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ISSUE 80

Nature Issue

Azores | Svalbard | Central America | Taiwan | Hawaii and more

Image © Andrew JK Tan / Mentorgraphy

MCI (P) 142/07/2017 MAR-APR 2018 Free


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Nature is Best It’s time for shoulder season travel, when the transitioning weather brings with it the blooms of springtime. For nature lovers and photographers, this is the ideal time to be exploring the outdoors, which is why our theme is ‘nature’. We kick off the issue with Taiwan where we lay down some of the best sites Green Island has to offer. From dive sites to dramatic cliffs and a seashore hot spring, it makes for a great weekend getaway. In Thailand, we explore natural sites near the expat town of Udon Thani, while in Nepal we drop in on Chitwan National Park to spot one of the rarest animals on earth: the rhino. One of the most far flung of European islands, Portugal’s Azores is a haven for hikers who come to explore some of the most breathtaking trails past volcanic lakes, crater rims, and dramatic fjords ending in the wild Atlantic ocean. Add to that old world architectural charm, unique vineyards, hot springs, stone-walled pastures, and some of the best whale-watching sites in the world. Another far flung collection of islands is Hawaii; with their new direct flights, we give a lowdown on each island’s attractions. We also feature remote islands way up in the Arctic – Svalbard may be part of Norway, but its landscape and vibe are completely different. Here, you can meet polar bears, walruses, and even Arctic foxes and reindeer that can sometimes be spotted in the frontier town of Longyearbyen. In Central America, we explore the 7 nations that make up the slim isthmus connecting North America to its southern counterpart. The protected lands are ideal for wildlife spotting for classic creatures like jaguars, sloths, or colourful quetzals in cloud forests. Plus, the region is also a hotbed of Mayan culture, where ancient ruins stand like sentinels amidst the dense rainforest. For mountain lovers, one of the most iconic sites is the Dolomites, which is dominated by grey, serrated mountains that have become a hub of via ferrata – it was invented here during WWI. We also explore the Black Sea’s city of Odessa – Ukraine’s favourite holiday capital – taking in the city’s architecture, beaches and vineyards. Ending the issue is a brief piece on Arizona, the Grand Canyon state. With its dramatic ochre landscape, towering monoliths, and sculpted canyons, it’s no wonder it’s a photographers paradise. 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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Cat Ba Island

Nestled in Vietnam’s famed Halong Bay, Cat Ba is the largest of the 360+ islands in the archipelago, consisting of spectacular limestone hills and islets dotted with lakes, waterfalls, and grottoes. Almost half of the rugged, jungle-clad Cat Ba Island – along with its adjacent waters – is a national park, while much of the coastline consists of rocky cliffs, dotted with sandy beaches and floating fishing villages. From Cat Ba Town, you can join organised treks or bike rides in the national park, try rock climbing, or kayak around the islets.

RECOMMENDED NUMBER OF DAYS: 3 DAYS MUST SEE:

> CAT BA NATIONAL PARK: The

extensive park is home to the highly endangered golden-headed Cat Ba langur (fewer than 60 specimens are thought to survive in the wild) as well as deer, civets and several species of squirrel. Within the park, you can visit the multi-chambered Trung Trang Cave or tackle the challenging 18km hiking trail up to a mountain summit (6 hours) for incredible views.

> CANNON FORT: At 177m, the

tunnels and cannon battlements were built by the Japanese in WWII, but were subsequently used by the French and Vietnamese during the Vietnam War as a naval defense point. Today, the hill is the island’s best spot for views across the bay, especially at sunset.

> CAVES: There are plenty of caves featuring magnificent stalactites and stalag-

mites, some brightly-lit to showcase their beauty. The most popular include Da Hoa Cave (with its colossal caverns, clear lake, and sinkhole with ancient carvings) and Thien Long Cave (Dragon Cave) with its impressive curtain-like stalactite structures.

> HOSPITAL CAVE: Built in a cavern in the hills in the 1960s, the 17-room under-

ground hospital and hideout (for Viet Cong leaders) was built with bomb-proof concrete laid out over three stories. Used until 1975, it was equipped with escape tunnels and features an old operating theatre and a huge cinema cavern.

> LAN HA BAY: Geologically, Lan Ha Bay is an extension of Halong Bay but is less crowded due

PRINCIPLE ACTIVITY: KAYAKING, CLIMBING to its distance from the mainland (it’s located southeast of Cat Ba Island). You can explore this archipelago of islets on kayak tours or on bay cruises. MUST DO:

> ROCK CLIMBING: All climbing areas around Cat Ba require an access pass (US$1-3/day) as they are privately owned, so obtain one in advance from climbing operators. Popular climb sites include Lien Minh’s Butterfly Valley with over 60 climbs on offer, Hidden Valley (Ang Va) with its vertical walls and over 33 sport routes and a bouldering cave, and Ben Beo Wall which has 7 hard climbs overlooking the fishing harbour. > KAYAKING: The best way to explore Lan Ha Bay is on a kayak – most operators will take you out on traditional Vietnamese junk boats before you board a kayak. The maze of islets are best done with a guide as the changing tides can close passages and thick mist can suddenly form.

> CYCLING: You can either rent a bicycle and explore the island on your own,

stopping by villages and caves along the way, or go on cycling tours that take you to the national park, fishing villages, or around the island. ACCOMMODATION Many accommodation options can be found in Cat Ba Town as well as on smaller islands surrounding Cat Ba Island. GETTING THERE Cat Ba Island is 160km from Hanoi, and the easiest way is to take a direct bus which takes 3.5 to 5 hours and crosses the Tan Vu-Lach Huyen bridge (the longest bridge in SEA, completed late last year). Plenty of tour operators have pick-up services from Hanoi to Cat Ba which includes a bus and ferry ride. There is also a seaplane service (45 mins) from Hanoi to Halong Bay.


VOLCANIC WONDERLAND Located 33km east of Taitung City, Green Island – like thousands of tiny islands that adorn the Pacific – is a remnant of volcanic eruptions. Nicknamed “Fire Island” – or “Lyudao” in Chinese – it has a mountainous heart surrounded by dramatic cliffs and dotted with unique hot springs, interesting rock formations, and lush rolling hills. With just over 3,000 residents, it is largely free of commercial development, making it an idyllic getaway.

Taitung

Green Island Chaikou Human Rights Memorial Park

Lighthouse

Nanliao

Nanliao Harbor Shihlang

Niutou Shan

Guanyin Cave

GREEN ISLAND

Youzihhu Haishenping Pekingese Dog

Mt. Huoshao

Dabaisha

Jhaorih Hot Spring Fanchuanbi

HISTORIC SITES

HOT SPRINGS

The 33m-tall Lyudao Lighthouse is a popular sunset photo spot, although you can’t climb to the top. This still-functioning lighthouse was constructed in 1938, funded by the American government after the SS President Hoover struck a nearby reef and sank. A must-see on the island is the Human Rights Culture Park, where you’ll find the notorious yet sardonically named “Oasis Villa”, an infamous prison compound that once housed political prisoners during the ‘White Terror’ period (1949-1987) when thousands of dissidents were shipped here to perform hard labour.

Jhaorih Hot Springs is one of only three places in the world (with Japan and Italy being the other two) where saltwater springs can be found. The clear springs are fed by seawater and underground water heated by volcanic lava, which vary between 60ºC and 70ºC. Another historic site is Youzihhu, an abandoned prehistoric village at the bottom of a cliff. The houses were built with local coral reef rocks, featuring small windows to protect from the strong winds. Today you can freely walk among remnants of these houses that stand amidst the overgrown jungle. Some locals travel to Green Island to pay their respects to Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) at Guanyin Cave, a small underground cavern that has a stalagmite that apparently resembles the deity. Legend is that while lost at sea, some fishermen followed a fireball to safety and that it led them to this cave.

The hot spring spa complex is open year-round (entry fee NT$200), and features 3 open-air pools and a spa pool where you can enjoy the sunrise or bathe under the stars at night.

NIGHT SAFARI

Organised night safaris (on scooters) are popular here, where you can spot wildlife like coconut crabs, civets, flying foxes, and roaming Sika deer (once bred for antlers, they were released from captivity in the 80s). You may also spot the endemic Tsuda’s giant stick insect – once sold at high prices to Japanese collectors, it’s now a protected species that secretes a mint-scented defensive fluid from its thorax.


TAIWAN’S GREEN ISLAND THINGS TO DO Most visitors set foot on the island at Nanliao Harbour, and Nanliao Village on the west coast is the main town.

inmates (from the nearby prison) were cremated; their remains lay buried beside the trail en route to the cave.

Diving and Snorkelling Thanks to its location along the north-flowing Japan Current, Green Island is rich in marine life, with an abundance of brightly-coloured reef fish, shellfish, turtles, and coral.

Haishenping Bay is an area surrounded by volcanic rocks with dramatic views of Green Island’s most famous rock formations: Sleeping Beauty and Pekingese Dog. An undulating 400m path nicknamed Xiao Chang Cheng (Little Great Wall) takes you from the main road to lookouts where you can see the moon-shaped coral reef gulf. The area is also ideal for stargazing.

The best places to snorkel are around the white sand beach of Dabaisha and Chaikou where you can see rock pools at low tide. At both locations, a stone path stretches out into the ocean from the shore, allowing you to access the water without damaging the reef. On a snorkelling tour, expect to be hauled across the water on flotation rings.

The most popular dive sites are at Dabaisha, Shihlang and Chaikou. While Shihlang’s famous Big Mushroom Coral was destroyed by a typhoon in 2016, there are other sites that boast colourful corals and fish. From January to March each year, schools of hammerhead sharks congregate off the southern tip of the island for a few months as they travel from the Philippines to Japan. The hammerheads – usually smooth hammerheads (Sphyrna zygaena) that grow up to 4m long – tend to show up in schools of

up to hundreds of individuals. Diving with hammerheads is only open to divers with a minimum of +50 Advanced logged dives, as it’s at a depth of some 30m with strong underwater currents and surface waves. Hiking This hilly island has a number of short trails leading to spectacular lookouts.

