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.
No laptops or business calls from a hotel room – guest blogger Erin Moncur discovers how a working holiday can be a very good thing when the National Trust are involved…
Are you team spirited? Do you enjoy the great outdoors? If you answered ‘yes’ to both of those questions and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then a National Trust Working Holiday might be the thing for you.
The National Trust runs over 400 volunteering projects a year, giving people the chance to help the environment while escaping the daily grind. The holidays range from two to seven days and with so many options to choose from, there is something for everyone.
For families or solo holiday-makers
The National Trust highlight six main categories to choose from, including youth discovery – a chance for teenagers to carry out conservation work while enjoying social activities with others the same age; independent; and family. Most include youth hostel style accommodation, with prices starting at £85 for a short break.
The family option starts at £125 and is aimed at children aged between 6 and 16 and their parents. Fun activities such as pond dipping, survival skills and scavenger hunts make this a great family holiday option. (Find out more about the types of holidays on their website.)
There are so many activities to chose from, whether you’re a budding archeologist, sports fan, a lover of outdoor activities or a keen gardener, they have got you covered. You can get involved in an existing archaeological project, mix the conservation work with wild swimming and help create a garden masterpiece.
History lovers have a chance to take on a character and walk around a historic building at one of their popular events, or to handle and archive some wonderful, historic collections. Regardless of your interests, you are spoilt for choice.
The National Trust have an expanded selection of holidays abroad. For the last four years they have teamed up with the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) to send keen volunteers overseas to countries such as Spain and Slovakia. If you fancy helping to restore a historic fountain in the heart of the Czech Republic, or an ancient staircase in a castle in France, look no further.
So, if you are looking for a break with a difference, want to help the environment, like the idea of waking up in a beautiful location and would love the chance to enjoy some exciting conservation activities with great new friends, then a National Trust Working Holiday could be what you’ve been looking for!
From the cloud forest at Machu Picchu to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, eco tourism pioneer Inkaterra has an Amazonian adventure in store that the whole family can enjoy…
Most adventure treks suit sprightly adults, gap year kids or fitness junkies. But this seven-night adventure holiday in the Peruvian Amazon is just right for families.
With over forty years of expertise in sustainable tourism, Inkaterra‘s family adventure, reveals the breathtaking wonders of the Amazon, Sacred Valley of the Incas and meet the mists of the cloud forest at Machu Picchu. The trip also supports local communities through conservation programmes.
What’s in store – rainforest and wildlife
The trip starts deep in the heart of the Southern Amazon rainforest, the biodiversity capital of Peru. What a place to wake-up to a symphony of birdsong and monkeys swinging through the branches overhead. Situated in a 10,000 ha. private reserve, Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica has much to discover – take one of the trekking trails and don’t miss the 344m high canopy walkway leading through the heart of the vast Peruvian rainforest and offering a (literal) bird’s-eye view of the plush forest canopy.
Accommodation – pick your own food at Pueblo Hotel
The adventure continues at Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, high in the Peruvian Andes. Whilst discovering the historic wonders of the region, barbecues, bird-watching and twilight hikes await. Accommodation is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel set in farmland, home to an organic plantation, and shrouded by a majestic cloud forest.
Guests can truly immerse themselves in the local farming community by way of picking their own produce as part of the Earth to Plate concept, the brainchild of executive chef, Rafael Casin. The food guests don’t farm themselves is purchased from the association’s Andean Farm Project, where cutting edge agro-ecological techniques are used to grow organic produce and medicinal plants.
Protecting rare and endangered wildlife
Amidst the clouds, 372 native orchid species, over 200 species of birds and 111 variety of butterflies can be found along the miles of trails that wind through the forest. Also the spectacled bear which is the only bear species in South America – because of their rapidly dwindling numbers the Inkaterra Spectacled Bear Project is essential to sustaining this rare and endangered native species. The Spectacled Bears Rescue Centre works to rehabilitate the bears, and bring them back into their natural habitat whenever possible.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel works closely with Inkaterra Asociación, an organisation that develops scientific, technological and cultural research projects aimed at managing and protecting the biodiversity and local communities of the Peruvian Andes. With strong ties to the local community, the property works with schools by hosting environmental conservation workshops and running fundraising campaigns for local villages.
