Your chance to see one of the world’s most elusive and beautiful creatures in the wild…
Finally, some good news about the tiger population in India – recent reports suggest that the number of Bengal tigers in the wild is slowly growing. Some conservation groups have credited responsible wildlife tourism in the region for this rise.
One such responsible tour operator, Natural Habitat Adventures, has now created a new itinerary for its 12-day Grand India Wildlife Adventure tour, giving tourists the opportunity to see the majestic Bengal tiger plus a host of other incredible wildlife on the Indian subcontinent.
By keeping safari groups deliberately small, and travelling to some of the lesser known (and certainly less crowded) national parks, Natural Habitat Adventures promises to have created the ideal India odyssey for nature lovers. It’s an increased chance to see Bengal tigers on a trip that aims to cause minimum distruption to wildlife and the environment, work together with local communities, and support ongoing conservation efforts in the region.
What’s on the wildlife tour?
The tour explores three of India’s top national parks spending three days in each park including the tiger-rich Bandhavgarh National Park, plus Kanha and Kaziranga National Parks which are more remote with far fewer tourists.
Guests join multiple game drives in open 4x4s to safari with a naturalist expedition leader in search of tigers, one-horned rhinocerous, Asiatic elephants, over 600 bird species and a host of other Indian wildlife.
While most safari is done via Jeep, if conditions permit you can also explore Kaziranga on elephant back, the most traditional way to experience this natural jungle setting.
Bush ecolodge accommodation
Alongside 5-star hotel accommodation in Delhi and Kolkata on arrival and at departure, the safari accommodation is in remote, secluded and eco-friendly bush lodges which offer luxurious comfort and the special experience of sleeping out in the bush.
Supporting India’s tiger population
After years of precipitously declining tiger numbers, India has charted a 30% rise in its 2014 tiger census, compared to four years before. Conservation groups attribute a share of that increase to responsible nature tourism. The sheer economic value of visitors to India’s tiger reserves benefits the communities around the reserves, offering local people an incentive to protect the wild creatures they share the land with. Given that India is home to 70% of the world’s remaining wild tigers, and India is the only country currently seeing a rise in tiger numbers, the presence of wildlife tourism here is integral to that continued success.
Natural Habitat Adventures is the WWF’s (World Wildlife Fund’s) official travel partner.
The 12-day Grand India Wildlife Adventure departs regularly from November 2015 until April 2016, with prices starting from £5,900 ($8,995).
For more information including full itinerary, prices, dates and booking visit www.nathab.com
If you’ve always wanted to take a career break or add another experience to your gap year, it’s time to plan ahead for summer 2015 and two potentially life-changing weeks…
Volunteering organisation PoD has just announced details of a new summer camp working with children in India. The two-week placement is a great opportunity for first-time volunteers to join a supported and structured programme running activity sessions for local children in the city of Udaipur in the north of the country.
The aim of the project is to provide additional support to local staff and to improve the level of education of the local children in order to help them break the cycle of poverty. Udaipur is one of the most underdeveloped states with below average income and literacy rates in comparison to the rest of India, with less than 50% of females being able to read and write.
The work and what to expect
The volunteer team will run educational activities and games in schools and children’s homes. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to experience Indian culture through Hindi lessons, cooking sessions, optional yoga classes and henna workshops. The placement includes trips to famous Indian landmarks including the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, temples and palaces.
Volunteers will live in an apartment with each room having its own bathroom. The accommodation is simple but clean and has a TV room, dining room, kitchen, resources and lesson planning area and has Wi-Fi.
Recommended for… Those who enjoy working with children and experiencing the local culture in India
Be aware that… You should be realistic about how much you can achieve in two weeks, but your contribution is an essential part of the on-going project and support for the local community.
The two week placement starts on 12 July 2015 and costs £895. For full details including booking visit the project profile on www.podvolunteer.org
PoD is a specialist non-profit volunteering organisation with over 10 years’ experience arranging volunteer placements overseas who are committed to a responsible volunteering approach which they have carefully defined to guide us in the way they work. See more about their responsible volunteer policy here.
