Fancy a bird’s-eye view over 1,300 hectares of Ecuadorian rainforest? The new Dragonfly gondola at Mashpi Lodge promises a jaw-dropping experience…
Mashpi Lodge, a founding member of National Geographic’s ‘Unique Lodges of the World’, has created a special way for its guests to explore the incredible wildlife of the Mashpi Rainforest Reserve. The new Dragonfly gondola, an ‘open’ cable-car gliding 200m above ground, will take passengers on a two kilometre trip through the cloud forest accompanied by a guide.
There are three separate ‘on or off’ points located at differing altitudes so guests can choose whether to combine a ride on The Dragonfly with a testing hike through the forest, or to take the full two-hour return trip for a more relaxing experience (although perhaps not for vertigo sufferers!). The whole experience promises to reveal hidden waterfalls, swimming holes, walking trails and some amazing monkeys, birds and plantlife.
Mashpi’s sustainability ethos means The Dragonfly was carefully constructed over a period of 18 months largely by hand and without the use of any heavy machinery, to ensure minimal impact to the reserve and its wildlife. Much like the lodge itself, The Dragonfly is powered by renewable energy and designed to blend seamlessly and silently into the surrounding forest.
Mashpi Lodge – A “cocoon in the clouds”
Eco retreat Mashpi Lodge is described as a “cocoon in the clouds” – the 22 luxurious rooms are set within a striking contemporary structure with floor-to-ceiling glass allowing for magnificent views of the surrounding rainforest and mountains.
A paradise for nature lovers, the award-winning Lodge features an immersive Life Centre where wildlife enthusiasts can learn more about the reserve’s inhabitants including 500 species of bird, as well as butterflies, frogs and monkeys. The Hummingbird Viewpoint offers avid birders an unrivalled setting for bird-watching, featuring a shelter with seating and feeders for the birds strung from its roof.
Mashpi’s ‘Sky Bike’ (a fun idea) is another thrilling way to explore the canopy up close – pedal your way along a cable stretched between the trees, and enjoy panoramic views across the forest from the 26m-high Observation Tower.
Fancy a trip to The Humps, a visit to Herm or a jaunt on Jethou?
Herm, Jethou and The Humps (a collection of sandbanks off the north-east corner of Herm), part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey in the English Channel, have, this month, been formally designated as a Ramsar site under The Convention on Wetlands. This puts them on the map as a great destination for nature tourists.
The new site joins the Bailiwick’s three existing Ramsar sites in Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The status gives international recognition of the special environmental, cultural and heritage characteristics of wetlands to ensure the conservation of key species and habitats.
The various marine and land habitats on and around Herm support a rich diversity of flora and fauna including important breeding areas for sea bird species such as the Lesser black backed gull, Puffin and Shag. In addition, Herm Common has an excellent cultural heritage, with numerous archaeological remains.
Visiting Herm – how to get there and where to stay
Herm Island lies three miles off the east coast of Guernsey and is reached by catamaran from St Peter Port, Guernsey with Trident Ferries (www.traveltrident.com). The trip takes 20 minutes. Timetables vary depending on time of year with eight departures a day in peak season in July and August. Standard return fare is £12.50 per adult, £6.50 per child and £1.50 per infant. Tickets are purchased at the wooden kiosk in St Peter Port harbour.
The four star White House Hotel is Herm’s only hotel which is renowned for good food and wine in a beautiful setting (also worth noting is that the hotel boasts no clocks or televisions so you can really escape!). Room rates start at £128.00 per adult per night, including breakfast and dinner.
For further information on Guernsey including accommodation and things to do, visit www.visitguernsey.com
This is an ornothologist’s dream but you don’t have to be a serious birder to enjoy this new trip to seek out New Zealand’s rare and endangered bird life…
As an island lying deep in the South Pacific, New Zealand boasts some extraordinary flora and fauna including birds not found anywhere else on the planet. Travel specialists New Zealand In Depth have now launched a brand new 28-night tour in search of the country’s rare and endangered birds.
Keen bird watchers will love it but so will anyone with an interest in wildlife as the trip takes you off the beaten track in search of the nation’s iconic kiwi and also kokako, kakapo, saddleback, mohua and tuatara. As well as the birdlife, the itinerary allows guests to experience New Zealand’s flora and fauna from the sub-tropical north, to the dramatic Fiordland region in the south; not to mention its world famous marine mammals.
