12 WILD ABOUT TRAVEL
Your travel photos
THE STORY ISLANDS – EAST NUSA TENGGARA Folklore withstands religion in Indonesia’s far eastern islands. Tim Hannigan visits Flores and Adonara
16 SARDINIA – SOMETHING ELSE Guidebook author Esther Van Veen heads to the unpolished south of Sardinia, Italy for street art, mussels, and history
32 TRAVEL DIARY After a false start, photographer Fábio Inácio arrives in Palangan, a village set in a steep valley in Iran
40 TO KOMODO Pirates, machetes, and high seas: poet Michael Paul Hogan sails to Komodo, Indonesia
I LOVE SANTORINI! Windmills, cave houses, sea views, and pirate lore make Santorini, Greece a honeymoon favorite. Agata Filiana finds her perfect sunset
56 A SEAPLANE TO THE WHITSUNDAYS Globetrotters Noémie Sancelme and Bao Lan Nguyen explore Australia’s Great Barrier Reef by seaplane and snorkel
HOKKAIDO: FIRE AND ICE
60 PHOTOGRAPHING SIEM REAP
With drift ice walks, traditional spas, fresh crabs, and heritage railways, Hokkaido, Japan is a popular winter destination
Make your travel photography even better with these four tips from British photographer Dominic Stafford
78 BELIZE – RISING STARLET In Belize Anisha Shah finds the real La Isla Bonita made famous in Madonna’s 1987 pop song
Putri Fitria goes barefoot for the annual Panguni Uthiram bodypiercing pilgrimage in North Sumatra, Indonesia
PERSONAL JOURNEY Ten-year-old Rudi Bright is on a mission to spot the 317 wildlife species mentioned in Henry Williamson’s classic novel Tarka the Otter
84 CRUISE TO JAMES BOND ISLAND It’s glitz and glamor inside Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. Rich Blando cruises in high style to Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Founder & CEO Richmond Blando Managing Editor Melanie Whitmarsh Art Director Juke Bachtiar Photographer Dennie Benedict
Coastal Inspiration SUMMER IS just around the corner - though with all this weird weather, I can’t tell what season it is. Regardless, now’s the time to plan that summer break. A homecoming? An adventure into unchartered territory? Revisiting a favorite place? Whatever the adventure, travel is what breaks us out of our structured scheduledriven lifestyles. This is why it’s so important to savor the experience of travel: the flavors, the aches and bruises, the conversations with strangers. As someone who lives in Indonesia, when I hear the words ‘island’ and ‘coast’, I think of sun and surf, but as we explore in this issue – there’s more to coastal exploration than beach umbrellas. We crack through centimeters of ice to plunge into the frozen Okhotsk Sea in northern Japan, explore striking street murals in south Sardinia, listen to Indonesian folklore over cups of moonshine, and wander the labyrinths of romantic Santorini. Making the journey itself fun, we take a seaplane over Australia’s Heart Reef, fly in a helicopter over the rich jungles of Belize, bail out a ship en route to Komodo, cruise in luxury through the islands of Thailand, and ride the railways of Hokkaido, Japan. For me, travel is a drug, and the only cure is - travel! Happy travels,
Contributors Agata Filiana Tim Hannigan Michael Paul Hogan Fábio Inácio Zulu Irminger M. Jan Bao Lan Nguyen Noémie Sancelme Anisha Shah Dominic Stafford Lydia Tomkiw Esther Van Veen Nigel Wood Administration Boedy Astuti Distribution Mukti Pelupessy Please send your article pitches and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org www.venturetravelmag.com
RICHMOND BLANDO, Founder & CEO Advertise with us: When this issue went to print, the crew and passengers of the Malaysian Airlines MH370 flight were still missing. Our thoughts are with them and their families.
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Drift Ice, Hokkaido, Japan
Cover by Kei Shooting / Shutterstock
For readers outside Indonesia and Singapore, Venture is available in digital form via www.getscoop.com Venture | Apr/May 2014
PT. NUSA BINTANG LESTARI Jl. Gunawarman no. 16 • Kebayoran Baru South Jakarta • Indonesia Tel: +62 21 2903 5959
AGATA FILIANA (“I Love Santorini!” page 36) is a computer engineer with a passion for traveling. Born in Indonesia, she has lived in England, France, Romania, and Switzerland. When on the road, getting lost and indulging in local food are her two favorite things to do. www.dreamexplorewander.com @dewtraveller
Over t h 25 yea e last r MICHA s, poet EL PA UL HOGA N Komod (“To o 40) ha ,” page s lived in China, USA, a India n Voodo d his native Indonesia, th , o is Mic Englan e publis hed po hael’s first c d. American ollectio etry. n of
ANISHA SHAH is a luxury and emerging destinations travel journalist. Her background as a BBC TV and radio news reporter, combined with a long-standing love affair with travel, sees her first on the scene at new and exciting travel hotspots (“Belize - Rising Star,” page 78). Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, Fodor’s, and Prestige Asia. www.ani-shah.com @anishahbbc
Born in the UK, TIM HANNIGAN (“The Story Islands,” page 26) started work as a chef, trading summers of kitchen work for winters wandering Asia and the Middle East. He eventually shipped out to Java to work as a teacher, and then as a freelance writer. Now he divides his time between Cornwall, UK and Indonesia. Tim is the author of Raffles and the British Invasion of Java. www.tahannigan.blogspot.com
After exploring Australia (“A Seaplane to the Whitsundays,” page 56) for almost a year, globetrotters NOÉMIE SANCELME and BAO NGUYEN settled in Thailand and Vietnam respectively. Driven by an urge to discover, Noémie and Bao are constantly looking for new off-thebeaten track destinations to delve into, striving to reconnect with their inner selves as often as possible.
DOMINIC STAFFORD has been passionate about Southeast Asia, and Cambodia in particular, for five years. He currently spends his time teaching and photographing in Siem Reap (“Photographing Siem Reap,” page 60). He is a regular blogger and his work has been featured in a handful of local Southeast Asian publications. www.dominicstafford.co.uk @DomStafford
0 years After 3 ter pilot, h g fi as a works WOOD L E IG N a self as for him cial designer r comme tographer o and ph astle,” C e f r o C ugh (“ ). Altho e 2 2 e iv pag a n his t based in, he has lived d Englan e, California, p in Euro xploring new e s e v nd lo jects, apore a ding new sub or across g in S d an er fin he corn ns and locatio just around t r whethe e. b the glo wood.co.uk b www.co
Always travel with a good book “One of the most intoxicating travel books ever written,” says Tim of Nicolas Bouvier’s The Way of the World. In 1953, Nicolas Bouvier and Thierry Vernet left Switzerland for India in a battered Fiat… “Anyone who doesn’t want to hang out with gypsies and make grand transcontinental journeys as soon as they’ve read it must have something wrong with them.”
Amsterdam-based travel writer and photographer ESTHER VAN VEEN (“Sardinia – Something Else,” page 16) backpacked through Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, and Malaysia for three months in 2001. This sparked her ongoing love-affair with Asia. Working as a tour leader, Esther has explored the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America. She dreams of tracing Marco Polo’s footsteps along the Silk Road. www.esthervanveen.com
Anisha enjoyed Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod. “Based on the author’s experiences, this is one for dreamers. The book evokes such a strong sense of Paris and furthers the romance and nostalgia that the world already feels towards the City of Light.”
“Great perspectives on Buddhism,” writes Dominic of Stephen T. Asma’s The Gods Drink Whiskey. “This is a comic yet real insight into the life of a westerner in Cambodia.”
Agata loves Rita Golden Gelman’s Tales of a Female Nomad. “This powerful book made me laugh and cry, but most of all it taught me how to connect with people from all over the world as a woman.”
Esther recommends Marion Zimmer Bradley’s classic novel The Mists of Avalon. “I love the enchanting world of medieval England. In this novel about King Arthur and his sister Morgan Le Fay, pagan Celtic culture is celebrated with mystic Avalon and Glastonbury as a backdrop.”
Apr/May 2014 | Venture
Wild About Travel
Feeding Time Calcuit Game Preserve & Wildlife Sanctuary, Palawan, the Philippines Photographed by Dan Rivera
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Your travel photos
Tenaya Lake Yosemite National Park, California, USA Photographed by Katherine Wood www.moretreeslessnudes.tumblr.com
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Autumn Colors Kiyomizu-dera garden, Kyoto, Japan Photographed byÂ Dexter Pastour
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Wild about travel too? See your travel photos in print here. Email up to three travel photos to email@example.com and include a photo caption for each one.
Train Engineer On the SLÂ Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train, Hokkaido, Japan Photographed byÂ Dexter Pastour
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Sardinia – Something Else BY ESTHER VAN VEEN | PHOTOGRAPHS BY ESTHER VAN VEEN
When English novelist D.H. Lawrence visited Sardinia in 1921, he wrote: “This land resembles no other place. Sardinia is something else.”
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Lying closer to North Africa than the Italian mainland, Sardinia is an island with almost 1,150 miles of coast and 7,000 stone towers from the nuraghic civilization – a civilization dating back to the Bronze Age.
