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Costa Rica guide

JUNE 2017 // £3.95 // UK EDITION // NATGEOTRAVELLER.CO.UK

17 NATURAL WONDERS

Beauty

AMERICAN

BMonument Valley,

Yellowstone, Yosemite

+ more

Bulb

Boom

TO

TULIP TALES

FROM HOLLAND

Red earth,

risotto & ruins in

PUGLIA

Meet nosey turtles

& ancient lizards in the

CAYMAN ISLANDS

Intelligent, gentle, vulnerable

FACE TO FACE WITH UGANDA'S MOUNTAIN GORILLAS

ALSO: SYDNEY // AARHUS // DUBAI // ADDIS ABABA // VIENNA // PORTUGAL // RICHMOND // VOLUNTEERING


SOUL LUXURY

Merano · Südtirol · Italy · Tel. 0039 0473 244 071 · www.fragsburg.com


June

2017

Contents

FEATURES

92 Italy

The spiky heel of Italy’s boot,

the Puglia region is a land in a

sumptuous time warp

74 Cover story: USA

When it comes to wondrous

landscapes, the USA really

does have it all

116 Cayman Islands

Get beyond the beach bars

— there’s a wilder experience

waiting for you

138 City life: Addis

Ababa

Ethiopia’s capital is a surprise

package with a curious past

104 Uganda

Intelligent, gentle, vulnerable.

No one who looks into a gorilla’s

eyes can remain unchanged

128 In pictures:

Netherlands

It’s bloomin’ lovely during the

colourful flower season

146 City life: Aarhus

This laid-back city with

cultural clout is stepping out

of Copenhagen’s shadow

Issue 56

Antelope Canyon, Utah

IMAGE: Getty

June 2017 5


June

2017

Contents

52 61 156

SMART TRAVELLER

17 Snapshot

A local in her boldy-decorated São Paulo pad

19 Editors’ picks

These are a few of our favourite things

20 Big picture

Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island

22 What’s new

Summer of Love and the Titanic, revisited

27 Science & tech

New attractions for your inner nerd

28 Do it now

Test your kayaking skills on wild rivers

31 Food

A taste of wild Jersey with Shaun Rankin

33 On the trail

Sri Lanka’s bountiful tea heartlands

34 Rooms

Enjoy the midnight sun in Norway’s Tromsø

39 Stay at home

Harrogate, the pearl of North Yorkshire

41 The word

The Photo Ark by Joel Sartore

44 Travel Geeks: Rush Hour

Our monthly meet-up of experts and editors

47 Author series

Chibundu Onuzo on Lagos

48 View from the USA

Aaron Millar on New York’s hip hop history

50 Online

Weekly highlights from natgeotraveller.co.uk

INSIDER

52 Weekender: Richmond

West London’s polished, riverfont utopia

56 Eat: Portugal

Alentejo is the soul of the nation’s cuisine

61 Neighbourhood: Sydney

Pick a neigbourhood and dive in

TRAVEL GEEKS

156 Travel Geeks

The experts’ travel manual

166 Conservation

The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

170 Volunteering

The questions volunteers should be asking

GET IN TOUCH

184 Subscriptions

Free tickets, great offers and discounts

185 Inbox

Your letters, emails and tweets

186 Your pictures

This month’s best ‘Spain’-themed photos

DON'T MISS

12 Festival

Meet the super-cool polar explorers helping

us bring the magazine to life this September

36 Family

Kids become carb-happy masterchefs

Competition

66 Sleep: Vienna

Right royal experiences without the price tag

win a trip to Sicily’s baroque south east for two, p.43

151 Reader offers

10% off trips to Dubai

6 natgeotraveller.co.uk


LITTLE CAYMAN

CAYMAN BRAC

You never know when you will

bump into one of the locals.

GRAND CAYMAN

3 of life’s

little luxuries

caymanislands.co.uk


Contributors

National Geographic Traveller (UK)

APL Media

Zane Henry

As a native South African with five years of

London life under my belt, I find it thrilling

that there are still places like Richmond

to discover. This borough felt like another

city, with a distinct atmosphere and a pace

of life all its own. RICHMOND P.54

Aaron Millar

The US political climate may be raising

eyebrows, but living here I’m constantly

reminded how spectacular it is too. The big

sites — like the Grand Canyon — are rightly

famous, but just as jaw-dropping are the

lesser-known natural wonders. USA P.76

Julia Buckley

Puglia’s trulli have given the region an almost

cutesy reputation, but it’s a wild land of

prehistoric dolmens, untamed landscapes

and a mix of cultures, thanks to centuries of

conquest and migration. This trip, I see what

makes the region tick. PULGIA P.94

Emma Gregg

An encounter with mountain gorillas in their

steep, tangled habitat can be fascinating,

charming or hair-raising, depending on what

they’re up to. For me, it was all three. Gorilla

tracking is hard to beat; with your heart

pounding, you feel wildly alive. UGANDA P.106

Zoe McIntyre

Mention a visit to the Cayman Islands and

there’s usually a quip about stashing cash or

sailing on superyachts. I did neither. Instead, I

hiked ancient trails, saw dragon-like reptiles,

swam among tropical fish and swigged rum on

icing-sugar shores. CAYMAN ISLANDS P.118

Editorial Director: Maria Pieri

Editor: Pat Riddell

Deputy Editor: Glen Mutel

Senior Editor: Stephanie Cavagnaro

Associate Editor: Sarah Barrell

Assistant Editor: Amelia Duggan

National Geographic Traveller

Photography Magazine, Editor:

Tamsin Wressell

Digital Editor: Seamus McDermott

Online Editor: Josephine Price

Head of Subs: Hannah Doherty

Sub Editors: Chris Horton, Ben

Murray, Charlotte Wigram-Evans

Project Manager: Natalie Jackson

Art Director: Chris Hudson

Art Editor: Lauren Atkinson-Smith

Designer: Daniel Almeroth

Production Manager:

Daniel Gregory

Special Projects Consultant:

Matthew Midworth

National Geographic Traveller

Business Development Team:

William Allen, Bob Jalaf, Adam Fox,

Glyn Morgan, Adam Phillips, Mark

Salmon, John Stergides, Jon Stone

Head of National Geographic

Traveller — The Collection:

Danny Pegg

Contributing Editors:

Jo Fletcher-Cross, Zane Henry,

Sam Lewis, Farida Zeynalova

Editorial Assistant:

Connor McGovern

Sub Editor: Lorraine Griffiths

Designers: Gabriella Finney,

Lauren Gamp, Danielle Humphrey,

Philip Lay

Production Controllers:

Maia Abrahams, Joaquim Pereira,

Lisa Poston, Joanne Roberts,

Anthony Wright

Sales and Marketing Manager:

Rebecca Fraser

APL Business Development Team:

Neil Bhullar, Chris Dalton,

Cynthia Lawrence, Sinead McManus

Chief Executive: Anthony Leyens

Managing Director:

Matthew Jackson

Sales Director: Alex Vignali

Sales Administrator:

Elizabeth Scott

Executive Assistant:

Taylah Brooke

Financial Controller: Ryan McShaw

Credit Manager: Craig Chappell

Accounts Manager: Siobhan Grover

Accounts Assistant: Jana Abraham

National Geographic Traveller (UK) is published by APL Media Limited,

Unit 310, Highgate Studios, 53-79 Highgate Road, London NW5 1TL.

natgeotraveller.co.uk

Editorial T: 020 7253 9906. editorial@natgeotraveller.co.uk

Sales/Admin T: 020 7253 9909. F: 020 7253 9907. sales@natgeotraveller.co.uk

Subscriptions T: 01293 312166. natgeotraveller@subscriptionhelpline.co.uk

National Geographic Traveller (UK) is published by APL Media Ltd under license from

National Geographic Partners, LLC. Their entire contents are protected by copyright 2017

and all rights are reserved. Reproduction without prior permission is forbidden. Every care is

taken in compiling the contents of the magazine, but the publishers assume no responsibility

in the effect arising therefrom. Readers are advised to seek professional advice before acting

on any information which is contained in the magazine. Neither APL Media Ltd or National

Geographic Traveller magazine accept any liability for views expressed, pictures used or

claims made by advertisers.

National Geographic Traveler (US)

Editor-in-Chief, Travel Media:

George W. Stone

Publisher & Vice President, Global

Media: Kimberly Connaghan

Digital Director: Andrea Leitch

Design Director: Marianne Seregi

Director of Photography:

Anne Farrar

Editorial Projects Director:

Andrew Nelson

Senior Editor: Jayne Wise

Features Editor: Amy Alipio

Associate Editor: Hannah Sheinberg

Editor/Producer: Christine Blau

Producers: Mary McGrory,

Lindsay Smith

Associate Producer: Caity Garvey

Editor, Adventure: Mary Anne Potts

Deputy Art Director:

Leigh V. Borghesani

Senior Photo Producer: Sarah Polger

Associate Photo Producers:

Jeff Heimsath, Jess Mandia

Associate Photo Editor:

Laura Emmons

Chief Researcher: Marilyn Terrell

Production Director: Kathie Gartrell

Executive Assistant: Alexandra E. Petri

Editorial Assistant: Gulnaz Khan

Copy Editors: Preeti Aroon,

Liane DiStefano, Emily Shenk Flory,

Nancy Gupton, Cindy Leitner,

Mary Beth Oelkers-Keegan,

Ann Marie Pelish, Brett Weisband

Communications Vice President:

Heather Wyatt

Communications Director:

Meg Calnan

Senior Vice President,

International Media: Yulia P. Boyle

Director, International Magazine

Publishing: Ariel Deiaco-Lohr

National Geographic Society

President & CEO: Gary E. Knell

Board of Trustees Chairman:

Jean N. Case

Vice Chairman: Tracy R. Wolstencroft

National Geographic Partners

CEO: Declan Moore

Editorial Director: Susan Goldberg

Chief Financial Officer:

Marcela Martin

Chief Communications Officer:

Laura Nichols

Chief Marketing Officer: Jill Cress

Chief Technology Officer:

Jonathan Young

Consumer Products & Experiences:

Rosa Zeegers

Digital Product: Rachel Webber

Global Networks CEO:

Courteney Monroe

Legal & Business Affairs:

Jeff Schneider

Board of Directors Chairman:

Gary E. Knell

Copyright © 2017 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

National Geographic Traveler: Registered Trademark. Printed in the UK.

8 natgeotraveller.co.uk


©2017 Visit San Antonio


HIGHLIGHTS

@patriddell

@patriddell

Editor’s

letter

Forget the myth that only 10% of Americans have

passports — it’s actually more than 40% — and

perhaps ignore the fact that they receive a rather

stingy 16 days’ paid leave on average (including public

holidays), there’s a better reason that our friends across

the Pond don’t leave their shores very often.

It’s because they’ve got everything: beaches, volcanoes,

forests, fields, deserts, snow-capped mountains,

wilderness, rainforests, bewildering rock formations and

some of the best cities in the world. You couldn’t see

everything the US has to offer in a lifetime if you tried

— well, not on 16 days’ holiday a year at least.

The country’s National Park Service, which celebrated

its 100th anniversary last year, oversees the remote,

rugged, fragile and spectacular landscapes of a nation

that’s known for doing things on a grand scale. And to

demonstrate we’ve selected 17 of its most magnificent,

most incredible natural attractions.

There are many you may not have heard of but plenty

you have to see — from the splendour of Monument

Valley and Arizona’s Barringer Meteor Crater to

Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp and Colorado’s towering

sand formations in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

And with a plethora of new, increasingly affordable

routes across the Atlantic there’s really no excuse.

PAT RIDDELL, EDITOR

Costa Rica guide

From coast to coast, Costa Rica squeezes in an

abundance of natural beauty. Your bucket list

guide is free with this issue

· 2017 ·

Our very own festival

We bring National Geographic Traveller (UK) to

life at this inaugural festival on 17 September.

Don’t miss out — find out how to book, p.12

Travel Geeks

Fancy after-work drinks and expert-led travel

discussions? This month’s London gathering

focuses on Food & Drink, p.44

Competition: Sicily

We’ve teamed up with Prestige Holidays to

offer the chance to win a five-night trip for

two Sicily’s baroque south east, p.43

AWARD-WINNING NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER

British Guild of Travel Writers Awards 2016: Best Travel Writer • British Society of Magazine Editors Awards 2016: Editor of the Year, Lifestyle (Shortlisted)

• Ecoventura LATA Media Awards 2016: Online Blog Feature of the Year • British Travel Awards 2015: Best Consumer Holiday Magazine • British Annual Canada

Travel Awards 2015: Best Canada Media Coverage • Germany Travel Writers’ Awards 2015: First Prize • British Travel Awards 2014: Best Consumer Holiday Magazine

• British Guild of Travel Writers Awards 2013: Best Overseas Feature • British Travel Press Awards 2012: Young Travel Writer of the Year

SEARCH FOR NATGEOTRAVELUK ON FACEBOOK TWITTER GOOGLE+ TUMBLR PINTEREST INSTAGRAM

10 natgeotraveller.co.uk


South Tyrol seeks nature lovers.

South Tyrol seeks you.

See Italy from a different angle in South Tyrol. It’s a summer

paradise hidden in the Dolomite Alps where you can get a rush

from hiking and biking, or relax in one of the many mountain

spas. Once you’ve reached your peak for the day, start a new

journey of discovery with the unique food and drink that fuses

Italian flair with Alpine sophistication.

www.suedtirol.info/summer


· 2017 ·

SUNDAY 17

SEPTEMBER 2017

THE BREWERY,

LONDON EC1

Join us as we bring

National Geographic

Traveller (UK)

to life!

TRAVEL WRITING MASTERCLASSES • TRAVEL GEEKS PANELS • BUSHCRAFT SKILLS

MARTIAL ARTS CLASSES • COOKING DEMOS • INTERNATIONAL FOOD

12 natgeotraveller.co.uk

TICKETS: £150

NATGEOTRAVELLER.CO.UK/FESTIVAL

FOR MORE ON OUR GROWING LINEUP, FOLLOW

@NATGEOTRAVELUK #NGTUKFESTIVAL


IMAGES: GETTY

JULIA

BRADBURY

BBC and ITV presenter

PAUL

ROSE

Arctic explorer and TV presenter

GEORGE BULLARD

Record-breaking explorer and athlete

ALAN HINKES

OBE and extreme mountaineer

JAMES

CRACKNELL

OBE, global adventurer and Olympian

DANIEL

RAVEN-ELLISON

Guerilla geographer and creative explorer

JIM MCNEILL

Polar explorer and presenter

MARTIN HARTLEY

Adventure travel photographer

MICHELIN-STARRED & CELEBRITY CHEFS

PLUS National Geographic Traveller (UK)

editors, writers, designers and photographers

FROM THE EDITOR

We’re bringing explorers,

storytellers, experts and

photographers from all corners

of the world together for an

astounding celebration of travel

National Geographic Traveller

(UK) style. Join us as we project

the ethos, energy and ideas of

the magazine onto the big stage.

On our main stage, we’ll be

talking to Paul Rose, Julia

Bradbury and James Cracknell

about the journeys and

challenges that have shaped

their careers.

Exploring is the name of

the game at the festival: our

venue — a cavernous 18thcentury

former brewery

— will be a warren of out-there

activities, inspirational talks

and expert-led writing and

photography masterclasses,

which we know you love. The

only challenge will be choosing

where to start!

See you there.

PAT RIDDELL, EDITOR,

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

TRAVELLER (UK)

PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASSES WITH NIKON • WINE-TASTING

BABBEL LANGUAGE SESSIONS • WELLNESS WORKSHOPS

HEADLINE SPONSOR

SPONSORS

and more!

June 2017 13


FESTIVAL

CURATED BY THE

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER TEAM

MEET THE ADVENTURERS

We’ll be talking to four extraordinary men who’ve made

exploring icecaps, frosty tundras and 8,000m death zones

their bread and butter

THE EXPLORER

Paul Rose is at the front line of exploration.

One of the world’s most experienced science

expedition leaders, National Geographic

Explorer and BBC’s Inside Out presenter

Paul Rose knows the challenges and the

beauty of the polar regions like no one else.

Paul has led groups on Greenland ice cap

crossings, ski-mountaineering trips and

intrepid first ascents of icy mountains. He

even has a peak named after him

in Antarctica.

TRAVEL WRITING MASTERCLASSES • TRAVEL GEEKS PANELS • BUSHCRAFT SKILLS

MARTIAL ARTS CLASSES • COOKING DEMOS • INTERNATIONAL FOOD

TICKETS: £150

NATGEOTRAVELLER.CO.UK/FESTIVAL

FOR MORE ON OUR GROWING LINEUP, FOLLOW

@NATGEOTRAVELUK #NGTUKFESTIVAL

14 natgeotraveller.co.uk


FESTIVAL

IMAGES: ISTOCKPHOTO

THE MOUNTAINEER

Alan Hinkes is a recordbreaker.

He’s said to be the

first Briton to have scaled

all 14 of the world’s highest

mountains peaks: those

over 8,000m (26,240ft). These

summits are in the ‘death zone’

— altitudes at which human

survival rate is measured

in hours. Alan is part of an

exclusive club: fewer than 40

people have climbed the world's

highest peaks without the help

of additional oxygen.

THE WARRIOR

Jim McNeill is one of the

world’s most experienced and

respected explorers. In 2001,

he founded the Ice Warrior

Project, which aims to emulate

the heroic era of exploration by

taking complete novices and

turning them into competent

and accomplished modern-day

explorers. His next flagship

expedition is to the Northern

Pole of Inaccessibility, situated

around 280 miles from the

geographic North Pole.

THE

PHOTOGRAPHER

Martin Hartley has built

an extraordinary archive of

polar imagery, undertaking

20 photographic assignments

in Northern Siberia and the

Canadian Arctic, and three

in Antarctica. He’s the only

professional photographer

to have crossed the Arctic

Ocean on skis and with dogs,

and is passionate about

helping to protect the Arctic

Ocean sea ice.

· 2017 ·

TRAVEL WRITING

MASTERCLASSES

with the editors of National Geographic Traveller

Ever wondered what it takes to make it

as a travel writer? The editors behind

the award-winning National Geographic

Traveller will be joined by some of

the country’s finest freelance travel

journalists to take an in-depth look at the

art of storytelling; share writing tips; and

discuss what it takes to get published.

Beginnings & endings • Print vs digital

Long-form or short-form • Structure

How to pitch • Writing dos and don’ts

What makes a good story

Know your audience

Finding your voice

PAT RIDDELL

Editor

Mee he editors

GLEN MUTEL

Deputy

Editor

SARAH BARRELL

Associate

Editor

MARIA PIERI

Editorial

Director

PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASSES WITH NIKON • WINE-TASTING

BABBEL LANGUAGE SESSIONS • WELLNESS WORKSHOPS

HEADLINE SPONSOR

SPONSORS

and more!

June 2017 15


Q30

DRIVE POTENTIAL

See beyond the ordinary and drive your potential forward, with the

daringly designed Q30. With expressive styling, dynamic lines and

powerful elegance, this is a premium compact that’s as unique as you are.

FROM£199

Visit infiniti.co.uk

PER MONTH*

Official fuel economy figures for the Q30 range shown in mpg (l/100 km): Urban 32.5 (8.7) to 60.1 (4.7), Extra-urban 51.4 (5.5) to 74.3 (3.8),

Combined 42.2 (6.7) to 74.3 (3.8). CO 2

emission: 156 to 108 g/km. Fuel consumption and CO 2

figures are obtained from laboratory testing and are intended for

comparisons between vehicles and may not reflect real driving results. Optional equipment, maintenance, driving behaviour, road and weather conditions may affect the official results.

*Finance based on Personal Contract Hire Agreement. Example based on 24 month contract, 8,000 miles per annum for an INFINITI Q30 1.6T SE, with an Initial Rental

of £2,229.83. Model shown: INFINITI Q30 1.6T Premium MT with optional metallic paint and glass roof at £23,070 OTR or from £249 x 24 months after an Initial

Rental of £2,492.71. Rentals shown are for a non-maintenance Contract Hire. Excess mileage and unfair wear and tear charges may apply. You will

not own the vehicle at the end of the contract. Orders/credit approvals on selected models between April 1st 2017 and June 30th 2017. Subject to availability,

offers cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Credit provided subject to status and in UK only (excluding the Channel Islands and Isle of Man). Individuals must be 18

years or over and indemnities may be required. Personal Contract Hire finance to be provided by INFINITI Financial Services, Egale House, 78 St Albans Road, Watford,

Hertfordshire WD17 1AF. Specification and prices are correct at time of publication (April 2017), and are subject to change without notice. Terms and Conditions apply. For full

terms and to find your nearest participating centre, visit infiniti.co.uk


SMART TRAVELLER

SMART TRAVELLER

What’s new // Do it now // Food // On the trail // Rooms // Family // Stay at home // The word

SNAPSHOT

Isabella Giobbi, São Paulo

Isabella lives just a few blocks from me in the

chic neighbourhood of São Paulo, Brazil — but

that’s not how I know her. We met when I was

photographing a lifestyle story for Casa Vogue

Brazil in her boldly decorated apartment. We

spent most of the shoot in her kitchen, talking

about her writing, her background in fashion,

her love of Italy and her passion for cooking.

Unusually, it was an overcast day in São Paulo

and the room was full of soft, natural light.

ANDRE KLOTZ // PHOTOGRAPHER

andreklotz.com

@andreklotz

June 2017 17


“The Wanda” used to be a typical old school guesthouse, then

turned into a real “feel good place”. Ideal for couples, who can

really appreciate such small escapes. You can discover this

place for yourself and theoretically come back year after year

and turn it into your second home.

#DASWANDA

Tel: +39 0471 66 90 11 info@das-wanda.com

daswanda das_wanda

www.das-wanda.com

2 HOUSES, 2 CONCEPTS, 1 CREDO

All six of our family are part of the company, each with their own personality and strengths.

We may not always agree, but we always have a common goal: to have happy people around us.

A design awarded more generation-house. Only at a second

glance it becomes apparent that the old building is still

there: renovated and expanded, the traditional hotel has a

new silhouette. Wood frames give the home a modern feel.

Architecture, design and wine style – in combination with old

fashioned hospitality.

#DASPANORAMA

Tel: +39 0471 96 32 05 info@designhotel-panorama.com

designhotelpanorama das_panorama

www.designhotel-panorama.com


SMART TRAVELLER

IN NUMBERS

CASA VICENS

2017

Antoni Gaudí’s creation is set to

open as a museum this autumn

1885

The year it was

originally completed

2005

Declared a UNESCO World

Human Heritage Site

£22m

Rumoured purchase

price in 2014

casavicens.org

PAT RIDDELL

Editos' icks

TAKE THE TRAIN

Ride Norway’s mountainscaling

Flåm Railway from the

comfort of your armchair in a

45-minute movie captured by a

3D camera attached to the front

of the train. visitnorway.com

SARAH BARRELL

Favourite

childhood

holiday

We’ve been here and we’ve been there, and our team

have found a few things we thought we’d share

Culture vulture

Bringing a dash of modernity

to Liverpool’s waterfront,

architectural centre RIBA

North opens on 17 June. The

exhibition space will also

house the City Gallery — a

space to learn about the

city’s architecturally diverse

past and its urban future.

architecture.com

CONNOR MCGOVERN

Sailing from New York to Block Island, a

slice of sleepy New England paradise in the

Atlantic Ocean STEPHANIE CAVAGNARO

Isle of Wight. We went nine times in eight

years. We must have loved it GLEN MUTEL

Sanibel, Florida, where the beaches were

littered with pinkish conches after a

tropical storm AMELIA DUGGAN

A Tunisian holiday resort, where a local girl

took me to her family home: a heady culture

shock for a young teen SARAH BARRELL

Kakopetria in the heart of the Troodos

Mountains, Cyprus, where the pistachio ice

cream was amazing MARIA PIERI

IMAGES: GETTY

Coup d’état

Park your political paralysis at Ravi

DeRossi’s latest pop-up cocktail den,

Coup, which opened in Manhattan’s

East Village on 14 April. The mantra

is decidedly anti-Trump: open for the

duration of his presidency, it’s decked

out with protest signs and profits are

donated to organisations — like the

Environmental Protection Agency

— believed to be ‘at risk’ under the

current administration. coupnyc.com

STEPHANIE CAVAGNARO

PENGUINOLOGIST

Brush up on your

knowledge of the

feathered flightless

birds with Quark’s

guest lecturer, Dr Tom

Hart, on a trip to

the Antarctic.

TRAVEL WITH

The 'ologists'

VOLCANOLOGIST

Take the one-hour hike

up Sciara del Fuoco with

Freedom Treks and a

volcano expert to watch

the firework-like lava

explosions on Stromboli

island in Italy.

MARINE BIOLOGIST

Learn about aquatic

organisms with Monty

Halls on a Spitsbergen

cruise in July 2018 as

part of Steppes Travel’s

expert-led tours.

MARIA PIERI

June 2017 19


SMART TRAVELLER

20 natgeotraveller.co.uk


SMART TRAVELLER

BIG PICTURE

Baffin Island, Canada

Straddling the Arctic Circle, Canada’s remote Nunavut

territory is one that few travellers reach. “The Auyuittuq

National Park on Baffin Island is a complete wilderness. The

only refuge I found on my two-week trek was this ice cave

at the foot of the Turner Glacier,” says Andrew Robertson,

who took this photo in September last year. The image was

commended in the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.

A touring exhibition of winning and shortlisted images sets

off from London’s Somerset House this month.

worldphoto.org

IMAGE: ANDREW ROBERTSON, UNITED KINGDOM, COMMENDED,

OPEN, NATURE, 2017 SONY WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS

June 2017 21


SMART TRAVELLER // WHAT’S NEW

THE

SUMMER

OF

It’s 50 years since San Francisco’s

Summer of Love and the city is

celebrating the Swinging Sixties

with events throughout June

COME TOGETHER

Embrace your inner flower child

and relive the summer of ’67 with

Haight-Ashbury’s annual Street

Fair on 11 June. The area was the

epicentre of the famous summerlong

celebration of love and rock

’n’ roll. haightashburystreetfair.org

FLOWER POWER

Follow in the footsteps of

Janice Joplin and the Grateful

Dead on a Flower Power

Walking Tour, threetimes

weekly year-round.

haightashburytour.com

MONTEREY, BABY

The Monterey Pop Festival

launched the music icons that

would define a generation: Jimi

Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin.

On the same stage 50 years

later, a host of funky acts will

pay tribute to the festival and

its legacy (16-18 June).

montereyinternational

popfestival.com

PSYCHEDELIC SCIENCE

Feeling groovy? On 1 June,

learn about the mind-bending

chemistry of psychedelics and

the science behind love with an

evening of talks, music, cocktails

and crafts at the California

Academy of Sciences,

set in the historic

Golden Gate Park.

calacademy.org/nightlife

SNAP HAPPY

Photographs taken

during the legendary

‘67 festival are on display

at the Monterey

Museum of Art until

September this year.

montereyart.org

TAKE IT TO THE STREETS

Over 100 Madonnari artists

will transform the pavements

of downtown San Rafael into a

trippy patchwork of ’60s-themed

murals for the Italian Street

Painting Marin, 24-25 June.

italianstreetpaintingmarin.org

AMELIA DUGGAN

summeroflove2017.com

IMAGES: GETTY; ALAMY

22 natgeotraveller.co.uk


SYDNEY to SINGAPORE

CRUISE VOYAGE

QUEEN VICTORIA • 23 FEBRUARY 2019 • 33 NIGHTS

Your Barrhead Travel package includes:

• Return flights from UK

• 3 nights 5 pre-cruise Sydney stay

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Nha Trang • Hong Kong (overnight) • Chan May (for tours of

Hue or Da Nang) • Singapore

• Up to $720 on board spending money per stateroom†

• 3 nights 5 post-cruise Singapore stay

• FREE Blue Mountain & Wildlife Park tour

• FREE Footsteps of Raffles tour with afternoon tea

• Private transfers throughout

BALCONY STATEROOM FROM £7159 PP

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varies by stateroom type and cruise duration and is additional to Cunard Fare benefits. $720 based on highest stateroom grade. Valid on selected departures. Applicable to new Cunard Fare bookings only and applies to the first two guests sharing a stateroom.^Image advertised is based on Queens Grill Suite. *11pm closing applies to selected stores only, please check

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WHAT’S NEW // SMART TRAVELLER

RETURN

OF THE

IMAGES: SUPERSTOCK; GETTY

Titanic

Next year, intrepid explorers will

have the chance to climb inside

a submersible and visit the

world’s most famous shipwreck

Under the sea

Fewer than 200 people have visited the luxury

liner ‘God himself could not sink’ since it

descended to its watery grave off the coast of

Newfoundland in 1912. But that’s set to change

— London-based travel company Blue Marble

Private is offering nine ‘mission specialists’ the

chance to join an expedition to the shipwreck.

Explorers with deep pockets will need to shell

out $105,129 (£84,680) — the equivalent price of

a first-class ticket on the Titanic, after inflation

— for the eight-day, deep-ocean mission in

May 2018, with further dives scheduled for

2019. Each 90-minute descent, in a titanium

and carbon fibre submersible, will take

passengers through a world of bioluminescent

sea creatures, before the craft glides over

the ship’s deck, bow and grand staircase.

bluemarbleprivate.com

Above the surface

Rather not swim with the fishes? Sleep above

them instead in a life-size replica of the Titanic.

Due to open in 2018, the bizarre attraction

and floating hotel will be permanently docked

in China’s Qijiang River. It will feature a

simulation of the iceberg crash, and the

chance to tuck into the same menu as the

diners on the vessel’s ill-fated maiden voyage.

STEPHANIE CAVAGNARO

ALL ABOARD

Experience the sinking of

the Titanic before exploring

the wreck with Titanic VR, a

virtual reality game created

by David Whelan — due for

release at the end of

this year

IN NUMBERS

2,225

people boarded

the Titanic

705

survived the

disaster

1985

the year Robert Ballard

discovered the wreck

370

miles off the coast

of Newfoundland

2.5

miles beneath

the sea

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

Take the plunge

From weapon of war to vessel for life, a Second World War

ship — suspected to be one of five remaining from the Pearl

Harbor attack — nearly sent to scrap has been reclaimed as an

underwater art installation, dive site and marine life habitat.

Funded in part by Sir Richard Branson, the BVI Art Reef

project sees the Kodiak Queen topped with a rebar-and-mesh

kraken (sea creature) whose 80ft tentacles wrap around the

boat. Suit up and dive off the coast of Virgin Gorda to see the

tentacles come alive with marine life. divethebviartreef.com

June 2017 25


JOIN THE CLUB!

Freedom. It’s a great feeling! Daios Cove is inviting Villa

guests to be part of a brand new concept, that offers a

range of unique benefits designed to give you more time

and convenience

• Free choice of dishes across all à la carte menus

• Selected drinks and signature cocktails from all our bars

• Ice-cream, soft drinks and healthy juices for all children

• Plus many more premium benefits

For more information call us on 020 3807 1418 or email

info@daioscove.com or www.daioscovecrete.com

Complimentary for all Villa guests for stays in April, May, October and November


WHAT’S NEW // SMART TRAVELLER

Geek

WEIRD SCIENCE

out

Put on your spectacles and let your

inner nerd run wild at these new

scientific attractions. Going geek

has never been so cool

THE MOONLIGHT SWIM

WHAT: Swim five feet beneath the ‘moon’.

WHERE: At a lido in Rennes, Brittany, during

the packed-with-surprises Tombées de la Nuit

(Nightfall) arts festival in July.

HOW: Book tickets for Museum of the Moon,

a touring event by British artist Luke Jeram,

who created the 1:500,000-scale lunar model.

It measures 23ft in diameter and features NASA

imagery of the satellite’s surface. my-moon.org

IMAGES: ALAMY; MUSEUM OF THE MOON; SCIENCE MUSEUM

Cocktails in code

Are you a player, keen to show off your mad Sherlock

skills? Well, there’s a secret underground bar with your

name (in code) on the door. The latest immersive cocktail

experience comes from Lollipop, the team behind East

London’s Breaking Bad cocktail bar and The Bunyadi

naked restaurant. Here, The Bletchley recreates a secret

World War II code cracking room. Slip in through a

secret door and, once you’ve entered data detailing your

personal taste preferences into a cipher machine,

you receive a unique code that you then transmit,

via radio, to a team of backroom mixologists, who

will decode the perfect bespoke cocktail for you.

You don’t need to be Alan Turing to tackle this

mission, but if you like a bit of retro dress-up, this

can’t be beat. And for those late to the party (you

need to book well ahead), this London

pop-up’s shelf life has been extended at

least until July, and there’s even firm talk

of it being recreated on foreign soil.

Where? Clue: you won’t need D-Day

Landings to reach this capital city.

thebletchley.co.uk SARAH BARRELL

TOP THREE

Scientific trips

THE RESTAURANT

Is this the best class,

ever? Cocktail lessons

given by Todd Maul,

the geek-barman at

Café ArtScience in

Cambridge,

Massachusetts, now

include the food

design innovations of

partner organisation,

Le Laboratoire. It all

adds up to some

highly unusual drinks.

lelaboratoirecambridge.com

THE MUSEUM

If you want to see how

Major Tim Peake

returned to Earth after

his six-month mission at

the International Space

Station last year, then

head to London’s Science

Museum, where the

Soyuz TMA-19M descent

module — complete with

scorch marks from its

re-entry through the

atmosphere — is on

display until September.

sciencemuseum.org.uk

THE HOTEL

The about-to-open

Hotel EMC2, in

Chicago, headlines a

huge zoetrope, a

19th-century

animation device, plus

a typographic quote

by Leonardo da Vinci

in the lobby. And that’s

before you enter the

rooms… Beds feature

Serta cooling

technology mattresses

as standard.

hotelemc2.com

June 2017 27


SMART TRAVELLER // DO IT NOW

Paddle

PUSHERS

Kayaking isn’t just for athletes — it’s a way to

test your skills on wild rivers and get close to

animals that would otherwise prove elusive

For eco-conscious travellers who want to get up close to nature,

a canoe or kayak is a no-brainer. With 70% of the earth’s surface

covered in water, there are countless watery habitats walking boots

just won’t get you to. These paddle safaris are picking up fans, and

specialist wildlife tour operators are offering a ‘raft’ of new itineraries.

This year, Black Tomato introduced a new kayaking tour of

the Congo, while Intrepid Travel features kayaking in Costa Rica

to get up close to monkeys and sloths. Discover the World and

Wildlife Worldwide have kayaking trips in Vancouver Island to spot

humpback whales and orca, plus grizzly bears catching wild salmon.

There are plenty of alternatives for adrenalin seekers, too, with

Water by Nature offering trips down the Zambezi River rapids. Snap

this one up — with dams planned, the waters won’t run wild forever.