The organisers describe it as simply “the best, and most comprehensive, birding experience available in New Zealand”.
Accommodation – supporting local conservation projects
Throughout the tour guests will stay in some incredible places (we love the look of the flash treehouses – see below) from luxury lodges to boutique B&Bs. All have their own projects to protect the local endemic birdlife, so each guest will indirectly be making a positive contribution towards local conservation efforts and predator control programs.
Prices and departures dates
Small groups depart in November 2016, March 2017 and November 2017.
A 28 night New Zealand Self-Drive Bird & Nature Tour with New Zealand In Depth costs from £6,500 per person, not including flights.
The price includes transfers, accommodation on a twin share basis in boutique hotels and luxury lodges, car hire with driving notes and maps, breakfast and some dinners (as per the itinerary – see below), the services of a Tour Director and activities and excursions (see website for more details).
Day 1: arrive in Auckland – You will be met and transferred to your accommodation in the city centre. As you land in the City of Sails, your very first glimpse of New Zealand will see you crossing the harbours of Auckland and the green-grassed slopes of dormant volcanoes above this thriving Pacific city. Spend the early afternoon at leisure before an introduction to the world of the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Overnight: Auckland
Day 2: Auckland & Tiritiri Matangi Island- Sheltered within the Hauraki Gulf this island sanctuary, reclaimed for nature through countless volunteer hours, is today a spectacle of northern forest and birdlife. You will cross on the ferry to Tiri, as it is affectionately called, for a day to explore the pathways and birdlife of this predator-free island. Overnight: Auckland
Day 3: Auckland & Muriwai Beach- Today you will explore the hidden secrets, the pathways, the wildlife, the headland crowded with Australasian gannets at Muriwai and the beaches of the Waitakere Ranges. Overnight: Auckland
Day 4: Auckland – Lake Taupo – Today you will travel to Turangi on the southern shore of Lake Taupo. Overnight: Turangi
Day 5: Lake Taupo – Today you have four options to choose from: a guided 12 mile hike on the Tongariro Crossing, the best one day walk in New Zealand across volcanic landscapes; a gentle raft down the Tongariro River, home to 10 of the remaining 1400 pairs of blue duck or whio; fishing on the banks of Tongariro River; a leisurely drive around the area to key spots in search of the blue duck and numerous other bird species. Overnight: Turangi
Day 6: Lake Taupo–Paraparaumu–Kapiti Island – An early departure and a 3½ hour journey takes you south to Paraparaumu. On arrival you will transfer by ferry to Kapiti Island for anovernight stay at the eco lodge. The lodge’s wildlife sanctuary programme includes full guiding at the two entry areas and kiwi spotting in the evening. Overnight: Kapiti Island
Day 7: Kapiti Island–Paraparaumu–Wellington – The dawn chorus will wake you for breakfast today, amidst wonderful birdsong and the call of the kaka and kokako. Later you will return to the mainland at Paraparaumu and travel on to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. The afternoon is free to explore at your leisure whilst in the evening you will visit Zealandia, an inner city reserve of international importance, watch as dusk descends and the wildlife changes to morepork and kiwi. Overnight: Wellington
Day 8: Wellington–Marlborough Sounds – Today you will leave the North Island and venture to the majestic South Island. Depart early on the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton. Join the Seafood Odyssey cruise at Picton Wharf for a wonderful boat trip through the Marlborough Sounds to Bay of Many Coves. On board you will get to enjoy a tasting of fresh Marlborough seafood – Regal salmon, Tio Point oysters and green-lipped mussels. Overnight: Marlborough Sounds
Day 9: Marlborough Sounds – Today you will explore the Marlborough Sounds by kayak, walk on the Queen Charlotte Track or you could just relax at Bay of Many Coves. Alternatively, see the conservation work that the lodge is doing with the blue penguin nesting boxes. Overnight: Marlborough Sounds
Day 10: Marlborough Sounds–Kaikoura – Returning to Picton by water taxi you will take the scenic route down the east coast to Kaikoura where the mountains meet the sea. Kaikoura, renowned as the whale watching capital of New Zealand, is the point at which a deep ocean trench provides a nutrient rich upswell which supports a huge concentration of marine wildlife. Overnight: Kaikoura
Day 11: Kaikoura – Today is a day of exploration in Kaikoura. Early this morning, you will join an Albatross Encounter adventure to explore the world of the albatross. Afterwards you will have time for breakfast in Kaikoura, before joining the Whale Watch guides to see sperm whales in the deep ocean. (Please note this tour is weather dependent so an alternative option would be to swim with dolphins or enjoy a dolphin-watching cruise with Dolphin Encounter or swim with the seals.) Later this afternoon we can enjoy a walk on the Kaikoura Peninsula and experience more wildlife sightings, explore the history of the town at Fyffe Cottage or visit the Maori Pa site and its classical defence system of trenches on the crest of the peninsula. Overnight: Kaikoura
