The Western Ghats, South India
Human-Wildlife Conflict, Conservation Biology, and South Indian Culture
This program is available from October to February for both 8 and 15-day trips.
Unlike the Himalayas, the collision and uplift of continental plates did not form the Western Ghats mountain range of India. Instead, it was the product of hundreds of millions of years of volcanic eruptions followed by erosion that created these ancient mountains. Bordered on the east by the Great Deccan plateau and on the west by the Arabian Sea, the Western Ghats, known locally as the Sahyadris, are mountains with lush forest and streams where plant and animal endemism is higher than anywhere else in peninsular India. It is one of the last refuges for struggling populations of tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, dhole, king cobras, flying squirrels, lion-tailed macaques, Nilgiri langurs, and much more.
On this program, we will travel by road from Bangalore, the capital of the state of Karnataka, through the city of Mysore, which was the seat of the Wadiyar dynasty. We will eventually cross over into the tropical state of Kerala to a town called Mananthavadi, from which we gain entry to a privately protected field station (Fringe Ford) that is adjacent to the regionally protected Nagarhole and Kabini forests. This area, in which the dryer northern ecoregion meets the wetter southern ecoregion, is called Wyanad.
While at Fringe Ford, you will learn to identify, track and evaluate the incredible fauna at this site, using techniques that are fundamental to a future in conservation biology. These include spatial data collection and basic plotting, radio telemetry, insect baiting, camera trapping, and tree climbing to access higher forest strata. You will also practice documenting animal behaviour and dependencies on local plants. In the evenings, trip leaders will provide brief lectures and help participants learn to dissect academic literature. You will also complete short research training assignments.
As we motor to Fringe Ford, we will allow you to sample alternative wilderness habitats, local cuisine, local agriculture, bustling markets, and significant historical sites (e.g. Hindu temples, the Mysore Palace). If time permits, we also strive to organise a meet and greet with local students who want to practice their English or learn something about American culture.
This program focuses on historical and present-day conflicts between humans and wildlife, techniques used to study and monitor threatened populations, and also serves as a cultural experience that is unlike anything you have experienced before. As they say, “everything you have heard about India is true, and so is its opposite!”
Jeep safaris in Nagarhole National Park
Hikes that afford 360-degree views of the Western Ghats
Tracking monkeys off-trail in the forest
Boat safaris in a bird sanctuary
A visit to the iconic Mysore Zoo, India’s oldest zoo
Contributing to animal diversity and population monitoring at a young field site where this work is critical
- 8 Day Sample Itinerary
- 15 Day Sample Itinerary
- Food & Lodging
- Health & Safety
- Travel Logistics
|1||Depart the USA for India||20+ hours of travel. Lots of time for sleep, watching movies, and icebreakers during layovers.|
|2||Arrive in Bangalore for the night||Rest in Bangalore, recover from jet lag.|
|3||Travel to Mysore||
|5||Travel to Fringe Forge||
|6-8||Continue at Fringe Ford||
|9||Road travel to Bangalore for flights home||Arrive home on Day 10|
|1||Depart the USA for India||20+ hours of travel. Lots of time for sleep, watching movies, and icebreakers during layovers.|
|2||Late evening arrival in Bangalore India||Recover from jet lag and rest|
|3||Bangalore||Day trip into Bangalore City with visits to:
|4||Travel to Mysore||
|6||Travel to Fringe Forge||
|7 - 12||Fringe Ford||
|13||Travel to Kabini Jungle Lodge||
|15||Road travel to Bangalore for flights home||Arrive home on Day 16|
The delicious cuisines of southern India – curries, light breads, basmati rice, sweat and sour yogurt dishes, slow cooked and meticulously spiced meats and vegetables – are almost reason enough to join this program. In fact, the vegetarian food of India is so tasty that many nonvegetarians can easily go without meat.
In addition, meals are one of the best times in the field. Researchers, students, and staff all come together to enjoy satisfying food, have fun and lively conversation, and share good humour. Importantly, what you eat abroad often determines how well you feel, and that’s why even during transit we stop for three satisfying meals a day at highly-reputed hotels and restaurants. In Bangalore and Mysore, breakfast will be provided by our homestay and hotels. Once we arrive at Fringe Ford, meals become more wholesome and tasty owing to the phenomenal on-site chef, who is an expert the traditional cuisine of Kerala. The meals are healthy and fill you up, but as we will be located in the middle of the rainforest, don’t expect to get all your food groups represented in the same way you would while at home. If you are concerned about this, take a multi-vitamin while on this trip. Vegetarians will sometimes get tofu and soy meat substitutes. Being vegan on this program can be difficult (but it is not impossible).
