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Our Team Editor-in-Chief May Lynn Writer Konrad Clapp Creative Director Lynn Ooi
This issue, we visit some of the best short breaks you can get to from right here in Singapore from unique dive trips to rewarding jungle experiences. We’re also throwing in “urban adventure” to destinations like the Caucasus or Europe – they may be far, but most of these are close enough to the nearest airports. We start close to home with a trip to Sukhothai, Thailand’s answer to Angkor Wat, before exploring some of Bangkok’s historic neighbourhoods with local residents who are running innovative, community-based tourism initiatives. Then it’s off to the islands of Southeast Asia; while all are geographically nearby, they feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore with their beaches and unique attractions. Next, we’re off to Borneo, dropping in on Balikpapan in Kalimantan, home to Samboja Lestari, a unique eco resort run by BOS (the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation), as well as Derawan islands with its famous sting-less jellyfish lake. Then we explore Sarawak’s remote interior, from the Kelabit Highlands to Mulu National Park, via its second city (Miri). Sabah may be known for Kinabalu, but there are also plenty of diving sites near KK. Australia’s closest city to Singapore, Darwin has stunning national parks like Litchfield, Kakadu, and Nitmiluk, all driveable from Darwin. Following that, we visit Papua New Guinea, which has direct flights from Singapore, to hike the legendary Kokoda Trail or dive the country’s pristine reefs and wrecks. Then we do a whirlwind tour of some of Asia’s best short-break adventure cities, including Hong Kong for its hiking, Kathmandu for its killer MTB trails, and Taipei with its easily-accessed mountains – each unique and only just a direct flight away. We then head wes, beginning with Georgia (in the former Soviet Union, not the American South); from the metropolis of Tblisi you can access its hiking trails, ski slopes, and wine routes. Then we go rambling around the UK through a scenic pub crawl across the Lake District, Yorkshir Dales, Scottish Highlands, and Brecon Beacons. Finally, we have a grand tour of Switzerland: hiking the Whiskey Trail in Appenzell, wildlife-watching in Graubünden’s Swiss National Park, and traversing the ridgeline trails in Ticino, before mountain biking near the Aletsch Glacier in Valais. Visit our website for our blogs, or drop us a line if you want to give us some feedback or contribute a travel story! Until then, happy trails!
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The outdoors beckons. You are captivated by its breathtaking sights, fresh air, blue skies and endless possibilities. When you get out there you can feel the pure intensity and excitement that comes from following your passions but the allure of the outdoors is different for everyone. Outdoor Channel unlocks a rich collection of stories, personalities, challenges and motivational forces that reflect the desire to get out there and be a part of passionate communities of outdoor lifestyles and events. #WhatGetsYouOutThere? Share your favourite outdoor images and stories with us on www.facebook.com/OutdoorChannelAsia
TEXT & PHOTOS BY Julian Rosario
Thailand remains a popular holiday destination thanks to its proximity to Singapore and its varied offerings, ranging from beach resorts to bustling cities and mountain towns. Starting from Bangkok, you can explore its quaint neighbourhoods, or head further afield to neighbouring Nakhon Pathom or Sukhothai to explore a different side of Thailand.
BANGKOK Bangkok is everything that Sukhothai isn’t: loud, bustling and never-resting. Tourists come in large hoards to visit the city, but few truly understand what it means to live there. Walking the streets and being immersed into Bangkok’s frenetic urban scene allows you experience the true ‘Bangkok’.
The Talad Noi Neighbourhood The Talad Noi walking tour is run by a local community member who will guide you through all the secrets it has to offer. The tour includes street art, local Chinese delicacies, a peek into local homes, and more. Bang Lamphu Neighbourhood Know as one of Bangkok’s most artsy neighbourhoods, the tour through Bang Lamphu will have you doing everything from dressing in traditional Thai costumes to learning how to play traditional Thai musical instruments. In addition, the tour includes a sampling of local Thai specialties and desserts, and drops in on community monuments such as the Phra Sumen Fort and Bowonniwet temple.
Hivesters Walking Tours runs walking tours throughout 8 neighbourhoods in central Bangkok, the most interesting being the Talad Noi, Bang Lamphu and Nang Loeng neighbourhoods.
Nang Loeng Neighbourhood The Nang Loeng neighbourhood is known for its market in which numerous Thai delicacies can be found. The tour takes you through the market where you can
taste a handful of these dishes. Beyond that, the tour also teaches you to make your own papaya salad from scratch, under the tutelage of a local expert. Nang Loeng is also home to the traditional Thai performance “Lam Sud Chatree”, and you can learn the art from the last-surviving teacher in Thailand.
SUKHOTHAI Thailand’s always been known for it’s mix of destinations, from bustling cities like Bangkok to quieter destinations like Chiang Mai. Over the last few years these once-hushed regions have have started seeing a steady increase in arrivals, as repeat visitors began drifting away from mainstream destinations in search of Thailand’s hidden gems. Sukhothai is one of those places, with its peaceful, historic setting. Sukhothai is located in the north of Thailand, 370kms from Bangkok. Established as the first capital of Thailand in the 13th century, the region is rich with traditional architecture and a smattering of recently built high-end hotels. Within the Sukhothai province there are two main historical parks to visit – the Sukhothai Historical Park and Sri Satchanalai Historical Park. Sukhothai also has a number of organic farms as well as cultural activities and museums, and travellers can explore a wider area via a number of local operators that run Sukhothai bicycle tours. Sukhothai Historical Park The Sukhothai Historical Park is 70 sq.km. in size and is divided into 5 different sections. While 2 - 3 days is sufficient to cover the whole of Sukhothai and its
surroundings, the central section holds the majority of the temples in the park and would be the section for any traveller who has limited time. The main temple is Wat Mahathat, boasting a sunset shot location which rivals that of Angkor Wat’s. For those wanting to explore the area further, the other 4 sections of the park also have some gems amongst them. The north section of the park is home to Wat Si Chum, Sukhothai’s largest sitting Buddha at a height of 15m and a width of 11m. In the east section, you can find Wat Chang Lom, which translates into “Temple Surrounded by Elephants”. Like the name suggests, the temple has 32 stone-carved statues of elephants around its base.
The park itself is fairly quiet and is frequented by locals far more than tourists, with many people either riding their bicycles or jogging around the park. Sri Satchanalai, like Sukhothai Historical Park, offers bicycle rental so that visitors can explore the entire park with ease. As Bangkok Airways own Sukhothai Airport they are the only airline to fly to the destination. From Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, there are 3 direct flights per day (Duration: 1h15m).
The west and south sections of the park have a number of temples, although nothing as comparable as those found in the central section. Due to the large area the park covers, bicycles are available to rent although you can also take a private vehicle or tram. Sri Satchanalai Historical Park Sri Satchanalai is the remains of an ancient town dating from the Sukhothai Kingdom, though before being part of the kingdom, it was originally an outpost for the Khmer Empire. The Khmer influence led to a number of Khmer temples being mixed in with temples of the Sukhothai period.
NAKHON PATHOM Located just an hour’s drive from Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom province is home to the ancient Phra Pathom Chedi, the first religious landmark that signified the influx of Buddhism into Thailand. Most of the province consists of plains with no mountainous land, with fertile lands that make this region an important agricultural area. The most famous produce here is the pomelo; Nakhon Pathom is sometimes dubbed the ‘sweet pomelo town’. This province is known for its vast number of fruit orchards that provide fresh produce to a majority of the hotels and markets
a key factor in the continual growth of this market – it links together organic farmers and hotels in order to provide fair-trade and sustainable tourism not only for Nakhon Pathom, but with the goal of spreading their model to the whole of Thailand.
of Bangkok. In recent years, the region’s also established itself as a thriving organic food producer. The Sampran Riverside is
Sampran Riverside is an eco-cultural destination, complete with several accommodation options, where you can learn about organic farming at all stages of the process. Within its 70 acres, 15 are designated purely to farming organic fruits and vegetables for their hotels.
MADE FOR MEDICS
The 23L Rapid Access Trauma System (RATS pack) from Mystery Ranch is a frontline medic bag originally designed for military use for medics in the field. This bag is designed for one-handed access to quickly utilise medical supplies, with reinforced handles for hanging the pack. Built in are numerous trauma shear and tourniquet holders, while within the pack are four removable pockets with clear vinyl windows, as well as two IV bag pockets. The back panel stores a closed-cell foam pad to insulate patients from the ground. Available at Outdoor Life S$955. MYSTERY RANCH RATS pack
The Mammut Neon Light 12L is an ultra-lightweight (at 390g) and extremely compressible pack; its short, slim body and integrated gear loops make it ideal for rock or ice climbing. It has a stowable and removable hipbelt, anatomicallyshaped shoulder straps and a padded back panel for comfort and a secure fit. The 70D Nylon Line Ripstop fabric is extremely lightweight, with high quality Ultimate Tensile strength treatment for exceptional tear resistance. This bag has multiple handy features such as a mesh inner pocket, compatible hydration system, huge front zipped pocket, small front zipped pocket, and a 40cm daisy chain gear loop. Available at Adventure 21 at S$129.
This large, versatile and robust Trailmaster Grip Desert 111mm Swiss army knife from Victorinox boasts a secure liner lock device, making it ideal for heavy duty adventures, be it the urban jungle or bush. Features include lock blade, Phillips screwdriver, can opener with small screwdriver, bottle opener with screwdriver and wire stripper, punch reamer, wood saw, tweezers, toothpick and key ring. Available at The Planet Traveller and Boarding Gate at S$80.90.
LED THE WAY
The Black Diamond Ion headlamp is the smallest, lightest (48 grams) and most compact, fully-functional LED head lamp they offer. It comes with 2 lithium AAA batteries that have a 10-year shelf life (alkaline batteries can also be used as replacements), which projects 80 lumens at 8 hrs of battery life (200 hrs battery life on low) and has a range of 38m. It turns on/off easily with the PowerSlide, and has a Lockout switch. Suitable for night hikes, camping trips and emergency use, it also has a red night-vision mode. Available at Outdoor Life S$49.
