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2017

Experiences
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Experiences
2017

Contents
IMAGE: GETTY

07 Editors picks 40 Poison frogs of Colombia


The experiences that shook our world On the trail of the worlds most
formidable amphibian
11 Part 1: Learning curve
45 Part 4: Being there
13 Pasta practice
Know your ravioli from your gnocchi 46 Northern Lights
The view from the Arctic wilderness
14 Freediving in Komodo On the cover
Diving unaided in kaleidoscopic depths 49 The pyramids of Sudan
A camp fire lights up
Exploring the mysterious structures
its surroundings in the
17 Spanish in Majorca of Mero
Sahara, Merzouga,
Learning the lingo with the locals Morocco. IMAGE: Getty
52 The two towers
21 Halloumi in Cyprus Seeing London from a different view
Making the islands squeaky cheese
55 Icelandic adventures
23Part 2: Come to your From volcanic churches to lava lumps
senses
59 Part 5: On the move
24 The Deep South
Music and food in Memphis, Nashville 60 A Peak District adventure
and New Orleans Spelunking, climbing and gorge walking

30 The road to wellbeing 64 Polo in Dubai


Alternative routes to health, from forest Learning the sport of kings
baths to Mayan sweat lodges
67 Canoeing in Canada
32 Part 3: Close encounters Tackling the rapids of Ontario

34 On safari in Botswana 70 Serenity in the Seychelles


Among the birds and the beasts of Active pursuits and animal encounters
the Okavango Delta on Alphonse Island

Experiences 2017 3
Editorial Director: Maria Pieri Contributing Editors:
Editor: Pat Riddell Jo Fletcher-Cross, Zane Henry,
Deputy Editor: Glen Mutel Sam Lewis, Farida Zeynalova
Senior Editor: Stephanie Cavagnaro Editorial Assistant:
Associate Editor: Sarah Barrell Connor McGovern
Assistant Editors: Amelia Duggan, Sub Editors: Lorraine Grifths,

Editors
Tamsin Wressell Ben Murray
Digital Development Manager: Designers: Gabriella Finney,
Seamus McDermott Lauren Gamp, Philip Lay
Production Controllers:

letter
Online Editor: Josephine Price
Head of Subs: Hannah Doherty Maia Abrahams, Joaquim Pereira,
Sub Editors: Chris Horton, Lisa Poston, Joanne Roberts,
Charlotte Wigram-Evans Anthony Wright
Project Manager: Natalie Jackson APL Business Development Team:

T
Group Art Editor: Chris Hudson Neil Bhullar, Chris Dalton,
Senior Designer: Lauren Atkinson-Smith Cynthia Lawrence, Sinead McManus
Lead Designer: Daniel Almeroth
Production Manager: Daniel Gregory Chief Executive: Anthony Leyens here was a time when our travel
Special Projects Consultant: Managing Director:
Matthew Midworth Matthew Jackson expectations were simple a bit of
National Geographic Traveller Business Sales Director: Alex Vignali
Development Team:
William Allen, Bob Jalaf, Adam Fox,
Sales Administrator:
Elizabeth Scott
rest and relaxation, a brief glimpse of
Kevin Killen, Glyn Morgan, Adam Phillips,
Mark Salmon, John Stergides, Jon Stone
Executive Assistant:
Taylah Brooke another culture or simply a break from
Head of National Geographic Traveller Financial Controller: Ryan McShaw
The Collection: Credit Manager: Craig Chappell keeping your own house. But as the decades
Danny Pegg Accounts Manager: Siobhan Grover
Accounts Assistant: Jana Abraham
have rolled by, our options and ambitions
have blossomed, and today your average
National Geographic Traveller (UK) is published by APL Media Limited,
Unit 310, Highgate Studios, 53-79 Highgate Road, London NW5 1TL.
traveller expects a great deal more.
For many, its no longer enough to be a
natgeotraveller.co.uk
Editorial T: 020 7253 9906. editorial@natgeotraveller.co.uk
Sales/Admin T: 020 7253 9909. F: 020 7253 9907. sales@natgeotraveller.co.uk
Subscriptions: T: 01293 312166. natgeotraveller@inter-media.co.uk tourist to go somewhere new and merely
National Geographic Traveller (UK) is published by APL Media Ltd under license from
National Geographic Partners, LLC. Their entire contents are protected by copyright 2017 soak it up. These days, people want
and all rights are reserved. Reproduction without prior permission is forbidden. Every
care is taken in compiling the contents of the magazine, but the publishers assume no experiences to do something that sounds
responsibility in the effect arising therefrom. Readers are advised to seek professional
advice before acting on any information which is contained in the magazine. Neither
APL Media Ltd or National Geographic Traveller magazine accept any liability for views
impressive, will stand out in the memory and
expressed, pictures used or claims made by advertisers.
will simultaneously scratch several
long-held itches. This could mean learning a
new skill, testing yourself physically in a new
National Geographic Traveler (US) Mary Beth Oelkers-Keegan, environment or simply being in the presence
Ann Marie Pelish, Brett Weisband
Editor-in-Chief, Travel Media: Communications Vice President: of something truly remarkable.
George W. Stone Heather Wyatt
Publisher & Vice President, Global
Media: Kimberly Connaghan
Communications Director: Meg Calnan
Senior Vice President, International
In this guide weve got it all covered, from
Digital Director: Andrea Leitch Media: Yulia P. Boyle
Design Director: Marianne Seregi Director, International Magazine chasing tree frogs in Colombia and walking
Director of Photography: Publishing: Ariel Deiaco-Lohr
Anne Farrar through an Icelandic glacier to freediving
Editorial Projects Director: National Geographic Society
Andrew Nelson
Senior Editor: Jayne Wise President & CEO: Gary E. Knell
with the sharks and rays of Komodo Island.
Features Editor: Amy Alipio Board of Trustees Chairman:
Associate Editor: Hannah Sheinberg Jean N. Case Travel has always been an experience
Editor/Producer: Christine Blau Vice Chairman: Tracy R. Wolstencroft
Producers: Mary McGrory, nows the time to have one of your own!
Lindsay Smith National Geographic Partners
Associate Producer: Caity Garvey
Editor, Adventure: Mary Anne Potts CEO: Declan Moore
Deputy Art Director: Editorial Director: Susan Goldberg
Leigh V. Borghesani Chief Financial Ofcer: Marcela Martin GLEN MUTEL, EDITOR
Senior Photo Producer: Sarah Polger Global Networks CEO:
Associate Photo Producers: Courteney Monroe
Jeff Heimsath, Jess Mandia Chief Communications Ofcer:
Associate Photo Editor: Laura Nichols @glenmutel
Laura Emmons Legal & Business Affairs: Jeff Schneider
Chief Researcher: Marilyn Terrell Chief Technology Ofcer:
Production Director: Kathie Gartrell Jonathan Young
Executive Assistant: Alexandra E. Petri Digital Product: Rachel Webber
Editorial Assistant: Gulnaz Khan Consumer Products & Experiences:
Copy Editors: Preeti Aroon, Rosa Zeegers
Liane DiStefano, Emily Shenk Flory, Board of Directors Chairman:
Nancy Gupton, Cindy Leitner, Gary E. Knell

Copyright 2017 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


National Geographic Traveler: Registered Trademark. Printed in the UK.

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Experiences 2017 5
Journeys
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EDITORS PICKS

U N F O R G E T TA B L E
From teary group hugs on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro
to a breathtaking flight above Victoria Falls, our team recall
the memorable experiences that shook their worlds

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Glen Mutel Stephanie Cavagnaro Pat Riddell


DEPUTY EDITOR SENIOR EDITOR EDITOR
WHAT: Seeing the monolithic Moai WHAT: Riding the Eastern & WHAT: Hiking and camping in Wadi
of Easter Island. Oriental Express. Rum, Jordan.
WHY: The initial appeal was the WHY: The journey from Singapore WHY: The further we drove into
islands isolation, palpable as I to Bangkok revealed a blur of the desert, the more magnificent
stood on the shore, staring out onto shifting landscapes: thick palm the landscape became. Vast
thousands of miles of nothingness. oil plantations, jungle covered red-orange sand dunes swept up
This was soon eclipsed by the thrill hills and flooded rice paddies. The the side of the rocky cliff s, which
of seeing the 15 Moai statues at Ahu train itself was just as special: step surrounded us. As darkness fell we
Tongariki, lined up with their backs aboard, and be transported to the arrived at Mzieds Bedouin tent.
to the Pacific, staring at the distant golden days of rail travel. My cabin Sweet yet bitter cardamom coffee,
quarry from which they were was enriched with cherry wood, boiled over an open fire, was served
carved especially the one with Champagne was almost obligatory while dinner was baked on charcoal
the huge rock topknot. in the observation car, and the under the sand. We lay out gazing
HOW: Journey Latin America Piano Bar was made for cheery up at the cloudless starry sky,
offers an 19-day holiday to Chile sing-a-longs in your finest frock. before drifting off in the absolute
including Easter Island, staying at HOW: Belmond offers the three-day silence of the desert.
the Explora Rapa Nui, from 7,537 Singapore to Bangkok trip on the HOW: Exodus Travels has a seven-
IMAGES: GETTY

per person. Price includes all Eastern & Oriental Express from night Petra & Wadi Rum Trek from
flights, excursions and most meals. 2,066 per person. belmond.com 1,339 per person. exodus.co.uk
journeylatinamerica.co.uk NEXT: An expedition to Antarctica NEXT: Ascending the Andes to the
NEXT: The Pyramids of Giza. to explore this icy, isolated world. Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

Experiences 2017 7
EDITORS PICKS

Hikers approach the


summit of Mount
Kilimanjaro at sunrise

RIGHT: Victoria Falls

Nicola Trup Sarah Barrell Helen Warwick


CONTRIBUTOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR CONTRIBUTOR
WHAT: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. WHAT: Camping in the Siberian steppe. WHAT: Microlight flight above
WHY: After months of training, I WHY: I joined a small, volunteer Victoria Falls.
flew to Tanzania last November. I conservation expedition in Russias WHY: The wind was picking up by
was travelling solo, but cheesy Altai Mountains, and found it one of the time I arrived: I was in for a
as it sounds the group I joined the most extreme wildernesses Ive ever bumpy ride. Rising through the chill
clicked immediately; we had deep experienced. It took over 72 hours to morning air, I dug my nails into the
and meaningful chats along the get there, through rapidly decreasing seat as we soared above elephants
way, and on summit night, when we markers of civilisation. Our final camp paddling in the Zambezis shallows,
were all exhausted and nauseous was at the foot of vast mountains where and a lone giraffe picking at
due to the altitude, we helped each wed seek traces of the elusive snow branches. I could hear the roar of
other push through. Ill never forget leopard. Signs of life were few. Then, the Falls before they came into
the feeling of getting to the top and one day, I saw the smoking chimney of sight: with flashes of rainbows,
having a group hug not a dry eye a yurt in the distance. It seemed such a rising mist and unimaginable
in the house. determined domestic defiance against torrents of water, its one of my
HOW: Intrepid Travels eight- the expanse of wilderness, I almost wept. most memorable travel moments.
day Kilimanjaro Rongai Route HOW: Biosphere Expeditions now HOW: Flights from $179 (138).
trip starts at 1,728 per person, runs a similarly remote, conservation victoriafalls.net
IMAGES: GETTY

excluding flights. intrepidtravel.com project in the Tien Shan mountains, NEXT: Hot air ballooning in the
NEXT: A long-distance kayaking and Kyrgyzstan. biosphere-expeditions.org Atacama Desert, for a chance to
camping trip along a remote stretch NEXT: Overland, west to east across enjoy one of the most magnificent
of water in New Zealand or Canada. Russia, to the Kamchatka Peninsula. views in the world.

8 natgeotraveller.co.uk
ExplorE thE worlds
largEst icE cavE
Unique, gigantic and one of Salzburgs
most popular attractions for many decades

Werfen Salzburg Austria www.eisriesenwelt.at


AUTHENTIC MEMORIES AND
MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon, Delfin Amazon Cruises will take


you into one of the worlds largest protected flooded forests, the
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. With a newly expanded fleet,
Delfin offers more choices than ever when planning a luxuary
cruising experience along the Peruvian Amazon. On board,
guests can enjoy exquisite Amazonian cuisine while voyages
include visits to native villages, kayaking, swimming near pink
river dolphins, fishing, daytime hiking, and night safaris.

Visit us online for more information:


www.delfinamazoncruises.com
LEARNING CURVE

Castaway
training in Belize
Ever wondered how youd
cope as a castaway? Now
you can find out, and train
for it. Over 10 days on an
island in Belizes Cayes youll
learn skills such as turning
sea water into freshwater,
lighting fires and building a
shelter. bushmasters.co.uk

SALSA IN COLOMBIA
Fancy perfecting your moves Fire-spinning in Miami
somewhere exotic? Try the Colombian How about a night with Miamis
city of Cali, which is full of salsa clubs, fire-spinners? One of Airbnbs new
although your best bet is a lesson with a experiences, it introduces newbies
local expert at the SalsaPura academy, to the art with one-on-one guidance

Par 1
where youll learn basic steps before from a pro. As well as meeting the
hitting the citys dancefloors. masters, youll learn tricks for a final
facebook.com/bailandosalsapura photoshoot just you and your

LEARNING
trusty spinning spear of fire.
airbnb.co.uk/experiences

Jewellery-making CURVE Snap happy


in France
Run by a British duo, this
retreat, set in a 19th-century
From fire spinning to
shipwreck survival, turn your
in Morocco
farmhouse, teaches the basics With its dramatic landscapes and
travels into an education, and
of moulding and crafting vivid colours, Morocco is the ideal
silver jewellery in a picture- return home with place to hone your photography
postcard setting. Take evening new skills skills. Creative Escapes offers trips,
walks through sunflower fields in including one-to-one tuition with a
the soft evening light, find inspiration professional and plenty of activity in the
in glimpses of the Pyrenees, and dine field. creative-escapes.co.uk
on superb plates of classic French
cuisine. golearnto.com
IMAGES: GETTY WORDS: HELEN WARWICK & NICOLA TRUP

YOGA & YACHTING


IN SARDINIA
This new travel
venture, aboard an
all-frills catamaran,
includes lessons in both
sailing and stretching.
Pootling around either
Sardinias La Maddalena
archipelago or Croatias Kornati
islands, it promises a blast of fresh
air, daily dips in the Med, dolphin-
spotting, trips to hidden beaches,
and iced sundowners in the shade.
yachtandyoga.com

Experiences 2017 11
INSPIRED BY THE DOLOMITES

The impressive peaks of the South Tyrolean Dolomites, Ladin culture and traditions, scenery like sculptures hewn
out of stone and in the midst of it all a surprisingly different, exclusive holiday retreat. A felicitous blend of age-
old culture and modernity, picturesque and heart-warming. A hideaway that allows you to set your own pace.
In our stylish and elegant breakfast rooms our Stuben we put a lot of passion into serving a rich
selection of home-made comfitures, a variety of organic breads, genuine cheeses and charcuterie,
as well as selected specialties from certified regional and organic producers.
Lush alpine pastures, woods and a panorama of breath-taking peaks: Summer in the Dolomites. The
fascination of the bare mountains attracts hikers, mountaineers and bikers from all over the world.

