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ANTARCTIC CRUISE JANUARY 2019 Journey to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula with Stephen Venables, Wade Davis and Sue Flood. 19 DAYS FROM £13,995 PP

ARCTIC CRUISE JULY 2018 Travel to the Kingdom of the polar bear with Monty Halls and Sue Flood. 12 DAYS FROM £5,995 PP

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To the Ends of the Earth





Today, resolving to change and improve yourself and your life is an almost unavoidable part of the transition to a new year. The tradition is said to stem from the ancient Babylonians and in spite of this 4,000-year-old history, it is a well-documented fact that most New Year’s resolutions fail. Why? Because they are based on fear, on giving something up. Fear is short-term and not healthy. If you are giving something up, you need something to replace it with. Don’t try to lose weight - rather try and improve your health. Joy and pleasure are sustainable. Fear is not a sustainable motivator. Love is more powerful than fear. Love travel. Justin Wateridge MANAGING DIRECTOR

ENEWS Have you signed up to receive our e-news? Update your preferences on content - from destination features to opinion pieces- and how often you receive them:

NEW WEBSITE We are currently in the discovery phase of creating our new website and we are keen to hear your thoughts. How do you use our website currently and what would like to see? Let us know

STEPPES TRAVEL APP We now have our own Steppes Travel app available from your app store. Access all your travel documents, stay up to date with our location specific weather and map feature and upload your

photos to use as an online travel journal so that you can share your memories with friends and family.

EVENTS There is nothing like meeting face to face. If you have a small group of travel minded friends and would like one of the Steppes team to come and meet you to talk about potential holiday plans we would be delighted to host a lunch or dinner. Look out for invitations to our upcoming expert-led cultural and wildlife events in London and an evening with Stephen Venables, the British mountaineer, writer and broadcaster who will be leading our Antarctic cruise in 2019. We will also be at Destinations in London Olympia on stand AC72 in February.

Find out more about our events by contacting

COVER IMAGE: Sepik Sing-Sing, Papua New Guinea | Taken by Jarrod Kyte, Steppes Travel LAYOUT & DESIGN: David Wildish |

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Contents 06


S TEPPES INSIDER Our recommendations on the destinations to travel to this year

FEATURE | PAPUA NEW GUINEA: TRAVEL IN A MAGIMIKS Dropping in unexpectedly to the island of Kiriwina by Jarrod Kyte


OWNER-RUN PROPERTY The best owner-run properties around the world

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TRAVEL INSPIRATION Be inspired and feed your wanderlust Featuring our clients’ photography

FEATURE | TANZANIA: MOUNTAINS OF THE MAASAI On location in the Ngorongoro Crater with Chris Johnston


EXPERT INSIGHT: SRI LANKA Gonzalo’s personal highlights of the country


FAMILY HOLIDAYS Have you thought about your 10 year Travel Plan?


FEATURE | KYRGYZSTAN, CHINA AND PAKISTAN: REVISITING THE SILK ROUTE A return visit to Pakistan and the Silk Route to discover this relatively unexplored region by Paul Craven


CALENDAR | WHERE TO GO WHEN A guide of where to go throughout the year


THROUGH THE LENS Featuring wildlife photographer Sue Flood


EXPERT INSIGHT: PERU SAFARIS A guided back-roads odyssey through Peru


FEATURE | BOLIVIA: BRAND BOLIVIA A new perspective on its breath-taking landscapes by Justin Wateridge

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FEATURE | OMAN: THE BEST OF OMAN A classic journey through the country with Charlotte Lawton FEATURE | ZIMBABWE: PRIDE OF ZIMBABWE Why guides are so integral to the perfect safari experience by Nadia Shahanaz Hussain


EXPERT INSIGHT: NEW ZEALAND Discover why it should be top of your travel wish list


SPOTLIGHT ON EUROPE Some of our favourite destinations, a little closer to home


REMOTE CAMPING An exciting portfolio of luxury camps in stunning locations around the world


EXPERT-LED WILDLIFE TOURS Our favourite upcoming wildlife trips


EXPERT-LED CULTURAL TOURS Our favourite upcoming cultural trips WWW.STEPPESTRAVEL.COM | EDITION ONE 2018 | 05





Indonesia is somewhere that springs to mind for anything from families, honeymoons to the elusive mix of beach, culture and wildlife in one trip.

We’ve recently seen an increase in interest in New Zealand the country offers exceptional wildlife, adventure, self-drive and gourmet holidays. Why now? Following the earthquake, Highway 1 is scheduled to re-open before the end of the year.

Travel in our summer months to get the best of the weather and book well in advance to get the competitive airfares. Insider tip – treat yourself to a private boat charter to see the best of Komodo National Park and escape the busiest bays and coves.

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In mid-2018, the stunning Blenheim to Kaikoura line on the Pacific Coastal train, recommences.




For a small country, Rwanda has a lot going on. Last year, Akagera National Park announced the return of rhinos. This, coupled with the reintroduction of lions three years ago, means that the park is now home to the iconic Big Five. And yet this development is just one of many in fast-paced Rwanda. Bisate Lodge opened in 2017, to rave reviews, whilst at least two other five-star lodges will open in Volcanoes National Park this year.

Home to a natural world as magical and diverse as the people, Madagascar is a confusing, fascinating and exciting country. Here, chameleons change colour in front of your eyes, lemurs dance through treetops, baobabs loom over paddy fields and whales calve off white beaches. And amongst this wealth of natural beauty hide pirates’ tombs, celebrations of the dead and whispered superstitions. A holiday to Madagascar will not fail to deliver a truly enchanted experience for adults and children alike.

In short, Rwanda is no longer just about gorillas; it offers so much more.



Costa Rica is one of those special places that people always speak fondly of and return to time and time again.

We have seen a huge increase in people travelling to Canada in 2017, in fact the numbers have doubled. The word is getting out that this is one of the world’s best wildlife destinations.

New this year are a series of walks in the Corcovado National Park, led by ex-miners and poachers. Steppes is working with this community-based project to help the local community benefit from tourism. In 2017, Costa Rica operated almost entirely on renewable energy and have just announced they aim to have banned single-use plastics by 2021.

Opening in 2018 is Grizzly Bay Glamping Lodge, the first floating lodge in the heart of grizzly country. Another new thing we are excited about is the high-end yacht, the SV Island Solitude, launching in 2018 and sailing the islands of Haida Gwai.



Owner-Run Properties


ee our selected portfolio of owner-run properties around the world, favouring the smaller boutique hotels that exude character and a personal touch. Staying in one of these properties enables

you to have a more authentic experience of the culture and lifestyle of a destination whilst becoming your home away from home.

AFRICA: LEWA WILDERNESS, KENYA The Craig family have been entertaining visitors at their home, Lewa Wilderness, for the last 30 years. This beautiful main lodge lies within the renowned Lewa Conservancy, famous for its black rhinos. Eight days from £3,795 pp, including international flights Why? The lodge’s banana-yellow biplane is piloted by Will Craig himself and affords the best views of Lewa.

MADAGASCAR: MASOALA FOREST LODGE In a secluded sandy cove, surrounded by forests full of wildlife, Masoala Forest Lodge offers the best of both jungle and beach. It was this remarkable location that inspired owners Maria and Pierre to make it their home. Nine days from £4,275 pp, including international flights Why? The hosts’ sense of adventure is reflected in the activities, which include snorkelling and sea kayaking.

SRI LANKA: PRINCE OF GALLE A beautifully restored centenarian House, the rooms are charming. The suite on the top floor has a divine little terrace and views of the Indian Ocean. 14 day holiday to Sri Lanka including a four night stay at the Prince of Galle from £3,200 pp Why? Charming and in tune with the spirit of Galle - respecting its heritage and traditions - and said by some to serve the best iced tea in Sri Lanka.

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NEW ZEALAND: BAY OF MANY COVES Only accessible by water or helicopter, Bay of Many Coves is tucked away in a magical location, on the water’s edge amidst the winding waterways of the Marlborough Sounds. Spend days paddle-boarding, kayaking or searching for waterfalls and glow worms within the gardens and 52 hectares of native bushland surrounding the property. 14 day holiday to New Zealand including a three night stay at the Bayof Many Coves and other Luxury Lodges of New Zealand from £7,495 pp, including international flights Why? Murray and Elaine make you feel totally at home and take as much delight in seeing orcas swimming off the jetty as you do.

INDIA: SHAHPURA BAGH This wonderfully relaxing garden estate remains the home of the Shahpura Family. It is brilliantly placed to provide a perfectly peaceful stop when travelling between Jaipur and Jodhpur. Cycling round the lakes, birdwatching, jeep safaris, picnicking and visiting the village are perfect ways to while away a day. 14 day holiday to India including a three night stay at the Shahpura Bagh from £4,995 pp, including international flights Why? Shahpura Bagh gives you an insight to a lesser seen India with private visits to their family fort and evening dinners with tales of life in this romantic part of India.

COSTA RICA: PACUARE LODGE Pacuare Lodge delivers time and time again. Beautifully constructed, Pacuare Lodge has been a project of passion over many years for its owners Roberto and Luz. 15 day holiday to Costa Rica including a three night stay at Pacuare Lodge from £4,600 pp, including international flights Why? Exquisite taste, fantastic food, fine wines. There is no compromise on quality, yet you are in the middle of a Costa Rican jungle.

ALASKA: ULTIMA THULE Beautiful property in the Wrangell-St Elias National Park, literally in the middle of nowhere. Owned and run by the Claus family, three generations have grown up here with 13 million acres of wilderness as their backyard. John Claus settled at the property in 1958 and was the first human to settle in the valley. 16 day holiday to Alaska including a three night stay at Ultima Thule Lodge from £15,395 pp, including international flights Why? Being 160 kilometres from the nearest road, the Claus family were all raised in the cockpit of bush planes. The flying excursions are included and very much part of the experience – the chances are you will set foot on land no-one has ever done so before.