The final leg – Cusco, capital of the Incan Empire
The last leg of this epic Peruvian adventure brings travellers to Cusco, the vibrant capital of the Incan Empire. Accommodation is baed at Inkaterra La Casona, a renovated 16th century manor located in the heart of the city. After indulging in Andean culture and cuisine, families can revel in the Spanish-colonial ambiance, exploring the ground that was once home to the elite army of the Incas.
Recommended for… Families looking for an adventurous and educational holiday
Be aware that… There is a distance for families to travel between each property
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.
Fancy a trip of a lifetime to sun-soaked Queensland, Australia to work with cuddly wallabies and wombats all day? These Aussie superstars need your help – guest blogger Claire Herbaux, of NGO Frontier, tells us how you could be enjoying a wild life in the sunshine state…
Kangeroos and wallabies, an iconic site for visitors to Australia, are often a nuisance – a pest even – to locals. The law may protect them but many marsupials get injured or killed as it’s easy to obtain a permit to shoot those that damage land.
Between bad shots and road accidents, many wallabies end up in rescue centres including young joeys left in their mother’s pouch after she dies. Frontier runs the Australia Wallaby Rescue project at an animal sanctuary in Gladstone, Queensland, that takes care of injured animals. The sanctuary helps hand-rear joeys that have lost their mothers, as well as running wombat breeding programme. Koalas and other wildlife are also cared for.
Life as a volunteer on the project
On the project, everything depends on the season and every day is different. You may be working with rescued joeys, helping the wombat breeding programme, getting animals ready to be released back into the wild, or preparing the sanctuary for school visits. General activities include maintaining the animals’ living quarters, food prep and feeding, and building new facilities.
In the hot Queensland weather, the day starts early to avoid the heat and lunch time is spent relaxing and taking in outback life.
The rescue centre has volunteer accommodation on site which includes laundry and cooking facilities. It is a home environment and rooms are usually shared with another volunteer. The next city is a little way away but food is provided. Volunteers prepare their own breakfast and lunch, with everyone eating together in the evening with a meal prepared by the host.
Recommended for… Anyone wanting to experience life in the Australian outback and get up close to native animals.
Be aware that… The sanctuary is not in the vicinity of any towns – you won’t be going out to the pub, but will spend relaxing time with the host family and other volunteers.
Prices startat £799 for two weeks (excluding flights) with extra weeks available. For more information, including a full programme, departure dates and bookings, visit www.frontier.ac.uk
About the author: Claire Herbaux is an Online Journalism Intern at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO. Check out Frontier’s blog Into the Wild for more gap year ideas to help make your time out meaningful. For more information about travel and volunteering opportunities available please visit www.frontier.ac.uk.
In Bristol over the summer? Here’s a piece of public art you won’t be able to miss – because it’s huge!
A sculpture of two life size whales, made from Somerset willow and 70,000 upcycled plastic bottles, has been unveiled in Bristol to mark the city’s status as the UK’s first European Green Capital.
We think they look absolutely stunning! This is what public art should be – playful, awesome and thought-provoking, and what a great opportunity to raise the issue of marine conservation with kids. Make sure you see them before they swim away in September.
Weighing a mighty six tonnes, The Bristol Whales are currently splashing about in Bristol’s Millennium Square and will be on display until 1 September 2015. The artwork depicts a blue whale and humpback whale swimming through an ‘ocean’ of plastic bottles, and represents the fragility of our oceans and the increasing threat of plastic pollution.
Visitors can add their own pledge message in a virtual bottle using The Bristol Whales app, which will then be displayed on a Big Screen above the whales. The Bristol Whales has been designed and built by Cod Steaks, initiated by Arts Project Earth and funded by Arts Council England.
Guest blogger Rebecca MacDonald-Taylor, of NGO Frontier, tells us how you can help threatened sea turtles in the Indian Ocean…
Picture this: Dark ashy shades created from the towering volcanic mountains contrast with a rainbow pallet of coral reefs shimmering through the clear blue waters. The Indonesian island of Bali really is stunning!
Working with turtles
Bali is under huge pressure from Indonesia’s growing tourism industry. It’s understandable – Bali is gorgeous and everybody wants to see it for themselves, but the more people visit, the more the fragile environment and its wildlife is damaged.
Frontier helps provide a solution by operating the Sea Turtle Conservation project which provides a hands-on approach in the conservation of these majestic and enchanting creatures. It’s a unique experience, and one that you can join.
Life as a volunteer on the project
Litter left on the beaches can be a big choking problem, especially for the young, and so volunteers monitor the weaker turtles in a natural enclosure for support and rehabilitation until they are ready for release. The project also needs people to collect vital baseline data on turtle populations.
