IS S U E 01 | AUTUMN / FAL L 2015
Marvel at stunning vistas, beautiful surroundings and the timeless charm Southeast Asia has to offer. Nestled between verdant tropical gardens and the dazzling sea, Belmond Napasai is a true paradise on the north coast of Thailandâ€™s Koh Samui.
+1 800 237 1236 BELMOND.COM
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A L ETTER FROM A LEX
Dear Traveller, Welcome to our very first magazine – The Explorer by Jacada Travel. This inaugural issue is especially for you, our much-valued travellers. In our first magazine, we hope to inspire you with some destinations that are universal favourites - not just for our team, but for our clients too. Peru is a country of snow-capped mountains and centuries-old Incan culture. Discover the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu; trek along ancient trails in the Andes; and get a taste of Lima’s cuttingedge food scene. On page 26, you can read about some of George’s experiences in Peru on his recent in-depth research trip. South Africa is one of our most versatile countries, as perfect for families as it is for honeymooners. Safaris here are unbeatable for the sheer diversity of wildlife you’ll see, and the level of luxury is second to no other African country. However, it’s not all game drives. Spend some time in Cape Town, home to our third office, and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and you’ll discover there’s so much more to South Africa. Japan is our newest destination offering and it has inspired a wave of travel lust throughout the team. From the bright neon lights of energetic Tokyo to the blissful quiet of a traditional onsen, Japan is diverse and utterly captivating. Our Head of Asia, Kate, travelled to Japan earlier in the year. Get her take on this unique country on page 16. You can also be inspired by Myanmar, Iceland, Chile and Antarctica, plus we let you in on our top places to spend Christmas in Southeast Asia and the insider track on catching one of the greatest shows on Earth: the Great Migration. I hope you enjoy this first issue of The Explorer by Jacada Travel as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together for you. Happy travels! Warm regards,
Alex Malcolm Founder & MD
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 03
I N THI S I SSUE OF THE EX PLORER
P 1 6 J A PA N
P 3 0 A N TA R C T I C A
P32 LEWIS PUGH
From gardens to onsens, Kate Edwards shares the things that most captivated her on her recent trip to Japan.
Joyce Choi recalls kayaking alongside whales and sailing through a sea of icebergs in Antarctica.
George Warren explores Machu Picchu and its surroundings on a return visit to the ancient Incan citadel.
Lewis Pugh talks to Heather Richardson about his quest to save the oceans by swimming in the coldest sea on Earth.
CON T EN TS 06 HOT TICKETS: TIME TO BOOK YOUR NEXT TRIP 08 THE JT INSIDER GUIDE: CAPE TOWN 10 A DAY IN THE LIFE: ON SAFARI 14 PASTURES NEW: OUR NEW DESTINATIONS 22 TH E GUIDE: ICELAND 36 THE GUIDE: THE GREAT MIGRATION 39 TOP LANDSCAPES: CHILE 40 HIKING IN TORRES DEL PAINE: PATAGONIA 43 TOP DESTINATIONS: MYANMAR 48 DESTINATION INSPIRATION: SOUTHE AST ASIAN BEACHES 51 LAST-MINUTE ESCAPES: GO NOW
CONTRIBUTO R S
BYRON THOMA S A FRICA & SAFARI EXPE RT
CIAR A OW E NS LATI N AME RI C A EX P ERT
Byron was born in Scotland, but grew up in South Africa, where he lived for almost 20 years, five of which were spent doing volunteer work with the Zulu and Xhosa communities. As a keen traveller, he has journeyed all over southern and eastern Africa, even venturing to Virunga National Park in DR Congo.
Ciara’s love affair with South America began in 2001 when she went to Ecuador to teach English and was captivated by the vibrancy of the culture, the friendliness of the people and living at high altitudes. Since then she has ventured all over the continent from Patagonia to Colombia, living and working in the Galápagos Islands and Chile.
George got his first taste of South America whilst travelling through Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. He loved it so much he decided to live there, returning to Buenos Aires to teach English and learn Spanish. He explored Argentina in depth before deciding – on a trek in Chile’s Torres del Paine – to move back to the UK and work as a travel designer.
JOYCE C HOI P O L A R EXPERT
KATE EDWA RDS AS I A E XP ERT
T E S S VA N D E R WA LT A F RI C A & SA FA RI EX P ERT
Since Joyce’s first backpacking trip, travelling solo around Europe, she has travelled to over 40 countries, covering all seven continents. Some of her most memorable travel experiences include kayaking in Antarctica, climbing Africa’s highest mountain Kilimanjaro and getting up close and personal with polar bears in Arctic Canada.
It was during Kate’s regular trips to Asia when she lived in Australia that she first discovered her love for this continent. Numerous trips back to the region have taken her trekking in the Nepalese Himalayas; exploring Myanmar; re-discovering the charms of Indochina; and island-hopping around her beloved Indonesia.
Tess’ family holidays were spent travelling through her native South Africa in search of adventures in the bush, the mountains and the sea. Having worked in the travel industry for many years, Tess has enjoyed some incredible safaris, including a stand-out trip to Botswana, which rekindled her passion for photography.
G EO RG E WA RRE N L AT I N A M ERI C A EX P ERT
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 05
WATCH THE CHERRY BLOSSOM EXPLODE ACROSS JAPAN
P16 Spring is the most popular season to travel to Japan and hotels tend to fill up very quickly. MARCH 2016 >>> APRIL 2016
BOO K N OW
AUG UST 2016 >>> OCTOBER 2016
WITNESS THE GREAT MIGRATION IN TANZANIA OR KENYA
P36 For those who want to watch an epic river crossing, we recommend they book their trip as far in advance as possible to ensure availability at the small mobile camps we use.