Travel Inspiration



here are some classic travel books - Road to Oxiana (Byron), A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (Newby), Arabian Sands (Thesiger), West with the Night (Markham), Venice (Morris) and Full Tilt (Murphy). The list of authors is extensive - from Graham Greene to Ernest Hemingway, from Jack Kerouac to Hunter S Thompson, from Laurie Lee to Norman Lewis and from John Steinbeck to Patrick Leigh Fermor. But these are books and authors of 50 plus years ago. Trying to find good travel books written in the last 10 years is harder. Wild Coast (Gimlette), To a Mountain in Tibet (Thubron) and The Old Ways (Macfarlane) are just a handful of examples. Is this a reflection on us and our evolving taste? Or more of our dwindling attention span? Or is it that travel books are simply not being commissioned in the way that they once were, due to the profusion of other types of books and media in general? Yet the past 10 years have heralded some powerful autobiographical books about personal tragedy and experiences

– Life and Death in Shanghai (Cheng), Fire under the Snow (Gyatso), Zanzibar Chest (Hartley) and The Worst Journey in the World (Cherry-Garrard). There are also some great fictional novels based in countries – The Power of One (South Africa), Cutting for Stone (Ethiopia), Shantaram (India), This Thing of Darkness (southern South America), Shadow of the Wind (Barcelona) and The Catastrophist (Congo). Have these then stolen a march on the wanderings of the travel writers of old? Is it that we are reading more travel articles in magazines, online and in weekend supplements? Over the past few years, the following stand out in my memory: Anthony Sattin on Iran, Peter Hughes on Syria, Stanley Stewart on swimming with orcas in Norway and Sophy Roberts on travelling in Papua New Guinea. Perhaps so, but sadly travel editors have succumbed to litany and lists over inspiring prose, so that such articles are few and far between. So how else do we find our inspiration? Undoubtedly wildlife documentaries lead

to a spike in interest – the recent and excellent Blue Planet II being a case in point. TV personalities also manage to get us to sit up from our sofas and want to find out more about a destination or region. Sue Perkins’s programme on the Ganges resulted in at least one holiday booking and the much-loved Simon Reeve’s recent series on Russia led to a number of enquiries. At our recent festival at the RGS, Steve Backshall so inspired, enthused and engaged the next generation of travellers. The Royal Geographical Society say that they have never seen so many young people at the RGS. High praise indeed. The most powerful source of inspiration has to be the drug of travel itself. Travel inspires me to travel. I find it to be a never-ending cycle – the more I travel, the more I want to travel. The learning, the understanding, the appreciating, the thrill, the experience, the humility. That is what fuels my curiosity. Keep travelling. By Justin Wateridge

LOOK OUT FOR... BOOK SCRAPS OF WOOL An anthology of travel writing excerpts that epitomises the inspiration for a group of some well known travellers and authors to choose travel as a way of life. Compiled and published by Bill Colegrave.

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EXHIBITION WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR The acclaimed Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition premiered at the Natural History Museum and can also be seen around the UK until December 2018. The awards capture the imagination of thousands, who collectively

create a stunning and innovative series of images championing flora and fauna at its best whilst importantly highlighting the threats they face. Images of note are Justin Hofman’s capture of a seahorse clutching a cotton wool bud in Indonesia’s polluted sea water and Brent Stirton’s Memorial to a Species, which frames a recently shot and dehorned black rhino in South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve.







FILM TAWAI by Bruce Parry


In this dreamy, philosophical and sociological look at life, explorer Bruce Parry travels the world to learn from people living lives very different to our own.

We are always keen to see photographs of your travel get in touch with us or share on social media using #MySteppes

From the jungles of Malaysia to the tributaries of the Amazon, TAWAI is a quest for reconnection.




Mountains of the Maasai CHRIS JOHNSTON | TANZANIA

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y Maasai guide, Shinoi, turned to me “God lives here.’’ he said matter of factly. Tall and sinewy, wrapped in bright blue and purple shuka cloth with a rungu club slung over his shoulder, he looks every inch the Maasai warrior. Standing next to him, high up on the ridge of the Olmoti Volcano and looking out across Tanzania’s crater highlands, it’s difficult to disagree. Far-off mountain peaks are almost obscured by

cloud, the lush valley below dotted with yellow flowers and marbled with thin streams flashing silver in the sunlight. In the distance, smoke rises from clusters of Maasai manyattas, traditional settlements, as brightly dressed herders lead their cattle across the plains. Places are often defined by their geology and people, and the Ngorongoro Crater is a perfect example. The name itself

is believed to derive from the Maasai word for cowbell, a gentle, hollow rattle that is constantly heard in these hills. Layer upon layer of preconceptions have been placed on the Maasai, that they are both familiar and elusive. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult to see beyond the hackneyed image of one of the world’s most recognisable tribes. Their situation is complex, revered by outsiders but still



maligned by the Tanzanian government who regard them as primitive. The Maasai in this area are proud of their distinction, an identity sharpened against an increasingly homogenised Africa. The crater highlands are located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) that protects the landscapes of three immense dormant volcanoes, including Ol Doinyo Lengai – the Maasai’s “Mountain of God”. Those who make their life here revere the region’s heritage, and it is one of the few places remaining where they can carry on with their traditional lifestyles in relative peace. 14 | EDITION ONE 2018 | 03331 226 216

Simply driving up into the crater is incredible. I negotiate forested slopes, catching a glimpse of a large male elephant, half-hidden in the shadows, and pausing frequently to take in sweeping views of the valley below before reaching the crest of the caldera, where the crater floor opens up before me. Entering what many would agree is the most spectacular wildlife arena on the planet, I see verdant green plains dotted with game, enclosed by a crater wall some 600 metres high. Pink clouds of flamingos take flight as I drive slowly into the lemai forests, where rhinos and leopards hide among the fever trees. In Tarangire National Park, four hours to the south, hundred-strong elephant herds walk in the shadow of towering baobabs, and quartz mountains shimmer in the setting sun. In the Serengeti, you can hear the rumble of millions of hooves crossing the open plains while predators stalk softly through the long grass. Both settings are a photographer’s dream, but it is the highland region that dazzles me most. I find it almost unbelievable that habitat as rich and untouched as this can

be found in such a well-known area. I’ve been lucky enough to explore much of Africa over the last 20 years, but some places can still effortlessly take my breath away. My base while I am here is The Highlands, a pioneering luxury eco-lodge perched on the slopes of Olmoti. Just 45 minutes from the crater along a rugged dirt track, the camp offers the chance to experience Ngorongoro and its surrounds from a much broader perspective. The road was built to this lodge and here alone. There is no other way in or out, and whilst the NCA have promised to improve the surface, for now it’s a bumpy journey. There are no passing vehicles and no tourists; only the Maasai, their cattle and the magnificent views. With just a handful of cleverly designed contemporary suites, The Highlands is perfect for roaming more remote parts of the region, following ancient Maasai trails through stunning scenery. A visit to Ngorongoro is of course mandatory, but I also spend several days climbing volcanoes, where flamingos wade through hidden lakes,


and trekking through forests of mist and moss, accompanied by the scent of wild mint and lavender that fills the damp air. At night, I return to camp to be rejuvenated by delicious home-cooked meals and wood burning stoves, served up with lively and engaging conversation by the all-Tanzanian staff. This is another area where the camp also strives to make a difference. “Engaging with communities here is a priority for us.” Brenda, one of the camp managers, tells me. At just 22, she is brimming with confidence, motivated to make the very most of the opportunity running the camp has afforded her. She explains that through the camp’s charitable arm, they have been able to set up scholarships and establish lasting relationships with local people, improving livelihoods and conserving wildlife in a region that is both economically and ecologically sensitive. The conservation issues are tangled. The region is managed by the NCA, who must consider the needs of both the Maasai and the wildlife here. Politics are inevitable and the camp treads a fine line, helping to provide

solutions for communities, government and wildlife. Brenda admits there are always challenges, but they add another dimension to an already fascinating place. While the lodge is supremely comfortable, the surroundings are a very different matter. In the hills where I walk – accompanied by one of the Tanzanian camp guides, of course - the terrain is harsh, leopards prowl and hyenas call hauntingly at night. I have a very close encounter with three buffalos whilst walking back to my tent after dinner one night. Even the stoic askari guards look startled, in spite of themselves. On my final day, I wake at sunrise and step outside into the cold, sharp air. Cowbells sound in the distance and I can see fires being lit as the Maasai begin their day. The mountains are blue and purple in the dawn light, reflecting the colours of the shukas. This landscape and the lives of its people seem intertwined. In the wild highlands, the Maasai have everything they need. Feed for the cattle, wide open pastures and – perhaps

most importantly – the chance to be themselves. The air is clearer, the colours sharper, the light lends everything a greater clarity. Personally, I feel as though all my preconceptions have been stripped away. For many people here, life goes on much as it has for centuries, and the camp wants to keep it that way. The local culture is colourful, intriguing and wonderfully accessible. Yet in an effort to preserve an authentic, nonexploitative experience, photography is banned. For me, that is often the hardest part, as I can bring home only my own fallible memories of the Maasai. But it’s also reassuring in a way to know that nothing of the magic of this place can be taken away.

