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Monthly Archives: October 2016

7 of The Best Ethical Trips for 2017

1. Creating parks in Patagonia

The Parque Pumalín is not the end, but the beginning: Tompkins Conservation, which was the subject of our latest travel podcast, will continue its rewilding mission in Patagonia. But the organisation can’t do it alone and is encouraging volunteers to come to Chile or Argentina, where they can get involved in tree planting, wildlife monitoring and, sometimes, reintroducing locally extinct species.

2. Going on safari in Laos

The last remaining home for tigers in Indochina, Nam Et-Phou Louey is a hotbed of biodiversity and an unexpectedly brilliant place to go on a safari. And we’re not talking about any old safari; we’re talking about the Nam Nern Night Safari and Ecolodge, which ploughs most of its profits into local outreach programmes that educate locals about conservation and sustainability. Twice a winner at the World Responsible Tourism Awards, guests on the safari not only support admirable conservation work but also have the opportunity to spy endangered species, mingle with locals and sleep in low-impact bungalows.

3. Crashing with locals in India

For remote Himalayan communities there can be scant opportunity for employment. However, thanks to an organisation called Village Ways, some of these isolated societies now have a steady income from sustainable tourism. The organisation puts intrepid explorers into homestays in India and Nepal, providing locals with a revenue source and an opportunity to celebrate their Himalayan traditions, culture and cuisine.

4. Supporting Maasai landowners in Kenya

The Mara Naboisho Conservancy in Kenya is a 50,000-acre reserve created by 500 Maasai landowners. The park is home to bountiful wildlife – including big cats – and revenue from tourism provides the Maasai community with a sustainable livelihood, which in turn helps preserve this diverse corner of Kenya. The conservancy’s stellar work was rewarded in 2016 with a gold medal at the African Responsible Tourism Awards.

5. Trekking with ethnic minorities in Vietnam

As tourism booms in Vietnam, not everyone is feeling the benefit: some of the country’s ethnic minorities are reportedly being left behind. However, Shu Tan, from the Hmong ethnic group, is trying to address that. The former street vendor has set up an award-winning social enterprise, Sapa O’Chau, which offers guided treks and homestays for tourists in Sapa, northern Vietnam. Managed by ethnic minorities, her organisation generates revenue for impoverished communities, where some people can’t afford to send their children to school.

6. Turtle conservation in Mexico

The deserted shores of Veracruz are just the tonic for hectic lives. They’re also a breeding ground for endangered turtles, which face a range of challenges including pollution and habitat loss. Cue the Yepez Foundation, a non-profit organisation that has spent the best part of half a century safeguarding turtles and their habitats in this corner of Mexico. They’re always on the lookout for volunteers who can help with a range of projects, from beach clean-ups and community outreach programmes to coastal reforestation.

7. Conducting reef research in Malaysia

The world’s coral reefs are, alas, in grave danger, as pollution, disease and climate change wreak havoc with these underwater ecosystems. Cue Biosphere Expeditions, which is running an eight-day excursion to the colourful colour gardens of Malaysia, where participants can help collect data from reefs, which could be used to preserve the beleaguered ecosystems. Open for qualified scuba divers only, the 2017 expedition takes place August 15-22

Prepare For a Perfect Voyage to Antarctica

 Lean on an outfitter for the logistics

Antarctic cruises have the benefit of organized pre- and post-voyage transportation and sometimes include additional excursions aroundUshuaia, Argentina (where most Antarctica-bound vessels call in to port) plus accommodations, on-board meals and expedition gear included in the price. Pick a reputable, International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators-affiliated (iaato.org) outfitter to ensure a safe and environmentally responsible experience.

The more you know, before you go

Reading about Antarctica’s history, geography and wildlife will not only provide pre-trip inspiration, but will help you appreciate the journey as you reflect on the tales of those first explorers who charted the very same waters you’ll be sailing. Antarctica showcases wildlife on a magnificent scale, so learning about the life-cycle and food chain of the continent’s species will provide insight on the mesmerizing and sometimes curious behavior you’ll bear witness to.

If you don’t get a chance to read up before you go, most ships have reference libraries and offer lectures by on-board scientists. You may find yourself sitting next to one of them in the dining hall – pick their brains and you’re guaranteed top-notch dinner conversation.

Get the right gear

Many outfitters supply essentials like parkas, boots and waterproof trousers. These items are likely to commandeer most of your luggage space, so check with your operator to find out if these will be provided or if you must bring your own. Consult any packing list they supply, which should include items like hats, scarves and gloves (it’s wise to pack a back-up of each), wool socks and base layers.

