Imaginative Traveller’s blog

Welcome to the Imaginative Traveller Blog! This is a brilliant means for us to communicate directly with you. We will be able to keep you updated on the latest Imaginative Traveller news, events, trips, fascinating snippets of info from life on the tour leader front, how our overseas Destinations Managers spend their average day, humorous tales from tours, staff trip reports and just general Imaginative Traveller gossip. So check it out and let us know what you think!

RSS feed   Subscribe to our RSS feed

 

New trips, new destinations, new brochure!

Here at Imaginative Traveller HQ we are busy working on our new brochure for 2015-2016. The 2014 brochure will be a hard act to follow but we are aiming for a bumper edition this year to really whet your adventure travel appetites...


 

Working in adventure travel

The excitement of returning travellers, the anticipation of those heading out on the road, the joy of talking about such exotic places as Buenos Aires, Havana, Kathmandu and Marrakech....Content Manager Helene Cooper realised that working at Imaginative Traveller could be a little like living in Istanbul....


 

Fancy solo travel?

Solo travel can be the most exciting, life-affirming, eye-opening experience for any traveller. However, it can also fill people with trepidation and worry and even put some off travelling altogether. After becoming a widower and an empty-nester in the sameyear, Janice Waugh decided to launch herself on the world - and created her very own blogsite in the process.


 

Travel news and buzz from Aol Travel blogsite

Aol Travel is written by a variety of travel writers and bloggers from around the world. Covering a plethora of fun, interesting and informative guides, advice and features, it’s the perfect website for helping you put together your own travel bucket list. So how has this community created such a powerful and successful website? 


 

Where to go on an adventure holiday in September

Want to discover the best places to travel to with our informative Imaginative Traveller travel calendar? Check out our suggestions for exciting September destinations and tour ideas.


 

Where to go on an adventure holiday in August

Want to discover the best places to travel to with our informative Imaginative Traveller travel calendar? Check out our suggestions for exciting August destinations and tour ideas...


 

Belize - stunning natural beauty with no-one around

On the northeastern coast of Central America, Belize stands out as a top destination for bird and nature lovers, a compact country with an abundance of stunning wildness, where English is the language and the people are laid-back. Max Hartshorne of travel website Gonomad, recently spent some time there....


 

Exploring the Ecuadorian rainforest with 'Nelson of the Amazon'

"The rivers are infested with piranhas but they're generally very pleasant places to swim" - this was our introduction to a four day expedition into the Ecuadorian Amazon.....


 

Where to go on an adventure holiday in July

Want to discover the best places to travel to with our informative Imaginative Traveller travel calendar? Check out our suggestions for exciting July destinations and tour ideas...


 

Where to go on an adventure holiday in June

Want to discover the best places to travel to with our informative Imaginative Traveller travel calendar? Check out our suggestions for exciting June destinations and tour ideas...


 

Get active with us - try a walking or cycling holiday!

A walking or cycling holiday is the most rewarding type of activity holiday out there - after all, some of the world's best scenery, wildlife and culture can only be accessed on two feet - or two wheels! An active holiday with Imaginative Traveller offers a totally new perspective on a destination and allows you to truly experience the heart of a country. It's a fantastic way to remind you that this is a beautiful world we live in.


 

Rio Carnival 2014!

So what did you do last weekend?  Our 'gang' in Brazil had an absolute blast at the Rio Carnival. Find out just what you can get up to during a long weekend at the biggest fiesta in the world!


 

Diving underground in Mexico

Fancy jumping into a hole in the ground in the middle of the Mexican jungle?  One of our travellers decided to delve new depths whilst in Central America and really push the limits of imaginative travel...


 

My Bollywood Experience

Ever had some spare time on an evening in India? Helene Cooper from our Marketing Department enjoyed a 'night at the flicks' Bollywood-style....


 

Where to go on an Adventure Holiday in May

Want to discover the best places to travel to with our informative Imaginative Traveller travel calendar?  Check out our suggestions for exciting May destinations and tour ideas....


 

Where to go on an Adventure Holiday in April

Want to discover the best places to travel to with our informative Imaginative Traveller travel calendar?  Check out our suggestions for exciting April destinations and tour ideas....


 

Where to go on an Adventure Holiday in March

Want to discover the best places to travel to with our informative Imaginative Traveller travel calendar?  Check out our suggestions for exciting March destinations and tour ideas....


 

Where to go on an Adventure Holiday in February

Want to discover the best places to travel to with our informative Imaginative Traveller travel calendar?  Check out our suggestions for exciting February destinations and tour ideas....


 

Travels with my penknife - or pride before a fall

 

Flying the short hop in Ethiopia recently between Lalibela and the capital Addis Ababa, Helene Cooper found herself in a rather embarrassing situation for an experienced travel industry professional.....

 


 

The Great (and mad) Ethiopian Run

Fancy joining 38,000 other runners in the biggest road race in Africa? Helene Cooper from the Imaginative Traveller office decided to make her trip to Ethiopia just that little bit different by tackling the race through the streets of Addis Ababa. 10km run or mass street party?  Read on…..


 

Family Adventure Tours

Imaginative Traveller has added over 20 new trips to their 2013 family portfolio making the company one of the UK's leading family adventure travel specialists.

Now offering over 30 adventurous trips of between 8 and 19 days across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, the 22 year old company say it's seen a marked rise in demand for more off-the-beaten-track family adventures, hence significantly bolstering its trip range this year.


 

Imaginative Traveller 'standing tall' in Africa!

Imaginative Traveller is thrilled to announce an exciting new project in conjunction with Colchester Zoo - one of Europe’s finest. Colchester Zoo is renowned for its constant development, ground-breaking enclosures and conservation work including the highly regarded UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve in South Africa. The zoo is celebrating an incredible 50 years with a dramatic art project ‘Stand Tall’. .....

For 12 weeks this summer, Colchester’s streets, parks and open spaces and other locations over Essex will be taken over by some unusual visitors... over 100 sculptures ... of giraffes standing tall at 2.5 metres!


See them at Colchester Zoo!
From 2nd June to 26th August 2013 you will be able to spot these giraffes with their fascinating designs and themes and follow a trail using a Stand Tall app.  Check out the prizes up for grabs as you complete the trail - there is even the chance to WIN a family holiday for four on our East Africa Family Safari! The event will culminate with all the giraffes coming to Colchester Zoo for a farewell tour from 31st August to 8th September 2013.


See them in London!
The herd then move to central London where they will congregate along the banks of the Thames at the award-winning art and business space, More London, between 9th and 16th September 2013. The giraffes will then be auctioned to raise funds for the zoo’s charity Action for the Wild on 19th September.


Imaginative Traveller’s Maasai Giraffe
Imaginative Traveller are proud to be sponsoring a Maasai giraffe, designed by Helen Rose Smith, a contemporary glass designer specialising in fused glass and kiln formed glass techniques.


What inspired the design
The design for ‘Maasai Giraffe’ is inspired by the jewellery and textiles of the Maasai people in Africa. Africa is known for its craft traditions and Helen wanted to express this in her design. She has included  fused glass within the necklace decorations to have elements of her own craft in the sculpture.

Imaginative Traveller and the Maasai
As one of the UK’s best loved provider of small group adventures, Imaginative Traveller has been involved with adventure travel to Africa for its entire 20 years of operations. Currently you can enjoy an 8 day safari through the main game parks of Kenya and camp overnight with the Maasai in the Loita Hills on our Kenya Wildlife Safari.  Or combine this trip with an adventure in Tanzania for a 15 day wildlife and cultural extravaganza on The Masai Heartlands. You can take the family on an unforgettable expedition travelling from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam on our East Africa Family Safari which includes camel rides from a Maasai village and camping overnight at Mto Wa Mbu, a Maasai village community project. Or for the ultimate African experience you can travel on the classic African overland trip Kenya to Cape Town, a 45 day adventure taking you from the land of the Maasai to the glorious sights of Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope.

About the artist
Helen Rose Smith is a glass designer and Secondary School Art Teacher. Helen began working in glass in 2005, teaches glass fusing from her home studio and across Essex and is a member of the Guild of Essex Craftsmen.


About Stand Tall
Stand Tall is a mass appeal, large scale public event and will raise funds for conservation through Colchester Zoo's charity Action for the Wild. The project has been developed in partnership with Wild in Art an experienced arts, events and education company and the team behind successfully staged similar events in the UK, Europe and Africa.

See all our Kenya adventure tours

See all our Africa adventure tours


Read more about the Stand Tall giraffe sculpture project


 

Travel disasters and triumphs

Mo Farah was recently quoted as explaining his strategy to quit at the halfway stage of the London Marathon was because he ‘hates losing’.  Well sometimes it is the ‘taking part’ which is actually the most fun element rather than the end goal.  I can remember climbing Kilimanjaro (a few decades ago now I am afraid to say) and, through making the schoolgirl error of booking locally through a disreputable company, finding myself alone on summit day, clambering the scree slopes at over 5,000m not entirely sure what I was doing or where I was going.  A vague trail led me to the crater rim where I spotted what I assumed to be the summit cairn, so I set my camera to self-timer, took the obligatory ‘summit’ shot and descended rapidly to easier altitudes, temperatures and a much needed Tusker beer.  Only to discover that my cairn had actually been Gilman’s Point and I needed to have walked a bit further round the crater rim to reach Uhuru Peak and the actual summit itself.  But I wasn’t going back!  I still felt a massive sense of achievement though and had experienced walking through an incredible variety of Africa vegetation, enjoying stunning views over the plains below.  

On another trip, this time to Ecuador, I went out with the aim of climbing four peaks along the famous Avenida de los Volcanes.  Our first training climb ended halfway up with a thunder and lightning storm.  On our second we managed to get slightly higher before being beaten back by a vicious hailstorm.  On Cotopaxi, we failed to locate the access path onto the glacier and by the time we found it, were getting pushed for time resulting in a turn around three quarters of the way up.  Finally, on the highest mountain, mighty Chimborazo, we laboured through the night to reach a summit of sorts – one of the five summits, albeit the lowest one so we cannot really lay claim to ‘topping out’.  Yet we still had the most incredible time and I came away with such fantastic memories and impressions of this wonderful and very undervalued South American country.  

Sometimes mini-disasters can turn into mini-triumphs – the 12hr journey turning into a 48hr epic with the bus constantly breaking down leading to an unforgettable night under the stars in the middle of nowhere in Zambia, getting stranded in Darjeeling during a general strike and being fed by sympathetic soldiers at the local barracks, finding myself alone in Aqaba in Jordan during Ramadan and enjoying superb hospitality with a family breaking their fast in the evening.  I can recall specifically turning around at the halfway point up a volcano in Bali as I was finding the going too tough.  Only to turn back round and start climbing again as the descent on the loose volcanic ash was even harder!  On triumphantly reaching the summit I was mortified to discover a wizened old lady selling bottled water, having carried a dozen bottles up the mountain by herself.  Some triumph!

Still, they were all amazing experiences and, even when they turned out slightly differently than expected, they remain in my memory to pop up at the oddest of occasions.  Especially when someone announces ‘It’s all or nothing’……But isn’t the adventure what ‘adventure travel’ is all about?

 

 




The only way is up - just keep going!

 


 

Cambodia - Past, Present and Future

Director Charlie Hopkinson finishes his tour to Vietnam and Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields.

"In my view, the visitor must not shirk their responsibility to the people of Cambodia. You must visit the Killing Fields, see the skulls, be shocked by the brutality, read the histories, listen to the statistics, understand the reasons why and spend a traumatic afternoon at the horrific S-21 Prison, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  You must do this, because you are visiting Cambodia and you therefore owe it to the people. Cambodia today is a reflection of its past 50 years of history and one needs to understand other countries’ responsibility in that history. This was not a history created just by Cambodians, it was a situation and political environment imposed by the outside world but the Cambodians were the ones that suffered; and did they suffer. There are few places on Earth where you will as a visitor see such trauma and such brutality as in Cambodia.  It is a history of my generation and I well remember the reports from an emaciated Jim Biddulph, BBC foreign correspondent in Cambodia in 1975 when these events were unfolding. 

The most lasting memories of my visit to Cambodia is sitting with Bou Meng and Chum Mey, both elderly gentlemen who are two of the very few survivors of S-21 torture, in the grounds of their former prison; buying their respective books and looking into the eyes of these brave, brave men. It is not something you will ever forget; their polite acceptance of what had happened was terrifying.

On returning home, I purposely watched the Killing Fields again. It is unnerving in its reflection of the historic background and chilling realities of this horrendous period.  To me it seems unclear where the country will be in 20 years time. But for today's visitor, it is a charming country, with a resilient and charismatic people who offer the visitor a great grassroots travel experience as well as one of the most spectacular world heritage sites, the massive temple complexes around Angkor Wat.  These temples already have over 2 million visitors a year and so it is hard to believe that this country will ever be forgotten by the world again…..


But when you visit, ensure you get away from the main sites and get that grassroots experience - like spending a day travelling by boat down the small waterways to Tonle Sap Lake, visiting the remote stilt and floating villages. It is moments like this that make the difference between a great travel experience and a holiday."

Read more about our Best of Cambodia & Vietnam tour


 

Cambodia culinary delights

Director Charlie Hopkinson enjoys a somewhat unusual culinary experience in Cambodia.

"It was on arrival in Phnom Penh that I first witnessed the Cambodians love of eating creepy crawlies. This is a bizarre culinary tradition which really appeals to me. One of the things I love about travelling at this level is trying out as much local food as possible - and you don't get much more grassroots than locusts or tarantulas.  Channa, our guide, made the most of this for our group and we seemed to feast on local delicacies wherever we went. One day we might be eating a four course Cambodian lunch in a local school, the next frying fish on a boat, another day would dawn with a cup of strong coffee laced with sweet condensed milk and the view of the sun rising over Angkor Wat and another finish with a full scale feast on the banks of the Mekong in a restaurant run by and for the street kids of Phnom Penh.

Cambodia is awash with fruit and you must try as much as possible. We visited many of the local markets over the seven days of our stay and these offer the more imaginative traveller a great feel for Cambodia. My personal favourite was in the sleepy little town of Battambang. Here no one hassles the visitor and at every fruit stall someone wanted us to try a grape, a kumquat or a slice of papaya. That was the joy of this itinerary; yes we saw the big names but we also visited a couple of ordinary Cambodian towns. Some in our group wondered why Battambang was on the itinerary and Channa replied that it was a charming little town that few tourists visit and so was a good reflection of Cambodian life.

Battambang is in a wealthy agricultural province and has an air of relaxed prosperity which was good to see this in this impoverished country.  Cambodia has strong business ties with its rich neighbour Vietnam and one wonders just how much influence Vietnamese businesses have on a nation which is still inextricably linked with the legacy of Pol Pot."

Onto the Killing Fields.......

Read more about our Best of Cambodia and Vietnam tour


 

Cambodian Cocktails & Culinary Delights

Imaginative Traveller Director Charlie Hopkinson suggests the perfect gastronomic feast based on his recent trip to Cambodia

 

Start with a glass of snake wine. Apparently snake wine is good for men!  This cheeky little number has a distinct effect on your pallet; there are no hints of blackberries, no soft tannins or vanilla undertones. On the nose there are no floral or liquorish infusions; instead there is a distinctive scaly flavour, leaving you with a unpleasant slimy pallet. On the nose there is the bouquet of a damp animal cage, but for lovers of an acidic finish, this certainly has it in bucket loads. As for its after effects, I could not possible comment, you will need to ask my wife.

Next I recommend a selection of fruits, ensuring you include the lotus fruit, the cashew nut fruit (both delicious) and of course the absolutely revolting smelling durian fruit. Actually it tastes OK, although I had vowed not to touch it because it stank so much, but our ever resourceful guide tricked us into eating some and then with howls of laughter explained that we had just eaten the dreaded durian.  

 

While we wait for the main course, your fruit should be followed by an amuse-bouche, a kind of bite-sized hors d’oeuvre. This has to be an insect or two. Cambodia's love of eating creatures with 6 or 8 legs comes from its sad recent history. During the dark days of the Pol Pot regime in the ‘70s, food was so scarce and famine so widespread that insects and spiders became a food of necessity. Bad habits die hard and today, spiders, locusts and cockroaches are everywhere in the markets.  En route to Siem Reap we had the service station break. Imagine stopping at a Little Chef and ordering 2 tarantulas, a half dozen locusts and a bag of cockroaches.  Actually from my memories of Little Chef, I think the spider was much tastier than their English breakfasts….  It was very good, with a nutty flavour, a quite fleshy body, but the legs were rather woody. Actually to be honest the legs would have been better for flossing your teeth rather than eating.

So lets get the main course ordered; it's got to be a fiery beef loklak.  Look the menu up right now, go and buy the ingredients and cook it tonight. Better still, take a trip out to Cambodia yourself and enjoy it as part of a full scale feast on the banks of the Mekong River in a restaurant run by and for the street kids of Phnom Penh.

See our adventure tours to Cambodia


 

Cambodia here I come! A Director's travels (or travails)

Charlie Hopkinson recently took our Best of Cambodia & Vietnam tour.  Here, he describes his journey between the two countries.


 

The Director's Cut - Charlie Hopkinson on tour in Vietnam

Chuc Mung Nam Moi, Happy New Year!

vietnamx


 

Communism or capitalism - ponderings from Vietnam

cycle-vietnam


 

Inca Trail Permit Alert!

Inca Trail Permits are now sold out until June!!!!  With a strict daily limit on permits to trek this famous trail to the Inca stronghold of Machu Picchu it is vital that you book in advance for your adventure holiday to Peru. 


 

Asian feasts

Take a look at some of these culinary delights our director Charlie Hopkinson enjoyed on his recent trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.  Tarantula for breakfast anyone? Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A smorgasbord of locusts, cockroaches and tarantulas!

 

 

 


 

Take the family overland!

Looking for a really unique family holiday this summer?  Several of our African overland tours are GUARANTEED so why not take the children on a trip that will really live in their memories.


 

Take the family overland!

Looking for a really unique family holiday this summer?  Several of our African overland tours are GUARANTEED so why not take the children on a trip that will really live in their memories.

Our East Africa Family Safari takes you from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam via the great games parks of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater as well as visiting an elephant orphanage, a Masai village (by camel!), the Marangu Village Education Project and the Usambara Mountains ending on the glorious sandy beaches of Zanzibar.  Best of all you travel on a soft-sided truck meaning you can roll the sides up for the absolute ultimate 'up-close and personal' experiences and views of the wildlife. WOW!

East Africa Family Safari

 

Our Namibia & Botswana trip takes you to Sossusvlei to climb the highest sand dunes in the world, to Swakopmund for some sand-boarding, on safari in Etosha National Park, tracking and gathering with the San Bushmen, canoeing through the Okavango Delta, spotting elephants on an open-jeep game drive in Chobe National Park culminating in the exhilarating town of Victoria Falls.Now that's some summer holiday!

Namibia & Botswana


 

Inca Trail Permit Alert!

 

Inca Trail Permits are now sold out until June!!!!  With a strict daily limit on permits to trek this famous trail to the Inca stronghold of Machu Picchu it is vital that you book in advance for your adventure holiday to Peru. 

Don't forget though that Imaginative Traveller offers a variety of different trails which all culiminate in a visit to Machu Picchu (although the Classic Inca Trail is the only one which actually finishes at the site itself).  Choose from the Classic Inca Trail, the Lares Inca Trail, the Inca Quarry Trail and the Community Inca Trail depending on the trip you take.  Read our trip notes carefully to see which trails are offered on which trips.

And for non-trekkers there is always the train! 

See our adventure holidays to Peru


 

Communism or capitalism - ponderings from Vietnam

 

 

Communism or capitalism or does it really matter? Step out into the street in front of the Rex Hotel in Saigon and you cannot believe that you are in a communist country. Dior fights with Channel for prime shop frontage. Saigon is a seriously glamourous city these days with the biggest fashion statement being the amazing scooter helmets. Scooters, as with Hanoi, are everywhere. Saigon in rush hour is a revelation on how a city works. Where there is a will there is a way.  But Saigon, Vietnam's economic miracle, with its wide tree-lined boulevards, modern high rise buildings and colonial masterpieces is a different world from the narrow streets of Hanoi.

After flying from Hoi An to Saigon we hit the metropolis with mixed feelings; the spectre of the big city grated with the aura of relaxation enveloping our group after Hue and Hoi An. But the glitz and glamour soon seduced us and when in Rome, etc.!  So as I sat on the balcony of the Rex Hotel, sipping my Miss Saigon Special, where 40 or so years ago, the world’s correspondents clustered around the tables to catch the 5 o’clock bulletin from the US military news agency, I looked back at my experiences of the last 10 days and wondered, was it all worth it? Vietnam seems a country totally at ease with itself; proud of its past and hopeful for its future and to my uninformed eyes and ears, it looks like the kind of country anyone would want as a friend, communism or not.

Next update from Cambodia....


Charlie Hopkinson, Director of Imaginative Traveller is currently on our Best of Vietnam & Cambodia tour (in reverse).


 

It's Murder on the Reunification Express - further adventures in Vietnam

Continuing our Director, Charlie Hopkinson's, journey through Vietnam..

"After exploring the delights of Hanoi, we boarded the Reunification Express.  This is an experience that all travellers need to do once; but probably only once!  With six to a cabin, the unlucky two get the top bunks, which is not an experience for the claustrophobic - and I was one of the unlucky two in our cabin.  But who really minds one uncomfortable night’s sleep when you can play cards with your fellow travellers, drink rice wine with the train guards and welcome in ‘Tet’ by singing Happy New Year, along with Abba…..

A word of caution, just because the train resembles a travelling carnival and just because you feel you might just need that final beer to welcome in the Vietnamese New Year, what goes in must come out.  When you are ten foot in the air on the top bunk, getting up on an hourly basis for the first part of the night to visit the swamplands of the carriage rest room, was not a topline travel experience.  But such is life in Vietnam, the Yin and the Yang, the good and the bad, and we really have seen so little bad.


After the fun and chaos of the train journey, the magnificant regal city of Hue, with its imperial city, stunning palaces and tranquil pagodas was a marked contrast. But the best was yet to come in ancient Hoi An with its charming backstreets and boutiques. We had two full days here, but two full weeks could not do this place justice. The highlight for me was a half day cycle trip through the villages and paddy fields that cluster around the river. Others headed to the beautiful sandy beaches and spent the day playing in the waves, drinking fresh coconut and chilling. A million miles away from wintry England.

On to Saigon….


Charlie is currently taking our Best of Vietnam and Cambodia tour (in reverse).


 

The Director's Cut - Charlie Hopkinson on tour in Vietnam

Chuc Mung Nam Moi, Happy New Year!

We arrived in Hanoi 10 days ago to be met with the frenzied build up for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Tet is infamous in the west for the 1968 Tet Offensive, one of the changing points of the Vietnam War. But for us and the millions of Vietnamese, it is a stunning festival of happiness, centred on the family.  Scooters rule the roads here; as a wave they descend upon the unwary traveller who feels marooned in the middle of a sea of bikes. "Don't ever step back" were the wise words of our Imaginative Traveller tour leader on Day 1 of our 10 day Vietnamese adventure. Wise words indeed; move gently ahead or stop and the mass of mobility will flow around you. The most memorable I am yet to see on a scooter is Dad driving, the 2 year old in a high seat by the handlebars and Mum bottle-feeding the baby.  Every second scooter carries a Tet "Happy New Year" Tree, either a pink flowered peach tree or a glorious cumquat tree, vervant green with deep orange fruit. "Chuc Mung Nam Moi", or 'Happy New Year' is on everone's tongue.

This is a wonderful festive season and our group are so lucky to be travelling the length of Vietnam through the  New Year festivities. Yes, this causes a few hassles, banks closed, ATMs short of cash and many shops shut, BUT and it is a positive but, the traveller sees Vietnam and its charming people at their very best. 

Our group spent two days exploring the delights of Hanoi, learning to dodge the scooters in the narrow alleys of the crumbling old town and also enjoying a great night out on a live aboard boat in Halong Bay.  Next stop - the Reunification Express en route to Hue!

Charlie is currently taking our Best of Cambodia & Vietnam tour (in reverese)


 

Love en route

So is it possible to actually meet the love of your life whilst travelling?

Of course it is! We are talking holiday romance with a difference rather than your sun and sand type holiday.  A real adventure holiday where you are trekking through jungles, touring ancient sites or taking overnight train journeys with the locals.  And that is the key here - you already have something in common.  You presumably have a genuine desire to visit that particular country (or countries if you are on a longer trip) or see a certain sight.  Learning how to cook a Thai curry (and how not to wipe your eyes after chopping the chillies) can cement a friendship much better than merely lying on a beach - although of course in Thailand you can take a cookery lesson as well as enjoy tropical island time.

But how can you possible look your best if you haven't had a shower for days whilst travelling in the back of beyond.  Or trekking up Kilimanjaro feeling nauseous wearing every layer of clothing you own with barely your nose showing?  Well isn't that how you get to know someone for real, warts and all?  Discover the real person rather than the slightly fake holiday image?

So if this Valentine's Day sees you searching for your soul mate then consider taking an adventure tour.  The worst that can happen is that you have a fantastic holiday, meet some great people (both fellow travellers and locals), get to know a new country and try new experiences and on the other end of the scale you might, just might, meet Mr or Mrs Right...

Written by someone who met their partner on a climbing expedition without bathroom facilities for three weeks....


 

50/50 - anniversary destinations

Two destinations are celebrating 50 years of independence from the United Kingdom in 2013 - Singapore and Zanzibar.


 

Sherpa documentary during Everest's 60th anniversary

Looking forward to watching BBC4's documentary of the Sherpas who have climbed Mt Everest this Thursday at 9pm.  Often the unsung heroes of any ascent, it is fitting that this study of four of these incredible humans is being shown in the year of the 60th anniversary of Mount Everest. "Climbing Everest with a Mountain on my Back: The Sherpas' story"

 

If you fancy waking up practically at the base of the mountain itself on the morning of the annivesary (29 May) then join our Everest Base Camp trip departing 18 May giving you extra acclimatisation on trek, two full days at Kala Patar and Base Camp and the opportunity to view Mount Everest at sunset rather than sunrise for better photos. Alternatively take the high road to Base Camp and join our exciting Everest & Gokyo trip departing 19 May which also enjoys a dramatic ascent of Gokyo Ri (5,360m).  Or how about taking a different angle and actually being at Base Camp itself on the 29th - but on the northern side in Tibet.  Join our Tibet Unplugged trip departing 19 May. 

 

Everest Base Camp

Everest & Gokyo

Tibet Unplugged 


 

Where to go in 2013, month by month

Imaginative Traveller, the small group adventure operator with over 20 years experience, has launched its trip-a-month calendar cherry-picking the best global destinations to travel to throughout the year. 

 

The calendar, entitled ' A year of travels with Imaginative Traveller', also includes monthly top travel tips, such as avoiding February if you want to trek the Inca Trail (it's closed for maintenance) but offering alternative suggestions for travellers still wanting to reach Machu Picchu that month.

 

To download the calendar, click here


 

Young Upstarts

It seems everyone is out there writing at the moment.  A member of the Dragoman crew, our sister company, has set up a blog site detailing his overland training and current journey through Africa.  Dragoman, is also linking up with writer Becky Wicks who
is joining them for the inaugural Rio to Cusco Trans Amazon trip next
month and will be blogging throughout her trip.

For the younger author, Radio 2 launched its '500 Words' competition today for budding young writers aged 13yrs and under.  Which got me thinking - just how young can you embark on ambitions such as blogging or having a story published - or perhaps adventure travelling?  Not your average family holiday of beach and a bit of activity but a real adventure such as swinging through the jungle on a zipwire or taking a Chinese cookery lesson (and eating the end product of course!) or going on a tiger safari.

Well Imaginative Traveller are proud to announce that our family adventures now start at 2yrs old!  Our NEW Magical Morocco trip has been specially designed for 'little' travellers' following an easy-paced itinerary - hop on a horse-drawn calesh through the entertaining streets of Marrakech, take a trek in the Atlas Mountains (with mule support for tired feet) and hang out at the old pirates' lair on the coast at Essaouira.

 

So now we can proudly say that we can cater for all your adventure travel needs from 2yrs and upwards. Start 'em young we say!

Check out all our family adventures including all our NEW tours

 


 

Variety is the spice of life!

It occurred to me whilst watching Jools Holland bring in New Year at his annual Hootenanny, that I never in a million years expected to see on the same stage Petula Clark, Bobby Womack and Adam Ant.  Eclectic it might have been - entertaining it certainly was.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Adventures by train

"Most people have that fantasy of catching the train that whistles in the night." Willie Nelson

From the Orient Express to the Trans-Siberian, famous train journeys have appealed throughout the ages to any intrepid traveller.  Joining the locals to get from A to B on a train is often the best part of any adventure holiday. The grandiose, railways station buildings, the melee of the platforms, the bunks, couchettes and dining car, the intriguing-looking trays of food passing through the carriages and the fun that can be had chatting - or simply using hand signals - to the locals...it is the best way to experience a country at grassroots level.  And hey, what can beat going to sleep in one exciting place and waking up in yet another exciting new destination?!


 

Our New Year's Dozen

Take a look at where you COULD have spent New Year this year (food for thought for 2013.....):

Watching the famous leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake on Best of Burma
Wandering the incredible ruins at Angkor Wat in Cambodia on Angkor Trails
Sailing on Halong Bay on Vietnam Express Southbound
Chilling on the tropical beaches of Kota Kinabalu having summitted Mt Kinabalu on Best of Borneo
On an overnight camel safari on Rajasthan Adventure
Beneath Mount Everest on Everest Base Camp
At 3700m (!) on the ‘Roof of Africa’ on Serengeti  & Kilimanjaro
Trekking to see the Mountain Gorillas on Gorillas, Chimps & Game Parks
Walking through the magical siq into Petra on A Week in Jordan
Wildlife-spotting amongst the waterways of Tortuguero National Park on Classic Costa Rica
Exploring Machu Picchu on Peru Encompassed
Discovering the ‘End of the World’ in Ushuaia on Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego


 

Christmas holidays

Spent Christmas at home this year and now fancy getting away next Christmas?!!!  Here are some ideas for Christmas Day 2013...

Wandering amongst the temples of Bagan in Burma on Best of Burma

Viewing the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an on Legends of China

Staying at a former Rajasthani royal residence on Classic Rajasthan

Riding camels to a Sahara Desert camp on South Morocco Discovery

Spotting the Big Five on a Serengeti safari on Road to Zanzibar

Downing rum mojitos in Havana on Complete Cuba

Soaking in thermal baths beneath Machu Picchu on Majestic Peru 

If these ideas get you thinking then check out the search facility on our home page to find other adventure tours running over Christmas 2013 including some exciting NEW trips!


 

Spend the end of the world with us!

If the Mayans are right and the end of the world is nigh then it is high time you booked your next adventure holiday.  How about checking out our tours to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala (including the NEW Mayan Quest  - a 'Plus' style tour visiting the Mayan sites of Chichen Itza and Palenque) and seeing what all this Mayan prophecy fuss is all about....

Adventure tours to Mexico

Advenure tours to Belize

Adventure tours to Guatemala

See all our Central American tours


 

Over two decades in adventure travel

So twenty years ago today the first ever text message was sent.  How communication has come on since then with 150 billion texts being sent each year in the UK alone plus tweets and facebook postings etc.....

It is the same in the travel industry.  Twenty-one years ago Imaginative Traveller started running tours through the Middle East.  Today we see many of our original destinations such as Syria and Lebanon off limits (temporarily we hope) yet places such as Sierra Leone, Burma and El Salvador, once considered no-go zones, now feature in our new brochure (with you shortly!). Even Kashmir is back (watch this space for a firsthand trip report from here).


 

NEW Burma trips

Burma really is the buzz word at the moment.  Even just a year ago who would have thought that Radio 2 would be broadcasting live from Rangoon and that Burma would have become Imaginative Traveller's most popular destination with most of our small group adventure tours here selling out months in advance.


 

Calling all active families!

Having just returned from a weekend scrambling in Snowdonia (threw my first snowball of the season!) I was delighted to see how many youngsters were out hiking with their families especially considering the conditions and relative height of the mountain.  It is always good to see children getting active outside rather than obsessing over downloads and computer games.  Enjoying our world to the full could be an Imaginative Traveller motto and our family tours certainly make the most of the huge amount of activities and experiences families can enjoy around the world.

So if you have returned from half term with a renewed zest for booking your next trip and riding a camel in the Moroccan Sahara, biking through rice terraces in China, snorkelling with sea turtles in Borneo, swinging through the jungle in Costa Rica, white-water rafting in Peru or going tracking with the bushmen in Namibia appeals to you and your brood then take a look at our family adventure holidays.

STOP PRESS – OUR NEW 2013/14 BROCHURE WILL BE OUT SHORTLY PACKED FULL OF EXCITING NEW TRIPS AND OLD FAVOURITES INCLUDING SOME INSPIRATIONAL FAMILY TOURS.  COMING TO A DOORSTEP NEAR YOU SOON!


 

Wanderlust Guide of the Year

Everyone at Imaginative Traveller would like to wish Luca Alfatti, guide at
our sister company Dragoman, all the best for the Wanderlust Guide of the Year
Awards.

From over 1000 nominations (as voted for by the public), it
has now been whittled down to the final Fab Four. The winner will be chosen by
judges including Bill Bryson and Kate Humble at a prestigious ceremony at the
Royal Geographical Society in London
this Thursday.

Luca is one of Dragoman’s longest-serving crew members and has driven up and down
South America, Africa, India,
and from London to Beijing and back again. He even inspired one
of his own clients to go on to become a Dragoman driver. His supporters loved
his enthusiasm, his seemingly unlimited knowledge (“from history, politics, to
where to find the best local kebab”), and his determination to add special and
unique experiences to his tours - “A one-man Lonely Planet” to quote one
client.

Congratulations to Luca and Dragoman whatever the outcome as this is a great honour for both of
them.  Dragoman seem to be making a habit
of this as last year one of their other guides, Gaetano Barone, close friend of
Luca’s and fellow Italian, came second.

Enjoy the awards ceremony Luca and good luck!


 

Two wheels good, four wheels bad

So the Tour of Britain kicked off in Imaginative Traveller’s home town of Ipswich yesterday.  It was great to see the crowds out on a Sunday morning supporting ‘Wiggo’, Mark Cavendish and others.  It was also great to see how many people were getting involved in the fun ride afterwards (notably for the most part without helmets) and it just goes to show how London 2012 and big sporting events like the Tour de France are inspiring people to get out there and participate in sport themselves.

But why stop there?  Fantastic to be out on two wheels rather than slumped inside on the sofa but how about spreading your horizons?  One day you could be biking along the local towpath to a nearby pub, a few days later you could be cycling through the dramatic limestone scenery around Yangshuo in China, whooping downhill in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru or taking to two wheels around the hippo-filled Lake Naivasha in Kenya.

In the words of Sir Chris Hoy – “The Sky’s the limit”!!!

 

Inland China

Amazon & Incas

Best of East Africa

 


 

New airport at Cusco

So Peru has announced that it is going to build a larger airport near Cusco to boost tourism to the area – and the inevitable furore followed with concerns about the impact higher numbers of visitors would have on conservation.

Well there are always two sides to every story – yes it is right to be concerned about the effect tourists are having on the fragile site of Machu Picchu, Peru’s main tourist attraction but the government has actually shown over the past years that they too are aware of this, putting in place various restrictions on numbers to both the site and the Inca Trail.  The much talked about cable car project to the site has never transpired and anyway, who are we as outsiders to try to control the livelihoods of local people in much need of a boost to the economy?

It is all too easy to criticise what we perceive as taking away the remoteness of certain places – building roads high into the mountains which were once only accessible to trekkers spoils the traveller’s experience of a place for example, but also provides much needed access to the local people.

In Peru adventure travellers can still take the exciting overland option across the high altiplano to Cusco, enjoy a trek through the Andes following one of the many ancient Inca trails and arrive at Machu Picchu in awe of their surroundings whilst those who are less disposed to travel in such a fashion can arrive by plane, train and bus to the same site – and still be in awe.  With careful monitoring of numbers, conservation worries can be allayed and thus more people can enjoy this mystical mountain citadel.

See our holidays to Peru


 

Let the Games begin!

Had some fun looking up some of the demonstration sports from past Olympics - can you imagine gliding, skijoring (skiing behind a horse), ski ballet and military patrol ever making it into the regular games?!!!

Here are some others plus links to our trips where you may be able to actually watch them in action....

Budo - a martial art still practised in Japan.  Try Land of the Rising Sun

Glima - a form of folk wrestling from Iceland.  Try The Wilds of Iceland

Finnish Baseball - yup, from Finland.  Try Baltic Experience

Ballooning - up, up and away in many countries but most notably in Tanzania.  Try it on Serengeti Trail 

 


 

Assistance for Kumuka customers

Dragoman and Imaginative Traveller are sorry to learn of the plight of travellers worldwide affected by Kumuka going into administration, so are extending support to anyone affected in several ways:

~ Dragoman with its extensive range of overland trucks is briefing crew to pick up any stranded Kumuka passengers, offering on-the-road discounts of up to 25%;

 ~ Dragoman and Imaginative Traveller together offer an impressively wide range of overlanding and adventure travel holidays, and will strive to find the best alternative for any Kumuka customers;

 ~ Most Dragoman overland trips are already priced typically 20% cheaper than Kumuka in South America, but will ‘price match’ any equivalent Dragoman or Imaginative Traveller trip where necessary and possible.

Collectively Dragoman and Imaginative Traveller have over 50 years experience in adventure travel.

Both brands now sit under the same umbrella company Dragoman Overseas Travel Limited, which holds an Air Travel Organisers License (ATOL 4157), issued and bonded by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure customers are protected.

Their combined Sales team are adventure travel experts with access to a wide range of trips, dates, flights, insurance and other associated services to help Kumuka customers.

Customers should call Dragoman or Imaginative Traveller on 01728 885171. 

 


 

Giza 3D Tours

Is this the ultimate in armchair archaeological adventure? Quite possibly. A brand new application launched this week allows you to take a 3D virtual 'interior and exterior' tour of the pyramids of Giza, Egypt - without having to leave your seat. 
 
The French designers, 'Dessault Systemes', say that "users will be able to roam throughout the necropolis, visit the carefully restored tombs, access shafts and corridors, as well as browse all the information on the occupants of each burial chamber, including the dates of discovery and objects collected".
 
 
Situated on the outskirts of Cairo, the Giza complex spreads over several square kilometres and includes the three Great Pyramids, as well as the Sphinx.
 
The oldest and largest of these, the Great Pyramid, was completed in around 2560 BC and is the most ancient of the famous Seven Wonders of the World and the only one to remain largely intact.
 
 
While there is no substitute for seeing the pyramids at Giza in real life, the virtual tour ould whet the appetite of those heading off to see these awe-inspiring structures for themselves on an Egyptian small group adventure as well as help them learn more about these amazing landmarks.
 

 

Why the 'fly and flop' has 'flown and flopped'

As a leading adventure travel company, we admit to being a little biased when it comes to what we'd recommend as a travel option. Clue: adventure, culture and relaxation! 
 
A just-published survey on travel trends, though,  has uncovered that one in three travellers prefer a hotel 'fly and flop' poolside holiday, with one in five admitting they never leave the hotel complex at all.
 
It would seem that this lack of imagination when it comes to holiday options has a down side (you don't say!), with one in five adults reporting feeling uncomfortable about being unable to give any insight into a country's culture and traditions.
 
The findings also revealed four in ten tourists never get a true feel for their destination because they don't 'get off the beaten track'.
 
 
Eurocamp's Chris Hilton, who commissioned the survey, says, " it's a real shame to return from a holiday thinking you've not made the most of your time away.'
 
He added: 'Certainly, our customers tell us that getting off the beaten track and exploring as a family can really enrich the holiday experience."
 
Which is what our customers have been saying for over 20 years! 
 

 

Remarkable women wanted for Channel 4 TV documentary!

Are you about to embark on a 'voyage of discovery'? Have you reached 'mid-life' and are wanting to turn your life around? Have you done so already?
 
If so, then Channel 4's prestigious documentary department would like to hear about it for a 2-part documentary with writer, actress and comedian, Sharon Horgan. 
 
(Viewers may remember Sharon's last documentary, 'How to be a good mother' which aired recently on Channel 4)
 
"In the film we want Sharon to meet men and women who are battling the negative feelings associated with middle age in a unique and empowering way," say the producers. "We want her to meet people embarking on a journey of self-discovery, or anyone adopting on a new and remarkable approach to life, after a moment of crisis, whether it’s a divorce, kids leaving the home, or early retirement."
 
Does this sound like you? If so, we'd love to hear from you. Just forward your details to: mailto:rebecca@dragoman.co.uk

 

The 'other side' of Iran

It may be a destination that makes the headlines for the wrong reasons (it's government, rather than its culture, landscapes, architecture or people), but, as a recent surge in bookings testify, for seasoned travellers it remains one of the great 'must sees'.
 
From the exquisite Islamic buildings of Esfahan to the strange mud-brick towers of the ancient desert city of Yazd; colourful bazaars and shimmering deserts to cosmopolitan tea-houses in modern-day Tehran, there's just so much to see.
 
Our two week adventure has proved a bit hit not just because it showcases all this magnificent but comparatively little-visited country has to offer, but because it gives travellers the chance to see 'the other side' of Iran. Fancy hanging out with the nomads in a goat hair tent - a genuine Silk road caravanserai? Or finding out about day-to-day life with a local family in the lovely oasis city of Kashan?
 
Come and discover for yourself why the people of Iran are famed for being amongst the most hospitable and friendly people on the planet.
 

 

Australasian war history

 
Tomorrow (25th April) marks one of the most significant events in Australasian war history:  the  anniversary of the landing of Australasian soldiers - the Anzacs - on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.
 
Each year, New Zealand and Australian tourists flock to Gallipoli, Turkey, to commemorate those who lost their lives, and of course, to make a holiday of it, given that Turkey is the fastest growing tourist destination in the Middle East. 
 
Boasting a rich history and culture, 5,000 miles of stunning coastline (and oh, the warm, azure waters!) distinctive cuisine and more archaeological sites than seems fair, it's no wonder that Turkey is such a hit with adventurous travellers young and not so young.
 
As an added incentive, we're also offering up to 15% off trips that depart there before the end of December. Click here for more. 

 

Australasian war history

Tomorrow (25th April) marks one of the most significant events in Australasian war history:  the  anniversary of the landing of Australasian soldiers - the Anzacs - on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

Each year, New Zealand and Australian tourists flock to Gallipoli, Turkey, to commemorate those who lost their lives, and of course, to make a holiday of it, given that Turkey is the fastest growing tourist destinations in the Middle East.

Boasting a rich history and culture, 5,000 miles of stunning coastline (and oh, the warm, azure waters!) distinctive cuisine and more archaeological sites than seems fair, it's no wonder that Turkey is such a hit with adventurous travellers young and not so young.

As an added incentive, we're also offering up to 15% off trips that depart there before the end of December. Click here for more.


 

Historic Visit

The world's spotlight has been firmly placed on Burma this week, to coincide with David Cameron's historic visit to the country, where he met Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her Lakeside Villa in Rangoon. Since softening her stance on tourism to Burma, and sanctions being lifted, enquiries about our Burma trips have more than tripled. In this timely picture gallery, courtesy of the Telegraph, see for yourself what this stunning but until now, comparatively isolated country, has to offer the adventurous traveller.


 

Holi Moly

It's certainly true that a picture can say a thousand words so, as India and Nepal celebrate what must be one of the world's most colourful religious festivals this week - Holi - we thought we'd share this gallery courtesy of the Guardian.

If you haven't experienced this riot of colour for yourself, where Hindus throw coloured water over each other and during which usually strict social norms are relaxed  (it's wild!) why not book yourself in for next year? Holi falls on 27th and 28th March in 2013 and we've a stack of trips which co-incide, including our 14 day Road to Delhi trip and our 22 day North India Unplugged trip.


 

Photography on holiday

At Destinations last weekend there was a display of Ponting's photos from Antarctica which conveyed the immense power a photo can have on the viewer.  The image of Scott and his ill-fated companions at the South Pole in front of the Norwegians' tent is almost too poignant to bear.  Do go and see for yourselves - it's at the Royal Geographical Society, it's free and on now until the end of March.

There is also another exhibition at the Queen's Gallery showing not only some of Ponting's photos of Scott's expedition but also Hurley's images of Shackleton's incredible experience on the same continent - now until mid-April.

With the bankruptcy of one of the world's most iconic names, Kodak, it made me ponder on the changing face of photography when travelling.  We have gone from carefully clutching our rolls of film to be developed once we returned home to taking instant images on a variety of appliances (sometimes even a camera!) and being able to send these to anyone we like immediately, from halfway round the world.  Or upload them for public viewing. Or even use them to create our own personalised postcard - if you are still into sending snail mail that is.

Personally I believe that sometimes removing yourself from behind whatever appliance you are using to take images actually places you deeper into your destination.  Some of my most memorable moments have been experienced when, after a lot of swearing, I have been faced with a broken camera and have had to rely on eyeball memories alone. And other times I have simply just put the camera down in order to get closer to the place I am in.  Cruising to Antartica was one of those times.  On safari was another.

So maybe for that ultimate Kodak moment nothing else is needed except eyes and memory.....

 


 

The Falklands back in the news again

So the 'Las Malvinas/Falkland Islands' issue rears its ugly head again.  The politicians are back barking at each other with David Cameron somewhat amusingly accusing the Argentineans of 'colonialism' which may well be the most classic case of 'pot calling kettle black' in recent times.  How much of this relates to the very attractive possibility of rich natural resources being discovered down there and how much to the tragic war is anyone's guess but what we do know is that all the islanders really want is to be left alone and to continue to attract much needed tourism. 

The islands are a natural paradise for wildlife lovers and photographers and, indeed, anyone looking for a complete wilderness experience.  You will enjoy mother nature here like nowhere else on earth - and without having to cross the treacherous Southern Ocean or take malaria tablets.  You will find yourself usually alone amongst a hundred penguins or elephant seals with only the ever constant wind to  keep you company.  A truly magical experience.

If however budget does not allow you to travel to these special islands then how about Argentina itself?  We have a number of new trips here this year, many exciting overland expeditions linking the west coast of South America with the east and, yes, taking in the odd penguin colony en route ('colonialism' of a different sort Mr Cameron).  We even have a trip finishing at Ushuaia which would allow you to hop on a cruise to the Falklands and combine both countries in one unforgettable adventure holiday.  Keeping both Argentines and Brits happy.....

http://www.imaginative-traveller.co.uk/trips/Dzsu

 


 

Travel Show mania!

Imaginative Traveller and our parent company Dragoman had a successful visit to the Outdoors Show in London last weekend.  We had loads of travellers flocking to our truck, meeting our tour guides and chatting to our sales team PLUS getting access of up to 30% OFF selected trips!

Why don't you come and join in the fun at the upcoming shows around the UK?  Click on the below link for further information about dates, locations and FREE tickets and check out images of the latest show.

See you there!

 


 

Burma trip review

With perfect timing after hearing today that Suu Kyi will be running for Parliament in the April Burma elections, we have just received this wonderful trip review from a client hot off one of our Burma tours.


 

Bungee jumping - Victoria Falls activities

In light of the recent bungee accident in Victoria Falls we would like to advise that we are suspending offering the bungee jump as an optional activity on our tours until the full investigation is complete.


We are doing all the necessary follow up with Victoria Falls Bungee who will advise us once the investigation is complete and what the end result is.  At this stage they are not sure how long the investigation will take to complete. It is the understanding that some safety measures have been put in place and that the operator is continuing to operate, however we feel that we should await the investigation before offering this activity to our passengers.

There are countless optional activities available in Victoria Falls such as white water rafting, canoeing, horse-riding, abseiling or gorge swinging.  Check out our tours here or come and hear more about them in person at the Outdoors Show this weekend in London where we will be giving talks and trip presentations at our stand AT110.  See you there!


 

NEW trips for 2012/13

We have an exciting SEVENTEEN new destinations for 2012/13 including Georgia, Lebanon and Iceland.

Georgia is for those with a true thirst for adventure!  Our tour is split between seeing the highlights of Turkey then crossing the border at the Black Sea and visiting the wonderful scenery and remote fortified mountain villages of Georgia.  Stock up on the local tipple in the Telavi region, enjoy a wild camp in the Caucasus, hike the Chalato glacier from a unique homestay and visit Gori, Stalin's birthplace.

Lebanon is firmly back on the tourist track.  Beirut is a stylish, cosmopolitan and lively city.  Bcharre is a pristine nature reserve and the ancient sites of Baalbek give Egypt a run for its money.  Coupled with the scenic ports of Byblos and Sidon and some surprisingly fantastic local wines (Lebanon is home to the world renowned Chateau Musar vineyard), this is a tremendous way to pack 8 days of adventure in!

Iceland - the name is synonymous with the volcanic eruption of 2010 which saw the grounding of thousands of planes in the northern hemisphere (and a re-wording of many an insurance policy!).  However it is also an extraordinarily beautiful country with dazzling glaciers, lush greenery, thermal lagoons, erupting geysers, enormous waterfalls and of course, live volcanoes.  Our trip takes you to the must see sights as well as deep into the remote interior by 4WD for a rewarding trek.