The Lowe Alpine Guide 25 is a 25L dual compartment day pack, inspired by alpine summits but also ideal for the urban jungle. The main compartment is generously sized and boasts a padded laptop compartment as well as organisation pockets and an internal zipped pocket for your digital valuables. Another compartment sits at the base of the pack with zipped entry. The optional divider inside this pack allows you to use the two compartments separately or as one by unzipping the dividing fabric. The pack features tough canvas fabric and a base zip entry. Available at Gearaholic at S$140. LOWE ALPINE Guide 25
TEXT BY Julian Rosario
One of the advantages of being in Singapore is the relatively easy access to thousands of tropical islands around the Southeast Asian region. As more and more visitors head to popular resort islands like Bali and Koh Samui, other lesser-known islands in the region are drawing visitors who prefer to travel off the beaten path.
Myanmar’s Lampi Marine National Park is the only marine national park in the country, and covers over 800 islands of the Mergui archipelago in southern Myanmar. Lampi is the biggest island – and the core – of the park, featuring a rocky coastline and many beautiful beaches, bays and inlets.
Village Visits Many fishing villages dot the area, including the Myeik archipelago which is home to indigenous Moken sea gypsies who are famous divers. Visitors can have a unique experience fishing with the sea gypsies; the men use spears to hunt big fish spotted from their boats, while women dive to the bottom of the sea to collect sea urchins with their bare hands. Canoeing Lampi Island has two rivers, both located on the west side of the main island. The surrounding mangrove forest is home to
a rich variety of birds, reptiles and marine life. Over 200 species of birds thrive in Lampi, including the plain-pouched hornbill and the Wallace hawk eagle. Lucky travellers may even lay eyes on elusive dugongs. Hiking There are no official jungle trails in the forest, but you can follow the park rangers into lush vegetation, or climb to the top of Lampi’s hills for a scenic view. Keep an eye out for different mammals; 19 species live on the island, such as the sunda pangolin, northern pig-tailed macaque and the lesser mousedeer. Snorkelling and Diving The Myeik Archipelago is rich in coral reefs, seaweeds and seagrass beds. A number of beaches around the marine park offer snorkelling opportunities – in addition to hard coral, you may spot sea turtles and even sharks.
Located in Myanmar, Lampi is accessible from both Myanmar or Thailand (Myanmar visa required). Licensed liveaboard cruises are currently the only way to visit this protected area. The park is open year round, except between June and September.
CON SON, VIETNAM barracuda, cuttlefish and other tropical reef fish.
VISIT THE PRISONS
Formally known as “Devil’s Island”, Con Dao used to be a political prison where tens of thousands of political prisoners were held between 1862 and 1875. A number of prisons are open to the public; built in 1940 by the French, political prisoners were held in infamous cells known as the ‘tiger cages’.
Con Son is the largest of 16 islands in the Con Dao archipelago, located 240km south of Ho Chi Minh City. Its charming streets are lined with French-era villas, tempered by the presence of several prisons, cemeteries and reminders of the islands’ historic role as a penal colony.
CON DAO NATIONAL PARK
Con Dao National Park covers both rainforest and a protected marine area. There are a number of different hiking trails to access throughout the
mountainous park; the thick forest is home to endemic wildlife like the Con Dao black giant squirrel. You can also climb the highest mountain (577m) for panoramic views of the entire island. Diving Con Dao offers excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities; the ocean is home to dugongs, and sea turtles that lay their eggs on the beach (March-August). Divers can also see giant coral heads, as well as other marine life like rays,
Regular flights (45 mins) run every day between Ho Chi Minh and Can Tho airport on the main island. The dry season is between November and March when it is at its most crowded.
KOH RONG, CAMBODIA What was once a jungle-clad island rimmed by swaths of white sand beaches and a few beach-hut resorts has now become popular with backpackers. While there are quiet areas the further you are from the village, there’s also the quieter Koh Rong Samloem island just a 10-minute boat ride south from here.
Because the light pollution is still low, conditions are ideal to see phosphorescent plankton which glow in the ocean when disturbed. A daily occurrence, it’s best observed in around 1-2m of water – you can take a short boat ride out and swim in the glowing water.
Diving There are good diving and snorkelling both off the beach and at sites nearby. Almost all the dive sites are not more than a 20-minute speed boat ride from the ferry terminal of Koh Rong. First Tree, Corner Bar, Last Tree These three dive sites are located next to each on the western side of Koh Kon island. Marine life here include barracuda, trevallies, bat fish, puffer fish, blue spotted rays, and sea turtles.
The Corral Popular for its seahorses, the site is shaped like a horseshoe, allowing for consistently clear waters with little disruption from currents. Although lacking in reef, the site attracts larger fish such as tuna, trevallies, and if you’re lucky, a giant manta ray.
Koh Rong is located on the west coast of Cambodia. Speedboats from Sihanoukville run regularly (40-60 mins; US$20 return) to Koh Rong.
SIQUIJOR ISLAND, PHILIPPINES the shore or by boat. Expect to see a bunch of nudibranch species, alongside pipefish, sea moths, frogfish, ribbon eels and even mandarinfish; these are only a tiny portion of the wildlife at this dive site. Cantabon Cave Cantabon Cave is situated in the mountains of Siquijor, about 9km from Siquijor town. Among the more than 45 caves in Siquijor, the Cantabon Cave is most popular; at roughly 300m long, it is famed for its jewel-like stalagmites and stalactites that glitter in the dark.
Tiny Siquijor Island neighbours Cebu, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines and is home to pristine white sand beaches, waterfalls, and caves. Known for its magic and voodoo, it is also home to some important cultural landmarks like the Lazi Convent (built in 1887), the largest and oldest convent in Asia.
a butterfly sanctuary, several caves and natural springs.
MT. BANDILAAN NATIONAL PARK
Daquit Shoal Situated off the northeast coast of Siquijor, it ranges in depth from 5m - 25m. Snorkelling this site is also possible at the shoal (5m depth). The main attractions at this site are the two overhangs (20m-25m) and the large bucket sponges. Currents at this site vary and can be powerful.
Mt. Bandilaan National Park is a hilly region that’s home to indigenous flora and fauna. It’s crowned by Mt. Bandilaan (632m), which is culturally significant as a sacred place where healers and sorcerers take their herbs and perform their rituals. The hike to the top takes about 15 minutes, where you can have a panoramic view of the entire island from the observatory. The park is also home to
There’s also a small natural pool of crystal-clear water in the middle of the cave, which will take about 2 hours to explore.
Diving Due to the Central Visayas still being a relatively quiet region, the dive sites remain pristine. There are over 20 different sites around the island, all within a short boat trip.
Maite (muck dive/night dive) This dive site can be reached either from
Ferries to Siquijor depart from Cebu. However, few operators travel between the two islands; most boats leaving Cebu will make stops before getting to Siquijor so allow 6-8 hours for the trip.
SAMOSIR ISLAND, INDONESIA DISCOVER THE HISTORY
Samosir Island has a rich Batak tribal history – its heritage can be observed in the clusters of traditional houses with roofs that curve upwards like buffalo horns, white-washed churches, and ancient stone tombs and monuments.
SAMOSIR MOUNTAIN Located in the centre of Lake Toba on Sumatra island, Samosir Island is only slightly smaller than Singapore, making it the world’s largest island within an island. Samosir is known for its Batak heritage, set amidst lush countryside with it steep, pine-covered slopes that descend into the blue water.
The land rises steeply on the east side of the island from a narrow strip of flat land along the lake’s edge. You can climb up to this mountain plateau (780m) for a panoramic view over the lake.
From Medan, it’s a 4-hour drive to the town of Parapat which sits on the edge of Lake Toba where ferries run to Samosir.
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The third largest island in the world, Borneo is split into 3 countries: Brunei, Malaysia (with 2 states – Sabah and Sarawak) to the north, and the Indonesian province of Kalimantan to the south. As an island, it has some of the world’s most species-rich equatorial rainforests with prime patches that are easily accessible from modern, multiethnic cities. The island’s jungles conjure up remoteness and adventure, bringing to mind impenetrable foliage into the ‘heart of darkness’, while offshore the deep blue brings with it rich marine life.
FACES OF BORNEO:
Mention Kalimantan, and images of lush rainforests come to mind – with no volcanoes or tsunamis, its ancient forests have flourished with towering trees that house some of the most endangered wildlife in the world, including the orangutan and sun bear. This Indonesian province covers a massive three quarters of Borneo. Kalimantan is also home to the indigenous Dayak tribe, who have long thrived in this rich landscape, living in longhouses that dot the banks of Kalimantan’s many waterways.
Situated on Kalimantan’s east coast facing the Makassar Strait, Balikpapan’s New Sepinggan Airport has frequent flights from Jakarta, as well as direct flights from Singapore (SilkAir and Garuda Indonesia).
There are a number of trekking trails that allow you to explore this slice of jungle, located under an hour from Balikpapan.
Stretching over 540,000sq.km., Kalimantan is divided into central, north, south, west, and east – where you’ll find its most cosmopolitan city, Balikpapan.
Until the late 19th century, Balikpapan was a quiet fishing village, but that all changed with the discovery of oil, bringing with it extensive development and a relative prosperity that can still be seen in the city’s decidedly modern architecture and good infrastructure – in fact, Balikpapan was recently named Indonesia’s most livable city.
bears, and no less than nine species of primates, including silvery gibbons (owaowa), proboscis monkeys (bekantan), orangutan, black leaf monkeys (lutung), pigtailed monkeys (beruk), and macaques (monyet ekor panjang). The orangutans were released here by the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) in the early 90s.
Sungai Wain The Sungai Wain Protected Forest, in the northern part of Balikpapan, is a conservation and research area that serves as a source of clean water for both the residents of Balikpapan and the needs of the oil industry. This lowland forest covers a limited area, yet is home to unique wildlife like sun
Bukit Bangkirai National Park About a two-hour drive north of Balikpapan is Bukit Bangkirai National Park, located within a rainforest with cottages, jungle trails, and a popular canopy bridge walk. The canopy walk is a series of 5 forest canopy bridges, suspended between massive old-growth Bangkirai trees (aka “Yellow Balau”), 30m above the forest floor. This is the ideal way to spot the park’s resident hornbills that frequent the area around dusk.
Located 35km by road from Balikpapan, is the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) foundation’s unique Samboja Lestari forest reserve. Covering 2,000ha (roughly 20sq.km.), the reserve is unique in Borneo (and arguably the world), as having regenerated what was formerly arid scrub land, following decades of logging and fires, back into a vibrant forest ecosystem that’s now home to hundreds of species of fauna.
pets – how to survive in the wild, as well as 6 man-made river islands dedicated to the care of chronically ill orangutans. BOS also operates a 58-hectare sun bear sanctuary, reintroducing and caring for bears confiscated from illegal animal traders and owners all over Indonesia. BOS also boasts a 159 hectare arboretum for rainforest research, with over 5,000 species of native Bornean trees.
