VOL. 7 · NO. 2, December 2019
Journal of Globerovers Productions · GR
10 Japan - A Winter Wonderland
Winter is the most beautiful month of the year if you are blessed with heavy snowfalls. There are few
natural landscapes more splendid than walking through a snow-covered forest; relaxing in a natural hot
spring while snow is falling around you; or skiing down a snow-covered mountain. One of the best places
in the world to enjoy winter is Japan. Not only does it offer pristine natural scenery with lots of snow,
it also offers a colourful culture and great food that will make any winter escapade memorable for life.
ARTICLES + PHOTO ESSAYS
Albania’s Riviera on the Ionian Sea
Described as having “turquoise seas,
scenic mountain backdrops and sparkling
shores” southern Albania is known as the
“Albanian Riviera” for many good reasons.
Sensible Travel Gear
Tasty Traveller’s Treats
Postcards to Mommy
Svalbard - Gateway to the North Pole
The Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic
Ocean is gateway to the North Pole and
therefore ideal for adventurers wanting to
see polar bears and the Northern Lights.
Mauritius - Indian Ocean Island (Part 2)
Located west of Madagascar, Mauritius is
known for its turquoise seas, black volcanic
rocks, palm trees, sugar cane fields
and craggy mountain peaks.
The Earth is calling us to Action
South Australian Outback
Canada’s Fort Resolution
Volunteering - To pay or not to pay
Traveller in the Spotlight
Oman - Gem of the Arabian Peninsula
As one of the most stable and safe countries
for travellers in the Middle East,
Oman has incredible natural scenery and
culture to offer intrepid travellers.
Colombia - Caribbean Adventures
Colombia’s Caribbean coastline is home
to unspoiled islands, deserted beaches,
a well preserved colonial town, ancient
ruins, and even a bubbling mud volcano.
Corcovado Jungle Trekking - Costa Rica
On a remote peninsula along the Pacific
West Coast of Costa Rica is Corcovado
National Park, known for its countless
species of living creatures.
Skiing among the Juhyou frosted
trees. Zao Onsen, Japan
10 Winter Activities in Japan
10 Experiences on Svalbard
9 Intrepid Places to visit in 2020
IN THE NEXT ISSUE
Cambodia Island Hopping
The Cambodian islands in the Gulf of
Thailand have long been ignored by most
travellers who flock to neighbouring Thailand.
These islands are known for their
lapis-blue waters, jungle-clad interiors,
swathes of white sand, and bioluminescent
plankton that glows at night.
2 Globerovers · December 2019
“Not all those who wander are lost”. J.R.R. Tolkien
John Tolkien (3 Jan 1892 – 2 Sep 1973), an English writer, poet, philologist,
university professor, and author of ‘The Hobbit’, and ‘Lord of the Rings’.
THE FRONT COVER:
“Snow Monsters” of Zao, Japan
is currently a biannual magazine, available
in digital and printed formats.
We focus on bringing exciting destinations
and inspiring photography from around
the globe to the intrepid traveller.
Published in Hong Kong
Printed in U.S.A. and Europe
WHO WE ARE:
Editor-in-Chief - Peter Steyn
Editorial Director - Tsui Chi Ho
Graphic Designer - Peter Steyn
Photographer & Writer - Peter Steyn
Proofreader - Marion Halliday
Advertising - Lizzy Chitlom
Distribution - Leon Ringwell
In this 14th issue of Globerovers Magazine, we are pleased to bring you a variety of
exciting destinations for your reading enjoyment.
The feature destination is Japan. While any time is a good time to visit Japan, we
found the winter scenery to be picturesque beyond our imagination. We start our
adventure in northern Honshu Island at the Zao Onsen and Ski Resort where we
also meet the “Snow Monsters”. From here we travel north to meet Princess Tatsuko
at Lake Tazawako. We then cross the sea to Hokkaido Island where we spend time
with tancho cranes at the Kushiro Marshes and whooper swans at Lake Kussharo.
We also go polar bear spotting by dogsled on the arctic Svalbard Islands and then
travel along Colombia’s Caribbean coast to take a bath in a mud volcano. Afterwards
we search for the region’s most tranquil sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Mauritius
(Part 2) offers more travel advice from this idyllic Indian Ocean island.
Photo Essays include the Albanian Riviera, Oman on the Arabian Peninsula, and
Costa Rica’s remote Corcovado National Park.
We also have our regular contributions from Canada and Australia, a guide to
volunteering, and an article about the negative effects of mass tourism.
A special thank you to our sponsors as well as all our
wonderful contributors who we introduce on page 5.
Visit our website and social media. For easy access, scan
the QR codes on page 7.
Feedback to email@example.com.
I travel so you can see the world!
Peter Steyn, PhD
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher
Copyright © 2013-2019. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any part of this magazine
is strictly prohibited without the prior written approval of the publisher. The publisher
does not take responsibility for any potential inaccurate information herein.
THE FRONT COVER
“Snow monsters” of Zao
Known as “snow monsters”, the trees on Mount Zao take on
mystifying shapes during the coldest part of the winter.
4 Globerovers · December 2019
Thanks to our Contributors
In this issue
All words and photos by Peter Steyn, except where otherwise indicated. A very special thank you to our
awesome contributors in this issue. Without you, Globerovers Magazine just wouldnʼt be the same!
Fuchsia Sims, Sydney, Australia (page 78)
Fuchsia is co-founder of the Adventure Junky App - Earths Sustainable Travel Game. Helping
you make responsible travel achievable and fun by awarding you points for completing or contributing
low-impact experiences and showcasing destinations and travel operators that offer them.
Janet-Lynn Vorster, Cape Town, South Africa (page 82)
Janet is a numerologist by profession, and journalist, editor and photographer by hobby. She is
the proud mother of three grown children and granny to three grandchildren. Janet is the Southern
African editor for Globerovers Magazine.
Marion Halliday, Adelaide, South Australia (page 120)
Marion is “Red Nomad OZ”, author, blogger and Aussie traveller who loves discovering naturebased
attractions and activities – and scenic loos – all over Australia. Her Aussie travel blog and
published book “Aussie Loos with Views” provide inspiration for other Aussie explorers.
Yrene Dee, Lumby, BC, Canada (Page 136)
Yrene is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and
worked on different continents and travelled the world before she settled in Canada. She is an
entrepreneur, wilderness nut, and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places.
Claire Bennett, Kathmandu, Nepal (page 142)
Claire lives and works in Kathmandu, Nepal, and freelances as a trainer and consultant. She is
passionate about global education, ethical travel and ensuring good intentions are put to good
use. She is co-author of Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad.
João Leitão (page 148)
João is a travel blogger who writes about journeys into more than 130 countries across Africa, Antarctica,
Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania. A Portuguese expat living in Morocco since 2006,
João loves to indulge into other cultures and learn about their languages and traditional values.
Adam Rogers, New York, USA (page 152)
Adam is a peripatetic writer and explorer who has been on the road for most of the past 40
years. He is the author of numerous books including The Intrepid Traveler, Taking Action, The
Earth Summit and The No Mammal Manifesto: Diet for a new and more sustainable world.
The Globerovers‛ World
Globerovers Magazine was created by Peter Steyn, an avid explorer who is constantly in search of the
edge of the world. He will always hike the extra mile or ten to get as far off the beaten track as he can.
It is his mission to discover and present the most exciting destinations for intrepid travellers. He has
visited 122 countries (including territories: Greenland, Hong Kong, Macau) and is poised to explore
Siberia (Russia) and Mongolia in the near future. Peter’s home is wherever he lays down his cameras.
Myanmar / Burma
Papua New Guinea
Timor Leste (East Timor)
United Arab Emirates
122 and counting...
6 Globerovers · December 2019
Don’t hesitate to follow us to some incredible
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8 Globerovers · December 2019
The “Snow Monsters” of Zao more closely resemble humans than monsters.
The juhyo (ice trees) around the peak of the Zao Ski Resort are
created during the coldest part of the winter on evergreen conifer trees
such as Japanese red pines, white fir, blue spruce, and red cedars.
The best time to see them is from early January to early March.
10 Globerovers · December 2019
A WINTER WONDERLAND
While any time is a good time to explore the beauty of Japan, winter months are truly special.
Nothing better for mind and spirit than watching the soft snow falling while sipping on hot sake wine.
Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity
chef, author, and popular travel
documentarian who took his own
life in 2018, once said: “Japan
is endlessly interesting to me. After going on
nine filming trips there, I don’t think I’ve even
scratched the surface and I don’t think I ever will”.
He was especially fond of the food in Japan and
proclaimed: “If I had to eat only in one city for the
rest of my life, Tokyo would be it”.
Most travellers who have been to Japan will
agree that Japan has more to offer than one
person can experience in a lifetime. I personally
have been to Japan numerous times and I too still
feel that I have not
scratched the surface.
In addition to the beautiful natural snow-covered
scenery in winter, Japan’s culture smoothly intertwines
with this special time of the year.
While the Japanese
of 6,852 islands,
roughly arranged in
the shape of a dragon, its total land area is 377,973
km² - a large area to explore. Being a long skinny
country stretching from the southernmost island
of Okinotori in the Philippine Sea all the way up
to the northern tip of Hokkaido Island near Russia’s
Sakhalin Island, the distance - as the crow flies
- is approximately 2,840 kilometres (1,765 mi).
However, the uninterrupted drivable distance
from the southern end of Kyushu Island to the
northern tip of Hokkaido Island is about 2,780
kilometres (1,727 mi).
The first challenging decision when planning
a trip to Japan is the choice of season as Japan has
four very well defined seasons: Spring is time for
the famous cherry blossoms (locally known as
sakura), the season for which Japan is most well
known. Summers are hot with lush-green landscapes,
while in autumn, Japan’s trees and shrubs
explode in colours of yellow, orange, red, purple
and all shades in between. During winter, much
of Japan turns into an idyllic winter wonderland.
Every season is a good season to visit Japan.
Summers are great for festivals and fireworks,
though it can get quite hot and humid. Spring and
autumn are arguably the most pleasant seasons,
while winter is the most exciting with all the
winter-sports, steaming hot springs (locally known
as onsen), snow and ice festivals, rare wildlife,
illuminated villages, and don’t forget the hot Japanese
rice wine (locally
known as sake) on
cold winter nights.
If you want to
experience the beauty
of the cherry blossoms,
then visit during March and April. The
peak period for the blossoms is mid to late March
on Kyushu and mid to late April on Hokkaido.
If you are more interested in the vibrant glowing
orange and red colours of autumn, then visit
between late October in the north all the way to
mid-December in the south. Autumn first arrives
in the far north of Hokkaido, and then slowly
moves south to Kyushu, the same directional flow
as the winter snow-falls.
You may think of winter as a dreadfully cold
and depressing time of the year. While this can be
true, this perception mostly applies if you are living
in Japan and have to commute to work in icy
conditions and shovel the snow in your driveway.
Feature • Japan | 11
As a traveller, no little inconveniences
brought on by winter will bother you. On
the contrary, all that will matter to you is
sitting in a steaming hot spring while the
gently falling snowflakes create a white hat
on your head. Relax and have another hot
sake rice wine while thinking about your
cross-country ski routes.
Japanese winters are relatively brief.
Starting around late November or early
December, the winter season generally
continues until the end of February or
early to mid-March.
As expected, the further north you
travel, the longer and harsher the winters
are. In some parts of Hokkaido in the far
north, and in the mountainous regions,
winter can be even longer and colder.
Generally, the coldest temperatures come
around in February when the mercury can
drop well below freezing point.
While the southern islands of Okinawa
never see snow, heavy snowfalls are
frequent along the coastal mountains on
the Japanese Sea facing Russia and Korea,
the northern parts of Honshu, and all of
Come along as we explore a few of
Japan’s most idyllic winter wonderlands.
In the lower-northern part of Honshu,
we visit Zao Onsen and Ski Resort, also
famous for its Juhyou frosted fir trees.
After Zao, we travel further north to
Lake Tazawako and the nearby Tsurunoyu
As Hokkaido is the most idyllic winter
spot of Japan, we then take the train north
through the Tsugaru Strait that separates
Honshu Island and Hokkaido Island. After
a brief stop to attend the snow festival in
Hokkaido’s capital Sapporo, we head east
to the Kushiro Marshes to spend time with
the red-crowned cranes performing their
love dances in the snow. From there, we
travel north to the shores of Lake Kussharo,
home to the large white whooper swans
dabbling on the hot springs, surrounded
Before we start our travels, we first
consider ten brilliant reasons for visiting
Japan in winter. After that, come along as
we visit two winter wonderlands on northern
Honshu Island before we move further
north to Hokkaido.
WHY CHOOSE WINTER?
While Japan is great any time of the
year, winter is truly special.
Choosing the right season to
visit Japan is a tough decision.
While the best decision is to
visit Japan during all four seasons, winter
is the most exciting time. Here are ten of
the best reasons why winter is a great time
to visit Japan:
1. FEWER TOURISTS IN WINTER
The surge in foreign visitors to Japan
has been the result of a gradual easing of
Japan’s travel visa requirements since 2013,
as well as an increase in the number of
Asian budget airlines flying into Japan. The
depreciation of the Japanese yen has also
boosted tourist arrivals.
The number of tourist arrivals from
China increased four-fold over a five-year
period so that China has overtaken South
Korea as the top source of tourists. The
Asia region now accounts for about 85% of
all tourist arrivals in Japan. According to
the Japan National Tourism Organization
(JNTO), the estimated number of international
travellers to Japan in June 2019 was
about 2.9 million, a 6.5% increase from the
previous year and the highest tourist arrival
number for the month of June, ever.
To avoid the crowds, visit throughout
the winter months when you will find many
of the country’s most iconic sights almost
completely deserted. Gone are the madding
crowds from spring, summer, and autumn.
2. THE JAPANESE ONSEN
A Japanese onsen is a mineral-rich
geothermal natural hot spring bath. On a
cold and snowy day, there is simply nothing
like sinking into a steamy outdoors
bath (locally known as rotenburo) while
snowflakes are gently falling all around
you. While the steaming mountain-stream
meanders through the snow-covered
woods and flows right into your natural
rocky bath, you sip on a hot sake and know
you came to the right place.
The onsen, as well as the sentō (community
bath-house), are integral to Japanese
culture. While a visit to one or two
sentō is a great introduction to this part of
Japanese culture, the onsen is where you
want to spend more time.
Some onsen are traditional cedarpanelled
baths in large themed complexes
where you can bathe in a variety of waters
from milky white coloured water, to aromatic
water smelling of honey. The rotenburo
outdoor bath that hugs the side of the
jungle or a picturesque creek, is where you
want to be, especially in winter.
Japan has so many beautiful onsen all
over the country that it is hard to single
out the best. Even so, make sure to visit the
tranquil onsen town of Ginzan in Yamagata
Prefecture, one of the most historic and
picturesque onsen towns in Japan.
The town is located along the banks of
the Ginzan River and also offers beautiful
wooden ryokan, the traditional onsen
inns. Another onsen area not to miss is the
Noberibetsu Onsen region of Hokkaido, as
well as Zao Onsen and Tsurunoyu Onsen
in the northern part of Honshu Island.
12 Globerovers · December 2019
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
3. HOT SAKE RICE WINE
Going hand-in-hand with the onsen
experience, though certainly not limited to
the onsen, is the Japanese culture of enjoying
heated sake (Japan’s native rice wine)
on a cold winter’s day or night.
While sake is enjoyed straight from
the fridge during the rest of the year, during
winter there is nothing better than to
warm yourself up with a glass of hot sake.
Enjoy your sake in the onsen, or huddled
inside your traditional ryokan (travellers
inn) or in an izakaya (small Japanese pub).
Sake comes in a variety of types and qualities,
with prices to match.
4. SNOW FESTIVALS
Japan is well known for its elaborate
show festivals. While there are many such
festivals all over Japan, the most impressive
is the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (snow festival)
on Hokkaido Island. Lasting one week in
February, Sapporo’s festival features illuminations,
skating, toboggan runs, ice bars,
many kinds of winter games, and enormous
sculptures created from ice and snow. Some
of these works of art measure up to 15 metres
(49 ft) tall and 25 metres (82 ft) wide.
In the neighbouring town of Otaru, check
out the Light Snow Path Festival.
Some other festivals to consider are
the Tokamachi Snow Festival, Asahikawa
Winter Festival, Akita’s Yokote Kamakura
Festival, Tochigi’s Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura
Festival, and the Snow Monsters
Festival of Zao in Yamagata.
Watch out for the traditional kamakura
(igloo-like snow huts or domes)
which are traditionally made in the Tohoku
region and in northern areas of the
Kanto region, such as at the Yunishigawa
Kamakura Festival. At night, the town is lit
up with hundreds of small kamakura with
candles and turns into a magical winter
5. SNOW SPORTS
Japan is over 70% mountainous, boasts
over 500 ski resorts, and receives some
of the world’s most reliable snowfall. It is
not hard to find excellent ski resorts with
sweeping ski-runs and superb powdery
snow alongside stunning natural beauty
and romantic accommodation where hospitality
Just 200 kilometres (124 mi) northwest
of Tokyo is Yuzawa in the Japanese Alps.
The area is world-renowned for its heavy
snowfalls and a prolonged winter season
with excellent trails for skiing and snow-
Feature • Japan | 13
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
14 Globerovers · December 2019
boarding. Furthermore, Yuzawa is blessed
with several hot springs, some dating back
900 years. The Kaido-no-yu onsen has outdoor
pools with breathtaking views of the
surrounding snow-capped mountains.
While some of the best ski resorts are
in Hokkaido, the Zao Ski Resort in Honshu
is unique as you can ski past the “snow
monsters”. More about Zao and its “snow
6. ICE AND ICICLES
Along with the cold winter temperatures
come the ice and icicles. One of the
most accessible places to showcase this
beautiful winter phenomenon in Japan
is in Misotsuchi. Here gigantic icicles are
created by water flowing over the cliffs
located upstream from the waterfall in the
Chichibu area of Saitama Prefecture, just
over 100 kilometres (62 mi) northwest of
Nearby is the Onouchi Hyakkei Icicle
Park in Ogano and the Ashigakubo Icicles
which are artificially created when water
is sprayed over the trees in the frigid cold,
resulting in wildly shaped ice crusts on the
branches. If you are here on weekends during
January and February, you will see the
special lighting that mystically illuminates
Some of the many other places to see
icicles are at Gouradani, also known as
Nanshoga near Shojidake in Fukuoka
Prefecture, and the fir trees of Zao Onsen
in Yamagata Prefecture.
7. WINTER ILLUMINATIONS
The “chasing of illuminations” is a
favourite romantic pastime for Japanese
families and couples. Japan has no shortage
of the most impressive winter illuminations
you have ever dreamt of.
Almost every major Japanese city has
at least one winter light illumination area.
Tokyo has several, such as the Caretta
Shiodome Illuminations, Roppongi Hills
Christmas Lights, and the Tokyo Midtown
Christmas Illuminations. The Shiodome
illuminations are arguably the most impressive.
There are many illumination events
held across the country of which the
most spectacular is the Nabana no Sato
of Kuwana city in Mie Prefecture. Over 8
million LED lights are used to create the
mind-blowing art-of-lights in the vast
park where you will find the impressive
“Tunnel of Lights”. Truly a fairy tale. While
watching the lights you can also enjoy
the local Nagashima-chi Beer and natural
hot springs. West of Tokyo is the equally
impressive light show at the “Lake Sagami
Pleasure Forest” in Kanagawa.
8. WINTER VILLAGES
One of the best places to spend a
night or two during Japan’s winters is in a
“winter village”. When quaint traditional
Japanese villages are covered in fluffy thick
white snow it creates a wonderful atmosphere,
especially when they are modestly
One of the most charming and rustic
traditional Japanese villages to visit in
winter after heavy snow, is the Shirakawago
village in central Japan, a tiny village
located 300 kilometres (186 mi) west of
Tokyo in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture. The
village is a collection of original thatched
farmhouses with tall pointed roofs in
the gasshō-zukuri style, meaning ‘praying
hands’ which reflects the shape of the
roofs. When snow-covered and illuminated
it creates a scene straight from a Christmas
card. The village is best viewed from
the observation deck above the village.
To control overcrowding, from 2019
onward new regulations are in place that
require visitors to make an online reservation.
Alternatively, the villages of the Gokayama
region are still mostly unaffected
by mass-tourism. In this region, check out
the villages of Gokayama, Suganuma, and
9. JAPANESE SHRINES
Shrines in Japan are very photogenic,
in particular those with alleys or tunnels,
made of many torii gates lined up in a long
row. Torii gates are most commonly found
at the entrance of, or within, a Shinto
shrine, where they symbolically mark the
transition from the mundane to the sacred.
Attending a Shinto shrine when it is covered
in snow is an exhilarating sight.
Kyoto’s Kifune Shrine with its many
torii gates is one such shrine not to miss
when covered under a thick blanket of
show. When the shrine is illuminated at
night, the snowy fairy tale comes alive.
10. WINTER WILDLIFE
While you may not think of wildlife
as a reason to visit Japan in winter, this is
a major drawcard for birdwatchers and
photographers with their big cameras and
long lenses who flock to Japan, mainly to
Hokkaido, during the winter months.
While the coldest parts of Japan such
as Hokkaido have mammals including the
red fox, spotted deer (also known as the
Japanese deer or sika deer), sable (a small
carnivorous mammal primarily inhabiting
the forest), northern fur seal, and Steller
sea lion, the main attraction is the birds.
Hooded and white-naped cranes
are present in Kagoshima Prefecture of
the southern island of Kyushu, though
the biggest draw is Hokkaido. Here you
can see the revered Red-crowned cranes
performing love dances in the snow, while
the Whooper swans (pronounced hooper)
congregate where the hot springs flow into
the partly frozen lakes. More about these
“Planning wildlife photography
in Japan? Bring your longest
lenses as competition is fierce"
February is an ideal time to spot the
Steller’s sea eagles at the northernmost
areas of Hokkaido where the sea-ice
extends down the Sea of Okhotsk reaching
the northeast coast of Hokkaido and in
particular the Shiretoko Peninsula. While
in Hokkaido, keep an eye out for the Ural
owl that is active day and night, though it
is primarily nocturnal. The Blakiston’s fish
owl is also a resident of Hokkaido.
Convinced that winter is the most
exciting time to visit Japan? Now let’s start
Feature • Japan | 15
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
Onsen village known for steaming waters,
snow monsters, and great skiing.
While there are so many places
to enjoy Japan in winter, one
place not to miss has to be the
hot spring town of Zao Onsen. Located
400 kilometres (248 mi) north of Tokyo,
the town lies 880 metres (2,887 ft) above
sea level on the slopes of the volcanic
With a history that goes back about
1,900 years, the area is known for some of
the best ski slopes with excellent powdersnow
conditions, hot springs, mountain
scenery, and its famous “snow monsters”
that come alive in mid-winter.
The ski season usually starts in early
December and ends around early May,
depending on the snow conditions.
Interested in improving your skiing
and snowboarding techniques? No problem.
Zao has seven ski schools and one
snowboard school allowing you to choose
a class according to your individual needs.
If needed, English speaking instructors can
be pre-booked for private lessons.
To protect the little ones, Zao even
offers a Ski Kodomo-no-hi (Children’s Ski
Day) when children under elementary
school age are eligible for a large discount.
The best time to meet up with the
“snow monsters” is generally from early
January to early March, with February being
the time when they are at their biggest.
THE SKI RESORT
Zao is one of Japan’s oldest ski resorts.
Its 14 different slopes and 12 courses are
suitable for skiers and snowboarders of
all levels and are serviced by 35 lifts, a
gondola and 3 ropeways. Its longest run
starts at the summit of the mountain and is
about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long.
16 Globerovers · December 2019
THE SNOW MONSTERS
Zao is one of only a few places in Japan
where the juhyo (ice trees) can be seen.
Juhyo can be found on a limited number
of mountains in the northeastern areas of
Japan with Zao one of the most accessible
areas. Better known as “snow monsters”,
the trees take on mystifying shapes during
the coldest part of the winter.
It is as if almost every tree, which by
mid-winter is hardly recognisable
as a tree, takes on the shape of a human,
complete with facial features,
blowing hair, hats, wide dresses, and
limbs. They often appear as a group
of people in traditional dress looking
at each other or walking up the
hill. While they are called “snow monsters”,
most more closely resemble humans than
monsters if you have a strong imagination.