SAM LEWIS

TOP THREE

Perfect places to paddle

CANADA

Algonquin Provincial Park, just a few hours’

drive from Toronto and Ottawa, offers new selfguided

day trips from C$55 (£33), while those

who head to Ottawa River can brush up their

skills with Owl Rafting owner, Claudia Kerckhoff-

Van Wijk, 10-times Canadian kayak champion.

algonquinoutfitters.com owlrafting.com

SCANDINAVIA

Best explored by canoe, Finland’s 40th national

park, Hossa, opened in June. Sweden’s St.

Anna archipelago, which comprises around

6,000 islands, is ideal for a self-guided

kayaking and wild camping adventure.

muchbetteradventures.com

UK

The Three Lakes Challenge involves paddling

the lengths of the longest lakes in Wales (Bala

Lake), England (Windermere) and Scotland (Lock

Awe) — a total of 43 miles. Try it at a leisurely

pace or race it in 24 hours. gocanoeing.org.uk

186

RECORD BREAKER

The height (in feet) of

Palouse Falls, where

Tyler Bradt broke

the world record for

the biggest vertical

77

descent in a kayak

The speed (in mph)

Bradt paddled over

the waterfall

LEARN THE LINGO

‘Wet exit’

When you’re forced to

swim out of your kayak

‘Strainer’

A point where a tree

or branch traps a

kayak but lets water

run through

‘Portage’

The act of carrying your

kayak on dry land to

reach water

IMAGES: GETTY; SUPERSTOCK

28 natgeotraveller.co.uk


“Wonderful day on the water”

“Experience of a lifetime!”

“Amazing whale watching”

Whale watching – West Iceland – Snæfellsnes National Park

Daily tours from 10th November till 15th September

+354 546 6808

booking@lakitours.com

info@lakitours.com

www.lakitours.com

Facebook & Instagram: Láki Tours


FOOD // SMART TRAVELLER

Wild

A TASTE OF

Jersey

Jersey’s best-known chef, Shaun

Rankin, forages for his favourite

seasonal grub on his second home

SHAUN RANKIN

Michelin-starred Rankin’s

most recent restaurant ventures

include Ormer Jersey, Ormer

Mayfair, 12 Hay Hill and Don

Street Deli. His first recipe

book is Shaun Rankin’s

Seasoned Islands.

shaunrankin.com

Beach eats

Foraging is part of the Island’s heritage, and

a movement I’ve been at the forefront of for

over eight years. Head to the five-mile bay

on the western side of St Ouen to find salty

finger — a sea vegetable that’s great cooked.

It goes really well with turbot. Grouville Bay

is also great to rake for cockles, salt out razor

clams and sea beats along the dunes.

Inland excursions

Head for St Martin’s Woods, where you get the

first of the wild garlic in spring. It’s great in

soups, pesto and my favourite — wild garlic

risotto (recipe below). Trinity, in the centre of

the island, is covered in lush countryside with

spring beauty (miner’s lettuce), which has a

fantastic flavour and texture; it goes well in

lamb with goat’s curd and minted peas.

TRY IT AT HOME

Broad bean, wild garlic

& parmesan risotto

IMAGES: GETTY

TIPS FOR FIRST-TIME FORAGERS

RESEARCH: A plant expert can help identify

the subtle differences between plant species

PRACTICE: Train your eyes to recognise

commonly found wild fare like dandelion,

purslane, chickweed, clover, lambsquarter

and mustard

APPLY: Rather than salt and pepper, try using

seaweed and sea purslane to nutritiously

season dishes

INGREDIENTS

750ml vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

Herbs (sprig of thyme; a bay leaf)

2 crushed garlic cloves

350g risotto rice

100ml white wine

75g unsalted butter

150g broad beans, cooked

4 wild garlic leaves, chopped

60g grated parmesan

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

METHOD

Heat the vegetable stock, and keep

warm. In a saucepan, add olive oil, onion,

thyme, garlic and bay leaf, and cook until

the onion is translucent. Add the rice

until it starts to crack. Add white wine

followed by a ladleful of stock. Ensure

the rice has absorbed the stock before

adding more. Continue until the rice

is cooked. Remove pan from the heat

and beat the butter into the rice. Add

the broad beans and wild garlic leaves.

Sprinkle grated parmesan, and season.

June 2017 31


ON THE TRAIL // SMART TRAVELLER

Tea

HIKING,

trails

BIKING

& KAYAKING

Explore Sri Lanka’s bountiful heartlands,

awash with verdant tea terraces and colonial

bungalows. Words: Josephine Price

DILMAH TEA

The award-winning Dilmah tea is

‘picked, perfected and packed’ in

spots around Sri Lanka — including on these tea trails. Dilmah’s

founder, Merrill J. Fernando, was one of the first Sri Lankan tea

tasters to be trained at Mincing Lane, London’s tea mecca.

4

5

ILLUSTRATION: TILLY RUNNINGFORCRAYONS.CO.UK

SUMMERVILLE

BUNGALOW

Settle into

Summerville

for afternoon

tea and scenes

reminiscent of

a W. Somerset

Maugham novel.

Brews are paired

with Dundee cake

and scones.

CASTLEREAGH

BUNGALOW

Hop in a kayak

to traverse the

flat waters of the

Castlereagh reservoir

on your way towards

this shoreside

bolthole. Enjoy

views of the rolling

tea-clad hills and

Adam’s Peak beyond.

BOGAWANTALAWA

VALLEY

Cycle into the

Bogawantalawa

Valley, following

a trail used by

planters of old

Ceylon. Pass tea

pluckers and

make a pit stop

at the Dunkeld

Tea Factory.

4

NORWOOD

BUNGALOW

Hike into the next

valley, passing

Norwood Bungalow

along the way. Have

a cuppa in the spot

where planters

traditionally invited

friends to relax and

soak up plantation

views and fresh air.

5

TIENTSIN

BUNGALOW

Wind down

with a game of

croquet at 4,600ft

in the gardens

of Tientsin

Bungalow, named

after the Chinese

village from

which the first tea

seedlings hailed.

resplendentceylon.

com/teatrails

June 2017 33


SMART TRAVELLER // ROOMS

Tromsø

WHERE

TO STAY

Where better to watch the

midnight sun than from one of

these uniquely designed northern

Norwegian pads, set within the

Arctic Circle

3

2

1

4

1 MARIBELL SJØBUER

Just 45 minutes from the city, in a

world of wild coastline, are three

two-bedroom cottages. They’re

cantilevered over the water in

the tiny hamlet of Kvaløyvågen.

Scandi-simple but comfy, the

cottages are ideal for whale

watching. From £150 per night.

maribell.no

2 BED & BOOKS

An alternative to Tromsø’s chain

hotels, Bed & Books is spread

across two houses (the ‘Writer’s

Home’ and ‘Fisherman’s Home’),

on the waterfront. It features retro

furniture, shared kitchens and

a library instead of a reception.

Doubles from £89 per night.

bedandbooks.no

3 TROMVIK LODGE

This 10-bedroom villa was

supposedly Prince Harry’s pick

for his recent trip to Norway.

From glass walls facing the sea

to the bathroom sauna and hot

tub outside, it’s certainly fit for

royalty. From £300 per night

(two-night minimum).

tromviklodge.com

4 FJØSEN

Set back from the waterfront

at Ersfjordbotn, this barn has

been converted into two rustic

apartments, both sleeping six

and with views over the fjord.

The outdoor hot tub and garden

area are great for soaking up the

midnight sun. From £206 per night.

fjosen.no JULIA BUCKLEY

34 natgeotraveller.co.uk


SMART TRAVELLER // FAMILY

La bea

ITALIAN COOKING

cucina

Pasta, gelato, pizza and wonderful wild garlic — what’s not to like

about Italian food? This summer, kids can try their hand at becoming a

carb-happy masterchef — before tucking into their well-earned feast

It’s pretty. Green stems splayed; clusters of

white star-shaped dangling flowers that could

be mistaken for snowdrops. My daughter

screws up her nose: “It’s a bit… whiffy.” It’s

certainly a scent you might not associate with

flowers. “Wild garlic: it’s only in season for

two months, so use it in whatever you can,”

says Yvette Farrell, chef and Forest of Dean

foodie champion.

She’s putting us through our

paces at the Harts Barn Cookery

School, in the Forest of Dean,

on a site dating back to 1068,

still with a working cider mill

and press. We’re here to

make pasta, using wild

garlic. “It can be added to

practically any dish,” says Yvette. We combine

the ‘00 flour’ (the only kind for pasta-making),

add an egg and a little water, then knead,

pound and roll the dough. Garlic is added

to one dough only; then both are chilled,

before being run through the

pasta machine. Cook for three

minutes, add olive oil and the

result is a moreish dish the

children can’t get enough of.

For a grand day out, try

your hand at cooking, visit

the picnic area and small

lake and sip a cuppa at the

award-winning tearoom.

hartsbarncookeryschool.

co.uk MARIA PIERI

TRY IT AT HOME

TRY IT AWAY

WAITROSE INSPIRATION

The supermarket chain offers workshops for

kids aged five and over in Salisbury and London

in everything from pasta bakes to tomato,

mozzarella and basil calzone. waitrose.com

LA CUCINA CALDESI

At this husband-and-wife-run school in central

London, kids aged six and over can join the

Italian Mama’s Cookery Club classes. caldesi.com

PIZZA IN NAPLES

Make thin-crust pizza in its birthplace at one of

the oldest joints in Naples, run by master chefs.

foodtoursofnaples.com

GELATO IN ROME

“Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy

gelato and that’s kind of the same thing.” Hard

to argue with the logic of this gelato-making

tour for kids in the heart of Rome. iatravel.com

IMAGE: GETTY

36 natgeotraveller.co.uk


»

RESERVE NOW FOR THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME

CALL: 866-904-1160 | BOOK ONLINE: WESTERNRIVER.COM


UK // SMART TRAVELLER

Harogate

The pearl of North Yorkshire, Harrogate

is the handsome spa town that’s kept its

sheen — and the ideal base for exploring

the surrounding Yorkshire Dales

STAY AT HOME

DON’T MISS

Situated in the nearby

Nidderdale Area of Outsanding

Natural Beauty, Brimham Rocks

are otherworldly balancing

rock formations up to 30ft high.

Arranged in unstable-looking

piles, they really must be seen to

be believed — particularly Idol

Rock, a huge 200-ton monster,

balanced implausibly on a

miniscule rocky pyramid.

WE LIKE

While Harrogate’s history as a

spa town is neatly showcased

in the Royal Pump Room

Museum, the restored Turkish

Baths & Health Spa is perhaps

more fun. Spend some time in

its three heated chambers and

recover in the relaxation room.

turkishbathsharrogate.co.uk

IMAGES: GETTY; ALAMY; BETTYS CAFÉ TEA ROOMS; MAJESTIC HOTEL

WHERE TO EAT // BETTYS CAFÉ TEA ROOMS OFFERS A

DIZZYING ARRAY OF BREADS, CAKES AND CHOCOLATES.

HEAD RIGHT FOR THE TAKEAWAY BAKERY, OR LEFT TO THE

CAFÉ TEA ROOMS FOR THE AFTERNOON TEA. BETTYS.CO.UK

WHAT TO DO

Harrogate’s an ideal

base for a trek into the

Yorkshire Dales — an

area full of satisfying

routes. Think deep

valleys rich with sheep,

cows and even lamas;

dry stonewalls; windy

rivers and ancient

bridges. The walk

from Brimham Rocks

to the pretty village

of Pateley Bridge is

especially stunning.

WHERE TO STAY

Nothing could be

more in keeping with

Harrogate’s reputation

than a restored

Victorian hotel in

sweeping grounds. Step

forward the Majestic

Hotel, complete with a

pool, spa and restaurant,

plus helpful staff and

rooms with great views.

majestichotelharrogate.

co.uk

GLEN MUTEL

June 2017 39


RESTIVAL — RECONNECT TO LIFE

THE LOVE CHILD OF A RETREAT AND FESTIVAL LOCATED IN A

SECRET SPACE AMIDST THE BEAUTY OF THE PAINTED DESERT

Restival fuses the best of festivals and retreats with the creation of a beautifully curated,

intimate wellness travel experience with the Navajo people. Restival is visionary and

totally unique — a five-night transformational retreat in the Arizona Desert, offering

the rare opportunity to reconnect with yourself, let your hair down, become a tribe

and truly connect with nature in eco-lux comfort, by collaborating with the clan of

the Navajo people. Restival includes a special tour of the local area, accompanied by

a Navajo elder, to places rarely accessed by non-Native people.

Limited tickets on sale now for this September, Arizona Desert, visit www.restivalgobal.com for further

details. Prices start from £1,500 for a five night experiential travel adventure which includes nutritious

food, accommodation and workshops.

www.restivalglobal.com


ord

The

FACE

VALUE

This collection of classic photo portraits of the world’s

animals are disarmingly sensitive and revealing,

serving as a clarion call to save our endangered species

Portrait photography is a specialist field,

often finding focus on the famous, infamous

and enigmatically anonymous. It’s a field

that rarely turns its attentions to

animals. But this is exactly what

photographer, speaker and longtime

contributor to National

Geographic, Joel Sartore, has

been doing for much of his

professional life: taking portraits

of the world’s animals, especially

those that are endangered. The

resulting body of work — which

has been documented in the

magazine’s pages and featured

in an on-going online campaign

— is now collected in a glossy

photography book: a bright, bold

message for us to get to know our

planet’s animals, and to save them.

The beautiful beginnings of what’s

been dubbed the Photo Ark, 6,000 animal

portraits have been taken so far: a lifelong

project for Sartore, who intends to take a

portrait of every animal in captivity in the

world. His ultimate aim is to create studio

The Photo Ark

by Joel Sartore, is

published by National

Geographic.

RRP: $35 (£28)

portraits of 12,000 species while travelling

the globe, visiting zoos and wildlife rescue

centres. His emphasis is on animals facing

extinction, with standout

images including a gorgeously

coy-looking Florida panther

named Lucy at Tampa’s Lowry

Park Zoo, and an endearingly

orderly row of critically

endangered ploughshare

tortoises, confiscated by a zoo

in Atlanta after being stolen;

cute: yes, but also full of

wild character.

In keeping with classic

portraiture, the images are

disarmingly distinct from

most wildlife photographers,

with each animal posed

against either a white or black background,

accompanied by sobering words from

veteran wildlife writer Douglas Chadwick,

and a splashy intro from Harrison Ford.

Sensitive, revealing, and at times utterly

mesmerising, this may be portraiture at its

most powerful. SARAH BARRELL

BOOKS // SMART TRAVELLER

Wise

TOP THREE

words

THE DIARY

The Raqqa Diaries, written

under a pseudonym by

a freedom fighter and

translated by Nader Ibrahim,

is an incredibly unflinching

eyewitness account of the

brutal reality of life inside

Syria under the ‘Islamic State’.

RRP: £9.99 (Hutchinson)

THE EVENT

The Royal Geographical

Society holds its annual

summer garden party at its

London HQ (23 June) followed

by Planet Earth II Revealed

(5 July), at which the hit BBC

series’ producers reveal

fascinating behind the scenes

stories. rgs.org

THE PODCAST

As the Trump administration

looks to find $1bn (£0.8bn)

to fortify a 62-mile stretch

of the 2,000-mile Mexico/

US border, tune in to BBC

Seriously’s recent La Frontera

episode, assessing the history

of the borderlands. bbc.co.uk/

programmes/b088f2w1

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

IMAGE: GETTY

WILD GUIDE,

SCOTLAND

750 places for

outdoor adventures,

from lost ruins to tiny

glens. RRP: £16.99

(Wild Publishing)

WILD PUB WALKS

Hill walks in the Peaks,

Lakes and Highlands,

with a pub chosen

by the Campaign For

Real Ale. RRP: £11.99

(CAMRA Books)

CAMPING BY THE

WATERSIDE

Campsites in the UK

and Ireland; ideal for

swimmers, kayakers,

anglers and kids. RRP:

£14.99 (Bloomsbury)

THE WILD OTHER

An accident shatters an

idyllic childhood, and a

peripatetic life ensues

in this memoir by Clover

Stroud. RRP: £20.00

(Hodder & Stoughton)

June 2017 41


Renew your Harmony with Nature

We ensure that your sea kayak trip is safe and enjoyable and that it becomes a

cherished lifetime memory. The breathtaking beauty of the islands, inlets, abundant

wildlife, and sounds of this area offer you an unparalleled wilderness experience.

DISCOVERY EXPEDITIONS, 221 Ferntree Place, Nanaimo, BC, V9T 5M1 | 1-250-619-2714

www.orcaseakayaking.com


Win

AN

AMAZING

FIVE-NIGHT

BREAK TO

SICILY

SPECIAL PROMOTION

National Geographic Traveller (UK)

has teamed up with Prestige Holidays

to offer a fantastic holiday for two

to Sicily’s baroque south east

Authentic Sicily

Off the main tourist track, Sicily’s baroque

south east is full of picturesque towns,

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and, of course, fantastic food and wine.

You’ll find an authentic slice of Sicily among

the friendly locals, sprawling piazzas,

churches and trattorias of Modica, Scicli,

Ragusa and Ispica.

THE PRIZE

Five nights for two with

return flights to Comiso or Catania

from London, five days’ car hire, B&B

stay at Relais Torre Marabino plus the

chance to try a tasting menu with wine.

Courtesy of Prestige Holidays, who

have been tailor-making holidays

for 27 years. 01425 480400

prestigeholidays.co.uk

Bed down

Relais Torre Marabino is nestled in the

southeastern corner of Sicily, near Ispica — a

quiet countryside location just 10 minutes

from the beach. Formerly a Saracen tower,

it’s now an agriturismo (farm stay) with seven

comfortable and stylish rooms, gardens and

terraces plus an outdoor pool. A wide selection

of organic wines and food is available.

TO ENTER

Answer the following question by visiting

natgeotraveller.co.uk/competitions

WHAT TYPE OF PROPERTY IS THE RELAIS

TORRE MARABINO NOW?

Competition closes 30 June 2017 at 23.59 GMT. The

winner must be aged 18 or over and the trip is subject to

availability. Full T&Cs available at natgeotraveller.co.uk

June 2017 43


SMART TRAVELLER // EVENTS

E ents

2 0 1 7

06

JUNE

Food

TRAVEL GEEKS:

& drink

TIME:

18.30–19.30

WHERE: Intrepid UK,

1st Floor, Piano House, 9

Brighton Terrace, Brixton,

London SW9 8DJ

Perhaps you’ve been spoilt for choice for beers in Belgium, got lost in the

TICKETS: £10 (plus

nibbles and a drink)

spices of a Moroccan bazaar, or hunted high and low for the best pizza in

Naples. Whatever your palate, food and drink feature heavily in our travelling

tales, and in this event, in partnership with Intrepid Travel, we get to grips

with all things gastronomic. Whether it’s the best places to taste Thai or how

to navigate the world’s wineries, our expert panel is on hand to give you plenty

of tips for your next adventure. All you have to do is come with a curious mind,

your burning questions, and any ideas you’d like to discuss. In addition to

usual nibbles and drinks, there will also be a special tasting experience.

JO FLETCHER-

CROSS

Contributing

editor to National

Geographic

Traveller (UK), Jo

will bring a touch of

order to the night’s

proceedings

THE PANEL

DANIEL NEILSON

National

Geographic

Traveller (UK)

contributor Daniel is

working on a book

about the cuisine

of the northern

Atlantic islands.

FLORIAN

ROTTENSTEINER

Florian is Intrepid

Travel’s business

development

manager; he just

got back from a

food adventure

in Japan

VICTORIA STEWART

Former Evening

Standard food

editor, Victoria

writes about food

and travel for The

Telegraph and The

Times, as well as on

her blog

NATGEOTRAVELLER.CO.UK/EVENTS

11 JULY 2017

TRAVEL GEEKS: RUSH HOUR

Walking and Trekking

Sponsored by Intrepid

Looking to get fully immersed in

the big outdoors? Join our panel

for plenty of inspiration on how to

discover the world on foot, from

the best walks for beginners to

challenging Alpine adventures.

With tips and tales throughout the

evening, leave the boots at home for

now — just come with any ideas and

questions for the panel.

WHERE: Intrepid UK, 1st Floor, Piano

House, 9 Brighton Terrace, Brixton,

London SW9 8DJ

TIME: 18.30–19.30

PRICE: £10 (plus nibbles and

a drink)

· 2017 ·

17 SEPTEMBER 2017

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

TRAVELLER FESTIVAL

Sponsored by Babbel

This autumn, our award-winning

magazine comes to life at our

inaugural festival, packed with

masterclasses, language lessons with

Babbel, martial arts classes, Travel

Geeks sessions, food demonstrations

and inspiring talks by speakers

including adventurer James

Cracknell OBE and explorer Paul

Rose, plus a whole lot more.

WHERE: The Brewery, 52 Chiswell

Street, London EC1Y 4SD

TIME: 09.30–17.30

PRICE: £150

IMAGE: GETTY

44 natgeotraveller.co.uk


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SMART TRAVELLER

NOTES FROM AN AUTHOR // CHIBUNDU ONUZO

LAGOS

How do you capture the spirit of a city home to some 20 million people?

It’s best done through one personal perspective at a time

ILLUSTRATION: JACQUI OAKLEY

I

was born in Lagos, I grew up there and

even after I moved to England at 14, most

years I returned to the city. Yet, I didn’t feel

qualified to write a novel called, Welcome to

Lagos. In its earlier incarnations, the book was

called something else, a duller title my sister

said, when she’d suggested the idea.

I ran it past my brother, who lives in Lagos.

Too overarching, he said. The type of title an

American production company would come

up with. Well yes, I took his point. A white

man passes through six African countries

with a camera, and feels entitled to call his

documentary: ‘Africa: the definitive story’.

I envied that confidence. I wanted it. So

I changed the title and then the novel grew

to fill it. I began to see Lagos afresh, like a

Johnny Just Come setting foot in the city for

the first time.

There was the privileged entry. Arriving in

Lagos from London by air, as I’ve often done,

with my foreignness and relative affluence

wafting from my person. If you arrive in

Lagos this way, most likely, all you see is

dysfunction. The air-conditioning doesn’t

work. The baggage carousel is too small. For

crying out loud, no toilet paper in the loos.

You step out of the airport and a sea of

touts accost you, selling you stuff, clutching

at your bags, for all you know trying to rob,

kidnap and kill you at the same time. You

escape into the city and then wonder why

you ever left the airport. The drivers are

mad. You’ll die before you reach your hotel.

Beggars come up to your car, maimed,

blind, armless, legless. There are beggars

in London, New York and Paris of course,

but they are not so beggary. They hide their

poverty better. They are easier to ignore.

The airport is not like JFK. The roads are

not like Zurich. All you see in Lagos is a place

that’s not like somewhere else: a negation,

a failure to reach international standards,

whatever they are. Then there’s the entry

into Lagos by road: more egalitarian, the way

thousands flock to the city each year.

After spending a week in my village in

Eastern Nigeria, I tried to imagine having

lived in this village all my life. You have a

mobile phone, but you also must travel by

bicycle — and not because you want to save

the planet. There are no street lights. You

You step out of the airport

and a sea of touts accost you,

selling you stuff, clutching at

your bags, for all you know

trying to rob, kidnap and kill

you at the same time. You

escape into the city and then

wonder why you ever left the

airport. The drivers are mad.

know what a television is but you don’t own

one yourself.

Driving into Lagos with this state of

mind, the pace is outstanding. You’ve seen

a car. You’ve never seen this many. There

are rows and rows of street lights — the city

never sleeps. There are flyovers, bridges,

skyscrapers, radio towers, helicopters, mass

transit buses with television screens and free

wi-fi. You’ve never seen such a concentration

of infrastructure. On closer inspection, if you

don’t have money and the right education and

the right contacts, it’ll be very difficult to work

in those skyscrapers or fly in that helicopter or

drive that Range Rover. Poverty in Lagos can

perhaps be even more abject and desperate

than poverty in your village, but on first

glance the city dazzles.

And then, although I didn’t want to turn the

novel into a Lonely Planet guidebook, the new

title made me think about what was iconic

about Lagos. There was the atmosphere of the

city, the pulse and the energy, but there were

also specific places I wanted to mention now

the novel was becoming a homage. It was fun

to write about Mr Biggs, the only restaurant

chain that my meagre childhood funds could

afford. A character had to visit Makoko, the

lagoon city with houses on stilts that the

government alternatingly attempts to destroy

— for not fitting in with its modern image of

Lagos — and preserve because pesky foreign

journalists keep flocking there.

After the book was done and had gone off

to the printers, I told a friend of mine the title

and he exclaimed, “You’re in trouble! You’ll

have to put everybody’s version of Lagos in

that novel.”

Of course I haven’t. There are over 20

million people living in Lagos. This is

Welcome to Lagos according to Chibundu

Onuzo: my version of the city on as broad

a canvas as possible. The subject is as

inexhaustible as London, or Tokyo, or Cairo or

any of the other mega-cities of the world. Now

I’ve attempted it, I’m looking forward to the

next writer who will tackle a novel on Lagos. I

wish them luck.

Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo is published by

Faber & Faber. RRP: £12.99

@ChibunduOnuzo

June 2017 47


SMART TRAVELLER

VIEW FROM THE USA // AARON MILLAR

HIP HOP, YA DON’T STOP

If today’s toothless hip hop could rediscover its bite, the soundtrack of

New York could one day become the unifying sound of a nation

Every city has a sound. You can walk the

streets and visit the sights, but until

you listen you’ll be seeing the world in

black and white. Music is colour; music is

spirit; it’s the shape of a place’s dreams. New

Orleans is jazz, Nashville is country, but New

York will forever be hip hop.

In many ways, it’s the soundtrack of

modern America too. Hip hop was born

from the civil rights movement. It was about

social justice. In the 1960s, Martin Luther

King echoed the ‘We shall overcome’ song

the protestors were singing in his famous

speech; in the ’80s, NWA rapped “fuck

tha police”. Then rappers railed against

the N-bomb; later the word was worn as a

badge of pride. If hip hop is now all about

doing the stanky leg and partying like it’s

your birthday, that’s because it’s become

mainstream. It’s the Fortune 500. It’s pop

tunes with swear words and gold chains.

Now, as Black Lives Matter campaigners

protest police brutality, and when an average

of 44 people are murdered in the US every

single day — most from the inner cities

— hip hop raps about sex and money instead

of hope and change. I decided to go back to

its source, but I wasn’t going back alone.

Grandmaster Caz, one of the pioneers

of the genre in the 1970s and ’80s, is to hip

hop what James Bond is to the dry Martini:

he helped make it cool. I meet him in

Manhattan, baggy jeans and a beanie, name

embroidered in golden thread on his chest,

his blacked-out van bumping Empire State of

Mind by the side of the road. We’re heading

into the Bronx, to the edge of the interstate

and a red-brick high-rise that hosted a 1973

house party credited with the birth of the

scene. But first we need context.

It’s a whirlwind tour: in Harlem, we see the

Graffiti Hall of Fame, the venue where Kool

Moe D rapped against Busy Bee (the most

famous freestyle battle in hip hop history)

and the legendary Rucker Park basketball

court — hemmed in by tenement housing

on all sides — where NBA greats test their

mettle against the best of the street.

In the Bronx, I learn the sign for the

borough — arms crossed like an X in front

of your chest. We stop at Disco Fever, where

Grandmaster Flash, the godfather of hip

hop, built his legend; and 1520 Sedgwick

Avenue, where one out-of-control party

changed the world’s musical taste forever.

The names of New York greats ring out like

Marvel super-villains: The Furious Five, the

Treacherous Three, the Funky 4+1. Then, to

cap it off, we meet breakdancing whizz B-Boy

Mighty Mouse, watch him spin on his head,

learn about the air flare (the hardest move

in breaking history, the dancing equivalent

of being blasted by an anti-gravity gun), and

are cajoled into joining an impromptu street

performance. There’s perhaps nothing more

cringe-inducing than watching a middleclass

white man trying to breakdance.

Especially if it’s you.

But it’s the unspoken things that matter

most. Leave the tourist bubble behind and

the city changes instantly. “This is the real

New York,” Caz says. As we head north,

shiny skyscrapers and Broadway shows

become high-rise projects and barbed-wire

playgrounds. We see Malcolm X’s mosque,

opposite the ruins of one of hip hop’s golden

gig venues: Harlem World; the Hotel Theresa,

where Martin Luther King planned his

march on Washington, round the corner

from the Apollo Theater, where Lauryn Hill

and other legends have played. “Hip hop rose

from necessity,” Caz tells us. “Our soul comes

from that struggle.” People come to New York

to stand on top of the Empire State Building

and watch chorus girls kick at Rockefeller.

But if that’s all they do, they miss the real

spirit of the city. They miss its sound.

And America is missing it too. Music is the

seed of revolution. One in every six people

in the US is living in poverty — in the inner

cities, that number is closer to one in three.

Compared with white men, black men in

America are 21 times more likely to be shot

and five times more likely to end up in prison.

Every city has a sound, but so does a country,

and right now the US is deciding what its

will be. We need a soundtrack to inspire that

choice. Come on hip hop, come on New York,

America needs you. hushtours.com

British travel writer Aaron Millar ran away from London

in 2013 and has been hiding out in the Rocky

Mountains of Boulder, Colorado ever since.

@AaronMWriter

ILLUSTRATION: JACQUI OAKLEY

48 natgeotraveller.co.uk


The

Blog

TO

TURKEY

THE MOON

AND BACK

A hot air balloon gives an elevated perspective

on the central Turkish region’s lunar landscapes

Eventually, another jet

of super-heated

air arbitrarily boosts

us heavenward, and

I grip wicker more

tightly than Yogi Bear

on a ‘pic-a-nic’ pilfer

Sunrise; sunset. Sunrise; sunset. Time is

a matter of perspective. Mere seconds,

not days, are passing.

It’s a frosty 6am and the sun is peeping

over the mountainous horizon. Just as its

warming rays bloom against the skyline, our

aircraft sinks below the edge of its launch pad

— a sliver of canyon precipice — and the sun

disappears behind the peaks again. This is

the first time I’ve ever descended at take-off.

This is also the first time the pilot has

freely admitted to me that he has no idea

where we’re going and that a gentle crash

landing is a distinct possibility. We’re

literally going where the wind takes us.

This is my maiden hot air balloon flight.

I’ve never before had the desire to be

suspended far above the ground in a glorified

picnic basket beneath two giant blowtorches,

but it’s practically compulsory in Cappadocia.

Even on the coldest mornings of the year,

the skies are filled with around 40 balloons,

loaded with visitors seeking an aerial

perspective of this outlandish landscape; in

high season, there are up to 100.

“It’s best that the balloons don’t touch

each other,” the pilot casually informs me.

“But it’s hard to navigate in a hot air balloon,

particularly over Cappadocia. When the sun

rises, the wind direction can suddenly change

by 80-120 degrees; each of these valleys also

channels wind, causing more uncertainty.

Journeys are unchartable. Only in the final 20

minutes do we plan our landing location.”

IMAGE: GETTY

50 natgeotraveller.co.uk


ONLINE // SMART TRAVELLER

ost ead

LIKE THIS? READ MORE

ABOUT TURKEY ONLINE

MADRASAS OF SIVAS

A peek into the medieval

centres of learning

reveals a fascinating

cultural history

ANCIENT ANI

Ani, ‘the city of a

thousand and one

churches’, marks the

point where the Silk Road

reaches Asia Minor

ALAÇATI

For boho-chic boutique

hotels, rustic refined

restaurants and a

laid-back surfer vibe, say

hello to Turkey’s latest,

(almost) Aegean resort

VISIT US ONLINE AT

NATGEOTRAVELLER.CO.UK

With daily updates, including

a blog every Tuesday and our

Travel Video of the Week each

Friday, get your fix of National

Geographic Traveller online

In strong winds, he tells me, we may come

in to land sideways and have to adopt the

brace position as we use the basket as an

anchor, allowing it to strike the ground on its

edge and tip over… with us inside. “It’s a fun

job,” he says, “but a lot of responsibility.”

After sinking further, we’re now teetering

above — and surrounded by — treacherous

spikes of volcanic rock. Despite the odd burst

of flame blasting into the balloon, we seem

to be struggling to get any lift, and instead

we slalom between stone shards. Eventually,

another jet of super-heated

air arbitrarily boosts us

heavenward, and I grip wicker

more tightly than Yogi Bear on

a ‘pic-a-nic’ pilfer. In a bid to

counteract vertigo, I tie a rope

handle around my wrist, take

a deep breath and focus on

those views — and what views.

I’d heard of Cappadocia’s lunar

landscapes before; I’ve never

visited the Moon so I couldn’t

metaphorise so confidently, but

I agree that this place is like no

other on this planet.

As we hit 2,000ft, the breadth

of these epic vistas is, at last,

revealed. Sand dunes ripple

with waved contours, like great

slouching bags of cement:

the product of millennia-old

volcanic rock, sculpted by the

breath of a zillion zephyrs.

Below, in the Devrent Valley,

the elements have whittled the limestone

rock into fairytale spires: mushroom-capped

and pocked with irregular windows and

doors like a Jim Henson movie backdrop. In

other places, the rock is spiked into riotous

flames; or wind-burnished into curvaceous

monuments. And in the valley’s labyrinthine

caves, hollowed out of the limestone in the

second century, some of the first Christian

churches can be found.

What seems like an eternity later,

my pilot gently sets our basket down in

a flat spot amid this aeonian landscape.

Only an hour has passed. Time is indeed

a matter of perspective.

