4 good reasons to visit Chile

4 good reasons to visit Chile

4 good reasons
to visit Chile

“The length of Chile equates to the distance between Moscow and Lisbon,” a guide told me, as we stood on Santa Lucia hill looking down at the capital, Santiago, ringed by mountains.

This was my first time in Chile and, though I had some notion of what I was coming for – stunning scenery, good food and wine – the reality was twenty times better than I expected.

I will write more detailed blogs about the country, but this is my initial overview offering my views as to why you should definitely make the journey to this wonderful, skinny country.

01 – Truly awe-inspiring scenery

In a country as long as Chile, you’d expect there to be some diverse and fabulous scenery. I expected some good desert scenery in the Atacama in the north, but this was far more varied than I ever thought possible, with weird and wonderful rock formations, sand dunes, salt lakes, oases, geyser fields … and with the volcanic Andean mountains giving the most perfect backdrop.
In the south, Patagonia is a raw place ranging from miles of windswept, often waterlogged lowlands where sheep are king, to the stunning icefields, glaciers and rock monoliths of Torres del Paine National Park. It is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
I spent less time in the central area, but here you have winelands and lakes, traditional islands and, of course, off the mainland there is also Easter Island. These are more gentle landscapes than those at the country’s extremities, but nonetheless wonderful.

Have a look for yourself.

02 – Diverse activities

In my 11 days in Chile I have hiked up a mountain to watch condors at eye level, and visited remote rocky outcrops to see ancient petroglyphs. I have been horse riding around a glacial lake, and watched in awe as hot water and steam shot out of innumerable geysers surrounded by snow-capped Andean mountains. I have watched the night sky lit up with more stars than I’ve ever seen before, and watched lenticular clouds encircle perfect volcanoes. I’ve met llamas, guanacos, vicunas, vizcachas (which look like rabbits), condors, flamingos, rheas (like small ostriches), caracaras (a raptor), black-necked swans and caiquen (upland geese always seen in couples) – sadly we just missed seeing a puma. I’ve toured a city where street art has become the main reason for visiting, and I’ve eaten great meals and tasted special wines.

03 – Excellent food and wine

Chile is obviously known for its wines and, after an evening’s wine tasting, I now know that I like quite a few of them! What I didn’t know, though, was that the food would be so good. I had some memorable meals here, with, perhaps surprisingly, my standout meal being a beetroot salad starter courtesy of Remote Patagonia hotel in Puerto Natales. It tasted as good as it looked, which was gorgeous.

04 – Great people

Shaking hands with the guide who had just taken us for a magical day in Torres del Paine, he said to me with a serious face, “Just think how brilliant it would have been with a good guide!” Then winked and walked away.
This is just one example of the reason I like Chileans; they have a great sense of humour and don’t take themselves too seriously. They are easy to spend time with, have an infectious love of their country, and they love wilderness (at least many of the people I met).

See anything you like? I hope so. We’d love to make your holiday extra special – you only have to ask!

Magic in the moonlight

Magic in the moonlight

Magic in the moonlight

Green sea turtle eggs, Tamarindo, Costa Rica – © Shutterstock – chrisontour84

Green turtle,Tortuguero in Costa Rica – © Shutterstock – rvb3ns

Lit by the full moon the beach had an eerie beauty, the waves glinting in the moonlight, the sand with a silvery tone.  “She’s coming,” someone whispered, and all heads turned to the shoreline. A dark figure emerged from the white foam and began making its way slowly up the gentle slope towards the flatter land at the base of the fringe of palm trees silhouetted behind us.

Sea water streaming off its back, the moonlight giving it the appearance of mercury, the silent figure continued past us, intent on its purpose. And I felt tears running down my face.

Sea turtle tracks on the beach at Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica – © Shutterstock – JHVEPhoto

As a child I had been fascinated by a television programme that documented sea turtles swimming thousands of miles to return to the beach where they themselves had hatched, to lay their own eggs. The story was followed to its conclusion – the eggs eventually hatched and the beach was filled with thousands of tiny hatchlings all valiantly trying to make their way to the water, programmed by the same genetic ‘software’ that would one day bring those that survived to adulthood back here again. The tragedy that then ensued, as great crowds of seabirds swooped, picking them off one-by-one, reduced me to tears, as did the narration which informed me that even those that made it into the water had barely any chance of surviving the predators that awaited them.

And now I was standing on a beach in Costa Rica, watching the first part of that story unfold before me and I found it immensely moving. The beauty and dignity of the adult female green turtles, their shells well over a metre in length, was stunning. The silence of the night and the watching small crowd was punctuated by the rhythmic crashing of the waves and the moon lit up the trail left by the turtle, looking like tractor-tracks in the wet sand.

