I S S U E 05 | AUTUMN/FAL L 2016 THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 1
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A L ETTER FROM A LEX
t’s the turn of the season here in the UK, and although many will lament the end of summer, this signals the start of the peak season to visit Patagonia - one of my favourite places in the world.
I could go back to Patagonia every year and never tire of that sense of wilderness and isolation. I split my time between London and Hong Kong, both of which are big, hectic cities. For me – and many others like me – finding that ‘space’ to clear my mind and fill my lungs with fresh, clean air, is so important. That’s what Patagonia offers in the bucketloads. Lucinda Paxton’s feature about riding with the gauchos on page 22 has already got me hankering to go back this winter. On the subject of getting away from it all, our article about destinations to reconnect with family is really important reading for people who live far from home or don’t get much time to enjoy family company. There are lots of places that are wonderful for family getaways, but our choices are based on the best combination of space, comfort and flexibility, the latter of which is particularly important for multi-generation family holidays. Check out page 30 for our destination suggestions and tips on how best to set about organising a big family trip. Finally, there’s news as to what’s next for Jacada Travel at the back of this issue. I’m very excited to say that we’ve ventured into a new area of the world and later this year we will be revealing our first luxury tours in Australia and New Zealand. From epic hikes around South Island’s Milford Sound to island-hopping along Queenland’s tropical shores, there is so much to do in these two far-flung countries. There’s a lot more coming for Jacada travellers as our team grows, with more destination experts being brought into our family. I can’t wait to see them take you on more wonderful trips around this incredible world we live in. Happy travelling! Warm regards,
Alex Malcolm Jacada Travel Founder & MD
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 3
I N THI S I SSUE OF THE EX PLORER
P08 RIDING HIGH
P 1 4 BOTSWANA
P 2 2 PATAGONIAN GAUCHOS
P 3 0 R ECO N N EC T I O N R E T R E ATS
Travel writer Simon Willis experiences Colombia’s cycling craze firsthand in the Andes.
Lucinda Paxton joins the gauchos for an epic horseback journey across Argentine and Chilean Patagonia.
On Botswana’s 50th birthday, we look at what makes this country a pioneer in eco-tourism.
Heather Richardson suggests some top destinations for reconnecting as a family.
CON T EN TS
06 HOT TICKETS:TIME TO BOOK YOUR NEXT TRIP 13 WHAT TO PACK: ACTIVE HOLIDAYS 36 INSIDER GUIDE: MALDIVES 38 JACADA TRAVEL JOURNAL: BOROBUDUR, INDONESIA 40 DISCOVERING DURBAN: SOUTH AFRICA 42 TH E GUIDE: GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS 46 GIVING BACK: THE CONDOR TRUST 48 DESTINATION INSPIRATION: TOP ECO-HOTELS 50 LAST-MINUTE ESCAPES: GO NOW
CONTRIBUTO R S
HEAT H E R RIC HA R DSO N E DITO R
KATE EDWA RDS AS I A E XP ERT
LU C I NDA PA XTO N T RAV EL W RI T ER & P H OTO G RA PH ER
Heather’s experience of travelling started at 18 years old with a trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, including a six-week stint in the rainforest. An award-winning writer and one of TTG’s 30 under 30, Heather combines her passion for travel with her creative credentials as Jacada Travel’s marketing and editorial manager. @hg_richardson
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 Himalaya; exploring Myanmar; rediscovering the charms of Indochina; tiger spotting in India; and island-hopping around her beloved Indonesia.
Lucinda is a documentary photographer and writer with a Masters in Anthropology and an incurable wanderlust to explore the world’s more off the beaten track regions. An expert in South American travel, she has worked across the region but now lives in rural Argentina developing her #losgauchosproject.
SALLY HINE TR AVE L WRITER
S IM O N WI L L I S TR AVE L W RI T ER
S U SA NN P I E TSC H MA NN L AT I N A M ERI C A CO N C I ERGE
Sally is part of the marketing team at Jacada Travel and has a background in journalism. Originally from New Zealand, she has been living in the UK for five years, but we still can’t distinguish between her vowels. Sally lived in Italy for a year when she was 17 and has been travelling ever since. Her favourite trips have been in Jordan, Japan, Norway and Vietnam. Top of her bucket list are Iran and Nepal.
Simon Willis is a travel journalist specialising in South America. Often travelling from his home city Medellín, Simon has trained to become a Colombian cowboy, investigated Argentina’s youth football culture and explored hidden Quechua communities in Peru. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Guardian and AFAR among others. @simonwillis11
Susann’s most memorable travel experience to date was a trip to the Galápagos Islands – one of the most extraordinary places she has ever visited. Out of a love for hiking and the mountains, she’s been out and about on some of the highest peaks in Europe, so naturally Patagonia is top of her list of places to visit. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 5
Donâ€™t miss out on Indiaâ€™s peak season between January and March. Discover exclusive access to ornate palaces, tours with renowned historians and incredible tiger sightings on safari in this vast and exotic country. JANUARY 2017 >>> MARCH 2017
BOOK N OW
For a New Year’s Eve with a difference, head to Reykjavik. Watch the fireworks from the highest building in the city, visit a local bonfire, take part in ice-carving and enjoy a champagne reception in the build-up to midnight.
DECEMBER 2016 >>> AUGUST 2017
The best time to go to Costa Rica is the dry season between December and April, but there’s also a lull in the rainy season between July and August. Secure your trip to one of the world’s adventure capitals for zip-lining, white-water rafting and horse riding.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 7
BY SIMON WILLIS
R I D I N G H I G H S IM O N W I L L IS DO N S HIS LYCR A TO SAMPLE COLOMBIA’S CYCLING CRA ZE.
guitar riff sounded from outside my hotel room. Steady vibrations shuddered the water in a glass on my bedside table like that scene from Jurassic Park. The clock glowed 5.30am. Then, the opening verse of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ kicked in. I creaked open my door to see three men in bright yellow spandex stretching against the wall, pushing and groaning like they were trying to move a van up a hill. Another man – skinny, thickly bearded and wearing a white bandana – spotted me. “Buenos días, amigo,” he shouted over the music. He bit into his granola bar like a lion and gave a thumbs up. I had registered for the Andes Epic in April, a month before it started. This three-day mountain bike race would head up the eastern part of the Andean mountain range that cuts through Colombia. I – and a field of 550, mostly Colombians – would begin and end in Barbosa, a rural town lying 118 miles north of the capital Bogotá. Having not ridden a mountain bike since a family holiday
to Centre Parks 15 years ago, I was nervous. I still had raised hairs and tender ears from Survivor’s classic hit when I squeezed, for the first time ever, into a pair of Lycra shorts. I slipped on an equally snug t-shirt and covered myself in sunblock. Feeling like a Michelangelo exhibit, I crab-walked through the morning mist to a chiming restaurant. The clinking and clanking of pots echoed from the kitchen as two women in white aprons and blue hairnets rushed from stove to stove. Sat on wooden benches, 20 or so competitors slurped steaming potato soup and guzzled rice, beans, arepas (flat cornbread) and mounds of eggs. I slid next to a silverhaired man and ordered an omelette and coffee. Wearing a low-zipped black top, the man introduced himself as Antonio from Bogotá. “So, what training have you done?” he asked, ripping off a piece of arepa and dunking it into his hot chocolate. “Mainly gym work, a bit of running,” I exaggerated. “Have you been training?”
“Then, a hush – “Tres...Dos... Uno…Vamos” (let’s go). Clicking and whirring pierced the sultry air as everyone searched for the correct gear.” CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: CYCLISTS ON THE ANDES EPIC TRAIL; IN THE COLOMBIAN HILLS; A VILLAGE IN THE SANTANDER DEPARTMENT.