JAMES DRAVEN

From a hiker’s guide to Western Europe to a trip through the

heart of Australia — here are our most popular online posts

TRAVEL VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Chile

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know the colourful coastal city

of Valparaiso, famous for its

colourful shed houses, graffiti

and ascensors

EUROPE

Walk this way

Lace up your hiking

boots and explore

France, Italy and

Spain — from lofty

passes through

volcanic lunar

landscapes to ancient

pilgrim pathways

strewn with churches

UK

English wine

English vino has been quietly getting better,

with award-winning domestic brands. And, if

you want a closer look, take heart that your

local winery is probably expecting you

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From Adelaide to Darwin

Take a trip through South

Australia and the Northern

Territory — travelling from ocean

to Outback through the heart of

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June 2017 51


Weekender

RICHMOND

A leafy, well-polished utopia down by the river,

Richmond is the west London wonder, offering a

fresh angle on a frenetic city. Words: Zane Henry

Richmond upon Thames is a mini republic that

orbits around itself with only fleeting concern

for the rest of London. Time moves more slowly

here. People look healthier. The air seems lighter and feels

more expensive. A 2016 survey decreed the borough of

Richmond the happiest place to live in the city. And for

those living closer to the soot-darkened heart of London,

it offers an appealing weekend break that’s half an hour

from Waterloo but light years away from its scrum of

stress and frenetic energy. The good vibes spill out from

the town centre to the river, where locals and tourists

stroll, occasionally flinging themselves upon the water in

boats and canoes. At weekends, Richmond Green is full of

picnicking families, young people pleasantly day-drunk,

and sporty people doing sporty things. Pervading

it all is a sense that Richmond is the good life, distilled.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Grazing deer;

sunshine on the banks of the river Thames

near the White Cross pub; inside Palm

House, Kew Gardens; the Palm House and

surrounding gardens

For those living closer to the sootdarkened

heart of London, Richmond

offers an appealing weekend break

that’s half an hour from Waterloo but

light years away from its scrum of stress

52 natgeotraveller.co.uk


Riverside

The Thames looks cleaner here — almost

see-through. Richmond Bridge Boathouses

rents out rowboats for up to 12 people,

although if you’d prefer a drier experience,

take the longish river walk to Marble Hill

House, and hop on the ferry to equally

historic Ham House. Afterwards, reward

yourself with a few pints at The White

Cross. Watch out, though; at high tide, the

pub becomes its own island.

IMAGES: ALAMY; GETTY

THREE TO TRY

Richmond

restaurants

BEIRUT STREET KITCHEN

A fiver gets you a crispy falafel

wrapped in stone-baked

flatbread from this Lebanese

joint. Don’t miss out on the

manakish za’atar (flatbread

topped with spices) and

pomegranate lemonade.

RINCON

Traditional Spanish tapas and

an expansive wine list. Go on

evenings when they host live Latin

music and jazz bands. A word of

caution — their sangria is potent.

rincon-bar.co.uk

GALETERIA DANIELI

Head up to Brewers Lane

for authentic Italian gelato

from Galeteria Danieli. The

pistachio, fig and mandarin

flavour is delicious.

gelateriadanieli.com

Get out

Even if you’ve been to Kew Royal

Botanical Gardens before, regular

new additions make it worth

another visit. Installed last year,

The Hive is a 17-metre tall outdoor

installation that uses LED-lights

and a mesmerising soundtrack to

immerse you into the secret lives of

bees. Of the perennial attractions,

the Palm House is like stepping into

a massive steam-room populated

by giant ferns and palms. As special

as Kew is, it doesn’t have deer —

but they can usually be found in

Richmond Park. If you don’t see

any, mollify your disappointment

by climbing King Henry’s Mound,

where the trees frame a tunnel-like

view directly across London to St

Paul’s Cathedral.

June 2017 53


WEEKENDER

FROM TOP: Head chef Damian Clisby

prepares a dish; Petersham Nurseries cafe

EYEWITNESS

THE GOOD LIFE

City life

Make sure to salute

the bust of Chilean

revolutionary Bernardo

O’Higgins in O’Higgins

Square as you head

over the bridge to the

town centre. Your

next stop is Duck

Pond Market in Heron

Square, where you’ll

find quiches, Belgian

waffles, and loads of

cheeses. After eating,

go treasure-hunting

at Richmond Hill

Antiques; you might

just find a hidden gem.

The hostess looks genuinely concerned. “You

didn’t book? Like, at all? Online, maybe?”

There’s nothing arrogant or dismissive about

her tone — she just can’t fathom what would

make two sane-looking people think they

could walk in and get a table at the Michelinstarred

Petersham Nurseries Cafe at 2pm on

a Sunday.

“Look, you seem… nice. Maybe if you

come back at 3.45pm, I’ll see what I can

do. But you’ll have to order straight away

because we’ll be closing the kitchen 15

minutes later,” she says in a very slow,

deliberate and kindly tone.

We should’ve known better. The restaurant

had come highly recommended by everyone

we’d spoken to, and we’d passed a long line of

luxury cars parked in the muddy lane leading

up to its entrance.

The appeal is obvious. Right next to

Petersham Meadows, a roll down the hill

from Richmond Park, it offers a tweedy

bucolic aesthetic with a sheeny overcoat of

cosmopolitanism. The restaurant is situated

in the nursery itself, inside a glasshouse with

greenery growing overhead, upon the pillars

and along the walls. It’s quite beautiful.

Standing on the outside, looking in

through the windows at hands holding

bottomless glasses of Champagne and faces

flushed pink with wealth, it was hard to spot

anyone not wearing pastel-shaded linen.

We spend the next hour and a bit

wandering between the adjoining shop

and nursery, picking up candles we could

never afford and sniffing at extra-terrestrial

looking orchids. At 3.40pm, we present

ourselves once more to the hostess and she

leads us to a table set amid a flourish of ferns

and flowers that brush our heads.

We sit and sigh over head chef Damian

Clisby’s creations, which include a fennel,

castelfranco radicchio and blood orange

salad, and grilled Bramata polenta with

stuffed artichoke, Delica pumpkin and

seasonal vegetables.

I sit back with a glass of wine in my hand

and a leaf in my ear. Life is good.

petershamnurseries.com

visitrichmond.com

Rooms at the Hilton Syon start from £120 when

booked direct through the Hilton website.

hilton.com

IMAGES: MING TANG EVANS; MARIMO IMAGES

54 natgeotraveller.co.uk


Eat

ALENTEJO

The soul of the nation’s cuisine, the largest Portuguese region of Alentejo offers

fresh dishes and rich history, all under a cloudless sky. Words: Audrey Gillan

FROM LEFT: Bakery selling traditional cakes

and pastries; the twisted cork trees of Alentejo;

lunch overlooking the Alentejo countryside

D

ense chewy bread with a crust you

can knock your knuckles on; black

Iberico pork that’s sweet, nutty and

moist; tomatoes so vibrant they could carry

a meal on their own; verdant, fruity extra

virgin olive oil; and glorious wines. Set

these kitchen pantry mainstays against vast

cloudless blue skies that crown land strewn

with wheat fields, olive groves and quirky,

scarecrow-shaped cork trees, and you begin

to get a tiny taste of Alentejo, the largest yet

least-populated region in Portugal.

Meaning ‘land beyond the Tagus’ (the

river that runs alongside Lisbon), Alentejo

was historically home to bullfights and

Lusitano horses. People lived according

to the weather, working the wine or olive

harvest in late summer and early winter,

and living from what they could wrangle

from a little plot of land, raising a pig and

growing vegetables, for the rest of the year.

It’s a place that bakes brown in the 40-degree

heat of summer, where houses are white and

windows and doors are outlined in iridescent

blue, and where you can drive for miles

without seeing a soul.

The landscape is the essence of life

in Alentejo, and it’s also the larder — so

cooking is simple and rustic. Many of

the dishes here form the backbone of all

Portuguese cookery: over the centuries,

poverty-stricken farming folk fanned out

across the country in search of work, taking

their recipes with them. Here, the necessity

of eking things out came to define popular

dishes. Stale bread is fried with a little pig fat

and perhaps some wild asparagus to create

migas, which simply means ‘crumbs’ and

is a tasty, crispy breadcrumb kind-of hash.

Alternately, the old bread is used to thicken

soup known as açorda. This is built on a

broth base, sometimes with a small amount

of shellfish or a poached egg, and is always

scattered with lots of chopped coriander.

Frugality abides everywhere and so foraged

herbs, such as pennyroyal mint and purslane,

are often used.

In her exquisitely old-school home in

the seaside town of Vila Nova de Milfontes,

Idália Costa José explains how she buys

produce from farmers across the region and

sells it every Saturday from her dining room

to members of the local community. “I buy

directly from the farmers because they need

help — they are very poor,” she says. “They

grow amazing vegetables, including tasty

tomatoes, but don’t really have places to sell

their produce. So, we get together and buy it.”

I capture a sense of what Idália means

when she describes these flavours when

I’m presented with a plate of tiny tomatoes,

lightly roasted and dressed with extra virgin

olive oil, salt and oregano at nearby Tasca do

Celso. The tomatoes pretty much explode in

my mouth and I learn they have actually been

grown by one of the restaurant’s customers.

56 natgeotraveller.co.uk


FIVE TASTES OF ALENTEJO

IMAGES: ALAMY; AUDREY GILLAN

AÇORDA À

ALENTEJANA

A thick, garlicky soup

using stale bread in

broth, scented with

fresh coriander and

topped with a softpoached

egg.

CHEESES

Evora, Serpa and Nisa

are all DOP-protected

cheeses made from

sheep’s milk. Serpa,

the most famous, is

semi-soft and buttery

in texture.

CONVENT

DESSERTS (DOCES

CONVENTUAIS)

Cakes and desserts

made from egg yolks,

sugar and almonds,

originally created by

nuns and monks.

PORCO À

ALENTEJANA

Small, sweet clams

with pork that have

been marinated in

white wine, garlic and

massa de pimentão

(red pepper paste).

PORCO PRETO

IBÉRICO

The prized black pigs

thrive on the fallen

acorns of cork trees;

consequently, the

meat has a nutty,

sweet flavour.

June 2017 57


EAT

A TASTE OF

Alentejo

Carlos Barros of Arte e Sal

RIGHT: A range of sweet

desserts at Fialho

This place, owned by the jovial José Ramos

Cardoso, or Celso to his friends, grills

fish over a huge charcoal grill and offers

fantastic petiscos (snacks) as well as prawns

with garlic, and coriander and rice with

sweet, fragrant clams. The wine list here

is enormous, celebrating some of the 300

or so wine producers in the region, as well

as across Portugal. Celso presents me with

a plate of Serpa, which he says is the best

cheese in the Alentejo — aged for at least 30

days, it’s moist and creamy and I find myself

murmuring blissed-out agreement.

At the Saturday market in the town of

Estremoz, in the eastern part of the province,

I sample the various Portuguese sausages

that are a highlight of the region — chouriço,

linguiça, morcela and farinheira, the latter

an Alentejo speciality made from bread and

pork fat. As well as wonderful fresh produce

here, there’s a fabulous flea market. When I’m

done snacking, I head across the main town

square to Restaurante Mercearia Gadanha,

where those stunning tomatoes are presented

as fantastica sopa fria — a cold soup dressed

with strawberry, prawn and a basil ice. The

flavour is amazing. A puff pastry of partridge

(a local speciality) takes the Portuguese

fondness for pies and pastries to another level.

Some of the best places to get a true taste

of Alentejo are the vineyards themselves.

Herdade da Malhadinha Nova has a restaurant

on its estate, but I eat in the smaller dining

room in the country house. Here, I watch chefs

assemble plates that combine produce from

the estate with that of the wider region. Skilled

hands marry prawns with asparagus and

seared acorn-fed pork, all of it matched with

wine produced right outside the door.

At Herdade do Sobroso Country House,

in Baixo Alentejo, I meet winemaker Filipe

Machada and his wife Sofia, owners of a

4,000 acre property, of which just 130 acres

is cultivated for wine. Over lunch, Sofia

explains that they like to keep the food very

traditional. There’s good sheep’s cheese, their

own honey, salt cod croquettes and chicken

pies, and then a main course of cozido de grão,

a stew of chickpeas with lamb, pork, veal and

sausage. As I taste Filipe’s wine, I learn how

the nearby town of Vidigueira — ‘land of the

wine’ — brought the first gold medal for wine

back to Portugal more than 100 years ago. And

how, many years after he discovered India,

returning home with ingredients that would

change the cooking of his country and the

rest of Europe forever, 15th-century explorer

Vasco da Gama retired to this corner of the

Alentejo. As I glory in the simplicity of the

place, I can see why that great explorer would

happily settle into some lovely twilight years

under these astonishing blue skies.

visitalentejo.pt/en

TAP Portugal flies direct to Lisbon from Heathrow,

Gatwick, London City and Manchester. flytap.com

Herdade de Maladinha Nova offers double rooms

from £209; Convento do Espinheiro from £142,

including wine tasting. malhadinhanova.pt/en

conventodoespinheiro.com/en

ARTE E SAL

The day’s catch is laid out and

you can eat on the terrace by the

waves of the Costa Vicentina.

Owner Carlos Barros knows

everything about Portuguese fish,

but will bring a book to the table

to help you understand what’s

on offer. On my visit there were

petiscos of octopus salad and

home-made duck liver pate, and a

main of grilled sargo (sea bream).

HOW MUCH: Three-course dinner

from £20 per person (without

wine) but expect to pay more

should you order a big fish.

en.rotavicentina.com

FIALHO, EVORA

The tables of the region’s mostfamous

restaurant heave with

traditional Alentejo cuisine.

Meat pastries (pastéis de massa

en tenra) are glorious, as are the

chicken pies. Desserts include

encharcada, an Alentejo dish

of bruléed egg yolks, sugar and

cinnamon, and serricaia (an eggy

pudding) with sugared plums.

HOW MUCH: Three-course dinner

from £21 per person, without wine.

restaurantefialho.pt

DIVINUS RESTAURANT,

CONVENTO DO ESPINHEIRO

A stunning setting inside this

ancient convent is matched

with cooking that takes Alentejo

cuisine up a notch. Chef Bouazza

Bouhlani offers dishes such as

scrambled eggs with local, wild

asparagus and a trilogy of Alentejo

pork with asparagus migas (fried

richly-flavoured breadcrumbs).

HOW MUCH: Three-course dinner

from £35 per person, without wine.

divinusrestaurante.com

IMAGES: AUDREY GILLAN; VISIT PORTUGAL

58 natgeotraveller.co.uk


SWEDEN

A new course every day!

WWW.GRONHOGEN.SE


Neighbourhood

SYDNEY

Australia’s largest city is more than just its iconic opera house and harbour

bridge. Pick a neighbourhood and dive in to find craft beer, Asian street food and

beachside modernism. Words: David Whitley. Photographs: Chris Van Hove

ILLUSTRATION: KERRY HYNDMAN

The lazy shorthand version of Sydney is pretty appealing: pootling

about on the harbour, taking that bridge and opera house snapshot

then plonking yourself on a beach — it’s not a bad way to spend a few

days. But behind Sydney’s easy-going, eye-catching facade lies a more

interesting beast. Few visitors expect the prissily cute and near ubiquitous

Victorian housing, for example. Or the wild national parkland just a

few minutes’ walk from major tourist hangouts. Or the extensive Asian

influence. Not to mention the burgeoning craft brewing scene, the

transformative architecture and speckled remnants from the time before

Europeans arrived on the scene. Even in the most well-trodden

neighbourhoods, a little prodding unveils a totally different story. And, in

others, furiously paced overhauls have torn up the script.

June 2017 61


NEIGHBOURHOOD

CLOCKWISE: A barista prepares coffee

at Harry’s; vertical gardens at One

Central Park, Chippendale; al fresco

dining at Spice Alley

Joggers puff and pant

up the steps leading

to the Harbour Bridge

walkway; rainbow

lorikeets and ibises flit

around Observatory

Hill Park; gorgeously

past-their-prime

houses with subsiding

verandahs and

corrugated iron roofs

are spread out below

Chippendale

‘Where’s Chippendale?’ An acceptable

question for an outsider, but one, until

recently, you might even have heard from the

mouth of a local.

However, things have changed, and

Chippendale is no longer a nothing suburb,

passed through unknowingly en route from

the central business district (CBD) to the

hipster enclaves of the Inner West.

The transformation began with the White

Rabbit Gallery. Opened in 2009, this private

collection of modern Chinese artworks

— whose only common theme is that they

consistently weird out anyone looking at them

— has become the figurehead for a burgeoning

artistic community. Dig into the lanes,

courtyards and crumbling houses nearby and

you’ll find small galleries, studios, workshops

and collectives merrily doing their own thing.

The metamorphosis continued with the

opening of The Old Clare Hotel on the site

of the former Carlton & United Brewery: a

knowingly cool five-star joint with rooftop

pool, fashion shoot lights in the rooms and

industrial-chic bare walls. Next to it is One

Central Park, designed by French starchitect

Jean Nouvel: two plant-clad residential towers

with a flower bed on each floor, shopping

mall on the lower levels and cantilevered

penthouses at the top — the overall effect:

ultramodernity being reclaimed by the jungle.

A key part of why this all works is that

the new and the old seem well blended.

Wandering the narrow streets and laneways

around the big shiny projects doesn’t feel like

strolling through a hermetically sealed bubble.

Spice Alley is a tremendous example of

this; a U-shaped laneway has been turned into

an Asian street food hub, with simple stools

and tables crowding the pavement. Korean,

Malaysian, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese

dishes are served up from joints that are

curious food stall-restaurant hybrids; a

garishly painted tuk tuk guards the entrance

and Chinese lanterns hang overhead.

Chippendale is no longer just a hotspot for

casual dining either; Automata is one of the

city’s new tasting menu-only hotspots, with

an open-plan kitchen and a predilection for

bold, palate-challenging flavours. Mustard

oils, vinegars and fermented vegetables are

among the twists that make virtually every

dish arresting.

The question is no longer ‘Where’s

Chippendale?’ but ‘Where in Chippendale...?’

62 natgeotraveller.co.uk


NEIGHBOURHOOD

WHEN IN SYDNEY

BEACH KNOW-HOW

Every Sydneysider has their

favourite beach. Bondi, Coogee

and Manly are the best-known to

visitors, mainly because they’re

easier to reach. They’re also the

busiest, whereas those north of

Manly are no less spectacular but

often quieter — try Narrabeen,

Bilgola or Palm Beach.

COOL POOLS

If you’re after duck-pond placidity

rather than crashing surf, there are

several big outdoor pools, from

the showy Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton

Pool next to the Royal Botanic

Gardens and the giant rock poolesque

Wylie’s Baths in Coogee.

SPICE IT UP

In Sydney, cheap Thai joints are

plentiful, while Indian food is

patchy and pricey. Many of the

Thai restaurants — especially in

the Inner West — adhere to a BYO

booze policy for a corkage fee.

SMALL BEER

New South Wales doesn’t really do

pints; the main measurement here

is the 375ml ‘schooner’ (sensible

due to the warm climate). The

new fad for ‘schmiddies’ (355ml

glasses popular at craft beer

establishments), however, has

divided opinion among locals.

DOLLAR GRILLS

Australians love a barbecue. And

thankfully, you don’t need the

full kit to join in. Coin-operated

public barbecues in beachside

parks are one of the country’s

crowning achievements.

FROM LEFT: Crispy rolled egg with chorizo and lime, a signature

dish from Harry’s Cafe; flying the flags at The Lord Nelson Brewery

Hotel, one of Sydney’s oldest pubs

The Rocks

‘He appears to have been ambivalent regarding

which side of the law he operated on,’ reads the

sign tucked away in one of those impossibleto-rediscover

alleys that spring up throughout

The Rocks, a tourist precinct and historic area.

It’s telling the story of George Cribbs, a

19th-century convict and butcher-turnedlandowner

whose slaughterhouse is now

part of an archaeological dig site. Perched

on stilts above a decent chunk of it is the

remarkable Sydney Harbour YHA – The

Rocks. Small wire-frame horses and

cockatoos, inexplicably attached to a fence

over the road, add an art installation touch.

This isn’t The Rocks that many visitors see,

largely because they don’t know to look for it.

Sydney’s most historic neighbourhood tends

to act as a grazing paddock for mooching

tourists who amble along the waterfront or

along George Street, covering the well-trodden

postcard-shot territory between the Sydney

Harbour Bridge and the cruise ship terminal.

Delve into the lanes, staircases and tunnels,

however, and a very different picture emerges.

Joggers puff and pant up the steps leading

to the Harbour Bridge walkway; rainbow

lorikeets and ibises flit around Observatory

Hill Park; gorgeously past-their-prime houses

with subsiding verandahs and corrugated iron

roofs spread out below. They’re an indicator

that people still live here, on land developers

would love to get their hands on.

Feistily ramshackle Millers Point morphs

into the incongruous Walsh Bay, where

old wharves now house creative agencies

and luxury apartments with status-symbol

yachts outside. Cafes churn out espressos,

but The Rocks is definitely more of a beer

kind of place. It has a greedy concentration

of pubs, most of which seem to have some

sort of claim on being the oldest in town.

The best, however, have another trick up

their sleeve besides longevity. Long before

Sydney cottoned on to the craft brewing craze,

The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, for instance,

was brewing its own. Its Three Sheets — a

robust 5% pale ale — is likely to induce a

warm, fuzzy indifference to this ale-house

one-upmanship, even after only a couple.

Then, there’s the Australian Heritage Hotel,

a pub that offers visitors the perfect fix of

Australiana. The benches outside fill up as

soon as work is finished for the day, and the

half-emu, half-pepper kangaroo Coat of Arms

gourmet pizza soaks up the beers a treat.

June 2017 63


NEIGHBOURHOOD

Bondi

Tables are a precious commodity on

Sunday mornings at Harry’s. Those who

do get lucky lazily chat their way through

such breakfast delights as eggs, avocado

and kale. Some are on pavement tables,

others on stools at the counter, gazing

through the big open windows.

There are dozens of cafes like this in

Bondi, the beach suburb that takes Sydney’s

brunching obsession to its zenith. It’s

Australia at its most Southern Californian

— everyone looks sickeningly fit and

beautiful, the dogs on leads are always tiny

and surfboards take to the ocean.

New developments have added to that

vibe — Bondi has undergone a considerable

sprucing up in the past few years. The Bondi

Pacific apartments complex, on Campbell

Parade, which hosts the airily hip QT Bondi

hotel, is clearly aimed at those with both

serious money and designer inclinations.

The North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club’s

revamp has turned it into a modernist

architectural statement; celebrity chef

restaurants such as former MasterChef

Australia judge Matt Moran’s North Bondi

Fish are muscling out down-at-heel joints;

indie boutiques boast eye-catching dresses

with eye-watering price tags.

It all comes with a big dose of diversity,

too. North Bondi is one of Sydney’s premier

gay hangouts; Thai massage joints sit

happily alongside Brazilian churrascarias,

Portuguese chicken shops and gelaterias so

good they have permanent queues outside;

the backpacker and Orthodox Jewish

communities are also both large and visible.

Of course, the real draw of Bondi isn’t the

streets, it’s the beach. On summer Sundays,

the half-mile swathe of sand is crowded with

bodies. More still are bobbing between the

flags, trying to catch the waves and bodysurf

back to shore. And, throughout the day,

thousands of somewhat unnecessarily lycraclad

walkers strut off around the clifftops on

the four-mile Bondi to Coogee Walk.

Yet when the day breaks, there’s a

calmness and raw beauty, and Eugene Tan

will be there to capture it. His Aquabumps

photographic gallery is the result of a

quixotic passion for the ocean and the surf

that’s seen him take pictures of Bondi at

dawn every day since 1999. In his shots, the

lone swimmers, the pink skies and the waves

crashing into the saltwater pools strip Bondi

back to its core.

MORE INFO

White Rabbit. whiterabbitcollection.org

The Old Clare Hotel. theoldclarehotel.com.au

Central Park. centralparksydney.com

Spice Alley. kensingtonstreet.com.au

Automata. automata.com.au

The Big Dig. thebigdig.com.au

Sydney Harbour YHA – The Rocks. yha.com.au

The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel.

lordnelsonbrewery.com

Australian Heritage Hotel.

australianheritagehotel.com

Harry’s. 2/136 Wairoa Ave. T: 00 61 2 9130 2180.

QT Bondi. qthotelsandresorts.com

North Bondi Fish. northbondifish.com.au

Aquabumps. aquabumps.com

transportnsw.info

Lonely Planet Pocket Sydney. RRP: £7.99.

Singapore Airlines has one-stop flights to Sydney

from Heathrow and Manchester via Singapore.

Expedia offers economy flights plus a 13-night stay

at The Old Clare Hotel from £1,455 per person.

singaporeair.com expedia.co.uk

ABOVE: Sunday swimmers at the city’s iconic Bondi

Baths, Icebergs Club

LEFT: A jogger runs along Bondi’s promenade with its

street art

64 natgeotraveller.co.uk


TIME

IS PRECIOUS. ALWAYS

MAKE THE

VERY BEST

OF IT.

WHATEVER YOU‘RE LOOKING FOR:

IT‘S WAITING FOR YOU HERE.

HOTEL | SPA | RESTAURANT & BAR

BURGGASSE 2 | 1070 WIEN, AUSTRIA | T: +43-1-522 25 20

WWW.SANSSOUCI-WIEN.COM


Sleep

VIENNA

For a right royal experience, a stay in Vienna is hard to beat. Yet amid the

regal villas, palaces, opulent art galleries and traditional coffee houses, there

are many surprisingly affordable places to bed down. Words: Julia Buckley

If you plan on visiting Vienna, you’re in luck. Not just because of the wealth of

impressive sights: the imperial palaces, the art, the landmark coffee houses, where

tradition dictates you may while away hours with a single drink... When it comes to

hotels, Vienna is highly affordable, and even the budget hotels have style. The first

district, or Innere Stadt, is the obvious place to stay — most of the best sights for

first-timers are in this largely pedestrianised zone, encircled by the Ringstrasse,

with St Stephen’s Cathedral and its ornate tiled roof as the focal point. Many of the

grand, neo-baroque buildings here have been converted into luxury hotels. Secondtimers

might like to stay in a district beyond the Ringstrasse. Not only is it cheaper,

it can give a completely different take on the city. And don’t let the names fool you;

the ‘outer’ districts, for example, encompass the Innere Stadt, and in the seventh

district, you’re often closer to the grand cathedral than in the second. Neubau is the

hipster hub, Wieden’s residential streets unfurl onto the Belvedere Palace, and

Leopoldstadt has the Prater park with its iconic 19th-century Ferris wheel. From

each, it’s a short metro or pretty tram-ride back to the Ring.

F

IMAGE: GETTY

66 natgeotraveller.co.uk


For histor

HOTEL SACHER

The Sacher has come a long way since it was

a mere delicatessen — thanks largely to its

status as the birthplace of the Sachertorte. It

was here in 1832 that Edouard Sacher created

the famous chocolate cake that was to bear

his name. On the back of that, he opened

what’s still Vienna’s only family-run five-star

hotel — today boasting 149 rooms spread

across six buildings. The decor straddles the

divide between traditional and modern, with

mirrored walls and sleek furniture mixed

with gilt-framed oil paintings and flock

wallpaper. And they don’t half work the cake

connection, with Sachertorte featuring at

the breakfast buffet and as a turndown gift.

Guests can also expect chocolate-scented

in-room toiletries and chocolate-based

treatments at the spa.

ROOMS: From €450 (£389), B&B.

sacher.com

June 2017 67


SLEEP

For eco waios

BOUTIQUE HOTEL

STADTHALLE

Worthy needn’t mean dull. That’s the message

at this family-run hotel, split between a

Victorian building and a new-build ‘passive’

(carbon neutral) wing. Energy comes from

rooftop solar panels; heat from a ground

water heat pump; honey from bees on the

lavender-planted roof; and every breakfast

item is organic. There are no minibars (saving

21 tonnes of CO2 a year), organic toiletries

come in refillable bottles, and the headboards

are made from recycled textiles. The older

building is pretty green, too, with nightstands

made from recycled newspapers, tables from

old books and wardrobes from broom handles.

ROOMS: From €108 (£93), B&B.

hotelstadthalle.at

For ethos

MAGDAS HOTEL

The Magdas hit the news when it opened

two years ago, for being staffed mainly

by refugees and asylum seekers. Run by

international Catholic charity Caritas, it’s

a decent budget option in a pretty location

overlooking the Prater. Rooms are basic

(no TV) but nicely done, with upcycled

furniture and locally-made organic

toiletries — it’s worth upgrading to one

with a balcony when the weather’s nice.

Breakfast is a brilliant, cosmopolitan buffet,

but save room for a mezze lunch, made by a

Syrian chef who previously worked at a top

restaurant in Damascus.

ROOMS: From €67 (£58), B&B.

magdas-hotel.at

68 natgeotraveller.co.uk


SLEEP

For iews

GRAND FERDINAND

The Grand Ferdinand is a little different to the other

grande dames of the Ringstrasse. Yes, it’s palatial but

unlike its 19th-century neighbours, this eight-storey

postwar building was, until recently, crawling with spies,

as the home of Austria’s domestic intelligence agency. The

seventh-floor suites are something to behold — there’s

nothing undercover about luxury here — but there are also

a pair of dormitories, with mahogany bunk beds, bookable

on Airbnb. This is hipster-luxe: Freudian couches but

no wardrobes, rainforest showers right next to the bed, a

restaurant serving cheap goulash with Champagne. Up on

the roof is the crowning glory: the glass-walled Restaurant

Bel Étage, for guests and members only, with white

banquettes and armchairs overlooking the Ringstrasse,

and views of the Belvedere palace from the terrace pool.

ROOMS: From €210 (£182), B&B. Dorms from €30/£26.

grandferdinand.com

June 2017 69


SLEEP

For stle

THE GUEST HOUSE

Terence Conran has a thing for Vienna

— he’s designed two hotels and a coffee house

here. The most recent, The Guest House, is

a swish affair, with minibars restocked with

four bottles of wine daily, and the in-room

coffee machines grind fresh beans (roasted by

local company Naber) for every cup. There’s

a homely feel, with rooms kitted out with

sofas instead of desks; most have windowseats

overlooking the central Albertinaplatz

(standard rooms don’t — the upgrade is well

worth it), and guests are encouraged to bring

their free wine downstairs to drink in the

packed-with-locals downstairs brasserie.

ROOMS: From €255 (£220), room only.

theguesthouse.at

For hipsters

HOTEL AM BRILLANTENGRUND

You’ll either love or loathe the Brillantengrund, in

trendy Neubau; the decor is deliberately dowdy and

frequently kitsch: funky wallpaper, naff artwork,

furniture unchanged since the 1970s. The restaurant,

Mama, serves Filipino food cooked by the owner’s

mother and the ‘garage’ hosts everything from art

exhibitions to arts workshops and parties. While it’s

not rowdy, it’s not really for early-nighters.

ROOMS: From €69 (£60), B&B. brillantengrund.com

THREE TO TRY

For couples

HOTEL ALTSTADT

Set in a former apartment block with high ceilings

and parquet floors, the Altstadt whisks guests back

to the days of Freud and Klimt. Rooms are individually

designed — some kitted out with antiques, others

saucy modern art, peek-a-boo showers or Swarowksi

crystal-encrusted walls; four junior suites have recently

been refurbished with the help of top local designers.

Yet it all feels homely; there’s even free afternoon tea.

ROOMS: From €149 (£129), B&B. altstadt.at

For luxury

PALAIS COBURG

Built in 1802 as a palace for the Saxe-Coburg family,

Palais Coburg retains a regal feel; some of its 34 suites

boast a sauna, others a whirlpool bath, while the goldplated

staterooms — renovated to their original outré

glory — are where Johann Strauss composed two

polkas and, more recently, where the Iran nuclear deal

was done. That said, the wine bar and pretty garden

restaurant Clementine have a pleasantly informal vibe.

ROOMS: From €795 (£687), B&B. palais-coburg.com

June 2017 71


SLEEP

For budget

RUBY LISSI

The city’s two Ruby hotels

— Ruby Sofie, near the

Hundertwasserhaus, and Ruby

Marie, by Westbahnhof — are

already two of Vienna’s bestvalue

digs, but the newly-opened

Ruby Lissi eclipses them both.

Set in a former monastery in

the historic Innere Stadt, its 107

small-but-chic rooms have a

19th-century theme, inspired by

Empress Sisi. Modern touches

include in-room tablets, hire

bikes and a 24/7 bar. Ruby hotels

attract a youngish crowd, so

expect excellent tech and the odd

burst of rock music (guests can

borrow electric guitars).

ROOMS: From €59 (£51), room

only. ruby-hotels.com

For second-timers

GRÄTZLHOTEL

Straddling the divide between

a hotel and an Airbnb,

Grätzlhotel’s rooms and suites

are set in former business

premises (including a bakery

and a cobblers) close to three

landmarks: Meidlinger Markt,

the Belvedere Palace and the

Karmelitermarkt. There’s no

check-in, as such; guests pick up

their keys from an outdoor safe;

each location has a makeshift

reception — a local business,

ranging from a restaurant to

the offices of the Grätzlhotel’s

architect owners. Clearly, this

quirky setup won’t appeal to

everyone, but visitors looking to

live like a local while enjoying

the convenience of a hotel

should check it out.

ROOMS: From €120 (£104), room

only. graetzlhotel.com

72 natgeotraveller.co.uk


Exceptional escape at The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna

Directly located on the famous Ring Boulevard and set within four historic palaces,

The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna offers a luxury experience for the most discerning guest.

The five star hotel blends Renaissance, baroque and gothic influences with

modern amenities including the Atmosphere Rooftop Bar overlooking the city,

The Ritz-Carlton Spa with the longest indoor pool, at 18 meters featuring

underwater music, the exclusive Club Lounge and the farm-to-table Dstrikt

Steakhouse. Adjacent to the historic Stadtpark, the hotel allows for easy

exploration of top attractions.

Begin planning your stay by contacting our reservations team + 43 1 311 88 113 or

reservations.vienna@ritzcarlton.com


74 natgeotraveller.co.uk

IMAGES: AWL IMAGES;

GETTY; 4CORNERS


AMERICAN

NATURAL

WO N D E R S

A SPOUTING VOLCANO; A DESERT VALLEY

OF BARE ROCK FORMS; A MOUNTAIN

RANGE HOME TO THE WORLD’S OLDEST

LIFE FORMS... NO OTHER NATION DOES

EPIC LANDSCAPES LIKE THE USA

Words AARON MILLAR

June 2017 75


USA

Wyoming, Montana & Idaho

YELLOWSTONE

GEYSER BASINS

The American painter Anne Coe called Yellowstone ‘the place where

the centre of the Earth finds an exit and gives us a glimpse of its

soul’. As I stand on the edge of Old Faithful — the centrepiece of the

Upper Geyser Basin, the largest concentration of geysers on Earth — I

know what she means. It’s winter. Steam billows from the valley like

bonfires; the ground hisses, shaking like marching drums beneath

my feet. Suddenly a super-heated plume of water erupts 90ft in the

air. I watch it crystallise in the freeze and fall like shards of glass. It’s

spectacular, and unnerving, like a gasp from the underworld. But Old

Faithful’s fame rests in its reliability, spouting like clockwork every

90 minutes.

