With short grass

With short grass

With short grass


MAY, 2017

Pench National Park

I was in Pench National Park in central India a few weeks ago, looking for tigers and wild dogs. It was hot, up in the 40s, and the forests were shedding their leaves. It stuck me how strange it is that our trees at home shed their leaves in the winter to avoid damage from frost, snow and high winds; but in this punishing heat of India the trees shed their leaves to stop themselves from dehydrating. There must be a changeover point somewhere on earth where the trees can’t decide whether to shed in winter or summer.

It’s quite a varied forest in Pench with no single tree species predominant. Sure, there were teak trees but I wouldn’t really call it a teak forest for all the other varieties like Indian blackberry trees, crocodile-bark trees and even the occasional white barked ghost tree. My guide was extremely knowledgeable so I thought I’d find out what you call this type of forest. I love the Indians’ tone of phrase; not because it is wrong but because it is so different to ours.

“Well…” he said, pondering for a moment. Then he came up with his answer. “Miscellaneous” he proudly announced. Then he qualified his answer with absolute authority. ”Yes, it is most definitely main category dry deciduous; sub category miscellaneous.” Then, almost as an afterthought, but to give me the full and proper definition, he added “with short grass.”


Wild Dog – Pench National Park

Photograph by Guy Marks

“So there we have it, the forest in Pench is dry deciduous, sub-category miscellaneous…with short grass.”

If you’d like to follow in Guy’s footsteps and see this special forest for yourself, we recommend a stay at Jamtara, a gorgeous tented camp set in a forest glade, just 2 minutes’ drive from the entrance to Pench National Park. The en-suite guest tents are spacious and decorated with wildlife paintings and colourful textiles. Between trips into the park you can unwind in the open-sided lounge, swim in the rim-flow pool and enjoy delicious food. To make your stay extra special you can opt to spend a night at a four-poster star bed set on stilts, where you can take in the sights and sounds of nature as afternoon melts into evening and then night. Magical.

Jamtara sky bed

Jamtara Wilderness Lodge

Jamtara consists of 12 luxury tents in a secluded glade near Pench National Park. The decor of the lodge harks back to the era of colonial safaris, with polished hardwood floors and hand-crafted wooden furniture. The tents are spacious, light and airy, with an en-suite bathroom. All have private verandas facing the riverbed where you’ll see a variety of wildlife.

This is the perfect place to unwind between safaris. The lodge has an outdoor pool and sundeck, too. There’s a large central, open-sided room with dining and sitting areas, though many meals are served outside. Sundowners are usually enjoyed around the firepit by the large banyan tree.


2018 Galapagos Cruise

2018 Galapagos Cruise

2018 Galapagos Cruise

12 May – 22 May 2018


This trip starts and finishes in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.

Book tickets

To book please phone Tribes Travel on 01473 890499.

We are delighted to have partnered with the Galapagos Conservation Trust for this special departure lead by the Galapagos Conservation Trust’s chairman Dr Mark Collins.

The itinerary has time in Quito and then an 8-day cruise aboard the Majestic. During the trip you will get a selection of talks about some of the key conservation issues of the Galapagos as well as privileged meetings with scientists and a behind the scenes visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station.

There are limited spaces available and priced at £5,500 per person (ex international flights) for a lower deck cabin we expect this trip to fill quickly.



You will arrive into Ecuador’s capital city, Quito to meet your fellow guests and your host Dr Mark Collins, Galapagos Conservation Trust’s chairman. You will stay at the La Casona de la Ronda Heritage Boutique Hotel, located in the historical centre of Quito Old Town



Your adventure truly begins today as you have the option to take one of two available tours:

Explore the historical city of Quito.

Founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca settlement, Quito spreads across an Andean valley and is fringed by volcanos – a remarkable setting for the country’s capital city. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, it is considered the best preserved city in Latin America. Your guide will take you around the top sights of this fascinating city with lunch and all entrance fees included.


Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve (additional supplement of £180 per person).

Located 52 km from Quito, this certified conservation area sits on the North-Western slopes of the Andes. A plethora of life awaits your discovery as you explore this biodiversity hotspot with a naturalist guide. There are beautiful views across the Tandayapa Valley with flowers in bloom all year round and hummingbirds in aplenty. This is a must visit for birders, botanists and nature lovers alike. Round trip transport from Quito, breakfast and lunch are included.



In the morning you will be collected from the hotel and taken to Quito airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. On arrival into San Cristobal airport you will be met by a staff member from the Majestic and transferred to the yacht where you will have time to settle into your cabin before enjoying lunch on board and a welcome briefing.

