In Praise of Forests

In Praise of Forests

In Praise of Forests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future forests

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

 

Avian pride – feathered national ambassadors

Avian pride – feathered national ambassadors

Feathered Ambassadors

Tribes’ travellers journey to destinations that are home to hundreds of bird species and, even if you don’t start your trip as a birder, you may find you’ve become one by the end!  The concept of a national bird is an interesting one. In some cases it’s an official title, either awarded after a national vote or by a government department. In others it’s unofficial, something assumed by tradition and or long association with that country. And in some cases what one might think is the national bird isn’t!

“The peacock features strongly in Indian folklore and mythology.”

The magnificent African Fish eagle (above left) is the national bird of no less than three countries – Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and is widespread across the lakes, rivers and coastal areas of Southern Africa. Its white chest and head, bright yellow beak, black wings and reddish-brown body are very distinctive, and it’s often seen perched high in a tall tree, scanning a vast range of terrain. The call of the African Fish eagle is known as ‘the voice of Africa’. Living up to its name, it largely feeds on fish, but has been known to eat water birds, even flamingos.

The national birds of India and Nepal are both part of the pheasant family, though you may be surprised to learn that the Indian peacock is a pheasant at heart. India’s national bird is, perhaps above all others,  most synonymous with the identity of its country, the extravagant pattern and colours of the plumage of the male peacock being replicated in Mughal architecture and in art and textiles, and the bird featuring strongly in Indian folklore and mythology. 

With its metallic purple, green and blue plumage, the male Himalayan Monal – also known as the Impeyan Pheasant – is another wonderfully colourful creature. The national bird of Nepal (pictured above) prefers to live at high altitude in the summer and is a prodigious digger.

Visitors to Costa Rica could be forgiven for believing that the Resplendent quetzal (pictured below) is the national bird. It is truly stunning, especially during the mating season when the males grow tail feathers that can be up to a meter long. However, in a country that’s not short of colourful feathered inhabitants, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that the modestly-plumed Yigüirro – the Clay-coloured thrush – actually carries that title. It was chosen by the Costa Ricans in 1977 because of its strong, sweet song.

 

The national bird of Kenya, the Lilac-breasted roller, is a hugely charismatic bird that draws the eye and the camera lens. This beautifully-coloured creature is widely found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where it’s mostly spotted in wooded areas or savanna. Unlike many bird species, the female is as gorgeously vibrant as the male. They’re not overly shy, so you are likely to have the chance of getting quite close to one, and they seem rather fond of adopting photogenic solitary poses on trees – often handily against a bright blue sky!

Many people think that the Lilac-breasted roller is also the national bird of Botswana but, in 2015, the world’s heaviest flying bird – the Kori bustard – was awarded that title. Kori bustards can weigh up to 19kg and, while they are strong fliers, it’s not something they do if they can avoid it, so are ground dwellers by preference. Males can reach up to 150cm in height and can have wingspans up to 275cm.

 

 

“The national bird of Peru is a very distinctive creature.”

The Andean Condor  is the feathered ambassador for Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador. This is a massive bird, with a wingspan of up to 320cm. It’s also very heavy – up to 15kg – so makes use of that huge wingspan and the air currents of mountainous or coastal regions to glide. Watching condors rising on the morning thermals is a ‘must-do’ part of any holiday to this part of the world.

With its vivid scarlet plumage and fan-shaped crest, the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, the national bird of Peru, is a very distinctive creature. It is found in the cloud forests of the Andes mountains, where the males gather on leks to perform elaborate mating dance displays to attract females.

While not an official ‘national bird’, the Blue-footed booby is without a doubt the bird most people associate with the Galapagos Islands. Their feet are a stunning shade of blue and the males put them to good use when it comes to attracting a mate, lifting and proudly displaying their feet in their rather cumbersome mating ritual. Although clumsy on land, in the air these large seabirds are powerful, and they are superb divers.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the national bird of Britain, in 2015 a nationwide ballot of more than 200,000 people saw the robin elected to the role, beating the barn owl and blackbird to the job. 

WHERE TO SEE THEM

Our consultants would be delighted to help you plan a trip to see some of these amazing birds. Here are just a few suggestions:

 

Wonderful wildlife encounters

Wonderful wildlife encounters

 

 

Wonderful wildlife encounters

With World Wildlife Day this Sunday, March 3, it only seemed natural to look at some of the magical encounters Tribes’ travellers have enjoyed with wildlife…

“From behind the vegetation something was rustling, and we sat quietly, in our little boat, staring at the riverbank, waiting. We were told there was a good chance we would see jaguars, but nothing can be guaranteed in the wild, of course. The foliage began to part and separate. Those stunning black and brown rosettes were there, moving, all muscle, her magnificent coat striking the way it stood out against the green. And then there she was. Just looking at us. Ms Silvia, out for a leisurely stroll. Simply passing by long enough to say hello.”