TANZANIA 12 days on safari in northern Tanzania from £7,695 pp, including international flights





achu Picchu is one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites, and given it’s set in such incredible scenery, it’s easy to see why Machu Picchu is a “must do” experience. But what are the alternatives to making a beeline straight for Cusco, and what is the best way to get a feel for the real Peru and away from the crowds? Exploring by self-driven 4x4 vehicle gives you unprecedented access to a more authentic Peru, its people, and its landscapes. You can reach remote locations that other travellers can only dream about. What’s more you can experience the desert, the Andes and the Amazon, all in one epic adventure that goes far beyond the usual Peruvian highlights, and immerses you in local cultures, festivals, wildlife and food. However self-driving Peru brings challenges. 16 | EDITION ONE 2018 | 03331 226 216

Maps can be rudimentary, driving standards and roads are frequently difficult, and local knowledge here is everything. That’s why we recommend an expertly guided small group or private tour, with a guide/ safety vehicle travelling alongside. These tours avoid using generic hotels and instead serve up an eclectic mix of mountain lodges, rustic haciendas, and luxurious properties. They take in some of the continent’s most spectacular and challenging roads, occasionally reaching heights that exceed Everest base camp. Self-drive Peru tours provide a full-on experience from start to finish, but if you want to see the real Peru, they deliver in spades. Within the stunning, remote highland jungle landscape of the northern provinces is the pre-Inca stone fortress

of Kuelap. A new, largely untouched route heads north from Lima, via some of South America’s tallest peaks along the Cordillera Blanca and its turquoise lagoons. Eventually arriving via sinuous tracks in the steamy jungles of Kuelap, it culminates at the world’s second highest falls at Gocta. The trip returns via the desert coast, taking in some of Peru’s most significant ancient sites such as Chimu, and the 5000-year old Caral (the oldest city in the Americas). If wildlife is more your thing, then some of

PERU SAFARIS 17 days 4WD Adventure in Peru from £4,980pp, including international flights


the planet’s most biodiverse destinations beckon in Peru, as our vehicles take the stunning track down from the Andes around Cusco, into the virgin jungle rainforest of Manu Reserve. Here you trade your 4x4 for a motorized canoe

going down the Madre de Dios river past land occupied by remote tribes, and headed into the realm of the jaguar. Steppes Travel are now offering these exciting 4x4 self- drive options in Peru,

with friendly, professional British guides, very small group or private options, and superb expedition vehicles and equipment, to ensure your trip to Peru is no ordinary adventure. Take the road even less travelled.

JOIN US IN LONDON DESTINATIONS: The Holiday and Travel Show (1 - 4 February 2018) to experience the 4x4 for yourself. Get in touch if you would like complimentary tickets by emailing EVENTS@STEPPESTRAVEL.COM. WWW.STEPPESTRAVEL.COM | EDITION ONE 2018 | 17




he immigration officer smiled welcomingly, stamped my passport and waved me into his country, more interested in the music which was blaring out of his phone. This lowkey and unassuming start to my short stay in Bolivia in no way prepared me for the heights that I was to scale. Bolivia is a rougher place to travel than its southern neighbor Chile, but offers the most authentic South American experience, with the highest proportion of indigenous people, a strong traditional culture and defies its

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stereotype of being a high Andean nation – 60% of Bolivia is in the Amazon. Having just crossed from northern Chile - Chile and Bolivia have maintained only consular relations since 1978, when territorial negotiations failed and Bolivia decided to sever diplomatic relations with Chile – I was not in the Amazon but what are known as the southern deserts of Bolivia. In particular, the mind-blowing Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve. It is breathtaking, in part due to the altitude – the air is that much thinner at 4,500 metres – but in large part to

the scenery. It is stunning, whether the sheer size and scale of the landscape or the texture of the colours, the subtle and variegated hues – nature at its finest. A palette of colours as the yellow of the tufty ‘paja brava’ grass, growing in clumps shaped like oversized burrs, and the bright green of llareta contrasted with the softer hues of yellow, ochre, brown, red and pink dramatically offset by the white of the snow and the intense dazzling blue of the sky. It is a panoramic paradise every which way you turn and I am hugely thankful for digital photography as I


ask to stop, the pumice clinks underfoot and I take yet another brilliant image. Dali Desert is well-named with its surreal rocks dotting a huge mountain of sand. Arbol de Piedra, an intriguing forest of stones eroded by the elements over millennia into bizarre shapes and structures. Laguna Colorada is out of this world with its vivid red contrasting so brilliantly with the white of the baurex. In spite of its sulphurous smells, Laguna Hediendo is delightful with its shrill whistling flamingoes as they tiptoe through the mud.

Sol de MaĹˆana is rustic and natural with no tourist hordes or boards, except for one sign warning not to go to close to the fumaroles. Bewitched by the colours and the bubbling of the mud, I step too close in search of that perfect image and my left foot sinks into soft boiling mud. I extract it hastily with a squelch the mud caking my shoe in a grey gloop and scalding my foot in the process. We barely saw another car the whole day. Bolivia has a population of 10 million and thus with an area of one million square kilometres - five times the size of

the UK - it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. That was so apparent in the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve where we saw no sign of human habitation. Only a few hardy creatures eking out an existence that looked like characters from Alice in Wonderland curious and befitting of the otherworldly nature of this bewitching landscape. A terrified viscacha, a large rabbit-like rodent with a long tail that and fabulously flamboyant whiskers. Pouting llamas with ribbons tied to their ears. By the road, herds of vicunas, dainty camelids



with elongated necks, browse unperturbed, their coats of a fur so fine and soft that would provide the chic of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with a $25,000 coat of their own. I have never seen landscapes that made me feel more keenly aware of the geography, geology and beauty of the planet. In comparison I felt a little underwhelmed by my initial impression of one of South America’s undoubted highlights, Salar de Uyuni. This was in no small part due to the town of Uyuni, a downtrodden town of neglected brick buildings, that has bequeathed its name to the world’s largest salt flats that sit at a lofty 3,653 metres 20 | EDITION ONE 2018 | 03331 226 216

and blanket an amazing 10,000 square kilometres. The flats were part of a prehistoric salt-lake, which once covered most of southwest Bolivia. When it dried up, it left a couple of seasonal puddles and several salt pans, including the Salar de Uyuni. It is covered by a few metres of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with an average elevation of only one metre over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium, containing 60% of the world’s known lithium reserves. However, any sense of anticlimax was quickly dispelled once on the flats. Speeding across the lake at 110kmph without the slightest

bump was invigorating. The scene before me – an unbroken line of the horizon, a minimalist canvas of white and blue - was astonishingly beautiful. The exceptional flatness of the surface, the limitlessness of the panorama and the intensity of the light gave the surreal illusion, the dreamlike quality of driving over the sky. In one sense the brightness, the whiteness, the shimmering were relentless and mesmerizing. In another, the difficulty of getting a feel for distance and the lack of sense of perspective were soporific. And that was before being fed. Lunch was a whacky event. Dozens of 4x4s


parked around Incahuasi, a remote stony desert island filled with cacti as opposed to palm trees, each setting out their stall of tables and umbrellas. The multi-coloured beach parasols providing their lunch patrons with much needed shade from the dazzle of the salt. My lunch was a conjured-up feast of quinoa, salad and roast llama. It was a suitably zany menu for the setting, although – and this is no lie – it could have done with a bit of salt, and Don Simon, my usually dependable driver, did not have any. Salar de Uyuni is said to contain around 10 billion tonnes of salt, of which only 25,000 tonnes are extracted each year. It is back-breaking work for not much reward

as witnessed by a desolate figure carving bricks from the salt which he sells for construction for $1 each. Or in the small town of Colchani, where cholita, Bolivian women dressed in local garb of pleated skirts, colourful aprons, battered bowler hats and long black plaits, sell small bags of salt for virtually nothing – 25kg of salt costs $1. After lunch we drove to the charming small stone village of Chentani on the edge of the lake. Picturesquely set under a volcano with a delightfully pretty campanile, Chentani gave me a sense of perspective staring back at the salt flats, the sense that I was overlooking a white, calm sea. On the far shore, I could just make out the dark silhouette of the Andes.

In the flattering light of the late afternoon sun, I step out Don Simon’s 4x4 and wander out onto the flats. The silence and stillness were uplifting but this pales into insignificance with the shimmering brilliance of the reflected light. It was bizarre and wonderful and I had the impression that I was floating on air, in some form of heavenly dream.

BOLIVIA 16 days Highlights of Bolivia from £3,475pp, including international flights





fter a very easy and comfortable seven-hour flight direct from London Heathrow, I arrived at Muscat International Airport where I met my smiling Omani Guide, Kase, immaculately dressed in a crisp, floor length gown of white cotton. As we made our way outside, what struck me immediately was the calm in the airport. People here go about their business in a gentle, quiet manner. There’s no barrage of noise or jostling, and there’s certainly no staring. The terrain outside the main population centres is not conducive to easy living, with vast, formidable mountain ranges and huge swathes of desert covering most of the country. But looking around Muscat, you can see this is a country on the rise. Development and investment is apparent on every side, with the Sultan investing huge amounts of money in his people and the infrastructure. Oman has slipped into a higher gear within a very short space of time. The people here call it the ‘bomb’. In the early 1970s, Shell discovered massive oil resources, large gold deposits were mined and King Sultan Qaboos overthrew his father, forming a new vision for the people of Oman. I quizzed my guide about social care, the health service, the