The project includes an orangutan rehabilitation project, sun bear sanctuary, and eco lodge, while engaging the local community in agro-forestry, conservation, and tourism, all with the overarching aim of reforesting and rehabilitating the area and its once thriving local wildlife. Decades of logging since the 1950s left the area vulnerable to fires, with successive conflagrations in the 1980s and 90s leaving the former rain forest devastated. Since 2001, BOS has been buying over denuded land, and replanting trees; to date, they’ve reintroduced over 800 (formerly) native species, with the aim of eventually replanting 1,700 types of trees. As a result, the once-barren area around Samboja Lestari is home again to 9 species of primates, including orangutans which have returned under BOS’s Orangutan Reintroduction Project. The programme’s aim is to create a permanent, stable, secure habitat for local orangutans, and includes a Sekolah Hutan (“forest school”) to teach young/orphaned orangutans – often grown up as house
setting, as well as getting involved in volunteer conservation work. Guided nature walks along its 4km nature trail depart daily at dawn/dusk (for mammals, birds) and mid-day (for reptiles), with commonly seen species including deer, eagles, pigs, pythons, and numerous primates, including gibbons, macaques, proboscis and red leaf monkeys. Volunteer opportunities include helping prepare the orangutans’ food, assisting in collecting field data, and repairing sleeping boxes for injured orangutans (healthy orangutans in the wild normally build their own leaf nests each night). BOS is also looking to re-design modular nests – an ideal role for volunteers with a building or engineering background.
The decades-long initiative has also been a boon for the local community of Samboja (pop. 10,000), whose livelihoods had been devastated by the fires. Now involved in agro-forestry, fruit growing, tree planting, wildlife monitoring, and even forming a local fire-fighting brigade, this formerly marginalised community has a vested stake in their region’s growing ecotourism industry, resulting in soaring employment levels, higher literacy rates among local children, and a markedly better quality-of-life in Samboja, for humans and wildlife alike. The eco lodge runs various programmes, allowing visitors to both observe the animals in their natural
BOS runs numerous other NGO initiatives in Kalimantan, including at the Orangutan Reintroduction Project in Nayru Menteng and Wanariset, and the Mawas Wildlife Reserve. For more about the BOS, visit www.sambojalodge.com.
The island is also a nesting place for the Green turtle and Hawksbill turtle; volunteers can accompany the wardens of the local Turtle Conservation Group on their evening vigil for poachers.
Consisting of 6 main islands and a smattering of 25 other islets and reefs, the archipelago offers a mix of everything from the relatively bustling (by Derawan standards) main island of Derawan, to the outlying atoll of Maratua, which is home to just 4 villages, and designated marine conservation sites like Kakaban and Sangalaki.
Kakaban Island A short boat ride away from Derawan is Kakaban Island. A popular dive site here is the Blue Light Cave – a cave dive that starts as a slit in the reef just 1m below the surface, and descends 20m down into a large chamber, making it an exciting but highly advanced dive site. Nearby Barracuda Point is a drift dive along Kakaban’s sea wall at a depth of 25m, with big resident pelagics including its namesake barracuda, various shark species, and tuna.
Situated just off Kalimantan’s east coast in the Makassar Strait, the idyllic islands of Derawan were one of the region’s bestkept secrets until very recently.
While most travellers come specifically for its famous dive sites, Derawan’s mix of fairly pristine reefs, good marine life and undeveloped beaches make it equally appealing for its laid back island vibe and low-key beach scene.
Diving The islands have dozens of dive sites including drift, shore and walls, concentrated around the main island of Derawan itself, as well as Sangalaki and Kakaban. Derawan Island This tear-shaped island has plenty of accommodation options, including stilted houses suspended over the water. Despite the fact that the reef has been decimated by dynamite fishing, you can still find a huge amount of marine life, including cuttlefish, octopus, pygmy seahorse, as well as large manta rays.
Arguably the best-known dive site – and the main reason people come here – is for the sting-less jellyfish lake on Kakaban, one of only 3 sting-less jellyfish lakes in the world (the others being the Tojoman Lagoon in the Philippines and Eil Malik in Palau). Surrounded by a wall of mangroves, the lake – accessible via a 10-min walk along a boardwalk – is home to 4 species of sting-less jellyfish which divers and snorkellers can swim among. The most common is the spotted jellyfish (mastigias papua), which has evolved to no longer have spots, followed by the upside-down jellyfish (cassiopea ornata) and the moon jelly (aurelia aurita), which has a transparent body.
Maratua Island The neighbouring island of Maratua has even greater numbers of sting-less jellyfish; in the brackish inland lake near the villages, 3 species can be found, including the box jellyfish (tripedalia cystophora). Maratua is also home to a very unique coral reef with fluorescent colours – these spectral spires and technicolour starfish loom out as thousands of jellyfish bob about in the greenish waters. Sangalaki Island Further away is Sangalaki Island (50 minutes from Derawan), where divers can spot giant manta rays that flock here in the plankton-rich waters. The waters around Sangalaki are home to numerous manta cleaning stations, where cleaner wrasse are found in abundance. The rays can be found in huge numbers on the east coast, especially at Manta Avenue, Manta Parade and Manta Run.
Derawan is accessible from either Tarakan or Berau, located in the northeast corner bordering Sabah, which are about an hour’s flight north from Balikpapan. From Tarakan, there are speedboats to Derawan (3.5 hours), while from Berau it’s 2-3 hours by speedboat. There are various accommodation options on the islands, including a limited number of small dive resorts.
FACES OF BORNEO:
Sarawak is known for its rich, pristine rainforests where you can spot wildlife like proboscis monkeys, orangutans, and the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia. It’s also famous for its mountainous landscape that is home to picturesque limestone pinnacles and gigantic caves which house millions of bats. Another draw to this Malaysia state is the diverse cultural mix of indigenous tribes, the single-largest group of which is the Iban.
While its capital, Kuching, is a great entry point, much of the state’s best-known natural sites – like Mulu National Park and Niah Caves – are better accessed from Miri, Sarawak’s second city. Miri is a thriving oil town that’s modern and prosperous; while it has a diverse population thanks to the oil industry, it is also a major transportation hub for access to Gunung Mulu, Niah Caves, Kelabit Highlands or Lambir Hills.
while the Great Cave is famous for its flying residents: at dusk, hundreds of thousands of swiftlets return to their nests while an equal number of bats fly out into the forest to feed.
Hiking is best way to get between villages, and trails range from easy strolls which last a couple of hours to tough treks which require several days. Bario, the main town, is a 50-minute flight from Miri.
Lambir National Park Situated 40 minutes’ drive from Miri, Lambir offers a number of trekking trails (most of them are interconnected) that lead to numerous waterfalls and bathing pools scattered about the rainforest. In addition, you can also spot endemic birdlife, including the Rhinoceros hornbill and Bornean bristlehead.
Gunung Mulu National Park Just a 30-minute flight from Miri, Gunung Mulu is famed for its limestone karst formations that jut like needles from the jungle; however, it is what’s under these that draws visitors to the park. The area is home to massive cave systems, including Sarawak Chamber (the world’s largest), and the Clearwater Cave. In addition to caving, you can also trek to the pinnacles and the summit of Gunung Mulu (2,377m).
Diving It’s entirely possible to be in the water diving within two hours of landing in Miri, as the nearest dive site is a mere 10 minutes from the jetty. Offshore lies the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park (7-30m) which has a number dive sites where giant anemones and large colonies of gorgonian fans house numerous species of reef fish; at Salam reef, you can spot a 300-strong school of large barracudas. There’s also the Sri Gadong Wreck which is known for its large resident groupers.
Niah National Park Located 1.5 hours’ drive from Miri, Niah is home to several caves, one of which is famous as the site where 40,000 year old human remains were discovered. The Painted Cave houses prehistoric wall paintings and remnants of ‘death ships’,
Kelabit Highlands Located close to the border of Kalimantan, Kelabit is a mountain plateau that’s peppered with settlements – surrounded by paddy fields – of the Kelabit tribe.
There are direct flights to Miri from Singapore via AirAsia, taking just over 2 hours.
FACES OF BORNEO:
Sabah may be most famous as home to the tallest mountain in Malaysia, but those who venture further will discover that its landscape is extremely varied, offering experiences such as diving along its coastline, wildlife trekking in its virgin rainforests at conservation areas like the Maliau Basin and Danum Valley, and experiencing its diverse tribal culture. Kota Kinabalu (KK) is a resort destination due to its proximity to several offshore islands, rainforest parks and Mount Kinabalu. Overlooking the South China Sea on a narrow flatland, it’s bordered by the hills of the Crocker Range, which is home to Mt. Kinabalu.
Sabah has 392 islands spread around its coastline, providing plenty of opportunities for island hopping and diving. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is just a 15-20-minute boat ride from KK’s Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal. Consisting of 5 islands within sight of each other, the park is a protected area that’s popular for day trippers visiting from KK. With a mixture of rocky coastline and white sand beaches, Gaya is the largest of the islands. In
addition to wildlife on the islands, you can also dive here – the Gaya wreck is within the park.
both of which meet 2km before the Laban Rata resthouse (3,270m).
Situated 300km north of KK (1 hour flight) is the island of Layang Layang (occasionally known as Swallow Reef), which is part of the disputed Spratly Islands. Situated in very deep waters, the drop-offs fall to 2kms, and given its isolation and the fact that fishing is prohibited, the waters are clear and unpolluted. Divers can spot deep water marine species such as hammerhead sharks as well as whale sharks.
Tambunan is a hilly plain that’s isolated from Sabah’s west coast by the knifeedged mountains of the Crocker Range. This tranquil region is peppered with verdant rice fields as well as fruit plantations, surrounded by lush forest. Homestay options allow you to explore the area, which is also known for its beautiful waterfalls.
Just offshore from Kuala Penyu (120km from KK) you can hop on a ferry to Pulau Tiga, a group of islands with coral reefs and sandy beaches. The surrounding waters are ideal for diving or snorkelling, as well as kayaking. The island is also known for its therapeutic volcanic mud pool.
The Rafflesia Centre is another attraction, where you can spot the rare flower which blooms for only 3-5 days.
Located about 40km northwest of Kota Belud, Pulau Mantanani consists of 2 islands fringed by white sand beaches, ringed by colourful coral in shallow waters. Dugongs can occasionally be spotted in the seagrass beds, and many species of rays (ie. blue-spotted and marbled) flutter amongst large schools of fish.