During the day, volunteers also have the opportunity to teach English at one of the local schools which is a fantastic chance to immerse yourself in the Bali culture. Support, particularly in English language fluency, has a lasting impact on the community.
Volunteers enjoy three meals a day of traditional Balinese cuisine, an exciting fusion of Indonesian and Chinese styles. Some of the most popular dishes are Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice with a fried egg on top) and Mie Goreng (fried noodles with egg).
One of the added bonuses of volunteering on this project is that you get to live right next to the beach! You can stay at a volunteer house with all the basic facilities that you’ll need.
There is a mix of both Western and Asian-style toilets and I would definitely suggest making use of the outdoor showers. There are indoor ones, but you may as well take advantage of welcoming a cold rinse in the tropical temperatures. You would never be able to do that in the UK! (‘We agree’ – Editor)
Recommended for… Anyone who is desperate to escape to a tropical dreamland and immerse themselves in a diverse culture, helping the local community. A love of turtles wouldn’t go amiss either!
Be aware that… Some activities are seasonal. Turtles lay their eggs throughout the year, but the opportunity to collect eggs and monitor nests is often highest between July and October when the sea is calmer.
For more information, including a full programme, prices, departure dates and booking, visit the Sea Turtle Conservation project page on the Frontier website.
About the author: Rebecca MacDonald-Taylor is an Online Journalism Intern at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO. Check out Frontier’s blog ‘Into the Wild’ for more gap year ideas to help make your time out meaningful. For more information about travel and volunteering opportunities available please visit www.frontier.ac.uk.
This stunning mountain hideaway, set amoungst the Nepalese Himalayas, is leading the way in responsible tourism
Perched on a mountain ridge 1,000 ft above the Pokhara Valley in Nepal, the Pokhara Lodge at Tiger Mountain demonstrates daily why it has won TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence every year since 2011. Guests rave about the beautiful setting, the friendly staff and the delicious food – but it’s a dedication to supporting local community initiatives, and helping preserve local wildlife, that really sets it apart from the rest.
Since the beginning, the Lodge, its staff and guests, have been involved in supporting various projects including funding local schools, school teachers, health posts, community forestry projects, forest rangers and a forest nursery,
The lodge’s trained guides are regularly involved in conservation research by monitoring butterfly and wildfowl populations for organisations including Birdlife International.
The lodge consists of stone cottages, clustered in the style of a Nepalese village, around a central lodge, bar and dining room. All cottages have en-suite bathrooms, private verandas and Himalayan views. Each cottage is furnished with Tibetan rugs, handmade wooden furniture and original artworks.
Will you ever have a swim in such a glorious location as this? The outdoor swimming pool reflects the snowcapped mountain backdrop making a morning dip even more exhilerating! For cosy evenings the main lodge offers the chance to snuggle up to a warm log fire and browse the Colonel Jimmy library full of mountaineering literature.
You can enjoy breakfast with a view from the terrace, while in the evening, the terrace is candlelit for cocktails and dinner. Daily menus include Nepali and continental dishes made using fresh, local, organic ingredients such as homegrown herbs and garden salads. And the bar remains open until the last guest retires…
Things to do
Guests can take day hikes or bird walks with local, trained guides. Yoga and meditation sessions are available, as well as Ayurvedic and Shiatsu massage. The more adventurous can try paragliding or microlight flights for a truly awesome experience in the mountains. Trips to nearly Pokhara can be arranged for sightseeing, museums and to visit the lively lakeside area.
Pokhara Lodge and guests’ donations pay for an additional teacher at the local Shiva Shatki Primary School
The Lodge and guest donations have also funded the rebuilding of the school block at Amar Jyoti Secondary School, providing electricity, whiteboards, improved classrooms and desks – this means more children can complete their main schooling in the local community
The Lodge works with the International Trust for Nature Conservation and its Shillinge Project, which aims to combine non-timber forest product development with longer-term community forest management practices.
Guides monitor butterfly and wildfowl populations, providing data for conservation charities and projects including Birdlife International
Marion Thibaudeau of NGO Frontier, tells us more about how you can help Thailand’s retired domestic elephants on this volunteering holiday
Thailand is well known for its culture and history, for its white sand and crystal clear blue waters, and for its rich wildlife. Many impressive animals can be found in the deep Thai jungles, including bears, tigers, and elephants.