LAGACI HOTEL MOUNTAIN RESIDENCE | MICUR DE R 48 | 39036 SAN CASSIANO | DOLOMITES | ITALY
PHONE +39 0471 849503 | MAIL INFO@LAGACIO.COM
WWW.LAGACIO.COM
LEARNING CURVE

Pasta PERFECT Pick your colour,


crack some eggs,
roll your sheets
and get shaping.
Learning to
make pasta is as
Memories of silky parcels of ravioli washed down
with robust red wine on a sunlit square in Romes
Trastevere have left me longing to make my own
pasta. Which is why I find myself on a train on this
bright Saturday morning, rattling towards Surrey.
Woking to be exact. The hometown of HG Wells
addictive as its doesnt just have a huge model of a Martian war
useful. Words: machine at its centre, it also has Tante Marie the
Jo Fletcher-Cross UKs longest-established independent cookery
school. There are 10 of us in the gleaming kitchen:
most have been bought the course as a present, and
almost all confess to having a long-neglected pasta
machine in the kitchen cupboard. I dont even have
that; Im starting from a low base.
Chef Ollie Caswell is a cheery chap, though, and
quickly shows us how to make the basic dough. We
start with coloured pasta black (squid ink), red
FOUR TO MAKE (tomato) or green (spinach). I choose green, and get
to work cracking eggs into flour and squashing in
CANNELLONI: These are big, filled pasta spinach; it looks a bit like Play-Doh, with a vivid,
tubes. Roll pasta dough into a thin spring-bright texture. Ollie gives it a prod. Thats
sheet and cut into rectangles; cook very better than some the cordon bleu students have
quickly in boiling water. Put in the filling made recently. I bask in this unexpected praise.
then roll up the tube. After a satisfying session rolling out vast lengths
of green mixture into sheets of pasta, and then
TORTELLINI: Make a small pasta square, converting it into angel hair spaghetti with the
pop a bit of filling in the middle and join surprisingly straightforward pasta
the corners of the square together to machine, Im even more convinced of
make a triangle, then join the other two
corners together at the front.
my prowess. Until its time to make
ravioli. Somehow, everyone else has
n ie
delicate little pillows. Ive got a giant Pastas
RAVIOLI: Take two squares of pasta and duvet. Ollie prods that too. Well, easier than
pipe some filling into the middle of one. its like in a restaurant you just get
you think
Put the other on top and then cut out The one-day Perfect Pasta one big one, he says, hesitatingly. Yes,
using a fluted cutter (use a small one or course at TANTE MARIE costs thats what I was going for.
175 per person; it covers
youll get giant ravioli). We make piles and piles of pasta to take home:
making pasta dough,
lasagne sheets, little (and in my case, some quite
colouring, shaping in various
IMAGES: GETTY

GNOCCHI: These small potato dumplings styles and using kit such as
large) filled shapes, and sweet deep-fried cannoli.
are made in a similar way to pasta, but machines and cutters. Includes Im exhausted perhaps Im not quite cut out for
with mashed potatoes in the dough. Make a two-course meal and a glass the life of a chef. But I do now have a pasta machine
little balls, boil lightly then fry in butter. of wine. tantemarie.co.uk in my kitchen. And I might even use it.

Experiences 2017 13
LEARNING CURVE

Take
a
deep
breath...
14 natgeotraveller.co.uk
LEARNING CURVE

The kaleidoscopic depths off the is to stay at the surface for at least a
coast of Indonesias Komodo island couple of minutes, breathing steadily
are the perfect place to master the and deeply, before turning down and
tricky art of freediving. Just dont propelling yourself into the abyss with
get too distracted by the sharks slow but mighty fin-kicks.
Words: Jamie Lafferty The theory sounds simple enough,
but this is one of the most unnatural
Dont trust your eyes thats one of the pastimes a person can pursue after
main messages when youre learning all, were capable of drowning in just a
to freedive. Especially dont trust few centimetres of water. Initially,
them when youre ascending. I struggle to relax sufficiently,
If you see the surface, your
body will start to want air, n ie forget to equalise my airways
(something scuba and
youll kick faster and use Breathe deep freedivers have in common),
oxygen quicker. Then theres and dive and obsess about the
more chance of syncope. down unimpressive readings on my
So says Boum Senous, my dive watch. As a result, each
freediving instructor. The Belgian time I return to the surface Im
knows what hes talking about its both breathless and annoyed.
happened to him twice but syncope is But Komodo is one of the worlds great
a new word to me. Like passing out, he aquatic safari parks. Every time I get into
explains. Underwater. the water, Im surrounded by hundreds
The next question, naturally, is of sea creatures, from bluefin tuna and
whats the difference between that banded sea snakes to moray eels and
and drowning? Whats the difference poisonous lionfish.
between freediving and drowning for A few days and dozens of dives in, the
that matter? Plenty, I hope. Im on board abundance of these remarkable animals
the good ship Tiger Blue in the vibrant starts to help with the diving. The more
waters of Indonesias Komodo National distractions I have, the more I forget
Park for a week. And while we spend about oxygen meaning I can dive for
an afternoon with the eponymous longer, and get deeper.
dragons, most of the time is spent in It all comes together at Crystal Rock,
the water. Armed with nothing more one of Komodos most popular diving
than a mask, snorkel, flippers, and dive and snorkelling sites. Little more than a
watch, Im aiming, as instructed, to dive rocky nubbin above the water, below it
to an unlikely sounding 15 metres the appears like a celestial aquarium feature:
equivalent of swimming from the roof a volcanic cone around which a vast
of a five-storey building to ground level array of fish rotate in a semi-civilised
with only the air in my lungs to fashion, reminiscent of cars
sustain me. around the Arc de Triomphe.
Freediving is really only for My goal this time isnt a fish,
those who are comfortable in though, but a man Boum, whos
HIGH
the water. Thats doubly true in Ascending
down below, leading a group of
seas this abundant with life. You through a giant the Tiger Blues scuba divers. I
need to be sure you wont freak ball of iridescent charge my lungs, pike, and kick,
out at the sight of a whitetip fusilier fish kick, kick, equalising every
reef shark when youre at your few metres until Ive reached
maximum depth, or if the water the Belgian. He offers me a fist
above is darkened by a manta bump, showing me that his dive
ray the size of a car. Both of watch reads 16 metres. I allow
LOW
these things happen during my The early dives, myself a little grin, before floating
week, but Boums instructions when I was short back skywards, doing my very
couldnt be clearer: what of experience best not to glance at that great,
youre seeking isnt so much a and breath shimmering mirror above.
competitive spirit, more a kind
of underwater Zen.
LIVEABOARD TIGER BLUE sails Indonesias Raja Ampat
Boum teaches me broadly the and Komodo National Park. Scuba, snorkelling and
same techniques as those used by freediving are available. Seven nights in a twin room costs
Lionfish, Komodo sperm whales, the deepest-diving from $6,800 (5,300), sailing from Labuan Bajo price
National Park creatures on the planet. The idea excludes flights. tigerblue.info

Experiences 2017 15
BARCELONA

Montserrat | Wine | Cava

Experiencing food and wine of a country


is a great way to discover its culture

www.castlexperience.com
LEARNING CURVE

What form did your


tuition take?
I was taught in a small
group led by ever-
smiling Majorca native
Lola, in International
AMELIA DUGGAN
Houses language
During a week in
school, located in the Majorca, Amelia's
centre of Palma. The linguistic ability
theme of the week was was unlocked
food but this was
really just a jumping-
off point for conversation practice and

Hablas
learning vocabulary and new tenses.
We all responded well to Lolas energy,
bringing our own interests to the class.
Exercises focusing on Spanish recipes
or dining habits could often turn into
debates about politics or someones
quirky hobby. That said, by the end of
the week I felt confident I could hold a
conversation about gastronomy an
invaluable skill for travelling in any
Spanish-speaking country.

What was your daily routine?


I'd preemptively rewarded my

E S PA N O L?
studiousness by booking into Nakar
Hotel, so my pre-class ritual consisted
of a dip in the boutique property's
rooftop pool followed by fruit salad
on the terrace restaurant, looking out
If school Spanish lessons left you cold, towards the steeples and buttresses of
pack a bag, head to Spain and start La Seu, Palmas sensational bay-side
learning with the locals cathedral. Class began at 9.30am, and
ran until 1.30pm, with a halft ime coffee
Words: Amelia Duggan break. Afternoons were generally spent
wandering the labyrinthine lanes of
the former Arab and Jewish quarters
or visiting the citys art museums.
Evenings were devoted to sampling
Majorcas famous food and wine.

Did exploring help your learning?


Was it a two-way process?
It was lovely letting the mornings
lessons soak in while exploring a
Spanish city. I found I was on

n ie a vocabulary safari, noting


down words from menus
Eat, sleep or snippets of overheard
and breathe conversation to take back
Spanish to Lola the next day. I felt
more confident, too: being
able to ask directions meant
I didnt have to overly worry about
getting lost, and by the end of the trip
IMAGE: GETTY

I was happy to take public buses out of


La Seu cathedral, the city and along the coast in search of
Palma, Majorca quiet beaches.

Experiences 2017 17
Spanish bar-
restaurant serving
tapas and other
traditional dishes

What did you learn from it? De Saigo, a chocolatier that


TOP TIPS If you've ever been discouraged dates back to the 18th century.

Learn with the locals from language learning by


stuffy school lessons, trust
me: take a second shot. The
HIGH
Sensational food,
particularly at
What was your most
successful interaction?
progress I made over just a few Marc Fosh One afternoon, I made my
REFUSE THE ENGLISH MENU days was remarkable, and doing way to the Convento de Santa
Waiters often handed me a translated
homework in the sunshine on a Clara, a weathered chapel with
menu before Id even opened my mouth.
cafe table never felt like a chore. a convent annex set around a
If this happens to you, resist. Practise
asking for the local menu and then
The educational element added sun-bleached courtyard. Id
a whole new dimension to LOW heard the sisters sold delicious
chat to the waiter about the words you The fact many
dont recognise, or get both versions to the trip, and the course felt biscuits, but there wasnt a soul
Majorcans
compare translations. like an investment in both speak a Catalan
in sight, so I nervously rang a
myself and my appreciation dialect called bell. A hatch was pulled open
TELL PEOPLE YOURE LEARNING of the destination. Mallorqun, as by a chain, revealing a rotating
Work out how to say, 'Im learning; sorry well as Spanish shelf. I enquired about the
for my mistakes! Can you speak slowly,
What about Palma? cakes: they had robiols, crespells
please?' This will endear you to everyone.
Theres a lot to love: the Mediterranean and monas a voice replied. I was floored:
People you meet will have patience if they
understand why your grammar is shaky.
light, the architecture, the modern art. Lola hadnt covered these! Several back-
But my highlight was the food. Majorca and-forths ensued, as we determined
ACCEPT INVITATIONS has 10 Michelin stars, one of which flavours and prices, while giggling at my
If you're chatting to a local and they offer belongs to the restaurant named after errors. Eventually, the shelf span around
to show you around, don't be alarmed. As its British chef-owner, Marc Fosh. The to reveal a paper box full of coconut
strange as it seems to us Brits, Europeans food here was sensational fresh, cookies. Success!
usually mean it when they invite you to seasonal, with clean flavours and
dine with their families. HOW TO DO IT: International House Palma
served in the romantic setting of a
former convent. As I explored Palma's offers Monday-Friday Spanish courses for all
KEEP A VOCABULARY NOTEBOOK levels from 210 (180) a week. ihes.com
You need to use a new word numerous
smaller restaurants, I noticed an
Nakar Hotel has double rooms, B&B, from 180
times to fix it in your long-term memory. emphasis on traditional recipes. I fell
(160). nakarhotel.com
in love with crunchy vegetable tart coca
IMAGE: GETTY

Until then, at least it's in your notebook. Monarch flies to Majorca from Birmingham,
de trampo, the regions famous spiced- Gatwick, Luton, Leeds Bradford and
pork sobrasada, and the sugar-dusted Manchester, from 68 return. monarch.co.uk
ensamada pastry, bought at Can Joan MORE INFO: visitpalma.es/en

18 natgeotraveller.co.uk
WWW.CARVOEIROCAVES.COM

A GENTLE LOOK AT
THIS PORTUGUESE
2016
CERTIFICATE of
EXCELLENCE
PARADISE
BREATHTAKING CAVES AND DESERTED
Carvoeirocaves

carvoeirocaves
BEACHES IN CARVOEIRO, ALGARVE
grutascarvoeirocaves GPS: N37.095177o,W8.471124o
LEARNING CURVE

squeaky
cheese
THE

CHALLENGE
n ie
Head to the hills of Cyprus, home of halloumi, As we take turns stirring the Cheesy fun
the islands famous squeaky cheese delicious whey with a wooden oar looking in the sun
to eat and fun to make. Words: James Draven comical in hairnets and aprons Mrs
Sofias husband pours out crystal-clear
In the cute village of Letymbou, just a short drive refreshments with a modest smile. This
from Paphos, Mrs Sofia makes halloumi in her leafy soon turns to laughter as we down his homemade
back garden. Its quintessentially Cypriot, and while firewater then double over with throats ablaze and
Ive long enjoyed this weird cheese that you can grill eyes streaming. The industrial-strength alcohol does
like meat thats salty and chewy and little to quench my thirst, although a
squeaks between your teeth Ive few of us go back for seconds, while our
never eaten it while its still warm. To host wipes tears of mirth from his eyes.
do that, you have to make it yourself. The halloumi is barely recognisable
In a deep pan, big enough for a small as we press it into the shape of chubby
adult to crouch in, Mrs Sofia helps a ice-hockey pucks, which make it look
small group of us to gradually bring a like Camembert, and poach them in
mixture of ewes and goats milk up to the remaining whey, now sweltering
around 36C, which isnt too difficult in at 85C. Its only when theyre cooked
the blazing sunshine. and we add the trademark mint leaves,
As we add rennet (vegetarian, on my fold them in half and slice them into
account), the mixture starts to solidify, chunks, that they become familiar.
so we break and head to the kitchen Halloumi tastes so much better from
for a quick bread-making masterclass. Mrs Sofias chopping boards when its
By the time weve rolled and pounded still warm but not nearly as squeaky or
our dough, embossed it with a rustic salty as the supermarket variety.
woodblock print and set it in the oven, And I wash it down with one more sly
IMAGES: GETTY; JAMES DRAVEN

its time to return to our cheese curds, shot of moonshine.


which Mrs Sofia first cuts into chunks
ON THE BEACH offers a seven-night trip to
and then stirs back into the whey.
Mrs Sofia Cyprus, from 413. Price includes return flights
Its thirsty work churning the vat skimming curds from airports across the UK and seven nights
in the midday heat, slowly increasing accommodation on a half-board basis.
the temperature, skimming the solids ABOVE: Grilled onthebeach.co.uk
from the top with a slotted spoon and halloumi To arrange a class with Mrs Sofia, contact the
pressing them into sieved containers. tourist board. visitcyprus.com

Experiences 2017 21
COME TO YOUR SENSES

Go veggie in Thailand
IMAGES: GETTY; ALAMY; JEFF BANKE WORDS: HELEN WARWICK & NICOLA TRUP

Each October, Thais of Chinese descent


hold a nine-day vegetarian festival in
honour of the nine Emperor Gods. In
Bangkoks Chinatown the streets are
lined with stalls selling everything from
DINE IN THE SKY noodles and soups to mock meat dishes.
Vertigo-sufferers look At the same event in Phuket, people also
away now. Enjoy food participate in extreme facial piercing to
from the very best chefs test their faith. festivalsofthailand.com
in Brussels while
dangling from a crane
above the city. Feel the Enjoy Brazils other carnival

Par 2
breeze at your ankles Dress up for one of the unruliest
as you eat and watch parties on the planet, the Salvador
the city sway beneath Carnival, where currents of

COME TO
you between courses. hedonism swirl through the
Its a top-notch dining streets. Less commercial than