You will also have access to cookies, crackers, coffee, and tea, at all times during the day while at camp. If you think you will do better with Cliff or Luna bars (or the like), please bring some for yourself. Any additional treats you bring (including precious chocolate) will be fair game for small rainforest creatures, so bring plenty of ziplock bags in which to place your food. Also, avoid leaving wrappers in your rooms containing anything edible because that will attract some curiosity from the local miniature wildlife.
Dessert is not always available, but when it is, it is of the traditional Kerala type (e.g. payasam, a kind of rice pudding). If you have a particularly sweet tooth that needs to be satisfied on a daily basis, we suggest bringing well-packaged chocolates or treats with you.
The accommodations throughout this trip are excellent. You will be staying in reputable 4-star hotels in Bangalore and Mysore. In the field, we’ll spend our time in the comfortable homestay-style living quarters of Fringe Ford. These stone-cottage rooms sleep multiple to a room with an attached, spacious bathroom, replete with warm (not hot) water for showers. All of the rooms surround a common dining area and look-out over a short yard to a mammal clay lick that is known to bustle with activity throughout the night. For the longer 15 day trip, we will also be spending a few days at a government-run jungle resort, which affords very comfortable living quarters on the shores of the Kabini Lake.
FPI takes students to foreign and often remote field sites for maximum exposure to environments that are high in biodiversity. Here we provide information that is important to maintain participant safety throughout the program. However, we also wish to highlight some reassurances about the Peruvian Amazon that often go unnoticed.
- India has some of the brightest and best medical doctors in the world, and you may have noticed that many make their way to practices all around the world. Should you or your loved one need medical attention while in India, rest assured that they are in the perfect place where the cost of treatment is very affordable.
- Field research stations are removed from large human populations and are usually only visited for short periods of time. As such, they do not maintain significant human reservoirs necessary for the majority of human communicable diseases.
- In the field, participants are generally removed from risks associated with moving vehicles, street violence, or any other human-caused danger, which are responsible for the majority of the hazards to a person’s health or well-being in more urban settings.
Health Insurance: All students are required to have health coverage that will be valid for the entire duration of their field course. If participants are unsure if their current health insurance will cover them while abroad, they should contact their insurer prior to travel. Medical evacuation coverage is another requirement that not all health insurance providers offer, and should be purchased for participants as needed (see World Nomads). Participants must provide FPI with proof of health insurance coverage, including a scanned copy of their health insurance card or policy documents, before travel.
Vaccination History: You will have to provide proof of a normal vaccination record (as listed here by the CDC). For travel to India, we require that you also get the following vaccines: Typhoid (oral or injectable) and Hepatitis A. It is additionally recommended to speak with your doctor or a travel clinic about the Japanese encephalitis vaccine and to follow their expert advice in this matter. If you have the current flu shot for the year as well, all the better. Find a travel clinic and get your shots EARLY.
Malaria: You may consider taking malaria prophylaxis if you like, particularly for your short stays in Mysore and Bangalore. There are few mosquitoes at the field station so the risk of catching malaria, while there, is minimal. Please follow your health care provider’s recommendations in this regard.
Travel and Program Safety Rules: Participant and group safety during travel and in the field is our utmost concern, and as such all participants will be required to sign FPI’s Participant Contract (available upon request before registration). However, below are the most fundamental safety rules that all participants must follow:
- At all times, participants must notify and receive permission from the FPI trip leader to go anywhere separate from the group.
- Participants will provide all travel documents to the trip leader, or a designated teacher or parent chaperone for safekeeping when not in use.
- Participants will refrain from all plant and wildlife handling outside of supervision by trip leaders or other designated instructors.
- FPI prohibits rude language or behaviour directed at other participants, trip leaders, instructors, field site staff, or other people met during travel.
- We strongly oppose sexual or gender-based misconduct, and all participants must sign and agree to our policy before travel.
Health Risks: While our field stations do not have enough a large enough population to support reservoirs for many human diseases, travel to and from the field locations may increase exposure to risk. FPI does not offer medical advice; thus field course participants should contact their doctor and a travel clinic for travel-related medical recommendations. The CDC’s recommendations for travellers to India may be found here.