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education system, employment, politics – it all sounded too good to be true but wherever we went and whoever we met seemed extremely happy with king and country. I found Muscat to be a fun, easy place to explore. High on my list for sightseeing were the magnificent Grand Mosque and Opera House. Exploring further afield, we headed into the Jebel Akhdar, part of the mighty Hajar Mountains, a huge mountain range that rises to the highest point, Jebel Shams, at 3000 metres. We drove for a few hours along wide, empty roads that are exceptionally well-maintained, snaking gently upward through the range, to reach the ancient fort town of Nizwa. The scenery here is austere and dramatic, with green oases, moist enough to allow the growth of shrubs, trees, and support agriculture. This area is famous for its rose water, pomegranates, walnuts, apricots, grapes, and peaches. What water does fall is harvested by ingenious falaj irrigation systems, designed by mountain dwellers who have lived in the region for hundreds of years. Walking through these small, ancient villages (mostly derelict and empty) is fascinating, and profoundly illustrates the realities of

life in such an unforgiving environment. Nizwa was formerly the capital of Oman, and is one of the country’s oldest cities. Once the centre of trade, religion, education, and art, it is still a prosperous, buzzing city with a superb souk at its heart. Visit on a Friday for the full Nizwa experience, when traders from all over the region come to sell their livestock, fish, and vegetables. Old family-run shops display pottery, rifles and other weaponry, jewellery, silver, and spices. If you’re travelling with kids then I also recommend a visit to Nizwa Fort, a prominent structure with a circular gunnery, expansive courtyards, and ominous ‘murder holes’ for deterring potential invaders. Climbing to the top is well worth the effort to admire the view and grasp that this was the best way to escape most of the crowds during peak season. Leaving the mountains behind us, we headed back to the coast, but ensured we left time for a diversion through the Omani desert known as Wahiba Sands. You could easily spend days in this region - it is exceptionally beautiful, tranquil to the point of silence, and the star-filled skies are spectacular. Further into the desert you can stay at a private tented camp, hidden amongst the dunes. We


visited a few established fixed camps, which offered all the comforts of luxury camping, though the atmosphere was a little different from the splendid isolation we’d just left. For the adventurous, consider taking a jeep ride across untouched dunes and past herds of wild camels. I was handed a sandboard, which zipped down the dunes at a thrilling pace As darkness fell, an epic day came to an end around the crackling campfire, the air filled with the aromas of an Arabian barbecue. Reaching the coast again, I spent a few nights at several utterly blissful beach hotels (and Oman has these in spades, no pun intended). If you’re looking for a really good value option then the Shangri La Al Waha is situated on a long white sand beach, where the water is calm and safe to swim, and simply teeming with colourful fish. Turtles nest in numbers matched by no other country on the planet, and whales and dolphins are a common sight in the distance. For an alternative, it’s got to be the Anantara Salalah (a short flight south from Muscat to the Dhofar region). Exceptional staff and service, food to die for and a huge swimming pool leading to an expanse of beach. As my flight back to London took off, the tinge of sadness I felt on leaving was eased in the knowledge that I’ll soon be back, and with the kids in tow. If they find it anywhere as uplifting and refreshing as I did, it will be a family holiday to remember for a long time.

OMAN 14 day holiday to Oman from £3,460 pp, including international flights



Pride of Zimbabwe



alvet Nkomo, our guide in Hwange, looks back at us, his brows furrowed as the dwindling remnants of sunlight drift across the plains of Zimbabwe’s Imbiza National Park, imbuing this almost prehistoric landscape with hues of pink and purple. “I can teach and train for years but some things...’’ Calvet pauses again, glancing over at the silhouette of a herd of elephants in the distance. “Well, some things you just know and feel. They can’t be taught. You can’t Google the bush.’’ This is my first safari, the first opportunity I’ve had to really learn what an experienced guide has to offer, and I’m in total agreement. Four days into our trip and every evening I’m left thinking “How can this possibly get any better?’’ Yet in the mornings I awake with a renewed sense of wonder, and every trip out

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into the bush somehow seems to top the last. The next day, after a lazy morning in the gathering heat, a feverishly animated Calvet bounds into camp with a big announcement. “Lions!” We have a choice: afternoon tea, or head out to see the pride during the golden hour. It’s not a difficult decision. Without hesitation, the entire party leaps into the Land Cruiser, armed with our cameras. We had caught a glimpse of Bubesi, the new leader of of Cecil’s pride, the day before and now there is a rumour he is nearby. Bubesi has taken over much of the territory once dominated by Cecil, Hwange’s most famous lion until his untimely death at the hands of a trophy hunter in 2015. Guides are an integral part of any safari

experience. Often building up a store of knowledge over decades, there are few things they don’t know about the bush. As we pass another group watching a dazzle of zebras quench their thirst around a waterhole, I can’t help feeling a little smug. I know we’re in the right vehicle, with the best guide. Calvet, otherwise known as Hwange’s answer to Lewis Hamilton, is a dynamo behind the wheel. He realises time is of the essence and expects us not to mind the occasional bump. We swing down a narrow track lined with tall bushes and trees, ducking lowhanging branches. I hold on tightly, already accustomed to his unique style of driving. Suddenly Calvet brings the jeep to a halt. “I smell them!” We look around carefully, but apart from a few overgrown bushes, nothing. Then, besides a termite mound, movement.


“Yebbo yes!’’ Calvet whispers excitedly. Half-standing with his arms raised at ninety degrees, he performs a little shimmy what we fondly describe as the ‘Calvet Dance’. Just 20 metres away from us, a heap of lions sprawl untidily across each other, their fur swaying in the breeze and catching beams of golden light. We’re now miles away from the nearest track, so I ask the obvious question: “How did you know they were here, Calvet?’’ “I just knew” he replies, with a smile in his eyes. No GPS. No tip-off. Pure instinct has brought us this amazing sight. He brings the jeep around so we can get the perfect photo angle, then introduces us to

each of Bubesi’s five lionesses and their cubs in turn. Several of them lethargically get to their feet and approach us, heads tilted upward, more inquisitive than menacing. Calvet assures us they have probably (!) eaten already, so there’s no need to be alarmed. Nevertheless, he is completely alert. Slowly, the lionesses walk past the front of the jeep before laying back down on a grassier, shaded area to our right. The largest of them remains standing, stretching her jaw to give a pained, rumbling roar that carries across the plains. The emotion is obvious. Calvet whispers “She is crying out for her son, Xanda. They don’t know where he is or what has happened to him.” She roars a second time, before slowly descending from the mound. We turn to

each other, horrified that we are seeing first hand the cruel effects of hunting. Earlier this year Professor David Mcdonald, the director of WildCru, authored a government report on lion conservation and trophy hunting. Between 2003 and 2014 lion populations have declined by at least 42%. The stark figure keeps repeating itself in my head as we watch the pride. After a few moments more of awe-struck silence, Calvet bounces up and down in his seat, grins and starts the ignition. Now on he adopts a relaxed cruising speed (for him anyway), veering onto a more established path towards Imbiza, before quickly tapping the brakes again. We gasp in unison as a herd of elephants appears as if from nowhere, striding directly across our path.



As they approach, they part into two groups, passing along either side of the jeep. We gaze in amazement, and I can’t help but be reminded of the scene from Jurassic Park when the children watch from their vehicle as hundreds of dinosaurs casually stomp by. The elephants ignore us, but that does nothing for our feelings of vulnerability and humility. Night is falling, and Calvet, one hand on the steering wheel, uses the other to shine a torch into the darkness. We jolt forward as he brakes sharply again. “Bubesi. He’s close. This way. I can feel it.” Thinking there is no way we’ll be able to find Bubesi when it’s this dark, I am quickly proved wrong by Calvet’s attuned instincts. Moments later the magnificent Bubesi stands between the headlights. We follow him slowly for five minutes, but not once does he turn back to look at us. He doesn’t need to make any allowances. This is his territory and he knows it. Back at Somalisa Acacia camp, we 26 | EDITION ONE 2018 | 03331 226 216

stand near the waterhole, watching as reluctant elephant calves are ushered in by their mothers’ persistent trunks. They squeeze through between their larger, older siblings and frolic happily in the water, joyously blowing raspberries. The older elephants watch over them, slurping from the pool and glancing around regularly. They are quite aware that we are here, but they don’t need to make a show of strength to assert themselves. Each time they deeply breath out, their warm, earthy scent fills the air. We sit completely still, mesmerised as the darkness intensifies our hearing. “Look over there,” whispers Calvet. In the shadows to our right, two leopards approach the waterhole, their stealthy, sleek forms brilliantly etched in the moonlight. Nocturnal animals, leopards are usually elusive. They’re also mostly solitary, so this is an incredibly rare experience. They stare straight across at our group for a moment, before slipping cautiously away back into the darkness. Unexpected moments like this are the ones

we treasure most. There is no commentary, no camera clicking or lens zooming. Just silence. The majesty of the wildlife is deafening. “Did you see the giraffes?’’ asks one of our party casually over coffee the next morning. “When?!’’ I demand enthusiastically, jumping to my feet and gazing out towards the waterhole. “Just now? I can’t see them...’’ “About 10 minutes ago,” she replies. “They passed right by my tent.’’ It seems crude to think of safari as a checklist, but we’ve been treated to such a wealth of wildlife sightings over the last few days and I’ve been a little disappointed not to have seen giraffe yet. Perhaps I’m being greedy? But, Calvet, as excitable and generous as ever, springs into action. “We’ll find them before you leave. Let’s take a walk into the bush’’ Single file we trek, eyes wide and eager. We see an elephant slowly making his way down to the waterhole for a drink. As we progress deeper into the trees, Calvet occasionally


raises his hand in the air, signalling us to gather round. First to show us a patch of small insects, then to feel a velvety acacia pod – a favourite treat for elephants – then to point out some perfectly rounded giraffe scat. Still a little moist and warm, it gives us hope we are close. It isn’t even 7am, but the sun is beating down. Calvet calls another halt: “I’ll call us a bush taxi’’. The group looks relieved to be escaping the heat, but disappointed the giraffe hunt is probably over. Calvet, however, grins at us as he radios back to camp. My spirits lift. He knows exactly where they are. Within minutes a Land Cruiser arrives. We pile in and assume our positions, and before long Calvet shouts from the front seat. “Yebbo yes! I see them, can you?’’ He’s no longer a young man, but Calvet’s eyesight is astonishing. He can make out tiny details from incredible distances. It is several minutes before anyone else catches sight of the giraffe. They emerge elegantly from the bush, the male considerably darker and taller than

the four females accompanying him. A gangly juvenile follows. While our group is hushed by the serene spectacle, Calvet decides to test our wildlife knowledge. “Do you know why their necks are so long?’’ A moment of thought. “To reach for food?’’ the woman to my left suggests. “No. It’s because their heads are so far away”. Calvet’s guiding abilities are impeccable. His jokes are not. Turning back to the giraffe, his eyes twinkle, and his mouth curves into a wide smile as though this is the first time he’s ever seen one. The almost childlike enthusiasm is infectious. As adults, we often learn to guard our emotions, but the bush strips all such pretence. Calvet clearly lives for moments like these, and it’s a privilege to discover the bush through his eyes. Seeing wildlife when on safari is never guaranteed but when you’re with a guide that knows the land and its inhabitants so well, the odds are always in your favour.

