I S S U E 04 | SUMMER 2016
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A L ETTER FROM A LEX
s the owner of a luxury travel company, I have always strongly believed we have a responsibility to help protect the areas in which we operate. For me, luxury travel is synonymous with responsible travel and here at Jacada Travel we carry that idea into everything we do. That means partnering with people who share our ethics, promoting countries that operate responsibly, working with local guides and giving back to various community and environmental projects through our profits. It also means understanding how important tourism is to the economy of many countries and supporting these destinations when they most need it. Back in April, Ecuador experienced an earthquake that shook the northwestern region leaving over 400 people dead. This is not an area many tourists visit, but whilst it hasn’t affected international travellers, it has left the region’s economy in tatters. As such, we are donating a set amount of profits to the earthquake appeal from each trip to Ecuador we plan this summer. It’s a country that means a lot to many of us: our head of Latin America, Ciara Owens, used to live in Ecuador, and on page 14 The Explorer’s editor Heather Richardson recalls the reasons the country has remained one of her all-time favourite travel destinations. Wildlife conservation is always at the forefront of our ethics. In April, our head of Asia, Kate Edwards, embarked on a monthlong research trip in India - our newest tours launch in July 2016 - where she went on several tiger safaris. These beautiful animals are severely endangered, but the safari industry offers a way in which we can make a difference - Kate explains more on page 22. Speaking of safaris, Byron Thomas, our head of Africa, recently visited Zambia where the model for responsible safaris was first introduced by Norman Carr in the 1950s. Carr was a pioneer in this industry and today’s camps and lodges follow in his footsteps. Read about Zambia’s history of walking safaris on page 8. Jen Richt, our Central America destination expert, turns the spotlight on Belize (page 32), a country that has been stepping up its conservation efforts to become one of the frontrunners in ecofriendly tourism. If you ever have a question about responsible travel, don’t hesitate to ask one of our travel designers; it’s a topic about which we’re all extremely passionate. For me, our ability to support eco-systems and communities is one of the best, most rewarding things about working in the luxury travel industry. Warm regards,
Alex Malcolm Jacada Travel Founder & MD THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 03
I N THI S I SSUE OF THE EX PLORER
P 1 4 EC UA D O R
Safari expert Byron Thomas travels to Zambia to explore the home of the walking safari.
Asia expert Kate Edwards was rewarded with the ultimate tiger sighting on safari in India.
Don’t overlook mainland Ecuador when planning a trip to South America, says Heather Richardson.
Jen Richt, Central America expert, looks at Belize’s growing ecotourism industry.
CON T EN TS
06 HOT TICKETS: TIME TO BOOK YOUR NEXT TRIP 13 WHAT TO PACK: ON THE BEACH 36 FAMILY TRAVEL: SOUTH AFRICA 38 HIGH-END HOTELS: THAILAND’S FINEST 40 THE GUIDE: SAN SEBASTIÁN 42 JACADA TRAVEL JOURNAL: CAMBODIA 46 GIVING BACK: RHINOS WITHOUT BORDERS 48 DESTINATION INSPIRATION: THE BEST ART HOTELS IN THE WORLD 50 LAST-MINUTE ESCAPES: GO NOW
CONTRIBUTO R S
BYRON THO M A S A FRICA AND SAFARI EXP E RT
H EATH ER RI C H A RDSO N E D I TO R
J E N RI C H T L AT I N A M ERI 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, even venturing to Virunga National Park in DR Congo.
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
A love of travel and fascination with different cultures is in Jen’s DNA, being part Swedish and part Peruvian. Past adventure highlights in Latin America include swimming with white-tip reef sharks in the Galápagos Islands, camping in the remote Guatemalan jungle and following the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.
JONNY HU M PHR EYS A FRICA AND SAFARI EXP E RT
KATE EDWA RDS AS I A E XP E RT
K AT I E L AW T RAV EL W RI T ER
Born in Tanzania and brought up in Kenya followed by decades travelling around Africa, Jonny has a genuine love for this continent. Some of his standout travel moments include watching a migration river crossing in Tanzania, canoeing down the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, and taking his local rugby team on tour in Kenya.
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; tiger spotting in India; and island-hopping around her beloved Indonesia.
Katie Law has worked for the London Evening Standard for over 26 years and writes on a wide range of topics for the paper, including travel, design and books. She has fallen in love with Southeast Asia since visiting Cambodia for the first time in November 2015 and is looking forward to returning to that part of the world.
THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 05
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NOVEMBER 2016 AND FEBRUARY 2017
CELEBRATE SHACKLETON IN ANTARCTICA
Two exclusive cruises to the Antarctic set sail next season, both following Ernest Shackleton’s legendary journey around Antarctica to celebrate 100 years since his expedition took place.
BOOK AHEAD FOR SAN SEBASTIÁN’S FILM FESTIVAL
This popular film festival books the city out months in advance – secure your place for next year as part of an extended cultural jaunt around Spain (see our San Sebastián guide on page 20).
THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 07
Safari expert Byron Thomas goes back to basics and explores the home of the walking safari: Zambia.
e were right over the other side of the river,” my guide Prince said, gesturing across the dry river bed. We’d set up for sundowners on the bank, as the low Zambian sun was turning the sky a shade of tangerine, our shadows stretched out long behind us. “As we walked towards the river, there was a herd of elephants behind us. We reached the river bank, where we were going to clamber down the 1.5-metre slope – but we couldn’t. A pride of lions was sleeping in the sand, getting ready for a night of hunting. I looked back at the elephants and realised that another herd was approaching from our flank. We had to get the clients back to the camp, but we were trapped.” For those who think they’ll see very little on a walking safari, this story is proof that you can come across big game on foot – although personally I’d like an exit route, too. I asked what they ended up doing – keeping your nerve in between two herds of elephants and a pride of lions is crucial. But that’s what these guys do for a living. “I jumped down into the river bank and scared off the lions,” Prince explained, casually. Lions are skittish and definitely less scary than a herd of elephants, which you would never try to
scare. Fortunately, the team’s conviction worked and the lions scarpered. HOME OF THE WALKING SAFARI
ambia is said to be the home of the walking safari. In 1950, Norman Carr, a game ranger, set up the first safari camp in Luangwa, one of Zambia’s major national parks. The aim of the camp was to encourage people to preserve the wildlife, rather than shoot it; at the time, safari was primarily a hunting excursion. Carr worked with Paramount Chief Nsefu and his people to make the camp sustainable and beneficial to locals as well as the environment. They gave him a slice of their tribal land and Carr returned the profits from the camp to the community. This model has since been emulated by many luxury safari companies, but Carr was the first to operate in this way and as such he is considered a pioneer of conservation. Walking safaris are now popular elsewhere in Africa, but South Luangwa remains one of the best locations to take to the bush on foot. This is what many consider to be ‘real safari’. Being on foot sharpens the senses; your ears are pricked for sounds around you, your eyes peeled for movement in the grass. Guides must go through intensive training to be allowed to take guests out on
foot, which is reassuring when padding through the wild parks. The guides are always looking further afield than their guests, ready to provide swift instructions if needs be. Before every walk, you will be versed in the hand signals that the guide may need to use if an animal happens to be nearby: an upheld hand for ‘stop and be quiet’ or a raised fist for ‘crouch down’. Such is the experience of these guides that there are rarely issues. INTENSE WILDLIFE EXPERIENCES
alking safaris allow us to get as close to wildlife as (safely) possible in a natural setting. Though it is more difficult to see some of the big game due to the ease of approaching in a vehicle, being on foot offers a different kind of sighting, one that feels much more intimate. Stand quietly as you watch a herd of elephants stripping the leaves off a tree, barely moving so as to allow the animals to feel at ease in your presence. Admire a giraffe’s gigantic height from ground level as it stalks past in that half elegant, half awkward manner they have. Watch a leopard snoozing in a tree, being careful not to make any noise and scare it off. Aside from these intense wildlife encounters, a walking safari allows travellers to delve into the details. From your 4x4, you miss the tiny elements that make up the African bush: the tracks that lie in the dust suggesting a pride of lions came through the area last night; learning that the pile of dung (or ‘scat’) is that of an elephant due to its high amount of plant content; or feeling the heat rising out of a huge termite mound, the insides of which are usually between a humid 25°C and 36°C. There is something very relaxing about walking through the bush. Walking along in single file behind your guide, you cannot talk, use your phone or listen to music – you are ‘forced’ to simply absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the savannah without the distractions to which we usually succumb. For a birding enthusiast like myself, I loved spotting species such
THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 09
PREVIOUS PAGE, MAIN IMAGE: ELEPHANTS IN LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK. PREVIOUS PAGE, BOTTOM RIGHT: WALKING SAFARI. THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ELEPHANT IN THE LOWER ZAMBEZI; WHITEFRONTED BEE EATER; HIPPOS IN THE LOWER ZAMBEZI; CHINDENI BUSHCAMP.; GIRAFFES; THE ORIGINAL NORMAN CARR SAFARI; STARLING, SOUTH LUANGWA.