Gail Trotter – Brazil

“Falling asleep to the noise of the frog chorus in the rainforest at Tortuguero… watching the antics of the white-faced capuchin monkeys… all the wildlife throughout the whole trip and especially when you’re not expecting it like seeing an anteater walk directly across your path after dinner in the grounds at Parador resort, or turning a corner in the Monteverde cloud forest to see a huge orange kneed tarantula just sitting on the bank next to you…”

Ian Tatman – Costa Rica

Waking up on the first morning to see, just outside our window, a vibrant humming bird taking a drink from a red-hot poker plant.”

Beth Winkley – Peru

“The moment we first saw the gorilla group with the huge silverback very much in evidence was breathtaking and very emotional. It made the hard trekking worth every footstep! Seeing the second group the following day was equally as emotional and recognising the two groups were very different made the second trip as exciting as the first.”

Carole Herries – Uganda

“Seeing the last two northern white rhino was emotional and incredibly moving… not being able to get to our tent late one afternoon at Porini Lion Camp due to a hippo being outside… as soon as we arrived at Tsavo, we saw Lualeni with her two-week old calf as well as the rest of her herd having fun at a water filled ditch rolling in the mud. Unforgettable!! Being able to chat to the keepers and be with them while they work and watch the elephants at the water holes / mud wallows. Just AMAZING and so special.”

Susan Bailey – Kenya

“The moment a male lion came into camp one night as the diners were having coffee by the campfire before retiring to bed. He knew we were there as we were a group of eight people and not talking quietly. A sudden noise attracted the attention of our guide and a torch shone into the dark revealed our ‘guest’, who was just a mere ten feet from the nearest person. The lion did not even brake his pace as he gave us a sideways glance before disappearing once more into the darkness. It was an experience which all those present are unlikely ever to forget. “

Jeff Webster – Zambia

“An eye-to-eye experience with an Indri and baby – after a long climb we emerged opposite an Indri sitting in the top of a tree. After about five minutes a little black bundle of fur uncurled itself from its mother’s abdomen…”

Janice Fiske – Madagascar

“Satpura was THE highlight! We had a really beautiful encounter with a female Sloth Bear and her two cubs who let us watch for a very good amount of time with only two other people there at the time! Then as darkness descended we enjoyed seeing jungle cats, nightjars and civet… the air was full of smoke from kitchen fires and stubble burning, the night sky full of stars and the sounds of the night.”

Sarah Showers – India

“Watching a shoebill trying to fish, having been stood stock still for over 30 minutes… trying to work out how five very rotund lions could stay balanced on very thin tree branches… seeing an adolescent gorilla nearly get catapulted across the forest floor.”

Kevin Robinson – Uganda

“We were thrilled to watch a life and death battle between a Cocoi Heron and a snake… the snake ultimately was eaten by the heron, but what a battle!”

Mr. Jeff Torquemada/ Ms. Wendy Sparks – Brazil

“I loved the multicoloured sifakas especially, and at times could not believe they were real… the noises of the Indri calling out in an eerie manner above us in the forest… canoeing round the lemur islands and being greeted by little groups of lemurs after a treat of bananas; they were brave enough to jump on us and the boats, putting their little paws/ hands in ours to get the food.”

Mrs J Bridger – Madagascar

“In the Gombe National Park we watched a 49-year-old chimp named Gremlin select a wild mango, climb down the tree, select a rock and crack the mango open – all in full view and as close as we were allowed to be. From the balcony at Katuma Bush Lodge we watched an elephant repeatedly place his trunk up against a palm nut tree, shake the trunk, and then gobble up the nuts which fell to the ground.”

Liz & Dave Milway – Tanzania

 

“I loved the multicoloured sifakas especially, and at times could not believe they were real… the noises of the Indri calling out in an eerie manner above us in the forest… canoeing round the lemur islands and being greeted by little groups of lemurs after a treat of bananas; they were brave enough to jump on us and the boats, putting their little paws/ hands in ours to get the food.”

Mrs J Bridger – Madagascar

“Giant otters – endlessly entertaining.”

Alister Bould – Brazil

An April family safari in Tanzania

An April family safari in Tanzania

An April family safari in Tanzania

12

APRIL, 2018

Safari

Green Season

Wildebeest

I just wanted to let you know we had the most amazing time. We saw all the wildlife you could imagine – had a fantastic guide (Japhet) who was both a brilliant driver and sharp-eyed spotter, as well as hugely knowledgeable but, for me, the star of the show was the Serengeti landscape itself. It’s just good to know that somewhere like that exists in this world. I fell in love with the endless plains.