Further south is another viewpoint at Fanchuanbi. A short climb leads you to a patch of grassland where you can see Haishenping in the distance and Jhaorih just below.

A popular hike is the Guoshan Gu Dao (“Across Mountain Ancient Trail”); the trailhead starts just behind Nanliao Village and cuts across the island all the way to the east coast. At 1.8km long, it traverses the island’s highest point at the extinct volcano of Mt. Huo-shao (281m) before heading down towards Jhaorih Hot Springs. At the northeast point of the island is Niutou Shan (Ox Head Hill) which is a grassy headland surrounded by water on three sides. Famous for sunsets, it is so-named because it resembles an ox head with curling horns. Trails cut across this headland, passing the ‘horns’ before ending at impressively sheer cliffs, with views across the island’s rugged eastern coastline. Below the cliffs lie Swallow’s Grotto, a huge cavern where the bodies of dead

GETTING THERE AND AROUND

You can get to Green Island by ferry from Taitung’s Fugang Harbor, which departs every 2 hours in summer (winter departures are infrequent). The trip lasts about an hour (NT$460 one way). You can also fly to Green Island from Taitung Airport on Daily Air (15 minutes; NT$1,130 one way) although they are often fully booked months in advance. Most visitors explore the island in a clockwise direction along the 18km-long ring road (Huan Dao Lu). The easiest way is by electric scooter; you don’t need a driving license to rent one (NT$600/day with a spare battery). There is also a public bus service at NT$20 for the whole circuit, and bicycles are also available (NT$200/day) if you prefer to ride the undulating roads. For more on Green Island, check out https://www.eastcoast-nsa.gov.tw.


GEAR GUIDE

CLASSIC PACK

Featuring classic looks, Fjallraven’s top-loading Greenland Top backpack is suitable for both the outdoors or in the city. Made from hard-wearing proprietary G-1000 waxed fabric, the pack has a roomy main compartment that’s equipped with a laptop sleeve (for up to 15” laptops). There are also 4 easy-access pockets on the outside, including a zippered front pocket concealed under the lid. Now available at Outside (Orchard Gateway) at S$249 (Large, 30L) and S$219 (20L).

PORTABLE POWER STATION

TOUGH RAIN JACKET

The Outdoor Research Men’s Horizon is a jacket that is completely waterproof and breathable, and packed with features usually found on pricier shells. Made with 70D bombproof nylon weave, the durable Horizon features interior and exterior front zipper stormflaps and a fully adjustable hood keep out the elements, while the hem-to-pit zippers effectively vent excess heat. Available at Outdoor Life at S$206.

Goal Zero’s Yeti Portable Power Station provides silent, fume-free portable power for emergencies, camping, or wherever power is needed – it can power lights, phones, laptops, as well as fridges and TVs (depending on capacity). The Yeti can be charged via solar panels, regular wall outlet, or via a car’s 12V adapter – for the Yeti 400, a laptop can be charged 3-5 times. To power your devices, there are USB ports, 12V ports, and AC outlets. The Yeti is available in 150Wh, 400Wh and 1200Wh capacities, with prices from S$400-S$2,800 depending on capacity, at Outdoor Sport Travel (Sports Hub).


BUG-FREE HAMMOCK

Coghland’s Insect Parachute Hammock is designed to keep mosquitoes and other insects from entering, thanks to its polyester mesh upper that’s made of 1,300 holes per square inch. The entire hammock folds into its attached stuff sack which also doubles as a pocket for small items. The pack includes straps and carabiners for secure hanging from a tree or structure, with additional pockets for storing items like water bottles. Stitched-in tabs and accompanying cord allows you to raise the mesh upper and keep it elevated for maximum comfort. Now available at Adventure21 at S$149.90.

BOTTLED UP

The 32oz Wide Mouth bottle is Nalgene’s bestseller, featuring a simple design that’s lasted over decades. The wide mouth makes it easy to fill up – either with liquid or ice cubes – and the durable bottle holds up well against bumps and drops, and is guaranteed leak-proof. Made in the USA with Tritan material, it doesn’t contain BPA, BPS or any other isphenol. It’s available at The Planet Traveller, The Wallet Shop, Boarding Gate, Sports Elements and Terrainware, at S$23.90.

TECHNICAL PACKS

Lowe Alpine’s Aeon is a new series of lightweight, versatile, technical daypacks with 2 styles – the top-loading and the wide-zip entry. Constructed with lightweight yet durable abrasion- and tear-resistant nylon, it’s also weather-resistant. The ultra-thin shoulder harness is constructed from lightweight microstretch material which allows the harness to contour to your body. The back system is simple, light, and easily adjustable for a custom fit. The top-loading entry version provide ample storage, while the wide-zip top entry one makes accessing gear quicker. Both have easy reach side and hipbelt pockets. Now available at Gearaholic at S$190 (27L male; 25L female) and S$170 (35L male; 33L female).


Situated in northeastern Thailand, the regional hub of Udon Thani – or Udon for short – was once a sleepy, far-flung provincial town until it became a major USAF airbase during the Vietnam War. It has since grown into a multiculturally-diverse base you see today, home to one of the largest expat populations in Thailand. Some of Udon’s best attractions lie just beyond the city, ranging from ruins of ancient civilisations and caves, to the otherworldly red lotus lake.

of Udon Thani

ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES

Udon is home to one of the world’s earliest bronze-age civilisations, at Ban Chiang. Here you’ll see archaeological evidence of prehistoric settlements that existed between 2100BC and 200AD. This UNESCO site contains burial remains of more than 300 skeletons, earthenware pottery and bronze fragments. Nearby is Wat Pho Sri Nai, an open-air museum featuring archaeological excavation pits where you’ll see skeletons and pottery as they once were buried thousands of years ago. At Phu Phra Baht Historical Park in Ban Phue, there are sandstone caves,

GETTING THERE

Udon Thani has regular flights to and from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, and Phuket; it’s also accessible by train from the capital.

caverns, Bronze-age cave paintings, as well as dinosaur footprints and Buddhist structures. The park has a nature trail roughly 2km long, where you can explore all of its attractions. This historical park dates back more than three thousand years, and it’s particularly known for its mysterious rock formations – which include rocks balanced precariously on top of each other – around which religious shrines have been constructed. The most significant shrine is the Wat Phra Putthabaht Bua Bok, where a Lao-style chedi enshrines Buddha’s footprint. There is a temple fair and celebration to pay homage to the shrine every March. There are also prehistoric rock paintings, some dating back 6,000 years, that can be found in natural shelters – at Tham Wua you can find paintings of oxen, while at Tham Kho you can see human figures.

CAVE

Situated an hour away, Erawan Cave is situated in an imposing limestone outcrop where a winding scenic climb (over 600 concrete steps) takes you to a giant Buddha statue and the

entrance to the temple cave. As it’s a sacred site, the cave’s stalagmite and stalactite formations are decorated with temple artifacts. There are more stairs within the cave, taking you through the entire length of the cave. At the deepest point of the cave, more stairs lead to a large opening on the outer wall where a wooden platform offers a spectacular view of the surrounding nature.

LAKE

In Kumphawapi, an hour from Udon Thani, lies the spectacular Talay Bua Daeng, or Red Lotus Sea, a lake that is home to millions of floating hot pink lotus flowers. While it may not look like much from the lake’s edge, a boat ride (45-90 mins) can take you through this flowery highway to the centre of the lake where you’ll find yourself surrounded by an unending sea of pink flowers. The blooms are seasonal and best observed between the beginning of December to the end of February, and the best time to observe them is in the morning when it is cooler (the flowers close when the sun is hottest). The lake is also dotted with a few small islands, which are home to Buddha statues, shrines, and pagodas.


Some travellers are minimalist packers, while others can’t leave the house without packing the kitchen sink. Whatever category you fall under, there’s no denying that recent travel tech gear has made travel a little more fun and convenient. Whether it’s for your own safety, or simply to make your trip a more comfortable one, here are some recent inventions you may want to consider for your next trip into the unknown.

FOR SAFETY

Water purifier: Whenever you travel in developing countries or remote areas, it can be tough to find a safe source of water. These days, the only worry you have is choosing which type of purifier fits your needs. There are those that filter all manner of particles, there are dissolvable tablets you use to kill pathogens in the water, and then there are high-tech purifiers in the form of UV light. CamelBack All Clear, for instance, is a 0.75-liter water purifier bottle that uses UV light to neutralise viruses and bacteria in 60 seconds. The bottle is equipped with a rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Communication device: If you’re travelling into unknown snow country, or somewhere that is prone to natural disasters, getting information on your whereabouts is essential if you want to get rescued. The goTenna uses Bluetooth to pair with both Android and iOS smartphones, and keeps them connected even when there is not cellular service. This pocket-sized two-way radio and antenna is made of rugged materials, and allows those with the device to share messages and location info instantly within a range of up to 50 miles in ideal conditions.

FOR CONVENIENCE

Camp light: Camp lighting can now be bright and sustainable – the LuminAID is an inflatable lamp that produces up to 16 hours of LED light with just 6-7 hours of charging in the sun. At only 56g, it’s also waterproof.