Emergency Procedures: There are site-specific emergency medical evacuation procedures in place for all of the locations visited during this program (Finca Las Piedras, Los Amigos Biological Station, and the Inkaterra Guides Field Station) (available upon request). Outside of these three locations, the group is in a city with close medical facilities.
*Note*Additional information is in our participant manual, which is available upon request before registration.
FPI will handle all group arrangements and travel logistics, beginning with flight departures from participants’ home cities and ending with their return. We also provide a travel packet, which includes the following information:
- A detailed itinerary finalised with your consent and input
- The names, locations and contact information for all hotels and field stations
- Emergency evacuation protocols for each field station
- Air travel itineraries
- Comprehensive packing lists with recommendations for vendors for specific gear
- 24-hour FPI telephone hotline to staff that have open lines of communication with trip leaders at all times
- Group Requirements
- For Educators
- For Chaperones
- For Parents
- Reservation & Fee Details
For your group’s program to be finalised, you must meet the following minimum requirements:
1. All students must be in high-school.
2. All educators and chaperones must be over 22 years of age
3. The minimum number of students in a group must be 6
4. The maximum number of students in a group cannot exceed 15
5. With the help of an FPI travel coordinator, you must pick your program dates and itinerary before paying the downpayment that will reserve the program for your group
For every six students, one chaperone can attend this program for free. Group sizes will not exceed 15 students, and thus groups with 12 to 15 students can include the travel of two chaperones for free. Typically, these chaperones consist of one educator and one parent, but we can accommodate alternative solutions on a case-by-case basis.
The educator’s role in planning
We hope that our college preparatory travel-study programs can be incorporated into the science or international studies curriculum of your school. To accomplish this, we collaborate with educators to tailor our programs as needed to fit each group. We provide the general framework, the local and scientific expertise, and with input from educators, we are more than happy to hone in on specific topic areas and cut out others altogether. Here are some questions that we ask educators to consider:
- Should students be subject to periodic tests or quizzes?
- How would you like to evaluate student participation?
- Are there overarching assignments that students are responsible for?
- Should time be set aside each day for reflection on the materials covered?
- What proportion of the time would you like students to work together and independently?
- Are there particular presentations, special topics, or activities that you want to attempt in the field?
We will do our best to accommodate special requests and the objectives of each educator. We evaluate all changes or tweaks to the program based on the following criteria:
- Does it fit with FPI’s mission to impart knowledge and training in conservation, plant and animal research, and sustainability?
- Do we have the expertise and infrastructure to facilitate the experience as requested?
- Do we have the requisite permissions from local and state authorities to accommodate the request?
In almost all cases we can provide educators with the experience they desire, or at the very least, something resembling it.
Educator involvement in program preparation and execution
We expect that educators maintain a leadership role before and during the program by supporting the efforts of the FPI planning team and trip leader. We hope that they will:
- Understand the trip itinerary from start to finish
- Work with FPI to make sure that all students are adequately prepared before departure
- Enrich the experience of the students by enthusiastically participating in activities
- Monitor student well-being and acclimation to new surroundings
- Maintain a calm and composed presence even if confronted with stressful conditions, environmental or otherwise (e.g. travel delays, loss of baggage, someone is injured or has an unknown allergic reaction)
- Conduct grading and student evaluations
- Ensure that FPI’s basic rules of conduct will be followed at all times
Educators that co-lead FPI trips must meet the following minimum requirements:
- Be at least 22 years old
- Be in generally good health, as determined by a physical examination
- Be able to hike for at least 2 miles
- Be capable of lifting a 30 lb bag
- Be in possession of a valid passport
- Have general interest and curiosity in the natural world
It is NOT required that teachers:
- Speak Kannada or Hindi
- Have field research or conservation experience
- Have extensive travel experience
If 12 students sign up for a course, an extra adult chaperone (in addition to one educator) may accompany the group for free. Of course, additional chaperones who want to accompany the group as a participant may do so at any time for the same student fee.
The chaperone’s role in planning
Adult chaperones are an essential part of the program experience. They provide familiarity to students in a foreign environment that some may find stressful, and they also assist the educator and the FPI trip leader in supervising the group. As such, the best chaperones are known to the majority, if not all, of the students. Chaperones with experience or interest in the natural world also add value to the group experience, and we welcome their involvement.