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Tommaso Delpiano/ SHUTTERSTOCK
LEAVING GLAMOROUS Costa Smeralda in the northeast of Sardinia to the rich and famous, I headed down to the unpolished south for history, culture, idyllic beaches, and folkloric street art. MEDIEVAL CAGLIARI Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, sits on the south coast and is surrounded by marshlands. Bright pink flamingos spread their wings and flew out of a lagoon, seemingly in slow motion. I hadn't expected these exotic birds on Italian territory. But whether Sardinia is really Italian is still disputed among its fierce and proud inhabitants - who prefer to see themselves as Sardinians, not Italians. They are the only Italians considered to be from a different ethnicity, one which traces back to prehistoric times. The local culture and history make Sardinia quite distinct from mainland Italy. Perched dramatically on a hill, Castello - Cagliari’s medieval center - is enclosed by a thick wall with watchtowers. It has terracotta-colored houses and cobblestoned alleys, and a certain grandeur and distinct feel compared to coastal cities on the Italian mainland. D.H. Lawrence even compared it to Jerusalem when he arrived by boat in 1921. My guide in Cagliari was Manuela, an elegant Sardinian woman. We walked through the narrow streets of the medieval town center, passing stores selling traditional clothing and designer shops with the latest fashions. “Cagliari is built on Phoenician foundations,” Manuela told me, listing some of the town’s features: a Roman amphitheater, medieval Spanish walls, Pisan watchtowers, and baroque churches. We visited the fascinating Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Piazza Arsenale and saw a large collection of prehistoric mother goddess statues and bronze figurines from the nuraghi. “Sardinian culture has been formed over thousands of years,” continued Manuela. “The prehistoric nuraghic civilization is found only on Sardinian soil, and is shrouded in mystery as there are no written records. Its strong pagan legacy includes the archeological remnants of around 7,000 nuraghi towers, and a primeval, folkloristic culture that is still very much alive today.” Sardinian culture also incorporates foreign elements. Located on Mediterranean sea trade routes, Sardinia was visited by the Phoenicians, the
HOME COOKING East of Cagliari’s Castello district is the Mercato San Benedetto – the traditional and high quality indoor food market that includes the largest fish market in Sardinia. “It’s an excellent place to meet the locals and fishermen of Cagliari,” Manuela noted. Manuela’s parents, Pasquale and Ina Talana, visit the San Benedetto market every Saturday for their weekly groceries. Ina invited me to join them for an authentic, non-touristy experience. Upon entering, Pasquale was greeted by many of the fishermen. “These families have been selling fish here for generations,” he said, leading me through the stalls. We passed buckets of glistering, silver-scaly fish and plates full of octopuses, shrimps, crabs, mussels, and clams garnished with fresh lemon slices. Sword fish with enormous snouts lay on the counters as if they were trophies. Pasquale and Ina
bought a portion of clams and invited me to dinner - a warmly welcomed example of Sardinian hospitality. They lived in a detached house just outside Cagliari and grew fresh basil, mint, raspberries, and figs in their garden. Sardinians love to grow and prepare their own food, and eat mostly organic produce. After a generous portion of cozze (mussels), and a plate of pasta with artichokes and mint, there was little room for the pecorino cheese dessert.
D.H. Lawrence’s classic travel book Sea and Sardinia can be read for free via Amazon Kindle or Project Gutenberg.
Romans, the Byzantines, Saracen pirates, the Italians, and the Spanish. These civilizations cross-pollinated local culture, and left their legacies in local architecture and in the Sardinian kitchen: local adaptations of Tunisian couscous and Spanish paella have tasty twists. After the museum, we went to Caffè degli Spiriti at the Spanish Bastione di Saint Remy (a bastion in the city wall) for a glass of local white Vermentino wine overlooking the deep blue gulf of Cagliari, the terracotta-tiled roofs of the historic district, and the fishing boats in the harbor.
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SANT’ANTIOCO The next morning I left Cagliari, driving through a dry landscape of cactuses, olive trees, and wild oaks. Sheep grazed and round hay bales seemed to roll off the hills. I was heading for Sant’Antioco, an island off the southwest corner of Sardinia. I stopped at the harbor. The sun lit up the pastel-colored houses along the palm tree-lined boulevard. Many fishing boats were out at sea, but some remained docked beside the yachts and wooden barges. “Sei interessata nella pescaturismo?” A tanned fisherman approached, asking if I was interested in pescaturismo - fishing tourism. Tourists can join fishermen for a day of fishing at sea and enjoy seafood barbecues on board. I was tempted by this authentic adventure, but had other plans and continued my journey north, to the small fishing village of Calasetta.
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Calasetta had a picturesque, crescent-shaped harbor filled with small boats and yachts. Here I met Roberta, a petite but fierce Sardinian woman who was my guide for the day. “Sardinians flock here every August,” she said. “But foreign tourists haven’t really discovered Sant’Antioco yet.” In the harbor, local vendors sold oranges and lemons alongside Tunisian vendors selling brightly-painted North African ceramics. Roberta explained that the history of Sant’Antioco is strongly intertwined with that of North Africa and the Middle East. “The Phoenicians founded an important trading post here in the eighth-century BC, named Sulcis,” she said. “The seafaring Phoenicians were from present-day Lebanon, and they dominated the Mediterranean sea trade from 1200-400 BC. After the Phoenicians, the island flourished under the Romans, and was raided by Saracen pirates in the Middle Ages until it fell into oblivion.” We walked through narrow streets lined with blue and white houses, towards a small square - Calasetta’s Piazza Municipio. Over a cappuccino, I soaked up the almost North African
atmosphere of this blue-white town and its palm trees. Afterwards we went to Sottotorre, the idyllic beach at Calasetta. A Piedmont look-out tower built in around 1737 perched over the narrow, bright beach and turquoise sea. “There are plenty more paradise-like beaches,” Roberta said, mentioning Le Saline and Turri. She proposed we visit them and before I knew it, I was bathing at Turri Bay, marveling over the crystal-clear waters – which explained the popularity of diving around Sant’Antioco. STREET ART IN SAN SPERATE On the way back to Cagliari, I stopped at San Sperate – a village famous for its street murals. In the 1960s, local artist Pinuccio Sciola started painting the walls of the village after being inspired by murals he saw in Mexico. I walked down Via Sassari and the numerous alleys of the village center, and was astonished by the excellent copies of works by Picasso and Mondrian, and folkloristic Sardinian scenes depicting farmers at work and religious processions. Little did Sciola know that artists from all over the world would transform his town into an open air museum.
Miramare Boutique Hotel, Cagliari www.hotelmiramarecagliari.it
Where to Stay
“Foreign tourists haven’t discovered Sant’Antioco yet”
Cà de Anna, Calasetta www.cadeanna.com
Where to Eat
Ristorante Antica Cagliari, Cagliari www.anticacagliari.it Esther is the author of Puur Sardinië, a Dutch-language travel, recipe, and photography book on Sardinia, published in March 2014.
Caffe degli Spiriti, Cagliari www.caffedeglispiriti.com Libarium, Cagliari www.caffelibarium.com U’Palacca, Calasetta Tel: +39 0781 887 016 La Caletta, Calasetta Tel: +39 345 253 3184
Sardinia Day (Sa Die de sa Sardigna) is celebrated every April 28th with concerts and folk music. Pecold/ SHUTTERSTOCK
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Corfe Castle Nigel Wood, Dorset, UK
CORFE CASTLE stands moodily on a hill overlooking the village of the same name near the coast in Dorset, southern England. Over 1,000 years old, the castle was the scene of the murder of Saint Edward the Martyr in 978. The castle was extended in the twelfth century before being destroyed during the English Civil War (1642-51), leaving the remains that are grazed by sheep and explored by tourists today. A cloud of steam in the distance, a haunting whistle - and then the air filled
with the smells of oil and coal as the beautifully preserved steam engine of the Swanage Railway pulled into the station on its way to the coastal resort of Swanage. The badge on the front showed that this was locomotive "6695", built in Newcastle in 1928. It pulled equally old and rare passenger carriages, lovingly restored and maintained by volunteers. Standing right at the end of the platform, I was able to get this view of the historic locomotive pulling into Corfe Castle station with the castle itself behind.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II / Canon EF24-70 f/2.8 L at 28mm 1/250sec at f/16, ISO 400 For more by Nigel: www.cobwood.co.uk
AVAILABLE AT www.getscoop.com and
volume 1, Issue 03
The Story Islands â€“ East Nusa Tenggara BY TIM HANNIGAN | PHOTOGRAPHS BY TIM HANNIGAN
The remote Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara is an archipelago of legends. Christianity and Islam claim most of the inhabitants, but older currents of ancestor worship run through everything like the weft of an ikat blanket.
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EAST NUSA TENGGARA is the pattern of small islands between Lombok and Timor. Each landfall here brings radical changes – from the green hills of Flores to the savannahs of northeast Sumba. On my first visit to this part of Indonesia I saw Sumba’s famous Pasola festival. Standing in a seething ikat-clad crowd while monsoon darkness piled up behind the palms and warriors on horseback flung spears at one another had a powerful effect on me. East Nusa Tenggara caught my imagination, and I have been back many times. There are plenty of reasons for a return: the corals off Komodo, the untrammelled mountains of Flores, and the surging surf of Rote. But the real magic of East Nusa Tenggara is in its traditions. Christianity and Islam claim most of the inhabitants, but older currents of ancestor worship run through everything like the weft of an ikat blanket. In villages here you only need to ask a few casual questions and you’ll stumble on something that would make for an anthropologist’s dream. East Nusa Tenggara is a great storehouse of stories. If you know where to ask in Alor, you’ll be taken to the grave of the giant who sired mankind; in Sumba you’ll learn of clans of witches, and at Boti, in the hills of
Never have I felt such a palpable sadness as here at the Good Friday procession in Larantuka
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West Timor, you can sleep in the house of a king descended from the birds. History too comes close to the surface here – from the venerated relics of Larantuka in Flores to an image of a European ship scratched on a slab of stone on the remote island of Sabu. And when you’ve tired of one story you need only wander on to the next village, ask a casual question, sit back, and listen… SHIPWRECKED JESUS The black flags of the Catholic brotherhoods snap in the hot breeze and the leaves of the banana trees hang in rags. For an hour we have been standing, squinting in the bright hard light of Eastern Indonesia, old nuns in pale habits and teenagers in punk rock regalia. Across the channel the hills of Adonara rear from a toothy shoreline. There are rosaries in every hand. Eventually the mournful lamentations from within the little chapel fade and the procession emerges – white-robed brothers carrying a cloth-wrapped casket containing an ancient icon of Christ, known here as Tuan Maninu. Stepping carefully to the shore they place the casket into a canoe. Slowly, against the tide, they begin to move up the coast. Onshore, the nuns and punk rockers begin a steady, penitent shuffle in the
same direction. I have been to many Indonesian religious festivals, but never have I felt such a palpable sadness as here at the Good Friday procession in Larantuka, a tiny town at the easternmost tip of Flores. Larantuka is the end of the road. Further east, nothing but scattered landfalls. The Portuguese came here in the 16th century. They built forts and friaries, and when the Dutch pushed them out they left a fossil of Catholicism. Over the centuries a cult grew around the icon of Tuan Maninu and a statue of the Virgin Mary, known here as Tuan Ma. According to legend they were washed ashore from a shipwreck in 1510. When the procession comes ashore, a few kilometers up the coast, the casket of Tuan Maninu is joined by Tuan Ma’s statue, carried out from another small chapel. Draped under a velvet cape, only her face is on view. It is a pale visage, indescribably sad and rent by a sharp crack from centuries of tropical heat. The procession shuffles around town in a murmur of prayer until long after dark; by the time I wander down to the docks, looking for a fishing boat to take me to Adonara, the streets are greasy with candlewax.