Our guide called us in a whisper over to a site about 20m away where sand was flying into the air.  “Don’t get too close or you’ll get hit”, she warned as we gathered to watch another turtle. This one had finished laying her eggs and was now busily disguising the nest, her large flippers scooping sand over the eggs and filling the large crater she had dug and positioned herself in to lay dozens and dozens of eggs.

I’d imagined that this would be a gentle process but it was anything but. That sand was flying with considerable force and you could hear it clattering when it hit driftwood or fallen coconuts.  It was a mesmerising site. This beautiful, endangered creature doing all she could to protect her eggs and give the offspring she would never see a chance of at least hatching out.

 

 

Green sea turtle covering her nest © Shutterstock – David Evison

The next two hours passed as if in a dream, punctuated by excited whispers as more turtles arrived and crawled out of the sea, some half-flung up onto the beach by bigger waves. Occasionally a red light would wave and we would head over to where another guide was indicating that they had found more action, either a turtle disguising its nest or one laying eggs.

Watching the eggs being laid was clearly deemed the hot ticket of the evening but I kept missing the key moment. Most turtles lay dozens of eggs – as many as a hundred in one clutch –  but the first ones we saw had either nearly finished or had only produced a small number of eggs and, in each case, I barely caught a glimpse.

We had left Evergreen Lodge in Tortuguero National Park at 8pm that evening. It was already dark and the short boat journey that took us to the shore of the lagoon was itself magical, the lights of the village we would visit the next day lit up, giving us glimpses of bars and restaurants and people socialising. Then the boat pulled up and we all disembarked onto sandy ground. The boat headed back to the lodge and our small group, the guide at the front, made our way for a few minutes through the dark forest, with small torches helping us avoid obstacles.

Dressing for the occasion

As instructed, we were all dressed in dark or neutral clothes. It’s important not to wear anything that could catch the turtles’ attention. When they are actually laying their eggs they are in a sort of trance, but before that they can be distracted and are likely to abandon their nest and head back out to sea. Our guide pointed out several large craters in the sand which indicated that exactly that had happened at some point.

Phones and cameras are banned on the trip and I was pleased to see that everybody seemed to have adhered to that. It would have been so tempting to whip out a phone and start filming or taking photographs, but that would have produced just the distraction the turtles didn’t need. Also, it was so much more real, so much more intimate, to simply be in the moment with these beautiful animals, rather than focusing on them through a viewfinder or a screen, distracted by thoughts of how many ‘likes’ the pictures would get on social media.

Torches are also forbidden once on the beach itself, so we were fortunate that the moon was full and the sky clear. The guides have torches with red beams. These are less visible and distracting to the turtles but are only shone on the back of the animals, never on their faces.

 

Green sea turtle eggs, Tamarindo, Costa Rica – © Shutterstock – chrisontour84

Time was now passing and the boat would be returning for us shortly. The guide was conscious that some of us hadn’t seen the magical egg-laying moment and she was as pleased as we were when another turtle was found, mid-stream, so to speak.

The eggs came out in quick little spurts, several at a time. We probably saw two or three dozen in a minute or two. They fall about 30cm onto other eggs from the same batch. All are soft-shelled at this point, so are undamaged by the fall.

It was amazing to see and I felt strangely protective of the life that would develop within those shiny, soft white globes, about the size of a golf ball. I wondered if any of the hatchlings would survive to make it into the water and, if they did, if any would return to this same beach in decades to come and lay their own eggs.

Gentle, vulnerable giants

The moonlight allowed us to really appreciate the size and beauty of the adult females. Green turtles reach sexual maturity between 20 and 50 years of age, so some of these ladies had been at sea for half a century, travelling thousands of miles from here, before making this journey. They will lay several batches of eggs this season.

Their heads are large, their flippers chunky and powerful. Yet you are also painfully aware of how vulnerable they are. They can’t pull their heads in and, in the days when they were hunted for meat, they were a horrendously easy target.

Turtle hunting stopped decades ago in Costa Rica and the turtles and their nesting sites are now protected – there are over 40 of them in the country. The Costa Ricans are immensely keen on protecting the environment and, as our guide put it bluntly, once it became evident that the turtles were worth more alive than dead, even those who once made their living from catching and killing these gentle giants accepted that it was a thing that belonged in the past.

Marine turtles are still vulnerable of course, whether it’s from being accidentally caught in fishing nets or from pollution such as plastic. And, once outside the protection of Costa Rica, these turtles are vulnerable to hunting. The turtles who nest on Tortuguero will head out to various feeding areas in the Caribbean, with many making their way to the waters off the coast of Nicaragua. Turtle hunting is now illegal in Nicaragua but illegal hunting takes place and more than 10,000 are killed each year.