NOVEMBER 2016 >>> FEBRUARY 2017
TAKE A CRUISE OF A LIFETIME IN ANTARCTICA
P 30 The season for Antarctic cruises is just a few months and demand is very high. For this reason, we look to book these trips at least a year in advance.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 07
THE JT INS I D ER G U I D E BY RO N THO MAS A FRICA & SA FA RI E XPE RT
The Mother City has everything: beaches, surf, a great food and drink scene, culture and history – not to mention iconic scenery. Make the most of your trip with my top five tips: CLIMB LION’S HEAD
Start early for a hike to Lion’s Head. This climb only takes 30-45 minutes (providing you are relatively fit). From the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Camps Bay and Cape Town’s city bowl. This hike is a real must-do when the weather’s clear. EAT LOCALLY & IN STYLE
There are several different dining scenes in Cape Town and you can go as high-end or as local as you want: both ends of the spectrum provide amazing culinary experiences. I managed to secure a reservation at the award-winning Test Kitchen when I visited Cape Town recently, but I also had lunch at a shisa nyama (a Cape Town term for a
INSIDER G UI D E
barbecue, usually at a butcher’s stall) in the township Gugulethu. I found it difficult to call a clear winner as I had awesome experiences at both – yet one meal cost R600 ($45) and the other R30 ($2). VISIT IN WINTER
Cape Town has a bad reputation for not having the best weather during winter (between the end of May and August). Don’t get me wrong, prepare for some brisk, wet days if you do go over this season, but there are serious merits to visiting in winter as well. A sunny day in off-season Cape Town (I’d estimate that two out of five days are sunny) gives you the run of the city without the crowds; Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, and all the popular restaurants are generally much more accessible. Play your trip by ear, and go wine tasting on the colder days. PLAN FOR WINE TOURING
Speaking of wine… Wine tours are really fun and interesting, but the reality is that many wineries are very well known and will be busy. You need to plan ahead. Speak to me, or one of my team, about your wine preferences so we can arrange a great private tour of an estate, perhaps with the viticulturist, the winemaker, or both. This provides an exclusive and fascinating insight into the art of fine wine production.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT PAGE: CAMPS BAY PROMENADE; THE WINELANDS; SPRINGBOK AND BLACK PUDDING WITH VENISON JUS AT THE TEST KITCHEN; BABYLONSTOREN VINEYARD; A TRADITIONAL TOWNSHIP MEAL; BYRON CLIMBS LION’S HEAD
Cape Town is really a collection of towns, but most visitors generally only cover the city bowl area, which is just a tiny part. Spending a few days in the surrounding areas, such as Hout Bay, means you will get a far deeper understanding and appreciation of the real Cape Town. PACK YOUR BAGS
Safari, Wine & Waterfalls >> a 10-day tour through South Africa including Cape Town, the Winelands, safari in the Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls – from $5,473 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 09
DE S TI N ATION INSPIRATION
A DAY I N TH E L I F E: SA FA R I TE S S VAN DE R WALT A FRICA & SA FA RI E XPE RT
CLOCKWISE FROM BELOW: ELEPHANT SPOTTING; LUNCH DECK AT SABI SABI; A LEOPARD RELAXING IN A TREE; A TYPICAL BOMA; A RHINO LOOKING AFTER HER CALF; A PLUNGE POOL AT SINGITA BOULDERS LODGE
Safari expert Tess van der Walt records one perfect day on safari. 5.30AM I think a safari is the only time I don’t mind getting up this early, especially with an alarm call and a cafetiere of fresh coffee delivered to my door. As a keen photographer, I don’t want to miss the ‘golden hour’ so I hurry to get ready. It’s dark and predators are out at this time, but my tracker is waiting outside the door to escort me to the main area with a flashlight. 6AM We clamber into our 4x4 open-sided game vehicle. There are six of us on this drive, so we all have a ‘window seat’. The tracker sits up front on his lookout seat and the guide is chatty and greets us warmly. I’ve come wrapped up in layers with my jacket and scarf – the African bush is still quite chilly at this time in the morning. As we head out, the only sounds are birdsong and the tyres hitting the odd snag on the track. Dust billows up behind the vehicle, and the sun is rising slowly in the distance.
6.30AM After lumbering down the track for a bit, our guide slows the vehicle and points to the right, where, sure enough, I see a long grey trunk reaching up into the trees, wrapping around the vegetation and stripping it off, before curling round and piling the leaves into its mouth. It’s a big bull elephant, seemingly by itself. Its majestic tusks are long and curved and its ears, smoother than the rest of its body, flap lazily as it eats. I focus in on it with my big telephoto lens and take a few snaps, zooming in on its eyes, which are rimmed by long, fluttering eyelashes. I can hear him crunching on the branches, which, combined with the clicking of camera shutters, breaks the silence.
commentary to our drive. As always, I’m trying to remember all the facts and stories he tells us about the animals we see.
7.30AM So far we’ve had a great game drive, passing more elephants, zebra, kudu and a herd of grouchy black buffalo, munching grass in the morning sunshine. One of them looks up and gives me a long, sulky glare. The guide is doing a great job supplying interesting
11AM I opt for a 60-minute massage on my private deck as my partner heads off on a bushwalk to study the things you miss from a vehicle, such as bugs, animal tracks and droppings. It is very interesting and good fun, but today I am in the mood for some pampering.
8AM Trundling around a corner, I see a table up in front of us, overlooking an expansive green valley: a bush breakfast. Our vehicle pulls up next to the lodge staff who have been busy preparing a feast of eggs, bacon and croissants for us. I enjoy a steaming cup of coffee and take in the spectacular, rolling scenery. 9AM After breakfast, we pile back into the vehicle and head back to the camp. The sun is up now and everyone is peeling off layers of clothing. The sunglasses are on!
A DAY IN T HE L I F E
1.30PM Lunch is a wonderful sit-down meal with a good selection of dishes, from salads to pasta. I enjoy a light lunch, knowing that high tea (in a couple of hours) will be an extravagant affair.
of tiny lion cubs, tumbling all over the dusty ground with each other, biting mum’s tail and swiping at butterflies with their oversized paws. The sound of camera shutters is almost deafening!
2.30PM I spend the afternoon at camp enjoying the splendid surroundings. Before my first luxury safari, many years ago now, I never thought tented accommodation could be quite so lavish. The canvas walls of my suite hide a four-poster bed with fresh white linens and various antique furnishings. I sit out on my deck and daydream between chapters of my book, cooling off in the plunge pool when the heat of the day gets too much. The occasional sound of passing wildlife distracts me, and I find I’m more relaxed than I have been in months. 4PM We head down to the main area for afternoon high tea. The guides and other guests are there and we exchange pleasantries. Everyone is always on a diet or too polite to fully enjoy the delights the chef has prepared. Personally, I can never refuse a home-cooked chocolate éclair to scoff down with a cup of Rooibos tea. Soon it’s time to get going again. 4.30PM 30 minutes into the drive, the guide gets a call on the radio reporting lions in the area. We head over and find the pride, slowly waking from a day snoozing in the sun. The lionesses stretch themselves out, yawning and showing off their impressive incisors. We’re lucky enough to see a couple
guide stops the vehicle and gestures to a tree to our left. There in the gloom, I spot the reflective eyes of an elusive leopard, its languid body straddled across a branch of the tree. I quickly adjust my camera settings to compensate for the low light and get a great shot of the strikingly marked leopard just as it looks right at me. What a privilege. 7PM Back at camp, I catch up with fellow guests and the guides over drinks . A young couple were lucky enough to have seen a pack of wild dogs today, a rare sighting!
5PM Eventually we have to leave the pride and set off to see what else is going on as the sun dips lower in the sky. It’s getting cold again, and I’m glad I have my long pants and my jacket with me. We see a mother rhino keeping a close eye on her tiny youngster who is prancing along in front of her; his horn is just a little stub right now. Two giraffes stalk past in the background, ungainly but somehow elegant. The chatter in the game vehicle has subsided. I think everyone just feels incredibly happy to be here and to be able to connect with nature in this way. 5.30PM We stop to have sundowners and some snacks. The usual safari tipple is a gin and tonic, but I prefer a chilled, crisp white wine, which I sip as the sun slips beneath the horizon, setting the sky ablaze. 6PM We head back to camp, keeping our eyes peeled in the dim light. Suddenly, our
7.30PM We have a traditional South African dinner around the boma (fire pit). Alongside barbecued meats, salads and potjie (stew), we also get the chance to try ostrich, kudu and impala. The communal setting gives everyone a chance to chat and share stories about the day. The young couple I spoke to earlier have opted for a romantic dinner back at their suite. The food is excellent – I’m always impressed with the quality of meals out here in the bush. After dessert, we’re all tired, so most of us retire to bed. It’s another early start tomorrow! THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 11
Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is renowned for its unforgettable safari experience. Home to the Big 5, as well as cheetah, wild dog and hundreds of species of animals, birds, insects, reptiles and plants, we offer close encounters with wildlife.
Book: firstname.lastname@example.org | UK +44 (0) 203 7335 698 | US Toll Free +1 877 967 0096 | HK +852 2110 0537
ON SAFA RI
WHAT TO PACK Let us make your first safari a little easier with our insider guide to packing.