Adult chaperones should be identified several months in advance of the trip. They should be proposed by the educator or other school administrators involved in program planning and interviewed by FPI to ensure that they seem compatible with the program. The parents or legal guardians of all participants must be aware of this decision and comfortable with the selected adult chaperone.
Chaperones that assist FPI trips must meet the following minimum requirements:
- Be in generally good health, as determined by a submitted physical examination
- Be able to hike for 2 miles
- Be capable of lifting a 30lb bag
- Be in possession of a valid passport
- Ideally, have a general interest or curiosity in the natural world
It is NOT required that chaperones:
- Speak Kannada or Hindi
- Have field research or conservation experience
- Have extensive travel experience (although this is a plus)
Parents should realize that our primary goal throughout the program is the safety and well-being of your child, both physically and mentally. We want them to return to you with exciting stories, pictures, videos, and lots of knowledge to share. Parents that have a unique set of concerns specific to their child are encouraged to speak with the educator who will be accompanying this trip and directly to FPI staff (we are happy to arrange a phone call or correspond by email). In some cases, we can even send someone from FPI to your child’s school to share more information about the program.
Here are frequently asked questions that we have received from past parents:
Is my child going to be safe?
We know that traveling internationally brings to mind fears of terrorism, disease, car accidents, mugging, and other random things that happen to good people. We are constantly checking the State Dept. Travel Advisory page in the countries that we operate, and in the event of an alert that effects this program we will be in touch with groups immediately to discuss changing the destination, altering program dates, and if called for, canceling the program.
Specific to India, there are presently no travel alerts. In total, we are spending 2-4 days in Bangalore and Mysore (both large cities), our tour is restricted to interesting residential areas, a lively market and specific attractions (zoos, palaces, gardens and museums). Security is extremely high in these areas. Outside of the city, we will be passing through the small town of Manathavady on our way to FringeFord. Outside of the city, we are at forest field sites and stations, with small and dedicated groups of staff that keep the place clean and running. At field stations, students are accompanied by their teacher, the FPI trip leader, and adult chaperones at all times, when not in their cabins.
Please read through the health and safety section above, and if you have specific questions that were not addressed, or require further details, get in touch with your teacher or directly with our administration.
What kind of transportation is being used, who is operating the vehicles?
Outside of the international flight into Bangalore, India, we hire a reputable private bus service to take us through the entire trip, from Bangalore to Mysore, Mysore to Fringe Ford, and then back. Road traffic is much slower in India than what you are probably used to, and that means that the roads are particularly safe from the vantage point of a large bus.
Where will my child’s food and water come from?
Please read the above “Food and Lodging” section. At no point during this trip do we encourage students to eat street-side food. Throughout the trip, students are taken to reputable restaurants for lunch and dinner, and the hotels we use all provide breakfast. All of our field stations source food locally, and they take great efforts to make sure it is prepared with the utmost care and highest sanitary standards. In terms of drinking water, students will be served bottled water at Jungle Resort on Kabini Lake, or clean, delicious, and filtered well-water at FringeForge. At FringeFord, if a student would prefer to drink only bottled water, this can be easily accomodated.
What happens if my child gets sick or hurt while on the program?
High school students are typically NOT very experienced travelers who know what health signs to watch out for. Also, they may not be comfortable bringing up and sharing details of what they feel. We counter this by watching students carefully, ensuring that they are eating and drinking well, have energy, and not worrying any particular itch, cut, or scrape. FPI staff have been working in the field for a long time, and in most cases, our staff realizes that a student needs help before they do.
The most common illness faced by students, or any traveler, is minor indigestion, in worse circumstances, this becomes diarrhea or vomiting. In nearly all cases, a single course of antibiotics that can be prescribed in advance by your child’s pediatrician and taken under supervision, as needed, will bring them back to good health quickly. Outside of this concern, we repeatedly remind students to use sunblock and bug repellent, take daily showers, wash hands frequently, don’t share drinking bottles with others, and eat well; the basic ingredients for a healthy trip.
For high fevers, unusual aches and pains, bad cuts or scrapes, apparent ear or sinus infections, etc., you would be notified and your child would be taken to a local, private medical practice for diagnosis and treatment. There are several we have used in the past, and if you desire this information please get in touch with FPI staff.
My child is a female, how will she get practical advice or assistance about feminine care matters?