We were very lucky to see the migration begin – the two pics above and below are taken as we entered the Serengeti and as we left three days later. Suddenly wildebeest and zebra stretched along the horizon as far as we could see.

Serengeti Plains

Photograph by Lisa Sykes

It was a great time of year to be there. Surprisingly green but beautiful wildflowers and the rains mainly came at night so we were able to travel about easily. And often we were the only vehicle – at our last night at Kati Kati, we had the camp to ourselves. And the cats were still to be found, despite the long grasses – in trees, on termite mounds. Our favourite moments were watching a cheetah move slowly in search of prey and seeing around 100 elephant converge on a water hole. Magical moments.

“Olupai Gorge was definitely worth seeing and the guide there explained the story of the ‘cradle of mankind’ very well to the kids particularly.”

Olduvai Gorge

And our last day at Longido was fascinating as we happened upon a circumcision ceremony where the next generation of Maasai warriors were being appointed. (try explaining that one to the 12 year olds!) The chiefs requested we send a pic of them as they were dressed for the ceremony. It is attached here so please would you be able to forward it on to them for me as we promised.

In all the trip completely lived up to our very high expectations and we liked all the places we stayed at very much – particularly Kati Kati.

Thanks to both of you for organising our most memorable holiday. And when we have saved up our pennies again we’ll come back to you for the next one.

Lisa Sykes

Editor, The Simple Things

www.thesimplethings.com

Not just a load of hot air

Not just a load of hot air

Not just a load of hot air

ALEX NEAVES

When you think about a holiday to India, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? The Taj Mahal? The hustle of the Delhi markets? Tigers? Well, we were no different. So when the opportunity to do a hot air balloon ride over the Indian countryside came up, we thought this would be an alternative excursion to add to our trip , little did we know it would turn out to be one of the most incredible and outstanding experiences.

“why are we up so early on our holiday.”

ALEX NEAVES

It was an early morning as we were picked up from our haveli in Jaipur at 04:15am. After the initial thoughts of “why are we up so early on our holiday” we soon realised that we were in for a very unique experience. We had arrived on the outskirts of the city and the sun was just rising. Our transport for the day was already fully inflated and ready to go. There was just enough time for a swift safety brief and a cup of tea (the essentials!) and we were ready to board our flight.

I had never done a hot air balloon ride before and am not that comfortable with heights, however our pilot for the day made everyone feel extremely relaxed and even made time for jokes on lift off. It was a this point that I hoped not everyone in the basket had estimated their weight on the waver form as I had done, and that they all had consumed a moderate breakfast that morning! In a matter of seconds we were off and away!

I guess the first thing I noticed, and what separates balloon flight from most other modes of transport, was the lack of engine noise. There was silence. We could only hear the sound of cattle below and the chatter of local villagers and they made their way to work or school that day. So quiet in fact that we often startled farmers who were busy working on their fields only to look up and see 16 western tourists in a hot air balloon floating about their heads! For some reason, both parties found this highly amusing.

The other surprise (amongst many) was the height in which we travelled at. I had preconceptions of being high above the clouds and needing binoculars to pick out sites and landmarks. This was not the case at all! As our pilot explained, the balloons are controlled very easily and we spent most of the trip at approximately 10 meters from the ground. This allowed us to brush across the tops of tall trees and even pass sweets to the village children below, an experience I will never forget.

“This amazing experience is always first on the tip of my tongue when describing our time in India.”

ALEX NEAVES

Although I mentioned the balloons are easily controlled, they do mostly rely on wind direction which is why the landing site can often be unplanned and improvised. Today would be no different. As we were all just getting used to our new surroundings the pilot announced that we would be landing in an open field nearby. The touchdown was smooth and was welcomed with a huge applause from 16 highly satisfied passengers.

It was at this point we realised we would not be alone for long, after all it’s not every day that a 30 foot, multi-coloured hot air balloon lands in your back garden and we were soon the talk of the……village. Lots of locals came out to greet us and we were humbled at how welcoming and friendly they all were. We had just enough time to take some photos and have a brief conversation with our new friends before we were picked up by our chasing transfer vehicle.

I had thought this balloon trip would be a story I would tell friends after I had explained the Taj Mahal visit, the tiger sightings and the bike ride through Old Delhi, instead this amazing experience is always first on the tip of my tongue when describing our time in India.