“Walking along in single file behind your guide, you cannot talk, use your phone or listen to music – you are ‘forced’ to simply absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the savannah without the distractions to which we usually succumb.” as the grey-headed kingfisher (also known as the chestnut-bellied kingfisher) and being able to creep up on this tiny, rotund fellow to get some great shots. I also saw the western banded snake eagle clutching its eponymous reptilian prey, and the martial eagle. The latter is a giant bird with a white, spotted chest and a wingspan of up to 8.5 feet. It’s said that they have enough strength in one foot to break a man’s arm. FOCUS ON CONSERVATION
outh Luangwa is one of Africa’s hidden gems, much quieter than any of the other major safari parks. Perhaps that’s why it’s easier to make a big deal of conservation, which Zambia has achieved to a point where the Lower Zambezi recently became the world’s first carbon neutral national park. There are several key players in the conservation movement, including Robin Pope who founded his safari company in South Luangwa in 1985. Jo Pope, wife of Robin, later started Project Luangwa, an organisation that helps safari operators act as responsibly as possible. They also work with many other community and environmental charities such as Chipembele (see box).
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; DREAMSTIME; BUSHCAMP COMPANY; NORMAN CARR; BYRON THOMAS.
A quieter national park means better, more exciting game viewing opportunities, and ones you won’t have to share with hundreds of other safari-goers. I witnessed an incredible moment where a pride of lions was crossing a river, only for the last lioness to be suddenly tackled by a lurking crocodile. The two animals wrestled in the water as we watched with baited breath from the banks – and the tension only increased when a hippo came to investigate. The lioness managed to escape and later we saw the reunited pride running through the bush in the dusk.
CHA RITY CORNER CHI PEMB EL E
Being born in Zambia, Jacada Travel’s Samantha Kelly has a close connection with the country and particularly with the wildlife and community charity Chipembele. Sam has spent substantial time fundraising for Chipembele and organising the donation and delivery of educational books to local schools in Mfuwe. She and her father Jeff Todd sponsor a local boy, Mabvuto, whom they’ve helped put through school, and the pair also bought a much-needed truck for Chipembele in memory of Sam’s mother, Jane Todd. Chipembele was founded by British couple Steve and Anna Tolan in 2001. The charity works with local school kids to teach them about the importance of conservation. The children are also encouraged to consider a career as a guide or ranger, careers which are particularly well paid in this area. Aside from community work, Chipembele takes in orphaned animals, which are reintroduced to the wild once they’re ready. Douglas the baby hippo was made famous after his turn on British TV, but he’s since been successfully reintroduced with a local pod of hippos. chipembele.org
There are several rare subspecies that live here, too. The Luangwa or Thornicroft giraffe lives only in the South Luangwa Valley, numbering just 1,500. Their coat is distinct from other giraffe species due to the ragged outline of its spots. Crawshay’s zebra reside in eastern Zambia, identified by their narrow stripes, and Cookson’s wildebeest – smaller than the blue wildebeest with red-toned bands – is endemic to the Luangwa Valley. In one of my favourite camps, Mfuwe Lodge, you can see just how at ease the animals are with their considerate safari neighbours. Every November, the local herd of elephants files straight through the lobby of the lodge, on their way to the mango tree that grows nearby. For three generations the elephants have paid an annual visit to the lodge, testament to how well the lodges have come to exist alongside the wild residents. By supporting Zambia’s ethical safari industry, respecting the land and the wildlife, I hope we can encourage this peaceful cohabitation to continue to prosper.
PACK YOUR BAGS Waterfall, Safari and Beach Adventure >> An 11-night safari from Victoria Falls to South Luangwa and Lake Malawi – from $7,621 per person. THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 11
The Explorer Lounge is where the travel elite gather. Based in Hong Kongâ€™s Central district, the lounge is an inspiring space for planning and talking about travel. Come and meet us for a glass of wine or cup of tea, and we can start crafting an experiential, luxury journey designed especially for you.
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THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 13
UNDER THE CANOPY Donâ€™t overlook mainland Ecuador when planning a trip to South America, says Heather Richardson. This geographically and biologically diverse country might be small, but it packs quite a punch.
t wasn’t raining when I woke at 5am, so I got up and dressed quickly. The constant buzz, clicks and chirps of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle loudened as I stepped out of my hut into the muggy, pre-dawn morning. I knocked on my fellow forest-dwellers’ doors to alert them to the time. It was still dark as we made our way through the rainforest along a rough route previously cleaved out by swinging machetes. Near the banks of the Rio Napo, we were far from the city life most of us experienced day-to-day. It took a six-hour bus journey from Quito, the capital, a transfer in Tena and then another local bus – packed full of villagers, school children and dozens of caged chickens – via several jungle villages to reach the reserve’s headquarters. I was based here on the biological reserve for six weeks, living in wooden huts, raised to keep from flooding and snakes, working on conservation and community projects in the local villages. After about 20 minutes, we found the tower. It was a metal, triangular shaped prism with a ladder running up one side. Each face was about a foot wide, and the tower stretched up for 100 feet into and above the canopy of the trees. We started the steady climb up, leaving enough room between us in case anyone slipped. At the top of the tower was a tiny circular platform with a little guard, about a foot high, running along the circumference. There was just room for our group of three. Alejandro, the owner of the little conservation project on which we were working, had described the experience as ‘coming up out of the water’ and I knew exactly what he meant as I hauled myself up off the ladder and onto the platform, emerging from the dense, steamy rainforest into the open air above the treeline. It was a completely different world to the one beneath the canopy and blissfully peaceful. Slowly, the thin dawn light crept over the horizon, gradually revealing our surroundings. For miles and miles, there were trees. Where the lush vegetation ended, shadowy mountains and volcanoes rose up in the distance. Mist settled over the canopy, rising as the sun began to warm the land. Petite, electric-blue birds flitted above the trees, joyous at the break of a new day. We sat in silence, just taking in the moment and watching as the sky changed colour and the sun blinked above the clouds. There are certain moments that you never forget, often because of their
simplicity and an accompanying sense of contentment; this was one of those moments. Ecuador is positioned between Peru and Colombia and is often eclipsed by the size, drama, history and character of these two South American countries. The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador’s most famous attraction, usually take visitors away from the mainland for a week or more of their stay. But there is so much more to Ecuador and one of the most common regrets from those who have travelled here is that they’d not spent more time on the mainland. It might be small, but the country packs a serious punch. As its name suggests, Ecuador straddles the equator. The capital Quito – a highaltitude, historic and vibrant city sat in a basin surrounded by mountain peaks – is built right across the centre of the Earth. On the equator, you can experience the northern and southern hemispheres simultaneously and experiment with the – often disputed – mysteries around the equator: watch water flowing down a plug hole in different directions on either side
and straight down on the equator itself; discover you’re heavier and stronger in the northern hemisphere; and see how easy it is to balance an egg on a nail head on the equator. A former Spanish colonial city tucked into the Andes, Quito is a blend of cobbled streets, grand Catholic churches, busy marketplaces, salsa bars and live music, tree-lined plazas and modern neighbourhoods built on the mountain slopes. A couple of hours outside Quito, Otavalo is a market town in the Ecuadorian highlands. Surrounded by rolling green hills and brilliant-blue lakes, the town is famed for its weekend market, which has a long history dating back to pre-Inca times when people used to journey to the trade centre from the rainforest on foot. The main plaza is full of stalls that spill out into the side streets selling alpaca wool scarves, ponchos and jumpers, silver jewellery, paintings, wooden flutes and Inca statues. Otavalo is particularly known for its textiles. Locals – Otavaleños
CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: ECUADORIAN RAINFOREST; OTAVALO MARKET; CUICOCHA CRATER LAKE NEAR OTAVALO.
