Right now, Iceland is where it’s at! After a team of part-time footballers dashed England’s Euro dreams, all eyes have turned north to this unique country. Now you can fill your Instagram feed with some amazing pictures on a new photography tour of Iceland.
Tour operators Off the Map Travel have teamed up with two professional Arctic photographers, both renowned for their images of the Northern Lights and the Arctic wilderness, to offer an exclusive and intimate photography experience designed to capture the history, culture and natural beauty of Iceland.
The new Incredible Iceland Photography Adventure was created by two leading British born nature photographers, Oliver Wright and Matt Richardson, who met in Northern Sweden over their shared love of the Arctic. The new itinerary will run over two initial dates in September (02 Sept – 10 Sept 2016 or 10 Sept – 18 Sept 2016) and uses local knowledge and off the beaten track locations to give the best possible photographic opportunities for guests on the trip.
Oliver explains, “Iceland is one of the best places in the world for photography. The raw natural beauty attracts the world’s leading photographers who come to capture everything from landscapes to Northern Lights. Both Matt and myself have spent a lot of time shooting in the area and have uncovered some incredible spots only really known by the locals. This trip is all about giving our guests the chance to work in these incredible isolated locations, where we will help our guests get those dream shots.”
The charming coastal town of Akureyri in Northern Iceland, where the majority of the itinerary is based, is arguably one of the best places in Iceland for photography with pristine Icelandic wilderness and rugged coastline. Guests will stay in a 150-year-old historic Icelandic house lovingly restored with a luxurious, typically Icelandic, finish.
There is no set itinerary for the tour which allows the guides to adapt locations to the weather conditions and interests of the group. With room for just six on each trip, two expert photography guides and two vehicles there is plenty of room for equipment and the chance to split and visit different locations simultaneously, depending on the interests of the group.
Additional excursions include whale watching and a trip to the Myvatn Geothermal Nature Baths, as well as a visit to the Blue Lagoon. There is also a slim chance (being early in the season) of seeing the famous Northern Lights (both Matt and Oliver specialise in photographing the Aurora Borealis so will be on hand to help guests snap their own beautiful photographs).
A nine night Incredible Iceland Photography Adventure, suitable for both beginners and more established photographers, including a night in Reykjavik and eight nights in Akureyri with Off the Map Travel (www.offthemaptravel.co.uk) costs from £2799 per person, excluding flights. This includes all transfers, a night in a 4* central Reykjavik hotel on a bed and breakfast basis with an Aurora Hunt and a visit to the Blue Lagoon; eight nights at the luxury Icelandic historic house in Akureyri including all meals and transfers, expert photography guiding, photography workshops, Whale Watching and the Myvatn Geothermal Nature Baths trips.
Many experts believe the Northern Lights is best viewed during a full-moon. This new trip is geared towards seeing the Aurora Borealis in the Arctic moonlight…
The Moonlight Aurora experience, created by Arctic travel specialists Off The Map Travel and Aurora experts, gives guests an alternative experience in hunting the Northern Lights in January 2016. Contrary to popular belief, many Aurora experts, from leading guides to world class photographers, believe that the full-moon enhances the Northern Lights rather than detracting from it.
Jonny Cooper, Director of Off the Map Travel and Northern Lights travel expert said; “In our experience, a full-moon only affects really weak Aurora, and then only when the moon is directly behind it. For me, a good full-moon can add a different dimension to experiencing and photographing the Aurora. I love it and am more likely to spend the night looking skyward under the glow of a full-moon.”
Rather than the moon, the thing that can most spoilt a good Aurora display is thick cloud cover. Therefore, the Moonlight Aurora experience takes place in Bjorkliden and Abisko, Northern Sweden, which, due to its surrounding mountains, has special weather patterns that deliver more clear nights than other areas across the region.
Off the Map Travel’s Jonny Cooper continues; “The Arctic moon is a spectacular sight in its own right and gives guests a superb focal point when hunting for the Northern Lights to enjoy the Arctic by moonlight.”
Many photographers say that they prefer to capture the Aurora when there’s a full-moon. Chad Blakely, world class Aurora photographer and owner of Lights over Lapland, added; “I love photographing Aurora in moonlight as it gives pictures a completely different feel by lightening the foreground, and instead of the pitch black background, the moonlight gives the sky a rich blue colour which compliments the green of the Aurora. Moonlit Aurora are spectacular – I love them.”
The Moonlight Aurora experience will be held during the full moon from the 22nd of January 2016 and will give guests the chance to enjoy a range of the Arctic winter activities under the full-moon and, hopefully, under spectacular Northern Lights displays.
