Sunrise in Selous

Sunrise in Selous

Sunrise in Selous

Tribes’ client Patricia McKay experienced a glorious sunrise while travelling in Tanzania with us. And she describes it – and some of the other highlights of her trip – in the most beautiful way!

© Shutterstock – Ondrej Prosicky

“The dawn creeps up upon you stealthily and almost imperceptibly at first.”

Sunrise in Selous

The dawn creeps up upon you stealthily and almost imperceptibly at first. Around 5:30am there is a just perceivable lightening which enables you to make out the shapes of the trees around the camp. The hippos are grunting to each other, some from the lake in front of the tent and others from the land behind it. The more musical grunting calls of the Southern ground hornbills can also be heard.

As the sky above Selous lightens other birds join in until there is a true dawn chorus of trills, twitters and cheeps, none of which I can identify. By 6 o’clock it is light enough to see a bit, and from the comfort of my bed I can observe two small birds in silhouette as they sit together side by side on a nearby palm frond. A couple of hornbills fly over, their shapes dark against the brightening sky.

By 6:30am it is daylight, though the sun is not yet up. I can stand it no longer in bed, so I creep out and sit on our verandah. The first openbill stork of the day flies past, its perpetually open bill showing clearly against the sky. An African fish eagle flaps slowly past on its enormous dark wings, its dazzling white head and tail gleaming in the sun like beacons. In the sedges and rushes in front of the tent a cattle egret stalks past, looking for frogs or insects, or some other such tasty bite. The fish eagle flaps back again, this time carrying a large branch, which it takes to its nest in a palm tree, closely followed by its mate, who bears a similar burden. Out in the lake the hippos are just visible with their pink ears and noses glowing in the first rays of the sun. Every so often a smooth dark back appears above the surface of the water for a moment, only to sink back underwater a few seconds later. The grunting continues together with the odd snort and splash.

By now it is 7 o’clock, and my personal alarm clock goes off in the shape of a Masai warrior wrapped in the traditional red chequered blanket, complete with a wooden staff in one hand and a cell phone in the other, who strolls down the path to our tent to deliver my requested morning wake-up call.

“Hello, jambo – good morning” he calls out until I answer back with a smile and “Hello, good morning – assante!” “Karibou – you’re welcome,” he responds, and strolls off, his job done. It’s time for breakfast!

 

© Shutterstock – Grober du Preez

“…wonderful close looks at golden impala, gleaming in the sunshine.”

My first giraffe

We flew from Dar es Salaam to Ruaha on a small plane which only had seats for 12 passengers, however on this particular flight we were only six in total – four passengers, and two pilots, who welcomed us personally as we boarded. The flight was short and soon we were landing on a dirt runway.

We met our guide Maulidi, and driver Godson,  and were soon on our way for our first game drive as we travelled to Mdonya Old River Camp. We had not even got out of the airstrip parking area before we saw our first animals – wonderful close looks at golden impala, gleaming in the sunshine. I had already told Maulidi that I was particularly interested in birds, and he immediately showed me some Fischer’s sparrow-larks, and the spectacular lilac-breasted roller, both of which were life birds for me.

For the next hour I was held spellbound, as we looked at more and more birds and animals, until we rounded a corner, and suddenly, there he was! My first-ever wild giraffe, placidly grazing on an acacia tree.

We looked at each other for a minute or two, and then, having decided that we were harmless, he casually strolled away to the next bush with the curious stately gait that all giraffes have. It was a truly magic moment….

 

©Karen Coe

Breakfast with the baboons

One of my most memorable events was the bush breakfast that we had on our last morning in Ruaha.  The driver, Godson, pulled the jeep into a small clearing next to a very small pond.  The area was populated by many impalas as well as baboons.  The impalas immediately fled to the far side of the pond while the baboons examined us and then decided we were of no interest.  The very young baboons however carried on with their swinging from branch to branch, for which they were then reprimanded in no uncertain terms!  We enjoyed our breakfast watching all the animals interact.  And to our surprise and delight there was a hippopotamus relaxing in the water of the pond.  He/she graced us with a giant yawn and some grunting for having disturbed his/her early morning nap.  It was a lovely way to start the day and end our stay in Ruaha National Park.  

