New eco glampsite opens in Wye Valley

Fans of vintage caravans, campfires, wild swimming and stunning views should get themselves over to the Wye Valley as a new glamping site opens this month.

Mad Dogs & Vintage Vans is a boutique campsite set in a pretty wildflower meadow with views of the Black Mountains. Guests can choose one of four vintage caravans – quaintly named Gertie, Elsie, Darcy and Gloria (“the girls”!) – that date from the 1930s to 1960s. Each caravan has been lovingly restored and fitted with period details such as vintage crockery and fabrics.

[gdl_gallery title=”Mad” width=”115″ height=”110″ ]

Owners Jo Pilkington and Sacha Morley met through their children’s school and found they both shared a love of the great outdoors, vintage style and simple, natural pleasures such as camping under starlight, wild swimming and toasting mashmallows over an open fire.

Food

On arrival, guests are greeted with a scrumptious homemade cream tea, but after dark the main draw becomes the communal campfire where campers can come together to cook. If that’s not your thing (or if the weather gets the better of you!), you can order up homemade meals to enjoy back at your caravan.

Facilities

The ‘shower block’ is made entirely from upcycled materials and is located in a pretty copse nearby with hot water on demand. The whole campsite uses an eco-composting system, and guests are offered organic products free of charge.

Things to do

The glampsite is a tranquil getaway from town and city life so great for family adventures, yoga or writing retreats. Tennis courts are nearby and a wealth of activities including swimming, walking, pony trekking, climbing and canoeing in the Forest of Dean which owners Jo and Sacha are more than happy to help organise for you.

This season you can also join two foraging weekends – May 10-11 and October 11-12 – with “the Carluccio of the Wye Valley” (so says the Guardian) Raoul Van Den Broucke. Raoul will take glampers on a foraging walk to look for wild delicacies which will then be cooked over the campfire back at the site.

The 2014 season runs from April 11 to the end of October.

For booking and further information, visit www.maddogsandvintagevans.co.uk

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Discover eco adventures on Long Point, Canada

Ontario, Canada hosts the world’s largest freshwater sand-spit – Long Point Eco Adventures and Zodiac Boat Tours invite you to this eco playground of birdwatching, nature safaris and camping.

Over 390 different songbird species migrate through Long Point each spring and autumn rivalling that of the world-renowned birding Long Point, Ontario, Canadahotspot 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 Eco Adventures (1)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.

ActivitiesLong Point Eco Adventures (2)

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

Watch the Long Point video to see what’s in store

 

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A camping style survival guide

Guest blogger Victoria Moretti gives us her guide to camping in style…

Summer’s not quite over yet and, as Goodtrippers readers have long since known, if you can’t afford that luxury spa resort camping can be a cheap and fun alternative. For the uninitiated, ignore preconceived ideas of mingling with the great unwashed, sleeping on hard floors and dressing in grubby clothes – camping can be a slick and stylish experience when you know how!

Here’s a look at how to make your camping holiday a chic affair…

camp site at night
Gopal Vijayaraghavan, Pofu Camp – Northern Circuit, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Choose a good ‘glampsite’

The number one step to nailing a stylish camping experience is to pick the right campsite – a glamping site! Glamping (or ‘glamorous camping’) is gaining ground with plenty of incredible venues to choose from up and down the UK. Instead of the traditional cramped plastic tent you can opt for a grand canvas yurt decked out with a proper bed, dining facilities and sofas.

The glamping experience is all about the finer details – things you wouldn’t expect from a camping holiday: real pillows, soft bed throws, pretty china, scented candles and even free-range eggs laid by the on-site chickens.

Of course, your budget will have a strong influence on the level of glamping you can afford, but even a basic tipi with plenty of space and an open fire is a massive step-up from a 2-man!

Get your camping fashion right

Bar festival goers, typical camping fashion doesn’t have the best reputation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable when you’re roughing it in the great outdoors. Even the most practical garments – like anoraks and wellies – can be found on the high street in stand-out neons and funky patterns. While tents themselves have had a recent overhaul with Cath Kidston leading the way in pretty designs.

For an effortless camping look, keep things simple with a mix-and-match wardrobe that’s comfortable and elegant. Team skinny jeans or leggings with printed slogan T-shirts, layered with soft cardigans or a denim shirt. Forget hiking boots and opt instead for comfortable hi-tops or (if you’re not venturing anywhere too muddy) gladiator sandals.

When it comes to luggage, try and pack light. Opt for an easy-to-carry patterned rucksack that will not look out of place on those pub lunches but is still a practical choice when you’re rambling across the countryside laden with supplies.