ZIMBABWE Nine days in Hwange and Mana Pools from £3,750 pp, including international flights



Travel in a Magimiks



here is an archipelago off the east coast of Papua New Guinea where a marriage is not formalised until the couple have shared a meal together, and where the local people play a game of cricket to resolve their differences. Welcome to the Trobriand Islands. Here the notion of free love is held sacrosanct and the virtues of a straight-batted cover drive are acknowledged by both men and women alike. On a recent trip to Papua New Guinea, escorting Steppes Travel’s exclusive charter aboard the True North, I had the opportunity to take a helicopter excursion over the archipelago, to include a brief stopover on the largest island, Kiriwina. We set off after breakfast, the air completely still, the sky 28 | EDITION ONE 2018 | 03331 226 216

cloudless and the water far below as flat as a board. As we climbed high above the watery expanse of the Solomon Sea, our pilot, Rob, agreed with my unspoken sentiments: “These conditions couldn’t be any better for flying.” Psychologists have long extolled the soothing properties of the colour blue. On that morning, we were lulled by the deep, vibrant shades of sky and the sea to the point where they became virtually indistinguishable. The blades above us might have been spinning for all they were worth, but inside the cabin all was calm. Eventually, the blue beneath us gave way to white coral ribbons that unravelled beneath the sea. In places, large coral spires broke the surface of the water, providing landing spots for pelagic birds.

The island of Kiriwina soon appeared beneath us, and within a minute of flying along its coastline a small village came into view. As the noise of the helicopter disturbed the peace, curious villagers left their houses and children ran around in circles, waving frantically up at us. Rob circled the village and gently lowered the helicopter into a large clearing, landing as smoothly as he had taken off. In the common language of Papua New Guinea, Tok Pisin (or pidgin, as it is more often referred), a helicopter is known as ‘magimiks bilong Jesus’. When we dropped out of the sky and touched down in Kiriwina, the reaction of the villagers was as if something otherworldly had imposed itself on their uncomplicated lives. I tried to imagine how I would feel if I were

STEPPES TRAVELLER in in their situation, whether I would have received strangers in a weird flying machine with such unaffected hospitality, or with suspicion and hostility. I hope the former. Rob introduced me to the village’s school teacher. He was immaculately dressed, wearing a pressed, white shirt, worn untucked and very loose around his tall, slender frame. His heavy brow and well-kept goatee beard imbued him with the appearance of a serious man but his smile gave the lie to it. He exuded that generous spirit I have always found so typical of Papuans, shaking my hand and speaking softly. By coincidence, the village children were practising for a dance competition against the other schools on the island – would we like to see them in action? The children, ranging in age from five to 10 years old, were dressed in traditional costumes of short, red grass skirts or loincloths with matching head bands. Some had adorned their outfits with hand-made necklaces and arm bands made from an assortment of shells, coloured seeds and flowers; others were sprinkled with tiny flecks of gold paint that glittered in the sun, or had simply opted for white stripes of paint down their faces - had Adam Ant once played here? Forming straight lines, the group danced with focused intensity. Like any young children in the limelight, there was an air of seriousness and self-consciousness about their first dance, and it was only when the tempo of the music increased that they began to relax. Soon, earnest concentration dissolved into spontaneous smiles as they watched their teacher throwing his own rambunctious moves on the grassy dance floor before discarding their inhibitions to follow his lead. It was a wrench to leave the celebration. While we climbed back into the helicopter, the villagers crowded together to wave us goodbye, creating a wall of smiling faces. As Rob took us back up into the air, we craned our necks to maintain eye contact for as long as we could. Before long though, the village was out of sight and once more we were a willing hostage to the big blue – a tiny, whirring speck in space, the magimiks returned to Jesus.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA 11 day holiday on a PNG Cruise starting from £13,995pp, including international flights WWW.STEPPESTRAVEL.COM | EDITION ONE 2018 | 29


Sri Lanka

OUR MAN IN COLOMBO | GONZALO GIL LAVEDRA Gonzalo feels, and we agree, that when visiting Sri Lanka the capital, Colombo, is a must-see. Below you’ll find some of his indispensable insider tips…

GONZALO I left my hometown of Buenos Aires at 17 and never looked back. Now 43, I’m still on the road with no end in sight. Sometimes people ask me what my motivations were for choosing the life of a perpetual wanderer and I always tell them the same thing - fear of boredom. One of my biggest inspirations has been The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux, while this quote from the Irish travel writer Dervla Murphy has always stayed with me: “Choose your country, use guidebooks to identify the areas more frequented by foreigners - and then go in the opposite direction.” Europe, Latin America, Asia, I’ve travelled through them all, and never been tempted to stay in one place for long, or stick to the map. Over the years, one comes to realise that the memories from the road that stick to you most are the experiences that you never expected. It’s not always pretty in Colombo. I fell in love with Colombo through literature, especially the brilliantly dark descriptions rendered by Carl Muller. He spoke of an 30 | EDITION ONE 2018 | 03331 226 216

obscure underlying force dwelling underneath the new malls, the fancy shops and cafes, one that has been there all along. With the right kind of eyes you might be able to see it for yourself, so keep yours open. Something to remember when exploring Galle Face Green: on the morning of April 4th, 1942, the Japanese launched a massive air raid on Colombo, using over 125 aircraft commanded by Mitsuo Fuchida, the naval captain who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. Their target was the British Eastern Fleet, which the Japanese mistakenly thought was still at Colombo, but had in fact it had been moved just days previously to the Maldives and Trinco. Fuchida had to content himself with sinking the HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall. A few British Hurricanes took to the skies in defence. One pilot was hit but managed to land on Galle Face Green to the surprise of passers-by. He was able to walk to the nearby Galle Face hotel where someone called: “You need a drink!” He was handed an amber liquid that turned out to be cold tea. It was only 8.30am and the bar was still closed, but the Japanese had failed in its attack on Ceylon.

LEONARD WOOLF IN CEYLON Colombo can sometimes feel like a bit of a mad house with the bustling crowds and the heat combining to form a heady effervescence. The writer Leonard Woolf described it thus: “...there was something extraordinarily real and at the same time unreal in the sights, sounds and smells the whole impact of Colombo, the Grand Oriental Hotel, and Ceylon in those first hours and days, and this curious mixture of intense reality and unreality applied to all my seven years in Ceylon.” If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka then a copy of Woolf in Ceylon by Christopher Ondaatje makes for an insightful introduction to the country. The Grand Oriental Hotel which Woolf saw in the early 20th century is still standing, a wonderful monument to a bygone era.

JAFFNA For adventurous travellers or if you are returning to Sri Lanka and want to see a different side to what you’ve previously

STEPPES TRAVELLER experienced, Jaffna in the northern province should certainly be on your itinerary. I wanted to create a programme in Jaffna that would help pave the way for tourism to return to the area and revitalise the economy. In essence, many larger operators tend to use Sinhalese guides to take tourists to Jaffna - guides who often don’t know the area well, know even less about its history and don’t get along with local Tamils. We began a tourism programme that is run by and for the benefit of local people. We believe this is the first initiative of its kind in

Sri Lanka, and it has been met with amazing feedback from clients and locals alike; something that gives us immense pride. We aim to develop Jaffna tourism in a way that’s true to our values and our vision of sustainability. We also want to highlight unique experiences here and open the door to more remote destinations such as Delft. Originally a Portuguese island known as ‘Isla de Vacas,’ Delft was taken over by the Dutch and renamed after their city of Delft which, as you may know, was the birthplace of Vermeer. This is a place of haunting beauty, with walls made of coral, no cars

and wild horses that run freely around the landscape. In all of Sri Lanka, this is the place about which I am most passionate, and I love introducing it to first-time visitors.

SRI LANKA 14 day holiday to Sri Lanka including Jaffna from £4,545pp, including international flights



Family Holidays I


t is clear that a growing number of parents see the educational value in travelling, as well as the advantages of simply spending time together on a stimulating family holiday, without the distraction of routine. As parents ourselves, we understand that you are likely to have a 10-year window for family holidays. Before the age of eight, your children will want to be near a pool or the sea, and may not remember holidays. And once they reach 18, you will be seen as ‘uncool’; they will prefer to travel with their friends. Thus planning and personalisation are needed to ensure you make the most of these precious opportunities. Planning ensures that we design and deliver a range of complementary holidays for you over this 12-year period. It means that you are not

stymied by availability and price, given the constraints of school terms and holiday dates. Meanwhile, personalisation guarantees you have the very best family memories. Whilst we know which destinations, lodges and experiences are best for children of different ages - because we’ve travelled there with our own families – we need to find out what is right for you. We are happy to come and meet with you and your children to explore all possibilities, ensuring we design and deliver those golden snitch moments. There is no such thing as an ‘off-the-shelf’ family holiday – what might work for one family will not work for another - but here a few ideas to whet your appetite. We look forward to opening your children’s eyes to the wonderful world of travel.


Be a junior ranger and track meerkats, pangolins and rhinos in South Africa’s Tswalu Kalahari.

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pland, in Swedish La Stay in a UFO d take an ng g, ice-fishi go dog sleddin e. ic e th e across a hovercraft rid


Call Steppes to help you start planning or request one of our family brochures.


Equally, we would love to meet you and your children to ensure we get to know exactly what you are each looking for.

MADAGASCAR Climb a 60-metre tree in the Brazilian Amazon and sleep in a hammock in the rainforest canopy

Search for pirate graves and ringtailed lemurs, before making bows and arrows and going on a bug hunt.

