Up, up and away

Up, up and away

Up, up and away…

Once the long-haul flight to your destination is over there are still plenty of opportunities to take to the air on your holiday….

“Arriving at a safari lodge in a tiny plane is magical.”

Small aircraft, big adventure

When I had my first safari experience – a fabulous Tribes trip to Tanzania  in 2013 – I was nervous about two things: 1) seeing creatures killed by predators and 2) all the flying involved…

By a happy twist of fate, in spite of some incredible wildlife viewing, all the animals I saw over that two-week period remained unharmed, though there was plenty of evidence of the ones who had been less fortunate; usually as scattered bones and once, memorably, in the form of the hollowed-out shell of a giraffe torso, fur still intact and looking rather like something you might find in a contemporary art gallery.

The flying, however, I couldn’t avoid. I got through the flights from the UK with my normal coping mechanism of eating everything I was offered and burying myself in books. But the small planes still loomed – it’s simply not possible to make effective use of your time on safari without hopping around in light aircraft and I was dreading it. But here’s the thing – I loved it! Me, Mrs Nervous Passenger, was delighted by the experience.

Sometimes my travelling companion and I were the only passengers in craft the size of a Mini with wings, which gave us the chance to chat away to the pilot and hear their (usually fascinating) life story. On other occasions we flew in slightly larger machines with 10 or 12 fellow passengers. And in all instances the low height and slow speed at which we travelled meant that we got a truly wonderful view of the terrain over which we flew – and when we flew over incredibly clear, turquoise water dotted with golden sand islands, it was just unforgettable.

Arriving at a safari lodge in a tiny plane is magical, particularly if you spot elephants or a large herd of zebras from the air. Then the plane gently bumps along a grass landing strip and you’re met by a friendly face from the safari lodge – sometimes with a welcoming drink!

On that very first safari trip I was longing to see elephants. As we landed on my first-ever small craft flight, at my first-ever safari camp, there was a young male elephant standing on the end of the runway. It doesn’t get much better than that. And yes, I did cry!



The silent stunner

There is something almost other-worldly about travelling in a hot air balloon. Yes, if you’re taking a morning flight you may have to get up at silly o’clock and, as you pull your clothes on and gaze around with bleary eyes, you do wonder if this was such a good idea, particularly if it’s a bit chilly.

But then the excitement starts to kick in as you get to the departure site as the pink sky of dawn starts to lighten, and you watch the balloon being inflated before you are helped into the basket, the burners make that distinctive ‘whooshing’ sound and up you go…


And suddenly there you are – sailing silently above the Serengeti, drifting over the 2,230 temples and pagodas of Bagan , or gazing down into walled compounds and fortresses in Jaipur, almost as transfixed by the shadow your balloon casts on the ground as you are by the views.

You see things in a way that’s not possible from a plane, as you fly so silently and slowly that the people and animals below, going about their daily lives, are completely unaware of their audience above. Was that early start worth it? Oh yes, absolutely!


“This is a great way to travel!”

Cable cars

OK, so you’re not flying in the strictest sense, but you’re still sailing above the ground, enjoying remarkable views and seeing things in a new way. Whether it’s the Table Mountain cable car in Cape Town, the Santiago cable car in Chile or the Sugar Loaf mountain cable car in Rio, this is a great way to travel! You can even take a 20-minute cable car ride to the iconic Kuélap walled Chachapoya fortress in Peru.



Strapped safely into a harness, you ‘fly’ along, above rainforest or through cloudforest, at one with your environment. You do whizz along and it’s exhilarating. You’re unlikely to take many photos unless you have a Go-Pro strapped to you but, for a while, you know what it feels like to take flight!

Costa Rica is a fabulous place for ziplining, with tours varying from one to even three hours, sometimes combined with Tarzan swings and hanging bridges. If this appeals, our Active Costa Rica trip could be right up your street!

