise with a solid line down the middle. After nearly a year and a half, I still have the solid line in my leg. At least it’s something to help me remember the trip, kind of like a free memento. 

When it comes to packing for trips like these, you definitely don’t need to bring as much as you think you do. I’ve been adapting my packing list for the last 6 years over all these various trips and I haven’t quite nailed it yet. In some upcoming blogs I will be delving into the world of minimalism, minimalist travel, and topics revolving around that. I have to say, the idea of travelling with just one bag becomes very appealing after having done it and seeing how easy it was compared with the amount of stuff I took on this trip. 

That sums up the Adventures in Africa series… For now! I hope you’ve enjoyed having a read of everything I got up to over the last few years and I can’t wait until we can all go adventuring around the world again to create more stories to tell.

Adventures in Africa – Story 4

In December 2016, I very sadly made the decision to leave university after struggling with a bunch of mental health issues which had an impact on my ability to complete one of the modules of my first year. In the summer before I left, June 2016, I was supposed to have gone on a month-long field trip to South Africa, somewhere I had been 3 times prior to this trip. However, my mental health took a serious turn and whilst at my friend’s house in Cape Town, I had to make the decision to come home because I was in no state to do the trip. 

After all this had blown over and I had got myself feeling somewhat better than I had, I decided I needed a challenge to really start to work on getting myself better. I had been watching hours upon hours of YouTube videos which is where I came across a photographer called Tobias Gelston who runs PhotorecTV. I found some videos of a past trip he had done with Mckay Photography Academy to Tanzania and felt that was the thing to aim towards. 

So, with a lot of discussions and research, I found out that Mckay Photography Academy were running their trip to Tanzania in March 2018, and I wanted to be on that trip. I booked the trip and paid my first deposit in January or February 2017 and that was initially how this trip was set up. 

You may have seen on Instagram that I later returned to uni in September 2017, which I did and in complete shock I found out I was suddenly going to Iceland two weeks after I had decided to go back. Well, that trip went better than I thought it would after a bit of a rocky start on the first night. But going back to uni meant I had to work incredibly hard to get all my work done before the trip to Tanzania in March as I would be going away two weeks before the Easter holidays were meant to start. 

I managed to get a lot of my work done, with maybe one or two assignments left to do when I returned, but I was absolutely thrilled that I was going to the Serengeti while all my new classmates had to be in classrooms working. 

Due to the fact I was going to have to stay in Amsterdam for a night and I was only 21 at the time, my mum came with me on the short leg to Amsterdam to make sure I got my flight the next morning okay. I booked all of my flights with KLM as they were the most direct airline to Tanzania and also one of the cheapest. 

I flew from Southampton airport to Amsterdam the night before the big flight with mum so that we could stay in a nearby airport hotel. The flight was only maybe an hour long but taxiing into the terminal seemed to take longer than necessary due to the way the runways at Amsterdam is laid out. The next morning, I believe I had to get up at some ridiculous hour like 5am to leave the hotel at about 6am. Once at the airport, I met a few of the other guests on the trip. I was the youngest by at least 15 years, however, being the baby meant that I had no responsibilities held against me other than making sure I was where I needed to be when I needed to be there. 

The flight from Amsterdam to Tanzania was a day flight, particularly odd for me considering all previous flights to that end of the world were always night flights. I think the flight was only about 8 hours long, however it was pitch black when I left Amsterdam and pitch black when I landed. The airport I flew into was Tanzania Kilimanjaro Airport, a very small, and very badly organised place, but we all got there in the end with a bit of a kerfuffle about visas and landing cards etc. 

We were then driven in our Land Rovers for about an hour and a half to a hotel in the nearby town Arusha. The next morning, the proper adventure finally began. 

Vervet Monkey Baby in Lake Manyara National Park

The first place we visited was Lake Manyara National Park, this was a beautiful area that was quite boggy and marshy compared to everywhere else I ended up. There were quite a few animals, from elephants, to giraffes, I think also hippos, and a whole lot of bird life. It was here that I had my first experience of seeing great crowned cranes in the wild. We only spent a day in this park as we had to move on to places much further afield.