Interested?  Then either wait till the brochure drops through your door over the new few days or check out our website this weekend or, if you really can't wait, give us a call now for further details. 

 

 

 

 


 

Egypt travel advice

All trips are continuing to run as usual with the exception that tours due to visit the Egyptian Museum will do so on their return to Cairo. Those trips that continue to Jordan may miss out on visiting the museum. The Egyptian museum is alongside Tahir Square and at this stage we have made the decision it is safer to keep clients away from this area. This will be monitored on a case by case basis.


All groups are safe and travelling throughout the country.

The FCO has not changed their advice to travel. Please see the link to their site as below.

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/middle-east-north-africa/egypt#travelSummary

 


 

Jungle or rainforest?

So we're back in the jungle trying to get out eh?  I've always thought this could potentially be a PR disaster for the Australian Tourist Board - or an added boost depending on whether you are paranoid about creepy crawlies or absolutely love the thought of exploring primary rainforest. And what is the difference anyway between the rainforest and the jungle?


 

Rickshaw rides

So Matt Baker from BBC's 'The One Show' is off on a rickshaw ride from north to south of UK to raise money for Children in Need.  Brought to mind a dodgy moral experience I had taking a human rickshaw ride in Calcutta a few decades ago.  There are dubious ethics about this but at the time, on arrival at the station, these human rickshaws were the only form of taxis around and as everyone else was using them I just 'jumped on the bandwagon'.  I guess it is a question like using porters in the Himalayas etc....The loads they carry seem obscene at times but equally you are providing a valuable income to an area in much need of tourism money.

 

Not sure if the human rickshaws are as prolific these days but there are of course much more enjoyable ways to enjoy Asia - such as the cyclo-rickshaws you can hop on during our city tours in Vietnam.  Or perhaps by elephant-back through the forests of Chitwan National Park in Nepal. 


 

Bangkok flooding update

Flooding in Thailand

The situation remains serious and the British FCO continues to advise against all but essential travel to Bangkok.  This does not does not include transit through the international airport. There is a significant risk that flooding in the city will increase if barriers fail. High demand is causing shortages of bottled water and cash machines may not work.  Please see http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/asia-oceania/thailand for further details.

Status of Imaginative Traveller tours to Thailand:

Bangkok to Phnom Penh (GTBP) due to depart 9 November 2011 has been cancelled. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Laos & Cambodia (GTLC) due to depart 9 November 2011 has been cancelled. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Highlights of Laos (GTLS) due to depart 9 November 2011 has been cancelled. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Beachcomber (GTBC) due to depart 20 November 2011 has been cancelled.  All clients boooked on this tour will be notified.

The following tours have changes to itineraries:

South East Asian Odyssey (GTAO) due to depart 12 November 2011 has been changed. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Beyond the Mekong (GTBM) due to depart 12 November 2011 has been changed. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Thai Indochina Loop (GTIL) due to depart 12 November 2011 has been changed. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Beachcomber (GTBC) due to depart 13 November 2011 has been changed. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Thailand Jungle to Beaches (GTJB) due to depart 14 November 2011 has been changed. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Bangkok to Singapore Overland (GTBS) due to depart 14 November 2011 has been changed. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Bangkok to Phnom Penh (GTBP) due to depart 16 November 2011 has been changed. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Laos & Cambodia (GTLC) due to depart 16 November 2011 has been changed. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Highlights of Laos (GTLS) due to depart 16 November 2011 has been changed. All clients on this tour will be notified.

 

The safety of all our travellers is extremely important and we will continue to monitor the situation very closely and make appropriate changes to our itineraries if necessary. 


 

Imaginative Traveller and Dragoman

Exciting news!  Imaginative Traveller is pleased to announce that it is joining forces with Dragoman Overseas Travel Ltd. This will allow customers to choose between two distinct travel styles - small group adventure holidays and overland travel. The two products will operate side by side under the Dragoman Overseas Travel Ltd umbrella, with both brands retaining their individual websites and identity.

Charlie Hopkinson, MD of Dragoman Overseas Travel Ltd, said: "Whilst our truck-based Overland Tours are well-established, the integration of the Imaginative Traveller brand within the Dragoman family will allow us to develop our small group adventure holiday offering further. We are keen to retain the brand values, destinational expertise and emphasis on affordable adventures that has kept Imaginative Traveller customers loyal for the past 20 years and are confident that the product will complement our existing adventure holidays well."

Imaginative Traveller’s tailor-made capability will also provide a greater range of personalised itineraries for individuals, couples, families and special interest groups and will sit alongside the current range of private truck chartered trips Dragoman offers.

The 2012 Dragoman Overland Tour brochure will be released in November and the Imaginative Traveller Small Group Adventure brochure is scheduled for launch in December.


 

Bangkok flooding

The situation in Bangkok remains serious as far as the flooding is concerned.  For all travellers heading to Bangkok please be aware that the city has a risk of a reduced supply of bottled water.  We would advise people to take additional water purification options.  Please discuss the most suitable methods with an outdoor supplier/specialist retail shop.



 

Thailand tours update


The Foreign Office is still advising against all but essential travel to Bangkok.  Transit through the international airport is still allowed.

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/asia-oceania/thailand

Status of our tours to Thailand:

Hill Tribes & Beaches (GTHB) due to depart 5 November 2011 has been cancelled. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Sian Encounter (GTSE) due to depart 5 November 2011 has been cancelled. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Totally Thailand (GTTO) due to depart 6 November 2011 has been cancelled. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Northern Hill Tribe Trek (GTHT) due to depart 6 November 2011 has been cancelled. All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

Beyond the Mekong (GTBM) due to depart 5 November 2011 has been cancelled.  All clients booked on this tour will be notified.


Thai Indochina Loop (GTIL) due to depart 5 November 2011 has been cancelled.  All clients booked on this tour will be notified.


Bangkok to Phnom Penh (GTBP) due to depart 9 November 2011 has been cancelled.  All clients booked on this tour will be notified.


Laos & Cambodia (GTLC) due to depart 9 November 2011 has been cancelled.  All clients booked on this tour will be notified.


Highlights of Laos (GTLS) due to depart 9 November 2011 has been cancelled.  All clients booked on this tour will be notified.

 

Currently all tours due to depart on or after 11 November 2011 should be operating as normal.  However safety is our top priority and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.


 

Thailand flooding update

The Foreign Office advice for British nationals was updated on 26 October 2011 as per below. Please note that transit through the international airport is still allowed.

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with
an amendment to the Travel Summary (update to advice and information on
floods). The overall level of the advice has changed. We now advise against all
but essential travel to the city of Bangkok and the 26 provinces in Thailand
affected by flooding.  Our advice against all but essential travel to the
city of Bangkok does not include transit through Suvarnabhumi international
airport.  Flights to destinations elsewhere in Thailand (eg the resorts of
Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, and Koh Samui) continue to operate normally. 

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/asia-oceania/thailand

Our current advice to travellers remains the same. We will divert all tours away from Bangkok until 3 November 2011. After this date the situation will be re-assessed and a decision will be made on the tours commencing the weekend of 5-6 November 2011. Safety is our top priority and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Status of our tours to Thailand:

GTBC - Beachcomber - 30 October

GTLS - Laos & Cambodia - 2 November

GTLC - Highlights of Laos - 2 November

If you're booked onto one of these tours you will be contacted by our representative who will provide you with further information. All tours to depart after 3 November 2011 will run as scheduled.


 

Flooding in South East Asia

Flooding in Thailand

The flooding in Thailand is now affecting a large part of Bangkok with the waters expecting to reach a high on 26 October 2011. Tourist areas such as the Grand Palace, Wat Po and Khao San road have still not been affected. Bangkok International Airport remains open and is operating as normal with very low risk of flooding.


 

Family adventures in Jordan - through the eyes of a 15yr old

Find out what you can get up to on our superb family adventure tour to Jordan - Journey to the Lost City - as written (word for word) by our work experience 14yr old who has been helping out in the office for the past few weeks.  Thanks for all your work Robert - your writing skills put a lot of adults to shame.  Hope you get to Jordan sometime - it's a brilliant country!

With the Family

Seize an adventure with the family and experience The Lost City and involve yourself with the history, yet kick back on a peaceful, tidy and tranquil beach later that evening. Splash about in the Dead Sea and relax on the calm sands; play around at the Crusader Castle and imagine life centuries back. You can get all this whilst being with your family exploring the towering expanses that Jordan has to offer.

What’s on Offer?        

You can bask in the city of Jerash. One of the finest preserved Roman cities the Earth has to offer. It’s a perfect place for the kids to run about play games together whilst you envisage what it would have been like and learn about the culture. Explore the numerous temples and theatres on sight. Then that same day visit the Citadel within Amman. Then journey through the Desert on your way to Wadi Rum. See the wonders of the Desert visiting Madaba and the Mosaics. And then Enjoy the once in a lifetime experience of camping out in a Bedouin tent in the Desert. Then take the morning out to relax on the beach before another adventure in Wadi Musa via a bus ride through the beautiful mountain roads. The next day visit the outstanding side of the Khazneh at Petra before exploring the rest of this bewildering city. Penultimately you will take a guided walk with the family through the Dana Nature Reserve viewing a wide range of wild life from the Lesser Kestrel to the endangered Nubian Ibex. Then finally you’ll be visiting the Crusader Castle at Kerak before spending the last hours of the tour bemused by the Dead Sea. 

Why should you go?

Never has there been a better opportunity to spend a week out with the family, learn so much yet have everyone enjoy it: there is something for everyone. There is the culture, relaxation, history and the sights that will guarantee a memorable holiday for the whole family. And yet if you are into beach holidays then this will suit you perfectly because you get the sun, sea and sand you want but in a completely different environment to that of one you would usually think of.Because of the diversity of this tour you and the family are bound to love it. 

Journey to the Lost City

Jordan adventure holidays 


 

Egypt back as our top seller!

With uncertainty about Mubarak filling the news at the moment, now is the perfect time to remind travellers what a fantastic destination this is to visit - whether you have been before or never set foot in the Valley of the Kings, ridden a camel at sunset round the Pyramids or sailed down the Nile on a felucca.

 

 

Adventure travel to Egypt seems to be flavour of the month as it is back as our top seller after a rocky couple of months. This is great news as when we receive heartfelt pleas as per below from our hard-working tour leaders, it is very rewarding to be able to fulfill their wishes!

 

"Hello from New Egypt!

I just want to say to the whole world that Egypt has changed to New Egypt - safer , more beautiful, cleaner, the people are loving each other more and taking care of each other better.

So I would like to say that Egypt now is the best country to choose for your holiday - you will see the changes if you have been here before and love it if you have never been. It is a great time to visit Egypt at this time because of the 'Arab Spring'."

 

STOP PRESS!

Felucca Trails now reduced to £308 departing 14 August 2011!

 

Client Quotes

And what have some of our travellers had to say about recent visits to Egypt...?

"Guides at Pyramids, Luxor and Philae were all EXCELLENT and knowledgeable"

"Thank you Tamer for being a wonderful tour leader. It was a pleasure meeting you"

"Excellent food on boat, well organised with great activities"

 

See our adventure tours to Egypt

 


 

Imaginative Traveller donation helps Animal Welfare Centre construction!

We are pleased to announce that with the assistance of a donation of £2500 from the Imaginative Traveller responsible travel fund, the charity Animal Welfare of Luxor (AWOL) has begun construction of a much-needed permanent centre!

AWOL is a small charity working throughout the poor farming communities of the West Bank in Luxor.  They care mainly for working donkeys in the area through preventative medical care and education, although they also look after dogs and horses in some cases. 

They still need to raise £30,000 to fully complete the building, but have decided to build in stages, and complete the building once they can raise the necessary funds.To help them achieve this target we are supporting the charity’s ‘buy a brick’ scheme.  It is possible to buy individual bricks at £10 per brick or sponsor a specific area within the clinic.  

 

If you feel as passionately as we do about what AWOL are doing you can buy your own bricks – www.AWOL-Egypt.org

Adventure tours to Egypt with Imaginative Traveller

Responsible Tourism with Imaginative Traveller


 

“Simply the best holiday I have ever been on”

Want to discover a hidden side to Imaginative Traveller?  Well what about our tailor-made holidays to locations that don’t feature in our brochure or website?  We recently organised a family holiday for the Lloyd family to Malaysia which took in Taman Negara National Park and Langkawi as well as Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands.

This is what they had to say about their trip:

“Our aim was to see as much of the natural beauty of Malaysia as possible while ensuring the kids (aged 4 and 10) were both happy and safe. Time in the jungle was nicely balanced with some down time at the beautiful Langkawi resort at the end.

Local people were employed throughout our travel who were expert guides (even the taxi drivers) and the tour didn't adversely affect the natural habitats we'd come to see.

We enjoyed so much about our holiday it's hard to choose just one highlight but we did have a great time in Taman Negara climbing the canopy walkway and Teresik Hill.


How would we rate our holiday overall? Brilliant! I am reborn!”

 

Tailor made holidays are all about YOU. Choose your own style of accommodation, pace of holiday, form of transport, length, season and activities. We can offer private versions of any of our trips or tailor many of them to create a unique and very personal travel experience.  So if you love the journeys we offer but would like a personalised itinerary for just yourself and partner, family, group of friends, charity or school expedition, why not use our expertise to arrange your very own tailor made tour?


We love putting our personal, firsthand knowledge of the destinations to the test, so why not give a tailor made holiday a go and contact us on 01473 667 345 or tailor-made@imtrav.net.


 

Top Ten Most Popular Currencies

American Express Travel Exchange have announced their Top Ten most popular currencies.  Turkish Lira and the Mexican Peso have moved up the list which shows that people are taking on board the fact that Turkey, being outside the Eurozone, is proving an economic destination.  Mexico may be riding a return wave for tourists after the effects of the swine flu epidemic a few years ago. 

 

 

Egypt still going strong

However, the most telling fact is that the demand for the Egyptian Pound has declined by 50% YET it is still in the Top Ten.  Which just goes to prove what an eternally popular destination Egypt is. 

 

 

Visit in peace

Despite (or maybe because) of its recent troubles people are still visiting this country albeit in dramatically smaller numbers.  Locals are crying out for tourists to return as stability was restored many months ago so why not jump on a plane and hop on a felucca or private cruise boat with one of our brilliant adventure tours there. 

 

Great Value

See the Pyramids, Sphinx, Red Sea and all the glories of the Nile for yourself – at incredible value not just with great tour prices but also just great prices once you are there!

 

See all our Egypt adventure tours

 

 


 

Llama dung helped build Machu Picchu!

 

Apparently llama dung made such good fertiliser that the Incas were able to cultivate maize which was easier to store than their traditional quinoa.  This in turn freed up labour for road-building or constructing Inca trails.  Thus maize was an essential ingredient in the expansion of the Inca Empire.

So when you visit Machu Picchu, trek the Inca Trail and visit the other Inca sites in the Sacred Valley or Cusco you now know how it came about! 

Check out our 100th anniversary trips to Peru here

 

 


 

Our Wonderful Tour Leaders in South East Asia!

Just got some amazing feedback about our fabulous leaders in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Burma.  Just goes to show how a good leader can really make a trip! 


 

A 'royal' honeymoon with a difference - adventures and beach!

If you are looking for that special holiday with a difference - maybe an exciting adventure tour combined with a relaxing time at the beach - then check out some of these ideas:

 

Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania - Gorillas, Safari and Zanzibar

Egypt - Nile & Red Sea Journey

South Africa, Mozambique & Zimbabwe - Wildlife & Beaches of Southern Africa

Costa Rica & Panama with the San Blas Extension

Thailand - Hill Tribes and Beaches

Phenomenal Philippines with Whale Sharks & Volcano Extension

 


 

Group Travel Rocks!

Our colleague Lucy Graham has just returned from our adventure tours to Turkey.  Having always travelled independently in the past, group travel was a new concept to her......

Misconceptions

“ I must admit, I had preconceptions of group travel as shuffling along behind a guide with a big red flag and following a structured itinerary. I’m happy to say that I was proved very wrong! It was all so relaxed. There was a good mixture of set activities with plenty of free time. Travelling in such a small group meant that we were very rarely waiting for each other, leaving more time to explore and appreciate our surroundings and I never once felt unsafe. It allowed me to try things I would never have experienced on my own: A table laden with every meze you could dream of, an evening of relaxation with a nargileh pipe, or taking home pictures of Pamukkale, as my camera failed to work that day!”

A Great Group

“Made up largely of solo travellers with a few couples. They were all like-minded, friendly and ready to delve into a new country. We got to know each other well during long dinners and on various train and bus journeys.  We ALL had a blast!”

 

 

A Great Guide

“Travelling with an experienced local guide was priceless. There were no language barriers to overcome and our itinerary ran flawlessly so we could all enjoy our experience. As our leader understood both Turkish customs as well as our own, he was able to advise us with respect to local etiquette which made the trip authentic. Plus he always knew the best spots to eat at!”

Great Value

“If I had tried to arrange such a trip on my own in the same short amount of time, I’m sure I would have failed miserably. There would have been miscommunications, missed buses and unfortunate touting experiences galore. Our group number meant that we could negotiate good deals in restaurants and our guide’s organisation meant that everything connected together beautifully. For these reasons I would rate the Turkey Adventure highly and definitely good value.”

Read more about our adventure holidays to Turkey here

Return to About Us


 

RATS! Galapagos project takes the biscuit!

RATS!  Galapagos project takes the biscuit!

Tons of biscuits laced with poison have been discharged from a helicopter on the Galapagos Islands in an attempt to eradicate the rats which are endangering many species of birds and mammals on the islands.  The most significant victims are the eggs and hatchlings of turtles and Galapagos giant tortoise. The bait will repulse all other wildlife so there is no danger to species such as marine iguanas, sea lions and the Galapagos petrel.


The project has been launched by the Galapagos National Park Service with assistance from other organisations including the Charles Darwin Foundation.  Imaginative Traveller support the work of the Charles Darwin Research Station through raising funds and awareness of the Galapagos Conservancy.  Only a visit to this unique and precious region of the world can make travellers aware of the importance of conservation in these fascinating and unique islands.

 

 


So if you are looking for a RAT FREE holiday then check out our tours to this part of the world ranging from a 5 day cruise of the southern islands (with GUARANTEED departures) to a 17 day trip including an 8 day cruise of both northern and southern isles and a week spent amongst the rainforest and volcanoes of mainland Ecuador.


Ecuador Wildlife Discovery


Galapagos in Depth


Galapagos Adventure

 

 


 

Travelling in Zimbabwe and South Africa





With all the tumultuous events currently occurring around the world – ranging from political revolutions to tragic natural disasters – there are a number of countries or regions that are no-go zones at the moment.  So we are pleased to have a personal report from two countries that have seen (and are still seeing) tremendous upheaval and difficulties – Zimbabwe and South Africa.  Alison from our Sales Team has just returned from our ‘Waterfalls & Wildlife’ adventure tour which travels from Victoria Falls, through Zimbabwe to South Africa.

 

Her trip report will be published soon so watch this space for some fantastic stories and photos of her safari experiences.  For now, here are a few of her thoughts on these destinations from a traveller’s perspective:

 

People have pre-conceptions of places before they get there - I know I did for South Africa and Zimbabwe.

 

Friendly Locals  My main concern was racism, but I was not a witness to this at all.  The locals I did speak with about this issue told me this was not a problem anymore. The locals we met were all very friendly and helpful.

 

Safety  I had been slightly worried about my safety but I honestly felt while I was over there I had nothing to worry about. There was certainly no stopping of vehicles by people demanding money, a picture occasionally depicted by the press.

 

Security  The campsites we stayed in were small and beautifully remote. We had no problem leaving our valuables (sensibly locked in backpacks) in our tents if we were out on a game drive or taking part in an activity.

 

Politics  We decided it was probably best simply not to mention politics in Zimbabwe - it is after all a fairly emotive subject in that country”.

 

 

 

 

More to come from Alison soon!

 

See our Waterfalls & Wildlife tour


 

International Women's Day





Today is International Women’s Day!  Taking place annually on 8 March, thousands
of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate
achievements. Well there are plenty of inspirational female travellers and
explorers out there - from Freya Stark, Gertrude Bell and Fanny Bullock Workman
to Dervla Murphy, Ellen MacArthur and, more recently, Bonita Norris, who last
year became the youngest British female to summit Mount Everest at 22yrs!

So all you ‘gals’ out there, are you inspired by today to
get out and achieve something you thought was beyond your capabilities?  This could be as ‘simple’ as finally taking
the plunge and booking that adventure trip to Turkey or trekking the Inca Trail
to see Machu Picchu.

No need to be intimidated by the thought of climbing Kilimanjaro
surrounded by testosterone!  Don’t dream
it – do it!


 

Egypt back on the map!





Egypt back on the map!

As the situation in Egypt stabilises we are pleased to announce that as of
April 1 we will be operating normal scheduled departures. However we will
continue to closely monitor and review as updated information comes to hand.

Some might say that now is the time to visit this normally
hugely popular destination when the sites will undoubtedly be quieter with less
tourists on the scene.  So if you have
always fancied experiencing the numerous impressive sites that Egypt has to
offer – the Pyramids, Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings, the majestic River Nile,
the Red Sea with its glistening crystal waters and beautiful sandy beaches and
the inspiring Sinai desert – then check out our wide variety of adventure
holidays there and experience Egypt for yourself!

To view our trips to Egypt click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Deja-vous?

I was chatting to a colleague who had recently returned from our Vietnam at a Glance tour (see next month's ETracks for a full report). She was so inspired by her trip she wanted to head straight back out on the road again on another tour but couldn't decide which one!  Which led onto a conversation about whether you choose a similar style holiday for your next trip or a totally different one.  Do you go back to the region you have just visited or expand your travel repertoire?


 

Discover 'peaceful' Chiang Mai

You might not think of a large city as the most peaceful place to spend a holiday - but that's exactly what one traveller did recently when he visited Thailand.

Nigel Richardson of the Telegraph headed to Chiang Mai - the largest city in the north of the country - in search of a harmonious experience offering "an instantly moreish idea of Thailand".

He describes Chiang Mai as "a laidback city of ancient temples and orderly traffic" and talks about how he was soothed by numerous massages and talked to a Buddhist monk at the Wat Suan Dork temple about life and self-improvement.

If you're looking to do something a bit more exciting on your Thailand holiday, Chiang Mai and the surrounding area is also "ideal" for the adventure traveller, according to the Tourism Thailand organisation.

It offers terrain suitable for activities such as trekking on elephant-back, four-wheel drive safaris and river rafting, it says.


 

Discover Sri Lanka's varied wildlife

If you're keen to see exotic and exciting animals, we think Sri Lanka may be just the place to travel to.

Having just announced that it is to focus more on wildlife when it comes to receiving travellers, the Sri Lanka Tourism board claims that it has not given this area enough attention - until now, claims Philippa Jacks, writing for ttglive.com.

Here you'll be able to see a wide variety of creatures, from whales to birds and butterflies.

"In Sri Lanka, you can see both the largest mammal on earth, the elephant, and the largest mammal in the sea, the blue whale, in one day," comments chairman of the tourist board Dr Nalaka Godahewa.

Meanwhile, the board has also expressed its desire to promote its beaches and adventure tourism in the country.

At the beginning of the year, the New York Times deemed Sri Lanka to be one of the best places to visit in 2011.


 

Perception 'gives travel its thrill'

Perception is the reason travel is so exhilarating, according to one writer, who makes particular note of the time she has spent in India.

So, if you're a traveller keen to submerse yourself in a different culture, you might find India a good place to start - but it'll be your perceptions as much as the country that shapes your experience, according to Mariellen Ward, writing for MatadorNetwork.

"Horns honking, cows in the road, bicycles piled high with unlikely goods careening between the cars, no one paying any attention to the lanes or the rules. It seemed like madness," comments Ms Ward, describing her first trip to Delhi.

After travelling to country regularly, she notes her perceptions changed and now she doesn't notice these things as much.

And those keen to experience India for themselves may be interested in the comments of Sandra Johnson, writing in a recent post for Suite101.com, who recommends that travellers heading to the country visit Rajasthan.

Here, she claims, you can discover a fantastic array of architecture and learn about the area's fascinating history.


 

Experience 'the landscape and culture' of Morocco

If you're a traveller looking for an African adventure a little closer to home, why not visit Morocco?

Jamal El Jaidi, events and promotions manager at the Moroccan National Tourist Office, enthuses about the country, saying that at just three hours from the UK it is the perfect place for people looking to experience a completely different culture to explore.

"It is the closest African destination to Europe, so everything is different - the landscape, the culture," he comments.

He also notes that it is a particularly safe destination and that there are plenty of diverse attractions for visitors to enjoy, such as the Atlas Mountains.

Touring cities is also a great way to learn more about the country, he claims, with Marrakech, Fez and Meknez being among those he recommends.

Matt Phillips, editor of travelmag.com, suggests that Marrakech can be an "intoxicating" place to visit, with its exciting markets and winding alleyways.


 

Explore the jungle and barrier reef in Belize

If you're thinking of travelling through Central America, make sure you visit Belize.

The northernmost country in the region, it has so much to offer travellers, from ancient ruins to amazing natural wonders.

One of the best things to go and see is the Mayan Ruins, according to Suite101, which is an imposing sight, as well as holding much historical importance.

Meanwhile, Belize is also home to the world's second largest coral reef, which is just waiting to be explored.

Among the other things to see and do are caving, exploring the wilderness of the jungle and canoeing - making this country the perfect destination if you crave adventure and excitement.

And while you're there, why not visit Belize City, which is the largest in the country?

Recent research by Travel Alberta shows that adventures are one of the most important aspects of time away, with 28 per cent of survey respondents citing doing some you thought you wouldn't as being part of a good holiday.


 

Discover 'intoxicating' Marrakech

For those of us with a sense of adventure who are looking to discover the unknown, Marrakech could be the place that provides travellers with the spark they seek.

It is now as easy as it ever has been to get lost in the city's alleyways and explore the hidden depths of the markets, notes editor of travelmag.com Matt Phillips – who described the location as 'intoxicating'.

Even the areas that attract larger numbers of tourists - such as the main square called Djemaa el-Fna - are still affected by the intoxicating spirit of the city, he noted.

And when night comes you get the chance to sample some of the cuisine that transports you to an entirely different world as the Moroccan setting allows you to remove yourself from what is going on around you, Mr Phillips stated.

"One thing many visitors overlook is the city and region's history, which is fascinating in its own right," he added, which could be on a must-see list for people visiting Marrakech - the place named as British Airways' top destination for 2011.


 

Machu Picchu 'one of top 10 sights'

Peru's astonishing Machu Picchu has been listed as one of the top ten things to see in your lifetime.

According to a list of the ultimate things to see and do before you die, put together by James Honeyman-Wooler for Suite 101, this lost city is an absolute must.

Famous for being the crowning glory of Incan trails in Peru, Machu Picchu is often said to be best viewed from the Gateway of the Sun, which allows visitors to view the whole site framed by a doorway of sorts.

Situated just above the Urubamba Valley, the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu is one of Peru's finest wonders.

And anyone itching to pick their way through this ancient site will find much else to see during their trek to it.

Last month, Suite 101 revealed that a Peruvian charity has launched a reforestation project in the country, geared towards both planting new trees and educating locals about preservation.


 

The Annapurna circuit provides the perfect Nepal experience

If you're itching to explore incredible, beautiful landscapes, then the Annapurna circuit in Nepal could be just the place for you.

The hike of a lifetime, here you can take part in long treks that take you past waterfalls and rickety old bridges, rocky terrain and amazing mountains.

Writing for Gonomad.com, Robert Painter describes his trek through the circuit and marvels at the sights he saw.

He does warn, however, that adjusting to the altitude can be difficult and Nepal experiences lots of rain, so waterproof boots are an absolute essential.

Meanwhile, he recommends you hire porters to carry any heavy packs for you during your trip - and highlights that doing so can help to boost the local economy, as well as help to make your adventure a little less strenuous.

According to the Nepal Tourist Board, trekking is the most popular activity for the country's visitors - and several sights you can see along the way boast Unesco World Heritage status.


 

Jordan 'offers authentic appeal'

If you're keen to soak up some Middle Eastern culture, why not embark on a journey to Jordan?

Nadine Hallak, marketing and PR executive at Cheapflights Media, comments that the destination offers a range of attractive features, from stunning churches, rich culture and a lively nightlife.

"The Middle East is packed with history, culture, sites, sounds, smells, souks and all manner of other experiences," she enthuses.

She also notes that a range of other factors make it the ideal place for Brits to explore. Being relatively close to the UK and not having the same levels of humidity than more traditionally popular destinations, such as Dubai, all make it an even more appealing place to visit.

Meanwhile, friendly locals and exciting dishes help to make exploring the region incredibly enjoyable.

Indeed, SCB Partners predict that 2011 could see a renaissance of the old Middle East, with Jordan becoming just one of the region's destinations to see an increase in popularity.


 

Experience land 'untouched by time' in the Galapagos Islands

If you're itching to travel to far-flung destinations that evoke earlier times, why not visit the Galapagos Islands?

This incredible archipelago is a haven of unspoilt nature and fascinating animals that cannot fail to captivate its visitors.

Writing for etownian.com, Melissa A Cangialosi recounts her time spent on the islands, which she fondly describes as akin to stepping back in time.

"Upon landing at the airport, it was obvious that we had been transported to a place easily equatable to Jurassic Park," she comments.

Noting that amazing experiences such as swimming with sharks and sea turtles became an everyday occurrence, Ms Cangialosi also describes the wide variety of creatures to see all over the island, such as iguanas and penguins.

And some of the animals you will see on the islands are to be found nowhere else in the world, making spotting them all the more exciting. The Ecuador Tourist Board describes the archipelago as "the greatest wildlife sanctuary on earth".


 

Travel essentials for Japan adventures

If you're looking to experience a totally different culture, Japan is an amazing place to visit, but there are a few things you should remember to pack.

According to Suite101, trips to Japan can be made smoother by remembering to bring a few key items with you on your journey - especially if you're planning on travelling for a long time.

Among the items suggested is a book on Japanese culture. While you should attempt to research this before you leave, the website notes that having a point of reference to hand can help to avoid misunderstandings.

Meanwhile, taking enough clothes with you will also be an important factor - particularly if you are quite tall or broad, as larger clothes can be difficult to find.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last month, Chris Packham suggested that travellers should choose exhilarating destinations to explore - and we certainly think a trip to Japan falls into this category.

 


 

Admire towering temples in Cambodia

If your interest is piqued by architecture and history, you could be interested in the incredible temples that lie in Cambodia.

As a destination, Cambodia has much to offer travellers, being steeped in fascinating history.

The temples of Angkor Wat encompass both these elements and Ken Brooks, writing for the paysonroundup.com, describes it as "the largest, best preserved and most religiously significant [arrangement of temples] of the area".

Commenting that the sheer scale of the site - spanning many acres - is impressive, he also notes that the carvings which adorn the walls are an incredible sight.

And while its temples are indeed amazing things to see, Lonely Planet stresses that the country has more on offer than these buildings alone.

The site suggests that exploring the jungle, trekking Bokor National Park and visiting the riverside city of Siem Reap are other worthwhile activities for intrepid travellers on a Cambodian adventure.


 

India 'great for adventure as well as culture'

If you're looking for a unique break that includes as much adventure as it does cultural interests, India is a destination well worth considering.

While traditionally a popular destination for those keen to experience some of the nation's iconic festivals or its colourful heritage, Rajen Habib Khwaja, secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, says it's great for adventure too.

With activities such as rafting and tackling mountains on offer, there's plenty to do if you're keen to get experience the great outdoors.

"Besides, fantastic cultural and heritage tourism products, India today offers a range of new products in adventure and sports tourism," he comments.

And there is so much to do, he states, that they you'll probably need to come back several times if you want to see and do it all.

Recent figures from STR Global show that this potent combination seems to be working, with India's hotels seeing six per cent more occupants in October 2010.


 

Buenos Aires 'a unique and energetic city'

If you love visiting cities with distinct personalities, then colourful Buenos Aires could be the place for you.

Described as "energetic yet easygoing" by Adrian Brijbassi in an article for thestar.com, the city plays host to a wide variety of attractions.

Having an eclectic mix of intriguing historical architecture, vibrant nightlight, great food and friendly locals, the city is much loved by Mr Brijbassi.

"There's architectural grandeur that a lot of other cities have, but there are other things that are unique to it", comments Brian Gabor, a Torontonian Mr Brijbassi met in a cafe.

He notes that the city isn't perfect and does have some social problems, such as poverty, but that does not deter him in his praise for Buenos Aires as whole.

It could be a great place for small group holidays, with its lively atmosphere and great nightlife.

According to welcomeargentina.com, Buenos Aires is South America's most cosmopolitan city.


 

See wonderful wildlife at the Masai Mara

Kenya? Then don't miss the Masai Mara - according to two seasoned travellers, it's the experience of a lifetime.

Lara Dunston and Terence Carter, writing for their blog Grand Tourismo Travels, recommend the national reserve as a thrilling adventure.

The couple noted they had the opportunity to view several different exotic beasts, including a leopard - which they managed to photograph to perfection.

Situated in south-west Kenya, the reserve stretches 1,510 sq km and is about 270 km from Nairobi.

Pointing out that the drivers in this safari park are renowned for their courtesy and ability, as well as their willingness to drive carefully around so their passengers can get the best possible shots of the wildlife in the park, Ms Dunston said it took several tries and a patient man behind the wheel to allow her to snap at the big cat in order to show it off to its best advantage.


 

China 'fascinating' for travellers

China is a fascinating destination for travellers, whether you're keen to uncover its history or to see how the country is changing.

This is according to Paul Bondsfield, head of marketing at Round the World Experts, who notes that China is becoming more attractive to visitors as it grows increasingly open to receiving them.

Suggesting that the Beijing Olympics has helped to encourage travellers to explore the country, he highlights that there are plenty of places to go that are off the beaten track and "beyond the big cities including the Great Wall, Xi'An City, where you can cycle the city wall, or the water village of Zhujiajiao outside Shanghai".

Rich in history, the destination holds much interest and you will be able to get to grips with its fascinating past and its emerging status as a world superpower.

A recent study by STR Global shows that Shanghai hotels saw high levels of occupancy in October, as did Beijing.


 

Kerala backwaters 'a tropical paradise'

Travelling to the Kerala backwaters in southern India, you will find yourself in a southern paradise.

Solange Hando of Suite101.com notes that this region is an example of lush rural India - and that there is a wealth of things to explore and do away from the cities.

Recommending travelling down the lakes and rivers in a local houseboat, Mr Hando enthuses about the views during a trip, such as passing "traditional villages where time seems to stand still".

Meanwhile, there are many festivals held here too, so if you're keen to catch some lively local culture, it could be a good idea to time your visit with one of these. Festivities could include elephant parades, masked dances and temple celebrations.

You will also have the chance to try the local food, which is an important part of the area's culture and history, according to keralatourism.org. Those sensitive to spices could be best off sticking to their vegetarian dishes, which are milder than their meat-based meals.

 


 

Adventures 'are part of a good holiday'

Adventures are an important part of a good holiday, according to new research.

And while I've always thought that, it's nice to see some research backing it up. A survey from Travel Alberta shows that 28 per cent of recipients think doing something you thought you wouldn't be able to is a marker of a good holiday.

Travel journalist and Toploader guitarist Dan Hipgrave thinks so too, commenting: "It's important that you experience everything you can out of life. Life is short and there are an awful lot of things out there."

Embarking on adventures is also a good way to escape your day-to-day life, according to Darlene Fedoroshyn of Travel Alberta - and provides experiences that stay with you once you return home.

And they aren't the only ones that think so. In a recent interview with the Daily Telegrah, comedian Chris Packham advised travellers to go somewhere they find "exhilarating" and to get involved with the local culture.


 

Travellers should choose "shocking and exhilarating" destinations

Sometimes it seems easier to travel to destinations you find familiar, but one TV presenter has been extolling the benefits of going somewhere a bit more adventurous.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Chris Packham comments that people should go somewhere they find "shocking and exhilarating" - and that you shouldn't be afraid to travel to poorer countries.


 

Adventure travellers 'love Morocco'

If you're into adventure travel, you may well want to head to Morocco for an exciting break.

This could be particularly true if you've previously been on a gap year to a similar area, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, as more and more of us want to recapture the spirit of our adventurous travels.

According to the Office for National Tourism Overseas Travel and Tourism Statistical Bulletin, Morocco is seeing increasing numbers of visitors from the UK - and with so many cheaper flights now available to such destinations, it's not hard to see why.

"We are seeing huge demand for Morocco from former gappers and have experienced a doubling in demand for UK glamping holidays this year," states Ben Colcough of tourdust.com.

If you're planning an adventure holiday to Morocco, it's a good idea to get familiar with the local culture and customs before jetting off. Thestar.com states that respecting other cultures is the key to a good travelling experience.


 

Costa Rica 'great for adventure and eco travel'

Costa Rica is a great destination for eco travellers, so if you're into adventure it could easily be the perfect location for you too.According to James Kilford of etravel.org, there are heaps of things to do for thrill-seeking visitors, many of which involve the country's stunning natural scenery.White water rafting and surfing are two of the activities we like the best, while those who prefer to keep their adventures on dry land might like to try gliding through the rainforest canopy on zip wires.Meanwhile, Costa Rica also has lots to offer the eco traveller. Home to an astonishing number of species, it is estimated to hold around four per cent of the world's biodiversity.And there are several nature reserves you can head to if you want to experience some of this up close, such as the Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Reserve.Or if you're looking for something a little more daring, why not take a trip to the Arenal Volcano, which erupts 41 times a day on average?Fishing is another pursuit which can be indulged in Costa Rica and, according to i-newswire.com, it is rewarding whether it is inland or on the coast. 


 

See a new culture and stunning landscapes in Ethiopia

If you want a truly unique holiday that will introduce you to a different way of life then you might want to follow in the footsteps of one travel writer.

Gill Charlton headed off on a walking trip in Ethiopia and discovered beautiful landscapes and welcoming as well as friendly communities.

As far as adventure travel goes, there's nothing better than visiting countries that few other people have had the privilege to see and Ethiopia certainly falls into this category.

Ms Charlton wrote for The National that in northern Wollo, there is one community project set up by Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives (Tesfa) that "rewards visitors with a taste of the fascinating local culture".

She went on a trek to visit some of the remote villages in the region and was rewarded with stunning views across valleys, good food and wonderful hospitality.

Other travellers who have gone on treks organised under the Tesfa project have praised the breaks, describing them as "amazing", "beautiful" and "beyond expectations".


 

China top of John Thompson's holiday wish list

China top of John Thompson's holiday wish list

Comedian and actor John Thompson has been talking about his holiday habits and revealed that China is one of the countries that he'd like to visit.

He told the Daily Telegraph that he's "fascinated" by the nation - and the Far East as a whole.

And who wouldn't be with the blend of exciting cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, nature, history and spectacular landmarks - of course the Great Wall springs to mind.

With Mr Thompson admitting that he likes to have things to do on his breaks - particularly "anything that gets the adrenalin going" - China could be a great choice for a holiday.

The Macau Tower is home to the world's highest bungee jump at 233m, while climbing the Great Wall of China is another exhilarating experience you can look forward to on a visit to the country.

Mr Thompson also offered some travel advice to people jetting off on holidays to foreign climes.

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do ... Find out about local customs and learn a bit about the place," he suggested.


 

Head to Peru to discover weird and wonderful creatures

If, like me, you're a bit of a nature geek then you're sure to want to seek out some of the more unusual creatures that can be found around the world.

One location that could be a good choice for animal lovers with a penchant for the weird and wonderful is Peru, where you could be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some bizarre wildlife.

The Daily Telegraph compiled a list of some of the most unusual creatures all over the globe and two of these can be found in Peru.

First up is the bald uakari monkey, which is characterised by its bright red face and bald head, while the rest of its body is covered in thick, auburn hair.

You'll find this tree dweller in the jungles of Peru so it could be a good idea to book a trip with a guide who knows what they're looking for.

Another animal that you may see if you venture to the South American nation is the mata mata - a large freshwater turtle that inhabits the Amazon.

The newspaper noted that the turtle has "several strange features", including an appearance that resembles "a pile of waterlogged bark and debris" and "an odd, protruding nose which acts as a snorkel".

As well as these creatures, you'll find that there are plenty of other animals to find on adventure holidays in the region, with the WWF stating that the Amazon is home to more than 400 different amphibians, 378 reptile species and 427 mammals, as well as more than 100,000 invertebrate species.


 

Delve into the past on a holiday to Tokyo

Visitors to the Japanese capital need to take the time to explore some of its more unusual and historical districts.

Well, that's the advice of journalist Pico Iyer, who lives in Japan, and wrote in the Guardian that travellers should make more of what the city has to offer.

She urged people to look beyond the quirky shops of Harajuku and head on a journey to see some of Tokyo's other attractions.

So, where should we start? According to Mr Iyer, with the Tsukiji Fish Market as close to 5am as possible where you'll have a truly fascinating experience and can pick up some authentic sushi from the nearby cafes and restaurants.

Next he suggests heading to Ueno, where you'll find a park and the Tokyo National Museum. This is not a place to breeze through quickly though - you could spend hours browsing the exhibits that include classical Japanese art, calligraphy displays and various archaeological finds.

To round off your day, Mr Iyer recommended taking in the great gate at the Asakusa Kannon Temple at dusk, which "makes you feel as if you're entering a Hiroshige woodcut".


 

Combine natural beauty with history on a trip to Israel

Israel is full of historical sights that you'll probably want to visit if you take a holiday there but one place that you certainly shouldn't miss is the Masada fortress.

Located atop a mountain looking over the Dead Sea, the sunrise from its summit is worth making the climb to see.

Ella Ide recently returned from a trip to the country and her account of her journey to Masada won the Daily Telegraph's weekly travel writing competition Just Back.

From Ella's description, it seems the climb at dawn is pretty difficult but I think it'd be worth it based on the sight you see as you reach the plateau at the top.

She wrote: "The sun, rising behind distant peaks, colours the mottled flats a luminous gold, which deepens as it creeps towards us until, as dawn breaks, the ruins of Herod's glorious palace are tinged blood-red once more."

Even if you don't make it up the mountain in time to see the sunrise, you'll still find that it's worth the trip.

Centuries old, the fortress is a Unesco World Heritage site and is known as a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel.

You'll certainly want to do some research about its fascinating history before you make the climb!


 

Hike to a glacier in Argentina for "a great experience"

If you're looking for a bit of a challenge on your trip to South America but don't want to undertake anything too taxing then one publication could have the solution for you.

Adam Seper, a writer for Boots n All magazine, has compiled a list of some of the best hikes in the world that anyone can do – and it features walks to a glacier in Argentina.

I've always been one for exploring the natural scenery of any country I visit and what better way to see some of the mountainous terrain in Argentina than by hiking to one of its glaciers?

The Glacier Torres and Lago Torres in El Chalten are the perfect place to go if you enjoy walking but are not fit enough to take on more challenging hikes, with a steep uphill climb at the start the most strenuous part of this walk, according to Mr Seper.

But it'll be worth it, he commented: "Having the opportunity to hike to something so beautiful and unique is a great experience".

Apparently, the views of the mountains of Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy along the length of the trail make this walk "fantastic".

If, however, you decide that you want to take on something more difficult, there are a host of guided treks that can take you high into the Andes, although be warned, many of them are difficult and you'll need to be in good shape.


 

Namibia is 'a thrilling country'

If you want to travel to Africa but are thinking about heading off on roads less travelled then Namibia could be for you.

According to one journalist, you could find that the country is more diverse than you imagine, with desert, bushland and a rugged coastline all waiting to be discovered.

Simon Horsford wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Namibia "is one of Africa's most thrilling countries".

That's a pretty good endorsement and I started wondering what there is to see and do in the country.

Mr Horsford quickly pointed out that there is much more to Namibia than its desert - although this is a stunning landscape to explore, especially from the back of a Land Rover.

If you're looking for something really different you should visit Swakopmund, which the travel writer described as "a German fairy-tale town".

It all stems back to a time when Namibia was a German colony and although it has been almost 100 years since the Germans relinquished control of the country, you'll be able to see their influence here.

And if you're heading to Africa in search of exotic animals then don't worry - you'll be able to spot creatures such as leopard, cheetah, desert elephants and black rhino.

There are a host of different nature reserves all over the country, boasting landscapes as varied as forests, wetlands, mountains and - of course - desert.


 

Enjoy a journey of discovery in Peru

Peru is home to some amazing sights, aside from the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, and you'd be well advised to take your time exploring the country.

Writing for Xinhua news agency, travel journalist Richard Meng has picked out a few spots that you will certainly enjoy discovering if you travel to the South American nation.

Possibly one of the most intriguing is the Nazca Township, where you can see one of the most astonishing reminders of the country's Incan past in the form of the Nazca Lines.

To fully appreciate these artistic relics, you'll need to take to the skies. From the ground, they simply look like odd-shaped trenches but from above, they transform into images of animals, insects and people.

Mr Meng commented that it's "amazing how these giant images could have been created with such precision" and you'll probably agree when you see the scale of them for yourself!

And from one of the driest regions in the country, you could travel on to the world's highest lake.

Lake Titicaca sits at an altitude of 3,906 m above sea level in the Andes and Mr Meng recommended taking a boat ride out to the floating islets that are home to the ethnic Uru people.

At 190 km long and 80 km wide, it's one of the largest bodies of water on the continent.


 

Head to the Isaan region for a taste of 'old Thailand'

Thailand is well-known as a haven for backpackers and it's regarded as one of the more accessible nations in south east Asia, but despite its mass appeal, there are still plenty of places to go to get off the beaten track.


 

Discover the exotic on a trip to Madagascar

If you're desperate to jet off somewhere exotic next year but can't decide between a host of exciting destinations then maybe some tips from a top travel writer will help you make up your mind.

Writing for the Metro, Tom Hall, travel editor for Lonely Planet, has suggested heading off to Madagascar for a truly different break and I think he could be on to something.

Especially if you're a nature lover, with so many unique species on the islands you can't fail to be tempted.

Imagine how exciting it would be to catch a glimpse of a ring-tailed lemur jumping through the treetops - or to come face-to-face with a chameleon sitting patiently on a branch.

I know I'd have my camera out to try and get some snapshots of these amazing creatures.

And if you're looking for a bit more adventure, why not head off on the trail of some real-life pirates?

If you're brave enough to dive beneath the waters around Nosy Ve, you may just come across some treasure left by the Malagasy pirates who used to sail in these seas and used the small island as a base.

But I think the coral reefs just offshore are treasure enough to take the plunge!


 

Enjoy a rich cultural mix on the Lamu Archipelago

Travellers looking for somewhere new to explore during their African holidays may find that a stop on the Kenyan islands of the Lamu Archipelago provide the perfect destination.

According to Shane Mitchell, writing for Travel+Leisure magazine, anyone who ventures here will be greeted by "a rich layering of cultures, cuisines and languages".

He noted that sailors from a host of nations visited the islands in its history, which has helped create the atmosphere on Lamu.

Lamu Island is home to four settlements, one of which - Lamu Old Town - dates back to the 14th century and was designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2001.

Mr Mitchell recommended heading off the beaten track when exploring the old town district of the island.

"It was only when I ventured out of the market area and into the labyrinth of backstreets that the place revealed itself," he commented.

As well as its history, the Lamu archipelago boasts beautiful beaches fringed by palm trees, while the waters that surround the islands are home to coral reefs and stunning marine creatures.


 

Get a bird's eye view of Shanghai

People travelling to China to experience the country's urban centres as well as its natural wonders may want to get a bird's eye view of some of its cities.

Shanghai in particular is a good place to go if you are looking for some great vistas over the city - with Travel+Leisure magazine naming two of its towers among the world's top observation decks.

One of the best places to visit if you want an overview of the city is the Shanghai World Financial Centre, which boasts a three-layer observatory at 1,555 ft.

The observation deck is located in the "building's most distinctive feature, the rectangular cut-out", the publication noted.

It also advised looking out for the artwork created by Toshio Iwai in the elevator that takes you to the 100th floor of the building.

Another option if you are looking for stunning views over Shanghai is to head up the Jin Mao Tower.

The magazine described its appearance as "a supersize pagoda", adding that the view down the interior of the tower is just as impressive as that outside the window.

You may want to complement your experiences in some of Shanghai's more modern buildings by visiting some of its older landmarks.

Among them are the People's Square located in the centre of the city and some of the many temples and parks that can be found in the area.


 

Vietnam 'is vibrant'

An actress has named Vietnam as one of her top holiday destinations.

Tara Fitzgerald told the Daily Telegraph that she found that the country was "really vibrant" when she visited it on holiday with her partner.

During their stay, they visited Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and the island of Phu Quoc, with Ms Fitzgerald particularly recommending a trip to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum because it is "fascinating".

She added that each location had a different feel, with Ho Chi Minh City described as "incredibly buzzy and energetic", while she commented that Hanoi is "sedate and beautiful".

As well as visiting the mausoleum in Ho Chi Minh City, travellers in Vietnam may also want to seek out some of the locations mentioned by author Graham Greene.