A four night Moonlight Aurora adventure to Bjorkliden and Abisko in Northern Sweden with Off the Map Travel costs from £1749 per person, excluding flights, based on two sharing. This includes:
four nights in a spectacular 4* hotel on a full board basis
a private specialist guide
a visit to the ICEHOTEL
private Lights over Lapland moonlight photography tour
dog sledding as the moon rises
visit to the Aurora Sky Station
guided moonlit snowshoe walk
Norway fjord trip
Ice-fishing and cooking under the moon
For more information about Moonlight Aurora adventure or Northern Lights holidays visit www.offthemaptravel.co.uk, call +44 (0) 800 566 8901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Want to do something a bit different to your standard walking tour, and support a social enterprise? Let a homeless guide lead you through the streets of London for a tour you’ll never forget…
Award-winning Unseen Tours has expanded its London itinerary with a revamped Brixton tour and a new London Bridge tour. The walking tours, all led by homeless and formerly homeless guides, aim to be fun, amaze and entertain as well as offer new perspectives on the city – and £6 from every ticket sold goes straight to the guide.
After an 18-month break in the area, Unseen Tours returns to vibrant Brixton with the Brixton Tour- Dynamic and Vibrant (£10, 1hr 45mins). On the walk, you can discover the area’s hidden gems, from the river to a restored windmill, and a prison that has been home to more than a few famous names. Led by Hazel, a local lady who became homeless after her marriage ended, the tour explores Brixton’s varied history from the riots of the 1980s to its reinvention as a Transition Town with its own currency, the Brixton Pound.
David’s tour follows the Thames along the South Bank before delving into Borough’s more mysterious alleyways, taking in one of the world’s greatest food markets, the infamous Clink prison and a secret archaeological dig. The tour ends at one of the city’s oldest pubs.
Faye Shields, co-founder of Unseen Tours says, “All of our tours are designed in partnership with the guides to reflect their interests and knowledge of the area, so with David joining us as a new guide our London Bridge tour is having a refresh.”
Unseen Tours aims to provide income and opportunities for the homeless, and for formerly homeless individuals trying to get back on their feet, but it also aims to challenge perceptions of homelessness, which are often based on stereotypes. “Homelessness can happen to anyone, for all sorts of reasons such as redundancy, relationship breakdown, or illness,” says Shields. “Our hope is that by spending time with Hazel, David or another Unseen Tour guide, people may rethink those stereotypes.”
The tours, and their guides, continue to gain rave reviews on TripAdvisor with previous participants calling it “incredible“, “mind blowing” and “inspiring“. One reviewer said “having never been on a tour like this I wasn’t quite prepared for just how fantastic it would be”!
Not-for-profit social enterprise Unseen Tours was set up in 2010 and has been recognised with a Responsible Tourism Award and an Observer Ethical Award. There are now six tours, in Brick Lane, Brixton, Camden, Covent Garden, London Bridge and Shoreditch. The tours get excellent reviews and offer a unique insight into London life – while giving visibility and a voice to people who often feel unseen and unheard.
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
Now is the season to take a hike over hill and through vale. Guest blogger Gareth Williams, founder of Large Outdoors, puts on his walking boots…
Spending a day out walking is a great way to explore Britain’s fantastic countryside, and is healthy to boot. But if you’re a little cautious about venturing into more remote areas of the countryside, joining a guided walking group can be the perfect solution.
There are a number of guided walking companies out there all offering a variety of walking trips according to location and fitness/experience level, from easy strolls through to more challenging hikes.
Walking company Large Outdoors runs a range of hiking holidays across the country for a range of abilities. It also donates a portion of the proceeds from each booking towards conservation charities such as Friends of the Lakes whose work helps protect the Lake District landscape.
What to expect on a guided walk
Trips come in all shapes and sizes but generally you can expect to join a small sociable group of like-minded walkers and spend up to a day out walking with a guide.
The guides are fully-qualified (highly-experienced in route-finding and navigation and have first aid qualifications) and, importantly, are experts in motivating people to get the best out of the group.
Routes are planned in advance and aim to take walkers through a variety of landscape that offers heaps of interest and umpteen view stops (cameras at the ready!).
Making a break of it
Once you’ve started, it’s hard to stop! On a weekend or week-long guided walking trip, accommodation is based in hotels, cottages or hostels. In contrast to the traditional image, many hostels are now a really good option, providing guests with an affordable way of staying in some fantastic properties in idyllic locations.
For instance Ilam YHA in the Peak District is a gothic manor house set in 84 acres of parkland, while the converted school house in Dalby Forest now provides an eco-retreat with cosy lounge area complete with log burner.
It’s also important to scrub any thoughts that these trips mean eating ready meals out of packets. The quality of the food is all-important with home-cooked meals served using local ingredients as much as possible. You only need to bring any alcohol that you might want to drink (walking is thirsty work!).