Ever wanted to spend the night in a lighthouse in New York state? A treehouse in Laos? Or a cave hotel in Turkey? These are just three of the 10 most extraordinary places to stay in the world – according to travel experts Lonely Planet.
To accompany the launch of their first ever collection of world’s best hotels, Lonely Planet has revealed its top 10 list of unusual accommodation choices. We reported the Lonely Planet ‘eco accommodation’ list last week and now pick out some of the Goodtrippers-friendly options on the ‘extraordinary’ list: here are our picks…
Second in Lonely Planet’s list, this funky lodge is a must if you’re visiting Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. You can choose to stay in a traditional mud hut (en-suite and adorned with art made with the natural pigments found in the many termite mounds in the area), or a traditional grass hut (en-suite and constructed using the same methods as the original bushmen of Botswana). If you fancy it, camping facilities are also on offer. Walkways wind through the baobabs (which are lit up at night) to a pool and bar-restaurant. Spot meerkats and elephants while you sip your sundowner…
No. 5 in the Lonely Planet list, this eco-friendly lodge is located on the edge of the spectacular World Heritage site Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Cabins are nestled privately in the bushland, with wallabies bounding past the windows and wombats shuffling amid the trees. Locally sourced game, wine, cheeses and honey permeate the restaurant’s menu, one of Tasmania’s best. The view from the spa is a dense thicket of King Billy pine trees. Guests can choose from couples’ or family cabins, right up to suites with private outdoor tubs and fuel-efficient fireplaces.
Treehouses for grown-ups! These fantastic handmade orbs, suspended among the tall trees of west coast rainforest, are kitted out like cosy boat cabins inside (mod cons including iPod docks all present and correct) and are accessed by rope walkways and spiral ladders. You’re encouraged spend time in your swaying sphere to immerse yourself in the local wildlife – the chattering birds and squirrels, now on your eye-level. The site also has showers, a sauna, kitchen and barbecue.
This luxury resort by the beach is environmentally-friendly and remote – it’s one of few such lodges within the 328,000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its spacious huts are scattered through dune forest, some with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean. Whales frequently pass by, and Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles nest on the nearby beaches. Take a nature trek with a local expert, a deep sea dive, or simply relax in the spa or indulge in the lodge’s fresh seafood and salads.
Completing the Lonely Planet top 10 is this outstanding experience in Laos. Imagine waking to the sonorous call of the endangered black-crested gibbon, stretching in your bed a hundred feet up in the triple canopy, and nursing a coffee on your balcony as you watch the dawn mist crowd in over the jungle valley below. The tree houses, erected by conservation group Animo, are a thing of wonder straddling the giant trunks of strangler fig trees. You have to take a zip wire to ‘fly’ into your night’s accommodation! Dinner is delivered fresh from the nearby campfire, and music is the ambient sound of cicadas as fireflies dance in the night air.
Wildlife specialist Naturetrek’s new 2013 brochure contains 14 new tours, including four new UK options.
Those 14 new offerings (see factsheet below for details) include a spring birdwatching trip to Sicily, a ‘Killer Whales & Northern Lights’ tour of Iceland, puma-watching in Chile, a visit to India’s little-known Satpura National Park and an exploration of Baffin Island in Canada.
Wildlife watching around the world
Elsewhere, the vast array of existing trips includes butterfly-viewing trips to Hungary and Greece; birding tours from Sri Lanka to Florida; jaguar-watching tours in Brazil; flora-themed visits to Kazakhstan, Norway and Ecuador; whale-watching in West Greenland and Monterey Bay; tours observing bears in Spain and Finland; and other itineraries themed around snakes, snow leopards, wolves, dragonflies, red pandas and much more.
In total, Naturetrek now offers around 350 tours to nearly every corner of the world. That includes the ever-expanding range of UK trips, which takes in the Shetland Isles, the Scillies and the famous Somerset Levels starling murmurations.