Journalist Jon Gorvett recently noted in an article for CNN Traveller that you can still catch glimpses of the city described by the writer in his book The Quiet American.


 

New nature reserve in Chile 'is great for hikers'

Adventure travellers looking to visit South America for a trekking holiday may want to consider one of the newest nature reserves in Chile.

Writing for the Financial Times, Collin Barraclough explained that the newly-formed Patagonia Park in the south of the country will be a good place for hikers to head to from next year.

The reserve is set to open in April 2011, when two campsites and a number of walking trails will have been completed.

Much of the park's lands are centred on a former sheep farm called Estancia Valle Chacabuco. The land trust that bought the property six years ago has been working to encourage native wildlife and plants to return to the area.

Describing the location of the reserve, Mr Barraclough noted it is "surrounded by majestic glaciers, snow-capped volcanoes, raging melt-water rivers, temperate rainforests and two continental ice sheets".

The Patagonian region covers thousands of miles at the southern tip of South America, stretching across parts of Chile and Argentina.

It is well-known for its natural beauty and varied wildlife, which attracts walkers from all over the world every year.


 

Responsible tourism initiatives in Kerala 'benefiting communities'

Local communities are becoming increasingly involved in responsible tourism initiatives in the Indian state of Kerala, it has been reported.

News agency Asian Lite revealed that farmers, craftsmen, fishermen and many of the women in the area have all benefited from sustainable tourism projects.

The drive for more responsible tourism in Kerala started three years ago and now sees a number of the hotels and resorts in the area sourcing items such as vegetables, fish, milk and rice from local farmers and fishermen.

According to the news provider, some of the self-help groups set up for women have been particularly successful, with some producing ethnic crafts such as cloth bags and woven dining linen that can be used by the resorts and hotels.

Rupesh Kumar, the state coordinator for the Responsible Tourism Programme, explained that locals are getting involved with every aspect of the tourism industry.

"The women host backwater village tours to allow the guests to experience village life," he stated.

Kerala's backwaters are made up of an extensive network of rivers, canals and lakes that cover some 900 km and link many of the region's villages.


 

Sail away to the Galapagos Islands

Travellers who want the chance to see - and photograph - some unusual wildlife should certainly consider booking a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Located off the coast of Ecuador, two recent visitors noted that one of the best ways to see the islands is by boat.

On arrival at their first destination, they revealed that they were "immediately won over by the sheer animal magic of the place".

Writing for CNN, Frances and Michael Howorth explained that there are always exotic creatures around for visitors to marvel at.

The animals you can expect to see range from pelicans and Galapagos penguins to sea lions, marine iguanas and tortoises, the couple commented.

Mr and Mrs Howorth concluded: "The destination is one of the modern wonders of the world, without doubt best viewed from the deck of a luxury yacht."

Travellers who want to take home some holiday snaps of some of the islands' most famous residents may be pleased to learn that the population of giant tortoises has increased substantially one on of the islands since the 1970s.

In June the Guardian reported that their numbers on Espanola have risen from just 15 animals to between 1,500 and 2,000 due to a successful tortoise repatriation programme.


 

Nepal to open new trekking routes

Adventure travellers heading off to Nepal for a hiking holiday may be pleased to hear that four new trekking routes are set to open in the country.

From 2011, walkers will be able to follow a new trail through the Annapurna Conservation Area, take the Limi Valley trekking route in Homla, tackle the Dudhkunda Trek in Soulukumbu or stride out on the Panchpokharai Bharirav Kunda Trek.

The Nepal Tourist Board (NTB) also revealed that work has been carried out to connect the various sections of the Great Himalayan Trail.

On January 14th 2011, this trail will be inaugurated and will become the longest and highest alpine trekking route as it follows the Himalaya mountain range for some 2,800 km.

In the long term, the NTB hopes to be able to connect countries such as Pakistan, Tibet, India, Bhutan and Myanmar with Nepal in a trekking route through the mountains that stretches for over 4,500 km.

One of the most popular treks in the country is the Annapurna circuit, which takes approximately 16 days to complete.


 

Guatemala 'offers a quiet pace of life'

One travel journalist has written about the special memories he has of one small town in Guatemala.

Simon Gandolfi made particular mention of the natural surroundings on the river Rio Dulce, which could inspire adventure travellers to visit the quiet part of the central American nation.

In an article for the Guardian, Mr Gandolfi described his first visit to the town of Fronteras and the journey along the river: "I remember butterflies and the flash of kingfishers and a tribal couple with three small children squatting silent and so still on a fallen tree trunk as to be almost invisible."

He revealed that he stayed with a Guatemalan friend who owns a bar and restaurant by the side of the river, which has gradually developed into a small resort offering accommodation in basic cabins.

Mr Gandolfi recently revisited Guatemala as part of his journey through Latin America for one of his latest books, Old Man on a Bike.


 

Brazil 'a good choice' for family holidays

People planning family adventure holidays should consider travelling to Brazil, it has been claimed.

Glauco Chris Fuzinatto, UK and Ireland director at the Brazilian Tourist Office, noted that Brazil is a great destination for parents who are looking for somewhere that caters for children.

"Brazil is really welcoming. Brazil caters extremely well for families," he stated.

While Mr Fuzinatto noted that parents with young children may not want to take adventure trips into the jungle, but he added that many places in the country will offer activities suitable for children of all ages.

Among the sights that those on family holidays in Brazil could take in are the beaches on the island of Ilha Grande and the Iguacu Falls.

The waterfalls at Iguacu can be found on the border between Brazil and Argentina and feature more than 270 individual falls.

Stretching for one and a half miles, visitors can see the natural spectacle from a number of different viewpoints on both the Brazilian and Argentinean side of the border.


 

Hiking in Peru offers 'spectacular rewards'

Trekking in the Huayhuash mountains in Peru offers many rewards, according to one blogger who has recently completed the route.

Maarten Warnaars wrote about his experiences in the country on the Living in Peru site, noting that those who venture into the less-travelled areas of this mountain range will find "spectacular mountain passes and quaint highland villages".

He started his journey in the city of Huaraz before boarding numerous buses to reach the village of Pocpa where the trek started.

Although the eight-day trip required early mornings and long days of walking and climbing, Mr Warnaars commented that "each hiking day [is] a marvel to discover".

He acknowledged that some of the high-altitude climbs to reach the mountain passes were difficult, but stated that the views from the top were definitely worth the effort.

People who are tempted to follow in Mr Warnaar's footsteps will find that there are various trekking tours in the Huayhuash mountains, which extend for 30km.


 

Jordan is 'an oasis of history'

Travellers who take a trip to Jordan will find plenty of historic sights and amazing landscapes, one journalist has noted.

Writing for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Rod McPhee noted that one of Jordan's main attractions - Petra - is the "ultimate oasis of history".

Talking about his trip to Petra and The Treasury - one of its most famous landmarks - he commented: "No superlative could do justice to the spectacle which greets you."

After walking through the passageway carved into the rock to reach the ancient city, Mr McPhee explained that "your eyes readjust and the extremes of light and shade are replaced by a subtle kaleidoscope of golds, muted reds, pinks and browns".

The Roman city of Jerash is another location that travellers should visit, he added, with its temples, ancient streets, arches and piazzas.

Anyone who wants to see something extra on a visit to Jerash should consider heading to Jordan in July, because this is when the city holds its annual festival.

Folklore dances by locals, concerts and plays are among the shows on offer during this time, according to the Jordan tourism board.


 

Havana has "authentic Latin buzz"

Havana has been pegged as a must-see destination for holidaymakers planning a trip to Cuba, owing to its "authentic Latin buzz".

Reporting for the Daily Mail, travel writer Kate O'Grady said the capital city, which is the largest in the Caribbean, has a "shabby charm" and "insatiable energy", but warned that people should visit before this changes.

She explained: "Havana has been frozen, buffered by decades of Castro's rule and the US embargo. Who knows how long this will last."

The writer added that the architecture, salsa music and rum cocktails are among the features that make Havana such an "endearingly dilapidated mess".

According to Cuba Tourism, other elements of Havana culture not to be missed by holidaymakers include the festivals held throughout the year.

September plays host to the Havana International Theatre Festival at various establishments across the town, while both the Havana Festival of Contemporary Music and the Havana Ballet Festival are scheduled for October.


 

Udaipur in India 'is wildly beautiful'

Udaipur has been described as "wildly beautiful" by one author.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Katherine Russell Rich explained that she first discovered the city when researching a book and "hadn't counted on falling so hard for the place".

Ms Russell Rich noted that there are numerous things to recommend when visiting the destination.

"Crenulated marble palaces rise above an emerald green lake; thin backstreets spill down into cumin-scented bazaars you can never find a second time," she enthused.

For travellers visiting this part of India for the first time, the writer suggested taking a trip to Eklingji Temple.

The complex comprises 108 temples and is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Although the current buildings have been on the site since the 15th century, temples are thought to have existed here for hundreds of years prior to that.

One of the main attractions at the place of worship is a four-faced idol of the deity, which is carved out of black marble.


 

Egypt 'a top autumn sun destination'

The sea coast in the Sinai region of Egypt has been named as one of the best places to head to for some sunshine this autumn.

Writing for the Guardian, Nicola Iseard put the resort at number five in her top ten list, noting that it has a "chilled backpacker vibe and is renowned for its diving".

Adventure travellers who want to explore the underwater world of the Red Sea will find that there are many beautiful reefs in Dahab, as well as some unusual underwater features, such as the Blue Hole and the Canyon.

The latter is a crack in the reef that experienced divers can enter and follow along, exiting through the reef wall on to a spectacular drop-off.

She added that people who want to spend a few days out of the water will be able to visit inland sights on daytrips, including the Coloured Canyon, which boasts "dramatic rock formations" and St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai.


 

Costa Rica 'top destination for solo travellers'

Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world if you want to travel solo.

This is according to Travel+Leisure magazine, which released a list of the top countries to visit if you are jetting off on your own.

Based around the happiness and safety of travellers, the publication singled Costa Rica out as a destination that "gives fresh meaning to the term peaceful".

However, the magazine also noted that there is plenty to do, so adventure travellers will not get bored if they head to the nation.

"Go rafting on the Reventazon River, brave the surf in Malpais, or head out on horseback to explore the volcano and geysers at Rincon de la Vieja National Park," journalist Everett Potter stated.

Costa Rica also boasts plenty of beaches, giving visitors a chance to relax after taking on more strenuous activities during their holiday.

Scuba diving, fishing, kayaking, hiking and snorkelling are among the other pastimes that adventure travellers can try when in the country.


 

Travelling to Africa an 'unforgettable' experience

Travelling to Africa and getting off the beaten track "can be genuinely unforgettable", according to one journalist.

Writing for the Irish Independent, Pol O Conghaile strongly recommended taking a trip to the continent.

He noted that after his first visit to Africa at the beginning of the decade, he has since returned many times and visited several different countries.

Mr O Conghaile advised heading to Sub-Saharan and West Africa which are "tough treasures".

"Countries such as Ethiopia or Kenya can blow your mind, test your patience and wrench your heart," he stated.

He added that this part of the continent boasts some of the best wildlife in the world, as well as some ancient culture.

For those who are interested in the lifestyle of the Masai people, a trip to Kenya could be a good idea.

Travel writer Belinda Jackson explained in an article for the Sydney Morning Herald that the Masai will welcome tourists into their villages and show them some of their culture.


 

Delhi 'a pageant of colour'

Any travellers spending time in Delhi will experience a bustling and colourful city.

Writing for Intelligent Life magazine, Simon Cox explained that there is much more to the metropolis than meets the eye.

He advised any adventure travellers to take the time to sit back and watch the world go by in the city, because it is such an interesting place to be.

"Every day in Delhi is a pageant of colour, clamour, charm and cruelty. There is no shortage of comings and goings to observe," he stated.

Mr Cox also pointed out that while many people head off to see the city's most famous historic sights, there are many new buildings and monuments that are also worth visiting.

One such place is the 108-ft tall statue of Hanuman the monkey god, which took 13 years to build and features moving arms.

The city is currently preparing to host the Commonwealth Games in October, with work being carried out to construct new venues, training centres and improve infrastructure ahead of the competition.


 

Trekking in Rwanda 'best holiday'

One comedian has spoken about how his best ever holiday was spent trekking in Rwanda.

Sean Hughes told the Independent that he thoroughly enjoyed his time in the African nation, particularly trekking into the jungle to see the gorillas.

"One of them touched me which they're not supposed to - but it wasn't frightening," he stated.

Mr Hughes went on to say that he would "happily go every year" if he was given the chance, adding that his ideal break would be anywhere that he could see gorillas or monkeys.

He also shared some travelling tips, particularly for people travelling alone. He recommended taking a magazine or book when you go out for a meal on your own.

The stand-up comedian is well-known for his role as a team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks but has also toured extensively both in the UK, appeared in several episodes of The Last Detective and voiced a part in children's television show Rubbadubbers.


 

Bangkok 'blends old with new'

Anyone booking adventure holidays to Thailand should certainly allow a few days to explore the country's capital.

Writing for mb.com.ph, Henrylito D Tacio commented that the city is captivating because of its "beauty and charm". One of the reasons that Bangkok is such an exciting place to visit is because of its "uncanny ability to blend the old with the new", the journalist added.

Among the historic sights that visitors can seek out are the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Temple of Dawn.

The source noted that by visiting some of these monuments "you see images of medieval Oriental wonder".

Adventure travellers stopping off in the Thai capital should also ensure that they take a klong tour. According to Tacio, these klongs - or canals - are the continuation of the city's century-old links to the Chao Phraya River.

Earlier this year, Mari Nicholson recommended taking a daytrip out of the city to visit Bang Pa-In.

In a post on suite101, the writer stated that the palace is situated in "one of the loveliest places" in Thailand.


 

See 'startling wildlife and dramatic scenery' in Namibia

People who are seeking some adventure on their holidays could be advised to consider a trip to the African nation of Namibia.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Gill Charlton detailed some of the creatures she saw while visiting the country.

One of the stops during her trip was Erongo, located approximately two hours north of Windhoek. Here she was treated to a rare sighting of a leopard in broad daylight.

Another creature that many wildlife lovers would love to catch a glimpse of is the black rhino.

Ms Charlton visited the Desert Rhino Camp which specialises in tracking the animals on foot. Her guide took her to within 200 ft of an elderly male rhino named Don't Panic, she revealed.

Private nature reserve Mundulea is also worth visiting, the journalist noted, with animals such as rhinos, cheetahs, springboks and the black-faced impala living on the wildlife refuge.

In 2009, Chris McIntyre wrote for Wanderlust magazine that Mundulea was one of Namibia's "most promising reserves", with owner and guide Bruno Nebe praised for his "expert" knowledge of the plant and animal life found there.


 

Travellers 'can try new activities almost anywhere'

Travellers who want to go on adventure holidays or enjoy trying new activities while on a break will find that there are a wide range of options open to them.

Ian Bradley, spokesperson for the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO), explained that people have the opportunity to go on an adventure holiday to almost any country in the world.

He added that AITO members have noticed that more and more travellers want to be active while spending time away.

"People want to do more on their holiday [...] rather than fly and flop on a beach they want to be active, they want to try something new," Mr Bradley stated.

Research released by cottages4you earlier this month revealed that one in ten people want to go on a break where they can enjoy their favourite hobby, while 37 per cent of those surveyed said they were keen to try an activity holiday.


 

Nile Valley and Red Sea tour review

For a real in-depth day-by-day diary of one an Imaginative Traveller's trip through Egypt, why not take a look at Stanford Chung's excellent blog about his experiences on our Nile Valley and Red Sea tour

Stanford wrote, "I just finished writing about my Egypt trip (Nile Valley and Red Sea). It was the best trip I've ever done. Tour was well organized. It had a good mix of everything. There were visits to museums, temples, and the pyramids.

"There were also fun activities like riding on a camel and donkey, sailing on a felucca, hiking a sand dune hill, snorkeling in the Red Sea. We also got a taste of the local lifestyle by visiting a Nubian village and an orphanage. Highly recommend it."


 

Find adventure hiking in China

Gap year travellers looking for an adrenalin rush while on their trip may want to consider heading to China for exciting trekking opportunities.

The Mount Huashan trail in China was picked out as one of the world's scariest hikes by Travel+Leisure magazine.

Located near Huayin, wandering monks use this mountain pass and it is also becoming a popular route among adventure travellers.

"Ladders, cables, ledges, temples atop ridgelines and impossible-looking staircases cut into rock define this unique and dangerous route," the magazine stated.

Journalist Stephen Regenold stressed that the trail is accessible to "almost anyone in moderate physical shape".

Adventure travellers who take on the hike will be traversing one of the five sacred mountains in China. From a distance, its five peaks are said to look like the petals of a flower.

Its name - Mount Huashan - translates as Mount of Flowers and the beautiful natural scenery has inspired many poets and scholars over the centuries.


 

'Get off the beaten track' when travelling

Adventure travellers should take time to explore a new location when they arrive and make sure they venture off the beaten track, according to one globetrotter.

Professional surfer Amee Donohoe revealed that she always makes time to go out and explore the places she visits for surf contests.

In an interview with Boots n All magazine, she explained that she will book an extra week or two after a competition "just to explore, look at the culture and meet the people".

Ms Donohoe also noted that travelling all over the world has changed her perceptions and helped her "really evolve as a person".

When asked where she would like to visit next, she revealed that Chile is top of her wish list.

"I flew over it on my way home from Brazil a few years ago and it's called to me ever since," she stated.

Bordering Argentina and Peru with a long coastline that meets the Pacific Ocean, Chile is well known for its surf spots, with Punta Lobos, El Toro (La Bestia) and Lebu among those recommended by Global Surfers.


 

New Delhi 'should be explored slowly'

While many tourists in New Delhi will visit the same sights and have a similar experience, adventure travellers can get the most out of the city by taking their time to discover its hidden gems.

This is according to Sam Miller, who commented that the city has "a gently addictive quality and deserves to be explored slowly".

Writing for the Observer, Mr Miller noted that any independent travellers with an interest in history and architecture will be spoiled when they visit the Indian capital.

He noted that the city is home to a vast array of interesting ruins, buildings, forts and mosques, with many rarely visited by foreigners.

Mr Miller suggested that people who want to head off the beaten track should seek out Agarsen's Baoli - a "superb 14th-century step well" - which is located less than one kilometre from Connaught Place.

He also advised travellers to wander around South Delhi which is "a cornucopia of minor ruins".

Just two of India's 22 Unesco World Heritage-listed sites can be found in Delhi - Humayun's Tomb and Qutb Minar and its monuments.


 

Botswana 'is a great country for wildlife watching'

Adventure travellers keen to go on an Africa safari holiday may wish to head to Botswana, which has been described as a haven for all manner of creatures.

According to Tips from the T-List, Botswana is the best African country for holidaymakers who want the ultimate safari experience, as they are more varied than offerings in other nations.

"On a wildlife safari in Botswana, you're never limited to just one transport mode. Besides game-tracking by 4WD, you'll be exploring Botswana's mixture of salt pans and savannahs by mokoro and riverboat," the source stated.

Adventure travellers should ensure they visit the Chobe National Park, where the world's largest herds of elephant live, and the Okavango Delta, the website went on to say.

The Chobe National Park, which is the second largest nature reserve in Botswana, is divided into four different ecosystems – the Serondela in the north-east, the Savuti Marsh in the west, the Linyati swamps in the north-west and the dry lands in between.


 

South Africa and Kenya 'are full of wonderful features'

Kenya and South Africa both are both wonderful countries for adventure travellers to visit, as they boast many different attractions.

Writing for travelwires.com, Breana Orland compared what both countries have to offer for family adventure holidays.

Imaginative travellers who head to Kenya in July could be lucky enough to see two million zebra and wildebeest - as well as their predators - migrate across the plains.

Sitting on the Indian Ocean, Kenya has everything from the wildlife to beaches and "unique scenery", the writer noted.

Commenting on South Africa, the author said: "It also houses picturesque beaches and spectacular big five game, which includes buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhinoceros."

Family adventure holidays to either country could prove perfect for people who want to get that little bit closer to nature and animals on their overseas trips.

According to Wildwatch, which tracks the migration of animals, on July 9th herds could be seen along the Serengeti/Mara border and in south-eastern Masai Mara, with "throngs of wildebeest and zebra as far as the eye can see".


 

Togo's Lome 'is a great place for music, culture and natural beauty'

Togo's capital Lome has everything an adventure traveller could want and is the perfect place to go for those with a love of traditional African music.

According to afrol News, Togo is one of the continent's hidden gems and Lome is home to a bustling arts and culture scene just waiting to be explored.

The news provider stated that French-speaking West Africa on the whole is home to an unrivalled nightlife, with a focus on singing and dancing.

However, adventure travellers can enjoy more than bars and clubs, as the capital boasts several markets, including those which centre on voodoo and ancient traditions.

"The Lome Marche des feticheurs … is the biggest of its kind and a meeting point for voodoo practitioners from the entire West African region," the source said.

Visitors should also explore the city's coastline, which is lined with golden beaches where people can relax or partake in certain activities such as kiting.

Adventure travellers may also wish to visit the Aledjo fault and the Bafilo Falls, which are regarded as two of the country's best attractions.


 

Argentina's Pampas region 'offers a wonderful travel experience'

The various towns dotted across the Pampas region of Argentina offer adventure travellers to chance to submerge themselves in the country's cowboy culture.

Frances Stanford, a freelance journalist writing for Helium, said that San Antonio de Areco is a good place to learn about the 'gaucho' culture, with a special museum dedicated to it.

She recommended Mar del Plata for those who want to spend some time relaxing on a beach, although she added that it can become quite busy during summer months and suggested Miramar may be more appealing to those who want a quieter time.

Ms Stanford also stated that a trip to La Plata is worthwhile.

"Climb the Tower de Jesus at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where you will feel as if you are close to heaven and be able to take in a glorious view," she concluded.

The word 'pampas' is a Quechuan word meaning 'plain'.


 

Serengeti 'offers a wonderful safari holiday'

Adventure travellers can enjoy a number of different things on a trip to Tanzania, including a safari experience in the Serengeti.

Judith Baker, writing for City AM, said that the Serengeti is one of the best places on the planet to see lions, with more than 3,000 of the animals living there.

She also highlighted the various other creatures she saw on her safari holiday, including elephants, giraffes, cheetahs and zebras.

The most amazing sight on a Serengeti safari holiday however is the wildebeest migration

"Over a million wildebeest and about 200,000 zebra flow from the northern hills to the Southern plains for the short rains every October and November, then swirl west and north after the long rains in April, May and June. The sight of them is staggering," Ms Baker said.

She added that there is more for adventure travellers to do on their holiday to Tanzania than just the safari experience, as the country boasts plenty of pristine beaches to relax on.

The Serengeti region encompasses two World Heritage Sites, two Biosphere Reserves and boasts one of the oldest ecosystems on earth.


 

Sunrise over Angkor Wat 'is like something from another planet'

Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia has been described as being akin to something from another world.

Writing for DesMoinesRegister.com, Jared Gettler said that this sight was one of the highlights of his backpacking trip across south-east Asia, which included visits to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

He said that out of all of the countries he visited Cambodia provided the biggest surprises, as it was the place he knew the least about.

Mr Gettler stated that Angkor Wat is the reason why most people head to Cambodia but pointed out that there are various other points of interest for adventure travellers.

"Many people go only to see Angkor Wat but there are many more temples around Siem Reap and Cambodia. I felt like I was on another planet when I went to Angkor Wat to watch the sun rise over the temple," he added.

Natalie Paris, writing in the Daily Telegraph, recently suggested visitors to Cambodia should spend some time in Phnom Penh, which is home to the Royal Palace among other attractions.


 

Costa Rica 'has a diverse range of attractions'

Those keen to take an adventure holiday may find that Costa Rica has everything they need.

Student Matthew Holiday said in an article on suite101.com that Costa Rica has it all, including mountains, beaches, cities and rainforests for visitors to explore.

The Central American nation is also home to a number of historic attractions, such as the pre-Columbian gold in San Jose's Plaza de la Cultura and the Jade Museum.

Many visit Costa Rica for its abundance of natural beauty and there are a number of ways to enjoy it, including hiking, rafting, fishing and surfing.

"Whether one likes to stay active on his or her vacation, or would rather sit back and relax, Costa Rica has something to offer," Mr Holiday concluded.

Costa Rica is a good choice for adventure travellers keen to go sport fishing, with sailfish, marlin, dorado, snapper, roosterfish and tuna all living in its waters.


 

Belize 'is home to spectacular sea life'

Adventure travellers keen to explore life in the ocean should head to Belize, where they can enjoy wonderful scuba diving experiences and see a variety of marine creatures.

Somaya Reece, a rapper, radio personality and actress wrote in an article for SOHH.com that Belize and Cebu in the Philippines are her two favourite destinations.

Speaking on the central American nation, Reece said that it was the inspiration for Madonna's 1987 hit single La Isla Bonita and that she loves every aspect of it.

Among the things she likes are the food, the friendly people and most of all, the diving experiences.

"The first thing you need to do when you get there is the do all the water sports available. The water is still, clear and fun to play in," she stated.

Reece added: "Belize is known for being the best scuba diving in the world … the sea life is spectacular and very human friendly."


 

Laos 'is one of the hidden treasures of Indochina'

Adventure travellers who want to experience Asia "as it once was" should arrange a holiday to Laos.

A recent article in the Daily Telegraph highlighted the rugged landscape and natural beauty of the country, stating that the mountains and the Mekong River dominate the scenery.

Laos boasts the smallest population in Indochina but it is the number one choice for those who want to see another side of Asia than that offered by neighbouring countries.

"Largely undeveloped, devoutly Buddhist and blessed geographically with natural beauty, this country will leave a lasting impression on all who visit," the article stated.

Vietnam is another country which adventure travellers will find exciting, with the newspaper highlighting the varied geography and friendly people as being two of the main attractions.

Those visiting Laos may wish to take in the beautiful town of Luang Prabang, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting a mixture of traditional architecture with colonial structures.


 

Galapagos Islands and Mexico's Yucatan 'offer great snorkelling opportunities'

Adventure travellers keen to experience wonderful snorkelling experiences should head to Ecuador's Galapagos Islands or Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Self-confessed 'travel addict' Nellie Huang said on her Wild Junket blog that both regions are among the top diving locations in the world, with Australia's Great Barrier Reef also featuring in her list.

On the Galapagos Islands, Ms Huang noted the abundance of marine creatures which live in and around the waters.

"Gordon rocks is an excellent dive site for spotting schools of hammerhead sharks and torpedoes of barracudas, Mingle with the playful sea lions or swim with the penguins - there [is] tons of aquatic life to see here," she added.

Graeme Greene, reporting for the Metro, recently recommended adventure travellers enjoy a spot of free diving off the coast of Thailand, as it is a "stunning" way to get close to nature.


 

Adventure travellers 'should see Angkor Wat temples at sunset'

Adventure travellers will be stunned at the beauty of the sunset behind the temples of Angkor Wat.

According to a piece in the Daily Telegraph, the temples are a key feature of any break in Cambodia and one of the highlights is the sun setting behind the famous structures.

"The temples of Angkor Wat at sunset [are] a stunning sight to behold," the article stated.

While the temples are a big attraction, Cambodia has much more to offer the adventure traveller, including beaches, unspoilt forests and colonial cities.

"More and more people are beginning to realise that Cambodia has much more to offer than the famous temples of Angkor," the newspaper added.

Amy Watkins, writing in the Daily Mail, has claimed that experiencing the waterways of Cambodia is special, as they are the "lifeblood of the country".

She also highlighted the capital Phnom Penh, describing it as containing a mix of ornate buildings and decaying 19th century French architecture.


 

Adventure travellers 'have lots of reasons to visit Vilcabamba in Ecuador'

Those looking for adventure holidays may find a trip to Vilcabamba in Ecuador's Loja province is a good place to go.

Mike Adams, editor of NaturalNews.com, said that he lived there for two years and found it had everything one could want, from great people to beautiful landscapes.

He stated that the climate is absolutely perfect, being neither too hot nor too cold, while the cost of living is low as well.

One of the best features of Vilcabamba is the number of different activities adventure travellers can enjoy while there.

Mr Adams recommended horseback riding through the Podocarpus National Forest, as well as cycling and walking excursions.

"There are many other tourist activities in Vilcabamba as well, including a hummingbird garden to the south, a botanical garden in Loja, the cacao-growing town of Zamora to the northeast and the Sunday market at Malacatos to the north," he added.

Vilcabamba is a Quichua word meaning 'Sacred Valley'


 

'Lots to do in South Africa' for adventure travellers

Holidaymakers from across the globe will be descending on South Africa for the World Cup, however, for non-football fans there is lots to see and do.

Ian Dickinson said in a post on Boots n All that there is a plethora of activities for adventure travellers to enjoy, including taking a tour through one of the many townships located in the major cities.

"Townships in South
Africa
have given rise to wonderful local art forms including an array of musical theatre productions and a particular form of upbeat jazz endemic to South African informal settlements," he stated.

Adventure travellers should also take the time to enjoy a safari experience in the country, with Mr Dickinson adding that there is a wonderful variety of animals to see, from big cats to elephants and rhinos.

Suite101 contributor Karin Panaino Peteren recently suggested that visitors to South
Africa
have a look at the Vredefort dome, which is the largest meteorite impact site on the planet.


 

Adventure travellers 'should climb Mount Sinai'

Adventure travellers may want to retrace the steps of one writer who recently scaled Mount Sinai in Egypt and found the experience an uplifting one.

Charmaine Noronha, writing for the New Zealand Herald, said she decided to tackle the mountain so she could take in the fabled sunset from the top of the peak.

She stated that completing the camel route was a big challenge but the rewards of reaching the top were worth it, with the views a real sight to behold.

"The mountains turned crimson, gold and orange - and I felt my spirits lifting with the heat of the sun," Ms Noronha added.

Nadine Hallak, a spokesperson for Cheapflights Media, recently claimed that the pyramids are also one of the biggest attractions for adventure travellers heading to Egypt.

She stated that the structures boast a timeless quality and are popular for both first-time visitors and those returning for a holiday in Egypt.


 

Brazil 'unlikely to disappoint' adventure travellers

Brazil is a land of such contrast and diversity that it has something to offer everyone from imaginative travellers to those seeking adventure holidays.

According to a post from plumsropey on the i-to-i Chalkboard, Brazil has its good points and bad points but such is the variation in terms of culture and landscape that it promises a thrilling break.

"Brazil is unlikely to leave you unimpressed. The positive stereotypes are true: soccer is a national obsession, women wear impossibly small bathing suits and the scenery is breathtaking," the writer said.

He added that the different regions of the country vary greatly from one another, with the northeast home to a large Afro-Brazilian community with a more languid way of life compared to the south, where there is a stronger work ethic.

A blogger named Wrightbro2 recently stated on the Me, Bob and Surly: Three Friends Bike South America that he and his friends have found Brazilian people to be very friendly and welcoming and the diversity of the population matches that of the terrain.


 

Patagonia 'is one of the most pristine environments in the world'

An adventure holiday in Patagonia will give travellers the chance to kayak and sight see in one of the most beautiful locations on earth, it has been claimed.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, Patagonia is an area which is just waiting to be explored and holds numerous treasures which visitors will not forget in a long time.

"The seas positively explode with life, from the tiniest of krill and other shellfish to sea lions, penguins, dolphins and whales. Steamer ducks, four varieties of cormorant, turkey vultures, the occasional albatross and the caracara … all helped to create a birdwatching nirvana too," the writer said.

Kayaking, boating and sightseeing were three activities the journalist experienced, adding that they got to discover and study "microscopic delights" while on board a ship.

As well as the marine life, those on an adventure holiday in Patagonia can explore the Patagonian-Fueguinos Andes which separate Argentina and Chile.


 

Egypt 'is great for adventurous travellers'

If it's an action or adventure holiday you are after, there are few better places to head to than Egypt.

That's according to Jenna McMurray, from the QMI Agency, who wrote for canoe.ca that while Egypt boasts many beautiful beaches, restaurants and resorts, many other places do as well.

The jewel in Egypt's crown, she claims, is its rich history and monuments which are dotted right across the land.

Ms McMurray says that an obvious place to start one's Egyptian adventure is to head for the pyramids.

"The Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza, located on the outskirts of Cairo, are likely the country's best-known features and though they are crawling with tourists, they are well worth your time," she writes.

However, an adventure holiday in Egypt is about more than its pyramids, with Ms McMurray adding that a trip to Aswan in the south is a must in order to explore a different culture and way of life to that found in many other parts of the country.
Anthony Sattin, writing in the Observer, recently recommended travellers make their way to Aswan, which has a rich history but is often overlooked by visitors.


 

Thailand Travel Update

The Foreign Office advice has been updated to 'ALL BUT ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TO THAILAND'

FCO Travel Summary:

  • We advise against all but essential travel to the whole of Thailand due to the increasingly volatile and tense political situation.  Violent incidents of an unpredictable nature are occurring in many parts of Thailand.
  • In the early hours of 27 April, substantial numbers of troops deployed in Central Bangkok.   On 26/27 April there were at least eight incidents in various parts of Thailand involving protestors setting up barricades, in some instances leading to clashes with the security forces.
  • In the last week, protests and violent incidents have taken place in other parts of Thailand including popular tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ayuthaya and other locations.  (See Terrorism/Security section for further details).
  • We advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple area, due to violence in the area.  See the Local Travel section of this Travel Advice.
  • If you are already in Thailand, you should consider whether it is essential for you to travel within the city of Bangkok.  Wherever possible, you should take transport services which do not involve transiting the centre of Bangkok.  If travelling from outside Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi airport, you should be aware that all rail services and some coach services involve passing through central Bangkok (all air services and some coach services do not).  There have been a number of instances of major roads being blockaded by protest groups.
  • If violence breaks out near where you are staying you should stay indoors, monitor the media and regularly check FCO Travel Advice.  We advise extra vigilance at night when the majority of violent incidents have occured.  Leaders of protest groups have made clear threats of further violence across Thailand.  You should stay in close contact with your tour operator, if you have one, who may be able to advise you on the implications of this advice for their operations.
  • Suvarnabhumi airport is operating as normal.  The route to the airport from Bangkok city remains open.  For advice about travelling abroad see the local Travel section.  FCO advice against all but essential travel does not apply to passengers transiting Bangkok airport on their way to foreign destinations

 

Follow Joanna Lumley down the Nile with Imaginative Traveller

Tonight in the UK, Joanna Lumley starts her ambitious journey down the length of the Nile, from mouth to source, travelling through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda. 

 

 

Having started out in Egypt, Imaginative Traveller offer a fair few trips down the Nile, by private cruise boat or the traditional felucca sailing vessel.  Russell Morling from our Marketing Department had this to say about his Nile experience:

"I really had no preconceived ideas about what I was going to experience – would it be a dirty, smelly, cramped cruise on a noisy, crowded River Nile. Or would it be the serene, relaxing experience that I’d read about in books and seen on TV?

As I’m not a ‘5-star’ sort of person, I was hoping the MS Melodie wasn’t going to be too upmarket, but would be comfortable and fun! On embarkation I was shown to my cabin – which was clean and airy, with more than enough room to make myself comfortable. I immediately felt amazingly relaxed aboard what would be my home for the next few days.

 

 

The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and did everything they could to make me feel at home. The dining arrangements were explained and our itinerary was outlined, but other than that, there was no regimented ‘procedure’ to follow, which made for an extremely relaxed atmosphere.

I’d been wondering what the food would be like but when we went for lunch in the spacious dining room, I was amazed at the great selection of food available – loads of fresh bread, fruit, pasta and rice dishes and a selection of two or three hot dishes – there was plenty to suit all tastes.


At the end of the cruise a galabia party was held to celebrate our last night on board. It was a magical experience seeing everyone dressed in traditional Egyptian attire and is another moment that will live with me for the rest of my life.

Saying goodbye to the Melodie the next morning was quite a sad experience, as it had been my home from home and I had become extremely attached to the staff and the whole environment – it was quite simply fantastic!!!

My overlying memory was just standing on the sundeck, watching the world go by.  It was one of the most relaxing experiences of my life and something I’ll definitely repeat when I get the chance.If you’ve any doubts about a Nile cruise with Imaginative Traveller, please take it from me that there’s nothing to be concerned about. The Melodie is by no means a 5-star Nile cruiser, but the staff are amazing, the food is plentiful and the atmosphere aboard is second-to-none."

Russell followed our River and Reef tour

Read more about our Nile cruises by viewing all our trips to Egypt here.

 

 


 

Tropic of Cancer - Abu Simbel in Egypt

Anyone watching Simon Reeve's 'Tropic of Cancer' on BBC last night could not fail to be awed by the sight of the magnificent Abu Simbel temple at Aswan.  Or could not fail to be stunned by the story of how it was moved stone by stone to higher ground when they flooded its original site to create Lake Nasser.  Russell Morling from our UK office travelled there last year and had this to say about his visit:

"The absolute highlight of the tour was visiting the famed site of Abu Simbel. I’d heard about how the Egyptians had moved this temple to save it from the Nile, and couldn’t wait to see it.

We had a 4am start for the coach journey there but it was worth the effort as we were the first party to arrive at the temple and had a good hour with it all to ourselves – it was truly amazing! A fantastic experience and the best bit was that we were just leaving as the tourist hordes were arriving – perfect!"

Go see for yourselves on the below tours:

Felucca Safari

Beyond the Pyramids

Sailtrek & Sinai

Egypt Encompassed

Backroads of Egypt

Egypt Adventure

 

 

 

On all our other tours along the Nile there are options to visit Abu Simbel - see our tours to Egypt


 

Tropic of Cancer travels with Imaginative Traveller

Watching Simon Reeve's documentary on TV last night about travelling the Tropic of Cancer, I was struck by just how stunning the Libyan Desert was.  Libya is often overlooked as a tourist destination, seeing as it has only recently emerged from hostilities with the western world.  Its most famous site (and one often on cruise ship itineraries) is the incredible Roman ruins at Leptis Magna.  Few venture further along the coast or deeper into the hinterland and the Sahara Desert.

Libya has so much to offer the visitor.  As opposed to the souqs of Morocco or Egypt, you can wander the narrow alleyways of the bazaars in Tripoli in peace, making your own mind up about the 'bargains' on display.  As well as Leptis Magna, there is the wonderful Roman site at Sabratha and the Greek sites of Cyrene, Apollonia and Qasr Libya. 

However, it is when you start heading south you discover the real beauty of the country, as was so stunningly displayed on our screens in the UK last night.  The Acacus Mountains, deep in the heart of the Libyan Sahara, display phenomenal rock formations and are home to some incredible ancient rock art. 

 

 

A real surprise, as Simon Reeve discovered last night, are the Ubari Lakes - dazzling bodies of water amidst the quintessential 'sand sea' that surrounds it.  Arcs and arcs of mesmerising orange sand dunes pocketed by these oases where you can take a much-needed refreshing dip - although the high salt content did make me wonder about the dive that Simon Reeve's government escort took underwater - ouch! There is the nearby trading town of Germa and the historic medina of Ghat as well as, slightly further north, the oasis town of Ghadames, renowned for its unique mud brick architecture and Nalut with its ancient granaries of Nalut.

Libya really is a destination able to offer amazing variety to any visitor. And of course the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming too! Discover it all for yourself on these in depth tours to Libya:

Classic Libya

Libya Explorer

It is also a logical combination with Egypt and the rest of the North African coast.  Check out these overland tours and make the most of your time away!

North Egypt & Libya Revealed - 20% off April 10th departure!

North African Adventure - 20% off April 10th departure!

North African Overland - 20% off April 10th departure!

Cairo to Tunis - 20% off April 2nd departure!

North Egypt & Libya Adventure

Cairo to Casablanca

 

All tours to Libya

 


 

Travel to Mars with Imaginative Traveller!

OK maybe not quite, but you could certainly get to experience exactly what Mars is actually like according to a BBC documentary shown on TV recently.  Apparently the Namib Desert is an exact replica of the surface of Mars with its massive sand dunes and rocky, barren terrain.

Check out these trips to Namibia for an out of this world experience!

 

Namibia in Depth - 14 days exploring the incredibly varied landscapes of this stunning country

 

Delta, Dunes & Falls - 19 days travelling from Zambia through Botswana and Namibia to South Africa

 

Southern Africa Encompassed - 20 days starting in South Africa and travelling through Namibia and Botswana to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

 

See all trips to Namibia

 

 

 


 

Staff Travels - follow us around the world!

At Imaginative Traveller we pride ourselves on firsthand knowledge of our product, tours and destinations.  After all that is the only way we can answer your questions, address any concerns or direct you to the right trip for you for your hard earned holiday!

So our staff have been busy over the past few months travelling the world! Great experience for them and great news fo you!  If you ring or email our office we should have someone who will have experienced if not the actual tour, then a similar trip and be able to help with any queries you might have.

So keep an eye out for the following people's trip reports coming up on future E-tracks and give them a call if you want to speak to someone with direct experience of your holiday plans:

Tristan covered Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda on our Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas tour

Alexis travelled to India on our Classic Rajasthan tour

James explored the beaches of Thailand on our Beachcomber tour

Fay discovered the many varied delights of Morocco on Classic Morocco

Jo was lucky enough to visit both Indonesia and Vietnam and Hannah and Stuart are shortly off to China and India respectively!

 

 

 

 

 


 

The final leg of Colin Stump's trip to Patagonia - Tierra del Fuego

Day 12

A long drive today, with a ferry over the Straits of Magellan from Punta Delgada, and a total of 11.5 hours on the road to reach Ushuaia across the ‘Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.’ Back into Argentinean territory again, passing through the border at San Sebastian, the country here is generally a vast expanse of steppe, with little to break the gently undulating ground apart from the odd drumlin.


This is sheep country, with lonely estancias punctuating the topography on occasion, and rhea and flamingo spotted from time to time. South of the border, the country starts to get hillier and after the minor petropolis of Rio Grande, where we changed buses, the country starts to get much more interesting, with large areas of beech woodland, ñire and lenga again, much of it covered with the lichen ‘Old Man’s Beard’, testifying to the pure air in these parts and somewhat spectral in appearance.


A quick pit stop at the recently established village of Tolhuin, set up with government assistance to develop a local forestry industry, and then the country changes quite dramatically beyond here. We’re in the southern half of Tierra del Fuego now, skirting the southern shores of the 120km long Lago Fagnano, and the mountains start to build around us, as we are crossing the very southern extension of the Andes, albeit with much lower elevations than those found to the north. This is the only part of Argentina that is situated west of the Andes, and here the mountains rise with neat conical peaks to about 1500m, supporting a small ski resort (mainly cross-country) about 20km from Ushuaia.


Ushuaia is now a large bustling town and it has grown considerably since my last visit 12 years ago. Descending from the mountain pass of Paso Garibaldi at 430m, Ushuaia quickly comes into view with industrial and warehousing estates sprawling uphill from the dock area.

This is the key port for Antarctic crossings and there is an air of expectancy in the town as passengers await their ship to arrive in port. We had a late dinner of king crab in town before retiring for the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 13

Up early to catch the sunrise on the Beagle Channel, splendidly set between the mountains of the Argentinean Tierra del Fuego, and the Chilean island of Navarino with its jagged mountains opposite.




Watched the M/S Orlova arrive in port, and then after a quick breakfast, a quick farewell to my travelling colleagues before heading off to the airport, situated on a peninsula a few kilometres out of town, with fine views of the mountains all around.
The airport was crammed with passengers freshly off the big cruise ship that had docked the night before, but with usual LAN efficiency, I was swiftly through and off to Buenos Aires and, ultimately, home!


 

Day 11 - Punta Arenas and the Straits of Magellan

Day 11

A 250km drive to Punta Arenas today, taking the local transfer bus service again. Views were somewhat different to the previous few days, a rolling steppe, populated by herds of sheep on large estancias, and random rhea spotted every now and again. We passed numerous lakes, some with flamingo, but this was a journey to finish a book and just snooze.


Three hours later we arrived in the port of Punta Arenas, now a bustling town of 130,000 people, on the shores of the historic Straits of Magellan and with its economy in recent history buoyed by oil and gas finds.


It’s much colder down here, about 5 degrees but with strong sunshine. Our hotel for the night is the comfortable Hotel Jose Nogueira, right in the centre of town, and the mansion, built by a rich wool farming dynasty, is actually a National Monument. It also has a bar named after Shackleton, to celebrate the final rescue of his crew in 1916.


We visited the Museo Regional Salesiano, which gave a useful introduction to the indigenous peoples that populated this area and south into Tierra del Fuego, before they were wiped out by white man’s diseases at the turn of the 20th Century.
Passing the huge Cementerio Municipal, we cabbed it to the duty free Zona Franco, before a rest and dinner, preceded by a short walk to see the central Plaza Munoz Gamero, a conifer-lined square surrounded by large mansions and with the centrepiece monument commemorating the 400th anniversary of Magellan’s voyage (1520). A good buffet dinner at the hotel completed the day.

Tomorrow we head back into Argentina and Tierra del Fuego!


 

Patagonia Day 10 - Unusual weather!

Oops, the weather just changed...

With unusual weather from the north, still no wind, but the clouds clamped down to valley level and light rain, we cancelled our walk along the first section of the ‘W’ and headed for the information centre instead. What wimps! But none of us really had any appetite for walking in the grey, damp gloom. We watched a British made film on local pumas before heading south out of the park towards Puerto Natales, a small Pacific fishing port originally used for wool exports to the UK, and now the southern entry point to the Torres del Paine national park, albeit mainly on gravel roads, and as an embarkation point for ferries and cruise ships travelling into the fjordlands to the north.

Near the town we stopped at a museum and huge cave where the remains of a giant sloth, the milodon (thought to have become extinct 10,000 years ago), was discovered by the explorer Hermann Eberhard in the 1890s. This, apparently, was the motivating factor behind Bruce Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia’.

Then into town, passing one of the many fjords in this part of the world, the Chilean region of Ultima Esperanza, a name which translates to ‘last hope’, somewhat reflective of the vast barren landscapes which will now be a feature of the rest of our journey to the very tip of South America. The fjords sport rich birdlife, with black neck swans, upland geese, carancho, Chilean flamingos, and cormorant.

Overnight in the simple Hotel Glaciares. Hot chocolate and cakes par excellence at Patagonia Dulce on Barros Arana...yum.


 

Colin Stump in Patagonia - Day 9 Torres del Paine National Park

A clear day dawned, with stunning light on the Torres del Paine in the early morning, with mist slowly rising from the Rio Serrano.

After breakfast we set off into the National Park, with views over the many lakes between us and the Cuernos del Paine (literally, the Horns of Paine), the front elevation of this massif, formed by a plutonic eruption of magma through sedimentary rock about 12 million years ago. Hard core climbing country, the Torres de Paine massif rests on dark sedimentary rock, through which granite walls project, topped off by metamorphosed sedimentary rock and basalt. This rock is often in poor condition, so some of the summits have never been climbed.

 

We saw many guanaco (llama) grazing this area and on one of our longer walks in the morning, we were fortunate enough to see condor, upland geese, carancho, and a pair of grey fox and two rhea. The vegetation on this side of Patagonia is richer, with great banks of neneo interspersed with red sorrel.

After taking views over Lago Pehoe and Lago Nordenskjold we walked over to Lago Sarmiento, a lake with coral growing along the shoreline at one end of the lake, visiting a cave with some early rock paintings en route.

 

The views of the whole massif were impressive, made all the more so when our local Chilean guide Alexendra commented that the westerly side of the massif, Paine Grande (rising to 3050m) is rarely out of cloud.

We took a further walk in the early afternoon to view the waterfall Salto Grande between Lago Nordensskjold and Lago Pehoe, and then a closer view of the Cuernos del Paine and the Valle del Frances, the mid section of the famous ‘W’ trek along the southern side of the massif. Torrent ducks were seen at the Salto Grande.

Then a long drive west took us to the start point of the walk to view the Grey Glacier, albeit some way off in the distance, and the icebergs which had recently calved floating down the Lago Grey towards us.

Back to the hotel, quite a few kilometres today travelled on rougher gravel roads, many with corrugations, but with great vistas in all directions. A lovely part of the world when the wind isn’t blowing!


 

Colin Stump in Patagonia - Day 8 Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales

Today we transferred to our next area of adventure, the Torres de Paine region, several hundred kilometres south of El Calafate by road. We used the public transfer bus, an efficient service in comfortable coaches and with seat allocations. First we drove east again, along the south side of Lago Argentino, then south across the barren steppe of central Patagonia, land of isolated flocks of sheep, llama and rhea, an ostrich like bird. Condors were regularly sighted once again. Finally, turning west to the Chilean border, we were able to see the mighty mass of the Torres del Paine, a discrete range of mountains rising to over 3000m, some entirely covered in brilliant white snow whilst the famous granite towers of Paine stood naked in the bright sunlight.

Another incredible day for weather, not a cloud in the sky, and with no wind. This is very unusual for Patagonia, where it is said that you can experience four seasons in a minute, let alone a day!

The landscape became a little more undulating as we passed through Rio Turbio, a large soft coal mining area and the first settlement we had seen for over three hours. Then into Chile again, passing through the Dorotea border, the usual situation where one official is left to process a bus full of passengers and the rest sit around doing nothing.