YOUR SENSES
experience that will in Rio, its fuelled by potent
make for some very caipirinhas, booming music
envy-inducing photos trucks, the sound of steel
dinnerinthesky.be/en drums and a raucous crowd in
Whether dining while tiny outfits. visitbrasil.com

dangling in the sky, or soaking


up the vibe of a Brazillian
carnival, treat your senses to
something new

LIVE IT UP AT BURNING MAN


This week-long festival in
the Nevada desert is a jolt to
the senses. Its community
ethos means everyone is
expected to participate, be
it through performing or
simply sharing resources,
and it all culminates in the
burning of a huge wooden
effigy. burningman.org Eat your way
around Spain
San Sebastian and Seville are known
for their culinary chops, but there are
foodie-friendly cities all over Spain,
whether its Vitoria-Gasteiz, with its
pintxo trail, or Huelva, Spanish Capital of
Gastronomy 2017. Plot a route, rent a car
and take a gourmet road trip. spain.info

Experiences 2017 23
COME TO YOUR SENSES

Night lights of Broadway


in downtown Nashville

24 natgeotraveller.co.uk
COME TO YOUR SENSES

comfort
SOUTHERN
With the tinkling of piano keys floating
on the air like the aromas of their
hearty cuisine, a trip to Nashville,
Memphis and New Orleans stimulates
the senses. Words: Josephine Price

Nashville: All shook up he used, back when every song had to


Greg turns off the studio light and my be nailed in one take.
skin prickles as were bathed in Nashville lives and breathes music.
darkness. The speaker crackles and Besides RCA Studio B, its home to the
Elviss butter-smooth voice rings out, vast Country Music Hall of Fame, whose
breaking the silence, asking: Are you exhibits document the citys musical
lonesome tonight? journey. Five minutes away is the
We listen to the whole song in the Ryman Auditorium, original home of
velvety blackness, just as Elvis recorded the Grand Ole Opry, the historic country
it. Theres a thump, a click, the song music radio show thats still recorded
cuts out and the lights go up. That live every Saturday evening.
thump was Elviss head hitting the A guide book in the gift shop of the
microphone. That was right here, our Ryman (which these days shares
guide Greg beams, gesturing proudly to hosting duties), quotes Johnny Cash:
the middle of Nashvilles RCA Its the ambition of every hillbilly
Studio B. He has transported singer to reach the Opry in his
me back in time with just
a flick of the lights.
n ie lifetime. I feel mighty lucky
to be here tonight. I do too
It was 3 April 1960 and Eat, drink, as I squeeze on to a creaky
Elvis had recorded 13 songs
dance, sleep, pew to watch the live
repeat
from 6pm until 7:30am the recording. The heavy velvet
next morning, fuelled by a curtains draw back to reveal
conveyer belt of hamburgers, fiddle players from New Jersey and
French fries and milkshakes. Around dungaree-clad local musicians who
4:30am, the frazzled King had demanded share the bill with contemporary stars
the lights be turned off and, sure enough, such as Alison Krauss. Its a buoyant
history was made the song topped the performance, served up with originality
Billboard Top 10 for six weeks. and clich in equal measure, and by the
In total, 240 of his songs were end, the crowd is whooping.
recorded here and you can still find Outside, the glow of the lights lure me
evidence of Elviss presence around the down to Broadway, the mile-long
studio. The garish blue, red and green homage to neon signs and country
spotlights were added at his request; a music. The honky-tonk bars are
cupboard still sports the hole he kicked extremely popular with tourists, for
IMAGE: GETTY

in it (He liked to practise karate, is good reason. As we move from bar to


Gregs explanation); and youll still find bar, I bump and twirl my way across
the Amex one-tape recording console crowded dancefloors, and frequently

Experiences 2017 25
COME TO YOUR SENSES

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT View of Beale


Street, Memphis; Country Music Hall of Fame
Museum, Nashville; Sun Studios, Memphis;
Gibson guitar factory, Memphis; BBQ ribs and
French fries at Blues City Cafe, Beale Street;
Sun Studios, Memphis

26 natgeotraveller.co.uk
COME TO YOUR SENSES

THE STREETS DONT GIVE MUCH AWAY; THE


CITYS PERSONALITY IS HIDDEN BEHIND
CLOSED DOORS AND STICKER-CLAD WINDOWS
find myself in a sea of Stetsons. At food is ideal for bringing crowds of however, still bonds communities and
Roberts, hands blur over banjo strings. strangers together. Hands collide as we propels the good vibes.
At The Second Fiddle, a tattooed singer tear at nachos loaded with pulled pork, Nina swings round the original Shure
jams with the band. At Tootsies, we pause while spoons dive from every direction 55 microphone, used to record Johnny
for tequilas. And at Legends, I dance into piles of macncheese. We even help Cash, before pointing out the piano the
and sing along until the lights come up. ourselves to a bowl of leftover fried Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis Presley,
In the morning, we refuel with grits. chicken from a neighbouring table. Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Cash)
This savoury cornmeal porridge, the Across town at Sun Studios, Nina crooned around. The studio is now used
breakfast of choice in the South, is (pronounced Nine-a, she explains, to record the eclectic sounds of modern
dolloped on to my plate with rock-solid rolling her eyes) reveals more of the Memphis, and is available to anyone
crisped bacon. Its heavy but necessary regions musical secrets. For instance, willing to put down the $200 hourly fee
after the night before. Sure, it induces Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats (the Norwegian Rockabilly bands are
something of a stupor, but were not in Cats were actually Ike Turners Kings of apparently du jour. Theres a makeshift
the land of lite options. Rhythm) had a broken amp when they feel to it even today, and the peeling
turned up at the studio to record in 1951 acoustic tiles have survived the studios
Memphis: Ribs nRoll but that distorted sound ended up various reincarnations as a barbers,
Its the people that make the food creating what became widely considered a launderette and a surf shop.
here, Larry tells me, gazing adoringly as the first rock n roll record. Like much of Memphis, Sun Studios
into his rotisserie smoker in the kitchen Sam Phillips set up Sun Studio and its is fairly underwhelming from the
of Blues City Cafe on Beale Street. Were accompanying record label, which was outside. The streets dont give much
looking at some dark and sticky ribs the first to record Elvis. Phillips slogan away; it seems the personality of the
thatve been smoked for over six hours was I will record anyone, city is hidden behind the closed
before being glazed and dashed on to a anywhere, anytime. This doors and sticker-clad windows,
IMAGES: GETTY; ALAMY; KEVIN GOULD

plastic plate with fries and a hunk of throwaway phrase was hugely in kitchens and in basement
bread. I tear the bones apart and the significant in a region blighted HIGH bars. Beale Street seems the
pink stringy flesh falls away. by segregation. The sobering Live music. only spot where Memphis is
Im carving myself out a rib trail of National Civil Rights Museum, Everywhere keen to show off, and when
the city you cant come to Memphis the Martin Luther King I head back to this neon
and not go for barbecue. Central BBQ memorial at the Lorraine Motel wonderland I slip into Mr
goes for the pit-smoked version, while and various Trump billboards Handys Blues Hall and join
the Bar-B-Q Shop in Midtown promises speak of both the regions LOW the nightly dance-till-dawn
the Best in Memphis with its signature chequered past and its Great food, but that Ive quickly become
sauce. Inviting interaction, Southern uncertain future. The music, not much veg accustomed to in the South.

Experiences 2017 27
COME TO YOUR SENSES

New Orleans:
Good times and gumbo
Its New Awlins. Not New Or-leans,
says Richard, a Southern gent in a
bowtie. Elderly, suited men like him
take the South very seriously. Its food,
its music, its traditions, and its sense
of chivalry, too I find them holding
open doors and imparting restaurant
recommendations wherever I go.
New Orleans oozes this type of faded
charm, from the steamboat cruisers to
the Palladian mansions that line the
grand avenue of St Charles Street.
Whispers of voodoo and the lure of the
bayous echo around, but nothing shouts
as loud as the citys party vibe that
permeates everything. All along the
wide avenues, kaleidoscopic beads
left over from the Mardi Gras
celebrations dangle down from the
cypress trees, mixing with the etheral
Spanish moss; like a plastic homage to
the citys good-time spirit.
Armed with my latest dinner French Quarter,
recommendations, I head to the French New Orleans
Quarter and burst through the door
of Johnnys PoBoys as its about to
close. The worn-out vendors face is
impatient, contorting as I bombard the city. They waft through the streets
him with questions about the infamous in much the same way as the music
sandwiches. I scan the list there are tinkles out from the bars.
over 30 to choose from. Crocodile Theres music everywhere in New
catches my eye for a moment, but Orleans. And theres no escaping it.
I end up opting for the classic: fried Even during a quiet moment while Im
shrimp. I wolf down this mass of browsing in Arcadian Books and Prints,
calories, doused in hot sauce, a face suddenly pops up from behind
Southern-style, at table with a gingham a heap of French books. Theres a free
tablecloth, sticky from the days diners. gospel performance at St Louis
A little while later Im at the New Cathedral tonight, the owner says. The
Orleans Cooking School watching trajetory of my evening is inescapably
Kevin Belton as he coaxes butter and clear and, having witnessed the gospel
flour into a roux mixture on a hot stove. choir fill the high-ceilinged cathedral
The key to any gumbo is the roux, he with their voices, Im then serenaded
says. Commit this smell to memory! LUXURY GOLDS nine-day Southern Grace again at supper at Arnauds.
I watch the fragrant smoke swirl up tour covers Nashville, Memphis, Natchez and I check out Bourbon Street, scamper
to the ceiling and catch my reflection New Orleans, and costs from 3,450 per person, over to its cooler little sister, Frenchman
in the mirror. My mouth is agape with based on a twin share. Includes return flights, Street, and sample almost everywhere
eight nights accommodation, breakfasts and
temptation, but Im in the right place: in between. Dishevelled and all danced
IMAGE: SUPERSTOCK

five additional signature dining experiences,


a local chef and a TV personality, Kevin out, I flick off the light and am cloaked
plus sightseeing, luxury coach transportation,
makes a fantastic gumbo the transfers and the services of a dedicated
in darkness once again. The beats from
piquant local seafood soup and the Travelling Concierge throughout. Bourbon Street below float up to my
smell is as intoxicating as the taste. I luxurygoldvacations.com window. My head thumps on to the
allow these aromas to guide me round MORE INFO visittheusa.co.uk pillow. Its all committed to memory.

28 natgeotraveller.co.uk
Mask optional. Fun inevitable.
IMAGE: XXXXXXXXX; XXXXXXXXXXX

In New Orleans, its Fat Tuesday every day of the week.


Perhaps its because the city is the birthplace of jazz and the
cocktail. Theres something to amuse and delight around every
cobblestoned corner, especially the tax-free shopping savings.

Visit neworleansinfo.com and start planning your trip today.


The road to llbeing
COME TO YOUR SENSES

Tired of yoga? Finished with facials?


Take an alternative route to health and
happiness, from a gentle forest bath to a
Mayan sweat lodge. Words: Julia Buckley
we
SHUT YOUR GOOD VIBRATIONS
SURROUND SOUND MOUTH singing bowls
sound baths
A full-on sound bath treats
silent retreats Besides being a great souvenir
from a trip to that Himalayas,
INTO THE WOODS you to a concerto of noise Thisll be easy, you Tibetan singing bowls, can

forest bathing from singing bowls


and gongs to crystals and
think, as you take your
vow of silence with a
also be therapeutic played
at certain frequencies, they
Forest bathing simply chanting in a room full of smirk. Then the voices can slow over-active brain
being in the presence of other people. All sound baths in your head pipe up, activity and help stress and
trees is a cornerstone differ, but they work on the and soon youre dying even chronic pain. Used
of wellbeing in Japan. idea that being drenched in for someone to say properly, they also have a
Shinrin-yoku, as its the experience promotes something. There are profound calming effect.
known, has been part relaxation, clarity and a many forms of retreat, Experienced practitioners
of a public health profound sense of wellbeing. with silence spanning tailor the sounds to particular
programme since 1982 King of the scene is the vast from mealtimes to health needs; some move the
thanks to its ability to Integratron, in Californias weeks, but whatever bowls around you as they
lower blood pressure, Mojave Desert, originally your level, expect the sing, others place them on
heart rate and stress built as a meeting point for pace of life to slow, food your body so you absorb the
hormones. Whether or aliens. to grow tastier, your vibrations, like a massage.
not you believe trees WHAT NEXT: The Integratrons mind quieter and your WHAT NEXT: The raved
have auras, the stillness 25-minute sound baths are pulse slower. about Sound Planetarium in
of the forest cant help performed on crystal bowls, WHAT NEXT: The Kathmandu offers tailored
but calm your thoughts. and the perfect acoustics monastery-style hotel treatments. It can get
WHAT NEXT: One of make it almost physically Eremito, in Umbria, powerful you may even
Japans 48 government- overwhelming. From 23. offers silent dinners fi nd yourself sobbing. From
labelled trails, Okutama- integratron.com although, with its 19. soundplanetarium.com
machi, near Tokyo, spellbinding location,
features five therapy the silence often
routes. okutama- spreads. From 143 per
therapy.com night. eremito.com

30 natgeotraveller.co.uk
COME TO YOUR SENSES

THE BIG FREEZE


BREATH TRIPS cryotherapy
transformational Stripping down to your SWEAT IT OUT
breathing underwear and striding
around a room at -110C temazcal rituals
Controlled breathing is nobodys idea of a fun A type of Mayan sweat
GO WITH sounds airy-fairy but this time, but brave lodge (temazcal means
practice gets intense: LSD a cryotherapy session house of heat), temazcals
TRADITION pioneers like Timothy Leary essentially three arent for the faint-hearted;
balian healers used to use breathwork
as a way of getting high.
minutes in the freezer
and youll see why
stripped down to swimwear,
youll enter a round adobe
Bali is near the top of Essentially, its a form of devotees do it. Athletes structure (like a pizza oven),
the list for wellness controlled hyperventilation, use it for physical the door is closed and waters
holidays, and Ubud monitored by a professional, health (its thought poured over heated volcanic
is awash with yoga which, in conjunction with to speed up injury rocks, turning the dark room
studios and western- meditation, leads to an healing), but its also into a steam bath as you
style healers. But if increase of blood pH, as said to improve sleep, pound yourself with herbs to
its traditional healing well as dizziness, spasms, blitz jet lag, reduce exorcise bad vibrations. Yet
and medicine youre and even hallucinations. stress and increase devotees swear by it not
after, balians (Balinese However this sounds, done relaxation. It can be only do they cleanse you
healers) are a great properly it isnt frightening, claustrophobic and physically, but they can be
starting point, as their and while its usually panic-inducing if you transformative experiences
practices are usually emotional youll cry, and have those tendencies, as, guided by a shaman,
less extreme than those long-buried memories may but youll feel a real buzz you go deep into yourself,
in other countries. pop up it can be genuinely afterwards. tackling hang-ups and fears.
Approaches differ, but transformational. WHAT NEXT: As its WHAT NEXT: The Ceviarem
most will offer some WHAT NEXT: Alan Dolans potentially dangerous, Temazcal in Oaxaca City is
form of (often painful) Lanzarote retreats are the choose a good place run by a family of healers.
Balinese massage. gold standard, with one- to do it. Practitioners Group sessions tend to be
IMAGES: GETTY; ALAMY; PICFAIR

WHAT NEXT: Munduk on-one and group sessions at the Thermes Marins more health-focused but
Moding Plantation where you can choose the Monte-Carlo consider private sessions go deeper.
works with Ketut intensity. Four-night retreats your medical history From 14. facebook.com/
Suwitra, a real-deal from 940. breathguru.com and supervise you ceviarem.temazcal
healer specialising in to make sure you
internal issues. From dont faint. From 46.
28. mundukmoding thermesmarins
plantation.com montecarlo.com