Most tours are open to enthusiasts of all levels, although some will suit a more experienced and knowledgeable traveller. New for 2013, Naturetrek is launching a range of Beginners’ Birdwatching Tours, aimed at those who are keen to go birding, but fear looking foolish amid seasoned veterans sporting well-used binoculars!
Small groups and solo travellers
The majority of Naturetrek trips operate in small groups (average 10-12 people; maximum 16); because these groups include many solo travellers, there’s usually a room-sharing option for those who don’t wish to pay a single supplement. Each group is guided by a leading, experienced ornithologist or botanist (often both), and each tour departs at a carefully-chosen time when the widlife-viewing experience will be at its most rewarding. Nearly all trips are also available (at a different cost) on a tailormade basis too, for clients who cannot make the set departure dates, or who prefer to travel privately.
For more information on any of Naturetrek’s wildlife itineraries or to request a copy of the new 2013 brochure, call them on 01962 733051 or visit www.naturetrek.co.uk. (If you’re in the UK, they’re based in rural Hampshire in a beautiful converted mill with a Site of Special Scientific Interest nearby!).
Run by wildlife enthusiasts with 25 years’ of experience – the founders are naturalists and conservationists turned tour operators
A commitment to sustainable tourism has been at the company’s heart since its inception
Tours involve small groups using local accommodation and facilities to help support the local communities
Naturetrek develops partnerships with local communities and naturalists, such as financing the regeneration of land in Nepal to create two ecotourism camps – Koshi and Suklaphanta
Some tours include charity donations to organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, International Animal Rescue and the Environmental Investigation Agency
They are currently developing other conservation and sustainable tourism projects around the world
They are expanding their range of UK-based (flightless) tours
NEW tours for 2013
Islay & Mull… In Style!: Your first stop is a four-night stay on Islay, popular with birdwatchers due to its numerous species of visiting Arctic wildfowl. Then there are two days spent on the smaller island of Mull, with its mountains, moorlands and vast sea-lochs, home to otters, birds of prey, rutting red deer and much more. Accommodation is on each island’s best hotel; that includes Mull’s wonderful Tiroran House Hotel.
Departing 31 October & 1 November; prices from £1,195 pp**
Wild Flowers of Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula: Enjoy coastal and inland walks during this three-night break in search of Cornwall’s botanical wonders. The Lizard Peninsula is one of the UK’s top sites for plant-life thanks to its diverse landscapes and geology. The trip includes Gew Graze Valley, known for unique outcrops of mineral-rich serpentine rock.
Departing 31 May; prices from £395 pp** The Yorkshire Coast & Moors
This long-weekend birdwatching holiday starts at the chalk cliffs of Flamborough and Bempton, home to over 200,000 seabirds. Then follows a stop at Filey Dams Nature Reserve, a botanical hub for well known British birds such as the tree sparrow, before time on those classic North Yorkshire Moors.
Departing 25 & 28 June and 2 July; prices from £450 pp**
The Wild Flowers of Upper Teesdale Upper Teesdale sits in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This four-day expedition covers a variety of environments, from low-lying hay meadows to rough grazing pastures and summit heaths on high fells. Discover which species make up the ‘Teesdale Assemblage’ while admiring the breeding birds of these remote moors.
Departing 21 June; prices from £450 pp**
Iceland – Killer Whales & Northern Lights: This five-day break centres on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula where, in winter, killer whale pods and seabirds congregate as large shoals of herring pass by. Watch the spectacle on land and out at sea, and then, after dark, look skywards to (hopefully) see the Northern Lights.
Departing 3 & 18 February; prices from £1,295 pp*
Lesbos in Autumn: Lesbos lies just a few kilometres from the coast of Turkey, and has a magnificent coastline that supports a diverse bird population. From a secluded-village base, this eight-day trip offers an opportunity to explore the island’s many migratory hotspots whilst enjoying some Aegean sunshine.
Departing 28& 29 September; prices from £1,295 pp*
Fjords, Arctic Birds & Northern Lights!… A Norwegian Coastal Voyage: Including a three-night cruise during which the Northern Lights will hopefully be seen, this six-day trip to the Arctic Circle observes the seabirds which occupy this most extreme – and scenic – region.