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THE SACRED GOAT The goat eyed me from beyond the brushwood fence. “His power is not very strong yet, but it’s growing,” said Pak Antoni. It was two days after the Easter parade in Larantuka and, up in the hills of Adonara - the small island beyond Flores, I was face to face with a sacred goat. Like so many of East Nusa Tenggara’s tall tales, this was a story stumbled upon. I had accepted an invitation from a man I had met in Waiwerang – Adonara’s miniscule main settlement – to visit his grandmother’s village in the hills. There were Christians and Muslims living side by side here, but they all buried their ancestors in the gardens, and they all merrily quaffed heroic quantities of tuak, a sickly coconut beer, at the smallest excuse. Between tuak top-ups I had casually asked about local customs, and a man named Pak Antoni had led me to the hamlet of Lama Nepa and introduced me to the village’s sacred mascot – the goat. This one, he explained, was a replacement for a recently deceased forebear. Once it had learnt its trade it would wander around freely, receiving offerings of food and curing ailments.
Tim Hannigan is the author of Raffles and the British Invasion of Java.
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THE DRAGON-SLAYERS Elsewhere in this cool mountain clearing were thatched buildings – rumah adat, “custom houses” used in village ceremonies. One – the Koke-Bale – had the figure of a Chinese-style dragon writhing along the roof. I had seen this same creature further east in Alor where dragons were venerated as guardian spirits. But Antoni told me that this was a dangerous monster that had been vanquished by a set of mythical twins – Pati and Beda – who killed the dragon and founded the village. “You can see Pati’s sword, if you want,” said Antoni. It was kept in a small hut at the edge of the clearing. A thin young man was on duty to guard it, a scion of a clan given this task for generations. He lifted the sword quite casually and passed it to me. It was heavy in my hand and the edge of the blade had rusted into a line of russet teeth. I asked how old it was. They shrugged. “Hundreds of years.” There were sometimes ceremonies in this clearing, Antoni said, when the ancestors were invited down from their place in the mountains. “Who takes part in these ceremonies,” I asked; “The Christians or the Muslims?” “Both,” said Antoni with a smile; “We’re all connected by marriage anyway.” We wandered back to the modern houses where the other men were still at the tuak. They pressed more brimming cups on me as I tried to scribble down details in my notebook of the otherworldly ceremony. On the wall, overlooking us all, was a picture of Tuan Ma, dark-robed, ivory-faced. It was almost dark when we made our shaky way back down a snaking road towards the town. For a moment Ile Boleng, Adonara’s central mountain, reared between the ridges, swaddled in a drape of dark forest, the last sunlight catching on the pale, cracked cliff-face at the back of the crater.
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Travel Diary Portuguese photographer Fábio Inácio left home this February for an 18-month journey around the world with nothing but his Canon EOS 7D…
I ARRIVED alone in Tehran, Iran – just me, my bag, and my crazy hair. People immediately greeted me, asking where I was from. “Portugal,” I said. “Cristiano Ronaldo!” people cheered. “José Mourinho!” Football is a good ice-breaker. A little sign language goes a long way. Soon, someone had given me an EnglishPersian phrasebook, and a man called Ali was carrying my bags. I explained that I’d seen photographs of a Kurdish village called Palangan, and had fallen in love with it… Ali directed me to the eight-hour bus from Tehran to Kanyarar and said a friend would meet me in Kanyarar and take me
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Above and below: Istanbul, Turkey - my stopover between Portugal and Iran
to Palangan. But there was no friend waiting. Instead a man said, “It’s impossible for you to stay in Palangan. They don’t like strangers.” Nonetheless, he arranged for a car to drive me there, over-charged me for it, and once in Palangan would not let me photograph anything nor walk where I pleased. What a nightmare. I returned to Kanyarar and phoned Ali. This time Ali fixed everything. A taxi was called, funds reimbursed, and I was back on the road to Palangan. Palangan was a quiet, friendly village. Rectangular biscuit-brown houses were built into a steep, rocky valley. A river flowed through the valley base. Each house had a row of shoes beside the front door. I removed mine and entered the home of Kavh and his wife Parvanh. The house was small: a kitchen, bathroom, and living area. Everything happened in the living area - socializing, watching TV, eating, and sleeping. For lunch, we sat cross-legged on a deep-red carpet eating grilled fish and drinking fizzy orange and tea. Kavh had a narrow, striking face. Parvanh wore a
loosely-tied headscarf. They served me up so much food I thought I’d explode. And then offered more tea. That night, Kavh invited me to smoke Shisha with him and his friends and play dominoes in a small, dark tent. I became the topic of conversation: Ronaldo! Messi! Carlos Queiroz! What do I do? Why am I alone? Do I have a wife? Is Portugal next to Brazil? I woke with the sun and the sounds of animals and voices. Sitting on a rock outside the only house with a room for rent, I watched village life. Children climbed up the valley to school. Men took their flocks to pasture. Others tended to fish ponds or repaired and constructed buildings. By lunchtime the whole village knew who I was. And later, while wandering and photographing, I was regularly ‘kidnapped’ for tea, talk, and tobacco. It made me wonder: Did the people of Palangan take a break from work to drink tea and smoke, or did they take breaks from tea-drinking and smoking to work? From Iran, Fábio travels to India. We’ll catch up with him there in the next issue. Keep posted: @WalkingAroundPh
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The results are in: travelers love Santorini. In TripAdvisor’s 2013 Travelers’ Choice Awards, Santorini was voted the #1 island in Europe. The nearby island of Naxos, where king of gods Zeus grew up, also made the Top 5. SET ON THE STEEP northwest coast of Santorini is the village of Oia, formerly called Apanao Meria meaning “the place on top”. The buildings were whitewashed and many of the doors and window shutters were painted bright blue. Bougainvillea grew up the village walls. The lanes between the buildings were narrow, labyrinthine, and stepped – like playful snakes. I entered one, passing small craft shops selling handmade earrings, decorated plates, and blue tiles with hand-painted fish designs. A dog lazily passed me and lay down on the hot stone floor. Tourists with cameras gathered at the end of the lane focusing on a small blue-domed church at the cliff-edge.
Santorini! BY AGATA FILIANA | PHOTOGRAPHS BY NIGEL WOOD
Santorini lies in the Aegean Sea, 124 miles southeast of the Greek mainland. With windmills, churches, cave houses, and sea-view sunsets – the island is a honeymoon favorite.
The dome and white walls of the church reflected the colors of the Greek flag and the sea and sky beyond. I saw castle ruins. Saint Nikolas Castle was built by the Venetians in the Middle Ages and had survived until the 1956 earthquake which devastated much of the village. Oia was once a maritime village, home to prosperous sailors. But they had a problem with pirates. To protect themselves, the sailors built their houses – hyposkafa - high into the volcanic cliff face. From afar, the cave houses could not be seen. The Naval Maritime Museum in Oia contains a small trove of maritime exhibits and photographs. Over in Nikolaou Nomikou square, I stopped at Panagia Akathistos Church – the main church on the island. Santorini is predominantly Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic. Panagia Akathistos was founded in 1820 and rebuilt after the earthquake. Along with its trademark blue dome and white walls, six bells hang in a three-tiered belfry. There are over 250 churches on Santorini, and about 70 in Oia itself – some just meters from each other. These churches are linked to the island’s maritime past: sailors and their families would build private churches dedicated to a particular saint - a place to pray for safe passage at sea.
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Most of the churches are small and still private, owned by the descendants of the former mariners. I liked these small churches and the sense of intimacy they created between the family and God. As the sunset hour approached, the village became more crowded. Oia has longer light hours than Fira (Santorini’s main town) and its elevation makes it ideal for sunset-watching. People hunted for the best vantage point. I walked to the northern end of the village, through the narrow, winding, stepped streets passed the white, Cycladic cube-shaped houses. I found an empty spot of wild grass just behind a 200-year-old windmill (now part of the Golden Sunset Villa property). Greek flags blew softly in the breeze. Even the locals boast about the sunsets. Into the sea the sun slowly set, glowing with a bright halo of orange. The sky burned crimson and purple, turning at last to the navy blue of night. The show was over.
Qatar Airways and Emirates fly from Jakarta to Athens. From Athens, Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air fly to Thira on Santorini.
Did You Know?
In Greek Santorini is called Thira.