This 3,468sq mile wilderness, where bison and wolves roam free,

is America’s first national park, established in 1872 after fur trappers

returned east with seemingly tall tales of a magical landscape where

the ground bubbled and jets of scalding water shot hundreds of feet

into the air. But they were right, Yellowstone is magic. There are over

10,000 hydrothermal features here: a tapestry of bubbling pools,

hot springs and vents, plus the world’s largest collection of active

geysers. I find pools of pure sapphire, boiling mud pots of cinnamon

and rainbow slicks of bright red, orange and green, like an abstract

painting. Some geysers look like castle turrets; others beehives;

some sparkle like stars; others fizzle or scream like a gale. But what’s

most astonishing is that they’re alive with microscopic artists — the

bands of colour in their superheated waters created by thermophilic

THE YEAR WOLVES WERE RETURNED TO YELLOWSTONE

microbes. The most beautiful of all: the Grand Prismatic Spring, the

largest hot spring in the US at 90 metres across. Like a vast tie-dye

painting, concentric rings of rainbow colours spread out from a

cobalt centre; viewed from above, a blue-eyed giant seems to be

staring up from beneath the Earth.

That night, I lie down next to Black Sand Pool, a geyser on the edge

of the basin; nothing but stars and steam all around. A low-pitched

sonic boom shoots up from deep below and punches me in the back.

I jump up; I’m no longer visualising the world beneath my feet as

solid ground; instead, I’m seeing a precarious honeycomb filled with

fire and unfathomable force. “It’s like there’s a monster trying to get

out,” my guide Alex laughs. And he’s right, there really is a monster.

Yellowstone sits on top of one of the world’s

AUDLEY TRAVEL offers

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largest active supervolcanoes. When, not

if, it explodes it will take half the country

with it and shroud the planet in ash and

darkness. But that’s why the national park is

so special. This is creation at work, the world

at its most primal; ever-changing, with me,

a mere ant, on its skin. Coe was right: it’s a

glimpse into the soul of the Earth itself.

76 natgeotraveller.co.uk


USA

Grand Prismatic

Spring, Midway Geyser

Basin, Yellowstone

National Park

BELOW: Star Dune,

Great Sand Dunes

National Park

Colorado

GREAT SAND DUNES

IMAGES: AWL IMAGES; ALAMY

Standing on the top of the Star Dune, it’s

hard to believe you’re still in the US. Rolling

desert spreads out for 30sq miles in all

directions, like a sea of sand. At dawn, as the

first rays break over the Sangre de Cristos

Mountains, the dunes are flushed pink; at

sunset they turn golden, long geometric

shadows snaking across the land like a

Mondrian painting.

They’re formed from the remains of an

ancient dried-out lake. Sand is swept up from

the vast San Luis Valley by the wind and

pushed against the base of the mountains.

When storms rage, the wind races back in

the opposite direction, lifting the dunes

higher. Grain by grain, over thousands of

years, these desert mountains were born.

Getting to the top is hard, but getting

down is easy: strap on a sandboard or sledge

(available to rent nearby) and scream all the

way down. Alternatively, hike just a couple

miles into the dunes, pitch a tent and enjoy

the silence and stars of your own private

desert oasis.

750FT // THE HEIGHT OF THE

STAR DUNE — THE TALLEST

SAND DUNE IN NORTH AMERICA

June 2017 77


USA

2,425ft

THE HEIGHT OF

YOSEMITE FALLS,

NORTH AMERICA’S

TALLEST WATERFALL

California

YOSEMITE VALLEY

When President Roosevelt came to Yosemite in 1903 for

three days of backcountry camping with the naturalist,

and champion of the park, John Muir, he likened the

experience to ‘lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster

and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man’.

Yosemite has that effect on you. There’s something

almost spiritual in the harmony of stone and sky, as if

nature had found its perfect balance, its masterpiece of

light and form. The centrepiece of Yosemite National Park

is Yosemite Valley, where there are many wonders: the

staggering cliff face of El Capitan, whose Dawn Wall was

recently, implausibly, climbed; the cracked edifice of Half

Dome; and Glacier Point and Tunnel View, vistas made

famous by the photographer Ansel Adams, one of the

park’s early champions. And then there are the waterfalls.

Niagara may be bigger by volume, but Yosemite Falls — a

spectacular series of three cascades that drop 2,425ft to the

valley floor — is more than 13 times as tall. In spring, it’s

a raging torrent, a thunder that echoes across the granite

cliffs, rainbows sparkling in its mist. And it’s not alone;

nearby is Sentinel Falls, 2,000ft of snow-melt tumbling

like a waterslide; Ribbon Falls, 1,600ft of vertical drop,

the longest in North America; and the otherworldly glow

of Horsetail Fall, which, in late February, reflects the last

embers of the setting sun, lighting up like a falling fire.

Yosemite Valley can get crowded — in summer, it can

feel like the front row of rock concert. But it’s estimated

that 95% of visitors cram themselves into only 5% of the

park — and most never stray more than a mile from their

car. The spark of Yosemite is the valley, that first gasp of

wonder and awe, but the fire, the part that stays with you, is

in the high country, where only a few dare go.

I start at Mount Hoffman, the 11,000ft geographical

centre of the park, with the swirling peaks of the Sierra

Nevada Mountains unfurling around me like waves

frozen in a storm. From there I spend five days walking

the High Sierra Loop, a 49-mile backcountry trail that

links some of Yosemite’s most spectacular and remote

landscapes. I swim in secret lakes, watch Alpenglow hush

the peaks with orange and amber and sleep out under the

endless stars of the Milky Way. I see meadows glowing

red with bracken and find flowers bursting from the ash of

lightning-burnt forests. But the more I walk, the more I feel

like I might just float away. This is a land of giants, too big

and uncontained to be real.

At the end of my journey, I climb the 12,000ft knife-edge

ridge of Cloud’s Rest, 6,000ft of air beneath me on either

side. From the top, on a clear day, it’s said you can see all

the way from Nebraska in the east to Hawaii in the west.

But my eyes are gazing downwards, back at Yosemite

Valley, where it all began. John Muir said, ‘Mountain

parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of

timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.’ That

idea gave birth to the concept of wilderness conservation.

That’s why Yosemite is special. These were the first lands

to be put under protection, the

first time nature was considered

valuable for its own sake, not just

the dominion of man. Since then

the idea has spread across the

globe, but it began here, among

these rocky spires, in this solemn

cathedral, this masterpiece of

light and form.

AMERICAN SKY has

Yosemite National Park

on its 13-night, Self Drive

The West trip. Includes

car hire, accommodation

and return flights. From

£1,559 per person.

americansky.co.uk

IMAGES: 4CORNERS; GETTY

78 natgeotraveller.co.uk


USA

Dall sheep, Denali National Park

LEFT: Yosemite Falls, Yosemite

National Park

RIGHT: Brown bear, Denali

National Park

-83C

Alaska

DENALI

This year marks the centenary

of Denali National Park and

Preserve, in Southcentral

Alaska. Covering six million

acres of arctic forest and high

alpine tundra, it’s the largest

national park in the country,

roughly the size of Vermont.

To be here is to experience

America’s last true frontier,

to hear its original heartbeat,

the solitude and ferocity of the

real wilderness.

In the centre of the park is

Denali mountain, its name

meaning ‘the great one’ in native

Koyukon Athabascan. And so

it is. Denali is 20,310ft tall, the

highest peak in North America,

with a vertical rise of 18,000ft

— taller than Mount Everest’s

by a third and the largest of any

mountain that’s entirely above

sea level.

But for all its superlatives, it’s

the wildlife that most people

come here for. In a single

day, it’s possible to see all of

Alaska’s Big Five: grizzlies,

wolves, moose, caribou and Dall

sheep. But get off the path too:

unlike other national parks,

the backcountry of Denali has

no trails or campsites; this is a

true wilderness, the adventure

is as big as your imagination can

make it.

THE

TEMPERATURE

THE SUMMIT

OF DENALI

CAN PLUMMET

TO, WITH

WIND CHILL

June 2017 79


USA

Hawaii

KĪLAUEA & MAUNA LOA

40

sq

The Kīlauea Volcano, on Hawaii’s Big Island,

has been erupting near continuously for

more than 34 years and is widely considered

the most active volcano on Earth. It’s one

of the most spectacular too; an enormous

cauldron of spitting fire and smouldering

lava that’s covered 40sq miles of the island in

its molten flow. But this year is special. Lava

is now spilling into the ocean — a six-mile

river of fire cascading into the sea in torrents

of steam and hiss. It’s a rare phenomenon

that few will ever glimpse.

But it’s not the only remarkable

volcano on the island. Right next door

to Kīlauea is her sister, Mauna Loa, the

largest active volcano on Earth. More

than 60 miles long, 30 miles wide and

rising 56,000ft from the ocean floor

— almost twice the height of Mount Everest

— it’s large enough to house 3,200 Mount

St Helens within its colossal frame. Two of

the world’s great volcanoes — the largest

active one, and the most active — fiery

sisters, side by side.

miles

AREA OF

KĪLAUEA

VOLCANO

Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaiʻi

Volcanoes National Park

RIGHT: White water

rafting, Hell’s

Canyon, Oregon

80 natgeotraveller.co.uk


USA

Kentucky

MAMMOTH CAVE

Idaho & Oregon

HELL’S CANYON

Mammoth Cave, in southern Kentucky, is so large that, despite being

discovered over 200 years ago, researchers still haven’t finished

mapping it. Current estimates put it at 405 miles deep, the longest cave

system in the world by far. But size is only part of its wonder. Inside is a

labyrinth of pristine geological formations: columns of stalactites and

stalagmites, waterfalls of cascading flowstone and blooms of bright

crystal gypsum flowers. Walking inside is like peering into a natural

gallery of stone, carved over 10 million years by rainwater seeping in

from above, drop by drop into the eerie underworld below.

405 MILES // ESTIMATED DEPTH OF MAMMOTH CAVE

The Mississippi may be brimming with

history and the sounds of the Delta blues, but

large parts of it are industrial and polluted

too. For a truly wondrous river, with some

of the best whitewater in the country, check

out the Snake River, particularly at Hell’s

Canyon. With drops of up to 7,993ft, this

is America’s deepest river gorge, dwarfing

even the Grand Canyon. See it best on a

kayaking or rafting trip, where fierce rapids

are interspersed with long meandering views

and deserted beaches perfect for camping.

7,993ft

THE

DEPTH

OF HELL’S

CANYON,

AMERICA’S

DEEPEST

RIVER

GORGE

IMAGES: GETTY; ALAMY

June 2017 81


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USA

IMAGES: SUPERSTOCK; GETTY

California

BRISTLECONE PINES

ABOVE: Bristlecone pine,

Patriarch Grove, Ancient

Bristlecone Pine Forest,

White Mountains

BELOW: Black Canyon

of the Gunnison

National Park

California’s wonder trees are well known:

‘the very god of the woods’, as John Muir

called the sequoia, the largest living thing

on Earth; and the giant redwood, the

tallest, stretching 400ft to the sky. But

there’s another wonder tree that almost no

one’s heard of, and it’s perhaps the most

remarkable of all.

With a potential lifespan of 5,000 years,

bristlecone pines are the oldest living

organisms on the planet, some predating the

birth of Christ, the invention of the alphabet,

and the fall of Greece, Rome and the Incas.

When the first stones of the Egyptian

pyramids were being laid, the most ancient

of these gnarled and wind-twisted trees

— found almost exclusively 10,000ft up in

the White Mountains of California — already

had its roots in the ground.

But that’s not the only amazing thing

about them. Using a combination of living

and dead wood, scientists have now pieced

together a continuous tree-ring chronology

that stretches back 10,000 years to the

last ice age. Peering inside their rings is

like looking at a photocopy of the climatic

conditions of our past, which is helping to

combat climate change. These trees have

stood watch over the rise and fall of empires,

seen the atom split and man walk on the

Moon. To be near them is to touch deep time

itself and see the flash of our own lives.

4,849

THE AGE OF

THE OLDEST

RECORDED

BRISTLECONE

PINE, NAMED

METHUSELAH

AFTER THE

MOST ELDERLY

MAN IN THE

BIBLE

Colorado

BLACK CANYON OF

THE GUNNISON

2,722ft

This 48-mile canyon, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is barely

known outside of Colorado but don’t let that put you off. The Grand

Canyon may be bigger, but this steep and narrow river gorge is just as

spectacular. The chasm lights up blood red at sunset, with the silver

sliver of the Gunnison River like a trail of mercury far below. Miles

away from the artificial lights of civilisation, the Black Canyon of the

Gunnison National Park (an International Dark Sky Park) is also one

of the best places in the country for stargazing.

THE BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON’S DEEPEST POINT — MORE THAN TWICE THE

HEIGHT OF THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

June 2017 83


USA

7,425 SQU

Navajo farm, Monument Valley

Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

84 natgeotraveller.co.uk


USA

ARE MILES

THE SIZE OF THE NAVAJO NATION — THE LARGEST TRIBAL

RESERVATION IN THE COUNTRY

Utah

MONUMENT VALLEY

IMAGE: AWL IMAGES

In Navajo legend, the giant red rock mesas of Monument Valley are the carcasses

of defeated monsters, slain by the holy people and buried in the sand. I’m riding

out on horseback into the back country, passing Elephant Butte, its long trunk

frozen in ochre stone; Rain God Mesa, where medicine men come to pray and

stave off drought; and in the centre of it all, the great Mittens — sandstone

monoliths rising 1,000ft from the ground, like fists punching up from the earth.

The Navajo believe they belong to spiritual beings watching over their people.

Monument Valley is neither a national park nor, officially, part of the US, but

something much more interesting. Located on the border of Arizona and Utah, in

the Navajo Nation — a 27,425sq mile sovereign state, spread out across these high

desert plains — it’s the heart and soul of the Navajo people themselves.

But although the park is on ‘Indian’ land, it was the cowboys who made it

famous. Legend has it, when John Wayne first set eyes on Monument Valley, he

said: “So this is where God put the West”. Classics like Stagecoach and How the West

Was Won were filmed here, as well as more recent movies such as Johnny Depp’s

The Lone Ranger. The great national parks of Utah — Canyonlands and Arches

— are rightly famous, colossal landscapes stripped of all but their bare rock forms,

like peering into the sinews of the Earth. But if you want to feel the dirt on your

spurs and the wind on your Stetson, to look into hills and see the ghosts of bandits

and gunslingers looking back, then it’s to Monument Valley you must come.

But I’m here for the Navajo. As I explore deeper into the park, I find ruins and

stone-carved petroglyphs belonging to the Anasazi — ancestors of the Navajo

who lived here over 1,000 years ago. There are also families here, far from the

crowds, still living the old ways, without running water or electricity, tending

flocks of paper-thin sheep and meagre plots of corn.

That night, I visit a Navajo family in the far depths of the valley, where only the

faint trace of gravel roads can be seen. I watch two sisters lead a young sheep to a

wooden block, see a knife put to its throat, every part of him butchered and put

onto a fire. Later, we sit on the dirt and chew on the fatty ribs, accompanied by blue

corn mush, fried bread and dried-blood sausage. Three generations sit around me:

elders who speak no English in moccasins and robes of dazzling green and indigo;

turquoise necklaces contrasting with their darkened and weathered faces.

That’s the magic of Monument Valley. It’s a whirlwind of stark primary colours,

a landscape closer to the surface of Mars, or the bottom of a dried-out ocean

than anywhere on Earth. But that’s just the start. There’s another world here too,

woven between the fabric of modern America; a land imbibed with myth, where

every rock is alive and tells a story, where behind the veil

HAYES & JARVIS has

Monument Valley on its

eight-day Eagle Rider

guided motorcycle tour.

Includes accommodation

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From £2,399 per person.

hayesandjarvis.co.uk

of cowboy movies and tourist trains, people still live the

way they always have, shunning progress for tradition

and the deep roots of the land itself. As we ride home,

my guide, a young Navajo wrangler, sees me looking at

the distant mesas and smiles. “It’s good medicine out

here,” he says. The towering wind-sculpted stones of

Monument Valley may be defeated monsters, but the

Navajo still live on.

June 2017 85


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USA

Arizona

BARRINGER

METEOR

CRATER

This crater is one of the world’s largest and

best-preserved meteor-impact sites. With a

diameter of 4,000ft and a depth of 550ft, this

hole in the desert of Northern Arizona is big

enough to hold more than 70,000 Olympicsize

swimming pools.

When the meteorite struck around 50,000

years ago, it hit the Earth with a force greater

than 20 million tonnes of TNT — 1,000 times

more powerful than the atomic bomb that

destroyed Hiroshima. The ground melted

instantly, dark clouds rained molten iron

and nickel from the sky. While other impact

sites around the world have eroded over

time, Arizona’s dry climate has preserved

Barringer’s in near-pristine condition. It’s

like looking at that moment of violence

frozen in time.

But it’s remarkable for other reasons. For

decades after its discovery, in 1903, no one was

quite sure what had caused it. Then, in 1960,

geologist Eugene M Shoemaker discovered

two rare types of silica at the site that can

only be created under immense pressure. It

was the first time a meteor crater had been

conclusively proven to exist and it opened

the door to a flood of scientific discoveries,

from what happened to the dinosaurs to what

caused those dents in the Moon.

In 2015, an 1,800ft-wide meteorite

— roughly 100 times bigger than the rock

that caused the Barringer crater — missed by

a hair’s breadth. To stand on the rim is to see

with your own eyes the awesome forces that

have forged our world and be humbled by the

unfathomable power of the universe.

550ft

North Carolina & Tennessee

GREAT SMOKY

MOUNTAINS

IMAGE: AWL IMAGES

THE DEPTH

OF THE

BARRINGER

METEOR CRATER

Newfound Gap,

Great Smoky Mountains

National Park

New England gets the press, but the Great Smoky

Mountains, on the border of North Carolina and

Tennessee, offer an arguably better autumn spectacle.

In late September, bright hues of red, yellow and purple

spill down from the mountaintops in rolling waves. And,

because of the varied elevation within the park, the peak

brightness lasts longer than elsewhere in the country. It’s

a great landscape to explore too, with some of the best

woodland hiking in the States, including sections of the

famed Appalachian Trail.

June 2017 87


USA

Florida

D R Y

TORTUGAS

This archipelago of pristine coral reefs

and sparkling waters lies 70 miles off Key

West in the Gulf of Mexico. Celebrating

the 25th anniversary of its designation as a

national park this year, the Dry Tortugas are

America’s premier snorkelling and scubadiving

location, with abundant marine life:

2,200

swim with sea turtles, explore shipwrecks

and search for manatees hiding among the

coral gardens.

sq miles

THE SIZE OF THE ATCHAFAYALA,

THE LARGEST RIVER SWAMP

IN THE US

Louisiana

ATCHAFAYALA

SWAMP

FROM LEFT: View from

Fort Jefferson across

the Gulf of Mexico,

Dry Tortugas National

Park; Atchafalaya Basin

Landing & Marina,

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana;

leaping into a crater lake,

Crater Lake National Park

The Everglades, in South Florida, are rightly

famous, but they’re not the country’s only

wonder-filled wetland. Atchafalaya Swamp,

deep in Louisiana’s backcountry, 100 miles east

of New Orleans, is the largest river swamp in

America, a million-acre wilderness filled with

enormous alligators and the ghostly stumps of a

vast cypress forest.

But it’s the people that make it special.

This is Cajun country; the seafood is always

fresh and old Acadian jigs play all night

long. Take an airboat through the narrow

bayous, trawl for crawfish or just sit back

with a cold beer, like the Cajuns do, and let

the sparkle of the swamp cure you of the ills

of the civilised world.

88 natgeotraveller.co.uk


USA

Oregon

CRATER

LAKE

The Great Lakes may win on size, but

for beauty, Crater Lake, in Oregon, is

the country’s best by far. At the centre

of a volcanic crater, the vast cobalt pool

reaches a depth of 1,943ft, making it the

country’s deepest lake, and as it’s fed

only by rain and snow, it’s one of the most

pristine on Earth too. Hike the rim, jump

in the ice-cold waters and watch the sunset

reflected in its mirror-still surface.

THE DEEPEST

POINT OF

CRATER

LAKE, MAKING

IT NORTH

AMERICA’S

DEEPEST LAKE

1,943ft

IMAGES: AWL IMAGES; ALAMY; GETTY

June 2017 89


USA

Wyoming

THE TETONS

The sharp peaks of the Tetons, which rise up to

13,775ft, are some of the most striking, and photogenic,

mountain ranges in the world. Forget the Rockies — if

you want colossal scale and drama, picture-postcard

peaks unencumbered by foothills and some of the

steepest and most stunning hiking in the country, come

to the Tetons.

13,775ft

THE HEIGHT OF GRAND TETON

Alaska

PRINCE

WILLIAM

SOUND

Kayaking out of a blue ice

cave near the port of Valdez,

Prince William Sound

ABOVE: Sunrise at the

Oxbow Bend of the Snake

River, Wyoming

Celebrate the 150th anniversary of

Alaska this year with a cruise along

Prince William Sound, one of the

most spectacular coastal areas

in the country. Covering close to

15,000sq miles, this vast maritime

wilderness is home to the largest

collection of tidewater glaciers in

the world; if you want to see rivers

of ice crashing into the sea, to hear

the crack of enormous icebergs

breaking into the bay, then this is

the place to come.

But there’s much more too:

orcas and humpback whales cross

these icy waters, sea lions and

porpoises play by the shore; there

are enormous fjords, small fishing

villages and fascinating First

Nation heritage on the shore. Prince

William Sound is what Alaska

is all about: wild, dramatic and

teeming with life.

150 // THE APPROXIMATE

NUMBER OF GLACIERS IN

PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND

— KNOWN FOR ITS HIGH

CONCENTRATION OF

TIDEWATER GLACIERS

IMAGES: GETTY

90 natgeotraveller.co.uk


LIFE

ON

THE

HEEL

The spiky heel of Italy’s boot,

the Puglia region is a land in a

sumptuous time warp — where

sleepy villages are silent except

for birdsong; where roads wind

through centuries-old olives

groves; and where locals perform

miracles with ingredients plucked

from that famous terra rossa

Words JULIA BUCKLEY

Photographs N ICO AVELARDI

92 natgeotraveller.co.uk


June 2017 93


PUGLIA

PREVIOUS PAGES, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:

Slow-cooked octopus at La Torretta del Pescatore,

in Monopoli; alley in Monopoli’s old town; local

man, Nardò

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Bar, Borgo Egnazia;

orecchiette pasta drying outdoors in the San Nicola

district of Bari; orecchiette maker in Bari’s old town

94 natgeotraveller.co.uk


PUGLIA

It doesn’t look like a beach you’d stop for. Not at first glance; not at third,

either. In fact, in the six years I’ve been visiting Puglia I haven’t pulled over

here once. Instead of sand, there’s jagged limestone. Instead of lapping

gently, the sea hammers on the rock. Then there are those walls on the other

side — half fallen-down, and forbidding. I once lived further up the coast,

you see, where the Adriatic sashays gracefully onto sands as manicured as an

A-lister’s fingers. So I’ve always come to Puglia not for the coastline but for

the food, the conical trullo houses and the graceful white-stone hill towns

of the Itria Valley, the best-known part of the region. But when Elena, my

hotel concierge, had revealed the beach’s secrets, I was forced to reassess my

priorities. That basin where the sea swirls against the rock? It was a Roman

harbour. Those rectangular holes in the tufa? Two-thousand-four-hundredyear-old

Messapian tombs. The gargantuan wall is Byzantine; the red dots in

every rockpool, shards of Roman pottery.

When I’d booked my stay at Borgo Egnazia, I’d envisioned a generic luxury

break — a soft bed and swish views. But it turns out there’s more to this five-star

hotel than social cachet (this is where Justin Timberlake married Jessica Biel).

For starters, everything’s locally sourced and focused, from the food to the spa

treatments — and the resort itself is a reimagining of a Pugliese borgo (walled

town). But, as Elena had explained, Borgo Egnazia’s real draw is what’s hinted

at in its name: Egnazia, the ancient city that put this area on the map, lying the

other side of an adjacent golf course.

And this ‘beach’ — these rocks, rather, from which fishermen hunt sea urchins

as prickly as the limestone — is Egnazia’s old harbour, founded in the Bronze Age,

then used by the Messapians, Romans, Goths, Lombards and Byzantines, before

being abandoned in medieval times.

The next day, I set out from Borgo Egnazia’s beguiling sister hotel, Masseria

Cimino — accommodation wings wrapped round an 18th-century masseria

farmhouse. Past the vegetable garden and down the olive-lined path, I skirt

another gargantuan wall — the defensive perimeter of ancient Egnazia, it turns

out, encircling the city 1.5 miles from its centre.

I follow it down a narrow track, past fields where lettuces and fennel plants

are laid out like ribbons beneath centuries-old olive trees and around ancient

stone structures. Birdsong is all that encroaches on the sound of the sea. Ten

minutes later, I’m at Egnazia Archaelogical Park, where a grand museum is

flanked by the ruins of a Messapian necropolis one side, Roman Egnazia the

other: complete with forum, amphitheatre and — curling through ancient

bathhouses — a section of the cobbled Appian Way, which ran from Rome to

Brindisi. I cross the road to those Byzantine walls, a citadel on the headland. To

my right is that harbour; in front lies Albania. Walking back, I realise the air is

scented with fennel.

All Italians are proud of their region, of course, but the Pugliese are viscerally

so. Meet one abroad, and they’ll talk of the almost physical pain they feel in exile

from their land. The famous terra rossa (‘red earth’) — coloured by limestone

deposits — runs in their blood. Much of the intensity is down to their contadino

heritage — the word means ‘peasant’ in Italian, but here it’s used with pride, not

pejoratively. And that pride shines through in the food.

“We have a cucina povera — a cuisine based on poverty,” says Carlo Natale, the

chef/owner of Trattoria L’Elfo, in Bari. On my first night, he’d offered me just two

dinner options: riso patate e cozze — rice, potatoes and mussels sautéed together

— or pasta with plain tomato sauce. My face had fallen — not even spaghetti

alle vongole? — but the meal was incredible. “We’re magicians,” Carlo told me

afterwards. “With a little, we create a lot. Our culinary heritage may be the

poorest in Italy, but taste-wise it’s the richest.”

June 2017 95


PUGLIA

96 natgeotraveller.co.uk


PUGLIA

Salento appears

stuck in a time

warp — it’s a

place where

towns fall silent

at noon, where

the air swells

with birdsong

FROM LEFT: Masseria Cimino; east coast of the

Salento Peninsula

June 2017 97


PUGLIA

Each area of Puglia — every town, even — has its own cuisine. Historically

poor, Bari’s is basic. At Monopoli, a medieval fishing port 25 miles south, I find

an equally simple culinary tradition, scooped straight from the sea. Bream

carpaccio, tuna tartare and slow-cooked octopus that falls apart on the fork:

for me it’s nirvana, at La Torretta del Pescatore, it’s just lunch. The seafood was

plucked from the sea that morning and jazzed up with little more than pureed

capers, buffalo mozzarella cream and fried wild onions. There’s no fancy fusion,

here. “The only thing we mix is tradition with seasonality,” says owner Piero Vitti.

Tradition and seasonality: adjectives that describe Puglia to a tee. Further

south, at Torre Canne, Al Buco opened in the 1970s as a fishmonger’s; today,

the founders’ grandson serves me in his restaurant cantilevered over the sea.

He brings an antipasto — 15 plates of fish and shellfish cooked in every way

imaginable, and they’re only the starter.

Labour of love

Here on the heel, life follows Mother Nature’s calendar. Last time I was at Pietro

D’Amico’s olive press, it was October and I’d popped in to say hi. Big mistake: it

was packed with locals hauling in crates of olives they’d handpicked, and Pietro

was nowhere to be seen.

But six weeks later, harvest is over and he has time to show me round. They

produce nine oils here, including Lacrima (‘Tear’), made from a secret blend of

olives, hand-crushed and left for 30 minutes, until the pulp “weeps” oil, which

pools on the surface and is bottled by hand.

It’s a labour of love for Pietro; his family has done this since his great-greatgrandfather’s

time. How amazing to be a fifth-generation business (daughter

Vita is his deputy), I coo, dipping bread in oil so fresh it tastes spicy. “Yes, how

amazing,” he says gravely. “But what a responsibility.” Puglia’s struggling with an

olive blight that’s the talk of Italy (further down the heel, I’ll drive past skeleton

groves, branches twisted in horror at their leafless nakedness) and Pietro needs to

keep his 6,000-odd trees — most of which are centuries-old — healthy.

“I do it for love,” he says. “Obviously, it makes me money, but it also gives me joy

to walk through my fields. I’m rooted to this terra rossa, to the green silver.” Back

home, opening my bottles of ‘green silver’, I can almost taste that pull of the land.

A stranger’s love for Puglia is nothing new. Foreigners have been drawn here

since time immemorial. Where other Italian regions have Roman ruins and

Renaissance architecture, Puglia’s landscape — its macchia (thickets of wild

plants such as carob, pine, myrtle, mastic and rocket) interspersed with olive

groves and vegetable fields — is dotted with prehistoric dolmens and menhirs.

The coastline is speared with watchtowers — centuries-old defences against the

outsiders who’ve always migrated here. Some came in peace, like the eighthcentury

Basilian monks fleeing Jerusalem, who dug underground churches.

Others came to conquer, like the Lombards and Saracens.

All left their mark. The Normans, their architecture: simple buildings carved

from the local stone — creamy, crumbly pietra leccese and hard white carparo.

The Byzantines, their churches, with colourful frescoes of almond-eyed saints.

The Greeks, their language — south of Lecce is Grecia Salentina, an area where

the Griko dialect is spoken, a legacy of the Greeks who settled there in the eighth

century. In Calimera (meaning ‘good morning’ in Greek), I walk along streets that

feel vaguely Cycladic — low houses, pretty courtyards lurking behind dour walls

— to the park, where an ancient Greek sculpture takes pride of place.

It was sent from Athens in 1960 as a symbol of ancestry. ‘You’re not a foreigner

in Calimera’, reads the plaque. And it’s true. At Caffè Vittoria La Rina, on the

main square, I ask about Griko and owner Tonia Conversano beckons me over

for coffee. Only the elderly really speak it now, she says, as her daughter recites a

98 natgeotraveller.co.uk


PUGLIA

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP

LEFT: Pruning an olive

tree in Pietro D’Amico’s

groves; Pietro D’Amico’s

olive press; squid ink

risotto with pea puree,

Borgo Egnazia

June 2017 99


PUGLIA

traditional Griko song. But as the dialect fades, what remains in Grecìa Salentina

is the atmosphere the Greeks must have encountered when they arrived as

foreigners 1,300 years ago.

“You’re at home, here, whoever you are,” says Tonia, before inviting me to a

“party” at 6pm. With two hours to while away, I go hunting for dolmens. I find two

of the megalithic tombs outside nearby Melendugno, sitting quietly in adjacent

olive groves. Further on, in Martano, a prehistoric menhir (standing stone) towers

over the suburban street that’s grown up around it.

At 6pm, I return to Calimera to find the entire town crowded within the piazza,

watching a procession — headed by a life-size statue of the Madonna — snaking

through the streets. “Did you like it?” asks Tonia eagerly when I say goodbye.

Small-town life is far from insular here on the Salento Peninsula.

And it’s the small-town life — deeply rooted in Puglia’s terra rossa — that I’m

most drawn to, here on the heel. Salento appears stuck in a Fellini-esque time warp

— it’s a place where towns fall silent at noon, where the air swells with birdsong,

where roads wind through groves of centuries-old olives so gnarled that each

seems caught in an eternal ballet pose, where every field seems to have a dolmen,

hand-dug crypt or prehistoric cave lurking in its wildflower-carpeted midst.

Even in Lecce — stately Lecce with its frothy baroque facades — my hotel feels

more like a home. La Fiermontina is dedicated to the sibling owners’ beloved

grandmother. Its walls are hung with the pair’s art; dinners are served in the

living room. Chef Simone Solido learned to cook by watching his nonna, he says,

as he leads me past an olive-flanked pool to his herb garden: a row of pots on top

of the ancient city walls. It’s not your average five-star hotel, but then, Puglia does

tourism differently. Perhaps it’s the millennia-old culture of accommodating

foreigners. Perhaps it’s because tourism developed relatively late here and

was woven into the existing fabric of the region, rather than catered to with a

purpose-built infrastructure. For example, the masseria hotel trend began when

Marisa Melpignano, Borgo Egnazia’s owner, opened her farmhouse — first to

friends, then to outsiders.

Meanwhile, Puglia is also big on alberghi diffusi (‘scattered hotels’) — where

accommodation is spread across a number of disused buildings rather than being

based in a single property. At Villaggio Vecchia Mottola, which hosts guests in

former contadino housing in the medieval hill town of Mottola, I check in at the

main square, sleep in a duplex studio two streets away, and breakfast at a nearby

bar full of locals necking pre-work cappuccinos.

This is no ordinary B&B — it’s your passport to becoming an honorary local.

Owner Osvaldo Zazzara is prone to kissing guests who appear too reserved on

arrival. “I didn’t do it to you,” he says, “because you didn’t look like you needed it.”

That’s because I’ve spent the past week in Puglia, I tell him. It’s been seven days

of nonstop chatting: to priests who unlock closed chapels when I ask politely; to the

signora from my Bari B&B who gave me a hand-stitched tablecloth as a parting gift;

to Niccolò, the editor of a newsletter in Nardò, who met me for a coffee and ended

up squiring me round the countryside, showing me hidden crypts and persuading a

guy on his lunch break to open up his 17th-century underground olive press.

I had thought there’d be little more to Nardò than the baroque architecture

that makes it a mini Lecce. But the next morning, Niccolò introduces me to

archaeologist Dr Filomena Ranaldo. She tells me about Porto Selvaggio, a

nearby natural park whose eight cliffside caves were once home to prehistoric

man. Excavations are ongoing and there are plans to open a museum in Nardò

showcasing the findings later this year and to run guided tours of one of the caves

in 2018. What’s been unearthed so far has been extraordinary. The 45,000-yearold

teeth found here point to Porto Selvaggio being the earliest-known home of

Homo sapiens in Europe. They weren’t the first to dwell here, though.

From Otranto,

the road cleaves

to the Macchiarippled

coastline

winding through

tiny fishing villages.

It’s Puglia at its

finest; unspoiled,

unassuming, utterly

spectacular

Beach on the coastal drive from Otranto to Santa

Maria di Leuca

June 2017 101


PUGLIA

The Rupestrian

church of San

Nicola, part of

the Grotte di

Dio, Mottola

The excavations have confirmed that Neanderthals probably lived here

as far back as 120,000 years ago. What’s also clear is that this land of

canyons and ravines has been inhabited ever since. At Massafra, near

Mottola, people still live in cave homes carved out of the limestone.

Near Egnazia, I visit Lama d’Antico, a tiny canyon hollowed out

by the stream running through it. Stray cats wind round my legs,

purring, as archaeologist Roberto Rotondo and Marisa Melpignano

(who’s financed restoration work here) lead me into caves that were

inhabited from AD 900-1300. There are ceilings blackened from fire

smoke, ‘cupboards’ carved into the walls, and two churches; their

fragile columns sculpted from the canyon walls.