“Claro!” Antonio says, displaying his milk-white teeth. “I ride four times every week. I love it.” After wishing Antonio “buena suerte” and downing two mugs of delicious, eye-bulging Colombian coffee, I jogged to collect my rented bike from the organisers. Biking has always been popular in Colombia, but rather than the off-road type, it’s the slick, thin-wheeled activity that has historically taken the limelight. In the ‘80s, road cyclists like Luis Alberto ‘Lucho’ Herrera and Fabio Parra became Colombian heroes with their exploits on the European tours and encouraged locals to take up the freewheeling activity. Nowadays, Nairo Quintana’s success is inspiring a new generation. Every week the streets of Bogotá, Medellín and Cali sparkle with brightly-coloured cyclists enjoying the car-free event, Ciclovía. Each Sunday in Bogotá alone, 75 miles of the streets close for riders, runners, skaters, joggers and the odd unicyclist. While joining the moving mass is an ideal way to see each city, opportunities to explore the countryside with a group of mountain bikers has been a rarity, until recently that is… In 2013, the Travesia Tairona race emerged, taking riders high from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta’s luxuriant jungle down to its cream cashmere Caribbean beaches. The Tatacoa Desert race, which started in 2014, bumps cyclists along 62 miles of Huila’s cacti-laden, southern terrain. And one of the longest, La Leyenda Del Dorado (the Legend of El Dorado), lasts seven days, passes through 19 towns and covers over 400 miles. I, however, chose the Andes Epic, which after a four-year absence due to lack of interest, returned in 2015 in a three-day format. Like all of these races, amateurs ride alongside (or behind) professionals; those, I presumed, were the ones readied, primed like caged horses at the starting line as I walked my bike up Barbosa’s main road. I ducked under the tape at the very back. A woman, sheathed in blue, stretched down to her feet as if about to dive into a pool. A few rows ahead, the riders from the hotel
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 9
CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: AT THE START LINE; A CYCLIST ON THE ANDES EPIC COURSE; A VILLAGE IN SANTANDER; RURAL COLOMBIA; A CYCLIST; THE EASTERN ANDES; CYCLING THROUGH VILLAGES.
were leaning on their handlebars, one with earphones in, maybe still listening to Best Rock Ballads of the ‘80s. Suddenly, the loudspeaker crackled. The announcer shouted a few words in Spanish, encouraging huge cheers and whistles. Then, a hush – “Tres...Dos...Uno…Vamos” (let’s go). Clicking and whirring pierced the sultry air as everyone searched for the correct gear. In the distance, the pros were already whizzing down the hill like scampering ladybirds. Our mass steadily began to move. We passed women holding waving children and several men wafting pieces of cardboard over BBQs that billowed out beef-tinged smoke. We rode underneath a huge banner advertising Bocadillo (a sugared guava jelly made locally), streamed past a police cordon and left the last few houses behind. Soon the cheers faded. The heat picked up. Puffing and panting sounded all around like I was in the middle of a marauding herd of bulls. We were now alone. We were now in the mountains.
Most of the 31-mile trail snaked along narrow paths, splashing into terracotta-coloured ditches filled with last night’s rain and over crumbling rocks. Emerging at one of the many peaks (some reach 2,000 metres), I scanned endless rows of guava plantations bursting from the olivegreen mountain sides. As the group spread, I was left with the sound of my own breathing, the tweeting of swooping birds and the swish, swish of local farmers scything down sugarcane plants with machetes. On spiralling descents, I brushed past towering banana leaves. Outside bubblegumhued colonial farm houses, beaming locals clapped me along. One elderly woman even handed me a plastic cup of cool lemonade. “Ánimo” (keep going), she said. Colombians have always celebrated the achievements of their sports stars, especially cyclists, with great enthusiasm. In 1984 when ‘Lucho’ won one stage, Colombia’s first ever, of the Tour de France, the country erupted with elation, tears
“Puffing and panting sounded all around like I was in the middle of a marauding herd of bulls.”
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; DREAMSTIME; SIMON WILLIS.
were shed among media members and his achievement is still talked about today. After five hours, several lengthy climbs, two stops to scoff bananas, guava jelly and sweet cake, I re-entered Barbosa. A faint cheer drifted down from the last hill. Bobbing from the peak, a crowd of people bounced flags, waved balloons and shouted, “Vamos, vamos.” They must have seen hundreds of cyclists today, I thought, yet their enthusiasm was as if I were ‘Lucho’ heading for victory. A deeply wrinkled man wearing a black and white sombrero leaned down to clap my progress. Four young boys in faded yellow Colombian football jerseys ran alongside me on the pavement. On the other side, a woman in a bright pink ‘Diva’ top smiled and shouted, “Puede hacerlo”, (you can do it). The admiration caused me to smirk like a schoolboy who’d just received a glowing review at parents’ evening. If it weren’t
for the fear of collapsing in a delirious heap, I would’ve crossed the finish line with both hands held aloft. Ever since I arrived in Colombia four years ago, I’ve seen its international appeal grow. Travellers are now discarding its unfounded and outdated reputation to explore its magnificent Caribbean beaches, colonial towns and throbbing cities. Saddling up and exploring the countryside, however, offers something new. A step into the unknown. Throw in a competitive element, the chance to ride alongside some of the country’s most promising riders and a big shiny medal at the end of it, and it’s hard to imagine a better way to explore Colombia’s rural side. Even I, a stickler for early morning silence, was eager to crank up the tunes the following day for that true Colombian experience.
PA C K YOUR B AGS Colombian Explorer – Eight nights in Bogotá, rural colonial towns, Barichara and Cartagena – from $4,900 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 11
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ACTIV E HOLIDAYS
WHAT TO PACK What you’ll need for an action-packed adventure. HIKIN G
1. Camelbak Hydrobak – 1.5 litres, camelbak.com, $49 2. Lightweight daypack, hyperlitemountaingear.com, $220 3. Broken in hiking boots 4. Blister plasters
1. Deuter Race EXP Air with Aircomfort back system, deutergb.co.uk, $102 2. Oakley Jawbreaker sunglasses – polarised, backcountry.com, $230 3. Lightweight waterproof jacket 4. Padded shorts 5. Puncture repair kit
1. Atomic frameless mask, oceanleisure.co.uk, $100 2. GoPro Hero4 Black camera & floating hand grip, gopro.com, $599.96 3. Wetsuit/rashie 4. Diving certifications and dive log
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 13
BY HEATHER RICHARDSON
As Botswana turns 50 this September, Heather Richardson looks at how the country became one of the biggest success stories in Africa.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 15
he term ‘success story’ is often applied to Botswana, a southern African country the same size as France, but with a population of only two million. With one of the lowest corruption rates in the world and fair, regular elections, it has grown from being one of the poorest nations in Africa to joining the upper-middle income countries of the world with a per capita GDP of $17,700 in 2015, up from approximately $70 in 1966. On 30th September 1966, Botswana became an independent country, following the signing of the constitution in 1965. In the years that followed, the discovery of diamonds kick-started Botswana’s economy, which has since become one of the fastest growing in the world. Its wealth and sparse population has afforded the country a liberal attitude to the environment, with no need to sell land for new developments, industries or complex infrastructure. Whilst there are still social problems, such as unemployment and HIV, Botswana’s approach to conservation is amongst the most admirable in Africa.