Lovers love Santorini
Santorini is hugely popular with couples and many resorts offer honeymoon suites and packages.
Figs – this fruit is abundant in Greece and has a sweet honey-like flavor Greek coffee frappe – strong iced coffee Greek Salad - tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and feta cheese
My Top 10 Greek Foods Baklava - a sweet, crunchy pastry made with nuts and honey Fasolada – tomato and white bean soup, a national favorite Feta – sharp goat or sheep’s milk cheese with a crumbly texture
Gyros - meat from a spit wrapped in pita filled with tomatoes, onions, fries, and tzatziki Moussaka – an eggplant and meat casserole with béchamel sauce Ouzo - anise-flavored Greek liqueur Souvlaki – grilled and skewered meat or vegetables Tzatziki – cucumber and yoghurt sauce
The cave houses were hollowed into the cliff walls, with doorways and ventilation only at the front. Many accommodation options in Oia offer cave rooms.
o d o m o K o T BY MICHAEL PAUL
a pair of tter wreck again, be er ev ill w or , , once ever wrecked oes that I wrecked sh r he I donâ€™t think I have at le h is gl En ep in sea of top-class rate ship, ankle-de pi a shoes like the pair of ck de e th , during standing on the Straits of Flores on t upon a time, while ou il ba o ew cr helping the distance of Komod ar -f lly fu in pa water, desperately d an r within painfully-nea a turbulent squall, Island, Indonesia.
40 Venture | Apr/May 2014
41 Richard Susanto/ Apr/May 2014SHUTTERSTOCK | Venture
WE WERE EVEN in sight of our destination: Komodo. There is a horribly high rock of an island that rises like Hell on the starboard side through the straits to Komodo. But nobody was looking at anything except the buckets in our hands and, being entirely human and not wanting to die cheaply, glancing up at each other at every shift of sea water back into the goddamn full-already ocean, and checking that each other and even the captain wasn’t acting slack. Well, of course we survived. I would not be here to write about it had we not.
When I was a child, maybe eight years old, my parents were fairly poor but I won a place in a fancy private school. I even had to be measured up for my uniform at an old-style Gentlemen’s Outfitters. That’s not important. But for my Geography Lessons my parents had to buy me an atlas, and all the time my
Venture | Apr/May 2014
classmates were mugging up for their exams on where the capital of Australia was, or which was longer, the Nile or the Amazon, I was looking at my future. On the first two pages there was an introductory map of the world. During an art class I stole a red crayon and drew a circle around a small, nearly too small to be in an atlas, island. It was positioned between Sumbawa and Flores in what was then still often referred to as the Dutch East Indies. And I said to myself, “When I’m old enough to quit school, I’m never going to be a lawyer or a doctor. I’m going to be a pirate and I’m going to take a pirate ship to this island filled with dragons on the far side of the world.” And, farfetched as it might seem, I did. With all respect to Sinbad the Sailor (my childhood hero) we must start our journey on an airplane. I flew from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, to Denpasar (on Bali) and then hired a taxi to Sanur. From there I took the overnight ferry to Sumbawa, arriving in the predawn - the hazy, lousy, still wet-hot, pre-dawn of Indonesia when you’re halfasleep and a little bit lonely and a little bit scared. I bought a bottle of warm
nearly tea-tasting Bintang beer from a waterfront shop and asked directions for how to get to the other side of the island, towards the Eastern sea. It was either the pink bus or the yellow bus. The first one that arrived was the yellow bus. I sat between two fat elderly ladies coo-cooing to the chickens they had in a whicker basket in the aisle of the bus. It was a rocky, bumpy journey across Sumbawa. More or less, despite the chickens, I slept. From downtown Bima to the waterfront was a journey of about a mile or so, and the only practical way to accomplish it was by horse and cart. When I say horse I might be more accurate by saying donkey. All the drivers were very good-looking Indonesian boys with white teeth smiles and about twelve years old. One dropped me off at the end of a long dusty street, next to a chandler’s that doubled as a bar. I dropped my hand-stitched leather traveling bag on the nearest table, ordered a beer, and asked to see the owner. It turned out the bartender was the owner. I told him I was here to find a pirate vessel to take me to Komodo. He nodded and disappeared for about two hours.
I’m a pirate and e b to g in o this “I’m g irate ship to p a e k ta to going s on the far n o g ra d h it w island filled orld.” side of the w
43 Apr/May 2014 | Venture Rafal Cichawa/ SHUTTERSTOCK
The pirate when he appeared was definitely a pirate. He wore one of those loose-fitting Muslim kurta shirts with a leather belt and a machete that, if it hadn’t been in a scabbard, would have struck sparks off the bar-room floor. He gave an angry glance at me and asked the bar-owner who the hell was I, asking around for him like that? I said I wanted to ship out as a deck-hand to Komodo, and whatever happened on the voyage, he could count on my loyalty. He took the machete out of its scabbard and put it on the table. I took my Swiss Army knife out of my pocket, opened the big blade, and placed it very neatly next to his machete. He looked at the table, nonplussed. Then he threw back his head and laughed. My bahasa Indonesia wasn’t quite good enough to exactly know what he said over his shoulder to the bar-owner, but I think it was approximately this: “I don’t care who this mad foreign f*cker is, but I’ll sail with him!” He went out to collect his crew. He had to drag them out of shanty-bars and whorehouses. We sailed at noon. If you sail east out of Sumbawa,
even if you are warily stationed in the prow of a pirate boat with a kretek cigarette between your sun-blistered salt-stained lips, and 20 feet of Malay timber between you and the wheelhouse where the guns and the machetes are stored, you cannot fail to appreciate the blue and yellow and silver flying fish that accompany your boat for the first 30 minutes in shallow water. Dolphins too. It was after surviving the squall in the Straits of Flores that the captain divided the distance between us and offered me a swig out of his bottle of arak. We were both so soaking wet it was impossible for me to return the compliment and offer him a cigarette. In fact, we laughed in each other’s faces, because I don’t think either of us had ever been ever wetter. We were transparent wet. His laugh was the big laugh pirates laugh when they’re really saying, “Tomorrow I may kill you; but today let’s get drunk together!” and we sailed through a lagoon of perfect silver-blue water, and cancelled the engine about ten feet off the jetty of Komodo Island. The first mate
swirled the anchor, caught the edge of the jetty, and broke off a timber, losing the anchor at the same time. The captain looked down from the prow of the boat at two fathoms or so of clear water, saw the anchor buried like a fish hook in a fish’s mouth in the soft sand beneath us, and raised his eyes at me and said the Indonesian equivalent of, “Oh, Allah, why do I employ these idiots?” We were brothers at that moment, and it is almost unnecessary to say that, 50 yards to my left, a ten-foot-long Komodo Dragon was poking its evil yellow tongue out at us and advancing towards our crippled boat across the narrow stretch of narrow yellow shore.
For more by Michael try American Voodoo, a collection of experimental verse written in England, America, India, and China over the last 25 years.
44 Venture | Apr/May 2014 Rob Hainer/ SHUTTERSTOCK
How to Get Here
Cakes & Books Tiong Bahru – a hidden treasure in Singapore BY AGATA FILIANA | PHOTOGRAPHS BY AGATA FILIANA
ONCE A CEMETERY, Tiong Bahru in Singapore is now a hip neighborhood with independent bookshops, patisseries, hang-out bars, a heritage trail, and a buzzing hawker market. The aromas of coffee and fresh pastries scent the air - probably coming from the Tiong Bahru Bakery (56 Eng Hoon St). I follow my nose. The bakery is always buzzing, but there’s a table for me to have a salted caramel roll for breakfast. The words tiong bahru mean new cemetery, but there’s nothing dead about this neighborhood now. The area around Tiong Bahru Market (30 Seng Poh Road) is always busy. There is a hawker market on the second floor, with over 20 stalls selling different foods; things like chicken rice, kway teow noodles, chicken porridge, even Thai food – undeniably
good. Before the market gave them a permanent base, the hawkers used to sell their food on the streets – always on the lookout for the authorities, who would shoo them away. Last year Singapore’s National Heritage Board launched a heritage trail through Tiong Bahru, taking in the 1930s Art Deco buildings, the former Chinese cemetery, bird shops, a Monkey God temple, the Seng Poh gardens, a prewar air raid shelter, and more. The full heritage trail guide can be downloaded from www.nhb.gov.sg/NHBPortal/Trails. Finishing my caramel roll, I head to Yok Siak Street. Books Actually (9 Yong Siak St) is a small, quirky bookstore packed with vintage and interesting titles – things I haven’t seen in the more mainstream bookshops. A few doors up is Woods in the Books (3 Yong Siak St),
Hop on the MRT: Tiong Bahru is on the East-West line. The MRT stop brings you into the basement of Tiong Bahru Plaza, a small shopping mall. To start exploring Tiong Bahru, quickly get away from the busy Tiong Bahru Road by exiting the mall and turning up Kim Pong Road. a shop specializing in comics, graphic novels, and picture books. As a quick diversion, I can't resist popping into Strangelets (7 Yong Siak St), a chic designer crafts shop selling all sorts of things from temporary tattoos and coffee-and-mint scented soaps to jewelry, leather bags, mugs, and polar bear bookshelves. It seems I still hunger for salted caramel and cannot pass up Plain Vanilla (1D Yong Siak St). Plain Vanilla is a must for cupcake lovers. The covered walkway at the front of the patisserie has been decorated with a wooden swing and a neat line of turquoise bicycles. They sell a variety of cakes but their cupcakes are the winners – each one with a divine filling. I recommend the hazelnut and salted caramel cupcakes, and ordering just one I sit down and open my book.