There are certain hygiene and health matters that females, in particular, need to be cognizant of when traveling abroad and staying at fairly remote field stations. We have a feminine hygiene and care hand-out that your child will receive with other standard informational materials on how to prepare for this trip. If you would like a copy in advance, please contact FPI staff.
Should an event occur in the field that requires assistance or advice from someone experienced, and the FPI trip leader, teacher, and adult chaperone, are not qualified, there are a few options. 1) There is nearly always a female staff member at the station who is able to assist your child, 2) the student can be put on the phone with FPI staff who will provide direction as needed, 3) in some cases there is another female student who is able to assist your child, 4) the trip leader will call a qualified local assistant to help as needed (usually to bring supplies that were forgotten).
Please read this section carefully, as it provides you with everything you need to know regarding reserving a program, fundraising for a program (if desired), and program cancellation.
The cost for each program participant will include FPI’s program fee, travel costs, and any additional costs associated with visiting local attractions, such as the Taj Mahal. These costs are estimated below, but could vary depending on how close to travel a group can reserve their flights (the earlier the better):
|Duration||Program costs per head||Flight cost estimate*||Optional add-ons**|
|8 Days||2150 USD||1000 - 1200 USD|
|15 Days||2850 USD||1200 - 1350 USD||Machu Picchu Trip ($350 USD)|
*Flight costs will vary based on group numbers and if additional stop-overs in Delhi are desired
**For groups that would like to, we suggest adding a component to see the Taj Mahal. This will increase the duration of your trip and prices vary based on time of year and tour availability; so please let us know if you would like to receive a quote that includes this additional visit.
Program reservation and payment
Step 1: Complete a college-prep program reservation form four months before travel dates. Keep in mind that we have a 6 participant minimum with one educator travelling for free. If you are submitting this form with under four months left to your proposed start date, don’t worry – we have solutions for you.
Step 2: We will then invoice you for a down payment of $1200 to reserve the program dates. You may choose to pay online or by check. This payment will reserve 6 student spaces + 1 educator space in the course. Since you are travelling as a group, we make every effort to be flexible in how you can make this downpayment on behalf of your group.
Scenario 1: If someone who is paying to attend the program (i.e. a student) makes the down payment on behalf of the group, then we will credit it towards that participant’s program fee
Scenario 2: If someone who is not paying to attend the program (for example, a teacher, chaperone, or school administrator) makes the downpayment, we will refund it in full once we receive final payments from the minimum number (6) attending students
Scenario 3: If the school is paying for the course on behalf of the students, we will credit the downpayment toward the full program fee.
Step 3: Assuming the reservation was made in time, the final payment of the program and travel fees is due 100 days before the program start date. Note, in certain circumstances, it may not be feasible to stick to this final payment schedule, in which case FPI will determine a separate due date with the school liaison.
Individualized Fundraising Assistance
FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform for all field workshop students. You will be able to share your fundraising page with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the pre-agreed fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final workshop payment. If you collect enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will roll into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the program after fundraising begins, please note that your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those resources would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up a fundraising page, please register for a workshop first.
- $300 of the deposit made during registration is a processing fee that is nonrefundable under any circumstances.
- Since the execution of this program requires multiple advanced bookings of air travel and field site reservations, no refunds will be provided once final payments have been received in full
- If FPI has to cancel this program due to mitigating reasons, a full refund of all fees paid, including the registration fee, will be made available to you.
- A cancellation schedule with dates specific to your group will be sent to you at the time of registration
Program expulsion or dismissal
Our programs bring you into areas that are remote, and normally only accessible by researchers doing tropical field biology research. As such, we have a responsibility towards the environment we are in, and the countries that we visit. Before the trip begins, we will meet with the group to discuss our code of conduct, and we will all pledge to follow it. If despite these efforts, a participant intentionally breaks this code, they can and will be removed from participating in the remainder of the program. In such an unfortunate situation, no refunds will be possible, and any costs incurred for the early return of said student will be borne by the student’s family.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you don’t find the answers you are looking for below, please contact us.
Preparing to travel to India
Your travel packet will contain a detailed packing list, tailored to your group specifically, taking into consideration the time of year and the duration of your trip. So hang tight! You’ll receive this as soon as you register your group for the course. Check out the remaining FAQs for details on several items on the list.