The World Heritage Site of Mount Kinabalu (4,095m) is located within the Crocker Range, and is the most popular destination for visitors to Sabah. The mountain and surroundings are home to a staggering amount of flora and fauna, where you can spot the Rafflesia. There are 2 main starting points for the climb: Timpohon Gate (1,866m) and Mesilau Nature Resort,
Kota Kinabalu is accessible by direct flights on AirAsia and SilkAir, with a flight time of 2.5 hours.
Adventure Sports Supplement
5 Tips on Training Lessons learnt from 40 years in the game, coaching elite, athletes to Olympic Gold
VIA Sweat Elite (www.sweatelite.co)
by Alberto Salazar
On the opening weekend of athletics competition at the Olympic Games in London, training partners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp – who were trained by Alberto Salazar – electrified the crowd at Olympic Stadium with their historic 1-2 finish in the men’s 10,000m final. While the myriad of resources Salazar and his athletes have at their disposal can’t be overlooked, here are 5 fundamental lessons that runners of all ability levels can apply to their own training in order to take their racing to the next level.
1. TAKE A LONG-TERM APPROACH
Everyday, runners seek instant improvement and subscribe to get-fit-quick approaches to training that guarantee they’ll be in the best shape of their life in 10 weeks or less. Sorry folks, but it just doesn’t work that way in distance running.
term goals for 1 to 3 years down the road, such as moving up to tackle the marathon distance or taking a large chunk of time off your current personal best. Give yourself plenty of time, work on your aerobic development, and improve strength and speed over the course of a few years rather than try to cram it all into a 10- or 12-week period. Of course, it’s important to give yourself short-term benchmarks along the way as a means of checking your progress, but don’t be discouraged if you’re not running a personal best every time you take to the starting line.
In the extreme example of Salazar and Rupp, who have been working together for nearly 12 years, taking a long-term approach to training has allowed Rupp to mature, adapt and improve incrementally year after year to the point where he’s now able to be competitive in nearly any race he enters and contend for medals on the world stage.
2. FIND GOOD TRAINING PARTNERS
In 2002, Salazar started the Oregon Project, a post-collegiate training group where its athletes would get access to worldclass facilities, physical therapy, altitude houses, underwater treadmills, etc.
Through the years, members of the Project — as in any training group — have come and gone, but at any given time there has always been a group of highly motivated, extremely talented athletes working together every day in the pursuit of one common goal: improvement. In its most fundamental form, this is no different than any running club that meets regularly for workouts, long runs and races. Bottom line: group training works. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to become a member of your local running club; simply meet up with other runners in your area to train with a few times a week.
3. WORK ON YOUR RUNNING FORM
At 26 years old, Rupp has yet to run a marathon, focusing instead on improving his speed over 5,000m and 10,000m before he eventually moves up to the 26.2-mile distance, where he will undoubtedly have an almost instant impact after years of necessary physical and emotional development. How can you take a long-term approach to your own training and racing? The most important lesson is to be patient. Set long-
Galen Rupp, a high schooler coached by Salazar, would often run workouts with the professional members of the team — runners who had personal bests significantly faster than his who would push him harder than any scholastic teammate ever could.
Dathan Ritzenhein, another member of Oregon Project, has battled incessant injuries throughout his professional running career.
More importantly, however, is the powerful group-training environment.
The reason was that Ritzenhein, a heel striker, was overstriding and essentially hitting the brakes every time his foot struck the ground, sending severe impact forces throughout his body, which contributed to multiple stress-related overuse injuries.
Issue 10: Running
ALBERTO SALAZAR’S 10 GOLDEN RUNNING RULES Alberto Salazar is currently the most successful running coach in the world and arguably the greatest elite distance running coach of all time. He is currently the coach of Mo Farah, Galen Rupp and several other Olympic medallists.
2. TAKE RECOVERY DAYS SERIOUSLY
7. STAY ON THE TRAIL
Alberto Salazar knows a thing or two about his sport. A former world-record holder in the marathon, and three-time winner of the New York City event, Salazar was the face of American distance running’s last golden age.
3. INCREASE MILEAGE GRADUALLY
8. PERFECT YOUR FORM
The day after a tough workout, the most you want to do is jog lightly or do some form of cross-training, like cycling. You need a recovery day after a hard day. No exceptions. Do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% every month. No matter how good you feel, be very gradual. You won’t know until it’s too late that you’re overdoing it.
Salazar also learned his lessons the hard way: the famously competitive runner’s body broke down at age 27, as a result of years of superhuman,150-mile training weeks. This is a man who has almost given his life to the sport on multiple occasions – he was once read his last rites after crossing a finish line with a 108-degree fever – and he’s lived to share a few pieces of essential wisdom.
Every motion your body makes should propel you directly forward. If your arms are crossing or you are overstriding, you’re losing force. Your posture should be straight, and your striding foot should land directly underneath you.
9. TACKLE DOUBT HEAD-ON
At some point you’re going to push yourself harder, you’re going to enter into a gray area that can be painful, and you’re going to doubt yourself. Push through it. Never think you’re mentally weak.
10. EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY
1. STRENGTHEN YOUR WHOLE BODY
Good runners condition their whole bodies. The arms drive the legs. Keep your upper body and core toned with a lot of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and back raises (the back is part of the core). Stay away from machine weights and stick to Pilates, climbing, and dynamic flexibility work like yoga.
Pavement damages joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The more you can run on grass, woodchips, or dirt, the better off. My athletes run 90% of their workouts on soft surfaces.
4. WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES
The second-most-common cause of injuries, next to running too much on hard surfaces, is foot pronation and shoe instability. The more you run, the more support your foot needs.
If you don’t have enough knowledge behind what you’re doing, you’re not going to run well or you’re going to injure yourself. With the internet, GPS phones, advanced heart-rate monitors, and even your iPhone, you now can be coached individually, even while you run.
5. RUN FASTER
It’s hard to race faster than you train. However fast you want to run a race, you’ve got to do some shorter intervals—what we call speed work—at least that fast.
6. BE CONSISTENT
Find a training plan that you can stick to longterm. If you can run four days a week, every week, you are going to get 90% of the benefits of training seven days a week.
The rationale behind getting him to become a midfoot striker was to land more under his centre of gravity, thus reducing the severity of the impact forces radiating throughout his body with each stride. While Ritzenhein hasn’t been totally injury-free since falling under Salazar’s watchful eye, he’s now landing noticeably lighter on his midfoot, running with a more relaxed gait and has improved his efficiency over longer distances.
be a recipe for disaster, but keeping these few key points in mind – and practicing them regularly – can lead to large improvements in the long run. * Land lightly. Avoid crashing your heel into the ground with each stride and instead “think light” and try to strike more toward your midfoot. The lighter you land with your feet underneath your centre of gravity, and the less time your foot spends on the ground with each strike, the less damage you’re going to do to your body. * Relax. Work on staying relaxed from head to toe in order to run as efficiently as possible. Focus on reducing tension in your body from the head down. Relax your jaw, shoulders and arms as you’re running; you’ll waste less energy and run more efficiently.
It’s important to keep in mind that it’s very difficult to change one’s running form in one swift motion, particularly if that runner has become accustomed to running a certain way over the course of many years. Trying to overhaul everything at once can
* Move forward. Seems obvious, right? Watch nearly any elite runner run and you’ll notice there’s very little vertical motion in their strides. Many age-group runners, however, have a tendency to “bounce,” which is a very
inefficient way to cover ground. The more time you spend in the air, the slower you’re moving forward. So, if someone tells you that there’s a lot of bounce in your step, do something about it. A good way to practice the three points described above is to incorporate form-specific drills such as high knees, butt kicks, skips and bounding into your training two to three times per week.
4. LEARN HOW TO SPRINT
While sprinting isn’t going to comprise a majority of a distance runner’s training, it’s worth paying some attention to. If you watch some of the best distance runners in the world in slow motion their mechanics aren’t too different from their top sprinting counterparts – they’re relaxed from the face on down, landing under their
A typical week of training in the base period for double-double Olympic 5,000m-10,000m champion, Mo Farah. centre of gravity, driving their knees, wasting very little time in the air, and covering ground quickly and efficiently. The main purpose of sprinting or speed development workouts is to recruit muscle fibres that aren’t relied upon in traditional workouts such as VO2 max intervals, tempo runs and the like, which will improve your power and explosiveness while helping your stride become more fluid. Improving your sprinting ability enhances the effectiveness of all the other types of workouts you’ll do, allowing you to run faster and longer more efficiently. Here are 3 effective recommendations to incorporate sprint workouts:
Most of us mere mortals are happy if we get out for a run a few times a week. Some even do the occasional two-runs-a-day thing to really up their fitness, however nothing compares to the mileage that the pros like Mo Farah put in. Below is the typical weekly training schedule for Mo Farah. This involves running up to a maximum of 135 miles per week with no rest days and two sessions every day but Sunday, when he just does an all out 22-27 miles at 5:40 min/mile.
AM: 10-mile recovery run (6:00min/ mile pace) PM: 6-mile recovery run
AM: 4-mile warm-up run; 8-12mile tempo run anywhere from 4:40 to 5:00min/mile pace (depending on altitude and terrain); 3-mile cooldown run
Run these repeats at near max effort with full recovery in between repeats. This is a muscle workout, designed to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibres, strengthen your lower legs, increase explosiveness as well as make you more injury-resistant. It’s best to do these after an easy run on the day before some of your more traditional speed workouts. * Short Flat Sprints: After 4 to 6 weeks of including short hill sprints into your training, transition to sprinting over flat ground. The same principles apply: 4 to 10 sprints of 8-12 seconds in duration at near max effort with full recovery between intervals. Warm up with 4 to 6 x 150m strides to get loose and lessen likelihood of injury. Be sure to keep the basic tenets of good running form in mind while running relaxed and staying in control of your stride.
AM: 4-mile warm-up jog; 10x200m intervals (with 200m recovery jogs) on grass in 29 seconds each rep; 10x200m hill sprints at equal effort, walk back down to recover; 4-mile cool-down run. NOON: Strength and conditioning session (1 hour) PM: 4-miles easy
NOON: Strength and conditioning session (1 hour)
PM: 6-mile recovery run
PM: 6-mile recovery run
AM: 12-mile recovery run, followed by a massage. * Short Hill Sprints: Once or twice a week insert a set of 4 to 10 short, steep hill sprints (8-12 seconds in length) into your training schedule.