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Trains with Character BY RICHMOND BLANDO
all the em as ges t s y s ua ain e lang the tr cy of spoke thre n e i c effi ps y the ice re ised b tomer serv r p r u s tly. e cus antly pleas WIFI and th lish - fluen g I was n d and E ns ha statio in, Korean r a Mand
48 Venture | Apr/May 2014
Ryuhyo Norokko Train No.4. The train had wide, comfortable velvet seats and lots of legroom, but seated right behind the driver – I had the best seat of all with a 180° view through the front window. Traveling through a pitch black tunnel, pursuing the light at the end, and then emerging into a surreal powder snow scene reminded me of movies of interdimensional travel or the Millennium Falcon emerging from hyper-drive. My longest journeys were between Sapporo and Kushiro (4 hours) on the Express Super Ozora No.5 train, and between Abashiri and Kamikawa (3 hours) on the Okhotsk-no-kaze train. Both boasted comfort and speed – 170 km/hr and 110 km/hr respectively. The fifth and final train was the fun and quirky, 90-minute Asahiyama Zoo Train between Asahiyama and Sapporo. It catered to families with its colorful design and coaches dedicated
to keeping children entertained. There was a special seat in every carriage in the shape of an animal and an activity carriage with a mascot reading stories in Japanese. I wished I could understand! The interconnected public transportation systems make travel easy in Hokkaido; in fact, they make taking the train fun.
DURING WINTER in Hokkaido, northern Japan, train travel is more reliable than car rental and avoids hazards like slippery snowed-in roads and engine trouble due to the cold. I rode five trains during my seven-day visit, and each had its own distinct character. The steam train from Kushiro to Shibecha left me smelling like a smoked salmon. It was a fun, 90-minute journey on the SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen train. The train traversed through the peaceful winter landscape of the Kushiro wetlands, and from the caboose I had a panoramic view – even spotting foxes and deer. Meanwhile, at the potbelly stove, passengers barbecued dried squid. The SL Fuyu-no- Shitsugen train was a novel experience – taking me back to the era of the steam railway. A second novel steam train experience was the one hour ride between Shiretoko and Abashiri on the
TRAIN TICKET TIPS If you are in Hokkaido for ten days and plan to spend a few days at a number of destinations, then getting a 4-day flexible pass (19,500¥ to 27,000¥) is a good idea. It can be used four times within a ten-day period. If you plan instead to do a one-city-a-day journey, then the three-, five-, or seven-day passes (from 15,000¥ to 30,000¥) would be more suitable. For more information, see www.japanrailpass.net
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Hokkaido: Fire and Ice BY RICHMOND BLANDO
Kei Shooting/ Shutterstock
Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japanâ€™s main islands. Here, despite the heavy snow, I took my clothes off in a dark room full of naked men, jumped through the ice into the cold bite of the Sea of Okhotsk, and enjoyed the aroma of grilled squid onboard a restored steam train.
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I WILL FOREVER remember The Grand Hotel in Shiretoko as the place in which I first got butt-naked in front of other men and jumped in a pool of 40°C water. My onsen experience. An onsen is a public bath, and part of Japanese culture. This particular onsen was on the top floor of the hotel and overlooked a vast sea of drift ice – something I would also be jumping into later in my trip. It was awkward at first. I followed a man and opened a locker to stow my belongings. I disrobed until all I had about my person was a small towel and my locker key. I felt like Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean as I watched and imitated the movements of the person next to me, hardly believing what I was doing. With the small towel covering what it could, I walked into the pool area. It was darkly lit. In one area was a shower and stool and I assumed this was where I sat and rinsed off before entering the pool. I had never seen a bunch of naked men walking and talking together, though most of them were quietly soaking in the hot water. I followed suit and immediately felt my mind and body relax as if sedated. No wonder the Japanese are crazy for the onsen. The next morning it was -7°C: pleasant according to Hokkaido standards. I wrapped up in several layers of clothes, preparing to go for a walk - a two-hour drift ice walk on the northwest coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula in East Hokkaido.
52 Venture | Apr/May 2014 Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
The Shiretoko Peninsula is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site and the area is gaining in popularity with winter tourists wanting to see the spectacular formation of seasonal sea ice. It was snowing on the drive to the coast and the wind made it feel even colder. The coast when we arrived was a landscape of snow, and I had to remind myself that what I was looking at was frozen ocean. Seawater freezes at -2°C. Near the shoreline, the guide from the Shiretoko Naturalist's Association handed us drysuits which were large enough to pull over our clothes. A drysuit is a very thick, rubber version of a wetsuit with booties, rather like galoshes, melded to the ends. After suiting up, we walked onto the Sea of Okhotsk. The drysuit lived up to its name, but the cold pierced through the soles of my boots as I walked through 70 centimeters of powder snow. I lifted my knees high with every step, cutting through the powder and hoping there were no surprises below. The Sea of Okhotsk stretches around 2,000 kilometers north and south between the East Asian mainland and the North Pacific Ocean. East Hokkaido is the lowest latitude place in the northern hemisphere where drift ice can be seen. We walked like penguins further into the icy wasteland. It was a silent and deathly calm. Peeking through the clouds, the sun reflected off the snow. Above us, migrating snow eagles circled
like vultures. At this point I started to lose feeling in my fingers and toes. I shuddered at the thought of walking even further. Our guide, Nao Iwayama, was looking for a break in the ice. Finding none, he began jumping up and down until the ice cracked a little. And then a little more. And then finally in one hard leap, he broke through the ice and stood in chestdeep seawater. Iwayama stood there in a hole of about 70 centimeters in diameter and then climbed up as if getting out of a swimming pool. He motioned for me to get into the water and, crazy as it seemed at that time, I did. I crawled to the hole and sat on the ice with my feet testing the seawater. When I convinced myself that the drysuit would protect me, I slid into the water. I heard the group above me gasp Oooh and Ahhh. I expected the freezing water to bite. Five seconds passed, then ten. Nothing. At 20 seconds I felt a slight coldness, but not enough to leave the water. The drysuit protected me from freezing or going into hypothermia. I took a piece of broken ice and licked it. It tasted salty. I was in awe of the experience I was having and stayed for about a minute and a half before pulling myself out. The rest of the group were eager to jump in. The drift ice experience will forever give me bragging rights. It was, as the Japanese say: SUBARASHI! (Awesome!)
The Chitose Airport in Sapporo was a destination in itself. Shops highlighted Hokkaido’s local products and culture and sold gift-wrapped sweet and savory snacks. Restaurants served great seafood and ramen, and there were attractions like the Doraemon-themed play land and the amazing indoor Royce’ Chocolate factory.
Some people do not like to travel because they are unafraid of the unexpected. Me? I don’t really like comfort zones.
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Sapporo This year Sapporo, the main city in southern Hokkaido, will host the first ever Sapporo International Art Festival from July 19 to September 28 in the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art. The festival aims to bring local cultural and artistic creativity to an international audience. Too early for the festival, I booked a night instead at the Art Hotel in Chuo-ku (www.art-sapporo.com), one of the few hotels in Sapporo which serves Halal food. Art Hotel Sales Manager Ms. Jan said, “We received an increased number of Muslim visitors in 2013 and we want to make sure their needs are met during their visit to Hokkaido.” From Sapporo I traveled to Kushiro on the SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen - a restored C11 steam engine train. It was a
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
90-minute ride, and took me through the frozen, snow-covered Kushiro Wetland. The trees in the foreground were leafless. It was an eerie, calm landscape. I rode the Senmou Line, which is only available between January and March. Steam trains are way before my time, so I appreciated the novelty of the nostalgic spirit onboard. Passengers inside were warmed by the sun and the retro potbelly stove – on which people occasionally grilled dried squid for fun. This train ride easily fell into the Top 3 Highlights of my Hokkaido trip. Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
stock_shot / Shutterstock
AndreAnita / Shutterstock
Watch Out for Wildlife Shiretoko is a popular destination for birdwatchers. Birders should keep an eagle eye out for Steller’s sea eagles, Whitetailed eagles, Red-crowned cranes, Blackiston’s fish owl, and the striking markings of the Baikal teal. The waters of Okhotsk Sea are phytoplankton-rich and a
seasonal home for Killer whales, seals and sea lions, porpoises, and Fin whales. Despite the snow and cold, Shiretoko has one of the world’s largest brown bear populations, as well as red foxes and sika deer.