PHOTOG RA PH Y
ESSENT I A L S
Smartphones and GoPros are the easiest to use and the most lightweight equipment you will need on safari. For photography fanatics, make sure you have a good telephoto lens, preferably starting at 200mm. HERO4 SESSION WATERPROOF CAMERA $299.99, GOPRO.COM
• • • •
Soft luggage to fit in a light aircraft Torch/flashlight Binoculars Batteries and chargers
SANDSTORM PIONEER BAG $406; SWAROVSKI EL 10X42 BINOCULARS $2,705, BOTH THESAFARISTORE.CO.UK
CLOT HI NG
HE A LTH
• • • • •
Tweezers for small thorns Earplugs for a sound night of sleep Antibacterial gel for when you are out and about all day Wet wipes for a game drive freshen-up Sunscreen and insect repellent – try to choose products with a neutral scent
Bring layers for the changing temperatures on safari: think windbreakers and waterproof rain jackets, pashminas, shirts with sleeves that roll up, and light fleeces. Stick to neutral shades, such as khaki, beige and olive, and avoid distracting colours such as red. In addition, pack some polarised shades, a sun hat, solid shoes that will stand up to thorns and a bathing suit for your plunge pool. HICKMAN & BOUSFIELD MEN'S BUSH JACKET AND WOMEN'S FIELD JACKET, BOTH $452, HICKMANANDBOUSFIELD.COM JACADA TRAVEL CLIENTS GET 10% OFF HICKMAN & BOUSFIELD PRODUCTS WITH THE CODE JACADA10.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 |13
PA ST UR E S NEW
Every so often, we find a place we like so much, we have to share the love with our travellers. Here are three of our newest destinations we know you will adore.
JA PA N As one of our major new destinations, we couldnâ€™t be more excited about bringing this colourful country to Jacada travellers. Earlier this year our Asia experts, Kate and Kit, spent three weeks inspecting hotels and planning itineraries around Japan. You can read about Kateâ€™s travel highlights on the following pages.
NEW DESTIN AT I O N S Peaceful Bhutan is a dreamy land of mist-shrouded mountains, grand, ornate temples and colourful festivals, tucked away in the eastern stretches of the Himalayas. As one of the happiest countries in the world and a determinedly traditional place, Bhutan provides a welcome escape from everyday stresses.
BHUTA N If you’re based in North America, you needn’t go far to start exploring the Arctic. Up in Canada’s frosty north, spot polar bears (from a safe distance), go husky sledding, and let your local Inuit guide reveal this wintry world.
A RCT IC CA N A DA
THE JOYS OF JAPAN On a journey around Japan, Kate Edwards explored the cities, countryside and quirky corners of this diverse and fascinating country.
arlier this year I set off on a research trip to Japan. Over the course of my three-week journey, I completely fell in love with this culturally rich and complex country. Here are just some of the reasons why you will too. JAPANESE GARDENS Japanese gardens are carefully constructed works of art. Having been part of the culture for over 1,000 years, there are several periods and types, from the Emperors’ strolling gardens to the Zen monks’ dry stone gardens. They are beautiful all year round, the design having been influenced by the seasons. I found them very peaceful and tranquil. TEMPLES Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are equally important in Japan, and equally beautiful and interesting to visit. It is common to find the two places of worship side by side, but there are different practices associated with each one. In shrines, for example, it is customary to clap twice before praying, but prayers are
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: MOUNT FUJI; TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION, KYOTO; KATE PERFORMING A TEA CEREMONY; LOCAL CHILDREN AT A HIROSHIMA CARP GAME; A TYPICAL JAPANESE GARDEN
“The Japanese gardens are beautiful all year round, the design having been influenced by the seasons. I found them very peaceful and tranquil.”
silent in Buddhist temples. One of the most famous temples in Japan is the grand Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. SCENERY Japan is blessed with an array of striking landscapes, from verdant mountains towering above deep valleys divided by rivers to beautiful, sun-soaked islands with sandy beaches and clear, aquamarine water. Top of your list of sights to see should be the iconic Mount Fuji. For the most spectacular scenes, travel when the autumn leaves or spring’s cherry blossoms are on display.
PHOTOS: KATE EDWARDS; SHUTTERSTOCK; iSTOCK
TRADITION & CUSTOMS From tea ceremonies and bowing to onsen conduct and knowing the difference between slipper types, Japanese customs make travelling though this country an education and a constant learning curve. Don’t worry though: for the Japanese, it’s only important that you try to learn their various customs and they will easily forgive foreigners who make mistakes. Read my brief overview of Japanese etiquette over the page to get your started. PEOPLE Kind, helpful and welcoming, the people made travelling around Japan a real pleasure. They are keen to show off the best of their country, their food and demonstrate their customs. This photo (left) was taken at a Hiroshima Carp baseball game. The Japanese love baseball and going to a game is a great way to interact with the locals. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 19
FOOD The food in Japan is outstanding, with an emphasis on local produce and seasonality. Street food is inexpensive, diverse and extremely tasty. Make sure you try the octopus balls in foodie Mecca, Osaka. I also enjoyed many a kaiseki dinner - a traditional, multi-course tasting menu, which usually includes sashimi and a grilled dish, often fish, a hot pot, and many other small dishes.
PHOTOS: KATE EDWARDS; SHUTTERSTOCK; iSTOCK
HOT SPRINGS Hot spring baths – onsens – are found all over Japan and should be included in every trip. There is a ritual when it comes to bathing: you must first clean yourself whilst perched on a stool before immersing your body in the natural, mineral-rich hot water. Different onsens have different properties: some are believed to purify, whilst some will make your skin softer. It’s very relaxing and an incredibly calming way to start the morning or end the day, before or after a traditional kaiseki dinner.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: A TRADITIONAL ONSEN BATH; KATE EXAMINES A HAND-DRAWN MENU; A BEEF COURSE; SASHIMI; OCTOPUS BALLS FROM OSAKA; WOODEN SANDALS
QUICK ETIQUETTE GUID E TO JA PAN
Dip the fish in the soya sauce, not the rice, as the sauce causes the rice to fall apart. Remember also that using too much soy might offend the chef. TIPPING
The Japanese consider tipping to be rude and even sometimes degrading. If you really want to tip, buy a small present, such as chocolates, instead. BUSINESS CARDS
Offer your business card with two hands whilst facing the recipient with a slight bow of your head. Accept cards in the same manner, remembering to look at the card before you put it away in your wallet.
Do not let your feet touch the outside ground before you enter the inside of your host’s house. When you are taking your shoes off, carefully step straight inside without letting your bare or socked feet touch the ground.
When you see slippers left out, put them on. This could be at a temple, traditional restaurant or even the bathroom.
Men and women bathe separately (unless you book a private onsen for two). You must go in completely naked except for a small ‘modesty towel’, which is about the size of a hand towel. You kneel or sit on a little stool and there is a shower, a bucket and shampoo or shower gel. You have a full wash, rinse, and then you can get in the water. Usually, you start in the inside bath and then move to the outside onsen, which will have views or be set in a pretty garden – obviously it’s very private.
Lay your chopsticks across your bowl or on the ceramic holder, but avoid sticking them upright in a bowl of rice, as to Buddhists it means you’re offering your rice to the dead.
If you’re given a kimono to wear at a Japanese inn, make sure you wrap the left side over the right. The opposite method is used on the dead.