LOW VOLUME, HIGH VALUE Botswana is arguably the most eco-friendly country on the continent. Poaching is tackled from a government level with army involvement; commercial hunting is banned; there are no fences, so animals roam freely around the country; and the tourism structure follows a low volume, high value model, which dramatically lessens the impact of tourism on the environment. Map Ives is the National Rhino Coordinator for Botswana and Wilderness Safaris’ Botswana Environmental Director. “The single most important thing that places Botswana apart from others in eco-tourism is and was putting in place a policy that encourages low volume, high value, low impact tourism, particularly in the wildlife areas of northern Botswana,” he says. It’s a view shared by most in Botswana’s travel industry. Ralph Bousfield, safari guide and owner of several luxury camps in the Makgadikgadi Pans, agrees: “The Kalahari and the Makgadikgadi in particular are extremely fragile environments, therefore the low volume and low impact
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: BOAT SAFARIS IN BOTSWANA; LEOPARD; SPOTTING A RHINO ON SAFARI; YELLOW-BILLED STORK; WATCHING THE SUN GO DOWN IN THE MADKGADIKGADI PANS; FLYING OVER THE DELTA.
luxury market is the only way to go. The camps benefit the environment by giving it an economic value that will ensure that it remains pristine.” The idea is that the long-term value of the tourism industry will outweigh the short-lived financial gains presented by poaching. This has become increasingly important as the money being paid to poachers has shot up in the last decade. Ives explains: “The prices being offered for ivory and for rhino horn to the guys on the ground doing the actual shooting has skyrocketed in those years, leading to gangs of poachers who can now afford to purchase more sophisticated weapons and several of them per gang. This allows them to not only get more elephants or rhinos, but also to take on government forces in the countries where they operate, including Botswana.” For a ranger or guide on the ground, poachers are extremely dangerous. It’s often been said that Botswana operates a ‘shoot-on-sight’ policy, but Ives says this has been blown out of proportion. “The guys on the ground have a much more controlled approach, and would rather arrest a poacher than shoot him/her. I work with the Botswana Defence Force soldiers and Botswana Anti-Poaching Unit guys and can tell you that a live poacher is much more valuable to them than any dead poacher. He will have information that can lead to the shutting down of a network or who he might be selling ivory to and so on.” That said, Ives goes on, if a poacher starts shooting, naturally the armed forces will fight back. It’s these instances of the army fighting poachers that have led to media perceptions about Botswana’s shoot-to-kill attitude. “Our guys are very well trained and exceptionally well equipped to deal with poaching and will do so, but it must be stressed that they are also
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 17
CLOCKWISE FROM FAR TOP LEFT: MOKORO RIDES ON THE DELTA; ENCOUNTERS WITH AN ELEPHANT ON SAFARI; A LION IN THE DELTA.
highly disciplined and in control. They would rather arrest than shoot and if a poacher drops their weapon they will not be shot. Shoot on sight is much more a perception than reality.”
CONSERVATION-MINDED TOURISM The lodges and camps of Botswana are key to this low impact model. Mombo Camp in Botswana’s verdant Okavango Delta, an area teeming with wildlife from buffalo-hunting lions to elephant herds cooling off in the water, operates on 100% solar energy. The lodge was constructed using natural materials, and sewage water is treated before it is released back into the environment. Zarafa is another Botswana lodge that has been designed to leave no footprint. The lodge was constructed using wood left after the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and everything is powered by solar energy. The vehicles are fuelled by a mixture of 85% vegetable oil and 15% diesel, and the drinking water at Zarafa is treated in a UV filtration system, so there’s no need for plastic bottles. Baines’ Camp in the delta is made from commercially-grown wood and tin cans that the camp pays the local community to collect. Chobe Game Lodge was the first lodge to introduce electric safari vehicles, which is not only kinder to the environment, but also creates less noise in the bush, aiding great game viewing opportunities. The lodge has also recently launched Africa’s first solar-powered safari boat for water-based wildlife spotting. Many lodges and camps also act as research stations and hubs for conservation efforts. Jack’s Camp is used as a base for the study of the rare brown hyena and meerkats, climate change and the Makgadikgadi Pans’ paleontological value. Great Plains Conservation – who own Zarafa camp – run a number of campaigns focused on protecting wild animals, including Rhinos Without Borders, which is a collaboration between GPC
and safari company andBeyond. The project aims to relocate 100 rhinos from South Africa – where they are under constant threat of poaching – to the relative safety of Botswana. It’s not just the specific designs or campaigns run by the lodges and camps in Botswana that benefit conservation, it’s tourism itself. The safari industry has generated jobs and pumps money into local communities as well as the government. This sustainable, consistent stream of money is crucial to persuading people that tourism is more lucrative than poaching or hunting and that protecting the environment will pay off in the long run. Poachers will also avoid major safari areas, as they know how good the guides are at tracking and that members of the safari industry are in frequent communication with the armed forces.
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; DREAMSTIME; JACADA LODGE PARTNERS.
“It’s no wonder that Botswana is home to 40% of Africa’s elephants.”
A SENSE OF WILDERNESS
Botswana has one more thing going for it, and that’s its vast swathes of truly wild land. The country’s tiny population compared to its physical size makes it one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries. The wilderness of Botswana also protects the animals, too. Poachers find it difficult to track animals when there are no roads for them to use and no access to huge areas of land. With no fences, animals are free to roam where they will, rather than being penned into one area, which makes the poachers’ lives considerably harder. It’s no wonder that Botswana is home to 40% of Africa’s elephants. And that’s good news for travellers, too. Ives says that resisting mass tourism and sticking to their low impact model is what gives Botswana the “edge on countries that have opted for high volume tourism”. The world is “increasingly crowded”, Ives notes. “Individuals seek to feel at one with nature.” Here’s to another 50 years of Botswana affording travellers that dwindling opportunity.
PA C K YOUR B AGS Botswana Explorer – 11 nights in Linyanti, Okavango Delta and the Makgadikgadi Pans, plus Victoria Falls – from $10,990 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 19
WILD RIDING WITH THE
Patagonian Gauchos Lucinda Paxton joins the gauchos of South America on a journey by horseback through the contrasting landscapes of Patagonia.
repare your legs”, chuckled Juampi, a Patagonian gaucho, new friend and in that moment a knife-wielding, melon-eating comic who warned me about the long hours in the saddle ahead. He was not what I was expecting when I acquiesced to cross the Andes with the gauchos, but then nothing much was as I had expected. Patagonia straddles Argentina and Chile, spreading across the southern tip of the Americas, home to the southern Andes mountain range and the desert, steppe and grassland that surround it. I had embarked on a journey to cross the northern part of the region, crossing the Andes from Neuquén (Argentina) to Curarruhue (Chile). Travellers to Patagonia are warned to prepare themselves for ‘rain, wind and snow in a single day’. The harsh and unpredictable weather can change in a second and it is
not best known for its hospitable welcome. Yet there I was, lazing in sunshine, with puffs of gorse resembling giant toadstools glimmering iridescent green and yellow across the landscape, eating sweet melon passed to me by a jovial gaucho. In that bizarre moment, I thought of the history of these rebel kings of the pampas, which, mirroring the climate, is at once colourful, tumultuous and unpredictable. Although the true origin of the gaucho, a South American cowboy, is highly debated, it is generally agreed that they were born the illegitimate children of the indigenous Indians and the 18th-century Spanish conquistadors. Ostracised by society, they were forced to roam the vast pampas of the Río de la Plata and Rio Grande do Sol regions of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil - etymologists suggest the term ‘gaucho’ may in fact derive from the Quechua ‘huachu’ meaning orphan or vagabond.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 21
The golden years of the gauchos reflected those of the South American beef boom. Paramount in the success of Argentina’s glory days, the gauchos transported cattle thousands of lonely miles across the Americas. Long, solitary rides and a nomadic existence helped define the character of these famously reticent men. In choosing to travel with the Patagonian gauchos, I chose the most ruggedly elusive of these folk-heroes - yet like the landscape itself they proved to be wonderfully surprising and welcoming. We started the afternoon’s climb towards camp with