“It cost $40 per person for this tour and it was worth every cent,” I heard an American guest murmur – a sentiment I concur with. The money goes towards turtle protection and conservation.

 

Green turtle, Tortuguero, Costa Rica – © Shutterstock – rvb3ns

The whole experience was a ‘bucket list’ item for many of us and it was every bit as fantastic as I had hoped.

Watching the eggs being laid was indeed great but, for me, the most beautiful and moving moment came when we watched one female, her eggs laid, her nest successfully disguised, make her way back to the water. As she trod her solitary path, her shell now dull in the moonlight thanks to its coating of sand, I thought of her journey back to this, the Costa Rican beach of her birth, brought here by that mysterious inbuilt ‘sat nav’, and of the journey that now lay ahead of her.  When she got to the edge of the water she stopped, letting the waves break over her. She must have stayed there for a couple of minutes and then a much bigger wave arrived, tossing her up into the water as if she weighed nothing. For a second it looked as if she was going to be washed back onto shore but then the water receded, taking her with it.

Our last glimpse was of a dark head before she slipped beneath the moonlit waves and began her long, lonely journey as her eggs lay sheltered beneath the sand.

 

Olive turtle at sunset, Ostional beach, Costa Rica © Shutterstock – Xenia_Photography

Responsible sea turtle viewing

To learn more about this fantastic experience, and how you can do so in a way that minimises the impact on the turtles, read Brad Nahill’s feature on our website.

Track the turtlees!

Since 2000 the Sea Turtle Conservancy has been satellite tagging some of the turtles who nest at Tortuguero, and you can follow their epic journeys on the Conservancy’s website.

Where else to see them

Costa Rica is a fantastic place to see the sea turtles.  Tortuguero is renowned as the place to go – it is the most important nesting site for green sea turtles in the Western hemisphere –  but there are plenty of other options such as the Papagayo GulfNicoya Peninsula and the gorgeous Osa Peninsula, which has lodges such as Casa Corcovado, ideally situated for turtle spotting. Many of our Costa Rica holidays include beach stays that could involve turtle tours – and we can always tailor-make one to your precise specifications to give you the best chance of seeing these wonderful creatures.

Brazil’s Praia del Forte, close to Salvador, is known for its turtle project, with the Tivoli Eco Resort an ideal base.

The Galapagos Islands are a great place to see turtles. You won’t see them nesting, as they do this at night when visitors aren’t allowed onto the islands, but you are likely to see them when snorkelling.

Moving away from Latin America, lodges on Pemba Island in Tanzania can provide access to turtle nesting on Misali Island. The bare-foot paradise of Fundu Lagoon is a fabulous base for this, while the luxurious Manta Resort even has an underwater bedroom. Imagine watching shoals of fish and other marine life – including sea turtles – swimming past your bedroom window!

Turtles tours are also offered in South Africa. The St Lucia Wetland Park on the KwaZulu Natal coast is a world Heritage Site and a wonderful spot for seeing leatherback and loggerhead turtles nesting. You can take turtle tours from lodges such as Thonga Beach and Kosi Forest Lodge.

From bush to bean to cup

From bush to bean to cup

From bush to bean to cup

If you’re a coffee lover, Costa Rica is the perfect place to go! From tiny bakeries to swish restaurants, you’re likely to be served an excellent brew, in a country where that little bean has been a key part of life and the country’s economy since the 18th century. And a tour of a coffee plantation is a great way to enhance your holiday.

“Fascinating – and very pretty…”

Costa Rica is one of the largest coffee producers in the world but a massive amount of the production is done by small-scale plantations – less than 12 acres – and if you get the chance to visit one, do.

It’s fascinating and, if it’s anything like the plantation at Finca Rosa Blanca, it’s also very pretty.

 

The organic plantation at Finca Rosa Blanca

At the end of an absolutely fantastic two-week family holiday in Costa Rica, we had 24 hours at Finca Rosa Blanca, a gorgeous and colourful hotel set in the hills above San Jose, before our flight home.

The warm temperature was a welcome break from the humidity of the rainforest we’d just come from, and the lush gardens were very alluring, drawing us out to wander around and marvel at the mass of butterflies and birds and the views across the valley to the city and the mountains beyond

An added bonus is that Fina Rosa Blanca is an organic coffee plantation – hotel guests can enjoy a ‘happy hour’ of sorts each afternoon when endless supplies of excellent coffee and homemade coffee cake or biscuits are available ‘on the house’. In addition to this irresistible invitation to indulge, the hotel offers coffee plantation tours and, as my sons made the most of the last swimming pool they’d see for some time and my husband turned his camera towards the hundreds of butterflies in the colourful gardens, I headed out with guide Ulises.

