It is one thing to see rare wildlife in their native habitat, but to actually understand how rare these brilliant creatures are and fully comprehend their behavior in certain situations is another. Read books such as naturalists’ memoirs and wildlife guides are a good place to start. Try to feel what the experts do when they explore the rainforest. Be prepared to distinguish the subtle differences of species apart. Try to memorize charts of different plant and animal species in the destination you intend to explore, and then take the charts with you when you travel. Native literature is important as well to help understand the relationship the local people and tribes have with plants and animals.
Attending lectures by scientists and experts at colleges, universities, libraries, and local clubs is also a good way to learn a bit more about what is going on. Take a visit your local zoo or botanical garden as well. Chances are they will have at least some of the flora and fauna you will be seeing when you take your trip.
A good general fitness level is important to be an ecotourist. While many tours are simply just sitting on a boat, the majority involves a great deal of walking. This includes everything from hiking on volcanic beaches, following trails through the jungle or the steep hills of a cloud forest, slogging through thick mud, and light walking along gravel paths beside your resort or lodge. If hiking to isolated areas, you may need to be in great shape. You may be hiking up and down mountains, in extreme heat, and carrying a large load of food and equipment.
There is no piece of equipment that is absolutely necessary to be an ecotourist. The most memorable encounter you will have when looking for wildlife is that time that the animal happened to be sitting in the tree above you or crossed the path in front of you. There are a number of accessories that will make your trip easier and allow you to make the most of where you are.
Binoculars are an easy tool that can give you a much better view of a bird or an animal. Considering you rarely can get too close to wildlife, binoculars will allow you to see the creatures while they are hundreds of yards away or hidden amongst the dense foliage of the rainforest. Similarly, zoom lenses on cameras will improve your photos significantly when shooting wildlife that is often very small or far away. Go for lenses no smaller than 200mm. Lenses that are 300mm, 400mm, or higher are recommended for shooting birds. Your point and shoot, even with a small zoom, can get you some decent shots too when animals are extremely close, but don’t expect national geographic type shots.
Wildlife/birding guides for identifying different species can be a great help. Mosquito repellents are a must. A flashlight for hikes in the night and walking around the lodge or campground is a good item to have. Long sleeved clothing, even better if waterproof, are good for protecting against the sun and creepy crawlies.