– wear traditional dress every day, not just for the weekend tourists. Women wear long black skirts, white embroidered blouses, thick colourful woven belts and sandals, and men wear threequarter-length white trousers and the misleadingly-named Panama hats (which are actually Ecuadorian in origin). The Cloud Forests of Ecuador are yet another of the country’s scenic attractions and conservation lodges are the perfect bases from which to explore the region’s rich biodiversity. Mashpi Lodge is located in the Chocó Rainforest, three hours from Quito. In 2001, the former mayor of Quito, Roque Sevilla, bought the reserve to spare it from a miserable fate at the hands of the logging industry. Sevilla set up Mashpi Lodge to fund the conservation efforts of the reserve and today it is one of the best examples of sustainable and responsible luxury travel not just in Ecuador, but throughout Latin America. Staff are mostly local and many are former loggers. During the building of the lodge, which is set on the site of a defunct sawmill, not a single tree was cut down. THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 17
Guests can eat breakfast on the terrace of the lodge, right in the middle of the mist-shrouded woods; glimpse rare butterflies as they flitter past; or take their binoculars on a forest hike with an ornithologist guide to spot some of the 400 bird species in the area. The lodge also has a ‘Sky Bike’, which allows guests to ‘cycle’ around the canopy of the forest. There are waterfalls to be discovered and dozens of trails to explore. Ecuador also offers Pacific beaches and many Andean hiking and climbing routes, but personally the rainforest will always be my special place in Ecuador. I remember the long treks through the humid jungle, hearing a rustle above and glancing up in time to see spider monkeys swooping through the trees, learning about the medicinal uses of the plants and eating our lunch of rice and beans off a giant, waxy leaf as we perched on a fallen tree in a clearing. We went on night hikes to spot nocturnal animals and saw tiny frogs, curious insects and huge spiders that build large, perfect webs afresh every night. On one hike, I found a hummingbird’s nest, a long cocoon-like construction, with three tiny babies, curled up black and featherless in the bottom. Another time, I got stuck in mud up to my waist and had to be hauled out by my forest guides – only to take another step and exactly the same thing to happen again. We visited the local shaman, Jaime, who was also one of our forest guides and
introduced us to tribal medicines and explained what they’re used for. To cool off, we swam in the chilly fast-flowing river, walking further up the banks to allow the current to pull us back to where we started. On one occasion when we were out swimming, we came across two women sifting for gold on the banks of the river who happily taught us about the process. A land of incredible biodiversity, warm, welcoming people and landscapes that range from snow-capped peaks to steamy, tropical rainforests, Ecuador presents travellers and families of all ages with a vast array of experiences, from listening to the thrum of an emerald-green hummingbird’s wings in the Cloud Forest to spending a Saturday night learning to salsa with the locals at a live music bar in Quito. And, importantly for those who lead frenetic, hectic lives, there are countless moments, just like watching the day break from our canopy perch, that feel akin to ‘coming up out of the water’. So – take a breath.
In April 2016, the northwest of Ecuador experienced a major earthquake that killed over 400 people. The earthquake has caused economic devastation for locals in the region, which is not usually visited by international tourists. Jacada Travel will be donating a set amount of profits to the earthquake appeal from each Ecuador trip booked throughout the summer.
PACK YOUR BAGS A Cultural Exploration of Ecuador >> Eight nights in Quito, the Amazon and Otavalo – from $5,613 per person.
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; DREAMSTIME; METROPOLITAN TOURING; HUAORANI LODGE.
CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: MACAW FEATHERS; VILLAGERS NEAR HUAORANI LODGE; COTOPAXI VOLCANO; HUMMINGBIRD; SAN RAFAEL FALLS; TERRACE OF CASA GANGOTENA, QUITO.
THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 19
Photo: Carlos Morochz 2016
Join us on a journey that will fill your senses with wonder and remind you of what it means to feel truly alive! Mashpi Lodge, on the undiscovered side of Quito, awaits with world-class hospitality and an unforgettable experience of one of the planetâ€™s top biodiversity hotspots.
Or if city life is more your thing, historic Casa Gangotena’s unparalleled location offers a dramatic and glamorous base for exploring the cultural highlights of Quito’s historic old town. Take in a concert, admire the artisty on display at any of the iconic churches and museums, or just let us pamper you with fine dining and award-winning service.
Ecuadors’s Leading Green Hotel
Ecuadors’s Leading Boutique Hotel
EYE OF THE
Asia expert Kate Edwards was rewarded with the ultimate tiger sighting on safari in India. She outlines some of her favourite parks and explains why travelling responsibly in India has never been more important.
ou’re very lucky. I’ve seen this only a few times in twenty years”, Yusef whispered, his eyes wide with delight. We were sat in our safari vehicle watching, open-jawed, as the tigress we’d just seen charge a chital, a spotted deer, dragged its kill off to a nearby tree. I was in Rathambore National Park, one of India’s most popular destinations for spotting tigers. Touring with Yusef was a delight even without seeing any tigers – with decades of experience, he knew the park back to front. We rumbled through the jungle in our jeep, Yusef pointing out various birds and interesting plants. There was a shriek in the distance and he stopped, ears pricked. It was a warning call from a monkey some way off. He spoke to the driver and we sped off in the direction of the cry. When we arrived, we found a female tiger relaxing in the shade of a tree. She was about two years old, Yusef explained, and fiercely independent, having separated from her mother earlier than most cubs to claim her own territory. I watched, so happy to be admiring a tiger just 100 metres from us, as she snoozed in the heat of the day, her black-tipped tail flicking erratically behind her. Out of the trees suddenly appeared a chital. As it darted past, the tigress immediately pounced, but it bounced just ahead of her powerful paws, and escaped. Defeated and without the energy to pursue, the tiger settled back down under the tree. After a while, we heard another monkey’s warning cry a little way off. Yusef predicted this was for the tigress’ brother, with whom she’s in constant competition. Sure enough, she got up to investigate, moving towards a watering hole. Her brother appeared from out of the forest and instantly she grew visibly tense. The pair started to face off, when suddenly another chital leapt out of the woods between the two tigers and, realising her error, veered off in a different direction – straight towards our jeep. The tigress took off after the chital, coming right for us. There was a brief moment when it looked certain prey and predator would crash straight into our vehicle, but the tigress was too quick and she pounced, bringing down the chital just a few metres from our jeep. She sank her teeth into the chital’s neck and the animal became still. The fight was not yet over. Behind the tigress, her brother approached cautiously as she began to drag the chital away. He was stronger and was presumably hoping to capitalise on his sister’s work, but Yusef told me in a hushed voice that she was such an unpredictable and aggressive tiger that her brother would not be so bold as he would with any other female. The tigress pulled her kill under a tree and sat on it, staring at her brother challengingly. He sat down a few metres away and again, the two siblings faced off. With the shadows growing longer, we had to leave to get back to camp. The two tigers continued to sit there, each waiting for the other to make a move. Later at Sher Bagh camp, the whole event seeming quite surreal by this point, we were told that the tigress had managed to eat some of her chital, but the brother had eventually wrestled her meal away from her.
THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 23
RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
ocated in Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park is a protected untamed jungle of dry thorn trees – but it used to be quite different. I first visited six years ago, when tourism was not controlled at all; there were too many jeeps and too many canters (a 20-seater jeep). The park has made incredible improvements since then, successfully reining in the amount of tourists allowed in the park at any one time. For those on a classic Golden Triangle trip (the popular route connecting New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur), the park is conveniently located. There is a 10th-century fort in the middle of the park and other crumbling temples and mosques tucked amid the trees. Until 1970, the national park was the maharaja’s hunting ground and there are still remnants of the old pavilions. I stayed at Sher Bagh camp, which had great guides such as Yusef, the general manager, and a solid relationship with the national park. Good guiding is not just about ticking off animal sightings, it’s about the stories and the interesting tit bits that bring the experience to life. Seeing a tiger is not guaranteed – in 2014, there were only 48 counted in Ranthambore, so it often comes down to luck and giving yourself enough time to account for the animal’s elusiveness. There are also leopards (even more difficult to glimpse than tigers), sloth bears, striped hyenas and jackals – amongst many other animals – that inhabit Ranthambore. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: TIGER IN RANTHAMBORE; RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK; SHER BAGH CAMP; RANTHAMBORE FORT.
â€œThe tigress took off after the chital, coming right for us. There was a brief moment when it looked certain prey and predator would crash straight into our vehicle.â€?
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: TIGER CUBS; BLACK-FACED LANGUR; LEOPARD; SAMODE SAFARI LODGE, BANDHAVGARH; PEACOCK.
BANDHAVGARH NATIONAL PARK
espite Ranthambore’s popularity, it is the remote Bandhavgarh National Park that claims the highest concentration of tigers in India. There were great signs of its healthy population when I visited. We watched three cubs playing on a log, swiping away at each other as their mother sat nearby. On another drive, we spotted a pregnant tiger waking up from a snooze in the bushes before languidly wandering over to a watering hole to cool off.
photographer, and her husband Dr. Raghu Chundawat. Dr. Chundawat is a wellknown conservationist with a focus on snow leopards and tigers. He has authored a detailed study of India’s tigers and is highly outspoken on the subject of forestry officials and how the tigers were poached from the park. He also featured in the BBC documentary Tigers of the Emerald Forest. Proceeds from the lodge are pumped back into local conservation projects and it is the most thoughtful property in the area, having been built in the local style and by people dedicated to conservation, making the eco credentials of the lodge far more than just a marketing angle. It’s also the closest camp to the park gates.
Bandhavgarh is a well-managed national park, having reduced its entry permits a few years ago, and the lodge I was staying in – Samode Safari Lodge – supported the local community by employing from the nearby tribal village. I visited the home of an employee, which was a far more personal experience of meeting locals than I’ve had elsewhere; because the lodge is so remote, there are hardly any other travellers who stop by. Like Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh was once a hunting concession belonging to the royal family, and in 1968 it was declared a national park. The old fort on its clifftop perch lends its name to the reserve. There are about 40-odd leopards who live in the park, though they’re rarely seen on safaris, as well as 150 bird species, wild boar and the white-bellied black bucks, the males of which sport long, twisted antlers.
PANNA NATIONAL PARK
ive hours’ drive north of Bandhavgarh is Panna, another offthe-beaten-track option for those keen to escape the more accessible national parks. Panna is also close to the UNESCO-protected Khajuraho temples, famed for their erotic engravings thought to portray tantric sex. The Ken River that flows through the park makes it ideal for game spotting and very scenic, even in the dry season. It’s a beautiful park, so even if you don’t see tigers, a visit will still be worthwhile if just to soak up some of the peaceful tranquillity that this quiet place emanates. After being entirely wiped out by poaching, tigers were reintroduced to the park and are now thought to number around 20, including cubs. There are over 200 different types of bird, such as the king vulture, the paradise flycatcher and the honey buzzard. You might also spot sloth bears, wild dogs, deer and leopards. The nearby eco-lodge Sarai at Toria is run by Joanna Van Gruisen, a British wildlife THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 29
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: PANNA NATIONAL PARK; TIGER; PARADISE FLYCATCHER; SARAI AT TORIA; RIVER VIEW FROM SARAI AT TORIA; TIGER.
t’s no great secret that India’s tiger population has suffered – and continues to do so. Worldwide, there are only 3,000 tigers left in the wild, with a higher number residing in US zoos. The tragic fact is that we may be the last generation able to see tigers in the wild. The animals are at constant risk of poaching for their pelts and body parts, the latter of which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Tiger eyes are used to treat ailments such as epilepsy, the brain is used for skin conditions such as acne, the bones are used for rheumatism, and tiger penis’ are used as aphrodisiacs. These beliefs are based on ancient medicinal practices, but today there is still a thriving market for tiger remedies. Although the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies has officially requested that members do not use endangered wildlife parts, including tigers, the ingredients are still in high demand – some see the dwindling resources as a driving factor. In Seoul, powdered tiger bone can cost up to $1,450 for half a kilo. Many Chinese celebrities – Jackie Chan, for instance – have taken a stand against using endangered animals in Chinese medicines, and multiple charities are targeting the Chinese markets to decrease demand, therefore decreasing poaching and trafficking. Tigers are also affected by the decline in their natural environment. The forests of India not only grant them a sheltered and peaceful existence, but also a habitat for their prey, such as deer.
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; DREAMSTIME; SHER BAGH CAMP; SAMODE SAFARI LODGE; SARAI AT TORIA.
Responsible operators will ensure that tigers are respected when on safari. That means keeping noise to an absolute minimum, sticking to the 20-kilometreper-hour speed limit in national parks, staying away from areas where multiple canters are allowed and limiting the number of jeeps allowed in the park at one time. It’s also important that they share conservation issues with their guests and ensure that all rangers and guides are informed about giving tigers – and other wildlife – enough space so they don’t feel harassed, and making as little impact on the environment as possible. As is the case with African safaris, supporting responsible safari operators in India is one way in which we can help protect tigers and their environment. A tiger safari provides visitors with an education about tigers and their endangered status. With the money made from this industry, protection levels can be increased around the national parks, and locals and authorities will see more value in having wild tigers attract tourists to safari areas than selling their parts in China and other Asian countries. Our grandchildren might still be able to see tigers in the wild – but only with a concerted effort from all fronts.
PACK YOUR BAGS Indian Adventure >> A nine-night trip including Delhi, the Taj Mahal, a tiger safari in Ranthambore and Jaipur – from $4,258 per person. THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 31
BELIZE IT Belizeâ€™s growing ecotourism industry makes this small, but diverse country one of the most rewarding places to travel in Latin America, says destination expert Jen Richt.
ast year, Leonardo DiCaprio announced that he would be building a new eco-resort on the Belizean private island Blackadore Caye, estimated to open in 2018. DiCaprio bought the island for $1.75 million with Jeff Gram, the owner of another Belizean resort, Cayo Espanto Island Resort, around a decade ago when it was suffering from overfishing, deforestation and eroding coastlines. He bills Blackadore as ‘a restorative island’, reflecting the purpose of the eco-lodge, which is to breathe new life into the island, the money it makes funding the renewal of the ecosystem. The Hollywood star has become something of an environmental activist in recent years, so it’s no great surprise that DiCaprio followed in the footsteps of fellow celebrity hotelier, Francis Ford Coppola, and chose Belize as the location for his first hotel. Belize is a tiny country, about the same size as the state of Massachusetts, with a population of just under 350,000. It has a rugged beauty, with its wild swathes of jungle and sublime Caribbean coastline that affords access to the world’s second largest coral reef. When I crossed the border from Guatemala and entered Belize – the two are a natural pairing for multidestination trips – I was struck by how different this country felt from its Central American neighbours. Belize is distinguished partly by its
national language, which is English rather than Spanish (Belize used to be called British Honduras), but also by its easy-going mixture of people and cultures. The local cuisine is hot and spicy, featuring Kriol (Belizean Creole) flavours in delicious fresh ceviche and seasonal conch. Belize was home to the Maya, a civilisation founded around 2000 BC, and you can still visit crumbling, mighty temples hidden in the jungle where kings would make sacrifices to the gods. For those who need constant activities to fill their days, Belize is something of an adventure playground with countless opportunities for zip-lining, horse riding, canyoning, kayaking, spelunking, hiking and much more. New flight routes make the country even easier to visit; as of 1st November 2016, a direct London route with American Airlines means Brits won’t have to stop over in the States when travelling to Belize. Ecotourism in Belize is a burgeoning industry. With a vast array of wildlife and delicate landscapes, the country has realised that the only way to protect its tourism industry (which is the second largest industry in Belize) is to preserve its assets. Around 26% of the land and sea is protected, and, crucially, the locals have been heavily involved in protecting the environment, which is key to any longterm conservation strategy.