We crossed the narrow road from the hotel, through the plantation gates and into what resembled a Victorian garden, full of the sort of exotic plants 19th century horticulturists loved to bring home from their travels. Set on a hill, it’s lush and packed with trees and flowers. As Ulises explained, at Finca Rosa Blanca they ‘farm with the forest’. No pesticides or other chemicals are used, and there is no irrigation system.

Flowers, fruit and birds

The coffee bushes sit in rows in a truly idyllic location, shaded by 60 different species of trees, including mango and avocado, the fast-growing coral trees, lemon and mandarin, while ‘living fences’ created by vast ‘Swiss cheese’ (monstera deliciosa) plants, irises and fleshy beehive ginger all help to shield the precious coffee.

 

 

 

“Banana plants are the site’s irrigation system, being 65% water.”

The coffee bushes themselves have rich green leaves and, when I visited in late August, were full of bright green berries, which will be harvested between November and January, when they are a deep red colour. Ulises told me what when the plants are in flower – in March/April – the entire plantation has a glorious jasmine scent, coffee being part of the jasmine family, and is a sea of white flowers.

I also spotted plantain and banana plants and Ulises explained that as well as providing more shelter and produce for use in the hotel and for the staff, the banana plants have a primary, invaluable, role. They are the site’s irrigation system, being 65% water. He demonstrated by cutting a slice of bark off a banana plant, pulling away a chunk of the translucent pale green honeycomb-like substance that lay underneath. It was dripping with liquid – and a quick dip of my finger and a slightly hesistant taste showed me that it was indeed fresh water.

All these beautiful plants and trees – and the coffee bushes themselves – have multiple functions. Their leaves and flowers attract birds which feed on the insects and, by feeding on seeds, contribute to reforestation. The fallen leaves help keep moisture in the ground and act as a natural form of weed control.

The plantation is also home to some 130 different species of birds and, as we wandered through the verdant, shady rows, Ulises pointed out a richly coloured blue and green motmot, along with the Costa Rican national bird, the aptly-named clay-coloured thrush; its subdued plumage making it the odd one out in a country of brightly coloured avian citizens. We also spotted yellow-breasted, noisy kiskadees, wrens, hummingbirds and a woodpecker with a splash of red on his head.

 

Small-scale production, big-scale taste

At Finca Rosa Blanca the coffee bushes are allowed to grow slowly, developing more oils and flowers and better tasting beans. A six-foot plant is around nine years old and they have a 45-year lifespan but are pulled up after 25 years. Harvesting is done by hand, with the five full-time staff supplemented at harvest time by 20 extra workers. Each worker picks the red berries by hand, putting them into a basket known as a cajuela. A cajuela is a very specific size – it can hold around 12kg of coffee berries – and the workers are paid about $3 dollars per cajuela, and can earn around $30 a day.

Once picked, the berries are put through a peeling machine that squeezes them to remove the red outer skin (which is put to good use as fertiliser) then the peeled berries are soaked in water for 12 hours to remove the sweet, slimy mucilage, after which they are put on simple mesh drying racks and spend 12 days under the Costa Rican sun until completely dry.

The dried beans, still bearing a parchment-like thin skin, are put in sacks and stored unroasted, looking rather like peanuts. Roasting is done on demand ‘little by little’ to maintain freshness and quality. The beans are put into a sorting machine which separates the whole beans from the broken ones, then put in the roasting machine. This is gas powered and surprisingly small – about the size of an Aga.

Roasting is critical to the resulting coffee’s flavour and aroma, and I was surprised to learn that the difference between light roast and dark roast is just five minutes, with light roast taking 10 minutes, medium 12 and dark roast 15.

“Roasting is critical to the coffee’s flavour and aroma.”

In the small production facility, Ulises ground two different types of beans and put them into little bowls, inviting me to smell them. The lighter roast had a strong aroma of citrus, nuts and vanilla, while the dark roast was more pungent, with definite earthy scents of tobacco, leather, cocoa and walnut.  When not but not boiling water was poured into each bowl the scents reduced significantly, though strengthened again when the brew was stirred. I tasted each one, slurping from a spoon as instructed, and the difference between the two was quite marked – particularly the more bitter aftertaste of the dark roast beans.

After that it was time to wander back through the lovely plantation, and into the Finca Rosa Blanca restaurant, where I sat on the terrace in the warm breeze, watching butterflies and hummingbirds dancing amongst the flowers, and enjoying the freshest coffee I had ever tasted. And a piece of cake, of course.