At Mottola, I visit the Grotte di Dio (‘Caves of God’): four churches

chiselled into the walls of a ravine, covered wall to wall with

Byzantine frescoes still as bright as the day they were painted;

the saints’ gaze following me as I walk around, my eyes watering

in astonishment.

And on the day I finally make it to the tip of Italy’s heel, I stop at

the Zinzulusa Cave, on the eastern coast. The guide weaves me past

stalactites and stalagmites to a guano-spattered cave, set 150 metres

into the cliffside where, 10,000 years ago, Paleolithic man set up

home, overlooking the turquoise Adriatic.

I’d driven here from Lecce, hitting the sea at Otranto. From there,

the road cleaves to the macchia-rippled coastline, winding through

tiny fishing villages. The drive is Puglia at its finest; unspoiled,

unassuming, utterly spectacular — Amalfi without the attitude.

One minute, the Adriatic is sparkling 200ft beneath me; the next, it’s

twinkling through the car window.

Puglia finishes at Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy’s most southeasterly

point. This is where, legend has it, Saint Peter landed on his way to

Rome; the temple that once stood here was converted into a church.

From my vantage point on a prickly pear-studded cliff, I turn towards

the sea and watch it blush as the sun sets. De Finibus Terrae, the

Romans called this place (‘the end of the land’) — the last of that living

red earth; and the point at which the Adriatic and Ionian come together.

I look closer — at lines shimmering in the pink water, streaks of

tension where two currents collide. Pint-size boats hover between

them — it’s a prime site for fishing, this spot where two seas and

multiple cultures have been shuffling together for millennia, the

mystical landscape drawing them in like iron filings.

“Did you feel it?” Niccolò will say later, when I tell him about Leuca.

“Did you really feel the land?” And I tell him I’ll never forget.

ESSENTIALS

Getting there & around

Ryanair flies year-round to Bari and Brindisi from

Stansted. Airlines running summer services to Bari

include EasyJet and British Airways from Gatwick

and Ryanair from Liverpool. Summer services to

Brindisi include Ryanair from Manchester and British

Airways from Heathrow. ryanair.com easyjet.com

ba.com trenitalia.com

AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME: 3h.

Public transport is limited — unless you’re sticking to

the cities, hiring a car with GPS is essential.

When to go

Puglia has a typically Southern European climate:

summer is often baking, winter mild, spring and

autumn warm. Avoid August, when Italians holiday

en masse and traffic is a nightmare.

Places mentioned

La Torretta del Pescatore. latorrettadelpescatore.com

Al Buco. ristorantealbuco.it

Il Frantolio D’Amico Pietro. ilfrantolio.it

Egnazia. egnaziaonline.it

Lama d’Antico. lamadantico.it

Grotte di Dio. mottolaturismo.it

Grotta Zinzulusa. www.grottazinzulusa.it

Where to stay

Borgo Egnazia. borgoegnazia.com

Masseria Cimino. masseriacimino.com

La Fiermontina. lafiermontina.com

Villaggio Vecchia Mottola. vecchiamottola.com

Angelo Custode. nardosalento.com

B&B Corte Zeuli. cortezeuli.it

More info

viaggiareinpuglia.it

How to do it

CLASSIC COLLECTION HOLIDAYS offers seven nights

in Puglia, including three nights at Borgo Egnazia,

British Airways flights and seven days’ car hire from

£1,189 per person.

classic-collection.co.uk

ADRIATIC

SEA

Bari

Monopoli

EGNAZIA TORRE CANNE

VALLE D'ITRIA

Brindisi

Taranto

P e n

S a l

Golf

of

Taranto

i n

e n

s u

Nardò

t o

l

a

ITALY

Lecce

Calimera

Martano

20 Miles

ILLUSTRATION: JOHN PLUMER

102 natgeotraveller.co.uk


OF THE

IMPENETRABLE PARK

Intelligent, gentle, vulnerable. No one who

looks into a gorilla’s eyes can remain

unchanged. It’s a mind-blowing experience,

but in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National

Park, it’s one you may have to work for

Words EMMA GREGG

104 natgeotraveller.co.uk


IMAGE: ALAMY

June 2017 105


UGANDA

’m expecting my first sighting of a

mountain gorilla to be a hint of a black or

silver coat, glimpsed in the forest shadows,

somewhere far in the distance. But, it’s

not like that at all.

The trackers whisper that they’re close.

“How close?”

Seeing that I’m still fumbling with my

cameras, they answer with a gentle

‘are-you-ready?’ smile. Then they part the

foliage like a curtain, and there he is. An

adolescent male, the size of a small

armchair, in plain view, right in front of us. Just sitting

there. Munching.

I’m astonished to find myself almost within touching

distance. These days, nobody gets to do an Attenborough,

lolling in the greenery while mountain gorillas make

themselves at home around them. Since the BBC filmed

those unforgettable sequences for Life on Earth almost

30 years ago, experts have agreed that humans and

gorillas should remain at least 23ft apart to protect these

critically endangered animals from stress-related illness

and viral infections. Glancing

behind me, I try to reverse,

but the blackback, relaxed in

human company, simply

edges his handsome

shoulders forward, intent on

plucking the juiciest

myrianthus leaves he can

find. He clearly hasn’t read

the guidelines.

“This is Kaganga,” murmurs

tracker Elisha Kastama. “His

name means big and strong.”

It’s a fine name indeed.

Mountain gorillas are a

sub-species of the eastern

gorilla, the world’s largest

primate, and Kaganga, when

fully grown, will weigh more

than a motorbike. I gingerly

move away, keen to give him space. It’s time to meet

the rest of the family.

Ten million years have passed since the common

ancestors of humans and gorillas roamed forests like

these, but we still share 98% of our DNA and echo each

other in looks and habits, from our sociable lifestyles to

the way we examine our fingernails. The remaining 2%

covers specific adaptations, such as the layer of

reinforcing keratin that allows gorillas to walk on their

knuckles. Reflecting on his own early encounters, George

Schaller, the naturalist whose pioneering study inspired

Dian Fossey to dedicate her life to the cause, described

his profound sense of kinship and respect, writing, ‘No

one who looks into a gorilla’s eyes — intelligent, gentle,

vulnerable — can remain unchanged.’ Today, I’m gripped

by similar emotions. As the curious youngsters, peaceful

females and Bakwate the alpha male, a magnificent

silverback, emerge and settle down to browse, the more

accepted and humbled I feel.

Part of the joy of being here, deep in the tangled folds

of southwest Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National

Park, is the sheer relief of making it. Bwindi is home to

almost half the world’s population of mountain gorillas

and around 45% of these — 13 groups — have become

Then they part the

foliage like a curtain,

and there he is. An

adolescent male, the

size of a small

armchair. Just sitting

there. Munching

habituated to visitors through the quiet daily presence of

rangers over several years. For the tourists who now pay

US$600 (£480) to track gorillas, sightings are pretty much

guaranteed, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll be easy.

Yesterday, at a luxurious eco-lodge near the park

headquarters in Buhoma, I met a party of well-dressed

American retirees enjoying an après-trek lunch. They

were beaming. After a straightforward hike, unspoilt by

mud, heat or bloodthirsty insects, they found their

gorillas within a few hundred yards. Yet, for others, the

experience can be tougher. Bwindi is slightly lower in

altitude than Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda,

Africa’s better known gorilla-watching destination, but

its terrain can be exhausting. If the group you’re seeking

has moved to a remote part of its range, you must hike for

hours through a steep, roadless maze of thickly vegetated

ridges and valleys for your precious 60-minute audience.

It’s an adventure for some, but an ordeal for others, and

once it’s over, there’s no helicopter rescue for the

fit-but-footsore — everyone has to hike back again.

So, when I hear I’m visiting the Oruzogo group, it feels

like the short straw. The Uganda Wildlife Authority

(UWA) describes their patch

as ‘challenging’ and to get

there, I must set off before

dawn. Little do I know, as I

shake myself awake, that the

group has a secret I wouldn’t

want to miss for the world.

My journey begins with a

drive along the park’s

northern boundary. The

mountain road from Buhoma

to Ruhija is newly surfaced,

one of the many changes

brought about since gorilla

tourism commenced in 1993.

Below the once-treacherous

hairpin bends is a patchwork

of smallholdings, quilted

with bananas, sweet potatoes

and tea. As the sun comes up,

the villagers are already at work.

Our pre-trek instructions are part military-style

briefing, part pep talk. “We’re tracking gorillas, but we’re

also protecting them,” says Stephen Migyisha, our guide.

Like all the UWA rangers, he’s wearing dark khaki

fatigues with the Ugandan flag on one sleeve. “I want you

to be prepared, physically and mentally. At the moment,

you may look smart, but don’t be surprised if, at the end

of the day, that’s all changed.”

A neat line of freelance porters are waiting at the

trailhead. Most of them are students supplementing their

studies; all have been vetted for their skills. When Stephen

asks if I’d like to hire someone, I don’t hesitate; but when

Divotah Katusime steps forward and introduces herself,

I pause. At barely five feet tall, will she cope? Loaded with

cameras, water and lunch, my bag weighs a ton. I needn’t

have worried, though. To demonstrate her muscle power,

she practically pulls me over.

Right from the start, Divotah proves a godsend. On the

steep descents, she checks I’m not slipping; on the climbs

she lends an arm; and, when Stephen and the armed

scouts abandon the path and start hacking through the

forest with their pangas, she’s there to untangle me from

stray branches and deflect me from stinging vines.

106 natgeotraveller.co.uk


UGANDA

PREVIOUS SPREAD: The treetops of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

CLOCKWISE: Buhoma Lodge, an eco-lodge near the park headquarters; Uganda

Wildlife Authority rangers comparing notes before a gorilla trek; handmade clothing

for sale at Ride For A Woman craft cooperative; hiking the River Ivi Trail from

Buhoma to Nteka and Nkuringo

IMAGES: EMMA GREGG

June 2017 107


UGANDA

As the curious

youngsters, peaceful

females and Bakwate

the alpha male, a

magnificent silverback,

emerge and settle

down to browse, the

more accepted and

humbled I feel

Mountain gorilla in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

108 natgeotraveller.co.uk


UGANDA

IMAGE: SUPERSTOCK

June 2017 109


UGANDA

FROM TOP: Tea plantations

buffering the national

park keep gorillas at bay;

male mountain gorilla

in Bwindi Impenetrable

National Park

OPPOSITE: Uganda

Wildlife Authority ranger

Augustine Muhangi and

Gorilla Doctors field vet

Fred Nizeyimana examine

the gorilla hairs found in

their mountain nests

110 natgeotraveller.co.uk


UGANDA

IMAGES: SUPERSTOCK; EMMA GREGG

Meanwhile, Stephen keeps one ear on the radio. With

each exchange with the trackers, who left 90 minutes

before us, he accelerates. The gorillas are moving

uncharacteristically fast; the pace is relentless. We’re

battling the heat, but adrenaline and anticipation push

us on. And then, at last, three hours into our trek, we

catch up with the trackers. Handing our hiking sticks to

our porters, we prepare to meet the family.

The key thing the trackers don’t tell us at this point,

before they part the foliage to reveal Kaganga, is that

they’re not entirely sure what to expect. They’ve seen

some blood on the ground and are concerned that a

gorilla might be wounded.

One by one, members of the 17-strong group emerge

from the dense bush — youngsters, females and the

alpha male Bakwate, sitting confidently in the hot sun.

A pair of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for

Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, which has been

studying Bwindi’s gorillas since 1998, take notes. Nothing

appears to be amiss.

Suddenly, towards the end of our hour, Elisha and his

colleague Stanley Bashobeza gesture urgently for us to

come over. They point to a patch of deep shade under a

shrub around 30ft away, where a female gorilla called

Nyakina is reclining on her back, hugging something to

her chest. The ‘something’ moves. Could it be…?

With eyes on stalks, we watch as the newest Oruzogo

member squirms its tiny, sticky body. Born just before

we arrived, the baby gorilla is an incredible surprise

— even to the trackers and researchers who see the group

every day. Since the leaf-eating gorillas are naturally

rotund, pregnancy can be hard to spot; the only clue to

Nyakina’s condition was that she hadn’t been climbing

much in recent days.

“We’ve never seen one this tiny,” says Elisha. “Normally,

the mother gives birth at night, then hides for a while.

But Nyakina is very confident. It’s not her first. And she’s

always been very friendly.”

To prove it, Nyakina gets up and moves a few paces

towards us, then sits between two youngsters who watch,

intrigued, as she delicately cleans the newborn and offers

them parts of the placenta. It’s as if she’s introducing the

new baby to the toddlers — and she considers us to be

honorary toddlers, too.

On the trail

Miraculously for a sub-species with a birth interval of

three to five years, mountain gorillas are the only great

apes whose numbers are increasing. However, like all too

many endangered animals, they’re being hemmed in by

human population growth. Their two remaining

strongholds, Bwindi and the Virunga Massif (which

covers parts of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic

Republic of Congo), are like islands in the sky, smaller

than the Isle of Wight, separated by 15 miles of

intensively cultivated farmland. Before long, they may

contain as many gorillas as they can handle.

Bwindi’s precious forest habitat is far better protected

now than it was between 1902, when science first

‘discovered’ mountain gorillas, and 1991, when it was

declared a national park. Tourism has helped save it — at

a price. Safeguarding gorillas is a complex process which,

controversially, limits or bans traditional forest

activities, from collecting firewood to living among the

trees, as in the case of the Batwa, a tribe formerly known

as Pygmies. What’s more, gorillas that have been

deliberately trained to suppress their natural fear of

humans don’t always make the best neighbours.

As I stroll through the leafy grounds of my eco-lodge

in Buhoma, just outside the national park, an

unmistakeable pile of dung stops me in my tracks.

Twitching vegetation confirms my suspicion — gorillas

have come to visit. My heart thumps. While it’s

extremely rare for gorillas to attack humans, I’ve no wish

to disturb them and hastily back away.

While gorillas in the garden may be a novelty, gorillas

munching crops is no joke. An adult male can eat 30kg of

plants each day. Bwindi’s smallholders have had to

develop intriguing solutions to this: buffering the park

with tea plantations works well — it’s a useful cash crop,

and gorillas seem to hate the stuff — and Hugo, short for

Human-Gorilla Conflict Resolution, Bwindi’s crack team

of volunteer gorilla-scarers, is effective, too.

So much for keeping gorillas inside the park. Keeping

local people out, to prevent disturbance and the spread

of infections, is a more delicate matter. “It’s not just that

people here are poor,” says Buhoma-based wildlife vet

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of Conservation Through

Public Health (CTPH). “Some people argue that the

benefits of conservation — gorilla trekking fees, job

opportunities — aren’t being fairly shared. So, they feel

justified in entering the forest illegally to take wood or

set snares for duikers [antelopes].”

CTPH tries to adjust the balance through healthcare

and education programmes and has launched a new

social enterprise, Gorilla Conservation Coffee, through

which ex-poachers now make a decent living from

growing coffee beans, which are sold in safari lodges

all over Uganda.

In all the villages I visit around Bwindi, I discover a

similar sense of purpose. Some community-run craft

June 2017 111


UGANDA

IMAGES: EMMA GREGG

shops and activities are still rough around the edges, but

plans are afoot to help them mature via a ‘Gorilla-

Friendly’ accreditation scheme. The Batwa Experience, a

demonstration of barkcloth-making, fire-making and

honey-collecting by Batwa cultural performers

determined to keep their ancestral forest skills alive,

turns out to be a highlight of my trip.

While my first gorilla encounter was supremely

satisfying, that one fleeting hour leaves many wildlife

enthusiasts wanting more. With this in mind, UWA now

offers an in-depth alternative, the Gorilla Habituation

Experience. For US$1,500 (£1,200) per person, four

visitors at a time can join a team of trackers, scouts and

rangers as they follow one of two semi-habituated groups

through the forest in southern Bwindi, monitoring the

gorillas’ behaviour, collecting data and helping them get

used to humans. Once

they’re fully habituated,

the activity will

continue as a

With a birth

interval of three

to five years,

mountain gorillas

are the only

great apes whose

numbers are rising

demonstration of

research techniques.

I cross the park to

Nkuringo via the River

Ivi Trail, a beautiful

nine-mile hike through

towering mahogany

trees and giant ferns,

then, on a cool, misty

morning, continue

south to meet the team

at Rushaga. “On your

trek to the Oruzogo

group, there was an

advance party,” says

assistant warden

Geoffrey Twinomuhangi. “Today, we’re all in it together.”

I’m in capable hands. My guide for the day is UWA ranger

Augustine Muhangi and we’re joined by field vet Fred

Nizeyimana of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project,

aka Gorilla Doctors.

As we enter the forest fringes, tinker birds chime

peacefully and a colourful turaco glides overhead.

Beneath the trees, the air is fresh with the scent of wild

bracken and herbs. Augustine is a mine of information.

As we walk, he points out some of the details they look

for on habituation expeditions, from fresh elephant

dung, a clear sign of potential danger, to half-stripped

urera shoots, indicating gorillas.

We turn off the path and wade downhill through

chest-high foliage. Below, we find the spot where the

Bikingi group was last seen, and the real tracking begins.

A subtle trail of bent vegetation leads us to the camp they

made last night, each adult gorilla having folded leaves

and branches into a springy mattress. We don surgical

masks and the team demonstrate how, during a census,

they identify each nest by its proportions and what the

occupants left behind — grey hairs from the silverback,

black hairs from a baby cuddled up to its mother, dung in

sizes which roughly indicate each animal’s age — before

taking samples for DNA testing.

Some nests are on the ground, others part-way up

trees. “This can mean they were scanning their

surroundings for danger,” says Fred, who’s alert to any

indication of disturbance. Whether caused by disputes

with rivals, fear of elephants or intimidation by duiker

June 2017 113


UGANDA

ESSENTIALS

Getting there & around

Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways fly daily from

Heathrow to Entebbe via Addis Ababa and Nairobi.

ethiopianairlines.com kenya-airways.com

AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME: 12h.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is around 275 miles

from Entebbe by road. Alternatively, fly from Entebbe

to Kihihi (25 miles from Buhoma) or Kisoro (21 miles

from Nkuringo) with Aerolink. aerolinkuganda.com

When to go

It’s possible to track gorillas at any time of year. Many

visitors avoid the rainiest, muddiest months (Mar-May

and Oct-Nov), so UWA may discount tracking permits

from US$600 (£480) to $450 (£362) during this period.

More info

ugandawildlife.org

visituganda.com

Uganda (Bradt Travel Guides). RRP: £17.99

Where to stay

Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge. volcanoessafaris.com

Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge. wildplacesafrica.com

Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge.

mountaingorillalodge.com

How to do it

NATURAL WORLD SAFARIS offers an eight-day Gorilla

Habituation Safari in Bwindi Impenetrable National

Park, including full-board accommodation, domestic

flights, private transfers, park fees, one gorilla tracking

permit and one Gorilla Habituation Experience, from

£5,035 per person, based on two sharing.

naturalworldsafaris.com

GANE AND MARSHALL offers a six-day private safari in

Uganda, visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park and

Bwindi, including full-board accommodation, domestic

flights, private transfers, park fees and one gorilla

tracking permit, from £2,355 per person, based on

two sharing. ganeandmarshall.com

PREVIOUS PAGE FROM

TOP: At the Batwa

Experience cultural

perfomance an actor

demonstrates the

traditional method of

smoking out bees and

collecting honey; Nyakina

and her newborn, the

latest member of the

Oruzogo group

ABOVE: Bwindi farmlands

poachers, stress makes gorillas susceptible to

malnourishment, infections and parasites.

“Habituated gorillas are increasing in numbers faster

than non-habituated gorillas because they benefit from

‘extreme conservation’ measures such as veterinary care.

We monitor them closely. We don’t want people tracking

sick animals,” he says. If a gorilla shows signs of illness,

Fred will intervene by administering a shot.

The gorillas are just a half-hour away. The first ones

I see are a female, shyly eating mimulopsis leaves, and

a youngster, high in a bendy sapling. Staring down with

a giggling face, he makes a cute, high-pitched attempt

at the pok-pok chestbeat which, coming from an adult,

would send shivers down the spine. Delighted, we sit

down to watch.

The silverback, Rushenya, guards his family like a

tank. When he decides it’s time to retreat under a shrub

for a siesta, he makes it clear we’re not welcome to follow,

rushing forward a few paces with a terrifying roar.

Immediately, we follow the drill: freeze, look submissive,

make reassuring mm-hmm noises.

“For now, this is his character, and it’s not a bad thing,”

says Augustine when I’ve caught my breath. “It’s easier to

habituate the silverbacks who are confident than the

ones who run away.”

Moments later, we see a totally different side to

Rushenya. Reclining in the shade, he’s every inch the

tender and tolerant father, allowing a pair of boisterous

infants to treat him as a trampoline. “He’s such a great

dad,” says Augustine, admiringly.

“Does watching this ever get old?” I ask.

But, I already know the answer. The team are clearly as

enraptured as I am.

Buhoma

5 Miles

Kihihi

BWINDI IMPENETRABLE

NATIONAL PARK

Kisoro

Kisoro

Entebbe

UGANDA

Kampala

Lake

Victoria

Kabale

IMAGE: SUPERSTOCK. ILLUSTRATION: JOHN PLUMER

114 natgeotraveller.co.uk


116 natgeotraveller.co.uk


what lies

beneath

Shimmering sea life, bat-ridden caves, poisonous trees and

ancient reptiles — beyond the beach bars in the Cayman

Islands there’s a wilder experience waiting

Words ZOE MCINTYRE

IMAGE: GETTY

June 2017 117


CAYMAN ISLANDS

A silhouette

emerges

From the

118 natgeotraveller.co.uk


CAYMAN ISLANDS

Sapphire depths.

IMAGES: GETTY; ZOE MCINTYRE

PREVIOUS PAGE: Seven

Mile Beach

OPPOSITE: Hawksbill sea

turtle, Little Cayman

RIGHT: Grand Cayman

beach

Its distinctive shape comes into focus as it coasts languidly through

tendrils of coral that whisker the seabed. Up at the surface, I wait

patiently for the moment my new companion comes up for air.

Suddenly it happens: two paddle-like flippers pull powerfully towards

me. The world slows, I forget to breathe, and for a few stupefying

seconds the hawksbill turtle and I are eye-to-eye. I take in its tapered

head, bird-like beak and the intricate markings on its glossy carapace.

The turtle eyes me with detached suspicion, pops its head up for a few

gulps of air and disappears back down to the safety of the deep.

I’m not the first to be awestruck by the turtle-rich waters of the

Cayman Islands. When Christopher Columbus sailed past in 1503,

he named the uninhabited archipelago Las Tortugas due to the

sheer abundance of turtles in the surrounding waters. It was those

same creatures that drew in passing sailors and buccaneers, who

came here in search of fresh meat for their ravenous crews. Yet it was

another animal that Francis Drake reported sightings of in 1586; ‘great

serpents called Caymanas, large like lizards.’

Alas, this once-thriving crocodile was hunted

to extinction, but not before bequeathing its

name to the islands as its legacy.

Under British rule since the 17th century,

Cayman (never the Caymans) is now known

more as a tax haven than marine hotspot — a

place for stashing ill-gotten gains or, as John

Grisham described it in his bestseller, The

Firm, ‘sex, sun, rum, a little shopping’. Yet I’d

heard of a wilder side — one of secret caves,

endangered species and underwater marvels,

and it was this aspect I hoped to uncover

during a week-long island hop between the

largest and liveliest island, Grand Cayman,

and her petite sisters, Cayman Brac and

Little Cayman.

That said, it doesn’t take long for me to

succumb to tropical cliche. At the ritzy bar

of the Grand Marriott on Grand Cayman, I

lounge poolside between bejewelled sunworshippers

sporting itsy-bitsy bikinis and

flawless nutmeg tans. Beyond spreads the

West Coast’s famed Seven Mile Beach — a

decadent stretch of powder-white sand,

home to the island’s most luxurious resorts,

where the glitterati congregate for their seeand-be-seen

showdowns. I watch handsome

guitarists serenading beautiful bodies

against a lipstick-pink sunset, and feel only

marginally guilty; it’s all quite hard to resist.

The next morning, however, beach-lounger

is exchanged for hire car as I explore the littledeveloped

North Side. The island is barely

20 miles from top to toe, but I take it slowly,

Caribbean style. First comes George Town,

the island’s capital, but hardly the shining

financial hub I’d envisioned; more a series of

colourful low-rises and gift shops huddled

around a harbour. Leaving town, I join a road

that hugs the shoreline and showcases the

island’s subtler delights: candy-coloured

bungalows on wooden stilts and locals selling

coconuts along the roadside. Free-range

chickens scratch along the sun-baked tarmac

and every break in the vegetation reveals a

stretch of dreamy coastline.

June 2017 119


CAYMAN ISLANDS

Wickedly potent rum punches

are served from a series

of colourful shacks slung

across a beachfront where

bathers gorge on jerkseasoned

mahi-mahi fish and

sizzling conch fritters

A rutted track strewn with nibbling goats leads to the starting

point of the Mastic Trail. Here I meet Stuart, a National Trust guide,

for a hike along this thoroughfare long used by islanders to herd

cattle. Its boundaries of black mangroves and abandoned farmland

bookend a slice of subtropical forest left undisturbed for some two

million years, thriving in native flora. We follow a narrow boardwalk

into a cocoon of thorny arches and three hours of immersive nature.

Stuart knows the woodland like his own backyard. He picks leaves

that expel a peppery cinnamon scent and points out wild banana

orchids — Cayman’s national flower — sprouting from mahogany

trees. I learn to recognise the broad leaves of the silver thatch,

an endemic palm used by early settlers for roofing, basketry and

producing hardy salt water-resistant rope. “Guess what islanders

named this one?” Stuart smirks, pointing to a trunk with a deep-red

flaking bark. “Meet the Tourist Tree — a week on Cayman and most

visitors look similar.”

Breaks in the canopy illuminate the leaf-littered forest floor with

brilliant shafts of sunlight. We move at a meditative pace, the silence

broken only by the strident calls of jungle birds; the mournful coo of

the tropical dove drowned out by a raucous duet of parrots. Across

a damp boardwalk, we strike northward through a warp and weft of

twisted roots and fallen trees toppled by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

We give a wide berth to an innocuous-looking fruit tree that turns

out to be a deadly manchineel, one of the world’s most poisonous.

“Just brushing against its leaves will cause your skin to blister. A

drop of its resin will burn your skin like acid,” Stuart warns. Soon

after, we reach a limestone platform, where savagely sharp toothlike

rocks spike us underfoot, and the nearby tree trunks appear

riddled with bullet holes — a sign that a yellow-bellied sapsucker

(woodpecker) has declared ownership of the territory. From there,

it’s on into overgrown grassland where iridescent butterflies bring

welcome flashes of colour after seemingly endless green.

My morning of moderate exertion permits

a pit stop at Rum Point, a sandy spot on the

island’s northern tip. Legend has it the beach

gained its name after barrels of rum were

washed up here from a shipwreck. True to

the name, wickedly potent rum punches are

served from a series of colourful shacks slung

across a beachfront where bathers gorge on

jerk-seasoned mahi-mahi fish and sizzling

conch fritters. At the Dak Shak, I order a

Mud Slide, a deliciously rich blend of Kahlua,

vodka and Irish Cream. Well-positioned

beach hammocks encourage you to snooze

away any tipsiness, lulled by lapping tides and

relaxing reggae grooves.

As the sun’s heat grows merciless, I find

subterranean refuge in the Crystal Caves.

My guide is Azan, a local with faded tattoos

and an enviable swagger, who in singsong

Caymanian tones spins stories from a

misspent youth spent spelunking among

the stalagmites. “My parents would tell me,

stay away from those caves. When they came

home they’d know straight away where I’d

been. That red you see on the ground — no

stain remover gets that out.”

Curiously, there’s a wild fig tree over nearly

every entrance to the caves, the roots of each

one dangling down between the limestone

fissures like prying fingers. In addition to

hordes of sleeping bats, the caverns are home

to a series of otherworldly sculptures; some

ABOVE: Seven Mile Beach

OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE

FROM TOP LEFT: Seven

Mile Beach; barman,

Rum Point; signs at

Hammerheads Brew Pub

& Grill, George Town,

Grand Cayman; Rum

Point jetty

IMAGES: GETTY; ZOE MCINTYRE; AWL IMAGES

120 natgeotraveller.co.uk


CAYMAN ISLANDS

June 2017 121


CAYMAN ISLANDS

122 natgeotraveller.co.uk


CAYMAN ISLANDS

The farmers’ market is a

refreshingly local affair,

replete with friendly

stallholders pedalling baskets

of fiery scotch bonnet peppers,

homemade sea-grape jams and

strange barks tied in bundles

IMAGES: GETTY; ZOE MCINTYRE

OPPOSITE: Surfers at

Seven Mile Beach

ABOVE: Limestone

spikes, Crystal Caves

smooth as a shell, others contorted like a

grimace. I become acquainted with Azan’s

favourites; the cranial-shaped Skull, the

air-fisting Statue of Liberty and the silent

Bell. Our last view is of an underground lake

with water so pure it reflects the ceiling’s

limestone spikes with crystal clarity.

Back in George Town, I learn more about

the natural bounty of the island at The

Brasserie — a farm-to-table restaurant that,

on an island strongly reliant on imported

supplies, is leading a much-needed move

towards localism. I’m here for its Harvest

Dinner; a shared-plate affair where 20-orso

guests dine on homegrown and locally

sourced fare at communal tables. Our

backdrop is an expansive conservatory

lined with vegetable-sprouting raised beds,

hanging herb baskets and trellises tumbling

with heirloom beans. “We want to showcase

what we’re producing,” chef Dean Max tells

us. “Most visitors to the Caribbean never get

a true taste. We’re trying to change that.”

For canapes, there’s melt-in-the-mouth

goats’ cheese truffles rolled in pollen and

drizzled in honey from the restaurant’s own

apiary. Next comes succulent roasted pig, a

hearty bean stew sweetened with Cayman’s

sun-kissed tomatoes and textured snapper

caught on The Brasserie’s fishing boat. It

seems that Cayman’s farming traditions,

though largely abandoned in the 1970s, are

now undergoing a renaissance. Long may it continue, I mumble

between mouthfuls.

Meeting the locals

It’s little after 10am but Devan is already trying his luck. “You here

with your husband, Miss? Leave him home tonight, I take you

to Paradise,” he guffaws from behind mirrored lenses. I’ve met

Cayman’s answer to Casanova over conch chowder at George Town’s

Saturday farmers’ market — a recommendation from my previous

evening’s dining companions. It’s a refreshingly local affair, replete

with friendly stallholders peddling baskets of fiery scotch bonnet

peppers, homemade sea-grape jams and strange barks tied in

bundles. I slurp a mango smoothie from a banana-strewn breakfast

truck and strike up conversation with a young girl weaving baskets

from what I recognise as silver birch. “It’s an old skill,” she tells me,

“my mother-in-law taught me. I’m trying to carry on the tradition.”

Many other native plants are on show in the Botanic Park along

with the island’s most exotic resident: the blue iguana. Soon after

arriving I spot one basking on a rock — a hefty, prehistoric beast

with bloodshot eyes, curling claws and dinosaur-like spikes arching

along a sagging, blue-tinted body. “They may look fearsome, but

they can’t fight,” says Alberto, a guide at the Blue Iguana Recovery

Program, who refers to each ‘baba’ with a father-like pride. A decade

ago, there were less than 25 of these critters left on Grand Cayman,

but thanks to a dedicated conservation mission there are now close

to 1,000. “They’re territorial, so we know where to find them,” Alberto

explains. I casually enquire exactly where this might be; I don’t fancy

meeting one without warning.

On my last night on Grand Cayman, I indulge in a huge seafood

feast at the Cracked Conch, enjoying its palm-thatched bar and

breezy seafront setting. I skip dessert for a finale at Office in George

Town — a gritty, backstreet bar where the young, fun and scantily

June 2017 123


CAYMAN ISLANDS

IMAGES: GETTY; SUPERSTOCK

FROM LEFT: Blue iguana,

Queen Elizabeth II

Botanic Park, Grand

Cayman; coral reef on

Bloody Bay Wall,

Little Cayman

clad gather for after-work drinks. On the

outside terrace, dreadlocked dudes smoke

suspiciously aromatic roll-ups to the beat

of bass-heavy speakers. Inside, it’s a steamy

cocktail of cultures; tourists and locals, hipwigglers

and rump-shakers, pressed together

to dance until we drop.

The next day, our little plane descends

towards a dusty runway, and I gaze down at

a splinter of land, pancake-flat and sandfringed.

Little Cayman is aptly named; just

10 miles long and one mile wide, its blinkand-you’ll-miss-it

centre consists of a strip

of shop fronts, counting one grocery store, a

bank open twice a week and the airport that

doubles as a fire station. When I borrow a bike

to explore the island, road signs give right of

way to iguanas — understandable, when you

consider they outnumber the island’s human

population of around 200. I pass no cars on

the way to Point of Sands, a perfect crescent

beach backed by bowed palms, where I bathe

without another soul in sight.

Checking in at Southern Cross Club,

I’m slightly alarmed to learn my rustic

bungalow has no room key — a testament

to the island’s nonexistent crime rates. Days

at the beachfront resort slip by in soporific

indolence, split between swims, siestas

and gazing into that azure sea. While more

dynamic guests propel themselves around

on paddleboards, I manage a leisurely kayak

out to Owen Island, a tiny bush-tangled spit,

which I comb for conch shells. Eventually I paddle back before the

sun burns its way across the horizon.

Come evening, a motley bunch congregates at the hotel bar, telling

tales of their day’s sightings out on the reef between lengthy slugs of

rum. They’re exactly the kind of quirky castaways you’d hope to wash

up on a desert island; nomads and mavericks, the sozzled and the

shoeless, wayward explorers and incurable romantics pricked by the

promise of paradise. Here I meet dive instructor Ed, who has shaken

off his Brummie accent for a sibilant, sun-soothed purr. “Why would

I want to go back to England,” he scoffs, “when my office is this sea?”

Another cloudless day breaks; early morning is Little Cayman’s

magic moment. Perched on a snarl of bleached driftwood, I watch the

early light blush the beach in a roseate glow. After breakfast, I join

Ed and his crew for a boat ride to Bloody Bay, where pirates allegedly

fought battles so fierce the waters ran red. Today, it’s one of the finest

dive sites in the Caribbean, largely due to the coral reef lying just

above what’s known as ‘the Wall’ — the edge of a submerged cliff that

starts as shallow as 20ft before plunging to dizzying 6,000ft depths.

We leave the bay’s luminescent waters and head out to the deep.