COASTAL REGENERATION The Belize Barrier Reef is one of the biggest jewels in the country’s crown, with many keen divers visiting specifically to investigate this ecosystem. Hundreds of sandy islets pepper the Caribbean Sea that laps onto Belizean shores. Mangrove forests grow along the beaches, their sprawling roots intertwining, protecting the land and providing habitat for wildlife. The Blue Hole is one of the most recognisable images in the world, the enormous sinkhole an inky blue circle surrounded by turquoise lagoon water amid a tropical atoll. In order to protect the marine environment, the government have called for swimmers to be careful of kicking sand into the coral and avoid wearing dive gloves so as to reduce the temptation to touch the coral or lean on it for support. Overfishing is being tackled by declaring certain areas off-limits to fishermen. The atoll Glover’s Reef, for instance, has been made a ‘no take’ marine reserve, which means fishing is banned. Half Moon Caye is another reserve, which is home to several thousand rare red-footed boobies. There are seven protected areas along the reef in total and this also helps threatened species such as turtles and manatees to flourish. The Gladden Spit was named a marine
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: WHALE SHARK; LAMANAI; CORAL REEF; MOUNTAIN PINE RIDGE; CHAA CREEK LODGE.
encourage a regulated industry is exactly what needs to happen to ensure a steady, sustainable growth in tourism. In order to enjoy Belize’s sublime barrier reef responsibly, you can choose activities that have minimal impact on the environment, such as snorkelling or kayaking; swimming with nurse sharks off Ambergris Caye is a stand-out memory from my time in Belize, and Coppola’s Turtle Inn near Placencia is a good base for island-hopping snorkelling trips. Just visiting protected areas and marine parks also helps to fund conservation. GOING LOCAL Community ventures abound in Belize, with nationals taking their country under their collective wing. The Toledo Institute for Development and Environment started life as a grassroots campaign back in 1997, and now works with locals to protect the environment of the Toledo District from overfishing, poaching and illegal logging. It also trains them to be tour guides, giving visitors a wonderfully personal introduction to the immediate attractions of the areas and providing a sustainable industry for the region. Also in the Toledo District, the Toledo Ecotourism Association was born in Punta Gorda from a group of Mayan and Garifuna villagers who began building guesthouses in the 1980s. They have since grown into a network of eco-lodges and provide cultural tours through villages and the jungle.
reserve in 2000. Between April and June, whale sharks migrate to the area to graze on the spawning of fish such as the snapper. It’s possible to swim with these gentle giants – the biggest sharks in the world – a spine-tinglingly memorable experience. Overfishing had been a problem in the reserve, but the NGOs that operate here have helped to retrain locals as dive masters and sport fishing guides, which has alleviated pressure on the ecosystem. Belizeans have also been trying to control the amount of cruise ships that drop anchor on their coastline. The seaside town of Placencia has been fighting back against the growing number of ships, as the locals fear that the overnight visitors will not only do damage to the environment, but also that the possible influx of cruise-goers will scare off tourists who would have stayed longer and boosted the town’s economy. Locals joining forces to
The Community Baboon Sanctuary was founded by volunteers in 1985 in the Bermudian Landing region. They aimed to protect the endangered black howler monkey (known as baboons in the area’s Kriol dialect) and since they started, 200 landowners from seven villages have joined the project. As a result, over 2,000 monkeys now live in the sanctuary. THE WILD SIDE Belize is home to the world’s only jaguar reserve, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is around 150 square miles. These shy, solitary cats are notoriously difficult to spot, but a lucky few might catch a glimpse of the endangered jaguar as it prowls through the lush, steamy rainforest. What is more likely is seeing signs of the jaguars, thought to number around 200 – the densest population in the world – such as their pugmarks (footprints) along the trails, particularly in the rainy season. Cockscomb also shelters howler monkeys, tapir, deer and hundreds of bird species, including clay-coloured robins, crimson-collared tanagers and bat falcons. Birders can listen
out for cries from the white-collared manakin, which sounds like two stones being clicked together, and the Montezuma oropendola, with its distinctive, crazy series of gurgling, popping and clucking. Aside from bird watching, you can also go hiking or horse-riding through the reserve. The biggest private reserve in Belize is Rio Bravo, 260,00 acres of jungle in which endangered ocelots and jaguars dwell alongside 400 species of birds, 200 different types of trees and the Mayan archaeological site, La Milpa. All the revenue raised by the reserve is invested right back into conservation projects in Rio Bravo.
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; CHAA CREEK LODGE.
Red Bank is a Mayan village at the foot of the Maya Mountains, visited between January and March by a flock of scarlet macaws. These brilliantly coloured birds are quite a sight – and sound – to behold from the viewing platform that the villagers have constructed around the annatto trees from which the birds feed. Villagers are also trained as guides, so the experience is positive not just for the birds, but for the community too. Many lodges also work towards protecting their surrounding environment. Chaa Creek was one of the first eco-lodges in Central America when it was opened in 1981. Tucked away
on the banks of the Macal River in a private reserve near the Guatemalan border, the lodge is both luxurious and responsible, with 10% of the income going back to the community and into environmental projects. They employ only Belizeans from local villages and towns and operate several projects, such as environmental education outreach programmes, summer camps for Belizean school children, and the Share a Pound programme, which encourages guests to use one pound of their luggage to bring pens and books to be donated to the local school or craft supplies for the old age centre. Other eco-friendly jungle lodges include Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge, located in the Mountain Pine Ridge, and the Hidden Valley Inn, also in the same area. The Hidden Valley Reserve is home to some very rare birds, such as the orange-breasted falcon, the solitary eagle, the king vulture, the black and white hawk eagle and the Stygian owl. Belize still flies a little under the radar, but it is one of the most rewarding travel experiences, not least because of its eco credentials. One thing that strikes me about Belize is how much its own people respect their environment – and that’s something from which we can all learn.
PACK YOUR BAGS A Belizean Adventure >> Chaa Creek, Mountain Pine Ridge and Placencia – from $3,734 per person. THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 35
FAMILY TRAV EL
IT ’S A FAMILY THING South Africa is a brilliant destination for families. Safari expert Jonny Humphreys explains why.
South Africa is one of the best places in Africa for a family safari and when I’m asked by – sometimes nervous – travellers about how safe it is for their children, I don’t hesitate to recommend this wonderful country. Here are some reasons why I think South Africa is perfect for families.
There are parts of South Africa that are perfect for young children, in that visitors are virtually guaranteed sightings of the full Big Five. This is ideal for keeping little ones interested and avoiding tantrums when they haven’t seen the lion you promised. With plenty of reserves to choose from, you can pick one according to what you want to see, in what space of time, and at which time of the year.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOTELS AND LODGES
There are some excellent lodges that are very family-oriented with guides who have their own children living on-site, and special safaris for kids that involve fun activities like finding animal paw prints and making plaster of Paris moulds of them to take home as a little souvenir. Dung identification is often a very popular safari activity with kids! There is no need for babysitting services if parents want to spend an evening in the city or out at a restaurant, as you can stay in a villa with its own private team. South Africa is wonderfully well-suited to families, and leaving your kids with experienced staff isn’t anything to be nervous about. Some of my favourite Cape Town hotels have lots of things to keep kids occupied, such as cookie-baking and pizza-making in the kitchen with rooms packed full of toys and with child-size beds to make small children feel more at home. If you were hoping to visit the Winelands, but perhaps thought it wouldn’t be suitable for kids, there are hotels that really look after children, putting on chocolate tastings while you indulge your inner oenophile.
