Matt Fisher – Sea Kayaking in West Sweden
It was a cloudless blue-sky day, with water resembling a millpond, that saw me gliding around the rocky islets of Kosterhavets National Park in the West Swedish archipelago on a sea kayaking safari. I’d never actually tried a specialist sea kayak before so at first, I was a little unsteady but soon got into the stride of it. There was something very cathartic about paddling around the still water. It’s peaceful and quiet, with water so clear you can see oysters on the seabed and above, oystercatchers and eiders whirl, with the odd seal plopping into the water. My guide hailed from Gothenburg and gave up his career in finance to start a new life as a kayak guide and live in a traditional fisherman’s hut. After a few hours on the tranquil waters I’d pretty much decided that I would do the same.
On one of the islands we stopped for fika – which translates as coffee and homemade cake – but is more an embodiment of a lifestyle choice where you purposefully pause to appreciate life, which was easy to do given our environment. Afterwards was an oyster shucking lesson, which revealed some of the freshest and plumpest I’ve tasted, washed down with a locally brewed stout. This ran into a seafood lunch of crayfish and crab where suddenly the weather changed – and wind, clouds and even snow rolled in. It was amazing to witness the elemental environment and hard to believe that just an hour before I’d been kayaking the calm waters.
Rob Milverton – Jungle Trekking in Borneo
This year I took my family to Borneo. It’s something that we’ve been planning and talking about for years, as luckily for me, my children are as mad about wildlife as I am. We were hoping that an adventure in Borneo’s pristine rainforest would mean some special animal encounters, and we weren’t disappointed. One of our highlights was our stay in the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley, which is surrounded by ancient rainforest on one side and the swirling Danum River on the other. This jungle lodge feels right in the middle of it all, where just sitting on our terrace meant wildlife-spotting from dawn to dusk.
However, it was a four-hour jungle trek that impressed us the most. It was a chance to get into the heart of the jungle and see, feel and hear the extraordinary sounds of nature, the humid heat and the ‘lost world’ of undisturbed flora and fauna. We came across a 500-year-old Kadazandusun tribe burial site, with bones still visible in it, and had the magical experience of seeing orangutans swinging in the trees and an oriental viper snake literally stopped us in our tracks. A cool-off in a natural pool ended a fantastic family day in Borneo’s rainforest.
Sarah McLennan – Adventures in Belize
I was really blown away by my experiences in Belize. It’s such a fascinating country, full of contrast. For a country the size of Wales the diversity was staggering, from the Caribbean coastline with the second largest barrier reef in the world, forested highlands where waterfalls plummet, to ancient Mayan sites peeking out of dense jungle. It’s also easy to immerse yourself in its natural and cultural highlights – I found the country so stimulating I wanted to do everything!
My favourite experiences were snorkelling off the coast of Ambergris Cay, where the clear blue-green water revealed stingrays and nursery sharks – a really thrilling sight. Gently tubing down the river in the Cockscomb Basin and jumping in waterfalls was a wild experience, although arriving at the myth-shrouded Mayan site of Xunantunich on horseback was very special. We felt like the first people to discover the jungle-clad ruins and the historical weight of this ancient civilisation stayed with me long after I left.
Sophie Garland – Kerala Spice Tour
When I was travelling in India earlier this year, I had the privileged opportunity to learn about the spices of Kerala. I was exploring the area of Periyar, which is deep in the beating heart of Kerala’s lush forests, on the border with Tamil Nadu, when I was invited to meet Manu and tour his extensive spice plantation. His plantation in fact felt like entering a small jungle as it was overflowing with flowers, bushes, trees and plants. We walked among them, with Manu explaining to me the history of many of the spices and how they grow. It was fascinating to see the origin of spices we see in our kitchen cupboards such as pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper and cloves.
We also learnt about medicinal plants including eucalyptus, mint, beetle nuts and snake plant and their use in ayurvedic practices. Afterwards, I was introduced to Manu’s wife who showed us how she uses the spices in her everyday cooking. We helped her prepare the food and then all shared a feast of a lunch with some dishes I had never heard of before. As I left, Manu presented me with a pot of his family’s spice mix. This special present has re-created many delicious Keralan meals at home, and when it runs out, I shall be bereft!
Our favourite Travel Experiences
We travel the globe, road testing the most genuine and interesting travel experiences, so we can use our first-hand insight to help plan your next holiday.