We were quickly into Puerto Natales, situated on the coast, albeit some way away from the Pacific through a series of complex navigations. A late lunch was enjoyed here, ceviche of salmon (raw fish marinated in lemon, yum) and some fresh squid.

Then, on a smaller private bus, we drove the last hour or so northwards, admiring views of the Parc Nationale Bernardo O’Higgins and its peaks covered in brilliant white snow. The vegetation here is quite different to the Argentinean side. Not fully in a rain shadow, this is a transitional zone and can get up to 400mm of rain a year, and is usually cloudy and blasted by high winds. Not today. The sun beamed down on us, and we passed though estancias with dairy and beef cattle, through evergreen beech woods and the road sides were adorned with masses of white daisies and stands of lupin. Quite beautiful.

Further north, we passed Lago Porteño, its azure blue contrasting with Cerro Tenerife opposite. And then, the splendour of the huge Lago del Toro, distant views to the Glaciar Grey and the looming massif of the Torres del Paine. Torres means ‘towers’, and the eastern peaks are huge granite monoliths. It is thought that ‘Paine’ is a reference to ‘blue’, presumably the colour of the glacier fed lakes in this region.
It is rare indeed to see the whole massif so clearly, a real privilege. Our driver said that this was only the second day this season when they had all been so clearly visible.

Our last viewpoint overlooked our lodges for the night, the confluence of the rio Grey and the mighty Rio Serrano, and the glaciated peak of Cerro Balmaceda opposite the Torres del Paine massif. A splendid spot, our lodging for the night in Hotel Cabañas Paine, a few kilometres outside the national park boundary.

A good buffet followed by a modest sunset on the tops of the Torres del Paine. Should sleep well tonight!


 

Colin Stump in Patagonia

Day 6 - Viedma Glacier Trek!


Went out early to catch the dawn light on Cerro Torre and Fitzroy. Emerging from a spectral grey the 3100m granite spire of Cerro Torre reddened as the sun rose in the sky, Fitzroy echoing the performance. Magnificent and a real bonus!

 

After breakfast we took a ferry south from Pt Bahia Tὐnel to the point where Glacier Viedma empties into Lago Viedma. Just as we arrived a section of this fast moving glacier ‘calved’ into the lake, a hundred metre ice wall collapsing into the water before us, and creating the next generation of icebergs we had seen floating away from the glacier cliffs on our approach.

 


On landing we clambered up the rocks below the snout of the glacier, exhibiting marvellous striations and colourings after emergence from the base of the glacier.


Crampons on, then easy walking on glacier in a small group with attentive guides.  For over two hours we viewed the glacial depths and finally entered an ice cave directly under the snout of the glacier, a somewhat spooky experience…the roof dripping prodigiously, and an awesome blue light coming through the ceiling above a small lake.



 

A quick lunch overlooking the lake, then the ferry and bus to get back to El Chalten for a much-needed chill out afternoon. The final part of the day was then spent on a transfer bus back to El Calafate, a drive of over three hours in the bright evening light.

Thanks are due to our local guide Santiago Arias for the brilliant trekking in El Chalten.  It was a noisy night at the hotel, a combination of Valentine's night in the hotel and firework displays in the town. Ho hum.

Day 7 - Perito Moreno Glacier!




El Calafate is a sprawling town established in 1928 on the south bank of Argentina’s largest lake, Lago Argentino. An attractive setting, but as is usual in South America, no cohesive planning, so the town has a multitude of architectural styles and an almost random layout.


It has a huge dependency on tourism, with an estimated 5,000 visitors to the nearby giant Perito Moreno Glacier each day during the high season, and this rises to 10,000 per day when the glacier is expected to breach. Needless to say, the town is modern and very geared to tourism, with many hotels now producing significant over-capacity.





After breakfast we drove west for about 75km in brilliant sunshine under a clear blue sky, passing through the arid scrub so typical of the rain shadow area to the east of the Andes. In the distance the mountains were resplendent ahead of us, many with fresh snow down to quite low levels.


The vegetation had the usual bush grass, bushes of Calafate (a form of berberis), complete with its tasty berries, neneo and the yellow flower Don Diego de la Noche in places.


Our objective for the day was the Perito Moreno Glacier, 5km wide at the point of entry into Lago Argentino at 200m above sea level, and 30km long, flowing down from the South Icefield of the Patagonian icecap, the third largest mass of ice after Antarctica and Greenland. It flows at about 1.7m per day at present and is stable, not retreating like some other glaciers in the region. As we approached the glacier we entered, once again, Magallenic Forest, with the now familiar woods of lenga and ńire. Eagles, carancho and condors were spotted at frequent intervals.


We drove along the southern spur of Lago Argentino to gain access to the glacier. About every two years this section of the lake is dammed off by the glacier and its level rises about 20m as other glacial rivers flood into it. Eventually, a dramatic breach of the narrow Canal de los Témpanos occurs, swelling visitor numbers as people throng to see this natural spectacle.


The Perito Moreno glacier is impressive on many counts. The sheer number of visitors for one thing, today with the addition of the Argentinean President who was flying in to open some new viewing platforms over the glacier. The scale and whiteness of the glacier is truly impressive, quite unlike most other glaciers I have seen as it receives frequent fresh snow, so the usual grey/brown rubble that adorns most glaciers is not evident here. And the fact that it regularly ‘calves’ large masses of ice from its 60m front wall into the lake along the whole snout of the glacier, something we were to witness several times during the day.


We took a one hour boat excursion to the face of the glacier, although there was not much calving to be seen at this time. The glacier became much more active in the early afternoon in the heat of the day. We trekked along the north walkway (several kilometres long now with recent additions) and spent an hour or so watching the ice walls collapse, some events occurring under the water’s surface, so a large crack would be heard and a blue/green iceberg would appear like a re-surfacing submarine. Others collapsed in the more traditional fashion, causing a huge bow wave to flow along the face of the glacier. By mid afternoon, the lake in front of the glacier was littered with fresh icebergs.



At around 1600 we set off back to El Calafate, stopping en route to view Chilean flamingos in the bay just east of the town. A good parrilla (grilled meat) restaurant called Mick’s in the centre of town produced great value and sumptuous lamb and sausages, before another noisy night in the friendly Hosteria Posta Sur, the evening this time enlivened by a live concert at the far end of the town. In with the ear plugs again…Tomorrow Chile!


 

Day 5 of Colin Stump's Journey through Patagonia

Day 5 - To the summit of Loma del Pliegue Tumbado 1500m!

Today’s objective is Loma del Pliegue Tumbado 1500m, a small summit attained by a long valley plod and lengthy pull up through attractive beech woods, with the taller beech in some areas and the short beech Ňire in more open areas. This is original forest in unpolluted air, so we saw a lot of Old Man’s Beard, a lichen that grows on the tree bark, and a parasitic growth called ‘Indian Bread’. Adorning the forest floor were occasional yellow orchid and small colonies of ‘Lady’s Slipper’ (locally known as Topa topa). The small vulture cara cara (Carancho) was seen in more open areas.


As we moved above 800-900m, it started to snow, adding further interest to the long forest section, and by the time we reached the tree line, the clouds were down and the wind had strengthened considerably. We met a Dutch group descending the hill and they had had no views whatsoever, so we took an early lunch and waited for the weather to improve, which, thankfully, it did.


A long walk across open ground carpeted with some interesting mosses, eventually picking up yellow stakes, which guided us through an easy boulder field towards our goal.


The final pull to the summit was a steeper slope, on stable scree with about 200m of ascent. At the top we enjoyed good views to Lago Torre exiting Glacier Grande, NNW to Cerro Fitzroy (3405m), NW to Cerro Torre (3102m) and east to Lago Viedma. The rather splendid Cerro Solo (2121m) was in the near distance directly to our east. What a great little top Pliegue Tumbado is, and, an object lesson in gauging distances in this region…things look a lot nearer than they really are, a function of the clear air and brilliant light. What had looked like a simple ridge route that might have taken us 2-3 hours actually took us 4 hours.


On the descent a group of ibis were seen just before the start of the forest trail and once again we were into the beech woods for the long walk back, in total a 23km day. A short stroll by Patagonian standards!


Our restaurant this evening was the same as the first night…an excellent local stew with pulses was enjoyed. During our meal there was some excitement when some Argentinean visitors arrived breathless (and in the case of the mother a little ashen)…they had spotted a puma with cub at Lago Capri! Not known to attack humans, at least in the recent past, it was, nevertheless, a scary moment for the family, and one they will surely dine out on for years to come. Puma are rarely seen, as they are most active at night, but are fairly common in these parts. Although protected in the area we were trekking in, they are routinely shot by farmers outside the national park boundaries as they will train their young on sheep before working up to the bigger cattle.


Another full day. Onto the Glacier Viedma tomorrow!

 

View Argentina tours

Viwe Chile tours


 

Chile Earthquake

The devasting earthquake in Chile is another terrible natural disaster that shocks our world and our hearts go out to the people in that country.  In terms of our clients we do not have any tours in Chile at this time so no-one was affected and we do not have any groups arriving on other tours until next week.  We will work with our local operators to see what impact this will have for those groups.
 
For any clients heading over to Latin America and travelling via Chile the latest news is that Santiago airport is open to limited flights and the following arrangements have been made:
 
Santiago airport has reopened to incoming international flights. Flights of the national carrier, Lan Airlines (LFL, LAN.SN), will land Sunday.
The Chilean Aviation Authority said other airlines will land at airports in the north of the country, as well as Mendoza in Argentina on the border with Chile, and will be ferried by bus to Santiago.
The Santiago airport passenger terminal is damaged, so passengers will be received at a temporary terminal.
 
There is a knock on affect to other flights as re-routing has occured from Chile to other countries particularly Argentina in the last 24 hours.  So no doubt there will be some delays and flight changes. 


 

Day 4 of Colin Stump's Patagonian journey

Day 4 - Fitzroy Base Camp!

 

 

Today we ascended to the base camp of Cerro Fitzroy. Very windy to start, and it came back with a vengeance several times throughout the day, just to remind us we were in Patagonia!


For our first trekking day it was a 25km return route, so a bit hard on the feet, starting on a gently rising path to west of Valle Rio de las Vueltas, and rising steadily through the ubiquitous beech woods.


The first Fitzroy viewpoint gave a flavour of what to expect for the rest of the day, albeit with clouds progressively building up behind the range. The final pull up to the principal viewpoint involved 400m of steeper ground, with a little scree at the top, achieved in 55 minutes by yours truly.


Big views of Fitzroy and its sister peaks were enjoyed from the viewpoint at 1240m, towering above Lago de la Tres and Lago Sucia, and later we were to observe wonderful spiralling cloud-forms on the Fitzroy summit as the weather deteriorated slightly.


We visited Lago Capri on the return route and the sun reappeared to give us great views of Valle Rio de las Vueltas in the early evening light and the rich, distinctive vegetation that is unique to this region, with stunted beech trees (genus: Nothofagus Antarctica or Ňire in Arentine), rising from the lush green slopes of sheep grass and the thorny plant called ‘Mother-in-Laws Pillow’ or more correctly known as Neneo (genus: Mulinum spinorum).


Above us condors took flight from their nests high on adjacent volcanic cliffs. A great end to a long fulfilling day, an 8.5 hour round trip in total. Another dinner in town, then early to bed! Tomorrow we have the ascent of Loma del Pliegue Tumbado (1500m)!


 

Managing Director Colin Stump in Patagonia

Colin Stump, who heads up the Travel Adventure Division at TUI, travelled with us on our Patagonian Highlights tour this month.  Follow his journey with this day by day account as he travels from the cosmopolitan streets of Buenos Aires to the wild and remote lands of Patagonia and down to the southern tip of Latin America, Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia. 

Starting with the arrival in Buenos Aires, here are his first three days - to tide you over the weekend!

 

Day 1 - Arrival in Buenos Aires

After our international flight to Santiago, we connected onto the two-hour flight to Buenos Aires. I eased quickly through Pistrani, Buenos Aires international airport (note: also known as Ezeiza). Transfer to Hotel Bristol, on the famous Avenue 9 De Julio, the widest avenue in the world with eight lanes on each side and with traffic volumes to match. Tired now, having had an early start, but met up with the group I was to spend the next couple of weeks with at 7pm for the usual pre-trip briefing, followed by dinner at a nearby steak house of renown. Steaks in Argentina are marvellous, and this restaurant also proudly exhibited its BBQ meat on an open fire pit in the front window section of the restaurant. A pleasant first evening.

Day 2 - Buenos Aires City Tour

 

This morning was taken up with a city tour. The usual statues of conquering heroes (particularly those who wrested Argentina … the word meaning ‘silver’…from Spanish rule), neo-classical cathedrals, lots of museums and the burial ground of the rich and famous, now plagued by thousands of tour groups thronging to have their picture taken next to the tomb of Evita Peron.

La Boca is probably the area of the city most visitors look out for first, bohemian in character with buildings all brightly painted. The history here is that poorer families took over buildings vacated by wealthier souls when yellow fever hit the area. The new occupiers lived one family to a room and then shared a communal kitchen and toilets, etc. Now the area is completely overwhelmed by tour buses (no orderly coach parks here) and is inevitably quite tacky. Our tour then took us westwards, past the docks and newly redeveloped Puerto Modero area. Very chic. My son Kevin and I had come here 12 years earlier and it was a run down dock area famous only for a naval training clipper…quite a difference!. The smarter areas to the west were set in some good parkland, some with some interesting contemporary sculptures.


A quick lunch in the smart Recoleta district, then a taxi and local train to Tigre to access the delta of the River Paraná to the north, some 30km outside the centre. We took a one-hour boat trip, pleasant enough, and some respite from the increasing heat of the day…about 33 degrees and 80% humidity…viewing the communities who live in stilted houses on the many islands of this area, set in amongst osier reeds and lush vegetation.


Back to town on a series of crowded trains, a quick shower, then off to one of the traditional restaurants offering a tango show after dinner. We visited Café Tortoni, an excellent and very traditional venue, where waiters seem to have worked there for aeons, and the tango show was as genuine an experience that you can get. The dance was magical, athletic, sexual, and entertaining. The musicians, a pianist, an accordion player and a guitarist, all older gentlemen who’d clearly been plying their trade for years. The other, a violin player, capable but younger and more arrogant.

Day 3 - Journey to El Chalten

Another early start for an Aerolineas Argentina flight to El Calafate, three hours flying to the south. A word of warning though, for domestic flights taken from the international terminal, do take care to get through security in plenty of time…we only got on the plane with minutes to spare as they only had one security gate open.
An interesting flight over southern Argentina, with views to the coast over vast areas of dry desert, tablelands and finally the splendour of Patagonia all around us, the first signs being the emerald blue rivers exiting from the huge glacial lake of Lago Argentino, the colour the result of huge amounts of glacial sediment in the water which reflects the sky.

Nothing quite prepares you for Patagonia. The massive blue skies, the Andes mountains, here rising to around 3400m, which bound the entire western horizon, the blue lakes and…the wind…with very little land mass to ameliorate the winds off the Pacific Ocean to the west, with cold air feeding up from Antarctica, the wind on arrival was a continuous blast of some 20-30kph: if you’re a photographer, image stabilisers are the order of the day.

From the tiny airport of El Calafate, now 20km east of the town, we drove along the southern shores of Lago Argentino, then northwards to La Leona, a beautifully situated stop off on route to El Chalten, our destination for the day (a total distance of 230km). Condors, llama and one lone rhea were sighted en route.

Lunch of empanadas (a small meat pastie) and vegetable soup in this historic spot, named after a puma attack on a famous explorer Francisco P. Moreno, and a known resting point for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (they stayed for a month in 1905), who famously robbed in towns in these parts. A puma hide adorned the wall.
We then turned west towards our objective for the day, El Chalten, which nestles under the great bulk of Cerro Fitzroy, and the famous granite spike of Cerro Torre, both mountains famed in mountaineering circles for their verticality, ice bulges at the summit, and notorious wind conditions that scupper many attempts to climb them. They had been visible today from almost 100km away, on one of the best weather days the region had enjoyed for weeks. Apparently, this is the first time in weeks that it has not rained.

We were staying in the super little hotel of La Aldea (www.hotelaldea.com.ar), just east of the town centre, now fast developing with the tarmac road access that has only just been completed. I expect that over-development will ruin this spot in the next twenty years, so come along now!

We took a walk for three hours through low beech woods populated by giant woodpeckers to gain a vantage point to see Cerro Torre up close, and binoculars gave clear views of the summit ice dome. Terrific stuff. Wind in the face much of the time, very much something you have to get used to in these parts.

Dinner at La Senyera (next to the main supermarket) with good lamb kebabs. Afterwards we watched the ascent of Cerro Torre by local guides on DVD in the cosy bar of La Aldea, a wood fire making it very welcoming. The wind gusted strongly during the night, but came and went in short bursts.

Next stop the Fitzroy Massif!


View our tours to Argentina

View our tours to Chile


 

Wanderlust Travel Awards

The respected UK travel magazine 'Wanderlust' has just announced the winners of its annual Readers' Travel Awards.  Included in the line up are: Top Country, Top City and Top Emerging Destination (as well as Top Operator of course which, in case you need reminding, Imaginative Traveller was voted into the Top Five out of 627 companies!).

 

 

Visit the Top Country - Namibia on many of our African overland tours such as Southern Africa Encompassed or on its own on Namibia in Depth. Discover the stunning sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the amazing wildlife of Etosha and the dramatic scenery of Fish River Canyon.

 

 

Visit the Top City - Luanga Prabang in Laos, on one of our multi-country itineraries such as Beyond the Mekong or on its own on Laos Unveiled. Enjoy the enchanting ambience of Luang Prabang with its historic temples and crumbling colonial architecture as well as the mysterious Plain of Jars and the lush scenery of the Mekong River.

 

 

Visit the Top Emerging Destination - Colombia on our NEW tour Colours of Colombia.  Get ahead of the crowds by visiting the beautiful old colonial city of Cartagena, the incredible salt cathedral at Zipaquira and the lush coast and rainforest scenery of Tayrona National Park.

 


 

Staff Snippets - China

Commercial Director and ex-tour leader Liddy Pleasants relates a snippet from a tour of one of her favourite countries - China!

 

 

China is just the most incredible place you can ever visit. The people are inquisitive, welcoming and hilarious. The food is beyond delicious. The scenery is varied, majestic and extraordinary. The sights are fascinating and abundant. And the culture has been going strong for a couple of thousand years and continues to do so !

One of my favourite travelling experiences was a few years ago when leading tours in China. I had picked up a fair bit of Chinese and was able to get by in most situations. One day I was in a lift and when it stopped on the third floor, a group of about 15 middle aged Chinese women got in. As we climbed laboriously to the top of the hotel, the women started to take in this freakish foreign woman who was behind them (at 6 foot, with long blonde hair it was always a little difficult to blend in in China!).

Eventually one commented quietly to the others (in Mandarin) that she had never seen such a large woman. They all giggled. Then another looked down at my feet and, astonished, suggested that the rest of them try to look at how enormous they were. They all giggled even more and I didn’t say anything. Eventually we arrived at the top and just as they were leaving, I said in my best Chinese, that I was happy to meet them but had seldom met such a bunch of small women, with such tiny feet! They all looked appalled that I had understood what was being said and started to apologise before I burst out laughing and they all collapsed into even more giggles.

 

See our China tours


 

Chinese New Year

Welcome to the Chinese New Year - the Year of the Tiger!  What better way to discover some of the amazing attractions of this incredible country than by taking an adventure tour with Imaginative Traveller which includes trekking a section of the Tiger Leaping Gorge?!!!  Nothing too ambitious but an amazing hike beneath towering limestone walls dropping a sheer 3000m to the Yangtze River below, backdropped by the snow-capped moutain range beyond.  Several of our tours visit the gorge:

Yunnan Explorer - a 10-day tour to one of China'e most beautiful provinces including the incredible Tibetan monastery at Zhongdian (also known as 'Shangri-La'), the UNESCO Naxi old city of Lijiang as well as Dali and Kunming and the trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge itself.

The Road to Beijing - a fully encompassing 22-day exploration of this colourful country including Kunming, Dali and Lijiang, a visit to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors, Beijing and the Great Wall and a complete Yangtze River exploration both up high and down low with not only the three day Tiger Leaping Gorge trek above the famous river but also a three day cruise along its scenic shores.

 

 

See all our China tours


 

Wanderlust Travel Awards 2010

Imaginative Traveller is really pleased to announce that we have been HIGHLY COMMENDED in the Top Tour Operator category in the Wanderlust Travel Awards at The Times: Destinations Travel Show, Earls Court, London.

Imaginative Traveller has many late availability departures at an amazing 20% discount, and can offer family tours and tailor-made itineraries as well.

If you're looking to travel on an adventurous, experiental holiday during 2010, why not take a look at Imaginative Traveller's range of more than 600 tours and book with one of the top tour operators!


 

Feline adventurous? Walk with lions in Zimbabwe

ITV1’s new ‘Lion Country’ series is putting Zimbabwe’s magnificent wildlife back on the tourist map while highlighting its unique Big Cat conservation efforts.

The six-part series follows the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust’s (ALERT) admirable efforts to help reverse the decline in the number of wild African lions.  With reports indicating that their numbers have dropped by as much as 80% in the last 50 years, the series follows the non-profit organisation’s initiative to reintroduce captive-bred lions to the wild.

Of Zimbabwe’s many national parks and game reserves, Antelope Park - where the Trust’s activities are based - stands out as being the only place in the world where visitors can walk with lions.  Whilst giving Big Cat enthusiasts the chance to learn more about their natural environment, all funds generated from the lion walks are channelled back into ALERT’s programme.

For those inspired to enjoy this unique experience, Imaginative Traveller offers a number of trips which take in the feline delights of Antelope while supporting this commendable project:

Botswana & Zimbabwe Adventure – 22 days from £932pp

This 22-day adventure offers a great overview of the wildlife and scenic highlights of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.  Starting with rhino trails in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, the trip takes the back roads of Botswana to explore the spectacular floodplains of the Okavango Delta in mokoros (dug-out canoes).

Travelling on to Chobe National Park, known as Africa’s greatest elephant sanctuary, the tour heads to camp overnight at Victoria Falls before more game viewing opportunities in Zimbabwe’s premier wildlife sanctuary, Hwange National Park.

Finally, after walking with lions in Antelope Park and enjoying some of the private reserve’s other activities, such as horseback game viewing and swimming with elephants, Kruger National Park’s world-renowned game and Blyde River Canyon, the largest green canyon in the world, conclude this animal-packed trip.

Prices start from £1,165pp land only.

This includes experienced safari and local guides, a driver and camp cook whilst on safari, park fees, all camping equipment, transport in custom-built safari and open game-viewing vehicles and 21 nights accommodation (20 nights camping, 1 night lodge). A local payment of US$600 is payable locally. Return flights start from £588pp.

SPECIAL OFFER:  Imaginative Traveller is currently offering 20% off their 28 February departure, down to £932pp land only.

Wild Africa – 10 days from £440pp

This short safari gives travellers a wonderful overview of Zimbabwe’s natural charms in just 10 days.  Starting on a cultural note, the group visits the architectural wonder of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, once the greatest medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa, before walking with lions in Antelope Park.

Wildlife viewing opportunities continue at Matobo National Park, noted for its white rhino population, and Hwange National Park.  Then it’s a  trip concludes with two adrenaline-fuelled days in Victoria Falls - home to a wide range of activities, from white-water rafting to bungy jumping.

Prices start from £550pp land only

This includes experienced safari and local guides, a driver and camp cook whilst on safari, park fees, all camping equipment, transport in custom-built safari and open game-viewing vehicles and 9 nights accommodation (8 nights camping, 1 night lodge) and a local payment of US$300 is payable locally.  Return flights start from £704pp.

SPECIAL OFFER:  Imaginative Traveller is currently offering 20% off for their 28 February departure, making the land only price just £440pp.


 

Instant heat - Egypt's Red Sea Coast

Fancy instant heat, sunshine – even coral reefs at your fingertips (or feet!) right now? Our online marketing expert, Russell Morling, has just returned from Sharm el Sheikh – under 5 hours flight away from the UK on the Egyptian Red Sea coast. Days were spent enjoying cool drinks around the pool watching the nearby sea lap over the coral – and at night there was no need for even a jumper it was so warm.  The rest of us left behind in the UK were very jealous of his texts!


A world away from the office, frosty mornings and dark evenings, the resorts of the Red Sea are the perfect destination if you want to combine relaxation with culture.  Check out our tours which all feature a healthy dose of laziness on the beach!  


And don’t forget you can add our 4-day Red Sea Recovery extension to any of our tours!

 

 

 

River & Reef – all the highlights of Egypt including a private Nile cruise plus several days at the Red Sea


Egypt Unveiled
– famous sights, well-kept secrets and time on the beaches of Hurghada


Sailtrek & Sinai – a felucca cruise down the Nile and snorkelling from the resort of Dahab


Beyond the Pyramids – feluccas, Dahab relaxation plus an exciting walk through the Sinai desert


Egypt Encompassed
– combining the Sahara, the Nile, the Sinai AND the Red Sea


 

3-7 February - Festival on the Niger

Salif Keita headlines the Sixth Festival on the Niger!


Celebrate music, folklore and dance at one of the world’s most famous festivals - the Festival on the Niger!


The festival takes place in the ancient Bambara capital of Ségou in the enigmatic West African country of Mali. Its name pays homage to Africa's third longest river, but the festival is a kaleidoscope of the rich cultural tapestry that this particular region has to offer. With three full days of music, dance, storytelling and workshops, it is sure to provide a wonderful finale to any West African adventure.

Read more about the Festival on the Niger Extension


Read about our West African tours

 


 

2010 Year of Biodiversity - Imaginative Traveller Wildlife Holidays

2010 is the Year of Biodiversity!  And what better way to experience it than by actually seeing for yourself some of the world’s incredible wildlife rather than just armchair travelling with the various programmes on television (excellent though they are). Wildlife holidays used to be mostly concentrated on Africa.  However, as access to remote destinations becomes easier, an explosion in wildlife holidays throughout the world has occurred.  With Imaginative Traveller there are now numerous destinations where you can enjoy the most incredible wildlife encounters.  How about a jungle trip in Borneo on our Sabah Wildlife Explorer or the ‘well kept secret’ Khao Sok National Park in Thailand on our Thailand in Depth tour, extend your trek through the Himalayas with a Chitwan Safari Extension, explore the Amazon in Peru, Brazil and Ecuador on various tours through South America or how about searching for leopards in India on our ever-popular Rajasthan Safari tour?!


 

Staff snippets from Syria

Jo Reeves, from our Tailor-made department, recently travelled to Syria and has this to say about her experience:

 

 


When Visited: December 2009


Why: My boyfriend and I fancied a destination that wasn't going to be full to the brim of tourists looking to get away over the Christmas period.

What made it special: The people, the food is consistently great, the surprises...Syria is not what you would expect it to be.

Recommend it because:
Syria has so much to offer.  It has a fascinating history offering castles, churches and roman ruins. There is also such diversity with bustling, evolving Damascus, charming Aleppo and the vast desert and ruins in Palmyra.  It is not over-run with western tourists either...for now anyway!

Quirky moments:
There were so many!  On Christmas Eve, we were beckoned to the restaurant by the hotel staff to join in on the celebrations and have some food...
3 hours later we had been given 16 different dishes of food, an entire chocolate log and heard the full back catalogue of Christmas songs played on a casio keyboard.  They love to feed you in Syria - we couldn't move!  However, it was one of the best ways I've seen Christmas in, such fun.

Also, the 'massages' over there resemble a darn good scrub rather than a ‘candles and relaxing shoulder rub’!

The Syrian people are so friendly, and some of the hotel staff literally couldn’t do enough to help. In one hotel, one chap refused to let us use the lift without him coming with us to press the buttons!!

 

 

 

Syrian Highlights


Syrian Caravan

Syria & Lebanon Discovery

All Syria tours


 

Stuff Your Rucksack - Kate Humble

Here at Imaginative Traveller we are constantly striving to work hard on the responsible tourism front. Respect for local people and the environment is at the heart of everything we do.  We aim to minimise our impact and maximise respectful interaction.  Which is why we were really excited when we came across Kate Humble’s fascinating new initiative ‘Stuff Your Rucksack’! www.stuffyourrucksack.com


The thinking behind this concept struck a knowing chord with us:


“How many times have you been travelling and visited a school or community or local charity that you would love to help? The school needs books, or a map or pencils; an orphanage needs children's clothes or toys. All things that, if only you'd known, you could've stuffed in your rucksack. But once you get home you forget, or you've lost the address, or worry that whatever you send will be stolen before it even gets there...”

Kate Humble


We know that we have certainly found ourselves in similar situations and fortunately are in the position where we can actually do something about it via our worldwide Responsible Travel Projects.  Check out these and our responsible tourism ethics at www.imaginative-traveller.com/responsible-travel


We believe that as worldwide travellers, giving something back to the world is essential.


 

Tiffani's Galapagos Experience

Tiffani Cave travelled to the Galapagos in late October/early November.  Her enthusiasm for the destination bubbled over in an email she sent back to the office whilst only a few days into her trip!  Read on for a brief glimpse of life in this wildlife heaven.

Am only halfway through my amazing South American journey and am absolutely loving the Galapagos! They are truly unique and have far exceeded my expectations.

The wildlife is out of this world and SO tame - creatures just come right up to you on land (or in the sea) to check you out.  They just sit right next to you!

I must have seen well over a thousand fur seals and sea lions, and photographed each and every one at least a dozen times! It is pup season here so I have been fortunate enough to see lots of gorgeous fluffy seal pups from half an hour old to a few days. They are soooo adorable and make a noise a bit like a lamb bleating. Quite a contrast to the loud barking of the adult seals. I even got caught in the middle of a fight earlier between two very angry males ‘arguing’ over a particular rock - I nearly ended up in the water trying to move out of the way! They are very territorial about their rocks and sections of beach. Not to mention benches.... I tried to sit on a bench where one was sleeping (at a bus stop) and it barked its head off at me until I moved! Seals and sea lions rule round here.

The snorkelling has been amazing. In my first hour alone I swam with stingrays, sea turtles, beautiful dory fish, sharks, penguins and a load of fish with too many different names to remember. And the birdlife is incredible too - have taken tons of pictures of the blue-footed booby....

And the Galapagos must be the only place in the world where someone shouts “Shark” and everyone jumps in the water! I have used a whole film trying to photograph the sharks and gone through several changes of clothes jumping in fully dressed in my determination to get some good pictures.

I’m sharing my cabin with a lovely Australian girl, have met some other really interesting people and eaten some lovely new foods. All very healthy. In fact I’m enjoying a very healthy lifestyle all round! We get up at 5am, breakfast at 6am then exploring on land and wildlife-viewing at 7am to avoid the heat of the day (the sun is very fierce and I have got slightly burnt!), then snorkelling, then lunch.... before more exploring and snorkelling in the afternoon. The terrain is very varied – beaches, highlands, rocks and lava. No real fitness needed, as the pace is quite slow and everyone stops a lot to take photos so there’s no rush. We’re all in bed by about 8pm though as we’re so tired!

This is the perfect trip for wildlife lovers, keen photographers and geologists. Nowhere else can you get so close to the wildlife. The scenery is stunning and the photo opportunities endless - definitely take an underwater camera and plenty of memory cards. Promise to bore you all with plenty of photos when I get back!

Off to visit some more islands now - adios amigos!!!

View all Galapagos tours here


 

My Spitzbergen Experience

My Spitzbergen Experience by Sue Bevan

 

 

Arriving into Longyearbyen at midnight to bright sunshine and blue skies was an extremely odd sensation. Even though I was aware of the 24 hour daylight, I must admit I was expecting at least a little bit of change in the light!

The next day we transferred from the hotel to our ship. Our arrival went very smoothly as we were met on the gangway and directed to our cabins.  Once everyone was on board we had an introduction to the ship and (extremely friendly) crew. Our group consisted of 74 people - a good mixture of couples and single travellers with ages ranging from early 20’s to mid-70’s.  The ship was really comfortable and our cabins had a surprising amount of space. The food onboard was absolutely fantastic - buffet breakfasts, 3-course lunches and 4-course dinner! Plus afternoon tea! There was a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian and any other special requests could be catered for. The problem with all this really good food was the expanding waistlines!

Days were filled with either zodiac cruises along the coast or actual shore landings. This varied on where we were and landings could be halted if polar bears were sighted! There were normally two outings a day which could last about 3 hours. During the times when cruises or landings were not possible then film shows or presentations were arranged. So that we did not miss anything we were updated daily on what was happening during mealtimes and notices were also placed around the ship.  And of course there was the ever-present tannoy! Whenever any wildlife was spotted it was announced via the tannoy then there was a mass exodus to the deck with cameras. This may sound like mayhem but there were actually plenty of viewing spaces so there was never a problem in catching that elusive arctic fox or bear.

The scenery was quite stark but stunning, and when the ship was pushing its way through the icefields the noise was incredible!  The size and colours of the ice flows and icebergs were amazing and the depths that they reached beneath the water unbelievable. Walrus were frequently spotted – lazily wallowing around on the shore. There were also plenty of birds and also whales, though you had to move quickly to snap them.

The highlight for me was seeing polar bears in their natural habitat. What can I say? Awesome, beautiful, graceful.....Polar bears provided very special experiences for all on board and we felt privileged to witness these majestic beasts as sightings are never guaranteed.  

 

 


I must admit the thought of doing a cruise such as this on one of the larger cruise boats fills me with horror. We did see one ship that held over 3000 passengers - the size was incredible and it totally swamped the landscape. The best part of being on a smaller ship is that when landings are arranged then ALL passengers can participate. This would be difficult on a large ship as there is a limit of 100 people that can land at any one time.  Larger ships also have problems accessing some of the smaller tributaries.

All in all it was a simply fantastic trip with phenomenal scenery, incredible wildlife sightings, a brilliant crew - and of course a fantastic chef!

Spitzbergen Explorer


 

Kurban Bayram

Kurban Bayram (The Feast of the Sacrifice) - 27-30th Nov 09

Kurban Bayram is a four day festival in Turkey where sacrificial sheep are slaughtered and their meat distributed to the poor.

The Bayram takes place two months after Ramazan Bayram (Ramadan) and, as during Ramadan,  Muslims abstain from drinking alcohol for the four days.

The sacrifice is a cow, goat or sheep offered in commemoration of the ram sacrificed by Abraham instead of his son. A special prayer is said the day before the animal is sacrificed. Every Muslim home is obliged to offer this sacrifice.

The Sacrifice

A butcher will come to the home and everyone gathers outside the family home as the whole act takes place outside. Prayers are said for the animal to ascend to god and to bless the meat. Aftre the sacrifice some of the animal’s blood is painted on the side of the home. The family enjoy a meal with some of the meat and the rest is divided up and given to the poor.

Over the four nights families will come together and enjoy feasts from the meat with lots of music and dancing.

Many banks, shops and government building will close throughout this time but travel plans should not be disrupted and most people enjoy experiencing such a unique occasion with local people.

Click here for our Turkish Tours


 

Mongolia

We recently asked our tour leaders and staff which was their favourite country to travel - whether leading a tour or from a more personal point of view.  One country consistently came out on top - Mongolia

Our Commercial Director Liddy Pleasantsdescribed it as "one of the few places where you can really get a feel for the nomadic way of life and because the immensity of both the Mongolian steppe and the Gobi desert have to be seen to be believed. And because there are not many other destinations where you can sit around the fire at night and hear the wolves baying from the other side of the mountain!".

Jessica Brooks, one of our tour leaders, has written a detailed description of this amazing country.  On reading it, we certainly wanted to book on the next flight to Ulaan Bataar!

 

MONGOLIA

 

 

Mongolia is a wide-open space comprising of 1.5 million square kilometres of unfenced and unowned land. There is a traditional Mongolian saying 'Man's joy is in wide open and empty spaces' and nowhere illustrates this better. A population of 2.4 million in a land the size of Western Europe leads to a population density of 1.4 people per square kilometre. It’s a land that stretches from horizon to horizon in bands of colour and constantly shifting and changing light and shadows. From south to north it is a land of extreme climate and extraordinary natural environment.

The Gobi simply means desert. The coldest and northernmost in the world! 500,000 square miles of shrub, scrub, salt and soda lakes, and gravel plains. Not barren but a land waiting to be watered - at the slightest precipitation it blooms. The Steppe is a sea of grass spanning Eurasia. The grasslands represent the heartland of Mongolia geographically and economically. From the pasture stems wealth starting with the '5 Snouts' - camels, yak/cattle, sheep, goats and horses - equalling roughly 34 million head of livestock. It is here you will find the ancient capital city of Ogodei Khan - Karakorum. From here the Mongol Empire was ruled, an empire where from 'the borders of Poland to the shores of the Yellow Sea hardly a dog could bark without leave'.

 

The northern regions are part of the vast forested regions of southern Siberia, the largest continuous forest system on earth. It is between the Steppe and this forested Steppe region that tribes, the forefathers of the Mongols, since the earliest times moved across the great Central Asian plains in their primitive clan structures.

All roads lead back to Ulaan Bataar....Red Hero, a name given in the name of a revolution that brought independence and triumph. From a nomadic encampment to a centre of Buddhist pilgrimage and religious teaching. To a place of trade with streets filled with camel caravans filled with tea, wool and fur. To a city curtailed by 69 years of Russian imperialism and then liberated by pro-democracy demonstrations and hunger strikes. Where now a horse-drawn nomad’s cart pulls up alongside a top-range Landcruiser. A mixture of modern and tradition, of nomads and urbanites, of soviet apartments and ger districts.

The attitude of Mongolians is profoundly connected with the great open spaces, with nature and the elements. It’s a way of life that has bred a reverence for the natural world, with the eternal blue sky the most powerful and mighty of all forces. Chinngis Khan believed he conquered with the Rule of Heaven - the supreme sky god Tenger. It’s a combination of shamanistic and Buddhist belief that to this day remains an easy and unselfconscious part of Mongolia.

Mongolians are well matched to the land they inhabit. The ger, the felt dwelling that graces the Mongolian countryside from the hillsides of UB to the desert south and the frozen north, has evolved since ancient times to suit the needs of the Mongolian people when following their herds to new pastures. The confines of ger life tighten family strength and unity and help to overcome poverty. Nomads follow rhythms dictated by established practice and unexpected extremes. Hardiness, endurance, self-suffiency, tolerance, self-assuredness, pride, spirit of freedom and a sense of hospitality. This hospitality leads to a Mongolian proverb 'Happy is he with whom guests frequent. Joyful is he whose dear guests’ horses are always present'.

 

A land where the State Emblem dates back to the Spirit Banner constructed by the nomadic warriors tying strands of hair from the best stallion horses to the shaft of their spears - Chinngis Khan had one white Spirit Banner used in peace and one black used for guidance in war. Where families still gather at the Chinngis Khan International Airport to throw milk to departing relatives - an ancient custom meaning ‘we will wait to see you again with happiness’. A land where the capital city comes to a standstill and grown men cry in celebration when Mongolia wins its first ever Olympic gold. A land of herdsmen and horses - the symbol of free spirit and independence.

A mesmerising mix. Come and feel small and insignificant. Feel the strength and do battle with the elements. Listen to songs of mother, horses and love. Drink from impromptu bowls of airag and arihk. Listen to a land filled with silence and the sweep of an eagle’s wings. It will restore your sense of the earth’s immensity. Mongolia.

Click here to see our tours to Mongolia


 

I’m not a celebrity but get me to the jungle anyway!

I’m not a celebrity but get me to the jungle anyway!

Fancy a trip to the jungle but don’t fancy dining on crocodile feet or sharing it with the likes of Jordan and ex-Eastender stars?!! Then check out some of these fabulous rainforest trips from Latin America to South East Asia.


 

The Origin of Shaking Hands in China

The origin of shaking hands

In China when people meet each other they usually shake hands saying ‘Ni Hao’ or ‘Hello’. But how did this tradition begin? Dating back to the stone age, the primitive people always held their stone weapons or stick when they were hunting or fighting. When they met strangers, if they were not hostile, they would put down their weapons, stretch out their hands and let the other touch their palms. This meant they weren’t holding any weapons. Gradually it has become the popular etiquette of hand-shaking and saying ‘Ni Hao’.

View China tours


 

Hard Sell in Varanasi

The Hard Sell

One of our travel reps recently travelled on tour with us to Varanasi where she experienced the ultimate in dogged perseverance!

“We had taken an overnight train to the city from Agra. Varanasi is one of the oldest and holiest cities in the world, built on the banks of the Ganges. If you want to experience ‘India’, this would be one of the best places to do it. It was exceptionally chaotic and it really does overwhelm you, if you let it. I remember that we had an organised a boat trip in the evening to experience Varanasi from the river. Walking down the boardwalk, we were bombarded by people trying to sell us things. There was one particularly persistent fellow and he followed members of the group to the edge of the boat, shouting as our boat left the shore. He looked hopeful as someone shouted “maybe later.” 

We returned from our boat trip and disembarked. Our tour leader organised cycle rickshaws for us all to take us back to the hotel. We all got on our designated rickshaws and off we went. There were bikes, cars, people everywhere; it really was manic on the streets. I was having a lovely evening, trying to take everything in. I turned around and jumped slightly because jogging beside our rickshaw was the man who had been previously trying to sell us his wares! He was not going to give up or leave our side. Our rickshaw driver shouted at him to go away. He was not listening. He was adamant that we were going to buy a plastic snow globe which had a tiny representation of the Taj Mahal inside! I started to laugh and repeatedly said I did not want to buy anything from him so he went to one of the other rickshaws and ended up running along aside our group’s rickshaws for more than 20 minutes. It was so comical to watch but I could not help admiring his determination. A couple of the rickshaw drivers tried to cycle quicker but the man would start to speed up too. FINALLY one member of our group relented and bought something. A few people cheered! I turned around to see him beaming. He then gave a little wave and started to run in the direction we had come from – his persistence had paid off!

Varanasi Extension

All India tours

 


 

Journey Through Tibet

We recently asked our tour leaders which tours were their favourites and one in particular kept cropping up - Journey Through Tibet.  A 22-day tour encompassing China, Tibet and finishing in Nepal.  It covers a lot of territory, however, you also get to see some amazing facets of this part of the world:

•    All the famed highlights of Beijing (Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall) and Lhasa (the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple plus the Sera and Drepung Monasteries

•    Some of China’s best natural scenery (among the grassland of Xiahe, the mountains of Langmusi and at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Jiuzhaigou)

•    A mix of small town and city living (from Beijing and Chengdu to the quaint little town of Songpan and the rural backwater that is Shegar).

•    The Tibetan culture in China at the Labrang Monstery in Xiahe and at the Langmusi Monastery. And the Muslim influences and Qiang minorities at Songpan

•    Wildlife in the form of Giant Pandas at Chengdu’s Breeding Research Base

•    Tibet – one of the most impressive and amazing countries in the world. We travel out of Lhasa across the vast Tibetan plateau through the fascinating towns of Gyantse and Shigatse with their respective chortens and monasteries, crossing several high passes including the Karo La (5010 metres).

•    Follow the Friendship Highway through the Himalayas, past Mt Everest and several other 8,000m mountains into Nepal with its contrasting scenery of terraced hillsides and lush valleys on our way to Kathmandu.

•    Aside from the impressive palaces, monasteries and temples and the incredible scenery, the most wonderful experience is simply watching the Tibetan people. Many are making a pilgrimage to the Jokhang Temple (perambulating, chanting and saying prayers), others are shopping for bargains in the main market in Barkhor Square, while others are enjoying a cup of yak butter tea and chatting with their friends.

•    The huge variety of cuisine from Peking Duck to the spicy dishes of Sichuan, the ‘momos’ or dumplings of Tibet to the cosmopolitan fare of Kathmandu.

•    And last but not least the spectacular flight at dawn which takes us to Lhasa at 3650m. This is one of the most breathtaking flights in the world, as we cross over the soaring snow-capped mountain peaks of the Himalayas before arriving in the high Tibetan Plateau.

 

 

This tour has something for everyone - highly recommend for those seeking adventure and experience of new cultures and incredible scenery! For those with more limited time why not check out our 12 day Tibet Overland tour or our 13 day Tibet – Roof of the World tour, both visiting Tibet from Kathmandu?


 

Confirmed gorilla trekking permits available for selected Christmas and New Year departures

Imaginative Traveller has obtained confirmed gorilla trekking permits on selected trips and departure dates in December 2009 and January 2010

These gorilla trekking permits are selling fast for the Christmas and New Year period, but Imaginative Traveller has managed to secure some CONFIRMED gorilla trekking permits, for selected tours and departure dates.

We offer a great selection of gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda and Uganda. Why not take a look at the tours and dates listed below and grab your confirmed gorilla trekking permit before they sell out completely!

Confirmed gorilla trekking permits available on the following:

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Departing 26 Dec 2009

Complete East Africa - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Reverse - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Complete East Africa Reverse - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Departing 09 Jan 2010

Complete East Africa - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Gorilla Express - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Gorilla & Wildlife Encounter - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Eastern Rhythms - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Uganda & Kenya Exposed - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Primates of Rwanda - Departing 20 Dec 2009

Uganda's Gorillas & Chimps - Departing 02 Jan 2010


 

Confirmed gorilla trekking permits available for selected Christmas and New Year departures

Imaginative Traveller has obtained confirmed gorilla trekking permits on selected trips and departure dates in December 2009 and January 2010

These gorilla trekking permits are selling fast for the Christmas and New Year period, but Imaginative Traveller has managed to secure some CONFIRMED gorilla trekking permits, for selected tours and departure dates.

We offer a great selection of gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda and Uganda. Why not take a look at the tours and dates listed below and grab your confirmed gorilla trekking permit before they sell out completely!

Confirmed gorilla trekking permits available on the following:

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Departing 26 Dec 2009

Complete East Africa - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Reverse - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Complete East Africa Reverse - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Departing 09 Jan 2010

Complete East Africa - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Gorilla Express - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Gorilla & Wildlife Encounter - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Eastern Rhythms - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Uganda & Kenya Exposed - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Primates of Rwanda - Departing 20 Dec 2009

Uganda's Gorillas & Chimps - Departing 02 Jan 2010


 

Confirmed gorilla trekking permits available for selected Christmas and New Year departures

Imaginative Traveller has obtained confirmed gorilla trekking permits on selected trips and departure dates in December 2009 and January 2010

These gorilla trekking permits are selling fast for the Christmas and New Year period, but Imaginative Traveller has managed to secure some CONFIRMED gorilla trekking permits, for selected tours and departure dates.

We offer a great selection of gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda and Uganda. Why not take a look at the tours and dates listed below and grab your confirmed gorilla trekking permit before they sell out completely!

Confirmed gorilla trekking permits available on the following:

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Departing 26 Dec 2009

Complete East Africa - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Reverse - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Complete East Africa Reverse - Departing 19 Dec 2009

Masai Mara & Mountain Gorillas - Departing 09 Jan 2010

Complete East Africa - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Gorilla Express - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Gorilla & Wildlife Encounter - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Eastern Rhythms - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Uganda & Kenya Exposed - Departing 02 Jan 2010

Primates of Rwanda - Departing 20 Dec 2009

Uganda's Gorillas & Chimps - Departing 02 Jan 2010


 

Win a dream safari in Tanzania with Rough Guides and Imaginative Traveller

Rough Guides and Imaginative Traveller have teamed up to offer you the chance to win a dream safari for two in Tanzania (UK residents only).

This once in a lifetime adventure travel experience – to celebrate the publication of Rough Guides’ Earthbound – will deliver you deep into the truly spectacular settings of Tanzania’s greatest wildlife habitats.

You'll treasure every moment of this dream safari; from getting up close with elephants, zebras and rhino on exhilarating game drives through the Serengeti National Park to travelling down into the Ngorongoro Crater to explore its outstanding wildlife sanctuary.

Plus, 10 runners up will win a copy of Earthbound: A Rough Guide to The World in Pictures.

Enter the Tanzania Safari Competition here


 

Win a dream safari in Tanzania with Rough Guides and Imaginative Traveller

Rough Guides and Imaginative Traveller have teamed up to offer you the chance to win a dream safari for two in Tanzania (UK residents only).

This once in a lifetime adventure travel experience – to celebrate the publication of Rough Guides’ Earthbound – will deliver you deep into the truly spectacular settings of Tanzania’s greatest wildlife habitats.

You'll treasure every moment of this dream safari; from getting up close with elephants, zebras and rhino on exhilarating game drives through the Serengeti National Park to travelling down into the Ngorongoro Crater to explore its outstanding wildlife sanctuary.

Plus, 10 runners up will win a copy of Earthbound: A Rough Guide to The World in Pictures.

Enter theTanzania Safari Competition here


 

Win a dream safari in Tanzania with Rough Guides and Imaginative Traveller

Rough Guides and Imaginative Traveller have teamed up to offer you the chance to win a dream safari for two in Tanzania (UK residents only).

This once in a lifetime adventure travel experience – to celebrate the publication of Rough Guides’ Earthbound – will deliver you deep into the truly spectacular settings of Tanzania’s greatest wildlife habitats.