Except where all stated, all images are © Patricia McKay

How to avoid crowds in the Ngorongoro Crater

How to avoid crowds in the Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro without the crowds…

 

Its wealth of natural attractions make the Ngorongoro Crater a particularly sought-after spot for wildlife enthusiasts coming on safari in northern Tanzania. As a consequence it can get very busy – but there are ways to avoid the crowds!

“Its wealth of natural attractions…”

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a Unesco world heritage site in northern Tanzania. The focus is the outstanding Ngorongoro Crater which, at 16kms diameter, is the world’s largest caldera (the remains of an extinct volcano).

As well as savannah grasslands and acacia forest there is a freshwater lake and a soda lake. The ancient landscape is dramatic and very photogenic, and within the walls of the crater live a diverse range of species including hippos, elephants, zebras, antelopes, hyenas, lions, cheetahs and even black rhinos. The birdlife here is also excellent.

In my opinion the Crater is still worth visiting even with the large number of visitors that you’ll be sharing the sights with.

However much you pay for your safari you should always expect people and other vehicles to be around, but there are ways to give yourself the best chance of keeping away from the crowds.

 

 

Consider travelling in the low season

Low generally means rainy, so that’s from about mid-March to the end of May when the long rains are due. Certainly the rain puts a lot of travellers off coming, and of course game viewing is never quite as wonderful in the rain, but it doesn’t always rain and the hotels and lodges that stay open at this time also tend to offer some very good deals on prices. Grab yourself a bargain and hope for the best.

Stay overnight close to the Crater

There are two entrance roads to get into the crater. More people use the one in the west, and it tends to take longer to get down from that side. If you stay in a lodge on the east side, you can use what is generally known as the Sopa road and you’ll be one of the first into the Crater if you set off early. This might give you at least an hour (or more) before the main crowds arrive as many come from much further away.

Choose a guide/driver who is not lazy! 

Some drivers simply look out for other vehicles stopping and then head towards them assuming that they’ve seen something good (or they radio to them to ask). This way of game driving inevitably leads to bunches of vehicles around sightings – not good for the animal and not good for most true wildlife enthusiasts. Whilst you won’t be able to avoid some of this, and will have to share viewing experiences, we tend to advise our drivers not to head for masses of vehicles, but rather head away from them. There is always something else to see, and you might see it by yourself if you allow for that chance to happen.

Book a private picnic

The Crater has a few (very few) private picnic spots. These are a really wonderful way to enjoy the Crater without other people around. They can only be booked in advance and all drivers know that they are not allowed there if they have not reserved the spot. How perfect to sit in a beautiful area of the Crater enjoying a gorgeous brunch or lunch with just you, your party/family and your guides. Certainly this is added expense, but we highly recommend this as a special treat!

CAN WE HELP YOU AVOID THE CROWDS?

We’d love to help you take in the Ngorongoro Crater but leave out the crowds.

Our Tanzania experts can tailor-make a holiday for you or you might like to consider one of these itineraries:

A Taste of Tanzania

On this eight-day holiday you’ll have your own driver/guide, stay in good quality camps and lodges and visit three key areas for wildlife – Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Manyara or Tarangire.

Tanzania Family Safari and Beach

 This 11-day holiday is a real family-pleaser, combining safaris in Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire with five nights on the spice island of Zanzibar. 

Argentina – away from the city

Argentina – away from the city

 

Argentina – away from the city

 

After eight years sailing the seven seas, there are only a few coastal regions of the world I haven’t visited, although escaping into the interiors of countries has eluded me. But not in Argentina!

The stage show Evita has a lot to answer for…

There are a few places in the world that have always fascinated me. The Egypt of the Pharaohs, the China of the Dynasties – and Argentina. I must admit that the stage show Evita has a lot to answer for in that respect. From her humble beginnings as an illegitimate child in Los Toldos, to her rise as the First Lady of Argentina, the story of María Eva Duarte de Perón fascinated me. So it was no surprise that I made it my mission to get there!