Leaving Paradise on Earth

Leaving Paradise on Earth

Homeward – leaving Paradise on Earth

FELICITY COWLEY

Flickcowley Photography

Continuing from her last post,

We made our last transfer by private taxi back down the windy paths but this time in daylight. It was sad to be going home after there has been so much to see. We decided that next visit would include the volcanoes and mountains. There is so much to explore despite the land mass being so small. Such a diverse green landscape just waiting to be explored. Once at the airport we collected a few memorabilia from the souvenir shop and made our way to the departure gate. Here we found the guests we’d been staying with at Playa Cativo so we caught up on our last day of adventure. They were snorkelling enthusiasts so although the high mountains weren’t their preference they enjoyed the scenery I could show them.

“We have had such a rich experience that we have been treated with Paradise – there really is nothing quite like it. ”

 

A tropical storm decided to hit San Jose just as we boarded the plane (basically telling us we should just stay!) which would have been fine if we weren’t delayed by the Cabin Crew stuck in traffic. As we were late for our take-off slot the Captain let us know that the airfield was in fact closed due to low level cloud – we needed a window of 800 foot to take off but only had approx 400 visible. Maybe we would have to stay?! I looked on hopeful but the clouds passed and night fell and our slot opened up. We left Costa Rica in mixed cloud and felt like we were leaving behind a dream. From start to finish it was just out of this world – somewhere you need to visit for yourself to truly appreciate the serenity and inquisitiveness of it all.

We landed in the UK in usual grey cloud and it was all go. We said our goodbyes to our new acquaintances along our travels and collected our bags. Car to train, train to train, train to car. All this time I had been explaining to the Ticos (Costa Ricans) about where I live in the UK – Devon – a bit like their country – its green and rains for a substantial part of the year but its just a lot colder. I looked out of the train window and thought, no its not like that at all. Its like whilst I had been away someone had turned down the saturation filter over the UK because nothing looked green any more. At that moment my Poppy messaged to say “I’m confused; the birds just look dull now.” We have had such a rich experience that we have been treated with Paradise – there really is nothing quite like it. Once I made it home I stopped before unloading everything to check my watch. It was 8:30pm UK time. It was still light. What a novelty! Our nine day adventure had some truly high moments, scary moments, fascinating moments and more importantly some seriously amazing ones. I will never forget my experience here and again I have some fantastic people to thank for the opportunity.

I am so thankful to both The Eden Project for the creation of the competition and Tribes Travel for creating an incredible, unforgettable, breathtaking, stress free experience which truly was out of this world. From start to finish we were looked after, collected, transferred, provided with tickets of  where to be and when. They thought about everything. We had seven glorious days and two days of travel. If you can stay longer it is definitely recommended. At first not being in control of your trip can be confusing but its safe to say that we were looked after at every stage – daily updates were given of important times and schedules so we could relax knowing somebody knew where we were supposed to be. Tribes Travel really excelled my expectations with a fun filled adventure – one in a million! And to The Eden Project – I can never thank you enough for choosing my photograph to win this amazing trip of a lifetime. I feel so honoured. And remember… people do win these things! What’s more; next time it could be you!

I have loved my time in Costa Rica, a true Paradise. A land so small yet so diverse. It is truly one of those places which captures you and draws on the heart strings. The people are kind and welcoming, they are friendly and forthcoming and the guides are so knowledgable because they want to bring the magic to you, to join in their passion for the World, the environment, for nature, and for the planet. It challenges you to remember to look at the World in a new perspective. To protect the land on which we live, so that it will be here for others to enjoy – in an attempt to protect the World they have opened up the door for it to flourish – to grow beside us in harmony. The land is captivating, the flora, the fauna, the richness, the colours and the fact that it is home to five percent of the worlds biodiversity in a space of 0.3 percent of the planets entire surface. It is incredible. So stunning to gaze upon and just so much to see. Take a step too quick and you have missed 10 different sets of eyes watching you pass by be of wildlife, insects, plants, trees. It is beautiful. A place which never sleeps.

I have learnt so much about the environment, the biodiversity, the wildlife, from the people who live and work in amongst the rainforests everyday. Their expertise for birdsong and plant life is so engaging, with complete passion, heart, enthusiasm, joy and delight. They are just as excited to see a Toucan as you are! And what’s more it’s genuine. It is real. These people care. And they want to share it with you so you have an incredible experience but at the same time protecting the environment being at one with nature, letting it co-exist with human interaction rather than encroach on their land and ways of life so that more can one day enjoy it too.

I never expected I would be one of those people who enter a competition to win a holiday and actually walk away with the top prize! Not only did this happen but through a Photography Competition – my favourite free-time passion. It sounds like a cliche to say ‘Does anybody actually win these prizes?’ and my response is now yes! Please enter! It could be you.