PM: 5-mile recovery run
AM: 11-mile recovery run
AM: 11-mile recovery run, massage
AM: 22-27 miles, no slower than marathon race pace + 1 minute (for Mo, this means 5:40min/ mile)
PM: 5-mile recovery run
* Practise Kicking: Upon completion of a more traditional training session such as long intervals or a tempo run, tack on a 4 to 6 repeats ranging from 100 to 400m in length at near full speed. This is an effective way to practise sprinting while tired – it’s what you do at the end of a race. This is a more demanding race-simulation type of workout than either of the aforementioned sessions, so use sparingly in order to avoid injury. Once a week is more than enough.
5. TRAIN YOUR MIND
Physical training aside, a big reason why Farah and Rupp were able to medal in London was simply because they believed they could.
Practise visualisation techniques and see yourself accomplishing your goals. Remain relentlessly positive and focus on the things you can control in training and racing rather than be rattled by the things you can’t. And last but certainly not least, have confidence in yourself and your abilities when you step on the starting line.
GEAR GUY: Ken Berg
Packs are something that you carry around town, through the wilderness, stow in several spots on a plane and allow you to arrive wherever you are headed with more than just the clothes on your back. As always, the features that will matter the most to you will depend on what you’re using it for.
GENERAL RULES AND GUIDELINES
Packs aren’t magical* and there are always tradeoffs that you have to make. One is weight vs durability. Most of the very lightweight bags are trading grams for how much abuse the bag can take, and in some instances how well it can carry the weight. * The magical packs are made from Unicorn hair and Gryphon feathers. They are amazing but you don’t want to try to explaining them to a border agent
If you’re backpacking through the wilderness or using it as a running bag, that might be a good trade to make. If everything else you’re carrying is also lightweight, it makes sense to carry a lightweight bag. If you’re carrying a heavy tent, stove, fuel, etc, you might prefer something with a beefier suspension system. Durability How can you tell if a bag is durable? Packs are likely made of nylon, and the
WHICH BAG TYPE IS FOR YOU?
It’s no surprise that the type of bag to choose will differ depending on how you intend to use it. There are three basic types of bags to consider; none are perfect for all situations. Classic camping-oriented backpack They are designed to carry heavier items such as food, water, tents, stoves and so on, so they typically carry weight well. Their suspension system usually has a stiffer hip belt and/or has better quality foam in the hip belt and shoulder straps. They are also usually quite durable due to the materials used, the streamline design and the lack of zippers. The downsides are that they usually load from the top, making
weight of the fabric is measured in denier: the bigger the number, the more durable it is. About 40-70 denier is used in very light bags and will save you more than a few grams, but don’t push the wear factor of these bags. Bags with deniers over 300 are good for moderate abrasion and the vast majority of uses people put them through. Over 600 is very tough and suitable for alpine pursuits and high-wear situations; 1,000 denier is what’s commonly referred to as “bomb-proof”. A very common and effective way to increase the durability of a bag is to put a thicker denier in high wear areas (like the
it tougher to access items at the bottom of your bag (even with side access zippers). In addition, the suspension system can be messy, so you’ll have to put it in another bag when checking the pack in on a plane. This bag is best for outdoor pursuits if you value comfort over daily convenience, and is usually the best option if you want to use the same bag for both city travel and wilderness pursuits. Carry-on travel backpack The softer material offers great flexibility and combats strict airline carry-on rules compared to a rolling luggage – they are also typically much lighter (the wheels and frames of a rolling luggage add up in weight). They may also come equipped with a detachable daypack for day trips, and have an extra handle or two.
Ken grew up on the doorstep of the Canadian wilderness, backpacking, paddling and rock climbing in this rugged land. Armed with a degree in recreational studies, he has been working at Canada’s premier outdoor retailer for over 10 years, putting gear to the test whether it’s cycling in -35ºC winters, running marathons or travelling to the far reaches of the planet.
bottom of the bag). Wearing out most parts of a bag is tough to do, except in extreme situations… or in the hands of certain baggage handlers. Zippers Zippers allow you access to many different parts of the bag but they’re the area most likely to fail. If you’re doing an alpine pursuit, you might consider a top-loading bag to increase its lifespan. Top-loading bags usually have a floating lid and collar; everything in the main compartment of the bag has to go in and out through the top of the bag. Most travelling packs will likely have either a lot of zippers or at least one big zipper. No surprise, but big burly zippers will usually last longer than smaller ones. Try not to pack your bags so that there is a lot of pressure being put on one or two sections of the zipper over and over again. The top corners of the bag are usually the parts to be the most concerned about.
The downside is that they don’t carry weight well so they’re not for wilderness pursuits, and you still might get a little sweaty with them on your back regardless of the ventilation. Rolling bag The wheels make them easy to transport on smooth surfaces, but can become a burden when you’re faced with stairs, dirt roads, mud or cobblestone streets with large gaps. Some packs combine backpacks with wheels, but these often compromise on comfort.
Twin Falls Aerial, Kakadu
Litchfield National Park
Julian Rosario & Adrian Rosario
IMAGES BY Tourism NT
Most people planning a trip to Australia will disregard Darwin altogether, focusing on cities such as Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney as their travel destinations. In reality, Darwin is a much more unique and authentic experience of Australian culture and landscape. Situated at the northern tip of Northern Territory, Darwin (the capital) has a population of only 160,000 and is extremely quiet in relation to the other cities in Australia. Fortunately this has allowed for pristine national parks and wildlife to remain untouched, resulting in some of the best national parks in the whole of Australia. LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK
Litchfield is all about waterfalls and swimming holes, set amidst the rainforest. Located south of Darwin, the 150 km drive will take approximately 1.5 hours. Litchfield National Park has an array of waterfalls, plunge pools, and bushwalking tracks where you can spot wildlife. Wangi Falls Wangi Falls are Litchfield’s most visited attractions, with easy access from Darwin. The falls are particularly beautiful during the monsoon season (November - April) although during this time the pool may be closed due to heavy currents. On top of that the wet season can attract crocodiles so read the signs before swimming. A picnic and bbq area is situated next to the falls; from this point there are walking tracks to different sections of the park, including a 3km walk crossing the top of the falls.
Magnetic Termite Mounds These mounds have been a part of the landscape for 100 years. Most rising to a height of 2m, some mounds can reach as high as 4m. Built aligned north to south – hence the name ‘magnetic’ – to minimise exposure to the sun, these architectural feats are complete with arches, tunnels and insulation chambers. Table Top Track The Table Top Track should only be attempted by experienced and fit bush walkers. Stretching 39km long it takes
between 3-5 days to complete the full track. Throughout the hike there are designated campsites where you can spend the night, but camping overnight on the track is prohibited. Along the way you will pass Tjenya Falls, Walker Creek (swimmable), Florence Falls, sandstone formations and finally Wangi Falls. Be advised that some parts of the track are closed between September and May. Batchelor - Coomalie Cultural Centre Known as the gateway to Litchfield National Park, Batchelor, located 98kms south of Darwin with a population of 358, is a good starting point to explore Litchfield. Also located in Batchelor is Coomalie Cultural Centre, which showcases native aboriginal art. Surrounding the cultural centre is a bush tucker (uncooked food from plants and animals native to Australia) garden.
NITMILUK NATIONAL PARK
Biddlecombe Cascades, Crystal Falls, 17 Mile Falls, Sandy Camp Pool and Edith River.
Nitmiluk National Park is situated 2.5 hours drive south of Darwin, covering a total of 2,947 sq.km. Within the park, there are 13 different gorges to explore, the most famous being Katherine Gorge. All of the gorges are accessible on foot, although you can also get there by canoe, boat or a helicopter. The park has two natural swimming holes, the first being Leilyn (Edith Falls) and the second, Sweetwater Pool. To reach Sweetwater, it takes a full dayâ€™s hike, or alternatively you can apply for a permit and do an overnight walk. The pool here is much more secluded as Edith Falls can become quite busy during peak periods.
you walking 10-17km each day, following the western edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment over sandstone plateau and through woodlands, open forest, monsoon forest, and riverine landscapes. Each overnight campsite is set near a spring or cascade, such as the Northern Rockhole,
South of Nitmiluk National Park is the town of Katherine, with plenty of overnight accommodation options. Within the town there are some key attractions, such as the Katherine Hot Springs which has clear, serene waters free from crocodiles. A couple of WWII sites are also scattered around the town, providing visitors a glimpse into life in NT during that era.
Within the park is the Jatbula Trail, a 62km one-way walk from Nitmiluk Gorge to Leliyn (Edith Falls). The whole trek takes roughly 5-6 days to complete and will have
KAKADU NATIONAL PARK Maguk (Barramundi Gorge), Kakadu
Kakadu National Park dwarfs Nitmiluk in size, spanning an enormous 19,804 sq.km. There are a number of excursions available, including hikes, safaris, 4WD trails and much more. Fishing is also an option in the billabongs for those looking to score themselves a local catch. Kakadu National Park is roughly a 3-hour drive from both Darwin and Nitmiluk National Park, so planning a circuit for your trip is advised. Jim Jim Falls (at 200m tall) can be found in the southern region of the park. During the dry season (July - October) the falls slow down to a trickle, making it possible to get to the base of the gigantic waterfall after a boat ride and a short hike. This is only reachable by 4WD and not accessible during the wet season as there is a large river crossing to tackle. Gunlom is an area that has a combination of waterfalls and plunge pools, with shade
provided by the native gum trees. You can also take the steep climb to the top of the falls; at the top, youâ€™ll be able to swim in crystal clear pools while enjoying the panoramic views that Kakadu has to offer.
In the southern part of the park is the picturesque gorge of Maguk (Barramundi Gorge) where you can swim in the crystal clear waterhole at the base of the steep gorge walls. Like Gunlom, you can also climb to the top for picturesque views and a swim in clear waters.
Located 160km away from Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a rich culture that is almost untouched by the modern world, lush tropical jungles and pristine beaches. It’s one of the earth’s megadiverse regions, with a topography that includes isolated mountain ranges and forests that are home to wildlife more familiar to Australia. The lowland jungles are home to unique arboreal marsupials like the cuscus and tree kangaroos. In the mountains 1,500m above sea level, you’ll find colourful birds of paradise and bowerbirds, as well as some unique prehistoric species like the giant long-beaked echidna. At 3,000m, where snow can fall, you may find wallabies. In addition, the country is known to have some of the best dive sites in the world. The crystal clear waters provide great views of the colourful coral reefs, diverse marine life and hulking wrecks that dot the ocean floor, making it an ideal place for a scuba diving break.