Experiences 2017 31
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

Par 3
CLOSE
ENCOUNTERS
Horseback safari in the Maasai
Go on a responsible
Mara? Snorkelling in Tonga 3 WAYS TO SEE
tiger safari in India with humpback whales? Theres WHALES
Tiger safaris are not all the no experience quite like a
same, and TOFTigers (toft igers. FROM THE SHORE: In
wildlife encounter
org) runs an eco-rating scheme to Hermanus, South Africa,
help you avoid the bad ones. One of migrating southern right
the best is Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge whales pass so close,
near Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. you can whale-watch
Here, 20 sightings a day is the norm. without leaving dry land.
Treks and boat trips are available, but hermanuswhalefestival.co.za
the highlight is heading out in a small,
open-backed vehicle, senses primed for FROM A BOAT: In the Azores,
a cat to emerge. tigertrailstadoba.com head out on a small whale-
watching vessel for sightings

Monitor lynx, wolves of pilot, sperm, fin and even


blue whales. Thanks to land-

and bears in Slovakia


Keen for some hands-on wildlife
based lookouts called vigias,
youll get close to the action.
dolphinandwhaleconnection.
conservation work? Biosphere com
Expeditions, a not-for-profit conservation
body, offers short placements on long- FROM THE WATER: Humpback
term projects. In February 2018, citizen whales migrate to Tonga
scientists can join a carnivore study in to breed. In August and
the Carpathian Mountains as paying September, you can snorkel
volunteers. Theyll learn how to detect, quietly beside mothers
track and camera-trap an apex predator, and youngsters, watching
possibly even capturing and radio- them suckle and twirl.
collaring one. biosphere-expeditions.org responsibletravel.com

32 natgeotraveller.co.uk
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

Chill out with


snow monkeys in Japan In numbers
As if wildlife-watching in Japan wasnt Seeing Rwandas
already cool enough, Naturetreks new mountain gorillas

900
Wild Japan in Winter tour raises the bar
by celebrating an intriguing time of year. SWIM WITH TURTLES IN AUSTRALIA
As well as visiting Naganos famous hot- Supremely eco-friendly, Lady Elliot Tourism has helped
spring-loving macaques, youll search for Island offers total immersion in a remote critically endangered
Japanese cranes in Hokkaido. February ocean habitat at the southern tip of the mountain gorillas to
is the best month to see their graceful Great Barrier Reef. From the turtles who increase to almost this
courtship displays. naturetrek.co.uk swim up while youre snorkelling to the amount

35%
countless seabirds roosting in the trees,
the wildlife is so unfazed by humans, its
positively surreal. ladyelliot.com.au of the worlds mountain
gorillas are found in
Rwandas Volcanoes
Learn how to photograph National Park, at over
lemurs in Madagascar 2,000 metres.

19
Photographing lemurs can be tricky,
not least because they love to bounce
along at top speed, sometimes through baby gorillas were
dense thickets of spiny trees. Or else named in September
theyre nocturnal. As part of a trip 2016, during Rwandas
created by Natural World Safaris, expert last annual naming
photographers Shannon Wild and Russ ceremony.

0
MacLaughlin will help to shed light on
these thorny problems via seminars
and personal guidance. Departures in The number of captive
October. naturalworldsafaris.com mountain gorillas
(theyre prone to stress-
related illness).

SEE THE GREAT MIGRATION ON A 10


HORSEBACK SAFARI of Rwandas gorilla
In 2017, Great Plains Conservation families (around
opened the Maasai Maras first 180 individuals) are
permanent riding stables, Ride Kenya habituated to tourists.

80
Mara, offering two-hour rides and
multi-day safaris good any time,
but particular between August and The maximum number
October, when the Great Migration is in of tracking permits
full swing. greatplainsconservation.com (US$750/580)
issued daily.

60
Number of minutes
spent watching gorillas
on a two- to eight-hour
IMAGES: GETTY WORDS: EMMA GREGG

trek from as close as


seven metres.

6
hand-built villas at Bisate
Lodge, the newest
pad near the park.
wilderness-safaris.com

Experiences 2017 33
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

BLESS
For animal encounters there are
few places better than among the
birds and the beasts of Botswanas
Okavango Delta, when its

THE
floodwater pools are swollen after

ains
the rain. Words: Amelia Duggan

Sanctuary Chiefs Camp,


Okavango Delta

34 natgeotraveller.co.uk
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

I
ts dusk and the wide African sky
is an empire of lustrous midnight
blue and ash grey clouds. Cumulus
castles upon cumulus mountains,
altostratus cities beside cirrus rivers.
Its soul-stirringly beautiful.
All along the horizon theres drama:
portals of bright sunlight punch
through the cloud canopy, turning
the glassy floodwater pools of the
Okavango Delta a rich gold; elsewhere,
gauzy veils indicate distant rain
showers. In the east, Venus is sparkling
under a crescent moon so crisp it could
have been cut with a Stanley knife.
Wildebeest and zebra are grazing all
around us in the bush. And against
the fading half-light, spindly acacia
trees stripped of bark by hungry
elephants are silhouetted, like
delicate ink drawings.
Im standing shoulder to shoulder
with Lena, a burly, middle-aged guide,
in awed silence a gin and tonic,
untouched, in my hand, a Coca-Cola,
forgotten, in his. It seems, for him, a
lifetime in the delta has done nothing to
dim its majesty.
Eventually, he breaks the silence
with his deep baritone: Thats why I
like the rainy season: no dust. Its so
fresh. I close my eyes. Theres the coo of
frogs; the zither of cicadas; the squawk
of a lone bird Lena, of course, could
name the species: these sounds are
as familiar to him as the voices of his
family. Right, he barks, pula! He
chinks our glasses, downs his in one
and nods toward the car. If youre going
to learn one word in Setswana (the local
language) its pula: it means cheers, its
the currency, and its the word for the
all-important, landscape-transforming,
life-giving, natural force: rain. Theres a
storm coming and its time to go.
Driving back to camp, Lena navigates
flooded roads, ploughing our jeep
through pools so deep the floodwater
spills into the vehicle and swirls under
my seat (Feet up!). When this first
happened, I thought wed go completely
IMAGE: SANCTUARY RETREATS

under, or get stuck, or that the car


would simply pack up, but I quickly
learnt to respect the vehicle and Lenas
knowledge of the terrain. Now I love
how the jeep splashes into pools like a
hippo, creating small waves that push
at the tall reeds like fingers combing
through long hair.

Experiences 2017 35
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

The floodwaters came down early Lightning flashes across the horizon, with his dark brown eyes and I notice
this year, he tells me later, as we eat followed by a booming rumble. Pula, a white ring around his iris and the
dinner together. Were sitting out on he says, raising his glass. tapering of his long lashes. Id never
the deck of Baines Camp, a clutch of imagined this detail and complexity
luxury huts cantilevered out over a lily- PARTY OF THREE in an elephants physique. Go on, feel
bejewelled Boro River, our four-course The landscape has taken on fresh behind his ears, Sandi urges. Ears,
meal illuminated by hurricane lamps shades of green after the nights rain. Jabu! Ears! she coaxes. He obediently
and the Southern Cross. Flowers have sprouted overnight: theres flaps them open. Theres a handsome
The rains in Angola come down and a violet and yellow haze of petals among boy! I reach up and feel the network
spread out over 15,000sq km. He holds the reeds. Its like the vegetation has of thick, warm veins that help cool
his forearm up, spreading his fingers to taken a deep breath. his blood in the heat of high summer.
demonstrate the flow of the water into Im standing with a dozen travellers Im still resting my hand on his trunk,
northern Botswana, the light catching in a clearing. Its unusual to see so many feeling the movement of muscle and air
his thick silver wedding band and a other people out in the bush, away from as he snorts and snuffles, when Sandy
number of smooth scars. the camp. Safaris in Botswanas delta tells the group about the price on every
Lena comes from the Bayei tribe have a privacy and intimacy to them. elephants head.
who were among the first settlers of Ive not encountered another vehicle Theres a poaching crisis, the likes of
the delta, and the original craftsmen on a game drive: the space is just so which weve never seen. We lose around
of the mokoros (canoes) still used for large, and tourist numbers are carefully 30,000 African elephants every year.
water safaris. His village is today part- regulated. But this morning is an Im shocked to hear that the UK is the
owner of the concession operated by exception: our group is waiting for some second-largest market for ivory, after
Sanctuary Retreats, a 260,000-acre area special visitors. China. Standing here with Jabu, as his
on the southern edge of the Moremi I first glimpse them through adopted sisters graze peacefully nearby,
Game Reserve. binoculars: three elephants crossing the full horror of it is brought home.

THE LANDSCAPE HAS TAKEN ON FRESH


SHADES OF GREEN AFTER THE NIGHTS RAIN;
FLOWERS HAVE SPROUTED OVERNIGHT
Im pleased to hear that the waterlogged plain, the first Botswana is a conservation haven,
Baines Camp benefits the local ridden mahout-style by a man thankfully, home to some 130,000
community it was Sanctuary HIGH and the last seating a woman of the remaining 300,000 African
Retreats eco-credentials and Having an in the bend of its trunk. Its an savannah elephants, many of which
eagerness to train local staff, outdoor bubble incredible sight. have fled poaching in neighbouring
Lena says, that convinced bath, serenaded When they arrive, the khaki- states to come to Moremi or Chobe
the village council to lease by hippos clad woman disentangles National Park.
this beautiful section of the herself from her pachyderm After around 20 years with Doug
floodplain to the company. ride and strides over to shake and Sandi, Jabu knows about 100
I enquire about big cats our hands. She gives me her verbal cues although, theres a lot
(seeing them in the wild has LOW business card: Living With more he understands informally, too.
been a long-held dream of The mosquitoes! Elephants Foundation, Doug Sandy affectionately lists some of the
mine). Lena says, Theyve and Sandi Groves, CEO. It also elephants traits: Jabus confidence,
gone to higher ground on Chiefs Island stands for Chief Elephant Officers, she Morulas sociability, Thembis
maybe youll see lions when you go says with a grin. resourcefulness. We often hear them
there later on your trip. But it depends The conservation duo is here to trumpet softly in their sleep, Doug
how lucky are you? introduce their wards: three orphaned adds, leading the other elephants
A little deflated, I ask about African savannah elephants, rescued over. Weve recorded some rapid eye
elephants; we hadnt come across from abuse or danger, and brought up movement too, so were pretty sure
any on our game drives. Hyenas, together in the delta. theyre dreaming.
buffaloes, giraffes, red lechwes, impalas, First, there is Jabu, a 11-ft tall, six- Doug speaks very quietly, but just
mongooses, countless birds, yes but tonne bull and, at the age of 30, he right for talking to a large mammal
IMAGES: GETTY

none of the deltas wild elephants. Ah. hasnt even reached his full height with extraordinary hearing. He tells
I think all your elephant questions will yet. Were invited to place our hands us that his foundation aims to save
be answered tomorrow, he says, with a on his trunk and to feel the rough more elephants from captivity or from
knowing wink. ivory of his tusks. He looks right at me hunts, creating a cohesive herd that

36 natgeotraveller.co.uk
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

A herd of elephants navigate


the long grasses of the
Okavango Delta

BELOW: An African buffalo

Experiences 2017 37
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

can be released back into


n ie
the wild. I cant image how Intimate wildlife
heartbroken Doug and encounters,
Sandy will be to see these
unforgettable
three go after so many years
hospitality
of living together.
Were off walking with the
elephants now, each taking turns to
stride alongside Morula, who follows
Sandy obediently, occasionally
distracted by some tasty grass.
Ahead of us, a saddle-billed stork
takes flight, its legs flopping lazily
under big, beating wings, white feathers
flared against a pure blue sky. A pair of
dragonflies flit past, their mesmerising
aerial dance enthralling us for the brief
moment we can see them, before they
melt into the landscape.
Im thinking about how gorgeous this
all is, how important it is for this to be
preserved for future generations, when A jeep ploughs through the
Morula reaches for my hand with her floodwaters of the delta
trunk. Its the most perfect moment.

FIT FOR A KING


Its my last night in Botswana and Im malachite kingfisher; recognise a
sitting under brilliant, star-flecked IN THREE blacksmith lapwing from its skittish,
heavens by the sizzling firepit in Chiefs high-kneed dance; name owls,
Camp, another Sanctuary Retreat
this time, in the centre of Moremi, in
the wildlife hotspot of Chiefs Island.
Law of the jungle hornbills, coucals, harlequin-patterned
carmine bee-eaters, and, my favourite
the red-billed firefinch.
I have Botswanan songs ringing in my The next morning, Sky takes me to
ears and sensational local food in my HOW THE ZEBRA GOT ITS STRIPES the nearby airfield, leaning out of the
Lions can only see in black and white, so
stomach. I feel as sated and content as vehicle to inspect the fresh lion tracks
when zebras are grouped in a herd, they
the bloated lion wed discovered, dozing imprinted on the sandy road. Theres a
become a confusing, homogenous mass.
beside the carcass of a greater kudu When a zebra has a calf, it stands in front lion nearby, a wild tableau to discover
earlier that day. of it for half an hour so that the baby can and marvel at. But, the propeller of the
Itd been a lucky find: Sky, the driver, memorise its mothers pattern. petrol-blue biplane is whirring: sadly,
had noticed vultures circling and, its time to leave.
using them as our beacon, found the TERMITES ARE A DELICACY From up in the clouds, the view
king of the jungle (or a king at least). The hierarchy of termites colonies, their is priceless: green on green, with
Sky had been jubilant, as if spotting amazing tunnelling skills and the many shimmering pools and waterways
uses of their mounds (house-building
a long-lost friend; hed not seen this mirroring the racing clouds. The
materials, vantage points) are all by-the-
particular male lion for a year. I could grassland and reed-filled ponds are
by: theyre a delicious local delicacy when
see the pupils in the cats amber eyes, fried or sundried. According to guide
scored with animal trails; the thirst
the tufts on his paws, the cragged Lena, when cooked they smell like roast lands of the Okavango Delta look like
outline of battle-scarred ears. We were chicken and taste like peanuts. the creased palm of a giant hand. And,
so close. just as with wrinkles, I suspect every
A week in the delta felt more like a DONT LAUGH AT A HYENA pathway has a story to tell.
month. Perhaps it was the long days, Hyenas have some of the strongest jaws in
rising at dawn and turning in after the animal kingdom, their bite about seven AFRICA SKY offers a six-night package
times more powerful than ours. Theyre including two nights each at Sanctuary Stanleys
sundown. But I think, in fact, it was
scavengers that can crunch up bones and Camp, Sanctuary Chiefs Camp and Sanctuary
because every minute spent driving
have even been known to maul campers Baines Camp from 3,999 per person. The price
through the bush was packed with both metal pots. Their wailing calls, howling is based on two adults sharing on an all-inclusive
suspense and learning. screams and the well-known laughter are basis throughout, including all game drives and
Having grown up in a city, my bird
IMAGE: GETTY

used to alert clan members up to three activities; return flights from Heathrow to Maun;
knowledge stretched little further than miles away about a food source. and internal flights/transportation. Based on
pigeon and robin. But within a few travel in November.
days I could point out the iridescent africaskysafari.com sanctuaryretreats.com

38 natgeotraveller.co.uk
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

Poisoned C H A L I C E
Take a trek through the rainforests
of Colombias wild west to seek out the
worlds most formidable amphibian:
the poison dart frog. Words: James Draven