Day 12: Kaikoura–Christchurch – Today you will take the scenic journey to Christchurch, via the Waipara wine region, with opportunity for tastings. Visit Orana Park Wildlife Park as well as The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust to hear about the special conservation work undertaken. This is a private Trust and visits are limited and exclusive. Overnight: Christchurch
Day 13: Christchurch – Today you will head to Akaroa to see Hector’s dolphins, the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world which only breeds in the waters around Banks Peninsula. After lunch there is a visit to the white-flippered penguin colony before returning to Christchurch. These rare penguins that nest only on the Banks Peninsula with around 3,750 breeding pairs. Overnight: Christchurch
Day 14: Christchurch–Hokitika – Today you will have a scenic journey across Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps stopping at Lake Pearson to spot the very rare Australian crested grebe. Short walks at Bealey Valley beech and moss forest for robins, rifleman, silvereye and fantails. Stop at Otira Viaduct Lookout to see kea, the world’s only alpine parrot. Continuing across to the west coast and Hokitika. Overnight: Hokitika
Day 15: Hokitika–Okarito – Known as “The Coast”, the narrow strip of land between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps hosts an area of wilderness untouched by time and man. Turning off the main highway your overnight stop is in Okarito, a small coastal village created during the gold rush of 1860s, but now home to around 30 holiday baches (holiday homes). Join an evening kiwi spotting tour to see the Okarito kiwi in its natural habitat. Overnight: a bach (kiwi holiday home) in Okarito
Day 16: Okarito – Today you will join a 2 hour nature cruise on the lagoon to explore the waterways and over 70 species of bird including rare white heron and royal spoonbills. After lunch you can relax or join a guided walk to the Trig View Point for stunning views of Mount Cook. Overnight: Okarito Bach (kiwi holiday home)
Day 17: Okarito–Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki – Today your journey continues down the west coast with walks at Lake Matheson and Fox Glacier. At Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki you will meet Dr Gerry McSweeney, scientist and conservationist, to learn about the treasures of the local land and wildlife. You will also learn of the local conservation works. Overnight: Lake Moeraki
Day 18: Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki – Today you will take a guided walk in search of Fiordland crested penguins, the world’s second rarest penguin which returns each year to a small number of beaches on the west coast to breed (October and November only). There are many activities available at the Lodge including kayaking, fishing, forest walks or just relaxing. Overnight: Lake Moeraki
Day 19: Lake Moeraki–Queenstown – Today you will travel from Lake Moeraki to Queenstown via the lakeside route past Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and Lake Wakatipu with short walks at Ships Creek, Fantail Falls and Blue Pools. Overnight: Queenstown
Day 20: Queenstown – Relaxing day to explore Queenstown. Optional activities include wine tour, 4×4 adventure to Skippers Canyon, Lord of the Rings tour, TSS Earnslaw Steam Boat trip to Walter Peak Farm station. Overnight: Queenstown
Day 21: Queenstown-Te Anau – Today you will travel to Te Anau, the Gateway to Fiordland, stopping at Mavora Lakes for a short walk. Overnight: Te Anau
Day 22: Te Anau – Today you will join Trips & Tramps for a half day guided walk on the Kepler Track. An optional activity is to join a glow worm tour on Lake Te Anau. Overnight: Te Anau
Day 23: Te Anau–Doubtful Sound – Today you will travel into the heart of Fiordland crossing Lake Manapouri and over Wilmot Pass into Doubtful Sound for an overnight cruise with your dedicated and highly experienced nature guide. Explore from the depths of the fiord to the Tasman Sea, watch for resident dolphins, kayak and learn of the unique seabed environment in these waters created by a freshwater layer sitting at the surface. Overnight: on board Fiordland Navigator
Day 24: Manapouri–Stewart Island – You will return to Manapouri by midday and then travel across the South Island to Stewart Island crossing the fertile Southland plains to Invercargill and the port of Bluff. Here we take the ferry to Stewart Island. Rakiura National Park, encompassing the majority of Stewart Island, is New Zealand’s newest park, the township of Oban, nestled around Halfmoon Bay and into Paterson Inlet, is the only village. Overnight: Stewart Island. Evening: kiwi watch programme for Stewart Island Brown Kiwi (alternate activity: talk by local Department of Conservation staff member).
