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09

Nov 2018

Plastic-free Holiday? There’s a challenge.

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Traveller's Tales / No comments yet

Plastic-free holiday? There’s a challenge.
Do you remember when the word “Gay” meant something different? How about the word “sick”? My daughters have different definitions for these words compared to me. How about the question, “Do you take plastic?”

A diving friend of mine was recently doing a seabed litter-pick in 20 metres of water and picked up a credit card issued in the 1950’s: it hadn’t degenerated at all.

Times change; Laissez-faire holiday attitudes change. And I’ve been asked to create a holiday, anywhere in the world, which is 100% free of single use plastic (Excluding the international flights which are a disgraceful plastic-litter producing machine). I’m really struggling!

Here are some things you CAN do:

Airports: equip yourself with a quality reusable bottle before you travel. Nothing ticks you off more than having to dispose of water at airport security. Really? Surely this law needs re-visiting. Anyway, check out the excellent wateratairports.com for re-fills ‘air-side’.

Re-fills overseas: don’t assume the local tap water is undrinkable: check, because you’ll be surprised how many countries do actually have safe drinking water. And if you can’t drink from the tap, buy a filtering or purifying water bottle, or a UV water purifying pen. SteriPEN https://www.steripen.com and Katadyn filtres https://www.katadyn.com Another thing that I swear by is https://www.watertogo.eu/ which is a water bottle with a filter incorporated into the cap. Brillinat.

 

plastic-free-holiday

Water … safe to drink?

Soap: Remember soap? Forget the liquid ‘hand cleanser’ and buy a bar of soap! Simple.

Hotel toiletries: If we all tell the hotel we just don’t want them anymore, they will stop giving them.

Packed lunches: this is one of the things I’ve struggled with, particularly on the riding treks. Hotels, farmhouses and lodges often provide a packed lunch to carry in saddle bags, which is a service I really appreciate as a tour operator, but they are always shrouded in Clingfilm, complete with plastic knife and spoon. Why not take your own lunch box and camping KFS (knife, fork, spoon combo). My kids have recently done the D of E series and they used “sporks” which is a single utensil with spoon one end, sharp edge one side and fork t’other end. That’s all you require for a picnic lunch. We’ll even wash it for you each evening!

Bamboo: what an amazing wood this is! Toothbrush, soap dish and check this site https://www.bambuhome.com/?view=outdoor

And finally, a bit naff, but drinking straws: treat yourself to a stainless steel straw which makes drinks taste cooler and they look cooler!

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06

Nov 2018

What is Diwali?

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales / No comments yet

Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar, celebrated with great enthusiasm and happiness in India. It’s celebrated for five consecutive days, with day 3 being the main Diwali festival.

Fireworks of all colours are essential; clay lamps “diyas” and candles add to the brightness and the goddess Laxmi (goddess of wealth) is the focus of worship.

The best place to experience Diwali has to be the town of Ayodhya, which lies east of Delhi and close to the Nepal border. This is the birth-place of Rama, one of the earthly manifestations (or ‘avatars’) of Vishnu. Hindu deities tend to get a bit complicated, so best just to go with it and join in the fun! The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with earthen lamps and illuminate town in as bright a way as possible. Diwali isn’t complete without exchanging gifts, performing traditional prayers and rituals and cooking special delicacies; so in this respect, not dissimilar to Christmas.

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02

Oct 2018

Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday: 2nd October

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

The birth of Gandhi Jayanti or Mahatma Gandhi (2nd October 1869 to 30th January 30 1948) is a national holiday in India. Gandhi is known as the ‘Father of the Nation’ and his ideology of non-violence or “Satyagraha” continues to influence political leaders, and even the UN.

At Raj Ghat in Delhi and across India, people gather to observe Gandhi in various ways that include offering flowers to his picture and statues. As a tribute to this great soul, the Indian government mint rupee notes and issue postage stamp depicting Mahatma Gandhi’s photo.

This year, is response to the international outcry against plastic, the Indian government dedicated a ‘Cleanliness Drive’ to the Father of the Nation because cleanliness was very dear to Mahatma Gandhi. For a period of 17 days (15th Sep to 2nd Oct’18) people from all walks of life in India were invited to participate in ‘Swachhata Hi Seva Movement’ (meaning “Cleanliness is the biggest service”). All NGOs, schools, colleges, social, cultural and political leaders, corporates, government officials, collectors and village heads came forward to contribute. This is all part of the larger ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ (meaning – “Clean India Mission”) which is an ongoing effort.