Sky bike

Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador offers some wonderful ways to leave the earth beneath you. This stylish cloud forest lodge is set on a high plateau so you’re already above the clouds! From the lodge you can explore the cloud forest from the two-person sky bike – one of you pedals  alog the 200m route over a gorge while the other gets to sit back and enjoy the views. Mashpi’s Dragonfly open-air cablecar takes you on a 40-minute, 2km journey below and through the rain forest canopy at 50m per minute, and the on-board guide can stop it whenever you want to get a longer look at something; fantastic!

Ten top reasons to visit Chile

Ten top reasons to visit Chile

Ten top reasons to visit… Chile


The west coast of South America is bordered by 4,300km of the glory that is Chile. Here you will find simply astonishingly beautiful and diverse landscapes, from arid desert and lush winelands to temperate rainforest and sparkling glaciers, an amazing diversity and richness of wildlife and a fascinating culture – plus some great food and excellent wine. What’s not to love?  We could spend many thousands of words enthusing about this unique country, but – not without difficulty – we’ve boiled it down to 10 key reasons. There are plenty more of course – just contact us and we would be delighted to expand further….

1: Atacama Desert

The unique lunar landscape of the Atacama Desert’s Moon Valley is something no visitor to Chile should miss. The Mars Rover was tested here because NASA says the landscape closely resembles that of the ‘Red Planet’. Atacama is also home to the El Tatio geysers, which regularly erupt in immense columns of steam, and to the crisp, white hexagons of the 300,000-hectare Salar de Atacama salt flat and the vast Surire Salt Lake, which sustains the ostrich-like suri birds, together with flamingos, llamas and vicunas. The Andes watch over Atacama like silent guards, while snow-topped volcanoes occasionally remind us that some are still active. In Atacama you can also visit charismatic villages and towns such as San Pedro de Atacama and swim in thermal pools fed by warm-water waterfalls.

Trip idea:

Atacama is also one of the world’s foremost stargazing centres, which brings us to….

2: Stargazing

Atacama sits at almost 2,500m above sea level and has very few clouds and even less light pollution, which explains why a number of super-observatories have been established here and astro-tourism has become a serious ‘thing’. Chile is the astronomy capital of the world and travellers here have the chance to visit observatories such as ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) which is the world’s biggest astronomical project, Cero Tololo Inter-American Observatory and Cerro Paranal observatory.  San Pedro de Atacama, Elqui valley, Iquique and Antofagasta are all fantastic locations for stargazing; Elqui was the first-ever International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

The Chilean night sky is almost beyond description. With your bare eyes you can perceive a vast wealth of lights above you; with a DSLR camera, a little know-how and some patience you can capture photographs to be proud of, and through the telescopes of the observatories you can witness planets and stars billions of light years away.

Tribes’ Paul Cook was lucky enough to go stargazing with his camera in the Atacama Desert in 2018 – read his blog post here.

3: Mountains, Glaciers and Icebergs

The Andes mountain range runs along Chile’s eastern border and some 80% of the landscape of this ribbon-like country is mountainous. In addition to the vast mountains of the Andes there are traverse chains that thread out to the coast, with lush valleys in between, and coastal mountain ranges such as the Cordillera de Nahuelbuta. Chile’s highest mountain –  Ojos del Salado – towers to 6893m and is the world’s highest active volcano. Mountainous regions are home to a number of the national parks, most notably Torres del Paine with its three iconic granite peaks.

The mountains of Chile form the ‘skeleton’ of so much of its beautiful landscapes, from their role as sentinels at Atacama to that of the frame of the stunning Lake District with its sparkling lakes and rich forest.

The glaciers and icebergs of Chile are another glorious reason to visit this country and the islands and inlets of Chilean Patagonia are places of astonishing beauty. A boat trip on Lago Grey in Torres del Paine will show you the Grey glacier, while the less-visited Pingo Valley has its own beautiful glaciers. San Rafael Lagoon National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in remote Aysen, houses the entire Northern Patagonian Ice Field and on a boat trip on the lagoon you may be lucky enough to witness ice blocks calving off the glacier.