40 natgeotraveller.co.uk
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

d Trekking through the jungle


in search of the poison
dart frog

LEFT The harlequin poison


dart frog of Colombia

I
m deep in the jungles of Choc, his arms as if drawing back a curtain stilts and, as we take a similarly
Colombias Pacific Coast, South to reveal the dazzling blue Pacific ramshackle boat and follow the river
America, date irrelevant. When Ocean. The tides keep time for us. from the centre of Nuqu to the ocean,
youre standing in primary growth Theyre the only clock we need. When were stopped en route at an elevated
rainforest, precisely half as old as time the tide is in, its time to surf; when its army guardpost on the lookout for
itself, the Gregorian calendar suddenly out, its time to hike. narcotrafficantes drug traffickers.
has little importance. El Cantils accommodation is basic, From here its a straight shot down the
This is the sort of trek that makes any which only emphasises the wilderness rugged coast, zooming along beside
traveller feel worthy of Indiana Jones, atmosphere. Seven huts, lit at night by playful dolphins and, if youre here
and, like him, Im also on the trail of a oil lamps, with glassless portals for between June and October, breaching
rare and precious pre-Colombian icon. windows, sit in an arc around a tiny bay. humpback whales.
But, the treasure I seek isnt the gold so Electricity is only available in the lofty, Activities on offer range from
valued by Europeans since the days of domed dining hall. rainforest treks to kayaking, canoe
the 16th-century Conquistadors, nor is There are no roads leading to trips, stand-up paddle boarding
it jewellery or a precious sculpted idol. El Cantil. Out in the furthest and surfing, but the ultimate
Im in this remote rainforest on the trail reaches of Colombias wild, wild quest, graded as extreme in El
of a living, breathing icon. west, in a country that was, HIGH Cantils difficulty rankings, is
From here, its a three-hour hike back not so long ago, a no-go zone, The frog- the five-hour-plus hike to try to
to base, and then even travelling by there are seemingly no roads infested summit find the most poisonous animal
boat and then plane Im still the best at all; the only way to get here on Earth.
part of a day away from the nearest city. is by boat. A small plane has The poison dart frog gets its
IMAGES: GETTY; JAMES DRAVEN

Worryingly though, just one false move delivered us the short hop from name from its use by the
in the land of my prey, the poison dart urban Medellin to the Afro- indigenous Ember people who,
frog, and Ill be seconds from death. Not Colombian seaside community LOW for centuries, famously applied
At times, the mud
that Ill be able to count those seconds of Nuqu; its like landing on a its titular toxic secretions to
was so deep,
Take off your wristwatch, says different continent. The dense even my ankle- their blowpipe darts when
Meno, as guests arrive at his wilderness jungle is navigable only by high hiking boots hunting, long before the
eco-lodge, El Cantil in Choc. Youve no waterways overlooked by didnt keep my Spanish brought guns to South
need for it here, he insists, spreading shanty towns of shacks on socks dry America. There are several,

Experiences 2017 41
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

uniquely coloured types of n ie spot. Theres one! urges


ANIMAL MAGIC poison dart frog. The golden Forest Meno, but by the time I

Colombia's wildlife dart frog lives in the jungles


of Choc and its poison is
said to be potent enough to
forage for
fearsome
frogs
spin around to look, the
frog has disappeared.
Heres another, he says, but
kill 15 men (not that 15 men again Im not fast enough, and
would be daft enough to lick the its vanished under the foliage,
same frog, of course). with Menos fi ngers in ill-advised
As we set out on our epic, humid hike pursuit, pulling aside twigs and leaves,
from volcanic-sand beaches up to the trying to uncover the elusive frogs for
top of jungle-clad Carrizalito Mount, me to see. I implore him not to.
where these frogs are most reliably Ten minutes pass and as hope and
spotted, Meno informs me about the light fades, suddenly a brilliant shaft of
various types of trees we pass and, as sunshine pierces the leaf canopy and
we get deeper into the dense rainforest, bounces a brilliant red into my retinas.
COTTON-TOP TAMARIN tells me that our amphibian prey is so Having worried throughout the journey
Theyre smart, social, mischievous and, toxic that even touching one can be that I might accidentally touch one, I
at a mere 9ins tall, tiny too. One of the fatal to some people. now have to restrain myself from
smallest primates, tamarins have an As if that thought wasnt enough to picking up the beautiful scarlet-and-
amazing fan of white hair and are found make this sweaty schlep seem like an black harlequin poison frog and
in tropical forest edges and secondary ever-long plod down the metaphorical popping him into my shirt pocket, such
forests in northwestern Colombia.
green mile, Meno has an addiction is his diminutive, vibrant, tree-frog
which only serves to draw out the cuteness. The more colourful the frog
SWORD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD tension even more: hes a rabid though, the more potent its poison.
The only species of bird with a beak longer
than the length of its body, the sword- birdwatcher. With over 1,900 avian Suddenly theyre everywhere, some an
billed hummingbirds bill is so long it has species, Colombia has the highest bird inch-long and yellow-striped, dazzling
to groom itself with its feet. Found at diversity of any country on the planet, and deadly.
higher altitudes in the Andes. which slows the hike to a crawl as we All too soon its time to leave and
stop and start while he excitedly begin the long hike home before it gets
SLOTH identifies random twitterings. A good too dark. After a few hours, I start to
The epitome of laid-back charm. Plus, half an hour is dedicated to trying to recognise individual trees. A hardwood
once youve tracked one down itll always
snap a rare immaculate anteater Meno as strong as metal; a strangler vine hangs
stay in shot, given these smiling tree-
can hear in the undergrowth, and its like a mantle around the ghost of its
huggers move ever so s-l-o-o-o-o-o-w-l-y.
Find sloths in the Amazon rainforest. sweet song sends me into a reverie; host, from which it squeezed out the life;
dehydrated and daydreaming about a walking palm, said to prowl the forest
SPECTACLED BEAR sudden death in a dense jungle in search of sunlight; and a wave-like
Classied as vulnerable by the IUCN, this After a fi nal, near-vertical push up rippled trunk that, when struck, echoes
endemic short-faced bear is found in the the steep side of Carrizalito Mount, through the forest like a drum.
Andes Mountains. Try Purace National were fi nally in the lair of the poison Then, the bristling forest ends
Park, Serrania de los Churumbelos, and
dart frog, shaded in dense forest. Meno abruptly at the shoreline, the naked
IMAGES: GETTY; JAMES DRAVEN

Chingaza National Park.


casually bushwhacks a path with a beach a dusky chocolate in the twilight,
machete, while I creep along like a ninja sliding under the oceans quicksilver
PINK RIVER DOLPHIN
According to local folklore, pink dolphins
behind him, fastidiously sure-footed, armour. The enveloping sea shimmers
transform into handsome men at night to lest I slip on this slick soil and faceplant bronze, platinum and gold, crested by
charm the ladies. See them on an Amazon on a toxic frog. snaking ripples of foaming jadeite.
boat trip from Leticia and Puerto Nario. My eyes scan the underbrush Mother Natures clock is certainly
struggling to adjust to the low light, ornate and it chimes inside Menos soul.
which makes these tiny terrors hard to Time for a sunset surf.

42 natgeotraveller.co.uk
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

AMAKUNA TRAVEL offers a seven-night


Adventures in Colombia holiday, including the
Pacific Coast and Medellin from 2,200 per
person. This includes four nights full-board at El
Cantil eco-lodge, three nights at Patio Del
Mundo, domestic flights, guides, transfers and
El Canti eco lodge some meals, and is based on two sharing. Direct
international flights with Avianca, from 600 per
LEFT: Cotton-Top Tamarins person return. amakuna.com

Experiences 2017 43
PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

MEMORIES OF
THE ARCTIC I created a hardback keepsake
to remind me of this trip of a
Connor McGovern creates the perfect lifetime. Putting together a

commemoration of his Svalbard adventure CEWE PHOTOBOOK is easy,


thanks to the user-friendly
a beautiful CEWE PHOTOBOOK software. Simply follow these
ve steps:

Download the software needed


to create your photo book

Select the size, paper type and


binding you want. I went for
an XL square with True Matte
paper for rich colour and great
reproduction quality

Select your photos

Get creative using clip art,


backgrounds and text

Once youre happy with the

I
nal design, check out and wait
t might be midday up here in this
for your CEWE PHOTOBOOK
wintry, Narnia-like landscape,
to arrive!
but I can feel the night creeping
in already. Over the hills, the winter
sun is sinking before its even had
the chance to rise, bathing this silent
group of islands in an intense amber
glow. The pristine snow cloaking the
mountains is stained an orangey-
pink from the sunlight, the sky is
slowly turning an intense shade
of violet, and the temperature is
steadily dropping. It all seems
beautifully strange.

Svalbard is an extraordinary place


a wilderness on the very edge of
IMAGES: RENATOGRANIERI.COM

Europe that promises a wealth of


experiences and memories, including
natures greatest show, the Northern CEWE PHOTOWORLD offers a
Lights. After this unforgettable trip range of photo books online. Find
to the Arctic, I wanted a special way out more about creating yours at
to remember my adventures of this cewe-photoworld.com/experience
faraway, almost mystical place.
cewe-photoworld.com
BEING THERE

Watch a volcano
erupt in Hawaii
Klauea, in Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park, on the Big Island, has been erupting
continuously since the 1980s. There are
several viewpoints from which you can
look into the crater, and onto the black
landscape of the lava fields. nps.gov/havo

Sleep beneath
the stars in Uluru

Par 4
Pitch up in the shadow of Uluru for a
night like no other. Swap tales besides
the fire and trace constellations

BEING
during a night cocooned in a
swag bag beneath the stars.

THERE
ulurutoursaustralia.com.au

CASTAWAY ON
Whether its an erupting THE SAN BLAS ISLANDS
Discover the Grand volcano or a hidden waterfall, Its not easy to reach these off-
Canyons secret the-radar Panamanian islands.
Heres something you might not
some experiences are simply a But thats the point. Here youll
know about the Grand Canyon: matter of putting yourself be a guest of the indigenous Kuna
deep in the off-grid Havasupai in the right place people, who put a cap on visitor
Indian Reservation gushes a series of numbers, making for a castaway-style
secluded blue-green waterfalls. Youll experience on blindingly
have to trek 10 miles to reach them, or beautiful beaches.
catch a first-come first-served helicopter sanblas-islands.com
ride. Nothing will prepare you for their
staggering beauty, as you hurl yourself
into the cool waters, before setting up
camp among the worlds oldest exposed
rocks. grandcanyon.com
IMAGES: GETTY WORDS: HELEN WARWICK & NICOLA TRUP

Walk the Great


Wall of China
Spanning thousands of miles, the Great
Wall of China is an easy day trip from
Beijing. But to experience this world
wonder minus the crowds, youll need to
go further afield. A multi-day trip gives
you the chance to see ruined stretches
at spots such as Mutianyu and Gubeikou,
walk along it, and find viewpoints from
which to take pictures of the Wall trailing
off into the distance. exodus.co.uk

Experiences 2017 45
A cosmos of colour
On an expedition to the wilderness thick snow sprawling outwards, onwards Way are merely the support acts. For
of Norways Svalbard, the Arctic and upwards. Out there, polar bears now, snaking through the sky, come
skies put on an unforgettable show. roam the land, avalanches pose a genuine enormous, jade-green ribbons of aurora,
Words: Connor McGovern risk, and the temperature is in the region licking upwards from the horizon like
of -20C. Our guard dogs, all wagging tails languid flames, or weaving across the
Just two lazy guard dogs separate me and pricked ears when we arrived, are black and disappearing behind the
from the Arctic wilderness. now curled up in their beds. I, like them, mountains. In a landscape so hostile and
The rest of the group is perched have decided to ignore the dangers. unforgiving, I find solace beneath this
around a dining table, blankets tucked For now Im too busy admiring the sky. cloudless evening sky. The temperature
over laps, fingertips finally defrosted. Stretching above is an almost faultless doesnt seem to matter as I stand alone
Comfortably sealed off in a heated, canvas of black; the sort city dwellers in the snow; the night sky is rarely this
tented bubble, they eat carrot cake and never see. And its heavy with stars: some colourful and seldom so beautiful.
sip tea. Dinner is winding down now, beacons of white, others wispy trails of Cloaking it all is the unmistakable sense
both the wine and the fatigue of a days faraway dust. An occasional comet races of silence one most never experience.
snowmobiling lulling us all into a stupor. through the sky, and sprinkled I can see plenty, but hear nothing.
But nature has called, so Ive slipped throughout are ethereal They say silence is golden, but
outside. Shrouded in wintry darkness,
Svalbards ceaseless expanse of winter is
clouds of bluish purple.
But the inky heavens,
n ie now I know differently. In
Svalbard, at least, silence is a
all I can see: a ghostly off -blue blanket of stars, and billows of Milky Silence cosmos of colour.
is rarely just
golden

Two days of snowmobiling, with one night at


North Pole Camp starts at NOK 9,990 (929), full
board, or from NOK 6,990 (650) if you dont
want to drive your own snowmobile.
basecampexplorer.com/no/svalbard
MORE INFO: visitnorway.com

46 natgeotraveller.co.uk
BEING THERE

Experiences 2017 47
BEING THERE

AFRICAS T
he car crunches across the sandy
plain and deposits us, in silence,
behind a hillock. The hour is
early and a wash of violet stains the sky

pyramids
OTHER
behind me, as I shoulder my small bag
and set off westwards. The cool sand
spills over my flip-flops, so I bend to
remove them, planting my feet
awkwardly into the deep dunes. The
exertion pulls beads of sweat to my
forehead despite the crisp morning air.
As I pace up the last incline, my eyes
come level with what weve risen before
dawn to see: the UNESCO-listed
pyramids of Mero. Theyre part of a
cache of royal burial sites whose
4,600-year-old, Toblerone-style peaks
far outnumber those of Egypt and yet
receive far fewer visitors. Negative news
coverage has left travellers wary of
In a country with even more Sudan that, and the fact the
pyramids than Egypt, Mero is the government isnt interested in
pick of Sudans ancient sites, with promoting our antiquities because its
not Arab history, according to my
220 of the glorious steep-sided guide, Hitam El Nour. A Nubiologist
structures waiting to be explored (archaeologist specialising in Ancient
Words: Emma Thomson Nubia) with a PhD in White Nile
pottery, the only thing betraying
n ie his 47 years are the white hairs
among his tight black curls.
A misjudged, We stand in the noiseless
treasure-filled desert, the kataha (sandy air)
sandbox
blowing softly around us until the
sun rises above the horizon,
lighting the pyramids like shards of
honeycomb protruding from the sand.
Were surveying the northern site, where
the great Kushite queens and kings were
buried. Ruled by the Egyptians for
500 years, the Kushites absorbed all
aspects of Egyptian culture, including
the penchant for pyramids, albeit with
their own twist: making them steeper
with smaller bases. In 760BC, when the
Egyptian empire was weakening, these
Nubian emperors invaded and ruled as
pharaohs for nearly a century during a
period known as the Twenty-Fifth
Dynasty. Their empire stretched from
Khartoum to the Mediterranean Sea,
with Mero as the capital. Only
discovered by Europeans in 1821, the
pyramids were looted a decade later by
Italian explorer Giuseppe Ferlini,
although all but one were empty.
Today, we weave between the
pyramids whose bases have history
IMAGE: GETTY

A man and his camel in scratched into the stone: from the
front of the pyramids outlines of elephants, giraffe and
and tombs of Mero gazelles showing that this area was once

Experiences 2017 49
BEING THERE

Royal Pyramids of Mero


at sunrise

CLOCKWISE FROM RIGHT


Jebel Barkal mountain
at Karima; a map inside
the National Museum of
Sudan, Khartoum; inside
a tomb at Mero.

50 natgeotraveller.co.uk
BEING THERE

SUDANS OTHER fertile grassland, to the queen, Amanishakheto.