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12

Sep 2018

Chile & Peru Combo

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Traveller's Tales /

It’s been a long time coming but from August 2018 Latam Airlines began operation of a non-stop flight between Cusco, Peru and Santiago, Chile (flight time 3:25 hr).

This new route creates the perfect opportunity to combine two completely different countries and offer a multi-destination holiday. Santiago, the vibrant capital of Chile, is surrounded by winelands on one side and mountains on the other with skiing 35 miles away from downtown. There are two different mountains offering you plenty of choice (the season is mid-June to mid-Oct).

Cusco, the Inca capital, is the jumping off point for the Sacred Valley and of course the Machu Picchu trek (best seasons May to October).

A Chilean wine weekend, skiing and Machu Picchu all in the same week

Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

? That’s a pretty neat trip!

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12

Sep 2018

The Magic of Step Wells

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Traveller's Tales /

All over north India, particularly in Rajasthan, one encounters Step Wells. They tend to be hidden away and falling in to disrepair, but they’re magical places to discover.

They were built to catch monsoon rainwater: June and July receives a profligate excess of water that has to last through the months of arid dryness. Step wells are huge and the concept is that as the water recedes, access to water level is afforded by the zig-zag maze of stairways. The symmetry is mesmerizing.

The Step Well below is behind a haveli in the centre of Jaipur, but if you didn’t know it was there, you’d never chance upon it. It’s family owned and managed with a dozen charming rooms and an excellent restaurant. The well has been lovingly restored during the past decade and is now back to its original glory. The lovely twist to this tale is that we can arrange private dining within the well itself, a romantic and magical experience.

Explore Rajasthan, India and discover the magic of step well dining

Explore Rajasthan, India and discover the magic of step well dining

 

Note: Only vegetarian meals and non-alcoholic drinks are served at this Step Well, as the owner-family’s centuries old temple is located inside the well itself.

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24

Jul 2018

What’s In a Name?

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

King Mswati III of Swaziland has announced that henceforth the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland will change its name to Eswatini. He said, “The Kingdom of Eswatini meaning “place of the Swati people” reverts to the Swazi language name for the Kingdom. As we are aware, the name Swaziland was inherited from the British. If we are to give true meaning to our independence, time has come to give our country a name of its people. It must be said that this process is long overdue. Therefore, I have the pleasure to present to you, on this historic day, a new name for the kingdom. Our country will now be called Kingdom of Eswatini.

 

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24

Jul 2018

Tiger! Tiger!

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Tiger News from India
WPSI (Wildlife Protection Society of India) has received 4 new “Tiger Conservation and Anti-poaching Awareness Vans” bringing the total to 7. They operate in the villages that fringe the forests of several major parks including Khana  and Bandhavgarh.

The problem: local people often have their lives disrupted by tiger conservation: their cattle are predated upon; fire wood collection is prohibited and access to their local forest banned; and sometimes whole villages are relocated. Great for tiger conservation, inconvenient if you’re one of the locals.

Tiger safari India

Tiger safari India

The campaign was launched in 2011 with the aim of getting local people on-side with tiger conservation. The project uses audio-visual that is taken to villages and screened, in the local language; the film is called ‘The Truth About Tigers’ https://vimeo.com/17468170 . The WPSI team is often accompanied by forest officers and meaningful discussions are held with the villagers to find solutions for their grievances.

The aim of this project is to reduce the antagonism between local people and the Forest Department, and to inform the villagers of government projects that they could benefit from such as compensation and employment schemes. The programme has been successful at reducing corruption, speeding up compensation claims and receiving poaching information. The dramatic increase in tiger numbers bears witness: 2006 there were just 1,411 tigers; 3,891 in 2016. Not too shabby!
nt here.

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24

Jul 2018

Wonderful Whales

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /


Peninsula Valdés, Patagonia, Argentina has opened for the 2018 Right Southern Whale-watching season!

From mid-May to December hundreds of whales arrive at Peninsular

Valdes to give birth and mate. This is the place where David Attenborough’s team filmed that amazing sequence of an orca beaching itself to catch a fur seal. A wide range of vessels from zodiacs to a semi-submarine offer daily navigation to get up close and observe these colossal but peaceful animals. Orcas, sea elephants, penguins and many different marine bird species are also resident.

Whale watchers

Whale watchers

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23

May 2018

Cat or Dog?