Of course, I had to see the Casa Rosada, the pink palace in the centre of Buenos Aires from where Evita held court, and the cemetery at Recoleta where she was buried, in October 1976. This was 24 years after she died and her body was removed from its resting place, travelled around Argentina, to Milan, Madrid and finally back to Los Olivos where it was restored before going on public view beside that of her recently deceased husband. In Recoleta (pictured above) it was finally placed in her family’s mausoleum, where she lies five metres underground, in a crypt fortified like a nuclear bunker, so that no one should ever again be able to disturb the remains of Argentina’s most controversial First Lady.

Although Buenos Aires is home to many a fascinating story based around the Peronistas and the coup that deposed Evita’s husband, President Juan Peron, there is more than just the city.

 

San Antonio de Areco is an 18th century town just under two hours outside of Buenos Aires, a pretty town in the Pampas, on the Areco River. Famous for its links to the Gaucho and Criollo traditions, it still provides a valuable insight into their lives, with museums and artisans who still provide fine silverwork and saddlery for the horsemen and women. And if you’re there in November you can catch the at the “Día de la Tradición” when they ride through the town in all their finery, with their horses adorned by the local crafts.

I started my day in San Antonio de Areco at the home of Paula Mendez Carreras, a local chef who runs cookery courses. The space was light and open, and I was with a group of seven others some who liked to cook and some, like the guys, who never cooked. On our lesson plan for the day, we had empanadas, alfajores, and chipas.

Traditionally, alfajores, which are a huge part of Argentine culture dating back to the 19th century, are two crumbly biscuits filled with of dulce de leche but you also see them rolled in coconut or covered with chocolate or glazed sugar. The alfajor is the most common snack for schoolchildren and adults alike. There is no ‘right’ time to eat alfajores… any time is the right time to indulge!

Empanadas are a small version of a pasty really, but filled typically with a variety meat, cheese or vegetables. To be honest any combination would work, if you love it, the sky is the limit! Traditionally oven baked or fried, they can be prepared in advance and served as an appetizer, snack or as a meal in their own right.

And chipas… I ate these little cheese buns constantly, usually while sitting in one of their many sunny parks thinking of the rain in London, so it was great to learn how to make them. Especially as they were also gluten free which, unfortunately, is a must for me.

 

As the dough needed to prove for the empanadas we had a chance to wander, which is how I came upon the Draghi Museum, a unique, fascinating view into the family history of one of the world’s most prolific silversmiths.

Señor Juan José Draghi was on hand to show me around the museum, which features all types of silver inlaid Gaucho implements from belts to spurs, whips, knives, mates, bombillas, horse bridles and stirrup work. He also showed us the traditional processes, how the silver is worked and some of the original designs of pieces that were made for heads of state, such as a belt buckle design for President George W Bush while he was in office.

Then it was back to Paula to see how the dough was! Within the hour, we were sat around the table enjoying the delights of our lesson.

I could have spent longer in this beautiful historic setting, an ideal stepping stone to the Pampas and perhaps riding with the Gauchos, or for further travels across to the wine regions of Mendoza’s high altitude Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. I’ll save that for my next visit here!

If you’d like to embark on your own Argentinian adventure, take a look at our Highlights of Argentina and Patagonia Deluxe holidays – or talk to us about tailor-made.

Whale tales

Whale tales

Whale tales

When we planned our family trip to Costa Rica, one key question was ‘where will we have the best chance of seeing whales?’ Tribes’ Alex Neaves recommended the Osa Peninsula, a spectacular region in the south west of the country, combining rainforest with coast – which turned out to be a great suggestion!

We chose to spend five nights towards the end of our holiday at Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge on the Osa Peninsula. This lovely, welcoming place is perched on the hillside overlooking its own beach and is adjacent to the glorious Corcovado National Park. When I say ‘adjacent’ I mean it literally – the private path through the lodge’s beautiful grounds borders the park and you simply step off the path onto a trail in the park.

The lodge is reached by a boat trip past palm trees, beaches, hill-side houses and colourful landscapes on one side and nearly turquoise water on the other.

We kept our eyes peeled for whales, though in truth I didn’t really know what I was looking out for. Would the ocean be full of whales leaping out of the water, twisting and turning in front of us? Or would we only spot a tiny figure in the distance?