Day 25: Stewart Island–Ulva Island – Ulva Island in Paterson Inlet is iconic for its birdlife, its history and its forest.Walk the pathways across the island, surprise yourself as the path arrives to a beautiful remote white sand beach, and experience saddlebacks that flit across the air and friendly robins watch as you pass. This is a morning to treasure on this very specialreserve and in the afternoon you will join a pelagic birding trip to see Buller’s, Salvin’s, royal and wandering albatross, shearwaters and petrels. Overnight: Stewart Island
Day 26: Stewart Island – Explore Stewart Island with options around boat trips, guided tour of Stewart Island. Overnight: Stewart Island
Day 27: Stewart Island–Catlins Forest Park–Dunedin – An early morning departure today from Stewart Island. You will follow the Southern Scenic Route to the little known Catlins Forest Park. From the Cathedral Caves on the beach to populations of mohua (yellowhead) in the beech forest, your hosts Mary and Fergus will walk with you into the forest sharing their passion for this area. Overnight: Dunedin
Day 28: Dunedin – You will start the day by visiting Orokonui Eco Sanctuary just north of Dunedin for a guided walk. Opportunities to see kaka, takahe, tui,bellbirds, silvereye, fernbird, grey warbler, rifleman, Otago skink, jewelled gecko and tuatara. In the afternoon we head to the Otago Peninsula for the northern royal albatross, yellow–eyed penguins, New Zealand sea lions and cormorants who thrive on the southern ocean up swellings around the Otago Peninsula and we share their home for the day. Overnight: Dunedin
Day 29: depart Dunedin and international flight connection – Today you will travel to Dunedin airport and connect with your international departing flight.
This nature-packed tour of New Zealand’s scenic South Island has now been refreshed to provide even more of a wild and epic adventure!
From whale watching and cruising the fjords of Milford Sound, to an exclusive stay on Stewart Island in search of the elusive Kiwi bird, tour operator Natural Habitat Adventures has now re-designed its popular small-group tour, New Zealand Nature Explorer, to include even more of New Zealand’s legendary landscapes, unique wildlife and hospitable people.
The two-week tour takes in notable highlights – including the fjordlands, Southern Alps, Lake Wanaka, Kaikoura, Otago Peninsula – but also delves further into New Zealand’s remote corners: take a guided night walk in search of the Kiwi and other rare wildlife on Stewart Island; and explore the beaches of the isolated Ulva Island to spot endangered birds such as the yellow-eyed penguin.
You’ll also find out more about what makes New Zealand special by joining a sheep farming family in the Canterbury Plains, and meeting a Maori family at their home in Kaikoura to hear first-hand about Maori traditions, customs and contemporary lifestyles. The trip is rounded off with a distinct Scottish flavour in the southern city of Dunedin.
On the tour you’ll be guided by expert naturalists and led by a New Zealand native who really knows the hidden corners and where to find the true NZ.
No hotel chains here! Throughout the tour, guests stay at a range of the best lodgings from simple to luxurious, including a family-run lodge in a forest clearing and a boutique hotel in Christchurch, to a luxury retreat with spectacular views across Lake Wanaka.
Recommended for… Travellers who love wildlife (particularly those interested in rare birds), and spectacular landscapes
Be aware that… It’s a rapid and packed two-week itinerary so you may want to extend your visit to spend more time in favourite places at a more leisurely pace!