South Africa is a fabulous destination for activities that appeal to all age ranges. From horse riding and rafting to snorkelling and surfing, there is plenty to keep active families very busy. Aside from safaris, there are also whale-watching and dolphin-spotting trips to take, alongside – for older kids – shark breaching and shark cage-diving tours.
Our travellers say… “Our trip to South Africa with Jacada enriched our lives.” Garon and Jamie travelled to South Africa in 2016 with their three-year-old son. “Jonny and his team at Jacada turned our South African adventure into the trip of a lifetime! I grew up in South Africa and had always wanted to go back. Time and distance never allowed it. But in early March my husband and I were sitting in our living room and quite impulsively decided to take our three-yearold son and head for South Africa.
There are many parts of South Africa that have the wonderful advantage of being both rich in game and malaria-free. For families with younger children, this eliminates the prospect of having to get medication for everyone and also provides peace of mind.
One catch – we had to leave in 20 days. But who could plan a trip from Washington, D.C. to South Africa in just 20 days? We called Jacada in London, and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We don’t know how Jonny and his team did it, but four days later we had an unbelievable itinerary taking us back home to Johannesburg, then up into the Kruger for safari for five nights, on to a remote and unbelievably gorgeous island off the coast of Mozambique (Bazaruto) and then back for one last wonderful night in South Africa. When the day came, we left for what was the most luxurious trip we’ve ever been on. At every airport we were met at the door of the aircraft to be led through immigration and out to waiting drivers, who then whisked us off to beautiful hotels. We were paired with experienced and wonderful drivers, trackers and rangers who frankly we fell in love with throughout our trip. The people we met along the way, we will never forget. Being able to sit with my boys in the middle of the bush and watch the sun set was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. From nightfall in leopard territory along the riverbed, to sunrise on the Indian Ocean, we two dads and our son were treated with exemplary respect and kindness from every person we came into contact with. In what was an extremely special moment, Jacada even made it possible for me to take my boys and visit the house I grew up in. It will remain one of the most remarkable moments of my life. We will absolutely be booking our future vacations with Jacada. Jacada travel is luxury, adventure, efficiency and kindness all rolled into one. From two dads and one little guy who disappeared into the wild for two weeks and returned with the greatest sense of life – we are very grateful to you Jonny and the rest of the Jacada team. Stellar work. You’ve enriched our souls.”
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; MORUZURU; TSWALU KALAHARI; JACADA CLIENTS.
If there’s one thing you want to avoid when travelling with children, it’s too much time in airports. South Africa is one of the easiest countries in Africa to travel to, with direct flights from North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.
PACK YOUR BAGS Family Safari Explorer >> 12 nights in South Africa and on safari – from $7,960 per person. THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 37
DE S TI N ATION INSPIRATION
For some of the best luxury accommodation and service in the world, look no further than Thailand. The ‘Land of Smiles’ has long endured a misleading reputation as a backpacking destination, but its high-end market couldn’t be more different. The country’s experience in the tourism market, award-winning resorts, superb fine-dining options and developed infrastructure means Thailand is better suited to high-end travel than many other Southeast Asian countries. Kate Edwards selects some of the most luxurious places to stay.
FOUR SEASONS TENTED CAMP, CHIANG RAI Up in the lush highlands of Chiang Rai surrounded by bamboo jungle, the Four Seasons Tented Camp offers one of the most exotic experiences in Southeast Asia. This luxury camp puts guests in one of the most scenic areas of Thailand, where travellers can visit the elephants and learn about the history of mahouts, take Thai cooking lessons, meet the local hill tribes or head out on jungle hikes. Alternatively, it’s just as tempting to book yourself into the al fresco spa or chill out in the wooden hot tub on your private deck.
SONEVA KIRI, KOH KOOD
Soneva Kiri’s tag line is ‘no news, no shoes, Thai style’. Indeed, just an hour from Bangkok by private plane, the resort is the perfect antidote to stressful, busy and modern lifestyles. The island on which Soneva Kiri resides is Koh Kood, which has been left largely unspoiled with a thatch of jungle and peaceful shores. Don’t let the rustic surroundings fool you, though – the resort has enormous, beautiful villas with infinity pools and private butlers. There’s an ice cream parlour; a kiddie playground, the Den; an open-air cinema; and Soneva’s famous treetop dining pod.
A sleek, modern Phuket-based cluster of oceanfront suites and villas, Trisara is only 15 minutes from Phuket airport on one of the quieter strips of the island’s coastline. Each villa and suite has its own plunge pool and there’s one communal 45-metre saltwater pool that runs along the beachfront. The spa is beautiful, offering open-air treatments. Rare for a luxury boutique hotel, Trisara also has a kids’ club and a babysitting service. The hotel organises beach clean-ups and reuses air-con energy to heat the pool water in the villas, amongst other eco initiatives.
THE SIAM, BANGKOK
RITZ-CARLTON PHULAY BAY
Aman’s first ever hotel (there are now 31 properties all over the world), Amanpuri means ‘place of peace’. The resort is located on Phuket’s west coast up on a hillside surrounded by palm trees. Rooms have private terraces and outdoor lounging areas to make full use of the tropical location, and some have their own pools. The villas have up to nine bedrooms, live-in staff and either have outstanding views of the Andaman Sea or are tucked away in the gardens.
This beautiful boutique hotel has just 39 rooms and is located along the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Thailand’s lively capital. A sophisticated, nostalgic Art Deco retreat in this often chaotic city, The Siam goes over and above the usual hotel specs with its Thai cooking school, screening room and the world’s only in-hotel muay Thai boxing ring. And if you thought private pools would have to wait until later in your trip, it also houses Bangkok’s only pool villas.
Whether you take advantage of Krabi’s worldclass climbing or not, the Andaman coastal setting of the Ritz-Carlton Phulay Bay is simply sublime. Hulking limestone karsts jut out of the dazzling blue sea and pretty, verdant gardens surround the beachfront resort’s 54 villas. Personal butlers service each of the villas, so nothing is more than a few minutes out of reach, whether you’re craving a few scoops of mango sorbet or a refresh of your gin and tonic.
PACK YOUR BAGS Northern Thai Culture and Countryside with Beaches >> Four Seasons Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Amanpuri Phuket – from $6,272 per person. THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 39
SA N SEBAS T I Á N One of Europe’s ‘Capitals of Culture’ for 2016 and with a new direct air link from London, San Sebastián is having a moment. This small, upmarket and relaxed city has one of the most unique foodie scenes in the world, but there’s more to it than just pintxos.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: SURFING; SAN SEBASTIÁN; PINTXOS; MARIA CRISTINA BRIDGE; THE OLD TOWN; THE CITY’S RED ROOFS.
n Spain’s northerly Basque Region, San Sebastián – or Donostia, as they say in Basque – is a charming seaside town that has caught the world’s attention due to its delicious and distinctive version of tapas, pintxos (pronounced pin-chos). Pintxos are bar snacks, often attached to a piece of bread with a cocktail stick (the Spanish word ‘pincho’ comes from the verb ‘pinchar’, ‘to pierce’). They cost just a few euros each and could be a combination of olives, anchovies and pepper; beef cheeks marinated in red wine; octopus with fried potato; black pudding with apple; or jamón ibérico with cheese. The local wine, txakoli (chak-oh-lee), is a light, slightly effervescent white wine which you’ll see everywhere in green bottles. It’s also low in alcohol, which makes it ideal for those long bar-hopping afternoons. Although the food is usually the main draw of San Sebastián, there’s much more to discover in between pintxos sessions.
WHAT TO DO
San Sebastián’s main beach, Playa de la Concha, is a beautiful stretch of golden sand with clean (but often chilly) sea. Surfers should check out the nearby Playa de Gros, which has a more local feel to it. A quick, easy hike up Monte Urgull to the statue of Christ that overlooks San Sebastián affords glorious views across the city and Playa de la Concha. Drop into Iglesia de San Vicente, believed to
be the oldest building in the city, dating back to the 12th century and rebuilt as a Gothic church during the 1500s – if you’re there on a Sunday, you can pop in for mass which starts at 10.30am. There are plenty of shopping options, too – wander down Calle Loyola, Calle Fuenterrabia and Calle San Martzial. When (or if) you’ve had your fill of pintxos, pay a visit to La Viña for the divine baked cheesecake.