ANCIENT SITES graffiti left by British
General Sir Herbert In numbers It was the first one
destroyed by Ferlini in

0
Kitcheners soldiers his search for gold and
passing by on their way the one in which he hit
to the Battle of Number of touts who the jackpot, unearthing a
Omdurman in 1898. bothered me at Mero stash of jewellery hidden
Several archaeologists,
making the most of the 1 near the apex. In brutish
fashion, he crowbarred
Nights wild camping in
cooler early morning the cartouche of her face
the Nubian Desert
hours, are painstakingly off the slabs of stone at

5
restoring the crumbling the entrance but it has
corners. They nod sagely since been replaced with
as we pass, before Glorious sunrises seen a replica, and I trace my

7
JEBEL BARKAL The holy returning to their work. finger over three
mountain was believed by One of the smaller scratches raked across
the Kushites to be the pyramids, restored in the Plates of ful (national her cheek. What are
home of the god Amun-Ra 1980s, bears a smooth dish) eaten these? I ask. Theyre the

220
due to its cobra-head rendered exterior. But it tribal markings of Kushite
pinnacle (cobras appear looks a little cartoonish women, Hitam explains.
on the crown of Nubian and I veer towards the Pyramids at Mero The heat is rising fast.
kings). All Kushite kings untouched structures. Here, the dry air doesnt
and queens had their Theres an air of defiance just make you sweat; it
coronation here. about them as they stand blasts the moisture from
firm against the sands you like a hairdryer, so
EL-KURRU The first royal that are trying to swallow them up. we take a chance and make our way to
burial site of the Twenty- Indeed, it was an act of resistance that the old Royal City of Mero nearby. We
Fifth Dynasty Kushite led to the pyramids at Mero being built find it closed for excavations, but at the
kings to make use of in the first place. History tells gate meet Mawya, a third-generation
pyramids. While the us that Kushite King Arakamani guardian whose grandfather helped the
surviving structures (Ergamenes) grew tired of the power first archaeologists unearth the site in
have lost their shape, the wielded by the high priests, so when 1909. I ask him for stories of the past. He
sites two open tombs are they sent the order for him to kill leans on the door frame and looks far
covered with exquisite himself, he responded by having them into the distance. My grandmother told
wall paintings, featuring all murdered instead, says Hitam. The me that during the rainy season, theyd
scenes from the Book of rebellion issued in a new era of Meroitic all run to collect the gold when it
the Dead. culture: the almighty Egyptian god washed from the tombs to the surface.
Amun-Ra was downgraded in favour of Its time to return to Khartoum, but en
NURI The 60-odd the lion god Abedemak, the (still- route we stop at the home of Mr Hassan
pyramids at this royal undeciphered) Meroitic script was and his wife, Zakia. Sitting on weathered
burial site havent created and queens ruled the plastic chairs, we enjoy the cool shade
weathered so well, but this army. As we enter one of the of their whitewashed compound. Hitam
doesnt diminish its narrow tombs, Hitam points to looks at me to see if Ive noticed
beauty. The towering the walls. See how the kings anything, but he neednt have. As Zakia
tombs of the great HIGH stand taller than the gods? hands me a flute of piping hot coffee,
Finding a scene
Napatan King Taharqa Youll never see that in Egypt, I catch sight of a trio of tribal markings
from the Book of
and King Aspelta the Dead, that Id
he says. The kings controlled flowing, like dry riverbeds, towards her
remain impressive. seen at the British everything, except death, so jaw. Theyre exactly like those marking
Museum, carved they built the pyramids for the likeness of Queen Amanishakheto at
SOLEB The best-preserved into a tomb [their] immortality. We exit Mero. A true Nubian, Zakias ancestors
Egyptian temple on into the burgeoning sunlight. are direct descendants of the Kushites.
Sudanese soil. It was Unharassed by touts or All of a sudden ancient history doesnt
founded by Amenhotep III hemmed in by barriers, I get a seem so distant.
IMAGES: EMMA THOMSON

and visited by none other genuine sense of exploration


than child-king LOW as we duck into different EXPLORE offers a 12-day Ancient Nubia
A night spent at Explorer trip, from 3,349 per person, including
Tutankhamun, who doorways and I run my fingers
a guest house return flights, accommodation, most meals,
inscribed his name on one with no mosquito
lightly over the ancient etching transport and the services of a guide, driver and
of the Prudhoe Lions that net, and the on the walls. Eventually, we cook. explore.co.uk
now stands in the clack-clak-clak come to tomb number six, MORE INFO: Sudan Bradt Travel Guide,
British Museum. of a generator which belonged to the warrior RRP: 16.99. bradtguides.com

Experiences 2017 51
BEING THERE

Get a fresh perspective on


a familiar city, by taking
The Two
F
rom the 49th floor of The Shard,
everything looks a little peculiar.
Its London laid before me,
and newsworthy, each new structure
subtly altering the skyline.
The most newsworthy of all, without
a trip up one of the eye- theres no doubt about that. But, theres doubt, is the one I cant see: the Shard
catching skyscrapers something oddly unfamiliar about the at 1,016ft the tallest building in
city of my birth as though nothings
that are slowly changing Europe outside of Moscow. And while
quite how, or where, I left it. its 74th-floor viewing platform sounds
Londons skyline Down to my left, empty and appealing, Im content to be 25 storeys
Words: Glen Mutel illuminated, London Bridge looks down, warm and unruffled, staring awe-
flat and forgotten, like the unused struck from the window of the Shangri-
deck of an ageing aircraft carrier. And La Hotel.
to my right, sits a little Lego Tower Staring at the city is very much
of London, oddly dwarfed by HMS encouraged here. Upon arrival, the
Belfast, docked opposite. blinds in my room raised themselves
At this height, the city seems automatically, dramatically revealing
unendingly wide and impossibly the view, while on my desk were a pair
cluttered, and amid this broad of expensive-looking binoculars. I
panorama certain things stand out; like happily took the hint, and have spent
Canary Wharf to the east, flashing in the the past hour poring over every visible
night sky like a lighthouse; or the bright inch of this curious city.
unblinking London Eye to the west. Spells, however, are made to be
Meanwhile, from across the river, a broken this particular reverie by
lofty trio of buildings stare back at me. the call of Western Europes highest
Theres Tower 42, formerly the NatWest swimming pool. Having finally dragged
Tower, its shape often compared to the myself away from the window, a few
banks logo; to its right, the smooth minutes later Im swimming micro-
curves of the Gherkin are as striking lengths of the petite 52nd-floor pool,
after dark as they are by day; while up while enjoying a fresh angle on the city
front, the Walkie Talkie poses jauntily, below. Then, later, in the GONG cocktail
like a dancing cartoon office block bar, I contemplate the logistics of
frozen in mid-bounce. creating a 52nd-floor pool, and marvel
By the standards of Hong Kong or at humankinds appetite for a challenge.
New York, London is low-rise, and the And, as I sip something potent and
occasional unveiling of a cloud-piercing tequila-based, I momentarily forget
IMAGE: GETTY

tower has always caused a stir. However, about the view, and instead observe
over the past decade, these additions my fellow guests, who all share an
have become more frequent, ambitious excitable, wide-eyed quality, no doubt

52 natgeotraveller.co.uk
BEING THERE

Towers
still struck by the novelty of
their surroundings.
The next morning, I cross HIGH
Shard dominates the landscape,
its fragmented tip conducting
the gathering storm clouds.
n ie
London Bridge, now heaving The night-time I steal another glance at London will
with traffic, and meander cityscape it as I make my way up a feel forever
hopefully through several leafy staircase to the Darwin different
alleyways, emerging, to my Brasserie, one the buildings five
surprise, by the Monument. rooftop restaurants and bars.
Ive always been fond of the There Im given a window-side
LOW
Monument. As a child growing Coming down
table, and, over a rich tiramisu
up in the East End, the highlight to earth cocktail, I look out and am
of any trip west was always an struck by the river.
ascent of its winding staircase, then a As someone with a poor sense
nervy circumnavigation of its viewing of direction, I suppose, Id always
platform. But today Im looking for subconsciously thought of the Thames
something bigger, and I finally find it as something of a straight line and
at the end of a narrow alleyway 20 that all the landmarks along its banks
Fenchurch Street, also known as the were somehow laid out in neat rows.
Walkie Talkie, due to its unusual shape, But now I see just what an erratic
or the Sky Garden, after the three-storey trail it blazes, snaking back and forth,
public garden that sits at its top. scattering everything in its path.
After queuing briefly, I emerge Back in the clouds, a starter of
from the lift onto a table-strewn plaza braised ox cheek is followed by a plate Rooms at the Shangri-La
Hotel at The Shard start from
surrounded by plants, leading out to a of beautifully cooked venison. While
350 per night.
broad balcony. But while theres a tall, I await dessert, I trace the river as it
shangri-la.com/london
transparent barrier keeping everyone skirts around the skyscrapers of Canary The Darwin Brasseries
perfectly safe, this outdoor area is Wharf, and feel that only now do I really three-course set lunch is
too much for my vertigo. Maybe its understand this city; its enormity, the 37.50, available Mon-Tue.
the sound of the wind, or the contact way it functions and moves, and the skygarden.london/darwin
with the fresh air, but those nervous manner in which those places I know so
instincts Id kept at bay over at the well interlink.
Shangri-La spring to life and cause my Dinner over, I bid the Sky Garden
legs to buckle. goodbye, head down to the street and
I dash back inside, just as it begins to instantly lose my bearings. But then
rain, and admire the view from a cafe down at ground level, everything feels
table. This time, gazing southwards, suddenly so peculiar. Its as if nothing is
theres only one point of focus The quite how, or where, I left it.

Experiences 2017 53
Icelands Mightiest Lava Cave
is now accessable

(+354) 7833600 INFO@THECAVE.IS WWW.THECAVE.IS #THEMIGHTIESTCAVE


BEING THERE

Escapades ICELANDIC

Glacier trails, volcanic churches, lava


lumps; few places are as wonderfully
distinct as Iceland. Words: Mark Rowe

WATERY STAIRCASE

Visit the Gullfoss waterfall and youll have the chance to see at first-hand where the
vast majority of the meltwater from the Langjkull glacier ends up. Giant fractured
staircases in the rocks cause the Hvt river to plummet around 100ft over two sets of
falls. The drama is heightened by the canyon-like walls, which reach a height of 230ft ,
entombing the river at this point.

(Not so) old geyser


Strokkur in the Haukadalur valley is
probably Icelands most cooperative
geyser, erupting every six minutes or so.
Typically, the bursts of hot water reach
65ft in height, though they can
sometimes more than double this. While

Lava lumps
Head for the coastland around Arnarstapi,
it looks truly ancient, the geyser is only
around 200 years old; it emerged after an
earthquake fractured the crust, creating
where lumps and bumps of lava, mostly an exit route for the hot water. Plenty of
IMAGES: GETTY

matted with an extra-terrestrial green other geothermal activity bubbles away


coating of grasses and lichens, are nearby, including sulphurous puddles
splattered right across the landscape, that burp and belch, and fumaroles that
yielding only when they hit the sea. emit a steady stream of steam.

Volcanic church
At once both stern and surreal,
and with an austere concrete
exterior, Reykjaviks
Wizard's hat
Likened to the Hogwarts Sorting Hat,
Hallgrmskirkja Lutheran
Kirkjufell is a mountain of strikingly conical
Church looks like something
dimensions that rises abruptly from sea
Gaud might have designed level to 1,500ft above the west coast. Its
while on an Arctic sabbatical. easy to walk around, though youll need a
The distinctive steeple and guide and a head for heights to climb it.
wings are meant to reflect the Boat trips from the shing village of
way lava cools to basalt rock. Grundarfjrur allow Kirkjufell to be
Easily the citys highest viewed from other angles, plus the chance
to spot pufns, sperm whales and orcas.
building (250ft), the views
from the steeple are
truly striking.

Experiences 2017 55
BEING THERE

LANGJKULL GLACIER

INSIDE THE ICE

Having never been into military Soon, were 40 metres deep the glacier almost asunder. We
hardware as a child or adult, its more with a further 250 metres of peer down into the crevices
than surreal to be sitting on a multiple solid ice below us. More than HIGH depths and up into the unseen
rocket launcher as it trundles slowly up 500 metres of tunnels have been Driving down gloom of its heights.
the side of a glacier. chiselled out of Icelands empty roads past Before too long, we emerge
Ice 2, as the gargantuan second-largest glacier. lava fields back into sunlight, wide-eyed
vehicle is labelled, has been
converted and now journeys
n ie It took geologists
and architects four
and a little light-footed, to take
in the vast, impressive
up and down the flanks of A moonscape years to work out panorama of Icelands rugged
the Langjkull glacier in the painted in how to do it, landscape and ugly beauty:
colour LOW
west of Iceland, transporting eventually removing Whale meat
miles of snow, moraine and
tourists to a distant chink in 5,500 cubic metres of on menus in boulders constrained only by
the slopes high above. Chest-high ice (though this actually some Reykjavik distant peaks on the skyline.
tyres enable the vehicle to eat up the ice, represents just 0.00275% of the restaurants Im struck by the glaciers size,
moraine and boulders that are sprinkled entire glacier). but also shocked by its fragility.
across the landscape. Ive walked on As our eyes adjust, the low-level Climate change projections suggest itll
glaciers in Nepal, Greenland and Chile, lighting becomes redundant and a be gone within 80 years.
but never before have I done what were ghostly glow takes over. Everyone is Its melting, says our guide. He slowly
about to do and head into one. silent. Perhaps were all stunned by the peels his gloves off for dramatic effect
Our carriage grinds to a halt. Close by spectacle, or maybe everyones lips are and smiles: Hurry, while stocks last.
a discrete rectangular opening awaits, numb from the cold (its zero degrees). That could be the motto of our planet.
the sort of gateway youd expect to lead The experience is breathtakingly intotheglacier.is
to a subterranean mansion built for a haunting, rather like serenely gliding
Bond villain. We disembark, file through a chilled cocoon. DISCOVER THE WORLD offers Journey to the
Centre of the Earth, a seven-night fly-drive,
obediently down the tunnel, then don The ice around us is about 35 years old
available from 981 per person (winter) or 1,090
IMAGE: ALAMY

helmets and slip crampons onto our and every now and then we see how (summer), based on two sharing on a B&B basis.
feet. Our guide welcomes us, his voice nature has chosen to intervene: we pass a Includes car rental with a pre-loaded iPad and
reverberating off the walls of our huge crevice, 40 metres deep and several return flights. discover-the-world.co.uk
austere freezer. hundred metres in length, that has split MORE INFO: visiticeland.com

56 natgeotraveller.co.uk
VISIT THE VOLCANOES

REYKJAVK
Look us up on www.reykjavikerupts.is ERUPTS
The must visits in the Canary Islands
Loro Parque, #1 Zoo in Europe and #2 in the World, Brings New Surprises
Best for Holidays: Family Fun and Unique Animal Experience

Natural paradise of fun for the entire family.

Loro Parque is a true must visit in the Siam Park, Absolutely The Best Water
Canary Islands for millions of visitors from all Park in The World
over the world. Recognized by TripAdvisor as
the best zoo in Europe and second best in Siam Park, is once again N1
the world through its prestigious Travellers water park in the world,
Choice Award, this magnificent park is a according to TripAdvisor! For the third year
true animal embassy that promotes in a row Travellers Choice Award
conservation of biodiversity and protection of the environment. recognizes Siam Park for its exceptional quality and excellence, as
reflected in the evaluations made by the visitors in Trip Advisor
Brand New! Loro Parque to Welcome African Lions having personally experienced all the amazing and innovative
True to its commitment to conservation of biodiversity, Loro Parque attractions in Siam Park.
takes up a new initiative and this summer offers to its visitors a
unique opportunity to meet the African lions, one of the most
emblematic animals of this continent but sadly highly endangered
due to irresponsible human activities, like illegal hunting and
trafficking. That is why since 2016 Loro Parque Foundation has
been supporting the efforts for conservation of these magnificent
animals in Africa, with the financial support of over 120 000 U.S.
dollars provided so far to this cause. Now, with this new step, Loro
Parque will work towards further raising awareness about the need
to cherish and protect the lions in the wild.

240 metres of excitement, adrenaline and intensity.