I plunge gracelessly off the boat straight into a kaleidoscope world

of brilliant coral, swaying purple sea fans, and neon-yellow tube

sponges, amid underwater terrain as rugged as any terrestrial

precipice. Transparent jellyfish ghost alongside razor-toothed

barracuda. Around a towering pinnacle, I narrowly avoid a headlong

collision with a grumpy-faced grouper before getting lost in a school

of stripy sergeant major fish and clouds of tiny florescent creole

wrasse sparkling like confetti.

If Little Cayman is an island of beach bums and aquatic fanatics,

Cayman Brac — just 15 miles away — is better suited to those with a

restless streak. It’s the wildest island in the archipelago, and there’s

little evidence of mass tourism. Locals are proud of their otherness,

referring to themselves as Brackers, not Caymanians — the ‘Brac’

taken from the Gaelic word for bluff, referring to the 150ft-high rock

June 2017 125


CAYMAN ISLANDS

The Bluff, Cayman Brac

sweeping across the island’s spine like a

mighty limestone fortress.

The name came from the Scots who settled

here in the mid-19th century, later joined by

Jamaicans, Welsh and other hardy souls.

Many of their ancestors remain — like Mitzi,

a soft-spoken woman who traces her heritage

to the first settlers. “They were deserters from

Cromwell’s army,” she tells me. Together,

we’re braving the island’s wind-battered

lighthouse path that leads into arid scrubland

littered with spiky agaves and cacti towering

like giant candelabra. Finally, we reap our

reward; a sighting of endangered brown

boobies nesting in the cliff edges.

The next day, I find myself in Le Soleil

d’Or, a boutique hideaway recently opened

on the island’s south side, decidedly fanciful

for rugged Brac. Its main building, awash

with terracotta tiling and bougainvilleastrewn

balustrades, is redolent of a European

chateau. The beach club boasts a private

stretch of immaculate sand adorned with

massage booths and perfectly spaced

parasols. But the real draw is the hotel’s

20-acre farm; an Eden of ambrosial produce

that sustains the on-site restaurant. I tuck

into their spoils for breakfast; an omelette

cracked from freshly-laid eggs, homemade

bread with sun-sweetened mango jam and an

exotic dragon-fruit salad.

With the moment of my departure

looming, I take a final meander along the

beach. Not so far out at sea, I spot a dark

shadow break the glassy surface — a turtle

peeks his head out to say goodbye. There can

surely be no better send-off.

ESSENTIALS

Getting there & around

British Airways flies direct to Grand Cayman

from Heathrow four times a week. ba.com

AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME: 12h.

Cayman Airways Express flies daily between the

islands. caymanairways.com

Grand Cayman is easily explored by hire car.

Buses cover all districts.

When to go

Mid-May to October is hot and rainy, while it’s

mild and dry from November to April.

Places mentioned

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Gardens.

botanic-park.ky

Mastic Trail Tour. nationaltrust.org.ky/

mastic-trail-tour

Crystal Caves. caymancrystalcaves.com

LITTLE CAYMAN

& CAYMAN BRAC

GRAND

CAYMAN

West

Bay

SEVEN MILE BEACH

West

Bay

George

Town

Miami

North

Sound

Rum Point

LITTLE CAYMAN

Bloody

Bay

Blossom Village

MASTIC TRAIL

GRAND CAYMAN

Rum Point. rumpointclub.com

The Brasserie. brasseriecayman.com

The Cracked Conch. crackedconch.com.ky

Stingray City. stingraycitycaymanislands.com

Where to stay

Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.

marriott.com

Le Soleil d’Or. lesoleildor.com

Southern Cross Club. southerncrossclub.com

More info

caymanluxe.co.uk

How to do it

BRITISH AIRWAYS HOLIDAYS offers seven

nights at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach

Resort from £1,845 per person, room-only.

Includes BA flights from Heathrow. ba.com

POINT

OF SAND

CAYMAN BRAC

Stake Bay

CRYSTAL CAVES

QUEEN ELIZABETH II

BOTANIC PARK

Spot Bay

same scale as main map

2 Miles

Gun

Bay

Bodden Town

C A R I B B E A N S E A

IMAGE: GETTY. ILLUSTRATION: JOHN PLUMER

126 natgeotraveller.co.uk


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

M A M B O

ITALIANO

The Italian language is not only musicality

and gestures — here are five great Italian

expressions that are sure to wow the locals

Stare con le mani in mano

TRANSLATION: To hold your own hands

ENGLISH EQUIVALENT: To sit on your hands

This phrase could be used to address someone doing nothing while

everyone else is working, or to highlight a person’s poor manners if

they were supposed to bring a gift but didn’t.

È il mio cavallo di battaglia

TRANSLATION: It’s my battle horse

ENGLISH EQUIVALENT: It’s my forte

Used to indicate someone’s forte (another Italian word!), this phrase

can be used in just about any context. Go on, big yourself up!

Acqua in bocca!

TRANSLATION: Keep the water in your mouth!

ENGLISH EQUIVALENT: Keep it to yourself

Nobody wants to be blamed for talking about other people’s business.

Every time you reveal a little more than you ought to, use this phrase

to ensure your gossip partner won’t blow your cover.

Non avere peli sulla lingua

TRANSLATION: To have no hair on your tongue

ENGLISH EQUIVALENT: To make no bones about something

People without hair on their tongue are honest to a fault, even if they

run the risk of offending someone. They’re lacking a filter between

brain and tongue.

Non ci piove

TRANSLATION: It doesn’t rain

ENGLISH EQUIVALENT: No doubt about it

Ending a discussion with ‘non ci piove’ means you’re very confident of

your closing line, and that what you’re saying is so conclusive that it

can’t possibly be up for further discussion.

Ready

to start

learning?

For a free trial lesson,

head to babbel.com

or download

the app

A TASTE OF ITALY

One of the best things about

learning Italian is the culinary

possibilities it offers up.

Italian cuisine has become a

staple in the West, bringing

a number of Italian words

into our vocabularies. Penne

all’arrabbiata translates to

‘angry pasta’ (presumably

because it’s spicy), while farfalle

(the pasta shaped like bows)

actually means ‘butterflies’.

HEADLINE SPONSORS OF

· 2017 ·


128 natgeotraveller.co.uk


utch

MASTERPIECE

Flower season is when Amsterdam is dressed in its best

blooms: spring sees the fields around the city fan out in

a bold patchwork of tulips and hyacinths. Velvety petals

carpet the landscape, while markets are given over to

unique bulbs and rainbow bouquets

Words & photographs NORI JEMIL

June 2017 129


NETHERLANDS

Open for only eight weeks of

the year, the flower gardens

of Keukenhof see a footfall

of over one million people.

The 79-acre park could keep

visitors occupied all day,

but the best place to see the

flowers is out in the fields

beyond. Here, among blissinducing

scents and colours,

flat paths are made for

carefree pedalling.

130 natgeotraveller.co.uk


NETHERLANDS

June 2017 131


NETHERLANDS

The tulip industry in The Netherlands dates back to the 16th century, when merchants shipped

in bulbs from Ottoman Turkey. Today, the epicentre of this floral trade is at Amsterdam’s

sprawling Aalsmeer Flower Auction, the world’s largest flower auction.

132 natgeotraveller.co.uk


NETHERLANDS

June 2017 133


NETHERLANDS

134 natgeotraveller.co.uk


NETHERLANDS

In any Dutch town, bulb and flower markets are

part of daily life. During tulip season in Haarlem,

a port city just outside Amsterdam, florist Paul

Wijkmeijer at Klavertje Vijf prepares displays

for the Frans Hals Museum. The tulip made

Haarlem one of the most thriving European

towns during ‘tulip mania’ in the 1600s.

June 2017 135


NETHERLANDS

The Frans Hals Museum is hung with paintings focused on obsessive 17th century bulb

collectors who traded Amsterdam's canal houses for a single specimen. After the market crashed,

their greed was mocked but without their passion, Holland wouldn’t have its tulip fields.

136 natgeotraveller.co.uk


138 natgeotraveller.co.uk


City life

ADDIS

ABABA

Lofty and leafy, with ancient sprawling markets and shiny

modern skyscrapers, Ethiopia’s capital is a surprise

package with a curious past

WORDS: Chris Leadbeater

IMAGE: AWL IMAGES

Four men are approaching at speed,

consuming with ease the gradient

under their feet offered by Mount

Entoto. They’re all wearing the same uniform,

the same expression of concentration and

focus, and for a second, I wonder if they’re

coming for me. But they continue upwards,

fluorescent trainers padding the tarmac,

exercise tops stretched tight over limbs and

torsos. I follow them with my eyes, until they

glide around a corner and the eucalyptus

treeline claims them, never once slowing

their pace as they race towards their futures.

A quartet of slight teenagers, they’re a

symbol of Ethiopian aspiration. And they

have every reason to be pushing themselves

on this 10,500ft peak, which frames Addis

Ababa. Long-distance running is firmly

established as a route to better things in

Ethiopia. The proof lies two miles up the

road amid shady paths and tasteful

accommodation. Yaya Village opened in

2011 as a mixture of four-star hotel and

training camp for athletes seeking to hone

their fitness at altitude. It’s partly owned by

superstar runner Haile Gebrselassie, the

(now retired) Ethiopian master of the

marathon, who won two Olympic gold

medals and set 27 world records. The young

men who overtook me will be dreaming of

achieving even a fraction of the glory

amassed by a legend who’s considered one

of the greatest ever sportsmen, and of

taking the tape in New York, Dubai, Sydney

and the other major cities where he won.

Just the thought of their relentless stride

pattern is enough to snare my breath

— although the discernible thinness of the

oxygen at this elevation doesn’t help. Two

steps behind, my guide Yohannes Assefa

giggles. “Come on,” he says. “Just by getting

off the plane, you’re seven years younger than

you were yesterday. This little hill really

shouldn’t be an issue.”

He’s referring to the Ethiopian Calendar,

which, by dint of the Orthodox Christian

June 2017 139


ADDIS ABABA

tradition in the country, lags three quarters

of a decade behind conventional diaries

— 11 September, the next New Year’s Day,

will usher in Ethiopia’s version of 2010.

But, this quirk of the clock is not the only

unusual thing about Addis Ababa. For one,

it’s Africa’s highest capital, floating at 7,700ft

in the Ethiopian Highlands (to put this in

context, Kathmandu in Himalayan Nepal

goes about its day at ‘just’ 4,600ft). This

makes for a greenness and coolness of

climate at odds with the still prevailing

though inaccurate image of Ethiopia,

bequeathed by Live Aid and the famine of

1983-1985, as a place of dust and desolation.

In fact, the sun keeps its fiercest rays holstered

throughout the year, rarely shifting from its

groove of 21-23C, and the wet season of June

to September contributes to the leafiness by

treating Addis to four months of deluge.

Then there’s its age. Addis Ababa is a

child, disgorged onto the map as recently as

1886 by the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II,

who wanted a capital befitting his status as

a ruler of a rapidly expanding domain.

Gazing down from Mount Entoto, I can see

that this youthfulness translates into

another expression of Ethiopian aspiration.

Modern structures thrust upper storeys into

the sky, sunlight glinting on their windows.

At their feet, people mill about — the city’s

official population figure is 3.4 million, but

the real head count is likely to be much

closer to seven million. These residents

spill out into the different districts — the

central area of Piazza, where museums

and churches supply a distinct grandeur;

the Downtown core of Urael, with its

bars, hotels and clubs; upwardly-mobile

Bole, with its priapic towers of desirable

apartments; and Merkato, a near-endless

sprawl of alleyways where some 13,000

merchants make up Africa’s biggest

city market.

This urban jam has been sugared of late

by the opening of the Addis Ababa Light

Rail. Although funded by Chinese money,

the first rapid-transit system in sub-

Saharan Africa sings a song of a 21stcentury

Ethiopia. Its two lines were

launched in 2015, dissecting the city

east-to-west and north-to-south via 39

stations and 20 miles of track. It has prised

200,000 people a day from the traffic queues

— although Bole International Airport, on

the south-east edge of the centre, is

becoming increasingly equipped to bring in

more people. When I pass through its

arrivals hall, I’m impressed not just by the

size of the new terminal currently taking

shape, but by the feast of possible

destinations listed on the departures board.

London and New York are there. So are

Dubai, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo,

Shanghai and Cape Town. Addis Ababa is

becoming a hub, and it wants you to know it.

Green belt // Africa’s highest

capital, floating at 7,700ft in

the Ethiopian Highlands, has

a greenness and coolness at

odds with the still prevailing

though inaccurate image,

bequeathed by Live Aid, of a

place of dust and desolation

PREVIOUS SPREAD: A young woman makes traditional

Ethiopian hand-woven baskets, used for serving injera

flatbreads, on sale in Mercato Market

OPPOSITE, FROM TOP: A multi-storey building gets a

facelift; the sprawl of ephemera-filled Mercato

ABOVE: Fruit-seller at the market

IMAGES: AWL IMAGES; GETTY; ALAMY

140 natgeotraveller.co.uk


ADDIS ABABA

June 2017 141


ADDIS ABABA

IMAGES: GETTY

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ADDIS ABABA

OPPOSITE, FROM TOP:

The bright lights of Addis

Ababa at night; popular

modern band, Jano,

performing live

All this makes it a city where you might be

tempted to linger, perhaps even for a long

weekend. Plenty of travellers visit Ethiopia

every year, but few take a good look at its

capital, preferring to head out to the rock

churches of Lalibela and the UNESCO-listed

ancient obelisks of Axum. While this may be

understandable, I decide to drag my heels.

Now, there’s every chance that I’m lost.

Yohannes and I have delved into the

labyrinth of Merkato, and, sure-footed on

home soil, he has briefly marched out of

sight, leaving me with two feasible turnings

and the thought that I’m Alice in a

wonderland maze not of clipped hedges, but

of many traders and stallholders. These twin

paths seem to be stacked with every piece of

ephemera you could imagine. There are

discarded car batteries and remote controls

divorced from their televisions. There are

yellow plastic cans, which once contained

cooking oil. There are various screws, bolts,

nuts and second-hand padlocks. There are

sheets of salvaged corrugated metal,

fearsomely sharp at the edges, carried on

tops of heads, forcing passers-by to duck

unless they want to lose theirs.

Then comes the voice. “You’re British,

yes?” There’s an irony to the fact that the man

making the enquiry is wearing a fake Arsenal

football shirt, but I nod in response. “I think

there’s nothing for you here,” he says. It’s not

a hostile comment; it’s even delivered with a

smile. It’s more an acknowledgement that

this four square mile tribute to the idea of

one person’s trash being his neighbour’s

treasure isn’t meant for tourists. He clinks

together two of the empty glass soda bottles

he sells as water carriers, and grins again.

“This is not Marrakech,” he says. “You’ll not

buy pricey bracelets and carpets here.”

He’s correct. There’s nothing for tourists in

Merkato. And yet, in another sense, there’s

everything: a glimpse of how Addis Ababa’s

economy has worked for decades — nothing

is without value — is as worthy as any

souvenir. I ask him, in curiosity, how much

his bottles cost. He smiles again, still

friendly, but the meaning is clear: ‘Don’t

waste my time.’

LOCAL SPECIALITIES

If Merkato is Addis Ababa at any moment

since 1886, Urael is rather more tied to 2017.

There’s an upbeat vibe to both Mickey

Leland Street and Namibia Street, watering

holes anticipating the evening. A crowd is

forming outside cocktail haven Shebeta

Lounge as I amble the former — but I’m

aiming for the latter, specifically 2000

Habesha Cultural Restaurant, a whirling

dervish of a place. Inside, an international

clientele — local diners, European expats, a

set of Somali businessmen — is seated

around tables, listening to the house band

plucking rhythms and harmonies from their

Market forces // It’s hard to

imagine Addis Ababa squashed

under jackboots. But its happy

mood conceals a 20th century

pockmarked by despair: the

Soviet-backed military

dictatorship and earlier

Fascist Italian occupation

one-string, bass-like masinko and fivestringed

kirar instruments. The menu offers

an array of Ethiopian dishes, including

gomen besiga (cubes of beef and spinach,

baked in a clay pot) and bozena shiro (yellow

peas slow-cooked with beef and onions).

The atmosphere is fuelled by carafes of tej,

Ethiopian honey wine, its bittersweet taste

serving to disguise its potency. By the time I

dash to the Ghion Hotel, seeking a

performance by Mulatu Astatke, the 73-yearold

musician who’s seen as the father of

‘Ethio-Jazz’, the night has taken on a woozy

quality. The music that emerges from this

darkened room— echoes of New Orleans,

but with a rumbling beat that’s entirely

African — enhances the mood, and the air

seems to thicken with each key change.

In such a context, it’s hard to imagine

Addis Ababa as a city squashed under

jackboots. But its happy mood conceals a

20th century pockmarked by despair. The

famine that sent rock stars scurrying to

Wembley Stadium in 1985 was caused, in

part, by the brutality and administrative

incompetence of the Derg — the Soviet

Union-backed military dictatorship which

‘ran’ Ethiopia between 1974 and 1991. This

oppression was but a delayed second course

to a vicious starter: the six years (1935-1941)

when Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia)

was occupied by fascist Italy, and Addis

Ababa, as the centrepoint of resistance,

suffered the brunt of Mussolini’s anger.

Both epochs can be revisited here. The

former is detailed at the Red Terror Martyrs’

Memorial Museum in central Kirkos, which

replays the nightmare with grim precision

via the torture instruments, dusty coffins

and photos of some of the regime’s half-amillion

victims. The latter is kept alive via

two memorials: Yekatit 12 Square is host to a

column which salutes the estimated 30,000

Ethiopians who were massacred by their

conquerors on 19 February 1937, in response

to a failed assassination attempt on the

Italian leader Rodolfo Graziani; while, just

over a mile away on the edge of Piazza — on a

roundabout on Fitawrari Gebeyebu Street

— a giant statue remembers the sacrifice of

Abune Petros, a bishop who was executed by

June 2017 143


ADDIS ABABA

Emperor Haile

Selassie’s bedroom,

Ethnographic Museum,

Addis Ababa University

ESSENTIALS

Merkato

Addis

Ababa

ETHIOPIA

Ethnological

Museum

Piazza

University

Getting there & around

Yekatit 12

Square

ADDIS ABABA

Menelik II

Square

Red Terror

Martyrs Memorial

Museum

500 yards

Ethiopian Airlines offers a daily direct service from

Heathrow to Addis Ababa. ethiopianairlines.com

AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME: 7h 30m.

Urael

Bole

The Light Rail system offers the quickest movement

around the city. St Urael station on Line 1 provides

access to Urael; Menelik II Square station on Line 2 is

the best choice for sights such as the National Museum

and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Tickets from ETB2 (7p).

When to go

Temperatures are a fairly constant 21-23C

throughout the year, although the wet season

of June-September contributes four months

of heavy rainfall.

Places mentioned

2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant.

2000habesha.com

Ethnographic Museum at Addis Ababa University.

aau.edu.et

Ghion Hotel. ghionhotel.com

facebook.com/theafricanjazzvillage

Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum. rtmmm.org

Shebeta Lounge. facebook.com/shebetalounge

Yaya Village. yayavillage.com

More info

ethiopia.travel

How to do it

COX & KINGS offers three-night mini-breaks in

Addis Ababa for £1,245 per person, including

flights from London, private transfers,

accommodation with breakfast and city tour. They

also sell a 14-day Ethiopian Odyssey tour that visits

Axum and Lalibela. From £2,745 per person as a

group trip, or from £3,625 as a private holiday (with

flights from London). coxandkings.co.uk

the occupiers in 1936 for publicly and

repeatedly denouncing their presence.

Yet, if you wish to step back into Addis

Ababa’s story, you cannot do so without

encountering one particular character.

Emperor Haile Selassie defined Ethiopia’s

20th century, governing from 1930 to 1974

(with the exception of a five-year exile during

the Italian fascist period). While he was

arguably no saint, he was charismatic to the

point of inspiring religious devotion — the

Rastafari movement in Jamaica still

considers him a messiah. And he left his

imprint on the city. His palace (in Piazza) is

now marooned on the campus of Addis

Ababa University and has been refitted as the

Ethnographic Museum. But amid some

intriguing artefacts, including art depicting

Ethiopia’s first fight with Italian colonialism,

the victorious Battle of Adwa in 1896, you can

detect the grandeur. Selassie’s bedroom is

preserved as a statement of majesty, even if

the size of the bed betrays his lack of stature.

He also haunts the National Museum, just

to the south — his colossal throne another

emblem of royal power. It’s mighty enough

to almost eclipse the prime exhibit, the

skeletal remains of ‘Lucy’, a woman who

strode the Ethiopian landscape 3.2 million

years ago, as one of the mothers of mankind.

She was discovered in a lake bed in 1974, a

great year for humanity’s knowledge of its

roots, but a bad one for Selassie, who was

deposed by the Derg amid soaring inflation

and unrest. His demise was unseemly. He

was imprisoned, then reportedly died of

‘respiratory failure’ in August 1975,

according to state media of the day. It wasn’t

until 1992 that his bones were found below a

concrete slab in the palace grounds.

Still, Selassie had the last laugh: he was

re-buried with much pomp in November

2000 at Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Orthodox

bastion he founded in 1931. Athletes stream

past the gates as I near it; again, all sweat and

application, oblivious to the magnificence of

the building behind the fence. But, Ethiopia’s

imperialists, you can be certain, are not.

Their fallen champion slumbers in style

within; his mausoleum an enormous

exercise in cold marble.

Before I cross the threshold, I’m drawn to

one particular grave outside. Here’s another

Addis Ababa idiosyncrasy. The headstone

serenades the soul of Sylvia Pankhurst, the

suffragette and friend of Selassie’s, who

moved to the city in 1956 and died there four

years later. Clearly, my interest in her once

again denotes me as British, for I’m

approached by an elderly worshipper. We

swap strands of conversation, until he drops

the pertinent question: “So, Brexit — is it

fine for you, or not?” When the UK’s current

political affairs are a topic for discussion in a

country once the subject of world concern,

you know times have changed.

IMAGE: ALAMY. ILLUSTRATION: JOHN PLUMER

144 natgeotraveller.co.uk


THE LAND OF ORIGINS AND ANCIENT HISTORY WITH

STYLISH, ICONIC AND SOPHISTICATED HOTEL IN ETHOPIA

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think

of Ethiopia?

The tropical monsoon climate which many are fond of, the

diversity of the 80+ ethnic groups, each with its own language,

the culture, custom and tradition, the history which goes way

back to 3000 years, or the impressive geological features and

man-made monuments?

Ethiopia is truly a land of contrasts and extremes; a land of

remote and wild places. Some of the most stunning places

on the African continent are found here. Many people visit

Ethiopia - or hope to do so one day - because of the remarkable

manner in which ancient historical traditions have been

preserved. It’s worth to come and visit your ancestor

“Lucy’/Australopithecus afarensis” and the birth place of Coffee.

The Radisson Blu Hotel Addis Ababa is idealy located in an

exclusive business area at the heart of Kazanchis Business

District, perfect base for exploring historical Addis Ababa

and its treasure such as the Ethiopian Ethnological and

National Museums, Menelik’s old Imperial Palace, St. George’s

Cathedral , the largest open market in Africa ‘Merkato’, and

many more. The hotel is designed to make your stay an

inspirational pleasure, creating a memorable sense of arrival

with its unique and iconic architectural design along with its

holistic hospitality that is in line with the needs of the

modern travelers.

Choose from 212 stylish rooms and suites, decorated in rich

neutral tones, with tastefull accents and prints. These rooms

cater to your comfort with climate control, pillow choices and

double glazed windows to ensure your peace. You can also

enjoy modern amenities, including satellite television

and free high speed wireless internet access. Accessible

rooms and smoking/non smoking preferences are available

upon request.

Radisson Blu is your perfect gateway on your next trip to

Ethiopia

www.radissonblu.com/hotel-addisababa

Tel: +251 115 157 600

info.addisababa@radissonblu.com


City life

AARHUS

ZZZ

A little-known, laid back Danish city with a distinctly sunny

outlook, the 2017 European Capital of Culture is stepping

out of Copenhagen’s shadow and coming into its own

WORDS: James Clasper PHOTOGRAPHS: Nori Jemil

You can literally hear new life emerging in Aarhus. Whenever a baby is born in the

Danish city’s hospital, a bell rings in DOKK1, its new public library. And not just any

old bell, but the world’s largest tubular bell — with a weight of three tons. The happy

parents simply press a button in the maternity ward and it chimes.

I get chatting to a man with an office at DOKK1, and ask him if it’s a disturbance. Not at all,

he says. “It just brings a smile to everyone’s face.” It’s an apt comment. Aarhus has a few

nicknames, including the World’s Smallest Metropolis, but the City of Smiles seems spot-on

right now. Denmark’s second city has long lived in Copenhagen’s shadow, yet its designation

as a European Capital of Culture in 2017 has put a spring in its step.

You sense it strolling along Jægergårdsgade, a bustling street in trendy Frederiksbjerg,

south of the city centre. Nondescript a few years ago, Jægergårdsgade is jam-packed today

with bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. You can’t miss the mechanics of regeneration either,

from construction workers building shiny office blocks to a skyline peppered with cranes.

Yet, against all the urban development, Aarhus also happens to be blessed with beaches

and beech forests within easy reach. And, as you’d expect from a diminutive Scandi city, it’s

one best explored on foot or by bike — although unlike the capital, it isn’t pancake-flat.

And, if that sounds like hungry work, don’t worry. The de facto capital of the European

Region of Gastronomy in 2017, Aarhus boasts a trio of Michelin-starred spots, plus a galaxy of

affordable options. They include a new street-food market — a big hit with the 40,000

students who help make Aarhus the youngest city in Denmark.

Back at DOKK1, I spot further proof of the city’s youth — a ‘car park’ for baby strollers,

replete with lane markings. And, not for the first time, I find myself smiling.

146 natgeotraveller.co.uk


On the timber viewing

platform beneath

Olafur Eliasson’s

‘floating’ 360-degree

glass walkway. Your

Rainbow Panorama is

the permanent work

of art at the top of the

Aros museum, with great

views of the city

June 2017 147


AARHUS

Why does Author Dan Buettner pinpoint Aarhus

as one of the world’s happiest cities? Trust. ‘You

can leave your baby carriage (and baby) parked

outside a cafe and not have to worry,’ he writes

CLOCKWISE: Aarhus’s cycle-friendly

streets; selling cakes in Den Gamle By

open-air museum; the old timber

windmill by the botanical gardens;

Australian artist Ron Mueck’s

enthralling, hyper-real ‘Boy’, 1999,

looms in the ARoS museum

EAT

KOHALEN: Few places are more

Danish than this cosy pub, which celebrates

its 110th birthday this year. Locals flock here

for traditional dishes, such as open-face

sandwiches and cured herring. It’s excellent

value for money, but booking ahead is

recommended. kohalen.dk

RESTAURANT PONDUS: The baby brother

of Michelin-starred Substans, this casual

eatery describes itself as a Danish bistro.

Enjoy well-executed, seasonal dishes — such

as pork belly with parsnips and lingonberries

— in a relaxed setting. The three-course set

menu for 295DKK (£34) is excellent value.

restaurantpondus.dk

RESTAURANT FREDERIKSHØJ: Don’t go

all the way to Aarhus only to skip the very

place that put it on the gastronomic map.

Super-chef Wassim Hallal won his first

Michelin star in 2015 — one of the first in the

city. His new Nordic menu takes inspiration

from the sea and the forest, which form the

the restaurant’s stunning surroundings.

Book well ahead. frederikshoj.com

BUY

CITY CENTRE: Aarhus’ compact centre

is home to several top department stores,

including Salling and Magasin du Nord, as

well as Illums Bolighus, a one-stop shop for

Scandinavian design. And don’t miss Strøget,

a kilometre-long pedestrian street packed

with leading fashion brands and boutiques.

JÆGERGÅRDSGADE: Nothing showcases the

city’s renaissance quite like this street south

of the railway station. Linking the up-andcoming

neighbourhood of Frederiksbjerg in

the west with the old meatpacking district of

Kødbyen in the east, the once-grubby

Jægergårdsgade is today a fun place to shop,

eat and drink.

THE LATIN QUARTER: With its narrow,

cobblestoned streets, hidden courtyards and

medieval buildings, the oldest part of town

oozes historic charm. Spend the morning

exploring its shops and boutiques — many

of the local jewellery designers and

ceramicists have their workshops here

— and refuel with a top-notch coffee at

La Cabra in Aarhus Central Food Market.

LIKE A LOCAL

KULBROEN: In the summer, you’ll find

a busy food market and occasional jazz

festival beneath this decrepit bridge, which

was once used to transport coal. Residents

hope to turn the historic edifice into their

version of the High Line, Manhattan’s

railway line-turned-public park, even

extending it so that it links the train station

with the harbourside. kulbroen.com

DEN PERMANENTE: Enjoy a dip at this

much-cherished beach and outdoor

swimming bath, a 10-minute cycle ride out

of town, situated just below the woodland

park Riis Skov. Den Permanente has been a

hit with locals since 1933, and you can see

why: a beech forest provides its bucolic

backdrop. vigirbyenpuls.dk

INGERSLEVS BOULEVARD: On Wednesdays

and Saturdays until 2pm, head to Denmark’s

largest food market, south of the city centre.

There, you’ll find around 60 stalls selling

local meat, fish and cheese, fruit and

vegetables, and honey from local beekeepers.

facebook.com/ingerslevtorv

148 natgeotraveller.co.uk


AARHUS

SEE & DO

AARHUS SEARANGERS: Culture

vultures, speed demons and nature-lovers

alike will enjoy this adrenaline-filled tour of

the bay. The SeaRangers are experts on local

history as well as marine life. If you’re lucky,

you’ll see seals and porpoises. Hold on tight,

though. searangers.dk

AROS: The city’s contemporary art museum

is a must-visit, not least because it houses a

first-class permanent collection, including

works by Andy Warhol and Ron Mueck. But

the highlight is Danish-Icelandic artist

Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama

— a 150m-long circular walkway, 50m above

the rooftop. Its multi-coloured glass provides

unbeatable views of the city. en.aros.dk

THE BOTANICAL GARDENS: You’ll be floored by

the flora at this award-winning attraction,

the highlight of which is four climatecontrolled

greenhouses. The journey begins

amid the almond trees of the Mediterranean,

continues into desert and mountain regions,

and ends in tropical treetops.

DEN GAMLE BY: An imaginative open-air

museum, which shows how Danish people

lived in three distinct eras: 1864, the era of

Hans Christian Andersen; 1927, when

industrialisation took hold; and the hippiedippy

days of 1974. ‘The Old Town’ was built

with 75 historical houses relocated from 24

towns across the country. dengamleby.dk

GODSBANEN: To see urban redevelopment at

its most dramatic, visit these repurposed

industrial buildings in the grounds of a

former railway yard. Since 2010, they’ve been

home to a range of creative businesses and

workshops, so there’s always plenty going on.

godsbanen.dk

MOESGAARD MUSEUM: With its wealth of

archaeological and ethnographic treasures

— including the Grauballe Man, the world’s

best preserved Iron Age bog body — as well

as the stunning views from its sloping grass

roof, this museum is not to be missed.

moesgaardmuseum.dk/en

VIKING MUSEUM: The basement of a Danish

bank happens to be the spot where the

Vikings founded the city of Aros a

millennium ago. It’s worth a visit to view the

artefacts unearthed here in the 1960s,

including 1,000-year-old tools and pottery,

and a Viking skeleton. vikingemuseet.dk

Take me to the river //

Students at Aarhus University

compete in the beer-soaked

Kapsejladsen boat race every

spring. Held every year

since 2000, it attracts

up to 25,000 spectators

June 2017 149


AARHUS

AFTER HOURS

ST PAULS APOTHEK: Head to this

former pharmacy on Jægergårdsgade for ‘all

kinds of fixes, smashes… and other fancy

cocktails’. Many are made with

quintessentially Nordic ingredients, like

the sea buckthorn that puts the twist in a

Tom Collins. stpaulsapothek.dk

S’VINBAR: This cosy corner bar in the centre

of town is the go-to place for a glass of wine.

It tilts towards Old World wines and with

more than 300 for sale, most by the glass,

there’s an unusual amount of choice. The

wine flight changes daily and focuses on a

particular grape or region. svinbar.dk

MIG OG ØLSNEDKEREN: If craft beer’s your

thing, make a beeline for this year-old bar on

Mejlgade. A Copenhagen brewpub spin-off,

it has 20 microbrews on tap — half from

Denmark and the rest from around the

world. facebook.com/migogolsnedkeren

See the world through giant rose tinted

spectacles with the ‘Sea Pink’ installation

by Swiss artist Marc Moser

ZZZ SLEEP

MØLLESTIEN 49 AND 51: Rambling

roses, half-timbered houses, cobblestones

— you won’t find a quainter option than

these tiny guesthouses, located on the city’s

prettiest street, a few minutes from Aros.

While one property has been renovated, the

other retains its original 18th-century

features. house-in-aarhus.com

SCANDIC AARHUS CITY: Location is key

for this four-star hotel — it’s a stone’s throw

from the main shopping street and walking

distance from the railway station. It also has

underground parking and onsite bar and

restaurant — though you’ll be spoilt for

choice if you do venture out. scandichotels.com

VILLA PROVENCE: Enjoy a taste of the

south of France at this cute boutique hotel.

Its 39 rooms and suites are individually

decorated in Provençal style. Throw in a

pretty cobbled courtyard and a plum

location, right in the heart of town, and

la vie, c’est belle. villaprovence.dk

ESSENTIALS

Getting there & around

Ryanair flies daily from Stansted to Aarhus.

Norwegian Air flies twice a week (Thursday and

Sunday) from Gatwick to Aalborg. British Airways

flies daily from Heathrow to Billund. SAS flies eight

times a day to Aarhus from Copenhagen.

ryanair.com norwegian.com ba.com flysas.com

AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME: 1h 40m.

Explore Aarhus on foot or by bicycle — rent one

through Cycling Aarhus for 110 DKK (around £13)

a day. Alternatively, you can pick up taxis easily,

though they’re not cheap, and most cab drivers

speak English. From mid-2017 there’ll be a light

railway service running through the city.

cycling-aarhus.dk/rent-a-bike

When to go

Ideally, from April to October. Denmark has harsh

winters but is typically mild throughout the rest of the

year with temperatures around 10C. The weather is

usually very pleasant from late spring to early autumn

— but always pack a raincoat and a spare jumper.