The currency in India is the Indian Rupee. We say 1 “rupee” and each rupee contains 100 “paisa”, the equivalent of cents. The currency exchange rate is ~ Rs. 67 to 1 USD, but this can change so be sure to check this site closer to your travel date. Changing US dollars in India is not a difficult thing to do; we recommend you bring brand new, high-denomination bills, without any blemishes on them, for a bank to exchange them for you. You can find currency exchanges easily in the airport in Bangalore as well as in Bangalore and Mysore cities. However, the easiest way to get money is to use an ATM via a credit or debit card. The closest ATM to the field station is at Talapoya village, ~11 km from camp. Mananthavadi, ~19 km from the station, has SBI and HDFC banks which will exchange currency directly as well.
Things to consider: Bring two cards, in case one doesn’t work. Test that your pins work on both of your cards before you come to India. The most you can withdraw in a single day from an ATM is Rs. 10,000 or USD $156. ATM charges can apply, including conversion fees, so check with your bank about that. Withdrawing from an ATM is convenient, and prevents you from carrying around a lot of cash, which is always a much safer way to travel.
Traveler’s checks are entirely a thing of the past – just don’t buy them!
You do not need to have cash on you while at the field station except for possibly Rs.5000 at the very most, for emergencies. There’s nothing to buy, no stores to spend it on; cash, in short, is irrelevant in the rainforest.
However, during our first two days in Mysore, you will indeed want to have money on you to pay for any extras you might buy at a market, or for extra snacks or water for the drives, for example. How much you wish to withdraw will be up to you. See below for the expenses that will be covered by the course.
You will require gumboots or knee-high rubber boots for all activities at the field station. You should buy these from home and not count on buying them locally. Select a natural coloured or black pair – polka dots would ensure all wildlife running away from you. You will wear these boots every single day while you are in the forest, so if you’re buying them new, break them in if you can. If you have sensitive feet with arch trouble, please bring insoles for your boots.
A pair of sneakers will come in handy during your travels and for use while at the camps. You will never wear flip-flops at camp, for your safety. You may, however, prefer to bring a pair so that you can wear them in the shower, or in the earlier period of your stay in Mysore and Bangalore.
Pack in something you can carry on your shoulders if necessary. Suitcases are not very practical at all. We recommend bringing a big duffel bag, or a backpack with most of your things in it. You’ll also need a small daypack when on site to take with you on all your hikes. Make sure that it is large enough to carry a field notebook, small medical kit, and a water bottle or two.
The most important things you need in the forest that this course will NOT be providing are your hiking backpack, a water bottle, rubber boots, a head lamp, and a pair of binoculars. Check your packing list for more details on these items. Also, some things to consider bringing include a penknife (check it in, don’t hand carry – it will get caught), a bandana or hat, and energy bars as an extra snack.
Note: There are no mosquitoes at this site due to the elevation in altitude, so there is no need to use insect repellent while in Fringe Ford. However, it will come in handy in Bangalore and Mysore. There are ticks you can pick up during hiking at Fringe Ford, so please bring some repellent that contains DEET for spraying on your clothes alone.
You will need to use a battery-operated headlamp with LEDs at this site. This headlamp will be your best friend and is useful since it is hands-free. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife at night, bring one that is bright, and that has a red light option, as the red light doesn’t scare nocturnal animals as much. Headlamps will need batteries, and we strongly suggest that you bring rechargeable batteries with you. This means that you must also obtain a small battery charger. If you can’t and have to bring standard batteries, please buy energy efficient ones so you use as few as possible, since you will have to take all batteries back with you and recycle them (you cannot leave them at the field station). Please see the section on electronics for how to manage voltage issues.
Yes. Make sure that you have something extremely reliable as an alarm clock – whether you use your phone or watch is up to you. Please buy a digital watch with a repeat timer – this last factor is essential in allowing you to collect data while on the course. When at the store, please specifically ask if you can set a timer for a specific duration (e.g. 1 minute) that will continually beep every minute. That is what we mean by a repeat timer. If in doubt, purchase this watch from Amazon, or something like it.
Passports are valuable items that you want to protect from the mould in the rainforest. There’s only one way to do this, and that is to put them in small ziplock bags (double-bag them) and then leave them entirely alone. I would do the same with any cash you bring with you also. Paper gets mouldy very quickly.