55 Apr/May 2014 | Venture stock_shot / Shutterstock
Erni / Shutterstock
A Seaplane To The Whitsundays BY NOÉMIE SANCELME & BAO LAN NGUYEN
Above and below Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
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Tanya Puntti/ Shutterstock
IT ALL STARTED one sunny May day in the little airport at Airlie Beach, a town in the Whitsunday Region of Queensland, Australia. The boarding lounge was airy. The sky was blue. People were smiling. The Air Whitsunday pilot introduced himself and went through our itinerary: a three-hour trip comprising a low flight over the Whitsunday Islands, a sea landing, and a swim in Hardy Lagoon – the most photographed reef within the Great Barrier Reef. My eyes and camera lens were wide-open. The Whitsunday Islands lie between Bowen (south of Townsville) and Mackay off Australia’s eastern Gold Coast. They are the traditional home of the maritime Ngaro Aborigines who are believed to have lived in this area for 9,000 years. The islands derive their current name from Whitsunday’s Passage, the passage English explorer James Cook sailed through on the Endeavour on Whit Sunday in 1770. The windows of the Cessna Caravan were impeccably clean. The pilot twisted some dials on the instrument panel, pulled down a microphone from an overhead bracket, welcomed us on board, and gave the security brief. We buckled our seatbelts. The cabin grew quiet as we cleared the
ef rt Re Hea ures s mea ers in et 17 m eter. diam
coast and headed towards the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world. Inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1981, the Great Barrier Reef includes around 3,000 coral reefs and 900 islands and coral cays. It’s home to estuarine crocodiles, marine turtles, and birds as well as dugongs, sharks, sea snakes, dolphins, and whales. Flying at low altitude over the Coral Sea, we could easily see the micawhite beaches of the islands below; the coconut palms, lagoons, and lush forests. Beneath the turquoise surface of the sea, the vein-shaped reef formations were clearly visible. The reefs seemed endless, spreading all the way to the horizon. One of the most recognized photographs of the Great Barrier Reef is French photographer and journalist Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s aerial shot of Heart Reef, published in his book The Earth from Above in 1999. My heart pounded. Suddenly, there it was - one of nature’s masterpieces – the spectacular heartshaped coral bommie. I was speechless and almost cried. I had realized a dream. Discovered in 1975, Heart Reef is fiercely protected: snorkeling and diving is not allowed. The only way to see it is from the air. The pilot circled around and around giving us time to appreciate its unique beauty. The seaplane landed smoothly in Hardy Lagoon, a few minutes flight from Heart Reef. Outside, the water slapped the wings of the plane. We were alone,
with nothing but the horizon and the sun reflecting off the Coral Sea around us. It was time to swim. We boarded a semi-submersible vessel with large underwater windows. The captain briefed us while we put on our snorkeling gear and then we jumped into the lungs of the planet. It was quiet except for the slightly perceptible sounds of the marine life. There were hard and soft corals, clams, and sea fans and suddenly - the wall reef. In my own little bubble, free from worries, I drifted silently through the water like a real fish. A baby orange-andwhite-striped clownfish played hideand-seek between the swaying tentacles of a purple sea anemone. Angel fish and yellow-and-black-striped butterfly fish swam past. Schools of long-nosed fish gracefully darted away as I approached. Other colorful fish peeked out from green, orange, and pink table corals as well as from pillar corals - which resemble fingers and stretch up from the seabed. Further on, were branching corals, sponges, and marine worms. In all, the Great Barrier Reef is home to 1,625 species of fish and 600 types of hard and soft corals. It was easy to lose track of time. An hour later, we boarded the plane for the 30-minute return flight to Airlie Beach. This time I sat next to the pilot, but that impressive dashboard could not distract me from the magnificent final views of the 1,429-mile-long Great Barrier Reef.
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Tanya Puntti/ SHUTTERSTOCK
Be a Travel writer!
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Love writing? Love exploring? Love looking to see what’s around the corner? Then write for us! We have new opportunities for freelance writers and photographers. We’re interested in your experience of an activity or place: the unfolding narrative of your on-the-ground experience, with history and interesting facts woven into the text. We particularly enjoy dialogue in articles – as a way of showing the interests of local people. Writing should be crisp, rich, and frank. Locations and activities should be vividly described. Venture is interested in all countries, though articles on Asia and Australasia are especially welcome. First-time writers are very welcome; we will help you develop your writing skills.
How to Pitch
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Planning your own dream trip? www.airwhitsunday.com.au/heart-reef-great-barrier-reef
Send a one-paragraph description of your article idea, including all highlights, to our managing editor at melanie@ venturetravelmag.com. Include a one-paragraph sample of your writing – the opening paragraph to your proposed article would be good. If you have photographs, attach five low-resolution sample shots to your email. Easy! We look forward to reading your adventures!
59 Apr/May 2014 | Venture
Photographing Siem Reap BY DOMINIC STAFFORD | PHOTOGRAPHS BY DOMINIC STAFFORD
British photographer Dominic Stafford presents four simple techniques to help improve your travel photography: composing an overview, capturing reflections, highlighting details, and framing.
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GETTING STARTED The sun in Cambodia shines bright and hard. During the day the light creates extreme contrast and it’s impossible to balance the overexposure against the strong shadows. For the best photography conditions (soft, low sunlight), shoot prior to 8am or after 4pm, or try the blue-tinged light during dawn and dusk. A second challenge is the language barrier, but learning a few local phrases may open the doors to better shots. Try “Som taught mwois,” meaning “Please can I take a photo?” and “Som taught nayuk,” to request a photo of a person.
Storm over the rice fields Canon EOS 60D Lens S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 1/160sec at f/8, ISO 200
THE TOWN OF SIEM REAP is a ten minute drive south of the famous twelfthcentury Angkor temples in northwest Cambodia. Surrounded by fertile flood plains, shady villages, and romantic pagodas, it’s no wonder that Siem Reap attracts so many photographers.
COMPOSING AN OVERVIEW To introduce a location to a viewer, capture a general overview. This will provide a sense of context for other more detailed shots in your collection. I open my lens as wide as possible and am not afraid to include other objects in the foreground. When photographing buildings, the angle at which the camera is held makes a difference. A camera tilted upwards to capture the height of a temple, for example, may produce an image in which the temple looks like it’s leaning backwards. This is known as converging verticals. Experiment by holding the camera down on the ground and then above your head. To minimise the distortion, hold the camera level; this may mean including a lot of foreground – but that’s all part of the overview.
Light at dawn Canon EOS 60D Lens 50mm f/1.8 1/5000sec at f/2.2, ISO 400
Water lilies at Wat Krabi Riel Canon EOS 60D Lens 18-55 f/3.5 at 30mm 1/160sec at f/4.5, ISO 200
CAPTURING REFLECTIONS Reflections make striking images. Most pagodas have some form of moat or pond which is ideal for a rippling mirror image. If not, look for a wet surface, such as a puddle. I often use Google Earth to plan shots involving water bodies. This is how I found Wat Krabi Riel and its Venture | Apr/May 2014
beautiful moat. To familiarize myself with the location, I walked around the moat several times. I settled on a shady corner and intentionally omitted the opposite bank in order to create a teasing image of the upside-down temple. The lilies provided foreground interest. Using a circular polarizing filter will
enhance contrast and saturation, and enable you to determine the strength of the reflection. To even further enhance the reflection, try placing your lens as close to the water surface as possible – this may require getting down on all fours!
Details; an alms bowl at Wat Aran Canon EOS 60D Lens 50mm f/1.8 1/640sec at f/3.5, ISO 200
HIGHLIGHTING DETAILS The real beauty of a pagoda becomes apparent once inside. Weird and wonderful objects are stored for annual ceremonies: monkâ€™s robes hang over balconies, and Buddhism itself provides a wide range of sculptured depictions. At Wat Aran pagoda, south of Siem Reap, I focused tight on an alms bowl. Take a few steps back and zoom in on your subject to achieve background bokeh (blur). Focusing on a detail can reveal beauty in an item otherwise ignored. I used a shallow depth of field on this occasion, distorting the monk to draw the viewerâ€™s eyes to the bowl.
FRAMING A SUBJECT Framing helps draw attention to a subject. Walk around and experiment with different angles and potential frames to border your subject. Frames might be trees, a window, other people, or even a pair of hands. Sometimes, a wellframed moment is just waiting to be seized like this novice monk at Wat Chau Srey Vibol.
A novice monk at Wat Chau Srey Vibol Canon EOS 60D Lens 50mm f/1.8 1/1600sec at f/2.8, ISO 125
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Puerto Rico PHOTOGRAPH BY Gary Ives/ SHUTTERSTOCK
BY LYDIA TOMKIW
Timothy Michael Morgan/ SHUTTERSTOCK
THE FERRY was sailing away and I wasn’t on it. “Another one will come,” a woman told me, translating the rapid Spanish conversation between the crowd on the dock and the man letting people aboard. It was warm and I was in no rush to return to the Puerto Rican mainland from the island of Vieques. I retreated to the waiting room where I was beckoned over by a family. They offered me a slice of pizza and told me to eat because it could be hours before the next ferry arrived. It wasn’t the crème caramel or mallorcas I had been devouring the last few days in Old San Juan, a district within the Puerto
Shaped like a snail shell, this fluffy bread is covered in powered sugar and used to make ham and cheese sandwiches
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Rican capital, but it was a warm gesture. “Is this your first trip to Puerto Rico? What have you seen?” the man holding the pizza box asked. I began listing names: El Yunque National Forest where I had hiked to a waterfall and swam; Laguna Grande, the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo where I kayaked and watched Pyrodinium bahamense light up the water in the dark, Condado Beach where I ate the best coconut ice cream I’ve ever had and the sea was Caribbean-calendar-blue, and the streets and forts of Old San Juan where I wandered narrow cobblestone
roads surrounded by colorful buildings. And of course, the day on Vieques – a quiet retreat island eight miles east of Puerto Rico, where roosters wandered the beach at Sun Bay and wild horses grazed. To me, as an American, Puerto Rico felt both familiar and foreign. The highway signs looked just like the ones in New York and the same fast food chains dotted the roadsides. Yet, the rhythm was slower and waiters spoke to me in Spanish first. As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico straddles a strange line. “Do Puerto Ricans want statehood?” I asked the family as we ate. They laughed gently and sighed, and explained the three-way division in Puerto Rico: those pushing for independence, others for statehood, and yet another group for maintenance of the status quo. The ferry arrived three hours later. As we boarded, the family asked, “Will you come back here?” I smiled, “I will.” But I’ll take mallorcas over pizza any day in Puerto Rico.
“Is this your first trip to Puerto Rico? What have you seen?” the man holding the pizza box asked.
Wild horses on Vieques
Try the mallorcas at:
Sasha Fenix/ SHUTTERSTOCK
• Cafeteria Mallorca, 300 Calle San Francisco • Caficultura, 401 Calle San Francisco Old San Juan
Lauren Orr/ SHUTTERSTOCK
Apr/May 2014 | Venture
On the Swan Valley Wine Trail This year Western Australiaâ€™s Swan Valley celebrates 180 years of winemaking.