Remote and shrouded in mystery, the population of around 5 million is split into over 1,000 different tribes that speak more than 700 languages, with some only having recently come into contact with the outside world. Once practicing head-hunters and cannibals, the islanders are now a peaceful people, more than happy to invite travellers into their homes and villages to show off their rich heritage. With one of the most diverse populations on the planet, almost every tribe has different cultures and customs. However, most lead a subsistence lifestyle, farming, hunting and gathering to survive. Although modern clothes are worn, most villages are
in isolated portions of the jungle, cut off from modern civilisation. The Highlands of PNG are home to many of the country’s fascinating tribes – the town of Tari, for instance, is where you can see traditional Huli wigmen who are known for their yellow painted faces and elaborate wigs. There are many festivals in PNG that celebrate the people that inhabit the country, with the largest and most famous being the Goroka Show. Held annually in September in the Eastern Highlands, more than 100 local tribes participate in a two-day event where each one shows off their unique cultures.
TREKKING THE KOKODA TRACK
into deep dark gorges where thick vegetation blocks out the daylight.
PNG is also famous for its wartime history. Known as one of the world’s most spectacular and challenging treks, the 96km-long Kokoda Track (or Kokoda Trail, as it’s officially known) winds through the rugged mountainous terrain of the Owen Stanley Range, and delves deep into the dark history of the area. This single-file thoroughfare was the location of the 1942 WWII battle between the Japanese and primarily Australian Allied forces. Along the track, trenches and rusted weapons can still be seen. The track connects Owers Corner in the Central Province and the village of Kokoda in the mountainous Oro Province, passing the peak of Mt Bellamy (2,190m) along
Taking between 4-12 days, trekkers face hot, humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and risk of tropical diseases.
the way. The trek can be done in either direction. This rugged and isolated terrain is only passable on foot, and runs through the land of the Mountain Koiari people. It wanders along narrow crests that afford spectacular views and falls
Following in the steps of the Australian soldiers, this physically demanding trek has no facilities like electricity, shops or proper bridges to cross fast-flowing streams, although there are a number of guesthouses along the way – some at villages and others at rest spots. The best time to trek Kokoda is during the ‘dry’ season from April to September.
There are direct flights from Singapore to Port Moresby via Air Niugini, taking 6.5 hours. Visa on arrival, valid for 60 days, is available to nationals of 70 countries, including Singapore, Australia, the US, as well as EU citizens.
These include sites like Observation Point, a curved beach near a village. It is enclosed on both ends by small reefs and plays host to stuff like snake eels, star gazers and cuttlefish. Another great place is Lauadi, where you can find amazing creatures such as octopus, cuttlefish, mantis shrimp, mandarinfish, and seahorses. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some sharks or rays swimming about.
DIVING IN MILNE BAY
There are several great dive sites in PNG, but one of the best is Milne Bay. Located on the eastern edge of the country, the province is famous for its beautiful coral reefs, diving and culture. Milne Bay is also celebrated among divers as the birthplace of muck diving; the ocean floor is home to all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures such as the pygmy lionfish, cockatoo waspfish, and the whimsical mantis shrimp. You can spend large amounts of time sifting through the sand, hoping to catch a glimpse of this elusive marine life. The bay also houses some of the best sites for muck diving.
It’s not just a great sport for muck diving, as there are also lots of options for those that don’t want to get dirty. Tania’s Reef for example, is a colourful reef playing host to a huge variety of life that’s just 8ft below the surface. You can circumvent the entire thing on one air, meaning that you can see a lot in a short space of time.
If you want to get up close with one of the ocean’s most fearsome predators, there’s Wahoo Point, located on the north side of the mainland. With a sheer cliff that drops down over 200ft, it makes for an incredible place to dive. It is also one of the best places to see hammerhead sharks and even the occasional whale shark, although this is a rare occurrence. Manta rays and schools of barracuda also call this beautiful spot their home. Milne Bay has some of the best muck diving in the world and a diverse range of sites, all in close proximity to one another, offering the chance to see everything from tiny shrimps to huge sharks. Even non-divers will find something to do, whether it be relaxing on the beach or experiencing an ancient culture.
SNAPSHOT: CITY BREAKS
TEXT BY Adrian Rosario
HONG KONG Location: Dragon’s Back Activity: Hiking The Dragon’s Back is a popular hike that takes you along the undulating backbone of the D’Aguilar Peninsula, traversing windy, exposed ridges and cool, shady paths before ending at the beach at Shek O or Big Wave Bay where you can grab a board and surf or enjoy a bbq. From the platform of Shek O peak (284m) the views stretch to Shek O, Tai Long Wan, Stanley, Tai Tam, and the South China Sea – you may also see paragliders launch from here. The 8.5km-long hike (4 hours) is easily accessible by bus from bustling Central.
KATHMANDU, NEPAL Location: Kathmandu Valley Activity: Mountain Biking Mountain biking down the Kathmandu Valley offers a great experience on quiet roads, and through mountain villages, temples and national parks. A popular ride is the Scar Road (57km, 5-6 hours), which rewards you with fantastic mountain views and 9kms of singletrack riding in dense jungle. Starting with a long road climb, the return portion is a technical singletrack and an almost-vertical drop down into the valley. The views, as it goes without saying, are wonderful.
KUCHING, MALAYSIA Location: Sarawak Kiri River Activity: Kayaking The Sarawak Kiri River flows from the Borneo highlands and into Kuching, with the tributary located an hour’s drive from the city. Picturesque limestone hills and caves dot the area, where the river cuts through large boulders, creating rapids – of Grade I-II – and waterfalls along the way. The village of Kampong Bengoh is the starting point for the kayak trip, taking you through 10kms (2-3 hours) of wild nature, where you can spot wildlife like kingfishers, monitor lizards, and even monkeys (during fruiting season) amongst the towering riverine forest. Along the way, you can stop by the Bidayuh village of Kampung Danu.
BALI, INDONESIA Location: North Bali Activity: Canyoning Canyoning has recently become popular in northern Bali. Gigit, home to the Kerenkali Canyon, is a popular spot for its easy tours segregated into 3 parts (you can do one or all three), all set within a landscape of mosscovered volcanic rock and natural warm spring basins. Kerenkali is catered to beginners, with (optional) jumps of up to 10m, 26m-high rappels, and metres of naturally-carved water slides. Aling Gorges in Sambangan is more technical, featuring plenty of waterfalls, and descents into volcanic gorges with bats; it’s got lots of jumps, rappels (up to 40m), and natural pools.
A short break in the city need not be all about concrete and glass – these cities below are just a stone’s throw away from nature’s playground where you can hike, bike, or go canyoning and kayaking, taking you from the concrete jungle to the real one for a bit of outdoor fun.
TOKYO, JAPAN Location: Mt. Takao Activity: Hiking Mt. Takao is one of the closest natural recreation areas to Tokyo – only a 50-minute train ride from Shinjuku. There are 7 hiking trails that lead to the top of Mt. Takao (600m), including the paved No.1, which leads hikers past the sacred Yakuoin temple (established in 744) to the summit in 90 minutes. A more rugged hike is No. 6, which takes you through the forest past moss-covered statues of deities, and the Biwa Falls where you may see monks practising takigyō under the falls. You can descend via route No. 4, the only route with a suspension bridge.
TAIPEI, TAIWAN Location: Taipei City Activity: Cycling Taipei has over 100kms of dedicated cycle paths, dotted with parks and other attractions, following the three rivers that flow through the city. The trails lead you through various neighbourhoods like Danshui, Keelung, Xindian, and Beitou, with highlights including Guandu bikeway with its scenic mangrove, and Shezidao with its picturesque rice paddies. Bike rentals are located along the bike paths. Those preferring more hardcore MTB action can head to nearby Yangmingshan National Park for some singletrack action.
PERTH, AUSTRALIA Location: Marmion Marine Park Activity: Diving You can swim with a vast array of aquatic wildlife through old, offshore shipwrecks not far from Perth. Just a 30-minute drive north of the city, Marmion National Park offers a playground of limestone reefs, ledges, caves, and crystal clear lagoons ideal for snorkelling or diving. You may also spot Humpback whales, as the park is a top spot for whale watching.
Mountainous Georgia borders Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia and Turkey, with a culture influenced by the Mongols, Persians, Greeks and the Byzantine Empire. During the 19th century Russia invaded, and integrated Georgia into the Soviet Union until it collapsed in 1991. Today it is a popular destination for visitors: it’s home to green valleys spread with vineyards, where old churches and watchtowers are perched in fantastic mountain scenery, making it a great canvas for hikers, skiers, rafters, and travellers of every kind.
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY Ann Maureen Cruz
GEORGIA AND THE GREATER CAUCASUS TBLISI
Surrounded on three sides by mountains, Georgia’s ancient capital city spreads out on both banks of the Mtkvari River. Thanks to its unique history, Tblisi is known for its distinctive architecture, with its eclectic mix of Medieval, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, Stalinist and Modernist structures. The Old Tblisi district, known for its sulfur bathhouses (open to the public) fed by natural hot springs, is a charming area of old-style balconies, ancient churches, and winding streets. Soaring above it is the 4th century Narikala Fortress.
While Tblisi is steeped in history as a Eurasian crossroad, it is also moving forward in the 21st century, with contemporary buildings, good public transport, and ever-improving facilities for visitors.
Mtskheta At a 20-minute bus ride from Tblisi, the UNESCO-listed city of Mtskheta is the birthplace and centre of Christianity in Georgia, and is often referred to by Georgian Orthodoxy as the “Holy City”. The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is one of the most sacred places in Georgia, where Christ’s robe is said to be buried. Situated on a rocky mountaintop 5km from Mtskheta is the 6th century Jvari Monastery which is fortified by a stone wall and gate overlooking the town of Mtskheta, located at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers.
Ananuri Fortress Not far from Zhinvali reservoir and about 70km from Tbilisi, the Ananuri Fortress is situated above the Aragvi River. The earliest parts of the fortress date from the 13th century, and has witnessed a number of massacres and peasant uprisings. A dirt path snakes up through the fortress which contains a well-preserved upper fortification with a large square tower (Sheupovari), domed churches featuring centuries-old frescoes, and a bell tower. Climb the watchtower for views of the reservoir and surrounding mountains.
