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The ultimate guide to packing light

Some would argue that overpacking is a rite of passage, but there is an easier way. Here are 12 tips for packing light.

I started our big trip across the South Pacific and South America with a 45-litre backpack weighing 13kg. Over the course of the trip, I managed to drop a fair bit of weight and get my bag down to 10kg. Evidently, I had failed in packing light from the start.

In some ways, overpacking is a rite of passage: you have to do it to learn how not to do it. Of course there is an easier way. By gleaning advice from other travellers and being strict with yourself, packing light will become far easier. Here’s where to start.

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Manyeleti Game Reserve: our first safari in South Africa

A safari in South Africa is said to be the ultimate wildlife watching experience. We went to Manyeleti Game Reserve to see for ourselves.

Our safari in South Africa was always going to be strange. Our expectations were buoyed by the myth and drama of this renowned destination but equally subdued by our safari in Namibia which was simply unsurpassable. With this in mind, we knew that South Africa would both delight and disappoint us.

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10 weird and wonderful sights in Cornwall

From Arthurian legends to dramatic moorlands, we share the best sights in Cornwall for a quintessential English break.

Cornwall may not be on par with diving in Djibouti or volcanoes in Vanuatu, but it holds a special place in my heart. It was in Cornwall that I took my first trip away from my parents (at the age of 10 on a school residential).

In fact, visiting Cornwall was my second holiday ever. I’d never been hiking, never been camping and had seldom seen a beach, so Cornwall was a complete novelty.

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a mother and her baby seen while visiting eswatini

Visiting Eswatini: why this tiny country blew my mind

Visiting Eswatini was never high on my bucket list. How utterly foolish of me.

I’m not going to lie: visiting Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) was a box-ticking exercise. Landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique, this dot on the map offered an opportunity for Peter to tick off another country in his quest to qualify for the Century Club.

I was less enthused. We had only 11 days to see South Africa and trying to squeeze in Lesotho and Eswatini seemed like a bit of a stretch. Peter insisted it could be done and so I begrudgingly said yes.

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Horse riding in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Horse riding in Monteverde prompts Kia to rethink a few things at home in the UK.

I was dubious about horse riding in Monteverde. I had been told that we wouldn’t be given helmets and that the local guides couldn’t speak English. The latter I could deal with, but the former was a problem.

I’ve caused myself a fair amount of damage by not wearing a helmet in the past. After falling off a horse in 2017, I promised myself to never ride without one. Still, I was keen to go riding in Costa Rica, so went to the stables to see for myself.

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Searching for sloths in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

With their sluggish limbs and camouflaged fur, sloths aren’t often easy to spot. We pinned our hopes on Manuel Antonio.

There were two animals we were keen to see on our National Geographic Expedition to Costa Rica: the red-eyed tree frog and the three-toed sloth.

The first was surprisingly obliging and we took a decent snap on mere day two of the tour. The sloth, however, remained elusive. The one we did spot by a roadside was barely discernible from the surrounding branches and left us eager for more.

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Santa Elena Cloud Forest in Costa Rica

Santa Elena Cloud Forest: a fairytale hike in Costa Rica

Santa Elena Cloud Forest was the highlight of our trip to Costa Rica. Here, we try to explain why.

If you Google ‘best things to do in Costa Rica’, it’s unlikely you’ll find Santa Elena Cloud Forest among the top results, which is strange given that it was the best part of our nine-day visit.

Had we been travelling independently, we may have skipped it entirely. As luck would have it, our National Geographic Expedition to Costa Rica included a visit to Santa Elena Cloud Forest as a core activity.

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monteverde cloud forest

Withering heights: saving Monteverde Cloud Forest

We visit Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica and learn that despite its visible vibrancy, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

In some ways, Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica is its own worst enemy. This dark and dripping place teems with life. Strangler figs tower above the forest floor, their trunks as sturdy as stone. Lush mosses and filmy ferns carpet the canopy in green while spindles of yellow justicia and vibrant red passiflora add a slash of colour.

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World’s most powerful passport 2019

Travelling can be a bureaucratic nightmare for those on restricted passports. Here we look at the best passport to have in 2019 based on the freedom it provides.

Ten years ago, in my first job after graduation, I shared an office with a researcher called Munir who I nicknamed Dr2 because he not only had a PhD but was also qualified as a medical doctor. (I recognise it’s not the wittiest name in the world but it was the best I could do at the time.)

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Costa Rica our first National Geographic Expedition frog

Costa Rica: our first National Geographic Expedition

Our trip to Costa Rica was a long time coming. Here’s why it was worth the wait.

I have a bit of a backstory when it comes to Costa Rica and it starts when I was nine years old. It was a perfectly ordinary morning that began with an assembly at my primary school in east London. The teacher on stage ran through some customary notices and then segued into a zany idea: the potential for a group of pupils to travel to Costa Rica as part of an environmental initiative. The chosen ones would live and study in Costa Rica for four weeks to learn about global environmental challenges and solutions.