The hotel is just 30 minutes from San Jose airport and I wholeheartedly recommend it for a wonderfully relaxing end to a memorable holiday in this beautiful country. And the coffee tour? It’s a must!

All images © Karen Coe

A day on an Amazon cruise

A day on an Amazon cruise

A day on an Amazon cruise

 

I had been to the Peruvian Amazon a few times, but until recently I’d only ever stayed in a lodge. I had expectations that taking a cruise on the Amazon would be a more luxurious and more relaxing experience, with more time sipping pisco sours in the bar and chilling out in the Jacuzzi, but with less time to actually see the wildlife that I go to the Amazon to see. I quickly discovered on my cruise aboard the Delfin that I needn’t have worried. While there was time to enjoy the luxuries of my cruise boat, the days were far more packed with experiences than I had expected.

Our expert local guide knew the trails incredibly well.

When I met my guide Ericson in Iquitos, he explained that the Delfin has a reputation for keeping its passengers busy. It certainly doesn’t skimp on the luxuries, but it keeps the day full of activities. Passengers can choose to do as much or as little as they want. I was determined to do as much as possible, and after boarding my cruise I signed up to everything I could. 24 hours later, I realised just how busy the days could be.

My cabin on board the Delfin was wonderful, far surpassing the quality of any of the Amazon lodges I had stayed in, but I didn’t have long after I boarded to enjoy the luxuries onboard. The boat set sail along the Maranon River even before our cruise briefing began in the bar, and by the time we had enjoyed a welcome pisco sour and learnt about the activities for the next few days, we were mooring up on the banks of the river and it was time to head out to see the wildlife.

After just an hour onboard, I was back onshore beginning the exploration of the dense primary rainforest and any concerns I had about the amount of wildlife I would see taking a cruise were quickly quashed. Our expert local guide knew the trails incredibly well, and our little group saw anacondas, sloths, tarantulas and even a rare and fearsome bushmaster snake.

By the time I returned to the boat for a quick shower and an excellent dinner, I was very happy with how the day had gone, but there was still time for more. I could not resist the opportunity to join a night boat ride, observing nocturnal birds, frogs and caimans in the guide’s light. By the time I finally got back to my cabin after a long day, I was ready for bed and had no trouble sleeping in my air-conditioned cabin.

 

The wildlife in the Amazon gets up early, and it was no different for those of use staying onboard the Delfin.

After watching the sunrise from the deck of the boat, it was time to set off on an early morning skiff ride through the creeks that feed into the Maranon River. Macaws and toucans flew overhead while pink river dolphins played in the water.

 

While we explored, the boat continued its journey upstream, and we caught up to it in our fast skiffs for a delicious breakfast before heading out again. By now the day had warmed up and the wildlife was quietening down, so we cooled off with a dip in the river, trying to forget about the piranhas and caimans that inhabit the dark waters of the Amazon. Back onboard, there was no point changing out of my wet swimwear, as I had signed up for a morning kayaking trip. Heading back upstream on the skiff, I hopped into my kayak and began the paddle back to the Delfin, pausing to watch the birdlife flitting between the trees that lined the river shore. I was back just in time to have a quick shower and change of clothes before a well-earned lunch.

I had been on the Delfin for just 24 hours and it had been non-stop. Pleased with the amount I had already seen and done, and confident about how much wildlife I was going to see in the remaining time onboard, it was time to finally unwind and have another pisco sour and a siesta.

If you’d like to experience Delfin’s Relais & Chauteux style in one of the most biologically diverse places on earth, contact us – we’d love to help you plan your own Peruvian Amazon adventure!

 

 

Off to market

Off to market

Off to market

There is something fascinating about a market. And when that market is in a foreign country, the attraction is even stronger…

Most of us like to include one or two shopping opportunities on our holiday, whether that’s exploring high-end shops in elegant galleria or perusing home-made wares spread out on a tablecloth on the ground in a Maasai village. But you don’t have to be intent on a major shopping expedition to enjoy visiting a market – it’s a fabulous way to see what daily life is like for the locals as they shop for essential supplies or sell their artisan crafts. It doesn’t have to be a ‘general’ market either – fish markets are fascinating places to visit for example, with the added bonus that there will usually be some excellent fish restaurants close by!

A  market can be colourful in more ways than one. Whether it’s table-upon-table piled high with pyramids of vibrant spices or fruits and vegetables, racks of brilliantly-coloured woven goods or simply the local colour provided by such a bustling environment as you’re surrounded by the indigenous languages and customs, a trip to a market is bound to be memorable. Just don’t forget to take your camera!