All tours are restricted in number (no more than 12) to ensure small groups with minimum disruption
Long term experience in the country ensures that NHA has strong connections with local communities, leading to authentic meetings that benefit both travellers and the local people
All guides are wildlife experts with a passion and respect for local people and the local environment
NHA is the world’s first carbon neutral travel company and your trip will be 100% carbon off-set
Imagine sitting in a safari hide at the crack of dawn, silence all around…then a lioness and her playful cubs come sauntering into view, oblivious to your presence. Or picture snorkelling on a coral reef, dipping your head underwater and seeing a technicolour marine world swimming around you.
Some of travel’s most memorable moments involve witnessing the world’s most incredible wildlife. Sadly, with the endangered species and habitats list growing ever longer, we are all too aware of how precious this wildlife is. Going on a wildlife holiday helps increase our understanding and respect for the natural world, but always remember to use a responsible tour operator for your trips.
Here are some of Goodtrippers’ ‘world’s best’ wildlife experiences:
Cruising the Galapagos Islands – This archipelago has attracted explorers for centuries. Its remote location and unique wildlife inspired naturalist Charles Darwin to write his theory of evolution. A trip today will bring you face-to-face with whales, dolphins, penguins, vast colonies of sea lions and birds, and real rarities such as the Galapagos tortoise, marine iguana and flightless cormorant. Flora includes mangrove, saltbush, cacti and carob trees.
Tiger watching in India – These beautiful and majestic big cats used to be found all over Asia in their hundreds of thousands. Today, there are barely over 3,000 left in the wild thanks to the destruction of their natural habitats and the illegal trade in tiger skin. However, a visit to some of India’s National Parks may reveal a rare and unforgettable sighting of species such as the elusive Bengal Tiger.
The ‘Big 5’ African safari – There are several countries, and several National Parks, where you can spot Africa’s ‘Big 5’ (i.e. lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard). South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the most well-known for a traditional safari experience – camping under the stars, exploring the bush and plains by Jeep, and keeping a pair of binoculars (and your wits about you!) at all times. The Big 5 are an awesome sight, but don’t bypass the rest of Africa’s natural wonders – watching a pack of wild dogs at night, bird-watching on a lake at dawn, or getting up-close to insect life are all unforgettable safari experiences. Try other spots including Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park and the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
Diving on New Zealand’s Poor Knights Islands – Two-thirds of the Earth is ocean so an underwater experience has to make this list! There are countless top dive sites – Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Thailand’s Similan Islands being just two – but I’ve included one you may not have considered (even though the great Jacques Cousteau named it one of his top ten dive sites in the world). As the 11 million year-old landscape is volcanic in origin, the cliffs, caves and tunnels harbour a unique biodiversity making New Zealand’s Poor Knights Islands an outstanding Marine Reserve and Nature Reserve.
Spotting orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo – These gentle red-heads are only found in Sumatra and Borneo, albeit in rapidly decreasing numbers as the animals are still hunted and their habitat destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Support local efforts to help protect these wonderful creatures by booking a trek through a National Park with a responsible tour operator, or volunteering at a rehabilitation centre. There’s nothing like looking up into the trees and spotting a flash of orange swing high over your head and catching your first glimpse of a wild orangutan!
The world is rich with wildlife experiences and our list barely scratches the surface! If you have a great wildlife experience to share, let us know. (This post by Goodtrippers was originally published on Frontier’s Gap Year Blog)
If that’s inspired you, browse our Amazon Affiliate store for some of the best wildlife books (buying via these links won’t cost you a penny more than using Amazon your regular way, but commission earned by Goodtrippers helps keep our site ticking along thanks to you!).
You can’t go far wrong with choosing a good book as a present. Whether they prefer reading on a Kindle or a good ‘back to basics’ paperback, here are some of the best books around for travel and outdoor fans…
In the depths of winter, it’s nice to dream of hazy summer beach days – salty air, sand in your picnic food, and a bracing dip in the sea. This book, the follow-up to Wild Swimming, takes a look at Britain’s secret coves and wild beaches across Scotland, Wales and England. This isn’t about ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hats, deckchair strewn promenades and fish and chip shops – this is a celebration of rock pooling, catching your own seafood supper, swimming with aquatic beasties, coasteering and enjoying Britain’s wonderful natural coastline and maritime heritage. The book is handily laid-out with information including swimming difficulty, access, nearby food and camping for each location, plus safety tips for new wild swimmers. It’s also peppered with beautiful photography making this a great book to browse through on a cold winter’s afternoon.