Departing 26 February; prices from £1,795 pp*
Spring Birding in Sicily: Within the beautiful setting of eastern Sicily, this seven-day adventure focuses on the spring migration of native birds such as the nightjar and hoopoe. From the 800-year-old converted farmhouse base, daily excursions are made to watch the birds amid the spectacular Sicilian landscape.
Departing 1 May; prices from £1,295 pp*
Inuit Adventure: Narwhals & Other Wildlife of Baffin Island: On a ten-day trip around Canada’s largest island, expert guides will lead daily expeditions on Inuit sleds to discover the Arctic’s most elusive wildlife. Baffin Island is the only place in the world consistently inhabited by the Narwhal, with its distinctive long, narrow tusk, while other sightings regularly include polar bears.
Departing 2 June; prices from £8,995 pp*
Eastern Canada – Whales, Bears & Fall Migration: Ranking among Canada’s most stunning landscapes, Quebec is home to large populations of wildlife such as beluga whales and black bears. This 12-day holiday features walks and cruises through the beautiful creeks and forests where these creatures are regularly seen.
Departing 9 September; prices from £4,395 pp*
Chile – Just Pumas!: This 11-day trip starts off in the Chilean capital, Santiago, before heading into the heart of the Andes. The route passes flamingo-lined lakes to reach Torres del Paine National Park and its glaciers and mountains – which provide a perfect habitat for the puma. Days will be spent devoted to exploring, and seeking out this iconic cat.
Departing 14 March & 4 April; prices from £3,995 pp*
Peru – Mountain Lodges Trek to Machu Picchu: The classic landmark of Machu Picchu is appreciated fully on this 12-day trip, with six days allocated to trekking slowly towards it across the Peruvian Andes. The route offers unique insight into the landscape and wildlife of the area while plotting a slightly different course to the classic Inca Trail.
Departing 10 November; prices from £3,695 pp*
Not Just Tigers! Satpura – Best of Central India: This is a ten-day exploration of one of India’s most scenic – and least-known – tiger reserves. While tigers are shy in Satpura National Park and thus rarely-seen, there’s a good chance of encountering other iconic animals, such as leopard, sloth bear, gaur and Asian wild dog, in the 1,500km² grounds. The park’s equally empty of tourists, despite its beauty and sheer remoteness being so stunning.
Departing 9 November, 21 December, 8 February, 15 March & 5 April; prices from £2,395 pp*
Wild Sri Lanka… In Style!: This 14-day holiday provides the chance to encounter Sri Lanka’s diverse wildlife – blue whales, leopards, crocodiles, wild boar, warblers and parrots included. You’ll also get to stay in luxury accommodation and admire some of the tropical country’s most impressive archaeological sites, including ancient Polonnaruwa.
Departing 19 November & 14 January; prices from £3,595*
* Prices include flights (London), transport, comfortable accommodation with all or most meals and guiding from an expert naturalist.
** Price includes transport whilst on tour, comfortable accommodation with meals (breakfast and evening meals as a minimum) and guiding from an expert naturalist.
The Boats, Elephants and Community Work two-week tour does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a jam packed two weeks in South India’s beautiful Kerala, with boat trips, elephant interaction and eight days of community volunteering with delightful children in a special needs school.
You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to the homestay accommodation which will be your base for the two weeks. First up it’s a full orientation and “get to know each other” session with the rest of the group and co-ordinator Rakhi, a local lady who knows everything there is to know about Kerala and will bend over backwards to help you enjoy your time in her home state. Then it’s time to get stuck into the itinerary – starting with a full tour of Fort Kochi, taking in St Francis’ church, the Presidential palace, ornate Jewish synagogue and traditional Chinese fishing nets. The nets are still in full working order, and you can stand by and watch the fishermen at work. If you’re lucky (like I was) they will invite you to lend a hand, and you can help reel in a catch – mine was sent off to market to be sold!