You'll treasure every moment of this dream safari; from getting up close with elephants, zebras and rhino on exhilarating game drives through the Serengeti National Park to travelling down into the Ngorongoro Crater to explore its outstanding wildlife sanctuary.

Plus, 10 runners up will win a copy of Earthbound: A Rough Guide to The World in Pictures.

Enter theTanzania Safari Competition here


 

Win a dream safari in Tanzania with Rough Guides and Imaginative Traveller

Rough Guides and Imaginative Traveller have teamed up to offer you the chance to win a dream safari for two in Tanzania (UK residents only).

This once in a lifetime adventure travel experience – to celebrate the publication of Rough Guides’ Earthbound – will deliver you deep into the truly spectacular settings of Tanzania’s greatest wildlife habitats.

You'll treasure every moment of this dream safari; from getting up close with elephants, zebras and rhino on exhilarating game drives through the Serengeti National Park to travelling down into the Ngorongoro Crater to explore its outstanding wildlife sanctuary.

Plus, 10 runners up will win a copy of Earthbound: A Rough Guide to The World in Pictures.

Enter the Tanzania Safari Competition here


 

Gorillas on the web

The endangered Mountain Gorilla joined Facebook and My Space as part of a fundraising programme launched by the Uganda Wildlife Authority last weekend to help save the species. They are hoping that fans will befriend a gorilla or follow it on Twitter in return for a minimum donation of $1. The money will be used to hire extra rangers to protect the gorillas and safeguard their habitat.

Around 340 mountain gorillas - nearly half of the 740 remaining worldwide - live in Uganda's lush Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.  About 10,500 tourists visit Uganda each year to see them. However with a fantastic new Imaginative Traveller trip you can now not only see the gorillas in Uganda but also in Rwanda as well.  Our Preserving Primates tour offers TWO opportunities to trek in search of these incredible animals as well as hiking with the rare golden monkeys in the Parc National des Volcans and a full day chimpanzee habituation experience at the Uganda Wildlife Authority Chimpanzee Project – a very special encounter.  With safaris in Queen Elizabeth National Park and a visit to Kigali’s Genocide Memorial this is a very unique trip – a primate experience like no other.

Click here to discover more about our Preserving Primates tour.
Click here for more information about our other tours to Uganda and Rwanda.


 

Lost Land of the Volcano - Seen the programme, now live the experience!

If you were one of the 4.1m people to watch BBC1's new documentary series 'Lost Land of the Volcano' on Tuesday night it may have whet your appetite to travel to Papua New Guinea and experience this amazing destination for yourself.

Lost Land of the Volcano follows a team of scientists who discovered more than 40 previously unidentified species in Papua New Guinea.

The programme follows the scientists as they explore the great unspoilt jungle found in the kilometre-deep crater of Mount Bosavi in Papua New Guinea.

Whilst Imaginative Traveller may not be able to offer you the chance to discover previously hidden species, we can offer you the opportunity to travel through this amazing country on one of 6 different adventure tours to Papua New Guinea.

Imaginative Traveller's Kokoda Track tour takes you well away from cities and into remote areas. This trip takes you right off the beaten track. Accommodation may be basic but the rewards are well worthwhile.

Follow the scientists as they discover more of Papua New Guinea on BBC1 at 9pm on Tuesday nights.

Then, why not experience Papua New Guinea for yourself and book an Imaginative Traveller adventure tour!

 


 

Libya - 40 years on

40 years ago this week a coup in Libya saw Colonel Gadaffi rise to power. And remain in power since then.  Libya has seen some huge changes during this time - from international pariah during the Lockerbie episode to newcomer on the tourist circuit.  As a country it has tremendous attractions - the most famous is the incredible Roman ruins at Leptis Magna but there are other, less well known but equally worthy sites such as the ancient city of Sabratha and the incredible rock art and scenic formations of the Acacus Mountains.  Being new on the tourist scene means that a wander through Tripoli's souk is a pleasurably 'hassle-free' experience.  But go now before everyone gets to hear about it!

 

Check out our trips to Libya here and discover this well-kept secret for yourself.


 

Imaginative Traveller launch Down Under

HOWZAT!!!!!

To celebrate the 'Poms' regaining the Ashes we are launching some fantastic new trips to Australia and New Zealand.

From the Top End to Tasmania, discover untouched wilderness areas,
isolated outstations and remote Indigenous communities. We travel along
the legendary Gibb River Road through the Kimberley, visit mystical
Koolpin Gorge, join an eco-cruise to the outer Great Barrier Reef, trek
along Tasmania’s acclaimed Overland Track and explore the length of the
Larapinta Trail out of Alice Springs.

In New Zealand, we trek between the mountains and fiords of
Milford Sound, kayak around Marlborough sound, cycle along the
shores of beautiful lakes, attempt an ascent of majestic
Aoraki/Mount Cook and spend a night aboard a floating hotel on Milford
Sound.

Why not check them out here!


 

Migration Balloon Experience

Whilst the Bristol Balloon Fiesta is up, up and away our roving in-house reporter can surely top any experience the south-west of England has to offer having been lucky enough to witness the phenomenal migration over the Maasai Mara on a recent trip to Kenya.

 

 


“Often described as one of THE experiences you have to do in your lifetime, I felt extremely lucky and excited about this trip. An early start, I was picked up from my hotel at 5am and was driven to the launch site. I met our pilot Dan and the other 11 people who would be sharing a balloon with me. We had a safety briefing and clambered into the balloon basket.

I could feel the heat of the burner as we slowly began to rise. The sun was beginning to peep over the horizon and it was a perfect morning for a balloon ride. It was getting light and I gazed across the huge expanse of the plains below.

Initially I did not see any animals below. Our pilot pointed out a couple of ostrich and we were lucky to see some lions, although they were a tiny dot on the landscape. We travelled further and I could see a few zebra running away from the balloon. We would rise and fall as we continued across the vast landscape.

Then Dan pointed out a huge herd of wildebeest in the distance. Excitedly we inquired if we would get closer and Dan just smiled and said that was where the wind was taking us. As we approached, I could not believe what I was seeing. I saw hundreds of wildebeest who had arrived from Tanzania, seeking water at the Mara River. Although I did not see wildebeest crossing the river, as you do on documentaries, I was astounded by the number grazing below us. It was coming to the end of our hour and we began to descend slowly. Animals would scatter as we got closer. We were going to land surrounded by wildebeest, zebra and topi.

I took over 200 pictures and couldn’t believe what we had seen. We were then driven to the site where we were all going to enjoy a champagne breakfast. The perfect end to our adventure.

The balloon ride was amazing but to actually see some of the migration made it incredible special and a memory I would have for the rest of my life.”

 

 



Check out our trips to Kenya and Tanzania – PLUS major discounts on certain trips!

Read more about the migration.


 

Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Siberian?

With BBC breakfast TV presenter Bill Turnbull wending his way by train across Russia to Vladivostock the question is raised as to what exactly is the difference between the Trans-Siberian and the Trans-Mongolian?  They are both legendary train journeys enabling you to traverse the vast Eurasian land mass from the west of Russia to the east of China including the immense wilderness of Siberia. The Trans-Siberian runs between Moscow and Vladivostock and the Trans-Mongolian follows the same route to Irkutsk in Siberia before crossing the Mongolian border, travelling through the steppe on its way to Beijing. 

Imaginative Traveller considers the latter a far more interesting journey (sorry Bill!) as time is spent not only in the capital cities of Ulaan Baatar and Beijing but also in the Mongolian wilderness where travellers can experience traditional Mongolian hospitality staying overnight with local families in their gers or exploring the remote Khogno Khan Mountains.

Off the beaten (narrow gauge) track for definite!

Trans-Mongolian Moscow to Beijing

Trans-Mongolian Beijing to Moscow


 

Charity Abseil for Imaginative Traveller staff

Abseiling down the Ipswich Hospital Maternity BlockWhat better way to spend a grey summer Saturday than throwing yourself off a 10 storey building - attached to a rope or two of course?! Members of the UK Imaginative Traveller office bravely lowered themselves over the rooftop of Ipswich Hospital and abseiled 45 metres down to safety last Saturday. And in the process raised OVER £500 for local charities! An amazing feat. Many congratulations to all who participated.

Along with our Comic Relief mini-Kilimanjaro walk in March Imaginative Traveller staff are constantly raising money for various charities. Now for the next challenge - what will that be..... ?

 

The Imaginative Traveller Charity Abseil Team


 

Charity Abseil for Imaginative Traveller staff

Abseiling down the Ipswich Hospital Maternity BlockWhat better way to spend a grey summer Saturday than throwing yourself off a 10 storey building - attached to a rope or two of course?! Members of the UK Imaginative Traveller office bravely lowered themselves over the rooftop of Ipswich Hospital and abseiled 45 metres down to safety last Saturday. And in the process raised OVER £500 for local charities! An amazing feat. Many congratulations to all who participated.

Along with our Comic Relief mini-Kilimanjaro walk in March Imaginative Traveller staff are constantly raising money for various charities. Now for the next challenge - what will that be..... ?

 

The Imaginative Traveller Charity Abseil Team


 

Safety in Antarctic Waters

Having watched the recent TV programme about the sinking of the 'Little Red Ship' in Antarctica, I thought it was fascinating to hear that the coastguard which co-ordinated the rescue was actually in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK!  Thousands of miles away.  They did an amazing job under extremely challenging circumstances and all passengers found themselves safely at home a week after abandoning ship to the icy waters of the Antarctic.  However it certainly raised some questions on the safety of Antarctic cruising and with an increase in tourist traffic and ships (including a former cross Channel ferry!) this is surely of concern to travellers contemplating what is usually considered the trip of a lifetime.

Imaginative Traveller uses the Clipper Adventurer and Lyubov Orlova - both ships classed as expedition cruising vessels. The Clipper Adventurer underwent a $13 conversion in 1998, is Ice Class A-1 and, importantly, carries 4 fully covered lifeboats. Its sister ship, the Lyubov Orlova, is ice-strengthened to Ice Class L3 and also underwent extensive renovations in 2006.

Check out our spectacular Antarctic Cruising itineraries below:

Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia

Classic Antarctica


 

Tour de France - or should that be 'Tour de Monde' with Imaginative Traveller

With sport enthusiasts gripped with the world's greatest cycling event, the Tour de France,  why not have a go at winning your own yellow jersey?  The perfect way to experience a country (or several), meandering along on two wheels, stopping at roadside cafes and chatting with the locals on their bikes PLUS getting some great exercise which means you can tuck into your meals with gusto and return from holidays for once, leaner and fitter than when you set off.  Vivre le velo!

 

Cycle Cuba

Havana, the lush Vinales Valley, the Caribbean Coast, Trinidad's UNESCO World Heritage centre and colonial Cienfuegos the 'pearl of the south'.  Cycle to the rhythm of this fascinating country.

Cycle Thailand

Cycle at a relaxed pace between such sites as Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Khao Yai National Park, Chiang Rai and the infamous Golden Triangle. Experience the mighty Mekong River, a homestay and even some local vineyards!

Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City by Bike

A challenging expedition offering legendary experiences of Bangkok, the magnificent Khmer Temple at Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh and Saigon following rural routes through friendly villages with a cruise along the Mekong Delta at the end - to rest cycle-weary legs!


 

Days 12-14 of the Mystery Tour

Day 12, KAZBEGI-TBILISI–Drive to the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. Stop en route at Ananuri to
view the church, fortress and beautiful gardens. Stop for lunch at
Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia. Arrive in Tbilisi.

Day 13, TBILISI – Take an half day walking city tour of Tbilisi
visiting the Old Town: the Metekhi Temple, the "abanotubani", the Narikala
Fortress, the Sioni Cathedral, the Anchiskhati Church, Baratashvili
Street, the Arts Museum, Rustaveli Avenue, etc.. Overnight in Tbilisi.


Day 14, DAVID GAREJI MONASTERY-SIGNAGHI –We travel southeast from Tbilisi to the so called "gareji semi-desert" and explore the monasteries of David Gareji. We walk to "Udabno" known for its frescos of the 8th - 13th Centuries and cave-cell architecture.  Then we travel another 60km east and visit the hill town of Signaghi in the Kakheti province. From Sighnagi we have panoramis views of the huge Alazani Valley and eastern Caucasus summits. Here we also have the opportunity to taste local wines at lunch. Return toTbilisi for the last night of our Mystery Tour.


 

Day 11 of the Mystery Tour

Day 11, KAZBEGI–Wake in the Georgian Caucasus!  Kazbegi is the gateway to this stunningly beautiful mountainous region near the Russian border. After breakfast trek up to Sameba Trinity Church (2170m) to enjoy the views of Mt. Kazbek (5047m) and surrounding summits.  We then trek back down to Kazbegi and have lunch with a local family
where we can participate in making dumplings Then we head through the
Gveleti Gorge to a waterfall and the old Russian border post (now
closed). Return to Kazbegi.

 


 

Mystery Tour Days 8 - 10

Into the second week of our fabulous Mystery Tour. Read on to find out how our travellers spent last weekend - crossing the border into the enigmatic and little-visited country of Georgia.

Day 8, KUTAISI - BAKURIANI–There is an optional morning excursion to the Gelati Temples built by Georgia's most famous king, King David IV in the 11th Century
(and included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List). We then drive east and south to the Lesser Caucasus Mountains to reach the resort of Bakuriani in southern Georgia at 1600m. En route we stop in Borjomi and taste its waters. Arrive in Bakuriani.

Day 9, GORI – GUDAURI–We drive east and then north along the famous Georgian Military Highway. En route we stop at Gori and visit the Stalin Museum as well as Uplistsikhe, one of the most important cave towns in Georgia. Arrive in the ski resort of Gudauri (2000m). Overnight at a family run guesthouse.

Day 10, GUDAURI- KAZBEGI–Today there will be choice of activities. Those who are interested in horse riding can ride up to the Jvari Pass (2395m) in the Greater Caucasus and down to the Kazbegi area to join those who have travelled by bus and then trekked to the beautiful Truso Valley. The group then continues by bus to Kazbegi (1700m).


 

Mystery Tour Day 7

So we are nearly at the end of our first week on the Mystery Tour.  Today the clients woke up in their homestay at Savsat.  Homestays have become a real highlight of many Imaginative Traveller trips - what better way to get under the skin of a country? Our travellers will trek to a small lake to enjoy the local nature and wild flowers of the stunningly beautiful and little visited valleys of the so-called 'Turkish Alps' whilst keeping a watchful eye for bears!  

In the afternoon they will drive to the Georgian border at Batumi then on to Kutaisi (130km) arriving at about 19:00. Here they will have dinner with wine and a folklore singing group. Overnight at a private house.

 


 

Mystery Tour Days 5 and 6

Things have been so busy around here with enquiries about next year's mystery tour, that we forgot to tell everyone where our bunch of extremely Imaginative Travellers have been over the past couple of days.
Yesterday, on Day 5 of the mystery tour, the group had an early departure from Van to Dogubeyazit where they visited Ishakpasa Palace.

Today the whole team have departed for Ani, the Armenian capital from the 10th Century and then headed onto Savsat where they will overnight in a home stay. In the afternoon they will explore the village
and trek out to a panoramic viewpoint.
Should be really inspiring . . .
Wonder where they're going tomorrow? Find out in the morning . . . .


 

Mystery Tour Day 4

Well its Day 4 of the much talked about  Mystery Tour - the travellers are today enjoying a wonderful day in AKDAMAR ISLAND – Today they will have a boat excursion to Akdamar Island in Lake Van where there is Church of Holy Cross a beautiful sample of Armenian architecture.

I have done some research on this place and it is simply stunning! What a time our adventurers are having!

If you are excitied about our mystery tour we have 2 departures now on sale, an Aprill departure and an October departure. Call our sales team now to reserve your place for 2010.


 

Where is the Imaginative Traveller mystery tour going??

When we first began to discuss the concept of a ‘Mystery’ itinerary in early 2008 we had no idea of the amount of interest and enthusiasm that it would generate, and the number of people who would be willing to put the destination of their holiday entirely into our hands.

With the trip scheduled to depart on 20th June we were wondering if any of you had any ideas where the tour may be going! It may help some of us here in the office try and figure it out - we have not been let into the secret either!! To get you started please see below the clothing and visa information....

Clothing required:

Suitable for warm countries that will become cooler at night, with a fleece or jacket for evening. The temperature is likely to be between 30 degrees Celsuis during the day and 15 degrees Celsius at night, although of course that cannot be guaranteed. On some occasions it will be necessary for both men and women to dress modestly - women may find a scarf useful. There will also be times when shorts can be worn. You should bring solid walking boots/shoes and a raincoat.

Essential Items:

• Small torch/flashlight
• Sun glasses/suntan cream

Visas:

Either not required or available on arrival. You must have two spare pages available in your passport, which must be valid for six months after the start of the tour. Please bring approximately GBP 25 for visas with you on the first day of your tour (payable in GBP for holders of UK passports/USD or Euros for other nationalities).

Happy Guessing!

Hiedi Hutchinson
Marketing Manager


 

A Latin America lover journeys into Africa...

To emphasise our continued passion for Imaginative travel, read about the fantastic journey into Morocco experienced by Anna our Operations Manager :

"During my time with Imaginative Traveller I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many amazing places, but I think that everyone who knows me would say that my heart truly belongs to Latin America. The Inca Trail, the salt flats of Bolivia, the Atacama Desert, Buenos Aires, Spanish, Salsa, Tango… However, after a year and a half of sharing an office with our (very slightly Africa obsessed) Head of Operations Jim O’Brien, I had to acknowledge that maybe there were other parts of the world worth a visit and that, combined with the very reasonable price of flights meant that at the end of November I found myself headed for Marrakech.

I am struck by how clean and modern the city seems until my taxi turns into the Médina, the old walled city and immediately becomes stuck in a traffic jam behind a donkey cart. It is the perfect contrast between the traditional and the modern, and from that moment I can tell that I am going to love Morocco. We arrive at the Djemaâ el Fna, the main square, and head straight out into the night. I can only say that this square at the heart of the city is magical, with its markets, clouds of steam rising from food stalls, snake charmers, monkey tamers, fortune tellers, musicians and crowds of locals and tourists - all intent on enjoying the show.

My first days pass quickly exploring the city. It seems in many ways surprisingly small and friendly, and almost everything is within in easy walking distance. However it is also totally confounding, with just one wrong turning onto an unfamiliar street capable of leaving you completely lost. The mosques, palaces and gardens are certainly beautiful, but for me Marrakech is a city where the most exciting thing is taking in the atmosphere, above all that of the continuous activity of the Jemaâ el Fna and the markets, or souks.

From Marrakech I catch a public bus via Agadir to Tiznit, and then a grand taxi to Tafroute, a small town 1200 metres above sea level surrounded by mountains. Close by is an area known as the Vallée des Ameln, ‘The Valley of the Almonds’, of picturesque small villages built amidst a landscape of strange golden rock formations. There are also Les pierres bleues, an area where the rocks were painted by the Belgian artist Jean Vérame, and the landscape forms an interesting outdoor art gallery.

At the hotel I meet a group of French travellers who have hired a car and driver and are looking for more people to split their costs, so the next day we set off with our driver Mohammed, who tells us that when he is not guiding tourists he trains drivers to compete in the Paris-Dakar rally.  He takes us first to Aït Mansour gorge, a very calm and peaceful place where we walk though palm groves and small villages. Then we visit areas of prehistoric rock carvings before reaching Tata, a town with a frontier feel and a clear military presence. From Tata we get a demonstration of Mohammed’s rally driving skills as we head out into the desert to the dunes of Chigaga.

Tamegroute is our next stop, with a fascinating library containing ancient copies of the Koran, as well as books on animals, medicines and mathematics, before we reach Zagora and civilisation – well, maybe tourism rather than civilisation. We don’t stay long, and travel on along the Draâ Valley past villages, Kasbahs – complexes of traditional packed-earth buildings, farm land and plentiful palm trees.

The next day we arrive in Hollywood, well, Ouarzazate, the Moroccan Hollywood and the centre of the local film industry. I say goodbye to my extremely patient French friends, and tell them I will particularly miss our regular betting sessions before each meal – will it be Tajine, or Couscous this time? Then, with my guide Rachid I head out to the Atlas Film Studios on the outskirts of the town. There, picturesquely decaying under the Moroccan sun are Egyptian temples, villages, a boat and a crusader castle, used in films ranging from The Mummy to Kingdom of Heaven. Not for the first time, I wish my understanding of French was better, but I do manage to discern that I am following in the footsteps of a number of famous actors, including Oliver Reed. Knowing though that Oliver Reed actually died whilst making one of the movies filmed in this area I can only hope that what my guide is pointing out a place where Reed filmed one of his scenes, rather than something else a bit more macabre.

Continuing with our movie theme, Rachid and I leave for Aït Ben Haddou, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the largest and most famous Kasbahs in Morocco - featured in films like Gladiator. It is not the easiest place to get to without your own transport as the local bus stops some distance away, and we are eventually given a lift by a group of Australians who tell us they have been surfing in the coastal area of Mirleft. After a couple of hours exploring the complex (and pretending to be in my own historical epic film!)  we walk by the river through the surrounding farmland, and Rachid decides that it would be funny for me to try riding one of the local farmers donkeys. It is just too difficult to explain that actually I used to ride donkeys on a regular basis when working as a tour leader in Egypt, so I decide to go along with it, and thankfully the owner (and more importantly the donkey) are happy to oblige.

Returning to Marrakech, I decide I can’t leave without having stayed in a Riad, a traditional property built around a garden courtyard, and decide on the beautiful Riad Darna. What I don’t realise is that the next day is the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. That afternoon I am invited by the owners of the Riad to go with them to the house of a friend the next day to see a sheep sacrificed in the traditional way. After witnessing this, we spend the day going from house to house eating kebabs, sweets, and drinking gallons of tea. As always when I travel I am struck by peoples friendliness and hospitality, and I know that this is a day I will always remember.

So, would Imaginative Traveller ever consider a tour in the south of Morocco? Well, Jim assures me that it is something that was tried some years ago, and maybe something we might consider again in the future. Until then, if you want to visit Morocco you might want to look at our ‘Deserts and Kasbahs’ tour, or if you have already been to Morocco then why not consider ‘Andean Journeys’ for an experience of Bolivia and Chile. That’s right, old habits are very hard to break! "

See all of our tours in Morocco here

 


 

Visit Victoria Falls on Marathon day!

Visit Victoria Falls when the town is at its most vibrant. 

On the weekend of 21st-23rd August this small tourist town will fill up with athletes and adventure runners from all over the world ready to run the marathon on Sunday 23rd August.  Watch the runners stride past the mighty Zambezi River! 

Join our Dunes, Delta and Falls tour departing on 3rd August to arrive into Victoria Falls on the marathon weekend. 

See our full selection of Africa adventure travel here


 

Submit your videos from your tour - Win £100!

Upload your Imaginative Traveller video onto Facebook or YouTube and you could win £100 travel vouchers!

We think one of the best ways to experience our tours either when researching your next adventure or before you head off - plus a great excuse to be transported around the globe - is by watching your fellow travellers on their tours!

Win £100 Travel vouchers!

To grow the collection of Imaginative Traveller videos on YouTube and Facebook, we would love it if you could upload your videos on YouTube from your tour and include “Imaginative Traveller” and the name of the tour you have been on in the title.  Or if you are on facebook – upload it to our fan page!

And then just drop us a quick email to marketing@imtrav.net letting us know you have done so and you will be entered into the draw to win £100!

Join our facebook fanpage at: www.facebook.com and search for Imaginative Traveller to join our Fanpage!  

Visit You tube at: http://www.youtube.com/ 

For Terms and Conditions click here


 

Inca trail passes available for September - Inca Adventure

This week our our of the week is Inca Adventure! A 15 day adventure into the heart of Peru incorporating a 4 day trek through the Andes along the magnificent Inca Trail.

Plus if you book now for SEPTEMBER 2009 passes are still available. However they do go quickly, so now is the perfect time to book. September is a grreat time for trekking as it the visibility is still very clear and the climate isn't too hot (or too cold!).

Inca Adventure is 15 days and costs from £1299, and is an excellent way to sample the magnitude of Peru.

As well as trekking the Inca trail, you will also spend time in the magnificent Inca capital of Cuzco, see the impressive Sacred valley, visit the enigmatic and ancient city of Machu Picchu, cruise Lake Taticaca and enjoy a homestay on Amantani Island. And still find time for a 3 day trip into the Amazon!   

To view more information on Inca Adventure click here
To see all ofo our tours in South America click here

 


 

H1N1 Virus - Swine Flu advice for our travellers

H1N1 Virus - Swine Flu advice for our travellers

Some of our travellers have been contacting us with enquiries about how the swine flu virus is affecting travel. In response to this, we have compiled brief information below.

Preventative Measures being taken by countries
In many international airports thermal scanning is being undertaken to ascertain if people have a temperature of above 38 degrees celsius.  If a fever is detected or visitors are exhibiting flu like symptoms they may be referred by airport officials for further diagnosis by health authorities.  Some countries have put quarantine measures in place for people travelling from affected countries, or in some cases they may ask people to remain in isolation in hotels. These measures are put in place by the local authorities. 
 
The World Health Organisation is not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the influenza virus.  If recommendations on travel change at any time Imaginative Traveller would provide advice on this to our guests.
 
H1N1 symptoms
There is a vast amount of information on the internet if you would like to read more about the H1N1 virus however all sources indicate that the symptoms are very similar to the regular seasonal influenza.  Symptoms can include fever, chills, body aches, headaches, coughing, low energy, runny nose, sore throat and in some cases nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
 
It is unlikely that you will be exposed to the virus as health authorities around the world have containment practices in place, however, if you suffer from any of these symptoms while you are travelling please advise your tour leader who can assist you with accessing medical advise.
 
Preventing the spread of the virus
As with the regular influenza, swine flu can be passed between us when a person who is infected sneezes or coughs causing the virus to become air borne.  Transmission can also occur if you touch something with flu viruses on it and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes. Medical authorities are encouraging all of us to undertake some straight forward steps in attempts to reduce the spread of this virus:
• If you sneeze, keep a disposable tissue in front of your mouth
• After sneezing or blowing your nose throw the tissue away
• Wash your hands often, especially after blowing your nose/sneezing and before you eat.
• Use a disinfectant hand gel when possible or just use soap and water. Disinfectant gel is not always readily available in all the countries where our tours are running so it is advisable to pack some in your luggage.
As with all health matters we advise you to seek advice from your doctor before you undertake any travel.

Imaginative Traveller continues to monitor the situation with the development of the H1N1 virus throughout the world and we will update this information if anything new comes to hand. If you have any queries or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 


 

Insider interview!

As part of our focus on those who plan and produce our worldwide adventures, Imaginative Traveller has had a quick fire quiz with Jim O'Brien our Head of Operations here at our head office!

  • Name...Jim O'Brien
  • Job...Head of Operations
  • The best part of my job is... The opportunity of visiting some of the fantastic places we run tours to, and the satisfaction of knowing that you've created trips which people will remember forever
  • And the worst part is... Dealing with occasional unrealistic expectations
  • My first big trip was...A long trek through the Langtang region of Nepal
  • My favourite place in the world is... The southern deserts of Morocco - utterly tranquil, exotic and enchanting.
  • My most memorable travel experience was...Witnessing a voodoo ceremony in a remote village in Togo, watching men in trances slash themselves with knives repeatedly in an attempt to get closer to their gods. Either that or being held up at gunpoint in Jerusalem (memorable for very different reasons!).
  • Next on my travel wishlist is... Central Asia or Algeria.
  • My top travel tip is...Keep hold of all your small change. And never hesitate to sample the local brew!
  • I always pack...Several books. And a spare pair of shoelaces.
  • My guilty travel pleasure is...  Duty free gin.

 See our full list of tours worldwide here  


 

Meet our Destination Managers!

One of the best aspects of Imaginative Traveller is our fantastic Destination Managers. These are our representatives based in the destinations where they operate, plan and manage our tours. This means every year they know exactly what is going to be an up and coming destination for travellers, and if there are are ever any problems on the ground they can act quickly.

Meet JP - an experienced tour-leader and now Destination Manager based in China!

How long have you worked with Imaginative Traveller? I have been working for Imaginative Traveller since June 2001.
 
Where is your office located? July this year I moved the office from beautiful Yangshuo to the more convenient city Shenzhen. Shenzhen is a city of 10 million people just across the border from Hong Kong. I still have Jasmine and Angela working in Yanshuo, but Jasmine will move to Shenzhen beginning of next year and then no more office in Yangshuo.
 
Best local food dish? I love seafood and there is a lot of good seafood in Shenzhen.
 
Favourite Imaginative Traveller tour in your destination? I think China Explored is fantastic . It's a briliant way to see a lot of the popular destinations in China, plus get off the beaten track and see Chengdu, an amazing chance to see the highlights of traditional China. And you go to the Chongquig panda research base, and combine it all with a Yangtse river cruise - brilliant tour!  

Best bar to start a night out in the city/town you live in? In Shekou (Shenzhen) there is a Irish pub MacCawleys with TIGER beer and a great band - perfect start to a night out!
 
Where did you go on your last Imaginative Traveller tour? I just finished leading Vietnam Explorer  a great trip from Hanoi to Saigon. Both the group and I enjoyed the trip very much.
 
Your favourite place in the world? I do love Vietnam - Saigon Oi troi oi!!!! 
 
What was the last thing you took a photograph of? On the way up from Mekong delta I took pictures of about 6 sheep's in bags back on a motorbike.
 
What was the last book that you read? Last book I finished was "River of Times" by John Swain, 3rd time and highly recommended. At the moment I am reading "Zero hour in Phnom Penh" by Christopher G. Moore.
 
If you could live anywhere in the world where would you live? Maybe Saigon!!

Tempted by China? See all ouf our trips to China here

 

A single traveller in Syria

One of the most fantastic parts of working for Imaginative Traveller is hearing about the wonderful adventures our customers experience when they travel with us. We were recently sent this fantastic diary from a single traveller after her recent trip to Syria, a very popular destination at the moment! If you are thinking of visiting Syria, or just interested in booking one of our adventures as a single traveller - make sure you read this great insight from Ellie Parker!


 

The Naadam Festival and why you should visit Mongolia

Naadam Festival

Naadam is Mongolia's biggest and best festival, a summer fair featuring traditional sports, foods, and folk dancing. The festivities take place in nearly all provincial capitals, but the event is liveliest in the national capital, Ulaan Baatar.

Imaginative Traveller runs a 7-day tour to the Naadam Festival, departing on July 10, 2009. Read on to see just why you should visit Mongolia during the festival . . .

As you might expect of a people who produced Genghis Khan, the festival is dominated by warrior-type activities, including the Eryn Gurvan Nadom, or Three Manly Sports: wrestling, archery, and horse racing.

The wrestling is quite different from western versions of the sport with contestants clad in tight briefs and a vest that covers the shoulders and upper arms leaving the chest bare. This outfit is worn to make it clear that both contestants are indeed men, a tradition dating back to the discovery, many centuries ago, that a champion wrestler was in fact a woman (to the great embarrassment of the men she had defeated). The wrestlers first swoop into the ring in imitation of the Garuda bird of Buddhist lore. When the referee signals the start, each tries to topple the other; the first to touch the ground with anything more than the soles of his feet loses. Then the loser must kneel while the winner makes a victory sign over his head.

Both women and men compete in the archery events, using short compound bows (which may have been invented by the Mongolians). Dell-clad competitors shoot at traditional leather targets stacked in piles. Points are scored for each target knocked down by a direct hit (no deflections!). The judges stand incredibly close to the targets, seemingly without ever the slightest concern for their own safety.

Mongolian horse racing is similar to a western steeplechase, conducted over a cross-country course at least 20 km/12 miles long. There are races for all riders and both sexes, but the crowd-pleaser is the children's division. In rural Mongolia, most children begin to ride in infancy, and their almost instinctive skill in horsemanship is clearly apparent. The children's race features boys and girls aged 7-12, wearing colourful traditional costumes.

Other horse races include blindfolded scrambles (by adults). Mongolia's resurgent nationalism combines with cash prizes to inspire vigorous competition. Symbols of Genghis Khan are everywhere. Warriors kneel and kiss a braided horsetail dedicated to him, and a white Genghis figure rides around the stadium mounted on a horse.

The Imaginative Traveller Naadam Festival tour is guaranteed to run and has limited spaces available, so to experience this magnificent festival, book your place today.

Happy Travels,

The Imaginative Traveller team


 

Adventure tour of the week - The Great China Adventure

After the success of last week's Trip of the Week ( East Africa Safari Tour), this week we're heading to the Far East and featuring The Great China Adventure.

This fantastic, 21-day adventure through China, starts in Beijing and ends in Hong Kong and takes in the major attractions from China’s imperial past. You'll also be able to escape to the quieter corners for a truly memorable experience

The Great China Adventure

If you were looking for the world in one country, China is a good place to start. Whether you are cruising the Yangtse or hiking the Great Wall, China encompasses a multitude of landscapes. Experience thriving cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong, see the wonders of China's imperial past in Beijing or Xi'an, and discover an extraordinary and enigmatic culture where age-old traditions coexist with the modern world.

This tour includes 12 nights staying in simple hotels, 3 nights at a village guesthouse, 1 night farm stay and 4 nights on a sleeper train.

For a really authentic tour through China, The Great China Adventure is Imaginative Traveller's flagship tour in the area and is sure to be a trip you'll remember for the rest of your life.

Happy Travels,

The Imaginative Traveller team


 

Travelling to China

On 11th of May the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office posted the following information about arrivals in China.  It is just something to be aware of before you arrive.'The Chinese government continues to place great emphasis on screening and surveillance, rapid detection, quarantine and treatment. Stringent measures, particularly in Shanghai, are affecting flights into China from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Israel, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Spain, Mexico and the UK. If any passenger has flu-like symptoms this may lead to all passengers being quarantined for up to seven days until health officials are satisfied they are free of the H1N1 virus. Otherwise, any passenger having come into direct/indirect contact with H1N1 carriers may also be quarantined. Any British national affected should report the details to the Embassy's Consular Section on (010) 8529 6600.  Given a confirmed case in China, and that the sufferer was not detected on arrival at Beijing, we understand it is likely that more stringent measures, similar to those currently in place  at Shanghai, may be introduced at Beijing airport. Additionally there are recent unconfirmed reports that holders of Chinese visas who have visited countries affected by H1N1 (specifically Mexico, USA, Spain and Canada) since 20 April 2009, may be refused entry into China: other reports, again unconfirmed, are that applications for Chinese visas from those four countries are likely to be refused. Until this report has been officially confirmed prospective travellers are advised to seek clarification from their local Chinese Embassy.'

All Overseas Travellers

Imaginative Traveller continues to monitor the situation with the development of Swine Flu throughout the world.  Something that medical authorities are advising everyone to do is to regularly clean hands through the use of antiseptic gel or with soap and water. Antiseptic gel is not always readily available in all the countries where our tours are running so it is advisable to pack some in your luggage. The World Health Organisation is not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the influenza virus.  If recommendations on travel change at any time Imaginative Traveller would provide advice on this to our guests.


 

Adventure holiday of the week - East Africa Safari

East Africa Safari map

In the first of Imaginative Traveller's Trip of the Week series, we're featuring the magnificent East Africa Safari Tour.

Imaginative Traveller's small group tours are a unique opportunity for travellers to not just visit, but experience and understand local cultures and people throughout the world.

Some of our most unique and individual tours are in East Africa and Imaginative Traveller's Trip of the Week this week is East Africa Safari.
A superb 21-day adventure tour through Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar, East Africa Safari takes in all the highlights of these 3 amazing East African countries to satisfy the most adventurous traveller.

Starting in Nairobi and ending in Dar es Salaam, you will experience superb game drives in the Masai Mara, Serengeti and Tarangire and a breath-taking four-wheeel-drive safari to the Ngorongoro Crater. Your drive to the Ngorongoro Crater is via the Olduvai Gorge, where fossil remains dating back to 1.75 million years ago were found. The crater is teeming with wildlife and birdlife and offers superb opportunities for game spotting. We descend into the crater on using 4WD vehicles for a half day of game viewing.

The tour also gives you the opportunity to spend 5 nights relaxing on the spice island of Zanzibar. Taking a ferry across to Zanzibar Island you'll spend 2 nights in Stone Town, the atmospheric capital, with its narrow streets and distinctive architecture, and then 3 nights on the idyllic coast, where you can relax on the white sandy beaches, swim in the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean or take various excursions to explore the island.

With prices starting at just £999 for a 21-day tour, East Africa Safari offers excellent value for money and will provide you with memories that'll stay with you for the rest of your life.
If you're interested in East Africa and the amazing sights, sounds and smells of the region, then East Africa Safari is for you. Take a look at the full tour details here and book your place now as spaces are strictly limited.

Happy Travels,

The Imaginative Traveller team


 

Amongst the Maharajahs - a tour of a lifetime!

Fantastic news for fans of all our tours in India!

Amongst the Maharajahs has been selected as one of the "National Geographic Traveler Magazine's 2009 Tours of a Lifetime!". Here at Imaginative Traveller we are extremley proud of our team in India, and it shows just the fantastic product we have!

Hans, our Destination manager in India is obviously pleased, and says the following:

"It is great news that our `Amongst the Maharajahs' tour has been selected by the National Geographic Traveler as a Tour of a Lifetime!

According to the National Geographic Traveler, "every (selected) tour, whatever its price tag, offers small-group, thoughtfully crafted experiences that are eco- and culturally sensitive, provide uncommon access, and foster interaction with the locals."

This is exactly what we have tried to do with the `Amongst the Maharajahs'
tour. In places like Pachewar, Khempur and Chandelao you will find no other tourists, and a visit here therefore offers a great chance to the see village life, interact with the local community, and to learn about the art, culture and heritage of Rajasthan.  

I still remember that when we first suggested the itinerary a lot of eyebrows were raised. It was thought that the itinerary included so many off-the-beaten track places that it was unlikely anyone would book. However, in subsequent years Amongst the Maharajahs  became a hugely popular tour because it became obvious that our clients are looking for such in-depth, genuine experiences.

One of the many factors in the huge success of this trip is the choice of the tour leaders. We have selected those Rajput tour leaders who themselves come from some aristocratic background which opens doors to them which may be inaccessible to others. Clients have hugely appreciated this as they felt truly `Amongst the Maharajahs'!

Thanks Hans and all of the team in India for this fantastic product!

See all of our tours in India here.


 

Imaginative Runner - taking on the London Marathon!

Good luck to our very own Imaginative Traveller - Helene Cooper - who is running the London Marathon on Sunday 26th April!

Everyone here at Imaginative Traveller wishes her all the best particularly as only 6 months ago she had her first child! Let's hope she doesn't feel she needs to bring the buggy along for the run!

Good luck Helene!


 

My experience with Imaginative Traveller!

Imaginative Traveller has recently been spending some time getting to know our customers, and listening to your experiences of travelling with Imaginative Traveller. So keep a look out for more of these experiences over the next few weeks. 

If you have a tale to share, please email info@imtrav.net.

Here's our first instalment from Maureen Barber in Canada, who's first adventure was on "The Best of East and West" in Turkey. 

"I have been on several trips with ImTrav over the last few years and enjoyed them all.

Our first trip was the "Best of East and West Turkey"  that we did in April 2007 and my sister and I were just talking tonight about our experience in the home-stay in the Barhal Valley. It was extremely cold and snow was still on the ground! There was no heat, but we convinced the owner on the 2nd day to fire up a stove in the room of one of his workers to keep all of us warm! The following evening we ate our 2nd meal inside there on the floor following a very cold first night eating on the deck with most of us putting on all the clothes that we had brought for the whole trip just to keep warm (definitely not enough blankets)! As you can imagine this was a relatively early night to bed, to ensure we were warm! But certainly adding to the experience!

I think because although we went in April we were the FIRST trip of the year to East Turkey, I notice that the Barhal Valley has been replaced by a home-stay in and around Amasya (which we absolutely loved). Mehmet in the Barhal Valley was a great host with great food, but I really wanted to share our tale of getting arriving there... 

The road had washed out after leaving Yusafuli and our driver and others got out and jumped on trees across the washout/road to see if it 'held' and then drove the van over the washout area and continued (by a rushing river)- quite an adventure to get back to the Pension! The next day we walked back to the local town to help keep warm and had lunch over a "bunsen burner" at the local restaurant (no fridge and just a single burner) and no seats (take away) and ate by the river which was running high as a result of the runoff from the snow on the mountains.  Interesting times as to get back to Yusafili there had been several slides overnight and it made the road even more difficult! But certainly making for a great adventure! 

Maybe people did write in and that's why you are now in and around Amasya!

This was a grand trip and as I said, we were the first trip for the year into Eastern Turkey and as a result not everything was quite "ready" - but still we loved every minute of this trip.

By the way, the next night in Tatvan we had a earthquake of of 4.5 with the epicentre 40 kms from our location.  What excitement!  I accused by sister of bumping my bed at 12:10 a.m. and trying to scare me!  So you see it was quite exciting!

Please remember I have just mentioned the "adventurous" aspects of our trip, everything else ran smoothly and the tour leader was fantastic. By the time we reached the cruise gulet in the south the weather had warmed up and we had amazing time!"

"We did Turkey then Egypt and Jordan Caravan with ImTrav the same year". 

Find out about "The best of East and West" here 

Thanks Maureen for sharing this with ourselves and your fellow travellers!

 


 

Buenos Aires to Rio and Carnival!

The call for Rio Carnival had finally arrived.  It was time to tick the party of all parties off my ‘To do before I die’ list.  But before experiencing Carnival I set off on our Buenos Aires to Rio tour and enjoyed some of the highlights that Argentina and Brazil have to offer. 

My first stop was Buenos Aires (BA), the city of tango halls and dinosaur sized steaks.  What a fabulous city it is too.  Commonly known as the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires has a cosmopolitan feel enjoying beautiful architecture, stylish cafés,  cobbled colonial streets and unique, ethnic barrios (neighbourhoods) such as The Centre, San Telmo, Palermo, Recoleta, La Boca and Puerto Madero.  I arrived in BA a few days before the tour started to spend a few extra days exploring the city.  The city certainly warrants a couple of extra days if you can spare the time.  Whilst BA is a huge city most of the key attractions are found in just a handful of barrios making it a great city to travel on foot.  Our meeting point hotel is very centrally located enabling me to walk to all the barrios except La Boca where I took a quick, inexpensive cab from San Telmo.  For the steak connoisseurs out there I would highly recommend La Cabrera restaurant in Palermo Viejo - save your appetite and no need to order any sides as your meal is accompanied by an array of mini side dishes to enjoy.  The steaks really are dinosaur sized!

Next stop was the mighty Iguazu Falls.  Wow!  I have been to Niagara and Victoria Falls and they seemed small in comparison to Iguazu.  Iguazu Falls really are an awe-inspiring natural wonder.  Rain ponchos are quite handy as you can get pretty wet from the spray of the fall as you watch the water thunder over the edge at Devil’s Throat, of course I didn’t have one!  The following day we crossed over to Brazil to enjoy the falls from that side and if you thought the Argentinean side was impressive the Brazilian side is equally impressive but very different, offering a more panoramic view. 

Just opposite the Brazilian falls entry is a bird park which is also well worth a look.  You can get very up close and personal with all the amazing birds in South America including Toucans and Macaws.  

Finally, via the Atlantic Rainforest and chill-out time on gorgeous Honey Island, the time had arrived when I could now officially stand on Copacabana beach and sing the famed Barry Manilow song, ‘Copacabana’ …..I was in Rio!

“Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl - with yellow feathers in her hair and her dress cut down to there - she would merengue and do the cha cha”
(I know you know the words!). 

During my time in Rio I took a half day guided tour city tour which included Sugar Loaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer and the Lapa Steps.  A tour certainly saves time trying to get to the sites independently as they are located at opposite sides of the city and probably difficult to do all in one day on your own.  The views are fabulous from Christ the Redeemer!  Some others also took a short helicopter tour over the city from Sugar Loaf Mountain and their videos looked awesome.   I watched the sunset on Copacabana beach and watched the sunrise on Ipenema beach.  I also went to the Macarana stadium to see a live football game which I would highly recommend even if you are not a football buff like myself. The atmosphere was electric. They are definitely passionate about their football. 

Carnival you ask?  I am definitely glad that I ticked it off my ‘To do before I die’ list.  It is quite the spectacle.  The floats and costumes are amazing and the Brazilians show great support for their favourite samba school.  I went on the first night of the two competition nights and was fortunate enough to have seen their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners of the previous year perform.  The samba schools have up to 5,000 performers in each school.  Each school has a theme and the floats, costumes change throughout their performance so the scenery is changing constantly.  They parade down a 400m stretch with stadium seating on either side of the runway.  Unless you pay an extortionate amount of money for a ‘reserved’ seat, you will be sitting in an ‘unreserved’ section even if you are paying to be in a more expensive section of the stadium.  If you want to get a great bird’s eye view of the parade/performers then get there early, like 6pm early as the stadium fills up and you may find yourself sitting at the very back.  The first school starts at 9pm with the last school finishing at around 6am so it is quite a long night.  I stayed until the last school came on but didn’t feel like I had been there for as long as I had. 

On top of the samba parade at the sambadrome there are also numerous ‘street parties’ to enjoy.  These are held at various times in various neighbourhoods over the 4 days that carnival lasts.  These are also good fun but keep your money safely tucked away and wear closed shoes (for broken bottles).

Overall Rio Carnival was a great experience and it has gone down as the party of all parties for me so far!


 

Tempted to trek the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro?

Trek to the highest point in Africa!
 
Tempted to trek the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro? Book yourself and 5 other friends and get 5% off for each of you - so set yourself the challenge in 2009!
 
Our Kilimanjaro treks offer amazing value for this rewarding journey.  Choose from either the Marangu or the Rongai route and enjoy a real sense of achievement as you attempt to reach the roof of Africa.  We include plenty of time to aid acclimatisation in both of our tours, which will greatly increase your chances of reaching the summit. 

If you’d also like to experience some of the best wildlife in East Africa you can combine your climb with a safari in Tanzania – herds of zebra and wildebeest against the beautiful backdrop of the Ngorongoro Crater and searching for prides of lions in the infamous Serengeti National Park.

For some well earned rest and relaxation consider adding our Zanzibar extension - wide sandy beaches backed by sparkling seas dotted with traditional dhow boats.  Well deserved after the challenge of Mt Kili!

We have worked very hard with our local operators to deliver the best trek at the best price for you.  And if you can also get a group of you together you will all save an extra 5%!

View our tours here...


 

Earth hour

Vote Earth!  Your lightswitch is your vote!

March 28th 8.30pm local time, wherever you live on planet earth.  People from all over the world will turn off their lights for one hour – Earth hour – anybody can participate and join with millions of people across the globe.  From the Chatham Islands to the Arctic Sea, people from all corners of the world will turn off their lights for Earth Hour to cast their vote for action on climate change.

Paris, the ‘City of Lights’ will make a powerful statement by turning off its famous lights, including the Eiffel Tower, for Earth Hour. In the birthplace of democracy, thousands of Athenians will gather to watch the lights go out at the Acropolis in acknowledgement of their vote for action on climate change.


On March 28 you can VOTE EARTH by switching off your lights for one hour.
Or you can vote global warming by leaving your lights on.


The results of the election are being presented at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009, where an agreement will be made to supersede the Kyoto Protocol. We want one billion votes for Earth, to tell world leaders that we have to take action against global warming.


“Earth Hour will focus global attention on addressing the issue of climate change. We are asking one billion people to take part in what is essentially the first global vote for action on climate change by turning off their lights for one hour and casting a vote for earth,”


You can register your vote on the website and this will be counted in the results presented at the conference in Copenhagen.


Here are 10 different ways to spend Earth Hour and reduce your carbon footprint:

1. Attend a local Earth Hour event or organise your own by throwing an Earth Hour street party with your neighbours
2. Gather family & friends for a night picnic in your local park and look at the stars
3. Enjoy a family dinner by candlelight
4. Organise a treasure hunt in the dark
5. Take the dog for a night walk
6. Have a candle-lit bath
7. Sit in the dark and share stories
8. Organise a family night playing board games
9. Share a romantic night in with your loved one
10. Upload your ‘on the night’ photos and videos to flickr and YouTube respectively, and then add them to the Earth Hour flickr group and the global YouTube Group.

http://www.earthhour.org/


 

Prince Charles Visits the Galapagos

You may, like many of us, recently enjoyed following The Prince of Wales - Prince Charles and his wife Camila - Duchess of Cornwall, as they travel around the Galapagos Islands.

In particular as they met with Lonesome George, the world’s most famous 80 year old tortoise!

The Prince and Duchess of Cornwall were welcomed by Lonesome George on the first full day of their visit to the Galapagos, before continuing on their ten-day tour of South America. Rather than being met with a courtesy call from the head of state at their presidential palace; on Galapagos, Prince Charles is welcomed by the wonderful Lonesome George in his enclosure at the Charles Darwin Research Foundation.