Trip ideas:

4: Wildlife

With such a fabulous diversity of geology and ecology it’s no surprise that the wildlife in Chile is equally diverse. Chilean mammals include armadillos, pumas, guanacos, vicunas, alpacas, huemel deers, skunks, the hare-like Mountain Vizcacha, Geoffroy’s cats and Andean foxes, while the waters along the country’s coastline are home to elephant seals, sea lions, sea otters, humpback whales, dolphins, sperm whales and blue whales. Chile is also where you will find the puda, the world’s smallest deer.

Birdlife is even more diverse; from the majestic Andean condors and charismatic Humboldt and King penguins to flamingos, black-chested buzzard eagles, red-legged cormorants and red-masked parakeets, there are nearly 500 different species in Chile. Lacuna National Park – on the border with Bolivia – is one of the best birding locations in Chile and is home to more than 140 species including Andean condors, puna ibis and Chilean flamingos.

Trip idea:

5: Easter Island

Enigmatic, centuries-old ‘moai’ – towering volcanic stone statues – are the first things that spring to mind when one thinks of Easter Island. 3500km off the west coast of Chile, the island is home to nearly 900 of these mysterious figures, created by the Polynesians who were the original inhabitants of this remote, bleakly beautiful place. They are a once-in-a-lifetime sight, a real ‘bucket-list’ item, and they are well worth the journey. And there is more to Easter Island – excellent snorkelling and scuba diving, a subtropical climate, fantastic eco-lodges, great horse riding, hiking and biking. It is a unique place.

Trip idea:

6: Colourful Chiloe!

Chiloe is the fifth largest island in South America and has a culture all of its own. It has lovely, hilly scenery, beautiful forests, fanastic birdlife and marine life – blue whales visit its northern coastline from January to April and Humboldt and Magellan penguins live here. . It’s particularly known for its musterious, fascinating myths and legends, brightly-painted stilted wooden houses and historic wooden churches. Don’t miss the craft markets – chileo is also renowned for the colourful woollen jumpers, blankets and ponchos produced here.

7: For activity lovers

If you’re not the active type you can still enjoy a magnificent holiday in Chile. And if you are up for activities, Chile won’t disappoint! Water and snow skiing, mountain biking, horseback riding, white water rafting, fly fishing, sailing, ziplining, kayaking and hiking are all eminently possible here…

8: Food and wine

The Spanish conquistadors brought grapevines to Chile in the 16th century and Chilean wines have a long-established reputation for excellence. The Chilean winelands are beautiful; the lush, fertile landscapes of the Casablanca, Aconcagua, Maipo, Cachapoal and Colchagua valleys have innumerable rows of vines, handsome wine estates and rich avocado plantations and peach orchards. The vendimas – wine festivals – of March and April are great occasions, and there are wineries of all ages and sizes to visit. Some of the most historic are in the Maipo valley, famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon, while the Casablanca valley is renowned for its white wines. The Cachapoal valley is a great place for horse-loving wine fans to visit; fine horses are bred at its historic haciendas, and huasos – cowboys – work here and take part in rodeos

Chilean food is another great treat – from the freshest seafood such as octopus carpaccio and razor clams to juicy steaks and tasty street food such as empanadas. Pastel de Jaiba, Chilean crab casserole, is a creamy, cheesy crustacean delight, while the local speciality on Chiloe island is curanto – seafood cooked on hot stones placed on the ground and covered in large leaves.  You will also find curanto featuring fish, meat and/or sausage in markets across the south of Chile. If you have a sweet tooth and are in the north of the country, look out for chumbeque, a rich, sweetmeat traditionally flavoured with cinnamon and honey.

9: Culture

In addition to all that natural beauty and wildlife, Chile also has a rich pre-Colombian and colonial culture to explore. The Chinchorro people were practicing mummification two millennia before the Egyptians, and the world’s oldest mummy, dating back to 5050BC, was found in Arica in Northern Chile.