More info

visitaarhus.com

Lonely Planet Denmark. RRP: £15.99

How to do it

BRITISH AIRWAYS HOLIDAYS offers three nights’ B&B

at the three-star Scandic Aarhus Vest from £269 per

person, including return flights from Heathrow.

ba.com

Botanical

Gardens

The Old Town

Godsbanen

Aarhus

DENMARK

ARoS

A a r hus

Latin

Quarter

A A R H U S

Midtbyen

Aarhus

Central Station

Jæger gårdsgade

Dokk1

200 yards

ILLUSTRATION: JOHN PLUMER

150 natgeotraveller.co.uk


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June 2017 151


SPECIAL FEATURE

Tokyo

48 HOURS IN

The historic centre where it all began, the

Nihonbashi district is the perfect place to

spend a few yen and get a taste of the city

Words: Audrey Gillan

I’m standing in the birthplace of Japan’s most celebrated

foodstuff. It also happens to be the very centre of the

country. The two things are not directly related but seem

perfect, poetic companions. The district of Nihonbashi

is the point from which all distances in the country were

originally measured; the word means ‘Tokyo bridge’, and

at the very midpoint of said crossing is a brass marker of

Japan’s exact ‘Kilometre Zero’ spot.

Nihonbashi was also the original site of the Tokyo fish

market (now a 20-minute cab ride away in Tsukiji), where

Edomae-style sushi began, consumed on the hop by busy

fish vendors. A pile of rice topped with raw fish could be

eaten with just fingers. Commonly known as Tokyo-style

sushi, today it’s by far the most popular variant.

Back in the Edo period (1603-1868), Nihonbashi was the

hub of five routes, the Gokaidō, connecting the capital

with the provinces. It quickly became a mercantile hub,

and continues to flourish with artisan wares — think

exquisite washi paper, high-sheen lacquerware, and tiny

toothpicks, sold in shops that sit cheek-by-jowl with

luxury department stores. The old stone bridge, now

traversed by the expressway built for the 1964 summer

Olympics, seems thoroughly hemmed in and yet it marks

a centuries-spanning crossroads. At some traffic lights,

I spy four grown men driving Super Mario-style carts, in

outfits to match: the modern city thriving in its old heart.

This area is also an epicentre of spring’s hanami (flower

viewing), when the 169 trees of Cherry Blossom street

(Sakura Dori) are in full bloom, the focus of ‘welcoming

spring’ celebrations that include delicate foods perfumed

with the flowers. But you don’t have to wait until spring

to get a taste of Nihonbashi. Tokyo Station is a 15-minute

stroll away, notable not just for its pre-war, red-brick

facade, but for its endless subterranean food outlets.

On ‘Ramen Street’, join locals loudly slurping slippery

noodles and lip-smacking umami broth from big bowls.

And make a point of exploring Nihonbashi’s smaller side

streets and find a queue to join. More often than not,

this signals one of Tokyo’s top food spots. At Kaneko

Hannosuke, for example, customers are prepared to stand

in line for hours for its exemplary ten-don: tempura set

over a bowl of rice.

152 natgeotraveller.co.uk


SPECIAL FEATURE

Must do

BEST OF JAPAN GOURMET TOUR

Taste flavours from the north and south of the

country in a 90-minute spin round some of the

best food shops and restaurants located in the

Coredo Muramachi shopping centre. This is a

learning experience with small samples from

each outlet, but you can head back to your

favourite spots in the centre armed with new

culinary knowledge.

nihonbashi-info.jp/omotenashi/gourmet.html

IMPERIAL PALACE

The Imperial Palace and its gardens are just

a short walk from Nihonbashi’s bridge. The

palace is built on the former site of Edo Castle

and is surrounded by moats and stone walls. It’s

the residence of Japan’s imperial family, so the

inner grounds are only open to the public on

two days a year (23 December, the Emperor’s

birthday, and 2 January); however, the Palace

East Gardens are fully accessible to the public.

japan-guide.com/e/e3017.html

Where to eat

SUSHI SORA

The sushi experience at Sushi Sora is a

culinary education in the district that gave

birth to Edomae-style sushi. Master chef Yuji

Imaizumi prepares rice and fish on the ancient

wood counter in front of you, turning them

into sushi masterpieces. mandarinoriental.

com/tokyo/fine-dining/sushi-sora

TEN-ICHI

For tempura heaven, sit at the counter and

watch as the chef delicately dips fresh fish and

vegetables into batter, before deep frying and

serving them up, piece by individual piece.

Don’t dither over photos — this stuff should

be eaten hot, hot, hot. tenichi.co.jp

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT:

Looking down Dotonbori

canal; spa, Mandarin

Oriental; Imperial

Temple; Sushi Sora; chef,

Sushi Sora

TAPAS MOLECULAR BAR

This tiny eight-seat, one Michelin-starred bar

loffers molecular cuisine, sushi bar-style. Chef

Ngan Ping Chow presents a fusion of Japanese

and Western cuisines that play with modern

cookery techniques to produce a truly

interactive experience. mandarinoriental.com/

tokyo/fine-dining/tapas-molecular-bar

June 2017 153


SPECIAL FEATURE

Where to shop

MITSUKOSHI DEPARTMENT STORE

Set in a stunning stone building, this flagship store

offers daily pipe organ concerts and year-end choral

performances. The basement food hall is a gasp-a-minute

gourmet delight where you can sample pickles, rice

crackers, hams, sausages, mochi (chewy rice cakes) and the

like. mitsukoshi.mistore.jp/store/nihombashi

OZU WASHI

This traditional Japanese washi paper shop sells high-grade

paper for painting, calligraphy and origami. Pull out drawers

to find screen-printed glories that look marvellous when

framed. The site includes a gallery and a studio where you

can make your own washi paper. ozuwashi.net/en

IBASEN

Making beautifully, brightly coloured uchiwa (Japanese

fans) for more than 400 years, Ibasen features calligraphy

and Japanese art in its designs. Traditionally used for

keeping cool, fanning away insects, keeping a flame lit and

more, these wondrous objects are now most often pinned

to walls to display their full glory. ibasen.com/world_wide

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Japanese-style knives; counter, Mitsukoshi

Department Store; Presidential Suite, Mandarin Oriental

BRING IT HOME

KATSUOBUSHI (DRIED BONITO)

Ninben has been a part of Nihonbashi

for more than 300 years selling dried

bonito flakes, a traditional component

of the Japanese diet. Katsuobushi is

dried tuna, shaved into delicate flakes.

It’s often used as a food topping or

boiled in water to create dashi (stock).

The shop contains a dashi bar, selling

soup and rice dishes. ninben.co.jp

JAPANESE KNIVES

Nihonbashi Kiya — the Kiya Cutlery

Shop — has been around since 1792

and sells Japanese-forged steel knives.

Marvel at the array of task specific

knives before opting for the one that

suits you best for kitchen use. The

walls are also lined with kitchen knick

knacks such as peelers, scrubbers and

strainers. kiya-hamono.co.jp/english

GOURMET TREATS

Head to the Mitsukoshi depachika

(food hall) for dried goods, pickles and

seasonings. Snaffle some free samples

and grab a picnic for the plane home.

mitsukoshi.mistore.jp/store/nihombashi

Where to stay

MANDARIN ORIENTAL

The Mandarin Oriental features 179 guest

rooms and suites over six floors of the

38-storey Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, and

these, as well as most restaurants, bars, spa

and even some toilets, afford spectacular

views of greater Tokyo and beyond (you can

see Mount Fuji from certain points). A 37thfloor

spa offers four treatment rooms plus hot

tubs that look out across the city.

HOW TO DO IT: Rooms at the Mandarin

Oriental Tokyo begin at £380 per night.

Rates do fluctuate and are subject to an

8% consumption tax, 15% service charge

and accommodation tax of 200 Japanese

yen (roughly £1.50) per person, per night.

mandarinoriental.com/tokyo

Flights with Japan Airlines, from Heathrow

to Tokyo Haneda, start at £819 direct return.

Promotional flights are sometimes available and

can often begin as low as £480 for an indirect

return flight. uk.jal.com

154 natgeotraveller.co.uk


JAL MOMENTS

Welcoming you aboard with authentic

Japanese hospitality and making your every moment

with us an unforgettable experience. JAL.

Premium comfort for body and mind. JAL International Premium Economy Class, JAL SKY PREMIUM

Visit our website www.uk.jal.com


ASK THE

EXPERTS

NEED ADVICE FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP?

ARE YOU AFTER RECOMMENDATIONS,

TIPS AND GUIDANCE? THE TRAVEL

GEEKS HAVE THE ANSWERS…

Q // I’ve booked flights

to Tbilisi for an active

summer break in

Georgia. I’ve never

been. Where would

you recommend I go?

Straddling eastern Europe

and western Asia, Georgia is

largely defined by the Caucasus

Mountains. Not many people

realise that it’s home to Europe’s

second highest peak, Mount

Shkhara (17,060ft), which is

actually higher than Mont Blanc.

For anyone looking for an

active holiday, in a destination

unspoilt by today’s modern

tourism, the country should be on

the top of their list. Summer is the

best time of the year to visit, with

sunny but cool days making the

weather ideal for exploring.

Top experiences include

crossing narrow green valleys

to get up close to impressive

glaciers, cycling through lunar

semi-desert landscapes,

exploring rock-hewn settlements

such as Uplistsikhe (in eastern

Georgia) and Vardzia (to the

south), and enjoying unspoilt

wilderness in the country’s many

national parks and reserves.

The epic Georgian Military

Highway, widely regarded as one

of the most beautiful mountain

roads in the world, will take you

close to the border with Russia

and the town of Stepantsminda.

This is the gateway to Gergeti

Trinity Church — silhouetted

against Mount Kazbek, it’s one of

Georgia’s most iconic images and

the view makes the three-hour

steep hike worth it.

The highest permanently

inhabited village in Europe can

also be found in Georgia: Ushguli,

located at an altitude of 7,218ft, is

snow-covered for six months of

the year and is often cut off from

the rest of the world.

If you work up an appetite

after all this activity, do try some

of the local delicacies, such as

khachapuri, an oval-shaped,

cheese-filled bread, and khinkali,

Georgia’s take on dumplings.

Finally, bear in mind that the

country is one of the oldest

wine producing regions in the

world, dating back more than

7,000 years. In fact, the word

‘wine’ comes from the Georgian

word for it: ‘gvino’. It may be

little known in much of the

world but Georgian wine is very

much sought after in the former

Soviet Union states, so give it a

go — there are around 40 grape

varieties to choose from.

GORDON STEER

IMAGES: ALAMY; GETTY

156 natgeotraveller.co.uk


Q // Will the laptop

ban on flights affect

my travel plans?

Q // I hear the EU is

putting an end to

roaming charges. How

will this affect UK

holidaymakers?

Following the USA’s lead, the UK

announced in March that gadgets

larger than 6.3x3.6x0.6in must be

put in hold luggage on inbound

flights from Turkey, Saudi Arabia,

Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and

Tunisia. This applies if your

flight stops over in one of

these countries, too.

Stowing e-readers,

laptops and tablets

means relying on inflight

entertainment or

Charging consumers huge bills for

crossing borders across Europe

is about to change. From 15 June,

you’ll pay the same price as at

home to use your mobile phone

anywhere within the EU — for

calls, texts and data — after the

European Parliament, Council

and Commission agreed on a deal

earlier this year after a decadelong

process.

According to the European

Commission, prices for roaming

calls, SMS and data have fallen

by 80% since 2007, and data

roaming is now up to 91%

books — an inconvenience

for business travellers and

young families in particular.

Another problem is insurance:

historically, most policies haven’t

covered gadgets in the hold due

to the higher risk of damage

or theft. However, companies

including Saga and Holiday

Extras have responded quickly

with appropriate new policies.

More stringent restrictions

apply on flights from 10 Middle

Eastern countries to the USA, and

it’s thought Australia may soon

implement gadget restrictions

too. Stay up to date by checking

gov.uk, and check with your airline

if you have concerns.

AMELIA DUGGAN

cheaper compared to 10 years

ago. Prices have gradually fallen

over the years with travellers,

in the EU at least, no longer

receiving extortionate bills for

making the odd phone call or

checking their emails.

Of course, this kicks in just

as the UK triggers Article 50

and begins its negotiations to

leave the EU, so we may only

benefit for the remainder of our

membership; depending on

the terms of departure.

ec.europa.eu

PAT RIDDELL

Health corner

Q // I’m travelling to sub-

Saharan Africa. Should

I be concerned about

clean drinking water?

The first thing to say is that not all

water in sub-Saharan Africa is bad.

Check the reliability of a tap water

source with trusted local users

such as NGOs and overlanders’

campsites. If in doubt, bottled

water is widely available; just be

sure to check the seal. About 25%

of ‘bottled water’ worldwide is

simply filled from the tap.

In more remote regions,

especially in the Sahel and central

African states, carry your own

purification means, be it a handoperated

mini-filter (Katadyn

are excellent) or a vehicle-based,

higher volume filter.

Other methods of purification

include chlorine-based tablets or

2% tincture of iodine.

The simplest method of

purifying water is boiling it for at

least three minutes after filtering

visible debris through a cloth,

though beware of the lowered

boiling point of water at altitude.

DR PAT GARROD

Q // Where can I

travel to for the best

chance of seeing

icebergs calving?

To see icebergs calving from their

mother glaciers, get yourself to

Greenland, during April/May. The

season runs April–September

but the earlier on you travel, the

better chance you have of seeing

the big bergs being born and,

potentially, the Northern Lights

still in action. That said, most

Greenland tours and cruises take

place later in the summer when

the sea ice has broken for the

season and boats can pass.

This is a seasonal happening

although with global warming,

Greenland’s glaciers are losing

ice at record rates. Go to

YouTube to see a now legendary

2008 film of the Ilulissat (or

Jakobshavn) Glacier calving a

chunk some three-miles wide.

Head to Ilulissat, if not to see

quite such a dramatic event, to

hike the Sermermiut ice fjord

for fantastic views of colossal

icebergs. Regional operators

also offer flightseeing tours

and boat trips. For more

info, including tours, go to:

greenland.com SARAH BARRELL

THE EXPERTS

GORDON STEER //

UK MANAGER,

WORLD EXPEDITIONS

WORLDEXPEDITIONS.COM

AMELIA DUGGAN //

ASSISTANT EDITOR, NATIONAL

GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER

SARAH BARRELL //

ASSOCIATE EDITOR, NATIONAL

GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER

PAT RIDDELL //

EDITOR, NATIONAL

GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER

DR PAT GARROD //

TRAVEL AUTHOR

THEWORLDOVERLAND.COM

June 2017 157


TRAVEL GEEKS

THE INFO

TRANSATLANTIC BUDGET BATTLE

LOOKING TO CROSS THE POND THIS SUMMER? THERE’S A NEW NO-FRILLS

AIRLINE IN TOWN: LEVEL, LAUNCHED BY BRITISH AIRWAYS’ OWNERS. BUT

HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO BUDGET BIG SHOTS NORWEGIAN AND WOW AIR?

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NORWEGIAN // One way to Seattle and Denver

from Gatwick, starting September.

WOW AIR // One way to Chicago from Bristol,

Edinburgh and Gatwick from July.

21 premium

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Level’s two new

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1 carry-on bag of 17x13x10in — no

weight limit // personal screen //

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economy

seats

Norwegian’s long-haul flights

are operated by Boeing’s

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aircraft — said to be up to

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their older counterparts

30”

why the

SLASHED

prices?

Aircraft are becoming

more fuel-efficient

Increased competition is

driving prices down

Charging for extras

— such as snacks and

luggage — allows for

cheaper fares

IN THE LOOP

Sign up for airlines’

email updates and get

a heads-up on when

to bag bargain tickets

NORWEGIAN: LOW FARE

1 carry-on bag of 22x15x9in 10kg

// 1 personal item of 10x13x8in //

personal screen // 32in seat pitch

WHO?

NORWEGIAN currently operates

direct routes from the UK to seven

US cities: New York, Boston,

Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Los

Angeles, Las Vegas and Oakland.

It has sold flights across the pond

from the UK starting at £69.

norwegian.com

WOW AIR flies to nine North

American cities from the UK via

its Reykjavik hub: Pittsburgh, New

York, Washington DC, Boston,

Montreal, Toronto, Miami, Los

Angeles and San Francisco. This

year, Wow Air sold seats to New

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32” 31”

WOW AIR: WOW BASIC

1 personal item of 17x13x10in

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universal plug

158 natgeotraveller.co.uk


TRAVEL GEEKS

HOT TOPIC

IS IT TIME FOR ZOOS TO BE BANNED?

A HANGOVER OF THE VICTORIAN SIDESHOW OR AN INTEGRAL PART OF

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION? WE ASK IF ZOOS SHOULD BE CONSIGNED TO THE

HISTORY BOOKS ALONG WITH THE BEARDED LADY. WORDS: JAMES DRAVEN

The polar bears in Winnipeg

have disco poo. Their

droppings look like

little glitterballs.

Before anyone starts

sprinkling the stuff on

their cornflakes, this isn’t the

hottest new beauty trend nor

is it a natural phenomenon:

Assiniboine Park Zoo’s

keepers use coloured glitter

in the bears’ feed to identify

their droppings.

Why? Well, scat reveals

all sorts of things about

individual animals;

information the keepers

share with the scientific

community. Many

zoos conduct such

studies, and also run

captive breeding

programmes for

endangered species.

However, critics say

this doesn’t justify

their existence.

“Zoos are prisons for

animals, camouflaging

their cruelty with

conservation claims,”

Mimi Bekhechi,

director of international

programmes at PETA,

explains. “Animals in zoos

suffer tremendously, both

physically and mentally.

They often display

neurotic behaviour,

like repetitive pacing,

swaying, and bar

biting. Not surprising, perhaps,

considering the typical polar

bear enclosure is one

million times smaller

than the area they would

naturally roam.”

PETA isn’t alone. In April,

ethical tour operator Responsible

Travel — after consultation

with wildlife charity Born Free

Foundation — axed trips that

include zoo visits. It’s the first

travel company to publicly make

such a move.

“Only 15% of the thousands

of species held in zoos are

considered ‘threatened’,” says

Will Travers OBE, president

of Born Free. “An even

smaller proportion are

part of captive breeding

programmes and, of

those, a tiny fraction

have been released back

into the wild. That’s not a

record that justifies tens

of millions of wild animals

kept in zoos.”

PETA’s Bekhechi adds, the

aim of breeding programmes

is just “to produce baby

animals to attract visitors.”

Some, however, argue that

children benefit from zoos.

“We engage huge audiences

with wildlife, inspiring the

conservationists of tomorrow,”

argues zoological director of

ZSL London and Whipsnade

Zoos, Professor David Field.

That claim is up for debate.

Q&

A

HOW DO I TELL A ZOO FROM

A SANCTUARY?

The Global Federation of Animal

Sanctuaries (GFAS) operates

an accreditation system for

sanctuaries, rescue centres and

rehabilitation centres. Look out

for the GFAS seal of approval.

sanctuaryfederation.org/gfas

SO IT’S BETTER TO HAVE ‘CLOSE

ENCOUNTERS’ WITH ANIMALS IN

THE WILD, RIGHT?

Wrong! Step away from the

selfie stick. Don’t be suckered

into supporting companies that

offer experiences like hugging a

tiger, swimming with dolphins,

riding elephants, or snogging

a shark. These experiences are

often harmful to wildlife and

dangerous for you.

HOW DO WE SAVE WILDLIFE IF

NOT BY BREEDING PROGRAMMES?

PETA says: “People who care

about protecting endangered

species should donate to

organisations that safeguard

them in their natural habitats — if

a species’ native environment has

been destroyed, there’s nowhere

left for the animals to go.”

A 2014 study by the Society

for Conservation Biology found

that of over 2,800 children

surveyed following visits to

London Zoo, 62% showed no

positive learning outcomes.

But, for every story that casts

zoos in a bad light — from Vince

the rhino’s poaching at Paris’

Thoiry Zoo in March; Cincinnati

Zoo shooting endangered gorilla,

Harambe, last year after a child fell

into his enclosure; or Copenhagen

Zoo killing and publicly dissecting

Marius, a two-year-old giraffe in

2014 — there are heart-warming

tales too. Zoos across the US

can take credit for reviving the

wild Arabian oryx, golden lion

tamarin and Californian condor

populations, among many others.

And Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo has

an on-site Wildlife Hospital to save

sick and injured native species.

In the age of social media, high

profile culls have sparked heated

debates. The shooting of Harambe

the gorilla spawned the mostshared

meme of 2016 and caused

a hounded Cincinnati Zoo to

suspend its social media accounts.

When it comes to lethal force and

animal welfare, at least, public

opinion swiftly sides against zoos.

But whether recent events

have triggered a profound shift in

public consciousness is harder to

quantify. Regardless of the merits

or ethics of zoos, one thing’s for

certain: they’re going to be around

for some years yet.

AND ANOTHER THING... BLOCKBUSTER DESTINATIONS

IMAGE: GETTY

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Experience Travel Group

have created a twoweek

tour of the March

blockbuster’s locations

including Halong Bay

and the Tam Coc caves.

experiencetravelgroup.com

LA LA LAND

The City of Angels is

encouraging visitors to

recreate movie magic at

the Oscar-winning film’s

LA locations, including

Griffith Observatory.

discoverlosangeles.com

NERUDA

Pablo Larraín’s biopic

of Chilean poet Pablo

Neruda hit cinemas.

Tread in his footsteps

with British Airways’ new

direct flights to Santiago.

ba.com

THE GREAT WALL

Do-over Matt Damon’s

sci-fi flop with Wendy

Wu Tours’ new active

Discover Tours, which

access more remote

sections of the Great Wall.

wendywutours.co.uk

... AND

Warner Bros Studios

London launched its new

Forbidden Forest tour

for April, where Potter

fans can interact with an

animatronic Buckbeak.

wbstudiotour.co.uk

June 2017 159


TRAVEL GEEKS

CHECKLIST:

POLARISED SUNGLASSES

DRAGON ALLIANCE

Seafarer X

RRP: £220

dragonalliance.com

7 ways to

SEE THE MIDNIGHT SUN

WANT TO BATHE IN THAT 24-HOUR, GOLDEN GLOW? GO NORTH

FOR SUN-SOAKED BOAT PARTIES, ARCTIC RAIL ADVENTURES,

AND A ROAD TRIP TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD

PERSOL

PO7649S 56

RRP: £243

sunglasshut.com

FOSTER GRANT

Juliet Pol

RRP: £22.50

fostergrant.co.uk

RAY-BAN

RB2183

RRP: £170

ray-ban.com

OAKLEY

Reverie Polarized

RRP: £160

uk.oakley.com

1// THE ‘SECRET’ FESTIVAL

New events at Iceland’s Secret Solstice music

festival (16-18 June) include an acoustic

performance in 5,000-year-old subterranean

lava tunnels, a dance party inside a glacier and

a midnight sun boat party outside Helsinki,

complete with DJs, a cocktail bar and the

chance to spot whales. The never-ending

sun will light up such acts as Foo Fighters,

The Prodigy, and the grand dame of R&B

renaissance, Chaka Khan. secretsolstice.is

2// THE EPIC SCANDI RAIL JOURNEY

Ride the rails from Sweden’s Arctic

to Norway’s fjords aboard trains that

offer front-row seats to spectacular

wilderness. Board the Arctic Circle

Train from Stockholm to Narvik,

travelling along Sweden’s Baltic coast

to beyond the Arctic Circle. Continue

aboard the Northern Railway to

Norway’s coast, before the final

stretch, on the Dovre Railway,

through Norway’s national parks, to

Oslo. May-August, eight nights from

£1,425 per person. simpysweden.co.uk

3// THE YEAR-ROUND ICEHOTEL

This summer, it’s the first chance

to experience a stay under ice and

midnight sun, at the new Icehotel

365. The Icehotel’s innovative, yearround

sister property, which opened

last year, uses sustainable energy

from the midnight sun for a yearround

igloo experience. icehotel.com

4// DRIVE TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD

Hire an RV in Whitehorse, gateway

city to Canadian Gold Rush country,

and follow the North Klondike

MIDNIGHT

SUN

for dummies

WHEN

End of May to the

beginning of August

WHERE

The further you travel

north, the longer the

days; up to 24 hours of

sunlight above the Arctic

Circle, and almost that in

bordering regions

WHAT TO PACK

Your camera. The

midnight sun’s golden

glow is the most

memorable part of any

trip north, accentuating

colours and lengthening

shadows. Lots of scope

for creative photography

Highway to Dawson City, before crossing the

Yukon River by ferry to follow the scenic Top

of the World Highway to Alaska. Returning to

Whitehorse, don’t miss Kluane National Park,

one of North America’s great grizzly bearpopulated

wildernesses. travelyukon.com

5// THE PRETTY CITY BREAK

Celebrate what Finns call the ‘nightless night’

in Helsinki where, on Midsummer Eve, locals

head to nearby island cabins. Try Seurasaari,

an island specialising in traditional

celebrations: spirit-appeasing

bonfires and folk dancing. Also check

out Löyly on Helsinki’s waterfront

— a new, smoke-heated public

sauna. visithelsinki.fi

6// THE REMOTE ISLAND RETREAT

The dramatic mountain setting of the

Lofoten Islands, a large archipelago

inside the Arctic Circle, is a place

where ‘drying racks’ still stand

outside rorbuer (fisherman’s cottages),

just as they have done since Viking

times. The village of Eggum comes

with an amphitheatre-shaped space,

designed by the architects of Oslo’s

Opera House, with views of the open

sea. visitnorway.com

7// THE CULTURAL ESCAPE

Wander along canals in a dusky light

that never quite fades to black during

the White Nights of St Petersburg.

From the second week of June to the

first week of July, the Russian city has

24-hour museum openings, outdoor

ballet, fireworks and DJ sets until dawn

at clubs Taiga and Contour Family Loft.

visit-petersburg.ru SARAH BARRELL

IMAGE: ALAMY

160 natgeotraveller.co.uk


TRAVEL GEEKS

Tech traveer

TECHNOLOGY

REPORTER FOR @BBCCLICK

AND AUTHOR OF WORKING THE CLOUD,

KATE RUSSELL PICKS THE LATEST INNOVATIONS

SURFING AT 36,000 FEET

TOP APPS FOR...

mapping

Wi-fi took off years ago but if

you join the Mile High (surf)

club, you still need to be aware

of the security risks, and skyhigh

costs attached

In-flight wi-fi has been available

for a little over 10 years, but is it

worth the inflated connection

charges imposed by most carriers?

The first issue is safety. I’ve

spoken before about the danger

of using public wi-fi hotspots,

and these warnings go double

for in-flight connections.

Without password

protection

(paid services

direct you to

a registration

and payment

website after

connecting), there’s no

privacy for the raw traffic

carried across the network.

That means anyone intent on

reading your data, including

personal details entered in online

forms, can do so with relative ease.

It does require the equipment

and intent to hack into people’s

devices, but an extended flight

is the ideal place for this covert

criminal activity. Using a VPN (I

covered these security tools in

the Jan/Feb issue and online at

ngtr.uk/2jxGLwv) affords users a

layer of protection; however, most

in-flight service providers block

the use of commercial VPN apps

— presumably to stop passengers

looking at objectionable material

and to aid their own marketingrelated

data collection. Using a

VPN provided by your business

should probably work, though.

The second issue is speed.

Currently, most aeroplane wi-fi

services provide a tiny amount of

bandwidth — about one-tenth the

speed of a halfway decent

4G connection

— and that has

to be shared by

all passengers.

This will make

websites load

very slowly and

streaming video

impossible, so you’re better

off downloading content to

watch offline before you leave

home. With charges often billed

by the amount of megabytes used,

it will also get very expensive if

you’re doing anything data-heavy,

but if you can’t resist Snapchatting

from seat 52A, make sure your

device is running up-to-date

antivirus and firewall software, and

avoid sharing personal data that

could lead to identity theft.

WALTER

IOS, FREE. Maps are great but sometimes just

wandering around a city will reveal its hidden

treasures. Walter is a smart compass that works

without an internet connection. Instead of pointing

north, south, east or west, it directs you towards

sights, shops, restaurants and bars within 20

minutes’ walk of your location. triposo.com/walter

MAPS.ME

IOS/ANDROID, FREE. Save roaming data costs by

downloading map data for the area you’re visiting

to use offline and on the move. maps.me

WIFI MAP

IOS/ANDROID, FREE. Find local wi-fi access points,

including password information where needed,

crowd-sourced by users of the app. wifimap.io

MOOVIT

IOS/ANDROID, FREE. Find your way around over

1,200 cities in 70-plus countries using public transit

links. Includes real-time updates and travel alerts.

moovitapp.com

GET THE GADGET

Olloclip Core Lens

Gone are the days when

photography buffs had to carry

around large padded bags full

of delicate lenses. Modern

smartphone cameras are so good

you can capture most scenes with

just a couple of taps, and with the

latest Olloclip core lens adapters

to fit iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the

untrained eye would be hard-

pushed to

say which

were taken

on a phone

instead of an

expensive camera.

This neat little clip houses

three separate lenses which

just slip over the corner of the

phone — no app needed — to

apply fisheye, wide angle and

15x macro effects. ‘Selfie ready’,

they fit on both the forward and

rear facing lenses and work for

any application — stills, video,

time-lapse, panorama and even

360-VR — that uses your phone’s

camera. The neat plastic carry

clip can be worn on the lanyard

around your neck and even folds

out to create a mini tripod.

RRP: £99.99. olloclip.com

@katerussell

katerussell.co.uk

June 2017 161


TRAVEL GEEKS

HOW I GOT THESE SHOTS

PORTRAITS IN PUGLIA

NICO AVELARDI, PHOTOGRAPHER OF OUR PUGLIA FEATURE ON P.92,

EXPLAINS HOW HE CAPTURED THE SPIRIT OF THE REGION THROUGH

HIS PORTRAITS OF THE LOCALS ON THE SALENTO PENINSULA

LIKE THIS? READ MORE

Similar features can be found in our free,

digital-only Photography Magazine. Issue 8

out now. iOS/Google Play/Amazon

I travelled south from Bari around

the heel, looking to capture its

fine landscapes, fascinating towns,

amazing food and, of course, the

locals that make this region so

unique. I tend to include people in

most of my shots — they’re the

soul of a destination and culture

— and Salento was no different.

When I see a potential subject,

I visualise them in a close-up

portrait. I approach them and

make conversation about the

place we’re in, what I’m doing or

more casual topics.

For close-ups, I set a wide

aperture — up to f5.6 — as I want

a shallow depth of field to make

the subject stand out from the

background. I shoot at a 50-70mm

focal length, so I can work more

When the subjects are

comfortable, I start

shooting and get

physically very close

in order to fill the

frame, but it’s

important to detect

if and when the

connection ends

intimately with them. I fine-focus

on the eyes to create a connection

with the image, while emphasising

details, such as wrinkles or

defined eyebrows.

I never start shooting straight

away; I spend time with the subject

to allow them to get used to me

— it can take any time from one

minute to hours. I also use this

time to find the best light and

angles to work from. Once I feel

the moment is right, I ask for

permission to photograph them.

These two portraits are a great

example of how I adapt my

approach to different situations

and subjects. I photographed the

man with the glasses in the town

of Calimera while I was searching

for elders who still speak Griko

— a local dialect of Italiot Greek.

He was comfortable with me

taking his portrait fairly quickly.

On the other hand, for the man

with the cigarette in the town of

Nardò, it took over half an hour to

even approach him. He was part

of a group of men relaxing in the

main square. He was very quiet,

so I spoke to his friends at first

until I could get him involved in

the conversation.

I don’t direct my subjects at all,

leaving it up to them to show me

who they are. And I never

overstay my welcome — if I feel

they’re becoming uncomfortable,

that’s my cue to stop.

nicoavelardi.com

@nico.avelardi

162 natgeotraveller.co.uk


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

Florida

A RIVER RUNS

THROUGH IT

Get to know Florida’s

watery heart on and in

the rivers of Columbia,

Levy and Gilchrist

Counties, where active

pursuits will put you in

touch with your wild side

Gilchrist County

Paddle the 55-mile Blueway Trail, a series of 50 crystal-clear

freshwater springs teeming with wildlife. Canoe or kayak

through wetland and over the blackwater Suwannee River.

Ginnie Springs, on the Santa Fe River, meanwhile, is one of

the clearest freshwater springs in the world. Conservationist

Jacques-Yves Cousteau summed them up in two words:

‘visibility forever’. You can cave dive or swim in the water,

which changes from a mesmerising turquoise to a deep blue.

Columbia County

In O’Leno State Park, ease into a drowsy vibe by hopping

in a canoe and slipping down the scenic Santa Fe

River. There are hammocks to laze in and pavilions for

picnicking in, but if you prefer to speed things up, trails

can be explored on foot or by bike. Thrill-seekers should

head to Ichetucknee Springs State Park to tube down the

river, which flows past shady wetlands. But don’t towel

off — you can snorkel or scuba dive in the otherworldly

Blue Hole Spring, reached via a wooded nature trail.

Levy County

Cedar Key’s sleepy houses are

perched on stilts above the Gulf

of Mexico, which harbours the

island’s claim to fame: shellfish.

Learn about aquaculture with

fishing communities before eating

the freshest clams, shrimps or blue

crabs for dinner, surrounded by

beaches, green islands and wildlife.

Other aquatic escapades include

scuba diving in the prehistoric

Devil’s Den Resort & Springs, found

within a dry cave featuring ancient

rock formations. The warm cavern

pool sinks to 60ft below ground

and steams on cold mornings.

GILCHRIST COUNTY visitgilchristcounty.com T: 00 1 352 463 3198

COLUMBIA COUNTY springsrus.com T: 00 1 386 758 1312

LEVY COUNTY visitlevy.com T: 00 1 352 486 3396


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

IN THE LAP

OF LUXURY

Take a look inside Singapore’s newest fivestar

offering, Andaz Singapore

Opening its doors later this summer, Andaz

Singapore promises to be one of the city’s

leading luxury getaways. Cutting-edge

design, a refreshing take on hospitality and

impeccable facilities single out this five-star

hotel as a clear choice for luxury travellers.

Situated in the buzzing Kampong Glam,

Andaz impresses from the outside with its

stunning honeycomb lattice exterior — the

work of renowned architect Ole Scheeren.

Soaring 610ft into the sky, the hotel sits at

the heart of DUO — a modern, mixed-use

development, offering spectacular views

of both the ocean and the glittering city

skyline. At ground level, the Bugis MRT

station is close at hand, meaning getting to

and from the airport is simple — a boon for

business and leisure travellers alike.

Guests can unwind in one of 342 sumptuous

rooms and suites created by Hong Kong

designer Andre Fu, with warm hues of russet

and mustard inspired by traditional Indian

and Malay handicrafts. Also on offer is a host

of first-class facilities: a clutch of must-try

restaurants awaits, with a range of cuisines

at Alley on 25 and the creative twist on the

traditional pandan chiffon cake at Pandan is a

must-try. There’s a 24hr fitness centre in which

to work up a sweat, and the infinity pool on the

25th floor is the perfect spot to unwind and

soak up the views. But for some of the best

vistas in town, the rooftop bar is the place to

go — it’s ideal for unwinding with a cocktail

and 360-degree views of Singapore.