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Recently snapped by a stealth-cam in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle: but is it a cat or dog?

Meet Atelocynus Microtis – or ‘Short-eared Bush Dog’ to his friends and a lot easier to say. These chaps were caught on film in Ecuador last week. They are surely one of the most mysterious, shy and rare canine species in the world and feature on the Red List of species. Although a canine, it stands just 30 cm at the withers and weighs in at 10 pounds, so is really cat-sized. To add to its cat credentials, its primary prey is rodents, and it sports a rather stylish reddish brown fur coat.

 

Napo Wildlife Centre

Short-eared bush dog, Napo Wildlife Centre

Bush Dog inhabits a wide variety of lowland rainforest habitats including the zone around Napo Wildlife Centre and the Swamp Forests. Notably bush dog favours swimming in Amazonian rivers and creeks and this is where most sightings happen. However, likely due to habitat loss, they have adapted to other eco-zones such as foothill forests up to 2,000 m. Their previous known range was easternmost in Brazil, westernmost to Peru, southernmost in Bolivia, and northernmost in Colombia. However, this has recently been expanded as sightings have now been recorded as far away as Central America.

 

Short-eared bush dog, Napo Wildlife Centre

Short-eared bush dog, Napo Wildlife Centre

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01

Mar 2018

Calving Season, Serengeti

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

For many people, the thought of the Great Wildebeest Migration brings to mind images of thunderous river crossings with crocodiles snatching at the heels of wildebeest as they make their way across East Africa’s rivers.

Wildebeest migration, Serengeti safari

Wildebeest, Serengeti

Others may picture the seemingly never-ending line of millions of wildebeest on their great trek. However, the amazingness of the calving season is something that people tend to overlook. Calving takes place between January and February: in Jan/Feb the herds begin making their way to the south of the Serengeti after the rains start falling, and fresh grass begins to grow. The question of how the herds know when, precisely, the rains begin is something many people have pondered and the answer is that we actually do not know! Some say that they can smell the rain, others believe they can sense when the pressure in the air changes; the only thing we know for sure is that where it rains, the herds follow. Within a two to three week time period over half a million wildebeest are born with as many as 8,000 wildebeest being born on a single day!

Emerald season safari Serengeti Tanzania

Herd of Burchell’s Zebra Serengeti

The herds spend the majority of Jan, Feb and March in the Ndutu and Ngorongoro Conservation areas, although not within the crater itself. The soil in this area is rich in nutrients meaning the grass is perfect for young wildebeest to munch on and build up their strength in the first few weeks of their lives.

With the promise of rains from March to May, the young wildebeest are virtually guaranteed fresh grass during their migration all the way up into the central parts of the Serengeti. And it’ll come as no surprise that with all these baby zebra, gazelle and wildebeest stumbling around on wobbly legs, the number of predators in the area reaches a high. However, an easy meal is no guarantee! These mothers have been following this route for thousands of years and know most of the tricks that predators pull. Wildebeest mothers instinctively know to give birth on the shorter grass plains where approaching predators are easier to spot. Other mothers join them and actually form protective barricades around the young and most vulnerable new additions to the herd. Predators have to deal with extremely protective mothers who will do everything in their power to protect their young. If you’re travelling to the Serengeti during this time you’re guaranteed to see action unfolding between mothers, their calves and prowling predators.

Serengeti safari in the emerald season Tanzania

Lioness and cubs, Serengeti, Tanzania

It is not only the herbivores you’ll have the chance to see though, the predators too have co-ordinated their birthing times to coincide with the birth of their prey so their young have the highest chance of survival too. With thousands of baby wildebeest running around it is much easier for a mother lion, cheetah or leopard to find a meal for their hungry cubs as well as give them the opportunity to learn how to hunt for themselves.

All of these factors go to show that the timing and location of the calving season was purposefully selected in order to increase the chances of survival, both for prey and predator. The calving season is truly a remarkable time in East Africa and has so much to offer any safari-goer looking to see something other than the usual river crossing.

And the real winner? This is low season because there will be rain, so lodge prices are half the rack-rates; and air fares are reasonable. This is also known as the ‘emerald season’ because everything is green and fresh; the air is free from dust so the quality of photos is better, particularly panlow lodge prices make this an excellent time to be on safari.oramic shots. The drama of birthing, the interaction of predator and prey and the

Serengeti safari, emerald season Tanzania

Serengeti Elephants

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