The “snow monsters” form around the
peak of the Zao Ski Resort and are usually
at their most spectacular around mid-
The wind is blowing, it is freezing cold, and you are
alone, surrounded by “snow monsters” so real that
you can hear them talking in their frosted voices.
There are a few climatic conditions
necessary for the juhyo to be created. The
trees must be evergreen conifers such
as the Japanese red pines, white fir, blue
spruce, red cedar or similar. The ice develops
particularly fast when the temperature
is around minus 5°C (23F) and when the
wind is weak. Water droplets must be present
in the low hanging snow clouds, and
they then adhere to the trees as they make
contact. Heavy snowfalls between two and
three metres are also ideal.
On Mount Zao, where the wind tends
to be strong, juhyo grow windward and
their tips turn into a shape called “the
shrimp tail” as these unique ice formations
resemble the tails of shrimps. These “tails”
will build up and fill all the gaps between
the branches and freeze very hard. As this
phenomenon repeats itself over several
days, the build-up creates masterpieces.
Access to the “snow monsters” is
by ropeway and a gondola fit for both
skiers and non-skiers. From the top
of the mountain the panoramic view
over the ski slopes and the “snow
monsters” is spectacular.
The “snow monsters” must be seen
during the day, especially on clear sunny
days, as well as in the evenings when
coloured floodlights light up the monsters
around the summit. View them from the
open viewing deck of the cafe, or from a
warm seat inside the cafe. Make sure to
dress very warmly as the wind can get
extremely strong and brutally cold at night
- ideal conditions to make the monsters
even wilder and bigger.
Feature • Japan | 17
708-1 Zao Onsen, Yamagata-City
YAMAGATA, 990-2301 JAPAN
Zao Onsen is located in Yamagata City in the northeastern region of Tohoku.
It is one of Japan’s most renowned tourist destinations, standing about 800 metres above sea
level and among splendid mountains. This traditional hot spring village is surrounded by nature.
18 Globerovers · December 2019
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
THE ONSEN OF ZAO
After a full day on the ski slopes and an
evening with the “snow monsters” where
the winter wind is bitterly cold, there is
nothing better at Zao than an evening soak
in an onsen. In fact, any time of the day or
night is a good time for a soak in an onsen.
Zao Onsen’s sulphuric waters are
among the most acidic in Japan with a pH
value of close to 1 on the scale of 1 to 14,
with 1 being the most acidic. These waters
are reputedly very effective with rejuvenating
and strengthening the skin and blood
vessels, and therefore popularly known as
“the beauty maker” or “springs of beauty”.
More precisely, the steaming hot waters
are said to aid with the healing of incised
wounds, chronic skin diseases, diabetes,
hypertension, muscle pains, joint pains,
physical exhaustion, and a lot more. If we
can believe all these claims then there is no
better way to rejuvenate our tired and ageing
bodies than right here at Zao’s many onsen.
Zao has several onsen which range
from small, old-fashioned community baths
to modern facilities with various pools.
The absolute highlight of Zao’s onsen is
the Zao Dai Rotenburo (rotenburo means
“outdoor bath”) located at the highest
point in Zao Onsen town. This genderseparated
outdoor bath is located right in
the hot and highly sulphuric mountain
streams, surrounded by lush forests.
In line with Japanese onsen etiquette,
you place your clothes in a black plastic
bag and leave it unattended in the wooden
changing room, then walk down the
wooden path to the pools, totally in the
nude. Make sure to take along your small
white facial towel available in the changing
room, which is used to cover your private
parts when outside the bath.
While this open-air onsen is officially
closed from December to March, I was
very lucky that it opened for a single day
when I visited on a very snowy day near
the end of January. While sitting in the
natural baths, my head got covered in a
thick layer of snow within minutes. What
an incredible experience!
Zao Onsen also offers other resort
attractions including a Family Snow Park
and a Snowboard Park. The resort has easy
to understand signs in English, Korean and
Chinese as well as Japanese, and the friendly
people in the small village are always
very welcoming to guests from overseas.
ZAO TRAVEL TIPS
Most ryokan and many hotels and pensions
in Zao Onsen offer their staying
guests access to their own onsen. A few
of them also open their onsen to nonstaying
guests for a small admission fee.
Zao Onsen can be reached by air, car,
train or bus. Flights from Tokyo’s Haneda
airport to Yamagata airport take about
an hour, followed by a one-hour bus
ride. By car, the journey takes about fi ve
hours, while the train from Tokyo via the
Japan Rail (JR) Yamagata Shinkansen
takes two and a half hours to Yamagata
station from where the bus shuttle to Zao
Onsen takes 40 minutes.
The town has ample restaurants and
several choices of accommodation such
as resorts, hotels, inns, ryokan, lodges,
pensions, and private homes.
One of the highlights of Zao is the Dai
Rotenburo outdoor bath located at the
highest point in Zao Onsen town.
It is open once a year!
Feature • Japan | 19
Zao is one of Japan’s oldest ski resorts. Its 14 different slopes and 12 courses
are suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all levels and are serviced by
35 lifts, a gondola and three ropeways. Its longest run starts at the summit
of the mountain and is about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long.
20 Globerovers · December 2019
Feature • Japan | 21
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
LAKE TAZAWAKO AREA
A tranquil lake surrounded by snow
While snow-covered mountains
are synonymous with idyllic
winter scenery, how about a
snow-covered lake with a princess named
Tatsuko standing on its shores? According
to legend, Tatsuko wanted to eternally
preserve her beauty but was then cursed
to become the protective dragon of Lake
To appreciate the mysterious legend of
Princess Tatsuko, locally known as Tatsuko
Densetsu, we continue our winter journey
to Lake Tazawa on Honshu’s mountainous
northern Akita Prefecture.
Lake Tazawa, located near the city of
Semboku which is 230 kilometres (143 mi)
north of Zao Onsen, is one of Japan’s largest
caldera lakes with a depth of 423 me-
tres (1,388 ft). We will stop by the golden
statue of Princess Tatsuko on the southwestern
shores of the lake, go all around
the lake, and
then travel 15
of the lake past
to spend some relaxing time at another
one of Japan’s most beautiful winter onsen,
Our first stop is Lake Tazawa, one of
Japan’s most beautiful areas, particularly
in winter. A picture-perfect landscape
unfolds when the lake is surrounded by
snow, with snow-covered Mount Akita-
Komagatake towering in the background.
Due to its depth, there is no possibility
that the lake can freeze over, even in the
dead of winter. This lake has no natural
inflow or outflow and as a result, it used
to have a crystal clear visibility of about
30 metres (98 ft). Sadly, due to a nearby
hydroelectric power plant as well as runoff
from farms and the highly acidic spillover
waters from Tamagawa Onsen, this visibility
reduced to less
than 4 metres
(13 ft). The
acidity of the
water makes it
human consumption, or even for agricultural
A large and very deep caldera lake, Tazawa is set in
one of the most beautiful locations in Japan.
No wonder this is also home to Princess Tatsuko!
Access to the area on public transport
is fairly easy. Tazawako-Akita train station
lies a short distance to the southwest of the
lake and is served by the JR Shinkansen
and the JR Tazawako. From the station, or
from nearby Tazawa-kohan bus station,
take a circle bus around the lake which
will stop at several of the main scenic
points, including the iconic golden statue
of Princess Tatsuko and the Gozanoishi
Shrine with its bright red torii gate standing
right by the water. Gozanoishi Shrine
was founded in 1650 and received its name
when the lord of the Akita Clan, Satake
Yoshitaka, took a rest while visiting Lake
The shores of Lake Tazawako.
22 Globerovers · December 2019
I came to this lake especially to see the
golden statue of Princess Tatsuko and to
better appreciate this mysterious legend.
According to the Tazawako Tourism Association,
there are different versions of
the legendary princess. “Perhaps no one
knows the ‘original’ or ‘authentic’ version
because it has been orally passed down
through generations” the Tourism Association
proclaimed but shared with me the
most common version of this folklore:
Tatsuko, a girl from the In-nai area,
was known for her beautiful appearance.
Knowing her beauty would not last forever,
she started to visit a nearby shrine at the
foot of Mount Okurasan. She would visit
the shrine to make a wish, night after
night. On the 100th night, she finally
received a message from the god of mercy
—“Go north. Find the holy spring. Take a
sip from there.”
Tatsuko then disappeared into the water.
Her mother was so agonised that she
screamed and threw her burning torch into
the lake. As the fire was instantly put out,
the torch became black and soon turned
into a school of kunimasu fish. According
to the story, the princess-dragon later sank
to the bottom of the lake and died.
Today, the only reminder we have of
Princess Tatsuko, the goddess of Lake
Tazawa, is her golden-bronze statue created
by Japanese sculptor and painter,
Yasutake Funakoshi (December 7, 1912
– February 5, 2002), that was unveiled on
April 12, 1968. She stands proudly with
her back to the clear blue waters, a figure
of purity and beauty. Surrounded by snow,
her eternal beauty will remain mystifying
for years to come.
At the Gozanoishi Shrine is the “Katagashira-no-reisen,”
the spring that Princess
Tatsuko is said to have drunk from to
preserve her beauty and then turned into a
dragon, as well as the “kagami-ishi” stone
that reflected her dragon figure. Here you
can also see a smaller statue of Tatsuko
sitting in a contrite pose, representing her
regret for chasing after vanity.
Over the mountains she walked and
finally she found the holy spring that she
was told about. Delighted, she took a sip as
she was instructed. When Tatsuko drank
the water from the holy spring with her
delicate hands, she became more and more
thirsty. She was drinking so breathlessly
and mindlessly that she dipped her face to
the water. The next moment, heavy clouds
appeared over the mountains, bringing
a thunderstorm. Soon, the pouring rain
washed out everything and caused a landslide
down to the lake. The lightning was
so blinding that Tatsuko couldn’t even see
herself. When it finally calmed down, she
came across a shining stone that reflected
her figure so she realised she was cursed
and transformed into a dragon.
When Tatsuko had been absent for
way too long, her mother became unbearably
anxious. She wandered deep into
the mountains in search of her precious
daughter. Finally, she found the holy
spring. She desperately called her daughter’s
name. The call was heard by Tatsuko,
who had now become a dragon living
in the waters of the lake. “Forgive me,
Mother” she said. “Because I wished for
eternal beauty, I became a dragon who
must serve as a guardian of Lake Tazawa.
I cannot return home with you. Instead, I
will keep this lake abundant with fish, so
you can have it every day to remember me.
They are my offerings to you.”
The golden statue of Princess Tatsuko at the shore of Lake Tazawako.
The torii gate at Gozanoishi Shrine facing Lake Tazawako.
Feature • Japan | 23
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
24 Globerovers · December 2019
Let’s shake ourselves back into reality
and travel along the southern shores
of the lake and then up in a northwestern
direction, 25 kilometres (15.5 mi) from
the princess to Tsurunoyu Onsen. Tsurunoyu
is one of eight onsen, and the oldest,
that belong to Nyutou Onsenkyo which
is located near the foot of Mount Nyutou
(1,478 m / 4,849 ft).
Dating back to between 1638 and 1661
when the second lord of Akita, Yoshitaka
Satake, visited Tsurunoyu Onsen for therapy,
visitation by the general public began
during the Genroku era (1688~1704). The
name, Tsurunoyu, is derived from folklore
that a local hunter saw a crane (tsuru in
Japanese) healing its wounds in the spring.
The onsen features four baths, each with
water of a different composition. In winter,
the outside baths are straight from a fairy
tale as this area can get tons of snow. With
snow piling up around the baths while the
steam rises from the milky hot waters, it
is pure bliss. Unlike most other onsen in
Japan, the outside bath is a mixed-gender
bath (konyoku), and in line with Japanese
culture, no bathing wear is allowed.
It is customary, and expected, that you
bring along a small white facial towel from
the changing room to cover your private
areas as you approach and sink into the
bath. Also as expected in all onsen, is to
meticulously scrub your entire body in the
gender-segregated wash areas before you
enter the communal baths.
Bedrooms at Tsurunoyu Onsen are of
traditional Japanese interior design and
are quite bare, with only a small table on
a wall-to-wall tatami mat as flooring, low
tables (kotatsu) for when you sit on the
mat, some large cushions, and a few traditional
Japanese futon mattresses that are
laid directly on the tatami mat. Mattresses
are kept folded in the closet during the
day and are rolled out in the evening after
After a long day in the snow followed
by a sunset soak in the steaming rotenburo,
it is time for dinner which is normally
included in a night’s stay. Be ready for
some local food such as sansai dishes
(mountain vegetables), and Tsurunoyu’s
local speciality - yamanoimo (Japanese
mountain yam) cooked in a pot (nabe), as
well as grilled Iwana (char or trout fish).
In winter, the area around the wooden
buildings is decorated with many igloo-like
snow huts or domes (kamakuras) with candles
burning inside. Such a beautiful sight.
Some of the other places worth exploring
in the area include the other onsen
of Nyutou Onsenkyo, Tamagawa Onsen
further north, Kakunodate-Bukeyashiki
(samurai residences south of Tazawa
Lake), Tazawa Lake Ski Resort, and Mount
Feature • Japan | 25
26 Globerovers · December 2019
Mount Komagatake reflects in the waters of Lake Tazawako.
Feature • Japan | 27
THE CRANES OF KUSHIRO
The Kushiro Marshes of Hokkaido are
home to Japan’s most revered cranes.
Winter in Japan is a lot more
than snow-covered mountains,
ski resorts, lakes, and hot
springs. It is also wildlife, in the snow.
From the hot spring waters of Tsurunoyu
Onsen in northern Honshu, we travel
by train northwards through the 19.5 kilometre
(12.1 mi) long Seikan Tunnel across
the Tsugaru Strait that separates Honshu
Island and Hokkaido Island. The train will
come to a stop in Sapporo, the largest city
28 Globerovers · December 2019
Linger around Sapporo and attend the
Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (snow festival) if
you are here in February. In 2020, the festival
will be held from the 4th to the 11th
of February. The festival’s main site is at
Odori Park where you will find most of the
snow and ice sculptures, as well as plenty
of warm drinks and delicious Japanese
food. It was right here in Odori Park where
the Sapporo Snow Festival was started in
1950 by a creative group of high school
students who started building a few snow
statues that attracted unexpected crowds.
You can also attend the festival at
the nearby Susukino Site under the 2020
theme of ‘Enjoy the Ice’. This site offers a
fantastic ice sculpture show and the Ice
Sculpture Contest. About eight kilometres
(five miles) north is the Tsu Dome, the
Sapporo community dome, where you will
find snow slides and a snow rafting area
where you can have a snow-ice experience.
From Sapporo, board the JR Limited
Express Super Ozora train for a four and
a half hour scenic ride east, to Kushiro.
Kushiro is best known for the Kushiro
Marshes, Japan’s largest marshland that is
a haven for wildlife. The scenic marshes
teem with over 600 species of plants as well
as animal life. The marshes are fed by the
Kushiro River which originates from Lake
Kussharo to the north and slowly snakes
south through the marshes for over 150
kilometres (93 mi).
The marshes are a big drawcard for
birdwatchers as this is one of the few
places where you can see the magnificent
tancho, Japan’s rare, iconic, and enchanting
red-crowned cranes. In Japanese culture,
the tancho has a long history and is often
depicted in poetry, paintings, and other
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
forms of art. To watch their elegant courtship
dances in the snow is a beautiful sight
At the turn of the 20th century, the
tancho were believed to be extinct until
a few were discovered in the Kushiro
Marshes in 1924. Under a well-maintained
protection programme, the crane population
has now risen to about 1,000 individuals.
There are a couple of feeding stations
set up during winter which the birds visit
in large numbers. It is hard to say which
are the best, as it all depends on where
the cranes decide to visit. Try the Tsurui
Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary, the Akan
International Crane Center, or the nearby
Otowa Bridge for a view of the sleeping
cranes shrouded in the morning mist.
Among the cranes you may find whooper
swans and even some Steller’s sea eagles in
While having your own transportation
is ideal, there are infrequent public buses
to some of the sites, such as the Akan Bus
that departs from the Kushiro Station bus
terminal to the nearby Kushiro Wetlands
Observatory, and the Akan International
Crane Center. Taking the bus will require
much of the day. If time is limited, take a
taxi to the nearest site, the Kushiro Marsh
Observatory (about 15 minutes / 17 kilometres
/ 10.5 miles by car). The distance to
the Akan International Crane Center is 33
kilometres (20 mi). On the way back, you
can take the Akan Bus Tsurui Line to JR
At the Hosooka Observatory, you can
get some beautiful views of the marshes
and the Kushiro River, or walk on the
boardwalk at Onnenai to see the tanchos,
herons, and smaller birds.
Feature • Japan | 29
Yunokaku Ikedaya Ryokan provides comfortable
accommodation with a restaurant and free WiFi.
Private parking is provided. A hot spring bath and bicycle
rental service are available for guests.
2-6-25 Kawayu Onsen
Teshikaga-cho Kawakami-gun Hokkaido,
+81 154 832 011
30 Globerovers · December 2019
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
This sleepy onsen town with a very
warming heart is idyllic in winter.
At Kushiro train station we
take the JR Semmo Line for a
one hour and 42 minute ride
north to cover the 90 kilometres (56 mi)
to Kawayu Onsen station. The small town
of Kawayu Onsen has been described as
a “geological thermal wonder” located on
the Oto River, a tributary of the Kumanogawa
River. “Kawa” means “river” and “yu”
means “hot water”. In town, hot spring
water bubbles to the surface of the crystal
clear river. The town offers a variety of ryokan
(traditional Japanese inn), minshuku
(Japanese-style bed and breakfasts), hotels,
and several quaint restaurants.
One of the best ways to enjoy a cold
winter’s night at Kawayu Onsen is to soak
in a pool that you dug by yourself while
watching the warm mist from the river
rising slowly into the air. Head for the Sennin-buro
river bath. “Sennin” means “one
thousand people” and “buro” is a bath.
“Sennin” also means “mountain man” or
“immortal mountain hermit”, a mysterious
character that lives in the mountains. This
large natural hot bath measures about 40
metres (131 ft) by 15 metres (49 ft) with a
depth of 60 centimetres (24 in) on average.
The hot water fountains at the bath are
about 70 degrees Celsius (158 Fahrenheit)
as they emerge from the ground, but are
then cooled down by the cold river water
to about 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Depending on the river flows, the
water temperature varies, so you can walk
around the bath and find a comfortable
water temperature. On some days the
bathing area is lit with lamps and strings of
The town also has a few free foot-baths
right by the side of the street which is a
nice way to warm up your cold feet.
Just over three kilometres (1.9 mi) west
of the town are the Iozan sulphurous steam
vents that are part of an active volcano. As
you approach the area you will hear loud
hissing noises coming from the bright yellow
sulphur mounts and the strong pungent
smell of sulphur in the air. The area was
used for sulphur mining during the Meiji
era (1868 to 1912).
Nearby Mount Iozan is a 512 metre
(1,680 ft) high active volcano sitting inside
the giant Kussharo caldera and is the source
of the hot springs in the area, such as
Kawayu Onsen. Mount Iozan’s name literally
means “sulphur mountain”. The local
Ainu people called it “atosanupuri,” which
means “naked mountain.” The mountain is
characterized as such because the surface is
bare and has a reddish-brown colour.
Feature • Japan | 31
Whooper swans at Sunayu, Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido.
32 Globerovers · December 2019
Feature • Japan | 33
Japan - A Winter Wonderland
Japan’s largest caldera lake is blessed
with white-feathered visitors in winter.
While the sulphur vents and
hot springs of Kawayu are
good enough reasons to
visit the area, we came here in search of the
feathered visitors from Siberia, Russia.
About eight kilometres (five miles) to
the west of town lies Sunayu on the eastern
shores of Lake Kussharo, a large caldera
lake in Akan National Park. Sunayu means
“a place that sand gushes out” in the local
Ainu language, and makes reference to the
hot springs that ooze out from the sandy
beach on the lakeside.
While parts of the lake freeze over in
winter, this is one area where the warm hot
springs keep the lake free of ice, the perfect
bathing spot not only for the lone human
bather in the small rock-pool but also for
the swans along the shore.
The whooper swans (pronounced
hooper), are one of the heaviest flying birds
weighing in the range of eight to 11 kg (18
– 25 lbs). The heaviest whooper swan was
recorded at 15 kg (34 lbs).
They spend most of their time in the
Siberian Arctic before migrating as far
south as Japan in the winter. It is quite a
sight to see
so many of
swans on the
mountains of the Akan National Park in the
Kussharo Kotan Ainu Folklore Museum.
Step inside this interesting little museum’s
replica of an Ainu house, to learn more
about the culture and traditions of the Ainu
people who are indigenous to northern
According to one of several theories,
the Ainu are descendants of Mongolian
migrants who entered the Japanese islands
before the period 13000 BC to 300 BC.
Most of Japan’s
Lake Kussharo is home to flocking white swans from
Siberia, as well as hot springs and omiwatari ice ridges,
all living side-by-side at the edges of the lake.
A little further down the road lies the
Ikeno-yu hot spring, also flowing into the
lake, and therefore another favourite spot
for the swans. Further south on the south
bank of Lake Kussharo is the Teshikaga
Hokkaido. Note that the museum is closed
between November and May.
While this was a small scratch on the
surface of Japan in winter, feel free to come
back time after time to enjoy the beauty of
34 Globerovers · December 2019
From Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda international
airports it is easy to fl y to northern
Japan, either to Sendai Airport or further
north to Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport
in Sapporo. Sapporo is in Japan’s northern
winter-wonder-world on Hokkaido
Island, however, winter snow covers
much of Japan so arrive at any of Japan’s
airports to experience it for yourself.
For long-distance travel it is faster and
often cheaper to fly. Alternatively, travel
by train, but to save significantly on train
tickets, buy a Japan Rail Pass before arriving
in Japan. Discounted tourist rail passes
are not sold in Japan. The rail pass often is
cheaper than bus travel. For small groups,
it is cheaper to rent a vehicle, though highway
tolls are expensive.
Japan is a playground for photographers.
Here you will find an immense variety of
photographic equipment though prices are
not always cheaper than online purchases
in your own country. Japan is a very
photogenic country which includes pristine
natural scenery, wildlife, temples, cultural
events, sports events, festivals, and even
perfect fruits and vegetables!
When to Go
While any time is a great time to visit Japan,
the most beautiful seasons are spring
(for the cherry blossoms and other flowers),
autumn (for the brilliant red foliage),
and of course winter - the most beautiful
time. Best is late winter (January and February)
when the ice is well-formed.
Food is the third most expensive item in
Japan, after accommodation and transportation.
However, when you follow a few
cost-saving tips you will fi nd that the food
is not so expensive. A good start to eating
cheap is to avoid serviced restaurants and
touristy areas. Go where the locals eat.
Where to Stay
Japan has accommodation to fit all budgets,
albeit on the high side compared to
the rest of Asia. If you have a seriously
tight budget, try couch surfing or stay in
a dorm or capsule hotel, some of which
will only cost about US$20 per person per
Summers are very hot and winters are
brutally cold. If you go to Zao Mountain
in northern Honshu to see the “snow
monsters” in January, expect minus 15°
Celsius (5°F), or even colder. Winter in
Japan could be the coldest winter you
have ever experienced.
As one of the safest countries in the world,
there is no need to worry about any aspect
of security. Theft and robberies are unheard
off, while safety on the roads and on
public transport is better than almost anywhere
in the world. Follow regular safety
rules and everything will be fi ne.
Cost of Travel
Japan is one of the most expensive countries
in which to travel. However, If you are
well informed on how to save money, you
will fi nd that Japan is not as expensive as
you thought. Be smart and take advantage
of discounted online bookings. Make sure to
buy your JR Railway Pass before arriving.
Feature • Japan | 35
Vegan Minshuku Sanbiki Neko
Kyoto’s Traditional Japanese Style Bed and Breakfast
• Experience the ancient capital of Japan while staying in a traditional style
bed and breakfast; the perfect base for sightseeing.
• Nestled in the Higashiyama foothills and located close to many attractions,
including Kiyomizu-dera, Fushimi Inari and the Gion area.
• Cooked Japanese style vegan breakfasts are served in the dining room.
• Tea and coffee making facilities, microwave, oven, refrigerator and television
are available for guests’ use.
• Traditional Japanese style rooms, each with an en-suite bathroom.
36 Globerovers · December 2019
10 Winter Activities in Japan
Japan’s winter wonderland offers a variety of activities that will appeal to everybody who appreciates the beauty of snow and ice,
and everything that goes with it. For adventurous visitors, Japan has some of the world’s best ski resorts renowned for their powdery
snow. Cross-country skiing and hiking are popular in the forests. If you are into photography, you will find ample opportunities,
in particular the tancho cranes and whooper swans. When it is time to relax, soak in a hot spring with a glass of hot sake wine!