Singha: The Most Impressive Water Coaster Ever


Singha wins the hearts of adrenaline and fun lovers Singha is a
completely unique and breath-taking water coaster unparalleled
to none other in the world. More than 240 metres long,
high-speed curves and 14 changes of direction guarantee a total
adrenaline and excitement rush. The experts consider it a hybrid
Three youngs Africans lions in a new home in Loro Parque that merges various experiences in one, combining the
characteristics of a high-speed roller coaster with the excitement
of a water slide. The experience starts on a float for 3 people in
Red Pandas Absolutely Adorable! line, allowing visitors to experience a brand new emotion when it
Yet again, Loro Parque surprises its guests by welcoming red comes to water attractions, presenting breathtaking tunnels and
pandas, adorable and charismatic animals who will reside in a fascinating curves. This spring is the best time to discover Singha,
brand new installation at Loro Parque, specifically designed so a revolutionary water attraction recognized as such through
that it corresponds perfectly to their natural habitat. In the east, numerous international recognitions.
a red panda is often called Firefox, due to the fiery red and
orange colors of its fur and many consider Red Panda to be the Puerto de la Cruz - Tenerife - loroparque.com
cutest animal in the world. Adeje - Tenerife - siampark.net

Avda. Richard J. Yeoward, 1 - 38400


Puerto de la Cruz | Tenerife | 922 381 400
hotelbotanico.com
ON THE MOVE

Disappear down the


Great Blue Hole
Take the ultimate plunge
and jump from a plane
above the Great Blue
Hole, off the coast of
Belize: its undoubtedly
the best way to grasp
the magnitude and
beauty of this gaping
sink hole in the Caribbean.
But to truly enter its world,
swap your parachute for scuba
gear upon landing in the water and
descend into this microcosm of trippy
marine life, eerie limestone formations
and perfect silence. skydivebelize.com

Sandboard
down a Dive off
Namibian dune
The Namib desert is a
land of dark skies and Par 5 the Sky Tower
ON
stargazing; of rattlesnakes Its not just the views from
and dead-tree valleys; and of Aucklands 1,076ft Sky Tower that

THE MOVE
towering sand dunes. What will set your heart racing. Inching
better way to explore this your way (while attached by a
wilderness than shooting harness) around the SkyWalk,
down them at 50mph? You a narrow ledge encircling the
neednt be an expert surfer Forget rest and relaxation, tower, really tests the nerves.
or boarder; just lie down,
stretch your muscles and trek, Alternatively, dive off the
dive head-first and hold on towers SkyJump the tallest
tight. namibiatourism.com.na climb, parachute and plunge in man-made jump in the Southern
some of the worlds most Hemisphere. skywalk.co.nz
stunning settings

Hike across
Kangaroo Island DARE TO TAKE THE HUASHAN
MOUNTAIN TRAIL
The recently opened 38-mile Where do daredevil walkers
IMAGES: ALAMY; GETTY WORDS: HELEN WARWICK & NICOLA TRUP

Kangaroo Island Wilderness go for a touch of drama? To


Trail takes in some of the Chinas most notoriously daring
most spectacular and remote trail, winding its way to Mount
parts of this South Australian Huashans summit. With a deadly
isle. As well as roos, you reputation and very narrow, very
might spot koalas, wallabies, rudimentary wooden trails
seals and dolphins as you bolted to the mountainside,
hike through eucalypt forest you really ought to watch your
and over sand dunes. step. cnto.org.uk
The route takes five
days either camp at
designated sites, or
organise transfers
to and from hotels.
kangarooisland
wildernesstrail.
sa.gov.au

Experiences 2017 59
ON THE MOVE

heaven
The stunning Peak
District is the ideal
place to challenge
ascend to

yourself be it at rocky
heights or inky depths,
through narrow passages
and under icy water.
WORDS: Zane Henry

descend into

hell
60 natgeotraveller.co.uk
ON THE MOVE

ay 1
Im 59 and I weigh 10.5 stone. Ive had rigged us up with harnesses goodbye to feeling warm for a
developed a tiny potbelly from drinking and ropes so that we were while. The shifting rocks were
too much beer. My shoulders are a bit technically safe. It didnt feel HIGH sharp and slippery underfoot
wider than my hips. And my head is like that halfway up as my hands Enjoying a beer and it took a while to settle into
slightly larger than it should be. Im not scrambled for purchase on wet at the end, as the right gait. Along the banks,
very flexible. rock, my face exfoliated against the magnitude of sheep stood looking bemused
I know all of this because the crushing the gritstone, and my head swam the days events as we slowly slipped and slid our
reality of my bodys dimensions are being when I made the mistake of came into focus way upstream.
impressed upon me while Im bobbing in looking down at the sawtooth Every few metres, we hit a
a waterlogged tunnel in Bagshawe Cavern rocks 25ft below. I slipped as small waterfall that we had to
on a Sunday morning. I got to the very top slab and climb, water exploding around
The sun is shining somewhere above dangled from both hands, legs our heads as we scrambled for
but down here its cold and dark. Ive just kicking in the air, the tug of the LOW purchase on the mossy rocks.
Losing my
crawled 10 metres across sharp rocks rope at my belly providing little It was exhilarating to have our
handhold at 50ft
and icy mud to reach this point. The reassurance. But I quickly flung faces smooshed right up against
while climbing
roof of the tunnel already scraping myself over the top and gave a sly Hell Crack and
so much beauty.
against the top of my helmet dips middle finger to Death. dangling from At one point, the streambed
down further in front of me into a pool After lunch, we headed off for the rope. Not fell away under our feet, a deep
of grimly opaque water that my little some gorge walking basically, unscary hole opened up and we were
headlamp fails to pierce. climbing up a stream. We treading water. This spot became
I cant pass and I cant go back because wiggled into wetsuits and set off across a our target for a cannonball rock-jump
the nose of my wife, Zaneta, is at glade to the rumbling, tumbling from a shelf above. The finale was a
my feet behind me. The only waters, set against blinding 10ft waterfall that we had to climb with
way forward is to sink my greenery. As bracingly a rope. At the top, I laid down in the
head into the water and cold water sloshed stream, panting, feeling the water rush
swim-wriggle through over the tops of into my wetsuit and the energy rush out
to the other side of my boots, I said of my body. What a day.
the blockage. I take
a big gulp of the
carbon dioxide-
rich air, swear to
never have another
beer, and get ready
to slip into the black.
I hadnt realised
this is what Id be
letting myself in for when
Id agreed to spend two days
with Lost Earth Adventures, climbing,
abseiling, gorge scrambling and caving in
the Peak District. Zaneta and I had done
a bit of bouldering at our local climbing
wall, and I foolishly mentioned this to
Richard, our guide, on our first morning.
He promptly spirited us away to Stanage
Edge, a gritstone escarpment that draws
IMAGES: RICHARD GOODEY; GETTY

climbers from around the world.


Our challenge for the day was a
section of the rock face known as Black
Hawk Hell Crack 53ft of slate-grey no
thank you. It rose up out of the chilly FROM FAR LEFT: Zane climbing
Derbyshire morning with a sheer and Black Hawk Hell Crack; view
foreboding countenance, frowning down over Stanage Edge; Zaneta
at the last vestiges of confidence we had. leaping into a stream
Richard was at the top of the cliff and

Experiences 2017 61
ON THE MOVE

ay 2
Next day, in wetsuits and overalls, we just a few seconds to pass, I feel like Im
joined spelunking specialist Tom. dying and crossing over to the other side.
The entrance to Bagshawe Cavern was I come up spluttering with my mouth
concealed within a tiny cottage that tasting of dirt. I cant use my mud-caked
contains a chest-high door opening onto hands to get the water out of my eyes,
a flight of rough-hewn steps. so can only blink quickly and shake
We explored a number of tunnels and my head. We high-five each other for
caverns, dipping into little offshoots, surviving our River Styx and press on.
before eventually abseiling down to After slithering through a few more
the lower levels, where impressive rock mud chutes, we crawl into a new space.
formations abounded.
Its wasnt long before we
The cave roof is low here too but
its much drier, with just Zaneta's take
were caked in mud, and
crawling through watery
n ie enough height to for us to
get up on hands and knees.
What made you want to do this?
I love pushing myself and this weekend
tunnels, made all the Over, under, Its also relatively wide, seemed like the challenge of a lifetime.
more challenging by our sideways, with hundreds of small Im interested in bouldering and
distorted senses. Soon we down. stalactites and stalagmites climbing, and wanted to try rock climbing
were rigged up with ropes Uh stretching beyond the in stunning surroundings. Gorge walking
again, abseiling down a dark beams of our headlamps. sounded gentle... oh how wrong I was!
hole, with Richard and Tom They glow in the light, throwing
shouting down encouragement. phantasmagorical shapes against the How prepared did you feel?
After landing on solid ground, it was shadowy walls of the cave. It feels Ive done a bit of indoor bouldering so
back to crawling through freezing mud like being a giant inside a Lilliputian climbing wasnt completely new, but I
puddles that slowly began to rise. We cathedral, with limestone columns and was completely out of my depth when
were hitting the underground river. spires erupting around us. it came to gorge walking and caving.
Soon enough we were in water up to our Without being prompted, the four of Thankfully, our guides were incredibly
chins, helmets grinding against the cave us stop talking; theres no sound save helpful, and knew exactly how to push
roof, mouths tilted up to snatch oxygen our breathing and our heartbeats. Life me against my better judgement.
from the thin pocket of air above us. is carrying on in its brash fashion far
Bobbing along, we used the rocks above our heads, but where we are, right What was your favourite moment?
below to propel ourselves forward now, theres nothing not the flutter of Scaling the equivalent of a four-storey
which brings us to now, and the a bat, the scuttle of an ant or the scurry building, hanging on a rope belayed by
seemingly impassable obstacle. Theres of a rat. Just an immense lack of life. someone Id just met, looking back and
no way forward other than down and We back out slowly, sliding in the absorbing the beauty of the Peak District
through. I take a deep breath, shut my mud, and soon were talking again, while breathing in the crisp, spring air.
eyes and go for it. Everything goes dark sharing our thoughts on what it felt like
and cold as I grab the rocks along the to be entombed by such all-consuming What was the biggest challenging?
bottom to pull myself down and forward silence. Its a great moment. Squeezing through the tightest, muddiest
beneath the overhang. Even though it And then we realise we have to do tunnel on our hands and knees if I had
can only be about a metre long and takes that underwater swim again. any remnants of claustrophobia they
were eradicated by that. And that one
part of the cave system we could only
enter by ducking into ice-cold water.

Any advice for first timers?


Do it! Dont overthink it. Theres no
amount of mental work you can do to
prepare for a weekend like this. Its going
to be challenging and difficult at times,
but it will make you feel wonderful about
yourself and your achievements.
IMAGES: RICHARD GOODEY

LOST EARTH ADVENTURES runs privately


guided weekends for two, climbing, abseiling,
gorge walking and caving in the Peak District,
with qualified instructors plus safety and
technical equipment for 390. It also offers skills
courses and experience days from 35 per
Zaneta and Zane crawling person. lostearthadventures.co.uk
through Bagshawe Cavern

62 natgeotraveller.co.uk
ZERMATT.
The Matterhorn and a world full of experiences
BOO
BE S
-
MAR

K ON
T

LINE

Unless you have been there yourself its impossible to can enjoy a spectacular view of the highest peaks in the
appreciate the sheer size of the Matterhorn and truly Alps and a world of ice and snow. Here in the biggest
understand what makes it so special. The most-pho- summer skiing resort in the world, winter sports stars
tographed mountain in the world is more than a hall- from all corners of the globe come together with peo-
mark and symbol of Switzerland: it is an icon, a myth ple who are enjoying the snow for the very first time.
and an emblem all in one. You can already see it from
Zermatt, but you only start to get a real impression of For the bon viveur Zermatt also has plenty to offer, and
the full scale of the 4478-metre mountain once you is considered a hub of culinary excellence. Whether you
trek up onto the hiking paths above the village. Keen prefer to pull on your walking boots or relax on the sun
hikers can explore the extensive pathways and catch terrace with its view of the Matterhorn, whether youre
the changing perspectives of the famous pyramid of tempted by haute cuisine with Gault-Millau points and
rock. The landscape around Zermatt is the epitome of Michelin stars, a traditional fondue or an international
alpine mountain scenery, a picture so pretty it belongs menu, you will definitely find what youre looking for in
in a frame. And crystal clear mountain lakes in stunning Zermatt.
settings are the perfect spot for a picnic or even a re-
freshing dip. Visit matterhornparadise.ch for some exciting ideas to
inspire you to join us this summer in Zermatt.
It is hardly surprising that this paradise attracts not only
hikers and mountaineers but also all kinds of thrill-see-
kers, with the alpine activities on offer ranging from
mountain biking and paragliding to glacier skiing. Zer-
matt is a place of superlatives. At the highest mountain
station in Europe, Matterhorn glacier paradise, visitors
ON THE MOVE

canter
You neednt be a champion rider to
cut your teeth at polo although
patience and determination wont
go amiss. Words: Sam Lewis
At a Quick and agile, polo ponies can gallop
at 35mph and turn on a sixpence. At
least thats what Im told. First, I need to
master riding with one hand and hitting
the blasted ball with the other, if Im
ever to progress beyond walking speed.
I miss the ball yet again, even though
my mare is barely moving. Feeling sorry
for myself, I dismount and skulk off to
the Polo Bar for a consolation cocktail.
Beginners luck! I shout, as I watch
my husband wallop the ball halfway
down the pitch. Tomorrows another
day, I decide, while watching the real
players galloping up and down.
Ive come to Desert Palm PER
AQUUM, a 160-acre estate in Dubai,

POLO RULES

LINE-UP: Two teams of four mounted TIMINGS: Matches are divided into player who hits the ball. No opponent
players, each carrying a mallet chukkas, each lasting up to seven may cross that line, or a penalty is given
PITCH: Typically, a 270-metre-long field minutes. A match can consist of four to GETTING THE BALL: Players can get the
GOALS: Scored when a white ball is hit eight chukkas ball off of their opponent by using their
through posts at each end of the pitch. RIGHT OF WAY: An imaginary line along horse to push them out of the way. They
Ends are changed after every goal which the ball travels, established by the can also hook their opponents mallet

64 natgeotraveller.co.uk
ON THE MOVE

to learn the so-called sport of kings you dont need to know how to second lesson were miraculously
but so far its been an exercise ride to give polo a go. Just book a cantering, albeit at a speed of
in frustration. However, my hotels week-long course to learn to ride HIGH around 5-10mph.
facilities are a suitable compensation: one-handed and swing a mallet, Hitting the My mare, Milonga, is a seasoned
its a boutique spa resort. Its hard to or take individual lessons or ball at a canter polo player, and Im told she wont
believe Im only 20 minutes from those instructional chukkas. mind if I ride her into an opponent
famous desert skyscrapers, when the Coach Matias is a former pro to gain the ball (unlikely), or hang
view from my suite is one of the three Argentinian player who has a precariously out of the saddle
manicured grass pitches, flanked by handicap of four (thats good). Hes LOW to strike an offside shot (if only).
palm trees and bougainvillea in full adamant I must master the correct Missing the However, after a lot off loping
bloom. Nearby, 200 horses graze in lush technique at a walk before we ball at a canter around, things begin to click, and
paddocks, sleep in air-conditioned move up to a canter, so I patiently I manage to hit the ball the length
stables and snack on hay imported from weave up and down the 270-metre pitch of the pitch into an undefended goal.
Holland, tended to by a team of grooms. until I can perfect a fluid, straight swing With lessons over, we watch a game
Desert Palm is home to the Dubai and loft and dribble my ball a feeble 10- with several pros. The intensity is such
Polo Club, and its accommodation 20 metres. that horses are changed for fresh ones
was built to host players during the The top players can whack it up to a after each seven-minute chukka; players
polo season, from October to hundred, but Matias is drilling need a string of ponies to compete. And
May. The resort attracts all us on consistency over power. while its good to know you neednt be a
manner of tourists and
expats, and while some
n ie Were taught to stand up in
the saddle and lean down
prince to learn to play, with polo ponies
costing between 11,500 and 115,000,
are skilled equestrians, Fun. Addictive. to hit the ball, and by the its certainly not a game for paupers.
Frustrating.
Occasionally
painful!