Portable knife: Whether you need a cooking knife, or a survival tool when camping in the woods, the Cardsharp2 is a folding knife shaped like a credit card so it’s easy carry with you. The sleek design uses surgical blade technology constructed from ultralight polypropylene to create a 65mm cutting edge. Water bottle: While no one should go exploring in the woods without hydration, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to regular water bottles. The VSSL Flask is part liquid container, part flashlight, and it’s a multifunctional tool on the road for glamping enthusiasts. It holds 10 ounces of liquid, plus 2 collapsible stainless steel cups, a bottle opener, a compass, and a powerful LED flood-beam flashlight. Foot warmers: Those who don’t travel well in cold weather can now add heattech to their footwear. ThermaCELL Heated Insoles are equipped with stateof-the-art thermal technology that actually heats up the insoles, which are easily controlled via a remote control equipped with a thermostat-driven system. The fabric liner is water resistant to protect them from moisture. Universal translator: The last couple of years has seen a number of translation apps and devices take off. Most people know about Google Translate and Microsoft Translator apps – both of which are free for both iOS and Android, and support a wide range of languages, allowing you to not only

translate signboards, but also support real-time conversation translations. While many of them are available as apps, there have been some handheld devices developed. Two standouts that don’t require any internet connection include the ili and Travis the Translator. The ili is a wearable device that hangs around your neck and translates speech in real-time in three languages (Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese) although it’s expanding its vocabulary. Travis the Translator can currently translate conversations in 80 languages, 20 of them offline.

FOR CLEANING

Clothes washer: Anyone who has to wash their own clothes on a backpacking trip will know that doing laundry is a tedious business. The pocket-sized Scrubba Wash Bag is a portable washing kit equipped with a flexible washboard and hundreds of internal nodules – it requires only 2-4 litres of water and a bit of washing liquid to have your clothes cleaned in under 3 minutes. When not in use, it doubles as a dry-bag. Anti-odour sanitiser: Ever wondered if there was a way to save your stinky shoes or backpack after a long trip in the woods? Bacteria, mold, and fungus are the main culprits. The UV Pro Shoe Sanitizer works on the same premise as a medical device sanitation in that it uses UV-C radiation to kill microorganisms that cause odour. Simply drop the device in your shoes or bag for 10-20 minutes – batteries are rechargeable from any USB port.


A far-flung archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores – part of Portugal – comprises 9 islands that are divided into three geographical groups: the Eastern Group, comprising Santa Maria and São Miguel; the Central Group, including Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial; and the Western Group, composed by Corvo and Flores.

PORTUGAL’S AZORES ISLANDS THE AZORES

The Azores lie on the nexus of three tectonic plates, and are in fact the exposed tips of underwater mountains. The landscape here is of volcanic origin, and is a world of mud pools, fumaroles, geysers, and scalding springs, complemented by blue lakes ringed by forests, caverns formed from molten rock, and green pastures carpeting caldera slopes. Remotely located in the middle of the Atlantic, the weather can be very unstable.

This makes it an incredible place to enjoy nature, and hiking trails take you past volcanic craters, scenic ridgelines, and plenty of gorgeous villages and vineyards. The waters surrounding the archipelago are a magnet for wildlife – from migrating whales to a kaleidoscope of other marine life like gigantic rays, turtles, tuna, barracuda, and more. Add to this a landscape of underwater cliffs, caves formed from lava tubes, and a number of shipwrecks.

GETTING THERE

The remote archipelago contains two UNESCO sites (the vineyards of Pico and the old town of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira), and three biospheres, bolstered by a network of natural parks and marine reserves. The built environment covers only 5% of the land, making the rest a patchwork of protected areas.

In addition, there are also activities like canyoning, horseback-riding, surfing, paragliding, and whale-watching on offer. Despite its distance from mainland Europe, prices for accommodation (and other amenities) are on par with Portugal, which means it’s excellent value for money.

Flying between the three groups of islands is the best way to get around; Azores Airlines runs daily flights to all islands within the archipelago. Alternatively, if you’re planning to explore only the Central Group of islands, you can hop on ferries to get between São Jorge, Pico and Faial.

There are direct flights to the islands of São Miguel and Terceira from numerous destinations in Europe – the shortest connections are from Portugal (Lisbon, Porto) and Spain (Barcelona, Madrid). Azores Airlines and TAP Portugal offer regular flights to the Azores, in addition to budget carriers like Ryanair, TUIfly, and Primera Air.

TRAVEL BETWEEN THE ISLANDS


CENTRAL GROUP

The Central Group of islands comprise Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Faial and Pico, the second-largest island in the archipelago. Pico Its most defining feature is the Montanha do Pico (2,351m), a perfectly symmetrical volcano cone that is often wreathed in mist. You can hike to the top (7 hours return) or take the Lagoa do Capitão (one of 12 official hiking trails) for stunning views of it. Pico is also home to a UNESCO-listed vineyard that dates back to the 15th century. This breathtaking manmade landscape of currais (stone walls) is laid out in a grid near the rocky shore to protect the grapes – which uniquely grow on the black basalt rock – from harsh winds and seawater. The 10.5km Caminhos de Santa Luzia takes you along centenarian paths flanked by stone walls through the vineyards. You can descend into Gruta das Torres, one of the world’s longest lava tubes at 5km, to inspect rare stalagmites of lava, as well as bizarre forms resembling benches, balls and rope. While whale watching can be done all around the Azores, Pico is located close

to whale migration routes, making it – and the nearby island of Faial – a great place for whale watching excursions. The best season is between April and October. Sperm whales, blue whales, and dolphins can be spotted. Faial Faial is known for its diving and whale-watching scene, but it’s also a haven for yachtsmen who stop here during their Atlantic journeys. On land, you can hike to the the Capelinhos volcano – it last erupted in 1958, creating an eerily beautiful landscape resembling the surface of the moon. Terceira Home to the Azores’ oldest city, the UNESCO-listed Angra do Heroísmo with its formidable 16th-century fortress and a pristine Renaissance old town, the island is reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales with its patchwork of dry-stone walls hemming in herds of cows. The volcanic massif of Serra de Santa Bárbara looms to the west, and a hydrangea-lined road leads to a viewpoint where you can see the Santa Barbara Caldeira. In the centre of the island is Algar do Carvão, a 90m-deep volcanic chimney featuring caverns full of stalactites and stalagmites 100m deep which lead to a subterranean lake. Biscoitos has unique lava formations, and is home to postage-stamp vineyards and natural ocean pools sheltered from the crashing Atlantic. São Jorge One of the most dramatic

islands in the Azores, São Jorge is a land of big mountains, deep ravines, white cliffs, and distinctive fajãs (coastal plains formed by lava flows or landslides). This 54km-long finger of an island is a hiker’s paradise with its long spine of peaks peppered with lush craters. There are plenty of trails on offer, including the 10km Fajã dos Vimes, which leads down from wooded hillsides through vineyards and villages to the ocean. It’s an outdoor adventure haven, with mountain biking, canyoning (with some of the toughest routes in the Azores), canoeing, and spelunking on the cards.

Graciosa Graciosa’s violent volcanic past is evident when you take the plunge down into the depths of Furna do Enxofre, an enormous lava cave with a magnificent vaulted ceiling 50m high (made up of cross-sections of volcanic prisms) and an underground sulphurous lake – it’s only accessible via a vertigo-inducing 80-year-old stone spiral staircase.


WESTERN GROUP

Far flung in the western Azores are the islands of Corvo and Flores. Flores Flores is a biosphere reserve with a profusion of lagoons, waterfalls and blue crater lakes. You can explore the island along the four official hiking trails, or tackle one of the many canyoning sites. Underwater, Flores’ dive spots are characterised by large rock formations with caves, with highlights including big rays and large groupers. One of the most beautiful sites is Poco da Alagoinha near the Fajãzinha, where 20 waterfalls spill down verdant cliff faces in wispy threads. Another natural icon is the fluted basalt columns of Rocha dos Bordões, carved into an imposing hill. Corvo Small and remote, Corvo is the tip of a marine volcano with the caldera lake in the middle. There is a circular hike along the crater rim for impressive views over the entire island and the caldera, parts of which are cultivated.

One of the most active volcanoes on the island is located in Furnas, where a placid crater lake contrasts with spluttering caldeiras (hot springs) and smoking fumaroles.

São Miguel is a hot spring haven. At Furnas, you can head to Poça Dona Beija which is a set of thermal pools and waterfalls in the village, or float in brackish thermal waters at the Terra Nostra estate which is also a botanical garden. If you’re planning a hike to the stunning caldera lake of Lagoa do Fogo, you can enjoy mineral-enriched baths at nearby Caldeira Velha, a warm iron-rich pool at the base of the waterfall surrounded by a wild forest. The Termas da Ferraria is tucked below a cliff where you can enjoy the hot spring in the wild surf of the Atlantic.

EASTERN GROUP

This group comprises Santa Maria and São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores. São Miguel This island packs in the best bits of the Azores – starting with the capital, Ponta Delgada, with its mosaic cobbled streets and pretty marina.

Perhaps the most dramatic vista of the island is the twin crater lakes of Setes Cidades – one is blue, and the other green. There is a 2-hour hike from the Vista da Rei viewpoint down to the caldera’s floor. Another interesting hike is one that snakes around the tea plan-

tations of Gorreana (Europe’s only tea plantation which remains unchanged since 1883), boasting gorgeous views. Paragliding is gaining popularity here, where you can soar over the volcanic craters of Furnas and Sete Cidades. Along the coast, you can catch the surf of the wild Atlantic. Underwater, diving excursions take you to caves, shipwrecks, rocky shores and clear waters rich in marine life. Santa Maria This the most southerly and sunniest island in the Azores, and is primarily known for its white sand beaches, including the amphitheatre-shaped bay of São Lourenço where terraced vineyards tumble down the hillside to the Atlantic, as well as Praia Formosa which is known for surfing. Beyond the beach lie villages with limewashed houses topped with distinctive cylindrical chimneys. Santa Maria was the first island of the Azores to be settled, and Christopher Columbus made a pit stop here on his return journey from the New World in 1493. The rugged area in the east of the island is characterised by lush vegetation, and is home to the Pico Alto mountain (590m) where a 14km trail to Anjos takes you from lush greenery – and some amazing panoramic views – to the rust-red landscape of the Barreiro da Faneca desert. As the oldest island in the archipelago, you can see signs of its early volcanic activity at Pedreira do Campo, where basalt columns of over 100m house within them numerous fossils of marine organisms. At Ribeira de Maloás, volcanic activity has shaped impressive waterfalls resulting from the contact of lava flow and the sea.