Being spurred on by a ‘my country’s better than yours’ argument with an Australian, author Phoebe Smith decided she needed to leave her relatively comfortable backpacking routine and get out of the hostels and into the wilds. So began a journey that involved sleeping under the stars at Ayres Rock, staying with a group of Bedouin in Jordan, and wrapping up in reindeer skin in the Finnish Arctic. And it didn’t stop when she came back to the UK – Extreme Sleeps chronicles her nights spend wild camping in the most northerly area of Scotland to southernmost England, proving that the UK could provide as exhilarating an experience as anywhere in the world.
Fodor know what they’re talking about so you can expect this book to be comprehensive and inspiring when it comes to embarking on the ultimate adventure holiday – an African safari. The book is crammed with maps and information about the national parks and wildlife areas across the whole continent – from the stunning Victoria Falls to the tropical paradise of the Seychelles. With handy lists covering best wildlife experiences, most luxurious lodges, best locations for meeting the locals and more, this guide is aimed at those who respect local wildlife and cultures but aren’t experienced field guides and so need a bit more about enjoying the safari travel experience.
The term ‘gap year’ is synonymous with 18 year olds backpacking around the world, partying hard and living off beans and beer for months on end. But there are plenty of older generations with itchy feet and a bit more money (and wisdom) seeking out worthwhile travel experiences. ‘Gap Years for Grown Ups’ provides advice and inspiration for those looking to take the plunge and tackles all the practical concerns (dealing with your property, job, family and relationships), to essential kit, safety on the road, and how to readjust when you return. Inspiration comes from chapters on the different types of trips to take (boat, air, bike), spiritual journeys, travel involving study, volunteering projects and more. They’ll be booking their one-way ticket in no time!
If the massive Christmas dinner hasn’t put them off thinking about food, this book will have them salivating. Lonely Planet cover some of the world’s most enticing cuisines and some lesser known delicacies, alongside sections dedicated to the best food markets, jewish dishes, coffee, and cheese. Gorgeous photography will have your belly rumbling as you read about the expected gastronomic hot-spots of the Mediterranean or southeast Asia, but also the food of the deep south of the USA, Nepalese mountain fare, or where to eat an authentic Maori hangi. History, recipes and restaurant recommendations are punctuated throughout.
This no.1 New York Times best seller has been updated to include 25 new countries (including Qatar, the Maldives and Greenland) plus a re-write and review of all the places included in the book. So many places are included, it is a little text heavy but the information is thorough and detailed enough to inspire at least a few trips, and ensure you can’t resist flicking through to read about your own home town or favourite place to see what the author has to say about it. Contact details for accommodation, eating out, events and more are all included making this a great ’round the world’ companion.
Hopefully, regular readers of Goodtrippers will know that eco-friendly accommodation and luxury need not be mutually exclusive. This photography book is full of images of glossy, luxurious eco retreats around the world to prove the point, including locations and contact details if it’s inspired you to make a booking. For real design junkies, architect details are also included. Perfect coffee table fare for fantasy holiday dreamers.
Caribou migration, the Hoodoo Mountains, Madagascar, the Scottish Highlands…they’re all here in this storming book that has plenty of wonderful photography to make you ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at how amazing Planet Earth is. Updated for 2013, it provides enough advice and information to encourage you to leave your armchair and explore some of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights. But this book isn’t about serving up the planet for mere entertainment – a serious ecological message is present throughout; help save these magnificent places before it’s too late.
You don’t have to be a ‘birder’ to enjoy this book, although those who do like to spend their free time in the great outdoors with binoculars glued to their face will recognise the fanaticism and mad excitement that the author communicates. Following the escapades of Luke and his friends as they travel across the United States to spot birds (the feathered variety), this funny book is as much about relationships as birding.
Europe, with its myriad countries and cultures, is a great continent to explore without having to set foot inside an airport – great news for flying phobes, and for the planet. This Time Out guide is split into short two hour trips, longer day trips, overnighters, and revokes the idea of the Grand Tour (Baltic ferry-hopping or the Orient Express anyone?). It’s not just about trains too with inspiration for boat, bike and walking trips, even a nod to car hire (with ‘green’ car hire options increasing in number).
