Guest blogger Andrew Lisa reviews an eco-resort in the heart of the Nicaraguan jungle…
On a vast, 4,000-acre spread located deep in the Nicaraguan jungle, 15 bungalows await holiday-makers like us, who want to enjoy the natural wonders of the jungle without disturbing them. Imagine a private tropical beach, white sand, nesting sea turtles, and perfect weather – that’s Morgan’s Rock, an island paradise that is the pinnacle of luxury and eco-friendly planning.
The bungalows at Morgan’s Rock are the pinnacle of sustainability. Half of the 4,000 acres on which they sit is government-protected land. The other half is reserved for low-impact, sustainable agriculture.Each bungalow is perched on a cliff and comes with its own terrace. All the wood and furniture is sustainable and recovered from what would have gone to waste.
The ultimate in locally grown, farm-to-table dining, about 60 percent of the cuisine you’ll enjoy at the restaurant is grown right there on the sustainable farm. Visitors can also visit the farm, milk the cows, and select their own eggs.
Chill out in a beachside hammock and indulge in fresh fruit from the local organic working farm. Enjoy an exotic massage and marvel at the bizarre and beautiful wildlife that shares the jungle with you. A beautiful seaside restaurant and straw-thatched huts await you whenever you’re ready to leave your room.
Learn to surf in the surrounding warm waters. Tour the oldest city in Nicaragua, and marvel at its colonial architecture and design. Or, for the more adventurous, check out an active volcano. Zip across the canopy of the dense, primitive Nicaragua jungle; go fishing, cruising, kayaking, horseback riding, or walking at night.
Recommended for… The tourist who wants a slow, measured pace in an ancient jungle.
Be aware that… The city is two hours away. The bungalows are hidden on purpose, isolated on a private jungle island.
Sustainable agriculture used on site
Virtually no environmental footprint on protected land
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.