Zao Dai Rotenburo
Soaking in a Japanese hot spring is the reason why many
people visit during winter. There is nothing more invigorating
than sinking into the hot mineral waters, in particular when it
is an outdoor natural bath, and even more special if snow is
falling. Sip on a glass of hot sake and you will be in heaven!
One of the best experiences can be found at Zao Onsen on
the slopes of the volcanic Mount Zao, located 400 km (248
mi) north of Tokyo. Zao Dai Rotenburo outdoor baths are located
right in the hot and highly sulphuric mountain streams,
surrounded by lush forests. This area gets a lot of snow
which creates a stunning winter wonder world.
Mount Zao in northern Honshu Island is
famous for its “snow monsters” that come
alive in mid-winter. Zao is one of only a
few places in Japan where the juhyo (ice
trees) can be seen. It is as if almost every
tree, hardly recognisable as a tree by
mid-winter, takes on the shape of a human,
complete with facial features, blowing
hair, hats, wide dresses, and limbs.
The “snow monsters” live around the
peak of Zao Ski Resort and are usually
at their most spectacular about mid-
38 Globerovers · December 2019
Hokkaido Island offers some of the best
snow and ice festivals in Japan. At the
Tomamu Ski Resort you will find a beautifully
created ice village that is illuminated at
night with colourful lights.
However, the first prize must go to the annual
Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (snow festival)
in the Hokkaido capital. The massive snow
and ice sculptures are meticulously created
by teams of artists and then illuminated
with thousands of small light bulbs. The
2020 festival will be held from the 4th to
11th of February.
Whether you are a photographer or a bird
lover — or neither — you will appreciate
the beauty of these majestic feathered
friends prancing on the snow.
Japan’s rare, iconic, and enchanting redcrowned
cranes, locally known as the tancho
have been intertwined with Japanese
culture throughout the ages. Depicted
in Japanese poetry, paintings, and other
forms of art, the tancho is highly revered.
Congregating on the snow-covered marshes
of Hokkaido’s Kushiro area, they are a
must-visit during their winter courtship.
5 Whooper Swans 6 Iozan Mountain
In eastern Hokkaido Island, along the
shores of Lake Kussharo, a few hot
springs flow into the partly frozen lake. In
winter, whooper swans escape the harsh
winters of Siberia to spend time in these
hot spots along the lake.
The whooper swans are one of the heaviest
flying birds in the world.
It is quite a sight to see so many of these
white swans on the lake, with the snowy
mountains of the Akan National Park in
Mount Iozan in eastern Hokkaido, is an
active volcano sitting inside the giant
Kussharo caldera. It is the source of the
hot springs in the area, such as the beautiful
Mount Iozan’s name literally means “sulphur
mountain”, so here you will see ample
amounts of bright yellow sulphur deposits
at the mouths of the hissing steam vents.
It looks like the mountain is on fire with the
many steam vents spewing steam, and
sometimes water, high into the air. It is
particularly scenic after heavy snowfalls.
Located in central Hokkaido, about 90
minutes by train south of Sapporo, Tomamu
is a popular winter resort for many
reasons. It covers two mountains and has
a large selection of trails.
It offers a host of other activities such as
snowmobiling, snow rafting, backcountry
tours, cross country skiing, paraskiing,
snowshoeing and dog sledding. In
winter the illuminated Ice Village offers
a restaurant, wedding chapel, and a bar,
all sculpted from snow and ice. Even the
drinking glasses are carved from ice.
Hot Springs Village
The Sea of Okhotsk coast of Hokkaido is
the northern hemisphere’s southernmost region
where drifting sea ice can be seen. At
the far northeastern coast of the island, the
sea ice typically reaches the coast around
Abashiri in mid to late January and disappears
again by late March to mid-April.
Arrive during the second half of February,
board one of the sightseeing boats, and
head into the ice-covered see. Over the
last few years the boats have had to travel
further north to find the ice which has been
on the decline due to global warming.
Located to the northeast of Lake Tazawa
in the north of Honshu Island, the Nyutoonsen-kyo
Hot Springs Village is the
collective name for seven hot spring inns
located inside the Towada-Hachimantai
Surrounded by primeval beech forest,
this pristine part of Japan is beautiful allyear-round,
in particular in autumn and
winter. The sulphuric springs here are of
exceptional quality and the snow falls can
be heavy, which makes relaxing in the
outdoors baths a memorable experience.
Visiting a Japanese shrine or temple covered
in snow is one of the most beautiful
scenes Japan can offer. When the shrine
stands on the shores of a caldera lake,
surrounded by snow-covered mountains, it
is even more stunning.
On the northern shores of Lake Tazawa
in the north of Honshu Island, stands the
Gozanoishi-jinja Shrine that dates back
to 1650. It features a beautiful red torii
(spiritual gate) looking out over the lake’s
blue waves. In winter this torii is covered
in snow and is a sight to behold.
Feature • Japan | 39
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Albania, Eastern Europe
Albania has been Europe’s most intriguing
enigma while it has been closed to outsiders
for much of the 20th century. During this time,
the country has been rumoured to have some
of the most spectacular mountains, ancient ruins, historic
fortress towns, turquoise Mediterranean coves, and
long stretches of sandy beaches.
Not long after Mussolini, the Italian dictator, invaded Albania
in 1939, the monarchy was abolished and King Zog
deposed. The Communist Party was formed with Enver
Hoxha, another brutal dictator, as ruler. When the Italians
surrendered to Hoxha’s Communists, the Germans
stepped in and occupied Albania. Months before the fall
of Hitler, the Germans withdrew and Hoxha created a
totalitarian regime based in Tirana, the capital. The Communists
began to nationalise all industries and years of
international isolation followed.
Hoxha, a staunch atheist, did all he could to eradicate all
traces of religion from Albania. He destroyed religious
buildings and banned all religions. Even though Hoxha
died in 1985, his tyrannical regime continued until national
elections were held in 1991, at which time religious
freedom was reintroduced and Albania slowly opened to
the outside world.
Albania remains free of the shackles of Communism
but is one of Europe’s poorest countries with a small
population of about 2.8 million. The scars of years of
rule under the Communists have been slowly fading over
the past 20 years. Today little is visible, except for some
Stalinist statues and architecture, and the occasional
sighting of one of the many bunkers built during the rule
42 Globerovers · December 2019
Photo: The beach at Ksamil, Albania.
of Hoxha to protect against his imaginary invasion from
The country’s abundance of natural beauty, relatively
low tourist numbers, affordable travel, ethnic cuisines,
and friendly people are attracting an increasing number
of curious international travellers. As word gets out
about what Albania has been hiding behind its Communist
iron curtain, it’s more than likely the current trickle
of tourists will become a flood and threaten this hidden
gem with the horrors of mass tourism.
With Enver Hoxha on our minds, we start our Albania trip
in Gjirokastër, the sleepy mountain village in the south
where Hoxha was born in 1908.
From Gjirokastër, we travel southwest to the port town of
Saranda along the so-called “Albanian Riviera”.
A short drive further south, at the bottom of an isthmus,
squeezed between the cobalt-coloured Adriatic Sea and a
lagoon famed for its mussels, lies the pretty beach town
of Ksamil. The entire area surrounding the tiny town is a
protected green zone. The coastal waters here are truly
idyllic and blessed with three small islands, the nearest
within swimming distance from the town’s main beach.
We end our travels through southern Albania a few
kilometres southeast of town, at the ancient ruins of
Butrint. The ruins, inhabited since prehistoric times and
once part of the Greek and Roman colonies, are situated
in a lovely natural setting. Look out for the old Roman
Theatre, Venetian Castle and the Great Basilica.
Albania is a gem waiting to be discovered and appreciated.
Photo Essay • Albania | 43
Albania’s Riviera of the Ionian Sea
Solid stone slate roof coverings.
The Ottoman era houses of Gjirokastër.
Bell tower at the Gjirokastër Castle.
Interior of the Gjirokastër Castle.
44 Globerovers · December 2019
Defined by its imposing castle, Gjirokastër (also
written as Gjirokastra) has been a settlement
for well over 2500 years. Today, only the castle, its
600-odd Ottoman-era houses, and its narrow and
steep roads paved with chunky limestone and shale
can attest to its more recent history.
To the Albanians, the town is an unwelcome reminder
of their former ruler, Enver Hoxha, who was
born here. Dictator Hoxha ruled Albania with an
iron fist for four decades but fortunately ensured
that the town was relatively well preserved during
his rule. A much-hated figure, he is not memorialised
anywhere in this town.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the
town is located in a valley between the Gjerë
Mountains and the Drino River. Its enchanting old
town is perched on a hill that overlooks the entire
valley and surrounding mountains. The beautifully
decorated old houses are tightly arranged up the
hills crisscrossed by narrow and steep cobblestone
streets. As tourism is slowly increasing, many of its
Ottoman-era houses are being converted into artisan
shops, restaurants and quaint boutique hotels.
Looming over the town is the 12th century Gjirokastër
Castle that was gradually built by despots
and dictators over many centuries. The castle now
houses ageing reminders of their resistance to
Western occupation. The castle also has a very
informative exhibition outlining the history of
Albania, particularly life under Hoxha when the
castle served as a notorious prison until 1968. The
views from the castle over the town and the valley
Streets of Gjirokastër.
Lake Liqeni i Viroit, near Gjirokaster.
Donʼt miss the monumental three-story Zekate
House with its twin towers, built in 1811, which
now serves as an ethnographic museum. The town
also has an interesting old bazaar. About three
kilometres (1.9 mi) north of town along the highway
to Tirana is Lake Liqeni i Viroit, a crystal clear lake
fed by a strong fountain gushing out of the rocky
hill at the upper end of the lake.
Photo Essay • Albania | 45
46 Globerovers · December 2019
Looming over the town is the 12th century Gjirokastër Castle that was
gradually built by despots and dictators over many centuries. The castle
(or fortress) is now a museum and houses tanks and downed planes as
a reminder of their victories over Western imperialism.
Photo Essay • Albania | 47
Albania’s Riviera of the Ionian Sea
East side of the Sarandë Bay.
West side of the Sarandë Bay.
48 Globerovers · December 2019
Sandwiched between the Ionian Sea and hills of
olive groves, Sarandë is a resort town popular
for its restaurants and entertainment atmosphere.
Located on a horseshoe-shaped bay, the hilly town
has a long promenade along a few beaches with
many beach bars and restaurants.
While the town itself doesnʼt have the historical
value of Gjirokastër, it offers a good selection of
accommodation and a wide variety of restaurants.
In recent years, tourism has flourished here. Many
visitors use Sarandë as a base to visit nearby
attractions such as the beaches to the north and
south of town, the “Blue Eye” spring in the nearby
hills, the Ottoman area mountain village of
Gjirokastër, the ancient ruins of Butrint, and the
16th-century Lëkurësi Castle on a hilltop above the
town. Sarandë is also the gateway to the nearby
Greek Island of Corfu.
Sarandë is best described as a tourist-oriented
family-friendly resort town in which to sleep, eat
and take day trips to nearby natural attractions. If
you want a less touristy place with a peaceful local
vibe, then find accommodation at Ksamil village,
just 14 kilometres (7 mi) south of Sarandë.
Photo Essay • Albania | 49
Albania’s Riviera of the Ionian Sea
50 Globerovers · December 2019
Located at the bottom of an isthmus squeezed
between the cobalt-coloured Adriatic Sea and a
lagoon famed for its mussels, lies the pretty beach
town of Ksamil. This is truly a beautiful spot located
near the bottom of the Albanian Riviera.
Even though tourism is on the increase, the village
is still sparsely populated with low density housing
and a couple of low-rise holiday accommodation
properties along the sea and the nearby lagoon.
Many of the beach loungers sipping their cocktails
are day-trippers from nearby Sarandë. July
and August can get quite busy here with tourists
from all over Europe so the best times to visit are
between April and June, and from September to
Around Ksamil are a few interesting coves and
beaches so itʼs not difficult to find a peaceful spot
with clean turquoise waters.
Within swimming distance from the townʼs main
beach are three small islands. While the nearest
island is an easy swim, the other two will require a
lot more effort and risk due to strong currents.
Photo Essay • Albania | 51
Ksamil is known for its coves and beaches and it is hard to decide which is
the most beautiful. The main beach of Ksamil is one of the best but there are
several other sandy and rocky beaches that are just as impressive.
52 Globerovers · December 2019
Photo Essay • Albania | 53
Albania’s Riviera of the Ionian Sea
The Roman Theatre.
The Great Basilica.
54 Globerovers · December 2019
Located in Kimanis Bay off the western coast of
Sabah, Tiga Island was formed in 1897 when
an earthquake on the Philippine island of Mindanao
caused a volcanic eruption near Borneo. Tiga
Island is one of the three islands that make up Tiga
Island National Park.
The islandʼs claim to fame is being the first ever
ʻsecretʼ location for the hit TV reality series, ʻSurvivorʼ.
Hence, many refer to Pulau Tiga as Survivor
The Venetian Tower.
Located about 10 kilometres (6 mi) off the coast,
the island is reached by a 30 to 40-minute boat
ride from the small settlement of Kuala Penyu. An
overnight stay is better than a daytrip. Stay at
the Pulau Tiga Resort which offers recreational
opportunities such a diving, fishing, billiards, and
non-motorized water sports.
The island is famous for its therapeutic natural
active mud volcanoes, however, at the time I visited
they were in a dire state. While the trails around
the island are worth the hike, the best attraction of
the island is the beaches and the incredibly beautiful
sunsets over the South China Sea.
The Great Basilica.
The Lion Gate.
Photo Essay • Albania | 55
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56 Globerovers · December 2019
$ensible Travel Gear
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Salomon Hiking Shoes
There are so many hiking shoes on the market so it can be a
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Salomon shoes are lightweight yet super
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Banglijian Strong Elastic Sports Tape
While you may not have space for
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strong elastic sports tape.
These bandages can be
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blisters, cuts or scratches,
and can be a lifesaver for twisted
ankles or knee injuries on the hiking trails.
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Trekology Trek-Z Trekking Hiking Poles
Don’t think that walking sticks and trekking
poles are only for senior citizens. Using one
or two hiking sticks for any kind of hiking
can make the experience more pleasant by
protecting your knees, and helping to prevent
you from falling.
The Trek-Z Ergonomic Trekking Poles (set
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your weight, so you can hike comfortably.
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Developed to help you fall
asleep naturally, this headband
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The ultra-thin, fl at speakers are comfortable
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Portable Safe Bag
Hide any valuables, travel gadgets, electronics,
gear and important documents
while you’re travelling. It looks
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made of stainless steel wire
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fabric and includes a combination
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Coleman Sundome 6 Tent
Camping is a great way to get close to nature and to save money on
accommodation. Whether travelling solo, with a friend, or kids, travellers
often complain that a 2-person tent
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No more excuses. Try this 10’x10’
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takes less than 10 minutes to set up
and weighs just 7 kg (16 lbs).
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58 Globerovers · December 2019
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Join us on our
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stories, travel tips, and photos
from far away places
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Dog sledding in search of Polar Bears
Spitsbergen, Svalbard Islands
Admire the white-covered Arctic desert from a sled
pulled by six energetic huskies. This adrenaline-infused
adventure in search of the elusive polar bears is one of
the highlights of the Svalbard Islands.
60 Globerovers · December 2019
Gateway to the North Pole
Ever fantasised about being on top of the
world? Geographically speaking, you have
a few choices: northern parts of Canada,
Greenland, Norway, or Russia. These are
the only four countries where you can be close to the
top of the world, and therefore close to the North Pole.
While a North Pole expedition would be the cherry
on the cake, many of us can neither afford nor successfully
complete such a strenuous endeavour. Getting
to the most northern reaches of Canada, Greenland,
or Russia will require a substantial amount of money,
preparation, and determination. The best option is
Norway, but we’re not talking about Norway in continental
Europe. We are talking about the Norwegian
islands at the most northern reaches of the planet.
Welcome to the Svalbard Islands. Formerly
known by the Dutch name of Spitsbergen, the group
of Svalbard Islands (Spitsbergen being the largest),
is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The
name Svalbard means “cold coasts” which was first
mentioned in Icelandic
texts in the 12th
century. The location
of the islands ranges
from 74° to 81° north
latitude, and from 10°
to 35° east longitude, and about 1,000 kilometres (621
mi) from the North Pole.
several of the remaining coal mines, followed by a
cleanup of the surrounding areas. This will bring an
end to the more than 100-year-long era of coal mining
Nowadays, Svalbard is better known for scientific
research, polar bear spotting, North Pole expeditions,
and a few tourists who want to get close to the top of
Svalbard is an all-year-round destination. Nearly
65 per cent of its surface consists of protected areas,
including three nature reserves, six national parks and
15 bird sanctuaries.
The islands are also home to the Global Seed Vault
which is located deep inside a mountain on Spitsbergen.
Here the world’s largest diversity of crop seeds are
protected in the event of loss of seeds in other genebanks
during large-scale regional or global crises.
Located far north of the Arctic Circle, it experiences
the midnight sun which lasts from mid-April
until mid-August. This
means no darkness
for about 100 days.
Winter, on the other
hand, is bitterly cold
when the polar night
of darkness starts towards the end of October and
lasts till mid-February.
Located in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Norway
and the North Pole, the Svalbard Islands offer untouched
arctic wilderness and unique wildlife.
These islands have a long history which includes
the Norse, English, Danish, Dutch, Russian and
French peoples. Following fierce claims of ownership
by several nations, full sovereignty was granted to
Norway in 1920 at the signing of the Svalbard Treaty
in Paris, France. However, the treaty gave other signatory
states, such as Russia, the right to engage in the
exploitation of local natural resources.
The resource-rich islands also have a history of
walrus and whale hunting and extensive coal mining
mainly by the Russians and their allies from the
former USSR. Mining was established here during the
1920s, and it remains an industry to this day, albeit
small. Norway recently declared their intent to close
Svalbard is an amazing sight during winter. Everything
is white, covered in snow and ice. The best time
to visit during the winter period is from late February
to late March when winter is still in full force but
the total darkness has given way to some light on the
Come along and spend a few days on Spitsbergen,
the largest and only permanently populated island of
the Svalbard archipelago. While based in the small
town of Longyearbyen, it is easy to take day trips
with the husky dogs and snowmobiles while looking
for polar bears, go ice caving, and have a hot chocolate
inside the Noorderlicht sailboat lying frozen in
Article • Svalbard |
Svalbard Islands - North Pole Adventures
Typical housing for residents of Longyearbyen.
The frozen bay and snow covered mountains north of Longyearbyen.
62 Globerovers · December 2019
World’s northernmost settlement of any kind
with more than 1,000 permanent residents.
Longyearbyen, the administrative
centre of Svalbard, is a lively
Arctic cosmopolitan settlement
on Spitsbergen Island with about 2,100
residents hailing from almost 50 different
countries. While most (76%) are Norwegian,
you will also find some Swedes,
Danes, Russians, Ukrainians, Germans,
Americans, Thais, and many other nationalities.
Most of its residents are scientists and
nature enthusiasts who live in close unity
under tough climatic conditions. Those
who are not directly involved in scientific
research, are somehow involved in the science
community, tourism industry, or supporting
services such as retailing, banking,
education and medical.
Serving as the gateway to the High Arctic
wilderness, Longyearbyen is also where
tourists base themselves for day trips and
multi-day trips into the Arctic landscape
that virtually starts right outside of town
and continues into the abyss. In rare instances,
the wilderness, in the form of polar
bears, even comes to roam around town.
While the town is tiny, it features
everything needed by the residents and
the small but growing tourist population.
The range of services on offer to residents
and tourists is surprisingly extensive, and
includes a medical clinic, primary and secondary
schools, a small research university
with about 300 students, sports centre,
a shopping mall, library, culture centre,
cinema, a supermarket, hotels and guest
houses, a bank, restaurants and bars, and
even a few museums and galleries. In addition,
you will also find a local brewery for
fresh beer, a chocolaterie, and greenhouses
that supply fresh herbs and vegetables in
In mid-winter, February, the temperature
in Longyearbyen varies from -30°C
to -15°C (-22°F - 5°F) while the windchill
can drop the thermometer down to -40°C
(-40°F). While winters are dark and bitterly
cold, life does not stand still here.
Among the popular winter activities are
walking through glacier caves, snowmobile
riding, cross-country skiing, and dog-sled
safaris. All activities can easily be arranged
from agencies in town.
Cold winter nights are also a good time
for spotting the spectacular Aurora Borealis,
or Northern Lights, dancing across
the skies. As winter nights are bitterly cold,
you are in for a cold night outside while
waiting for the lights to flare up. However,
once they start to dance across the night
skies, you will realise it was worth the long
Longyearbyen is not the only settlement
on Svalbard. The current permanent
population across the islands is about
2,700 people, of which about 500 live in
ethnic Russian and Ukrainian settlements.
The majority of these are in Barentsburg
and a few other residents in the largely
abandoned coal mining settlement of
Among the people living in the Russian
settlements, the majority (75%) are
Ukrainian, but there are also Russians and
Tajiks. In addition, there are also a couple
of souls living in very remote locations
scattered across the islands, often in solitary
Svalbard Church is part of the Church of Norway.
Article • Svalbard | 63
Harness your dogs and head into the
white horizons looking for polar bears.
Dog sledding is arguably the
most exciting winter fun activity
that Svalbard offers. While
the huskies so gently pull the sled across
a snow-covered Arctic landscape, all you
will hear is the sound of the eager dogs’
heavy breathing and the crunch of the sled
sliding through the thick snow and patches
of ice. Sit back and admire the white Arctic
landscape on days of dim sunlight or even
at night under the moonlight or beneath
the magical Northern Lights.
Tickets can be booked a day or two in
advance at a travel agency in town. Depending
on the company you booked with,
early in the morning you will be taken
about 5 km (3 mi) out of town to where
the dog kennels are located.
On arrival at the kennels, you will
meet the stars of the race. Each husky lives
in its own raised wooden doghouse with
its name proudly displayed above the entrance.
Look out for Nanoq, Troika, Jokul,
Franklin, Marfi, Truge, Martin, Hobbit,
Gandalf and many more of their friends.
While some dogs are shy and introverted,
others will be
by your visit.
Most of the
dogs are adorable,
will notice a
few with deep blue eyes, even some with
one brown and one blue eye.
Your guide will first introduce you to
the principles of dog sledding and then
carefully pick your six dogs. You will be
trained to harness the dogs, and also to
fit booties that protect their feet from the
sharp ice. This is tricky as the dogs are
overly excited to start running. Hold your
dogs firmly, one at a time, and place the
harness around the body and then clip the
dog’s leashes (tuglines and necklines) to
the mainline (gangline) that connects all
six of them. Once your dogs are in place,
you’d better immediately jump into your
bucket-sled before the dogs leave without
With two people to a sled, one sits in
the bucket or
to as the
on the footboard
at the back of the sled. The musher’s
main purpose is to control the speed of the
sled by stepping on the snow-brakes.
Dog sledding on the Svalbard Islands is a day full of
excitement. Let the dogs search for polar bears, but
you better hope they don’t find them.
It is crucial to firmly control the dogs
because when going downhill, they can
reach dangerously high speeds. Without
controlling the speed of the sled, it can
travel faster than the dogs which could
be catastrophic. In particular, on areas of
64 Globerovers · December 2019
Svalbard Islands - North Pole Adventures
hard ice, the sled can easily slide faster
than the dogs can run. It is an eerie feeling
when your bucket overtakes the dogs. I’ll
never forget the way the dogs looked at my
scared face when this happened to us.
In the unfortunate event that your
bucket travels faster than the dogs and you
can’t slow it down, you must ensure that
you don’t run into the dogs from behind.
Buckets don’t have steering wheels or any
steering mechanism. The only way to steer
is for both the musher and the person sitting
in the bucket to wiggle the direction
of the bucket with their weight.
If your bucket passes your dogs, and
you can’t slow down with the snow-brakes,
which come in many designs, some sleds
have a second option called a claw-break.
This type of brake is only used in an emergency
and works like a ship’s anchor.
Tied to a short rope, when you plunge
this iron claw into the snow, both the dogs
and the sled will come to a rapid stop,
which could injure man and beast alike.
The final option to stop the running dogs
is to deliberately topple your sled.