Layers are everything on an Antarctic expedition, which goes for on-board time as well – you may be cozy with a cup of tea and a book one moment, then rushing outside to spot a pod of killer whales porpoising beside the ship the next. Best have a fleece and a down mid layer quick at hand, plus a pair of waterproof shoes with good grip for the slippery decks.

Non-clothing essentials

Bringing a quality pair of binoculars is wise, and if you want to get good photos of fast-moving wildlife, a zoom lens is ideal for your camera. Be sure to bring some kind of waterproof casing for your camera or mobile phone as splashes while riding on Zodiacs (the smaller boats used to venture out from the cruise ship) are certain.

Despite being a land of ice, the sun is incredibly strong in Antarctica and reflects blindingly off the snow, so sunscreen (at least SPF 45) and sunglasses are necessary. The cold wind can wreak havoc on your lips, so stock up on lip balm with SPF.

As minimal as you should strive to be, it’s nice to have a couple of creature comforts…particularly, edible ones. Most voyages have set meal times and the grub is plentiful, but outside of that, food may be hard to come by. Bring along some trail mix and chocolate or protein bars.

There’s often a strict weight limit on what you can bring on the ship (checked and carry-on luggage combined) and the average ship cabin is scant on square footage. Unless you find comfort in clutter, leave any unessential items at home – your cabin mate will appreciate it.

Shape up to ship out

You don’t have to be a triathlete to go on an expedition cruse to Antarctica, but general physical preparedness and sound mobility make for a much more comfortable voyage. One of the defining realities of a cruise expedition to Antarctica is the crossing of the Drake Passage – twice. This 600-mile stretch of sea between Tierra del Fuego (shared between Argentina and Chile) and the Antarctic Peninsula is notorious for rough waves. It’s the confluence of three oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Southern; their temperatures and currents meld to create swell that once saw explorers perish.

Though the vessels of today are well equipped to maneuver such choppy waters, brace yourself for what will be a bit of a bumpy ride at best and vomitous at worst. When the ship starts to sway as you amble from deck to deck, good balance and leg strength well keep you sure-footed as a goat. When walking around, always keep one hand somewhere on the boat. The handrails you see everywhere serve a purpose (just don’t forget to hit a hand sanitizing station every time you pass one).

Top 7 Free Things to do in Paris

 1. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

Festooned with gargoyles and Gothic touches, this imposing icon ofParis is essential for every visitor. Entering this grand medieval edifice is free (although it costs to climb its twin towers) as is a stroll along the neighbouring Seine for an alternate view of the cathedral’s spiky apse and naturalist sculptures.

2. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen

Window-shopping (or lécher les vitrines to the locals) is a great way to take an indulgent peek at objets d’art and wild curiosities you’d never actually buy. The St-Ouen flea market and antiques fair is the perfect place to let your imagination run riot. Marvel at bearskin rugs, antique tapestries and brass diving bells in this decadently eccentric marketplace. (But try to keep your eyebrow-raising in check when you look at the price tags.) Hop off the metro at Porte de Clignancourt (line 4) and continue under the bridge until the souvenir stalls give way to side streets crammed with beautiful buys.

3. Parc du Champ de Mars

A lift to the peak of the Eiffel Tower can squeeze the budget but views below can be equally stunning, albeit from a different angle. Parc du Champ de Mars has lawns and flowerbeds manicured with military precision (as you’d expect from a former army marching ground). Bring a blanket, wine and the best brie you can find to this expanse of greenery and wait for the light show at dusk to set La Tour Eiffel a-twinkle.

4. Cimitière du Père Lachaise

The most haunting spot in Paris allows you to rub shoulders with literary greats like Proust and Balzac, and modern icons like Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Jim Morrison also lies in this ancient cemetery, his grave barricaded off to protect it from over-zealous fans who make a musical pilgrimage here. The tree-lined avenues and calling crows make Père Lachaise the most atmospheric walk in Paris. Head to the 20th arrondissement, jumping off the metro at Père Lachaise (line 2) or Gambetta (line 3).

5. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

For a surreal view of French culture, dive into the permanent collections of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art. From the bolshy cubism of Braque to Matisse’s dancers, there’s sure to be something to lift your spirits. Take metro line 9 and alight at Alma-Marceau.

6. Marché d’Aligre

Feast your eyes on the finest local produce at this fabulous covered food market on Place d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement. Mountains of cheese, artisan butchers and a field of flower stalls can send you into sensory overload after wandering through a few aisles. Stop for a discreet glass of Bordeaux and get your hands floury on some crusty baguette. Ride metro line 8 to the Ledru-Rollin stop.