 

Images above – header image © Shutterstock – Curioso, inset image © Shutterstock – Dendenal

The vibrancy of Latin American markets

The markets in Latin America are every bit as vivid as one would expect. The Plaza de los Ponchos (Otalvo Market) in Otalvo, Ecuador, sells everything from weaving tools to fresh fruit, while the Flower Market in Lima, Peru, is a gorgeous explosion of colour and scent. Unmissable!

The Bolivian city of La Paz has a range of markets, from the Mercado Lanza food market (a great place to try a salteña – a Bolivian empanada), the Ayni artisan crafts market and Comart Tukuypaj, where you’ll find beautifully-made alpaca and llama goods, to the intriguingly-named Witches’ Market (see photo below). This latter sells herbs and traditional medicines, and fortune tellers will happily read your palm, but it also sells lovely leather goods and woven items. Haggling is fine in Bolivia, so you may get a bargain!

Ferias (farmers’ markets) about in Costa Rica. In addition to farm products such as cheeses many sell honey, wine, clothing and crafts. But even if you’re not in the market (so to speak) for plantains, eggs or balls of string cheese, if you get the chance to visit a feria while in Costa Rica, do go. You’ll find ferias in many towns, with particularly good ones in or just outside Tamarindo, Quepos and San Jose. The Tamarindo Feria (Saturday mornings) sells a lot of organic products and chocolates, cheeses, flowers etc.  and there are often live music performances. The Feria Verde de Aranjuez in San Jose is a large, organic gourmet market and the perfect place to spend a Saturday morning.

 

© Shutterstock – Saiko3p

“The markets in Latin America are as vivid as one might expect.”

While in Chile, look out for local fruits and vegetables such as lúcuma and chirimoya, as well as leather, silver, lapis lazuli, alpaca and wood crafts. Angelmo, the coastal bay just outside Puerto Montt, has a superb seafood market – you couldn’t get fresher fish! It is THE place to try curanto, the South Chilean delicacy of seafood, vegetables and meat cooked over hot stones.

Santiago has plenty of markets, the most famous being Mercado Central, which specialises in fish. Don’t miss trying a traditional fish stew in one of the local restaurants! A short walk from Avenida O’Higgins you’ll find the Santa Lucia market, with a wealth of gifts and crafts on offer. You’ll also find excellent local hand-made goods in Pucon’s Mercado Artesanal, while Valparaiso’s Mercado El Cardonal features great piles of fruit and vegetables, all housed in a historic market hall. Make sure you also visit the fish market in Valparaiso; check out the pelicans, seagulls and sea  lions hovering around hoping for scraps as the fishermen unload their catches.

“You’re surrounded by the indigenous language and customs.”

Local colour in Peru

The town of Pisac in Peru’s Sacred Valley is famed for being the Valley’s highest settlement, for the Inca ruins above the town and for its bustling Sunday market, when traditionally-dressed members of the Cusco region’s indigenous Quechua communities gather to buy and sell produce and supplies. However, there is also a daily artisan market in Pisac, so whichever day you visit the town you be able to buy crafts and gifts and capture all that local colour in some great photos.

In addition to the afore-mentioned Flower Market, Lima has a number of markets to explore, ranging from the Feria Artesanal craft market to Terminal Pesquero, the daily fish market and Mercado de Surquillo, a superb food market. Peru has some 4,000 varieties of potatoes, so the potato displays alone are incredible in Peruvian markets! And if the idea of the Witches’ Market in La Paz appealed, you could well find Mercado Modelo in the Peruvian town of Chiclayo equally fascinating, with its stalls selling essential ingredients for potions and spells.

Cusco and Chinchero have ecellent markets and, for something absolutely exotic, there’s the market adjacent to the floating shantytown of Belén, Iquitos, where jungle village residents sell their wares. If you have a hankering to taste fried leafcutter ants or Amazon worms, this outdoor market in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon is the place for you…

Coast to winelands

There are some great markets to be found in Africa too, from the sophisticated establishments in Cape Town and the Cape winelands to Maasai markets in Tanzania.

The Cape Winelands have some terrific markets in stunning locations, such as the Friday evening market at the Boschendal wine estate in Franschhoek. There’s great food and drink and incredible mountain views. And you get some  amazing views of the South Peninsula at the weekly Cape Point Vineyards Market. Sit here at sunset, marvel at the views, and chow down on wood-fired pizza as you sip a glass of the CPV’s own award-winning wine before browsing for jewellery and crafts.