DUBAIS DESERT PALM PER AQUUM RESORT


offers lessons and instructional chukkas from
October to May. Rooms from 190 a night, polo
from 160 per class with better value week-long
IMAGE: ALAMY

packages available. minorhotels.com


poloclubdubai.com
MORE INFO: The Hurlingham Polo Association
(HPA). hpa-polo.co.uk

Experiences 2017 65
IF
YOURE
thrill
seeking
A

LABEL Nature
loving enjoying

BEACH BISTRO
BISTRO
yoga-ing DINING
DINING

Seaside
lazing

MAD-FOR-IT Festival
BIKING Gigging

...BOURNEMOUTH GOING

KIND here
of person Be in Bournemouth
this summer

To find out more visit www.bournemouth.co.uk


ON THE MOVE

THE
PLEASURES

paddling
OF

Canadas relationship with the canoe runs deep,


and theres no more authentic way to explore this
beautiful country than with a paddle in hand, be it on
still waters or furious rapids. Words: Tamsin Wressell

Apprehension is running high. The instructors, and all the sympathy I can and hardwoods, a canvas of greens with
jovial mood at breakfast, when we telepathically channel goes out to flecks of fiery orange as the autumn
merrily swapped stories of nocturnal Stefanie, who has to rely on me to foliage emerges. For all the drama of the
noises, has fizzled away. negotiate this stretch of the river. torrents up ahead, the only sounds are
Were travelling to Madawaska River Were talked through the manoeuvres those coming from the woods. A
to the strains of the Beach Boys, the by Ian, the groups main instructor, who chipmunk scurries along the bank,
canoes at the back of our van rattling as reels off a couple of worst-case scenarios, before darting deeper into the thicket,
we bump along Ontarios backcountry. from taking a swim to hitting a while a chorus of birds chirrups.
With my shiny helmet, plastic rock and the canoe getting Staying at the Madawaska
paddle and wetsuit gear, it feels crushed downstream. Kanu Centre, weve been
like summer camp, but canoe
culture runs deep in the
n ie However, the gently
lapping water has a HIGH
stripped of our connections to
the outside world and
Canadian-American Even a calming effect and it Beautiful encouraged to immerse
borderlands. First Nations novice can isnt until one of the lakeside sunrises ourselves in the environment
people have been here for canoe more able members instead. Food is grown locally;
nearly 20,000 years; the canoe, of our group overturns campfires replace wi-fi; and
their primary mode of water his canoe during a entertainment consists of
transport, was used for trading and practice emergency turn that the LOW lakeside conversations as the
hunting, like a needle threading 2,600 dam holding back my rising Putting on sun sets upstream. But its this
miles of waterways. panic bursts. I turn to Stefanie. a wetsuit moment, in this canoe, that
I only have a mile of the rivers rapids I dont know what to do if resonates with me most. This
and eddies to tackle, but recent that happens. I usually work in the instant of tranquillity that follows my
experience doesnt fill me kitchen, is the answer I get in return. trepidation entering the river, and
with confidence. Yesterday, We spend the next hour slapping the preceeds the inevitable onslaught.
while tandem canoeing in water with our paddles. We navigate Soon, the roar of the rapids starts to
IMAGES: GETTY

Mud Bay, I was dragged turns propped up on our knees, our invade my peace, the rustle of the woods
out by the wind and thighs strapped to the sides of the canoe, replaced by the ferocious water
was unable to steer in moving our hips in time to veer around challenging the rocks in its path.
anything other than rocks. It all feels effortless. Stefanie Godspeed, yells Ian as he swings up
an imperfect turns and gives a nod: weve got this. behind us. Im back on my knees, poised
circle. This As rehearsal turns to reality, we bob with paddle in hand. Unwavering.
time, were downstream towards the rapids, our eyes Determined. Stefanie turns around for
paired with fixed on the surrounding forest of pines one last reassuring look. Lets do this.

Experiences 2017 67
ON THE MOVE

ONTARIO City stop


CANOE COUNTRY Fuel up on a food tour in Ottawas
ByWard Market Lowertown area. Start at
Stubbe Chocolates, the oldest family-run
business in the capital, before heading to
LEARN THE MOVES Brothers Beer Bistro, the first local bar to
go fully craft. After that, the tour zigzags
FORWARD STROKE The DRAW Used to move the Maintain the same grip around the market, ending at legendary
paddle is held vertically boat sideways, the front on the paddle, rotate Island Flava Caribbean Restaurant, where
before shoulders and (or solo) paddler reaches your torso and draw on owner Lennox Antoine chats to each and
torso are rotated to plant out over the water with the opposite side every customer while dishing up his
it in the water. the paddle, plunges and PRY To turn the boat in much-loved jerk chicken and plantain
J STROKE For minor shifts pulls the boat towards it the opposite direction, with ginger juice. cestboncooking.ca
to keep the boat on the CROSS DRAW Similar to the place the paddle
right path, a J shape is draw, but done on the against the boat and
paddled in the water close opposite side to the one use it to push outward.
to the side of the canoe. youve been paddling on.

Canoeing in Ontario

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT


Cafes and restaurants on
William Street in ByWard Running deep
Market; a craftsman carving The Canadian Canoe Museum in nearby
wooden canoe paddles Peterborough highlights just how vital
the canoe has been to Ontarios
and Canadas history.
It holds the largest
collection of canoes
in the world, in an
abandoned
motorboard
factory. Its oldest
THREE TO TRY dugout (a carved-

Calmer waterways out tree trunk)


dates back to the
1800s and was
welcomed by First Nations
RICE LAKE GOLDEN LAKE MUD BAY elders with songs and hymns.
Named after the rice beds The calm and clear waters of Sandwiched between
Join a carving workshop to hand-craft a
that used to grow in it, Rice Golden Lake are an easy stretch Algonquin Provincial Park
paddle the traditional way, from a single
Lake in south-eastern of the Bonnechere River to and the Madawaska Kanu
Ontario became a swamp navigate, with sandy shorelines Centre, Mud Bays waters
piece of wood. canoemuseum.ca
after the grain stopped backing on to the surrounding are warm and shallow. And,
AIR CANADA flies from London Heathrow to
growing 25 years ago. Stay forests and rocky ridges. when the wind picks up, its
Toronto, from 554 per person. Stay at
at family-friendly Elmhirsts Nearby, Algonquin Way Cultural 200-plus acres offer plenty
IMAGES: ALAMY; GETTY

Elmhirsts Resort, from 125 per night, based on


Resort on its shores to Centre tells the story of the of paddle practice. Set out
two sharing. A five-day whitewater course at
traverse the water in an local First Nations community, for one of the islands dotted
Madawaska Kanu Centre, from 835 per person,
eight-man canoe; or take an which predates European in the lake this can be
includes instruction, accommodation and meals
overwater seaplane tour. settlers by 8,000 years. harder than it sounds.
(but not tax and rentals). aircanada.com
elmhirst.ca owl-mkc.ca/mkc
MORE INFO explore-canada.co.uk ontariotravel.net

68 natgeotraveller.co.uk
ON THE MOVE

ALIVE &
KICKING While it might seem like a laid-back hideaway, remote
Alphonse Island in the Seychelles is the perfect place
for working up a sweat whether its kayaking, sea
fishing or cycling, with animal encounters around
every corner. Words: Ronan OShea

70 natgeotraveller.co.uk
ON THE MOVE

T
he way I see it, there are four
luxuries in life: peace, privacy,
time and tortoises. Sadly, all
are in short supply. Unless, that is, you
head to Alphonse Island.
Just south of the equator, 250 miles
from the Seychellois capital of Mah,
Alphonse Island takes some finding.
As we head there in our eight-seater
plane, all I can see for miles and miles
is blue sky and fluffy clouds. And then,
suddenly, it appears a green speck
amid the azure.
At the Alphonse Island Resort, each
guest is given a bicycle for the week;
after mainlining a coffee, I jump on
mine and go for a ride. I cycle along
dusty paths into dense forest. The
coconut trees are everywhere like
many invasive species, they now have
the run of the place, towering above me
at angles askew, like tropical towers of
Pisa, their fronds swishing in the wind.
Its very peaceful, until... suddenly,
theres a loud thud a coconut
crashing down somewhere inside
the vast forest.
On my first morning we
n five meet at the beachfront
for a tour of the reef flats.
Sunsets, serenity,
In no time at all, several
seafood and
creatures have come into
tortoises
view from stingrays and
moray eels to turtles, which
nest in huge numbers on the
island each year. We wade through
the water and out to the reefs edge.
Next we see a puffer fish, which makes
itself known by puffing out the very
spikes it uses to keep us at arms length.
A little further on, we find a turtle
resting inside a small hole, refusing to
come up for air until we leave.
The next morning Im sea-bound
once more, this time in a kayak. But as
I paddle away from the island in search
of more wildlife, Im suddenly beckoned
back to the beach. Someone has found
a hawksbill turtle nesting the first of
the season, were told. A crowd gathers
at a distance safe enough not to disturb
her. She digs a huge hole in the sand.
Shell do this four to five times this year,
laying between 150 and 200 eggs, only
a handful of which will survive. Her
maternity ward is basic, to say the least,
but the sight is magnificent. We leave
her be and return to the water.
In the afternoon, we visit uninhabited
Bijoutier Island, where herons swoop,

Experiences 2017 71
Photo Credit: Hadrians Wall (Graeme Peacock)

A journey through Northumberland reveals the warmth of our welcome and


celebrates our character. Slow down and discover experiences. Challenge your
senses and feel the thrill of adventure. You, like us, can go your own way.

WIN!
An overnight stay for two
people at Grade 2 listed
countryside hideaway
WALWICK HALL

visitnorthumberland.com/itsinournature
ON THE MOVE

PREVIOUS PAGE: The beachfront of Alphonse Island Resort


THIS PAGE: Latif the gardener showing guests around

THE ISLANDS GARDENS MAINTAINED BY A


DILIGENT TEAM, LED BY LATIF, WHO INSISTS
ON SHOWING US HIS COMPOST HEAP
hermit crabs scuttle beneath nesting turtles, fish of every carefully maintained by a diligent team
our feet, and lemon sharks and hue and variety and, of course, led by Latif, who insists on showing
turtles swim in the shallows. giant tortoises 52 of which are us his compost heap, of which hes
Its stunningly remote and
HIGH resident on the island, immensely proud.
Cycling around
beautiful. Sadly, the creatures with only the
many having been rescued
arent alone. Over two tonnes occasional from elsewhere. CATCH OF THE DAY
of debris, including plastic tortoise for Another big issue is Given the islands sustainable ethos,
bottles, flip-flops and lighters, company overfishing. Large trawlers fish its with a sense of responsibility that I
washed up on Alphonse Islands in the waters around Alphonse, take to the seas later in the week as part
shores in 2015 alone, and its dropping FADS (fish aggregating of the kitchen run. Ive been instructed
a similar story for Bijoutier devices) into the ocean to by chef Trevor to catch a wahoo, a
and neighbouring St Franois LOW attract tuna. These are often deliciously meaty, tuna-like fish, which
Island. The Island Conservation The light-aircraft abandoned after use. Small weve eaten two nights running now.
Society (ICS) works hard to flight from Mah fish congregate around them, Along with two other guests, I board
clean up the mess, but its clear was bracing attracting larger species such as Flyer, one of the islands many powerful
theyre fighting an uphill battle. turtles, tuna and sharks, which fishing boats. The waters are choppy,
However, at least Alphonse Island can become trapped and die. but theres little sign of life. We wait for
is doing its best to minimise its This is catastrophic for such a delicate the rods to hook something, but they
environmental impact. Tourist numbers, environment, but both the ICS and local stand erect and undisturbed. For a long
for instance, are kept low (a maximum of hotels do their best to limit overfishing time, nothing happens. I peer over at
70 at any one time) so as not to ruin the and protect wildlife. The seafood we eat the cooler. I dont know whats in the
IMAGE: SCOTT MITCHELL

natural beauty of the island or interfere during our stay is caught by our guides sea, but I do know theres Seybrew (a
with the already delicate ecosystem. (the island is famous for its world-class delicious local beer) in there. Perhaps
These limits mean that those fortunate fly fishing) in sustainable waters, while we should just give up on the fishing
enough to come here get to enjoy a huge amount of the fruit, vegetables and enjoy ourselves.
unparalleled close-ups with nature. I and herbs we consume are grown in And then, all of a sudden, a rod
see baby dolphins frolicking in the sea, the islands gardens. The gardens are springs to life. The line becomes taut,

Experiences 2017 73
ON THE MOVE

A giant tortoise munches


on the grass

the reel spins around and around. this boat without catching anything. I get off my bike, camera in hand, and
Whatevers at the end of it is kicking up Raise and release, raise and release walk slowly towards a large male. He
quite the fuss. I repeat the motion over and over, allows me to come close and lets me
Youre up, says my guide, thrusting reeling in whenever the line cuts feel the tough carapace of his shell and
the rod into my hands. I clasp the me some slack. The guide urges me the leathery skin beneath his neck. I
handle and reel, trying to recall those to continue, as lactic acid wills my kneel down to take a photo. He poses
fishing trips in Ireland, but all I can forearms and legs to give up. How can willingly for several moments, then
actually remember is rain and my fishing use so many muscles? jumps to his feet (surprisingly fast) and
mother shouting that Im doing it I continue, reeling, lifting, sweating, charges towards me, snapping his jaws.
wrong. Reel! the guide screams. I do as panting, but the shark is a stubborn He probably just wants a leaf, but I
Im told, reeling in with all my strength and formidable foe. He jumps out of dont stick around to find out, aware that
until the line refuses to budge any more. the water, close to the boat, but just as Im encroaching on his territory. From
Lift the line, he says. Drop it, and I prepare for one final push, the rod a distance, I watch as he settles back
reel again. I lift the rod, now curved like straightens, limp and lifeless in my down, munching happily on the grass.
a vaulters pole. I drop it, and reel once hands. The line is broken. Jaws has I get on my bike and head back, but
more. Thats it, says the guide. Keep escaped to fight another day. I can only on the way back to my bungalow I turn
doing that. admire him. off, unable to resist one more cycle
What is it? asks one of my My guide smiles. You were so close, through the forest, one more moment
fellow guests. he says. But at least you got to see what of peace and solitude. Its the right
Its a shark, says the guide. its like. decision although as the light begins
Sorry, a what? As if able to read my All too soon its the final night of my to fade and Im faced with the forests
thoughts, he smiles. The tug on the trip, and I decide to take one last cycle descending veil of darkness, I speed
line; you had a wahoo, and now a shark ride to watch the setting sun as it slips up, cycling as quickly as I can, wary not
has the wahoo. Deflated, I stop reeling. down into the ocean. I head past the to bump into any wayward tortoises on
Keep going! he shouts. No point restaurant and the tennis court, and my way.
in stopping now. I do as instructed. into the clearing where Id earlier seen
Seven nights at Alphonse Island in a beach
Theres pride at stake. The shark the giant tortoises resting in the shade. bungalow on a full board basis, costs $12,000
might not be dinner (as a protected Its quiet now, away from the hustle and (9,270) for two. alphonse-island.com
species, itll have to be thrown back bustle of the bar, where the anglers are Air Seychelles flights from Heathrow start from
into the water) but I dont want to leave busy toasting their days achievements. 636.25 return. airseychelles.com

74 natgeotraveller.co.uk
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