eco-friendly-galapagos

Eco-friendly tourism in The Galápagos

It’s a dream destination for many: the pristine islands of The Galápagos, haven to some of the world’s most unique and rare species of animal – or so we thought. There were certainly pristine sections of the islands but there were also roadworks in Puerto Ayora, broken beer bottles at Cerro Tijeretas, plastic bottles on Tortuga Bay and, saddest of all, a baby seal playing with a plastic spoon.

SWIMMING-WITH-GALAPAGOS-PENGUINS

Swimming with Galápagos penguins

I once asked Peter how often people have to take in their cats to be trimmed.
He looked at me, confused. “What do you mean?”
“To trim their fur. How often do you have to do it?”
“Erm, normal people don’t trim their cats.” He started to laugh, amused as ever by my lack of knowledge when it comes to nature  especially when as pedestrian as looking after a cat.

Diving the Galápagos

Diving the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Having just completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course, I was keen to put my new skills to the test. Diving in the Galápagos Islands seemed the perfect way to do this

We were pretty much winging our trip to the Galápagos Islands but we decided to pre-book our first hotel as well as our diving.

In the spirit of the Galápagos, we decided to break our budget for our first stop, and so checked into the rather luxurious Royal Palm Hotel in the centre of Santa Cruz island. It was nice to be away from bustling Puerto Ayora, cocooned within lush gardens with epic views across the island.

Horse riding in Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Horse riding in Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Our Ecuadorian guide smiles at the motley crew of would-be horse riders assembled in front of him. In Spanish, he asks if anyone has any experience. A few people shuffle their feet nervously. When no-one else speaks up, I put up my hand reluctantly.

“Yo tomó doce clases hace dos años,” I tell him in my faltering Spanish, explaining that I took 12 lessons two years ago.

Guatape: the best day trip in Colombia

A quaint and charming town awaits you in Guatape with colourful streets and quiet piazzas, while La Piedra Del Penol offers the best views in the land

When I’m about to visit a country for the first time, one of the first things I do is scan a guidebook and pick out a few highlights or must-sees. This can be dangerous business as you’re often putting yourself at the author’s subjective mercy.

When I first scanned our guidebook’s Colombian highlights I saw colonial towns, national parks and coffee plantations. After a month in Colombia, I can safely say that the best day I had there barely gets a mention in the guidebooks.

THINGS-TO-DO-GRAND-CANYON

Off the beaten canyon: exploring Grand Canyon’s hidden gems

There’s something familiar about the Grand Canyon. Its dramatic landscape and red-gold hues have been depicted in movies, posters, pencil cases and postcards. It’s a recurring symbol of the road movie, a faithful slice of wholesome Americana – and, yet, when you see it for the first time, it’s still daunting, still overwhelming.

things-to-do-around-grand-canyon

Things to do at the Grand Canyon, USA

To make your visit as easy as possible, we put together the top things to do at the Grand Canyon – one of America’s greatest attractions

A trip to the Grand Canyon can be overwhelming, not only because of the incredible vistas on display but the sheer range of activities, hikes, trails and viewpoints to choose from.

To make your visit as easy as possible, we put together the top things to do at the Grand Canyon during your trip. Note that numbers 1-4 can be done in a single day but you will need several days should you wish to do the rest.

american-road-trip

Our unexpected great American road trip

In two weeks, we have crossed four states on our American road trip, seeing an array of landscapes straight out of the movies

We never even planned to be in the US!

In fact, we should have been about 3,000 miles further south by the time we rocked up on Venice Beach in LA, mixing with the crowds of hippies, hipsters, tourists and homeless. I’ll admit that with my two-month old beard, huge backpack and threadbare flip flops, I blended in most with the latter.

In the two weeks since our arrival, we have crossed four states on our American road trip, seeing an array of landscapes straight out of the movies. From snowcapped mountain ranges to tumbleweed-strewn deserts, from glitzy casinos and roadside motels to the empty and silent towns of the Midwest, we saw it all. And it was magical.

Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga feat img

Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga

Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga was a truly humbling experience that very nearly didn’t happen for us! But luck was on our side that day

It was late October, approaching the very end of Tonga’s whale watching season. We had been delayed in Samoa about a week longer than expected and arrived in Tonga just two days before the last day of the season.

Desperate not to miss our opportunity to swim with whales, we hastily flew north to the Vava’u Islands, one of the best places to see the humpbacks. These majestic creatures migrate north from the Antarctic every summer to breed in warmer waters, heading back as soon as their young are strong enough for the journey.

interesting facts about Samoa lead image

Natural wonders of Samoa: 5 unmissable sights

Despite its tiny size, the natural wonders of Samoa are vast

Samoa is made up of two main islands, ‘Upolu and Savai’i. We split our time evenly between the two and were never short of activities to fill our days.

Despite its tiny size, the natural wonders of Samoa are vast. I suggest hiring a 4WD on each of the islands and spending a day driving round and taking in the natural landscapes along the way.

Britain’s best long-distance footpaths south west coast path

50 things to do before you’re 12: how many have you done?

I’ve done only 20 of The National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 12: Growing up in London sucks!

Two years ago, I came across The National Trust’s charming ’50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾’ campaign, designed to get more kids out and about. I read through the list (below) and, to my dismay, realised that I had completed less than half the list.

As I said at the time, growing up in London sucks.

li-river-china

Navigating the Li River, China

I was backpacking with a friend through China in 2008 (my first big trip out of Europe!) and was keen to see as much of the country as possible.

So, when we arrived in Guilin after a long flight, we decided against the bus journey to Yangshuo and opted instead to take a boat (really just a motorised raft) along the 83-kilometer section of the Lijiang or Li River as it’s also known.

Adventure cruises: 7 voyages for your bucket list

We take a look at seven adventure cruises worthy of the great explorers themselves

Adventure travellers are generally accustomed to a degree of discomfort: camping on a mountain top, trekking through suffocating jungle, jumping off something very, very high. For even the most hardened traveller, however, there are some adventures that are just plain impossible to do alone.

This is where cruise holidays come in. With the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, cruise ships offer a chance to go places and see things most of the population never get to do. Here we list the top adventure cruises for your bucket list (and by ‘bucket list’, we of course mean ‘when you win the lottery list’).

Selvatica zip line tour: an exhilarating day in Mexico

The Selvatica zip line tour would be the most fun and memorable day of the entire trip

When I touched down in Mexico, I was excited about mainly two things: its beautiful beaches and its Mayan ruins, particularly those at Chichen Itza. I had planned two weeks of sun and lazing interspersed with a bit of culture, so it was purely on whim that I booked a trip to Selvatica.

Normally, I avoid booking excursions from hotel brochures but the tour reseller at our hotel reception was so affable, we couldn’t help but stop and talk to him and soon enough he had us parting with £50 each to book on the Selvatica zip line tour or ‘Extreme Canopy Tour’. Little did I know that it would turn out to be the most fun and memorable day of the entire trip.

gullfoss-waterfall-iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland: captivating, surreal, stunning

Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland rages with sensational beauty and power

Kia has many talents but there are three things she just doesn’t do: cook, drive and navigate. This is fine – unless I’m on a snowy and slippery road with low visibility and she’s by my side insisting that she can’t read the map.

Luckily, on this occasion, I spotted a sign with a familiar name, þingvellir, and managed to navigate to our destination without the help of my lovely ‘assistant’.