SUNSET AT GILI LAWA ISLAND, KOMODO: Komodo Island may be famous for its dragons, but nearby Gili Lawa Island (the main entrance to Komodo National Park) is an uninhabited island that’s famous for its sunsets. You can trek to the top to get great views of the island.

About Andrew JK Tan, photographer “I am a very serious hobbyist and also a freelance photographer. I have been involved in photography for over 30 years now. I especially love shooting nature, sports, wildlife, landscapes, travel, portraiture and macro photography. In 2012 I founded a photography group called MENTORGRAPHIANS as a means of “giving back” to the photographic community by mentoring passionate and budding photographers.”

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Andrew JK Tan / Mentorgraphy

GUILIN, CHINA: Guilin is known for its dramatic landscape of limestone karst hills. Fishermen ply these waters, using trained cormorants as a traditional fishing method – they’ve been doing this since 960AD.


MT. BROMO, INDONESIA: An active volcano, Bromo sits within the massive Tengger caldera surrounded by a sea of sand. Sunrise yields an ethereal landscape, when its smoky crater and ridged cones are bathed in an orange glow.

SELJALANDSFOSS, ICELAND: This powerful waterfall cascades into a pretty meadow, but is best known for the walking path that runs behind the curtain of water from where you can enjoy a unique viewpoint.


PROBOSCIS MONKEYS, BORNEO: Endemic to the island of Borneo, the leaf-eating proboscis monkey is identified by its large nose. The male monkeys are much larger and heavier than females, and infants are born with black fur and a vivid blue face.

MASHATU GAME RESERVE, BOTSWANA: The Game Reserve is a privately-owned wilderness of savannah, riverine forests, marshland, open plains and sandstone cliffs. In addition to cheetahs, the park is also home to zebra, giraffe, eland, impala, steenbok and the breeding herds of elephants.

GRUBUG CAVE, JOGJAKARTA, INDONESIA: The Gunung Kidul region is characterised by limestone hills and vast swathes of karst structures, including Jomblang Cave and Grubug Cave. Both are connected by a 300m corridor adorned with crystal stones, stalactites and stalagmites.


Edition 08

Downhill MTB

Adventure Sports Supplement


Downhill MTB Downhill MTB is one of today’s fastest-growing sports. Among non-riders, it’s attracted a global fan base as it’s easy to understand the sport (simply put, the fastest rider down the hill wins), and consequently, exciting to watch.

Tips provided by FS Patrol Funn: Harry Molloy (England, right), Veronika Widmann (Italy, centre) and Bryn Dickerson (NZ, left). Veronika is an ex Italian National champion with an IXS series title. Bryn is the 2016 Oceania Champ and IXS Cup winner. Harry is a seasoned World Cup rider and manager of the team.

choice amongst gravity lovers to race these capable bikes that can put the power down like beasts, however, when the going gets rough, the DH bike is still the weapon of choice for the job. With more travel, a slacker head angle, lower bottom bracket and a longer wheel base, these bikes allow us to almost break the laws of physics and race to our full potential. Setting up your bike for speed is commonly thought to make it as comfortable as possible for the rider. Racers are increasingly using a harder set-up when it comes to suspension to ‘glide’ across the top of the rough terrain. Without enough speed or just a fraction off line, you’ll be bucked around as if the bike has come alive. This setup is not just for the lovers of speed, but the racers that will sacrifice all for just a fraction of a second.

For amateur riders, it’s fun to do. It’s all about short bursts of explosive power, and while it requires a high level of skill to excel, any reasonably good mountain bike (MTB) rider could start to get into it. The skill set is largely the same as MTB in general, except with a lot more emphasis on cornering tight switchbacks, confidently riding skinnies (eg. man-made wooden features), successfully navigating over steep drop-offs without losing pace or crashing. Apart from the adrenaline and added speed, there’s basically none of the tedious, long uphills to pedal – it’s all about maintaining control as you careen downhill at the maximum, controllable speed. Unsurprisingly, crashes are common. Among beginner/intermediate riders, the most common injuries tend to be broken collarbones and wrists – from bad falls with most avid riders probably having broken something at least once. For pro riders, making it to the World

Cup isn’t easy – in addition to skills, you will also be looking at at least S$20–40k to fund yourself around the World Cup circuit. Picking the right bike for the race isn’t always a simple decision. With the rapid development of Enduro bikes in the last few years, it has been a common

Today, bikes come equipped with many adjustments to fine tune and tailor geometry. Speed generally comes easier with a slacker and longer ride, but with the tight and twisty demands of so many tracks, the optimal setting can change at every event. From beginners to pros, finding the sweet spot can be hard and even with the computers and engineers, set-up is also based on a rider’s individual preferences.


Issue 08: Downhill MTB

The Training For professionals, downhill is highly- competitive and lucrative across UCI’s annual MTB World Cup series. While mastering downhill riding’s core skill set can take years, it’s not all just about technique. Gravity obviously helps, but even amateur riders need to train for very specific types of explosive power in their legs and core. If we have a closer look at Downhill racing, what are the important abilities

involved? Probably the skill to ride a bike is the fundamental thing to be a good racer. But there’s more... the mental strength to put together the fastest run with the least mistakes, and at the same time, the physical ability to do it. To not only hold on for these 5 minutes, but to squeeze everything from your body, reach your limit and still concentrate well enough to achieve the run of your life. It means you have to be more than fit.

But what does the training programme of a professional downhill athlete look like? What’s the difference between a normal hobby rider and how are you able to put the training for bike skills, mental strength, and physical conditioning together in one programme? For the majority of hobby-racers, keeping fit by general exercise and enjoying sports sets you in good stead. However, for professional athletes this has become an art, especially during the off season winter preparation in the gym. This is the way that the body begins its transformation to be fit for a downhill racer. The optimal body composition is a fine balance. You don’t want to grow muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger and at the same time, there’s no need for the ability to pedal hours up the side of a mountain like a road rider. What you need is explosive strength in your race but before that, you need the right conditioning.

To start, you need to build your strength with different but specific exercises for 6 to 8 weeks. For example, bench press and squats both closely relate to cycling and engage large muscle groups. After this intense but basic training it’s necessary to build up your explosive strength which is one of the most important abilities of a Downhill racer. Achieve this with sprints from 10 to 30 seconds or doing the same exercises as before with less weight but an explosive movement.

Core Training Core strength – the body parts literally connecting your lungs and torso – are fundamental for every exercise and doubles up as protection from injuries when you crash. Core strength is the most basic goal in a strong, intense and varied training programme.

From here you can progress the exercise even further and combine it in a circuit with balance or reaction aspects. These are very important abilities in racing a bike. For example, a weekly training regimes at the pro level between races, would be 10 hours of riding, 4x 1-hour gym sessions, and possibly topping up with cardio as needed.

General fitness and skill training can be combined. Whether it is short interval sprints on a BMX track or a long cross country/Enduro ride, your skillset will be broadened. Learning how to ride a BMX-bike, where your position on the bike is crucial and your technique precise, teaches you how to make the most of every simple jump or pump. Apply these skills to the downhill bike and you’ll be faster with more confidence.


MAYAN BIOSPHERE A thin isthmus of land connecting the North America continent to South America, the belt of countries comprising Central America may not look like much on a map, but their rainforests teem with all manner of wildlife, housed within mist-shrouded volcanoes, cloud forests, and pristine sandy beaches. This is a great region to catch a glimpse of classic Central American wildlife like sloths, pumas, tapirs and anteaters, as well as hundreds of species of colourful birds like the exotic quetzal. The region is also peppered with extensive ruins of ancient Mayan civilisations.

BELIZE WILDLIFE WATCHING

Belize, the only country in the region with English as its official language. It may be small, but there’s plenty to do in and out of the water.

DIVING & SNORKELLING

The Belize Barrier Reef is the largest and most intact reef system in the Northern Hemisphere, with scuba diving opportunities that include walls, pinnacles, reef flats, as well as caves and tunnels; the most famous is Great Blue Hole, a large sinkhole popular with divers. At the Hol Chan Marine Reserve you can swim with large numbers of nurse sharks and stingrays.

Inland, the network of national parks offer a safe haven for wildlife, from cutter ants to the Baird’s tapir (the national animal), as well as the keel-billed toucan (the national bird). Within the parks, you can opt for hiking excursions, ziplines, and horseback-riding, and try to spot its variety of monkeys, peccaries, coatimundis, and several species of wild cats, along with over 500 species of birds. Some of the best places in the world to spot jaguars are the Rio Bravo Conservation Area (home to La Milpa, one of Belize’s largest Mayan sites) and Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the world’s only jaguar sanctuary. Belize is also riddled with ancient cave systems. The Cayo district is where you can tube or canoe through dark river systems – a highlight is the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave which houses preclassical Mayan culture featuring skeletal remains of about 14 human sacrifices.

GUATEMALA Guatemala offers some superb natural scenery, comprising lush canyons, dramatic volcanoes and their caldera lakes, underground cave systems, swimming holes, and rainforests lined with stunning trekking routes.

WILDLIFE WATCHING

There are plenty of scenic parks where wildlife spotting is secondary. Characterised by numerous caves you can explore, the cloud forest of the Verapaces is home to the Biotopo de Quetzal, where hiking routes cover the endangered habitat of the quetzal, Guatemala’s national bird. Within the same region is the iconic Semuc Champey, a collection of tiered turquoise pools atop a limestone bridge set within the deep jungle which is home to several monkey species. The Laguna Lachuá National Park houses a turquoise karstic lake

surrounded by a forest housing half of all mammals in the country. In the lush canyons of the Río Dulce, you can spot wildlife – from birds to manatees – on kayak trips. The Petén region in the north is a veritable Mayan paradise, home to the famous ruins at Tikal; and as the lung of the region, it’s also a biodiverse area divided into several national parks. Further south of the country is Lago de Atitlán, a lake with three submerged volcanoes, popular for kayaking trips to its Mayan villages.