While this will bring the dogs to a halt,
it is going to be a rather traumatic experience
to all involved. Should you take this
option and the bucket topples, make sure
to cling on to the sled for dear life. If you
don’t, the dogs most likely will keep running
back to the kennels with the empty
bucket in tow. You will then have to walk
all the way back to the kennels where the
dogs will be waiting.
On very cold days, you will also see the
dogs are well prepared with their colourful
booties, jackets, leggings, as well as belly
raps for the females to protect their teats,
especially if they recently gave birth, and
male wraps for the males to protect their
penises from getting frostbite.
Just to prove how cold it can get here,
do the “snow-puff ” test. Throw up a cup of
hot water and see it literally exploding into
Article • Svalbard | 65
66 Globerovers · December 2019
Article • Svalbard | 67
Svalbard Islands - North Pole Adventures
Join the Noorderlicht on an Arctic cruise to see
the Aurora Borealis, whales, polar bears, walruses,
reindeer and stunning landscapes.
Since 1994 the ‘Noorderlicht’ has been sailing around the waters of Svalbard and Norway.
During this time the ship has become an indispensable part of the Arctic area and is loved
by many. Because of its small size and draft, the ship offers a great way to discover the
remote areas of Spitsbergen and Norway.
The ship is authentically decorated which gives a cozy, informal and
nautical atmosphere on board. There is a spacious seating area in the
upper and lower deck salon for a maximum of 20 passengers.
It also has a small library with informative materials about the area,
as well as some fi ne novels. A small but cozy bar can be found in the
upper deck salon.
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: noorderlicht.nu Bookings: email@example.com
68 Globerovers · December 2019
Climb deep down into the jaws of the
glaciers to see a surreal world.
Around 60% of the Svalbard
archipelago is covered with
glaciers. Svalbard is also home
to Norway’s largest glacier, the Austfonna,
which is the world’s third-largest ice cap
after Antarctica and Greenland, with a
circumference of 200 kilometres (124
mi). Located on the Island of Nordaustlandet
it is 560 metres (1,837 ft) thick
and the dome reaches an elevation of
783 metres (2,570 ft) above sea level.
Many of Svalbard’s glaciers contain
endless passages formed by the melting
waters in summer, creating impressive
cathedral-like ice caves. When you walk on
a seemingly flat plateau of snow and ice, it
is hard to imagine that beneath you lies a
frozen wonderland of endless caverns, tunnels,
and frozen streams.
Equipped with a powerful headlamp,
crampons and a helmet, it is possible to enter
some of these caves. Ensure your guide
offers crampons and a helmet as the frozen
streams in the caves are very slippery. A
slip and fall on the hard ice is not pleasant
and can sometimes be fatal.
Entering some of the caves is not for
the faint of heart. In some instances, you
need to climb down a straight upright ladder
and then slide down a short rope into
what feels like an abyss.
The extremely cold climate means that
Svalbard’s glaciers are solid and safe though
caverns with stalactites form during the short
Just relax and enter this calm and
deadly silent subglacial wonderworld to
see the surreal, beautiful blue coloured
stalactites, stalagmites, icicles and snow
crystals. If you are lucky, you may even see
1,000-year-old remnants of frozen plants. If
very lucky, you may just discover a frozen
Turn off all man-made lights and you
will be complete darkness, the likes of
which you may never have experienced.
Ice caving is often combined with dog
sledding. Your team of eager huskies will
take you over the vast white snow-covered
horizons to the glaciers. They will wait patiently
outside the cave entrance until you
have finished exploring. Other options to
reach the caves include driving by snowmobile
right up to the entrance of the cave
or being driven in comfort in a snowcat.
If you are fit enough, get there by walking
on your snowshoes, or by cross country
While the temperature inside the cave
is a balmy minus 2 degrees Celsius, on the
surface it can go down to -30°C (-22°F),
and much lower with the windchill factor.
It is therefore essential to dress warmly.
The adventure travel operators in Longyearbyen
are fully equipped so whether
you travel by snowmobile, dog sled, or any
other way, they have the right jackets and
coverall jumpsuits to guard you against the
Article • Svalbard | 69
Photographing the arctic landscape while standing on a snow-covered glacier
along the east coast is a challenging task. At -35°C (-31°F) on a sunny day,
camera batteries freeze up within a few minutes. Throw hot water from a tea
fl ask into the air and it literally explodes into tiny ice fl akes.
70 Globerovers · December 2019
Article • Svalbard | 71
Polar Bear Spotting
While there are about 3,000 bears on the
islands, in winter you may not see any.
While Svalbard is a land of glaciers
and Arctic wilderness,
it is also home to polar bears.
Spotting the bears is not only the most
exhilarating adventure on the islands, it is
also the most dangerous.
Around Svalbard, polar bears are a
real danger all year round. When you are
travelling out of town you must be with a
qualified guide who must, by law, carry a
shotgun. Take this warning very seriously.
Don’t even wander a little way out of town
72 Globerovers · December 2019
without someone carrying a gun. Even be
careful around town at night. Some tourists
have been eaten by hungry bears right
in Longyearbyen, and also on the hills
surrounding the town.
In winter there are at least 500 polar
bears on the main islands of Svalbard and
another 2,500 in the wider region which
stretches all the way to the North Pole.
However, to see polar bears in winter is
like finding a needle in a haystack. Not
only do the bears roam a very large area,
but they are also perfectly camouflaged in
surroundings almost entirely covered in
snow and ice. If you are polar bear spotting
in winter, the bears will most likely spot
you without you knowing it. That could be
The east coast of Spitsbergen is generally
colder than the west coast due to the
distance from the gulf stream. This means
more sea ice, more seals, and thus better
conditions for polar bears. From Longyearbyen,
we left early in the morning by
snowmobiles and continued east through
the Esker valley and out through the Sassen
valley. After almost 200 km (124 mi),
we arrived in Mohn Bay on the far east
coast. Here we enjoyed a picnic lunch in
front of the mighty glacier face, while all
the time keeping our eyes peeled for any
signs of polar bears.
Another good option during the winter
months is to book a cabin in the 46 metre
(151 ft) long steel-hulled Noorderlicht
sailboat. Originally constructed in 1910 for
the German Navy fleet as a three-masted
schooner, in 1991 she was completely
remodelled and refitted with two masts.
Since then she has been operating as an
expedition cruiser sailing to more remote
Svalbard Islands - North Pole Adventures
such as the Noorderlicht. The Noorderlicht
slowly cruises around the islands, in
particular, the northernmost islands which
are snow covered all-year-round and surrounded
by ice, the ideal hunting place
for bears. From the sailboat, the bears can
easily be spotted, although she has 2 rigidhulled
inflatable boats on board to be used
for landings and for wildlife watching in
inaccessible areas. In addition to the bears,
look out for Arctic fox, reindeer, whales,
walrus, seals, and rare bird species such as
the ivory gull, the little auk, and the puffin.
Another good option in summer is to
stay in a luxury lodge perched at the edge
of the magnificent Nordenskiöld glacier.
The Nordenskiöld glacier is part of the
larger glacier system stretching all the way
to the north coast of Spitsbergen Island.
Arctic locations, particularly around the
Svalbard Islands. In winter, when much of
the sea around the islands is frozen, she is
intentionally frozen into Tempelfjorden,
30 km northeast of Longyearbyen. Here
she peacefully serves as base-camp accommodation
for Arctic voyages, and as a
guesthouse for those who want to see the
bears. She will wait here until the thawing
of the oceans, at which time she will start
cruising around the islands, fully booked
with polar bear spotting teams.
The sailboat has 10 simple, but comfortable,
twin cabins with upper and lower
berths, a cupboard and washbasin. There
are also four shared showers and toilets
on board. It has a cosy communal area
where delicious food such as freshly baked
bread is served. From the comforts of the
sailboat, keep your eyes peeled on the surrounding
ice and snow of the fjord. If you
are lucky, you may see a polar bear or two
lured closer to the sailboat by the smell of
fresh human flesh. Keep the doors locked!
During some winter months, the
Noorderlicht offers 7-day voyages from
Tromsø, on the Norwegian mainland.
During these voyages, passengers can admire
the magnificent landscapes, wildlife,
picturesque villages and beautiful Arctic
Northern Lights. In winter, the fjords of
the northern part of Norway are filled with
various species of whales that feed on the
herring and other fish.
From April until October during the
24-hours sunshine a day in the summer
months, there is much less ice and snow
so the bears congregate around the pack
ice regions along the northern shores of
Svalbard. This is the ideal time of the year
to spot them, normally from a boat cruise,
The Nordenskiöld Lodge, with its
expedition cabins, offers wildlife spotting
excursions, including for polar bears.
Enjoy summer dog sledding and then join
a boat expedition around the coast to spot
walruses, whales, and polar bears along the
Other adventures offered by the lodge
include guided glacier climbs, kayaking,
and sightseeing. At the end of the day,
relax in a steaming hot sauna! In summer,
the lodge is reached by the 12-person
Polarcirkel boat, and in wintertime, you
will arrive on your own snowmobile across
frozen fjords and mighty glaciers.
The lodge offers 5 bedrooms, all with
great Arctic views, ten comfortable beds,
an indoor toilet, and a traditional wood
sauna. Don’t expect running water or
electricity, and get your drinking water
by melting ice from the glacier. A true
Article • Svalbard | 73
The 46 metre (151 ft) long steel-hulled Noorderlicht sailboat sits solidly frozen in
Templefjord Bay during the winter months. Arrive by dog sled and stay a few nights.
If you are lucky, you will see the polar bears from your window, and hopefully by
then the dogs have left for the safety of their dens near Longyearbyen.
74 Globerovers · December 2019
Article • Svalbard | 75
10 Experiences on Svalbard
Located about 1,000 kilometres (621 mi) from the North Pole, the Norwegian-administered Svalbard Islands are packed with
adventure, all year round. Start your trip in the main settlement of Longyearbyen where it is easy to spend a few days with the
local residents while planning trips outside into the Arctic wilderness. In winter, the Arctic gets bitterly cold which is an adventure
in itself. Get on a snowmobile, dogsled, cross-country skis, snowshoes, or a snow buggy and head into the unknown.
Top-of-the World Feeling
There is nothing on planet earth that beats the feeling of
“I’m on top of the world”. I first had that special feeling when
I was on Norway’s Lofoten Islands, 500 kilometres (311 mi)
south of Svalbard. On the Lofoten Islands I also experienced
the never-ending “white nights” when the sun is high up and
bright 24 hours a day.
Here on the Svalbard Islands, the sun hardly peeks out
above the horizon during the day in winter. At night, it goes
down to make way for the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
to paint the skies in soft hues of green and blue. The silence
of the never-ending snow-covered landscape is so surreal.
2 Polar Bear Spotting 3 Dog Sledding 4 Snowmobiling
There are an estimated 3,000 polar bears
(which by far exceeds the human population)
roaming the Svalbard archipelago
and the surrounding Arctic Ocean and the
While humans are constantly reminded
to be prepared for an encounter with the
bears anywhere in Svalbard, they are not
easy to spot. They are endangered and
protected by law, so there are no polar
bear safaris. Head out by snowmobile
and dogsled and hope you can spot them,
without becoming their lunch.
76 Globerovers · December 2019
While dog sledding is the more adventurous,
albeit risky way to find the polar
bears, it is also one of the most thrilling
adventures you can take in this snow and
ice-covered landscape. If you love dogs,
in particular huskies, then this is an adventure
you should not miss.
The dogs are very loving of their human
visitors, and enjoy the ride as much as
their guests. Once harnessing is completed,
you’d better quickly jump in the bucket
before the dogs leave without you. Enjoy
the ride and stay upright.
One of the safest ways to search for the
bears is by snowmobile. At least, your
getaway vehicle is faster and more reliable
than the huskies and their sled.
Tour operators from Longyearbyen provide
a heavy-duty snowmobile suit, boots,
mittens, helmet, goggles and balaclava.
In winter it can be bitterly cold when driving
on the snowmobile and any exposed
skin will freeze in a few seconds. Routes
include a 100 km trip to the east coast
where bears often congregate on the drifting
sea ice in search of leopard seals.
5 Ice Caving 6 Northern Lights 7 Glacier Hiking
Another unforgettable and unrivalled
experience of Svalbard is getting close-up
to the glaciers. Svalbard is blessed with
some of the most impressive glaciers,
though in winter you can walk on a glacier
without knowing it, as everything is covered
in thick snow.
If you come across a hole in the snow, with
a ladder leading into the abyss, your adventure
starts! Down below, follow the meltwater
channels through the moraine. Under tons
of ice and snow, you will be surrounded by a
landscape consisting of ice and stalactites.
Seeing the Northern Lights (aurora borealis)
is on many travellers’ bucket lists.
During the polar night from November to
February, there is no daylight in Svalbard,
which makes it the ideal location to see
these lights fi lling the polar skies.
Svalbard is one of the few places on earth
where you can see the Northern Lights
during daytime hours, when there is no
sunlight from November to February. In
October and February you can enjoy the
blue Arctic light during the day and the
Northern Lights at night. Amazing!
Svalbard is covered by eight ice caps, and
several glaciers. Some operators out of
Longyearbyen offer hiking on the heavily
crevassed Nordenskiöld Glacier. Here you
can hike, while roped to your buddies, up
and down the glacier, staring down the
massive cracks, and enjoying the shiny
Other ways to see the glaciers are to go
where they are protruding from the snow,
descending into the glacier caves, or by
kayaking in icy waters to get up close. All
8 The Noorderlicht 9 Longyearbyen 10 Summer Fun
Constructed in 1910 for the German Navy
fl eet, the 46 metre (151 ft) long steel-hulled
Noorderlicht sailboat sits solidly frozen in
Templefjord Bay during the winter months.
Here she peacefully serves as base-camp
accommodation for Arctic voyages, and
as a guesthouse for those who want to
see the polar bears. Arrive by dog sled or
snowmobile and stay a few nights. If you
are lucky, you will see the bears from your
window. During summer, the boat cruises
around the islands and offers a perfect way
to see the bears on ice-covered areas.
Longyearbyen is a lively, cosmopolitan
Arctic settlement on Spitsbergen Island,
the main centre of the Svalbard
Islands. This is where many of Svalbard’s
residents live, with most of them being
scientists, nature enthusiasts, and those
in service industries such as shops, travel
operators, and a few others.
Longyearbyen serves as gateway to the
High Arctic wilderness. While the town is
very small, it provides everything needed
by the residents and the small but growing
While visiting the Svalbard Islands during
the winter months is an adventure you
won’t get anywhere else, summers offer a
very different kind of experience.
During summer, daylight is 24 hours long,
so you can explore the islands non-stop.
This is also the best time to spot polar
bears, as there is less snow, and icy
areas where they can hunt for seals. With
less snow coverage, more of the glaciers
are visible than in winter when everything
is covered in snow. Summer is also the
time to see a wider variety of wildlife.
Article • Svalbard | 77
is calling us to action
For billions and billions of
years our planet Earth has
whizzed quite happily around
the sun. Sure there’s been
tectonic collisions, ages of ice, volcanic
eruptions, but that’s how ecosystems and
diversity have evolved over millions of
years - very slowly. Yet in the last 70 years
all that has changed - the hand of man has
brought about radical and unprecedented
By Fuchsia Sims, Adventure Junky
Fuchsia is the co-founder of Adventure Junky, an app
that makes a game of sustainable travel practices,
awarding you points for completing or contributing
low-impact experiences and showcasing destinations
and travel operators that offer them. Friends can play
against one another, or you can compete globally for the
Eco bragging rights of #1 Adventure Junky on earth.
In 1950 only 25 million people crossed
international borders, and being an explorer
was seen as a risky career not hobby nor
luxury. Last year 1.4 billion people crossed
international borders. That’s almost 4 million
people going on a holiday every single day!
Today mass and mainstream exploration
has officially erupted, stretching
far and wide across the globe. Thanks to
cheaper air fares, rising incomes, social
media’s ability to fuel ‘Instagramable” locations
and FOMO - who knows how much
longer you’ll be able to see a Polar Bear in
the wild, or visit the Maldives while they’re
What’s even more frightening is that
by 2030 today’s travellers are set to double!
Even today, many places can no longer
cope or escape their own popularity, so we
must ask the hard questions - are our environments
and cultures resilient enough to
withstand the stampede?
There are plenty of examples to show
they are not - from overtourism, cultural
erosion, plastic waste, rapidly rising C02
emissions, wildlife exploitation to mass
and irreversible habitat loss. All of which
negatively impact the lives of locals and the
authenticity and quality of your experience
as a traveller.
78 Globerovers · December 2019
Adventure Junky - adventurejunky.earth
Now it’s not all doom and gloom, when
managed well travel is an incredibly powerful
force - it creates jobs, attracts investment
and drives infrastructure development.
Sustainable and regenerative travel
practices improve livelihood, education
levels and quality of life for local people. It
can also refocus energy and action towards
conservation, helping preserve cultural
traditions and protect wildlife.
Travel must contribute as much to the
wellbeing of the people and places we visit
- as to our own.
To achieve this win-win when we travel
we must reframe our mindset, behaviours,
practices and expectations. We must take
accountability for our impact on the world
we love exploring. We cannot rely on government
or grassroots, cruise lines, airlines
or other travel business to do the right
thing, we must be the eyes and ears on the
ground. It is our responsibility to take part
in and promote healthy travel experiences
because our choices are fast become a vote
for the future of this planet.
Here are ‘Seven Commandments’ to
follow if you truly are on a mission to
answer earth’s call to action, and become a
more responsible and sustainable traveller:
1. Become an Offsetter
It’s ironic that as passionate travellers
with a deeper appreciation of the beauty
of our planet than most, that through our
travels we producing roughly 3x the CO2
emissions of the average citizen.
Tourism accounts for 8% of global CO2
emissions, with long haul flights being the
major contributor. To put this into perspective,
an individual flying from Sydney
to London return generates approximately
6 metric tonnes of CO2 - this is more than
the entire annual emissions of the average
Italian and is enough to melt a staggering
18 square meters of Arctic sea ice forever.
Go climate positive today, sign up here
to offset your personal and travel emissions
2. Explore Your Own Backyard
Keep an eye out closer to home. When
you start looking you’ll likely be amazed by
what is around you. It’s good to stay close
for a few reasons. Firstly you’ll probably
travel and get out on your weekends more
often, get to meet and support local businesses.
Also you’ll lower your travel footprint
on the environment. I’m not saying
don’t ever travel far, just mix it up. Travel
helps us grow and develop as individuals,
it’s important to experience other places
and cultures. But we all need to start understanding
there is a real impact behind our
choices if we really hope to help the Earth.
3. Refuse, Reduce, Recycle
Travel is an enormous generator of
waste from food to plastic. I don’t know
about you but I definitely feel guilty when
I look around at all the single use items
when I fly. So I always carry my trusted
cup and thermos, sometimes I’m even
known to have a spork in my bag. This
really is about changing you patterns of behaviours
and standing up for what you feel
strongly about - it is simple just say NO
to single use items! This year alone over 8
North Sailing - www.northsailing.is
Contribution | 79
Visit Greenland - www.visitgreenland.com
million tonnes of plastic waste has been
dumped in the ocean. It is also important
to note that when we travel to less developed
countries one of the biggest problems
they face is adequate waste management
and recycling systems - so please be more
aware and play a positive role.
4. Know thy Operator
Researching as much as you can about
your tour operator and the region they
operate in is a massive way to leave a positive
impact in the wake of ones travels.
There are some remarkable tour operators
out there in the world, that work hard every
single day to not only ensure that you
have a safe and sensational experience,
but that the people and places they work
around are taken care of. From ice climbing
companies who’ve set up initiatives
to train local women to guide, to gigantic
schooner sailing boats that have had their
engines rebuilt to be electric which not
only help the environment but removes
noise pollution for whales, to family owed
rafting companies who have been protecting
their river for several generations.
Th e back ground stories and initiatives
some companies are working on are often
hidden so dive in deep and be sure you are
supporting the right one.
You’ll find over a thousand of these
types of adventures on the Adventure
5 Take the Path Less Travelled
Avoid the mass and mainstream at all
cost. Walk off the beaten path, visit places
you have never head of or the places you
have off peak season.
6. Return to Nature
Deep with in our DNA is a desire to
reconnect. But we’ve come so far from our
origins that we now call it an ‘adventure’ to
step back into nature… Be sure to wander
where the WiFi is weak, you cant help
but find a better connection. Let nature
recharge your long life battery - unplug,
be present, open your mind and break
away from tech tunnel vision and burnout.
Finding places on earth with no reception
is rare, the new form of luxury, enjoy those
moments as often as possible.
7. Local Wisdom and Knowledge
Some of the richest, more meaningful
travel experiences come with genuine cultural
exchange. Meeting the locals, learning,
sharing and immersing into their way
of life almost becoming a ‘tourist in camouflage’
is the greatest way to travel. Finding
opportunities to directly engage with the
local people when it comes to buying food
and gifts also helps keeps money within
their community and helps provide a circular
economy. Wherever possible you should
strive to support ethical businesses, brands
and craftsman. Personally spending time
with the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land
or sitting with a Himba Tribe in Namibia,
have been some of my most rewarding and
Finally I encourage you to join our
tribe, become an Adventure Junky.
An Adventure Junky is a conscious and
mindful traveller. They see the advantage
of small groups versus mass tours. They
aim to leave the community and environment
with a net gain. They look for opportunities
to give back, to learn, to buy local,
80 Globerovers · December 2019
to travel lightly and respectfully. They want
to share their experiences and educate others
what they learn along the way.
Remember, you’re not just one traveller,
you’re a growing 1.4 billion of them!
Imagine if we all travelled with passion,
purpose and a common goal - we’d not
only combat the negative effects and challenges
tourism faces, we’d also ensure there
is a diverse and thriving planet for future
generations to explore.
About Fuchsia Claire Sims
By age ten, Fuchsia had visited 30 countries and knew how to say ‘I’m a vegetarian’
in 12 languages. After school she ran away to the jungles of Costa Rica, where she
worked as a river guide, helping troubled youth re-build their self-esteem.
Having spent the past decade juggling marketing and mountains, Fuchsia has found
her calling as co-founder of the Adventure Junky App. In 2019 Fuchsia embarked on
a PhD expedition, her focus: AI enabled Adventure Travel to help adventurers create
a more positive personal impact. Fuchsia is on a mission to transform the future of
adventure travel and enhance the overall wellbeing of our planet and society.
More about Fuchsia at www.linkedin.com/in/fuchsiasims
About Adventure Junky
Earth’s Sustainable Travel Game
Adventure Junky is a community of
conscious and responsible travellers, tour
operators and destination managers, committed
to making tourism a force for good.
The Adventure Junky App (available
on iPhone and Android) is more than fun
and games, the app is an ecosystem
for leaders in sustainability - travellers,
destinations, operators, gear suppliers or
apparel companies alike, who are combining
forces to achieve greater good.
Adventure Junky aims to infl uence the
future of travel through:
1. Readily accessible, sustainable
travel experiences. The free Adventure
Junky App currently features over 1,300
adventures in 100+ countries, handpicked
for their low impact and high
2. By turning Sustainable Travel into a
game - for the environment, not the ego -
we helping nudge travellers towards their
goals and educate and reward them with
fun along the way.
3. Offering practical solutions to the
most pressing problems arising from tourism
- such as overtourism and CO2 emissions
– through awareness and education
programs and direct initiatives.
Find out more at:
Lirrwi Tourism - www.lirrwitourism.com.au
Contribution | 81
Mauritius island: Part 2
Districts, beaches, islets, shopping
Words by Janet-Lynn Vorster,
Cape Town, South Africa.
Photos by Janet-Lynn and others.
In our series, Island LIFE, our Southern Africa correspondent, Janet-Lynn Vorster, takes us
2,000 kilometres (1,243 mi) east of the South African coast to the tropical Indian Ocean island
of Mauritius. In the 1st part of her article GlobeRovers Magazine of July 2019 she introduced
us to life on the island and took us to many beautiful spots on the island, we went swimming
with dolphins and heard stories about the shipwrecks scattered around the island. In this 2nd
part she now takes us to all 9 districts of the island, its islets, markets, beaches, and more.
In the July 2019 issue we featured
part one on the beautiful island of
Mauritius. We focused on the climate,
life in Mauritius, the botanical
gardens, Mauritius Tea Route, the sugar
industry, and swam with the dolphins. We
added tips for travellers and piqued your
curiosity on a few more topics.
In this second part on Mauritius, we
look at Mauritius, district by district, each
with a few of its main attractions and
beaches. We discover a few of the islets
around Mauritius and give some ideas of
where to shop and which bazaars to visit.