Situated within the Kakheti Region about 100km (2 hours) from Tblisi, Sighnagi is known as the “city of wine and love”. Sitting on the steep hill overlooking the vast Alazani Valley with a view of the Caucasus Mountains, this town – with its narrow cobblestone streets and pastel-coloured houses – is popular as the heart of Georgia’s scenic wine-growing region.
which are crowned with watchtowers where one can climb to get magnificent views of the Alazan valley. Within the walls are well-preserved 18th and 19th-century inns where you can enjoy traditional Georgian cuisine with local wine. Just 2kms away is the St. Nino Bodbe Shrine, or the Bodbe Monastery, one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia where a 4th century female evangelist was buried. She is credited with bringing the Orthodox Christian faith to the country, and her grave lies within the old church. Down the hill from the monastery lies the spring of St. Nino – the waters are believed to have healing powers.
KAZBEGI Georgia claims to be the birthplace of wine; ancient wine vessels, golden wine cups and wine barrels found here date back to at least the 2nd millennium BC. Today, over 500 varieties of grapes grow here, and in the Kakheti region you’ll find the semi-sweet wines of Kindzmarauli and Akhasheni. You can also tour around the wineries for wine-tasting sessions. Sighnagi retains its original fortress walls
The Kazbegi National Park is located on the northern slopes of the mighty Caucasus range – capped by the towering Mt. Kazbek (5,033m), the third tallest mountain in Georgia – and dotted with hot springs and carbonated lakes. Surrounded by spectacular mountains and picturesque gorges, Stepantsminda (also known as Kazbegi), is a popular base for trekking in the region and is just 10km south of the border with Russia. Local taxis (mashrutkas) have regular departures
from Tblisi to Stepantsminda, with a journey time of about 3 hours. One of the most popular hikes from this city is to the nearby Gergeti Trinity Church that’s set against the backdrop of the mighty Mt. Kazbek. This 14th century church towers over the city at 2,170m; you can hike up to it (1.5 hours from town) for stunning views of the surrounding mountains. You can continue the hike up to the Gergeti Glacier (3,200m) which is within a day’s hike from Stepantsminda. Also near Stepantsminda is the impossibly steep 11km-long Dariali Gorge that connects Russia and Georgia; in places, the cliff faces are over 1,000m high, dotted with medieval watchtowers, waterfalls and wildlife, making this one of the most incredible roads in the world. The steep valleys are home to eagles, hawks and the massive griffon vultures that all nest among the rocky outcrops. There is a hiking trail from Stepantsminda to the Devdoraki Glacier, which follows along the gorge past the Gveleti waterfall and through a birch forest. There are plenty of other gorges to hike to, including the Upper Truso Gorge with its historic sites, abandoned villages, as well as rich mineral waters; Khdi Gorge which is accessible via Dariali Gorge along a hiking trail that passes a monastery complex; and the Artkhmo Gorge with its abandoned villages and beautiful waterfalls.
Tblisi International Airport is 17km from the city, and is serviced by airlines like Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines. Its location is also ideal as a base to neighbouring countries like Azerbaijan and Armenia. For more on Georgia, visit http://georgia.travel.
With the price of the GBP at an all-time low, no doubt a trip to the UK will prove a better deal now than ever before. It’s also generally acknowledged that the UK is home to some of the most scenic walks, taking ramblers past rolling hills, idyllic farmland, and breathtaking historic villages. From the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District to the craggy peaks in the Scottish Highlands and Beacon Brecons, there’s never a shortage of landscapes to explore. What’s more, some of these routes are dotted with quaint centuries-old watering holes where you can imbibe in well-earned pints by pub fires.
LINGMOOR FELL, LAKE DISTRICT
IMAGES: VisitBritain / Britain on View
Length: 8km/3 hours Start/finish: Elterwater village Refuel: The Brittania Inn, Elterwater Ever since Romantic poets arrived in the 19th century, the Lakes’ picturesque patchwork of lakes, valleys, woodlands and fells have been stirring the imagination of visitors. The Lake District – or Lakeland to locals – conjures up images of Britain’s greenest countryside and grandest views. The Lakes is awash with outdoor opportunities, from lake cruises to bike rides, and of course, mountain walks. One of them is the trail from Elterwater village to Lingmoor Fell (469m), a lonely peak that affords superb views towards Windermere. From the south of the village, you’ll cross a stone bridge over Great Langdale Beck towards Dale End Farm, where the trail to the fell starts. The trail is an old quarry path which leads to just below the summit of Lingmoor Fell – follow the path along the ridge for views of Great Carrs and Harter Fell. A number of trails line the area, taking you to nearby fells and lakes; maps are essential.
LLYN Y FAN FACH, BRECON BEACONS
Length: 10km/3 hours Start/finish: Llanddeusant village Refuel: The Tanners Arms, Defynnog The Welsh hills of Brecon Beacons are an undulating landscape that’s home to heather-clad escarpments, limestone crags, and grassy moorlands grazed by Welsh mountain ponies. Carved out in the Ice Age, the mountains, hills and valleys have been moulded by millennia of human activity, evidenced by the dozens of prehistoric monuments that dot these weathered slopes. In the western Beacons lies the glacial lake of Llyn y Fan Fach, near Llanddeusant village, the starting point of the hike to the now-dammed lake. The trail follows a steep stony track for about 40 minutes to the cobalt blue oval lake’s lip – the looping path climbs westwards up the ridge above the lake and eventually to the summit of Picws Du from where you can enjoy a stunning Welsh panorama consisting of Swansea Bay, the Pem-
brokeshire coast, the Epnyt, and the Brecon Beacons. Following the spur of Fan Foel and then down to the gully, a faint path leads back down to the lake. Alternatively, continue to Fan Brycheiniog and descend to the larger glacial lake of Llyn y Fan Fawr where you can loop back along peaty moorland to the start.
Now a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, the Brecon Beacons is an enticing place to spend the night; your eyes will be treated to a dome of stars and the occasional meteor shower.
GRASSINGTON, YORKSHIRE DALES
Length: 18km/5.5 hours Start/finish: Grassington NP Centre Refuel: Craven Arms, Appletreewick
Mention the Yorkshire Dales, and images of expansive heather moorlands, ancient woodland, and some of the finest limestone scenery in the UK come to mind. Human settlement has only added to its charm; stone-built villages, drystone walls, and hay meadows are set against a backdrop of traditional farmland that has been shaped over thousands of years by human hands.
All this makes the Dales prime walking country, dotted with walking trails throughout. One of the finest is the circular walk from Grassington National Park Centre to Appletreewick, home of the Craven Arms – considered one of the park’s greatest pubs – before the return portion.
The journey to Appletreewick is photogenic; after crossing the picturesque Linton Falls, you climb up to the pretty hamlet of Thorpe through fields criss-crossed by dry-stone walls. Here, the pleasant meadow trail leads you to the
The estate supports iconic wildlife like red deer, golden eagles and black grouse. A popular way to explore the park is by cycling or walking the myriad trails that range from short lowland walks to longer, upland trails.
GLEN FINGLAS, TROSSACHS
Length: 6.4km/2 hours Start/finish: Woodland Trust car park Refuel: The Byre Inn, Brig o’Turk With its sweeping vistas of rolling hills mirrored in glassy lochs, Glen Finglas is a great expanse of ancient woodland, hidden lochs and open heathland, and is one of the best examples of the Scottish Highlands. Situated at the heart of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Glen Finglas was once part of a royal deer forest where kings hunted, and whisky smugglers and cattle drovers played a part in its history.
Access to colourcoded walks from the Woodland Trust centre include the Brig o’Turk loop which combines several shorter waymarked loops and has good views of Loch Venachar. The walk involves a climb on good paths up the lower slopes of hills that reach 600m – as the oak thins out, birchwood reclaims the land from the felled spruces. The path contours a south-facing hillside with views across lochs, foothills and the
famous bridge at Burnsall before crossing the river to Appletreewick. Appletreewick is a sleepy village with views across the surrounding fells. Perched above the river, Craven Arms is a country pub that features the Dales’ first ‘cruck barn’, built using traditional materials 400 years ago. The best time to tackle the trail is late morning, when you can reach Craven Arms for lunch and explore Appletreewick before returning to Grassington by dusk – via the suspension bridge at Hebden – to enjoy woodsmoke from farmhouse chimneys as the sun fades into the horizon. You can overnight at the elegant 17th century market town of Grassington – spend the night in a rustic farmhouse or historic coaching inn.
majestic miles of the Great Trossachs Forest to Ben Venue above Scott’s Loch Katrine.
There will also be a boardwalk portion which leads across a marshy area – once the village’s curling rink – that is now an important habitat for wildlife. Watch out for red squirrel, black grouse, golden eagle and pine marten. At the tiny village of Brig o’ Turk, there’s a wooden tearoom and The Byre Inn, which specialises in local game and microbrewery ales where you can refuel.
The Grand Tour of Switzerland takes travellers all over the country for a driving experience that stretches 1,600kms long and spans 4 linguistic regions. A circular route, it hits interesting villages and towns along the way. From Zurich, you can visit Appenzell for a unique high-altitude whisky tour, and then proceed south towards Graubünden and explore the massive Swiss National Park along its myriad hiking trails. You can then visit Lugano in the Ticino region, where you can explore beautiful hikes along the Riviera. Proceed along the Tremola road – the most daunting of all mountain roads – to reach the top of the 2,106m-high Gotthard Pass and into Valais, home of the Aletsch glacier. For more, visit www.myswitzerland.com.
© swiss-image.ch/Roland Gerth © swiss-image.ch/Roland Gerth
APPENZELL: Whisky Trek in the Alpstein Located amidst a landscape of rolling hills, the village of Appenzell is situated in a region known for its rural customs, colourful frescoed buildings, gastronomical offerings, and its profusion of hiking trails. German-speaking Appenzell is the cultural centre of the Appenzell Innerrhoden, the smallest Swiss canton. Appenzell benefits from a dense network of rambling trails, ranging from ‘experience trails’ like the barefoot trail near Gonten, to more punishing mountain hikes like Kronberg (1,663m) and Hohe Kasten (1,795m). A cableway takes you to the Ebenalp (1,644m) – the gateway to the hiking region of the Alpstein mountains.
in which they are produced. There are 6 types of Säntis Malt whiskies, all made with soft spring water from the Alpstein mountains, and then aged in historical oak wood beer barrels. The barrels are then hand-carried up the mountains to the 27 inns spread throughout the Alpstein. Thanks to the different height and climate situation of each inn, every whisky tastes different. When you hike up to these mountain inns, you can reward yourself with a glass of whisky while enjoying the panorama. Every inn has a store of its own unique whisky, which are available in a glass or in small 100ml bottles which are signed by the cask keeper to ensure that the exclusivity of the various whiskies is preserved.