CENTRAL AMERICA EL SALVADOR WILDLIFE

El Salvador is a world-class surfing destination, as well as a hotbed of Mayan culture surrounded by lush forests and volcanoes.

VOLCANO HIKING

El Salvador teems with birdlife, which can be best spotted at the four national parks. Parque Nacional Montecristo is a cloud forest with dozens of orchid species and numerous rare birds such as toucans, quetzals, and striped owls. Parque Nacional El Imposible offers an incredibly diverse terrain which host 275 bird species, a variety of butterflies and 100 mammal species.

El Boqueron National Park is nestled on the San Salvador volcano, where you can walk along the crater rim trail for views of the deep crater.

Jiquilisco Bay is the largest mangrove estuary in El Salvador; its numerous bays, canals, sandy beaches, islands, forests and freshwater lagoons are home to birds such as herons and seagulls, as well as Hawksbill turtles.

Parque Nacional Los Volcanes is home to three volcanoes, one of which is the iconic Santa Ana with a beautiful turquoise lake and views from the top of the two neighbouring volcanoes, Izalco and Cerro Verde.

HONDURAS Intrepid travellers will find that Honduras is a fascinating place with a lot to offer, from pristine dive sites to cloud forests and extensive Mayan ruins at Copán (which includes an acropolis and several temples).

DIVING & SNORKELLING

The Bay Islands are the country’s main attraction thanks to the clear waters that are part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Teeming with fish, coral, sponges, rays, sea turtles and even whale sharks, spectacular diving and snorkelling draw visitors to

the three islands of Roatán, Utila and Guanaja.

WILDLIFE WATCHING

Located near San Pedro Sula, the Cusuco National Park is home to classic Central American wildlife like jaguars, peccaries, tropical birds like the quetzal, as well as golden-coloured jewel scarabs and a huge variety of amphibians and reptiles. It’s not a wellknown park, but there are guided tours.

beaches are home to plenty of wildlife, in addition to an archaeological site with petroglyphs. Excursions often include cultural tours with indigenous communities.

At Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, the varied terrain of rainforests and

NICARAGUA Nicaragua boasts a landscape of volcanoes and lakes, cloud forests, surf beaches, and coffee country, in addition to colonial cities like Granada and León.

crater with several trails through the surrounding reserve), San Cristobal (the highest active volcano in Nicaragua at 1,725m), and the smoking Conception which overlooks Granada and Lake Nicaragua.

WILDLIFE WATCHING

VOLCANO HIKING

A great variety of volcanoes line the country from north to south, some with smoking craters, while others are filled with tranquil crater lakes you can swim in. A number of them are open to hikers, including Masaya (a smoking

The Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve is a network of rivers flanked by virgin rainforest and is home to more species of trees, birds and insects than the whole of Europe. Home to everything from poison dart frogs to pumas and manatees, rainforest hikes, birdwatching, river kayaking and sport fishing (for huge local tarpon) can be explored with indigenous guides. You can also spot wildlife from boat trips (in a panga) along the Rio San Juan river. A good jumping off point for visiting coffee, tobacco and cattle farms in the area, Matagalpa is in Nicaragua’s central mountain region, an ideal place for hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife watching in the cloud forest.

21


CENTRAL AMERICA

COSTA RICA Costa Rica’s established tourism infrastructure means that you can spot wildlife in the cloud forests one day, hike an active volcano or zipline through the the forest canopy the next, and end by relaxing on a beach.

WILDLIFE WATCHING

With 27 national parks, hiking is the best way to explore these ecosystems. Some parks offer canopy tours, where you can either pull yourself along suspended cables to a series of treetop platforms, zipline across the jungle, or walk along suspension bridges. Sluiced

by plentiful rivers, you can also observe wildlife on boating trips. The Tortuguero Conservation Area is especially famous for sea turtle nesting, while the canals house manatees and otters, as well as tapir, puma, ocelots, jaguarundi and the three-toed sloth. The tiny Manuel Antonio National Park has beautiful beaches and hiking trails dotted with coves, and its forest is home to both two- and three-toed sloths, and a variety of monkeys (howler, squirrel and capuchin).

Costa Rica’s largest and most active volcanoes, where you can see smoking craters, explosive geysers, and rich flora and fauna. At Barra Honda National Park, the enormous limestone caves feature ancient formations and rare reptiles like the blind salamander.

Corcovado National Park, the last original tract of tropical rainforest in Central America, is home to Costa Rica’s largest scarlet macaw colony, along with tapirs, the giant anteater and the harpy eagle. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is renowned for its amphibians and reptiles, especially the Golden Toad (which disappeared in 1989). Poas Volcano National Park is home to thick forests, as well as one of

PANAMA As a natural bridge that connects North and South America, Panama is home to wildlife from both continents.

WILDLIFE WATCHING

The cloud forest of Boquete is an ideal base to explore the most famous trail in Panama: the Quetzal Trail. This 4-5 hour, one-way hike – crossing bridges and cloud forests – is ideal for spotting the rare Resplendent Quetzal with its incredible blue plume, along with other unique local species. For a challenge, you can climb Panama’s highest peak of Volcan Baru. At the base of this volcano are a number of thermal springs, where you can soak in the waters right next to the Caldera River.

A top birding site is the Pipeline Road, a well-maintained path through the rainforest of Soberanía National Park where you can spot up to 300 species in a single day, including falcons, hummingbirds, and aquatic birds, along with monkeys, sloths, frogs and capybaras. Darién province is not a place to be taken lightly (due to the presence of guerillas and traffickers), although the rich biome of Darién National Park contains many critically-endangered species, from the Bush Dog to the Central American Tapir, in addition to over 530 birds and undocumented wildlife.


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Located halfway between the North Pole and Norway, Svalbard (meaning ‘the cold coasts’) consists of numerous islands – the largest of which is Spitzbergen – that was settled in the last 200 years when mining and whaling drew settlers to this remote part of the world. The islands are home to almost 3,000 human inhabitants, over 2,000 of which live in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre and largest settlement of the islands. It’s also where you can get Arctic food, locally-brewed beer, and even Wifi connection. Despite its latitude, the the archipelago has a relatively mild climate, with average temperatures of -14°C (winter) to 6°C (summer) in Longyearbyen. This part of the Arctic is governed by the extremes with three main seasons: Polar Summer (mid May to end Sep), Northern Lights Winter (Oct to Feb) and Sunny Winter (Mar to mid May).

that cruise along towering sea cliffs, home to tens of thousands of raucous seabirds.

WILDLIFE SPOTTING OPTIONS

There are a number of options available for exploring wildlife in the area around Svalbard. Trips depart from Longyearbyen, with most land-based trips accompanied by guides armed with rifles (for polar bear protection). Boat expeditions The best way to spot most of the wildlife Svalbard has to offer is on wildlife cruises – possible only during summer when the pack ice breaks up. A number of options are available, ranging from day trips to multi-day expeditions, offering opportunities to catch polar bears, walruses or seals perched on ice floes. You may also catch a blue whale or a humpback whale as they play around the boats. Some of these cruises also include time spent on the ground to be closer to wildlife like walruses, while others have inflatable Zodiac boats

NORWAY’S SVALBARD ISLANDS

Dog sledging (sledding) Dog sledging is normally done during winter/spring (Nov-May) when there is snow cover. This is a good time to encounter the Northern Lights and a crystal-clear sky full of stars, in addition to some wildlife like foxes and reindeer. Visitors are expected to drive their own sleds – following the lead sled dogs and guide – and will be instructed on how to handle one (tethered to up to a dozen excited dogs), with two people per sled. It’s relatively easy to drive a sled – as the dogs are raring to follow the pack leader, all you have to do is handle the brakes. It’s also possible to sled outside the winter season, although the sleds will be equipped with wheels. Snowmobiling Everyone in Svalbard drives snowmobiles – and with an Arctic landscape covered with snow, a snowmobile safari can take you to the east coast for amazing sights like icebergs frozen in the sea ice, old trappers’ huts, glacier termini and Arctic animal life. Other snowmobile trips take you to the Russian settlement of Barentsburg or the ghost town of Pyramiden. If you visit Svalbard during the Polar Night, you can go on an exotic Northern Lights chase by snowmobile.

Kayaking & Hiking During summer, you can also go kayaking and/or hiking. A hiking trip to Fuglefjella takes you to cliffs that are home to nesting seabirds including the little auk, guillemots, fulmars and the rare Svalbard Ptarmigan. Some hikes will be accompanied by pack dogs. Kayaking trips can bring you close to nesting bird colonies, and you may share a beach with walruses, arctic foxes, and reindeer or even see whales (like mink or beluga) while in the water.


WILDLIFE IN SVALBARD Historically, both whaling and trapping have been major activities in the archipelago, but now much of Svalbard is protected and consists of several nature reserves, national parks, bird sanctuaries and even a geotopical protected area. No matter where you go, there’s a high chance of spotting wildlife.

Polar Bear The highlight of any Svalbard trip is the sighting of a polar bear. These Kings of the Arctic scour the icy tundra looking for their favourite food source: bearded seals. As polar bears are protected by law, there are no polar bear safaris; however, as there are about 3,000 of these bears inhabiting the Svalbard area (more than human inhabitants), an encounter with one can be likely. The polar bear spotting season is between July and August when the waters are navigable by boat and you may see the bears hunting on the pack ice.