Volcano Lanin rising tall and snow-capped behind us. I was teaching Mariano, the youngest gaucho in the group – 15 years old and sharp as a tack – the difference between ‘to have’ and ‘to be’ in one of our now regular, informal language lessons. Our horses nuzzled each other as they lazily wandered in the sunshine and I thought of relevant examples: “I am a girl, I have a horse.” “Ahhhh, bien. I am a gaucho, I have 25 horses?” was Mariano’s unblinking response, lest I forget. Warned it was going to be an ‘uphill’ day, I wasn’t prepared for the thrilling mouthfulof-dust gallop that particular morning offered. Wide-eyed with PREVIOUS PAGE: THE exhaustion and rather hot, we PATAGONIAN LANDSCAPE BY LUCINDA PAXTON. CLOCKWISE arrived at a river and de-camped FROM TOP LEFT: GAUCHO in a tree-shrouded hollow in OVERLOOKING A VALLEY BY time for a siesta. With most days LUCINDA PAXTON; TORRES tipping eight hours in the saddle, DEL PAINE, CHILE; NEUQUEN, siestas became a necessary ARGENTINA; CHILEAN PATAGONIA. pleasure, although certainly taken for the horses rather than us. In the vastness of Patagonia, the gauchos know exactly where to find water for their horses, the love they have for their animals being unparalleled. Upon reaching rivers, the animals are the priority; metal
tins are untied from the back of saddles and used to collect water from the river, which is then gently poured over steaming noses and run carefully along the strong backs of our steeds. Cooled and wearing just sun-bleached head collars, the horses were left free in the pampas – they won’t run from their gauchos. Mariano cradled a little white sack of alfalfa and carefully measured out three handfuls under the nose of each happily grazing horse. Once this ritual was lovingly completed, the gauchos too settled down for a snooze in the shade. These hours gave me the most solitude of my day. My body still not accustomed to daytime napping, I preferred to sneak off along the riverbanks, the sunshine and lunchtime wine blurring nature with an ethereal glow. In the spectacular silence, I felt tiny amongst the greatness of nature. The sun had been scorching hot and finding a hidden spot, I stripped off and jumped into the water, the current pulling me towards sun-blasted fallen branches and mossy rocks which created an otherworldly pool. It was only after setting off again that afternoon that I realised how bereft of trees the landscape had previously been. Here, as if marking a new page in the adventure, trees erupted like sherbet dipper sticks from the hillside. We entered a forested wonderland; luminous against the halflight, startlingly bright parrots screeched past as we traversed an increasingly narrowing trail of soft brown pine needles. The branches of the monkey puzzle trees were weighed down by paint-box green needles as thick as my finger and as hard as bone. No more than an hour into this Aladdin’s cave, we had lost the path, forcing the horses to push through bamboo as high as our heads. It was an extraordinary contrast to the miles and miles of flat estancia land over which I had galloped like a bandit just that morning, reminding me yet again of the dramatic variety of the Patagonian terrain. As a child, Patagonia conjured canvases of unchartered territory: wild pumas, cowboys and Indians and really big mountains, an exhilaratingly inhospitable land where only the toughest explorers dared go. Sadly, the time of ‘real exploration’ is nearly over in Patagonia, particularly in the south where Chile’s Torres del Paine stands proud, UNESCO stamped and deservedly drawing many a global adventure seeker. British aristocrat Lady Florence Dixie is credited as the first tourist to travel to Torres del Paine. She arrived in 1879 and named the famous granite peaks ‘Cleopatra’s Needles’: ‘now, as if by magic, from the bowels of the earth, a grand and glorious landscape had sprung up around us ... jagged peaks were cleft in the most fantastic fashion...’, she wrote in Across Patagonia. Where beauty exists, travellers follow and the south of Patagonia is becoming a well-trodden
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; DREAMSTIME; LUCINDA PAXTON.
“The horses were left free in the pampas – they won’t run from their gauchos.”
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 23
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: GAUCHO AND HIS HORSE BY LUCINDA PAXTON; VOLCANO LANIN, ARGENTINA; A GUANACO IN CHILEAN PATAGONIA; TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE.
trail; so, although the south is perhaps grander, with a more ostentatious landscape, I preferred to explore the more tranquil trails and lesser-visited paths of the north. The next afternoon blessed me with my first uninhibited view of the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera. The landscape had changed yet again and as the horses surefootedly stepped over the prehistoric terrain, I imagined the glacier running through the rock, the phenomenon responsible for creating these sculptures of nature. As we climbed higher and higher up the side of the craggy rock, I caught glimpses of shining, lush, green pastures below. Wild horses and fat cows roamed free. It suggested to me a time before humanity â€“ a dream world, a place of magic. The bright blue sky held just a single white cloud. Boulders peppered the landscape, so big and so completely unlike anything I had seen before that I was reminded I was traversing the feet of the longest mountain range on earth. On my left, the monkey tree canopy of the forest below stretched into the horizon. The horses scrambled up and down until eventually a narrow track led into a valley where there was a sparkling river and boulders turning black in the setting sun resting
“That night we were so far away from anything. The stillness was almost shocking.”
amongst the puffy, chameleon-green grass. That night we were so far away from anything. The stillness was almost shocking. I couldn’t resist the glacial river, surely the coldest water I had experienced. I found a shimmering pool, a secret spot with a small sandy bank where I could swim lengths in the setting sun. Keeping as much of me as possible underwater, I peeked up to the mountains, which were turning tangerine. Thousands of tiny gnats twinkled around, not bothering me at all, transforming into fireflies as their tiny iridescent wings caught the last light. Later, I sat around a campfire, a crescent of stones, a reflection of the moon above, surrounding the dancing flames. Squinting deeper into the endless sky of this wild country, I could see the shadows of the canyon rising steeply in the darkness. That night the accordion sang, pushing the music forward faster and faster. The songs were long exhausting dances; we let loose around the fire to the gaucho music of old, a furiously fast twostep Chamamé – easy to pick up but hard to keep up. I was swung around the fire as it sparked into the darkness, the moon shining down and the music tumbling around me. When the playing stopped, I moved a little closer to the fire and sat and listened to the chatter of the gauchos before a new tune started. Accompanied by the guitar, the songs turned into elongated stories told adlib and passed between each man, a duel of dialogue: the famous gaucho payada (pa-sha-da). That night I slept like a true gaucha. I was determined. How could I not after an evening as fantastically authentic as this? I laid my saddle and a sheepskin under a tree and covered myself with a poncho. The moon shone down like a spotlight through the trees to where I slept, the sound of the river and the gently grazing horses my lullaby. Crossing the border into Chile the next day wasn’t quite as I had imagined, galloping across the patrol with my passport waved high. Sadly, the reality was a little more bureaucratic, though still thrillingly exciting. I had ridden across Patagonia, or part of it at least, feeling as free as a renegade cowboy.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 25
Sally Hine interviews Jacada Travelâ€™s Latin America experts, Ciara Owens & George Warren about the differences between Chile and Argentinaâ€™s southerly regions.
hile and Argentina share so much in common that they’ve left many travellers struggling to choose between them. But is there a clear winner? Our Latin America experts go head to head. In the first corner we have Ciara Owens on behalf of Chile. Ciara lived in Santiago for a year and has travelled extensively through both countries. In the second corner we have George Warren representing Argentina. George lived in Buenos Aires for a year and has also explored most of Argentina and Chile.
ROUND 01 PATAGONIA CIARA I’ve been all over both sides, but I have to say the gem of Patagonia for me is Torres del Paine in Chile. The granite peaks, the ever-changing weather and the different things the park brings with each season. It’s just beautiful. Every time I talk about it I want to go back. And it combines nicely with Argentina because it’s only a five-hour drive from El Calafate which holds one of Argentina’s biggest attractions: Perito Moreno Glacier. The Aisen region of Patagonia in Chile is also absolutely stunning. If you’re willing to stay in simpler accommodation and do longer drives, it has some of the best landscapes in the world. GEORGE Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina’s Patagonia is a sight to behold and El Calafate offers some great hiking. But it’s really important if we’re talking about hiking to mention El Chalten, the trekking capital of Argentina. Here you’ve got Mount Fitzroy, which I think is the most beautiful mountain I’ve ever seen. But neither area quite has the x factor of Torres del Paine in Chile. For me that is the most beautiful place on the planet, and that is speaking as someone who used to live in Argentina. There’s something magical in the scenery, the air and the light down there. I would go back in a heartbeat. I think it’s a victory for Chile there.