BY M. JAN
Travel Notes Ambrook Wines 2810 West Swan Rd www.ambrookwines.com.au Lancaster Wines 5228 West Swan Rd www.lancasterwines.com.au Sandalford Wines 3210 West Swan Rd www.sandalford.com Ugly Duckling Wines 7790 West Swan Rd www.uglyducklingwines.com Valley &Vines Festival 2014 www.valleyandvines.com.au
LEFT Lancaster Wines is one of the most popular wineries in the valley ABOVE Vineyard gardens make picturesque wedding venues
THE SWAN VALLEY is a 25-minute drive east of Perth. It is Western Australia’s oldest and most visited wine region. The valley is laced with 40 vineyards and most offer free wine tastings. With my godmother at the wheel and my godfather for companionship, I visited four popular wineries along the West Swan Road. AMBROOK WINERY West Swan Road runs north from the town of Guildford. Located just south of the Reid Highway was my first stop: Ambrook Winery - known for its Grenache and Muscat grapes and run by Mickele Amonini and Karen Turner. Mickele warmly welcomed us into the winery. Wine bottles lined the walls. The entire tasting room, even the floor, was made of wood. Despite his Italian roots, Mickele had a deep Australian accent. Standing at a teak bar, he poured us a glass of smooth-tasting Merlot from 2003. This was followed by a fruity Semillon from 2005, and the sweet Dolcetto & Syrah 2012. It was early in the tour and I didn't buy a bottle. It made me wonder whether winemakers feel frustrated by wine
tourists who taste but don’t buy. Do they think their time is wasted? SANDALFORD WINES Two hundred meters up the road from Ambrook is Sandalford Wines - one of Australia’s oldest and largest familyowned winemakers. The first vines were planted in 1840 by Western Australia’s first Surveyor General John Septimus Roe when he was granted 2,000 acres of land along the Swan River by Queen Victoria. Today the winery is owned by Peter and Debra Prendiville, and has a production capacity of around a million liters. The Sandalford Wines shop was attached to a café overlooking the vineyards – in full bloom during my visit. Surrounded by wine-related merchandise (wine cooler bags, cutlery, and silver-plated wine glasses) we tasted two wines: the five-year-old Sandalford Element Cabernet Merlot (too dry for me) and the 2010 Sandalford Sweet Red; the latter wonderfully rich with the aromas of cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. As well as wine tasting and winery tours, Sandalford Wines is a wedding and concert venue.
Apr/May 2014 | Venture
Also Recommended • Cape Lavender (opposite Lancaster Wines) sells a variety of homemade jams - all with lavender essence. The rose-lavender jam was delicious. • Oggies Ice-Creamery (www.oggiesicecreamcafe. com) offers 60 flavors of homemade ice cream. I tried the mouthwatering vanilla cream cheese and fig waffle cone.
LANCASTER WINES Just north of the Reid Highway is Lancaster Wines, run by Carl and Jackie Lancaster – one of the most popular wineries in the valley. My godfather and I entered the tasting shed. It was packed – about 50 people stood chitter-chattering under a ceiling from which wine glasses hung stylishly upside down. Wine barrels made design pieces. We sampled the sweet 2012 Grenache Rosé. The vineyard was established in the early 1900s, and Lancaster Wines has been in production since 2002. They are particular about the way their wines are sold. “We only sell from the cellar door and we don't enter shows,” said Carl. “The customer gets to taste our wines and an award won't help them change their minds if they don't like the taste.” Lancaster Wines also offers local gourmet cheese tastings.
flavor, the Late Harvest Chardonnay 2012 was one of the smoothest wines I have ever tasted and I bought a bottle for AUD$25. This April 5th Ugly Duckling Wines is one of four venues participating in the Valley & Vines Festival 2014. This is the second year of the festival, which celebrates local wine, beer, and cider, and aims to boost tourism in this picturesque region. The best part of visiting Swan Valley? I got to take home a free wine glass from each winery as a souvenir!
Two-Minute Guide to Wine-Tasting Wine tasting is all about colors, aromas, and flavors.
UGLY DUCKLING WINES Further north in Middle Swan was Ugly Duckling Wines, the last winery on my tour. Owned by Joanne and Andrew Huxtable, this vineyard also has a reputation for dishing up delicious steak, lamb, and chicken pies made with their wines. We sure were famished. Our three glasses of wine - a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a RosĂŠ - were served with a selection of soft garlic bread, sesame bread, cheese twirls, and beetroot, avocado, and French onion dips. With a mellow tangerine
To catch the colors, peer down into your glass to see the depth of color, then hold the glass up to the light to see the clarity of the liquid.
For the aromas, swirl the wine and take a few sharp sniffs. Be on the lookout for fruit aromas, floral or grassy scents, the deeper aromas of herbs or earth, and scents from the wine barrels themselves â€“ perhaps vanilla, chocolate, or nuts.
For the immediate taste, aerate the wine by slurping it over your tongue. Again look for fruit, flowers, and herbs, and flavors from the barrel. Note any sweetness, sourness, or bitterness, and how long the flavors linger on your tongue. Then relax and savor.
Apr/May 2014 | Venture
Thousand Islands LESS THAN an hour from the coast of Jakarta, Indonesia are the Thousand Islands. There are islands for birdwatchers, historians, divers, kayakers, lighthouse-keepers, families, lovers, and sun-seekers. Many of the roughly 120 islands in the Thousand Islands group are uninhabited and part of a national marine reserve. Others are privately owned. But some can be visited. Here are the highlights.
PULAU RAMBUT Two kilometers from Jakarta is the 90-hectare Rambut Island, a nature reserve for seabirds. Standing 20-metershigh is an observation tower giving panoramic views over the thick wetland forest canopy. The island is home to 40,000 birds, including egrets, herons, storks, orioles, and cormorants. There is reputed to be a lynx as well prowling the forest floor at night, and there are plenty of lizards and hermit crabs to spot along the forest trails. PULAU ONRUST Onrust is an island for historians. Back in 1615 the Dutch set up a pier and shipping station – which was good news for explorer James Cook when he brought the Endeavour here in 1770 for repairs.
The island was severally affected by the 1883 Krakatau eruption, and languished until the 1900s when it became a sanatorium for infectious diseases and a jail. Today there is a museum built in a former doctor’s quarters. PULAU PUTRI It takes 90 minutes by speedboat to reach Putri Island. The greater distance from the mainland means the seawater is clear and good for snorkelling and diving. The island has an underwater aquarium and glass-bottom boats. The nearby wreck of Papa Teo, which sank in 1982, makes for an interesting dive – with parrotfish, batfish, grouper, and reef shark in the vicinity. Also nearby is Matahari reef, with hard and soft corals, turtles, and lionfish.
NOTABLES Macan Island (pictured top and bottom left): driftwood-style sleeping huts give a romantic vibe; the best food and accommodation in the island group Damar Island, climb the 252 stairs to the top of the 60-meter-high Dutch lighthouse, built in 1879 Alam Kotok Island, memorable for the large monitor lizards lingering near the restaurant; the island also has a raptor rehabilitation center
70 Venture | Apr/May 2014
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76 Venture | Apr/May 2014
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77 Apr/May 2014 | Venture
Brandon Bourdages/ SHUTTERSTOCK
Belize â€“ Rising Starlet BY ANISHA SHAH
Traveling by private helicopter is a seriously sexy mode of transport, writes Anisha Shah, flying over the rainforests and atolls of Belize on her way to La Isla Bonita Ambergris Caye and two luxury resorts owned by Hollywood movie director Francis Ford Coppola.
Ethan Daniels/ SHUTTERSTOCK
BELIZE EXUDES a laidback Caribbean cool amongst its ethnically diverse population of Mayans, Mestizos, Mexicans, Afro-Indians, and expatriates. Covering 8,867 square miles, Belize is a tiny country wedged between Mexico and Guatemala in Central America. Its creamy beaches overlook the Caribbean Sea and it is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. Inland, dense
rainforests conceal the Mayan ruins of Caracol and Lamanai, and shelter endangered species – the most famous being the elusive jaguar. The country maintains a reputation as a wildlife sanctuary and the Belizean government has been praised for its early tourism policy which designated large swathes of land as protected and untouchable by hoteliers.
Belize is the sole Englishspeaking country in Central America. Understanding a word of Belizean Kriol, however, is another story. But, “Ih noh mata,” (It doesn’t matter) because “Ah mi gat wahn gud gud taim,” (I had a wonderful time.)
My Nguyen/ SHUTTERSTOCK
Wollertz/ SHUTTERSTOCK Wollertz/ SHUTTERSTOCK milosk50/ SHUTTERSTOCK
ENCHANTED RAINFOREST Francis Ford Coppola is the godfather of luxury hoteliers in Belize. He owns two resorts in the country - Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn, the former once the family retreat. The Blancaneaux Lodge hideaway was tucked in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve in the rainforests of the Maya Mountains in southern central Belize. In 1993, Coppola opened his 70-acre home to the public, offering serious R&R in 20 luxurious casitas set amid elegant Honduras pine trees. The Lodge consistently tops travel polls; most recently TripAdvisor’s 2014 Luxury Travelers’ Choice Award. From the balcony of my room I watched the rainwater glide off granite boulders into the turquoise pools of Privassion Creek below. Beyond were the thunderous echoes of distant waterfalls and the calls of the wild armadillos, tapirs, and howler monkeys. It felt like a film location. That night the jungle reverberated with wildlife. The loudest culprits were the tiny bullfrogs screaming for a mate. In the morning, Green Jays, Red-lored Parrots and Melodious Blackbirds sang in the dawn. There was much to explore in the rainforest. Under a damp canopy of sail-like fronds, the soft limestone floor was punctuated with caves and cenotes – sunken water caves which the ancient Mayans believed led to the underworld. These caves were believed to be the mouths to an otherworld inhabited by Chaak, the god who provided rain. Now, the cenotes are swimming sanctuaries for visitors.