On that particular journey we saw nothing at all…

However, arriving at the lodge more than made up for the lack of cetaceans on the journey there. 

It’s a lovely place, set in gorgeous gardens and surrounded by jungle on three sides and the coast on the other. Howler monkeys whooped and grunted in the trees and a pair of long-married scarlet macaws flew low overhead before settling in a tree for a rather noisy quarrel.

That first evening at Casa Corcovado we began what became our daily tradition – the 4.30pm cocktail hour at the lodge’s Margarita Sunset Point.

This beautifully manicured piece of land has a jaw-dropping view down to the ocean and across to Cano Island and has its own little bar that is open for just an hour each evening, so that guests can enjoy a drink and nibbles as they watch the sun go down.

 

 

I sat, margarita and camera equally to hand, and marvelled at the natural show of colour and light we were being treated to.

Then the barman said ‘Look! Can you see the whale?’

We all gazed down to the water close to the shoreline and I felt frustrated as guest after guest said ‘Yes! There it is!’ while my eyes darted back and forwards across the water. Eventually I made out a dark shape for just a fraction of a second, then it was gone. I think that’s what everybody was exclaiming over… If this was to be my sole experience of seeing a whale it was hardly the jaw-dropping, spine-tingling experience I’d hoped for. But I had seen it. Well, briefly… I think. Then the sunset arrived with full, glorious force, and all thoughts of whales were temporarily forgotten.

 

 

The following day we took the Cano Island snorkelling trip. This is a 45-minute boat ride from the lodge, and we had been told that the guests who did this the day before had seen whales, and plenty of them.

35 minutes into the journey we suddenly veered off course, towards where two other boats were sitting still in the water.

“We took another detour when my son yelled ‘dolphins!”

Then it happened. About 30m away, a black, curved shape, slick with water, slid out of the water then back under the surface, looking like a giant, smooth-treaded tyre being rolled along.  A few seconds later came the tell-tale spurt of water – noisier and higher than I’d imagined, and the ‘tyre’ appeared again. This time with a smaller one alongside!

We were in the presence of a mother and baby humpback whale and it was beautiful. No dramatic breaches, no great thrashes, just gentle movements. Cue slightly red eyes and a few sniffs and gulps all round…

We took another detour when my son yelled ‘dolphins!’.  A large flock of seabirds was circling round in the distance. A group of dolphins were on the hunt, creating a ball of fish – those birds knew where to find a good meal! We were treated to the sight of dolphins leaping out of the water and the birds’ impressive diving ability as, wings tucked by their sides, they hit the water with a precision that would put Tom Daley to shame.

Snorkelling in the clear, warm waters off Cano Island was great fun, with a lovely assortment of colourful fish weaving their way amongst the coral. The lodge’s manager Stephen said that he was going to see if he could hear whale song beneath the water. He dove down about 4m then raised both his thumbs; he could hear it. Unfortunately diving while snorkelling is not a skill I’ve yet mastered. I wasn’t alone in this, but my 20-year-old son was one of those who took the plunge (literally!) and enjoyed the most magical experience, as beautifully eerie sounds echoed all around him. On the way back to Casa Corcovado Stephen pointed out jets of water in the distance as he spotted other whales, and we had another mother and baby encounter.

Two days later, my husband and I took a private boat trip with just guide Cynthia and the boat captain back towards the waters around Cano Island. We had no specific timetable, just two to three hours to hang about on the boat, following any whale sightings that might come up. It was possible that we wouldn’t see any, of course…

 

We stopped en-route to drop some cold drinks off to fishermen in exchange for some of their catch.

A magnificent frigate bird had chosen to make the air above their tiny boat his temporary home, continually circling us and them at a low altitude in search of a free meal.

That day turned out to be one of the most special experiences of our lives.

It was a beautifully still, calm day, bathed in sunshine, the water almost mirror-like at times.

We saw several mother humpbacks and their calves and then, drawn by tremendous splashes in the distance, we honed in on a large male.