Your afternoon will be spent on the island of San Cristobal, the first stop Darwin made in Galapagos. You will visit El Junco Lagoon. Located in the highlands 19km from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, El Junco is located in the caldera of an extinct volcano. This is a freshwater lagoon fed by rainwater and is one of the only permanent freshwater bodies in Galapagos. It can be a good spot to observe local water birds



Your next stop, like Darwin, will be Floreana Island. Today, GCT is working to restore the unique ecosytem of the island and reintroduce locally extinct species. In the morning you will visit the famous Post Office Bay. You will head to a spot where 18th century whalers placed a wooden barrel which was used as an unofficial mail box. The tradition was, if there was mail in the barrel destined for the same place as you, you would take and deliver the mail by hand. The custom continues to this day, with Galapagos visitors posting postcards in the barrel, but don’t be too surprised if it takes a while for them to make their way home.

Your afternoon visit is to Cormorant Point. Here you will enjoy a hike to a salt-water lagoon which is home to a flamboyance of flamingos. You will also have the chance to snorkel around Devil’s Crown, the rocky remains of an offshore volcano sticking out of the water. This is a great location to see a wide variety of marine life.



Your morning visit will be to Suarez Point. On a short hike you will have the chance to watch blue-footed and Nazca boobies before reaching the breeding site of nearly all of the world’s 12,000 pairs of waved albatrosses. GCT have supported research to monitor these birds, which are critically endangered.

In the afternoon, your excursion will take you to the spectacular Gardner Bay, where white-sand beaches are home to swathes of sea lions. You will have the opportunity to dive into the water to swim with these playful animals and may be lucky enough to spot some sea lion pups. On the beach you may also see curious mockingbirds, one of the species that inspired Darwin’s theories.



In the morning you will visit Twin Craters, located on opposite sides of the road leading from Puerto Ayora to Baltra. The name is only figurative; they are not real craters but formations created by collapsing surface material into underground fissures and chambers. The views from here are breathtaking as you look over the Scalesia forests.

The Charles Darwin Research Station is your destination for the afternoon. This world leader in Galapagos research celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014 and is still going strong. You will get an exclusive, GCT behind the scenes tour of the centre to meet some of the scientists we support, as well as a chance to visit their famous giant tortoise captive breeding programme. You will have the chance to see tortoises ranging from hatchlings to adults and many of the older tortoises are accustomed to humans so will stretch their heads out, making for great photo opportunities.



In the morning you will visit El Barranco. Also known as Prince Phillip’s Steps, it is a rocky path that leads up to a high cliff-face where a marvellous view can be appreciated. The mystical palo santo tree grows here and sightings of red-footed boobies, short-eared owls, storm petrels and Galapagos doves are also a possibility.

You will visit the white-sand coral beach of Darwin Bay in the afternoon. From here you will take a half mile trail which winds its way through the mangrove forests. This is a wildlife hotspot so watch out for everything from golden rays and sea turtles to red-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. Further down the path you will find sea lions playing in tidal pools and at the end there are spectacular views of the cliffs.



In the morning you will visit Rabida Island, one of the most colourful islands in Galapagos and great for snorkelling. Its famous maroon sandy beach and stunning lookouts provide wonderful landscapes. The island is a birdwatcher’s delight with chances to see nine species of finches and Galapagos hawks.

Chinese Hat Islet is so-called for its distinctive shape and is your afternoon destination. This small islet is located near the southeast coast of Santiago, where Darwin made his final stop, and has many interesting geological formations such as lava tubes and lava flows. Some of the lava flows were formed underwater and have subsequently been pushed up above sea level – evidenced by the presence of coral heads which can still be clearly seen. This is a good spot for marine iguanas which you will have the chance to observe whilst snorkelling.



In the morning you will visit Witch Hill. Located on the northern coast of the island, this eroded hill and its surroundings present one of the most picturesque beaches in Galapagos with its fine white sand and abundance of animals. Wildlife often spotted here includes turtles, rays, tropical reef fish, sea lions, mockingbirds and boobies. The clear water provides an excellent opportunity for you to enjoy a swim and a snorkel.

In the afternoon you will visit Lobos Island, which means “Sea Lion Island.” This appropriately-named island is the perfect place to spend time with noisy and frolicking, sea lions. As well as being able to snorkel with them, there are opportunities to see blue-footed and Nazca boobies.

In the evening, you can relax and enjoy a special farewell dinner for your last night aboard the Majestic.