Sharon K. Andrews/ SHUTTERSTOCK
CARIBBEAN COOL From the drama of the rainforest, I headed 130 miles southeast to Coppolaâ€™s Turtle Inn. Overlooking the cayes and atolls of the Caribbean, were the whitesand beaches and mangrove lagoons of the narrow, sleepy, 26-mile-long Placencia Peninsular. I walked along postcard-view beaches, passing sparse beachfront cottages with only the odd log, tree, or shell to break the monotony of the sand. The close-knit local community survives on cutesy beach bars, boho boutiques, and affordable massage and yoga retreats. Rustic yet plush, Turtle Inn is Coppolaâ€™s beachside labor of love (it reopened in 2003 after being completely destroyed by Hurricane Isis in 2001). It has a back-to-nature vibe with a muted palette of wood, stone, and glass. The sea breeze blew through my seafront cabana and I whiled away the hours in a hammock on the beach, tucking into fresh shrimp tacos and swaying myself to a lull.
81 Apr/May 2014 | Venture
My Nguyen/ SHUTTERSTOCK
Useful Links Astrum Helicopters Belize City www.astrumhelicopters.com Blancaneaux Lodge San Ignacio www.coppolaresorts.com/ blancaneaux
Palapa Bar & Grill San Pedro www.palapabarandgrill.com Turtle Inn Placencia Village, Stann Creek www.coppolaresorts.com/ turtleinn Victoria House Ambergris Caye www.victoria-house.com
82 Venture | Apr/May 2014 Darryl Brooks/ SHUTTERSTOCK
Enter the Home of the Jaguar
REEF BY HELICOPTER For scenery, the highlight of my trip was a helicopter ride – one of my most breathtaking experiences to date. Rising out of Belize City in a private helicopter felt very James Bond. Managing Director and pilot of Astrum Helicopters Gustavo Giron was suave and laidback. Below us the multicolored metropolis shrank by the second as we flew north towards Ambergris Caye in the Caribbean Sea. Gustavo flew low over the deep blue of the 180-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef, the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. Uninhabited islands lay like confetti in the aquamarine sea, and sharks and rays could be clearly seen in Shark Ray Alley - a renowned diving spot and zone within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Madonna’s 1987 song La Isla Bonita thrust the island of Ambergris Caye and its only town San Pedro to fame. Ambergris Caye is the largest and most popular island in Belize, with bars, restaurants, and cafes spilling onto the beach. San Pedro is as hedonistic as Belize gets, but even so the party scene felt easy-going with waterfront clubs radiating more of a drop-in feel. The fastest way to get around is by speedboat. Locals use the taxi ferry which stops at piers along the seafront. By land, the only way to get around is by golf buggy. I rented one from Victoria House hotel and, ignoring their suggestions, headed for the north of the island – considered ‘far’ by locals. The roads were unpaved and potholes gave a bumpy ride. A mile and a half north of San Pedro, I found Scott and Jodie Harnish’s Palapa Bar & Grill – a recipient of TripAdvisor’s 2013 Certificate of Excellence. Built on wooden stilts over the water, it was the best spot to watch the fiery Belizean sunset. Later, at a crossroads on a dirt track, I had two signposted options: Main Road or Dead End. With rainforests and beaches, luxury lodges and Caribbean warmth, Belize epitomizes my idea of a dream holiday. It’s only a matter of time before this rising starlet becomes renowned globally as the destination of a lifetime. As they say in Kriol, “Mi love Bileez.”
BETWEEN the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in southern Belize and the Caribbean Sea is the Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve – home to the 150-squaremile Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary: the world’s first jaguar preserve. This black-and-tan jaguar (Panthera Onca) is the largest of the big cats in Central America. The name jaguar comes from the Native American word yaguar meaning he who kills with a leap. The jaguar hunts at night, and has a diet which includes armadillos, tapirs, and turtles, as well as birds. The preserve has an estimated population of 200 jaguars. However, these cats are so stealthy, sightings are unlikely. What visitors may see are jaguar paw prints and other rainforest residents: crocodiles, howler monkeys, tapirs, otters, pumas, and up to 300 bird species. The preserve has a network of guided trails and an easy 1.3mile self-guided nature walk. Walkers can look out for peccaries (similar to wild pigs), blue morpho butterflies, hummingbirds, the bromeliad plant which the Maya use to make hammocks, the 50-meter-high ceiba trees which are used to make dugout canoes, and cacao trees. The longest of the guided walks is a four-day trek up to Victoria Peak (3,675ft), the highest mountain in Belize. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is located around 20 miles southwest of the coastal town of Dangriga.
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Brandon Bourdages/ SHUTTERSTOCK
Cruise to James Bond Island BY RICHMOND BLANDO
84 Venture | Apr/May 2014
VENTUREFEATURE nodff/ SHUTTERSTOCK
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AT 1,020 FEET in length and weighing 138,000 tons, the Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas® is gargantuan. I stood star-struck on the Marina Bay docks in Singapore before boarding for the 4-Night Port Klang & Phuket cruise. The glitz and glamor inside were intoxicating. There were shops, four swimming pools, an ice-skating rink, a rock-climbing wall, a casino (Casino Royale®), a spa, yoga classes, whirlpools, even an outdoor movie screen. No wonder it’s called a “Floatel.” The ship left Singapore in the late afternoon arriving the following morning in Port Klang, Malaysia. After a day in Kuala Lumpur we set off for Phuket, Thailand before returning to Singapore. The itinerary onboard was packed: parties and shows every evening (Chinese acrobats, Australian singers,
American bands) and meet-and-greets with Shrek and characters from the Universal Studios film Madagascar. Around 75% of the passengers were Asian and the close-knit family culture was evident. This cruise was not only a romantic getaway but a family adventure. There were plenty of on-shore activities too, with excursions to Kuala Lumpur and Thailand’s Koh Khao Phing Kan (better known as James Bond island) in Phang Nga Bay. Phuket was the highlight for me. Stopping several kilometers offshore, I joined a passenger boat to a beach in southeast Phuket. The beach was filled with street food eateries, cheap bars, and questionable massage places. From there it was a 90-minute bus ride to the north of the island and a 45-minute boat trip before we reached the small, majestic, eerie islands in Phang Nga Bay.
For more on Royal Caribbean cruises, see www.royalcaribbean.com
We boarded small canoes and motored into a huge, dark cave. “Bataman!” the boatman exclaimed, pointing upwards. There was a stench of guano (bat droppings). We continued deeper into the cave. At the far end we emerged into a lagoon. The mouth of the cave exit was so low, I had to lie back flat - with the tip of my nose mere centimeters from the rock. The lagoon was surrounded by limestone cliffs and trees. Monkeys in the foliage watched the boatmen, and dove into the water when food was offered. Back on the ship, my room was too small to spend much time in. “That’s because the ship has so much to offer,” said Passenger Relations Manager DanDan Mien over coffee. “It’d be a shame to stay in your room the whole day. Though we do have larger suites with ocean views.” Taking a cruise is one thing, but how about working on a cruise ship? “What’s the best part of your job?” I asked. “Hands down, meeting people. Whether training new staff or talking to passengers, I love the people aspect of the job. There is never a dull moment.”
Apr/May 2014 | Venture
r An otte
BY ZULU IRMINGER
CK ERSTO SHUTT ridger/ Mark B
Inspired by Henry Williamson’s 1927 novel Tarka the Otter, 10-year-old Rudi Bright is on a mission to spot each of the 317 wildlife species mentioned in the story. He calls it the Tarka Challenge. How did the Tarka Challenge start? It began in 2012 with a bedtime story. My dad read me Tarka the Otter. It was full of wildlife: curlews and nightjars – creatures I’d never heard of. I made a list of all the animals, birds, and plants in the book and decided to try and find all of them in my home country - the United Kingdom. How many have you found? I’m more than half way! I’ve seen 196 and have 121 left. But there are some really difficult ones remaining: the corncrake, lobster, and green phosphorescence… I’ve also seen wildlife that is not on the list - glow worms, for example. What’s the most interesting organism you’ve seen? The pine marten - a mustelid similar to a stoat. It’s thought to be extinct in Wales
so my dad and I went up to the Scottish Highlands and saw one in an ancient oak forest on the edge of Loch Sunart. Which species on the list are the most elusive? Unfortunately there are a lot of elusive species which dad says can wait until I get my own car! These include the rarely seen snowy owl, the conger eel, and the red-backed shrike - which is sadly on the verge of extinction in Britain. A lot has changed since the book was written; some species which were common in 1927 are rare nowadays. Which species have you been most excited to see? The otter! Finding otter footprints and spraint (otter droppings) on my local river in South Wales and spotting my first otter on the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland was a real thrill.
“I’ve enjoyed learning how much wildlife is out there if you take the time to look.” Rudi Bright
How do you go about spotting creatures that are easily spooked? Sometimes I wait for hours. I use binoculars, camera traps, and stealth to track them down. I have a portable hide which is great for photographing wary animals and birds. I make notes on all the wildlife I see and submit my records to the Wildlife Offices to help monitor local biodiversity. When do you expect the Tarka Challenge to be complete? I think it’ll go on for years. I keep getting sidetracked by interesting things which aren’t on the list. I’ll be sad when I finish because I love seeing new things. I really like the idea of finding things that are believed to be extinct in a particular area so after the Tarka Challenge I may head into the wild to try and rediscover lost wildlife. From all of us at Venture, good luck Rudi!
Follow Rudi’s progress on: www.rudistarkachallenge.blogspot.co.uk
Venture | Apr/May 2014
Tom Middleton/ SHUTTERSTOCK
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