Walrus Growing between 3-4m in length and weighing in at 1,500kg, these mollusc eaters can be spotted hauling themselves up onto shores or ice using their large canine teeth. Walruses inhabit shallow coastal waters. The population is estimated to be around 2,000 individuals, and one of the most visited colonies close to Longyearbyen is on “Prince Karl’s Forland”. Ringed Seal Characterised by circular markings on its body, the Ringed Seal is relatively small compared to the Bearded Seal, and occurs almost everywhere in the Arctic, and can be spotted near drift ice or fjord ice, where they can stay in quite large numbers. They moult in June and

July, and retreat to open waters near the ice edge. Ringed seals often end up as meals for polar bears, and occasionally walruses and Greenland sharks. Bearded Seal The second largest seal in the Arctic, Bearded seals weigh up to 300kg (with the females slightly larger) and have a characteristic large body, small head, and noticeable whiskers. They can sometimes be spotted year round in Svalbard waters – they will usually be on ice floes or swimming in the water, and hardly ever on land – as they feed on most shellfish found in the area. They are (unfortunately) usually devoured by polar bears, walruses, and Greenland sharks.

Reindeer A relatively easy creature to spot is the endemic Svalbard reindeer, which can even be seen in downtown Longyearbyen in small herds of 3-5 individuals during summer when they feed on the lowland plateaus. It’s a relatively small reindeer species – the males grow their fuzzy antlers between April and July before shedding their velvet in August, while the females’ antlers grow in June and maintain throughout the year.

Arctic Fox With their short snout, short ears and body size close to the red fox, the Arctic fox has a winter coat (white) and a thinner summer coat (brown/ grey with hints of white). Arctic foxes have 2 distinct colour morphs (white and blue), with most in Svalbard possessing the white coat. They can be spotted almost anywhere in Svalbard, and can be seen stalking smaller rodents in inland areas, or even feasting on marine creatures at sea.

GETTING THERE

The fastest way to Svalbard is by plane, with scheduled daily flights most of the year from Oslo (3 hours) and Tromsø (2 hours) to Longyearbyen. Getting around the small town of Longyearbyen is easy, as there are few roads. Beyond that, transport is by snowmobile (winter) or boat (summer).


Ukraine is Europe’s largest country, and thanks to its size, its diversity is largely undiscovered. One of Europe’s last travel frontiers, it’s a nation rich in colourful tradition combined with surprising cities and outdoor offerings. Its diverse landscape encompasses the mountainous Carpathians where mountain biking and hiking are key activities, the biodiverse Danube Delta where you can go bird watching, and the coastline along the Black Sea near Odesa. There are also vineyards along the southern coast.

UKRAINE’S ODESA

Nowadays, it is an art centre and a hub for youth cultural events. Another icon of the city is the Potemkin Stairs, built in the 19th century to give the city direct access to the harbour in 192 steps.

ODESA

The energetic city of Odesa is the largest along the Black Sea on the southern coast. Situated on rolling green hills overlooking the main harbour, immigrants from all over Europe were invited to make their fortune here when Odesa was founded in the late 18th century. Odesa was originally meant to serve a ‘Window to Europe’, hence its architecture bears little resemblance to grey communist house blocks, and was largely influenced by French and Italian styles, where neoclassical pastel buildings line a geometric grid of leafy streets. Having weathered the tumultuous post-USSR period, Odesa is booming again, attracting visitors – both local and foreign – to its sandy beaches and city attractions. Of the architectural gems, the Vorontsov Palace was built in 1827 on the site of a Turkish fortress and later was the residence of a famous statesman.

Ukraine is the perfect place to get acquainted with composers like Tchaikovsky, and the best place to appreciate the culture is at the 19th-century Odesa National Opera and Ballet Theatre, which is influenced by French and Italian Baroque styles. Odesa’s city centre, Derybasivska Street, is a pedestrian street surrounded by ancient landmarks, shops, restaurants, and cafés that serve some of Eastern Europe’s best coffee. Odesa is also home to Europe’s largest outdoor bazaar at the “seven-kilometre market”, a vast Ukrainian market made up of alleys formed by stacked containers, with its own rules, codes and languages (from Chinese to French and Farsi). It’s so large, it operates as a law unto itself, with stallholders from all over the world dealing in all manner of goods. Another major attraction in Odesa actually lies under the city: the world’s largest network of underground catacombs. Stretching over 2,500km (and counting) the Odesa Catacombs are long and very dark, with a small portion open as an museum. First used in the 19th century as underground quarries,

they were used as a labyrinth of hiding places by local partisans during WWII, and were later used by smugglers. You can explore the tunnels on organised tours. With Odesa as a base, it’s easy to explore the surroundings, whether it’s the beaches of the Black Sea, vineyards, or a wetland park. You can also visit the 13th century Akkerman Fortress in Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky. Despite being attacked many times in the past, the Akkerman Fortress is considered the best preserved medieval fortification in Ukraine. Wander along the underground labyrinths, or enjoy the view of the firth from one of the 34 towers.


BEACHES

Odesa is a stone’s throw away from several beaches where you can relax, partake in water sports, or party. The most convenient to access is Lanzheron and is therefore the most crowded, however it does spread itself across several beaches. Arkadia is the largest, most developed and the most expensive beach in Odesa with lots of cafes, restaurants and kiosks.

Otrada Beach is the only beach accessible via cable car, where you can enjoy the coastal views from the ride. The beach consists of numerous smaller beaches.

LOWER DNIESTER DELTA NATIONAL PARK

The park is located in a wetland of international importance, and is home to many endangered species. During water excursions, you can see birds nesting in the wetlands, including pelicans, swans, big and small cormorants, storks, wading ducks, and even the glossy ibis (plegadis falcinellus), which is on the Red List of Threatened Species. There are 4 water routes within the park, including the “Kingdom of Birds”,

“Shiny Ibis”, “Dniester Amazonia”, “Old Turunchuk”, as well as on Gontarenko Island. The Dniester Delta is also the only area in Europe where the European mink thrives, and the species has become a symbol of the park. One of the most picturesque times to visit is during the bloom of White Water Lilies on White Lake, when the water’s surface resembles a carpet of white petals. In addition, there are also thickets of rare plants like the Fringed Water Lily (nymphoides peltata) and one of Europe’s largest plantations of Yellow Water Lilies (nuthar lutea).

GETTING THERE

While there are no direct flights to Ukraine, you can connect via Istanbul or Warsaw to Odesa. Alternatively, you can connect to Kyiv (the capital) via cities like Dubai, Doha, and Warsaw.

WINES

Ukraine has been making wine since the 4th century BC, mainly along the southern coast of Crimea, and gradually expanded to northern parts of the country. The climate and terrain surrounding Odesa is ideal for winemaking, making the region one of the capitals of Ukrainian winemaking. Wine tours are the best way to experience the popular vineyards of southern Ukraine, and autumn is the best season for touring local wineries. In addition to red- and white-wine grape varietals like Chardonnay and Merlot, wines here are also made with regional grapes like Telti-Kuruk, Rkatsiteli, and Saperavi. After suffering a blow from Russian aggression in Crimea (where many vineyards are) in 2014, Ukraine’s wine industry is enjoying a revival and branching out into more sophisticated wines – gone are the sweet wines and in their place are sophisticated dry wines (both red and white) characteristic of European flavours.

The main winery area in Odesa is in the nearby town of Shabo, home of the Shabo Wine Culture Center where you can explore the vineyards, underground wine storage, and their 200-year-old Royal and Sherry Cellars, in addition to tasting several kinds of wines. Around the region, you can visit a number of wineries where you can tour their winemaking facilities, vineyards,

and sample traditional dishes with local wine. These include Kolonist and Koblevo, both not far from Odesa. Odesa also produces sparkling wine at the Odesa Sparkling Wine Factory which was established in 1899; you can tour the historic building, learn about the history of sparkling wine, and have a sample their products.


Situated at the crossroads of Austria, Switzerland, the region of South Tyrol is situated in the northernmost point in Italy – as such, it has trilingual road signs (Italian, German and Ladin) – but most locals speak German as their native tongue. This mountainous area is a big draw for climbers, mountaineers, and skiers, especially when it comes to the area’s most famous landscape: the Dolomites, birthplace of via ferrata. With an ever-changing landscape depending on the season, the lush fertile valleys are dotted with apple orchards and vineyards, as well as hundreds of medieval castles and churches. With over 20,000kms of well-marked hiking trails, 1,200kms of ski trails and hundreds of biking trails and climbing routes, there’s no shortage of things to do, whether you’re a hiker, climber, biker or skier.

THE DOLOMITES AND BEYOND

THE DOLOMITES Most travellers come to this region to explore the infamous Dolomite range – a formidable collection of sharp, fingers of grey rock protruding from the valleys up to 3,000m high. Once a fierce battleground in WWI, troops invented a series of vertical paths comprised of iron hooks and stairs (the ‘via ferrata’ we know today) to get behind enemy lines. Today, it is a mecca for adventurers, who come here to hike, climb, ski, and tackle the famous via ferrata routes. Throughout the mountain range, mountain huts and WWI relics, like mountain trenches and tunnels, add to the charm. The gateway to this region is the holiday town of Val Gardena, located just north of Bolzano. A number of long distance footpaths – labelled from 1 to 8 – traverse the

Dolomites. These ‘Alta Vie’ (high paths) require at least a week to complete, with food and accommodations served by the numerous mountain huts that link these paths.

The eastern Dolomites, characterised by the Sella Massif, has many via ferrata routes that range from easy (mainly scrambling) to difficult (requiring experience) climbs.

A majority of visitors come to climb the via ferrata routes, as the Dolomites has not only the most number of routes in the world, but also the most interesting ones in terms of scenery and history.

A mountain guide is required to tackle the Dolomites, and you can hire one from the Association of South Tyrolean Mountain Guides in Bolzano.


AROUND BOLZANO The hills surrounding Bolzano are excellent for walks and hikes, and there are plenty of themed walks to choose from. The hills above the city are crowned with pathways bordered by Mediterranean vegetation, interspersed with plots of apple orchards and vineyards.

Walkers can also participate in Törggelen – an autumn tradition along the “wine road” (Weinstraße) that involves long walks from farmhouse to farmhouse, tasting new wine and local delicacies.