All of the Amazon links in this article link to the Goodtrippers Amazon Affiliates site – this is at no additional cost to you (prices are the same as going direct to Amazon) but Goodtrippers receives a small percentage from sales when you purchase using these links. Many thanks for your support.
With the weather starting to take a downward turn, autumn is a time to dream of tropical holidays… But stop dreaming! Say goodbye to grey and drizzly days, book yourself a flight to tropical Mauritius, and indulge yourself in a stay at the charming Mon Choix – Mauritius’ first certified eco lodge and true pioneer in the island’s ecotourism industry.
Nestled in the mountains in Vallés des Prêtrés, just 10 minutes from the city of Port Louis, Mon Choix ‘Les Maison de Vallé des Prêtrés’ offers beautiful panoramic views across the valley towards the sea. It sits within a 7-acre private park offering ample opportunity to explore its rivers and walkways. Rather sweetly, the website describes the location as perfect for spotting fruit bats and for stargazing!
The hosts Joan and Jean-Michel de Senneville have designed the lodge using a mix of traditional English and modern African decor creating a tranquil and peaceful bolthole. It’s the perfect retreat for rest and relaxation, or a comfortable base from which to explore Mauritius’ natural environment.
Accommodation – choose your pirate!
Mon Choix consists of four suites – brilliantly, they’re named after famous pirates of yesteryear! The ‘Henry Morgan Suite’ is one of the largest with an en-suite bathroom and dressing room, plus two large private terraces – one overlooking the valley to the sea, and one facing the mountain range. Similar in size is the ‘Calico Jack Suite’ with en-suite facilities and one private terrace facing the sea. The ‘Blackbeard Suite’ has a larger terrace overlooking the valley to the sea; and the ‘Mary Read Suite’ offers views of the sea from your room.
Facilities and food
The shared spaces make full use of the beautiful surroundings. Seating and dining areas are available inside, but why wouldn’t you lounge on the many terraces and the large outdoor veranda? And outside dining areas mean breakfast can be served in the sun or you can enjoy dinner under the stars. Breakfast is included in your booking as well as dinner on the first evening of your stay – taste a varied menu of Créole specialities plus European and Indian dishes. Other restaurants and takeaways are nearby when you fancy a change.
The enormous garden includes a BBQ, and the swimming pool offers a fantastic mountain view. If you must keep in touch online there is free wifi throughout the lodge.
The hosts are happy to provide maps of nature trails and walks in the surrounding area – you can also book your own personal hiking guide if needed. There is a massage service, gym and health spa, offering a range of treatments, 30 minutes away.
Alongside horse-riding, hiking, golf and cultural excursions to discover more about this island’s multilayered history (perhaps most famous for the plight of the poor Dodo!), a holiday on Mauritius has to spent on the water. The island offers fantastic scuba diving opportunities as well as surfing, boating, water sports and even submarine tours to get a closer glimpse of the local marine life.
Recommended for… Sea-lovers and those looking for a peaceful retreat
Be aware that… The lodge only has four suites so make sure you book ahead for the dates you want
Over 390 different songbird species migrate through Long Point each spring and autumn rivalling that of the world-renowned birding hotspot Point Pelee National Park. Long Point is situated along the north shore of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada. It’s the world’s largest freshwater sand-spit and reaches 42km into the middle of the lake.
“The only difference between Long Point and Pelee is accessibility to the public,” explains Zodiac boat captain Garrett Reid. “Most of Long Point is restricted access and in the past birding opportunities were limited because of this. Now we can take people right out to the tip where they can do bird banding. It’s a real authentic experience.”
During this 6-hour expedition guests are provided with lunch, plenty of time for birdwatching, time to explore the trails and an opportunity to see a demonstration on migration monitoring (bird branding and surveying) from the volunteers and biologists at the Long Point Bird Observatory Tip Research Station.
‘Trip the the Tip’ Expedition
You can go where the roads can’t take you and experience the legends and lore of Long Point on this 4-hour expedition. A number of stops include a look at Bait Island, the Long Point Company, the Old Cut, Pottahawk Point, Courtwright Ridge, the Bluffs, the Pratt Shipwreak, Gravelly Bay, and the south shore (where you can see the giant sand shoals). Guests can explore the ‘Tip’ before heading back to port.