If you are interested in seeing the Galapagos, view our tours to the Galapagos here

In the meantime read up on some fascinating Galapagos facts here:  

- An archipelago of 19 islands, 42 islets and at least 26 emergent rocks, 600 miles off Ecuador. Most of the islands formed by summits of volcanoes, some rising 3,000ft from the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

- Though there is speculation that the islands were discovered by the Incas, the first documented visit was made by the Bishop of Panama, whose ship was becalmed en route to Peru in 1535. He reported foolishly tame wildlife, among them giant tortoises, “galapagos”

- Charles Darwin visited aboard the Beagle in 1835, noting the evolution of finches and mockingbirds

- In 1959 the Ecuadorean Government set aside 90 per cent of the islands as a national park

- Most species of plants and animals are endemic to the islands, most have at least two subspecies, adapted to suit different islands

- Tourism has boosted visitors numbers, from 4,000 in 1970 to roughly 60,000 per year, presenting challenges for conservationists

- Galapagos Conservancy estimates that three species of reptile and four species of birds are critically endangered, and nearly 60 per cent of the islands plant species are close to extinction, threatened by goats and invasive plants

If you are interested in seeing the Galapagos, view our tours to the Galapagos here

 


 

Imaginative Traveller staff do mini Kilimanjaro walk

Some of the staff at Imaginative Traveller head office did a sponsored 'Kilimanjaro' walk today. 
 
Inspired by the celebrities climbing the mountain as televised last night 5 of us set out to walk the equivalent distance of the height of Kilimanjaro -   5,891.8 metres.
Not quite as hard as the week long trek to the summit of Africa's highest mountain but a good walk nevertheless! 
 
At current count we have raised around £150 in sponsorship money, which will be sent to Comic Relief alongside donations from head office staff in our joke competition taking place today. 
 
Everyone has provided their favourite joke with a £1 donation and staff have been voting throughout the day for the funniest one.  A bottle of red nose wine will be given to the 'owner' of the best joke!

 

STAY WITH THE GAUCHOS....

A little taste of one of our excellent homestays in South America. You can sample this on Volcanoes and Pampas tour  

It was very early as our bus from Bariloche pulled into the Bahia Blanca bus terminal. Sleepily we got our bags and were met by a smiling Alejandro who was waiting to take us to the Estancia San Juan, the ranch owned by his father where we were to spend the next couple days. After driving about 30mins out of town the van stopped, Alejandro jumped out and opened a gate on the side of the road and we entered the grounds of the Estancia. We were greeted upon our arrival by Roberto, Alejandro’s father, and the 4th generation descendent of a French immigrant who’d built the ranch.

Over the generations the grounds of the ranch got smaller and smaller as each new generation divided it up amongst themselves but its grounds still stretch as far as the eye can see. Today it’s still a working farm, mainly cattle but also sheep and, before the current drought, wheat. But times are hard for Argentinean gauchos, government policy aimed at keeping the price of beef low in Argentina has made them less competitive on the world market and they are now in their fourth year of drought. This estancia, along with a number of others, has turned to tourism for an extra income but it is still first and foremost a working farm.

As the sun wasn’t up yet Roberto and Alejandro showed us to our rooms and let us get a couple more hours sleep. “We want you to feel like this is your home, like you’re one of the family.” Over the next couple of days they definitely made sure that we would feel like this and made it hard for us to leave their warm hospitality.
After a basic but nice breakfast Alejandro took us for a walk around the estancia and some of the grounds. As he walks us around Alejandro tells us a bit about his youth growing up on the estancia, how the school he went to was in his uncle’s house not too far away and about why they’ve decided to open their home to visitors. This isn’t one of the big “tourist” estancias near Buenos Aires, they only get visitors once in a while and occasionally host events such as weddings. This is true, down to earth, Argentina. As we walk around we spot a number of birds, we’re hoping to see some Rheas (a S. American ostrich) that run free in the area but have no luck this time around. Alejandro also points out some of the local plants that he knows. He’s not a guide per se but having grown here knows a thing or two.

We return to the farm-house built in 1903, and Roberto brings out a couple cold beers for us to share together. He also has a photo-album from various decades. We chat idly and relax, really feeling welcome and at home. Lunch is served and it’s a veritable feast of chicken (from the farm), potatoes and salad. It is accompanied by the only thing a decent Argentinean meal could be accompanied by – a good bottle of red wine.

We spend the hot hours of the day relaxing, lazing around, just enjoying the surroundings. Roberto has a parilla (Argentinean barbeque) planned for the next day and he asks us if we want to witness the slaughtering of the lamb. Those of us who are interested follow him and Alejandro and we meet Carlos, the estancia’s gaucho – a true Argentinean cowboy. He’s just brought the sheep in. Sadly (or gladly depending on your perception) the slaughter is put off till the next morning and when we wake up it’s already been done. One of the neighbours arrives with some horses for a bit of horse-riding the next day. Roberto owns a few horses but has borrowed his neighbour’s as a couple people have never ridden before so need tamer animals.
After another walk out to a hill to see the sunset (and an armadillo) with Alejandro and Roberto we return for another cold beer and another fine cooked meal. Roberto proudly tells us about how their farm was recently used as the set for an Argentinean movie called “La Ventana” (the window).

Our second day starts with a bit of horse riding, Carlos, the Gaucho, shows off his horsemanship before heading off, giving us a bit of a show. The group goes off in two goes. The first lot come across some of the Rheas that eluded us the day before. In the afternoon we chose to just have a relaxing time. Staying on the estancia has really relaxed everyone, it’s taken the edge off the bus rides.

In the evening we all sit under a tree, a nice breeze ruffling its branched on this warm summer night. We chat, drinking cold beer and nice wine as half a lamb roasts on the fire. Both Roberto and Alejandro speak English so communication is easy enough. Everyone, with a full belly and merry from the wine which has been flowing freely puts off going to bed as the next day we have to leave this idyllic place. We look back at the past two days and our glimpse at the heart of Argentina and its rural way of life. No big sites and must sees here, but a chance to experience what this wonderful country is really all about.

But as they say, all good things come to an end. The next morning we reluctantly get driven back to the bus terminal and say goodbye to our wonderful hosts. We board the Buenos Aires bound bus on our way to the next adventure. 

You can sample this on Volcanoes and Pampas tour 


 

Inspired by Comic Relief challenge - Chris Moyles, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, Gary Barlow and many more brave celebs!

Trek to the highest point in Africa!

If you switch on the television or radio at the moment, you can't help but hear about the group of celebrities (including Chris Moyles, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, Gary Barlow, Denise Van Outen and many more brave celebs!) as they begin their ascent of Kilimanjaro… If this has inspired you to begin your own adventure why not see what Imaginative Traveller offer?

We currently run two routes to ascend Mt Kilimanjaro; The Marangu and the Rongai route:

The Marangu route is one of the most popular routes to the summit.  This is for two main reasons: it is one of the cheapest climbs and offers mountain hut accommodation as you trek rather than camping.  As you walk you will pass through a varied landscape - forests, moorland and barren alpine desert.  There are great views across to Mawenzi peak from the Horombo huts.   This trek can be covered in just 5 days but having an extra acclimatisation day within the itinerary can make all the difference for success in reaching the summit.  We have allowed an extra night at the Horombo huts, which we feel is invaluable in acclimatising to the altitude and can greatly assist in the success rate for reaching the great Uhuru Peak.

View this route here

The Rongai route approaches the peak from the northern side of the mountain starting just south of the Kenya/Tanzania border and offers a real feeling of wilderness as you trek towards the summit.  This is a quieter route and is camping based so there is plenty of time to enjoy being close to nature.  You ascend gradually through wildlife-rich forests and lunar moors. Commonly referred to as one of the easiest routes this trip offers a gradual ascent in short daily stages and there are fantastic views throughout the climb.

View this route here

Rest assured that whichever route you choose for your trek to the summit the reward will be amazing views as the sun rises across the East African plains below.

If you’d also like to experience some of the best wildlife in East Africa you can combine your climb with a safari in Tanzania – herds of zebra and wildebeest against the beautiful backdrop of the Ngorongoro Crater and searching for prides of lions in the infamous Serengeti National Park.  

See our Kilimanjaro Marangu and safari route here and the Rongai route combined with a safari here  
Sponsor the Comic Relief team in their trek of Kilimanjaro and help raise that extra caise for a great cause
 

 

Responsible Travel update - March

Project update

Renewable energy project - Used cooking oil pilot project
 

Here is the progress on our pilot project to use used cooking oil as a partial fuel for one of our African overland trucks. 


Please don’t confuse “Bio Diesel” with this initiative. Our aim is not to utilise fuels made from crops especially grown to make fuel. We take cooking oil that has already been used for frying food and would normally be poured down the sink or drain, and use this to reduce our consumption of diesel in our trucks thereby reducing our own and our client’s carbon footprint. The truck will actually run on a blend – a mixture of diesel and used oil. Our initial target is a 10% reduction in diesel consumption.  At the same time we aim to provide a source of income for local people in the areas we travel through. As we will not have the time to source the used oil we are going to need when conducting a tour, we plan to get currently unemployed local people involved in sourcing the oil for us before we arrive and pay them for each litre they source – much like you would pay for your fuel at the fuel station.  On the Victoria Falls to Cape Town tour departing on the 10th of February our head guide, Vengai will be sourcing and discussing with possible suppliers of oil.

We are looking into the technicalities of converting the truck to run on this oil/diesel mix:

We have met with Roy Dibley.  Roy is the designer and manufacturer of the converters required to run a diesel engine on used cooking oil. He has his own VW Kombi Van that runs solely on used (or recycled) cooking oil (except for a couple of ml’s of Diesel required to start it)

We have assessed the space available on our trucks to mount the converter unit and have successfully found a place to mount it. Roy has a unit ready to fit but before we can go ahead, we need to resolve a few issues with the filtration system required before the oil can be used.  The idea is to have an on board filter system that is clean and user friendly. To filter the oil sufficiently there needs to be quite a bit of applied pressure.  We are currently investigating four options for this at the moment.
 

Chiang Mai orphanage update

A quick update from the Chiang Mai Orphanage to help us understand how our money makes a difference. 


They currently have 29 children.    The orphanage has to budget for food and household necessities for the kids.  This year they also bought an accident cover insurance for all children.  Buildings have to be maintained and the orphanage has to pay for their electricity supply.  The orphanage has three motorcycles and a pick up truck to get the kids to school.  These need maintaining and repairing and petrol and road tax needs paying for.  In 2008 the orphanage purchased new school uniforms and some school books for the children.  It also paid for school lunches for the next entire year as well as school fees for 2 older children going onto further education.  The orphanage also hopes to replace their existing pick up truck with a new vehicle this year if possible, as they feel the current one needs upgrading for safety reasons.

Obviously in these financial times running costs will increase for 2009 and the orphanage expects that donations may drop.  So our funding is more important than ever! 


Comic relief 2009

Comic relief supports long-term projects across the UK and developing countries in their quest for ‘a just world free from poverty’.  Young people are at the very heart of this. Whilst many young people lead fulfilling and exciting lives, others face enormous challenges and experience problems that they find difficult to solve on their own. Comic Relief has helped thousands of young people make positive changes in their lives but many more need help and support.


In support of Red Nose day this year we ran a best joke competition  - with everyone paying £1 to enter their best joke and the winner getting a prize.  Some of the company also showed their support for the celebrities who climbed Mt Kilimanjaro by doing their own sponsored Kili walk.  Not quite the distance they trekked, but we walked 5891.8 metres!

We managed to raise £163 in total!

Climate Care

We have now added a second link on the website to Climate Care’s Australian site giving our Australian clients the chance to offset their flight emissions from any airport.

In the office

£7.35 has been put in our responsible travel fund as profits from our Responsible Travel snack box.  It all adds up!

We now have our leftover currency box in the kitchen with proceeds going to East Anglia’s Childrens’ Hospices as our local charity. Any staff that return from holidays or work trips can put their leftover foreign currency in this box and the hospice will convert this into pounds and use it towards their running costs.


Donations

Our client donations towards Imaginative Traveller Worldwide projects were £180 in January. 

A BIG thank you to everyone who contributed, your donations are invaluable for our local projects. 

Keep an eye out for our responsible travel newsletter coming out later this month!  


 

Welcome to our new Latin America Destination manager!

A big welcome to Paul Whittle, our new Destination manager focussing on Latin America...  

How long have you worked with Imaginative Traveller?

I'm a newbie – 2 months (or actually 52 days, 1 hour, 26 mins….). I have been in and around the industry though for the best part of a decade however and before going head office was an adventure tour leader for a Latin America specialist.

Onto the important stuff.. Your favourite local food dish?

Lechon (marinaded pork strips). Especially from “Juanitos” in Cuzco, Peru. Although “cuy” (guinea pig) has to be tried as do Cuban ham and cheese sandwiches (for other reasons!).

Favourite Imaginative Traveller tour in your destination?

“Volcanoes and Pampas” – The majestic snow-capped Andes mountains, shimmering turquoise lakes, skiing in winter, hiking in summer and the chance to be a “gaucho” on our Argentinian ranch complete with cattle rustling and lasso wielding. All sandwiched between two of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth.

Where did you go on your last Imaginative Traveller related tour?

In truth – China! I am on a quest to see the whole world and there just aren’t enough years. However I am due to return to Chile later in the year for “work” and can not wait. The desolate beauty and wild ruggedness of the Andean plateau, Atacama desert and Patagonian steppe have to be seen to be believed.

Your favourite place in the world?

For a one-off knock you off your seat experience it has to be standing on the brink of the world’s largest waterfalls at Iguazu, on the Argentine/Brazilian border. I am so fortunate to manage a destination with so many incredible places though, two of which have recently made the modern 7 “Wonders of the World” list in Chichen Itza, Mexico and Macchu Picchu, Peru.

What was the last thing you took a photograph of?

The inside of a bar in Cuzco, Peru! It was a leaving do – honest!! Generally though I love photography and have a website of all my travel photos which acts as a constant reminder of how fortunate I’ve been and usually a catalyst to get out on the road again.

What was the last book that you read?

Ranulph Fiennes – “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know”. The man is certifiably insane but a living legend of an explorer and whenever he’s giving a presentation I’m first in line.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would you live? 

Lake Atitlan – Guatemala. Every time I arrive there all the cares of the world disappear due to its surreal tranquility. I normally stay with the local indigenous families who maintain their centuries old traditions and live in the surrounding villages dotted around the lake’s edges. Friends of mine run a traveller’s retreat there complete with morning yoga and the best breakfast view ever over the lake towards the twin volcanoes of Santiago and San Pedro.

Check out our selection of Central America tours here and South America tours here...


 

It's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't...

Not travelling enough ''is one of Britain''s key regrets''
Not seeing enough of the world is one of the key regrets for the over-65s, it has been found.

Research carried out by MORE TH>N Life Insurance showed that two-thirds of people said they wished they had travelled more during their younger years.

Some 33 per cent of people said they would liked to have seen the Indian ''hippy trail'', while 13 per cent pointed to the Great Wall of China as something they would prefer not to have missed out on.

Pete Markey from MORE TH>N urged Brits to seize the day when it comes to travel, since there is plenty to see in such a short time.

"We want this research to act as a call to action for everyone, young and old, to get out there and live life to the full," he concluded.

A recent poll by Kuoni found that the best time of your life to travel could be 34, thanks to circumstances and responsibilities.

What do you think of this...? In these troubled times are you all still wanting to travel? Discuss on our facebook page and news articles...

 


 


 

Don't miss the Cheetah Man from Namibia

Don't miss the Cheetah Man from Namibia!

Tonight a documentary filmed in Namibia offers the opportunity to learn about the work of ‘catman’ Olivier Houalet.  Houalet is a conservationist who has been actively involved with cheetahs for 10 years.  For the last 4 years the Frenchman has spent every day with 5 orphaned cheetah cubs and has adopted the animals’ body language to such an extent that he is now accepted as one of them.  The programme aired tonight follows Olivier, as he works on a groundbreaking experiment to return the cubs to the wild.

Namibia has the largest population of cheetah in the world.  If you would like to search for these amazing creatures, alongside other fantastic wildlife take a look at our Namibia tours:

Conservation and Cats:  This tour offers the unique opportunity to volunteer alongside the Africat Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Namibia to conserve carnivores, especially focusing on cheetah and leopard.  Volunteers will spend a week restoring land to its natural state to provide a better habitat for local wildlife.  The Africat Foundation is home to a variety of rescued wildlife, including leopard, lion and cheetah and there is the opportunity to get up close to these animals.

A normal working day will start as the sun rises over the horizon, coffee and breakfast made and then off to the work site.  Tasks may include dismantling windmills, fence-lines, old water troughs, bush clearing tasks, repairing waterholes, dam and bridge maintenance etc.  There may also be the fantastic opportunity of working directly at the AfriCat Foundation itself including : bone collecting within the cheetah camps, cleaning out the wild dogs’ water trough, erecting and repairing fences and netting, fence maintenance etc.  Work will take place with breaks until approx 12noon before stopping for a well-earned lunch and siesta time, after which we head off for our afternoon activity. This may be leopard and cheetah tracking, visiting wild dogs, a bushman walk, game drives, nature walks or a host of other activities. You may also get involved in other conservation measures such as reserve maintenance, counting game at waterholes, plant and animal studies or fence patrols.

Other tours that visit Namibia and offer the chance the observe cheetahs include our overland classic truck trips: Dunes, Delta and Falls, Victoria Falls to Cape Town and Kenya to Cape.  Or for a higher standard of accommodation in tented camps and tourist lodges the Southern Africa Encompassed also visits the Etosha National Park, where cheetahs may be spotted alongside the best of Namibia’s other wildlife and stays at a private game farm dedicated to the protection of big cats.  Our Namibian Adventure tour is a two week tour focusing solely on Namibia and in addition to Etosha National Park also visits a cheetah sanctuary where there is the chance to have a close encounter with the fastest land mammal on earth.

If you are planning a visit to East Africa rather than the southern region don’t worry! Cheetahs are also present in the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

Elephants without borders

This is a story of vision, struggle, hope, and one man’s dream to bring freedom to Africa’s elephants. The film is an extraordinary journey with Dr. Mike Chase, an ecologist, raised in Africa’s harsh wilderness. He talks passionately of his dream to create a scenario he calls “Elephants Without Borders” - a system of contiguous migratory corridors - that could bring freedom for a hundred thousand elephants to range across Africa, along centuries-old trails that were once a lifeline before mankind drew lines on a map.

This programme follows Mike on his adventures, following him through the struggles and barriers that both he and the elephants have to face in search of new places for elephants to live. We follow his journey as he tracks collared elephants from Botswana through Namibia and Zambia to Angola’s southern wilderness. We follow the routes of three elephants Max, Bontle and Ntombo across the region, from the great northern rivers to the Okavango Delta, Tsodilo Hills and across the hostile Magkadikgadi Salt Pans. Dramatic events unfold when these elephants encounter obstacles to their movements.

If you would like to see elephants in the wild take a look at our tours in Africa: Chobe National Park is home to the largest herds of elephants in Africa and is visited on many of our Southern Africa tours from the longer overland tours to our 13 day Delta Adventure showcasing the best of Botswana.  If the unspoilt and untouristed wilderness of Angola attracts you our new Expedition to Angola tour could be your adventure for 2009!

 


 

Celebrate 200 years of Darwin

Book a tour to the Galapagos before the 31st March 2009 and claim a free "Rough Guide to Evolution"  - just quote "Destinations" at time of booking.

Here's a taste of the influence the Galapagos had on the concept of Darwin's theory:  

Darwin was a British scientist who laid the foundations of the theory of evolution and transformed the way we think about the natural world.

Charles Robert Darwin was born on 12 February 1809 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire into a wealthy and well-connected family. His maternal grandfather was china manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood, while his paternal grandfather was Erasmus Darwin, one of the leading intellectuals of 18th century England.

Darwin himself initially planned to follow a medical career, and studied at Edinburgh University but later switched to divinity at Cambridge. In 1831, he joined a five year scientific expedition on the survey ship HMS Beagle.

At this time, most Europeans believed that the world was created by God in seven days as described in the bible. On the voyage, Darwin read Lyell's 'Principles of Geology' which suggested that the fossils found in rocks were actually evidence of animals that had lived many thousands or millions of years ago. Lyell's argument was reinforced in Darwin's own mind by the rich variety of animal life and the geological features he saw during his voyage. The breakthrough in his ideas came in the Galapagos Islands, 500 miles west of South America. Darwin noticed that each island supported its own form of finch which were closely related but differed in important ways.

See our Galapagos tours here

 


 

Responsible Travel Update - Feb 2009

There's been lots going on in Imaginative Travellers responsible travel, much behind the scenes to be launched shortly.. but here's a taster!

This month we have arranged for the following donations to go out to some of our
Worldwide projects:

  • GBP1500 to our new project in Luxor, Hamida’s nursery school. This will be
    used to buy new school equipment including some computers.
  • GBP269 from our Laos Water coolers for schools project to buy 4 water coolers.
    These will be donated during our next few Magical Laos tours.
  • GBP500 to Chandelao Village to build a water storage tank to collect rainwater
    for the local villages. A donation handover will be done on one of our Rajasthan Safari departures.

Get on your Bike!

Following on from some client requests for suggestions of where to buy a bike in
Thailand and a suggested charity to donate bikes to at the end of the Bangkok to Saigon by bike tour we have now included information about this in the responsible travel section of the trip dossier. We have also included this info for the Cycling Thailand tour – although bikes are provided on this one should clients want to bring their own or buy locally we can always try to help them to do this, and are more than happy to suggest local charities that would value bike donations at the end of the tour.

Website

The responsible travel website page and Worldwide projects page is now up-to-date and old projects have been deleted. Our Responsible Travel guidelines for clients are now included in the predeparture  information so that all our clients, UK and international can access them.

Trip Dossiers

I am in the process of updating all our new 2009 trip dossiers with our responsible travel statements, clarifying what makes that particular tour responsible.

News from TUI:

The UK’s Observer newspaper ranked Tui Travel as 16th out of the FTSE350 companies for sustainability performance.
A question we have been asking ourselves is whether the credit crunch means the end of travel industry efforts to address sustainable development? The answer is ‘no’! The
reason: it’s good for business, addressing our contribution to climate change can deliver significant financial savings as well as reduced emissions, working with communities and suppliers in destinations has helped develop greener, more authentic holiday experiences and increase economic opportunity for local people, and despite consumers rising concern about the economy, research shows that their environmental concerns remain strong and constant. Two thirds of those questioned in the recent Future Foundation research said they would have a higher opinion of companies that continue with their social and environmental programs when economic conditions are challenging.

Tui have released the sustainable development strategy for the activity sector. The vision is for the activity sector to become the benchmark for sustainable development within Tui and the travel industry overall. This document outlines the steps Tui are taking and how they hope to help businesses implement policies.

  • Tui travel online survey Dec 07:
    59% of customers said that ‘holidays with a low impact on the environment
    would influence their decision in making a holiday purchase’
  • 77% of customers said that ‘holidays with a fair deal for local people would
    influence their holiday purchase choice’

Thanks for reading!

Sam - Responsible Travel Officer.


 

Insurance, Insurance, Insurance

Insurance, Insurance, Insurance!

To must of us this is one of life's really uninteresting things to buy! Especially after the excitement of booking an adventure holiday to your dream destination, plus flights and any other extras, you then have to pay for insurance... but in this day and age it is a necessary! So much so we ensure all our travellers have insurance when they arrive in destination. It's so important to ensure you have full cover for travel to your destination, so many people rely on the free cover of their credit card, and this unfortunately not sufficient enough cover.

We must have all experienced, or heard the tale of your friend on holiday and bags don't arrive at the airport... or perhaps you have been a victim of some kind of crime or delay on holiday. And then you return home all ready to make the claim and your "bargain" insurance, finds a ridiculous clause that for some reason you are not covered for your claim. So frustrating!!

Our Travel Insurance certainly won't leave you high and dry! We ensure you are covered for the activities you are likely to take part in on one of our trips. Features of our insurance include:

  • High levels of cover provided, including up to £5 million medical expenses
  • Cover is available for residents of the EU
  • 24-hour UK based Worldwide Medical Emergency service - this most important aspect of your insurance is operated by Speciality Assistance. With their expert knowledge and experience you are in trusted hands in the event of an emergency
  • Covers acts of conventional war and terrorism
  • Up to £1000 cover for loss, theft or damaged tickets (not just flight tickets)
  • Free Automatic 31 day extension of cover - if return travel is delayed beyond your control
  • Cover for up to £5000 if you have to cancel departure as a result of redundancy.

Find out more here

And make sure you book your holiday with a full peace of mind and you can thoroughly enjoy it and every eventuality!


 

Congratulations to Barack Obama!

Congratulations to Barack Obama and to America for the swearing in of their new president!

And what a fantastic role model and iconic day in history for us all to witness. One of the most intriguing aspects of the American president (apart from the fact he couldn't have been more different than his predecessor!) is his roots in Kenya. His father was a strong Kenyan politician who fought for what he believed in within Kenya.

Originating from a small farming village in Kenya, Obama really does have strong roots in this magnificent country. As coverage on the television includes the celebrations in Kenya it is amazing to see what an impact the inauguration of Obama is in the US and worldwide.

If you are tempted to join in the celebrations in Kenya for your next holiday destination, see the real Kenya with Imaginative Traveller.


 

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL UPDATE - Jan 2009

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL UPDATE - Jan 2009

Imaginative Traveller now has a full-time Responsible Travel product manager.  Since taking over the role in October, Sam has been reviewing our Responsible Travel policy and looking at our aims for the future.

There are four main areas that we are focussing on and below are details of achievements in these areas so far:

1. CLIMATE CHANGE
To compliment our voluntary carbon offset prices in our UK brochure we have added a link from the Responsible Travel web page to a dedicated "Climate Care" page, our partners for this initiative. This explains how climate care offset flight emissions through their sustainable energy technologies. You can click through from this page straight to the climate care website to make offset payments. We are also considering the possibility of offering some carbon neutral tours, with the price of offsetting all land travel incorporated into the trip price.

2. COMMUNICATION WITH OUR CUSTOMERS
As we realise that many of our clients now book online or through agents booking online we are looking into the possibility of adding a tick box function in the booking process to enable an immediate voluntary donation to our Worldwide projects. This remains an option on our booking form.

We have recently developed a ‘Responsible Travel Guidelines’ document to be sent out with final travel documents. We are hoping to incorporate this onto our website so that this can be downloaded from the pre-departure page. These guidelines briefly introduce the concept of responsible travel and outline ideas of how you can get the most out of your trip, whilst being aware of travelling responsibly at the same time.

The Responsible Travel page on our website will shortly be revised and our Worldwide project details will be updated.

3. OUR PEOPLE
New up-to-date training notes have been produced for new staff members.

4. IN DESTINATION
The biggest task has been revising our Worldwide projects and deciding how to move forward with those. This is still to be finalised but it looks likely we will be updating our support with some of our progects and launching support for new ones. The main reason for finishing supporting a project is because they are now self sufficient, and your money can be used better elsewhere - which shows it really works!

We closely monitor our projects and felt that in China and Bolivia it has proved difficult to verify where previous donations have been used and so we feel unable to contribute anymore.

In the case of the Sunshine Project in Luxor Egypt, they now have huge support from many other people and so we feel our donations would be better used in a new grassroots initiative. Keep your eyes out for our new projects which will shortly be featured on our website.

We will be keeping you up to date on our responsible travel policies in e-tracks and through the blog. Sign up to E-tracks here.


 

Tanzania Adventure

Happy New Year Imaginative Travellers!

To kick start your inspiration to travel in 2009 Blog mole stumbled upon this fantastic review from a pax travelling on our Safari and Spice tour.

An African Adventure... 

Vast savannah plains, prides of lions, wallowing hippopotamuses, the towering Mount Kilimanjaro, blissful white sandy beaches…..amazing landscapes and wildlife, which any visitor could not fail to be impressed by.  This is what I was looking forward to on my 12 night trip to this amazing country.

An eight and a half hour flight after leaving Heathrow I arrived into Nairobi in Kenya, the entry city for my safari tour. Nairobi is the most populated city in East Africa with an estimated 3-4 million occupants.  I think a fair number of them were at the airport!  I saw a board with my name on it amongst the masses and made a beeline for my transfer representative.  A smooth half an hour journey later we had skirted the city centre with its cluster of skyscrapers and arrived at the Jacaranda Hotel.  Who would have thought sitting on a plane watching films for 8 hours could be so exhausting, I went straight to bed for a good nights sleep in anticipation of the start of my adventure the next day.

The shuttle bus and local guide who would accompany the group to Tanzania arrived at the hotel and after meeting some of my fellow travellers we bundled onto the minibus and took our seats.  The shuttle bus service between Kenya and Tanzania is a well established mode of travel, with many locals and tourists using this as an alternative to flying.  I was impressed that we should be arriving into Arusha just 4 and a half hours later.  After a few stops to pick up tourists at other hotels we were on our way out of the city heading towards the border.  Unfortunately as is often the case when adventuring in Africa the journey was not quite as smooth as I had anticipated, some work on the road and what seemed like hundreds of trucks slowed our progress and we arrived into Arusha in the dark.  We headed to our rooms to savour our last night in a bed before the camping began!

Early the next morning we woke to a decidedly chilly Arusha – as it was the cool season everyone was surprised by the temperatures.  A common misconception that it is hot everywhere in Africa all of the time was quickly dispelled!  Our safari vehicle roared into the hotel car park to meet us along with our guide, Kiko and cook for the trip, Ali.  After a quick briefing and stop to buy essentials we moved off through the bustling town of Arusha towards the expanses of Tanzania. We all made ourselves very comfortable in our safari vehicle, which can often feel like your second home in Africa, as the distances can be long and the progress slow on bumpy roads!  I relaxed and enjoyed watching day to day life in Tanzania go by.

We arrived at the Ngorongoro Conservation area and progressed through the gates into the park.  The largest intact caldera in the world, and one of the most spectacular sights in Africa, this 260 square kilometre crater has been featured in countless television documentaries and its status as a wildlife sanctuary barely needs stating.  As we moved along the dirt tracks I noticed how lush the landscape was, the green of the trees only eclipsed by the orange dust kicked up onto them by the passing trucks.  We climbed to the top of the crater rim before arriving to the public campsite and setting up our tents – our home for the next 5 nights.  An elephant trundled up to the camp and we watched it as it stood in front of the never-ending view over the crater floor.  As the sun set behind it I thought that would be an image that stays with me forever.

The next morning the crater rim was shrouded in mist.  As we descended to the base for a days game viewing the clouds gradually disappeared, the sun shone over the amazing landscape, with the wisps of cloud just curling over the top of the surrounding peaks.  There were zebras, wildebeest and buffalo as far as we could see grazing on the flat plains and a pair of mating lions that were attracting a large audience!  We ate lunch by a lake, eating our sandwiches whilst the hippos poked their eyes up every so often.  The wildlife was amazing, but made all the more fantastic by the astounding scenery backing the herds.  That night we saw zebra munching their way past the tents and as I warmed myself by the camp fire a hyena crept up behind me – I felt my heart leap into my mouth when I turned around and saw its eyes lit up by my torch.  Luckily it decided to turn and run the other way!

We left the heights of Ngorongoro behind and travelled towards the savannahs of the Serengeti.  As the temperature rose so did our anticipation of yet more once in a lifetime wildlife viewing.  This and a slightly nervous expectation of our campsite within the Serengeti National Park - the campsites in the Serengeti are not fenced and I’d heard plenty of stories about lions wandering through at night.  I thought I’d be sure to zip my tent up nice and securely and hope not to hear any roaring!  When we arrived at the clearing we relaxed and enjoyed another one of Ali’s three course meals, and stared out into the grasses hoping not to see any eyes staring back at us!

An early start, just after sunrise to make the most of the morning game drive.  Kiko drove slowly around the kopjes looking for any animals that might be hiding.  Nothing yet…we started to feel a bit despondent until in the distance the bushy mane of a male lion appeared.  Moving closer an African drama started to unfold – a pride of lions, a cheetah and a number of gazelles, who seemed surprisingly complacent about their predators being nearby.  Not for long!  The cheetah started to slowly move towards a solitary gazelle.  We sat and watched for close to an hour, as the cheetah made a move and then froze until the grand finale – the cheetah sprinted through the grass and picked off its prey, and we saw the gazelle collapse into a cloud of dust.  Not much could beat that but our afternoon game drive also provided some brilliant wildlife – the highlight being a leopard curled around its evening meal in a tree and some huge herds of elephants.

Our time on the northern safari circuit of Tanzania ended in Lake Manyara National Park, famed for tree climbing lions.  After the renowned parks of Ngorongoro and Serengeti we worried that we might be disappointed.  However, although the wildlife is not as easy to spot in this park the views over the lake are beautiful and everyone in the group was happy to enjoy the facilities of our more developed campsite for our last night on the road.  I seem to remember the bar was the most popular facility!  Well, we needed to taste all the different East African beers!

Back to Arusha and after a farewell dinner the group split and everyone went their separate ways.  I headed off to Zanzibar for the next part of my Tanzanian adventure.

One very delayed flight later I arrived into Stonetown, the capital of Zanzibar Island.  The minute I arrived I could tell that Zanzibar was very different from the mainland – a tropical island with a carefree attitude that was easy to absorb.  

My full day in Stonetown was spent wandering through the small alleyways, visiting the many historical sites with their Arab and colonial influences and sampling street food – some of the freshest seafood I had ever eaten.  A drink whilst the sun set over the Indian Ocean in one of the beachside bars demonstrated a different kind of Tanzanian sunset to the ones I had seen in the national parks.  No wildlife here, just the traditional dhow fishing boats framing the scene.

The last stop on my adventure was the beaches in the north-east of Zanzibar.  The beaches all around the island are stunning but the ones in the north-east are reputed to be the best of all – with wide white sand beaches and sparkling clear blue seas.  They are also meant to offer the best nightlife on the island – and there were lots of restaurant and bar options if you did want to leave the hotel, but in keeping with the laid back vibe of the island they were not intrusive and you could as easily go for a quiet beachside drink as stay up until the early hours.

Very sadly leaving the beach behind I returned to Stonetown to catch my flight into Kenya and onward to the UK.  Just when I thought all the incredible sights were done and dusted the captain announced that Mt Kilimanjaro could be seen to the left of the plane and there it was, the peak poking out of the cloud just beside us!  I felt full of admiration for the people I had met that had climbed that imposing mountain.  The last highlight of the trip fulfilled I settled back into my seat ready to go home.

Check out our Africa tours here    


 

An expedition into Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea by Jim O'Brien - Imaginative Traveller Operations Manager

The enormous mystical island had long held an enchanting allure for me, ever since I first read ‘Cannibal Adventure’ by Willard Price when I was around eight years old, a place of barely visited and remote tribes, of almost mythical creatures such as tree kangaroos and birds of paradise, a picture fed and enhanced over the years through the watching of numerous wildlife documentaries. A place at the edge of the known world, where ancient customs still reign strong and where few foreign visitors tread.

After a long series of flights (sadly with a poor selection of in flight entertainment – I end up watching ‘The Incredible Hulk’, the best of a bad bunch) and inexplicably three internal flights in PNG itself, I finally find myself there, a quarter of a century after the country emerged onto my consciousness. Papua New Guinea has a poor international reputation, known mainly for its tribal fighting (known locally as clan warfare), excessive exploitation of its natural resources, and the involvement of foreign mercenaries in putting down local rebellions. This and its very remoteness means that it barely features on the world tourism circuit – fewer than two thousand UK visitors step onto its shores each year, and having spoken to none of them I’m not entirely sure what to expect, which is one of the rare but great joys of travel.

The small eight seater aircraft that we’d been travelling in finally touched down in Tari, a small town in the highlands region, and is greeted by the sight of two elderly locals dressed in grass loincloths and sporting feathers and vegetation in their bushy Afro hair. One has what appears to be a bone sticking out of his belt, and I can’t help but wonder if it is human.


‘Apinun’, he says as he takes my bag. The pidgin version of ‘good afternoon’. PNG has over eight hundred known languages, meaning that from one village to the next an entirely different tongue can be spoken. So rather sensibly the people here have adopted the rather odd language of pidgin as a national language, a mixture of corrupted English and various local words, unintelligible to the untrained. We drive higher up into the mountains to a surprisingly comfortable lodge, its cottages set on the edge of thick rainforest with a breathtaking view over the valley below. After almost two days of non-stop travelling, I promptly fall asleep for the rest of the day.

This area of the highlands is home to the Huli tribe, a fiercesome looking people whose menfolk are renowned for taking immense pride in their appearance. The next day our guide takes us a small settlement where a group of warriors gather, their faces painted yellow and red, their hair decorated with feathers from birds of paradise, and with noses pierced with quills from the native cassowary, a large flightless bird resembling an emu with a helmet on.

They perform for us a traditional ‘sing-sing’, an elaborate group dance involving lots of jumping and yelling. We are told how this is often performed at the end of a tribal confrontation, a way of demonstrating their military superiority over the vanquished enemy. I ask whether these fights happen often, scarcely believing that in this day and age that this can be allowed to happen, and am told that only last year this village was involved in a battle with one of the nearby villages, with men killed on both sides. The nature of their weaponry – bows and arrows and spears rather than firearms – means that the death toll is usually not too high, but even so it’s still a serious business.

The Huli live their lives according to strict rules of gender separation, and when boys are eight or nine they are taken away from their mothers to live with all the men of the village in a separate house. Some men choose to join the improbably named wig school and live in the forest in seclusion under the tutelage of an adept, growing their hair for eight months until it becomes an enormous mushroom shaped afro, helped in shape by twigs. Wigs are an important part of the Huli mens’ ceremonial dress, and these men grow then shave their hair off for sale – a wig can reach around eight hundred kina (about £150). We watch as the master whispers spells into fern fronds which are then dipped in the stream and used to ‘water’ the hair, the spells falling from the leaves into the hair to ensure that it grows correctly. They then sit around smoking cigarettes through a section of bamboo, and offer me one. On closer inspection the cigarette is really just a few pieces of thin bark wrapped in a dry leaf. I smoke it and it burns my lungs, but I manage not to cough, unlike one of my companions who provokes howls of laughter from the Huli wig men.

On the drive back we witness our own mini version of clan war, driving along a dirt road through the forest. The local market ahead is full of people and as get closer it seems all is not well and a mass argument is in full flow. Suddenly a few men brandishing machetes run towards another group, who grab nearby rocks and start pelting them. Our guide calmly stops the vehicle and gets out, shouting at the combatants before getting back in.

‘I told them if one of the rocks hits the truck, I will come back and find them’ 

he says, like a schoolteacher admonishing a bunch of unruly children rather than grown men who look like they are about to kill each other. It turns out the dispute was about a woman.

‘We Huli fight about three things. Land, pigs and women. In that order.’

A few days later we fly by small aircraft across the mountains, descending into the vast green carpet of jungle that is the Sepik basin, along with the Amazon and the Congo one of the world’s great ecosystems but one which surprisingly few people have heard of. An area roughly the size of southern England, with not a road to be seen. The only way to travel here is by river, on the Sepik or one of its many tributaries, and the people that live here are about as isolated as you can be in the 21st century. We land on a small patch of cleared ground that serves as an airstrip and are confronted with a very different climate from the highlands, a steamy, sticky and all enveloping heat that threatens to sap the lifeforce out of you within minutes of touching down. Our lodge perches high on a ridge, overlooking the muddy brown river carving its way through the forest below. Decorated in the style of a traditional haus tambaran, or spirit house, it is crammed with numerous carved artefacts bought over many years from the villages nearby. Most of the masks and sculptures have a menacing look to them, piercing eyes boring into you and jagged angry patterns painted onto their faces. This is the closest we’ll get to a real spirit house. In the Second World War, Japanese soldiers retreated into this region in the face of increasing attacks from Allied forces, and the spirit houses were bombed by British and Australian pilots who feared that they were being used as hiding places. In an area as uncharted as this, there are far better places to hide but the spirit houses were never rebuilt, and this area of the Sepik has lost a tradition that doubtless has been here for many hundreds of years. A reminder that the ravages of war can touch even the most remote of places.

We visit small villages on the banks of the water, settlements that betray no trace of the modern world, their wood and palm thatch buildings sitting idyllically in small clearings where small naked children watch us curiously. This is an area of PNG where old traditions have not long died out, a place renowned for headhunters and cannibalism. As recently as the 1960s, the villages here would engage in frequent warfare with their neighbours, bringing back the skulls of their unlucky victims to keep in their houses. Some tribes were even reputed to bring her victims back alive and keep them in cages for weeks on end, fattening them up until they were judged to be plump enough to make a good meal. Nowadays the missionaries have put a stop to these practices, introduced more western customs and style of dress (although many of the women still walk around bare breasted, which I would imagine appals the more prudish missionaries) and brought Christianity to the jungle. A quick peek inside a local church (little different from any of the other huts in the village) shows that the missionaries haven’t had it all their own way though – the carved spirit totems still look down forebodingly upon the congregation. Although one bears more than a passing resemblance to Jesus, just with a lot of face paint. The skulls won in headhunting expeditions are nowhere to be seen in these villages, the locals having been encouraged to abandon their old customs and bury them, but I’m told there are still a few knocking about, although disappointingly we’re not allowed to see them.

I find it hard to believe though that old customs have completely died, and ask our guide whether there are still instances of cannibalism anywhere. He looks slightly embarrassed and says that the last known case was in the late seventies, when a group of missionaries pushed too hard for a local tribe to adopt Christianity and upset the elders, who arranged for them to be part of the evening meal. Later, the lodge manager tells us that she is sure that the practice still exists in remote pockets of the region, perhaps a far fetched notion but nevertheless one that excites my imagination immensely. Papua New Guinea is still home to ‘undiscovered’ groups of people living primitive lives deep in the jungle, and I can’t believe that the missionaries have reached everywhere.

Cruising along the river in a motorboat, we pull to one side to allow a convoy of enormous rafts pass, so vast that house like structures have been built on them, sheltering several people inside. The rafts we are told are taking sago palms from the villages to the nearest town, following the lazy current and without any form of power, at the whim of the river itself. The shelters are necessary as it will take three weeks or more from this point to reach the town, and they function as a general living space, with small cooking fires within and curious children peering from their dark unlit interiors. As I write this I realise that I forgot to ask how a raft that simply gets pulled along by the current can ever make it back to where it came from. We continue along smaller waterways, occasionally passing a village but more often than not travelling through vast swathes of uninhabited jungle. Children jump into the water when they see our boat coming, swimming excitedly into the wake that we leave behind. Eagles circle overhead, fish occasionally jump out of the water, betraying their presence with a ‘plop’. ‘Civilisation’ is a million miles away.

That evening, sipping cold beers on a balcony with what has to be one of the best views in the world, over the river below and then miles and miles of dense forest, we spot a fire a few hundred yards below. It starts to burn out of control, engulfing all vegetation until eventually a small building goes up in flames, sending plumes of smoke into the fading light, hanging over the forest like a layer of smog. It looks oddly beautiful, but is threatening enough for the lodge staff to dash down there and try to fight it before it consumes the balcony that we’re sitting on. They tackle it for half an hour, getting absolutely nowhere, until the air cools and the clouds send down a violent downpour which finally quenches it. Talking later to the manager of the lodge, she confesses that she is certain one of her staff lit the fire – whether out of malice or boredom she cannot say, but she seems rather anxious and reluctant to investigate further. It can be dangerous to cause too much trouble among the local villagers, she tells us; she was here twenty years ago but had to leave suddenly after sacking one of the housekeepers. The headman of the next village, all smiles when we met him, threatened to kill her in her sleep as retribution and she wasn’t about to take any chances. Out here it could be days, weeks even before any help could be raised, and longer before anyone would notice you were missing. This a land where law and order is fragile at best, where one must tread carefully. I am reminded of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – a river journey into the unknown.

It takes me the best part of two days to fly home – to Mt Hagen, then Port Moresby, then Singapore, then Kuala Lumpur and finally Heathrow – loaded down with wooden carvings and the like. The short time I spent in PNG makes me want to find out more, to return to explore more. There are few, perhaps no, places on our ever smaller planet like it – the world’s second largest island holds many secrets and mysteries, perhaps still undiscovered species and people. It is a place where the modern world has only the most tenuous of holds, where tradition is more important than anything else, a place where one can really feel excited about travelling to. I vow to return one day.

Jim travelled as part of a research trip to Papua New Guinea, see our current trips to this amazing country here


 


 

Chinese Moon Festival

To celebrate the launch of our new Eclipse tours going into China in 2009, blogmole thought we would share the fairy Tale of the Chinese Moon Festival (not strictly about the eclipse, but it's certainly moon related)…

Chinese Moon Festival

Moon Festival is one of the very important festivals in China, it falls according to the Chinese lunar calendar each year during which you will see very round and bright moon. Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving in the West, the Moon Festival is one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese. As part of the celebration you will also see moon cakes everywhere in China in different flavours, different shapes, like lemon flavor, walnut one, rose flavor and so on. It is also the gifts we take when we go and visit friends on that day. All the people in China will eat some moon cakes whether they like them or not as it is the tradition and symbolize the whole family reunion. So on the moon festival, the most popular thing is to do is eat moon cakes, but in some region we also set up the tables to do some offering to the God of Moon and watch the full and bright moon.

Like any other festivals, the moon festival also has its own history.

”In ancient china, the emperor usually offer sacrifice to the God of the Sun in spring, and to the god of the Moon in autumn”,

from the historical book from the Zhou dynasty (around 2500 years ago). When the Moon Festival arrived, they offered sacrifice to the Moon, looking at the full moon and drinking and writing some poems. Thus the convention spread to the common people and became a traditional activity. By the Tang dynasty (around 700 AD) people attached more importance to this convention, and then it became the fixed festival. It became more prevailed by the Song dynasty (around 1,000 AD). By the Ming and Qing dynasty (from 1368 AD to 1911 AD) it got the same status as the New Year and has now become one of our major festivals.

There are also many legendary stories about the origin of the Moon festival. The most famous and well-known one to Chinese is called Ms Chang Er flying to the moon. Long, long time ago it was believed that there was 10 suns in the sky that always rose and appeared at the same time. It was so hot that crops withered up and people found it hard to live on. One guy, called Hou YI, had massive strength and was very sympathetic to the suffering people. Then he climbed up to the peak of Mount Kun Lun, withdrew his magic bow with his strong strength, shot 9 suns down and adjured the last sun to rise and fall on schedule to benefit the people very well. Therefore, Hou Yi became respected and revered as a hero by all the people. Later he married a very beautiful and kind girl called Chang Er. Besides hunting and teaching, he was always with his wife. Everyone was envious of them. Gradually more and more people heard of this hero’s magic bow shooting skill and started to learn from him. A particularly bad guy called Peng Meng also joined in them. One day, Hou Yi went to Mount Kun Lun to visit his friend for more learning. On his way he met the Heavenly Queen Mother by accident who gave him the Elixir of immortality as his reward. It is said that one can fly to the heaven and become immortal once swallowing it. However, Hou Yi can’t leave without his beloved wife, and then gave it to Chang Er who kept it in the treasure box on the dresser table. Unfortunately it was seen by the bad guy called Peng Meng and he himself wanted the Elixir to become immortal. Three days later, Hou Yi went out for hunting with all his followers except Peng Meng who pretended to fall ill and stayed at home. After they left for a while, he, holding the sword, walked into the backyard of the residence area and forced Chang Er to take The Elixir out, but she knew she couldn’t win him if they were fighting.

Then she turned back, opened the box, took it out, swallowed it herself and flew off the ground and out of window towards the sky. Chang Er was so caring on her husband that she decided to fly onto the Moon that was closest place to the human world to become immortal. In the evening when Hou Yi was back to home and her maids told him crying what happened in the daytime. He rushed out angrily to look for Peng Ming , but he had already run away. Looking at the dark sky and calling his wife’s name, he was so frantic with great grief. Suddenly he found that moon was extremely bright tonight and some shadow that looked like his wife was shaking in it. He was running like crazy towards it. But when he was running forward, the moon was moving backward and he just couldn’t catch it anyway. He missed his wife so much, but he can’t do anything else. So he asked some maids to put one table in the garden where his wife loved a lot, prepare some fruits, cakes and some snack of his wife’s favorite and leave it on that table, watching Chang Er in the moon who also missed him a lot. When the news that Chang Er had become immortal spread to the other people, a lot of them started to set up the table in their own yard and offer the sacrifice to her in the moon, praying to get good luck from her.    

Gradually the convention of offering the sacrifice to the moon has spread nationwide.
This is the fairy tale familiar to many Chinese. So now wait and see during the next Moon festival look at the bright moon for the pretty girl called Chang Er. You may need binocular to find it and you may also see two lovely rabbits that was her pet companying her all the time.

Visit out China tours here


 

Festival of the Ashanti King - NEW TOUR LAUNCHED

NEW TOUR LAUNCHED! 

This tour offers the rare opportunity to see the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Asantehene (Ashanti King).   The Ashanti people were one of the most powerful nations in Africa until the end of the 19th century, when the British annexed Ashanti country, bringing it into their Gold Coast colony. Originally from the northern savannah regions, the Ashanti people migrated south, carving farms out of the wild rainforest.

