Wildlife holidays

Travel

Ireland’s border country: walking the line and in love with the landscape

Since the Brexit referendum, the Irish border has again become a source of tension but on the ground it remains a fascinating wilderness of low mountains and fantastic hiking country

Today I’m hiking from Thur Mountain to the Cavan Burren along lanes and among prehistoric relics. This is north-west Ireland, not far from the sea but far enough for me to call it midlands. My route goes from Co Leitrim into Co Cavan, staying close to the border with Northern Ireland. For so long associated with violence and up against the appeal of the west coast, Ireland’s borderland has been ignored by travellers. Yet its history is fascinating and there are many beautiful stretches. Word is starting to get out, but this still feels like Ireland’s undiscovered region.

I spent last night in a B&B in Glenfarne, a thinly spread community of farms and homes. Clancy’s (doubles from €89 B&B, walking packages available) appears to be the area’s heart, a string of businesses along the roadside, under one roof. It’s a B&B, a cafe, a shop and a post office.

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Travel

City safari: overnight with wolves and monkeys in Bristol

A stay at a new wildlife centre offers families a mini safari experience – with monkeys, a night-time wolf expedition and breakfast with giraffes

Plus: More UK wildlife sanctuaries

It’s early evening and the gates to the wildlife park have been closed to the public. All is quiet, except for birdsong, the gentle rustling of wind in the trees and an occasional excited shriek from a gelada monkey. We (my six-year-old daughter Nell and husband Huw) are gathered around a fire pit along with four other families who are trying out Camp Baboon, a new night-time wildlife and bushcraft experience at the Wild Place Project, a satellite venture run by Bristol Zoo.

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Travel

Volunteering on St Kilda is all about DIY and clearing ditches. Yay!

Volunteer working trips to St Kilda are oversubscribed every summer. After her two-week stint on these wild Atlantic islands, Jay Sivell can fully understand why

Wanted: DIY-er with retail skills – or shop assistant handy with paint brush. Fit outdoor types preferred. Must be happy to be marooned on a remote Scottish island for a fortnight in May with 11 strangers and minimal sanitation. No wifi. Abundant sheep poo.

Ever since the National Trust for Scotland was bequeathed St Kilda in the 1950s, volunteers have taken the wild, three-hour Atlantic boat ride to the four “islands on the edge of the world”. They have reroofed the cottages on the main street, restored the church, and restacked stones that years of gales had toppled from the cleits, or bothies, that dot the volcanic landscape.

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Travel

We’re going on a bear hunt … in Hokkaido, Japan

Hokkaido is Japan’s most northerly main island, an otherworldly volcanic land with eastern Asia’s highest concentration of brown bears. One family are on their trail … in a campervan

Looking back, The Revenant was an ill-advised choice of in-flight entertainment. The image of Leo having his guts ripped out by a bear was still on my mind at 3am on our first night camping in the wilds of Hokkaido, when I finally squeezed out of my camper van bunk and tiptoed outside to the loo, twitching like a meerkat at every rustle from the undergrowth.

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Travel

São Tomé & Príncipe: a travel adventure that’s great, green and diverse

A remote, eco-friendly trip reveals a plantation house that’s now a hotel on the smaller of these two islands off the west Africa coast. Hopes are high it will bring jobs and highlight the captivating wildlife

Nelito, the boatman, took one look at the rocks and the swell smashing over them and shook his head. A clutch of tropical birds looped overhead, their long white tail streamers dancing in the wind. Ahead of us a cliff with a skirt of steep jungle ended in a maelstrom of rock and surf. Landing looked a horrible prospect. We motored around the coast a little and came to a quieter place. Nelito made a face: “You can try.”

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Travel

10 of the best wildlife trips around the world: readers’ travel tips

Polar bears, rare wolves, aye-aye and gorillas – our readers share heart-racing encounters with the world’s wild ones

Growing up on a diet of Gerald Durrell books, it was a childhood obsession to see an aye-aye – one of the most unusual and elusive primates on the planet. And so there I was in north-east Madagascar, in the pouring rain and inky blackness, thrashing through wet undergrowth, with squadrons of mosquitoes homing in. To my astonishment, from out of the darkness the aye-aye suddenly appeared on a branch above! Like some mystical gremlin, with blazing amber eyes, radar dish ears, monstrous front teeth, a bushy black witch’s cat tail and that thin, bony finger probing the bark. To add to my enchantment, a second, much smaller aye-aye then revealed itself, tap-tapping its way along the branch behind its mother. A dream come true. I travelled independently and stayed at Aye Aye Hotel, Mananara, visiting Aye-Aye Island. Naturetrek also leads trips to northern Madagascar to look for aye-aye.
Harriet Nimmo

