The wonders of Rwanda suddenly become very real when you trek through the jungle to come face to face with the noble mountain gorillas. This real life experience left Intrepid’s Jo Edgley almost lost for words…
“I always knew that it would be amazing to see the mountain gorillas of Africa, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what an impact they would have on me.
Our small group of seven headed off on the walk up the mountain with much anticipation. We were accompanied by our guide, two army personnel (in place to protect us and the gorillas from poachers), and some local porters to help carry our wet weather gear and water. Whilst it’s not really necessary to have people carry things for us, the employment of local porters helps lessen the amount of illegal logging and reduce poaching because it provides an alternative source of income.
Travel tips aren’t only about where to go and what to buy – sometimes the best advice is how to behave. You can check Intrepid’s tips on how to be be a responsible traveller and here are ways to help you enjoy harmonious wildlife viewing in Africa…
Respect the ‘personal space’ of the wildlife, this is their habitat. If a visitor/vehicle causes an animal to alter its behaviour, then the visitor has invaded its space and influenced its normal behaviour. Observe nature as it occurs naturally and not as to how it responds to your presence there.
Speak quietly – do not call out, whistle or in other ways try and attract the attention of animals. Noise disturbs them and may antagonise fellow visitors.
If there was an award for being on the most Seven Wonders lists, then Galapagos Islands could get that gong! Natural travel wonders, underwater world and a New Seven Wonders of Nature finalist, Intrepid’s Daniela Palacios gives this amazing archipelago her seal of approval…
“Having recently spent time in the Galapagos Islands, I must say that I was fascinated by pretty much all the wildlife there, but one of my favourite things was to watch the sea lions in action.
First of all, in the Galapagos you find fantastic beaches where the sea lions relax after the excitement of fishing. A white sand beach in Espanola Island, called Gardner Bay, is a great place to see a sea lion colony. The dominant males are around with their harems and you can always see lovely sea lion pups.
Valued for their milk, ploughing and pulling capabilities, the cow continues to be considered sacred in India.
Many Hindu gods and goddesses incarnate in the form of a cow, plus in Hindu mythology Shiva rides an ox called Nandhi and a sacred cow called Kamadhenu is said to have given its milk to Lord Vishnu. Cows are an intrinsic part of Indian culture, and as Intrepid’s Michelle Van den Hove discovered, chat with the cows and you’ll meet the real India…
“Whilst staying in the small medieval town of Chanderi, we were sitting down to a lovely breakfast in the garden of our hotel. A cow walked in and came over to the tables. The hotel staff shooed it away, but she stayed in the garden opposite. After breakfast I gathered the uneaten fruit and banana peels and wandered over to the cow. I showed her what I had and she came over to quickly devour the scraps. I told her to come back the next day and I would give her some more. The staff looked suitably impressed – they love to see foreigners feeding their sacred cows, and my Intrepid group were amazed.
Watching a mountain gorilla from only metres away is a priceless real life experience. In the forest of Rwanda and in the company of these majestic creatures, Intrepid’s Dara Leonard enjoyed a precious hour that will last a lifetime…
“Within ten minutes of leaving the national park office we were engulfed by the forest. The guard at the front of the group hacked away at the bush and undergrowth while we followed closely behind, eagerly looking for tell-tale signs that the gorillas were nearby. After about an hour our guides spotted an area where the gorillas had slept the previous night, so we knew we were close. A few steps further and our small party of eight quickly stopped – peering through the brush we could see a female gorilla. After a lot of hushed ooohing and aaaghhing and frantically taking our first photos, suddenly a 6 foot Silverback appeared and walked right in front of us, followed by the rest of his family!
Alaska is one of those wild frontiers that gets the superlatives flowing – with formidable mountains, impressive glaciers and magnificent national parks, it really is North America’s nature utopia. Alaska is where the wild at heart come to watch the wildlife at play, as Express reader Sharon Eldridge discovered…
“When we arrived at Denali National Park we were told two things by the local bus driver – only 30% of visitors get to see a clear view of North America’s highest mountain and 20% of us will see bears. But that didn’t dampen our spirits at all, because the surrounds were absolutely spectacular and we were excited to explore this amazing wilderness area.
The Intrepid Foundation’s volunteer administrator, Anna Wade, recently travelled to Cambodia with her husband, two twelve-year-olds and her adventurous septuagenarian parents and one of the highlights for them all was visiting The Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB)…
“ACCB was established in 2003 to help conserve the local wildlife and to educate people on the need to protect their indigenous animals. Located 30 km (18 miles) north of Siem Reap, ACCB endeavours to rehabilitate some animals to return to the wild and care for those who couldn’t survive without their help.
Is there anything New Zealand group leader Kim Bowden doesn’t know about the Land of the Long White Cloud? Kim takes us on a bird-watching adventure to learn that the kiwi’s feathered friends can be very cheeky…
“Would you believe that the bat is the only land mammal native to New Zealand? With Australia as a close neighbour, visitors to NZ shores are often surprised to discover that this land is snake, crocodile and kangaroo free.
The explanation lies in the fact that New Zealand separated from the ancient landmass of Gondwanaland before most mammals were on the scene. Prior to the arrival of Maori and then European settlers, many of New Zealand’s birds had adapted in remarkable ways to fill the niche occupied by mammals in other countries. Couple this with New Zealand’s location in the roaring 40s at the edge of the Southern Ocean and you can be sure to spot both weird and wonderful birds on any NZ travels.
Intrepid’s Kate McLean is a massive animal lover. She travelled to Uganda to see the gorillas, trekked in Thailand to reach an elephant camp and even searched Spain to spot the elusive Wild Mountain Bear! But it was in Switzerland that she found a special fluffy travelling companion…
“Some time ago, I was travelling through Europe with my husband. Whenever we got the chance we would make friends with someone’s pet dog on the train, in a cafe, in a park or wherever we could! It was all fairly innocent, until we got to Switzerland. Here I fell in love with the most gorgeous dog I had ever seen – a Bernese Mountain Dog! They are huge tri-coloured dogs, with massive paws and a smiling face, always affectionate and happy to be given a scratch under the chin.