THE G UI D E
There are countless pintxos bars in San Sebastián, but here are a few favourite places. Try the signature brocheta de gambas at Goiz Argi (Fermín Calbeton Kalea); enjoy the buzzy vibe, the cod confit, steak tartar or the octopus at Atari (Calle Mayor); or join the biggest crowds for local cider (sagardoa) and tuna pintxos at La Cuchara de San Telmo on Calle Santa Corda. Zeruko (Calle Pescadería) regularly has queues waiting for it to open and offers creative dishes such as la hoguera: salted cod presented on a grill above smoking hot coals. Borda Berri on Fermín Calbeton Kalea has creamy sheep-milk cheese, wild mushroom risotto and succulent veal cheeks. Vegetarians can dig into the mushrooms wrapped in puff pastry at Ganbara on Calle San Jeronimo or the crispy leeks at Txondorra on Fermín Calbeton Kalea.
WHEN TO GO
September is one of the best times to visit as the weather is pleasant, it’s not too busy, there’s the annual film festival and surfers can enjoy the big waves that roll in at this time of year.
Generally, San Sebastián is a year-round destination. Bear in mind that winters can be rainy and cold, and as a beach destination the warmer months will be more enjoyable.
PACK YOUR BAGS Luxury Grand Tour of Spain >> 13-night trip through Barcelona, San Sebastián, La Rioja, Seville, Grenada and Madrid – from $9,157 per person. THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 41
JACADA T RAVEL JOURNAL
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: ANGKOR WAT; SONG SAA; SUNSET DRINKS ON THE ANGKOR THOM MOAT; THE VILLAS AT SONG SAA; AMOK FISH; MONKS AT THE ANGKOR TEMPLES; TA PROHM TEMPLE..
CRAZY ABOUT CAMBODIA Travel writer Katie Law spends two weeks getting to know Cambodia, finding a warm, welcoming country that has bounced back from devastation. FIRST STOP: PHNOM PENH The quickest and most enjoyable way to get to grips with the many sights in Cambodia’s capital is travelling by cyclo, a luxuriously comfortable carriage powered by a man peddling furiously behind you, while you sit back and take in the sights. We took the two-and-a-half-hour guided historic city tour, accompanied by an enthusiastic young architecture student. We ended our ride at the Central Market. Built in 1937 and restored four years ago, this is where textiles and fake gemstone sellers compete for your dollar next to stalls piled high with crunchy proteinrich insects, crayfish, dried prawns, pink eggs, and people crammed cheek by jowl at counters, heads down, eating bowls of noodle soup. Inevitably our time in Phnom Penh also had to include a visit to the Killing Fields memorial at Choeung Ek where the Khmer Rouge executed thousands of Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. From there we went on to the Tuol Sleng genocide
museum, originally built as a school and used by the Khmer Rouge as a prison. Our guide welled up as he told us that his own father - who’d had the misfortune to speak several languages - was sent here to be ‘re-educated’ and was never seen again. Two million Cambodians - almost a quarter of its population - died. And yet, for all the horrors of the past, Phnom Penh is a thrilling city, with a palpable energy and vitality about it, and a sense that it is celebrating its regeneration. SECOND STOP: SIEM REAP Siem Reap is 320 kilometres north of Phnom Penh and at the heart of the temples of the Angkorian civilisation. Before our journey, I had only heard of Angkor Wat, but there are hundreds more temples, some barely accessible in the overgrown jungle. Others, we were told, have been detected by overhead cameras using infrared technology, but remain buried. A helicopter ride offers fantastic aerial views of the original city layout, and its
sophisticated irrigation system. A bicycle ride through the countryside revealed more remnants, as well as temple ruins in paddy fields, which we had all to ourselves. Another highlight is the small temple at Banteay Srei, from 967 AD, where flowers and mythical creatures are deeply carved into almost every inch of the rose gold sandstone. A sunset gondola ride, drinking gin and tonics, around the moat at the temple of Angkor Thom is magical. Angkor Wat itself is of course a marvel and to see it bathed in moonlight with almost
no one else around is worth the 4.30am start, although it does quickly become crowded with hordes of selfie-stick waving tourists. This is why expert help in planning your itinerary is so important. FINAL STOP: SONG SAA I’d heard so much about Song Saa, but not even the glossy promotional brochure prepares you for the staggering beauty of this lush little island resort in the Koh Rong archipelago off the south west coast of Cambodia. With its row of silvery, driftwood thatchedroof villas on stilts hugging one the side of the bay, bar and restaurant built out on another, and separate infinity pool facing out to sea, it’s a place of hidden nooks and crannies to explore and discover. One night I lay in bed with the windows and doors wide open, watching fork and sheet lightening light up the bay in intense bursts, as hot winds and warm rain swept into the room; it was quickly over, as the weather here seems to change constantly.
ingredients for mixing our own mojitos and little home-made chocolate mousses being left in the fridge. Each morning we’d wake up to find a message rolled up in twine, rather than in a bottle, tied to the front door, with suggestions for the day ahead. When the time came to say goodbye, it felt as if we were coming out of a dream to return to the real world.
PHOTOS: ISTOCK; DREAMSTIME; ABOUT ASIA; SONG SAA PRIVATE ISLAND RESORT.
We stayed for four nights at Song Saa, an ideal amount of time to adjust to the tranquil rhythms of this special place. Our jungle villa had its own little tropical rainforest garden and a terrace complete with sofas and plunge pool. Standing under a shell-encrusted outdoor shower, we’d watch the green and blue painted wooden fishing boats go chugging gently by and feel every inch as if we were living in our own dream rough-luxe tropical treehouse. Eat your heart out, Robinson Crusoe. Lovely touches included the
THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 43
WIN A TRIP TO MADRID FROM HONG KONG
CATHAY PACIFIC ’S DISCOV E R TH E SH O P AND JACADA TR AV E L HAVE TEAMED UP TO CELE BR ATE TH E LAU NCH O F CATH AY ’S N E W DIRECT ROUTE BE TWE E N H O NG KO NG AND M AD R ID. From 1st July to 30th September 2016, every HK$1,500 spent inflight on Cathay Pacific’s Discover the Shop will buy one entry into the lucky dip. The prize is a luxury trip to Madrid, courtesy of Jacada Travel and Cathay Pacific’s Discover the Shop. THE PRIZE: Two Cathay Pacific Premium Economy round trip tickets between Hong Kong and Madrid 3 nights for two people at Hotel Villa Magna, Madrid A bespoke 4-day/3-night privately guided luxury tour of Madrid with Jacada Travel T&CS APPLY
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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: PERUâ€™S NIGHT SKY BY SUET; ANIL & SON IN PERU; MIKE & MEREDITH AT MACHU PICCHU; THE LANAUXES IN THE SACRED VALLEY, PERU; THE ASPINWALLS AT THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, JAPAN; AND MATHEW AT MOUNT BROMO, INDONESIA.
THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 45
RH IN OS W IT H O UT BO R DE R S Rhinos Without Borders is a last-ditch attempt to save rhinos in South Africa from a sharp increase in poaching. Heather Richardson explains how the relocation project works.
n the darkened auditorium, eyes glittered with tears and hands covered mouths in horror. On the projector, a harrowing video was rolling. A rhino struggled to breath as rangers found the animal with half its face brutally hacked off, poachers having dug all of its deep-rooted horn out before leaving it a bloodied mess. They hadn’t even bothered to kill the rhino, just darted it and left it there to die a slow and painful death. The rangers swiftly put the rhino out of its misery. The video was an important part of Joss Kent’s presentation. He had to show the audience just how barbaric the poaching in South Africa is, in all its gruesome detail. Kent – the CEO of &Beyond, who operate a number of safari lodges in Africa – was explaining the aims of the charity Rhinos Without Borders at Jacada Travel’s fundraising evening back in 2015. The event was a celebration of Botswana’s ecotourism efforts, which have dramatically reduced poaching, and a fundraiser for rhino projects, such as Rhinos Without Borders. Over £10,000 ($14,685) was
raised by the end of the night. The purpose of Rhinos Without Borders is to transfer 100 rhinos from South Africa to the relative safety of Botswana. It’s a lastditch attempt to preserve South Africa’s dwindling rhino population. In Botswana, animals are formerly protected by the army, who operate on a shoot-to-kill basis, and the wild nature of the country means that access for poachers is difficult. The government – arguably the least corrupt in Africa – have enforced the strict attitude to poaching, which is why it has been so successful. Over the border in South Africa, things are different. The porous border between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique means that poachers can easily access South Africa’s rhino population, coming and going in one night and often taking out several rhinos in one visit. Mozambique is a particularly poor country and one of the main ports for illegal wildlife product trade, such as rhino horns. From Mozambique, the system is very similar to that of the illegal
drug trade with multiple middlemen and runners. Eventually the horns reach the factories in Asia, after which they are sold mainly in China and Vietnam where they’re used in traditional medicine as a cure for cancer, detoxifier and several other purposes. They’re also considered a status symbol. Rhino horn is made from keratin – the same material that makes up our fingernails or hair – and there is no proof that it has any medicinal powers. Poaching is difficult to stop without governmental input. The poachers are extremely well-equipped, sometimes arriving at night in helicopters and armed with night-vision goggles and guns. There is a lot of money at stake and the poachers won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in their way. For safari operators, it is nigh on impossible to prevent the deaths of their rhinos once the poachers have found them. At the end of 2015, the number of rhinos poached in Africa had risen for the sixth year in a row. At least 1,338 rhinos had been killed in 2015, although in South
GIVIN G BACK Africa there was a slight dip that year – 1,175 rhinos poached, down slightly from 1,215 in 2014. In May 2016, the South African Supreme Court rejected an appeal to keep a ban on domestic rhino horn trade, which was introduced in 2009 after an increase in poaching. Rhinos Without Borders is a collaboration between &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation. Founded in 2013, the project aims to move rhinos from &Beyond’s Phinda Private Game Reserve to Botswana, in order to spare them from poaching. After the target of 100 rhino relocations have been completed, it will have cost over $8 million. To date, the Rhinos Without Borders team have moved 25 rhinos in total – 10 in April 2016 and 15 in November 2015. The next move of between 10 and 15 rhinos is currently in the planning stages. The relocation process is expensive and difficult. Each rhino costs about $45,000 to move. The team must first find the rhino from the air and then move in to dart it with a tranquiliser. The vets blindfold the rhino so it is less stressed by everything going on, after which the animal is checked for microchips and samples of blood and tissue are taken. The rhino is then guided by the team into a container and transported to its boma where it awaits the flight to Botswana. When the flight is ready, all the rhinos are moved back into their containers and taken to the airport to be loaded onto the plane. Upon touch down in Botswana, the containers are transported into the bush area where the rhinos are released quickly – the rising temperature makes it dangerous for them.
their way into the wild together. Projects like Rhinos Without Borders are a reflection of the sad state in which the rhino population now finds itself, with experts estimating wild rhinos could be extinct within the next five to ten years. The northern white rhino is facing the most critical threat: only three are left on the planet. Relocating rhinos is far from ideal, but it is one of the very few options now available to save the species.
All images copyright Beverly Joubert.
Releasing the rhinos is the end point of the project, but it is not without its problems. During April’s relocation, a mother and calf became separated in the confusion and the team had to rush to reunite the pair in the midday heat. Fortunately, they found the calf in time to put the dehydrated youngster on a drip before transporting both mother and calf back to the boma for a re-release the following day. Eventually, the pair found
Jacada Travel supports Rhinos Without Borders by donating a set amount of the profits from each trip to Africa we plan. THE EXPLORER | SUMMER 2016 | 47
DE S TI N ATION INSPIRATION
THE BEST ART HOTELS BY HE ATHER RICHA RDSON With enviable collections to rival many galleries, these art hotels offer the chance to combine luxury accommodation with a passion for art.
21 NETTLETON, CAPE TOWN
More like a home than a hotel, 21 Nettleton is one of Cape Town’s newest luxury retreats. Situated on a clifftop overlooking the ocean, this grand house of four suites is instantly welcoming and it’s not uncommon to find the owner, Hugo, enjoying a glass of wine by the fire in the living room. Two grand pianos reside in the house, alongside an art collection that includes local and international pieces. Amongst many other artists, there are several François Krige (1913-1994) paintings, a Post-Impressionist South African artist, whose paintings and drawings studied the people, flora and fauna of southern Africa. The general manager, Elodye, is an art expert from Paris, and the perfect person to show you around the house.
VIÑA VIK, CHILEAN WINE REGION
Each of the 22 bedrooms in this new, arty vineyard hotel have been designed by mostly South American artists, each given free rein to decorate the rooms exactly as they wish. The bathroom of the Hermès suite (known as the H Suite) is covered in fashion photographs of female models and the Louis Louis suite features striking art depicting a sullen, war-torn Europe, contrasting with the idyllic, rolling hills outside.
FOUR SEASONS FIRENZE
This grand hotel, a renovated 15th-century palace and 16thcentury convent located just outside the centre of Florence, took over seven years to build because every time the construction workers uncovered another fresco, they had to consult Italy’s Belle Arti committee. It was worth the wait though, as guests can now admire the bas-reliefs of the lobby, painted by Michelangelo’s tutor Bertoldo di Giovanni, and those staying in the executive suites can wake up underneath paintings of everyday Renaissance life that cover the vaulted ceilings.
ELLERMAN HOUSE, CAPE TOWN
With an in-house gallery of South African art and countless paintings covering the walls of the hotel, Ellerman House is another major art hotel in Cape Town. Out in the gardens of the hotel, you’ll find sculptures by one of South Africa’s most famous contemporary artists, Lionel Smit and inside, there are works from the 1800s by artists such as Thomas Bowler. The in-house art guide Talita provides art tours around the property or you can use Ellerman’s iPad app to browse the collections yourself.
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LA ST-MINUTE ESCAP ES
Need to scratch that travel itch? Here are some destinations just ripe for visiting...
TAKE A KOMODO CRUISE WITH THE FAMILY
STAY COOL IN THE NORTH OF SPAIN
WATCH THE GREAT MIGRATION IN KENYA
HEAD TO ARGENTINA’S WINE REGION
Hire a private charter yacht and spend some quality family time in the fascinating and scenic Komodo Islands of Indonesia.
Usually booked up months in advance, the new Sala’s Camp has limited availability as the great herds of migrating wildebeest arrive in Kenya throughout the month of August.
Destinations such as San Sebastián and La Rioja aren’t as hot as the rest of Spain over the summer, and are perfect for food and wine lovers.
Mendoza produces some of the world’s finest wines and the Argentine winter affords cosy Malbec tastings by the fire and wonderful scenes of the snow-capped Andean mountains.
Luxury River Cruising Aqua Expeditions Amazon River Safari in Peru Recently refurbished to re-affirm the brandâ€™s position as best in class, the 130-foot, 12-cabin Aqua Amazon and 147-foot, 16-cabin Aria Amazon were custom built to explore the mighty Peruvian Amazon River in uncompromising comfort. Each vessel boasts generous indoor and outdoor lounging spaces, an elegant dining room and an upper-deck bar. Spacious private living quarters feature newly upgraded interiors and floor-to-ceiling, river-facing windows. Guests enjoy delectable dishes from Executive Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, globally renowned for his Amazon influenced cuisine. Experienced naturalist guides lead excursion groups of eight guests deep into the enigmatic black waters and lush jungle canopies of Amazonia. A full-time paramedic is on board to ensure guest safety on every adventure.
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Luxury travel, destination inspiration and epic journeys. Issue 04 - Summer 2016 - India | Belize | Ecuador | Zambia