ROUND 02 THE LAKE DISTRICT CIARA Some would still consider this the northern part of Patagonia, but it has
more of an alpine feel. You’ll find a lot of lovely snow-capped mountains, forests and lush greenery, and it’s a great place for hiking, cycling and driving around. If we compare Chile and Argentina, it’s a tough call, but Argentina’s Lake District is probably going to win out here for me because of the fantastic combination of spectacular vistas, excellent lakeside properties and for its proximity to Bariloche, home to the best chocolate in Argentina. GEORGE We haven’t really talked about volcanoes. For me Chile’s Lake District is similar to Iceland, which I really love. It’s got that bubbling, volcanic, epic feel to it. There are more forests in Argentina, but across in Chile it’s a bit more spread out and you have the coastline and the volcanoes as well. If we were saying what packs in more per square mile, Chile hands down. So I think Chile actually has my preference for this one.
ROUND 03 TRAVELLER TYPES ROUND 02
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW about all of Chile and Argentina on our BLOG: jacadatravel.com/the-explorer/
GEORGE There’s a type of person that likes to explore and go to the far-flung corners of the planet, but South America, particularly these two southern countries, are often overlooked and they really pack a punch. You get the most amazing mountains and glaciers you’ve ever seen, followed by the food and wine every evening. Add to that the culture and charm of the people plus the sports and music and then the history, and it’s a real knock out. When I’m speaking to clients if they’re drawn towards tropical destinations, waterfalls and maybe a bit of jungle then Argentina is a good option. If they’re looking for stargazing, deserts and salt lakes, then Chile can work well. CIARA I think that it’s fair to say that Chile is really well set up for people who maybe just want to go to one or two spots and stay there for several days and use it as a base to explore the area. I think Argentina is a bit less like that, you might go somewhere and spend a couple of nights and then move on to the next place. For people who want to keep moving around to a minimum, then Chile is a good choice.
PA C K YOUR B AGS Waterfalls, Desert & Patagonia – an epic three-week journey through Argentine and Chilean Patagonia – from $13,605 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 27
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FEATURE: RECONNECTION RETREATS
RETREATS Heather Richardson outlines some favourite destinations for reconnecting as a family and how best to plan the trip.
n today’s busy modern world, it can be difficult to find many opportunities to spend real, quality time with family. More and more people now move away from where they were brought up when they begin their careers, returning only every so often for brief weekends or a hectic Christmas of visitations and parties. Even when families do remain in the same geographical area, work, social engagements and day-today responsibilities can make it tricky to enjoy a decent amount of time as a unit. One of the positive aspects of travel is its ability to quickly adjust one’s pace of life. Away from home and our everyday normality, we change our attitudes, relax and slow down. For families, this time is so important for re-forging bonds. It’s no surprise that multi-generational family travel has become increasingly popular as our lives become busier and schedules more crowded. For many, it’s the one time in a year or even longer than the whole extended or immediate family will spend a solid amount of time together.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 31
KEEP EVERYONE ENTERTAINED If you’re the kind of family that has never been very good at sunbathing on the beach or lying around by the pool for hours on end, you’ll need an activity-based trip to keep everyone entertained and in good spirits. Safari is an obvious choice for a family that needs to be kept busy and South Africa is one of the best destinations for a combination of luxury accommodation and guaranteed game sightings. With malaria-free areas, it’s also ideal for little ones. Your day starts bright and early with a game
drive just as dawn is breaking and the predators are finishing their night of hunting. You might spot a pride of lions just settling down for a day of snoozing, or a rhino and her baby munching on dewy grass. After breakfast back at the lodge, you can spend the morning relaxing, enjoying a spa treatment, working out or simply chatting over a coffee before lunch. You might even choose to head out on a walking safari to see the bush close-up. The second game drive is taken in the late afternoon, after the heat of
“Safari is the perfect opportunity for everyone to escape their usual schedules and just focus on the immediate surroundings and company.”
the day has passed. Watch elephants stripping leaves off a tree or a leopard stalking through the undergrowth. As the sun sets, your vehicle stops for some sundowners and snacks before you drive back to the lodge for drinks around the fire, dinner and an early bedtime. Safari is the perfect opportunity to share memorable experiences together as a family, but also a time for everyone to escape their usual schedules and just focus on the immediate surroundings and company.
FEATURE: RECONNECTION RETREATS
FINDING SOME SPACE Not every family is going to want to spend a whole trip in each other’s pockets, so it’s important to give everyone a chance to have some space or to do their own thing for a couple of hours. Renting a villa, or chartering a boat if you’re heading on a cruise, is a perfect way to ensure everyone has enough breathing room. The Stella Maris sails around the Galápagos Islands and is the only solely-for-charter luxury
boat in the region. With room for 14 passengers, the yacht also has a sundeck, Jacuzzi and lounge areas, and each room has a private balcony. The boat comes with its own naturalist guide who will show you and your brood the incredible sights and wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, which should provide plenty enough distraction throughout the day. In the evening, you will have the boat to your-
self to enjoy a leisurely dinner and drinks on the deck in peaceful, tranquil surroundings. The Galápagos is a great family destination because you’re never at the wrong age to enjoy swimming with sea lions or watching tiny penguins plunging into the water from the islands’ lava-black rocks. For more about these unique isles, check out our quick guide on page 42.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 33
MULTI-GENERATIONAL ADVENTURES For adults with young children, there is one big plus to travelling as a multi-generational group: free babysitting. Grandparents – whilst maybe not keen on taking on these duties for the entire holiday – will most likely be happy to keep an eye on their grandchildren for a few hours. This allows parents to have a bit of time to themselves for once – whether that’s enjoying that elusive long lie in or a romantic dinner à deux. It’s important to remember that not every moment in a family holiday needs to be spent with the whole pack together.
Another of the advantages of travelling as a multi-generational group is in the experiences that can be shared across age ranges. Adults might suddenly find much more joy in wildlife spotting when they see how much it excites young children. But it’s important to make sure everyone is getting something out of the trip. If you have elderly relatives who aren’t as mobile as everyone else, it might not go down well if you’ve planned an itinerary that involves non-stop activities, leaving grandparents at the hotel or watching from the side-lines.
A good option that has something for everyone is a European countryside retreat. Try an Italian getaway in Tuscany for fabulous food (who doesn’t enjoy Italian?), scenic hikes, leisurely bicycle rides, afternoons playing in the pool, long evenings out on the terrace with great wine, and day-trips to Florence for history, art and culture with gelato and espresso stops in between. It’s an option that will have a little something for every member of the family, young or old, sporty or sun-seeker, foodie or culture-junkie.
FEATURE: RECONNECTION RETREATS
BOOKING SMART Of course one of the logistical concerns for large parties is finding space at hotels and lodges, so it’s important to make sure you book well in advance (ideally a year or more) of your decided travel dates. And how to settle on exactly when to travel? When you’re from a family that has a diary booked up months in advance, it’s even more important to get things planned early. If there are too many members to be going backwards and forwards over email or phone calls, use a smart online tool, such as doodle.com to quickly work out which dates work best for everyone. When you’re booking with a tour operator, that’s about as tricky as it gets – everything else can be taken care of by a team of travel designers, concierges and operational support. Letting someone else handle the stressful bits about travelling is crucial for a family trip, ensuring that you’re entirely worry-free when the time comes to board the plane. For many families, these moments of being utterly content and carefree amongst all our loved ones are rarities to be savoured.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 35
DE S TI NATION INSPIRATION
I NSI DE R G U I D E TO T H E
Struggling to figure out which Maldives resort is right for you? Asia expert Kate Edwards has done the ‘hard work’ for you.