INDIA Search forests and jungles for tigers, elephants, leopards and panthers


Search for monkeys, parrots and crocodiles in Ecuador and snorkel alongside sea-lions in the Galapagos.





t’s more than 10 years since I last visited Pakistan, and it doesn’t feel so familiar anymore. I was worried about going back. Nobody wants to go on holiday feeling they have to look over their shoulder all the time. Last month though, it felt different. Better. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have lifted the ban on travel to Gilgit Baltistan (Hunza) and further advice from news sources, our partner in Pakistan, our insurer and most recently a direct security contact in Pakistan has provided, in my view, a well-balanced picture of life in the country today. Time to return. But, let me begin at the beginning.

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My first port of call was Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan. I spent a day just outside the city at the Ala Archa National Park. It was a great place to stretch my legs after the flight, and to get a taste for the many scenic mountain views I’d be enjoying over the coming weeks. My guide was a little perturbed to start with - my grey hair gave her cause for concern about my hiking abilities, especially when I insisted on continuing up to the mountain hut at 3,300 metres. To put this into context Lhasa is located at 3,600 metres. I may be no spring chicken but I’m not ready for the chop just yet. From Bishkek I ventured south, spending the night in Chichkan Gorge at a small motel that was situated

by a fast-running river. I made a small diversion to see Sary Chelek Lake, an alpine lake above the village of the same name. In terms of accommodation, it’s homestays all the way here, comfortable but with shared bathroom facilities. In Arslanbob, a picturesque village that begins in the valley floor, and extends up the sides, there is a small but busy centre where goods are traded, and people come to meet and chat. With my local guide, I explored the walnut forest nearby - it is reputed to be the largest in the world and my guide, who proudly told me he had his own grove, explained how the fascinating allocation system of individual walnut trees was made, and who benefited from




the collection of the nuts. The villagers of Arslanbob are great climbers, apparently, adept at harvesting their nuts quickly, which allows them to make extra money by scaling trees in service of people from neighbouring villages who lack the ability. It is rumoured that Rolls Royce once obtained the wood for their car interiors at the request of Winston Churchill from this very walnut grove, but my guide was unable to offer any further detail.

OVER THE IRKESHTAM PASS TO CHINA Leaving Arslanbob, I made a brief stopover in Osh, before travelling on to Sary-Tash, a tiny village that serves as the junction between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Like many parts of this region, accommodation options are limited, but the introduction of Community Based Tourism (CBT) initiatives to rural communities such as this have brought tangible benefits, helping to maintain standards and boost innovation. The objective is to improve living conditions in remote mountain regions by developing a sustainable and wholesome ecotourism model that utilises local natural and recreational resources. The journey from Bishkek to the south and beyond to Kashgar through the Irkeshtam Pass is epic, with wider vistas and taller, even more impressive mountains. I will not go into great detail about the procedures involved in crossing the pass, suffice to say that they demand patience and 36 | EDITION ONE 2018 | 03331 226 216


an open mind. Arriving in Kashgar however more than makes up for it in drama.

KASHGAR, SHIPTON’S ARCH, AND PEOPLEWATCHING IN TASHKURGAN That aside, I enjoyed my time in Kashgar immensely. The Old City is wonderful to stroll through, opposite the Id Kah Mosque. Kashgar of course is one of the best-preserved traditional Islamic cities in this part of Asia. The 17th century mausoleum of Afaq Khoja is renowned for its mosaics and tileworks, a beautiful building adorned with towers on each corner. I visited at the end of the day, so that I had the venue almost entirely to myself. Another highlight was sitting in a local tea house while a group of old men danced to music, their eyes twinkling at some amused female tourists. This was my first opportunity to see Shipton’s Arch, thought to be the largest natural stone arch in the world. At 365 metres, it’s just shy of the Empire State Building. The arch was first discovered by Eric Shipton, former British Consul in Kashgar, in 1947, but it fell from international attention until a National Geographic expedition located it again in 2000. Even following significant investment for tourism, getting to the arch still requires traversing a riverbed and climbing several staircases.

MUHARRAM IN PAKISTAN I entered Pakistan over the Khunjerab Pass, which at 4,693 metres is the world’s highest paved motorable border crossing. The entry procedures are just as monotonous as at Irkeshtam, but finally you pass beneath the Chinese arch and into Pakistan, and should you happen to need some cash at this point, you’ll be pleased to know the world’s highest ATM is located here although it only works in the daytime. This part of the country has some of the highest mountains on the planet, with some 108 peaks over 7,000 metres and five over 8,000 metres. Several of them lie in the Karakoram range, which runs almost entirely through this region known as Gilgit Baltistan (GB). As you travel down the Karakoram Highway (KKH) a road that has evolved over the years from a track hewn from solid rock one jeep-wide, the mountainous scenery of towering rocks, jagged glaciers and whitewater rivers is awe-inspiring. I paused at the first Pakistani checkpoint to pay the compulsory entrance fee for the Khunjerab National Park. One of the security personnel lent me his rifle scope, so that I could take a closer look at an Ibex resting on a mountain side. I had arrived during the holy month of Muharram, particularly observed by Shia Muslims, to mark the martyrdom of Husayn Ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad. Thousands of people dress in mournful dark clothing to visit the mosques and listen to

speeches broadcast by the mullahs, before collecting in large groups to march through the streets. Some engage in self-flagellation, and it’s not uncommon to see some brave spirits walking across burning coals. More colourful were the artistically painted lorries for which Pakistan is famous, all parked up on show along the roads. Lorry art developed as a result of drivers being away from home for long periods of time. They wanted a connection with home, so began decorating their vehicles. There are no rules, and the imagination of the drivers and the artists that assist them makes for some memorable adornments. I even saw several old Bedfords that would have started life in the UK. Domestic tourism is thriving here and the locals I met were without fail friendly and welcoming, which I feel is a good barometer of how things have improved. I think it’s time for Western visitors to return, and I hope some of you reading this will be able to follow in my footsteps, or even take their own detours from the well-trodden path, something I would always recommend.

SILK ROUTE 14 day Silk Road journey from £5,545pp, including international flights




Where To Go When Want to see a wildlife spectacle like the Great Migration in Northern Tanzania, the rhododendron forests of Bhutan in full flower or need inspiration for your next holiday? Use our calendar as a guide of where to go throughout the year. To find out more visit WWW.STEPPESTRAVEL.COM/WHEN-TO-GO



SRI LANKA: Wildlife, beaches, tea plantations and some of the best hotels in Asia. Visit the Galle literary festival to add an eclectic diversity to your holiday.

JAPAN: It’s expensive but worth it. The cherry blossom is out. Visit exquisite gardens, ancient temples, tea rooms and puppet theatres.

THE FALKLANDS & SOUTH GEORGIA: Colonies of king penguins can be seen in their thousands. Follow in the footsteps of Shackleton and visit his resting place in South Georgia.

COSTA RICA: Perfect for teenage fun and adventure. Nothing beats exploring the rainforest canopy on a zip line, biking around the volcanic craters and horseriding through the surf on the coast.



EGYPT: Explore Egypt with a leisurely journey on the Nile by steamship or dahabiya and end with a few days on the beach. BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO: One of the world’s most famous areas for whale watching and February is the perfect time. Grey whales with their calves can be seen up close and personal in the Pacific coast lagoons, while blue whales congregate in the Sea of Cortez.


INDIA: Experience all the vibrant colours of the Holi festival. Journey to Jaipur for the Elephant Festival when hundreds of these decorated and bejewelled giants converge on the city. BOTSWANA: Venture out on safari as the summer rains bring the Kalahari Desert to life with a plethora of plains, game, and predators. The annual migration of the large herds at this time is not to be missed.

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PERU: The Sacred Valley of the Senor de Torrechayoc comes alive with dancers and vibrant street performers at festival time, celebrating the advent of Spring with an abundance of beautiful flowers. BHUTAN: The flowers in Bhutan are at their best. Hillsides are carpeted and the rhododendron forests are in full flower. For the keen gardener it is a delight.


ARGENTINA: Low season means less people. Learn to tango in Buenos Aires, ride out gaucho style or explore the little-known north west. Great wine and the impressive Iguazu Falls are just some of the highlights. ALASKA: A peak time to observe humpback whales bubble net feeding, while grizzly bears and black bears can also be seen foraging along the shoreline of Glacier Bay National Park.




ZIMBABWE: Back on the map, for safari lovers. Canoe on the Zambezi in Mana Pools, see herds of elephants at Hwange and lions in Matusadona.

NEPAL: There is no country on earth that can provide such dramatic Himalayan views. Take a short easy trek, maybe a river rafting and end in the Royal Chitwan park in search of tiger.

ARCTIC: Join one of our expeditionary boats and explorer Spitsbergen renowned for its excellent bear sightings. With 24 hours of daylight, abundant wildlife, and drifting icebergs the Arctic in summer is one of the most beautiful areas on earth.

ZAMBIA: An African wilderness awaits. Try your hand at tiger fishing in the lower Zambezi, see the impressive Victoria Falls, horse ride from the historic Shiwa N’gandu or set off into the bush on a walking safari.


KENYA: By August the great migration reaches the rivers of the Masai Mara. See this spectacle of nature at its most raw. Watch the wildebeest stampede with a grandstand view (without the crowds) from the river’s edge. OMAN: A favourite family destination for the summer. Sample a Bedouin style night out in the desert, go dolphin watching or snorkel and dive in the Gulf of Oman.



MOZAMBIQUE: For beach lovers the coast is sublime. Superb diving amongst pristine coral, snorkelling, excellent deep-sea fishing and a variety of small private resorts to suit all pockets. CAMBODIA: Travel between November and April and you’ll be blessed with blue skies and comfortable temperatures to explore. Ask our experts about the Cambodian Water Festival.


ECUADOR: Sample the local delicacy of Chugchucaras, a spicy mix which echoes Spanish, indigenous and African roots, at the “La Fiesta de la Marma Negra”, Latacunga.