TACKLE THE WHISKY TREK
Catering to whisky drinkers who also love the great outdoors, the Whisky Trek – the highest in the world at 2,502m – allows hikers to explore 27 mountain huts in the Alpstein to sample locally-made single malt whisky along the way.
Switzerland may not be famous for whisky – it was first produced in 1999 by Locher, a local beer brewer – but it has won international awards due to the special barrels
Starting from the village of Appenzell, the Whisky Trek is not so much a preset route as it is a collection of mountain huts that you can visit. There are 2 versions available: the shorter one covers 9 inns of
your choice plus their respective whiskies (CHF150), or the full tour which covers all 27 inns plus a collector’s box to hold all 27 bottles (CHF400). You can purchase booklets for the 2 tours, and get them stamped at the huts to claim your 100ml bottles. You can visit one mountain inn per day, or combine a few on a one-day hiking trip, although some hikes are easier than others. Some huts are also reachable by cable car or car.
Appenzell is easily accessible via a 1.5hour scenic train ride east of Zurich. Visitors staying at least 3 nights are entitled to the Appenzell Card which offers free rides on public transport and cable cars (Ebenalp, Hoher Kasten and Kronberg), free entrance to museums and other attractions.
GRAUBÜNDEN: Wildlife Hike in the Swiss National Park The Swiss National Park – which at over 170sq.km. is the largest protected area in Switzerland – is located in the far eastern part of the country in Graubünden, and encompasses an impressive piece of Alpine landscape. Founded in 1914, this is the oldest National Park in the Alps and central Europe, and remains the country’s only one. Along with a host of colourful Alpine flora, the park is known for its variety of Alpine animals such as ibexes, chamois, marmots, northern hares, lizards and innumerable birds. Situated in lower Engadine, the park is only open in summer (June to October).
Hiking along the Inn River from Zernez to Lavin (17.4km, 3.5 hours): This is an easy hike that takes you along the flat terrain following the scenic Inn River. Along the way, the scenery is of wild forests that alternate with green meadows, with the mighty peaks of the Lower Engadine rising around the trails. The hiking season here stretches from June to October, with chances of blooming flowers in the spring.
EXPLORING THE PARK
The entire park can easily be explored along the 80kms of hiking paths and nature trails. There are 21 marked routes of varying degrees of difficulty; as the park is mountainous – it lies between 1,400m and 3,200m – many of the trails tackle considerable differences in altitude and go above the treeline. The main entrance to the National Park is at Zernez, situated in the upper part of the Lower Engadine. It is the starting point of many hiking trails within the Park.
The trail starts from Zernez and heads towards the picturesque village of Susch, located at the foot of the Flüela Pass, which is home to many houses built in the Graubünden style. The trail ends in the village of Lavin, where there is a railway station with regular services to Zernez. The National Park Panorama Trail (14.4 km, 7 hours): The trail traverses the National Park, with striking views from the top of the Murterpass down into the wild Cluozza Gorge. Starting from the secluded Vallun Chafuol, it involves a long,
steep climb to Fuorcla Murter (2,545m) which permits clear views of the Piz Quattervals, the highest point in the Park, along with the pristine valleys on its flanks. The Cluozza-Tals valley crossing is considered the most beautiful section of the route. Around the midway point of the hike is the Chamanna Cluozza hut, a simple log cabin where you can fuel up or spend the night. The hike proceeds past steep valley walls, which require a head for heights, before arriving at Sarasinstein and ending at Zernez village (1,473m). Best hiked from July to September, there may be chances of snow on high-level sections. National Park staff lead guided trips every Thursday into the Trupchun valley (14km, 7 hours), which is an alpine region inhabited by deer, as well as marmots, chamois, and ibex. The guided hike starts from the National Park Visitor Centre in Zernez.
The picturesque Engadine village of Zernez is the gateway to the Swiss National Park, and is easily accessible by rail from Zurich in under 3 hours.
© swiss-image.ch/Hans Lozza
© swiss-image.ch/Charly Tscharner
TICINO: Hiking the Sentiero in Cresta On the southern side of the Alps lies Ticino with its Mediterranean flair – palm trees, beaches and piazzas dominate this Italian-speaking region. However, the mountains are always close by, where the wooded hills rise to high peaks from the shores of Ticino’s lakes. Here, a multitude of activities can be had: hiking, skiing, canyoning, mountain biking. Lugano is the largest town in Ticino; as a hub of transport, you can easily access many of the surrounding mountains via cable cars.
SENTIERO IN CRESTA HIKE
The summit of Monte Lema is both a destination and a starting point for numerous ridge hikes, as well as mountain biking and paragliding. While mountain bikers can enjoy the downhill trails and bike park further down the valley, those who prefer to explore the ridgeline will be rewarded with some of the most scenic views Ticino has to offer. One of the most famous routes is the Sentiero in Cresta (13km long, 5.5 hours), taking hikers from Monte Lema (1,624m) to Monte Tamaro (1,962m) along a ridge that is a classic amongst Swiss high altitude hikes, featuring panoramic views that stretch from Valle Levantina over the surrounding valleys up into the Pennine Alps in the west and the Grisons Alps in the east.
the other, both scenically embedded in the mountains of southern Ticino. This panorama remains a constant companion along the hike, which includes only 2 major climbs towards the end of the trail: one up Monte Gradiccioli and the final climb up to Monte Tamaro. There are also easy alternatives for bypassing both challenges.
From Tamaro’s peak, it’s a stone’s throw down to Alpe Foppa (1,530m) which is famous as the site for the Santa Maria degli Angeli church that was designed by architect Mario Botta and features paintings by Enzo Cucchi. A gondola rail from here links travellers back down to Rivera, where buses and trains connect to Lugano (to the south) or the UNESCO-listed castle town of Bellinzona (to the north).
This hike runs almost exclusively along the ridge close to the Swiss-Italian border, and is best tackled between May and October. Access to Monte Lema is via cable-car from Miglieglia in the Malcantone region. Right from the start, you have Lake Lugano on one side, and Lake Maggiore on
terrace, it also has accommodation. Numerous hiking paths lead to all directions, including Indemini (930m), a typical Ticino village famous for its stone houses, slate roofs and wooden outbuildings.
At Monte Tamaro is the Capanna Tamaro hut, nestled close to the mountainside beneath the summit. Offering homemade specialties and stunning views from its
Ticino is accessible via the international airports of Zurich and Milan (Italy), both offering direct rail links into Lugano, taking 3 and 1.5 hours respectively. In addition, the newly-opened Gotthard tunnel will shorten the SBB journey to Ticino by an hour from other parts of Switzerland. From 2017 onward, guests staying in hotels, youth hostels or campgrounds will be able to use all forms of public transportation in Ticino for free for the entire duration of their stay.
© Valais/Wallis Promotion/Thomas Andenmatten
VALAIS: Mountain Biking in Aletsch Arena With its unique and diverse landscape, Valais is a land of contrasts: to the north lie mountains rising to over 4,000m, with glaciers along the Rhone valley, while to the south are sprawling vineyards bordering Lake Geneva.
entrance to the Fiescher valley. It is the ideal starting point for excursions into the area round the Aletsch Glacier, the Goms Valley, over alpine passes and into the town of Brig.
A highlight of this region is the impressive UNESCO-listed Aletsch Glacier which is 23km long and holds 27 billion tons of ice; its meltwater flows through the wild Massa Gorge into the Rhone.
The region around Fiesch is a haven for mountaineers and hikers, with its innumerable mountain tours and over 100kms of hiking paths.
With its alpine air, the Aletsch Arena is a good base to explore the region, providing a box seat view of the Aletsch Glacier and clear views of the Valais’ prettiest 4,000m peaks. Traditional Valais homes and chalets lend charm to the villages in the valley. The sun-drenched resorts of Fiescheralp, Bettmeralp and Riederalp – at an elevation of about 2,000m – are easily accessible from the Rhone Valley. For those looking for adventure, there are hundreds of kilometres of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore.
From spring right through to autumn the Aletsch resorts of Fiesch, Fiescheralp, Bettmeralp, Riederalp and Belalp offer beautiful high-altitude walks, glacier crossings and breathtaking views of the surrounding Alps. The village of Fiesch, where you can see typical Valaisian houses, is located at the
(46.5km, 4.5 hours round trip) is all about variety, with plenty of technical challenges, scenic landscapes, idyllic Valais villages, and a rapid descent at the end. From Fiesch, the ride takes you through the Twingi Gorge and the hamlets of Ze Binne and Binn. You’ll also pass the beautiful village of Imfeld with its traditional Valais houses, where you can rest before an ascent along a dirt track to Schinerewysse, the highest point on the route (2,215m). From here, a rapid descent takes you through the the beautiful landscape of Freichi and the Twingi Gorge. Mountain bike rentals are available in the Aletsch Arena. The best times to mountain bike are from June to October.
OTHER ACTIVITIES MTB Routes The Aletsch Arena boasts 100kms of MTB routes with varying difficulty, catering to riders of all abilities. The leisurely Fieschertal Runde (11.5km, 1.5 hours) route passes idyllic hamlets like Lambrigge and Wichel, and crosses old Roman bridges along dirt tracks and forest paths. Beginning from Fiesch, it follows the old Kirchweg trail towards Fieschertal, partially following the Wysswasser stream. The demanding Fiesch-Freichi trail
On 18 June 2017, the village of Bettmeralp will host the Aletsch Half Marathon, considered the most beautiful – and demanding – half marathon in Europe. Starting from 1,950m, the 21.2km-long course takes runners high along the very edge of the Aletsch Glacier, culminating in a steep final climb to finish line at 2,650m. Register at www.aletsch-halbmarathon.ch.
Fiesch, located in the Aletsch Arena, is accessible by road and rail from Zurich or Geneva, and is also located along the scenic Glacier Express train route.
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Our Short Break + Urban Adventure Issue. Pick up our latest free copy, or read online at www.sportsandtravelonline.com
Published on Mar 21, 2017
Our Short Break + Urban Adventure Issue. Pick up our latest free copy, or read online at www.sportsandtravelonline.com