PACK YOUR BAGS Classic Japan Explorer >> nine days exploring Tokyo, Kanazawa and Kyoto – from $6,586 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 21
ICEL A ND From the awe-inspiring Northern Lights to volatile volcanoes, Iceland is bursting with natural wonders. We give you the lowdown on what to see and where to see it.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: l REYKJAVÍK; SKÓGAFOSS WATERFALL; THE FAMOUS BLUE LAGOON; WILD ICELANDIC HORSES; THE AURORA OVER JÖKULSÁRLÓN
Not for nothing is Iceland known as the Land of Fire and Ice: black volcanic rock contrasts with glittering glaciers, and steaming geysers explode into sub-zero air temperatures. This frozen landscape is set right on top of a volcanic melting pot, evident in the fountains of scolding water and explosions of molten lava that escape the crust. The result is a landscape of stark beauty. Since regaining independence in 1944, Iceland has been embroiled in several ‘cod wars’ with Britain and Germany; boasted the world’s first openly gay and the country’s first female Prime Minister (Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir); and caused havoc throughout the world of aviation when Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010. The capital Reykjavík is set on the coast of southwest Iceland and the Greater Reykjavík area is home to the majority of the population. With the city’s inhabitants numbering around 120,000, it is only large in comparison to the rest of Iceland’s tiny towns. Check out Þjóðminjasafn, the National Museum, which explores Iceland’s history, and the Art Museum, Listasafn Reykjavíkur. Friday and Saturday evenings see the city come alive, especially with the long nights that summer brings. Need to know: Don’t tip in Iceland - it’s not expected in any situation.
The Northern Lights are elusive, but well worth the hunt. An eerie, yet sublime display, the Aurora Borealis is best seen in the dead of winter when the nights in Iceland are darkest and the mystical, dancing green ribbons of light illuminate the inky sky. The first thing to know when chasing the Northern Lights is that even in perfect conditions, you are not guaranteed a sighting.
However, you can help yourself enormously by following these tips: • Travel between September and March, with December and January being the best months in which to see the Aurora. • The further north you are – and the furthest away from towns and artificial light – the better the display.
THE G UI D E
VOLCANOES, GEYSERS & HOT SPRINGS
One of the most popular geysers to visit is the Strokker Geyser in Geysir, which is on the popular Golden Triangle circuit. Every 15 minutes or so a bubble of water suddenly swells up to then explode out of the earth in an enormous column of boiling water. The most famous of geothermal pools is the Blue Lagoon, located conveniently close to Keflavik Airport. Beneath the naturally heated, pale blue, steaming water is a layer of white
silica mud, which you can use to give yourself a mineral-rich face mask. You’ll quickly get used to the smell, a product of the high sulphur content of the water; just make sure you use a hefty amount of the hair conditioner supplied if you want to get a brush through your mane. For a bird’s-eye view of Iceland’s tempestuous terrain, take a chopper over deep fissures spurting lava and red-hot natural gases. The location of these is activity dependant.
WHEN TO GO •
Opt for countryside lodges, rather than city hotels where you will need to go on a Northern Lights tour. These can last for hours in the cold and the dark without yielding any results. It is far better to stay outside built-up areas, as all you need to do is step outside your lodge. If possible, stay at a hotel that has an ‘Aurora wake-up call’ – you will get a call to your room when there is some activity, which means you won’t need to stay up all night watching the sky for a display that might only last for two minutes. Lastly, your trip should involve more than Northern Lights spotting, so if you don’t see a display, you won’t leave disappointed. Iceland has a plethora of activities and sights on offer, so this shouldn’t be too difficult.
You can travel to Iceland year-round, depending on what you want to see and do. If you are willing to brave the often icy winter for a glimpse of the Northern Lights, then you will have to travel between September and March.
The summer months are great for accessing inland Iceland and activities that the winter months render difficult or impossible, such as hiking or horse riding. High season is during the holiday period between June and August.
PACK YOUR BAGS Huskies, Glaciers and Northern Lights: A Southern Iceland Discovery >> a four-night tour exploring the south of Iceland using Reykjavík as a base – from $4,920 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 23
RIOâ€™S ICONIC OCEANSIDE HOTEL, VINTAGE GLAMOUR WITH A FRESH NEW TWIST
DISCOVER ONE OF THE NEW 7 WONDERS OF NATURE STAYING AT THE ONLY HOTEL WITHIN IGUASSU NATIONAL PARK
For reservations and travel advice please visit belmond.com, call our US toll free reservations office (+1 800 237 1236), phone the hotel directly (+55 21 2545 8787) or contact your travel professional.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 25
George Warren returns to Machu Picchu and ventures beyond the ancient walls of the Incan city to prove that when it comes to exploring Peru, the mountaintop citadel is just the beginning.
eru’s ultimate attraction is undoubtedly the iconic Machu Picchu, but the Incan citadel is just the start of what the surrounding area holds for travellers. I spent six weeks exploring the region. THE INCAN CITADEL Machu Picchu is the jewel in the crown of the Andes. The sheer majesty of the complex, shrouded by mountain mist, is simply breathtaking. Machu Picchu – which means ‘old peak’ – was built by the Incans around the year 1450. High up in the Andes, the citadel is located at 2,430 metres (7,970 feet) above sea level and is thought to have been created as a city for the Emperor Pachacuti. The Incans abandoned the citadel in 1572 when the Spanish arrived. Remarkably, this ancient mountaintop city eluded the colonisers and escaped the plunder that befell other sites around Peru. It was only in the early 1900s that Machu Picchu was rediscovered by the American historian Hiram Bingham. It is now one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Guides, such as Fredy who is with me in the photograph above, make all the difference at Machu Picchu. They vividly describe daily Incan life and traditions, as well as recounting the extraordinary tale of its rediscovery. Aside from the spectacle of the location, for me it’s their stories that make Machu Picchu so memorable. TRAIN OR TREK? There are a couple of ways of reaching the citadel: by train or foot. As a keen hiker, I always opt for one of the trails, but the luxurious trains are ideal if you have less time or aren’t that active. The most popular trek to Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the Inca Trail. The four-day
trek is led by local guides who will tell you stories, myths and legends associated with the Incan footpaths and mountains, and you will arrive at Machu Picchu for sunrise. An adventurous alternative to the Inca Trail is the four-day Salkantay route, which takes travellers from Mollepata in Cusco to Machu Picchu through lush, tropical jungle and up to snow-capped mountains, stopping off at the Incan site, Llactapata. You can choose to either camp or stay in lodges along the trail.
Also known as the Quechua trek, the Lares Trail is a four-day route that runs along the Lares Valley in southern Cusco through a mountainous landscape, past gushing waterfalls, and to remote Andean communities of weavers and farmers with their herds of alpacas and llamas. BEYOND THE RUINS Once you’ve toured the citadel, there’s no need to head straight back to Cusco, unless you’re on a tight schedule.
“The Incans abandoned the citadel in 1572 when the Spanish arrived. It was only in the early 1900s that Machu Picchu was rediscovered.”
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN IMAGE: PERUVIAN MAN NEAR PISAC; PLAZA DE ARMAS, CUSCO; A VILLAGE IN THE SACRED VALLEY; MACHU PICCHU PUEBLO RAILWAY STATION; HIKING THE INCA TRAIL; GEORGE WITH HIS GUIDE FREDY.