The weather at the station in January is typically warm and pleasant (from 23C to 28C or 73F to 90F) during the day, but you might feel a bit chilly at night when it goes down to 9C (or 48F). So, bring a jacket or sweater and something warm to wear to sleep in as well. If you tend to feel colder than most, bring a little more warm clothing. Remember that it is better to be over prepared than under prepared in this regard – there will be no way to go out and purchase additional clothing if you are missing anything.
The field station and the course do not provide any medications to students. As such, they must bring a small medical kit for minor issues:
– A course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin is a common and effective one)
– A course of antibiotics for digestive trouble, and a small number of pills of Immodium (to be used in emergencies only)
– Electrolyte/rehydration packs (hint: the juice flavoured ones are much nicer than the medical ones)
– Anti-fungal cream/powder (effective on yeast), particularly if you are prone to these infections
– Anti-itch medication: over-the-counter lotions are ok
– Antacids to comfort your stomach
– Band-aids, tweezers
– An Epi-pen if you are allergic to anything at all
– Antihistamines to be taken in case of mild allergies (something like Claritin/ Zyrtec)
– A venom extraction kit: don’t worry, we don’t get snake bites, but these are useful in case of wasp or bee stings.
You will have to provide proof of an official vaccination record (as listed here by the CDC). For travel to India, we require that you also get the following vaccines: Typhoid (oral or injectable) and Hepatitis A. It is additionally recommended to speak with your doctor or a travel clinic about the Japanese encephalitis vaccine and to follow their expert advice in this matter. If you have the current flu shot for the year as well, all the better. Find a travel clinic and get your shots EARLY.
You may consider taking malaria prophylaxis if you like, particularly for your stay in Mysore and Bangalore. There are no mosquitoes at the field station, so the risk of catching malaria is minimal. Please follow your health care provider’s recommendations in this regard.
The CDC’s recommendations for travellers to India are here.
We take the health and safety of all participants very seriously at this site. We look out for each other and take care of our groups. The field site has stringent protocols on safety procedures in the case of an emergency that we are obliged to follow. If anyone should need medical help, they can be transported by car to town in a matter of 30 minutes, where they can be treated or evacuated to Mysore or Bangalore for treatment.
It is advisable for participants to sign up for medivac insurance (try World Nomad), as neither the field station nor FPI will be responsible for costs associated with medical emergencies, however dire.
Before being accepted to the program, applicants must submit a medical history evaluation. This is not meant to discriminate against people, but instead to protect them from being in a situation where they are at a severe or life-threatening disadvantage.
We make special references to an alcohol policy in our participation contract – we have a zero tolerance policy at this particular field station. You will also sign a sexual and gender-based misconduct contract (and so will your supervisors). This is not to suggest that this issue is a problem at this field site in particular. However, there has been a large amount of reporting on these matters in the press of late, and we want to assure you that we take any such violations extremely seriously. We want our students to be as safe and comfortable as possible.
Field Station Amenities
We strongly encourage you to bring your laptops to the field station, as well as your cell phones. They will come in handy for data entry, entertainment, and for completing assignments. Electronics have to be treated differently in the rainforest than you would anywhere else. Do not bother to bring a soft sleeve for the laptop with you, because it will suck up moisture from the air and will envelop your laptop in it, which is terrible news. We find that simple plastic ziplock bags work better than sports dry bags. We recommend that you purchase at least two ziplock bags that are large enough to fit your computer. You can also buy silicon gel packages online (at Amazon or Jake’s Silica Gel or local stores like REI). Put a couple of 5-gram packets inside the ziplock with your computer and bring at least two more packs with you.
India uses a different set of plugs than the US or England. The project will have extension cords and power strips that will accept US plugs; however, if you want to plug things in while you travel, you should consider picking up a small converter for your electronics that will fit plugs in India (see here for a full explanation). The Indian system uses 220 – 240 volts, instead of 120/140 volts as in the US. Please CHECK your electronics to make sure they are compatible before plugging them in at the station or anywhere in India. If they don’t work at both voltages, you will need to bring a step up converter such as this one. Also, note that you will not find three-pronged sockets in most places, so definitely at least bring a three to two modifier (such as this) for your electronics.
Electricity at the field station is available all day around, technically speaking. However, power failures can occur, so expect to spend some nights in candlelight. You may bring solar chargers if you feel the need to, but most of the day you will not be using your electronics at all.