The region was rich in gold, and trade in this precious metal developed quickly, with small tribal states developing and vying for control of resources. In the late 17th century the Ashanti ruler brought these states together in a loose confederation and the Ashanti Kingdom was born. Their social organisation is centred on the Ashantehene figure, the king of all the Ashanti. The Ashanti are the lords of the gold, so they dress themselves with it during ceremonies. 

This celebration will be no exception with a long and colourful durbar of all the Ashanti chiefs, bathed in gold, culminating in the arrival of the Ashanti King himself.  Everyone attending the festival will greet the King and the ceremony will take place for the whole day with dancers, drummers and singers keeping the celebration alive. 

Following this amazing experience we will also tour from the far North of Ghana down to the southern coast.  We will meet traditional communities and tribal chiefs, enjoy Ghana's wildlife, walk on the longest and highest suspended rope bridge in the world, learn about the history of the slave trade and relax on Ghana's tropical beaches. 

This tour is once in a lifetime and really offers the opportunity to experience Ghana in depth.  You are far from the tourist trail and will experience a true West African adventure!

BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW


 

Beijing to Kathmandu - an insiders view

Beijing to Kathmandu by Bob Withers - Tour leader in China

"I have probably run this tour more times than any other tour, yet I still do not tire of it.

It is a relatively long tour (28 days) encompassing most of China, plus Tibet and finishing in Nepal.

There are spectacular flights (including over Sichuan and the Himalayas), a hike through the incredible Tiger Leaping Gorge, cycling through Yangshuo’s stunning karst system and atop the City Wall around Xian and a leisurely respite from all the travel aboard a cruise boat through the Three Gorges sections of the mighty Yangtse River.

You do cover a lot of territory and you do need a reasonable level of fitness – the wonderful Tiger Leaping Gorge hike is a fairly straightforward hike of around 20 kms (over a couple of days), but there are a few steep sections and it is a fairly constant walk.

However, its got to be worth it - you get to see amazing facets of this country:

• Some of China’s best natural scenery (Tiger Leaping Gorge, Dali, Lijiang Yangshuo, The Three Gorges, Tibet)

• A mix of rural, small town and city living (From Beijing, Xian, ChongQing and Chengdu to hamlets like Yangshuo and surrounds). ChongQing for example claims to be the biggest city in the world with a population of 32 million people!!

• The marvelous minority groups in Yunnan and GuangXi provinces. See the stunning clothes worn by the various ethnic groups like the Yi, Bai and Naxi.

• Tibet – one of the most impressive and amazing countries that still fascinates me, even after all these years. We travel out of Lhasa to the “Hero Fort” and magnificent Kumbum Stupa in Gyantse. On the way back to Lhasa have a picnic on the shores of the magical lake Yam Druk Tso

• Aside from the impressive palaces, monasteries and temples and the incredible scenery, the most wonderful experience for me is watching the Tibetan people. Many are doing the pilgrimage to Jokhang Temple (perambulating, chanting and saying prayers), others are shopping for bargains in the main market in Barkhor Square, while still others are enjoying a cup of yak butter tea and chatting with their friends.

I believe that this tour has something for everyone and highly recommend it to those seeking a bit of adventure and experience of new cultures."

Book your place - Beijing to Kathmandu


 

Christmas party combined with fund raising for responsible travel

On Friday night Imaginative Traveller had its annual Christmas party.  As always there was plenty of food, music and dancing (and maybe some wine as well!) but in addition to this we also hosted a Christmas raffle in support of our ongoing work with local grassroots projects around the World. 

There was a lot of support for this and we raised £202 in total!  This money will be allocated out to our Worldwide projects currently in need of support or reserved for new projects we will be helping to get off the ground in 2009.  If you would like details of our Imaginative Traveller projects or would like to read about our responsible travel policy please have a look at our dedicated page
 
If you have any comments about responsible travel please let us know on rto@imtrav.net

christmas party

Christmas party fun 


 


 

Hill Tribe Village of Longshengz

In E-tracks we have requested you to send in your travellers tales. They can be as short as long as it takes to share your experience... 

Blogmole loved this little tale of Kevin Latimer's recent trek in China:  

We were told we would have help to carry our luggage up to the Hill Tribe Village of Longshengz
 
I was a bit embarrassed when one of the oldest of the women took hold of the heaviest of the cases and proceeded to climb the mountain followed by myself with a very small back-pack...
 
These diminutive women are the toughest of people and carry everything, including a commercial fridge, on their backs up to their village above the clouds!
 
They also brew a very palatable home beer and are more than pleased to share it with travellers...


 

Thailand Visa Information

Thailand visa information
With immediate effect the Thai immigration authorities have changed the way that they issue visas. Up until now it has been possible to obtain a stay of 30 days on arrival, through both land and air borders. This now only applies to visitors arriving by air.
 
If you are arriving into Thailand through a land border, you will only be issued with a visa for 15 days. It is possible to extend this once in Thailand but this can be time consuming. We therefore recommend that if you are arriving into Thailand overland, and are staying for more than 15 days, that you obtain your visa in advance.
 
If you are arriving into Thailand via an air border, you will still be issued with a visa for 30 days.
 
As this is effective immediately we recognise that not all travellers will have time to obtain a visa before their departure for Thailand. If you are arriving into Thailand overland, are staying for more than 15 days, and have not been able to get a visa before arrival, please let your tour leader know as soon as possible in order that they may assist you in extending your visa.


 

Update on Bangkok....

At the moment both the international and domestic airports in Bangkok remain closed. It is unfortunately not possible to say when they will open, but it is likely that there will be further disruption after this point as 100,000 plus tourists attempt to leave Bangkok.
 
The following tours are departing from Bangkok this weekend:
 
Journey through Laos 6 December
Highlights and Hilltribes 6 December
Northern Adventure 6 December
Elephants and Adventure 6 December
Kanchanaburi Extension 4 December
 
These tours are operating, however we do of course appreciate that it's not possible for most pax to fly into Bangkok at the moment. Thai Airways however are in the process of arranging relief flights from London into a nearby airport and are then arranging transfers to Bangkok itself and we would advise all travellers to contact their airline and / or booking agent in order to ascertain what, if any, laternative arrangements have been made for them.
 
Highlights and Hilltribes, Northern Adventure and Elephants and Adventure all depart Bangkok shortly after the tours start, to go to Chiang Mai. For those clients who are able to reroute their flights into Chiang Mai, it will be possible to join the tour from there. If you intend on doing this please contact us so that we can make the necessary arrangements. Accommodation would be booked for you from 6th December in Chiang Mai, at no additional cost. These tours are all scheduled to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok on 8 December, and so the tours would be unaccompanied by a tour leader until that point, however our representatives in Chiang Mai would be able to assist in the interim.
 
 
The Journey through Laos will run on an amended itinerary (final details to be confirmed). If you are unable to reach Bangkok overland then you will be able to join the tour in Chiang Mai on 8 December. If you intend on doing this please contact us so that we can make the necessary arrangements. Accommodation would be booked for you from 6th December in Chiang Mai, at no additional cost. This tour is scheduled to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok on 8 December, and so would be unaccompanied by a tour leader until that point, however our representatives in Chiang Mai would be able to assist in the interim.
 
Chiang Mai can be flown into via a number of regional hubs, including Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Taipei.
 
Alternatively, if you are able to fly into Kuala Lumpur then we can assist with making the journey overland to start your tour in Bangkok. Please let us know if you intend to do this so that we can make any necessary arrangements. Please note that we would also be able to assist with travelling overland from other regional hubs, but recommend Kuala Lumpur as this is the most straightforward.
 
Should you be unable to take up either of these options then please contact your booking agent to discuss your options.


 

Mystery tour - second departure!

Missed the first departure?? Due to popular demand we have launched a second departure! Same dates, same price, different destination... Book your place NOW!  

How about the adventure of a lifetime? The most exciting trip you can dream of? A tour beyond the horizon of your imagination….

We are launching our most ambitious group tour to date. A Journey into the Unknown. And we want you to join us!


 

Perfect your Photography skills with our Professionals

Meet our professional photgraphers - Part 1 - Sharon Hickey  

At what age did you own your first camera?  

My parents gave me my first camera when I was 18. I was going over to England and Europe for a holiday before coming home to Sydney to study. Needless to say I stayed away for 2 years and had a great time with my camera.

Cameras then kept creeping back into my life until I started photographing for a living. 

Favourite place to take photographs in the world – that you’ve been too?  

That’s a hard question as I have many favorites. I am always excited when it comes to photographing in desert regions a favorite being the Kimberleys in Northern Australia, where the colors are just amazing! Reds, oranges and brilliant blues. In fact colors are the big attraction for me when deciding on a destination which is why India is a fabulous place to take your camera. Again the colors  and people are vibrant and exciting and the country is a visual feast. 

Top place you would like to go to photograph?  

I've always wanted to explore Antarctica, its appeal being a relatively untouched wilderness. I am also partial to penguins, seals, majestic white cliffs and unpredictable weather.  

What was the last thing you took a photograph of?  

It was a close tie between photographing the Premier of NSW Nathan Rees at Parliament House and a giant cockroach that spanned 20 cm for the Sydney Science Expo last week. 

Finally, people/landscapes or animals as subjects for your photographs?  

I would have to say my forte and what I am known for is photographing people. This area for me covers photo journalism, brochures, events and promotional material. Having said that I constantly explore and photograph landscapes both in real and in abstract forms for my personal self expression. 

Fancy trying your hand at photography with Sharon?

Have a look at our photo tours:

Colours of China

Colours of Vietnam

Colours of India

Colours of Tibet

Look out for our focus on Aubrey Wade in the next few weeks. When booking any of these tours you may have the expertise of Aubrey or Sharon - both experts in their profession.

 


 

Who are our Destination Managers?

One of the unique aspects of trravelling with Imaginative Traveller is the services of our worldwide Destination Managers, who actually live in and are passionate about the region they represent. Using their in-depth personal local knowledge they design your journey from start to finish and will be on hand in the unlikely event that a problem occurs.

Here is a quick fire question and answer with Hans, our Destination Manager based in India. Look out for all of our Destination Managers being focussed on over the next few weeks.

How long have you worked with Imaginative Traveller? Since the company started in 1991!

Where is your office located (town name)? Goa

Best local food dish? Prawn Balchao

 Favourite Imtrav tour in your destination? Rajasthan Safari

Best bar to start a night out in the city/town you live in? Britto’s on the beach of Baga. All tour leaders take their groups there when they come to Goa (either on the `South India Adventure’ or on the `Taste of India’).

Where did you go on your last Imaginative Traveller related tour? Just went on a two week exploration of Kerala – a fabulous combination of wildlife, culture and beaches.

Your favourite place in the world? Goa (and during the Indian monsoon we escape for a few weeks to Bali).

What was the last thing you took a photograph of? Wildlife in Periyar National Park

What was the last book that you read? Shantaram

If you could live anywhere in the world where would you live? Goa!

Thanks Hans!

Check out our India tours here

 

  


 

Hola from Peru

Emma a consultant from our Sydney office has returned from an awesome ‘Inca Adventure’.  Lake Titicaca is a place with such personality, each island has it’s own unique charm; the floating reed islands made by the Uros people, the welcoming wave of the islanders of Amantani and the ancient customs of beautiful Taquile Island, loved it!

To be honest I was a tad nervous about the Inca Trail, I’m of reasonable fitness but do not usually opt for active challenges spanning several days … I knew with the excitement of lining up getting my permit stamped that there was no turning back and it was Inca Trail here I come! With each turn, rise and fall I was dumbfounded by the intelligence of the Inca Empire and adored their respect for the sacred mother earth and the mountains. You see the porters blessing the earth with water before they take a hard earned sip. My tour leader, Klever is an ex-porter who said that he has been known to carry 50kg plus up those mountains (I was struggling with my few shirts and bits & pieces!) It is great to see weight restrictions in place and now being actively enforced by the Peruvian authorities, meaning these fantastic porters can work with a reasonable load! In 2005 the number of people permitted to start the Inca trail has been strictly limited to 500 persons per day, including all tour guides, porters & tourists alike. This not only makes the trail less crowded & more enjoyable but also protects the Inca Trail for future generations to enjoy – Excellent! There is nothing like literally walking into the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu, an experience I will savour forever.

It was trekking boots in the bag & off to explore the jungle! What a brilliant contrast to La Costa (the coast) of Lima & La Sierra (the mountains) and the stunning sacred valley. The wildlife guides here were exceptional. Any bird sound or tree passed, they knew the names & facts in incredible detail.  The jungle lodge was cute & comfortable, the trips by canoe, riverboat & on foot were enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Stunning sunsets make for plenty of great photo opportunities!

If time permits, definitely consider the longer trip to include the famous Ballestas Islands, Colca Canyon, Arequipa & the remarkable Nazca Lines – others in the group raved about them!

Muchas gracias to the colourful Peru, I hope to see you again very soon.


 

Book 2009 tour at 2008 prices

Only 11 days left to book your 2009 tour at 2008 prices!

Massive tip from Travel mole: if you are looking at booking a tour that is currently in our 2008/09 brochure, then you should really book BEFORE 31st OCTOBER 2008! This means you will still pay 2008 prices, from the 1st November we will switch to the new prices and although still excellent value there, is a natural increase.

BOOK YOUR TOUR NOW

If you want to request one of our 2009/10 brochures to check out our new tours and plan your next holiday click here. Brochures will be sent out to our customers the week of the 3rd November 2008.

PLUS the closing date for our "Ultimate Adventure" competition is the 31st October. Sign up to E-tracks before then and tell us why you should win an Ultimate adventure and invite your three friends!

 


 

Last Man Standing...

Blog travel mole is way too excited at the moment…

The first Imaginative Traveller mystery tour is already getting bookings – and the brochure hasn’t even dropped on your doorsteps yet!

The brochure looks absolutely fantastic – we can’t wait to share it with all you Imaginative Travellers’ out there!

And every night “mole” is being entertained with tales of Bruce Parry in the Amazon, Paul Merton in India, or my new discovery on the BBC - “Last man standing”!

This show involves rather athletic men who look pretty damn tough in the western world travelling the world for an entire year testing their strengths with tribes, extreme sports and dare devil exploits! It really was quite entertaining viewing!

Travel mole watched in awe as these “hard men” beat each-other with sticks in very minimal clothing in deepest Ethiopia too see who would be the “Last man standing”!

But the most amazement was at what a beautiful place Ethiopia looked. Check out our tours to Ethiopia and see this magnificent and enigmatic country for yourself (no last man standing element involved!).

Check out our tours to the Amazon

And tours to India here


 

New Worldwide 2009/10 brochure - it's here!

So it’s here! Blog travel mole has a copy… sales team have a copy… operations have their copy, marketing and even accounts have a copy.. but what is it??!!

The new 2009/10 Imaginative Traveller Worldwide brochure of course!!

Here at Imaginative Traveller we are very excited to finally see our inspirational new 2009/10 Worldwide brochure.

Packed full of new tours to destinations such as Angola, Papua New Guinea  and Bosnia Hertzagovina. Plus tours exploring further into destinations such as hidden parts of India in Frontiers of India, volunteering with the wildlife of Namibia and a tour around the Galapagos, which doesn’t set foot on a boat – Ultimate Galapagos (well there are boats, it’s the Galapagos Islands, but it’s a great mix of land based exploring and some sailing!).

Visit here to order your copy of the 2009/10 brochure now 

Go here to see a full list of all our new trips!

 


 

Monday poem - Ode to a Japanese holiday

Ode to a Japanese Holiday

I thought I’d vacation in a far-away nation
For adventure and some learning.
So I put my pack upon my back
To satisfy my yearning.

I’d heard Tokyo was the place to go
For my idea of fun.
Thus, some yen I spent and off I went
To the Land of the Rising Sun.

There were others too who believed this true
So off to Japan they’d jet.
We gathered the bunch at a “bento box” lunch
And were friends as soon as we’d met.

Luke, our guide who stuck by our side,
Was just a delightful fellow.
He was in the know and very thorough,
Quite jovial and mellow.

We saw every shrine, drank săkē wine,
And with most meals we ate rice.
We felt genuinely pleased that the Japanese
Were so absolutely nice.

I thought, “I have gotta wear my yukata
To stroll around the streets.”
But ‘twas hard to find “geta” of the kind
To fit my sumo-wrestler feet.

We rented bikes and braved a hike
Up Fuji-san one morning.
Yes, we were told that it’d be tough and cold.
Indeed it was fair warning.

We rode high-speed trains and dodged some rain,
But on our faces there were smiles.
For we all knew that we’d see and do
New things every few miles.

And so I say that this holiday
Is “ichiban” on my list.
I’ll make a plan to re-see Japan
To catch those things I missed.

What an education was this vacation!
Such that when next year is done,
I have no doubt that I’ll be back out
To the Land of the Rising Sun!

See this wonderful country on "Empire of the Sun" - an excellent way to get to the heart of Japan.

 

 


 

Paul Merton in India

So continuing the tele-visual feast theme, travel mole stumbled upon “Paul Merton in India” last night, and what an entertaining take and unique insight into India this was!

Here at Imaginative Traveller we may not take you onto a stationary plane for your dinner; or to the festival celebrating the god Shiva where Paul watched naked, ash-covered sadhus suspend boulders from their penises; or see the monkey’s as they are employed as “civil servants” chasing smaller monkeys out of the town!

BUT YOU WILL ...

... definitely see some magnificently colourful festivals (naked men are dependent on the festival!); definitely interact with a lot of monkeys; and who really wants to be on a plane for any longer than necessary?!

Imaginative Traveller certainly aims to take you off the beaten track and see parts of India which many of the usual tour experiences choose to miss off the itinerary. Of course you’ll see the magnificent Taj Mahal and the important religious site of Varanasi, but we also try to add in some hidden extra’s.

If you travel on the newly launched “Sameers Rajasthan” you will be sure to meet his wonderful family who will take you into his home and cook dinner for you as a part of the family.

Or you may really want to travel into the depths of Northern India in our NEW tour “Frontiers of India”. This is a fascinating tour to one of the lesser known parts of India, the remote north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland. From the tea plantations in the far east of Assam to the tribal villages of northern Nagaland, from the wildlife-rich Kaziranga National Park to the beautiful hills of Meghalaya, this is a true journey into hidden India.

Or perhaps you have always wanted to see the true Spiritual India, with so many religions in one country, it’s a wonder they have lived in relative peace for so long! Northern India probably harbours more religions than anywhere else in the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism - to name just a few. On this unique tour we visit famous pilgrimage centres and religious sites where you will come face to face with challenging philosophies and tradition which are intriguing to witness and absorb. This the perfect trip to immerse yourself not only in India as a country but also its many varied religions and cultures where the sheer intensity and zest for life will create a truly memorable lasting impression.

Check out this NEW tour

See all of our India tours here

 


 

Big Cat Live – experience it for real!

Autumn is well and truly with us, jumpers are coming out of the closets, the shorter nights are here, Christmas plans are being discussed, clocks go back, but don't worry:

"BIG CAT LIVE" IS HERE!

One of the great, but naughty, pleasures of this time of year is putting our feet up and enjoying the television which provides a fantastic take on the world around us.

Many of us are enjoying the high’s and lows of life in “The Mara”, in the BBC’s “Big Cat Live”; experiencing the rollercoaster of events for single mum Shakira (female cheetah) as she suffered the tragic loss of her two adorable cubs. The battle with our conscience as we start to warm to the hyena’s (they have to fend for themselves and family as well!), and meeting the Masai Mara people as we learn about how they live in this wonderful and volatile environment - all from the comfort of our living rooms!

Why not see it all happen right in front of your eyes? You and your family can experience these wonderful sights on our classic family tour – Kenya Wildlife and Water or perhaps you have been inspired to work with and help the wildlife in Kenya; take a look at African Elephant Sanctuary

Other NEW family tours to Africa include:

Safari and Beach Adventure

Spirit of South Africa

Have you been on one of these tours? We want to hear all about it! What was special and unique about it?

If you have a 'travellers tale' why not share your experience with our worldwide audience.

Every month we will feature a traveller's tale and in return we will give the lucky writer a subscription to Wanderlust!

Please email your tale to editor@imtrav.net


 

Guide of the year 2008 - Runner Up!

Imaginative Traveller is extremely proud to announce that the bronze award of Wanderlust’s Paul Morrison Guide of the Year 2008 Award is our very own Sameer Rathore! This is the third time Sameer has been short-listed and it is a tremendous honour as the nominations came directly from the people who matter – our travelling clients.

Sameer is our top guide in Rajasthan and has quite literally set the standards for tour leading in India and all travellers, without any exception, enthuse about his qualities as a tour leader. Thanks so much to all our loyal clients who provided such excellent feedback such as Lisa Robinson from the States: “I just completed the Moghul Highlights tour with Sameer. Every moment of the tour was wonderful and my expectations were completely exceeded! Sameer is a truly phenomenal tour leader.

His passion for Rajasthan shines through in everything he says and does. He was absolutely charming and consistently went above and beyond to make each of us feel comfortable. It was obvious that he genuinely cared that we were having a good time. He richly deserves that award! I will most definitely travel with Imaginative Traveller again, and plan on booking your new ‘Sameer's Rajasthan’ tour (see below).

NEW TOUR – SAMEER’S RAJASTHAN

Sameer has proved so popular that we have launched a special new tour ‘Sameer’s Rajasthan’. If you want to return to India to enjoy Sameer’s leadership once more or would simply like to experience this for the first time then click here  for further details. These departures already have bookings on them and will sell out quickly so do book promptly.

Check out all our India tours here 


 

Sameer - Wanderlust Guide of the Year Award Tonight! - by the Blog Travel Mole

So tonight’s the night when we find out if Sameer Rathore has won the Wanderlust Paul Morrison Guide of the Year Award 2008.  In the hallowed rooms of the Royal Geographical Society, the winner will be announced and suffice to say, we hope that this makes it third time lucky for Sameer.   

Even after the closing date we were still getting incredible feedback from clients who had been on tour with ‘Sam’ and a contingency of loyal followers have actually flown over from North America to attend the award ceremony with him.  We have also had very positive response to his new tour ‘Sameer’s Rajasthan’ which Sameer designed in conjunction with our local office in India.  What started out as a 15 day trip increased very rapidly to three weeks when Sameer decided that there were just too many places and things he wanted to include in the itinerary.  So if you fancy being entertained in Sameer’s family home and burning the midnight oil with his very lively grandmother who delights in regaling stories to visitors then book now!

 

Sameer is also busy training other tour leaders in India so if you cannot make his special tour you can be safe in the knowledge that your tour leader was probably trained by the best in the business! Check out all our India trips here.   Sameer will be in the Imaginative Traveller’s offices Monday-Wednesday 6-8 October so if you want to have a chat with him about India please do call us then. Alternatively he will be broadcasting a live Webcast on Wednesday 8 October at 4pm so make sure you tune into that.  He will also be appearing on the Radio 4 ‘Excess Baggage’ programme with John McCarthy this Saturday morning at 10am.  

Amusing Indian anecdote from Sameer

Apparently a common ploy amongst greedy tuk-tuk drivers in Delhi is to claim that certain famous sites are shut so that they can then take you to their uncle’s carpet shop instead.  Sameer was once sitting in on a journey with some clients when the driver claimed that the Red Fort in Delhi was indeed shut and they would just have to go shopping instead.  Sameer ‘innocently’ replied “This is perfect then!  When the Red Fort is shut it is far more peaceful and we will be able to get much better photos of the outside without the crowds so please continue”.  After much hesitation the driver drove on but then discovered his tuk tuk had developed a fascinating engine problem and the group would have to swop to another one.  Odd that.  

 

Amusing English anecdote from Sameer

 

London – Wednesday 1 October at midday.  The heavens open on yet another gloomy autumnal day in the UK.    Imaginative Traveller UK office staff: "Miserable weather, what kind of summer was that?  It’s wet, windy and dismal.  And I forgot my umbrella.  I really hate this climate".   Sameer:"This is fantastic!  We never get rain in Rajasthan.  The skies are beautiful here, I hope it stays wet like this whilst I’m here.  I just LOVE this weather!"  

The joy of seeing your own country through someone else’s eyes....


 

Ramadan is Over - by Mohammed el Fayed in our Cairo office

As you may or may not know, the Moslem community are nearly finishing Ramadan. This means that the feast is coming soon... Yippee!  

The feast after Ramadan is one of the important events over here. It is called "Eid El Feter " or the Feast of Breakfast. People celebrate finishing the Holy Month of Ramadan and being good Moslems for a  whole month. The main thing that we all have to do in the feast is eat cookies! There are special cookies that are baked for the feast and everyone has to have them on the breakfast of the first day of the feast and over the coming few days.

This feast lasts for three days plus the last night of Ramadan and the whole country takes these four days off. The feast will start on Tuesday 30th September (tomorrow) and ends by the morning of Saturday 4th October. But because it continues over the weekend it also includes Monday 6 October which is a Public Holiday (Victory Day).

The government has announced that the Public Holiday will be from Tuesday 30th September till Tuesday 7th October where everything should get back to normal and banks, companies and offices should all be open again.

 

Check out our Middle East trips - perfect for the coming cooler months.

 

 

 


 

Does Imaginative Traveller have the X Factor?

So the X Factor is back on our screens in the UK.  We will head from boot camp to the finals over the following weeks keeping us occupied during the coming autumnal Saturday evenings.  There have been some horrendous auditions but surely nothing worse than you would find in your average karaoke bar?   Below is a write-up from our wandering blogger Julie Bye of her karaoke experiences around the world on some of our trips.

Karaoke Queen – Julie Bye

I have to confess, I do like to participate in the occasional karaoke! I do not even have to drink the local beer to give me the courage to get up and perform. It is, in fact, genetic! (My dad runs a local Karaoke in his spare time.) I was chatting to my dad and he asked if I had done any karaoke on my travels. What a stupid question! Of course I have!!!


The first time was in France, back in 1995. I was doing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition and one evening, we stumbled across a bar in a lovely village in the Alps. The problem was most of the songs were in French, so we were singing some absolute classics like “Je perdu mon chien”…Translated means I have lost my dog!! Fortunately there were a couple of Phil Collins’ songs that we were able to perform…Very badly I might hasten to add.


If you want to do karaoke properly, you have to go to Japan. The Japanese LOVE karaoke and there are numerous places in which to go and sing to your heart’s content. I went with 3 friends to a karaoke bar in Nagano and what I did not expect was our very own private karaoke room. These rooms were exceptionally well sound-proofed so no one could hear us and more importantly, we could not hear anyone else’s dulcet tones. There were comfy chairs, a big screen TV and the largest selection of songs I have ever seen. As I do not speak any Japanese, I was very relieved to see lots of songs in English. We stayed for 2 hours and had a wonderful night! 


My first Imaginative Traveller trip was to Thailand back in 2004. We were on a bus from Surat Thani to the Kao Sok region and I remember the driver putting on Thai karaoke!!!!! Now that was very funny!!!!! Not many people did sing along on that occasion.


I did our ‘Hola Peru’ trip in the summer of 2006. On our last night out together, our group went for a lovely meal in Lima and then we went to do karaoke!! I was reluctant to give anybody else the microphone as I was enjoying the night so much! What would happen is that the microphone was passed around the bar so no one had to get up to sing!


In 2007, I did the Transmongolian train journey from Beijing to St Petersburg. At the hotel we were staying at in Moscow, there was a large tent outside which housed a bar. Each night there was live music from a local entertainer. One night, we persuaded him to let me sing a song. Me and Lisa sung ‘Like a prayer’ by Madonna. I was actually very nervous on that occasion as very few people in the audience spoke English and we had to read the words from a computer! Everyone gave us a big cheer at the end of the song.

In Mali, I was persuaded to sing in a wonderful bar in Bamako with the band! We sang ‘Stand by Me’ and I really enjoyed performing, even though it was not supposed to be an evening of karaoke!!!


The only continent I have not done karaoke is in Antarctica! I am hoping very much that I will be able to go and entertain the penguins one day, I am sure they will appreciate my singing more than most people do!!!

 


 

Is the party over? - by the Blog Travel Mole

So Bradford and Bingley, one of the UK’s biggest building societies, is now partly owned by the Spanish bank Santander; British Energy, the UK’s main atomic power company, has been taken over by the French company EDF and, some might say, our foreign policy is partly run by the American government (or is that too much of a political hot potato?).  It is all very confusing as to who owns what and top of it all we have the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, Nancy Pelosi, declaring that the ‘Party is over’.


As far as Imaginative Traveller is concerned we would like to allay all fears about ownership and financial security.   For the record book, we are owned by First Choice who merged in 2007 with Europe’s largest tour operator, TUI, to become TUI Travel PLC. Fully bonded with ATOL and ABTA, quite simply your money and holiday are secure with us.


However tight things are, it does seem that people are still keeping their holidays sacrosanct and continuing to travel.   But they are perhaps being more careful about who they book with.  After all if you have one holiday a year you want to make sure it is perfect.  Along with our group trips we also have of course our tailor-made department so if you are in search of your ultimate dream holiday where you travel to the destinations of your choice, at the time of your choosing, staying at your preferred  accommodation  and doing the activities that you have personally chosen then it would make sense to give them a call and let us do the work putting it all together for you. 


The party need not be over – call our tailor-made department now on 01473 667345 or email tailor-made@imtrav.net.

 


 

Adrenalin Junkie or Bruce Parry pace? - by the Blog Travel Mole

So we have Jack Osbourne heading off in pursuit of adrenalin activities, white-water rafting down the Zambezi and Bruce Parry meandering down the Amazon from source to mouth discovering various strange and wonderful tribes and ways of life en route (did anyone see the shamanistic regurgitation episode this week?!). Two very different ways to ‘enjoy’ two very different parts of the world.


For those adrenalin junkies out there Victoria Falls would have to be the adventure capital of Africa. There are so many things to do, ranging from bungee jumping from the Zambian/Zimbabwean bridge to the afore-mentioned white water rafting along one of the most challenging river routes in the world. A number of our African trips either start or end here allowing you to enjoy several days at leisure – or upping your heart rate depending what you are looking for.

Alternatively, in South America, why not take a more leisurely pace and explore the Amazon by boat and on foot? A number of our Peruvian trips include a guided visit to the Amazon or else you can prolong your trip with a special extension either or post or pre tour. Bruce Parry is now in Brazil and we also visit Manaus on certain trips which is the gateway to the fabulous Brazilian jungle.

Check out our Brazil, Peru and Africa trips and see what all the fuss is about!

 


 

Win an Ultimate Adventure - by Imaginative Traveller

To celebrate the launch of Rough Guide’s newest book "Ultimate Adventures - A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel" we have launched  the Ultimate Competition!
 
To win you need to sign up to Etracks this month and tell us why YOU should win an Ultimate Adventure. You then have to invite three friends to join you and you will be entered into our draw to win an Ultimate Adventure! If you are already a subscriber of Etracks then click here to enter and invite your friends!
 
So follow in Jack Osbourne's footsteps and get that adrenalin pumping - Good luck!
 
Closing date for entries 31st October 2008. Terms and conditions are available on request.


 


 

Chris Moyles to top out on Kilimanjaro? - by the Blog Travel Mole

OK So the fit, athletic DJ that is Chris Moyles is planning on climbing Kilimanjaro next year. He has been spending too much time with Jack Osbourne methinks. Chris is going to have to do some serious training if he has any chance of huffing and puffing successfully to the top of Roof of Africa. And he’ll have to leave the Marlboro behind for sure….


However, being a rather active trekker myself I would never discourage anyone from challenging themselves to a target such as this. Having managed this climb myself I speak with authority when I say that a lot of it is having a strong mental attitude. Being physically fit of course certainly helps but you do not need to be a marathon-runner by any means. In fact, it has been proved that often the ultra-athletes suffer more at altitude as they are so used to going fast they forget that moving slowly is the secret at high altitude (that and drinking a lot – of water I hasten to add!).


I have also found that the older adventurers amongst us tend to have the upper edge over the youngsters and again I attribute this to a good strong mental attitude. The number of more mature clients I speak to who are worried about their fitness or keeping up with the pack when in fact it is often the younger ones battling to keep up with them! Proof of this has to be the oldest woman to climb Kilimanjaro, Anne Windh, who chose to climb with us and successfully summitted recently at the fantastic age of 77!


So get on out there all you fit or not so fit, young or not so young and, dare I say, fat and not so fat DJs and go for it!

Mt Kilimanjaro – Rongai Route – for the best way to 5,895m!


 

Imaginative Traveller - Operator of the Year? - by the Blog Travel Mole

In this era of uncertainty, businesses folding and airline bankruptcies it was rather nice to be nominated recently for two awards by our own industry.  Imaginative Traveller made the Top Five in both the Travel Company of the Year (supplier under 100,000 pax) and Specialist Operator of the Year categories at the Travel Trade Gazette Awards.  We often receive praise from our clients but it is always especially satisfying when one’s peers also compliment you on a ‘job well done’.  The Top Five were chosen from the entire travel industry so it is an extremely satisfying achievement for a smaller company such as ourselves.

Whilst we are on the subject of good feedback how about this for a satisfied customer..?

“Having just completed a trip with the Imaginative Traveller, I have to say they are by far the best company around. Not only was the itinerary perfectly constructed with the ideal amount of time spent in each location, the tour leader was outstanding. I cannot recommend the Imaginative Traveller highly enough and I will certainly be travelling with them again in the very near future. Thank you Imaginative Traveller!”

 

 

 


 

An early birthday present for Darwin? - by the Blog Travel Mole

Next February we see the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of his monumental missive ‘On the Origin of the Species’.  The church has kindly seen to it to issue an apology for originally refuting its claims on the origins of life on earth – a tad late methinks.  And to quote the Darwin family – a tad ‘pointless’……


The Galapagos and their astounding wildlife (on which Darwin’s theory was based) are certainly rather popular at the moment.  If you receive our monthly ETracks then you will be aware of all the new trips we are launching there for 2009.  These are available to book now (both yacht and land-based trips) and with limited visitor capacity as well as using a small, privately charter boat, the Eden, it is highly advisable to book sooner rather than later.


Of course Darwin was extremely widely travelled and also enjoyed various stops along the South American coastline from the Beagle.  He was particularly impressed with the landscapes of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego (who isn’t it?) as well as northern Chile.  Check out our trips there http://www.imaginative-traveller.com/destinations/South-America/Chile/trips as well as all of our Galapagos trips http://www.imaginative-traveller.com/destinations/South-America/Galapagos-Islands and follow in some very ancient and famous footsteps.


 

XL Airways Collapse - by the Blog Travel Mole

The travel industry is still reeling with the collapse of XL Airways today. Being part of the biggest tour operator in Europe (TUI) makes Imaginative Traveller a far more secure business than most independent operators out there. We are not only ABTA bonded but also ATOL bonded so both your land package and your flights are secure – IF you book flights with us that is. We highly recommend doing this for a number of reasons outlined below.

In the meantime, our parent company First Choice is busy helping out stranded travellers around the world and we hope their situations are resolved swiftly with the least amount of stress possible. Holidays are very precious. Simon Calder, the travel journalist, believes travellers have, however, had it too good for too long with all these discounted fares and holidays. Imaginative Traveller does not believe in discounting as we believe we offer quality at the best price in the first place. Something to bear in mind when deciding on your next holiday……

Flights
As your committed one-stop travel specialist let us do the groundwork for you when deciding on international flights. We source our flights daily, giving you the best price from a wide range of airlines. Discuss your flight requirements either by completing the online enquiry form below, or contact our team.


Why you should book your flights with Imaginative Traveller


• Being licensed (ATOL 3986) we provide you with financial protection
• Access to directly negotiated rates with major airlines means cheaper and often more flexible fares
• Our in-depth knowledge of each tour and arrival / departure city enables us to book the most convenient connections to link up with your trip
• We can provisionally hold flight seats for you with no obligation to purchase. This helps to ensure that the price that we quote is the price that you pay. With many flights we can also accept a £100 deposit giving you more time to save for the trip of a lifetime
• We provide a full booking service. Airlines are notorious for making schedule changes or re-routings (and sometimes even cancellations) so if you experience a problem with your flight booking, we will deal with this for you
• Discounted domestic flight connections from airports within the UK are usually available in conjunction with your international flights. If you book a domestic flight separately to your international sector then you run the risk of having to purchase a new ticket should delays and missed connections occur
• We are a one-stop shop and thus the link between your flights and your tour should any difficulties arise

 


 

Travelling in war zones by the Blog Travel Mole

Today is of course the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the USA.  New York was reduced to a war zone in just one morning.  Which started me thinking about the different war zones around the world that we visit.  Obviously they are war zones no longer but just when does it become acceptable to visit these places without an aspect of ‘ogling’? 

Not forgetting of course that these places were usually tourist destinations and attractions in their own right before any trouble occurred.  Having said that, how many people realised what an incredible place the Falkland Islands were before the Argentine invasion?  I am lucky enough to have experienced the stunning windswept landscapes and phenomenal wildlife of these islands which are part of our Antarctic cruise itineraries and cannot recommend a visit there highly enough.  A superb mix of wilderness, wildlife and, of course, history - both old and new.


You can visit Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland with us on many of our eastern European trips and Anzac cove in Gallipoli on many of our Turkish tours.  We have NEW trips to Angola and also Papua New Guinea following the Kokoda Trail which many Australians will be familiar with from World War II.  Also, a brilliant new combination of Kenya and Uganda on our Gorillas and Game tour.  Who would have thought that Libya would emerge as one of the world’s leading destinations for travellers after Lockerbie and the ensuing bombings?  But hey, if Condoleezza Rice can visit then Imaginative Traveller can certainly put on a great new trip there including archaeological visits to Leptis Magna and Sabratha plus excursions through the desert to the Akakus Mountains for some of the best preserved rock art on earth. 

We also have an intriguing new tour to the little known states of northern India which kicks off in Assam at the World War II site of Digboi before continuing to Nagaland and Meghalaya.


One of our exciting new trips visits Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.  The events in former Yugoslavia will be fresh in many people’s memories but if you put those aside you are looking at some of the most stunning and dramatic scenery and mix of cultures you are likely to find in Europe.  And mostly crowd-free as the word has not yet got around about what a superb part of the world this is to visit.  Go now!

We will not be visiting Afghanistan any time soon though as there is such a thing as responsible travel.  If you have any questions about the new trips mentioned above then please email editor@imtrav.net.  They will all be launched officially very shortly – but this is a sneaky preview for all you bloggers out there!


 

Seeing the Northern Lights - by the Blog Travel Mole

I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights.  Just one of those things I have always wanted to do.  I am fortunate enough to have seen the Southern Cross – laying on the ice on the Antarctic Peninsula one night surrounded by scurrying penguins (do penguins scurry?) but have never seen the mystical magnetic forces that are the Aurora Borealis.  I don’t pretend to understand the science behind them and it doesn’t really matter. 

On my one trip to the Arctic Circle the conditions were perfect for them - mid-January, no artificial light to ruin the effect (not that there are any great metropolis in northern Finland anyway) and a beautiful clear sky.  I sat up through the night and watched....nothing.  Still the experience was mesmerising in its own way just for the peace and night-time scenery.

Last weekend Joanna Lumley also went in search of the Northern Lights for UK television.  The power of the celebrity I supposed...they appeared for her.  If you fancy trying to see this incredible phenomena then you could take our NEW Husky Sled Adventure to northern Sweden where there is a good chance of spotting them and an absolutely guaranteed chance to have fun husky sledding, cross country-skiing and snowshoeing amidst some of the most pristine and magical scenery to be found anywhere.

Contact editor@imtrav.net for further information.


 

What is your idea of exploration? by the Blog Travel Mole

“Men Wanted: For hazardous journey.  Small wages, bitter cold months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.”  Sir Ernest Shackleton

Exploration conjures up all sorts of ideas.  Polar exploration at the turn of the century was the big thing much as space exploration is to us now.  With today’s Big Bang experiment happening in Switzerland scientists are trying to explore what happened to 25% of the universe which apparently disappeared during the original Big Bang.  Exploration at its most extreme.  The explorer Bruce Parry has a current series on television exploring the Amazon – one glorious area of the world that still remains unexplored in parts.  And there are still many regions that are relatively unexplored thankfully – remember the recent aerial photos of the tribespeople who were shooting arrows at their first airplane?
 
The crazy thing is that some consider Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition a failure.  In terms of objectives achieved then they are right I suppose but what he actually achieved without a single loss of human life was utterly incredible and an inspiration to all who are interested in exploring.  And that would most definitely be me. Which is why I was so excited when, as the Imaginative Traveller Travel Mole, I was privy to the new trips we are planning for 2009.  Two stand out to me – a challenging trek along the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea and an expedition to Angola.

However you look at it though exploration can occur anywhere depending on your experience and outlook on life.  A city break in Paris is still exploring if you have never been there before. Or you might have to travel further to Mongolia say, for what you personally feel to be true exploration.

If you fancy joining us on some newexplorations next year then please email editor@imtrav.net for more information on some of our 2009 trips. 


 

Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour! – by the Blog Travel Mole

“Destination Anywhere – sooner or later I don’t care”


The ultimate mystery tour is surely one where you simply turn up at the airport with no idea where you are going.  You still get the excitement of the holiday build-up but this then continues throughout the trip as each day you travel to or experience something or somewhere new.  There is no checking itineraries to see if you are arriving on time or if dinner is included on Day 7, you just go with the flow and expect the unexpected.


Well the good news is that Imaginative Traveller are launching such a trip!  ‘A Mystery Tour – Destination (or Destinations) Unknown’. 


Right now our Operations Manager is currently escorting a celebrity journalist on their very own private Mystery Tour as a build up to the launch of the main event in conjunction with our new 2009 brochure in October.  They were even checked in at Heathrow without knowing their final destination so the excitement was prolonged!
If you fancy taking the ultimate travel experience then please email editor@imtrav.net for further (but very limited) details.

 

 

 


 

In Memory of Mao-Mao the Giant Panda - by the Blog Travel Mole

Wow!  Did anyone see the pictures of the Giant Pandas being rescued during the recent earthquake in the papers over the weekend?  They looked like floppy cuddly toys being hauled out of their enclosures which were collapsing around them.  The Sanctuary at Wolong was severely affected by the earthquake and the centre staff risked their lives to rescue these creatures from certain death.  Only one panda actually died during the quake – Mao-Mao, a female who sheltered under the wall of her enclosure and was sadly crushed.  The pandas were moved to other centres but Wolong will desperately need some funding if it is to regain its status as the world’s leading Giant Panda Sanctuary.

Our volunteer tours to Wolong were inevitably affected this summer but should be back up and running for next year.  Our standard tours to Chengdu visit the Giant Panda Research Centre.  Plus don’t forget that on certain tours not only do you visit the Giant Pandas but you also take in Yangshuo where we are currently offering a free sound and light show IF you book before 31st October.  See our Special Offers

 

 

 


 

Thailand, Georgia and Beyond - by the Blog Travel Mole

Trouble seems to erupt around the world on a regular basis unfortunately.  Most recently this has occurred in Thailand where we run a large number of tours including one of our most popular - Wilderness Adventure. We are currently monitoring the situation and sincerely hope things calm down over there which we are sure they will.  At the moment there has been no need to amend any trips. 

What quite often happens in situations such as this is that the press get hold of the news and all appears dire.  However I can speak from personal experience in saying that quite often travellers on the ground have no idea that there is even any trouble occurring.  I myself was in Bangkok as part of my world backpacking travels during an uprising (against what I cannot remember now) but actually had no idea it was happening until I rang home and got severely reprimanded by some very worried parents for not calling earlier and for still being in the city.  I had seen no disturbance whatsoever.  I continued my Thai travels without a problem and things soon settled back to normal in the capital.

With Georgia the Foreign Office advised all but essential travel for a limited time during the recent problems so we were forced to cancel our summer Treasures of the Caucasus trip.  However, no sooner had we done so than the advice changed - for the better! That is the way things go sometimes - the safety of our clients is always foremost for us but it can be frustrating when situations like this occur.

Fortunately we do not run many tours to the Caribbean in the hurricane season!  Let's hope for a safe and trouble-free autumn/winter season but rest assured Imaginative Traveller will be monitoring any potential situations closely.


 

Following in Darwin's Footsteps - the MD in the Galapagos!

I have just returned from the most amazing family holiday ever -  an 8-day exploration of the Galapagos Islands.

Everything our wonderful guide promised we would see, we did. The animals are all in the wild, but looked like they had been positioned for us to see. They were oblivious to humans, nesting right by the trails and totally ignoring our presence.  Blue-footed boobies danced their enchanting mating dance while iguanas strolled by, sea lions swam playfully alongside us, penguins and sharks followed the boat and we dived with turtles through amazingly colourful reef fish.

And I have not started to describe the varied landscapes or giant tortoise!

Our boat was an 8 cabin motor yacht.  All cabins offered large windows and the saloon had comfy sofas and dining “snugs”. The two inflatable boats took 8 passengers ashore a time which meant no waiting around or missing out on anything at landings.   To top it all, each time we arrived back at the boat, Frank the bar man would be stood like an English butler with a tray of nibbles and drinks for us!
 
On our last day a sea lion sunned himself on the yacht’s bathing platform – he was obviously enjoying the joys of small ship cruising too!

I strongly urge anyone of any age to experience these incredible islands as soon as possible whether it is on one of our traditional cruise itineraries or our fabulous new land-based multi activity trip – the Ultimate Galapagos!

Matt West - MD Imaginative Traveller

 


 

Ramadan 2008

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is due to begin around 1st September and end around 1st October 2008. These dates are confirmed by the “Mufti” (the State Religious Advisor, appointed by the government) according to the cycle of the moon.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Islam uses a lunar calendar where each month begins with the sighting of the new moon. Because the lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar used elsewhere, Islamic holidays "move" each year, which is why the observation of the Moon by the Mufti is considered to be an important and essential event.

For more than a billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a "month of blessing" marked by prayer, fasting, and charity.

Fasting is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam and Muslims practice “Sawm” or fasting for the entire month of Ramadan. As with other Islamic duties, all able Muslims take part in “Sawm” from about age twelve.

The Holy Quran states that one may eat and drink at any time during the night "until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night.”

Fasting serves many purposes. While hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor. Fasting is also an opportunity to practice self-control and to cleanse the body and mind, and in this most sacred month, fasting helps Muslims feel the peace that comes from spiritual devotion as well as kinship with fellow believers.

The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by five things:
• The telling of a lie
• Slander
• Denouncing someone behind their back
• A false oath
• Greed or covetousness.
These are considered offensive at all times, but are most offensive during the Fast of Ramadan

During Ramadan in the Muslim world, most restaurants are closed during the daylight hours. Families get up early for “Suhoor” (late dinner) a meal eaten before the sun rises. After the sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal known as “Iftar” (breakfast). Iftar usually begins with dates and sweet drinks that provide a quick energy boost.

It is common for Muslims to go to the Masjid (Mosque) during Ramadan and spend several hours praying and studying the Quran. In addition to the five daily prayers, during Ramadan Muslims recite a special prayer called the Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer). The length of this prayer is usually 2-3 times as long as the daily prayers. Some Muslims spend the entire night in prayer. On the evening of the 27th day of the month, Muslims celebrate the Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). It is believed that on this night Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Quran. And according to the Quran, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year.

When the fast ends (the first day of the month of Shawwal) it is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Id-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged, friends and family gather to pray and enjoy large meals. In some cities fairs are held to celebrate the end of the Fast of Ramadan.

In Egypt’s big cities like Cairo and Alexandria the night time in Ramadan is a really festive atmosphere. Most of the big hotels and Social and Sports clubs set an oriental tent where Shisha, food and drinks (no alcohol of course) are served all night with live music and some traditional dancing. These parties and celebrations go on until sunrise.  During the weekends (Thursday/Friday nights) these tents get really busy.

Don’t be shocked when you see big tables in the streets and near the mosques with huge amounts of food served for “El Iftar” and “Al Suhoor”. This is called “Maadet El Rahman” and it’s for free, as the mosques and the rich Muslims prepare them for poor Muslims that cannot afford a decent meal whilst in Ramadan. It is something that creates a nice friendly atmosphere among different levels during such a Holy month.

Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, literally the "Festival of Breaking the Fast".
Eid al-Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations (the other occurs after the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca). At Eid al-Fitr people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children and enjoy visits with friends and family.

A sense of generosity and gratitude colours these festivities. Although charity and good deeds are always important in Islam, they have special significance at the end of Ramadan. As the month draws to a close, Muslims are obligated to share their blessings by feeding the poor and making contributions to mosques.

Visiting the relevant countries during Ramadan, provides an utterly enchanting atmosphere where you will experience the generosity and kind spirit of the people, enjoy the evening festivities and learn a great deal more of their fascinating cultures.


 

The origin of Chinese Firecrackers by Susan Li, tour leader China

As many people know, Chinese love setting off firecrackers - especially extremely colourful ones at major festivals or events, such as the recent opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games here in Beijing.  But how and why has it become so popular in China?

The tradition dates back more than 2,000 years. Some historical books say ”when hearing chickens crowing in the early morning of the first day of Chinese New Year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, everybody will get up and set off firecrackers to ward off evil spirits in their own yards.” At that time powder and paper was not invented yet. So people burnt bamboo sticks. An ancient but very true reflection of superstitious Chinese people wanting a peaceful life.