We wrap it up with useful information on
how to negotiate with the local taxi drivers.
Mauritius boasts ten 18-hole and three
9-hole golf courses. It also boasts what is
claimed to be the longest zipline in the
world. So, while a peaceful island, it has
enough to keep the sports enthusiasts and
thrill seekers happy too.
“Mauritius was made first
and then heaven.”
Fast Facts: Mauritius
2,040 sq. km (790 sq. mi)
Multi-ethnic, descended from India, Africa, Chinese and Europe (mostly France)
Official language; English
Most spoken language: 84% Creole, 5.3% Bhojpuri-Hindustani, 3.6% French and 14.4% others (including English)
Religion: Hinduism is the major religion (48.54%), followed by Roman Catholic (26.26%), Islam (17.30%),
other Christian (5.54%) and Buddhism (0.18%)
Population: 1.265 million (2017)
Life expectancy: 74.40 years (2016)
Fertility rate: 1.40 births per woman (2016)
Population growth: 0.1% annual change (2017); among the lowest population growth rates in the developing world
Malaria status: Mosquitoes, but no malaria
Electrical Standards: Electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz). UK Style Adaptor Plug and European Style Adaptor Plug.
Grounding Adaptor Plugs C, D
Per capita income: Mauritius is seen as a model of stability and economic prosperity
Agricultural land: 43.8%
Highest point: Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire: 828 m
Natural resources: Arable land, fish
National bird: Dodo. This flightless bird is now extinct
National Flower: Trochetia Boutoniana (Boucle d’Oreille or Earring tree)
82 Globerovers · December 2019
Mauritius, Indian Ocean
The Districts of Mauritius
We travel anti-clockwise around Mauritius
and first visit the Rivière du Rempart
area in the north before we travel along
the west coast to Port Louis and down to
Moka, Plaines Wilhems and the Black River.
From here we went to the far south to
the Savanne District that is one of the most
scenic, unspoilt and least populated areas
on the island. We conclude our trip around
the island in the areas of Grand Port and
Flacq on the eastern side of Mauritius.
Rivière du Rempart Area
The northern part of the island is
popular for its languid, lazy, beach holidays.
The sea is calm and beaches plentiful.
For the more adventurous, it is great
for snorkelling, sailing, diving, kitesurfing
or visiting the many islands close to the
main island. Yemaya Adventures offers sea
kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and
team building activities for all levels, with
complete respect towards nature preservation.
Glass bottom boats are popular and are
a fun way to observe and photograph the
beautiful, colourful fish.
If rum is your drink of choice, pay a
visit to Litchquor Ltd (Lychee and liqueur)
in Petit Raffray, where the best rums on
the island are sourced and outstanding
premium spirits created.
Château de Labourdonnais, surrounded
by its beautiful orchards, was
built between 1856 and 1859, and re-
Photo: Dominique De Saint Clair
Tortoises on nearby Rodrigues Island
stored between 2006 and 2010. It is now
a museum. Visit the museum to discover
the nineteenth century Mauritian lifestyle
and history, as well as the cuisine. I have it
from a trustworthy source that Distillerie
de Labourdonnais distils the best rum on
In the area of Roches Noires, many
caves and numerous lava tubes connect to
the sea, with their cool freshwater springs
where swimming and snorkelling among
colourful fish can be experienced. Take
water and a hat – both essential items in
Photo: Dominique De Saint Clair
Grand Baie Public Beach
Island LIFE • Mauritius |
Photo: Janet-Lynn Vorster
Grand Baie Yacht Club
Photo: Kim Tempest
Dining on the beach
Photo: Dominique De Saint Clair
Notre-Dame Auxiliatrice de Cap Malheureux, commonly known as the “Red-roof Church”
84 Globerovers · December 2019
In October during Diwali, take a night
drive through Triolet to see the beautiful
lights. Triolet is not only the longest village
on the island, but also home to the oldest
Hindu temple, the Maheswarnath Mandir.
Please respect sacred places when visiting.
Cover exposed skin well and remove all
For vibrant night life, Grand Baie is the
place to be.
Port Louis, Moka, Plaines Wilhems and
Port Louis is a must-visit for its history,
culture and shopping. This city, founded in
1735 by the French governor and pioneer
Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais,
is the administrative and business
capital of Mauritius.
Visit the central market, Champ de
Mars (the oldest race course in the southern
hemisphere), the Government House
(one of the oldest buildings in Port Louis),
Port Louis Theatre, the Citadel of Port
Louis (Fort Adelaide), the Caudan Waterfront,
the Rajiv Gandhi Centre and more.
Near Port Louis, is the Pieter Both, 820
metres high, with its distinctive crowning
round rock which appears perilously balanced.
Hike up these mountains close to
Port Louis for the most incredible views!
Ever heard of Green Island Rum?
Synonymous for many with Mauritius, a
visit to International Distillers (Mauritius)
LTD in Plaine Lauzun, an industrial area
located in Port Louis, will have friends and
family green with envy.
The west and southwest coasts of
Mauritius are the driest areas on the island.
However, inland, in stark contrast, is the
lush Black River Gorges National Park.
Spend the day visiting Casela and Gros
Cailloux, both near Albion, between Port
Louis and Flic en Flac. These parks have many
adventurous activities from which to choose.
The much-photographed Pointe aux
Caves lighthouse is perched on the cliffs
at Albion. It stands 30 meters high and
consists of four floors. Steep stairs lead to
the dome and balcony.
A visit in the west is incomplete without
visiting Chamarel village, known for its
“seven-coloured earth”, charming restaurants,
rum factory and the magnificent
Photo: Lance Van Niekerk Photo: Lance Van Niekerk Photo: Lance Van Niekerk
Photo: Kim Tempest
Island LIFE • Mauritius |
Chamarel Waterfall that cascades down for
over 100 metres.
Plaines Wilhems is the most-populated
district. This district has four Municipal
Town Councils: Beau Bassin-Rose Hill,
Quatre-Bornes, Vacoas and Curepipe, and
they make up the heart of the island.
Curepipe is one of the coolest places on
the island and a good place to spend the
night if you suffer from the heat.
Visit Trou aux Cerfs, the most famous
of many dormant volcanos on the island,
as well as nearby forests, lakes and plantations.
Domaine des Aubineaux, a colonial
house built in 1872 which has since been
converted into a museum dedicated to the
history of Mauritian tea, is noteworthy.
There are many beautiful hikes through
forests with waterfalls in this region. Hike
in the Macchabée Forest past the Mare
aux Joncs waterfall and walk around the
Mare Longue reservoir, or cycle along
these same trails. These areas are home to
around 311 species of native and endemic
flowering plants and nine species of birds
that can only be found in Mauritius.
Always take a hat, water, food and
medical supplies with you. It’s best to be
accompanied by professional and certified
mountain guides, and Emergency First
Responders, such as Yanature. Then safely
enjoy the flora, fauna and wildlife, with
unbelievable scenery to photograph.
The oldest golf course is the 18-hole
par 68 Gymkhana Golf Club in Vacoas-
Phoenix. It is the 4th country club to have
been established in the world, and Mauritius
is only the third country in the world
where golf was played in 1844 while under
Deep-sea fishing boats congregate in
the bay of Black River. Charter a trip from
here to go marlin or tuna fishing. The
best months for deep-sea fishing are from
November to April. Alternatively have a go
at fly fishing or rock and surf angling with
an expert fisherman.
The scenery in the southwest is
dominated by the beautiful Black River
mountain range where Piton de la Petite
Rivière Noire (Little Black River Peak) is
the highest mountain on the island at 828
m (2,717 ft).
Le Morne mountain on the coast, a
UNESCO World Heritage site and com-
memorative landmark of the harsh slavery
in Mauritius, is a well-recognised landmark.
Local stories tell of slaves committing
suicide by jumping off this mountain.
The Le Morne Brabant peninsula is
“that spot” where most iconic local fishing
legends originate. Le Morne is the southernmost
town on the west coast. It has
some of the most beautiful hotels and golf
courses on the island. Long white sandy
beaches complete the picture. It is a worldrenowned
spot for kitesurfing
The southern part of the island known
as Savanne, is one of the most scenic,
unspoilt and least populated areas. Due to
its rugged topography, this region is newly
developed compared to the rest of the
The southern coast of Mauritius features
wild and stormy seas. The sight and
sound of enormous waves crashing relentlessly
against the rocks is in stark contrast
to the gentle northern beaches with tiny
Yachts at Grand Baie
Photo: Kim Tempest
Le Morne Beach and kitesurfing haven
Photo: Dominique De Saint Clair
Sunset over Mauritius
Photo: Lance Van Niekerk
86 Globerovers · December 2019
Pont Naturel Mauritius at Le Souffleur
Photo: Janet-Lynn Vorster
Pieter Both Peak (820 metres) near Creve Coeur
Photo: Janet-Lynn Vorster
Hiking to Petrin Kiosk, Black River National Park
Photo: Dominique De Saint Clair
Island LIFE • Mauritius | 87
Bakwa Lodge is set along the beach of the opaline waters of Rodrigues, it lies secluded in a
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but for the occasional footprints. Just one & half hours from Mauritius by plane we have room
for only a few, providing a choice of simple understated luxury accommodation in a variety of
rooms and suites.
Discover the charms of the island whilst roaming the endless routes that crisscross the countryside
& coastal paths. As a guest, you get to experience this beautiful, secluded natural world
with access to one of the most sublime wind and kite surfing sites. Carved over centuries, by
marine life and tide influence, coral arches and deep ravines provide superb diving sites with an
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We invite you to enjoy the Rodriguan experience of fine local cuisine, laid back atmosphere and
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t : +230 832 3700/1
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88 Globerovers · December 2019
waves gently lapping at the shoreline.
Swimming in the sea in the south is not
recommended. The beaches are nonetheless
The coast has characteristic black volcanic
cliffs. The rest of the area is covered
in dense green jungle as a result of high
year-round humidity. Walk a little on the
wild side along the beaches or cliff paths.
Explore hidden sandy coves and waterfalls
and visit traditional fishing villages.
To avoid the crowds, or to get the
adrenalin flowing with something more
adventurous, head to the south. The interior
of Savanne has enough to keep you
occupied and entertained for a few days. I
really love this part of the island.
Grand Bassin (also known as Ganga
Talao) is a lake situated southeast of Mare
aux Vacoas, the largest reservoir in Mauritius.
It lies in an extinct volcano crater on
the B88 Grand Basin Road in a secluded
mountain area about 550 m above sea
The Hindus of Mauritius declared
Grand Bassin a holy lake and believe the
water in the lake connects to the waters of
the holy Ganges of India. Grand Bassin is
home to the large statues of Hindu goddess
Durga and her lion, and Lord Shiva. Both
statues are 33 meters tall, or 108 feet, and
both these numbers have huge significance
to mystics and adept initiates. The Hindu
community undertakes an annual pilgrimage
to honour Lord Shiva.
In March and April, stop and pick the
delicious red and yellow guavas from the
bushes that border the road near Grand
Bassin Blanc, another well-known
volcanic crater, is easily accessible from the
B102 north of Chamouny. It is close to La
Vallee Des Couleurs Nature Park.
A pairing exists between
the village of Souillac
and the town of Souillac
in France since 1987
The natural waterfalls at La Vallee
Des Couleurs cascade into alluring pools.
While at the park, walk the trails, drive
the quads, walk on the wild side across the
350m-long Nepalese Bridge suspended
high above lush tropical green forests, and
get the adrenalin pumping. The 1.5 km zip
line at La Valleee des Couleurs is thrilling.
If that zipline is not rip-roaring
enough, try the 3.5 km zipline at Domaine
de L’Etoile made up of a full set of seven
ziplines. It is said (I don’t have the stomach
for ziplines, so cannot give a first-hand
account) that it is an unparalleled experience.
Some websites claim it is the longest
zipline in the world.
Souillac, a village close to the southernmost
point of the island, is the capital
of Savanne district.
However, the largest population in the
south lives in Chemin Grenier. I visited
Nishal, a yoga master and healer in
Chemin Grenier, experienced his home
cooking and tasted palm hearts for the first
time in my life. From the roof of his home I
had 365° views over the town, surrounding
sugar cane fields, banana plantations and
the ocean in the distance. I love the south.
Arguably, the tallest palm tree on the
island is alongside the main road in Chemin
Near Souillac, visit the Rochester Falls
and the Robert-Edward Hart Museum.
This little-known museum is dedicated to
Robert-Edward Hart, Mauritian writer and
poet, appreciated by both the French and
the English. It was named “La Nef ” by his
The famous hairpin bend of Macondé
is found on the Baie du Cap road. I
climbed the stairs to the Macondé Viewpoint.
This rocky point juts out into the
sea and offers an exquisite view of the
turquoise ocean and coastline below. The
hairpin bend forms part of a beautiful
scenic drive along the south coast through
villages and sugar cane fields.
Photo: Kim Tempest
View from Le Chamarel Panoramic Restaurant overlooking Ile aux Benetiers and Le Morne Brabant Peninsula
Island Life • Mauritius |
Photo: Janet-Lynn Vorster
Beact at Île aux Cerfs
Grand Port and Flacq
The eastern coast with its succession of
beaches is undoubtedly one of the island’s
most beautiful coastlines set alongside
emerald lagoons. Belle Mare beach is the
Here luxurious hotels are in stark contrast
with authentic villages. The east coast
is exposed to the constant southeast trade
winds, which reminded me a little of Cape
Town – my home city.
Flacq is a district in the east of Mauritius.
It is the largest of the nine districts,
having an area of 297.9 km², and is home
to the second largest number of inhabitants.
Bel Air, slightly inland, has the most
inhabitants at 17,000.
Mahebourg, one of the main fishing
villages on the island, lies on the shores of
the immense bay of Grand Port. Founded
in 1804 by the French Governor Charles
Decaen, Mahebourg witnessed the only
Napoleonic naval victory over the English
in 1810. Mahebourg was also known for its
slave market and has a painful history.
Located at the entrance of Mahebourg,
Château de Robillard, a French colonial
building from the eighteenth century, houses
the National History Museum. Old maps,
engravings, crockery, pirates’ swords and
fragments of shipwrecks recount the rich
maritime history of the island. The crown
jewel of this fascinating museum is the bell
recovered from the wreck of the St Géran.
The mountain-bike trail in the Bras
d’Eau forest is open to the public. It winds
its way through shady exotic forest before
following an old railway line to the lava
caves where the ruins of an old sugar factory
can be discovered. Bring your own
bike, or make a booking with an outdoor
adventure company, or walk the trail if
preferred. A special Milky Way observatory
is found in the Bras d’Eau forest.
The East Road is far less travelled than
coastal roads in the west and north. It
meanders down from Grand River South
East to Mahebourg along the coast, taking
you through small agricultural and fishing
villages. It is a delightful drive.
Under French occupation, 27 defence
guns guarded access to the island at Devil’s
Point (Pointe du Diable). Geomagnetic
forces inside the mountain attract and
move a compass dial in circles. Therefore,
sailors sailing past this point named it
Le Souffleur’s 30m high geyser is
spectacular at high tide on windy days.
However, be willing to brave a deserted
road flanked by black volcanic rock walls
that meanders over a few private farms.
Low vehicles should not attempt this. We
drove by car, but it was not wet or rainy
and we drove very slowly.
The longest river in Mauritius is the 34
km Grand River South-East. We stayed for
a few days at Laguna Beach Hotel & Spa in
Grand River, a perfect spot from which to
charter a boat to the nearby waterfall and
to Ile aux Cerfs.
Beaches in Paradise
For those who want to head to the
beaches to relax, swim, or just stroll, here’s
your guide to beach-hopping in Mauritius:
90 Globerovers · December 2019
P.G. Melville Public Beach on the other
side of Grand Gaube is quiet, deserted, and
my choice for peace and quiet and to avoid
the gravel road at Butte à L’Herbe.
Baie aux Tortues, Pointe aux Piments,
Pointe aux Biches and Le Goulet are
beaches just north of Port Louis. While
I have not visited them and not included
them in my beach hopping spree, keep
them in mind if you spend time in or near
Photo: Dominique De Saint Clair
Pereybere Public Beach
Beach-hopping in the North
Take a drive around the northern
coast and go beach-hopping for the day.
The beaches in the north are undoubtedly
the best swimming beaches on the island.
Discover your favourite.
I suggest starting on B36 (Route
Côtière or Coastal Road) at Trou aux
Biches. From here drive northwards to the
beautiful long Mont Choisy Beach on B13.
Get there in the early morning and take a
nice, long walk.
Travel northwards. You will soon get
to the Grand Baie Public Beach, where you
will see many boats lying at anchor. “Street
food” in caravans and food trailers along
the main road is generally safe, affordable
A little further, turn off to the left, and
find La Cuvette Public Beach at the end of
the road. This is a small but beautiful beach.
Heading back to the B36, turn left, and
a short distance away you will arrive at
Pereybere Public Beach. This is my personal
favourite. In the vicinity are many places
to eat, as well as Winners, a supermarket,
should you wish to buy an assortment of
goodies for a picnic lunch.
Next is Bain Boeuf Public Beach. On
either side are beautiful private beaches to
When leaving this beach to travel
further north, you will pass a cemetery at
Cap Malheureux. Park your car and walk
up the small hill to the edge of the cliff.
From there you will have the best photographic
view of the islands to the north.
You should count five of them.
Cap Malheureux has a small chapel:
Notre Dame Auxiliatrice. It is commonly
known as the Red Roof Chapel. Stop
here for a visit and take stunning photos
with the islands in the background. Cap
Malheureux is the northernmost village on
Anse La Raie Beach is next on the list
From Anse La Raie Beach, as you drive
through the little village of St François on
your way to Grand Gaube, look out for
Studio 44 on the right. It manufactures
unique, hand-crafted glass tableware,
corporate gifts and exquisite jewellery that
will impress the fussiest recipient.
Next up is Butte à L’Herbe Public
Beach, about half a mile down a gravel
road. If you are looking for seclusion, look
no further! I would not go there at night,
though. Mauritius is rife with stray dogs,
and they can get excited when running in
packs at night.
From here, as you approach Grand
Gaube, B13 becomes B44 and then B14, so
don’t get lost!
Beach-hopping in the South
The south is the wildest, most mountainous
and least frequented part of the
island. Swimming in the sea in the south
is not recommended as currents are strong
and winds can be fierce.
Gris, the beach in Souillac, is described
by poet Paul Jean Toulet as “full of terror
and fatalism although not devoid of mildness”.
Riambel is adjacent to St Félix Beach.
They are considered two of the most beautiful
in the south; unspoilt and shaded by
Baie Du Cap, La Prairie, Pointe d’Esny,
Baie De Jacotet, Belle Ombre and Le
Morne are other unpretentious beaches in
the south. You will find the character of
southern beaches very different to those in
the north. They attract a completely different
kind of visitor.
Riviere des Galets Beach, comprised
of black, smooth stones, is a rarity and
definitely not for bathing. The sound of the
pebbles rolling as the waves come in and
out is quite amazing.
After a long flight, La Cambuse is the
closest beach to the airport. Relax under
the shade trees before heading for your accommodation.
Take a quick shallow dip if
you must but be vigilant with children. The
wild currents and wind are unpredictable.
Beach-hopping in the East
The climate on the eastern coast is
more temperate than the north and west
coasts of the island. The light breeze makes
it cooler. This is valuable advice if you are
booking accommodation in the hot summer
Island LIFE • Mauritius |
The beaches in the east are rare but striking.
Belle Mare has a beautiful long white
sandy beach and is the setting for some of
the best hotels in Mauritius. Belle Mare is
ideal for diving.
Trou d’Eau Douce, Poste Lafayette,
Palmar, Pointe de Flacq and Roches Noires
are all beaches worth visiting. Roches
Noires is reputed to be an excellent place
for fishing, kitesurfing and windsurfing.
Bras d’Eau is a pristine beach. From
the public beach you can see both the sunrise
and the sunset - unique indeed.
Beaches and Surfing in the West
To relax on the beach, swim, snorkel
or chat to the locals, head to one of
three beaches: Flic en Flac, Tamarin or La
Preneuse. Flic en Flac Public Beach is very
popular. Tamarin with its browner sand
(due to the river mouth) and La Preneuse
are a little further south.
Sable Noir is the closest beach to Port
Louis. Balaclava Beach, also known as
Victoria Beach or Oberoi Beach, is located
right next to the luxury hotel The Oberoi,
one of the finest hotels in Mauritius.
Tamarin Bay is a popular surfing spot
with its long left-hand reef break and
10-foot swells. This is where the beach
babes and surfer dudes love to hang out – a
“cool” place for the young ‘uns.
Surfing in the west is hands down the
best on the island! Le Morne is the popular
place for the more serious enthusiasts to
kitesurf, windsurf and surf in the strong
and steady southeast trade winds. Le
Morne is world renowned for its “One Eye”
surf spot with its fast-left tube.
Be careful of the strong currents at Le
Morne as it is close to the wild seas in the south.
regarding seabirds, reptiles and remnant
populations of coastal species and palmrich
1. Round Island, 22 km north, is unfortunately
inaccessible to the public.
2. Snake Island has no snakes. The last
indigenous snake species here became
extinct shortly after European arrival.
This barren rock is home to sooty terns,
brown noddy- and lesser noddy terns,
as well as a scarce gecko and centipede.
A friend said it so nicely: “Snake island
has no snakes and is round, and Round
Island is not round and has snakes”.
3. Gunner’s Quoin is shaped like a whale.
Here you will find remnants of a sugar
plantation set up by Dutch settlers.
4. Flat Island is at risk of submerging.
There are several 19th-century graves in
the cemetery on the island. People suffering
from malaria and other diseases
were quarantined on this island by the
British. It also houses one of only two
working lighthouses in Mauritius.
5. Gabriel Island is a sheltered shallow
cove of sand dune vegetation and
Baume de l’Ile Plate (this is the only
place that this plant grows). Spend a
day here. Snorkel, dive and have lunch
on a catamaran.
6. Pigeon Rock National Park is a volcanic
plug that rises vertically out of the sea.
It is a haven for seabirds. Scuba dive
around this rock with its proliferation
of sharks, particularly from November
Islet in the Northeast
Ile d’Ambre is close to the mainland
off the northeast coast. Although decaying
and neglected, it still has some remaining
Latanier bleu and mangrove forests. Swim,
visit the ruins, walk through the forest,
relax and have lunch.
Islet in the East
Île aux Cerfs, probably the mostvisited
islet, is just off the east coast. It is
considered a water sports paradise and
has arguably the most attractive beaches.
The island boasts a superb 18-hole golf
course designed by famous golf champion
Islet in the West
Ile aux Bénitiers, situated off the coast
of La Gaulette (Southwest of Mauritius), is a
large coral sand island which lies in a lagoon
near Le Morne. It is perfectly safe to go
swimming and snorkelling here. A boat trip
to the island usually includes a barbeque
and drinks on the island. For a truly magical
experience, be sure to book a trip to Ile aux
Bénitiers and swim with the dolphins!
Islets of Mauritius
While there are many little islets
around Mauritius, only a few really stood
out for me.
Islets in the North
Six of the northern islets are very important
due to their biodiversity, especially
92 Globerovers · December 2019
Photo: Janet-Lynn Vorster
Spices at a local market in Port Louis
Shopping in Mauritius
There is no shortage of places to shop.
I will only mention those places that I
personally visited as shopping is not my
kind of therapy. Take cash to the bazaars
and barter to ensure a fair price. Be aware
and be vigilant.
• The Central Market, in Port Louis
• Marche de Flacq, in Centre de Flacq
• Bazar de Grand Baie, in Grand Baie
• Caudan Waterfront, in Port Louis
To buy groceries and other necessary
items, I suggest Super U (there are three on
the island) and Winners in Pereybere.
Thoughts & Recommendations
While in Mauritius, I spent a few days
at both Merville Hotel in Grand Baie, and
Laguna Beach Hotel & Spa. Both were on
the beach, and both were fabulous.
Most of my holiday I spent house
sitting in Pereybere where I learnt about
cooking the Mauritian way.
I could honestly eat like that forever.
I realised that staying virtually on the
beach had many advantages, including
not having to get to and from the beach
by taxi. From one place to another by taxi,
even if only one kilometre away, costs a
minimum of 150 rupees (one way). Buses
are frequent and affordable but being far
from a bus stop can be a drawback.
