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11 countries for spotting rare wildlife

We love the great outdoors: hiking, cycling, sailing and swimming, and in particular spotting rare wildlife. We’ve been lucky enough to swim with humpback whales in Tonga, walk among giant tortoises in the Galápagos and, most recently, to watch herds of elephants in Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka.

Wildlife goes hand in hand with beautiful scenery and in most cases minimum human impact as well. There is still so much incredible and diverse wildlife to see and so many beautiful countries in which to see them. Here’s our wishlist of the best countries for spotting rare wildlife.

In every case, we’ve focused on destinations that support conservation efforts and sustainable tourism. Continue reading

The world is not getting better

Life for humans may be improving but what about everything else that shares our planet?

In trying times, social media users tend to share think pieces, charts and graphics proving that humanity has never had it so good.

These graphics focus on the growth of lovely things like basic education, literacy, democracy and vaccination, and the decline of awful things like extreme poverty and child mortality.

The charts are often accompanied by pithy captions like “awesome proof that humanity hasn’t actually botched it.” Continue reading

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22 interesting facts about Brazil

Our short city break in Rio de Janeiro was tagged on at the end of our big trip so we didn’t get as long as we wanted in either the city or Brazil itself. We’re committed to returning one day to explore the country’s massive interior and take a boat trip down the Amazon River. For now, we’ll have to be content with the few days we had in the captivating city of Rio with its stunning mountains, rainforests and seemingly endless beaches.

During our stay, we learnt a number of interesting facts about Brazil, proving it’s not all about Carnival and football in the South-American powerhouse. We share our favourite facts below. Continue reading

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Geeking out at Itaipu Dam

Peter thought I was joking when I suggested booking the special extended tour of Itaipu Dam. The mega-structure, split geographically and politically between Brazil and Paraguay, is one of the world’s largest hydroelectric projects. With 18 massive turbine generators and a reservoir stretching 160km (100mi), Itaipu Dam generates 90 million megawatt hours of energy every year. To put that into context, Brazil would have to burn 536 thousand barrels of oil per day to obtain equivalent energy from thermoelectric plants.

Naturally, I wanted to know more. Continue reading

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10 great movies about South America

We look at 10 great movies about South America that offer context around the rich and colourful history of this great continent.

A British education is one of the most valuable things one can have. It instils a broad knowledge of the world ranging from the sciences to the humanities. Unfortunately, in our pursuit for this breadth of knowledge, we lose much of the depth within individual areas.

The subject of history is a notable example. Pupils are taught about the world wars, the monarchy, the industrial revolution and even the history of irrigation (which is, ironically, rather dry), but learn very little about large swathes of the world, South America being a prime example. Most of us know the names of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, General Pinochet and Hugo Chavez, but can share very little beyond the basics. Continue reading

6 charmless South American towns we couldn’t avoid

Travellers go to Latin America hoping, expecting, knowing they’ll be wowed. Home to three of the world’s Seven Wonders, the region has a wealth of both manmade and natural attractions.

Travellers also know that their journey through this vast continent won’t always be full of rainbows and kittens. Amid the bright, great wonders will be dreary days in dull towns with nary a redeeming feature. In South America, finding these two extremes side by side is almost a guarantee, as illustrated below. Tourist towns inevitably crop up close to major sights and more often than not, they’re completely and utterly charmless. Here are six underwhelming South American towns we failed to avoid on our travels. Continue reading

Rio de Janeiro: the world’s most photogenic city?

We are ensconced in a small Copacabana hostel, the worst accommodation we’ve had in months. Contrary to the decidedly lovely pictures on the hostel website, our bedroom is tiny, stuffy, smelly and inexplicably noisy. With maddening frequency, a loud foghorn judders through the water pipes, keeping us up all night long. We don’t know what it is; just that it’s drip-driving us crazy. Continue reading

Getting drenched on the Iguazu Falls boat ride

Atlas & Boots recently co-hosted Lonely Planet’s natural wonders vs manmade sights #LPChat debate on Twitter.  We were both firmly in the natural wonders camp, with Mt Yasur volcano in Vanuatu and Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina among our top travel experiences of all time. We also loved Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland when we visited a few years ago. As such, we were extremely excited about crossing into Brazil and visiting one of South America’s most popular attractions.b Continue reading