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Travel

Where to see spectacular autumn colours around the world: our readers’ tips

It’s the season for mother nature to dazzle us with golds, reds, yellows and oranges … Our readers recommend the most vibrant autumnal displays in Europe, North America and Japan

They call it the Złota Polska Jesień – the Polish Golden Autumn. It’s when the oaks and sycamores around Krakow do their best New England impression. Just 20 minutes’ drive north of the city is the smallest national park in the country: Ojców. A series of small, sylvan valleys turns into a beautiful patchwork of ochre and rust-red starting in September. There are forest trails running past streams, caves and crooked cottages. You can climb up to lookout points for views over the tops of the woods, and see Ojców Castle studding the hillside like something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Bolkonsky

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Travel

The ultimate hike: three tasters of Canada’s Great Trail

The world’s longest trail, ready this year, traverses the entire country. It’s a busy path, our intrepid writer is told, so there shouldn’t be bears …

When I was a teenager, I met someone who had done the Pennine Way long-distance footpath. And I gazed with awe on him. After all, 267 miles seemed a heroic achievement, requiring several bars of Kendal mint cake and the courage to face aggressive sheep dogs. I recall that man as I step out, for the first time, on Canada’s new long-distance footpath, The Great Trail (aka Trans Canada Trail). I am not at the start, or the finish, but somewhere in between, on a path that is a mind-boggling 15,000 miles (24,000km) in length, by far the longest footpath in the world. If you were to chop this distance into a series of satisfying 20-mile-long day walks, there would be sufficient for two years.

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Travel

Serene summer in Finland’s centenary national park

The Nordic country’s newly opened Hossa national park has all the wilderness an adventure traveller – or a bear – could desire

In a hide two miles from the Russian border in Finland’s Suomussalmi region, we watch and wait. For centuries, the European brown bear has been pushed by deforestation into increasingly remote areas, to do what a bear proverbially does in woods. Luckily, in Finland, where 76% of the land mass is dense forest, a bear doesn’t have to go very far for a little private time.

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Travel

Navigating Norfolk’s hidden creeks and salt marshes – in a 1950s whelk boat

With an ex-Marine at the helm, a new sailing adventure in north Norfolk offers the chance to enter a watery wilderness and get up close to seals and birdlife

We’re sailing across a sandy-coloured sea. Seals pop up around our little crab boat and then vanish, like a game of Whac-A-Mole. Further ahead, a group lie motionless on the water, as if levitating. It takes me a moment to realise that the sea is so shallow they are resting on a submerged sand bank.

The boat’s depth gauge reads 4ft. One false move and we’ll shudder on to the sand. We draw closer to a flat expanse of salt marsh coloured dun and olive. The captain edges us closer and then, as if by magic, marsh opens up. Before us is a secret creek, a portal into another world – limpid water, glistening mud banks, and no sound but the lonely piping of oystercatchers.

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Travel

10 of the best wild camping sites in Scotland

Scotland offers idyllic wild camping, with spaces beside some of the UK’s loveliest beaches, lochs and mountains. We pick 10 of the best from Wild Guide Scotland

Scotland is famous for its scenic wild places and uplifting sense of remoteness. With the exception of the recent bylaws banning wild camping in certain areas of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs (check before you go), it is still completely legal to camp on most of Scotland’s unenclosed land.

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10 of Canada’s best lesser-known national parks

To mark its 150th anniversary, Canada is offering free entry to its stunning national parks. But which to pick? We select 10 lesser-known wildernesses

Canada has vast swathes of unspoiled nature, from coasts to mountains to tundra and frozen Arctic deserts. While some of these spectacular landscapes are in legendary national parks, such as the Rocky Mountains’ Banff and Jasper, the Pacific coast’s Gwaii Haanas and the remote whitewater paddling heaven of the Northwest Territories’ Nahanni, a host of less famous gems await the adventurous.