In cosmopolitan Cape Town you will find a host of markets with a lovely relaxed atmosphere, and you can usually enjoy some fabulous food there.  Oranjezicht City Farm Market on the V&A Waterfront is operated by the innovative team behind the urban farms project. You can buy wonderful breads, honey, fruit, herbs and vegetables here and find specialist stalls selling chocolates, vegan food etc. The market has gorgeous views of the ocean, and is a great place to wander around, enjoy a pastry or crepe etc. The Waterfront’s Old Power Station now houses the V&A Food Market, with more than 40 food and drink stalls, including one with 23 varieties of South African gin!

Cape Town’s Good Company Market (Sunday), based in the Company’s Garden and near to the Art Gallery is fantastic for all the family, with food and craft stalls and plenty of family activities such as pony rides,

Don’t miss Elgin’s Railway market, an Art Deco delight in a converted apple warehouse.  Live music plays as you explore the clothing, jewellery, food and ceramics stalls, and there are some great cafes and restaurant. If you visit on a Saturday you can even travel to Elgin from Cape Town on board a historic stream train, then ride it back to Cape Town after a day at the market.

If you head out to Hout Bay you’ll find more than 100 stalls inside an old fish factory next to the ocean at the Bay Harbour Market. Musicians and street performers do their thing, the air is fragrant with the enticing aromas of freshly-baked bread and, in the distance, Chapman’s Peak presides over it all like a benevolent market manager.

From Maasai crafts to curios within earshot of the Victoria Falls…

Every Thursday afternoon hundreds of Maasai converge on Mto Wa Mbu village, close to Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara in Tanzania, for the vibrant weekly Maasai Central Market, with an even bigger market held there on the 22nd of each month. It’s a really interesting break in your safari itinerary as you taste Maasai food, shop for their crafts etc. There’s also a Maasai market selling crafts and curious in Arusha, and the lively Kariakoo market in Dar es Salaam, which is hot chaotic and fascinating. It is very crowded though, so perhaps think of it more as an experience than a shopping opportunity!

Malawi’s roadside Lizulu Market is aimed firmly at the drivers and passengers in the passing cars and buses, giving it quite a different feel to many other markets. With its piles of fruit and veggies, it’s a definitely a place to get some memorable holiday snaps. There’s also a market in Dedza township. It’s not aimed at tourists, but among the essential items for everyday life here you will also find stalls selling straw hats, clay cooking pots and lovely woven and printed cloth. If you’re in Dedza you’ll probably also want to take a trip to the pottery, which has its own shop selling beautiful items – which can be personalised.

If you can tear your eyes away from the majestic Falls themselves, head to the Big Curio Open Market in Victoria Falls town (on the Zimbabwe side of the falls) where you will find crafts of all kinds, includig Shona sculpture.

Spicing it up in Dehli

As for India, well, there’s not enough room in this blog to do justice to the wealth of markets in the sub-continent! However, if you are in Dehli, pick up your camera and head to Khari Baoli, the largest spice market in Asia. You’ll find it near the historic Red Fort, and the market itself – which takes up the whole street after which it’s named – is a historic institution, heaving with endless shops and stalls selling spices, herbs, dried fruit, rice, tea and nuts. It’s colourful, incredibly highly scented and unique. Fabulous!

Let Tribes take you to market!

Many of our trips include the opportunity to visit a local market or two, and if we tailor-make a trip for you then we can craft an itinerary that takes in just exactly what you require in the market department.

Our Golden Triangle trip, with its tour of Old and New Dehli, is a great way to experience the scents, sights and sounds of the Khari Baoli spice market, while many of our Peruvian itinerarys, such as Classic Peru will include a visit to the famous market at Pisac. Peru for Foodies is a market-lover’s delight, featuring market shopping in Lima –  where you sample the local produce and buy the ingredients you’ll be taught to prepare for lunch – in Pisac and in Cusco, where you will be stunned by the huge variety of potatoes and other produce on offer in San Pedro Market.

Itineraries such as Costa Rica Coast to Coast include free time in San Jose, where you could fit in a market visit, while our Costa Rica Self-Drive Holiday takes you to Tamarindo, and its farmer’s market.

If you’re intrigued by the concept of the Witches’ Market in La Paz, our Bolivia Authentic Experience will do the trick for you, and our Trekking and Culture in Otalvo holiday puts you right in the heart of this Ecuadorian market town.

Those planning to take in the glaciers, deserts and cities of Chile will find visits to Santiago and Valparaiso markets possible on our Chile, Deserts and Glaciers trip, while no visit to Cape Town and the Winelands is complete without at least one (but probably rather more!) market explorations. Try our Cape Town and Winelands holiday or Cape Town, Coast and Mountains.

Our Maasai Culture and Wilderness holiday takes you to the Maasai market at Mto Wa Mbu and finally, if you’re drawn to the idea of market shopping to the thunderous audio accompaniment of the Victoria Falls, our Victoria Falls in a Nutshell Zimbabwe trip will deliver exactly what’s required!