Invest in a dongle

For those who can’t live without mod-cons, having to leave them behind can be the trickiest part of camping. But with digital tablets and mobile broadband an option, you don’t need to cut yourself off from the outside world for long. If you’re going on an extended camping trip, consider packing your laptop and an internet dongle so you can still make the most of the web: being able to get internet may be a welcome diversion on cold and rainy nights, or for when you want to plan which fancy restaurants to head to in advance. (Although we recommend a ‘digital detox’ to be invaluable when on holiday! – Ed.)

Camping may not be for everyone, but with a little preparation it can be done in style. Even the fanciest glamping sites may not have all of the facilities you’d expect from a 5-star hotel, so always go with an open mind and a sense of adventure!

 

Eco-friendly lodging at Switzerland’s Whitepod

Guest blogger Andrew Lisa takes to the slopes at this Swiss eco resort

Skier in front of MatterhornSwitzerland’s Whitepod resort is not only located in a pristine, pollution-free section of the Alps, but it works hard to keep it that way. Combining the charm of a childhood camping trip with the amenities of a luxury hotel, Whitepod’s eco-friendly strategy boasts a surprisingly low environmental impact. Their ecological policy is the blueprint for their goal of being a model to sustainable tourism.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to explore the Alps without ruining them.

Switzerland is a beautiful, majestic destination — especially the mountain region. Whitepod offers a glimpse of life camping in the mountain wilderness without actually having to camp in the mountain wilderness. A slew of impressive amenities provide creature comforts to a resort that blends into — and protects — the surrounding environment.

Accommodation

Available in both summer and winter, each guest or group of guests reserves a pod, which is a globe-shaped structure that looks like a giant golfball anchored to a wooden platform. They are decorated and stocked with local art and furniture, and offer astounding views of the Alps. They feature fully-fitted bathrooms, wood-burning stoves, and a king-size bed in all variations, from single size to family unit.

FoodSwiss flag

No need to bring tinned goods like you would on an ordinary camping trip: all meals are provided on site. Cuisine described as “traditional yet refined” can be found at the Les Cerniers restaurant, which offers spit-roasted barbecue, daily specials, and authentic mountain fare.

Activities

You’ll run out of holiday before you run out of things to do at Whitepod. Many of my favourite activities, both indoor and outdoor, are included with the cost of your pod. You can also take a wellness or survival course, enjoy the Japanese bath and sauna, or explore the Alps with a day of hiking or mountain biking.

Recommended for… The environmentally conscious; nearly every aspect of Whitepod is geared toward sustainable tourism. And for those that love the snow-capped mountains.

Beware that… Due to their environmental policies, there are no motorized vehicles to carry your luggage, which means you’ll have to lug it up to your pod yourself. Also, there is no wi-fi in your individual pod.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Conservation of energy and resources – pods are heated by wooden stoves and lit by oil lamps; water usage is limited
  • Local, sustainable materials and fuels are used where possible
  • Bedding is organic
  • Pods are designed to blend into the natural surroundings
  • Whitepod works to educate guests on responsible environmental practices

For more information including prices and booking at Whitepod, Les Giettes, Switzerland, visit www.whitepod.com

About the author: Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about European travel and profiles business leaders such as Steve Wynn.

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Eco glamping in South Wales at Cwtch Camp

Guest blogger Jacob Little reviews the cool eco campsite Cwtch Camp in South WalesCwtch Camping, Wales

Cwtch Camping is set amongst the rolling countryside of South Wales in an area famed for its spectacular coastline and great beaches. It’s a secluded spot near Haverfordwest, and is within easy reach of main cities such as Bristol and Cardiff. The simplicity and pleasure of secluded, off-the-grid living can easily be found here amongst three acres of beautiful woodland.

Accommodation

The accommodation is best described as Scandinavian-style cabins, which are constructed using locally milled and sustainable timber. Insulated to keep warm on cold nights and stay cool during the summer, they’re beautifully crafted structures which are delightfully basic yet amazingly comfortable and cosy. The cabin I experienced during my stay was well decorated and furnished, with whitewashed walls and antique furniture which added to the atmosphere and rustic sense of homeliness. Although this is at heart a camping experience, they’ve really gone the extra mile to make it a warm, comfortable and cosy experience: so much care and attention has been put into decorating and furnishing the cabins.

Facilities

There are three cabins and one bell tent in the Cwtch Camping field, ranging from a double occupancy (with a very comfy double bed!) to the larger cabin which accommodates three adults or two adults and two children. There is a fantastically well-stocked kitchen and cooking area, with a range of utensils, pots, stoves and plates. Tea and coffee is supplied, and in addition a welcome hamper is fully stocked for your arrival. There is a shower cabin in the same field, and you can be sure of running hot water at any hour of the day or night!