“Machu Picchu – which means ‘old peak’ – was built by the Incans around the year 1450. The sheer majesty of the complex, shrouded by mountain mist, is breathtaking.” There are various vantage points from which to take in the dramatic scenery. On my most recent trip, I embarked on the hour-long, challengingly steep trek up Huayna Picchu, which affords epic views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountainous landscape. You can also check out the ‘Lost City’ from Machu Picchu’s peak, Apu Machu Picchu. After a two-and-a-half-hour climb, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Machu Picchu, Salkantay Mountain and the Vilcanota River. For something less strenuous, take a guided nature hike through the mountains and Vilcanota Valley to admire waterfalls
and spot indigenous flora and fauna, including numerous ferns, orchids and 18 different types of hummingbirds. Swing by the Bear Sanctuary, established by the Peruvian National Institute of Natural Resources and the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Spectacled Bear Project, which aims to protect the endangered animals. They are the only species of bear in South America and are named for the white rings around their eyes that resemble a pair of glasses or spectacles. After all that hiking, catch your breath and stop for a well-deserved brew at an organic tea plantation, where you can also try your hand at mixing your own blend.
SIDE TRIPS The UNESCO-protected city of Cusco is the jumping-off point for Machu Picchu trips. The old Incan capital with its cobbled streets and colonial architecture has plenty to offer on either side of your Machu Picchu visit, from market jaunts to afternoons spent wandering through museums. Sample some local cuisine, such as cuy guinea pig - or alpaca. Make sure you have time for dinner in one of the excellent restaurants, such as Divina Comedia with its live opera shows or the MAP Café at the Pre-Columbian Art Museum – probably the best museum café in the world. The Sacred Valley is always going to be one of my favourite places in Peru. The famous trekking region is peppered with ancient Incan sites, pretty colonial towns and remote weaving villages with welcoming locals. The more adventurous travellers can go paragliding, rock climbing, horse riding or white-water rafting. It’s also a good base to acclimatise before heading to loftier heights. If you’re still keen to keep exploring the region’s ancient sites, consider taking the five-day trek to ‘the other Machu Picchu’ at Choquequirao. The tough trek is worth it: huge condors can often be seen soaring above the Apurímac canyon and the ruins are larger than Machu Picchu, with just a handful of visitors. Further afield is Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. This tropical region of thick, humid rainforest presents a completely different side to Peru. Take a river cruise for the chance to spot much of the rainforest’s exotic wildlife from the water.
PACK YOUR BAGS Luxury Private Peru Tour >> seven days starting in Lima and including Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu – from $5,390 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 29
FROZEN PLANET For many intrepid travellers, Antarctica is the final frontier, the last continent, and the ultimate bucket list destination. Joyce Choi explains what you can expect on the great White Continent.
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN IMAGE: A VAST FROZEN LANDSCAPE; KAYAKING IN THE ICY SEA; JOYCE IN ANTARCTICA
very time I go through my Antarctica photos, I’m surprised. I think: ‘Wow, I’ve been there?’ I still feel so privileged to have visited this beautiful part of the world. These are some of my memories of journeying to the socalled White Continent. C HANGI NG L A NDSC A P E S My very first encounter with Antarctica was like visiting a liquid nitrogen ice cream lab. We began our Antarctic exploration on a foggy day, paddling our kayaks through icebergs shrouded by mystical vapour. It reminded me of the boat scene in Phantom of the Opera. Not long after we got into the water, a seal started showing off by repeatedly jumping from a rock into the sea. As we watched, a group of penguins went porpoising by. On a different day in Neko Harbour, it was sunny with blue skies, so I simply sat back, in awe of the mirrored crushed ice
and mini icebergs on the glassy water’s surface. It was pristine. L I F E AT SEA Life on board was quite structured. The PA woke us every morning and meal times were regular unless disrupted by visiting animals. At one of our lunches, everybody rushed out to see a pod of orcas as they chased a seal that was in turn chasing some penguins.
Lectures took place as the boat crossed the Drake Passage. One of the more memorable lectures was on the history of whaling, given by an expedition leader whose great-grandfather had been involved in the industry. During the crossing, people got to know each other, read their books or spotted albatrosses, penguins or whales. Everybody was thrilled when we saw our first Antarctic iceberg, which meant we weren’t far from
PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK; JOYCE CHOI
the White Continent. Food certainly played a big part in our life on board the ship. It’s incredible how the kitchen constantly spoiled us with gourmet food. Dinners were probably the most sociable event of the day; most people on board were very well travelled and our conversations would always entail a funny travel anecdote or travel tips. A W HA LE O F A TI ME One of my trip highlights took place when we had just returned to the ship by zodiac for lunch. A mother whale and her calf must have been curious about our meal, as they were dancing around our boat,
repeatedly coming up and spraying mist. They must have stayed with us for a good ten minutes. We also encountered humpback whales at Cuverville when we were in our kayaks. Cuverville is very secluded and surrounded by beautiful glacial valleys. There were at least six humpback whales circling us and our kayak instructor was just a metre away from a whale’s tail. At one point, the sun beamed through a crack in the cloudy sky, and we saw three of the whales sunbathing in the sunny spot. After this very intimate encounter, when we spotted whales 20 metres away from our zodiac, they just seemed too far away.
PACK YOUR BAGS Classic Antarctica Cruise >> a 13-night trip to Antarctica starting in Buenos Aires and departing from Ushuaia in the far south of Argentina – from $11,403 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 31
SAVE OUR SEA On a mission to protect the Ross Sea, Lewis Pugh embarked on a series of swims in the icy water of Antarctica. He tells Heather Richardson why he took the plunge.
t’s so cold. It is unbelievably cold. When you’re swimming in -1.7°C water, you’re swimming in water 7°C colder than the waters in which the passengers of the Titanic perished.” Lewis Pugh is talking about the most southerly swim any person has ever completed, a record which he set in February as part of his Five Swims expedition in Antarctica. The former maritime lawyer tackled the series of 1km swims wearing just a pair of Speedos in water that would kill most people within minutes. Pugh isn’t risking his life for records, although records are important to ensure media coverage. The waters in which he was swimming were those of the Ross Sea and it is this sea that he is hoping to save. He has made the challenge deliberately extreme. “You’ve got to get in there, you’ve got to immerse yourself. There’s no good speaking about protecting the Ross Sea from London. It’s got to be authentic. Be under no illusion, you take your life into your own hands when you dive into the Ross Sea,” Pugh warns.