The capital city of Santiago has some excellent museums, art galleries and theatres. You’ll see superb pottery and textiles in the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, while much more recent Chilean history is documented in the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos which tells the story of the human rights violations experienced from 1973 to 1990.

The country’s main port – Valparaíso – a bohemian city overlooking a bay, is a great place to see present-day Chilean artists, poets and musicians and houses La Sebastiana. The modernist home of Pablo Neruda, the poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is now a museum to Neruda’s work and life.

The Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyum Museo-Centro Cultural in Curarrehue is a living museum is based on a traditional Mapuche village, while the town of Castro on Chiloe Island has no less than 150 historic wooden churches, 16 of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the Colchagua Museum in Santa Cruz houses an important collection of pre-Hispanic art. 

10: Outstanding Accommodation

Finally, Chile has some simply wonderful accommodation in all price ranges, set in glorious locations.  There’s a fantastic number of high-end properties such as the elegant Palacio Astoreca in Santiago  and in  Looking for luxury in the wilderness? Try the Explora Rapa Nui, the supremely relaxing Alto Atacama, The Singular Patagonia  or Tierra Patagonia.

Heading to Chiloe Island? Tierra Chiloe is a gorgeous eco-lodge with great ocean views and a relaxing spa.

As well as luxury eco-lodges, Chile also boasts some comfortable eco-camps such as EcoCamp Patagonia, where guests sleep in geodesic domes in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park.

There’s also a great choice of ships for cruising the ice fields from the mid-range Skorpios vessels  to the deluxe Antarctica 21.


Serious ‘chillaxing’

Serious ‘chillaxing’

Serious ‘chillaxing’


With Mother’s Day this Sunday, March 31, a straw poll of the mums in the Tribes office revealed (not surprisingly!) that the chance to relax would be a most welcome gift. This then set us off onto a conversation about some particularly relaxing holidays or holiday experiences, with spa treatments topping the list  – we’re talking serious ‘chillaxing’!

‘In India they quite rightly take relaxation very seriously.’

Images © Ananda in the Himalayas

In India they quite rightly take relaxation very seriously, and just reading about the Ananda Wellbeing Holidays had us feeling tensions diminish.  Ananda in the Himalayas is a splendid palace set in 100 acres of grounds high above the Ganges River Valley. It’s a true sanctuary where you feel miles – and years – away from the stresses of 21st century life. There’s a range of programmes to choose from, including Yogic detox, stress management, Ayurvedic rejuvenation and even an active programme for those who want to combine spa therapies with circuit training, white water rafting etc.  Expert therapists, doctors and chefs collaborate to provide an immersive experience – all in a beautiful setting.

Another wonderfully relaxing location in India is SwaSwara, which overlooks Om Beach. This sanctuary is focused on refreshing you mind, body and soul, with three programmes that range from five to 21 nights in length.

A river cruise is, by its very nature, usually pretty relaxing, but an Irrawaddy River cruise in Burma on board the elegant Sanctuary Ananda is another thing entirely in the relaxation stakes. Seeing the sun rise over the temples of Bagan is a glorious way to start a day, and, while the trip has a fabulous range of activities to make the most of your being in this fascinating part of the world – including ox cart and rickshaw rides, pagoda and temple visits and demonstrations by local artisans – life on board the Sanctuary Ananda is designed to make everyday cares float away. Styled rather like a 1930s steamer, this luxurious craft has its own spa offering a range of theraputic and beauty treatments,  plus a plunge pool and a sundeck, which is a perfect spot for yoga.

‘Life on board the Sanctuary Ananda is designed to make everyday cares float away.’

Image ©Sanctuary Ananda

‘Spa treatments with organic, locally-grown Andean plants and herbs..’