Best for… Honeymooners Huvafen Fushi
Best for… Surfing Six Senses Laamu
Best for… Families One & Only Reethi Rah
It’s tough to pick between Maldivian resorts, but our favourite for honeymooners is Huvafen Fushi, located a 30-minute speedboat ride from the capital Malé. There’s a party vibe – Kate Moss is a fan – but you can always recover in the underwater spa (the world’s first); at night the coral is illuminated, attracting fish big and small. There are classic Maldivian overwater bungalows with their own decks and plunge pools, and great dining options and bars, including the underground wine cellar where your dinner is served by a Maldivian sommelier.
The only resort in the Laamu atoll, eco-friendly Six Senses Laamu is one of the most luxurious places in the world to ride waves. With between two and four breaks available to guests, the waves are perfect for advanced surfers, especially the Ying Yang right-hander just five minutes away by speedboat. Meanwhile, beginners and intermediate surfers will find the Six Senses right-hander, about 10 minutes from the resort, a better option. After a day of surfing, relax with an al fresco movie screening in the island’s jungle or a long session in the spa.
From shark safaris to games of giant chess, families – such as the Beckhams, who usually spend Christmas here – will find plenty to keep everyone entertained at the Reethi Rah. The kids’ club is huge, with activities arranged specifically for three different age groups between four and 11. Older kids can hang out at One Tribe, the club for tweens. There’s child-suitable menus available and a family-friendly pool, plus a separate one for the kids’ club. Little ‘uns will even get their own mini kimonos and soft toys in their room.
INSIDER GUIDE: THE MALDIVES
NEED TO KNOW FLY IN To Malé, the capital (MLE). ISLAND TRANSFERS By seaplane or speedboat. CURRENCY Rufiyaa, but all resorts bill in dollars.
TIPPING Usually added your bill (10-12.5%), but you can also leave a tip for room service or your butler. HOUSE REEFS The term for a coral reef located right off the resort’s beach. Outer reefs are reached by boat.
Best for… Diving Constance Moofushi
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Just a 25-minute seaplane hop from Malé, Constance Moofushi is our top pick for underwater exploration, though the Maldives in general is one of the world’s best destinations for diving. In the surrounding areas, you can see giant manta rays gracefully gliding through the sea, swim with the gentle whale sharks and dive around some of the best coral reefs in the Maldives. There are also PADI courses run from the resort. Constance Moofushi features a house reef, overwater bungalows, 15 spa villas and a lively DJ-led evening vibe.
Best for… Über Luxury Velaa Private Island
Best for… Barefoot Luxury COMO Cocoa Island
Best for… Snorkelling LUX* South Ari Atoll
For privacy and opulence, Velaa Private Island is our pick. It’s a 45-minute seaplane journey from Malé, but worth it for the villas with private pools, massive terraces and outdoor bathtubs; the thoughtful, stylish design; the golf course with its own academy; plus its great restaurants and dining spots, including the three-storey wine ‘tower’ boasting the largest vintage selection in the country. The spa features the Maldives’ only ‘snow room’ and the Romantic Pool Residence, one of the resort’s top villa types, is so private it can only be reached from the main island by boat.
The 33 overwater, boat-shaped villas at Cocoa Island are connected by a boardwalk that loops around the lagoon. The villas have private decks and big en-suite bathrooms. As one of the smaller resorts in the Maldives, there’s a low-key, relaxed feel to Cocoa Island. That’s not to say there’s a shortage of things to do. There’s a house reef for snorkelling and diving, fishing excursions, and complimentary morning and sunset yoga classes. Cocoa Island also features the COMO Shambhala Spa, which operates with the level of excellence that COMO brings to all its wellness offerings.
Whale sharks cruise around the outer reefs at LUX* South Ari Atoll year-round and our diving expert, Jobi Chan, who used to work in the Maldives as a diving instructor, reckons there’s a 70% chance of seeing them at any time. You can also swim with manta rays in the outer reefs. Around the house reef, right off the beach, you can snorkel with tropical fish, baby black-tip reef sharks and stingrays. LUX* South Ari Atoll has 193 pavilions, including several overwater villas, plus swimming pools, tennis courts and a spa. The resort is one of the more laid-back luxury options in the Maldives.
PAC K YOUR BAGS Kerala and the Maldives – an 11-night trip through the backwaters and tea plantations of southern India with Maldives beach time – from $5,005 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 37
JACADA TRAVEL JOURNAL
SUNRISE SPECTACULAR BY HE ATHER RICHA RDSON
Sunrise from Borobudur temple on the Indonesian island of Java is one of the world’s most sublime sights. Heather Richardson describes the experience and how to see it for yourself.
WHEN TO VISIT
The dry season in central Java falls between May and October, with July and August being the driest months. January to March is the wettest period, but the tropical downpours are quick and sudden, with the weather in between being sunny and dry, so it’s not impossible to travel during these months. It will also be quieter.
verlooking central Java’s dramatic landscape of mist-filled valleys, lush forests and towering volcanic peaks, the incredible temple of Borobudur perches on a hilltop, a pyramid structure adorned with 72 bell-like stupas. Dating back to the 8th century, this ancient temple is one of the most aweinspiring sights in Indonesia.
panels covering the walls and more statues; in total there are over 500 statues of the Buddha. The setting of the ancient temple just adds to its allure. The steaming jungle and the shadowy peaks of central Java’s enormous volcanoes, including the active Mt Merapi, make for an epic, smouldering backdrop to Borobudur temple.
Borobudur was built between the 8th and 9th centuries (300 years prior to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat), abandoned between the 10th and 15th centuries, and rediscovered in the 19th century. It is the largest surviving Buddhist temple in the world, and still a pilgrimage site. Set atop a hill surrounded by tropical jungle, Borobudur temple is made up of a series of platforms leading up to a giant central stupa at the top of the pyramid. Its uppermost tiers are lined with slightly smaller stupas, each of which houses a statue of the Buddha. Around the bottom tiers, there are ornate
Sunrise is undoubtedly the best time of day to visit Borobudur. Access is via the Manohara Hotel Borobudur, which resides at the foot of the temple, and will cost foreigners who are not staying at the hotel about US$40. Visitors usually head up to the temple from the hotel between 4am and 4.30am, so arrive as early as you can to get a good perch from which to watch the sun rise. When you climb the stairs to the top of the temple, it will be dark, but you’re supplied with a flashlight. As you enter the top tiers where the stupas are, find a seat on a ledge facing the stairs and you’ll be looking towards the
JACADA TRAVEL JOURNAL: BOROBUDUR
Fly to Yogyakarta airport, which takes about an hour from the capital Jakarta. Borobudur is about an hour and a half drive from here, depending on the traffic.
view like this deserves A to be immortalised. Photographer Richard Simko gives his tips for getting some good shots at sunrise: ●T urn off the airconditioning in your room before you leave to give your camera time to ‘acclimatise’ so it doesn’t fog up when you go outside into the humidity. Take a lens cleaning kit too. ●K eep your ISO at the lowest setting and bring a tripod to reduce blur. Use self-timer to avoid camera shake when taking the photo. ●U se a flashlight to light the stupas in the foreground, if needed.
sun as it emerges from behind Mt Merapi. As the sun begins to rise, the mist in the valley turns into a violet haze, with the sky taking on a peach-pink tinge above the charcoal-grey volcano peaks. There’s no need for any Instagram filters here.
days in this area, you can always head to Borobudur for sunset, which is less spectacular than sunrise, but the light is interesting with the sun lower in the sky. It’s also convenient for those wanting to include a temple tour during the day.