Without walking all the way to the
nearest bus stop, stand alongside the road
on the bus route and flail down a shared
taxi. Offer to pay the same price as what
the bus would have cost, no more, and
within a few minutes one of the drivers
will accept your offer.
However, they will not make a detour
from the taxi’s normal route. To be taken
to specific places or to be picked up and
dropped off at your doorstep a private taxi
must be arranged.
My suggestion is to stay within a comfortable
walking distance from the beach,
bus stop, shops and restaurants. I would
personally rather spend more on accommodation,
and less on transport.
Public beaches are quieter than private
beaches during the week. However, locals
flock to the public beaches on weekends.
Locals can be quite territorial regarding
“their” beaches over weekends, so
allow them time with their families. Locals
are conservative, so expect a few frowns
if you appear on public beaches in your
revealing swimwear over weekends.
Both respect and planning will make
the visit more pleasurable for all.
Some public beaches adjoin private
beaches which “belong” to hotels. Walking
from a public beach onto an adjoining private
beach is permitted. However, do not
venture above the high tide mark, as this is
I love Mauritius! For now, I will fly
there in my dreams until I can visit again.
Photo: Janet-Lynn Vorster
Baskets at Marche de Flacq, in Centre de Flacq
Lets take the long road
Island LIFE • Mauritius |
94 Globerovers · December 2019
By discovering nature,
Island LIFE • Mauritius | 95
Oman, the gem of the Arabian Peninsula,
is full of surprises and contrasts.
Its natural scenery includes endless
windswept sand dunes whipped up
by jagged mountain ranges that cut into the clear blue
skies. Its sheer-walled orange-brown sand dunes and
canyons give way to lush rivers and cascading streams.
The country’s 1,700 kilometres (1,060 mi) of
picturesque coastline has no shortage of pristine, stunning,
and secluded beaches with crystal-clear emerald
Rich in history, Oman’s ancient watchtowers and
fortresses stand guard over bustling souqs (markets) and
modern white-washed towns. Stunningly ornate mosques
rise high above mud-walled villages, while donkey carts
and luxury cars share the same roads.
Oman’s roads are well-constructed, fuel is cheap, and
there’s no shortage of interesting natural scenery and
captivating villages in every direction - the ideal scenario
for any inquisitive traveller.
Officially called the Sultanate of Oman, this Islamic
96 Globerovers · December 2019
gem of the Arabian Peninsula
country is located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian
Peninsula, sharing borders with Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and
the United Arab Emirates. Along its southern coast is the
Arabian Sea, and to the east lies the Gulf of Oman which
separates it from Iran and Pakistan. Compared to its
neighbours, Oman is one of the most stable and generally
safest countries for travel.
Come along as we explore Muscat, the capital of
Oman and its largest city. From Muscat’s old town with its
authentic souqs and fish market near the Mutrah Corniche
seafront, we drive to the west of town to visit the colossal
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
From here we continue southwest into the interior to
the historic town of Nizwa, known for its fortress, souqs,
and Falaj Daris, an extensive irrigation system of falaj
(a water channel, plural: aflaj) used over centuries as a
lifeline to the town’s immense palm tree plantations.
While we hardly scratched the surface of what Oman
has to offer, this short trip is a brief introduction to why
“Gem of the Arabian Peninsula” is a very appropriate
description of Oman.
Photo Essay • Oman | 97
98 Globerovers · December 2019
Oman - Arabian Peninsula
Muscat, Oman’s capital, has been ruled
for millennia by various indigenous tribes
and foreign powers including the Persians,
Portuguese, and the Ottoman Empire. All have
left their mark, so today the city’s architecture
and culture attest to its rich history. The
city’s old quarters as well as the port district of
Mutrah, with its corniche and harbour, are of
most interest to visitors.
Stretching almost 25 kilometres (15.5 mi) along
the Omani coastline, Muscat offers a real taste
of Arabia, despite its recent modernisation and
building frenzy. Fortunately, most of the new
buildings are less than three stories high and
are white-washed to blend in with the historical
buildings. Much of the old city has retained its
Life in Muscat is dominated by its old corniche
seafront in the Mutrah area, fringed by 18th
century buildings and the imposing 17th century
Mutrah fort. The harbour is usually awash
with locals selling the fresh catch of the day,
with a variety of fi sh and other exotic creatures
from the sea.
The city boasts several imposing mosques, of
which the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the
largest and most prominent. Muscat also offers
several museums, beautifully restored houses,
an opera house, the Al Alam Sultan’s Palace,
parliament buildings, fortresses, and the bustling
Mutrah souq which is said to be one of the
oldest marketplaces in the Arab world.
Engulfed in the mixed smells of frankincense,
perfume oils, fresh jasmine, and spices, you
can shop for Omani gold and silverware, embroidered
bright coloured cloth, pots, paintings,
hookah pipes, framed khanjars (daggers),
leatherwork, incense, and so on.
Photo Essay • Oman | 99
100 Globerovers · December 2019
Oman - Arabian Peninsula
Qaboos bin Said al Said, the current Sultan
of Oman, ordered the Grand Mosque
in 1992. Construction started in December
1994 and took six years and seven months to
Constructed from 300,000 tons of Indian sandstone,
the main prayer hall has a central dome
rising to a height of 50 metres (160 ft) above
the square 74.4 by 74.4 metre (244 by 244 ft)
carpeted fl oor.
This hall can hold over 6,500 worshippers
while the adjacent women’s prayer hall can
hold 750, and the outer marble-paved area an
additional 8,000 people.
The mosque has four fl anking minarets each
measuring a whopping 45.5 metres (149 ft)
high. Truly an architectural masterpiece.
While the main structure is impressive, the
interior design is record-breaking.
The chandelier above the main prayer hall is
14 metres (46 ft) tall, eight metres wide (26 ft),
weighs 8.5 tons, includes 600,000 pieces of
crystal trimmed with gold, uses 1,122 halogen
bulbs, and even has a small staircase inside
for workers to perform maintenance. The carpet
below this massive chandelier was woven
in Iran and contains a whopping 1.7 billion
knots, weighs 21 tons, and took four years to
weave. At the time the carpet was laid, it was
the world’s largest single-piece carpet.
It dropped to the second spot in 2007 when
a larger carpet was laid in the Sheikh Zayed
Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Photo Essay • Oman | 101
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque (Grand Mosque).
102 Globerovers · December 2019
Photo Essay • Oman | 103
Oman - Arabian Peninsula
Located 140 kilometres (87 mi) southwest
of Muscat is one of the oldest oasis towns
in Oman, surrounded by expansive palm
Nizwa, with its authentic souq, was once a
major centre of trade in the Arabian Peninsula
and over the centuries also played a prominent
role in Oman’s religion, education, and art.
Surrounded by a verdant spread of date
palms, much of the old part of Nizwa was built
with clay bricks and mud. Best known for its
now heavily renovated fort that was built in
1668 AD, it is a reminder of the town’s signifi -
cance throughout its turbulent history.
The large Nizwa souq remains quite authentic
and is famous for its variety of local handicrafts
and agricultural products.
At this bustling market, you can fi nd everything
from freshly slaughtered meat and fi sh,
local fruits and vegetables, gold, silverware
and copperware, and a mind-boggling array
of spices. It is best to get lost in the souq and
just enjoy the adventure.
104 Globerovers · December 2019
Photo Essay • Oman | 105
106 Globerovers · December 2019
Photo Essay • Oman | 107
Cabo San Juan de Guia Beach
Cabo San Juan beach is an undeveloped tropical paradise
in Parque Tayrona located along the Caribbean coast.
Set up your hammock between two trees and enjoy a night
108 Globerovers · December 2019
Caribbean Coastal Adventures
The Colombian north coast along the Caribbean Sea is packed with adventure, still devoid of mass
tourism. Float in a bubbling mud volcano, and swim in pristine waters at palm-fringed beaches.
For many years, Colombia has not been
a country high on the list of most
travellers and holidaymakers. However,
times have changed and the country is now open
Since 1964, a guerilla movement known as
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia
(FARC), has been involved in an armed conflict
against the government. FARC wreaked havoc
in many parts of Columbia, and while foreigners
were not particularly targeted and it has been possible
to travel there, many areas were off-limits.
In June 2016 FARC signed a ceasefire accord
with the Colombian Government, later rejected in
a national referendum.
After a revised peace
treaty was approved by
the Colombian Congress,
fighting in June 2017
giving new hope to the tourism industry. Unfortunately,
in August 2019 a small faction of FARC
leaders returned to armed activity resulting in
offensive strikes by the government, killing some
FARC members. Nobody knows what the future
holds and whether the country is heading back to
its days of turmoil. Only time will tell.
After many years of guerilla fighting, Colombia
appears to be safer now. A destination
for intrepid travellers ready to be explored.
Over the last few years, adventure seekers
have flocked to Colombia before it becomes
another hotspot where mass tourism will destroy
the charm. Most travellers who visited Colombia
safely returned home and have good things to say
Colombia is known for islands such as San
Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina near
Nicaragua, home to some exquisite beaches.
Colombia also offers the fascinating Amazonian
rain forests, Andean mountains, vast plains of the
Orinoquia region along the Orinoco river, and
the tropical coasts along the Caribbean Sea and
If you are an avid bird watcher, you will be in
bird-heaven. With 1870 recorded
has the most bird species
of any country on earth.
The second and third spots
are held by Peru and Brazil
with 1,817 and 1,767 species respectively. Colombia
is home to almost one-fifth of all bird species on
earth, though about 160 of its species are at risk of
imminent extinction. You may have to compete
with the birds to enjoy the wide variety of tropical
fruits such as gorgeous guavas, delicious dragon
fruit, zingy zapotes, and luscious lulos.
While some areas of Columbia are still
deemed off-limits except for “all but essential
travel”, much of it is safe, despite the usual street
If you prefer city life, Colombia has it. Bogota
is booming with funky restaurants, boutique hotels
and craft breweries, and since street art was decriminalised
in 2011, Bogota’s flyovers, office towers
Article • Colombia | 109
Colombia - Caribbean Coastal Adventures
Immediately outside the old city at a
strategic location on the Hill of San Lázaro
is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas built by
the Spanish during the early 16th cenand
municipal walls have become canvases
for some of the world’s most prolific graffiti
artists. Other interesting cities to visit
include Medellin, Cali, and Cartagena.
We start our adventure in the northeastern
town of Cartagena, one of the most
exquisite colonial cities in Latin America.
From here we visit a few idyllic islands before
heading northeast along the Caribbean
Coast to take a gooey bath in an active
mud volcano. After a thorough wash in a
lagoon, we continue further northeast to
Taganga Beach. We end up our Colombia
travels in the unspoiled beaches of Parque
Nacional Natural Tayrona where we sleep
in a hammock between two palm trees.
Iglesia de San Pedro Claver.
Culture-rich Cartagena is known for its
well preserved colonial architechture.
Located along the Caribbean
Sea in the far northwest of the
country, the colonial walled city
of Cartagena de Indias was built on gold
and slavery and is affectionately known as
“Cartagena, the jewel in Colombia’s crown”.
Cartagena is a UNESCO World
Heritage Site with a history that dates back
to 4,000 BC. In its more recent history,
Spanish colonists founded the city in the
16th century and named it after Cartagena
in Spain. The city became a centre for
Spanish royalty and wealthy viceroys, but
endured frequent attacks from invaders.
As protection, high walls were built so the
fortressed city now offers some interesting
examples of military strategy and well
preserved colonial architecture. Cartagena
is also much associated with pirates of the
The main city gate, and original entrance
to the fortified historical centre is
via the beautiful Puerta del Reloj (Clock
Gate) leading into the vibrant Plaza de los
Coches (Square of the Carriages).
In the colourful old city are several
markets, squares, cathedrals, castillo
(fortresses) and an increasing number of
touristy bars, cafes, boutique hotels and
Have a drink in one of the many plazas
while watching the horse carts with tourists
clattering through the streets. Evenings
are often filled with flash mobs dancing in
the colourful plazas. You will instinctively
start to sway to the rhythm of the traditional
musical dances of the cumbia, porro
The Caribbean port city of
Cartagena has long been
referred to as “the jewel in
The figurative painter and sculptor
from Medellin, Fernando Botero, is
famed for his satirical works which feature
oversized subjects in an exaggerated form.
Don’t miss his bronze woman sculpture,
“La Gordita,” who reclines happily in the
Plaza Santo Domingo in front of Church of
White Beach near Cartagena.
110 Globerovers · December 2019
tury. The best view of Cartagena can be
seen from the Convent of La Candelaria,
located on top of the La Popa hill which is
a short distance east of the old city.
Tired of strolling through the old city
and hiking the hills? Then head over to the
Bocagrande beaches area, a narrow strip of
land with many hotels, shops, restaurants,
nightclubs and art galleries.
Take a day-trip to nearby Playa Blanca
and Islas del Rosario for incredibly beautiful
beaches, islands, birds and marine life.
The Rosario Islands also offer excellent
diving where divers can admire colourful
coral gardens, bountiful marine life, and
perhaps a sunken pirate ship.
While in Cartagena, take a flight to the
Colombian island of San Andrés which lies
closer to the east coast of Nicaragua than
to the north coast of Colombia. While San
Andrés has some exquisite beaches, the
prize goes to nearby Providencia island
that has over the years retained much of its
traditional laid-back charm.
Flights from San Andrés to Providencia
are via a small 10-seater plane. Alternatively,
take the catamaran ferry which makes
the 90 kilometre (56 mi) sea voyage a few
times a week.
Cartagena is a one hour and twentyminute
flight north of Bogota. A bus ride
to cover the 1,060 kilometres will take
about 17 hours and is not recommended
due to the potential risk of kidnappers
targeting long haul buses.
Dance performance in Plaza Bolivar, Cartagena.
Colonial buildings of Cartagena.
Colonial buildings of Cartagena.
Article • Colombia |111
Colombia - Caribbean Coastal Adventures
EL TOTUMO MUD VOLCANO
Soak in the soft bubbling mud volcano
while getting an uninvited $1 massage.
About 63 kilometres (39 mi)
northeast of Cartagena, along
the Caribbean Coast, is one of
the most bizarre attractions of Colombia,
and a rite of passage if you visit Cartagena.
El Totumo is the country’s smallest volcano,
although it does not spew hot lava or blow
smoke. It is an active but peaceful little volcano
with a 15 metre (49 foot) mound filled
in the core with lukewarm softly bubbling
mud. Superfine brown silky mud.
According to local folklore, Totumo
used to spew fire, lava, and ashes, but it
was turned into mud by a local priest who
believed it was the work of the devil, and
endeavoured to banish him by sprinkling
holy water into the volcano.
Pay a small fee to the local collector
and climb up the rudimentary ladder to
the top of the mount. While the mud levels
slightly rise and fall over time, it seems that
these days its level is more often low than
high. Several local entrepreneurs at the
bottom of the volcano sell bottles of the
volcano’s mud to visiting tourists, which
may explain where all the mud is disappearing.
If you are very lucky, you may
find the mud near the top of the mount
with some spilling over the rim, though
most likely you will have to climb several
feet down a rickety old wooden ladder that
gets extremely slippery to reach the muddy
surface. As you look down onto the giggling
people drifting on the mud, you may
get a vision of catfish flopping around in a
muddy watering hole!
The mud reputedly has healing and
therapeutic properties so for many years
it has been a popular health-bath for the
locals. While few tourists report rejuvenated
skin after immersing in the mud, the
bizarre experience of floating weightlessly
112 Globerovers · December 2019
on silky luke-warm mud makes the trip
The entrepreneurial local men have
realised that tourists are happy to pay a
dollar or two for a mud-rub as they lie
drifting on the mud. They generally won’t
ask permission to render their services, so
just take it as it comes and let them mudrub
you. Make sure not to let your face get
all muddy as you’ll be sorry if the mud gets
into your eyes.
Once you have become a mud-monster,
you may leave the pit and pay the lady
down below the mount. It is recommended
that you let the mud dry before washing.
At this time, don’t be surprised if busloads
of Colombian tourists come around to take
photos of the strange muddy foreigners,
probably wondering how people can do
this to themselves!
“The local lady pulled off my
swimsuit under the water and
started to wash my crevices!"
As you stand to dry, several people
will have pointed you to the nearby lagoon
where you will find a few local ladies wading
in the water to wash the tourists. Now,
this is another part of the bizarre experience.
These ladies also won’t ask permission
to wash, so just lay back and let her do
her job. She most likely will be digging her
fingers in your ears and nose to clear out
Some ladies will even remove your
swimwear to rinse out the mud, scrub your
crevices, and put back your swimwear. She
is used to doing this so just go with the
flow. Once she is convinced that you are
clean, slip her a few coins in the hand.
As you sit in the minivan with your
clean mud buddies, you certainly will get
the sulphuric smell of mud. Don’t despair.
Just believe that the healing and therapeutic
powers of the mud are hard at work
rejuvenating your skin.
Article • Colombia |113
Colombia - Caribbean Coastal Adventures
Taganga fishing village and beach.
Taganga fishing village and beach.
Fishing boats at Taganga village.
Playa Grande near Taganga fishing village.
114 Globerovers · December 2019
TAGANGA AND OTHER BEACHES
Located close to the port city of Santa
Marta, Taganga is sun, sea, and surf.
Continue for 67 kilometres (42
mi) northwest along the Caribbean
Coast to the city of Barranquilla.
While it is an interesting place to
linger for a few days, you want to be here
during the annual festival. The Barranquilla
Carnival is one of the biggest of its kind,
giving the likes of Rio a run for its money.
Taking place in the middle of summer,
the sultry carnival is a big drawcard for
tourists who enjoy the streets filled with
parades and parties.
From Barranquilla take coastal Route
90, built on a sandy artificial spit, to cross
the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta marsh
to the historic town of Ciénaga. Declared
a National Cultural Heritage Site in 1996,
you can bathe in Ciénaga’s hot springs
and participate in a festival honouring the
caimán, a small crocodile. The historical
old centre of town is worth a visit, as well
as the nearby stilt villages.
From Ciénaga it is a 33 kilometre (20
mi) drive north along the coast to the town
of Santa Marta, a prime tourist destination
in the Caribbean coastal region. Santa
Marta was the first Spanish settlement in
Colombia and is now one of the oldest permanent
settlements in the Americas. Not
surprisingly, it offers great colonial architecture,
a whitewashed cathedral, pleasant
waterfront, beaches, public market, vibrant
street food scene, and endless opportunities
to explore nature.
Our next destination along the Caribbean
coast is the fishing village of Taganga,
just five kilometres (three miles) further up
along the coast from Santa Marta. Taganga
is a place where beautiful lush green covered
mountains meet a horseshoe-shaped bay.
Truly a beautiful location, which looks
even more beautiful once you hike the
nearby hills overlooking the sea.
While Taganga was a rustic fishing
village for many years, nowadays it has
become a haven for backpackers, party
animals, and scuba divers. Here you will
find no shortage of dive shops, seafood
restaurants, hostels, and places for beer
parties. While the beach used to be popular
for swimming, it is no longer as clean as
it used to be. Take a hike into the hills for
stunning views over the ocean and the village,
and go swim at nearby Playa Grande
to the north of the village. Another lovely
beach is Playa Bonito Gordo in nearby
Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona which is
best reached by boat from Taganga beach
or by walking from Bahía Concha inside
Note that Taganga has a reputation for
street crime, so be careful, especially at
South of Taganga is La Cuidad Perdida,
also known as “Teyuna” and “Buritaca”, an
archaeological site in the Sierra Nevada
mountain range. This “lost city” is believed
to have been founded at the start of the
ninth century, which makes it about 750
years older than Machu Picchu in Peru.
On the way to Ciudad Perdida, stop at
Minca to the southeast of Taganga. Minca
is a beautiful tiny town located in the hills
and jungle and has become a popular spot
among travellers due to its remote location,
coffee farms, waterfalls, and excellent
Playa Grande Beach.
Tiny restaurant at Taganga.
Article • Colombia | 115
Colombia - Caribbean Coastal Adventures
PARQUE NACIONAL TAYRONA
A nature sanctuary along the Caribbean
Sea, rich in fauna and flora.
Just a few kilometres to the
northeast from Taganga lies the
western edge of Parque Nacional
Natural Tayrona which stretches for about
30 kilometres (19 mi) along the Caribbean
Coast. The park boasts in excess of 60
mammal species as well as over 400 species
of birds, in addition to countless reptiles
and amphibians. This is the main reason
why we came to northern Colombia and
this is why we would not want to leave this
As a protected area in Colombia’s
northern wilderness, Tayrona National
Park has all the elements you want from an
idyllic location along the Caribbean Sea.
Come here if you like swaying palms trees,
beautiful sandy beaches, lagoons, ancient
ruins, and most of all, peace and quiet. Still
free of major developments, the park has
a lot of rugged beauty to offer those who
made the effort to reach this part of the
South American continent.
From Santa Marta, hop on a bus or taxi
to the most eastern part of the park. From
the drop-off point at the park entrance, it
is a few kilometres walk to the beaches.
Among the best beaches along this part
of the park are Arrecifes, the nearest beach
to the park’s main entrance, Cabo San Juan
de Guia, Cañaveral, and La Piscinita. Most
of these beaches offer tents and hammocks
for rent, and some basic restaurants. The
best option is the hammock! While the
open-air hostels have several hammocks
lined up in a row under a canopy, the more
adventurous way to sleep is to find two
palm trees along the beach and spend the
night swinging in the breeze.
Need a break from the beautiful sandy
beaches? Take an invigorating hike into
the jungle to ancient ruins where you will
pass through several streams and giant
boulders. Keep your eyes peeled for the
multi-coloured land crabs, leaf cutter ants,
bright blue and green reptiles, countless
butterflies, and if you are lucky you may
see the endangered cotton-top tamarin
monkey with its fluffy white mane.
A mere two-hour hike from the Cabo
San Juan de Guia beach up in the hill lies
the pre-Hispanic ruins of Pueblito. Few
people attempt the rather challenging
path through the jungle, so if you succeed,
you most likely will have the ruins all to
yourself. While most of the ruins have
been devoured by the jungle, there is more
than enough visible for you to imagine
what life must have been like here over 500
While the area is deemed safe, it’s best
to always hike in a small group. Make sure
to bring along sunscreen, insect repellent,
and plenty of water.
When done with the ruins and the
jungle hike, return to the beaches and just
relax. Colombia’s Caribbean Coast has
been very good to you! GR
Cabo San Juan de Guia Beach.
116 Globerovers · December 2019
Hammock Hotel at Cabo San Juan de Guia Beach.
Cabo San Juan de Guia Beach.
Article • Colombia | 117
Taganga fishing village.
Traveller mingling with the locals.
118 Globerovers · December 2019
Colombia - Caribbean Coastal Adventures
Stay safe while travelling in Colombia
Safety precautions in Colombia
are much like anywhere else.
Use common sense, be streetwise,
and stay away from known
danger zones such as the border
area with Ecuador and Venezuela
due to the risk of kidnapping or
being caught in the crossfire of the
Going off the beaten path might
not be the best idea in Colombia,
though if this is what makes you
tick, first check the safety situation
with locals and take along a local
Adding to the uncertainty of the
internecine confl ict between
the government and the guerrilla
groups, the wars continue
between the police and the drug
cartels in places such as Medellin
The bright side is that these towns
are nowadays safer than they
were during the eighties and nineties.
Long-distance travel is best done
by plane. Avoid long bus rides, especially
overnight trips. If travelling
by private car and driver, always
keep a low profi le.
Enjoy Colombia before it becomes
another victim of mass tourism.
Fly into the Colombian capital, Bogota,
and from here it is best to fl y Viva Air or
Avianca Air to Cartagena. The fl ight takes
just 90 minutes and lands at Cartagena’s
Rafael Núñez International Airport located
6 minutes drive to the northeast of the
old city. Alternatively, take a direct bus
(Berlinas del Fonce, Copetran or Expreso
Brasilia). It is a 20 to 23-hour journey.
When to Go
The weather is good all-year-round,
but avoid the peak visitor season from
mid-December to the end of January and
again from mid-June to mid-July when locals
flock to the park and beaches. Avoid
local holidays such as Easter. Tayrona
Park closes for a month around February.
Along the Caribbean coast are several
routes by bus and minibus. To reach El
Totumo Mud Volcano, take a day trip by
minibus from Cartagena. The bus ride to
Santa Marta (for Taganga fi shing village
and nearby beaches) from Cartagena,
takes about four hours - a distance of 230
km (143 mi). From Santa Marta to Tayrona
National Park, take a minibus to El Zaino.