Images © Sol y Luna

A number of the hotels in Peru’s Sacred Valley have spas, making them the perfect place to relax after exploring the stunning landscape and remarkable Inca archaeological sites. The charming Sol y Luna, for example, sits in a wonderfully relaxing location in the Sacred Valley, set in 25 acres of flower and bird-filled gardens. The Yacu Wasi spa of this Relais & Chateaux property offers daily yoga sessions as well as spa treatments with organic, locally-grown Andean plants and herbs. Tribes’ travel experts would be only too pleased to help you plan an itinerary that includes not only Sol y Luna but also the Belmond Andean Explorer – this luxury sleeper train has its own spa car!

Nyara Springs in Costa Rica (pictured above and in the image at the top of this page) is in a fabulous setting in the Arenal Volcano National Park. The mere fact that each room has its own private plunge pool fed by natural mineral hot springs is sufficient to initiate the relaxation process. Add a beautiful spa perched above the rainforest, with open-air treatment pavilions and a stunning yoga pavilion, and you’re likely to find it very hard to leave!

Having a spa treatment while on safari is a great treat, and there are some excellent spas to be found amongst the safari lodges of South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, including The Elephant Camp (Zimbabwe) , Saruni Samburu (Kenya), Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve (South Africa), and Lemala Kuria Hills in Tanzania. This overlooks the plains of the Northern Serengeti. The Melengali Spa at Lemala Kuria Hills is a very relaxing place for a muscle-soothing massage – and the views from the bathrooms of the tented suites are fabulous too!

Or how about a classic Indian Ocean getaway? The White Sands Villa and Spa boutique hotel on the east coast of Zanzibar offers barefoot luxury and a beautifully-located spa in lush, colourful gardens a stone’s throw from the beach

Want to get even further away in search of peace and quiet? There’s no spa or massage service at Fanjove Private Island (pictured above) but, with just six guest bandas and requiring a flight in a small plane then a boat trip to get to it, this 1km x 300m piece of castaway seclusion in the Indian Ocean is hugely relaxing.

Or, if you want to get away from – pretty much – it all but still have a spa to hand, may we suggest Easter Island? A five hour flight from the Chilean mainland, Rapa Nui is an intriguing place to visit, and the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa is a fantastic place to stay on the island. Spa Manavi overlooks the Pacific Ocean – fabulous!

‘Chillaxing’ at Lemala Kuria Hills in Tanzania…

Water for Life, Zambia – we did it!

Water for Life, Zambia – we did it!

We did it!

Last Friday, March 22, was UN World Water Day. Most of us are lucky enough to be able to take fresh water for granted, not even thinking about it when we turn on a tap. However, while every human being should have access to fresh, safe water, for billions of people across the world sadly that’s simply not an option. Last year, through The Tribes Foundation, the charity that we support with funds and admin, we started a campaign to raise the £5,500 needed to provide a borehole well for a community in a remote part of eastern Zambia so that some 250 people could have access to fresh water.

And we are thrilled to announce that, thanks to Tribes travellers and other generous supporters, we have reached our target!

“Every human being should have access to fresh, safe water.”

In 2010, the UN recognized the right to safe and clean drinking water as “a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” Yet at present, like so many people across the globe, the villagers our borehole project will help have to rely on streams and stagnant ponds for their water.  They share this with livestock and, consequently, water-borne diseases are common.

The new borehole will, like the one pictured above, directly improve many lives by providing access to fresh, safe, drinkable water.

We’d like to thank everyone who donated to this really important cause – this will make an incredible difference to these villagers, and it’s one that will have an enduring impact.

The Tribes Foundation

Simply by booking with Tribes, you are already making a difference, as every booking helps The Tribes Foundation. Most clients make additional donations which are put to very good use with one of the environmental, social or wildlife, environmental or social projects we work on.

In Praise of Forests

In Praise of Forests

In Praise of Forests

Visiting a forest is a life-enhancing thing to do. Who can forget that moment when Lucy steps out of the coat-filled wardrobe and into the snow-covered forest of Narnia? Happily you don’t have to travel to Narnia to experience the exotic or the unknown of the forest world. From the dense, luxuriant, hot and humid rainforests of the Amazon, the ebony groves of Zambia and the bamboo, oak and magnolia forest of India’s Singalila National Park to the misty cloud forests of Costa Rica, there is an incredible wealth and diversity of forest to explore. It’s an arboreal adventure just waiting to be taken, and we would love to take you there!

“Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land.” (United Nations)

This Thursday, March 21, is the UN International Day of Forests. A forest is a beautiful thing, of course, but it’s so much more than that. Forests cover one third of the world’s land mass and, according to the UN, “Some 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.” 

What most of us would think of as ‘classic’ rainforest can be found in the Amazon in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Costa Rica. On a trip such as our Costa Rica Wildlife holiday you’d experience everything from lowland wetland rainforest, highland rainforest and cloud forest to the dense rainforests of the Osa Peninsular.

Madidi National Park in Bolivia boasts an incredibly variety of flora and fauna, its rainforest home to over 340 species of tropical birds, and 4,000 species of plants as well as to jaguars, tapirs, capybaras, ocelots, spider monkeys, howler monkeys and caimans.

The rainforest of Peru’s untouched Tambopata National Reserve, with its macaw and parrot-crammed clay licks and its giant trees and fabulous birdlife is the perfect place for a photo tour, while in a lodge such as Mashpi in Ecuador you can get an incredible bird’s-eye view of the cloud forest, both from the luxurious lodge itself and from the dragonfly cable car and the skybike.

An Amazon river cruise on board a lovely riverboat such as the Tucano is a wonderful way to get into the heart of Brazil’s rainforest, spending a week exploring some 200 miles of the Negro River, heading out in small motor launches and exploring the forest on foot. Alternatively a floating lodge such as Uakari is the ultimate get-away-from-it-all-in-the-Amazon! Here you would see the endemic red-faced Uakari monkey and in the wet season, paddle through the flooded rainforest in canoes, seeing the plantlife and wildlife at very close quarters.

Madagascar has a remarkable variety and abundance of forests.  The dry deciduous Kirindy Forest is home to the fosa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore and predator, and is not far from the world-famous Avenue of Baobabs at Morondava.  The unique spiny forest of Ifaty has amazing baobab trees, one of which is believed to be 1,500 years old, and the indigenous forest in Madagascar’s Ranomafana National Park is home to 12 species of lemur, including the critically endangered golden bamboo lemur, which was discovered there in the 1980s.

“In Costa Rica you can experience everything from lowland wetland and highland rainforest to cloud forest.”

The 25,000-year-old Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda is glorious, not least because it’s home to about half the world’s population of mountain gorillas. It is actually penetrable(!) and, in addition to the magical experience of seeing gorillas in their natural habitat, visitors can see an incredible wealth of birdlife and butterflies, while the national park in which the forest is located is home to 120 species of mammals, including 11 primate species.

The ebony groves of South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, are something very special. The park is one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, so game viewing is amazing, and the ebony trees are quite beautiful. Visit in the dry season and they are glorious, visit in what’s called ‘the Emerald Season’ – the rainy season – and you can experience the flooded ebony groves, the tree trunks emerging from several feet of water. It’s an almost primeval experience to make your way amongst them in a canoe.

While not strictly forming a forest, the baobabs in Ruaha in Tanzania are unforgettably impressive trees, as Tribes’ director Amanda Marks felt moved to pay tribute to last year. The acacia-covered savannah lands of Serengeti – again not forest, but gloriously tree-filled – are also stunning, and a trip that combines these with Ruaha is a great option.

The forests of Singalila National Park in India are home to the endangered red panda, as well as the black panther, Himalayan black bear and clouded leopard. And, for the ultimate forest getaway, there’s the Tree House Hideaway in an area of private jungle on the edge of Bandhavgarh National Park, which is home of a healthy population of tigers. The deluxe rooms are set in large trees, so you couldn’t get any closer to the heart of the forest!

Future forests

For each booking made with us we plant trees via our Travel Forest, which is part of the Tribes Foundation, the charity we back with admin and funds. We are proud to say that, as of 2018, we have planted over 50,000 saplings in Africa and Peru.