Elephant in Lake Manyara National Park

We then went to the hotel again to prepare for a long day of transferring to the next part of the trip. The next day we had to pack up everything ready to drive to the Serengeti. On our way to the Serengeti, we stopped at a very famous historic site called Olduvai Gorge. This is where it is believed we originated from, or at least very close to that area, as 2 million year old remains of our closest ancestral relative the hominids have been excavated from the gorge.  After we had finished our lunch whilst staring out at the gorge and having a look around the small museum, we were headed into the Serengeti National Park. I have never been so excited to be in a car in my life! I was on this trip because I had dreamed of being able to go to this place that I have seen so many times, but only on a screen in my living room. 

Olduvai Gorge, our ancestral plains.

When you see it for yourself, you will understand why it is called Serengeti (meaning “endless plain” in Swahili). Everywhere you look is just wide-open space with an unknown number of animals occupying it, little black dots everywhere are all wildebeest. I was staying in the South of the Serengeti as this is where the animals were on their annual migration route at that time of year. We stayed in the Serengeti for 3 nights in luxury 5-Star tents, which included en-suite bathrooms with a bucket shower, a sink with a jug of water for hand washing, and a porta-potti style toilet. For the middle of the Serengeti, this was like glamping rather than camping with a full proper single bed and lovely warm covers. The camp is completely unfenced to the wildlife however, so when putting the light on to visit the loo in the night, you may disturb a hyena taking a sniff around the outside of your tent. After three days of immense sightings in the Serengeti, including hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and their babies, we went on to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. 

One of the many hyenas of the Serengeti.

Getting to the Ngorongoro was a day filled with a bit too much excitement if you ask me. Tanzania was experiencing the rainy season during the time I was there and so the three rivers that crossed the road to exit the park became quite treacherous and we ended up being stopped for a rather long time waiting for the water levels to go down slightly before taking a risk and crossing. The water was so high it came in under the doors of the Land Rover, so we had to make sure that all of our bags were off the floor. After crossing the third river, one of the Land Rovers suddenly started producing some white smoke, not a particularly good sign when you are a good day long drive away from the nearest town that might have a mechanic. The guides tried their best to fix it by putting lots of bottled water into the radiator to try and cool it down, but after a second attempt to get up the very steep climb, the Land Rover sputtered to a stop and we suddenly found out that the radiator pipe had practically snapped in two. 

Elephant in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. (Definitely a boy).

The crater edge of the Ngorongoro is over 9000m high, this is because it is actually an old volcano that went dormant some 11,000 years ago and the crater floor collapsed which is what makes the conservation area. We were situated in another luxury camp, with pretty much the same set up to the one in the Serengeti, but this time on the crater rim. It gets incredibly cold at that altitude at night however and so they provide you with hot water bottles which make it incredibly comfortable and warm. 

Abstract photo of a lion inside Ngorongoro.

The next morning when we went for our first adventure into the actual reserve where the animals are, the Land Rovers were slipping and sliding all over the place on the very wet and muddy paths. The Land Rover I was in slipped right off the path into a rocky bank and we got a little stuck, but no need to panic as the guides were excellent and sorted it all out within about 20 mins. 

Baby Zebra born in Ngorongoro about 20 mins before we found it

The sights in the Ngorongoro were incredible, the animals that are in the crater tend not to migrate out because of the steep climbs, and we saw so many amazing things in the two days we got to explore. The only animals you won’t find in the crater are giraffe and impala, this is due to the steep slopes and the fact that there are almost no trees inside the crater. 

After an amazing two days in Ngorongoro, it was time to move on again, this time to a rather posh hotel in the Great Rift Valley. This was situated closer to civilization, but still far enough away for the next adventures to still feel a bit wild. This time, it was not animals we were looking for, but traditional tribes that are allowed to live in the bush still. The first tribe we visited were the Datoga Community, who live in traditional huts with no electricity or any mod-cons.  The experience was slightly overwhelming for me, due to the fact I’m not keen on having people too close to me if I don’t know them, and this tribe had never seen someone with natural ginger hair. They kept touching it and standing really close to me, also speaking a language I didn’t understand so it wasn’t my most enjoyable moment of the trip, but it is also good to experience some of the traditional cultures of the country you visit to see how other people live and survive. The men of this tribe make arrows, bracelets and other accessories out of melted down padlocks, quite an incredible process to watch, however I was quite concerned about one of the men’s feet as he was using them to hold the metal while hitting it quite hard with a hammer! 