A POLAR GARDEN OF EDEN “I think [the Ross Sea] is the most important sea in the world,” says Pugh, who is British, but spent most of his childhood years in South Africa. “It is the most pristine ecosystem left on this earth . . . it is invaluable to scientists.” Pugh describes the Ross Sea as the “Polar Garden of Eden”. The area is home to numerous species with 50% of the world’s type C killer whales, nearly 40% of the world’s Adélie penguins and 25% of the world’s emperor penguins, all of which are fed by the sea’s enormous plankton reserves. “It’s a bit like the Serengeti of the oceans,” Pugh comments. The Ross Sea also hides creatures that are found nowhere else on Earth, such as the colossus squid which dwells up to two kilometres under the surface. The threats to this ecosystem come mainly from climate change and dramatic over-fishing, the latter of which is the biggest concern. One species under threat is the Antarctic tooth fish, which are caught and re-branded as Chilean sea bass in high-end restaurants in the US and THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 33
“The most important thing is to get the heart right and that means getting the reason why you’re doing it right. If you don’t have a reason, there is no way you’ll get into that water, it’s just too terrifying.” the European Union. Pugh explains: “When you take out a species like that, which is a predator species, it’s literally like taking sharks out of the world’s oceans. The ecosystem collapses.” For the past four years, the 25 nations that regulate Antarctica have voted on whether to make the Ross Sea – an area the size of Britain, France and Germany – a Marine Protected Area (MPA), but it has to be a unanimous vote, and Russia and China have not yet voted in favour. OUR BLUE PLANET Only about 2% of the world’s oceans are protected – and yet water makes up 71% of the planet. “Between 150 and 100 years ago, we faced a similar situation on land and it was only because of very visionary men and women who set aside big chunks of terrestrial land as national parks that we were able to protect big areas of the world,” Pugh says. “Imagine the world without the Serengeti National Park or Yellowstone – that’s what our oceans are like today.” It is for this reason that Pugh plunged into the icy waters of the Ross Sea. By creating a media buzz around his feats of incredible endurance, he hopes to encourage politicians to reconsider their stance on making the Ross Sea an MPA. TERRIFYING CONDITIONS For Pugh, the cause is infinitely more important than breaking records and he is at pains to spell out just how terrifying it is to swim in such hostile conditions.
He was faced with the question of when to throw in the towel on his most southerly swim in Antarctica in the Bay of Whales. The air was so cold that the water froze when it left the sea. Pugh remembers seeing a wave break against the side of his support boat; the water hit the crew as ice. “The wind was howling. The air temperature was -37°C. The water was -1°C. And somehow you’ve got to muster up the courage to get in there. You can’t do that unless there is a burning reason. But equally you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know whether you’re going to survive that swim. That’s why it’s terrifying. You don’t know what’s going to happen because no human has ever done a swim there before.” At 350 metres, he had to be hauled out because he’d lost all feeling in his fingers and to continue could have killed him. “There’s a fine line between courage and foolhardiness, and that line lay at 350 metres,” Pugh says. When I spoke to him, two months after his swim, he’d still yet to regain feeling in two of his fingers. GETTING THE HEART RIGHT So, how does Pugh prepare himself for such lifethreatening conditions? “You’ve obviously got to get your body right and that requires swimming for long periods of time in cold water. The body is an amazing thing. You can adapt your body to withstand cold water,” he says. Pugh’s body has adapted in an extraordinary
PHOTOS: KELVIN TRAUTMAN; BEN BROWNE
“The air temperature was -37°C. The water was -1°C. And somehow you’ve got to muster up the courage to get in there. You can’t do that unless there is a burning reason.” way: it heats his core temperature up by 1.2°C before he gets into the water, a phenomenon of which the cause is unknown. Pugh thinks it is a Pavlovian response to having swum in cold water for nearly 30 years. Mental preparation is crucial: “You’ve got to get your mind right. You’ve got to be very focused. You’ve got to dive in confidently. But the most important thing is to get the heart right and that means getting the reason why you’re doing it right. If you don’t have a reason, there is no way you’ll get into that water, it’s just too terrifying, and you certainly won’t be able to stay in to complete a long-distance swim.” Pugh’s reason is his overriding passion for the ocean. “I’ve spent my life in them,” he says. “I’ve spent 27 years swimming in every ocean in the world and I’ve really seen them change.” OVERFISHING & CLIMATE CHANGE The major change Pugh has seen in the oceans is overfishing. He recalls swimming to Robben Island from Cape Town as a boy and seeing penguins. Now, he says, you rarely see them: the population has decreased from 4 million in 1900 to 100,000 in 2000 and to 60,000 in the
last 15 years. Penguins are indicator species, their numbers telling of the amount of fish in the sea. Other changes he has seen are climate change – in retreating glaciers and melting sea ice – and plastic pollution everywhere. “It inspires me to get out there and keep on going,” he says. BACK ON DRY LAND Now that the Five Swims expedition is over, Pugh is shuttling back and forth between Washington D.C. and Moscow, where he has been engaged in “warm and constructive” talks ahead of October’s vote to make the Ross Sea an MPA. Does he think he’s found it easier to communicate with Russia because he’s not a politician? Perhaps: “They told me that they trusted me because they said ‘you’ve got no agenda’.” Pugh is optimistic, as you’d have to be when putting your life on the line for a cause. Although he speaks of the world having “sleep-walked” back into another Cold War, Pugh notes that in the height of the original Cold War “the continent of Antarctica was set aside as a place for peace and science.” He’s hopeful the same can be achieved with the oceans: “If we can break the political deadlock . . . it’s an opportunity to build a bridge for peace.” If Pugh’s extreme swimming reveals anything, it’s the urgency of the situation. “Back in the early part of the century, when whaling was allowed down in Antarctica, over a period of just seven years between 1923 and 1930, every single blue whale was killed in the Ross Sea. What we know is when you do have unregulated fishing in a very short period of time you completely destroy an ecosystem.” “I did these swims to highlight the issue,” he says. “We can’t wait any longer for this Marine Protected Area in the Ross Sea.”
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TH E GR E AT MI G R AT I O N From when to travel to where to stay, we answer all your questions about how best to witness the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’.
The Great Migration is undoubtedly one of the world’s most incredible natural occurrences. It's a once-in-a-lifetime safari that you need to get right first time. Around 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebra and 200,000 gazelle embark on a relentless migration that sees them following the rain throughout the year, travelling in a clockwise direction around Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve. For several months, the gigantic herds are thundering through the plains, crashing across rivers, escaping the jaws of hungry crocodiles and outmanoeuvring prowling lionesses, before they reach the safer land of the southeast Serengeti where they feed and birth for the remainder of the year. No wonder the migration is often referred to as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’. Kit Wong, Jacada Travel’s safari expert, recently witnessed three river crossings: “I knew it was meant to be amazing, but I just wasn’t prepared for it to be that powerful,” Kit says. “I saw determination, life and death, family reunion, despair, struggle… There are no words to describe the beauty of nature. You have to see it in person to understand it.”
WHEN TO GO CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: A DRAMATIC RIVER CROSSING; SERENGETI HOUSE; SINGITA EXPLORE TENTED CAMP; A CHEETAH WATCHES THE WILDEBEEST; ZEBRAS GRAZE
The migration is a year-round event, though when you travel will depend on exactly what you want to see. Predicting the herds’ movements as they follow the rains is never an accurate science, as the weather is an unreliable force of nature. However, the migration usually follows the same rough route throughout the year, which gives us a good idea of where they will be.
DECEMBER – APRIL Wildebeest calve in the grasslands of the Serengeti in February. Around 300,000 calves are born each year. APRIL – JUNE The Serengeti begins to dry up. The wildebeest start to travel north, towards the rains of the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
THE G UI D E
We always suggest you pick two bases and split your time across the two locations, thus increasing your chances of seeing the migration and river crossings. Our favourite combination is a mobile camp (see the section below) followed by a luxurious lodge: you can track the migration
in camp, which moves with the herds and gives you the best chance of seeing the migration or a river crossing. Then you can spend the next couple of days relaxing at your lodge, with some game drives to visit the wildebeest at a different stage of their journey.