Well over two thousand elephants are domesticated throughout the country and sadly, its wild elephant population (of two to three thousand) is declining due to a caustic mix of problems: The ivory trade has put this majestic species at severe risk of poaching, and Thailand still suffers from illegal elephant trade and abuse, notably for tourism purposes, despite recent efforts by lawmakers to cut down on these activities.
Frontier operates the Thailand Elephant Sanctuary project, which gives volunteers a unique chance to spend time with a number of retired elephants. Take the ethical route to experiencing elephants in Thailand, and give these animals the care and attention they deserve.
Life as a volunteer on the project
Upon arrival in Bangkok, you will be spending a week in Singburi, immersing yourself in Thai culture, learning more about its history and language, and visiting temples and museums. You will then be taken to the elephant sanctuary to the north of the country. During your time there, you will be helping wash, feed and exercise the elephants during the week, with free time on weekends, leaving you opportunities to explore the surrounding area or participate in other events, such as water rafting. As the days go by, you will come to know the elephants and notice their individual personality quirks as you grow closer.
Accommodation at the sanctuary consists of thatched huts in the jungle, with all the basic amenities. In Singburi, volunteers stay in a shared volunteer house.
Traditional Thai food will be provided throughout the project. With influences from China, India and Indonesia, Thailand boasts an exciting cuisine with flavoursome mixes of sweet, sour, salty and hot, generally on a basis of rice or noodles.
Recommended for… This project is recommended for anyone wishing to interact with elephants in an ethical and controlled manner. While it is easy to see elephants in Thailand, many elephants presented to tourists are often raised and kept in poor conditions. This sanctuary ensures that its elephants are taken care of, and the volunteers visiting it can attest to that!
Be aware that… The cultural orientation week in Singburi is only available to those spending more than one week on the project.
For more information, including a full programme, prices, departure dates and booking, visit www.frontier.ac.uk
About the author: Marion Thibaudeau is an Online Journalism Intern at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO. Check out Frontier’s blog ‘Into the Wild’ for more gap year ideas to help make your time out meaningful. For more information about travel and volunteering opportunities available please visit www.frontier.ac.uk.
All of the luxury lodges are engaged in protection of local wildlife or the regeneration of natural habitats – so guests are already supporting conservation initiatives, even if they choose not to ‘get their hands dirty’. (Although we think that a few hours spent ‘in the field’ will give you a totally fresh perspective to your trip – and will make that sundowner cocktail sipped from your private pool all the more deserved!).
Here’s more about those envy-inducing luxury lodges and why you can enjoy them ‘guilt free’:
This multi-award winning New Zealand luxury hotel & retreat is set within a 75 acre estate atop its own private ridgeline offering spectacular views of the Bay of Islands. By staying at Eagles Nest, you will support and be a part of the lodge’s vital work to conserve rare local wildlife living on the property including the North Island brown kiwi.
Bay of Many Coves
Located deep in the Marlborough Sounds, Bay of Many Coves is a five star luxury resort that offers perfect seclusion in a pristine natural environment. By staying at Bay of Many Coves, you will be supporting a project that provides homes and habitat for the local population of blue penguins, the world’s smallest penguin.
Unique New Zealand accommodation, nestled 30 feet above the ground in the canopy of a native Manuka grove, Hapuku Tree Houses have spectacular views of Kaikoura’s dramatic mountains and surf-washed Pacific coastline. By staying at Hapuku Lodge, you will be supporting a project that is assisting the restoration of local native forest whilst having the chance to learn about Maori culture in the region.
Treetops Lodge offers the ultimate in world-class luxury accommodation in the heart of New Zealand’s unique forest close to the thermal wonderland and cultural capital of Rotorua. By staying at Treetops Lodge, you will learn about the ancient Maori connection with New Zealand’s native forest and play your part in protecting it for future generations.
Blanket Bay is nestled amidst rugged snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps on the shores of Lake Wakatip. Its elegant yet rustic charm delivers peace and solitude for every guest. By staying at Blanket Bay, you will support a project that is helping to protect one of New Zealand’s unique and most endangered birds, the mohua.
With commanding views out across Lake Te Anau, Fiordland Lodge’s luxury haven has style, comfort and privacy making it the perfect base for your Fiordland experience. By staying at Fiordland Lodge, you will be helping the local community to protect native wildlife in one of the world’s outstanding wilderness areas.