7. Basilique du Sacré Coeur

This palatial white marble church crowns the lively Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement. Its interior is bedecked with gold mosaics and towering stained-glass windows, and you can listen for the peal of one of the world’s heaviest bells. Visiting the basilica is free, but there’s a charge to ascend into the dome or explore the crypt.

Best Free Things to do in Delhi

 When visiting India’s historic capital, it’s worth paying out for big-hitting sights such as the Red Fort and Qutb Minar, but don’t overlook the abundant free sights and experiences in this fascinating city.  Take your pick from verdant parkland, centuries-old monuments, mysticism and faith, colonial pomp and circumstance and exploring contemporary Indian culture and the arts.

Keeping the faith at the Bahai House of Worship

This lotus-shaped temple was conceived and created by architect Furiburz Sabha in the suburbs of South Delhi, close to the burgeoning commercial district of Nehru Place.  In step with the tenets of the Bahai religion, the house of worship is open to all and everyone is invited to worship according to their own customs. Reflected in nine encircling pools, the gleaming marble structure is set in expansive gardens that teem with visitors, yet it retains a peaceful air of prayer and contemplation. Dusk finds the monument painted in surreal colours by floodlights as the sun sinks over the cityscape.

Soulful stirrings at the Nizamuddin Auliya shrine

You can step back seven centuries at the shrine of Delhi’s most beloved Sufi mystic. Every Thursday evening, singers fill the air with soulfulqawwalis (spiritual songs) honouring both the Sufi mystic Hazrat Khwaja Syed Nizamuddin Auliya and his disciple, the poet Amir Khusrao, also buried here. A warren of narrow streets lined with hawkers, mendicant holy men and snack stands leads to the shrine, which is a riot of colours, fragrant with heady incense and sweet-smelling rose petals.  Irrespective of faith, gender, or age, the Nizamuddin Dargah is one of Delhi’s most emotive and stimulating spots.Islamic motifs on the Athpula Bridge, Lodi Gardens © Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu / Lonely Planet

Calm green spaces and crumbling mausoleums

The Lodi Gardens, formerly Lady Willingdon Park, are one of the city’s favourite green spaces, visited by neighbourhood residents for daily constitutionals, and a favourite spot for canoodling couples and picnicking families. Sitting pretty in the heart of New Delhi, these sprawling but well-tended acres are criss-crossed with tree-lined walking and jogging paths. Between the flowerbeds are crumbling medieval monuments – mosques, tombs, and ceremonial bridges harking back to vanished Afghan dynasties – lending the park a romantic demeanour; unsurprisingly, it’s a favourite spot for romantic selfies.Lavish ornamental gates surround the Rashtrapati Bhavan © PapiyaBanerjee / Getty Images

Pomp and circumstance, Indian style

Despite only being introduced a decade ago, the splendid ceremony held once a week at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s Estate) is reminiscent of the richest excesses of India’s colonial history. Highlights of this public show of military precision include an equestrian display by the President’s Body Guard – an elite mounted unit founded in 1773 to escort and protect the British governor-general, and later the presidents of independent India –and a foot drill by the Army Guard Battalion, selected from one of India’s infantry regiments every three years on rotation. There’s no fee but spectators are required to present photo IDs at the point of entry. Drills take place on Saturdays at 8am (15th March to 14th August), 9am (15th August-14th November) or 10am (15th November-14th March).The distinctive architecture of Delhi's Habitat World © Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu / Lonely Planet

Cultural synergy at Habitat World

After all the history, take a moment to explore Delhi’s contemporary culture. Part of the landmark India Habitat Centre, Habitat World was founded to promote synergies between cultural institutions and artistically minded individuals, and there’s always something interesting to see. This is where Delhi’s arty and scholarly set can be found admiring modern artworks at the Visual Arts Gallery, sitting in on academic presentations at the Stein auditorium or encouraging amateur performers in the centre’s public amphitheatre. If you work up an appetite, you can fall back on the popular All American Diner.Children ponder the significance of the Delhi Durbar obelisk © Punteerinder Kaur Sidhu / Lonely Planet

Raj resonance at Delhi’s Coronation Park

Almost forgotten, Delhi’s calm Coronation Park was created to mark the centenary of the 1911 Delhi Durbar, a grand assembly of Indian royal families hosted by Viceroy Lord Hardinge. A major event on the colonial calendar, durbars honoured the ascension of a new monarch to the British throne, which also enshrined the king or queen as sovereign ruler of India. These grand occasions were marked by processions, elephant parades, polo tournaments and parties, but today, the parade ground slumbers quietly, except for the occasional cricket match between locals, or when promenading couples stroll by. In the heart of the 60-acre park is a stone column, marking the spot where King George V anointed Delhi as the new capital of British India, and five statues of the kings and viceroys who once ruled India, now quietly fading into history.