Latin America is not short of remote beaches and deserted islands where you can spend entire days getting lost in exploration. How far you'll be able to make the most out of the opportunities these places offer, though, depends mainly on whether or not you've brought the right kit with you.
Come out ill prepared and you’ll have to interrupt your flow and return from the wilderness and head right back to your home base. Pack wisely, on the other hand, and nothing will be able to get between you and hours of unadulterated nature.
It’s easy enough to miss off one or two things when preparing for such trips. So, to ensure that you’ve got every angle covered, our adventure experts have put their heads together to draw up the ultimate packing checklist for adventure days by the sea.
1. Basic supplies
An obvious enough item to start us off, but equally one which is easily overlooked in the excitement to get out there. Yes - most of Latin America’s travel spots are not so remote that you’ll have to take a whole load of food and water with you. But you’d probably do as well to take some basic supplies along, just in case you find yourself some way from civilization when hunger strikes.
The priority item here has to be a bottle of water. Nothing will put stop to a trip so quickly as strong thirst in the hot sun. It’s also sensible to pack a few easily portable snacks (like fruit, nuts, candy bars, cans of tuna etc) as they’ll help stave off the hunger until you return home.
2. Sun protection
Not that we want to sound too much like your mom, but if you’re going to be out all day in the hot sun you’ll need to make sure you’re protected. As you’ll be on the move for much of the day, it’s going to be your head and shoulders that are continually exposed to the sun, and therefore most likely to get burned.
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Wise, then, to invest in a hat of some description and some quality sun block. Brands of sunblock specifically designed for sports use are the best for this purpose. They’re less likely to leak in your bag (as they have a sports-style closing mechanism), have greater water resistance and are designed not to run off when you sweat.
We all know that stinging sensation which comes from the unpleasant cocktail of sunblock and sweat in your eyes – anything that prevents this happening is a life saver in our book.
Some further protection for your eyes, in the form of sunglasses, can be useful. But you’d be wise not to take any ones which are too expensive with you. Between swimming, diving, clambering over rocks, kayaking, climbing trees, and navigating through mangroves or tropical forests, it is almost inevitable that they’ll get lost or damaged at some point. Better this happen to a $10 throwaway pair, than to a trendy pair of Ray Bans.
3. Swimwear with sealable pockets
Having a bit of easily accessible cash is always handy on such trips. You never know when you might want or need to pay for a local to drive you back in their boat; buy some fresh seafood of a passing fisherman; or cool down with an iced-beer bought off one of the beach sellers.
Carrying a whole wallet with you would be a real drag. Invest instead in a pair of swimming trunks or board shorts with a pocket that can be sealed; either with Velcro or with a zip. Like this, you can take some money without fear of it fluttering or floating off as you negotiate land and sea.
(Incidentally, have no fear – as some do - about getting your cash wet. In contrast with the devastating effect that washing machines have on bills, the sea, rivers and lakes do no damage to them at all. It is the detergent which normally causes the damage, not the harmless water.)
4. Dry Bag
Dry bags really are a revelation. Get yourself one of these and it will completely change your ability and perception of the ease with which you can go on all day adventures. Quite simply, they allow you to take even your most valued possessions – cameras, phones and whatnot – without fear of them getting damaged by the water.
Simply place your valuables inside, fold over the top flap of the bag four times, et voila, no water can then get in, even if you go swimming. It might take you a few goes to fully build up trust in the mechanisms, but after a few dry runs, you’ll quickly find your faith in them grow.
Cheap dry bags are available on the market, but this is an area where it is worth splashing a little more cash. Cheap dry bags are definitely a false economy: a water-flooded iPhone will cost you much more than investing a few extra dollars on the bag at the outset.
Plenty of decent brands are available, but we recommend the Titan DryBag (pictured), not least because it has two layers of internal protection. This means your belongings are kept extra safe and dry.
As an additional benefit, dry bags also (unofficially) double up as floating aids. When closing the bag, you’re supposed to first ensure no air is left inside. However, if you deliberately trap some air in, the bag will float better on the water. An inflated bag provides the perfect little pillow to rest your head while you engage in some casual backstroke through the water.
5. Snorkle and mask
Part of the enjoyment of island exploring is discovering new landscapes, bays and hidden beaches. But limit yourself to the land and you’ll miss out on half the fun – the underwater environment has at least much to offer.
While it isn’t really practical to take diving gear with you on most occasions, you can still at least take a peek down below without too much prior organisation.
The easiest way to do so is simply to take some run-of-the-mill swimming goggles along. Yet, your time admiring the little fishies will then be limited by the volume of air in your lungs.
Unless you’re an accomplished free diver, it’s better to bring instead a snorkel and mask if you want to stay underwater for longer. This way you’ll get to fully appreciation all that lies both above and below the tropical waters.
It’s only natural to want some way to document your adventures. And for recording the more interesting sorts of travel, there is little better equipment than a GoPro camera. With the camera’s waterproof / shockproof case, and the various sorts of mounts and grips available, you can film yourself doing almost anything, anywhere.
The downside of the GoPro is that, at around $400, it is a seriously expensive bit of kit. And, while it is amazing for recording action and adventure, the fisheye lens does not capture at all well anything lying far away. So, if you want to take an image of an incredible sunset, or some distant wildlife, for example, the GoPro is no good.
For such circumstances, you should take another camera with you. Even the one on your cell phone will do fine. You can bring this in your dry bag no problem – though you might want to spend a couple of dollars on a waterproof case, just in case the thing drops in the water as you unpack it from the bag.
7. Portable hammock
This last item is much more of a luxury item than a strict necessity, but we guarantee you won’t regret it if you take one with you on your trips.
Portable hammocks (like this one) collapse down into almost nothing, but can be quickly unfurled and provide a pretty damn comfy spot for a sleep.
This is handy if you want to stay out all night during your adventures. But it’s also a great accessory for just the day trip. All that swimming and exploring can be tiring work; especially under the tropical sun. Finding a spot on the floor to take a nap is not always a straightforward business when there are all sorts of bugs knocking around.
With a portable hammock in your bag, all you need to do is find a couple of trees to tie it round and you’ve got yourself a top-class place for a little siesta. Perfect for recharging the batteries before heading out again on an afternoon full of activity.
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