Do not bring a hair dryer, electric razor, or electric toothbrush because those are very much considered an unnecessary luxury at this site. We will prioritise charging absolutely everything else over those items.
Wireless internet is simply not available at this site, so please do not count on sending daily email updates. We will provide for a trip to town midway to the course during which you can make phone calls and check email, but please do not expect to have internet connectivity in Fringe Ford. You will have internet connectivity in Bangalore and Mysore, however.
Phone signals are available through most of India – but the field station is in a steep valley and thus, has found a blind spot. This adds to the charm of the experience. In an emergency, we can drive a couple of kilometres away to catch a signal but do not count on having it at the field station itself. Also, during some of your hikes that take you up the hills nearby, you can catch cell phone signals for all the Indian providers.
In Bangalore and Mysore, you can get connected to the primary network “Airtel” from anywhere. Contact your cell service provider and make sure that you can pick up this network’s service while in India. Then, purchase an international calling plan, pre-paid minutes, or some international texting plan. This will allow you to communicate with your family at home, during those first few days, or in the middle and end of the course when we return to town.
If you have a smartphone, download Viber and Whatsapp – both apps will allow you to stay connected with instructors while negotiating airport pickups, etc.
There is a small but functional washing machine on site and laundry will be done for you on site. If you have any special needs regarding detergent, please bring something different with you, but basic detergent is provided at the site. Your clothes will be dried on the line on the property.
This is the south Indian rainforest, and as with all tropical areas, there are disease risks. Unlike towns, however, this field station does not hold enough people to serve as constant reservoirs for many diseases.
As such, malaria is not found at this site, and no one on our team takes malaria prophylactics. Your travel doctor will most likely disagree because their information is about the region in general, and it is true that malaria can be contracted in Mananthavadi, Mysore and Bangalore. As such, the choice to take malaria prophylactics is entirely personal – if you feel better about it, take the medication.
Leeches are of slight concern at this site, only in that they make hiking somewhat more of an adventure. You will be wearing high boots during hikes, and the field station will provide you with leech socks that do not allow leeches to come into contact with your skin. You will also hike with a salt container to gently dislodge leeches from your boots if they climb too high. However unnerving this sounds, remember the following facts: a) leeches are not known to carry any diseases at all, b) they form a large food source for a variety of animals and are an integral part of the ecosystem in these forests, c) if you do get bitten, you will not even notice for they are completely painless and once a leech feeds, it will drop off naturally, and d) as policy, we will not be harming leeches at this site.
Travel in India
Visas are required for travel to India for citizens of many countries. To apply for a visa, use the following websites or contact us for more information if you can’t locate it online: Travisa or Cox and Kings
You can get an e-tourist visa as a US citizen applying for an Indian visa, which is a quick way to get a visa upon arrival in India by acquiring prior electronically generated approval in the US. The final stamp in your passport happens when you land in India after biometrics are taken at the airport. Note: You must not apply earlier than 34 days before you travel to India, processing time is ~3 business days, and it costs $49 with Travisa. You have to provide a valid passport and confirmed round-trip flight tickets to apply. It will only allow you to enter the country once, for a total duration of 30 days. You cannot leave to visit any other neighbouring country and return to India to catch a flight to the US with this visa, i.e. this is a single-entry and NOT a multiple-entry visa. You also can only have two such visas in a 12-month period.
You can also apply for a traditional tourist visa, which can take a little longer to process and which involves sending your passport to an agency and getting it returned. You can, however, get ten-year multiple entry tourist visas for ~$125 with a 6-10 business day turnaround, depending on where you live in the US and which consulate you approach. This visa should allow you to enter and leave the country freely during your stay, facilitating any additional travel in the region if you so desire.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, Travisa is probably a good agency to use since it does offer some global services. Otherwise, contact your local Indian consulate and ask them for help. In many countries, it’s possible to walk-in your papers to the consulate in-person and get a visa both quickly and independent of any agency. In some others, you have to go through an agency. This will vary by country.
IMPORTANT: If you are Indian by origin, or have recently switched from Indian to other citizenship, you have somewhat of a long road ahead of you, so begin the visa process quickly for it can take ~2 months to complete.
As a matter of routine, the field station will follow its protocol to register all visiting foreigners with the local police department. To do this, all students must carry the following to the field station:
- Two photocopies of your passport
- Two passport-sized photographs
Please note: This rule applies to people with OCI or PIO cards (equivalents of Indian green cards).