A beautiful Datoga woman making jewellery inside her hut.

I was unfortunately not feeling too well on the last full day of the trip and so I missed out on the last tribe that they went to visit, the Hadzabe People. There is a video of what an encounter might be like on Toby Gelston’s YouTube channel ‘PhotorecTV’. 

On the penultimate day of the trip we found out that a huge rainstorm had washed the road away out from where the hotel was. Due to the weather conditions the guides wanted to get us out early; but we missed our opportunity to leave by about 20 minutes and so we were stuck at the hotel for the night. We then ended up having to cross the river by foot to get on Land Rovers they had arranged to meet us on the other side, while the guides waited with our bags for the road to be fixed. 

On our way back to Arusha, we were taken to an amazing shop that sold all sorts of traditional items made in Tanzania, as well as your normal souvenir items like t-shirts, hats, fridge magnets etc. I purchased a very small piece of Tanzanite that cost me $250; which, when the time comes, will be used on my engagement ring. 

We then were taken for a last lunch together as a group before being driven back to Tanzania Kilimanjaro Airport. The lunch was at Arusha Coffee Lodge and I felt incredibly out of place being somewhere so nice in my very un-nice clothes. We then went to a hotel to use a day room for a few hours to freshen up before the long haul back home. The majority of the group were American, so had quite some way further than me to go, with only one other member from the UK. 

The tour was absolutely amazing. It was easily one of my best experiences and I’m so glad that I have managed to get to the Serengeti at least once in my life. I would definitely love to go back one day, perhaps travelling with a bit less luggage, but everything else the same. The touring company taking us round Tanzania was Thompson Safaris, whose guides were so incredible in every way, from their knowledge of the animals, to their skilled driving in difficult situations, and even sorting out cars to transfer us to still have our last day while the other cars were stuck on the wrong side of the river. The only thing I would maybe like to do next time is to go in August to see the Mara river crossing part of the migration and go up to experience the Masaai Mara. 

Every day we had an abundance of healthy and delicious meals, and when we couldn’t get back to camp for lunch, they would pack them for us into cardboard boxes with individual items wrapped in paper due to plastic being banned in Tanzania and Kenya, an absolutely immense effort on their part for trying to help fix the environment. The guides were also great at stopping to pick up litter that we saw chucked on the side of the roads in the Serengeti.

Mckay Photography Academy have award winning photography instructors, with a ratio of 1 instructor to 3 clients per vehicle, you couldn’t find better set ups for wildlife photography courses anywhere else. Dave and Ally Mckay are two of the most passionate photographers I have ever met and are so inspiring with their stories from their trips all around the globe. Toby, and their other instructor Steve, are also incredible. All four of them were so helpful in determining what it was I was doing wrong and knew just what advice I needed to get those images perfect. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough, and I’m sure their other tours around the world are just as incredible and adventurous, and I hope one day to be able to join onto one of their tours again. 

All the Birds of the World – Review

All the Birds of the World is the latest book published by Lynx Edicions. A book that, as the title suggests, aims to illustrate every bird species in the world. Coming in at around a whopping 3.5kg, and with nearly 1,000 pages, this book packs in a lot of detail to keep any aspiring ornithologist happy.  

Upon opening the front cover of the book, you will discover the non-passerine bird families (i.e. the non-perching birds), whilst the passerine bird families can be found printed on the inside of the back cover. Within the front cover is a laminated key to be used with the book to understand a whole range of information being provided to you. The laminated key has information on the taxonomic circle, which is used to show how four of the major world checklists categorise species, especially whether they are their own species or classed as a subspecies by certain lists. The four lists used to determine species are: HBW and BirdLife International Checklist of the Birds of the World. Version 4.; The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019.; The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, version 4.1.; and finally, IOC World Bird List (v10.1).

The front of the laminated key

There is a section on the laminated card to describe alternate names that may be used. The other three sections on the front of the laminate card include a distribution map key, explaining what the different colours mean, the IUCN/BirdLife International Red List categories key, and also an explanation of how subspecies and subspecies groups are shown in illustration. 