At 6am the temple site opens to the general public. During my stay at the end of May, it was a school holiday, which meant that by 7am the temple was flooded with school children, many of whom were keen to capture me – rather than the sacred site on which they stood – on their smartphones. This is the cue to leave. Between 5.30am and 6am, however, is a great time to be at Borobudur. Many people leave shortly after the sun has risen, keen to get back to their hotels for a much-needed coffee and breakfast. In the lull between the sunrise tourists leaving and the public arriving, there is a pleasant quiet period, which is perfect for getting photos of the temple without anyone in the background. If you don’t fancy the early start or you have a few
Although you can do sunrise tours from Yogyakarta, it’s far better to base yourself around Borobudur, partly to avoid an obscenely early start from the city, and partly so you can make the most of this exotic, evocative landscape during your stay. AMANJIWO: For high-end luxury, the Amanjiwo, which overlooks the temple, will be hard to beat for both style and impeccable service. PLATARAN BOROBUDUR: This peaceful hotel has views across to Borobudur and is just a five- to tenminute drive from the temple, ideal for the early-morning start.
●B racketing your shots (taking lots of photos of the same scene using different exposure settings) means you can blend the images together to take the best details from each image. It also means if someone steps into your shot (prepare for other people to be around, in your shot, using flashes and so on), you can edit them out later. One recommendation I would make after my own trip to Borobudur is to make sure you take a moment to put the camera down. You’ll probably start shooting as soon as the sun begins to rise and the scenery gradually reveals itself, but don’t miss out on a really incredible moment by being caught up in your camera settings.
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 39
DURB AN Heather Richardson explores the often overlooked city of Durban.
andla Nxumalo’s eyes shine as he speaks about his “greatest honour”, meeting Nelson Mandela. We were standing at the site of the polling station for Mandela’s first vote in South Africa’s first democratic election on 27th April 1994. The Ohlange Institute is set on a hilltop in Durban’s Inanda district. Next door is the grave and house of the founding president of the South African Native National Congress – the party that eventually overthrew Apartheid – and one of the most important figures in South African history, John Dube. Nxumalo had been asked to chaperone Mandela on the day of the vote. He was so worried the night before, he couldn’t sleep and felt sick. When Mandela arrived at Ohlange on the day of the vote, Nxumalo was ready to greet him, “frozen” with excitement and nerves. “When Nelson Mandela arrived,” he said, his voice full of emotion even after 22 years, “he greeted me with a big smile – and I was unfrozen.” After Mandela had placed his vote, the man South Africans called Madiba walked over to Dube’s grave and said: “I have come to report, Mr President, that South Africa is now free.” Durban is a city that many visitors to South Africa will never see. Though it is one of the country’s largest cities, easy to access with plenty of direct flight routes, offering superb surfing and blessed with year-round heat and sunshine, little is known of Durban outside South Africa. Yet, historically and culturally it has so much of interest. A short drive from the site of Mandela’s first vote is the house of another of history’s great men, Mahatma Gandhi. “It was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now,” Gandhi once said, referring to the racism he encountered as a young lawyer. His former home is now a museum recounting the story of his life, his time in South Africa and the impact he had around the world. Culturally, Durban is fascinating. KwaZulu-Natal, the province in which Durban is located, is one of the more traditional areas of South Africa; the name means ‘Place of the Zulu’ and Zulu beliefs and customs are still widely
practiced. I walked through the city’s herb market, where we strolled past stalls selling sage lavender, which people use to connect with their ancestors, and red clay, which ladies use as sunscreen. My guide Sthembiso told me he always uses traditional herbal medicine, which he claims is why he has never been to hospital or had any serious illness or ailments. By the busy market entrance, steel drums clanging and music pumping, my eye was caught by a small number of people watching the ground by a stall. I walked a little closer to see what they were looking at. On a black cloth, a python as thick as my thigh writhed lazily, its brown, patchwork skin shining sleekly in the midday sunshine. “What’s going on?” I asked Sthembiso, who seemed unrattled by the presence of the snake. “It’s for fortune telling,” he replied wryly, with a cynical raise of his eyebrow. If there was one moment that reminded me how different this part of the country is from the glossy, westernised shores of Cape Town, it was probably this. This is ‘real’ South Africa. Of course, a trip to Durban is not complete without a bunny chow – one of South Africa’s national dishes that originated in Durban. A hollowed-out bread loaf filled with hot, usually mutton curry, the bunny chow symbolises the melting pot that this city is in its delicious South African spin on Indian cuisine. Durban has had a big Indian population since the mid-1800s when they were brought over from
“After Mandela had placed his vote, the man South Africans called Madiba walked over to Dube’s grave and said: “I have come to report, Mr President,
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that South Africa is now free.””
colonial India to work as indentured labourers; today, the city has the largest Indian population of any town outside India. Durban isn’t short on superb hotels either. Located in Durban’s upmarket Umhlanga Rocks, Teremok Marine is a boutique hotel, brimming with character. It feels like staying at a friend’s extremely well-designed and spacious house. The large lounge has a well-stocked honesty bar with cake laid out for the guests in the afternoon. Kim, the manager and owner, chats with guests at breakfast and even personally dropped me off at my next stop after I’d checked out, rather than let me get a taxi. Just down the road, the Oyster Box is one of South
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: THE NORTH PIER; UMHLANGA BEACH; SURFING IN DURBAN; THE OYSTER BOX; WHALE BONE PIER IN UMHLANGA; SPICES AT DURBAN MARKET.
Africa’s most iconic resorts, distinguished by its red and white lighthouse right in front of the grand hotel’s beachfront pool and terrace. It is elegant and refined, yet relaxed and welcoming to all, families included. It felt a million miles from the raw side of Durban I experienced in the market. A breeze took the edge off Durban’s sweltering, tropical heat – and this wasn’t even summer – as I wandered down the beach. Waves crashed onto the warm sand and joggers ran along the promenade, which leads into a lagoon reserve with trails along which to walk or run. The pier, designed to look like whale bones arching over the walkway, was voted the world’s best by CNN in 2014. That evening I headed to one of Durban’s coolest bars, The Chairman. This jazz bar is an eclectically designed house with a big outdoor courtyard at the back. The vibe was laidback and friendly and the clientele were mostly young, trendy Durbanites. Early in the evening before it got busy, the DJ even popped over to our table to ask if we were having fun. As I sipped my cocktail and watched the city’s hip crowd gathering for a Saturday night out, I felt like I’d seen so many different sides to Durban: the traditional, the upmarket, and the up-coming, city cool that is shunting Durban onto the tourist’s radar. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 41
These unique islands are famed for their wildlife and role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Whenever or however you travel, a journey to the Galápagos is one that will prove unforgettable.
THE GUIDE: GALÁPAGOS
WILDLIFE GUIDE CRUISE OR LODGE? Many think that the Galápagos is solely a cruising destination, but a spate of new eco-lodges mean that landlubbers can enjoy the islands just as much as sea-faring types. The advantage of a cruise is the number of islands one can visit in a single trip and the proximity to marine wildlife. Frequent Zodiac trips might result in spotting a pod of dolphins or spy-hopping orcas. Lodges provide a fixed base, but day-trips to other islands mean it’s still possible to fit in plenty of excursions, and the accommodation is also far more luxurious than that offered by a cruise. You’ll also have more privacy than a boat allows, which may appeal more to couples and honeymooners. For those who want to cruise without sharing the space with fellow passengers, there is the option of a luxury charter boat.
Galápagos sea lions are the unofficial mascots of the islands, lazing on beaches, snoozing on promenade benches and frolicking with snorkellers in the sea. Like most of the wildlife in the Galápagos Islands, they have never been hunted so have no fear of humans. Other marine animals include the blue-footed booby (you can probably guess where the name comes from) and the Galápagos penguins, which are the second smallest and the most northerly penguins in the world. The giant tortoise is another of the Galápagos’ iconic animals, which you’ll find crawling around the highland countryside and at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island. The black, thorny-looking marine iguanas – once called ‘imps of darkness’ by Darwin – are the only lizards to hunt for their food in the sea. Hundreds more species exist on the Galápagos, from hammerhead sharks and orcas to Darwin’s finches and flamingos. The beauty of this destination is not just the vast variety of wildlife, but how easy it is to spot these almost ‘tame’ animals.