The journey to school is made by bus – it’s a hot and cramped 20 minute trip by bus (a crazy experience not to be missed in India!) then a lovely ten minute stroll along the sea front, past the fishing nets (and once during my stay, a Bollywood film set) and through the front gates to school. The first time you make the journey (and more if you need it) you’ll be accompanied by a member of Rakhi’s team, and introduced to the teachers. The school is based at a convent and run by dedicated, hardworking and loving sisters who will make you feel very welcome at their school, and the children are beautiful – very fun loving, playful and trusting, and willing to work (and play) hard at any games, lessons or songs you introduce.
The weekends are no time for relaxing after a busy time at school – there’s a traditional Kerala arts show to enjoy, and trips to the famous Backwaters, an elephant village and the stunning Arirapally Waterfalls. I was most excited by the elephant trip, as I’ve always loved the majestic animals and was looking forward to getting up close with them. I wasn’t disappointed – invited by the mahouts to help with the bath I waded into the river to help scrub the elephants and was able to chat to the mahouts about their lives, and stroke the animals as much as I liked. We then headed straight off to the awe-inspiring waterfalls – you can get so close to them, and enjoy cooling off in smaller pools as well. Our trip also included lunch at a fantastic restaurant, with an infinity pool and fabulous views – the perfect end to an amazing day.
The trip includes two fantastic backwater cruises. The Kerala Backwaters are one of the natural wonders of the world, and – cruising through the lush green plants and trees, waving at local children running alongside your boat – it’s not hard to see why. Our first day on the Backwaters was spent on two different boats – a larger one with a sun deck for relaxing, and a much smaller boat, which was able to cruise down the smaller, less populated backwaters and take in even more of this gorgeous part of the world.
The second Backwater trip is an overnight stay on a houseboat, and was for me the perfect end to a perfect two weeks. My group – by now firm friends – spent a fantastic night cruising through the riverside villages, exotic birdlife and stunning scenery. We drank, laughed and reminisced about the fantastic, chock full two weeks we’ll remember for a lifetime.
Work: You’ll be spending eight days volunteering in a special needs school run by the sisters of the convent the school is based in. The children age from around 7-years upwards, and there are also adult students who participate in life skills classes and help the nuns with the smaller children. Activities are varied and very much down to the individual – you’ll need to use your initiative and get stuck in, there’s no place for wallflowers so come prepared with ideas for songs, games, lessons and activities you can do with the students. If you’ve got a particular skill or interest, use it!
Accommodation: It’s homestay accommodation here, staying in volunteer quarters of a family home. Rooms are based on twin share, and there’s a western-style toilet and warm water shower. Facilities include a microwave, kettle, toaster, fridge and television, and there’s a hand wash laundry service available for a (very) small fee. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Food: All meals are included and most of them are home cooked by the homestay family’s cook. Meals are amazing – traditional South Indian fare (fish curries are a speciality) but different tastes and requirements can be catered for easily – just ask.
Recommended for… People who want to do and see the best Kerala has to offer in a short period of time, while giving something back with volunteer work alongside the “touristy” activities. Also great for solo travellers, as you’re part of a group of like-minded people.
Be aware that… This is a fully supported trip with a planned itinerary in place for you. I loved that I could leave the organisation to someone else and know everything was planned for me to get the most out of my two weeks’ annual leave – but if you’re the sort of person who prefers more independent, “do it yourself” trips, it may not be to your taste.
Remember too, that if you don’t get stuck in right away at school, you could leave feeling that you’ve not achieved as much as you (or the kids) would like. Preparation is key – hit the ground running with ideas and a plan for what you want to do in your short time (I planned “In The Jungle” and “Under The Sea” arts and crafts projects – one for each week – and also swotted up on the kids in my class by reading through the journal left by previous volunteers).
All the accommodation, food, trips and in country staff are locally sourced – boosting the local economy and providing jobs
The children at the school benefit from one-on-one attention from volunteers, and the extra pairs of hands allow the permanent staff more time to concentrate on physiotherapy and speech therapy sessions for children who need them