For at least 15 minutes we sat, probably only about 20m from him, as he thrashed his huge tail repeatedly, then he rolled onto his side and started bashing enormous flippers from side to side, great plumes of water streaming from them, our boat juddering with each ‘smack’. The noise was incredible, a mighty, thunderous crash that you could hear long before you got close to him.

We were so near that we could make out the barnacles and sandy creatures on his tail. It was immensely powerful, stunningly beautiful and also a tiny bit intimidating.

 

Then, between us and this magnificent creature, appeared another mother and her baby. Our guide stiffened and said ‘sometimes the males can hurt the babies’ but, as if riding to the rescue, five dolphins shot in from the side, swimming around the mother and calf, leaping out of the water in a joyous fashion.

They were so near, I could have leant out of the boat and touched them. The mother whale got so close to us that when her back breached the water the only thing filling my camera lens was her skin. Then, as this incredible spectacle continued in front of us, I looked behind and to the side. Four more whales were there, some breaching, some sending out fountains of water… For the next 15 or 20 minutes, wherever we looked there were whales.

All four of us were silent on the way back to the lodge. There were really no words. We had shared an experience we would never forget. I had been moved to tears several times and even writing about it now makes me emotional.

 

Having started our time at Casa Corcovado barely able to spot a whale directly beneath our vantage point by the sunset bar, I ended it a veritable Captain Ahab; albeit definitely not with whale hunting in mind!  My eyes became accustomed to scanning far out to sea, filtering out waves crashing against rocks from the spray from a blowhole and picking out whales several miles away. My ‘margarita’ sunsets now had a new purpose – whale spotting! Each time I saw one, even if it was at a vast distance, it was a thrill. And the knowledge that for every one I spotted there were infinitely more out there, was just incredible.

We’d return to Costa Rica – and Casa Corcovado – like a shot. An amazing country with wonderful people and with unforgettable landscapes and wildlife. And who knows, maybe I’ll get my courage together and learn how to dive down while snorkelling. I really, really want to hear that whale song…

 

 

If you’d like your own Osa Peninsula adventure, Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge is included in our 15-day Costa Rica Wildlife Holiday. Or we can tailor-make a holiday in Costa Rica just for you…

All images © Karen Coe

Tackling my fears on my first safari

Tackling my fears on my first safari

Tackling my fears on my first safari

When you’ve always been a beach holiday type of traveller, and you are faced with something completely outside of your comfort zone, you know it is going to be a love it or hate it experience. And that was me…

I grew up camping, so that didn’t worry me in the least, it’s something I am very comfortable with. But in Scotland, and not Africa. I was heading to Nairobi in Kenya for a travel trade show, and this was the ideal time for me to experience a safari. Although right up until I arrived in the country, I still wasn’t too convinced.

My itinerary included one night at Loldia House on Lake Naivasha and three nights at Governors Main Camp in the Masai Mara, home of the BBC series, Big Cat Diaries and the Discovery series Big Cat Tales. We were travelling by road to Loldia House, a journey of about 2 hours from Nairobi, then by light aircraft to Governors Camp and back to Nairobi. I learnt that Safari literally means a journey in Swahili. And this was a journey I will not forget.

Driving to Lake Navaisha wasn’t as bad as I expected, the road was good until we turned off for Loldia House, but the traffic wasn’t great. Fridays in Nairobi are like no other city I can remember in so far as the roads are gridlocked. But once out of the city, we stopped, and it was our first opportunity to look out at some of the vast vistas you will see in Kenya. Even a wet and misty morning couldn’t detract from the sheer size and variety of terrain the Rift Valley had to show us from our high vantage point.

From here we descended into the valley, stopping at Ubuntu Life, a non-profit business set up to help local women and children with life-changing therapies and medical care for those who needed it, suffering from neurological issues and stigmatised in the local community. Once the special needs of the children had been met, the mothers were looking for a productive outlet for their time and energies, and Ubuntu gave them this.

These maker mums now have their products sold throughout Kenya as well as the world empowering them through the employment opportunities they now have. And did I mention…great handmade espadrilles, bags, bracelets and other fabric and leather goods!