Long Point – a world-class environment
Long Point is the largest freshwater sand-spit in the world – at approximately 64,865 acres, it holds a unique blend of long sandy beaches, grassy ridges, sand dunes, wet meadows, diverse Carolinian forests, marshes and ponds. In fact, it is so diverse that it holds more endangered species per capita than the rest of Canada! Its long and colourful history, and incredible beauty, are just a couple of reasons the locals have been trying to keep it a secret for years…
Designated as a National Wildlife Area, human access is restricted to only a few locations which are reachable by boat.
Long Point is internationally recognised as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It was one of the first of 16 to be named in Canada. UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme has over 600 World Biosphere Reserves worldwide – this puts Long Point in the same league as the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands, the Sahara Desert, the Brazilian rainforest and many other special locations. To learn more about the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve click here.
Alongside the boat tours and birding, Long Point Eco Adventures offers a range of different activities including zip-lining, canopy tours, stargazing sessions at the observatory, wine tasting at the Burning Kiln winery directly across the road, guided kayaking and canoeing, and mountain biking. At the end of a hard day of outdoor pursuits, you can ‘glamp’ in the 4-star wilderness suites on site!
For more information including booking accommodation and activities, visit Long Point Eco Adventures and Zodiac Boat Tours via www.lpfun.ca
Guest blogger Rachel Cafferty reviews an eco retreat in Mexico perfect for honeymooners
Hotel Xixim is a tiny piece of paradise in the northwestern part of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, and is part of the ‘Special Biosphere Reserve’ of Celestun. It’s tucked away from all the noise and people, located along a three mile stretch of white beaches, and home to many species of birds, animals and flowers.
Nature plays an important role at Xixim, the hotel has been built in a way to minimise any disruption to the land. The area is one of the main feeding grounds for the American Pink Flamingo, which can arrive in their hundreds, and to sea turtles who choose to nest in the beaches.
I may be biased as I spent my honeymoon there but to me, it was beautiful and I wouldn’t hesitate to back. We were lucky enough to be the only guests for two of our five nights there, so had the whole complex to ourselves. The things that stand out are the extraordinary stars in the night sky, the many lizards of various sizes which lined the paths and climbed up the walls, and the attentive staff who made sure we were well looked after (and excellent food and drink).
There are 32 bungalows and every one has a private terrace and an amazing sea view. The Master Suites are perfect for honeymooners and despite not having any air conditioning (they only have ceiling fans for ecological reasons) they stay cool and comfortable. Huge four poster beds take up most of the room and are perfectly positioned for watching the sunsets, while the bathrooms are minimalist but stylish. A member of staff sneaks in each morning and leaves a tray with tea and sweet bread for when you wake up.
The hotel is out of the way and once you get you there, you may not feel like leaving. The onsite restaurant does delicious (and relatively healthy for Mexico) food, making the most of the fresh fish and traditional Mexican flavours, and the bar serves strong cocktails. There are two pools – one ‘Family Pool’ and one ‘Wellness Pool’, both with cafes serving snacks and drinks, a wellness centre, yoga and small gym facilities and massage centre.
If you don’t want to leave the immediate area then you can swim, sunbathe, kayak, take part in a yoga session, walk along the three-mile beach or use one of the hotel bikes. There are also a number of day trips and excursions you can do – boat trips to see the flamingos (season depending) and the Petrified Forest; or visit the old haciendas; visit Uxmal (ancient Mayan city); a mangrove adventure; offshore fishing; or even a moonlight safari.
Recommended for… Couples, honeymooners, families (pets are welcome too)
Be aware that… This isn’t a ‘budget’ break and as the hotel is away from the nearest smallest town, you do end up eating each night at the hotel restaurant
The bungalows are designed to harmonise with the surrounding nature
No air conditioning – just ceiling fans and thatched roofs provide ventilation
Reforestation – planting of 30 hectares with Malayan dwarf coconut trees
All water is biologically recycled, grey waters go through a biological filter
For more information, including booking, for Hotel Xixim, Yacatan, Mexico, visit www.hotelxixim.com, T: (01-988) 916 21 00, E: email@example.com
About the author: Rachel Cafferty works in charity PR in London and has discovered the joys of choosing holidays based on how much nature there is, thanks to her husband’s insistence on seeking out wildlife and staying in yurts.