Where to Stay
Cartagena has accommodation for all
budgets. Along the coast are many guest
houses that cater mostly to the local
crowd. During the off season it is easy
to find accommodation. At Tayrona Park,
try to set up your hammock between two
palm trees or stay at the hammock hotel.
Colombia is generally a feast for the eyes,
and the north coast is nothing short of
beautiful scenery and memorable experiences.
The locals are mostly accustomed
to tourists taking photos of them, but as
always it is best to fi rst ask permission.
Don’t forget to bring your camera to the
mud volcano, but place it in a thin plastic
bag to protect it from the mud.
Colombia is safer than it used to be, but it
remains a risky destination. However, many
travellers to Colombia return safely home
without any mishaps. Be extra streetwise
everywhere, in particular in Bogota and
other big cities. Even Taganga village has
reports of street hooligans, so walk cat-foot.
Colombia has delicious traditional foods so
try as many of the local dishes as possible.
The country is multi-ethnic and food
tend to be regionalised. Along the Caribbean
coast, seafood is obviously popular,
including lobster. Coconut rice is a common
dish as are fried plantain patties.
The weather along the Caribbean coast is
good all-year-round. It’s hot and tropical
with a rainy season between May and
November. The best time is from December
to March, since it is the driest, or at
least less rainy. Pack a light sweater for
cool evenings or when on a boat.
Cost of Travel
Colombia is not dirt-cheap, but also not
expensive, depending on how much you
want to spend. If on a tight budget, you can
get by on $30 to $70 (USD) a day, including
everything except airline tickets and longdistance
buses. One way flights to Cartagena
cost about $120. The bus is $50.
Article • Colombia | 119
Dust, Drought and Distance
Travelling the South Australian Outback
South Australia isn’t called the
driest state of the driest continent
on earth for nothing. But
just because a lot of South Australia’s
983,482 square kilometres (379,725
miles²) is outback and desert country doesn’t
mean there’s nothing to see and do there.
South Australia is so large that only 30
countries on earth are larger. So of course the
landscape is wide, open and empty. The sky’s
so big and blue by day and ablaze with colour
Marion Halliday is Red Nomad OZ,
author, blogger and Aussie traveller who loves
discovering nature based attractions and activities
– and scenic loos – all over Australia.
Her Aussie travel expertise, photography
and the storytelling skills she developed in
corporate life come together in her Aussie
travel blog where the highlights (and lowlights)
of her many years of downunder travel provide
inspiration for other Aussie explorers.
Words & Photos by Marion Halliday
as the sun sinks below the horizon’s flat line
that it’ll dominate your photos without even
trying. It’s a country of vast plains crisscrossed
by (mostly) dry river beds, bisected
by a maze of dusty tracks and scattered with
unexpected rock formations and sand dunes
in impossible colours and shapes.
When you look beyond the dust, drought
and the endless distances, the scenery is
stunning, in a remote Aussie Outback kind
Venture a few hours north of the more
popular (and green!) coastal fringe and it
will feel like a different universe. Or at the
very least, like landing on the moon. Add
in a diverse and unexpected collection of
state, national and world record holding
attractions and this remote part of Australia
becomes not just memorable, but magic.
Base yourself right in the middle of
all this wide open space where you’ll find
Coober Pedy, also known as Opal Capital of
the World. About 850 km (530 miles) and a
nine hour drive up the Stuart Highway north
of state capital Adelaide, it’s surrounded by
countless multicoloured ‘mullock’ heaps,
rock discarded from the diggings in the
never-ending quest for Australia’s national
gemstone. Visit the site where teenager Willie
Hutchison first discovered opal in 1815
while searching for water, and you’ll wonder
how anything could be found in this barren
Try your luck “noodling” for a piece of
opal in the public fossicking area’s giant
mullock heap and you’ll wonder even more.
But don’t despair if you don’t get lucky there
– finding an opal souvenir in one of the
town’s many outlets is a sure thing!
Flight over Anna Creek Painted Hills
120 Globerovers · December 2019
AUSTRALIA SPECIAL REPORT
It’s estimated that over 70% of the world’s
opal has been extracted from Coober Pedy’s
70 opal fields and countless underground
mines, attracting miners and fortune hunters
from all around the world. At last count, 45
nationalities were represented in the town’s
population of around 2500.
Mining opal doesn’t come easily in this
harsh and unforgiving climate where rainfall
has been well under the annual average of
138 mm (5.5 inches) for two years in a row,
and temperatures regularly top 40° C (104°
F) in summer. That’s why you’ll find dwellings
(called “dugouts”), churches, accommodation,
opal outlets, shops and the world’s
only underground campground hacked
out of the rock below the surface where the
temperature’s a pleasant 24°C (75ºF) all year
is bizarre. For
aren’t any windows
the lights are
off it’s dark. Totally dark. And silent. If you’ve
got an overactive imagination, having several
tonnes of rock above your head can be unnerving.
The pyramid-shaped metal caps
atop pipes sticking out of the ground are air
vents channelling fresh air into the buildings
underground, and stopping rain from dripping
underground through the vent.
The chances of rain in Coober Pedy on
our June 2019 visit were low, with the total
year-to-date rainfall only 19.8 mm (0.78
inches), way below average.
Flying over Lake Eyre
Coober Pedy Kanku-Breakaways
Luckily, the desert scenery doesn’t rely on
rain to look magnificent, especially 25 km
(15.5 miles) north of town at the Kanku-
Breakaways Conservation Park, with fantastic
rock formations rising out of what was once
an ancient sea bed. Drive out there at sunset
for amazing light and colours, or take a day
trip and drive the 70 km (43.5 mile) loop
trail down onto the old sea bed and past the
Dog Fence. Built in the 1880’s to keep dingos
(Australian wild dogs) from the south-east
pastoral area, the fence looks just like any
other farm fence-line, but at 5,614 km (1,488
mile) in length, it’s the longest continuous
man-made structure in the world.
If you think the Breakaways scenery
looks familiar, it’s possible you’ve seen it
before. That’s if you’ve watched movies like
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Pitch
Black, Red Planet, Stark or Ground Zero, all
of which were shot around here in a landscape
that needs no enhancement to look
Back in Coober Pedy, the Opal Fields
golf club, studded with rocks and its ‘greens’
black with machine oil, looks even more
post-apocalyptic. But it’s the only club in the
world with reciprocal playing rights at the
home of golf in Scotland, the 600-year-old St
Andrews Golf Club. Too hot to play during
the day? No problem! Just tee up with glowing
balls when it’s cooler at night – and keep
any opal you find!
Coober Pedy’s most impressive natural
Contribution • Australia | 121
attraction is just a short distance away (by
outback standards), but a very long drive.
Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre’s whopping 9,500
square km (3,668 miles²) surface area makes
it Australia’s largest lake, and 13th largest
in the world. But it doesn’t have water in it
every year despite a huge catchment area of
1,140,000 square km – around 15% of Australia’s
land mass, and the size of Colombia.
On average, the lake has some water in it
every three years, a partial fill every 10 years,
and a complete fill every 25 years, although
the most recent was in 1974-76. It’s also the
site of Australia’s lowest natural point – 15.2
metres (49 ft) below sea level.
Whether or not I can claim to have
been to Lake Eyre just by flying over it, it’s
a bucket-list experience as arid mountain
ranges, river beds, lonely roads, dams and
sand dunes pass underneath in a magic
carpet of earthy colour offset by the waters
of this vast inland sea. And if I don’t hold the
record for most photos taken on a Lake Eyre
scenic flight, I gave it a red hot go!
The tiny, remote town of William Creek
(6 residents – and a dog!) is the closest point
of civilisation to Anna Creek Station, largest
working cattle station in the world at over
23,677 square km (9,142 miles²) and bigger
than El Salvador. After morning tea in William
Creek, we flew back to Coober Pedy
from Lake Eyre over the Anna Creek Painted
Hills, a panorama streaked with colours
We were in luck on this visit – waters
from heavy flooding in northern Queensland
earlier in the year are flowing into Lake Eyre
North in one of the best events in recent
years – it’s not a total fill, but it’ll do! By road,
it’s 230 km (143 miles) to the lake’s nearest
public access point – and it’s likely to take
around 4.5 hours, depending on track conditions.
So if you and your rig aren’t up for a
rocky, dusty, tyre-shredding drive over rugged
roads to see the lake, see it from the air
instead on a scenic flight that takes in a lot of
the surrounding countryside as well.
Riverbed near Lake Eyre
Coober Pedy Mullock Heaps
122 Globerovers · December 2019
direct from the outback palette. Far below,
a small plane on the edge of the Hills had
just disgorged a group of people for a guided
tour, the only way to explore this inaccessible
spot from the ground. Next time!
The Painted Desert, third, and arguably
most spectacular of the trifecta of exotic
rocks in the region, is about 153 km (95
miles) and a 4.5 hour drive north of Coober
Pedy. We took the alternative route north
for about 150 km (93 miles) up the Stuart
Highway to stay at Cadney Park roadhouse
and drive the 93 km (58 miles) east to the
Painted Desert on a road so rough we took
nearly three hours to get there.
Leave enough time to explore the Painted
Desert – vantage points overlook the impressive
panorama of eroded rock formations,
sweeping plains and roads heading east to
Oodnadatta and west to Cadney Homestead.
It’s a wild, remote landscape showcasing
the Outback’s vast distances and hidden
surprises – and also the courage and tenacity
it takes to run a station out here. Camp at
the Arckaringa Homestead, a few kilometres
from the easternmost lookout in the Painted
Desert, and return for some stunning sunset
shots. It’s a long way to anywhere from here,
so check with the locals for the optimum
tyre pressure to avoid punctures - it’ll be a lot
lower then you think!
Travel during the Australian late winter
and early spring (June-September) to avoid
the heat – and possibly see the stunning
Sturts Desert Pea, South Australia’s state
The South Australian outback is full of
rewards for intrepid travellers who make the
effort to journey deep into its arid lands and
far beyond the tourist hot spots.
After experiencing its wide open spaces,
quirky towns, outback sunsets, panoramic
views and treasures of the earth, you just
might find yourself planning your return!
Marion Halliday blogs as
“Australia by Red Nomad OZ” at
Follow Marion @rednomadoz on Twitter,
Pinterest, Linked, and Flickr.
Buy her book: “Aussie Loos with Views!” at
Amazon.com, eBay and at
William Creek Township Coober Pedy warning sign Coober Pedy Catacombs Church
Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre
Contribution • Australia | 123
9 Intrepid Places to Visit in 2020
Anytime is a good time to plan upcoming travels, though the most difficult question is always “where to travel”. Among the key drivers
of such a decision are current exchange rates and speed of development and destruction. Mass tourism is rapidly expanding around
the world, and so is global warming which is having a decimating effect on the glaciers and small island nations. It is a race against
time to get to relatively untouched destinations before it is too late. Here are 9 highly recommended places to visit during the next year.
You want to see Antarctica but it is way too expensive. You thought
about the North Pole but that is just not doable with your stamina
and budget. Consider the Svalbard Islands, the Norwegian archipelago
that is just over 1,000 kilometres (621 mi) south of the North
Pole. While you won’t see the penguins of Antarctica, you may see
polar bears and other wildlife such as whales and seals.
Unlike Antarctica, you can independently travel to Svalbard, book
your own flights and accommodation and take day tours or even
multi-day tours. You just can’t hike the hills by yourself as by law you
must be with a licensed rifleman when outside of any settlement.
Goroka Sing-Sing Festival
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
The Hermit Kingdom
The annual Goroka Sing-Sing Festival, held during August and
September in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, is one of the
most colourful festivals in the world. However, this is not a budgetfriendly
destination. Flights to Papua New Guinea are expensive, as
are domestic flights. Hotels in the capital, Port Moresby, are excessively
expensive and low value for money. Port Moresby is also a
dangerous city and travellers are highly recommended not to leave
the hotel without a security guard. Walking around the city at night is
highly risky and must be avoided.
However, the Highlands are quite different. Festival participants are
generally friendly towards the few international visitors and always
ready to pose for cameras while wearing their colourful festival gear.
It is also possible to take guided hiking trips and stay with the locals.
Forget about being “politically correct” as this would mean there are
many countries you would not visit. Be engaged and get a first-hand
experience of life in strange places. Isn’t that what travel is all about?
Visiting North Korea is an eye-opener. While you may not get the
opportunity to meet with locals in the countryside, you will have
ample freedom to talk with the locals on the streets, but only if you
speak Korean. English is rare among the North Koreans although
some in Pyongyang do speak a little You will quickly realise that
the North Koreans are people just like all of us. The major difference
is that they have been brainwashed by their government,
which in itself is not so unique. The country has many interesting
attractions, in particular the architecture. Museums and their exhibits
are meticulously designed and displayed.
124 Globerovers · December 2019
Albania was closed-off to outsiders for a
long time. Since it opened up during the
early 1990s, many tourists overlooked
Albania and chose to spend their holidays
in nearby Greece, Montenegro and
Iran has an uncertain future and the
sooner you visit this amazing country, the
better. While Iran has so many places of
great interest, and friendly people, one
of the most photogenic locations is the
mountain village of Masuleh.
Along the southwest Pacifi c coast of
Costa Rica, on the Osa Peninsula, lies
one of the most remote national parks in
the Americas. Corcovado National Park is
hard to reach but once you arrive you will
not want to leave.
Times are changing fast and Albania’s
share of the region’s tourist arrivals is
steadily increasing. Tourism and development
of the beautiful coastline of Albania
will continue to grow, along with the negative
impacts of mass tourism. Visit soon
before the masses arrive!
Located in the northwest of the country,
Masuleh was founded in the 10th century
AD and nowadays has a population of
about 500 which declines in winter and
increases dramatically in summer. Here
the kids’ playgrounds are the roofs of the
homes directly below theirs. Incredible!
Here you will find pristine waters and jungles.
Look out for ample wildlife including
the endangered Baird’s tapir, the American
crocodile and spectacled caiman, the
jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi, puma, two-toed
and three-toed sloth, collared peccary,
northern tamandua and the silky anteater.
Southern Cambodia is blessed with
turquoise coastal waters and beautiful
beaches. However, as the Chinese
resort and casino operators move in,
they have destroyed much of the laidback
atmosphere in the region’s largest
town, Sihanoukville. Development of the
tranquil islands is also a work in progress.
Now is the time to visit this region before
it changes beyond recognition.
Choose between several islands, including
Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem, Koh
Ta Kiev, Koh Russei, and Koh Tonsay.
The Kingdom of Lesotho is an enclaved
country within the borders of South Africa
with a population of around 2 million. The
country is known for its natural beauty, in
particular the Maluti (or Maloti) mountain
range, part of the 1,000 km (600 mi) long
Drakensberg system that stretches down
the eastern part of South Africa in a northeastern
Snow falls in the mountains, and there’s a
ski resort named Afriski. Almost all residents
are of the Basotho tribe, living mostly
in the highlands in their traditional huts.
Azerbaijan is a fascinating country with a
long rich history. However, the country is
developing fast which means that many of
its historic attractions are being demolished
to make way for modern development.
Along the Caspian Sea, 62 km (38 mi) to
the south of the nation’s capital Baku, is
one of the country’s most bizarre attractions.
The Qobustan State Reserve offers
prehistoric rock carvings, a natural musical
stone, and is home to about 300 of the
planet’s estimated 700 mud volcanoes.
Some of these occasionally spew fl ames!
Corcovado, Costa Rica
Located on Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula
along the Pacific Ocean, Corcovado National
Park was dubbed by National Geographic as
“the most biologically intense place on Earth
in terms of biodiversity.”
At 424 square kilometres (164 square miles),
Corcovado is the largest national park in Costa Rica and
protects about a third of the Osa Peninsula. It is also the
largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline.
Here you will find an impressively diverse array
of 13 major ecosystems including lowland rain forest,
highland cloud forest, jolillo forest (palm swamp),
mangrove swamps, as well as coastal marine and
beach habitats. The park is home to an impressive 500
tree species, 400 species of birds (including 16 different
hummingbirds and the largest number of scarlet
macaws anywhere in Central America), more than
100 species of butterflies, at least 10,000 species of
other insects, 28 species of lizards, 40 species of frogs,
many species of snakes, as well as mammals such as
the Baird’s tapir, the rare harpy eagle, scarlet macaws,
jaguar, puma, red-backed squirrel monkeys, sloths,
white-lipped peccaries, and the list goes on and on.
Come hike and camp here but be warned that the
place can get wet, and is remote and very rugged. You
will often have to walk waist-deep through rivers, but
feel free to swim under the waterfalls surrounded by
the verdure of the rainforest. Water from the falls is
crystal clear, so feel free to drink.
Corcovado has about 39 kilometres (23 mi) of deserted
golden sand beaches lined with coconut palms.
Here you will only be disturbed by the occasional colossal
monitor lizard scavenging the beaches for morsels
from the sea. While swimming in the sea, be on the
126 Globerovers · December 2019
Corcovado is one of the most remote national parks in the
Americas and is home to pristine waters and a jungle
TEEMING WITH EXOTIC WILDLIFE.
lookout for hammerhead sharks, crocodiles, and bull
sharks which are common in Corcovado Lagoon and the
estuaries of the Ríos Claro and Sirena.
Note that over the last few years, new regulations
have come into action. Visitors are no longer allowed to
explore the park without a guide. There are also strict
regulations in place in terms of where to sleep and how
to behave in the park.
Entering the park from the south is best done by
taking a boat from Golfito across the gulf to Puerto Jiménez.
From here arrange the necessary permits at the
Osa Conservation Area administrative headquarters.
Permits in hand, get a ride on a four-wheel-drive
or the back of a pickup truck to Carate on the Pacific
Coast. From Carate you can walk on the beach and
through the jungle to La Leona Ranger Station 2
kilometres (1.2 mi), or to Sirena Ranger Station 15
kilometres (9 mi) along Playa Madrigal beach. From
Sirena Ranger Station it is possible to exit the park via
San Pedrillo and Drake Bay to the north.
Corcovado does not play games. If you want to visit
planet earth’s “most biologically intense place”, be
well prepared and be tough. There are many dangerous
animals in this dense tropical jungle. Come out
alive and it will be an experience you will never forget!
Photo Essay • Costa Rica | 127
Corcovado, Costa Rica
Coastline along the hike to Sirene Ranger Station.
The road from Puerto Jiménez to Carate by the
sea, where the long beach hike starts.
Shopping along the beach hike.
The Sirene Ranger Station where hikers can sleep in
dormitories or camp in tents.
Backpackers bonding at the
Sirene Ranger Station.
128 Globerovers · December 2019
The only way to get to the ranger station (and hopefully find a
bed), is to walk on the beach. Some do it donkey-style.
Beach along the hike to Sirene Ranger Station.
Photo Essay • Costa Rica | 129
Red-eyed leaf frog.
Red-eyed leaf frog.
130 Globerovers · December 2019
Corcovado, Costa Rica
Green Basilisk lizard.
Common Basilisk lizard (male).
Common Basilisk lizard (female).
Photo Essay • Costa Rica | 131
Corcovado, Costa Rica
Brown-throated three-toed sloth.
White faced capuchin monkey.
132 Globerovers · December 2019
Brown-throated three-toed sloth.
Photo Essay • Costa Rica | 133
134 Globerovers · December 2019
Canada’s Wild and Beautiful
Words and Photos by Yrene Dee,
a Lumby (British Columbia, Canada)
based writer and adventurer.
The side-trip to Fort Resolution,
the Chipewyan and
Métis town on the south
shore of Great Slave Lake, was one of
the highlights of my trip to the Northwest
Territories this summer. It was
not only the beautiful town itself that
captured my heart, but it also was
the wonderful people I met during my
This tiny, remote community of
570 residents seems to be a forgotten
destination on the tourist trail.
I stopped to get gasoline in Hay River
the day before and mentioned my intention
to visit Fort Resolution to the cashier
behind the desk. He just shrugged his
shoulders: “Fort Res, waste of time” he
muttered, “nothing there”.
I didn’t let myself get off the hook
so quickly. One purpose of my northern
road trip was to visit all of Northwest
Territories small communities
with access roads.
It’s hard to imagine what it is like
living in a remote northern community,
surrounded by wilderness with hardly
any people. The majority of southerners,
as well as the rest of the world,
know little about what life is like in
The 84 kilometres (52 mi) tour to
Fort Resolution from the Fort Smith
Highway junction seemed to be a
small price to pay to find out what this
place was all about. And I’m glad I did.
Not many travellers venture this
way and it’s easy to miss. Like other
roads in the Northwest Territories, Fort
Resolution Highway 6 takes you to
where the road runs out; it takes you
to a magic place.
Historic Fort Resolution is situated
in the South Slave Region of the
Northwest Territories, in the land of
waterfalls and wonders. The region
includes the glorious deep freshwater
Great Slave Lake, North America’s
second deepest lake. It is also the
gateway to wildlife and sanctuaries
with roaming herds of bison, endangered
whooping cranes and wolves at
Buffalo Provincial Park.
Fort Res, as it is called by locals,
is the oldest documented European
settlement in the Northwest Territories.
It was founded when the Hudson Bay
Company began trading for furs in the
First located at the mouth of the
Slave River, the hamlet was moved to
its present site in 1796. The first settlers
were Cree-Métis. By 1852 priests
arrived and established a mission and
a school. During the 1840s and 1850s,
Fort Resolution was the largest trading
post on Great Slave Lake.
Today trapping remains an important
way of life in the community,
together with commercial fishing and
I drove into the hamlet on a gor-
Boardwalk along the Great Slave Lake shore
Globerovers •· July December 2019 2019
geous sunny morning in June after
camping for a night at Little Buffalo
River Crossing Territorial Park, only 30
kilometres (19 mi) away,
Highway 6 is paved all the way to
Fort Resolution but it was a bumpy
ride. Roller coaster bumps are an effect
of melting permafrost on northern
The streets were empty and the
town looked sleepy when I arrived, but
not for long. I parked at the waterfront
and strolled along the sandy beach. A
man was walking his dog. Two others
walked over to me and asked whether
I needed help. By that time I was sure
that I was the only stranger in town.
Shortly after, I met Louis Balsillie,
the Chief of the hamlet. He answered
some questions I had and shared
insight about life in this remote northern
community. Additionally, he warned me
about bears on the boardwalk trail to
Mission Island, a 45-minute hike along
the lakeshore. Since bears don’t scare
me, I of course, hiked this beautiful trail,
enjoying deep blue skies and a stunning
lake views on a steaming hot day.
Mission Island is a piece of heaven
stretching out into Great Slave Lake.
It is connected to Fort Resolution by
a long boardwalk along calm, shallow
waters and rocky beaches stretching
as for as you can see. When I got to
Mission Island I felt like arriving in another
world. Log cabins and tipis with
information panels along the lakeshore
shaped the landscape telling the stories
of an era gone by.
According to Chief Louis Balsillie, today
the site is used for healing workshops
and cultural events for his community.
Chief Louis turned up shortly after
I started exploring this magical place,
once he saw that I arrived safely he
I left Fort Resolution late afternoon after
an extraordinary day and was thankful
that I drove to the end of the trail.
Fort Resolution is a place that will
tell you a story, and give you a story to
tell once you get home. If you venture
this way you will be left with special
I knew that my day’s adventure
wasn’t over yet as I left town and
headed to the abandoned site of Pine
Point located 45 minutes down the
highway. Pine Point was once among
the largest mining towns in the North
and all that is left today is an eerie
network of paved roads and sidewalks
The church at Mission Island
blending in with the wilderness.
I parked my car in the middle
of a street and stepped out onto
the cracked concrete. A few poplar
saplings had broken through the
pavement where I stood and reached
towards the bright sky. Looking around
me I could feel a kind of sadness and
nostalgia in the air. The town only
existed from 1964 until 1988. All that’s
left today is a story about people’s
lives, tragedy and the hard truth of a
Roman Catholic Church
The calm waters of Great Slave Lake
The only original building left
at Mission Island
Yrene is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in
Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and travelled the
world before she settled in Canada. She is an entrepreneur, wilderness
nut, and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places.
Follow Yrene on Twitter @backcountrycana, Facebook @ backcountrycanada, and
Contribution • Canada |137
Ta st yTraveller's Treats
Authentic, affordable, clean food is every traveller’s dream.
Enjoy these tasty morsels from far-away places.
138 Globerovers · December 2019
Macau Hong Kong
Colombia Indonesia Albania
Oman South Africa
Japan Timor Leste
140 Globerovers · December 2019
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” ~ Oscar Wilde
To pay or not to pay...