Cwtch Camping podActivities

Cwtch Camping is a real retreat – excellent if you want to get away from it all and escape to the proper Welsh countryside. It’s brilliant for anything active – walking and cycling are especially encouraged and the site offers bikes for hire. The nearby beaches of Broadhaven and Little Haven are worth exploring and only a short cycle ride or drive away. The excellent (and award winning) pub The Swan serves some of the very best food in the area.

Recommended for… A great getaway of couples and anyone wanting to explore the area’s beautiful countryside and coastline. It’s also perfect for groups – a large campfire and stove which is provided offers a focal point and it would be a good place to host a barbeque or gathering of close friends.

Be aware that… There’s no getting away from the fact that this place is beautifully secluded, so you have to be prepared to source your own entertainment, and be prepared for the weather…!

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Low-impact accommodation
  • Cabins built from locally-milled and sustainable timber
  • Working in harmony with the natural environment
  • Wild food, forager walks run from the campsite

 

For more information and booking visit www.cwtchcamping.co.uk or email: info@cwtchcamping.co.uk, T: 0752 5779 454.

About the author: Jacob Little is an online marketing professional who loves to write, take photos and travel. He also loves to explore, find new places and publish stories on his blog. He also provides freelance copywriting and content creation services. Visit http://www.jacoblittleportfolio.co.uk for more info.

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Spotting orangutans in the Sumatran jungle

Love orangutans? Want to spend days and nights in the depths of the Indonesian jungle? Here’s what happened when Goodtrippers visited the small Sumatran town of Bukit Lawang and explored its wild junmother and baby orangutangle in search of the endangered orangutan…

High up in the trees sat a creature with fur that glowed orange in the light – it was our first sighting of a wild orangutan. This was day one of a six-day trek through the Sumatran jungle in Indonesia, and we were here to spot one of the world’s most endangered, and endearing, animals – the ‘person of the forest’, the orangutan.

There are thought to be less than 6,600 orangutans left in Sumatra (and under 54,000 in Borneo). Their jungle habitat is being chopped down at a rate of knots to supply the huge demand for resources such as timber and palm oil. Sickeningly, some baby orangutans are also taken from their mothers and sold as pets.

The small Sumatran town of Bukit Lawang, on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park, has become something of a wildlife-lovers destination thanks to its orangutan rehabilitation centre. The town was devastated after the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 but has rebuilt itself with ecotourism initiatives including jungle treks that are sensitive to the natural surroundings and local wildlife.

Trekking – this is no leisurely stroll

You can choose from a variety of treks from just a few hours to several days exploring the National Park. We choose the latter and spent seven days and six nights in the depths of the Sumatran jungle. Be aware that while you don’t need to be an expedition expert, a decent level of fitness (and aversion to creepy-crawlies) does help. We were covering around 10km a day but the hills are incredibly steep, and the climate hot and humid, making it tough going. You will be wading chest-deep through streams, traversing slippery ledges, swinging through the jungle on vines, and climbing down waterfalls (yes, really!).

jungle campAcommodation – a basic camp

Nights are spent on the ground (in your sleeping bag) under makeshift canvas camps, all together with your fellow trekkers, guide and porters. The rain will be kept off but the open-sided tent means anything can crawl in (I was convinced a rat was running over me during one night – but I was so exhausted I just didn’t care!).

The local guide and porters really make the trip special. Our guide was a keen environmentalist and would point out various flora and fauna as we trekked (it’s not just orangutans; the jungle is home to an incredible number of plant species, insects, birds, snakes, mammals, even Sumatran tigers although you would have to be very lucky to see one – they prefer to stay as far away from humans as possible…).

It’s clear the trek team have grown up in this environment and are extremely jungle-savvy. Our porters could carry 20kg backpacks containing the group’s bedding, equipment and food while walking at twice the speed we could manage! And if you get into a spot of bother (which I frequently did), they were there with a helping hand.

Food – a jungle feasttrekking along the river

The food on the trek was a wonder in itself. I was expecting basic rations of beans and rice but our porters cooked up a veritable feast of Indonesian dishes that would be welcome on any restaurant menu, every evening. Spicy chicken, sambal, vegetable curry; and when the rations grew lower the porters gathered food from the jungle – fresh fish, banana shoots and greens.

It was an incredible experience, although I must admit to relief when we reached our final destination (the going had gotten incredibly tough and there was not much energy left). The end of the trek was celebrated with a refreshing dip (fully clothed!) in the river before the porters strapped together several large rubber rings… This was to be our final jungle ride, a fun-filled white-water rafting journey all the way down the rapidly moving river and back to Bukit Lawang. What an experience!

The Indonesia Jungle Adventure (Sumatra) is available to book via Frontier – visit www.frontier.ac.uk for dates, prices and more information.