Situated above Bolzano is the high plateau of Renon (Ritten) with its 17 villages and picturesque vineyards that spread all the way to the Alpine highlands; not surprisingly, it’s an area famous for its summer retreats. The 2-hour long Ritten Theme Walkway traverses the Renon plateau, giving walkers an insight into the characteristics of the high plateau, from fascinating earth pyramids to the old Emperor roads. This scenic walk is accessible from the village of Soprabolzano (Oberbozen), which can be reached by cable car or bus from Bolzano, or via the historic Railway Renon (established in 1907) from Piazza Walther in Bolzano directly to the plateau with an elevation gain of 1,000m.

Stretching about 80km long, Valle Isarco (Eisacktal Valley) is one of the main valleys of South Tyrol linking Bolzano and Bressanone, and is lined with many picturesque side valleys. Due to its pre-Mediterranean climate, the area has a centuries-old tradition of chestnut harvesting, as well as an fruit farming and viticulture. Among the natural highlights are apples blossoming in spring on the high plateau of Naz-Sciaves, the colourful chestnut trees which line the chestnut trail of Velturno, and the vineyards around the medieval city of Bressanone.

One of the highlights of Renon are the earth pyramids – soil erosions resem-

bling mud spikes that protrude from the forest, creating a geological feature that is unique in Europe. It’s hard to tell how long the formation of a full-blown earth pyramid actually takes, although it’s estimated that they’re at least 25,000 years old. The Emperor roads are forest paths characterised by huge stone slabs, created when the original settlers (the Rhaetians) moved to this area, and over the years has become the passage for over 60 Imperial processions to and from Rome.

The valley is also known as the ‘valley of trails’ and an interesting one to tackle is the Keschtnweg (Chestnut Trail) which connects Bolzano to Bressanone across Valle Isarco and up to Renon mountain above Bolzano, and into the valley as far as Castle Roncolo (Runkelstein). The route passes many traditional mountain inns and old, sweet chestnut groves along the 60km trail; the trail can be hiked in individual sections ranging from 2-4 hours long. The best time to hike is in autumn during harvest (and Törggelen) season. Valle Isarco is also popular for cycling, with paths that are easily accessible from Bolzano.

BOLZANO/BOZEN The best place to base yourself is in the Italian city of Bolzano (or Bozen in German), which is also the capital of South Tyrol. At 265m above sea level and surrounded by mountains, the city has an Italian-Austrian character, enhanced by its narrow cobblestone streets, Habsburg-era churches and bilingual signages. Known as the “Gateway to the Dolomites”, it’s located along one of the most important routes running from the

Mediterranean to the North Sea, it is an ideal base for an exploration of the South Tyrol region. Bolzano is also home of the renowned mountaineer Rheinhold Messner who’s conquered all seven summits. He’s since built 5 Mountain Museums scattered around South Tyrol – the closest to Bolzano is in Firmian, set dramatically within the ruins of Castle Sigmundskron.

GETTING THERE

Bolzano is well-served by rail, as it is at the rail crossroads between southern and central Europe. There are regular train connections between Bolzano and Milan, Rome and Venice, as well as Germany and Austria. Short flights also connect Rome to its local airport.


SNAPSHOT:

HAWAI’I

O’AHU The heart of Hawai’i is home to the majority of the state’s diverse population. Steeped in history, it’s home to Pearl Harbor. North Shore: Stretching 7kms, the beaches of the North Shore are known for their legendary towering waves. During peak winter months (Nov-Feb), it hosts the world’s premier surfing competitions and it’s the best time to see big wave surfing when waves swell up to 9m or more. In summer (May-Sep), the waves are gentler and better for beginners.

skyline just beyond Waikiki. The observation deck at the top offers panoramas of Waikiki and O’ahu’s south shore, and is accessible via a challenging trail that includes 175 steps and dark, underground tunnels and old military bunkers (flashlight required).

Diamond Head (Leahi): The iconic crater of Diamond Head State Monument (230m) defines the Honolulu

KAUA’I Home to several natural wonders, this “Garden Isle” is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs aged by time and the elements.

KAUA’I

O’AHU LĀNA’I

Napali Coast: The most stunning feature of Kaua’i’s North Shore, this 27km stretch of coastline is lined with jagged cliffs up over 900m tall, accented with lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and sea caves. You can hike or take an air or boat tour to view this breathtaking natural wonder.

Honolulu

The smallest inhabited island in Hawai’i, Lāna’i used to be known as the largest pineapple plantation in the world (thanks to Dole). These days, it’s known for its luxury resorts. Munro Trail: This 20.6km hiking and biking trail offers sweeping vistas among majestic Cook pine trees, ohia lehua, ironwood, and eucalyptus. The scenic lookout has views of all 6 Hawai’ian islands, and the trail takes you to the top of Lanaihale (House of Lāna’i), the island’s highest peak (1,030m). Kaiolohia: Also known as Shipwreck Beach, this windy, 13km stretch of beach has wrecked numerous ships along its shallow, rocky channel, including the rusted hull of a ghostly oil tanker from the 1940s.

Kokee State Park: Just north of Waimea Canyon, the park is draped in lush forest and wild flowers where you can view native plants and birds like the apapane and moa. The park offers over 70kms of Hawai’i’s finest hiking trails, some leading through forests with views of valleys opening up to the North Shore, others to views of Waimea Canyon, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” at 1,100km deep with its crested buttes, rugged crags and deep valley gorges.

MOLOKA’I

LĀNA’I


Characterised by its love of spam, shaved ice, surfing, ukulele, hula, and aloha shirts, Hawaii is a land of powder beaches, technicolour coral reefs, and active volcanoes beckoning adventurous spirits. Comprising six islands – Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lāna’i, Maui, and Island of Hawai’i (or Big Island) – each has its own distinct personality, adventures, activities, and sights.

MOLOKA’I Known as the “Friendly Isle”, it’s home to the highest sea cliffs in the world and the longest continuous fringing reef.

MAUI Known as “the Valley Isle”, it’s famous for its beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, and views of migrating humpback whales in winter. Iao Valley State Park: The 16km-long park is home to towering emerald peaks jutting from fog-shrouded forests and burbling streams. The Iao Needle (366m), green-mantled rock outcropping, is one of Maui’s most iconic sights. There are easy hikes on paved trails with ridge-top lookouts within the park.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park: The historic site preserves a former leper colony situated on the Kalaupapa Peninsula, accessible only via a scenic mule ride (or hiking tour) which takes you along a 4.6km-long trail that passes countless switchbacks. Along the way you’ll see the tallest sea cliffs in the world (up to 1,200m) of North Shore Pali. Halawa Valley: This deep, jagged valley is blessed with beautiful vistas and towering waterfalls, like the double-tiered Mooula Falls (76m). It’s one of the island’s most historic areas where ancient Polynesians were thought to have settled. The drive there takes you past Hawaiian Fishponds, Kumimi Beach, and Halawa Bay.

Haleakala National Park: The park’s landscape ranges from Mars-like red deserts and rock gardens to lush waterfalls and scenic vistas over the ocean, accessible via numerous hiking trails. The Haleakala Crater is huge a dormant volcanic crater that’s popular for sunrise and sunsets. Not far away is Hana, a tiny village accessible by one of the most winding and beautiful roads in the world, with 600 white-knuckle turns and 50 bridges, clinging along the island’s northern coast for 84km.

ISLAND OF HAWAI’I (BIG ISLAND) ISLAND OF HAWAI’I

GETTING THERE

Scoot operates direct flights to Honolulu, with a brief layover in Osaka (total flight time is 15-18 hours).

The biggest island in the chain, you can travel through all but four of the world’s different climate zones there, ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: This massive park is home to two volcanoes – Maunaloa and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth which produces so much lava it can resurface a 30km-long, 2-lane highway per day. You can see the glow of the crater at night at the Jaggar Museum.

There are over 240kms of hiking trails in the park, through volcanic craters, deserts, and rainforests, in addition to petroglyphs, and a walk-in lava tube. The Crater Rim Drive circles the caldera, and Chain of Craters Road showcases lava flows into the ocean. Hamakua Heritage Corridor: This scenic drive is filled with gardens, waterfalls, small towns, and scenic coastal views. Highlights include Hawai’i’s most famous falls, the Akaka Falls (135m) and the triple-decker Umauma Falls, as well as Laupahoehoe Point with views of dramatic sea cliffs. The trip ends at Waipio Valley Lookout with views of a lush landscape, waterfalls and a black sand beach surrounded by soaring valley walls.


Photo by Ed Cox

CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK Nepal is justifiably famous for its Himalayan treks, but a whole other landscape awaits you south of the Pahad mountain region. The flat, hot, tropical Terai plain of southern Nepal is home to a vastly different ecosystem. A visit to Chitwan National Park yields an Asian safari experience like no other.

STORY BY Ed Cox

CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK Chitwan National Park is one of the best Bengal tiger habitats in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage site also features the endangered Indian rhinoceros and over 700 other species. The easiest way to get there is with a quick twenty-minute flight from Kathmandu to Bharatpur. Travellers seeking to add a safari to their Himalayan trek can also fly to Bharatpur from Pokhara. A half hour drive from Bharatpur brings you to Sauraha, a small village on the northern bank of East Rapti River. Along the drive you’ll pass dozens of similar farming communities where the Tharu people live. Sauraha sits on the eastern edge of Chitwan, Nepal’s oldest national park. Most of the town’s economy is tied to the national park, with dozens of hotels and lodges catering to visitors. Lodges exist in Sauraha to suit every budget, but the differences between them have more to do with amenities than the safari. Some lodges offer spa treatments, pools, and gourmet meals. Others have more basic offerings. Typical safari packages all follow similar pattern, offering half and full day tours that incorporate canoes, elephants, jeeps, and walking tours.