The back of the laminate card has only one section which is a key to all the abbreviations to all the countries in the world. The distribution maps in the illustrations are too small to fit the whole country name in and so they are all abbreviated to two letters. 

The back of the laminated key

The front section of the book contains the most writing with information about how this project came to be; followed by an introduction with fairly typical bird book information such as how to use the book, what you will find on each page, what makes the checklists different, the four major world checklists, and the acknowledgements and references. All of these sections can come in handy when wanting to thoroughly understand in-depth how to use this book properly and gain the most knowledge from looking at each species. 

The most exciting pages (the start of the illustration accounts of all the birds) starts of page 35 of the book, I won’t spoil which species it starts with. The birds are split into segments of family categories, with an illustration of every individual bird species in that family given its own little box. 

Page example
Page example
Page example

Each species box contains at least one illustration, sometimes more of different variants such as similar looking subspecies or sexual dimorphic differences. The boxes also include the different information factors that are found on the laminate key. The species boxes also contain a QR code for every single species; by using the camera on your mobile phone to scan the code, you are then taken to an individual species account on the eBird website where you can get more information about that bird species. Information provided on the online species account includes the bird’s call (song), range maps and photos taken from recorded sightings. There is also a link to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology where more information is available, however, you need to be a member of Cornell Lab to access this. Merlin Cornell Lab do however have a free app that you can download if you are wanting more information. 

Close up illustration example, showing all the features included in each illustration box.

Alongside the 835 pages of extant species illustrations, there is also a particularly interesting section at the back of the book that I have never witnessed in another bird book previously. An additional Appendix section can be found if you continue to turn the page over after looking at all the extant species to find a section on Extinct species. This section identifies birds that were believed to have lived past 1500AD but are now extinct, or at least have not had sightings for centuries in some cases. 

There is also an Appendix 2 which describes differences in nomenclature. This section doesn’t contain illustrations, but detailed written accounts of these species. 

If you are concerned about misplacing the laminated key card that helps to identify country codes and sorts from species accounts, there’s not too much to worry about as there is a full country codes list towards the end of the book after Appendix 2. 

There are additional, larger maps at the end of the book in Appendix 4 so that you can look at countries in more detail, an excellent addition of important information when trying to locate areas for a bird’s existence. There are 34 maps in this section, the first a bigger world map version, with the rest being close ups of specific areas of the world. 

Just before the index, there is a small section to show some other ornithology related books that Lynx Edicions produces to try and encourage even more learning in the wonderful world of birds. I am certainly tempted to buy more of these when funds are available to continue to grow my wildlife library. 

The back cover of the book.

To sum up the information provided in All the Birds of the World, there are 11,524 species accounts in total, with 20,865 illustrations. There are 11,558 distribution maps, with all 3313 one-country endemic species marked. There is information on IUCN/BirdLife international conservation status and all the other wonderful features that I have previously mentioned. 

This book should certainly be in the possession of any budding or professional ornithologist as you will not find a more concise and completed list with such detailed and beautiful illustrations anywhere else. Lynx Edicions should certainly feel proud of the hard work that has gone into this book as I have never owned such an outstandingly beautiful book before. I pre-ordered my book all the way back in July which allowed me to receive it from the first printed batch. I paid a total of £71 for the book and shipping to the UK from Spain, due to a special pre-order deal. They are now running a sort of pre-order with the same deal for the second print run batch. The deal is in Euros; however, the cost is fairly similar in pounds. The current deal is €65 for the book which doesn’t include shipping, with the usual price of the book being €85. I would strongly suggest jumping on this if you’re planning to get this book as it is definitely one that will come in handy for all sorts of birdy things. 

As a fairly new hobbyist ornithologist, having the whole expanse of bird species is somewhat awe inspiring and there are so many thousands of birds I’ve never heard of from all over the world that I now want to make my mission to find. The most exciting spread of the book for me was the hornbills as they are my utmost favourite group of birds and seeing all the species in one place was immense. 

The packaging presentation was also beautiful when I received it, and almost fully recyclable except for the small plastic wrap around the book to protect it from any water damage whilst it was in transport.

I really do commend Lynx Edicions and all the people that worked on this book and I wish all of them the most success with the sale of All the Birds of the World. They really deserve for this book to do well, and as someone who loves the natural world, I would have really missed out if I didn’t purchase it.