This post was originally published on the Inspiring Travellers website (www.inspiringtravellers.com)

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New Mongolian snow leopard trip launched

Responsible travel company Natural Habitat has launched a brand new, and exclusive, wildlife trip with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Intrepid independent travellers can now book an incredible expedition to seek the elusive snow leopard in Mongolia.

Mongolian horse men (c) Mark Johnstad‘In Search of the Snow Leopard’ will depart twice this August (2013) for two weeks of trekking and camping in Mongolia. Each trip is led by highly experienced and knowledgeable WWF scientists as travellers track the beautiful, and sadly highly endangered, snow leopard in the remote Yamaat Valley in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains. Natural Habitat Expeditions (part of Natural Habitat Adventures) is the only company offering a wildlife-focused expedition to both the Yamaat Valley and Jargalant Hairhan – two different ecosystems that are both key snow leopard habitats, each of which is exceptionally remote and rarely visited.

What’s involved:

Several days will involve 4-8hrs of tough trekking across mountainous terrain at altitude – therefore, NHE recommend this expedition for those with a good level of fitness (some prior experience of similar trips may also help). Groups will remain small (around 10) to ensure a comfortable experience with minimised impact on the local environment.

The expedition journeys across several of Mongolia’s national parks and protected areas where the group will be able to observe more incredible wildlife including huge flocks of migratory birds and wild Takhi horses. On the trip, trekkers can also meet the traditional nomadic herders who are community partners with the Snow Leopard Trust, WWF’s conservation partner in the region, and learn firsthand about their lifestyle and customs and how they live in harmony with the snow leopard.Yurt accommodation (c) Jan Wigsten

Accommodation: Groups stay in relatively luxurious camps with two people in each traditional Mongolian yurt. A privacy tent and hot-water mobile camp showers will also be on camp.

Recommended for… Those with a thirst for real, expedition-style adventure, and a love of wildlife

Be aware that… They really do mean it when they recommend this for those in good physical condition only!

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Partnered with and led by WWF to ensure conservation and sensitivity to the local environment, wildlife and community are at the forefront of the trip
  • Parent company, Natural Habitat Adventures, is the world’s first 100% carbon-neutral travel company
  • Guaranteed small groups ensure minimal impact on the local environment

 

For more information, including departure dates, intinieries and prices, visit www.nathab.com/expeditions

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New Greek sea turtle project launched

Volunteering NGO Frontier has added a new conservation project to its volunteering trip roster. The Greece Sea Turtle Conservation project gives volunteers hands-on opportunities to help monitor and relocate endangered loggerhead turtle hachlings.

[gdl_gallery title=”Turtle” width=”105″ height=”110″ ]

Frontier works with a local Greek partner organisation that has been conducting vital research in the Kalamata area of Greece since 1983. The Peloponnese coastline here is an important breeding area for the loggerhead sea turtle in the Mediterranean and the projects aims to protect them through monitoring and research, developing and implementing management plans, habitat restoration, raising public awareness and rehabilitating sick and injured turtles. Protecting loggerhead sea turtle nests against predation by mammals, and inundation by incoming tides ensures that as many hatchlings as possible are added to the global population each year. Alongside this, public awareness activities and environmental education days help educate the local people to adopt friendlier attitudes towards the natural environment and gain a deeper understanding into the importance of conserving loggerhead turtles.

Activity: Work will vary depending on the current needs of the project but you could expect to be involved in turtle egg collection, nest excavation, scientific monitoring and tagging of hatchlings and turtles, and educating visitors about the project. You could also get the opportunity to learn about marine flora. During the first two weeks volunteers prepare for the oncoming nesting season and carry out beach clean ups. During peak nesting season (mid May-mid August) tasks may include morning surveys to look for adult turtle tracks and locate nests, ‘caging’ or relocating threatened nests and night surveys to observe and tag nesting females. During hatching season (mid July- late October) volunteers look for baby turtle tracks, monitor hatching nests and tag adult female turtles during nesting.

When not at work, everyone has a chance to relax on the beach, or explore the surrounding area to get a flavour of Greekhatchling emerges from the nest culture.

Accommodation: All volunteers stay in beautifully scenic surroundings on a campsite right on the beach. You need to bring your own tent, camping equipment, bedding etc, but cooking facilities, showers and toilets are provided – the campsite also has a small restaurant, telephone and internet facilities. There’s a strong communal atmosphere with everyone pitching in with cooking and cleaning.

For further details, including dates and prices, visit Greece Sea Turtle Conservation – Frontier

Recommended for… People who love wildlife (and the sea) and want to help protect an endangered species

Be aware that… Life on the project is communal (except for your own private tent) with a shared food kitty, cooking and cleaning duties. It may not suit you if you’d rather spend time on your own or in very small groups.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Helping to protect an endangered species
  • Aiding an established conservation organisation that has been operating in the area since 1983
  • Low-impact living on site

 

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