The lure of fishing

The lure of fishing

The lure of fishing

  • Top image © Shutterstock – Vitec
  • Inset image © Shutterstock – Pavel Svoboda Photography

Whether you enjoy fly fishing in slow-moving rivers, wading up to your chest in a tranquil lake or want to experience the thrill of the chase with deep-sea fishing, there’s no need to forego your favourite pastime while on holiday.

From searching for barracuda in the Indian Ocean or marlin or sailfish off the coast of Costa Rica to tiger fishing in Zambia and fly fishing for trout and salmon in the crisp, crystal-clear waters of Chilean Patagonia, there are plenty of opportunities for catch-and-release fishing in some truly amazing locations.

If freshwater fishing’s your thing, Lake Arenal in Costa Rica is the perfect place to fish for rainbow bass a you enjoy glorious views of Arenal volcano, while a fishing trip on the Rio Frio in Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge gives you a fantastic opportunity to spot some of the 300+ species of birds that live here, along with sloths, monkeys and turtles.

Costa Rica is also a superb destination for deep-sea sportfishing off its Caribbean or Pacific coasts. Blue marlin is the species this country is most famous for, but tuna, roosterfish and sailfish are also found here, with the port of Queopos renowned worldwide as a sportfishing destination. There is a strong emphasis on catch-and-release in Costa Rica, to preserve the fish populations.

“From still lakes to raging white-water torrents, there are some absolutely stunning fishing locations in Chilean Patagonia…”

  • Image © Shutterstock – Wolf Avni

There are also some fabulous fishing opportunities in Peru. Freshwater fish such as rainbow trout and the feisty butterfly peacock bass abound – if you’re up to the peacock bass challenge, head to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon.  The waters off Peru’s northern coast offer brilliant deep-sea fishing – a world record-breaking black marlin was caught off Punta Sal for example.

From still lakes to raging white-water torrents, there are some absolutely stunning fishing locations in Chilean Patagonia, most notably Coyhaique, which is renowned for fly fishing. The remoteness of this entire region, combined with its pristine waters, mean that there are vast fish stocks, many of whom have never encountered a hook or lure. The fish here can be vast in more ways than one; 40lb salmon are not entirely uncommon! The rivers of the beautiful Torres del Paine National Park are home to Pacific salmon, huge brown and rainbow trout and Patagonian tooth fish.

 

Tuna fishing in the waters off Cape Town can be spectacular, and Kwazulu Natal has great freshwater fishing, while the East African coast also offers some wonderful sea fishing, with big game fish such as swordfish, sailfish, tuna and marlin inhabiting the waters of the Indian Ocean, along with barracuda, kingfish, dorados, red snapper and grouper.

Kenya has long been famed for its deep-sea fishing, but Tanzania is now attracting those with a love of the sport, with the benefit that it is still much less fished than Kenya. Deep-sea fishing is a popular activity around Msasani Bay near Dar es Salaam, while the waters around Zanzibar, Pemba, Fanjove and Mafia islands are another rich source of big game fish.

Fishing is prohibited in Tanzania’s national parks, but lake fishing and fly fishing can be arranged in gorgeous locations outside the parks; a wonderfully peaceful way to experience rural Tanzania, casting in a Rift Valley lake or a sparkling mountain stream. Or how about fishing amidst the incredible natural beauty of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, where your rivals will be fish eagles?

 

 

 

  • Top right image © Karen Coe
  • Centre right image © Shutterstock – Janelle Lugge
  • Bottom right image © Shutterstock – Sergey Uryadikov

  • Main image © Shutterstock – Sean Nel
  • Inset image – the Lady Jaqueline Houseboat

“Fishing, perhaps with an elephant audience…”

The tiger fish of the Zambezi river is a real challenge – this speedy, striped predator doesn’t give up without an energetic fight and can weigh as much as 30lb, though 12-18lb is more common. The best time to go tiger fishing in the Upper Zambezi is June to August, when large shoals of baitfish draw them to the region. The prime period in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park is June to September.

You’ll also find tiger fish in Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba – where a stay on the Lady Jacqueline houseboat offers fantastic opportunities for keen fishermen (perhaps with an elephant audience!) – and in the Chobe river in Namibia.

And don’t forget, that in some locations fishing tuition is available, so even if you’ve never picked up a rod or tied a lure before, you could learn to do so in a remarkable location, giving you another wonderful holiday memory. And perhaps a new interest forever!

Speak to our consultants about the freshwater and ocean fishing opportunities in the destination you are travelling to.