By Claire Bennett, Learning Service
Claire lives and works in Kathmandu, Nepal, and freelances
as a trainer and consultant. She is passionate about global
education, ethical travel and ensuring good intentions are
put to good use.
Claire recently released her book: Learning Service: The
Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad.
For more information about volunteering, visit
this was limiting the organization in terms
of how many volunteers we could host as
we couldn’t meet their costs. Volunteers
now have to pay a small contribution for
the accommodation that they stay in (this
doesn’t actually cover the full cost and is far
less than rent in their own country), and a
one-off contribution that goes towards the
costs of recruiting and hosting them.”
The much-debated topic in volunteer
travel is “to pay or not to
pay”. On the surface, paying a
fee to volunteer can seem like a
contradiction in terms—if you are already
offering your time for free and covering
your expenses, why should you also have
to pay? However, the learning service approach
emphasizes that you, as a volunteer,
are a major beneficiary of the process.
Volunteers are not free—it takes a lot
of time, capacity, and money to create and
support a great volunteer experience. The
costs might include marketing and recruitment
costs for the organization to attract
the right volunteers, staff to vet partners
and provide pre- and post-placement support,
and all the in-country costs of hosting
One volunteer hosting organization
said, “Initially volunteers didn’t have to pay
anything, but we realized after a while that
The biggest piece of advice that we have
at Learning Service is to find out how the
volunteer fees are used. Fees may go to the
sending organization to cover the costs of
placing you in a volunteer role, to the local
organization directly to host you, or both.
The fee may include a charitable donation
for the cause you are volunteering to
support. It may also include a large profit
margin for a company. A downside to the
spread of fee-charging placements is that
unscrupulous organizations take on more
volunteers simply for financial gain, even
when there are no roles for them.
So in addition to finding out where
your funds are going, ask questions to find
out if your role really is needed. When you
have the answer and the fee breakdown,
you can reflect on the value for money it
represents and your opinion on the ethics
of the income distribution.
142 Globerovers · December 2019
There are ways to volunteer that
do not require a placement fee. Some
matching portals intentionally do not
exchange money with hosting organizations
in the belief that this helps ensure that
volunteers are valued and needed, and not
relied on to generate funds. Some of the
larger government-funded or faith-based
organizations cover volunteer expenses or
even provide a living stipend.
If you do not pay a volunteer fee, think
about who is subsidizing the costs associated
with your placement. It may be you,
taking more time to research and set up
logistics yourself, or the organization overseas
might be taking on extra costs because
they need your skills.
Being aware of all the resources and
time that go into your volunteer placement
and how those might be covered will help
you make the right decision about whether
to pay a placement fee or not.
A final word of warning: it is not
the case that the more you pay, the better
quality the service. We spoke with many
volunteers who paid a lot of money for
their placement and ended up dissatisfied,
often because they had assumed that their
money was going towards things that it was
Not all fee-charging placements have
effective policies for selecting partners or
matching needs, and not all of them offer
much support for volunteers or for partners.
Sometimes none of the money you
pay even reaches the country where you
The bottom line is that good organizations,
for a fee, can do a lot of the logistical
legwork required to provide you with a
positive experience, while the worst organizations
might take your money in profit
and yet still leave you in a disorganized and
poorly planned volunteer placement.
This article is an edited extract from Learning
Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad,
written by Claire Bennett, Joseph Collins, Zahara
Heckscher and Daniela Papi-Thornton.
Learning Service: The Essential
Guide to Volunteering Abroad
is full of advice on how to volunteer
abroad ethically. It is available to
buy from Amazon.
Contribution • Volunteering | 143
Po st c a r ds
My first postcard comes
from a church standing on
the shores of a beautiful
caldera lake on a remote
Atlantic Ocean island!
This is the Chapel of
Nossa Senhora das
Vitórias in Furnas, São
Miguel Island, Azores,
PORTUGAL. This privately
owned church was
inaugurated in 1886. The
owner is buried inside.
Salut my loving Mom,
It is freezing cold in the
of Canada. Yesterday we
had lots of snow so today
I’m having so much fun.
Look at this nice ice slide
right next to the iconic
Hotel Fairmont Le Château
Frontenac in Quebec City,
CANADA. Mom, this
is so much fun, I’m going
down again. Love ya, Lizzy
I’m in a country totally
enclaved by Italy. It is very
small and located high on
top of a mountain. This
is the Castello Della
Cesta, SAN MARINO.
The country is also known
as “Most Serene Republic
of San Marino”. Haha
144 Globerovers · December 2019
to ommby ... Lizzy
I am where the pasta and
the wines are the best.
You know I love Italian
wine since I spent time in
Tuscany in 1996. These
towers were built between
the 12th and the 13th
century. They are called
The Leaning Towers
of Bologna - Asinelli
(tallest) and Garisenda
Tower (leaning), ITALY.
Mom, I’m drunk. Love, Liz
This is the Ribeira Waterfront in Porto, PORTUGAL
I love it so much here because the wine is very affordable
and so good! I’m now so tipsy. Luv, Lizzy
Sawasdee kaaaaaa Mom,
I’m sorry about this not-sofamily-friendly
photo on this
postcard. These monkeys
tried to impress me with
their tricks. They are
Macaques at the Phra
Prang Sam Yod Temple,
Postcards to Mommy |
More Postcards to Mommy
I am celebrating the New
Year Festival in Nagaland,
is a very remote part of
the world and not far
from the India border. The
people here are still very
traditional and so friendly.
Love you, Lizzy
Lovely old house in Cahuita, COSTA RICA.
This rustic village is along the Caribbean Sea and
gateway to the Cahuita National Park. Luv, Lizzy
I’m in the jungle in search
of exotic wildlife. Just as
I was walking down a
tiny path I saw a Twotoed
Sloth, in Cahuita
National Park, COSTA
RICA. The sloths are so
cute hanging upside down.
I also saw lots of wildlife.
146 Globerovers · December 2019
... by Lizzy
From Albania I took a ferry and now I have great views over the old
city from the Old Fortress, Corfu town on Corfu Island, GREECE.
Corfu Island is an interesting island and the old town has lots to see.
I am standing in front of the Iglesia de San Jerónimo,
Masaya, NICARAGUA. It was built in 1928 but badly
damaged in the earthquake of 2000.
My donkey cart is waiting Mom, Lizzy
Last night I walked through
the streets in search of
a place to eat, then I met
a dutch woman and a
Swedish and a Dutch guy.
They convinced me to
hike up the active Volcan
Island, Lake Nicaragua,
It took 5 hours to hike up
and 5.5 to get down. Mom
I almost died! Was very hot
and windy at the top.
Your crazy daughter Lizzy.
Postcards to Mommy | 147
A GlobeRovers Q&A with the “Nomad Revelations” travel blogger at : www.joaoleitao.com
João Leitão of joaoleitao.com
João Leitão is a travel blogger that writes
about exciting journeys into more than
130 countries across Africa, Antarctica,
Asia, Europe, North to South America
and Oceania. Portuguese expat living
in Morocco since 2006, Joao loves to
indulge himself into other cultures and
learn about their languages and deep
traditional values. Although he travels by
all means of transportation, João has a
notorious passion for driving. The ability
to decide where to go to and where to
stop, makes him have a full sense of freedom
while on the road and on his own.
• Turkey » Historically rich and diverse, amazing food and
• Portugal » My home country, full of history, great food, humble
people and the country in Europe with more heritage per
• Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan »
This mountain region gets my attention due to the incredible
landscapes and a very specific culture.
• Brazil » Friendly people, good food, incredibly diverse, the
Amazon regions and the Portuguese heritage architecture
spread all around its territory.
GlobeRovers (GR): We talked with João Leitão about his travels
and started by asking how many countries he has visited.
João Leitão (JL): As of September 2019, I have visited 127 UN
countries but also about 20 non-recognized countries or autonomous
territories spread around the globe. Just recently that I actually
started counting how many countries I’ve been because that was
never my intent. I would have finished all the countries in the world
if I wouldn’t repeat my trips and always come back to the places
I really like in order to explore in-depth. Mauritania I’ve been 7
times, Uzbekistan 5 times, Turkey 14 times, etc, etc.
GR: What are your top 5 most preferred countries for leisure travel?
JL: Tough question but here’s my top 5:
• Morocco » A colorful exotic kingdom full of welcoming and
positive people, with ancient history and landscape diversity.
GR: Which is your most preferred country for travel and why?
JL: Morocco is my top favorite country to travel to. Although I live
and work in Morocco for more than 12 years, every day I feel that
I’m on the road. The colors, the smiling people, the rich gastronomy,
the breathtaking landscapes and above all is the safety and
feeling welcomed by Moroccan people on a daily basis.
GR: Where do you wish you were right now?
JL: At this moment, I am where I want to be. I’m home, in Ouarzazate,
GR: Among those countries you have not yet visited, which ones
are at the top of your “must do” list?
JL: Realistically, at this moment I can say I’ve been to all the places
I really wanted to visit, that is why I often return to the same places
instead of making new countries just for the sake of having another
number added to my list. I would like to return and explore more
Turkey, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Russia. I would like to visit Syria
148 Globerovers · December 2019
GR: If you could spend the rest of your life somewhere other
than your current home country, which country would that be?
JL: I’m an expat in Morocco since 2006. I also lived more than halfyear
in countries such as Poland, the USA, Finland, Turkey, and
After I finished university, and following a strong impulse, I moved
to the Sahara Desert with no plans. I just went looking for a place
where I really wanted to be. The rest happened naturally. Nowadays
I have a hotel and a travel agency in the city of Ouarzazate.
Living abroad is very rewarding because we can really immerse
ourselves in a certain culture through daily living with the local
people. Personally, and as I love learning languages, I always make
an effort of improving or learning more about a country language.
GR: Please tell us about the most incredible and memorable
experience you have ever had while travelling?
JL: Never a country I visited left me indifferent. I would go back to
all the countries I’ve been to. That is, everywhere left a mark in me
in their own way.
At this point, and after 20 years on the road, there are so many
memorable experiences that it is kind of hard to put a list together.
But just to mention a few: 1-year 4x4 campervan trip around
Central Asia and the Middle East; the Galapagos archipelago; few
months crossing the Amazon by boat from the Atlantic all the way
to Peru and Ecuador; an Antarctica expedition below the 66º; Egypt
to Sudan by boat up the Nile River; hitchhiking in the Jammu and
Kashmir mountainous region; road trip from Ecuador “Mitad del
Mundo” all the way to Ushuaia “Fin del Mundo”. Etc etc...
GR: Where was the biggest cultural shock you have ever experienced
while traveling and why?
JL: I have never been overwhelmed and culturally shocked during
my travels. Although visiting Mosul city in Iraq just a few months
after its liberation was a bit depressing especially due to the smell of
4000 rotten corpses inside the destroyed old city. The three years of
war with ISIS left devastating marks in Mosul, and both its historical
heritage and its people suffered irreplaceable losses.
GR: What is the most challenging destination you have ever
visited and why?
JL: Possibly crossing some parts of South Sudan and the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, where I had to be escorted by the UN
blue helmets after having some unfortunate encounter with local
people armed with machetes. Furthermore, on the trip, I got myself
into a Congolese hospital with Malaria. The whole story is very
complex, but basically it can be resumed to this.
GR: Based on your travel experiences, if you were to recommend
the one most amazing destination for intrepid travellers, which
place would that be, and why?
JL: Maybe the Yemeni Hadhramaut region which I had the pleasure
of visiting last year. Morocco due to its landscape variety and exotic
vibes, and of course Iran where I had the pleasure to spend four
months on three different trips.
GR: Which people by nationality or subgroup would you say
have been the most hospitable during your travels and why do
you say so?
JL: Without a doubt, all ethnicities inside Morocco, Iran, Turkey,
Afghanistan, and the Russian North Caucasian Federal District’s
autonomous republics. In all these countries and in many occasions,
people get kind of anxious-stressed-sad, if they can’t take you home,
feed you and really welcome you to their home to meet their family.
GR: Let’s get a bit more personal. Do you have any “must take”
items when you travel that you think most travellers don’t think of?
JL: I travel very light never passing 7-10kg of luggage. For a long
time, I exchanged my heavy photo equipment for a good quality
mobile phone. Amazing.
GR: What are the travel apps you use most often while traveling
and why do you find them so useful?
JL: “Maps.me” is very useful to pinpoint offline destinations and
visited places. “Travel Money” app is an easy way of tracking your
expenses while on the road.
GR: Let’s talk about food. Which one country that you visited
has the best food in the world?
JL: For my personal preferences, Turkey and China have the best
food. I turned vegetarian around 14 or 15 years old, so without
a doubt that those two countries make me feel I could get fat if I
stayed longer. In fact, last time I was in Turkey for 2.5 months, I got
an incredible extra 5 kg in weight.
GR: Where was the best meal you have ever had during your
JL: All the meals in any food court in China; Turkish side dishes
and desserts; Moroccan beans, bissara soup, and vegetable couscous;
Best chocolate mousse in Potosí, Bolivia. Best fava beans
breakfast stew in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Yemen. Palestinian and
Israeli falafel and humous are very tasty also.
GR: What is the weirdest place you have ever spent a night?
JL: Wild camping in the middle of the Mauritanian Sahara Desert
and waking up being surrounded by armed people in 4x4 circling
me at high speed; Switching on the light in a cheap hotel in
Honduras and watching thousands of cockroaches fleeing the room
giving the surreal vision as if the walls were moving.
GR: Based on all your travel experiences, what is the best tip you
can offer to new travellers?
JL: There are two types of travelers: those who make their path and
those who follow the already beaten paths.
I would start to say that they shouldn’t waste much time reading
other people’s blogs, because consequently they will make other
people’s dream trips, and never being able to follow your own
Nowadays, people are not looking for their own adventures. People
follow the travels of others. The dreams of others. The adventures
of others. And the places where others took that picture posted on
GR: What is the single best lesson you have learned about the
world during your travels?
JL: Traveling means exploring the unknown. I don’t really travel to
discover myself since at every stage of my life I knew what I wanted,
or the goals I desire to achieve.
I travel to see new things, meet different people and cultures. Basically,
I think I travel to broaden my horizons. That’s it. I get great
satisfaction from being on the road, especially when I have a bit of
adventure on the go.
150 Globerovers · December 2019
During traveling I learned that we all smile, cry, love our family
and like to eat, have fun and enjoy life. Travel can truly reinforce
and challenge our convictions greater than any experience. We are
pushed to the limit in understanding humans.
GR: What is the main focus of your travels?
JL: I like to focus on people, history, and nature. I somehow have
a preference for dusty and warm countries, so it is fantastic to be
able to visit an ancient desert city with friendly people. I like to visit
UNESCO World Heritage Sites that I now count 329 in total. I love
petroglyphs and castles.
GR: You have a popular travel blog and you have a strong social
media following. Some posts are much liked and reposted while
others are not. What do you think makes a travel post popular?
JL: What makes a post popular, is how often and how high it appears
on Google searches. The higher you rank in a search engine,
the more visitors you will get and consequently the more shares you
will get on social media. It doesn’t matter what kind of destination
you have, because there are enough Internet users to share everything
you wrote about. You just need to make yourself noticed.
GR: Travel bloggers who visit intrepid, off-the-beaten-track destinations,
or secret city spots, often have a hard time deciding on
whether they should keep the secret, or broadcast it to the world
to gain lots of attention and new followers (and likely change
that secret location and its people’s lives forever). What are your
thoughts on this? Should we keep the secrets?
JL: I do understand your point. From the start that I blog to share
information so that people can freely explore places that usually
thought to be accessible. But quickly I understood, that people
started to make my trips, instead of making their own trips. Nowadays,
most people dream to make the trips that other bloggers
make, instead of searching for their own adventures. So sometimes
that hidden special place will stop being so secret and special.
GR: Where are you off to next?
JL: I had nothing scheduled for 2019, and also nothing in mind for
2020. I’m just enjoying being home at the moment. I returned from
a two-year trip so I’m kind of OK not being on the road soon.
GR: And finally, let us do a few rapid-fire questions...
• Favorite airline? TAP, QATAR, EMIRATES.
• Favorite cities? Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Lisbon, Khiva, Yazd,
Istanbul, etc etc
• Favorite village? So many really...
• Favorite beach? All nice and non-polluted sandy beaches.
• Beach or mountain? Both.
• Couch or camping? Camping.
• Bus or train? Both.
• The best words to describe yourself? A curious-silly-polyglot-visual
artist from Portugal living in Morocco, that enjoys
a bit of adventure travel.
GR: Thanks João for sharing your travel wisdom with us. Safe
travel sand keep up with your blog and social media posts to
inspire people to travel and experience the world.
If you ever visit Ouarzazate, stay at João’s
beautiful guest house, Dar Rita. He also
operates RJ Travel Agency to help you plan
your Moroccan adventures.
Follow João Leitão
GlobeRovers Magazine (GM): What, in a nutshell, is this book
Adam Rogers (AR): The Intrepid Traveler is part travelogue, part
travel guide—to anywhere on earth you can imagine going. It
is about traveling to explore and experience what is beyond the
horizons—the horizons “out there” and those that lie within us.
It is my vision that through increased travel and a greater understanding
of the world in which we live, that the world will become
a better place. Global peace and global stability can only come
through global understanding. Understanding comes through
connecting and interacting. Connecting and interacting is what
we should do when we travel.
GM: What inspired you to write this book?
Now available at
Amazon.com, Goodreads.com and
many other online and offline retailers
Globerovers Magazine talks with Adam Rogers about his
new revised (3rd edition) book: The Intrepid Traveler.
Adam is a peripatetic writer and explorer who has been
on the road for most of the past 40 years. He is the author
of numerous books including The Intrepid Traveler,
Taking Action, The Earth Summit and The No Mammal
Manifesto: Diet for a new and more sustainable world.
AR: The first edition of this book emerged from a five-year,
around-the-world odyssey that brought me to 50 countries on less
than 100 dollars a month. At that time, the only plan I had was to
leave my home in the northern Yukon Territory of Canada and
Palmyra, Syria, 1984
The Intrepid Traveler
by Adam Rogers
Visit Adam‛s website at www.adamrogers.online
and follow him on Twitter at @adamrogers2030
and on Instagram @ g.adamrogers
keep traveling east until I would end up in the west. When I left, I
thought I could do it in one year, but it ended up taking much longer.
The book was an attempt to both share my experiences and
impart some advice—of situations to seek, and others to avoid.
GM: Why had so much time passed between the 2nd and 3rd
AR: Not long after the 2nd edition came out, I joined the United
Nations in 1996 and worked there for 22 years. During that time
I was not allowed to published books under my name without
clearance—and in any case I was always too busy writing and
photographing for them. When I took early retirement in 2018, I
knew it was time for a long-overdue update.
While the 1st and 2nd editions were written with the backpacker
in mind – the “traveler” as opposed to the “tourist,” this new
edition expands that understanding to focus on the attitude one
brings to the travel experience. Whether a budget traveler or
Fortune 500 jetsetter, whether you are 18 or 80 years old and travel
with a backpack, a duffel bag or a suitcase, the message is to avoid
“doing” a country and to instead focus on “experiencing” it.
GM: If you could summarize your travel advice in one phrase,
what would it be?
AR: If I had to summarize my travel philosophy in one phrase, it
would be to make sure that our first memories of a travel experience
are not of things we can see on a postcard, or watch on TV.
Our first travel memories should be of the people we
met while there, of conversations and experiences
we shared with them. By all means, see the Egyptian
pyramids; hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; and
walk on the Great Wall of China, and climb the Eiffel
Tower. But hang out in a local café away from the
tour buses and talk to the descendants of the people
who built those monuments; get to know a family
running an AirBnB; learn local history from your
taxi driver, or take a language lesson from a local
teacher. I always find that the time spent getting to
know the local people is in direct proportion to the
depth and enjoyment of the travel experience—and
152 Globerovers · December 2019
N’Guigmi, Niger, 1999
Dakar Senegal, 1983
every travel experience is as unique and extraordinary as the
In the history of this world there has never been a better time to
explore and never a greater need for increased awareness of the
principles and practices of responsible, ethical, sustainable, and
experiential travel. I really hope that my book can both entertain
and inspire experienced travelers and also encourage people who
have not hitherto done so, to get a passport and set out to explore
those places they have always heard about, and make new friends
while they are there.
GM: How many countries have you visited and what is your
AR: When I started travelling I kept count of countries like a
badge of honour, or notches in my belt. But with time I saw it gets
complicated to keep track. Plus, when you go back to the same
place after ten years, it can be a completely different place. I have
been to both Upper Volta and Burkina Faso – does that count for
two or one? When you are in Israel, you are also in Palestine—
does that count for two?
As for a favourite country, I can not really say I have one—but I do
have a favourite planet.
GM: Do you still have a bucket list after 40 years of exploring
AR: Yes, actually, I do have a bucket list and I am starting to make
plans now that I have a bit more time. The Camino Santiago is at
the top of the list, as are the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan,
the trans-Siberian railway and Mount Vinson, the highest peak in
Antarctica. The challenge with bucket lists is that the closer you
get to checking everything off, new things keep appearing on the
list. And that is how it should be for an Intrepid Traveler.
GM: Thank you Adam. I really enjoyed this book and it offered
me a lot of advice for my own future travels.
In a future issue...
The Cambodian islands in the Gulf of Thailand have long been ignored by most
travellers who tend to flock to neighbouring Thailand. Cambodia’s islands are known
for their lapis-blue waters, jungle-clad interior, swaths of white sand beaches, and
bioluminescent plankton that glows at night. We travelled along the southern coast to
explore the beaches of Ochheuteal and Otres, the colonial towns of Kampot and Kep,
and a few unspoiled idyllic islands including Tonsay, Russei, Rong, and Rong Sanloem.
Tibet - The Roof of the World
Tibet stretches over 2.5 million square kilometres (965,000 sq mi), located south
of China. Here you will find the vast Tibetan Plateau, a region of mountains and
stunning scenery that is generally above 4,000 to 5,000 metres (13,100 to 16,400
ft) in elevation. Tibet is also a land of monks, known as the Bhikkhu, with ample
monasteries they call home. This remote land is often called “The roof of the world”
officially known as the Tibet (Xizang) Autonomous Region (TAR) of China.
Russia’s Lake Baikal
Located in southern Russia’s Siberia, the long crescent-shaped Lake Baikal is the
world’s largest freshwater lake by volume, containing almost a quarter of the world’s
fresh surface water. As the world’s deepest lake, with some of the clearest waters,
Lake Baikal contains more water than the five large North American Great Lakes
combined. The lake is even more impressive during the bitterly cold winters when it
freezes up to 1.5 metres thick, creating an incredible landscape.
Latvia of the Balkans
Latvia, annexed and occupied by the U.S.S.R. since June 1940, declared its independence
on August 21, 1991. Since then, this Baltic country which is squeezed between
Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south, has increasingly attracted intrepid
travellers with its pristine natural attractions, imposing castles, fortresses, and its
many religious buildings. We explore the cosmopolitan capital Rīga as well as Sigulda,
Turaida, Cēsis, Rundāle, and Bauska. An intriguing country worth a visit.
Brazil’s Paradise Beaches
Brazil is well known for its beautiful beaches. With a coastline stretching for over 7,491
km (4,650 mi) along the South Atlantic Ocean, Brazil has more beaches than we can
count. Its tropical climate and sunlight ensure that beach bums can get a bronze tan
while enjoying the warm surf. We travel from Salvador da Bahia, one of the oldest colonial
cities in the Americas, south along the coast to the beaches of Arraial d’Ajuda and
Trancoso, then onwards to the tropical Ilha Grande Island, and end in Rio de Janeiro.
Myanmar’s Southern Coastline
The coastline from Yangon to Kawthaung, the southernmost town in Myanmar, is
rugged, unspoiled, and undeveloped. While the distance by road is well over 1,000
km (620 mi), much of this road just recently opened up for foreigners. Tourist
infrastructure such as transport and accommodation remain sparse, but the situation
is poised to change in the near future. We travel by train, bus, minivan, and
motorbike, to explore the beautiful coastline devoid of tourists and touristy shops.
Palenque - Mexico’s Ancient Mayan Ruins
Located in the foothills of the Chiapas altiplano of modern Mexico, Palenque was
an important Maya city that flourished between about 600 to 750 AD. Known as
Lakamha by the Mayans, the Spanish colonists called it Palenque, meaning ‘fortified
place’. It is estimated that Palenque once had over 1,000 different structures and at
its peak was the most densely populated of all the Mayan cities. Come along as we
stroll around the ruins of this ancient city.
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