Range of walks
There really are walks to suit all abilities and fitness levels across some of the most scenic areas of the UK. Very often two different levels of walks will be organised during the course of one weekend.
A Large Outdoors trip to the Lake District usually involves one group taking easier ‘non-summit bagging’ routes that explore the scenic gentler side of the Lakes, following shorelines and wooded valley routes. Meanwhile, a second group will set out to tackle the challenging higher peaks.
Recommended for… Solo travellers or anyone who enjoys the camaraderie that comes with walking in a group (without the hassle of finding your own route)
Be aware that… It pays to look at the grade of walk (the level of challenge and average distances covered) to be confident that you’re fit and experienced enough for a particular trip. It’s also important to ensure you have the right items on the kit list provided by the guide.
Sample weekend:Large Outdoors is running a guided walking break in the Lake District from the 4th-6th September, costing £125 per person. This includes two nights staying in the comfortable and well-equipped YHA Caldbeck, a former shooting lodge nestling in the foothills of the northern fells; all meals apart from Sunday lunch, and two days’ of guided walks with a qualified guide.
Guest blogger Jack Plumb, of NGO Frontier, explores “Roof of the World” Tibet on this ethical adventure…
To the north east of the highest mountain range in the world lies Tibet. Despite its tumultuous history and ongoing struggles, Tibet has managed to retain much of its cultural heritage and is a country like no other. This secretive corner of the world has only recently become more accessible to travellers.
Here, Frontier operates the Tibet Ethical Adventure Trail giving adventurous travellers the opportunity to experience an ancient and untouched culture amongst the stunning beauty of some of the most savage mountains in the world: The Himalayas.
What to expect on the trail
Upon arrival in Beijing you will be greeted by a Frontier representative. All in-country travel is included and much of it is by overland train giving you an unrivalled opportunity to see stunning Chinese countryside. You’ll travel to Lhasa, the residence of the Dalai Lama prior to his exile and capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. While in Lhasa you will visit the stunning Potala Palace, the bustling Barkhor Square and pious Jokhang Temple.
When travelling to more rural areas, the striking, timeless life led by the villagers is a humbling experience, and as they gather in the local tea-houses you will feel steeped in their wonderfully stoic lifestyle. Journey further, and herders enveloped in the shadows of birds of prey circling towering mountain peaks, is an awe-inspiring vision of ancient Tibet.
Accommodation during the tour consists of comfortable hostels, hotel shares, homestays and tea houses.
Traditional Tibetan food consists of cured meats, barley and dairy products. Meat is often of very high quality and spiced with salt ginger and other spices. Tibetans enjoy tea and a Tibetan liver sausage is definitely worth a try! Food is not included in the tour costs but with many restaurants and street food vendors, there is a plethora of interesting and delicious delicacies available. Vegetarians can be catered for comfortably and much of the tradition cuisine is vegetarian.
Recommended for… Anyone interested in the local customs and culture of Tibet
Be aware that… The trip lasts for four weeks (with monthly departures), and you must be 18 years or over to join
We acknowledge that tourism in Tibet can be a contraversial subject, but there are ways to visit Tibet responsibly – here are some tips on ethical travel to Tibet:
Tourism to Tibet is encouraged by the Dalai Lama (see more here).
When visiting Tibet, ensure your custom goes to local small businesses operated and owned by Tibetans.
When visiting temples and other culturally significant areas, a donation is encouraged. Make sure you donate directly to a monk or nun.
Refrain from talking about the Dalai Lama and engaging in any conversations of a political nature while in Tibet.
Be careful when taking photos – photography of security staff is strictly prohibited.
Make sure your ethical adventure is well planned to avoid any scrutiny from Chinese officials regarding your itinerary – this ensures no Tibetan national is subjected to any uneccessary contact.
About the author: Jack Plumb 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.
Thanks to Iceland’s erupting Bardarbunga volcano, holidaymakers and intrepid aurora hunters are being treated to a spectacular night time display of colour this month – the glow of the emerging lava is being framed by spectacular green Northern Lights displays that are filling the skies.
A fissure eruption was first recorded on the 29th August 2014, with increasingly bigger eruptions continuing to the end of the month. This means that, although it’s unclear how long the volcano will continue to flow, visitors to Iceland in October have a fantastic opportunity to witness this incredible event and one of the natural world’s most unmissable spectacles.
Jonny Cooper, Northern Lights expert and founder of Off the Map Travel said, “This is a truly spectacular event with the rare opportunity to witness the awesome power of the earth and sky coming together in a truly unearthly light show. With such a strong start to the year for the Northern Lights, the combination of the eruption and such strong aurora displays may not be seen again for a long time.”