NEW ZEALAND: December is the start of their summer, making it ideal to sample some of the action on South Island be it wild swimming, white-water rafting, glacier hiking or horse riding, to name a few.

MALAWI: Sitting in the Cradle of Mankind, Lake Malawi supports and enriches every aspect of this small country. Venture on safari for the Big Five and then sail, swim or snorkel in the lake’s inviting warm waters.

THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: For the ultimate close-up wildlife encounter, take advantage of low season at the beginning of December and travel when it’s quieter or spend Christmas in these enchanted islands.




Falklands and South Georgia


here are few photographers so well placed to help you hone your photography skills when on a wildlife trip. Her credentials speak volumes; after achieving a degree in zoology and working as part of the worldrenowned BBC Natural History Unit, she fulfilled her lifelong ambition to work with her childhood hero, Sir David Attenborough.

-40°C with Inuit hunters in the Arctic, working on Russian icebreakers on trips to the North Pole, and swimming with humpback whales in Tonga. Most recently, she spent a month camping in Antarctica, photographing emperor penguins, before flying to the South Pole, which she describes as one of her favourite-ever trips. Sue is passionate about the use of still and moving images to engage people’s interest in the natural world and often travels as a photographer, naturalist and lecturer with our Steppes clients.

Her BBC experience includes her role as Assistant Producer on The Blue Planet, as well as working on the Disney movie Earth, as well as working on Planet Earth, which took her to the Arctic, Antarctic and South Pacific. Sue’s adventures have taken her from camping at

See some of her photographs from previous trips and register your interest to travel on one of our upcoming expert-led tours or as part of a private group travel option.

“Three things made this trip so superb. The scenery and wildlife are in themselves remarkable. Sue was amazing and has enabled me to truly discover photography. She is great fun and hugely interesting and helpful with anything. The crew - their knowledge and involvement with the conservation of this region made this tour so much more significant.’’ Sarah | Canada


Madagascar - August 2018

Galapagos Cruise - May 2018

Canada Grizzly Bears - September 2018

Spitsbergen - July 2018

Antarctica - January 2019

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Canada British Columbia Cruise - September 2019 Papua New Guinea Cruise - November 2019 (register your interest)


Papua New Guinea


“We got back today from one of the best holidays ever. Thank you so much for all you did to arrange it. It was an honour to spend time in the company of Sue Flood. A very special person. She is so talented and professional but down to earth and friendly.’’ Roy and Andy | Canada Tweedsmuir Lodge

South Pole Galapagos

Falklands and South Georgia

Images Copyright © Sue Flood

Ring tailed lemur, Madagascar Galapagos



New Zealand



n the higher reaches of New Zealand’s South Island you’ll discover a thrilling range of wildlife experiences, culinary delicacies and cultural insights, all wrapped in the stunning natural environment for which the country is so renowned. The ferry journey from Wellington at the foot of the North Island takes you across the Cook Strait and into the spectacular Marlborough Sounds. Steep, native bushclad hills plunge all the way down to the waterline along 1,500 kilometres of winding coastline. As you gently cruise through the sounds, you become acutely aware of the tranquillity of these waterways. There is no more sublime way to arrive in what the locals call ‘the mainland’. You’ll notice a number of attractive holiday homes dotting the hillsides, which are perfectly accessible despite being halfhidden by verdant New Zealand bush, so that a stay in the sounds is as convenient as it is idyllic. Looking further afield, there is a superb selection of accommodation options available throughout the Marlborough

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region to cater for all budgets and desires. This area is a haven for marine and birdlife. On Motuara Island in the Queen Charlotte Sound, little penguin and many other rare native species of bird, including the iconic Kiwi, thrive in a predator-free bird sanctuary. You can also walk the scenic Queen Charlotte Track, one of the South Island’s most renowned walks, or a short stretch of it. The charming town of Picton is the heart of the Marlborough Sounds, and this is where the Cook Strait ferry arrives. From here it’s only a short drive to Blenheim, gateway to the world-renowned Marlborough vineyards. Marlborough put New Zealand on the international wine stage in the 1980s with its Sauvignon Blanc and today the region boasts around two thirds of New Zealand’s total vineyards. With over 30 cellar doors available for tastings, finding out what’s so special about Marlborough wine is a wonderful experience. Guided tours are available, and if you fancy a little exercise you can also cycle around at your own pace, sampling as you go.

Famous wines of the Marlborough region, as well as multi award-winning New Zealand craft beers, can be paired with local produce and gourmet cuisine. The Marlborough Sounds are well-known for the quality of their salmon and greenshell mussels, while fresh crayfish is readily available from the East Coast. Many visitors remark that this area is something of a culinary paradise, and they’re not wrong. The drive south from Marlborough along the east coast is one of the most picturesque routes in a country that’s hardly short of them. Snoozing seals can often be seen stretched out on the rocky outcrops along the wild Pacific coastline. Eventually you’ll reach Kaikoura, New Zealand’s marine Serengeti. This quaint little seaside town is an absolute must-visit on any South Island itinerary, for its blend of world-class wildlife experiences and rustic charm. A deep undersea trench off the Kaikoura coast provides a rich feeding ground for abundant sea life, including dolphin and and several species of whale. Companies such


as Whale Watch Kaikoura and Encounter Kaikoura offer whale and dolphin-watching trips with a sustainable ethos, while you can also see many forms of birdlife including albatross, and of course seals. Don’t forget to stop at the roadside caravans for a delicious fresh seafood takeaway, where you can have a chat with the friendly vendors while taking in the incredible views. Naturally, Kaikoura also offers an excellent selection of accommodation options, from hosted bed-and-breakfasts to motels and many luxury properties. This is one very special New Zealand town, with distinctive Maori and marine cultures, and a raft of unmissable wildlife activities to be enjoyed. Note: Some sections of the east coast highway have been closed for the past 12 months due to damage sustained in the 2016 earthquake that struck near Kaikoura, but are scheduled to reopen from mid-December 2017. Please note though that the SH1 road will still have roadworks during 2018, and Ohau Point seal colony will not be available for viewing until later in 2018.

NEW ZEALAND 14 day holiday to New Zealand’s South Island from £4,995pp, including international flights



Spotlight on Europe E

urope is where east meets west and presents a complete kaleidoscope of landscapes, cultures and holidays to suit everyone. Towards the east, we have the Caucasus, a mesmerising range of mountainous countries where Europe juxtaposes Asia. This stunning region includes Russia - the

largest country in the world spanning 11 time zones, Armenia - an ancient and historical site of cultural heritage, Georgia - famous for its mouthwatering cuisine and an alphabet all of its own, and Azerbaijan - which welcomes the beautiful waters of the Caspian Sea to its shores. Moving westwards, Turkey offers a

wealth of history and architecture so intense it’s almost overwhelming. Spain is home to endless, pristine sandy beaches, extravagant dancing and UNESCO World Heritage Sites in no fewer than 13 cities. It is hard to know where to start but below are just a few suggestions to whet your appetite.


Quirky bars and cafes, hilltop castles and baroque palaces, isolated villages where traditional folklores and cultures are maintained and protected wilderness areas providing sanctuary to deer, elks, bears and wolves. While Romania is not perfect it is uplifting to visit a country that values its heritage, both natural and cultural. Why now? Thanks to forward thinking conservationists, over 50% of Europe’s bears call the Carpathians home. If wildlife isn’t your thing, then visit the bucolic region of Maramures or stay at HRH Prince Charles’ restored historic property in the Zalan Valley. From £3,385 pp for a ten day itinerary including flights, accommodation with breakfast, private guide and transport, activities and entrance fees.


Walk the Trans-Caucasian Trail, visit Ushguli – Europe’s highest inhabited village and take a helicopter tour over Kazbegi and the surrounding mountains. You don’t have to be a diehard trekker to enjoy the Caucasus – take day walks among snow-capped peaks punctuated by sumptuous picnics, visits to vineyards, old villages and fascinating churches. Why Now? New direct flights out of London Gatwick make one of Europe’s most picturesque and friendly countries more accessible. To avoid back-tracking, fly into Tbilisi and then take budget airline, Wizz Air’s new direct flight out of Kutaisi back in to Luton. From £2,195 pp for a 9 day itinerary including flights, all transport, some meals, guiding and entrance fees.

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History has decorated the Albanian landscape, every age subtly leaving its mark. Greek columns stand above terraced hillsides, Cold War bunkers hide beneath modern streets and Roman mosaics lie within forgotten city ruins. Explore beautiful Berat with its ornate Ottoman mansions that are stacked one upon another, wander through the steeply cobbled streets of sleepy Gjirokaster and hike through the Albanian Alps in the dramatic Theth National Park. Why now? Whilst the Balkans are booming, neighbouring Albania remains quietly forgotten. But times are changing. With new boutique hotels, a burgeoning art scene and direct flights from London Gatwick, this beautiful country is slowly gaining recognition. From £1,595 pp for a 9 day itinerary including flights, accommodation with breakfast, guiding, transport and entrance fees.


Croatia is a country of diversity with over a thousand unexplored islands, offering a relatively off the beaten track experience. A perfect way to explore at least some of these is by private charter – take your pick from humble sailing boats to luxury superyachts. For an alternative view, try exploring its mediaeval buildings and hilltop fortresses of Trogir, Zadar and the Kornati archipelago on foot. Why now? Croatia surprises the adventurous traveller offering authentic experiences and possibilities with everything from caving to rafting, off- road driving and canyoning - just a few miles inland from the coastline. From £2,995 pp for a 7 day itinerary staying at the newly refurbished Hotel Excelsior in Dubrovnik and Hotel Park in Split, including flights.