JULY – OCTOBER From August until October is when most river crossings - the most dramatic part of the migration - take place and is the peak season for migration safaris. The herds have to traverse the Mara River, as they cross the border from Tanzania and into Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park. They face threats from crocodiles, lions – and people. OCTOBER – DECEMBER The herds start to move south and curve back into Tanzania, once again following the rain.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the migration, a mobile camp is by far the best accommodation option for at least part of your trip. Mobile camps are the ultimate in detox safaris: with no Wi-Fi and electricity, you’re forced to switch off your phone and get some one-on-one time with nature. Whilst the camps are far from basic, with Persian rugs and four-poster beds, it won’t be the luxurious accommodation you might expect. However, the value of mobile camps is that they base themselves wherever the herds happen to be, so you are almost guaranteed a migration viewing. Which mobile camp you book will depend on what time of year you are travelling and what you hope to see. Being small, they fill up quickly over the peak season, which makes booking ahead very important.
PACK YOUR BAGS Classic Tanzania Migration Safari >> seven nights on safari in the Serengeti and at the Ngorongoro Crater – from $6,628 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 37
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FIV E TOP LA NDSCAPES C I ARA OWE N S LATIN A ME RICA EXPERT
Chile does scenery to the extreme. From the otherworldly Atacama to the dramatic Torres del Paine, feast your eyes on the country’s most beautiful areas. ATACAMA DESERT
A true example of Earth’s topographical diversity, this magnificent, 15-millionyear-old wilderness of geysers, salt lakes, valleys and volcanoes can be explored by horseback, bicycle and 4WD jeep. At night, the clearest canopy of stars is revealed. The driest desert on Earth and fifty times more arid than Death Valley in California, the otherworldly Atacama Desert has also been found to have a similar soil constitution to that found on Mars.
With its sprawling larch forests, iridescent cobalt-blue lakes and snow-capped mountains, Chile’s vast Lake District is a land of immense beauty. Outdoor adventures abound, with opportunities for river fishing, kayaking and exploring the wild coastline and beaches. There are many German, Swiss and Scandinavian influences in the local towns, but the region is also still home to the indigenous Mapuche community.
TORRES DEL PAINE
This national park’s famous peaks are often the sole reason people travel to Chile. Discover the glaciers, lakes, lagoons and waterfalls a myriad of different ways from some of Latin America’s most luxurious properties. Local fauna includes rheas, guanacos, grey foxes, many birds and the elusive puma. Hiking is the most popular way to explore the rugged mountains. Flick over to read about our favourite trails.
Just south of the Lake District is the Aisén region, where the landscape gets even more contorted and dramatic. Bookended by the Patagonian ice fields, it is here that you’ll find sparkling glacial lakes, thick evergreen forests and lonely fjords, which you will have all to yourself. Go hiking, kayaking or take a river cruise. The area also boasts some of the best flyfishing in the world, the Marble Caves and the San Rafael glacier.
There is nothing more spellbinding than the sight of the sun rising or setting over Easter Island’s moai statues. These monolithic human figures were carved by the Rapa Nui and date back to between 1250 and 1500. Aside from the statues, which used to ring the entire island, Easter Island offers plenty of hiking and horseback riding, fresh seafood on which to feast, plus swimming, snorkelling, spelunking and surfing.
PACK YOUR BAGS Luxury Chile Explorer >> Spend 13 days exploring the Atacama Desert, the wine region, Patagonia and Santiago – from $7,266 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 39
REACH FOR THE SKY
George Warren rounds up the best hiking trails in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.
hile’s sublime Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most famous areas of Patagonia and one of the most photogenic regions of South America. The lakes, forests and rivers are exciting to explore, but it’s the welldeveloped hiking trails around the craggy granite peaks that draws most people to the area. There are numerous trails, some more well-trodden than others. Having done the painstaking research, I can share some of the best - and some lesser known - hikes around Torres del Paine.
BASE OF THE TORRES HIKING TIME: 7 TO 9 HOURS DISTANCE: 18 KM This is the classic Torres del Paine hike. Although it’s neither a short nor an easy trek – the decent can be tough on the knees – you will be rewarded when you get to the lookout to be met by the iconic view of the three granite towers. Follow the Rio Ascensio for about an hour, then hike through the verdant forest, before scrambling up a section of loose pebbles leading to the lookout. There’s no need to rush on, so you can enjoy lunch here and soak up the view.
“This hike showcases the scenery for which Patagonia is famed: mirror-like lakes reflect ragged, snow-capped peaks; sun-bleached, yellow-gold grassy hills roll across the landscape; and the lenticular cloud formations look as though they’ve been painted onto the sky.”
PHOTOS: ALEX MALCOLM; SHUTTERSTOCK; iSTOCK
LAZO WEBBER HIKING TIME: 4 HOURS DISTANCE: 14 KM The Lazo Webber hike showcases the scenery for which Patagonia is famed: mirror-like lakes reflect ragged, snow-capped peaks; sun-bleached, yellow-gold grassy hills roll across the landscape; and the lenticular cloud formations look as though they’ve been painted onto the cornflower-blue sky. You can start this hike from one of my favourite lodges in Patagonia, Awasi. The trek leads around the ‘back’ of the park and takes a quiet route, not yet popular with other tourists. When I went on this hike in high season, I saw just two other people.
THE FRENCH VALLEY HIKING TIME: 8 HOURS DISTANCE: 17 KM After a 30-minute boat ride across Lake Pehoé, hike up a windy path to Paine Grande and then trek along the shores of Lago Skottsberg enjoying the fabulous views of Cuernos del Paine as you walk. After crossing the French River, continue up the valley until you reach the viewpoint directly beneath the famous French Glacier.
THE GREY GLACIER HIKING TIME: 5 HOURS DISTANCE: 10 KM This hike has a special resonance for me, as it was here that I decided to return to London and plan trips to South America for a living. Take the boat across Lake Pehoé and follow the trail through rocky outcrops and lenga forest. Eventually, you’ll reach the viewpoint from which you can take in the scattered icebergs of Grey Lake.
GET OFF THE BEATEN TRACK Discover the quieter side to this sensational national park by forging a new trail with an experienced guide who knows the park like the back of their hand. I won’t give any details away here – or else everyone will be there. DRESS FOR SUCCESS Layering is key to hiking in Patagonia, so make sure you dress in worn-in hiking boots, a waterproof jacket and fleece, light hiking trousers, plus a hat and gloves. Bring a backpack so you can easily strip off layers as and when you need to.
PACK YOUR BAGS Luxury Chilean Patagonia Tour >> Spend 10 nights discovering Patagonia – from $4,949 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 41
DISCOVER AFRICA with Sanctuary Retreats
Discover Africa through the eye of an elephant. Stay among the big game in wilderness reserves. Meet a troop of gorillas in the mists of high mountains. Spend romantic evenings under a canopy of stars. Indulge your sense of adventure with Sanctuary Retreats’ ultimate luxury eco safaris. Located in some of the world’s most stunning destinations, each Sanctuary is totally individual in its design and operated around the philosophy of ‘Luxury, naturally’. Discover one of our boutique camps and lodges, and find your way back to nature in style.
B OT S WA N A • K E N YA • S O U T H A F R I C A • TA N Z A N I A • U G A N D A • Z A M B I A
F IVE TOP D ES TI NATI O N S K ATE E DWARDS A SIA E XPE RT
Myanmar – formerly Burma - is firmly on the tourist radar after years of turbulence. Right now, before the country becomes over-popular and loses some of its authenticity, is the perfect time to visit. KALAW ELEPHANT CAMP
Up in the cool hills of Kalaw, where trekking to visit the hill tribes is the main draw, there’s a camp for orphaned and retired elephants that have spent their lives working in the logging industry. Here they are given a good home and cared for in their old age. After the heat of midday has passed, you can walk these gentle animals down to the river, help clean them in the water, feed them banana snacks and learn about their backgrounds and how they came to the sanctuary.