Photo by Ed Cox

ELEPHANT RIDE

Sitting in a wooden howdah atop an elephant is a jarring experience, but it does offer a different perspective of the world. Elephants lumber through Chitwan largely oblivious to the crocodiles, deer, and even rhinos around them. An elephant ride offers a chance to get close to other wildlife without the noise of a car engine to startle them. In recent years, travellers have raised concerns about the cruel treatment that elephants endure to render them docile

enough for tourist purposes. Some lodges will attempt to fit four adults on one elephant, a situation that is not comfortable for humans or pachyderm. Visitors who are concerned about humane treatment of elephants should conduct due diligence to see how their lodge treats these gentle giants. Or you can skip the elephant ride altogether. Several lodges, such as Tiger Tops, have partnered with elephant aid organisations to design more humane programmes. Other lodges, like Sapana Village Lodge, offer a chance to help care for elephants with their daily bath.


MOTORISED SAFARI

Most visitors opt for a motorised safari, riding in the back of specially configured jeeps for morning or evening animal drives. The stadium seats provide a good view in all directions. Jeeps are manned by a driver and a guide. Most tours start at the river’s edge but quickly spread out across the park, which covers more than 900 square kilometres. Adventurers will often have the road to themselves unless a rhino comes along. The rhino population has made a comeback in recent years, so spotting

these endangered mammals is easier than one might think. Adult males weigh more than 2,000kg and make your jeep seem small by comparison. Tigers and sloth bears are more solitary and harder to find, so vehicle safaris will spend several hours moving deeper into the jungle. They will also include a visit to Chitwan’s Gharial Breeding Centre, which is trying to increase the population of this critically endangered river crocodile, characterised by its toothy narrow snout topped with a bulbous protrusion.

WALKING SAFARI

Brave travellers can enter Chitwan on foot. Although no one is allowed to stay in the park overnight, lodges will arrange walking treks for those who want to explore this way. Even solo travellers will have company since every walking group is required to have two guides and check in with park rangers. This is a more intimate experience, albeit at a slower pace.

GETTING THERE

There are daily flights on Buddha Air and Yeti Air from Kathmandu to Bharatpur. Most lodges and hotels will arrange airport pickup. Photo by Ed Cox

RIVER CANOE

A morning canoe ride along the Rapti River and its tributaries provides a chance to see boars, kingfishers, gharials, and other animals up close. Birdwatchers will be busy since over 300 bird species call Chitwan home. Your guide will remind you to stay centered in the low-riding dugout canoe and not place your hands in the water. When you see the 4-metre long Indian crocodiles drifting past, you’ll understand why. After floating down river for 45 minutes, you can walk back to Sauraha through the jungle and see fresh tracks left by tigers.

VILLAGE VISIT

Visitors to Chitwan should also carve out time to visit a Tharu village and meet the locals. Many lodges employ local staff and can provide an opportunity for you enjoy a meal in a local home, shop for handicrafts, tour a village, or volunteer to help with the harvest. Sauraha’s Tharu Culture House also offers a nightly demonstration of traditional music and dance by local performers.


Arizona often conjures up images of ochre deserts, sandstone monoliths, and the breathtaking Grand Canyon (it is the Grand Canyon State after all). Northern Arizona undoubtedly houses the motherload of scenic nature, including the Grand Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs, and parts of the Glen Canyon. Add to that large swathes of protected lands belonging to various Native American tribes, with the largest group being the Navajo. Here, you can hike up to scenic overlooks at various points along the Grand Canyon or head down low into Antelope Canyon or simply enjoy the mysterious energy of Sedona; all accessible from Las Vegas or Flagstaff.

NORTHERN ARIZONA

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

One of nature’s most captivating creations, the Grand Canyon forms a colourful chasm more than 1.6km deep and over 440km long. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most visited location at Grand Canyon National Park where you can experience the Grand Canyon from close to two dozen viewpoints, each with their own unique attributes, and many that allow you to peer all the way down into the heart of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River. Another popular area is Grand Canyon West (and the Grand Canyon Skywalk) which are easily accessible from Las Vegas, located within the Hualapai Indian Tribal Lands. The other scenic overlook is in Grand Canyon East at Horseshoe Bend, where thousands of

visitors hike up to see the Colorado River wind its way around this massive rock formation, making the shape of a horseshoe. Those looking for a quieter side of the Grand Canyon can head to the cooler (as it’s over 2,400m above sea level) North Rim, where hiking, sightseeing and ranger-led programmes are the primary activities.

MONUMENT VALLEY

The surreal sandstone towers in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park are located on the Navajo Nation – one of the largest American Indian tribes. This red sand desert region is on the Arizona-Utah border, known for its towering sandstone buttes that glow with rich red hues. This area has been filmed and photographed countless times over the years for movies. From the visitor centre at Lookout Point there are good views across three of the valley’s most photographed peaks: East and West Mitten Buttes, and Merrick Butte. The park has only one hiking path, the 5km Wildcat Trail.


GLEN CANYON

You can also explore the canyon floor at Antelope Canyon – also known as Corkscrew Canyon – with its mysterious and haunting beauty. Located in the Lake Powell area, you can only explore this vermillion-coloured slot canyon on guided tours. The long narrow canyon walls are composed of sandstone which has been carved by millennia of wind and water into wavy patterns, with slivers of light streaming through the cracks adding an element of ethereal beauty. When people refer to Antelope Canyon, they usually refer to Upper Antelope

Canyon, which is more photogenic thanks to its light beams, falling sands, and very high canyon walls. The Lower Antelope Canyon is arguably more fun, with narrow twisting passageways to squeeze – and slide – through and ladders to climb.

Lake Powell is the secondlargest artificial lake in the US, and the Gunsight Bay area of the lake contains many canyons and bays, all of which are visually spectacular. Another monument accessible from the lake is the Rainbow Bridge, one of the world’s largest known natural bridges, which is revered by the Navajo Indians. A boat trip is a great way to take in this epic scenery.

SEDONA

Located south of Flagstaff within the Coconino National Forest are the iconic red rocks of Sedona – stone formations that jut upwards from the desert floor to create a vivid setting that changes hourly with the light. The area is ripe with trails for hiking and biking (or the odd 4WD) among the forest of pinnacles, spires, buttes and domes. One of the most scenic hikes is in Loy Canyon, where sheer vermillion cliffs and buff sandstone form a colourful backdrop for the desert garden on the canyon floor. The trail climbs to a high saddle at the top of Secret Mountain, a mesa with spectacular overlooks. Sedona is also famous for its vortexes (or vortices) – it’s a “power spot” where people from all over the world have had spiritual and healing experiences.

CANYON DE CHELLY

Sitting at an elevation of over 1,600m, the comparatively little-known Canyon De Chelley in the heart of Navajo land showcases impressive ancient Native American pueblo ruins built into the steep sandstone canyons, the walls of which display ancient petroglyphs and pictographs. The sandstone walls rise over 300m, with several scenic overlooks. You can hike on the South Rim via a 2-hour round-trip that explores the famous White House Ruin, or drive through the canyon on the two main routes. The towering monolith of Spider Rock rises 245m above the canyon floor, and is regarded as the centre of the Navajo universe, making this a sacred place to the Navajo people who still inhabit the valley floor.


Team Players Wanted Our team is expanding and we want you to join us! As Singapore’s first free adventure travel magazine, we are expanding into the region and online. If you’re passionate about the outdoors, and have a special place in your heart for media, we’d love to hear from you. Please email your resume to enquiry@sportsandtravelonline.com or hlow@sportsandtravel.com.hk SALES & MARKETING MANAGER

This role will be essential to the continued growth of the Sports+Travel brand in Singapore, with expansion to Australia and the region. Your main responsibility will be increasing revenue through client acquisition and retention, and ramping up advertising sales by managing multiple projects to achieve revenue goals. • Manage the entire cycle sales cycle process and being a point of contact for existing and new clients

• Calling prospective clients to create awareness and influence buying behaviour • Manage KPIs, forecasts and hit targets

• Juggle multiple tasks and projects simultaneously in a result-oriented environment We require: • At least 3 years of media sales experience across online/ offline channels • Strong passion for sales

• Excellent relationship building skills; oral, written and interpersonal communication

• A high level of cross-cultural and emotional intelligence

CREATIVE DIRECTOR / DESIGNER

You will act as the lead for the visual look of the Sports+Travel brand, sustaining and elevating the caliber of design across all platforms (print and online). In this role, you’ll have the chance to design – setting the visual direction on key projects – and direct.

• Candidates should first and foremost be creative problem solvers who can both express their own vision and elevate others We require: • At least 2 years experience in editorial and digital design • Knowledge in Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop • Knowledge in Wordpress

• Strong language and communications skills

• Knowledge in print management

EDITOR & WRITER

You will be upholding the editorial direction, tone of voice and consistency of the Sports+Travel brand, ensuring that all content released in the magazine and online blog positions the company as a source of reliable information and opinion. You are in charge of the formulation and execution of written content, with an understanding of SEO, topic and angle identification and distribution of this content on various platforms. • Manage articles, web content, and social media posts

• Heading all publishing meetings with the creative team

• Publishing and optimising content for distribution on various channels • Managing syndication of Sports+Travel content through partners We require: • At least 2 years experience in writing and editorial

• Manage content creation across print and online in consultation with the Editor

• In-depth knowledge of digital best practices for editorial production with SEO approach

• The majority of work being around print, websites and and client solutions, with the occasional campaign or identity work

• Knowledge in print management preferred

• Where necessary, manage visual designers, providing them with developmental feedback

• Knowledge in running content promotions and optimisation across multiple platforms


Sports+Travel Singapore | Issue 80  

Singapore's free adventure travel magazine. This issue's theme is 'nature'! Pick up your free copy now: www.sportsandtravelonline.com

Sports+Travel Singapore | Issue 80  

Singapore's free adventure travel magazine. This issue's theme is 'nature'! Pick up your free copy now: www.sportsandtravelonline.com

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