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; DREAMSTIME; JACADA TRAVEL HOTEL AND CRUISE PARTNERS.
he Galápagos Islands are located an hour or so’s flight from mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Immortalised as the place which sparked Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 1800s after he noticed how the species had each adapted to their own habitat, the Galápagos are a cluster of volcanic islands straddling the equator, with a population of just over 25,000. On many a traveller’s bucket list, the islands are a protected haven for flora and fauna, much of which is entirely unique to the region, attracting those seeking some oneon-one time with nature. Aside from the array of endemic species to spot, there are volcanoes to climb, white-sand beaches on which to sunbathe and local bars for caipirinhas and salsa dancing. The history of the islands is also fascinating and something you’ll learn about whether you choose to cruise or stay land-based during your visit to the Galápagos Islands.
WHEN TO GO The Galápagos Islands are good to visit at any time of the year. The water – which is always colder than people think it will be – is at its warmest from December to June. This is also a period of rain showers, but they are short and won’t seriously affect sunbathing in temperatures that reach the high 20s (low 80s in Fahrenheit).
PA C K YOUR B AGS Luxury Galápagos Vacation – a seven-night tour of the islands with a stay in Quito - from $6,508 per person. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 43
MEET MINDS AS CURIOUS AS YOURS Snorkel with sea turtles and manta rays, wander through lava fields and explore Scalesia forests on Silversea’s 7-day voyages to the Galápagos Islands.
For more information or to book please call +1 8779 670 096 (toll free) or visit jacadatravel.com
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WE LOVE IT WHEN YOU SHARE YOUR TRAVEL PHOTOS WITH US. HERE ARE SOME OF OUR RECENT FAVOURITES. Clockwise from top two images: Rhaema and Raisa in South Africa; Easter Island, Chile by Teresa and Jim; Sarah and Daniel in Cape Town; the Myers family in the Galรกpagos; Megan and Jimmy rafting in Costa Rica; and the McLellan family in Tanzania. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 45
THE CONDOR TRUST
Jacada Travel’s Latin America concierge, Susann Pietschmann, visited the Condor Trust during her trip to Ecuador.
perating in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, the Condor Trust was founded 11 years ago by Chris Patrick. The foundation was set up to support children’s education in Ecuador, a country which is one of the poorest in South America; in 2015, around a quarter of the country was living in poverty and 9% were living in extreme poverty. Naturally this has a knock-on effect regarding education. Around 34% of children do not complete secondary school, usually for financial reasons. This could be due to the fact that they cannot afford the costs associated with buying books, uniforms and writing materials or because they have to work to support their families.
The Condor Trust helps many of those children complete their education by supporting them financially. Donations go towards books, uniforms, pens and exercise books, all of which are not covered by the state. Crucially, the trust also provides funds to support living costs so children do not need to work whilst they’re at school. If children can complete their education, they are more able to build a career for themselves, support their families, and in turn afford for their own children to go to school, thus halting the cycle of poverty. I visited the Condor Trust’s educational centre in Quito’s New Town on a Sunday, which sadly meant I missed the chance to chat with some of the kids supported by the foundation. However, I did get to
look around the trust’s centre, which is a homework and activities base rather than a school and also serves as a hub from which to hand out school equipment. I met Maria, one of the women who volunteers at the centre helping kids with their homework and assisting with the coordination of the
GIVIN G BACK
project. Maria was warm and welcoming as she explained to me what the trust does and how it is currently supporting 50 children in Quito and the small rainforest town of Puyo. The centre has computers and an internet connection, which allows children to do research and use online learning tools, and also to gain familiarity with technology and word processing. In addition to its educational focus, the Condor Trust works with Keys of Change, a UK charity set up by the concert pianist Panos Karan. Several of the children supported by the trust are now learning to play guitar and recently they have begun performing in hospitals around Quito. Another of the trust’s initiatives is providing eye tests and glasses to schools in the poorest areas of the city, and they also help to teach mothers in these communities to sew and how they can earn money from making clothes. Over the past 12 years, the Condor Trust has helped more than 80 children attend secondary school and university. Many of them now work in professions such as tourism, accountancy, health and IT. One of the people they supported in the past, who since went on to graduate university with a degree in Business and Export Studies and now works for a company in Quito, said of the experience: “It all started almost eight years ago when the Condor Trust began to be part of my life. At that time my mum’s income was barely enough for us to survive. From that day, when I began to receive financial help from the trust so I could study,
my life changed. Not only could I buy books and materials, but for the first time I could take with me something to eat in the break and could wear a uniform that fitted me. I began to think that I could be someone and do something in life, as the help which I received wasn’t only financial, but also psychological and personal.”
Jacada Travel supports the Condor Trust by donating a set amount of the profits from each trip to Latin America we plan. THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 47
DE S TI NATION INSPIRATION
TOP ECO-HOTELS BY HE ATHER RICHA RDSON As we join The Long Run, an establishment encouraging sustainability in the tourism industry, we look at some of our favourite eco-hotels.
Lapa Rios, Costa Rica Located in over 900 acres of protected Costa Rican rainforest, Lapa Rios is a luxury ecolodge with 17 bungalows sporting big, private verandas and outdoor showers. Owners John and Karen Lewis founded the retreat to protect the biodiverse jungle in which it is situated and to provide jobs for the local community.
Today, the lodge upholds many responsible initiatives and practices: it purchases its sustainably-sourced fish straight from the local fishermen; has opened local schools, which it continues to financially support; has created recycling centres in the surrounding communities; and provides career advice and training for locals.
Segera, Kenya With a superb view of Mount Kenya, Segera is situated on the beautiful Laikipia Plateau, sharing its home with herds of elephants, towers of reticulated giraffes, prides of lions and packs of endangered wild dogs. The lodge has founded many conservation projects, including the Conservation Unit Programme, which protects the wildlife of the area, monitors habitat and helps control invasive species. Segera has donated 20 acres of its land to a local school to teach the children about sustainable farming, and it is also involved in improving access to education, in part through a bursary scheme.
Grootbos, South Africa Grootbos is a sleek eco-resort on South Africa’s Western Cape coast. The reserve is a base for travellers hoping to spot the Marine Big Five (whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins) and it’s located in a region of great bio-diversity with over 760 different plant species in the reserve. Grootbos strives to protect the area’s flora through various projects, such as removing invasive plants. It helped found the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy in 1999 and its own Grootbos Foundation teaches local communities about horticulture and promotes the growing of organic food. The foundation also includes a sports development project and the Future Trees project.
Soneva Fushi, Maldives On its own private island in honeymooners’ favourite, the Maldives, Soneva Fushi puts sustainability at the forefront of everything it does. For example, the ‘barefoot luxury’ resort has launched campaigns to protect the area’s shark population, which resulted in shark fishing being outlawed in 2010, and to get Baa Atoll made a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which it was in 2011. It also provides turtles with safe nesting grounds on the island. There is an in-house marine biologist to monitor the local wildlife and the condition of the reef, and the resort holds ‘reef ranger’ after-school activities for the children of neighbouring islands. All the above lodges are Global Ecosphere Retreats®, as certified by The Long Run. For more information: thelongrun.com
THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 49
LA ST-MINUTE ESCAP ES
ITCHY FEET Need to scratch that travel itch? Here are some destinations just ripe for visiting...
Head to the beautiful south of Italy to soak up the last of the summer rays before the European winter sets in.
The fast-changing Myanmar was one of our recommendations for 2016. November and December are the best months to visit, so thereâ€™s still time to fit in a trip this year.
The Antarctic season begins in November and there are still a few cabins left to snap up for a genuinely life-changing cruise.
The ultimate combination of safari, culture, landscapes and history, Kenya is one of our all-time favourite destinations. Take advantage of the post-migration break in the crowds from October onwards.
Australia New Zealand
Jacada Tours Coming Soon THE EXPLORER | AUTUMN/FALL 2016 | 51
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