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Travel

Canada’s great outdoors: readers’ travel tips

Wildlife, mountains, islands and forests … Canada’s natural wonders – from Nova Scotia to Vancouver – have left an indelible mark on our intrepid readers

Send a tip for next week’s competition to win a £200 hotel voucher

If you want to experience authentic, raw, outdoor Canada then a few days in Willmore wilderness park will take you out of your comfort zone. Motor vehicles of any kind are banned, but you can hire a horse or a trapper (both about £20 an hour) – otherwise risk it on your own. Trails wind their way through dense forests and along wild river valleys. Take a sturdy tent or knock on the doors of hunters’ wooden huts when you see them. You may be greeted with a shotgun and a suspicious snarl as we were – then a plate of yummy moose meat, cooked on a blazing fire.
albertaparks.ca
gonca

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Travel

North-west frontier: mountains, lochs and art in Durness, Scotland

The highlands county of Sutherland is among western Europe’s least-populated areas, with epic vistas of fells, wild coast, and some surprising cultural treats, too

An unexpected delight crowns my first day in Durness. Two hours earlier, I had arrived at this doughty little village on the north-western tip of the British mainland to find it as ghost-ship-quiet and windswept as I had anticipated it being on a late winter’s afternoon. But when I returned from a walk out to the coast, the tiny seaside car-park opposite my bunkhouse was filled by a big blue lorry and trailer at which a queue was forming.

A flickering neon sign hanging off the lorry’s passenger door announced it as the Screen Machine and what a wonder it proved to be. A mobile, 80-seat cinema, it travels all year round to out-of-the-way parts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. It was an irresistible enticement. At 8pm, I joined a fifth of the village’s inhabitants, young and old alike, in paying £7 to watch La La Land from a metal box. The experience was otherwise just like going to any cinema, with red, fold-down, cushioned seats and Pearl & Dean advertising. Save that is for the fact that it was blowing a gale outside and the lorry rocked from side to side as we watched the cavorting Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

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Travel

Loch Lomond’s wild camping ban is a backwards and short-sighted step

New restrictions are unfair and could encourage landowners to restrict access to the full glory of the Scottish wilderness

When it comes to wild camping (pitching a tent away from the confines of a designated campsite), Scotland has always been forward-thinking. This was enshrined in the Land Reform Act of 2003, which allowed people to wild camp – free of charge – pretty much anywhere in the awe-inspiring countryside. Sadly this right has just been severely compromised.

On 1 March, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park, a 45-minute drive from Glasgow, introduced a by-law that made swathes of the west shore of the loch off-limits to all wild campers between 1 March and 30 September. The reason cited is antisocial behaviour such as littering. Park officials say these new measures are designed to protect this special place for others. Sounds good, I hear you say.

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Travel

An ‘Arctic’ safari in the Scottish Highlands

Winter in the Cairngorms national park can turn positively Arctic – perfect for Kari Herbert to give her young daughter a taste of the polar conditions, and creatures, she enjoyed as a child in Greenland

The temperature is below zero and a bitter wind is tugging at our clothes. In the distance, the Grampian hills are catching the early sunlight but it’s dark in the shadows of the wood. Curious eyes are trained on us from beneath the trees – a pack of grey wolves are just metres away. It’s rare to see these beautiful creatures at such close quarters: wolves are naturally wary. The privilege of the moment is lost on six-year-old Nelly. Her toes are aching with cold.

We’ve come to Scotland to seek out some of her favourite polar animals, creatures she’s so far enjoyed only in books and wildlife shows on TV – but wolves are not on her list.

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Travel

Costa Rica: ‘the most biologically intense place on Earth’

Costa Rica is famous for its national parks, but has only recently turned attention to supporting the people who live in them. Johnny Langenheim joins a community-led tour of its jungly Osa peninsula

It’s dusk and Don Felix is sitting on the porch of his cabin, sipping a can of Imperial beer. Two white horses graze in a meadow and beyond them, evening mist spills over a ridge thick with jungle. Fireflies flicker in the gathering darkness. I let out a long breath and feel tightness release in my belly. Henry David Thoreau had it right when he said: “We need the tonic of wildness.”

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Travel

10 amazing landscapes in Chile – that you’ve probably never heard of

Chile has a wealth of beautiful landscapes beyond the iconic regions of Patagonia and Atacama. As the first direct flights from the UK launch, our local writer picks 10 wilderness areas featuring peaks, beaches, hot springs and indigenous villages

Inland from Chile’s second oldest city of La Serena stark mountains enclose the Elqui valley, unfolding into the Andes. The slopes are barren and bone dry but the valley floor is carpeted in the emerald green vines of pisco grapes (to make Chile’s classic brandy). This fertile oasis just south of the Atacama desert is not only the place for pisco tasting – major brands such as Mistral offer distillery tours here – but also a hub for stargazing with a half-dozen observatories and an increasing number of hotels. Most facilities are in and around the adobe village of Pisco Elqui where inky skies abound.
Getting there Pisco Elqui is 100km east of La Serena. Buses leave every half hour during the day from the Terminal De Buses in La Serena (£3.50) and pass by the airport en route to Elqui Valley.

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