UK-based travel specialist Off the Map Travel is currently offering a six night trip to Reykjavik in southern Iceland and Akureyri in northern Iceland. Prices start from £999 per person on a bed and breakfast and self-catering basis including accommodation for three nights in a four star hotel and three nights in a four star self-catering apartment. Price also includes a golden circle tour, a Northern Lights and Volcano glow tour, airport transfers from the international airport to Reykjavik and airport transfers in Akureyri based on two adults; flights excluded.
This nature-packed tour of New Zealand’s scenic South Island has now been refreshed to provide even more of a wild and epic adventure!
From whale watching and cruising the fjords of Milford Sound, to an exclusive stay on Stewart Island in search of the elusive Kiwi bird, tour operator Natural Habitat Adventures has now re-designed its popular small-group tour, New Zealand Nature Explorer, to include even more of New Zealand’s legendary landscapes, unique wildlife and hospitable people.
The two-week tour takes in notable highlights – including the fjordlands, Southern Alps, Lake Wanaka, Kaikoura, Otago Peninsula – but also delves further into New Zealand’s remote corners: take a guided night walk in search of the Kiwi and other rare wildlife on Stewart Island; and explore the beaches of the isolated Ulva Island to spot endangered birds such as the yellow-eyed penguin.
You’ll also find out more about what makes New Zealand special by joining a sheep farming family in the Canterbury Plains, and meeting a Maori family at their home in Kaikoura to hear first-hand about Maori traditions, customs and contemporary lifestyles. The trip is rounded off with a distinct Scottish flavour in the southern city of Dunedin.
On the tour you’ll be guided by expert naturalists and led by a New Zealand native who really knows the hidden corners and where to find the true NZ.
No hotel chains here! Throughout the tour, guests stay at a range of the best lodgings from simple to luxurious, including a family-run lodge in a forest clearing and a boutique hotel in Christchurch, to a luxury retreat with spectacular views across Lake Wanaka.
Recommended for… Travellers who love wildlife (particularly those interested in rare birds), and spectacular landscapes
Be aware that… It’s a rapid and packed two-week itinerary so you may want to extend your visit to spend more time in favourite places at a more leisurely pace!
All tours are restricted in number (no more than 12) to ensure small groups with minimum disruption
Long term experience in the country ensures that NHA has strong connections with local communities, leading to authentic meetings that benefit both travellers and the local people
All guides are wildlife experts with a passion and respect for local people and the local environment
NHA is the world’s first carbon neutral travel company and your trip will be 100% carbon off-set
Looking for an African safari experience with a difference? Ecotourism experts Natural Habitat Adventures are launching a new tour that seeks to transport travellers back to the era of the early African explorers.
Botswana: Kayaking the Okavango is a rare chance to paddle your way across 120 miles of the country’s Okavango Delta. Leaving the four wheel drive behind, travellers can expect to get up close with a range of wildlife, as well as explore this great African wilderness via the low carbon, and peaceful, means of kayak. Hear the rustle of wildlife in the reeds and the call of native birds, only to be broken by the sound of water dripping from your paddle.
The point-to-point trip, which Natural Habitat claims is the first of its kind, will explore the varied habitats of the delta from flooded marshes and dry islands, to seasoned floodplains which are home to many big game and predators. From your kayak you’ll enjoy an eye-level view of the plethora of birdlife living among the channels and lagoons.
The expedition will be led by Natural Habitat Expeditions CEO Olaf Malver who has designed this unique trip in conjunction with local partners in Botswana. From offering sea kayaking trips for the past two decades, he knows that travellers are likely to see a wealth of wildlife including hippo, crocodile, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, warthog, kudu, impala, lion and leopard. Fortunate guests may also spy the less frequently seen cheetah, sable and wild dog.
The 7-night/8-day trip takes place twice in 2014: 29 July – 5 August; and 12 – 19 August. The trip begins with a short chartered flight from Maun to Nguma Island in the permanently flooded northwestern Okavango Delta. It finishes at Moremi Crossing, followed by a return flight to Maun. The adventure accommodates 10 travellers with 5 nights of wild bush camping as you traverse the delta daily. Guests stay at a deluxe safari camp on the first night and final night of the trip. Paddlers should expect to kayak for around 6-7 hours a day over 6 days in the delta (with one layover day in the middle). If you wish, a 4-day/3-night luxury safari camp extension can be booked if you want to stay a little longer.
Recommended for… Those who love a challenging, sporty adventure in a wilderness environment.
Be aware that… A reasonable level of fitness is required as you will be kayaking for several hours a day almost daily.
A low carbon, low impact opportunity to experience African wildlife
Natural Habitat Adventurers (NHA) are the world’s first 100% carbon-neutral travel company offering responsible travel and eco-conscious expeditions across the world since 1985