About 1,000 years later, alchemists found that saltpeter, sulfa and charcoal mixed together burnt and eventually exploded. Thus gunpowder was invented. People started to put it into bamboo sticks which made a bigger noise than before. By the Northern Song Dynasty, (around 960 AD) people were using paper to wrap the gunpowder up, making two or three crackers tied together. Very soon it became so popular that the tradition spread nationwide.

Nowadays, when Chinese New Year arrives, the whole family will set off huge firecrackers, praying for good luck for the whole year round. They are also used on other occasions such as weddings, funerals, ceremonies and other major events – like the Olympics!

 

China


 

Up, up and away in Turkey by Julie Bye

One of the most memorable things I have done on my travels with Imaginative Traveller is to go on a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia in Turkey. For me, it was an absolute highlight of my trip, even though the alarm clock had to be set for 4.15am! Trust me, it was well worth it!

Cappadocia really is one of the most bizarre landscapes I have ever seen. It was formed about 40 million years ago when volcanic eruptions covered the area with light rock called tufa. This has been eroded over time to create some wonderfully surreal rock formations, my favourite being the ‘fairy chimneys’. What is really cool is that they were previously used as dwellings and you can get lost in the underground tunnels. Not for the claustrophobic! People mostly spend their time wandering through Cappadocia on foot but for me the best perspective was from the air.

We were picked up from the hotel at 4.30am and after registering, we were taken by mini bus to the launch site. I watched in amazement as the massive balloons were inflated. We were split in to two groups and there were 10 people in our balloon’s basket, plus the pilot. We had a safety briefing and then were ready to go. I was so excited as I felt our balloon gently lift in to the air - it felt like it was my birthday (I am 30 and still get excited about my birthday)! We could hear a very British voice (the other balloon pilot) on the walkie talkie. He was advising us of the current wind speed and direction. Both balloons went higher in to the sky and we could finally see the vastness of the area below. For well over an hour we would rise and fall in between the rock formations. I loved the sight of other balloons floating around in the air and enjoyed taking numerous photos of the rocks below. I am so glad that I had a digital camera as I am positive I took more than two hundred photos. To be fair, sometimes I can take over a hundred photos on a night out at the pub!

Hot air ballooning is so peaceful. Apart from the roar of the fire from the gas cylinder sporadically being set off to help us rise, it is wonderfully silent. Everyone was lost in the experience and you would occasionally hear some ‘wows’ and then silence again. Our pilot did an amazing job and brought us back to earth with a very gentle bump.

We got out of the basket and were all given a glass of sparkling wine. This is apparently traditional after your voyage.

I have been told that it is one of the best value commercial hot air balloon flights that you will ever get the opportunity to do, so my advice, do not miss it!

See all our adventure holidays to Turkey

balloon 2

 


 

Going bananas in India by Julie Bye


The best piece of advice I was given for travelling in India was to pack a sense of humour. I found myself laughing hysterically every single day that I was there. I was not laughing at people or being disrespectful it was just that I experienced sights and events which I found funny.


The hotel we were staying at in Varanasi was lovely. There was a swimming pool and a great restaurant. The rooms were nice and it was very relaxing. We went to a nearby café to eat, in between tours. We all chose various food items and the waiter took our order. Banana split was on the menu. Yummy! The banana split was ordered alongside all the other dishes and we waited patiently for our snacks to arrive. The waiter brought everything to the table and we began to tuck in. One of my friends was prodding his spoon furiously into the ice cream. I looked around in bemusement and asked him if he was okay. He turned to everyone at the table and told us there was NO BANANA IN HIS BANANA SPLIT!!!!!

I burst out laughing, closely followed by everyone at the table. We called the waiter across and told him of the mistake. He apologised and walked towards the kitchen. We thought a new banana split was going to be created and brought to the table. The waiter appeared a couple of minutes later and he put down a plate beside the bowl of ice cream. On the plate was a whole banana! It was not peeled or cut up at all. I continued to shake with laughter. The look of complete disbelief on my friend’s face was a perfect Kodak moment. He shrugged and peeled his banana and put it in to the bowl of ice cream. Voila! One banana split, Indian style!

A Taste of India

Varanasi Extension

mENU


 

STOP PRESS limited spaces on Amongst the Maharajahs 6 September

Amongst the Maharajahs trip report by Christina Zanvettor


India has always been one of my ‘must do’ destinations and I couldn’t wait to get there and see what this crazy place was all about. Well, crazy is just one of the words to describe it - intense, overwhelming, dusty, smelly, noisy, colorful, passionate and extreme are amongst the others. I have had lots of Asian friends in the past and got really close to their way of life and culture so my approach was quite relaxed after all, I knew what to expect and I wasn't disappointed, but for the less patient and unexperienced traveller this country could really be a huge shock!

I arrived into Delhi at night. The roads were jammed with all sorts, rusty cars, smoky tuk tuks, skinny cows, tired-looking rickshaws and more.  I was sitting at the front next to the driver, hanging half off the side and had a great laugh trying to swerve all those obstacles in our way. It was like playing a mad video game!

We then headed to Jaipur which was amazing, very vibrant, very hot, very pink and definitely very desert-like. We went sightseeing to the Water Palace, the Tiger Fort, the Amber Fort and the surrounding area of Jaipur. Rajasthani people were really friendly and I loved the traditional red clothing and the huge amount of gold decoration they worn. In the evening we visited a nomad village on the outskirts of town by the edge of the desert and had a beautiful meal sitting in the tents amongst cushions and pipes.

We caught the train to Agra.  It was about 2 –3 hrs journey, with comfy padded seats, refreshments and papers available and stunning green scenery with rustic villages scattered outside the window, such a different India! As we approached Agra I started getting very anxious about the fact that I was almost about to see my favourite piece of architecture in the world… the Taj! Armed with two sets of cameras, and pen and paper for my thoughts, I walked through the gates and the clear beauty of the Taj Mahal was unveiled. I must have spent at least four hrs just staring at the darn thing, it was so gigantic and amazing. We walked inside and all the way around it and took million of photos - of people too, especially children and women so bright and colourful in their saris, a true celebration of sparkles reflecting on the white polished marble. A photographer’s dream altogether.

After a mad shopping spree, excellent especially for leather goods, we finally headed back to Delhi where our fantastic adventure terminated.
I can only be amazed by all I’ve seen. India definitely touches your heart and soul. You cannot avoid being affected in one way or another. India is really, as they say,‘an assault to all your senses’.


Amongst the Maharajahs

 India


 

Georgia - an eye opener by Jim O'Brien

Seeing as Georgia is in the news I felt the need to put some of my own memories down about this amazing country after a visit there a few years ago.  I didn't actually know a whole lot about the region (Georgia or Armenia) and had only spoken to one person who'd been before, but after a couple of trips to the local library to read what little literature was available I decided it rather intrigued me. 

Surprisingly cosmopolitan, Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is home to a diverse array of museums, my particular favourite being one featuring intricate gold jewellery from antiquity; Georgia is after all the fabled 'land of the golden fleece' mentioned in the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts.
 
The High Caucasus mountains are so remote and harsh that in winter almost the entire population of some villages move to the lowlands, leaving behind just a few to see the season out. In August there were still pockets of snow that the summer sun had not yet melted, contributing to the fresh mountain streams that gradually turned into rivers as we descended from yet another stunning high pass.
 
Although the 'advance of progress' means that some of the houses in the small mountain hamlets are modern, in many villages such as Dartlo and Parsma the buildings are made entirely from the surrounding rocks; with watchtowers poking into the sky from strategic positions; it was not that long ago when the Russian Imperial army marched down through the Caucasus to conquer Georgia and the watchtowers also served to help guard against other villages, in an area where feuds between the neighbouring villages are still not unheard of. The irony of modern day events certainly is not lost on me.

Armenia shares a similar Christian history with Georgia - both were among the first nations to adopt Christianity as a state religion, with Armenia claiming to be the first - and so abounds with world heritage monasteries and churches, many of which are still used today. But it was the capital Yerevan that struck me - even more cosmopolitan than Tbilisi, we sat one night eating pizza in a Soviet era plaza in front of a spectacular opera house, watching crowds assemble for a live MTV concert. The architecture here was a constant reminder of the efforts of Soviet Russia to bring 'civilisation' to its far flung provinces, but here they had eschewed the monotonous drab architecture that it was so renowned for and injected not a small helping of style and panache.

Russia’s influence is obvious everywhere yet the two nations stand alone as destinations in their own right.

Treasures of the Caucasus
 
Georgia


 

An Olympic Menu by Julie Bye

At a recent (rain-filled) barbeque, my family had an amusing conversation about weird and wonderful foods that we had all sampled throughout the world. In a nutshell, I was the outright winner.

From jellyfish in Japan to Guinea Pig in Peru, I have enjoyed, and in some cases not so much, unique delicacies prepared lovingly in different countries.

But by far my most memorable ‘food experience’ was when I travelled to Vietnam with a group of Canadian travel agents. Our tour leader Jon had arranged for us to eat at a very special restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. It was not a fancy restaurant, but it was extremely busy with locals and a few tourists. Jon ordered a huge selection of food and then he said that he had arranged for us to try some of the restaurant’s ‘specialties’. We were enjoying some wonderful noodle soups when a plate of deep fried scorpion was set down in front of me. The whole group stopped eating and a chorus of ‘yuks’ and ‘errrs’ resonated around the table. Being a representative of Imaginative Traveller, I was given the opportunity to eat the very first scorpion. The stinger had been removed and I bit down tentatively in to the claw. The entire group and a couple of nearby tables were watching me. It was very crunchy and the easiest way to describe the taste is that I thought it not to be too dissimilar to exceptionally crispy bacon! I ate the entire scorpion. There was a tiny cheer from everyone!

Three gentlemen were sitting on one of the nearby tables and one of them asked me where I was from. I said I was from the UK.  He handed me some US dollars. I was a little confused by this and he explained that they had all bet on whether I would eat the scorpion. He had won but he thought that I deserved the money!! I have never been given money to eat food before!

The group continued with the feast and a big boiling pot of soup arrived at the table. We were all intrigued by this and had a look inside. The waiter smiled and spooned the main ingredient out of the pot for all of us to see. It was goat penis! Our tour leader had ordered us goat penis. This of course led to much hilarity and photo taking. But who was going to try this wonderful dish? I do not need to give you all three guesses because you already know who the nominated person was.

Everyone gasped and laughed as I put the beautifully prepared penis of a goat in my mouth. I am unable to describe the taste as I honestly can’t remember it. All I remember about the incident is that I sat and chewed it for a couple of minutes before deciding I could not swallow it because it was the penis of a goat, so I had to spit it out in to a napkin!!! The jokes still haunt me nearly two years later.

My dad’s overcooked prawns at our family barbeque really do not seem so bad now…

Trips to Vietnam 

 Jules scorpion


 

Rough Guide

Simply subscribe to E-Tracks and you will automatically be entered into a draw to win one of five copies of the Rough Guide of your choice!

We will contact the five lucky winners at the end of each month.

Click here to sign up to E-Tracks

etracks


 

Festival au Desert in Mali by Julie Bye

The Festival au Desert takes place in Essakane, Mali each year. It showcases traditional Tuareg music as well as music from around the world. In January 2008, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Mali and be a part of this amazing and surreal festival. You may be asking why I found it ‘surreal’. Close your eyes and try to imagine…

There is a stage. The stage is surrounded by sand and rolling dunes and nothing else. The stage is isolated in the middle of the desert. Men on camels wander in front of the stage. In fact, they are roaming freely around the festival site. The men are wearing bright blue cotton robes and dark turbans to protect themselves from the burning sun. Ladies wander on foot through the hot sand. They sit in front of the stage and do not move for hours. There is no dancing. It is very civilised. The sun sets and then the festival comes to life. After midnight, some of Mali’s most renowned performers play their set. There are still hundreds of people sitting down, with a ring of people dancing behind them. At 3am the show finishes and everyone goes to the ‘disco’. There is a disco amongst the sand dunes, a DJ playing dance music and everyone is having a great time. As I said, I found it very surreal.

There were numerous local Tuareg groups who performed. Tinariwen,a Tuareg band that has now become world famous, played very late one night. Vieux Farka Toure, the son of the late Ali Farka Toure played and I thought he was brilliant. According to our guide, he has inherited his dad’s immense talent. There were other famous West African acts that thrilled the crowd with their performances. It is a shame that you had to wait all night to hear the best acts. However it did mean that we were up until dawn, enjoying the late night parties. And it did not matter if we slept the morning away because we did not miss anything!

Throughout the afternoons, they would showcase the international guests. Oddly enough for me it was the international guests that let the festival down slightly. A few years ago Robert Plant played and I think everyone was hoping he would make another appearance. Me, I was wishing for Sting or U2!

Still, it was interesting to watch how the gathered locals reacted to these interesting performances. Some sat very still and there was very little reaction. Some just walked away. I laughed to myself and waited patiently for the next act!!

I was there for three days. In those few days, I heard some incredible music, and also saw some very bizarre performances. Cirque de Soleil it certainly was not!

Whilst sitting on a sand dune in the early evening, it really struck me how remote the Festival au Desert really is. It certainly is not Glastonbury. There is no mud for a start! We got the chance to go on a camel ride up and down the dunes surrounding the festival. That was really cool. Sand went everywhere as we raced down the dunes. The camel drivers watched in bemusement and were ready to take us back to our tent after our few minutes of silliness!

Overall, I enjoyed the music. I had fun dancing in the sand. I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere and drinking warm beer. I loved the market that had been set up and although I was thoroughly ripped off, I do have some gorgeous Tuareg silver jewellery and artifacts as mementos of my time in the desert.

Mali
 


 

Walking in the Sierra Nevada by Angela Seabrook

As keen walkers we decided to choose Imaginative Traveller’s Alpujarra & Sierra Nevada  8 day walking tour for our holiday last September. The transfer to our village destination of Trevelez from Malaga only took around 3 hours, heading inland towards the mountains. The higher we went the more spectacular the views became.

Typically, Trevelez seems to spill down the mountainside with the huge Mulhacén mountain (the highest in Spain) providing an imposing backdrop to the brilliant white of the buildings. At 1475m above sea level the village is the highest in Andalucia and our apartments overlooked the entire valley. The area is known for its fresh local produce, freshwater trout and in particular its world renowned air-cured ham which can be seen hanging from ceiling hooks in huge warehouses as well as in cafes and private houses.

Our first walk to Juviles started with a very steep ascent but was followed by wide well-defined tracks on the edge of forested hill slopes and then open moorland. A more gentle descent passed village gardens to a main street concluded the route where we had an opportunity to sample the local tapas while we waited for our scheduled pick-up. Throughout the week all our walks returned in good  time to recuperate from the exertions of the day at a local tapas bar.

On a day off from walking the foothills we ventured to Granada about 100km away. An early start was necessary as entrance to the famous Alhambra Palace is by timed ticket and you needed to queue. The Palace itself is huge with formal gardens, courtyards and  ancient military barracks as well as palaces built by various rulers since the 13th Century.  The most spectacular are those forming the Royal Residence. Here amazing decorative architecture, mosaics, carved ceilings, fountains and shady courtyards can be seen.

Walking days resumed with a route to Portugos. Here the walk climbed steeply out of the valley snaking its way through wooded slopes to a wide open track. Our subsequent descent brought us into a pretty village with a welcome shady terrace attached to the now essential tapas bar where the most fantastic ice cold beers were served.  The high spot of the week was a climb to Penabon – a rocky outcrop at about 2,500m overlooking Trevelez and the valley. It was from here we actually spotted Capra or Spanish Ibex, extremely difficult to see as they are well camouflaged against the rocks and shadows and are very timid.

Our final day was spent in the Poquiera Gorge. Starting with a mountain road experience by mini-bus to the three villages of Capileira, Bubion and Pampaneira.  Here there was the option of walking downhill between the villages or taking the mini-bus, the overriding criteria being the arrival time in Pampaneira where lunch was scheduled. Each of these villages had its own distinct character and ample time was available for exploring provided you utilised the mini-bus. If you had chosen to walk then distance and terrain dictated that all available time was given to the route.

So ended a week where the number of British tourists could be counted on fingers and where the locals still regarded visitors with a certain amount of curiosity. Having seen some of the best scenery in Europe and sampled some of the best meals going we were totally impressed with our choice of Spain for a walking holiday.

 

Alpujarra & Sierra Nevada

Spain


 

Championship football in Argentina by tour leader Tom Harari

Football is king in Argentina and as we were in Buenos Aires the day that ‘Team River Plate’ were playing for the cup we felt we couldn’t miss the opportunity to witness the event. As we walked towards the “Monumental” stadium, a sea of white and red football jerseys appeared all around us. The atmosphere was electric with chants of “Vamos, Vamos, Vamos River Plate” rose from the surrounding crowds.

Arriving at the stadium we took our seats.  On the pitch was a veteran’s game to keep the crowds entertained whilst they waited for the main event. On the far end of the stadium was a small corner of yellow and red – these were the ‘Team Olimpo’ supporters who’d travelled about 200 miles to support their 2nd rank team versus the current league leaders. Even though there was still one week of play ‘River Plate’ would be crowned champions if they won this game.

As the veteran’s game came to an end the excitement rose within the crowd. More chants and stamping of feet echoed around the stadium. Confetti and streamers were thrown from above high and red and white flairs burned around. Hands clapped with more vigour, feet stamped with more insistence and voices chanted louder and with more passion. The game hadn’t even started. And then the crowd erupted as their team ran onto the pitch.

Kick off and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind who the stronger team was. One after the other attempts on goal were made and when ‘River Plate’ finally scored the crowd went wild with excitement. But then the wind changed, ‘Olimpo’, who had been doing a decent, if not amazing, job at defending themselves, scored. The tension rose with the close of the first half, but the fans still believed in their team.

The second half was more of the same and the atmosphere rose once again. And then, finally, ‘River Plate’ scored their second goal and the stands trembled with the excitement of the crowd who were up on their seats stamping their feet and chanting at the tops of their voices. The referee blew the final whistle and cries of joy filled the air, ‘River Plate’ were crowned Argentine champions for 2008.

The away supporters were let out of the stadium first to avoid fans from both teams mixing. As we were with the ‘River Plate’ supporters we had to wait. Finally we were let out and walking the surrounding streets in search of taxis the whole neighbourhood was abuzz. That evening ‘River Plate’ fans from throughout Buenos Aires gathered around the Obelisk in the city centre to celebrate and share.

Watching any football game in Argentina is an experience, but watching such a key match is on a whole different level. The atmosphere at this game certainly surpassed the atmosphere I felt at any other live sporting I had been to anywhere in the world.  Vamos Vamos!

BUE

Santiago to Buenos Aires

La Paz to Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires to Rio

Tango & Samba


 


 

Inti Raymi Festival, Cuzco, Peru - by Tom Harari


Inti Raymi was the most important celebration of the Incan empire. It was celebrated on 24th June each year which marked the winter solstice and honoured the sun god Inti to ensure that the sun would be generous and allow a good crop in the new year. The Spanish banned this celebration in 1572 calling it pagan and contrary to Catholic beliefs.

A theatric recreation took place in 1941 and today the Inti Raymi festival attracts thousands of tourists and Peruvians alike. As the second biggest festival in South America after the Rio Carnival I was quite keen to witness it for myself when the opportunity came.

The festivities started in Quorikancha, the Temple of the Sun, at 9:30 where crowds filled the Avenida del Sol. One by one various groups appeared in front of Quorikancha being called in by conch-blowing Chaskas (the Chaskas were the messengers of the Inca empire). Musicians, dancers, virgins, representatives from various parts of the Empire, including the loin-cloth clad Amazonians, priests and finally the Queen (Mama Ocla) and Sapa Inca himself arrived. Intermixed with music and dances the Inca invoked the sun and pleaded for it to be good to them in the forthcoming year.

Even before the completion of the celebrations at Quorikancha the crowd started making their way up Avenida del Sol to the main square, Plaza de Armas. Good spots were limited and everyone wanted to have front row positions so the crowd moved fast, some even running. As I made my way up the avenue I came across a man completely kitted out in a Spiderman suit! The actors performing in the recreation were not the only ones in costume it seems…

After some confusion, elbowing and shuffling amongst the crowd, the first actors, from a cast of hundreds, appeared on the square. The cortege included sweepers cleaning the streets of evil spirits and flower girls marking a path of petals for the Inca. Effigies of the Serpent, the Puma and the Condor – which symbolise the underworld, the earthen world and the celestial world – were paraded before the Queen’s paladin. Then the hike up to Saksyhuaman, the Incan fort 2kms above Cuzco, started.

Having just returned to Cuzco, a city which sits at 3300m, after a few weeks at sea level, I found myself to be one of many tourists trying to catch my breath as I climbed steep steps heading to the fort while the locals, with their genetically bigger hearts and lungs, raced up the steps. There are stands near the main staging area with seats going for $80+, the rest of us must make do with sitting on the surrounding hills. I walked up a hill in search of a spot to sit with a good view of the staging area. I found a spot with a direct, unobstructed, view. All around Peruvians and foreign tourists looked for a good spot.  When the tourism authorities opened up a new part of the hill a mad rush ensued as people scrambled for a good seat. It filled within minutes. Vendors walked by selling popcorn, soft drinks, but also baked cuy – possibly better known as guinea pig – and chicha, a local home-made beer – both morada (made with purple corn) and de quinoa (a local grain).

Finally the Inca’s entourage appeared once again to music and dances and finally the Inca arrived and joined his main priests and heads of the Suyos (the regions the empire was divided into) on a stone platform. After more summons and prayers a white llama was brought to be sacrificed to Pachamama. Though the sacrifice is not visible, the priests surround the llama completely and perform a recreated mock-sacrifice. Even though there are still llama sacrifices made to Pachamama (Mother Earth) throughout the Andes, this event is only a recreated ceremony. To the cheers of the crowd the Inca presents the heart of the llama to Pachamama and the festival winds down.

The day’s festivities finally ended for me 6 hours after they started. As a small memento to this celebration of our celestial star I was left completely sun burnt. I guess 6 hours in the sun at high altitude with no sunscreen will do that to you.


Peru Check out our Peru trips!


 

MD World Travels – Part III India

India - the ‘Marmite Effect’! By Matt West

I have always wanted to experience India and knew I would not be able to take my family (who are used to active beach holidays) until I had checked it out. The perception of India to people who have not been, I find, is a Marmite one – ‘love to go’, or ‘no way’! I asked our Destination Manager Hans Tuinman, to organise me a 7-day ‘see as much as possible’ tour, something our Tailor-made Department can do. I also asked our Flights Department  to find me an ‘economic’ Business class flight, and when they came back with a very low price from Air India, I was amazed.

I was met in Delhi by Kuldeep Singh, who was to be  my tour leader.  It was lovely to have a local guy with me for the trip. He gave me insights into his life in India, and each day we shared things about our lives. He showed me various temples and talked about the numerous religions.

We met up for our first breakfast at 6.30 am. There I was with my antibacterial hand cleaner making sure all the cups and plates were clean so I didn’t catch Delhi Belly. The waiter brought me cornflakes and hot milk! Not really what I was after.  I explained to Kuldeep that I would like to eat what he ate where possible. So we went to the buffet and brought back puris with chole beans. About to dive in with my knife and fork, Kuldeep asked if I would be offended if he ate with his hands as this was normal.  I’m not sure the antibacterial added to the flavor but the food tasted good eating without tools that morning.

 Delhi, the capital of India, is divided into an ancient and a modern part. Old Delhi was the capital of Moghul India between the 12th and the 19th Centuries, and in this part are therefore the mediaeval mosques, forts and bustling bazaars, dating back to Moghul times. Kuldeep took me here in the morning, my first real taste of India, and I was surprised by the mix of modern and ancient, rich and poor. The most lasting memory was the cows in the roads. At busy intersections or in crowded markets they wander freely and feed off rubbish cleared out from the stalls, mainly vegetable rubbish but sadly now some plastic is getting there too. Also the mix of bicycles, oxon carts, rickshaws (both gas and pedal power), tuk tuks and cars. Another eye opener was that all the tuk tuks were gas - they are so far ahead of UK in terms of pollution control.

At some point we stopped for lunch in a lovely Indian restaurant where there were more surprises for me - almost the same menu as I would have in my local Indian in the UK but less fussy and much tastier! 

 We visited the Red Fort, the Jama Mashid mosque and Chandni Chowk, and took a rickshaw through the bustling bazaar streets. As we were being cycled through the narrow streets the rickshaw driver asked if I wanted to stop at a little street. Why not? In the street kids were playing cricket and asked me to bat. I was bowled for a duck first ball!  We could do with some of these in the England team…

We continued to the open, spacious streets of New Delhi, the imperial city created as the capital of India by the British. Here we drove past the India Gate, a war memorial arch, to the impressive Parliament Building and the Rashtrapati Bhawan, once the imperial palace of the British viceroy and now the official residence of the President of India. We also went to see Humayun’s Tomb, a sandstone mausoleum in proper Mughal style (the Taj Mahal, built much later, follows a similar style of architecture).

My introduction to India had been full of new sights, sounds and experiences. And all in just one day…

Indian girl


 

Madagascar - the Human Side by Jim O'Brien

I know it’s a cliché, and I’m almost embarrassed to say it, but Madagascar really is like no other place I’ve visited. In the short time that I’ve been here, this island has baffled me, astounded me, frustrated me and charmed me. But I’ve fallen in love with it.

Madagascar is of course famous for its unique wildlife. However, I also found the differing communities just as memorable. My trip started in the chaos of Antananarivo, the capital, an intriguing mixture of architectural styles and eras. Consisting almost entirely of narrow roads, and often filled with traffic, Tana has something about it that I’ve not seen in any other African city. Two storey houses with wooden balconies, trailing with tropical flowers, conjure up visions of mediaeval Europe which are shattered when the ever present taxi-brousses drive past, tooting horns and touting for customers. Wizened old ladies sit behind tiny market stalls which spring up absolutely everywhere, selling just a few tomatoes, shallots and courgettes while boys ride past on antiquated bicycles with a basket full of quacking ducks behind. Carts pulled by Zebu carry impossible loads that look like they would fall in the slightest breeze, and the afternoon sun casts a glorious light on faded colonial grandeur in the upper city. Tana is short on conventional ‘sights’ but excels in experience and difference – an Africa that few are aware of.

The highlands of Madagascar, south of Tana, host a huge number of small communities who seldom see foreign travellers. We stop at a local market where women sell magic charms and amulets to protect against illness and ensure good luck. Nothing is wasted here – empty jam jars and water bottles are also for sale, featuring on stalls with random selections of goods including fishing hooks, reels of cotton and spare machinery parts. I have trouble even grasping what some of the products are. I buy a small cake, which is dry and unpleasant, and when I try to give it to a nearby child he runs away in terror. Our guide tells us that up in the highlands the inhabitants are still very wary of the vazaha – the European – memories of their colonial past still haunting them.

Our final step of the journey takes us south through the spiny forest, an impenetrable tangle of cacti, thorn trees and agaves. The architecture changes and becomes noticeably more African – gone are the two storey houses, to be replaced by mud huts similar to Kenya, The people too look different – they have lost their Indonesian features and look more like their neighbours across the sea to the west. We arrive at Ifaty in time for sundowners over the Indian Ocean and a pure feeling of tranquillity that I always experience on the beach with a cold drink in hand.

The next day a couple of us walk a mile or so down the beach and meet some fishermen, who offer to take us back in their pirogue. It wasn’t fast, but it was at least faster than walking, and they also offer to take us out snorkelling to the reef later. While the others head off in their motor boats, we drift gently with the winds until we are about a mile out from shore, the fishermen calling cheerily to other boats as we sail. Dropping off the boat we explore the reef beneath, full of technicolour fish that dart off when they see us coming, and lazy jellyfish that reflect the colours of the sun when they get too close to the surface.

In the afternoon we walk along the beach collecting shells, local children keen to help and pressing more into our hands than we could ever possibly carry. The tide comes in and we start to walk back, the children following us and singing to each other in words we don’t understand. The sun starts to set again, sizzling into the ocean, and I think that life could not be any more perfect at this moment in time.

 

Madagascar girl


 

Surpassing Expectations - Mael Ressos

I have just got back from our 16 day ‘Egypt & Jordan Caravan’ tour.
 
This trip took my breath away and went beyond my already high expectations!  On Day 1 we saw the Great Pyramids & Sphinx at Giza. Now when you are standing in front of one of the great wonders of the world on the first day of your tour, you can’t help but think to yourself – ‘wow there goes the highlight of the trip on Day 1!’ … Yet each day that went by simply  surpassed itself - you need to do this trip to believe it!

My favourite moment was the donkey ride to the Valley of the Kings.  What a fabulous way to see the daily life of Luxor, the tiny streets and a gorgeous sunrise over the fields…

Mael Ressos
Imaginative Traveller AustraliaMael


 

Volunteering with the elephants in Thailand – by Kelly Meekings

I wake up at 7am to the sound of my phone's alarm and after fumbling around for my glasses I remember where I am - in the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. I am on Imaginative Traveller's "Elephants & Adventure" volunteering trip, and am doing my week of volunteering.
 
Breakfast is at 7:30am, served buffet style in the dining room. You need to make sure you eat a good breakfast as you will be working hard! All the morning chores are pooh related... As you can probably guess, shovelling elephant dung is first on the list, although it tends to come out in firm round balls so you can just pick it up and put it in the pooh bags (don't worry, gloves are provided!). Other morning chores could be cleaning out the water buffalo pen, sorting out the recycling and cleaning the Cat Castle.
 
Once these essential jobs are done, there are always projects to be getting on with. The volunteer co-ordinators get everyone together and dish out the jobs. Some lucky people each day will go on the hour-long "elephant walk" when one of the senior park staff takes a group around the park talking about individual elephants, herbal medicines and (everyone's favourite) visiting the baby elephant.
 
The rest of us are given tasks to do, and today some of us are working on one of the elephant shelters, repairing some fencing, clearing waste wood and a few other jobs. It can be hot, dirty work and I must admit that any concerns about my personal appearance have been forgotten pretty early on in the day! With muddy clothes and red faces we certainly stand out from the very clean looking day visitors at the park.
 
One of the elephants wandering past starts to become inquisitive and approaches us a bit too close for comfort. Everyone has to get out of the way quickly. The mahout, always watching, appears from nowhere and calls the elephant away. Forcing us to take a moment's break from the work, it's a fantastic reminder of where we are and why we are here.
 
We carry on working until around 10:30, when then van arrives back from Chiang Mai loaded up with fruit. Each elephant can eat up to 200kg of fruit per day, so it is a big job keeping them fed. We help the mahouts to unload the sacks of watermelons, pineapples, cucumbers and bananas, and they distribute them into each elephant's basket.
 
Everyone at the park has a chance to participate in feeding time most days, so we head to the platforms where the hungry elephants have been eagerly waiting for lunch. No-one gets tired of the experience of passing the elephants pieces of fruit, which they accept either with their trunks or with wide open mouths.
 
After we have had our own lunch it is elephant bathtime. We get to do this every day at the park and it's always amazing to get so close to the elephants in the water and on the shore of the river. I have way too many photos of this! You could jump in and scrub the elephant, have photos taken with them on the shore (the mahout will show you how to tickle them behind the ears how they like it), or receive kisses from Aura, which she gives out with her trunk in return for treats.
 
All too soon it is back to work for the afternoon, possibly out on a truck to cut some corn or banana trees, or within the park planting trees, making repairs or general maintenance work. By 4:30-5pm everyone is ready to grab a coke or a beer and sit in the TV room for a talk or a DVD - there is something planned for most evenings. It's not compulsory though, so if you prefer you can get back to your room for a shower before dinner.
 
In the evening we unwind with a massage - only £2 for a hour's session! We can also play cards, have a Thai lesson, watch a DVD or just sit and chat with other volunteers. Everyone comes away from the Elephant Park with some wonderful memories - after all not everyone visiting Thailand will have such a chance to get close to and get to know these amazing creatures.

Kelly


 

MD World Travels - Part II

Istanbul 2008 - Matt West

May 19th saw me off to Istanbul, a place I have been to many times before but hardly had a chance to really explore the place. This time was to be different.

I was to meet up with Yavuz Salataci our Destination Manager for Turkey, Syria, Iran and Eastern Europe.  Yavuz organises all our tours and tour leaders himself. He has been with the company since it began in 1991 and is highly regarded by all who deal with him. He works from a 2-room office (with an office cat that really needs to go on a diet..)


The first night Yavuz took me to the Hamdi kebab restaurant on the 5th floor of a building on the Bosphorus, where we met up with two of our tour leaders - Huseyin from Turkey and Kat from Germany. The view of one of the illuminated bridges was awesome and the food even more so! 

I’ve always enjoyed Turkish mezes, but I discovered new ones this time. I particularly liked ‘Acili Ezme’ - Chilli pepper mashed with chilli paste and olive oil, and  ‘Urfa Peynir’  - cheese from the Urfa region boiled in hot water. Then of course we had to have mains.  How about  ‘Pistacia Kebab’ - minced meat with spices mix with mashed pistachio? Finally, although trying to keep a ‘handle on the size of the handles’, Yavuz insisted I try ‘Kunefe’ -   desert which is two layers of very thin Kadayifi with cheese served hot.  All washed down with Raki and some Turkish sparkling wine naturally...

Off for late drinks under the Galata Bridge which stretches across the Golden Horn from Karakoy to Eminonu. The upper level buzzed with traffic and local fishermen casting lines enthusiastically into the water while we drank Efes beer underneath.

The next day I took a city tour, guided by Halluk who was full of fascinating facts, few of which I can now remember!  It was a walking tour and the first stop was an ancient cistern, not yet open to the public whilst it was being restored. Not as grand as the Basilica, but fascinating - and completely empty except for us. That’s one of the great things about an Imaginative Traveller City Tour, you go to places both on and off the tourist routes.  
Next stop the Hippodrome, where in the 4th Century AD, an unknown Roman emperor who wanted to create something impressive and exciting transported the colossal obelisk made for the Karnak Temple in Luxor (Egypt) to Istanbul. It is the oldest monument in the city and has always been considered magical.
Next door was the Blue Mosque and its stunning mosaics, followed by Haghia Sofia which was originally a Byzantine church but was then converted into a mosque by Muslim conquerers.

We took a walk to the Grand Bazaar and the fragrant Spice Bazaar which sells lotions and potions, with salty white cheese and olives outside.
From the chaotic Eminönü harbour we took a Bosphorus Boat Tour for a more relaxed cruise along the river. I was pleased to see the yacht of Ata Turk moored up and now a museum.

Halluk was great fun to be with and full of stories. He told me a great tale about one of the Sultans whose mother wanted to run the country so gave him a harem of thousands of ladies and continued to give him women and wine to keep him busy while she ran the country!
He was a huge football fan and proudly showed me Galatasary  Island and Galatasary University, as well as pointing out that the colours of the streets were also Galatasary colours ! They must be bigger than Man United (but not as big as my team, Portsmouth, 2008 FA CUP winners!).

That night Yavuz took me, along with his wife Gulay, a famous Turkish singer, to KumKapi where the restaurants are famous for fish and entertainment, fabulous food and company. Late into the night we stopped at a cafe where Yavuz shared a shisha pipe with his wife (what is it about our staff that they love these pipes?)

Istanbul hasn’t lost any charm even 20 years on from when I first went and I would highly recommend it.  And if you get a chance to meet Halluk, Yavuz or Gulay, say ‘Hi’ from me.

Next stop India!


 

Encounter of the Turtle Kind by Tom Harari

A few years ago I worked for a small non-profit organization in Costa Rica. When I first arrived I was sent out to visit the various projects the organisation was involved in. One of these projects was turtle conservation over on the Caribbean coast. A project which deals with Leatherback turtles, the largest of the Marine turtles which can grow to be over 2m (6.4ft). As luck would have it the nesting season had started not too long prior to my arrival and I was told to make my way to the village of Gandoca and acquaint myself with the project there.

I only had one day and showed up unannounced on the beach. Unfortunately the local staff and volunteers were very busy and there was no space for me to spend the night with one of the patrols looking for turtles. As I was going to be around for a year I was asked if I didn’t mind coming back some other time. I started to leave the research station when it was already dark and the first patrols were on the beach. Volunteers patrol the beach in small groups with a local biologist in 3 shifts of 4 hours. They cannot wear insect repellent or drink any alcohol, must wear long dark clothes and shade their torch-light with a red-filter to not disturb the turtles. I walked a little way along the beach and just as I was about to turn onto the path that headed away from the beach I saw the red-lights of a patrol nearby. The biologist who was with them called me over.

“You want to see a turtle?” he asked excitedly. I came running and there, in front of me, was a female Leatherback turtle laying her eggs. The volunteers were already busy collecting data and eggs. Measuring her, checking the number on the tag she had on her leg, taking a tissue sample… Depending on where the turtles lay their eggs the nest may be left as is, it may be moved to a more secure spot (away from erosion and scavenging animals) or it may even be moved to a hatchery which is guarded by other volunteers 24/7. In this particular case the nest was too close to the entrance to the beach and the eggs were going to be moved to the newly built hatchery.

The emotion I felt is hard to describe, I wouldn’t call it spiritual but it’s certainly an experience which will stay with me for a very long time. I sat there and watched the turtle in her trance and the volunteers busily doing their job for a long time until she filled up her nest with sand (the eggs, unbeknown to her, having been extracted for relocation). I watched her returning to the sea leaving the next generation to look after itself and finally left the beach myself, in awe, once again, with the ways of nature.

I have since had the opportunity to see a number of turtles lay eggs. Every experience is different but I must admit, it’s an experience I relish every time and one which I doubt I will ever tire in enjoying.



 

Being wined and dined in the Caucasus by Jim O'Brien

A few years ago I was struck by the urge to visit Georgia - the highest mountains in Europe, isolated communities, ethnic groups that speak poetry to each other as a matter of course - it sounded intriguing.

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, wasn't as I expected. There were certainly a fair few dour looking Soviet style apartment blocks, but the city is a mishmash of architectural styles, reflecting the influences of Russian, Ottoman and Persian empires that at various times in history have all played a part in Georgia. Surprisingly cosmopolitan, Tbilisi contains some of the best restaurants I've eaten in - meals washed down with a glass of two of superb Georgian wine.

From Tbilisi we headed west into the semi-desert area of David Gareja, a barren area home to a monastery populated by extremely orthodox monks, eking a living far away from the corrupting influence of humanity. We climbed up to the top of a ridge to discover rock cut chapels and frescoes reminiscent of Cappadocia in Turkey. Beyond and below us was Azerbaijan, just a stone's throw away and without a border guard in sight. We ended up in a homestay in the small town of Telavi where we were treated to Georgian hospitality and a landlady who seemed determined to make us pile on a few pounds in the short time that we were there, the table laden with home-made cheeses and tantalisingly fresh produce that had never seen a supermarket shelf.

For me, the highlight of Georgia has to be the High Caucasus mountain range. We climbed through clouds in a trusty four wheel drive until we reached the pass, with the region of Tusheti in the distance. Tusheti is mostly untouched by modernity, hidden in the mountains where villagers still protect their livestock against bears and wolves. The isolation of some villages is so intense that mutually unintelligible dialects can be spoken from one village to the next. Traditions linger long here - on one track I got out of the car to walk the long way around with my wife; villagers considered it extremely bad luck for a woman to walk too close to a shrine placed next to the road.

Staying in local homes allowed us to really get under the skin of the region; we ate meals with the families, sampled their home-made wine and I became rather too familiar with the local spirit chacha - tradition dictates that Georgian meals are full of lengthy toasts to Georgia, to the family, to guests, to women, and it's considered bad form not to take three glasses of chacha for each toast. Hic...

Jim


 

My first foray into Africa - by Angela Seabrook

I chose this tour because I had never travelled outside Europe or America and I wanted to see a different culture and lifestyle.  I was prepared to deal with the more basic living conditions whilst trekking in order to see countryside that can be seen no other way except by getting out there on foot.

 

The tour began in Marrakech and the riad there was definitely far from basic.  It had a lovely roof garden where “continental” breakfast was taken and drinks could be ordered throughout the day whilst making use of the sun loungers.  The rooftop views were fascinating in themselves as we were able to view neighbouring courtyards, streets and souqs. In our actual exploration of the souqs it was sometimes frustrating as locals insisted on helping you find your way even when you weren’t lost!  However everyone was good natured and they were not after money – just being helpful and friendly to a visitor. 

Angela

 

Outside Marrakech, on the trek itself, life in the remote villages for the Berber people is a sharp contrast to the city.  Barren rolling desert on the first day gave way to valleys of olive trees and the houses appeared camouflaged as they are constructed from the same surrounding red soil.  The trek traversed many fertile areas where orchards and vegetable plots abound.  Goats graze the hillside and the main form of transport is the mule or donkey.  Children call out along the way hoping for sweets or pens but provided you’ve perfected the phrase “Je n’ai pas des bonbons (ou des stylos), said with a smile they usually gave up at the village boundary. We walked from approximately 8.30 am until around 3pm although the lunch stop could be anything up to 2 hours (This was during Ramadan so our Berbers needed to sleep – they’d been up since 4 am to break fast before going to the mosque at sunrise).

 

The village houses we stayed in were exactly that – the family vacate two or three rooms for the benefit of the visitors.  Our muleteers and cook who trek with us, prepare our meals and clear up as well as look after the pack animals who carry our heavy bags, mattresses and all the other paraphernalia associated with the trip.

The meals of cous cous, salad, soups and tasty tagines were wholesome and suitably fitting after a full day’s walking.

 

Entertainment was provided by the muleteers during the evening – they were fantastic.  Anything that could be used as a drum was – washing up bowls, cola bottles, jerry cans.  We enjoyed two evenings of musical entertainment.  Their folk songs are definitely original – all the Berbers joined in but seemingly to their own rhythm which was not necessarily the same as anyone else’s at the same time.  But it didn’t matter – this was Morocco and we were on holiday!  On the second occasion we had more space and were able to partake of “folk dancing”  (goodness knows if we married anyone – all the songs/dances seemed to be boy meets girl, falls in love etc ..!). 

 

Morocco is a wonderful country of contrasts.  African rhythms, mysticism and amazing scenery – barren desert through to lush plots of courgettes, potatoes, maize/corn and fruit orchards.  The simple lifestyle followed by the Berbers is only simple when compared to our western values – life there is changing but whether it will be better is arguable – traditional chimneys now compete for space with satellite dishes but there are still plenty of villages without electricity and the existence of a flushing toilet is probably never contemplated in the High Atlas!

  


 

Just another day in Laos by Amy Willis – tour leader

The original plan was to leave Vientiane for a couple of days and head on down to Sala Hinboun - a lovely little village with beautiful surrounding scenery. 

This is not quite what happened. 

I had been informed that buses run from 8am so I got to the bus station at 8.30am only to be told that the bus I needed to get left at 5am, 6am and 7am.  So I needed to decide - stay in Vientiane or be adventurous and try and get to Hinboun.  I took the adventurous route. 

After conferring and pointing to places on a map I eventually discovered I could get a different bus to Savannaket, which passed through Hinboun.  I couldn't quite believe my luck, as I had also been told a more complicated way to get there which involved getting off one bus in the middle of nowhere, and possibly finding another bus or a tuk-tuk of some sort, or possibly having to stay the night in a small village enroute and then trying to get to Hinboun the following morning.

So, off I went, very happy with the situation, and got on the bus.  I've never seen anything like it, and I've lived in Asia a long time - to walk down the aisle, I had to climb over and on bags of food almost waist-high trying not to fall on top of a monk.  No mean feat!

We left at 9am, stopped at 9.10 for vendors to try and climb through the bus selling baguettes and dried meat with sticky rice.  At 10 we stopped again by the side of the road for a toilet stop.  At 10.30 we had more vendors get on selling food.  You get the picture - not exactly an express bus!!!

I  had been told it would take about 5-6 hours to get to Hinboun.  Just over 6 hours later I was dropped off on the side of the road.  Locals were gathered around some food stalls and there was a tuk-tuk.  I was able to gather that Hinboun was 9.2km down the road, and after failing miserably at securing a ride to the town, off I set down a dirt road.  After 45 minutes I had had enough, and had only walked maybe 2kms, so as soon as I came to the first house, I asked a woman out the front if she could take me on her bike using hand gestures. 
 
So off we went, and arrived in Hinboun.  Except it wasn't the Hinboun I should have been in - I was 135kms in the wrong direction, and thus realised I was in the middle of nowhere.  Then everything started making sense to me - why all the locals seemed confused as to why I would want to go to this Hinboun, and repeatedly kept asking me why.  Even though we couldn't speak the same language, I knew what they meant.  So back on the bike we got, and I was taken back to the main road.  Not before I was taken on the scenic route through the village, along a very bumpy road, stopping a few times, for me to be paraded for all the villagers - apparently it was the funniest thing to happen there in a long time.  The woman driving me would stop outside a house, shout, "blah blah blah farang (foreigner) Hinboun", and a lot of laughter would ensue.  
 
Back at the main road I establish that there is, "sometimes, tomorrow morning, tonight, this morning" buses that will come on the road in the direction I need to go in.  The lady left me alone on the side of the road, and as I stood there thinking I might very well end up in a villager's house for the night, a bus came approached.  I ran out into the middle of the road to flag it down, nearly lying down to make sure they would stop for me. 
 
Guess where it was headed - that's right, Vientiane.  I asked about Hinboun, but no, just Vientiane.  So another stimulating bus journey, this time complete with a blaring stereo system with dodgy Laos music.  In all fairness we did shave 1/2 an hour off the morning's journey - we were absolutely flying down that road I tell you.
 
What I achieved that day in Laos - I spent 11 1/2 hours on a bus, and 15 1/2 hours on the road, ending up at the same location.  To add to all that excitement, I couldn't find a hotel room at 11.30pm…
 
Was it adventurous?  Well, yes, I suppose so.  Would I do it again?  Not any time soon - give me a few months to recover first!

 


 

MDs World Travels - Part I Egypt

Having spent a year in the UK office with only one quick excursion away I thought 2008 should be the year when I go and see where our Destination Managers hang out and what they get up to.  I embarked on a month long semi-‘ Round The World’ Tour from the Middle East to South East Asia. 


 

Blogs versus Journals?

What a fantastic era we live in.  You can travel to some of the most remote parts of the planet and still come across an internet cafe in which you can email home, update your social networking site or post a blog on your adventures.  Instant communication with home at the touch of the button – incredible! 

Or is it?  Does anyone out there miss the days where once you said your farewells at the airport you were gone.  Lucky if the odd postcard made its way back home.  And it was far too expensive to queue up at the nearest phone exchange to book a call back to the family. Cafes were devoid of electronic equipment but full of travellers bent over worn pages of diaries frantically updating their entries over endless cups of tea.  There was perhaps something about flicking through those much loved tea-stained journals on your return that brought your adventure back in a way that re-reading your blog entries lacks. 

But what do you think?  Do you head straight to the nearest internet cafe on arrival in a strange land to get your thoughts down on ‘electronic paper’ or are you content to while away the hours on a long train journey jotting down notes, memories and impressions for future reference? Blog or journal, keyboard or ‘quill’ – which do you prefer?


 

Managing Director travels (or should that be ‘travails’…?)

Our MD Matt West has been on the Imaginative Traveller journey of a lifetime, hot-footing around the world visiting our overseas Destination Managers and enjoying some of the Imaginative Traveller tours from Egypt to South East Asia.


 

Sameer Rathore a finalist in the Guide of the Year Awards!

Congratulations to Sameer for making it to the Final of Wanderlust's Paul Morrison Guide of the Year Award 2008.

Thank you so much to all those who voted for him. We at Imaginative Traveller are really excited about this and looking forward to flying Sameer over for the ceremony in October. In the meantime we have been inundated with requests for further information about our proposed Sameer Special Tours for 2009/10 – he is certainly a popular character! We now have further details about these tours so do please contact editor@imtrav.net for itinerary and dates.

And fingers crossed for Sameer for later this year!


 

Welcome to the new Imaginative Traveller Website!

Welcome to the brand new Imaginative Traveller website!  With loads of new features including wish-lists, customer reviews and even a Live Chat facility. The site will be easier to navigate, search and compare trips and offers larger maps and more detailed itineraries.  There is a fantastic array of new images and you can even upload videos from your trips.  Most importantly the live booking process has improved so it is even simpler to book your Imaginative Traveller holiday. 

And of course you can now view our Blog! This is a brilliant way for us to communicate with you - read what Imaginative Traveller is up to each week, new events, trips, vital updates, info from the tour leaders and overseas Destinations Managers, life on the ground out in all the countries we travel to, humorous tales from tours, staff trip reports and just general Imaginative Traveller gossip. It will make you feel as if you are actually on tour with us...

So check it out and let us know what you think!


 
Affordable Adventures

search

275 holidays

  • info If you're searching for a trip to fit in with a larger travel schedule, or simply have an exact idea of the city advanced search
    • Activities & Interests

need help & expert advice?
+44(0)1728862230


Sign-up for our newsletter

tailor-made adventure trips

Our tailor made adventure holidays will truly inspire and delight the senses and will live in your memory for ever.

more info


Last Minute Specials -  Up to 20% Off

Join us on one of our worldwide adventures coming up over the next few months – all guaranteed to depart, all at up to 20% off.

more info