Just a 20 minute drive from the airport

and two minutes from the CBD, Marina

Bay and all the dining and entertainment

Singapore has to offer, Andaz is set to make

its luxurious mark on the city’s hotel scene.

ANDAZ SINGAPORE,

5 Fraser Street, Singapore, Rep. of Singapore,

189354 E: singapore@andaz.com

andazsingapore.com


COMING IN THE

JUL/AUG ISSUE

Come on in, set down your suitcase. Welcome to the first Big

Sleep Awards! With the help of our readers and a panel of judges,

we’ve selected the cream of the accommodation crop. Join us as

we salute the taste-makers and game-changers of the hotel world

Plus // Maldives, Kenya, Jamaica, Doha,

Luxembourg, Barcelona & Bali

On sale 1 June 2017

IMAGE: GETTY

For more information on our subscription offers,

see page 184

June 2017 165


166 natgeotraveller.co.uk


DUBAI: RETURN TO THE WILD

FAR FROM BEING A BARREN WILDERNESS, THE ARABIAN DESERT IS FULL OF LIFE.

WHAT’S MORE, THANKS TO THE DUBAI DESERT CONSERVATION RESERVE, VISITORS

TO THE EMIRATE CAN EXPERIENCE IT FOR THEMSEVELVES. WORDS: LAURA HOLT

Night is falling in the Dubai

desert. This golden

landscape of slowly shifting

sands feels a world away from the

mega malls and high-rise hotels at

the heart of this ever-expanding

emirate. Yet, I find myself

hankering for just a glimmer of that

garish light, as I take my first

driving lesson amid the forbidding

desert darkness.

Behind the wheel of a sturdy

Nissan Xterra, I wait at the bottom

of a vast dune, ready to surmount

it. The trick, I’m told, is to

accelerate up fast, taking my foot

off the pedal just before I reach the

top, allowing the vehicle to glide

over. But tonight, there’ll be no

gliding for me. I try it once,

twice, three times… and get

consummately stuck in the sand,

forcing a hasty retreat back down.

The convoy of 4x4s fares no better,

so it’s down to Greg Simkins,

conservation manager of the Dubai

Desert Conservation Reserve

(DDCR), to show us how it’s done.

Slamming his foot down, he shoots

the trucks up and over the dune

with ease, whisking us back to

camp just in time for dinner.

This is all in a day’s work for

Greg, who navigates this web of

delicate trails on a daily basis, as

part of his job managing the 87sq

mile DDCR. Opened in 2003, the

reserve was set up by two of the

emirate’s wealthiest men: the

chairman of Emirates airline,

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al

Maktoum and the current ruler of

Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin

Rashid Al Maktoum. Covering 5%

of the state’s total landmass, the

reserve’s aim is to protect the

natural environment and

encourage biodiversity through,

among other things, the

propagation and reintroduction of

‘rare and endangered species’.

It all started with Al Maha

Resort, a luxury desert hotel

owned by Sheikh Ahmed’s

Emirates Group. Greg started work

at the resort as a guide, taking

guests on falconry excursions,

dune experiences and camel trips,

before hearing of an opening in the

conservation side of the business.

He switched roles and, in

2001, wrote a report on

environmental conditions in the

area, recommending it be

designated a protected reserve.

The result was the DDCR and,

over the next few years, small

populations of Arabian oryx, two

types of fox (red and sand), several

feline species (caracal and

Gordon’s wildcats) and various

gazelles (sand and Arabian) were

steadily reintroduced into the

reserve. These species were once

native to the Arabian Peninsula,

but many years of accelerated

development in Dubai, which not

so long ago was all pristine desert,

saw animal numbers dwindle and

disperse. In the case of the Arabian

oryx, it faced complete extinction

in the wild by the 1970s, only to be

saved by reserves such as this one.

More recently, the DDCR has

entered a new phase, teaming up

with wildlife conservation NGO,

Biosphere Expeditions. Operating

in 13 locations around the world,

Biosphere invites laymen, such

as myself, to assist scientists,

such as Greg, in collecting data,

while visiting a new destination

and studying the local wildlife.

Every trip has a so-called ‘target

species’, from primates in Peru to

snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan.

Biosphere was set up by

Matthias Hammer, a no-nonsense,

straight-talking German with a

military background, who now

spends his time travelling the

world, often sporting bare feet and

a brightly-coloured sarong. He

joins me for my trip and is keen to

get across Biosphere’s antiinstitutional

approach. “You’re

‘participants’, not tourists. We’re

an ‘NGO’, not a company. And this

is an ‘expedition’, not a holiday,”

he says, unequivocally, as we

gather on the first day.

This may sound a little joyless,

but things perk up as we learn

about the tasks ahead. The DDCR

office is to be our base, Greg tells

us. We’ll be divided into groups,

which can change daily depending

on the area we’d like to see. We’ll

then be dispatched into different

zones across the DDCR to carry

out surveys and activities. These

fall into four distinct groups:

setting camera traps to see if we

can capture wildlife in its natural

habitat; setting live traps by

bating cages with tins of sardines

to obtain physiological data,

such as the vital measurements

of the animals; surveying new

and old fox dens for signs of life;

and finally, carrying out ‘circular

observations’, by locating a central

point in one of the reserve’s 62

quadrants and noting down any

wildlife and vegetation that’s

present there.

We’ll achieve all this by heading

out in our 4x4s — hence the

crash-course in desert driving. But,

first, we have to learn how

to use the equipment, “because

you won’t always be with a

member of staff in the field, so you

need to know what you’re doing,”

says Matthias.

Greg runs through the various

data sheets we’ll need to fill out,

which include both paper forms

and digital scientific apps. We are

briefed on how to use the handheld

GPS devices that’ll get us within a

few feet of previously recorded fox

dens and mean we can log the

locations of new cameras and live

traps, so that other teams can

check them throughout the

week. We also are given some basic

navigational tips on how to use a

compass, in case our digital

devices fail. It’s then time to

June 2017 167


CONSERVATION

DUBAI’S BIG FIVE

1. SNAKES

The many and varied reptiles in

the reserve include: the Jayakars

sand boa, which ranges from

12-26ins in size; the even-larger

Arabian horned viper, with its

fearsome-looking triangularshaped

head; and the Sindh

saw-scaled viper, which leaves a

‘side-winding’ track in its wake.

2. FOXES

Of the two foxes in the reserve,

the Arabian fox is most similar to

our common red fox, though with

larger ears and a smaller body.

Smaller, white-coloured sand

foxes are also present.

release the pressure in our tyres so

the wheels can cruise across the

sandy terrain, before we head out

into the dunes. It’s definitely a lot

to take in. But the Biosphere

approach is that anyone can take

part, providing they have a

willingness to learn.

That said, my fellow participants

do seem to be of a certain calibre.

There’s Jim, a wiry computer

hardware designer from northern

California; Albert, a softly spoken

farmer with an MBA in agriculture;

Ziggy, a legal assistant; and

Yvonne, a biologist. Not exactly

laymen, but ready to learn

nonetheless. It’s a mixed-aged

ensemble too, hailing from all parts

of the globe, including Britain,

America and Germany. The

unifying factor is a firm interest in

conservation and the environment,

especially animals.

Sufficiently bonded, our group

slips into the daily routine of

meeting at the DDCR office each

morning to pick up equipment, get

into teams and be assigned our

tasks by Greg, before heading out

to survey the sands, armed with a

packed lunch.

A common perception is that

deserts are a barren landscape,

devoid of life and impervious to

change. But that couldn’t be

further from the truth, I discover.

For one thing, the light shifts

constantly, dark and ominous one

minute, red and romantic the next,

casting the dunes in a kaleidoscope

of ever-changing shadows. The

weather too, is unpredictable,

ranging from still and warm one

day, to fiercely windy the next,

forcing us to use shirts, sunglasses

and scarves to keep the sand from

getting into our eyes, ears and

noses. It doesn’t work. Several

showers follow. Still more sand.

The flora and fauna are a

surprise, too. Gnarled trunks and

windswept trees stand isolated

against a backdrop of endless

dunes, imbuing the landscape with

a surreal, Dali-esque quality.

During the establishment of the

reserve, many of these trees and

shrubs were planted to provide

sustenance for the reintroduced

wildlife. It’s for this reason camels

are kept out of the reserve,

otherwise they’d make short

work of all the vegetation.

Of all the sightings though, one

of the best we witness is a pair of

pharaoh eagle-owls, a male and

female, that we spook while driving

past, sending the predators flying

out onto the slopes. We wait,

PREVIOUS PAGE: Camera

trap photos of wildlife in

the Dubai desert

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP

LEFT: Arabian horned

viper; Campsite of a

Biosphere Expedition

group; Collecting data

from the camera traps

3. GAZELLES

The reserve’s three gazelles

include: the large, long-horned

oryx, defined by its uniformly

white body; the flank-striped

Arabian gazelle; and the harderto-spot

sand gazelle, which is the

only one to give birth to twins,

typically in spring and autumn.

4. CATS

There are three felines present in

the reserve: the domestic-sized

Gordon’s wildcat; the reddishbrown

caracal; and the decidedly

cute-faced sand cat, with its

distinctive black leg markings. All

are nocturnal and difficult to spot.

5. LIZARDS

Other scaly sightings include:

the UAE’s largest (and most

aggressive) lizard, the desert

monitor; the ruler-sized, yellowspotted

agama; and the Leptiens

spiny-tailed lizard, which can live

for up to 80 years.

168 natgeotraveller.co.uk


CONSERVATION

Pitch up // By night

we return to camp,

which in line

with Biosphere’s

tread-lightly mandate,

is a simple set-up of

bring-your-own tents,

located in a gorgeous

glade of ghaf trees

IMAGE: ALAMY

patiently watching, as they sit and

stare back at us, eyes like saucers.

Herds of oryx, with their

muscular, horse-like haunches, are

omnipresent, and we spy plenty of

Arabian gazelles too — their

springy, athletic strides make them

easy to spot in the dunes. By

coincidence, I’m here at the height

of calving season, and it’s a joy to

see so many leggy youths

gamboling around. Several sand

gazelles also reveal themselves,

distinguishable by their white

faces. All these sightings we note

down on a sheet of ‘random

observations’, which helps Greg

monitor the overall environment.

One of the biggest thrills, I

discover, can be not seeing

something, but getting a hint an

animal had very recently been

there: fox tracks tailing off through

the dunes; the smell of fresh

droppings outside a den. It’s

peculiar the things you get excited

about after a week in the DDCR.

One group is lucky enough to spot

a Gordon’s wildcat, whose low

numbers in the reserve are

threatened by hybridisation with

domestic cats. It’s a rare and

cherished sighting, which all of us

delight in, however vicariously.

By night we return to camp,

which in line with Biosphere’s

tread-lightly mandate, is a simple

set-up of bring-your-own tents,

located in a gorgeous glade of ghaf

trees. There’s a couple of bedouin

mess tents for snacks and drinks, a

central campfire for evening

gatherings, and a set of basic

showers and toilets for essential

ablutions. Breakfast and dinner are

served in the five-star surrounds of

the Al Maha Resort, a short drive

away. Dusty and field-worn as we

are, we enter this luxury retreat via

the back door, in order to feast on

an array of curries in the staff

canteen, from butter chicken

to lentil daal.

Afterwards, we head to Al

Maha’s terrace bar, for cocktails

and a chance to trade tales of the

day’s exploits. It’s a nice contrast

to the rough-and-ready reality of

the expedition; a chance to relax,

content in the knowledge we’ve

earned these luxuries.

The next chapter in the DDCR

story is an intriguing one. The

gazelle and oryx populations have

now become so plentiful that Greg

is considering reintroducing a

natural predator to help manage

their numbers. “We’re looking at

the Arabian wolf,” he tells me. “But

the problem with predatory

reintroduction is it’s seen as posing

a threat to people and livestock.

That’s not necessarily the case, but

that perception means we can’t

steamroll it through.”

Another thrilling predator

possibility is the Arabian leopard,

which has been critically

endangered since 1996, with fewer

than 200 individuals left in the

wild. If one or both of these

species were reintroduced, it

would make the DDCR experience

an even more exciting one for

participants. While the decision is

being debated, we’ll await with

bated breath.

HOW TO DO IT

Biosphere Expedition’s eightday

Arabia itinerary costs

£1,590 per person, excluding

flights. The next expedition

runs 20-27 January 2018.

biosphere-expeditions.org

Al Maha Resort has double

rooms from AED2,816 (£615),

including full-board and two

desert activities. Five per cent

of all profits go back into the

reserve. al-maha.com.

MORE INFO

Dubai Desert Conservation

Reserve. ddcr.org

Biosphere Expeditions has an

extensive blog and archive

of expedition diaries, offering

a real taste of what it’s like to

be a participant on the

ground. biosphere-expeditions.

org/diaries

Dubai & Abu Dhabi (Lonely

Planet, 2015). RRP: £14.99

June 2017 169


THE DO-GOOD DILEMMA

HOW DO YOU FIND AN ETHICAL OPERATOR AND PROJECT TO ENSURE YOU’RE DOING

MORE GOOD THAN HARM? WE LOOK AT THE QUESTIONS POTENTIAL VOLUNTEERS

SHOULD BE ASKING. WORDS: SAM LEWIS

Few would argue that

travellers who volunteer

abroad want to make a

positive contribution. Some

might say their altruism is mixed,

in part, with self interest, tinged

with idealism, or underpinned by

obligation or guilt. But motives

aside, the bigger ethical issue is

surely: what are the ramifications

of their work, and where is their

money going? Would it be better,

in fact, to stay at home?

Growing up, most of the

volunteers I knew were teachers,

nurses and doctors who travelled

with nonprofit charities or

nongovernmental organisations.

Today, practically anyone can

volunteer abroad and there are

hundreds of organisations that

will happily place them.

According to Amnesty

International, the volunteering

industry is worth around

$11bn a year, with the largest

organisations generating up to

$20m a year.

Raising money for a good

cause has become a commercial

enterprise — and that means

those in need aren’t the only ones

who are benefitting.

Ruth Taylor, international

steering committee member

for interagency initiative Better

Volunteering, Better Care, says:

“Volunteering abroad is big

business and it’s important to

ask yourself whether, as an

industry, we’re making money

from poverty.”

Of course, in an ideal world,

as a volunteer I’d want 100% of

my money to go to charity. But

as a realist, I know that some

of it will pay for my food, travel

and administration costs, and

a percentage will also go to the

organisation to pay salaries

— with some taking more

than others. Even Amnesty

International has come under fire

on this count. The Sun called out

the Nobel Peace Prize-winning

organisation for allegedly paying

its secretary general, Salil Shetty,

around £200,000 a year (although

it should be noted that this sum is

comparable to other NGO senior

executives roles).

Beside the issue of how much

money is or isn’t finding its way to

a particular project, there’s the

question of whether the project is

actually necessary. Does it have a

long-term, sustainable goal?

Are there likely to be any

negative consequences?

With hundreds of

organisations clamouring

to take paying volunteers,

anyone interested clearly has a

responsibility to research not

only the organisation but to ask

pertinent questions about the

project they’ll be working on.

Transparency surrounding the

impact of the placement and

volunteers’ money should be a

prerequisite for signing up to a

volunteering scheme.

A key consideration, too, is

what a volunteer wants from

the experience.

The boundary between

holidaying and volunteering

has become blurred — some

volunteer programmes even

involve sightseeing or beach

time. Such trips are often

labelled with the derisory

portmanteau ‘voluntourism’.

Hratche Koundarjian, global

media manager at VSO, says:

“Our volunteers don’t have

tourist experiences. We don’t

arrange tours or sightseeing

opportunities. Our placements

aren’t holidays, they’re an

opportunity to contribute to

a properly planned, long-term

international development

programme. Our volunteers can

find their placements enjoyable

— but they’re also demanding.”

Does this mean that

international volunteering

opportunities that structure

themselves around an element

of travel and tourism alongside

a stint of charitable activity

are wrong or simply ineffective?

It seems most people on a

voluntourism project want a

balance between work and

free time spent exploring the

location. Ridhi Patel, founder

of Volunteering Journeys, says

volunteers can have the best

of both worlds, providing they

choose a project wisely. She cites

wildlife data-collection initiatives

as one such example.

Whatever your stance on this,

it’s clear that every volunteer

— whether a full-time charity

worker or voluntourist — needs

to do some careful research and

background checks before they

embark on a trip if they really want

to make a positive difference.

IMAGE: THE GREAT PROJECTS

170 natgeotraveller.co.uk


June 2017 171


THE DO GOOD DILEMMA

Q&

A

Q // What length of time do I

need to volunteer for to make a

worthwhile difference?

While you might struggle to

believe that volunteers can

make a huge difference in a

week, some long-term projects

can be achieved via short-term

placements, according to Sarah

Faith, marketing manager at

Responsible Travel — although she

admits they’re “a bit more elusive”.

She points to conservation

projects involving collecting

observational data — for example,

whale and dolphin research

projects in Italy’s Ligurian Sea,

and an initiative in Belize, where

volunteers help clear invasive lion

fish from reefs on dive expeditions.

Other organisations demand

volunteers commit to a minimum

length of time. But whatever the

timescale, volunteers eventually go

home, which poses questions. As

Better Volunteering, Better Care’s

Ruth Taylor points out: “Think

what happens to the work that

the volunteers have been doing.

Does it just stop? Is it handed over

to local people? The best way to

ensure a project is sustainable

is for the organisation to have a

long-standing relationship with

the local community, which brings

volunteers in to add capacity

where needed and has clear exit

strategies for when volunteers are

no longer being sent.”

Q // What’s the goal?

Time isn’t the only factor

that determines if a project

is worthwhile. Taylor says:

“Too often, placements are

set up that are heavily driven

by the volunteer-sending

organisation and what it thinks

its customers (i.e. volunteers)

would be most interested in.

As well as being unethical and

immoral — forcing projects on

communities that don’t want or

need them — it also exploits the

good will of those who wish to

volunteer overseas.”

Remember that commercial

operators, unlike charities, don’t

need to prove to the Charity

Commission that they’re providing

a benefit. Volunteers must do their

own research to ensure a project

meets real needs and is designed

in collaboration with local

partners that understand the

local communities.

Speak to people who’ve been

away with the organisation before

and are enthusiastic ambassadors

for the programme. Online

forums and independent review

sites (such as Volunteer Forever

and Go Overseas) are useful for

determining whether you can

make a difference.

Check to see how long the

organisation has been running

and what it’s achieved so far and

whether its work is sustainable.

Q // I’m not a skilled professional,

will I have a negative impact?

There are some organisations

— notably VSO — that only

recruit professional volunteers

with specific skills, while most,

including at Volunteering Journeys,

advise checking to see if you have

the necessary qualifications for the

project. As Amnesty International

points out: “If you’ve never built

a well in the UK, chances are you

can’t build one in Uganda and

qualified Ugandan builders would

do a better job.” Unfortunately, it

says, there are too many examples

of unqualified young volunteers

being sent to build schools, which

qualified local builders have then

had to knock down and rebuild.

Most ethical operators should

interview volunteers to find out

what they can and can’t do and

place them accordingly.

On the flip side, Hands Up

Holidays (providing luxury

volunteer trips for families) says a

‘philanthro-volunteering’ model is

another way of contributing. Hill

says: “The main benefit our clients

bring is the funding they provide,

which we use to hire local experts

who do most of the work, with our

clients getting involved as much

as they feel able, overseen and

assisted by our local experts.”

IMAGES: THE GREAT PROJECTS; REEF CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL

172 natgeotraveller.co.uk


THE DO GOOD DILEMMA

Q // Where is my money going and

how much should I pay?

You need to be realistic — not

all of a volunteer’s payment will

be given to local communities;

a proportion will be absorbed

by running costs and salaries.

Volunteers should ask for

clarification on the exact

percentage. That said, how do

you know if you’re getting an

honest answer?

With a lack of regulation, it’s

a tricky one — as is the amount

you should pay, with volunteer

placements varying hugely from

a few-hundred pounds to over

£5,000. “Generally, the more

expensive the placement, the less

ethical it is,” says Taylor.

That theory is supported by

a report published in 2014 by

Leeds Metropolitan University.

It found there was an inverse

relationship between cost and

quality, with voluntourism

organisations with the most

expensive products tending to

be the least responsible.

Q // Should I avoid volunteer

projects with children?

In 2013, Responsible Travel

stopped providing volunteer

orphanage packages, and

many other organisations

have followed suit. Most travel

bodies, including ABTA and

VSO, discourage volunteers

from working at orphanages.

VSO’s Hratche Koundarjia

says: “Research has found

volunteering in orphanages

can be psychologically and

emotionally detrimental to

children, and the demand for

voluntary placements could

mean that more children end up

in orphanages, despite having

families at home that are likely to

be able to care for them.”

Volunteers can help, however,

by supporting permanent staff

in such establishments — or

by finding other opportunities

to work with children. Oyster

Worldwide, for example, runs

a scheme providing extracurricular

sports coaching to kids

in townships in Brazil and South

Africa. Volunteers should expect

a criminal background check

before working with kids.

Q // I want to work with wild

animals — how do I ensure the

establishment is a genuine

centre for conservation?

Most operators recommend that

volunteers ask questions. There

are certain warning signs to look

out for — if the company says it

works with ‘orphaned’ lion cubs

or offers rides on elephants, for

example. “If they do, stay away,”

advises Vicky McNeil, director

at Working Abroad. “There are

many inappropriate projects

out there where volunteers pet

wild animals and bottle-feed

or ‘cuddle a cub’, before they’re

transferred to fenced parks for

‘canned hunting’, where wealthy

foreign trophy hunters can shoot

them easily as they’re not afraid

of humans and can’t escape due

to relatively small enclosures.”

McNeil adds there are

exceptions, including a wildlife

rehabilitation centre where a

trained wildlife vet is present

and where some interaction with

injured animals may be essential,

and so is actively encouraged.

Meanwhile, ABTA’s senior

sustainable tourism executive

Hugh Felton points out: “Any

legitimate sanctuary should

have a no-breeding policy and

any contact should be clearly

demonstrated to be in the best

interests of the animal.”

MORE INFO

Amnesty International.

amnesty.org.uk

VSO. vsointernational.org

Volunteering Journeys.

volunteeringjourneys.com

Hands Up Holidays.

handsupholidays.com

Volunteer Forever.

volunteerforever.com

Go Overseas. gooverseas.com

Omprakash. omprakash.org

Grassroots Volunteering.

grassrootsvolunteering.org

Idealist. idealist.org

Tourism Concern.

tourismconcern.org.uk/ethicalvolunteering

The International Ecotourism

Society. ecotourism.org/

voluntourism-guidelines

Responsible Travel.

responsibletravel.com/holidays/

volunteer-travel/travel-guide

People and Places UK.

travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk

Childsafe.

childsafe-international.org

Campaign Against Canned

Hunting. cannedlion.org

June 2017 173


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

ASTURIAS

DISCOVER THE

REAL SPAIN

Go off-grid along this green stretch of the Iberian

Peninsula, wedged between Galicia and Cantabria.

Combining exquisite landscapes with an excellent

foodie scene, Asturias is slowly revealing itself to be

one of Spain’s must-visit regions


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

ULTIMATE

EXPERIENCES

A place where you can surf at sunrise,

descend to the depths of a mine before lunch

and track roaming bears in silent valleys in

the afternoon, Asturias crams everything

from soaring cliffs and mountain streams to

hundreds of majestic beaches into its borders.

Take the plunge

For a sense of calm, start out at the Fitu Lookout

and catch your breath at the top of this

1,100m-high balcony, stationed between the

handsome towns of Arriondas and Colunga.

Dramatic views roll out in every direction: of

staggering peaks, including those of the Picos

de Europa and the Cantabrian Mountains; and

of more than 100km of captivating coastline

fringed by the bluest of seas. Trace the outline

of the Bay of Biscay and decide which stretch

of sea you’ll dip your toes in, before gazing

over towns such as Caravia, Colunga and the

cider-making capital of Villaviciosa tumbling

down the hillside.


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

View from the top

For yet more jaw-dropping views, hit

the hiking routes that criss-cross the

mountains and lower valleys. Novice and

serious climbers will relish days tackling

the region’s rugged and mountainous

nooks and crannies. Every level is catered

for, whether you’re after an easy morning

stroll or want to take on something more

challenging — for the more adventurous

types, the thrilling multi-pitch routes of

Naranjo De Bulnes in the Picos de Europa is

worth a try.

Adrenalin-loving travellers needn’t

stop there: paragliding above Asturias is a

momentous way to discover its dramatic

landscapes. Tandem flights can be

launched at the Següenco lookout, with

views of the Cantabrian Sea, the mountains

and the Royal Site of Covadonga rolling out

beneath you.

Two-wheeled travel

If you like to work up a sweat, cycling

tours across this wild, untamed region of

northern Spain are a big deal, too. Taking

hardy cyclists past tiny coves and pretty

coastal villages, the routes up to the

peaks of Covadonga Lakes, Angliru and La

Farrapona are seriously spectacular. But at

an incline of 30% and emulating the Cycling

Tour of Spain (La Vuelta a España), they’re

not for the faint-hearted.

Untamed beauty

Elsewhere, unspoilt Asturias is also an

inexplicably charming place to track the

endangered brown bear. Elusive they may be,

but the numbers of these native creatures

have been steadily growing; it’s estimated

there are around 250 brown bears lurking

among the crags and deep valleys of the

region. Head to Somiedo Nature Park and

Fuentes del Narcea, Degaña e Ibias Nature

Park, whose swathes of dense native

forest offer some of the best chances

of bear-spotting.

As for the beaches, Asturias is sprinkled

with some beautiful, blissed-out arcs of sand.

Take La Griega — a glittering sandy beach

where locals soak up the rays, take to the

water for an enchanting swim, and break

from the sun with plates of superb seafood

on shady terraces. It’s also the setting for the

world’s biggest dinosaur footprints — wind

your way along the upper footpath on the

beach’s eastern side to peer down at these

goliath reminders of the Palaeolithic era.


A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Away from the well-worn paths lies the

Muniellos Forest Nature Reserve: this protected

patch of woodland is a stellar spot to explore

on foot. One of the most spectacular Atlantic

ecosystems in Europe and the largest oak forest

in Spain, Muniellos is all wild rivers in the

shadow of mountains and wetland forests of

birch, holly and beech. Pick up the trail to the

four mesmerising lagoons of Candanosa Peak,

and you’ll be following the footsteps of roaming

bears, wolves, foxes, wild boars and roe deer.

Rarely has getting back to nature felt so good.

PROMOTIONAL FEATURE


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

CULTURAL

EXPERIENCES

The Original Way of the Camino de Santiago, or

the Camino Primitivo, takes star billing when it

comes to cultural charms. The 198-mile route

links the capital of Asturias, Oviedo — home

to the El Salvador Cathedral — with Santiago

de Compostela, a magnificent cathedral of

austere elegance and the final resting place of

the Apostle St James. Taking on this walk, you’ll

be tracing the first ever pilgrimage made to

Santiago, undertaken by King Alfonso II in 813.

Picking its way along sedate paths through the

mountains, woodland and pretty towns such

as Las Regueras, Grado and Salas, this is a trek

not short of a view or two. The path eventually

leaves Asturias at the Acebo Pass and

continues into the province of Lugo in Galicia.

Spirituality runs deep here — and to

embrace the whole spirit of Asturias, you

also have to embrace the parties that are

crammed in to the calendar. There’s the

Canoe Festival during the first weekend

of August, where punters descend on the

region to battle it out on the Sella River.

Then there’s July’s Natural Cider Festival

in Nava, where you can indulge in a draught

of cider or two and the Humanitarian

Festival in Moreda; combining gastronomy

and folklore, it’s filled with nostalgic

charm. Prepare to be blown away, too,

at Antroxu (carnival) in Avilés and Gijón,

where spruced up dancers sashay in line

with booming floats.


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

FOOD

EXPERIENCES

Asturias also has some serious

foodie credentials, with a

remarkable number of rustic

tapas bars and Michelin-starred

restaurants pulling out all the stops

with avant-garde menus. Traditional

fabada asturiana is a heart-warming

stew of beans and smoked sausage,

while casseroles, fritos de pixín

(deep-fried monkfish), empanada

(small, savoury pies), the sickly sweet

arroz con leche (rice pudding) and

dishes focusing on seafood all make

up the region’s culinary repertoire.

Cheese is all the rage, too, and

the variety is astounding; namely

Casín, Afuega’l pitu, Cabrales and

Gamonedo, the latter two of which

are matured in the dark and damp

caves of the mountains.

HOW TO GET THERE

Easyjet flies direct from

Stansted, Vueling flies direct

from Gatwick and Iberia flies

from Heathrow.

BEST TIME TO GO

All year round

asturiastourism.co.uk contacto@turismoycultura.asturias.es 00 34 984 493 563 AsturiasNaturalParadise


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& HERITAGE

TGH_Inserat_177x130_v4.indd 1 07.04.17 11:53

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ristocratic

In the footsteps of

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Regal atmosphere

STATE SPA BAD REICHENHALL

Built in 1900, the regal spa building

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In the footsteps of the Celts & the Romans

GUT ISING

Since 1934 this estate on Lake Chiemsee

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The longest castle complex in the world

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TIP: A particularly magnificent view of

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Jewel of the Renaissance era

PASSAU REGION

Schloss Neuburg towers majestically

above the River Inn. It is the largest and

most important castle in the region with

its splendid marble halls dating back to

the Renaissance. From the baroque Garden

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In former times, Bavarian and French

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Bayer. Staatsbad Bad Kissingen GmbH/ © Dominik Marx

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TIP: The 1.5 hour guided city tour with the Grand Portier tour guide is a treat not to be

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King Ludwig I Castle Park

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The transition from nature to architecture

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the elegant park as a fairytale ensemble

of historic buildings. Flower beds, tree

cultures, and terraces in the King’s summer

residence: The Castle Park gardener

leads you through the historical park

with royal flair.

www.staatsbad.de | www.staatsbad.tv


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STAR LETTER

Life in ruins

I’ve visited my fair share of ancient ruins.

I’ve spent hours alone amid the crumbling

vestiges of the Angkor empire, watched

a watery sunrise dawn behind Giza’s

pyramids, and sat in the shade of the

Parthenon’s mighty pillars. But more than all

these, it was the mysterious Mayan temples

of southeast Mexico that set my imagination

racing. Your account of Chiapas (‘A message

from the gods’, May 2017) perfectly captured

the wonder and intrigue I felt looking round

the region’s jungle-swamped temples.

For me, the crowning jewel of

the state was Palenque.

The scale of the

religious complex

is awesome, and its

detailed carvings

of warriors, slaves

and mystic rites hint

at a sophisticated yet

bloodthirsty society.

Standing in the tomb

of the Red Queen — so

called because her body and sarcophagus

were coated in crimson cinnabar powder, I

couldn’t help imagining the excitement of

the 20th-century explorers who unearthed

the chamber after more than 1,000 years.

If you go, ask a guide to take you on a

jungle walk outside the main site: away from

other tourists, we saw unrestored temples,

walked through a bat-infested aqueduct and

swam in a small waterfall. ARRAN WHITAKER

Chat back

NatGeoTravelUK

Racing hearts

Your fabulous pictures capturing the drama

of the Palio in Siena evoked strong memories

of our own magical experience (In Pictures,

April 2017). If you can, get there early to savour

the atmosphere, engage with locals and

sample delicious snacks in the square before

the colourful medieval parades begin. Secure

a prime position — the actual dash is over

before you know it! Afterwards, you’ll see men

weeping over huge sums gambled and lost.

The real highlight for us was a local Palio

held in Colle di Val D’Elsa, where we were

staying. Once it was over, the whole village

(and all the holidaymakers) congregated

around gingham-checked tables to enjoy

a communal meal outside.

In good faith

Tara Isabella Burton’s account of Jerusalem

(City life, March 2017) was a fascinating

insight into possibly the most interesting

city on the planet. As she explained, it’s a

challenging experience — a city that gets

many people thinking about the origins of

religion. On my visits to the city, I’m always

struck by how one place could be the seat

of the three great monotheistic religions.

Jews live cheek-by-jowl with Christians

and Muslims and, by and large, it seems to

work. If I only had time for one more foreign

visit in my life, it would be to Jerusalem.

DAVID GINGELL

TOM KINGHORN

We love America’s natural wonders. What’s the best thing you’ve seen in the USA?

JASON PIKE For me it’s a toss up between sundown at Arches National Park in Utah or the cliff dwellings at

Mesa Verde in Colorado. Having said that, Zion was stunning too! // @MIMI_INGLIS As Ansel Adams would

have seen it — El Capitan at sunset. Stunning #USA // @CAROKYLLMANN The Grand Canyon’s North Rim

fading away in the distance at sunset while on a mountain biking trip — a view I’ll never forget!

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June 2017 185


GET IN TOUCH

our Pictures

We give you a theme, you give us your photos, with

the best published in the next issue. This month is

‘Spain’ — a theme of our May 2017 cover story

As with all our finalists, Polly captured a minute detail: more than just a dress and shoes,

the image immediately connotes Spain. With the careful composition and framing of the

dancers, the image also evokes a sense of movement and a festive atmosphere.

NOW OPEN

The theme: ‘Kenya’.

Upload your high-res

image, plus a one sentence

description, to ngtr.uk/

yourpictures

by

15 June 2017.

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W I N N E R

1 POLLY RUSYN // LONDON: Nothing says ‘Spain’ like

the flamenco. I saw these performers on the streets

of Seville and was utterly captivated by their hypnotic

stamping and rhythmic clapping.

2 JANET MILES // SOMERSET: Around the City of Arts

and Sciences in Valencia are carefully placed pools to

reflect the lighting at night. I hadn’t appreciated the

building’s ‘fishiness’ until after I’d pressed the shutter!

3 ERNESTAS BILVINAS // DERBYSHIRE: The octopuses

on this barbecue in an old boat caught my eye — I had

to capture the scene before trying something similar

at a nearby restaurant.

To find out more about the next theme, to enter

and for T&Cs, visit NATGEOTRAVELLER.CO.UK

186 natgeotraveller.co.uk


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IN PARTNERSHIP WITH

RAYMOND WEIL is proud to be supporting Swiss sailing team

Realteam as its Offi cial Timing Partner and to introduce a new

freelancer able to support the crew in the most extreme sailing

conditions. A nice little tip of the hat to Mr Raymond Weil who was

a member of the Geneva Yacht Club.

freelancer collection

Join the discussion #RWRealteam

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