Image: Loldia House

It was half an hour from here to Loldia House. A single storey property which houses the lounge, bar, dining room and a couple of rooms, overlooking a lush green lawn that sweeps down to the waters edge, although this is fenced off to protect the guests from the hippos.

Lunch was taken on the lawns, and particularly good! And then we were taken to our rooms. The guest houses are in three pairs of two in the gardens, with a further house located up the hill, a pool and a spa room. They are large and airy and offer great facilities. Although not a tremendous amount of game, the lodge is close to the Eburru forest and there is an opportunity to go out on a night drive.

This is a great place to stay for a night or two, to relax after your long journey. The food is good, and you certainly do not want for anything.

The following morning after a hearty breakfast, we were taken to the airstrip, just a short 10 minutes’ drive away. The flight was a little late, but as it was operated by Governors Air, it didn’t really affect us. After just a quick 45 minutes in the air we landed at the airstrip, 10 minutes from Governors Camp and right in the Masai Mara! Until this point, I was still not convinced…. And then we drove into camp! Past herds of zebra and Blue Jean antelope, baboons, buffalo and wart hogs. And I started to get it.

We dropped our bags into our tents and headed for lunch overlooking the Mara river, but none of our minds were on lunch, as below us we had 15 hippos just basking in the sun while mainly submerged in the water. For three days this was our home.

I had thought that I wouldn’t want to be up at 5.45am to go out on a game drive, but when asked at dinner if we wanted a wake-up call, and if we wanted tea or coffee, I immediately said yes.

I never go to bed early at home, but by 9pm I was tucked up so that I knew I would get up.

The sun rising over the Masai Mara is simply stunning as are the sunsets, and no matter what time of day the array of animals is incredible.

I really do not have the words to describe how seeing a herd of elephants crossing in front of your 4×4 makes you feel and, with the sky on fire at sunset, your breath is simply taken away.

My highlight was the sheer number of cats we saw. The Marsh and Rhino Ridge prides of lion, the cheetah and the leopard, just hanging in a tree, occasionally opening her eyes to see if we were still there, before dropping her head as if there wasn’t anything to be worried about!

The male lions are a little harder to find often, but we saw two, just half a mile from each other. One quite alert, and the other, lying on his back, legs in the air without a care, before rolling over, looking at his audience and flopping back to sleep.

Yes, your first thought is “take a picture”. But after a while, you put the camera down and just allow yourself to experience the moment. Giraffe with their babies, and wart hogs… not the prettiest but when seeing a mum with her piglets, they are strangely endearing.

My biggest fear was seeing a kill. I hate watching TV shows where the animals are injured or killed, and I thought that this would be upsetting for me.

We sat in the back of our 4X4 one afternoon and watched two lionesses try and take down an injured buffalo. They didn’t manage it as the buffalo herd closed ranks and the cats decided that perhaps it was safer to abandon the chase.

But the next morning, in the clear red glow of dawn, the Marsh pride caught their breakfast, a sizeable zebra. We watched the pride eat their fill to be followed by the jackals and the hyenas who finished off the remnants. And it was now I truly took onboard that this is all part of the rich patterns of life that are part and parcel of life in the Mara!

After Loldia House, I stayed at Governors Main Camp which was an amazing experience with 37 en-suite tents for double, or twin occupancy and family tents. For a little more luxury there is Little Governors with 17 tents and upgraded soft furnishings, while Il Moran has yet further luxuries on offer in its 10 tents. All have superb wildlife on their doorsteps, and all accessed by Governors Air, making it so easy to visit them.

Image: Little Governors Camp

Would I go back? Absolutely! I have now a completely different view of a safari, my expectations were met and exceeded. The sheer volume of wildlife on view in its natural habitat is phenomenal. I admit it, I am converted. I only wish that I have let go of my preconceived ideas many years ago.

If Jo’s experiences have inspired you to want to enjoy a Kenya safari, you’ll find plenty to inspire you in our Kenya pages:

And, of course, our friendly, expert Africa consultants are always delighted to talk safari with you and help you plan your dream trip. Or, like Jo, to tackle your safari fears!

All images other than Loldia House and Governor’s Camp © Jo Colman-Bown.

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!