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Driving the hairpinned Sani Pass to Lesotho

Sani Pass is said to be one of the most dangerous mountain passes in the world. We decided to drive it on our overnight tour to Lesotho.

Sometimes, I feel jealous of past explorers − not grandees like Cook or Magellan but everyday travellers that went somewhere and saw something not yet covered by Lonely Planet or indeed Atlas & Boots.

I imagine sultry Indian summers with endless corridors of uncharted possibility or China’s Hallelujah mountains, misty and deserted, and think how magical those times must have been. Continue reading

solo hiking tips: woman on a volcano

11 solo hiking tips for women

We ask six expert climbers, thru-hikers and trail runners to share their solo hiking tips for women who want to walk alone.

I’ve hiked all over the world, from challenging countries like Ethiopia and Lesotho to Pacific idylls like Rarotonga and Easter Island. I’ve done multi-day treks above 4,000 metres, day hikes under a scorching sun and gentle jaunts more like walks in the park. Throughout it all, there has been one constant factor: Peter.

I’ve said in the past that it’s sexist to assume I’m not adventurous and spoken about the lack of diversity in the outdoors, but have seldom hiked alone. Peter is a staunch advocate of solo hiking, but I’ve never attempted anything longer than half a day.

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Tracking leopards and cheetahs at Okonjima Nature Reserve, Namibia

We visit one of the world’s best places to see cheetahs and leopards: Okonjima Nature Reserve in Namibia.

I’ll be honest: in theory, I like the idea of staying at an eco lodge; in practice, however, I’m unenthused by the prospect of drop toilets, limp water pressure, poor ventilation that leaves everything a little damp, or open walls that grant entry to bugs. This might explain why I was sceptical about staying at Okonjima Nature Reserve in Namibia.

As stewards of conservation charity AfriCat, Okonjima is exactly the sort of place that might offer imperfect facilities under the banner of Doing Good. Continue reading

Back in the saddle: horse riding in Swakopmund, Namibia

After an injury in 2017, Kia decides that horse riding in Swakopmund is the perfect way to get back in the saddle.

Swakopmund is a strange little city. Known as Namibia’s adventure capital, it has a fittingly dramatic setting. On one side, a particularly ferocious Atlantic Ocean thrashes onto shore; on the other, the vast, sparse Namib Desert stretches in deadly threat. In between these startling scenes lies the city itself. Continue reading

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Atlas & Boots’ top 10 posts of 2018

From topical debates and trip reports to how-to guides and personal pieces, we publish a wide range of posts every year. Here’s our pick of 2018.

Well, this has been an eventful year. We kicked off 2018 with a month in Australia followed by a trip to New Zealand on commission for Lonely Planet as part of our Trailblazers partnership. We followed up with various projects for Lonely Planet including judging their flagship Best in Travel 2019 campaign and speaking at their Diversity in Travel Writing event in London. Continue reading

visiting kolmanskop namibia

Visiting Kolmanskop, the ghost town in the Namib Desert

Once a booming diamond town, Kolmanskop has long been abandoned to desert sands. We took a trip to its eerie scenes.

Our trip to Namibia was a long time coming. Almost two years ago, we published a list of the countries we most want to see. At the top of Peter’s list was Namibia, but due to family circumstances, we delayed the trip until we could commit a decent length of time. Finally, at the tail end of this year, we made it to Windhoek to start a 17-day self-drive safari. Continue reading

Is there really a best time to book flights?

News outlets periodically claim to share the best time to book flights. Is there such a thing and, if so, when is it? We ask an expert for answers.

When it comes to the best time to book flights, Peter and I do very little strategising. We simply search online and book the first decent deal we see.

In the early days, we sacrificed time to save money, but as we’ve grown older and more financially stable, we’ve moved in the other direction. We’ll still endure an 18-hour layover if it saves us hundreds of pounds (like we did in Singapore this year), but will no longer sleep overnight in an airport to save mere tens of pounds (like we did in Chile three years ago). Continue reading

Travels with my sister: conquering a lifetime of hearing loss

My younger sister was born three months premature and grew up with pronounced hearing loss. After a recent change for the better, she agreed to join me for a trip…

Kia’s story

I first realised that my sister was different when I was seven and she was six. Forida was told to wear hearing aids and I remember how much they embarrassed her. The chunky beige aids were conspicuous on her child-size ears and, to other schoolchildren, marked her out as different; not one of us.

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natural wonders in the uk

20 (typically modest) natural wonders in the UK

The best natural wonders in the UK may not equal those in the US, Canada or Australia, but the sometimes quirky, always striking sights are still worth seeing.

When the ArcelorMittal Orbit was foisted on the London skyline in 2012, it split opinion rather starkly. I, for my sins, thought it was quirky and interesting while Peter thought it a blight on the landscape.

“It’s so typically British,” he said – a notion that baffled me. It was so unbritish in its haphazard, loping design: a clear contradiction of the order and tradition that defines Britain. Continue reading