14 things to do in Eswatini (Swaziland)

We’ve selected our favourite things to do in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), from tracking big game to climbing the world’s second largest monolith

The tiny African nation of Eswatini took us completely by surprise. As Kia said, visiting Eswatini was never high on our bucket list, but it should have been. We spent just three days and two nights in this fascinating destination, which was never going to be enough.

Canyoning in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Canyoning in La Fortuna with its waterfall rappels and cavernous ‘falls’ proved to be Costa Rica’s biggest thrill of all

Beneath the hulking slopes of Arenal Volcano in northwestern Costa Rica is the small town of La Fortuna. With a wealth of natural attractions nearby including lush rainforest, extensive hiking trails, myriad hot springs and two gargantuan volcanoes (Cerro Chato is also within easy reach), it’s not the town itself that draws visitors to this green district of Costa Rica.

largest rainforests in the world amazonFilipe Frazao/Shutterstock

12 largest rainforests in the world and where to find them

The largest rainforests in the world are some of the most vital ecosystems on our planet. We look at where they’re located and why they need protecting

Home to over half the world’s plant and animal species, the largest rainforests in the world absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping maintain the balance of the air we breathe while simultaneously playing a critical role in curbing global warming.

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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.

Cloud forest covers only 1% of global woodlandAtlas & Boots

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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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.

interesting facts about costa rica biodiversity frogBrandon Alms/Shutterstock

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.

Safari in Etosha National Park Namibia 25

Our epic self-drive safari through Namibia

Our self-drive safari through Namibia showed us the finest wildlife and landscapes this arresting country has to offer

I landed in Namibia three days ahead of Kia. She had some book-related business to wrap up in London so I arrived alone to begin a 17-day self-drive safari through Namibia with Wild Dog Safaris.

We’ve always had mixed feelings when it comes to organised tours. We’ve often preferred to piece together our trips independently to make sure we see exactly what we want. That said, there are some parts of the world – be it for logistical or security reasons – where an organised tour just makes more sense.

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.

self-drive safari through Namibia etoshaAtlas & Boots

Safari in Etosha National Park: where the wildlife comes to you

A safari in Etosha National Park is like nothing else. There is little need to search for animals. In Etosha, they come to you

Even if you’ve had a taste of African wildlife-watching before, a safari in Etosha National Park is enthralling. Namibia’s premier national park is one of Africa’s great safari destinations and teems with wildlife, from big game mammals to tiny colourful birds. Animals here don’t come two by two, but by the dozen.

Desconnexions lead

Call of the wild: disconnecting from daily life

A strange evening with Desconnexions in Catalonia reminds us why it’s so important to get off our laptops and occasionally leave our phones at home

I was on Wikipedia reading about a 2015 controversy involving a judge on the New Zealand version of X Factor when I realised I was doing it again: wasting time reading about a person I didn’t know involved in an event I didn’t care about on a show I didn’t watch.

I had fallen down the internet rabbit hole – again.

Exploring Hell’s Canyon in Catalonia

Hell’s Canyon in Catalonia reminds us once again why we fell in love with the great outdoors

“Eat a big breakfast,” said Jordi – four words that told me I’d have a hell of a morning. I’m not one for big breakfasts, but I’ve learned that when an uber-fit mountain guide tells you to have one, you should have one.

I added lashings of pa amb tomàquet to my plate, a simple but delicious Catalan dish of bread, tomato and olive oil. I ate toast and nutella and cheese and crackers and cereal and yoghurt and washed it down with two cups of tea. Then I ate more pa amb tomàquet. There was no way I’d be running low today.

Eco-friendly wildlife tours serengetiDreamstime

Animal instinct: eco-friendly wildlife tours

A curated selection of eco-friendly wildlife tours that place animal protection at the top of their agenda

Having just returned from an incredible diving trip in the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve seen first-hand how important it is to choose eco-friendly wildlife tours to minimise the environmental impact of our travels.