Puglia, a charming rising star. It’s a taste of the real Italy where you can avoid the crowds. Brimming with Baroque architecture. Wide sweeping landscapes, isolated villages, labyrinthine towns, trulli houses (cone-shaped stone dwellings), miles of rocky coastline and charming boutique hotels. Some of the best traditional foods in Italy also come from Puglia, a haven for foodies. Why now? There are beautiful places to stay, from gorgeous boutique masserias to family friendly resort hotels. Puglia is fast becoming Italy’s hottest destination. From £2,295 pp for an 8 day itinerary staying at Masseria San Domenico including car hire and flights.




ver the next three years (from 2018-2020) expect to see the emergence of pop-up, luxury camps in some of the world’s most remote locations. In 2019, look out for pop-up luxury camps in Greenland, Antarctica and The Kimberleys, while in 2020 there is a spectacular camp planned for Lake Baikal.

WHAT IS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT? • Minimal environmental impact • Pop-up camps allow for exploration of remote places where decent accommodation options are limited • A feeling of being at one with nature with only a piece of canvass between you and the outside world • Wake up to some of the world’s most exceptional views • Camps are normally located miles away from nearest population hubs so expect peace and tranquillity • Remote means no light pollution so the night skies are extraordinary • Beautifully appointed camps using traditional fabrics and artefacts to create an authentic, cosy and indulgent atmosphere • Attention to detail is exceptional with no corners cut and no expense spared.

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This simple tented camp is bush camping it its best. Mobile in nature, it is set up deep within Gonarezhou National Park – an area of wilderness that attracts few visitors, despite its beautiful landscapes. The camp is taken out exclusively and hosted by Ant Kaschula, a Zimbabwean guide with incredible experience and an in-depth knowledge of the park.

Experience the extraordinary wildlife and landscape of western Mongolia, staying in private ger camps in the Altai Mountains, encountering snow leopards and saiga antelope. This region is also home to Mongolia’s most fascinating and diverse ethnic groups: the Kazakhs with their hunting eagles and the shamanist Tuvans.

Why? The camp’s Meru tents offer an incredibly comfortable base, located amidst total wilderness. This, coupled with Ant’s fantastic guiding, allow you to really immerse yourself into Gonarezhou’s environment.

Why? Waking up in the middle of this timeless landscape means no time is wasted on long arduous journeys. The sense of connection with the land and the people is palpable.

BOLIVIA & CHILE Travel from La Paz to San Pedro de Atacama staying in luxury pop-up camps, skirting around Bolivia’s highest peak, Sajama and traversing the startling Salar de Uyuni before reaching Chile’s Valley of the Moon. Sourced for the right altitude and climate, these tented suites offer the comfort of a hotel room with a private bathroom, comfortable bedding, interior decoration and proper heating when needed. Why? Waking up to the seemingly endless view across the Salar de Uyuni has to be the perfect start to anybody’s day on a South America adventure.

INDIA: NOMADIC CAMPING THROUGH CENTRAL INDIA WITH KAAFILA Kaafila is a semi nomadic, eco sensitive camp that accommodates up to eight people, in four tents, available for exclusive use only. Sheltering amongst the jungle covered hills and picturesque valleys of Central India are great brooding forts, well preserved medieval cities and a rich variety of wildlife. Best of all - virtually all of these treasures are unknown and safe from ‘development’, set in some of the most magnificent scenery in all of the subcontinent. Why?The luxurious tents and expert guides of Kaafila will allow a glimpse of an India that is fast being submerged.


Remote Camping




Wildlife Tours O

ur wildlife group tours have been receiving plaudits now for more than 15 years, from both our clients and conservation partners alike.

Below are just a selection of our portfolio, more can be viewed online or in our brochure. We are continually looking for new, exciting and innovative wildlife experiences.

SOUTH AFRICA: RHINO CONSERVATION PROJECT Accompanied by Dr Peter Rogers 22 - 28 July 2018

From £2,295 pp*

A hands-on wildlife opportunity which contributes to the conservation efforts being made to protect South Africa’s white rhino population in Greater Kruger National Park.


NAMIBIA: GIRAFFE CONSERVATION SAFARI Accompanied by Dr Julian Fennessy 11th - 22nd November, 2018

From £7,065 pp*

Journey to Etosha National Park, in search of an isolated population of desert-adapted giraffes. Accompanied by giraffe expert Dr Julian Fennessy, track, dart and collar two of these iconic African mammals.

KENYA: ELEPHANTS OF SAMBURU Accompanied by Saba Douglas-Hamilton 2- 9 June 2018

From £7,295 pp*

The contribution made to elephant conservation by the Douglas-Hamilton’s is legendary and so to spend a week in their company, on their home soil of Samburu and Naivasha, is the opportunity of a lifetime. Take walks and game drives in Samburu escorted by Saba DouglasHamilton and Elephant Watch’s Samburu guides.

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MADAGASCAR: LAND OF THE LEMUR Accompanied by local guides 9 - 21 September 2018

From £3,295 pp*

From lemurs that sing like whales, lizards with three eyes to the towering Avenune of Baobabs, our trip through Madagascar offers something different. With the chance to search for the cat-like fosa and the spectral aye-aye, the best guides in the country leads you through this fascinating and surreal adventure.

TONGA: SWIMMING WITH HUMPBACK WHALES Accompanied by Doug Allan 15 – 26 September 2018

From £5,395 pp*

Swim with humpback whales, accompanied by David Attenborough’s favourite cameraman, Doug Allan. Immerse yourself in Tonga’s compelling mix of spectacular landscapes, pristine rainforests and azure waters.

BRAZIL: JAGUAR SAFARI IN THE PANTANAL Accompanied by Mario Haberfeld and Dr Arnaud Desbiez 3 – 11 October 2018

From £4,175 pp*

Accompany leading conservationists including the Onçafari Jaguar Project. Track jaguars in the southern Pantanal, and assist researchers as they study giant armadillos, anteaters and tapirs.

INDIA: LIONS AND LEOPARDS OF WEST INDIA Accompanied by Kartikeya Singh 30 November – 13 December 2018

From £5,995 pp*

With wildlife as the key focus, visit national parks and reserves such as those at Sasan Gir and the Rann of Kutch, in search of the rare Asiatic lion and the elusive Ghudkhur (Indian wild ass).

BORNEO: ORANGUTAN CONSERVATION Accompanied by Ashley Leiman OBE 14 - 23 October 2018

From £3,395 pp*

Steppes Travel’s partnership with the Orangutan Foundation allows us to take you to areas in the National Park otherwise closed to the general public. This in depth and small escorted group delves deep into the Tanjung Puting National Park with exceptional orangutan and other wildlife viewings.






Cultural Tours

e are recognised as one of the UK’s leading specialists in cultural, historical and archaeological small group tours. We have developed an enviable pool of tour experts, with

whom we carefully select based on their knowledge, companionship and personality.


Below are just a selection of our portfolio, more can be viewed online or in our brochure.



From £2,795 pp*

Rich in manpower and natural resources, the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia provided the foundations for the outstanding expansionist successes of Alexander the Great and his father, Phillip II. Discover highlights including the ancient city of Pella, birthplace of Alexander the Great, the ancient sanctuary of Dion, dedicated to Zeus. Finish with a trip to see the wonderfully-preserved Royal Cemetery at Vergina, resting place of Alexander’s father.


Accompanied by Diana Driscoll 5 - 20 June 2018

From £4,495 pp*

This journey traverses the mighty Tian Shan (mountains) from the green and mountainous terrain of Kyrgyzstan with its proud history and nomadic culture to the better-known sites along the northern Chinese Silk Route. The Silk Route was about trade between continents and the Sunday Market at Kashgar typifies this. Dust and animals mingle with local herders and villagers, deals are done in the blink of an eye.


From £3,595 pp*

The Caucasus is such a diverse and historically rich region to travel through and seeing both Armenia and Georgia in one tour is absorbing. Starting in Yerevan under the watchful and everpresent gaze of Mount Ararat, and ending in Tbilisi the itinerary meanders through arresting scenery taking in palaces, churches, monasteries, and entire towns carved into sheer rock faces.

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ITALY – ARTISANS OF TUSCANY: LA BELLA FIGURA Led by Kamin Mohammadi 17 – 24 September 2018

From £4,495 pp*

A unique opportunity to experience a different side to Florence away from the main tourist traps and spend time in a private Tuscan castle. Through the local knowledge and expertise of our leader, Kamin Mohammadi, doors have been opened to meet with local artisans and explore lesser known sites away from the regular tourist trail.

IRAN: THE ACHAEMENID HERITAGE Led by Sylvie Franquet 7 Sep - 9 Oct 2018

From £3,495 pp*

Sylvie Franquet returns to lead our successful journey through Iran. This tour is designed for those first-time visitors who wish to see the highlights, of which there are many, in a limited period of time with an expert in the region. However, we like to offer more, and the tour also includes a visit to Kerman and the citadel of Rayen (after the destruction of Bam).

PERU: TEXTILES OF THE SACRED VALLEY Led by John Alfredo Davis Benavides 19 – 28 October 2018

From £4,750 pp*

Visiting Machu Picchu, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca, allow for a deep immersion in the traditions, folklore and way of life of the Andean communities.

COLOMBIA UNCOVERED Led by Juan Ortiz & local experts 25 August - 7 Sept 2018

From £5,295 pp*

Visit remote archaeological sites in the Andes and Amazon for ceremonial stone sculptures and burial mounds. Learn about the indigenous cultures that crafted this legacy and see the prolific collection of artefacts in Bogota’s Gold Museum. With time to view Amazonian wildlife and the colonial heritage in Cartagena.

ALBANIA: ORIGINS OF ILLYRIA Accompanied by Carolyn Perry 9 - 17 June 2018

From £1,595 pp*

Discover Albania’s lesser known sites, including rockcut tombs, quarries full of inscriptions and a Bronze Age site overlooking the sea. Combining Illyrian cities like Amantia with Roman towns such as Hadrianopolis. The tour also takes in the natural beauty of rural Albania.



Luxury Holidays By Private Jet SIMPLE • CONVENIENT • SMART




Steppes Traveller Magazine 2018 UK