Your final morning will include an exclusive visit to the research centre and a tour of the Interpretation Centre where you will be able to learn more about the natural and human history of the Islands and the conservation efforts taking place. The Museum of Natural History explains the volcanic origin of the Archipelago, its ocean currents and climate, and the arrival of Galapagos’ unique endemic species. The Human History Exhibit gives a chronological description of events such as discovery and colonisation of the Islands.

After visiting the Interpretation Centre you will be taken to the San Cristobal airport to catch your flight back to mainland Ecuador. You will then return to the La Casona de la Ronda Heritage Boutique Hotel in Quito for one more night.



You have the morning free in Quito and will then be transferred to the airport in time for your onward flight home.


To book – call Tribes Travel on 01473 890499.

New panoramic carriages for Ecuador’s Nariz del Diablo railway route

New panoramic carriages for Ecuador’s Nariz del Diablo railway route

If you’re like me and enjoy the travelling as well as the arriving at your destination, then there’s some news I thought I’d share with you.

In times gone past, the train from Alausi to the famous Devil’s Nose in Ecuador was a bit of a bone-shaker!!!. Comfort was not the name of the game, which is a shame, as it detracted from the real reason to make this journey – the spectacular views!

Since April 2012 the game has changed with the introduction of all-new rolling stock. Not only are the windows, quite frankly, enormous, but the train’s suspension has been upgraded. Tren Ecuador is also launching new Standard and Standard Plus services on the new carriages. Standard fare passengers will receive a guide and a coupon for a drink in the cafeteria car, while Standard Plus ticketholders will enjoy in-seat service. Together with air conditioning, this experience is something you’d kick yourself if you missed.

Sullivan Bay Lava Flow – Santiago Island

Sullivan Bay Lava Flow – Santiago Island

When visiting the Galapagos islands you expect your visit to be full of close encounters with giant tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions and great frigate birds. But one of my favourite landing sites had no wildlife. Except for the odd aptly named lava lizard and a cactus here and there.

The moon-like lava flow landscape

Stepping off the panga in Sullivan Bay you would be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped onto another planet. Spatter and cinder cones around the bay and the volcanic landscape of Bartholome island surrounded us and it feels very barren and moon-like. And then we looked down to see the incredible detail of the pahoe hoe lava flow here twisting and turning into fascinating formations – erosion is incredibly slow so the lava is preserved. The lava flow was formed within seven years of eruption from 1897 – 1904 and we could clearly see the layers of lava where it has spilt and cracked. The landscape is bizarre but spectacular and we walked across the trail onto the lava flow to examine the cracks and patterns the lava had created.

As my Galapagos Island cruise did not visit the more volcanically active islands of Isabela and Fernandina in the west of the archipelago, I thought this landing site on Santiago was a wonderful surprise and a superb experience. It’s a great taster of the kind of scenery for anybody not visiting those volcanic western islands. It also a great spot for snorkelling near the beach and to go searching in a panga for the Galapagos penguin around Pinnacle Rock on Bartholome island. I thought it was great to see a really important part of the Galapagos islands landscape even though my cruise was not concentrating on the more volcanic islands.

I’d thoroughly recommend including Santiago Island as part of your Galapagos cruise!!

More about my Bhutan tour

More about my Bhutan tour

In my post earlier this month about Nepal tours I mentioned that I am sorting out a recce trip to Bhutan. A few people have been in touch asking me more about this Bhutan tour and it’s really a very exciting trip.

taktsang-monasteryUp to date we haven’t offered Bhutan as a destination but we’ve decided to expand our portfolio into this amazing country. I’ve set up a discovery trip which will run in October this year and is designed for me to see as much of the country as possible in about 11 days. And I thought it would be great if a few people came along with me on this so that I can get as many points of view as possible. Clients’ points of view are really important to us as this helps us design tailor made Bhutan tours for our clients of the future.

We’re going to be flying in via Kolkata as there are no direct flights from the UK to Bhutan. We’re visiting all the major sites in the west and centre of the country. These tend to focus on monasteries and other religious sites but as I understand it the real highlight is the fabulous landscape in which these places are located. And as we travel around the country we’re going to be stopping at small villages and looking at local markets, seeing how the rural communities live and finding out as much as we can about the traditions and culture of this place. One thing that intrigues me is this concept of gross national happiness. That’s something that the government measure their success by and have as a central tenet of their society rather than the gross national product that we in the west look at to measure prosperity. It’s a great notion and I I’m looking forward to meeting the people that live in this happy regime.

monks1Well if you want to find out more about the trip have a look at the itinerary on our website or give us a call. There are limited places available on this and I think it will be a great adventure.