We’ve always maintained that tourists should be able to visit vulnerable places as long as they do so in a sustainable way. Of course, no tourism is impact-free. Only last month, a cruise ship guard tragically shot dead a polar bear in Norway

south island short walks – Franz Josef Glacier emerged from the cloudsAtlas & Boots

Battling weather at Franz Josef Glacier

We attempt the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk in pouring rain and dwindling humour

We were in low spirits. Our heli-hike to Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand had been cancelled due to bad weather which meant we couldn’t get onto the glacier itself. In fact, given the vast and murky blanket of cloud, there was the distinct possibility that we would not see the glacier at all.

We were wary. In 2015, we almost missed seeing Machu Picchu because of endless fog. A few months after that, we trekked to Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia to find it completely shrouded in cloud – a disappointment that haunts Peter to this day.

Extinction tourismDreamstime

Polar bear death: has extinction tourism gone too far?

A cruise ship guard recently shot and killed a polar bear. Did the bear get too close, or the tourists?

I don’t usually dig myself into holes that I can’t climb out of. I like strong arguments and clear answers – but there’s only one answer here and, sadly, it’s one I don’t like.

Let me start at the start: on 28th July, a cruise ship guard shot a polar bear in Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago that lies between Norway’s mainland and the North Pole.

rotorua geysers steaming in te puia

Exploring the Rotorua geysers in New Zealand

We visit the Rotorua geysers on New Zealand’s North Island in pursuit of Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere

We smelled Rotorua before we even set foot in the town: an unholy triad of pungent sulphur, blocked drains and rotten eggs. Built on a geothermal hotspot, Rotorua is a place of bestirred primordia: boiling mud pools, hot springs, spitting vents and erupting geysers.

Diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef coral moorish idol 1Atlas & Boots

Diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef

A first-hand report of diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef including information on when to go, how to get there and what to expect

It started with a whisper, as if he were revealing a state secret or the coordinates of Atlantis. His shoulders eased into the buttery leather of his seat, his stance loose and casual, as if this were any other drink on any other evening of our small-ship expedition across the Great Barrier Reef. His tone, however, betrayed something different: a low and certain intensity, alerting us to the fact that this dive would be like no other.

He would need special dispensation from the captain, said Colin, our dive instructor on the expedition. We’d have to leave early and take the dinghy and be back before breakfast. Nothing was guaranteed, but he’d talk to the captain and we’d wait and see.

The Plus seating area offers the best view of the penguinsPenguins.org

Phillip Island Penguin Parade: the day we saw 613 penguins

We visit the Phillip Island Penguin Parade in Australia to see if it’s worth the hype

There is a palpable tension in the air. It reminds me of the atmosphere at a standing-only gig just before the doors open: everyone acts calm but then rushes forward in a desperate attempt to secure a good spot, pushing people like me – short, slight, little – to the outer margins of the room.

Needless to say, I hate standing-only gigs.

We chose not to visit Kangaroo Island Wildlife ParkAtlas & Boots

Things to do on Kangaroo Island, Australia

From charming wildlife to soaring sand dunes, we share the best things to do on Kangaroo Island in Australia

Kangaroo Island doesn’t get much billing among the famous sights of Australia. There’s Uluru of course and the Great Barrier Reef and the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but Kangaroo Island remains less known – perhaps no bad thing.

Home to around 60,000 kangaroos, this island has more roos than it does people. The roads are straight and empty and the pace of life is slow: a little bit prairie, a little homegrown.

Where to see the southern lights: AntarcticaAustralian Antarctic Division; Fair Use

Where to see the southern lights

From Australia to Antarctica, we list the best places to see the southern lights

People often ask “aren’t you done with travelling?” or “where is there left to go?”

To be honest, we thought that 2018 would be the year we sort-of settled down and maybe looked into a semi-permanent base somewhere in England’s Peak District…