This limestone cave, located about one mile from a sleepy village and on the banks of a tranquil lake, hides around 8,000 glittering Buddha statues of all shapes and sizes. Some have been donated from as far afield as Los Angeles and Switzerland. Don’t forget to explore all the nooks and crannies, including the smaller side chambers in which Buddhist pilgrims often practice meditation.
Cruising down the Irrawaddy River – sometimes called the ‘Road to Mandalay’ after the Rudyard Kipling poem – is a relaxing way to travel between the two major destinations of Mandalay and Bagan, particularly as a break in a busy itinerary. Put your feet up and watch the world go by from the deck, as you pass tiny riverside villages and the expansive countryside of Myanmar.
Bagan is one of the most impressive sights in Asia, with over 2,000 ancient pagodas scattered across the plains by the river. There are several temples from which the view is incredible, but I prefer the ones that only the locals know about. A sunrise hot air balloon ride is a must-do. Soar above this temple-strewn landscape and watch the sun slowly illuminate these relics of ancient Asia.
Flanked by mountains, this great lake is home to the famous leg-rowing fishermen of Inle. Hop in a boat and marvel at the effortless way the fishermen use a single leg to power the oar. Pass local villages along the sides of the lake, where monks stroll, children play, women wash their colourful clothes and blankets, and water buffalo cool off.
PACK YOUR BAGS Classic Myanmar Explorer >> Travel for 10 days through Mandalay, Inle Lake, Bagan, Ngapali Beach and Yangon – from $3,559 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 43
“You have to stay here at least once in your lifetime.”
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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: NINOY & FIONA IN ANTARCTICA • PATRICK AT GIRAFFE MANOR, KENYA • PENGUINS IN ANTARCTICA, BY EMAN • ROLF & ALEXANDER AT THE SUMMIT OF KILIMANJARO IN TANZANIA • CATHERINE & MAURY IN BOLIVIA • A SEA LION ON THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS, BY SCOTT • TORRES DEL PAINE IN CHILE, BY CHRISTINE & ADAM
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN / FALL 2015 | 45
GI VI NG BACK IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US THAT WE GIVE BACK TO COMMUNITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT, WHICH IS WHY WE SUPPORT A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT CHARITIES BY DONATING A PERCENTAGE OF OUR PROFITS.
In Africa, we support Rhinos Without Borders and Uthando. Rhinos Without Borders aim to move 100 rhinos from South Africa, where they are at high risk from poaching, to the relative safety of Botswana. Back in January 2015, we held an event in London in aid of rhino projects, including Rhinos Without Borders, and raised over £10,500 ($16,300). rhinoswithoutborders.com/ Uthando is a community development charity based in Cape Town. Most recently, we helped fund the new Isiseko Educare Centre, a day-care centre, in the Cape Town township of Mfuleni. uthandosa.org
Latin America bookings support two of the Latin America Travel Association (LATA) Foundation’s projects: wildlife rescue in Costa Rica and schooling in Ecuador. The Kids Saving the Rainforest project in Costa Rica rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned animals in the Manuel Antonio region. kidssavingtherainforest.org In Ecuador, the Condor Trust works in Quito, helping families send their children to school. The funds provide uniforms, books and school materials for children from low-income families. condortrust.org
Our Asian charities of choice are the World Land Trust in Malaysia and Building Schools for Burma. The World Land Trust supports conservation in Borneo, protecting the rainforest and the animals that live there. worldlandtrust.org/projects/ malaysia Building Schools for Burma is a project set up by Patrick Gilfeather to advance the education of children in Burma by providing educational facilities and building school. buildingschoolsforburma.org
FROM TOP: A NEWLY ERECTED SCHOOL, BUILDING SCHOOLS FOR BURMA; FEEDING A SLOTH, KIDS SAVING THE RAINFOREST; DANCING OUTSIDE ISISEKO EDUCARE, UTHANDO; MAIN IMAGE: RHINOS WITHOUT BORDERS
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DE S TI N ATION INSPIRATION
SUN, SAND & SANTA If the idea of snow, ice, family arguments and feeding the masses is just too much, then a Christmas getaway to Southeast Asia might be just the ticket. Here are some of the very best beach escapes.
PACK YOUR BAGS Idyllic Thai Romantic Escape >> nine nights, travelling from Thailand’s islands to the lush north and Bangkok – from $3,578 per person.
PACK YOUR BAGS Classic Myanmar Explorer >> a nine-night tour covering Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali Beach and Yangon – from $3,559 per person.
The Thai islands boast some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia, plus some of the most luxurious properties. Spend your Christmas unwinding on a toasty beach on tranquil Koh Kood. From here you can easily add on a trip to Cambodia’s ancient and impressive Angkor complex or head into the cool countryside of Thailand’s north.
NGAPALI BEACH, MYANMAR
Myanmar, newly opened to visitors, offers more than temples and trekking. The unspoiled Bay of Bengal coastline is the perfect spot to chill out after a few days exploring Myanmar, soaring above the temples of Bagan in a hot air balloon and sailing across Inle Lake on a boat powered by traditional ‘leg-rowing’.
SONG SAA, CAMBODIA
Song Saa is a tiny private island set off the coast of Cambodia and is home to an eco-friendly, luxury resort with overwater villas that will make you feel far, far away from the festive season’s usual madness. Make sure you save a few days to visit the Angkor temples and cruise past the floating villages of the Mekong River.
AN INDONESIAN CRUISE
It’s hard to imagine a more relaxing trip than a cruise around the Indonesian archipelago on board a luxury phinisi yacht. Visit the prehistoric-looking komodo dragons and stop off for a few nights on the virtually untouched and unforgettable island of Sumba at its one luxury resort. A further advantage of sailing in December is that this is when the water is at its calmest.
PACK YOUR BAGS A Luxury Cambodia Getaway >> nine nights, starting in Bangkok and finishing with four nights on Song Saa after exploring the temples of Angkor – from $6,495 per person.
PACK YOUR BAGS Luxury Komodo Cruise & Sumba Stay >> 10 nights split between a luxury yacht and a beach stay on Sumba – from $7,830 per person.
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WE HAVE SOMETHING VERY EXCITING UP OUR SLEEVEâ€¦ CAN YOU GUESS WHAT OUR NEW REGIONAL LAUNCH IS?
LA ST-MINUTE ESCAP ES
Need to scratch that travel itch? Here are some destinations just ripe for visiting...
VISIT CHILE ’S LUSH AND GREEN LAKE DISTRICT DURING SPRING
SPEND A WARM, RELAXING CHRISTMAS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
TRAVEL TO BOTSWANA IN THE GREEN SEASON
EXPERIENCE THE SEASON’S FIRST NORTHERN LIGHTS IN ICELAND
The Lake District is simply stunning in October and November: the perfect pre-Christmas getaway.
A little-known fact is that just before Christmas, Botswana is not only wonderfully quiet, but the birding is spectacular, the springboks are calving and the landscape is gloriously lush – perfect for photographers.
Shirk tradition and the festive stress with Christmas on a tropical beach (see page 48 for our favourite spots).
Chilly Iceland is so hot right now, but the Aurora is its main attraction. Head north as the nights get darker to watch Mother Nature’s mesmerising display.
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