This is a guided tour of the Jaguar reserve by the people who used to live in it and from the beginning helped to track and record the Jaguars. We spent an exciting morning with Julio who at one point took us off the main track trying to catch a glimpse of some very noisy howler monkeys and found the remains of an armadillo (a tasty Jaguar snack). He has amazing eyesight and a feel for the forest which is essential when trying to point out the wild toucans, you would not believe how well camouflaged they are for such a bright bird. The Maya Centre Women's group next door by the entrance to the reserve is also a great place to buy crafts labelled by the crafter. You can also do a wildlife walk at night which is incredibly atmospheric. If bored of Jaguar stalking there is also a butterfly reserve there too! Then sit back with a Belikin beer (or Guinness).
Maya Centre in Belize
Right on one of the main well served bus routes around Belize or they will come to pick you up. (The bus is actually a great way to travel about the country).
The One-Horned Rhinos of Kaziranga National Park.
This Unesco World Heritage Site is set in spectacular scenery and is professionally run, without any fuss. Please believe the hype and take an elephant safari. It's a humbling experience to ride these stoical and patient relics from prehistory. You'll see plenty of rhinos as you pass through the elephant grass swampland, and if you're very lucky you may see some of the fifteen species of India's most threatened mammals. We saw wild elephants, several dear species and fantastic birds, but you could see fish eagles, hornbills, King Cobras, tigers, bears, leopards, or more.
We stayed in pristine huts with new kids on the block, the Nature Hunt Eco Camp. Superb.
In Summer 2008 I joined a conservation project in the Peruvian Amazon. I was based in the Manu Biosphere Reserve, said to be one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet. It was.
Strangely, for me, the jungle itself wasn’t the best bit. I loved the people who lived there. While I helped them to reforest instead of deforest, they taught me how big life can be even with very little.
On my last day I scaled a waterfall, avoiding bullet ants, poisonous spiders and deadly snakes, to visit a natural oil spring. Daniel, our jungle guide, told me that in 50 years time an oil company would be drilling where I stood, exploiting both the oil and the people who live there. Afterward I travelled up the Madre De Dios river to the Shintuya community. There I saw a hand painted Makaw on the side of a Peki-Peki boat. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.
In that moment I realised there are all kinds of marks we can make on the world and I knew there and then I wanted to leave a brightly coloured one.
As part of my gap year, I had an amazing opportunity to work with Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia. This organisation works on a shoestring to conserve the unique desert-adapted black rhino, in one of the largest and most inaccessible regions of the world. You can go out with the trackers by Landrover, on foot or even on camel, one of the best ways to get across the mountainous Kunene region. There is nothing more special than spending the day wandering through a boulder strewn moon-like landscape in search of mythical looking creatures, then relaxing around a fire at night under the African sky. Unless of course it is knowing that it is all for a really important cause.
Since its founding in 1968, the Southern African Foundation for the
Conservation of Coastal Birds is estimated to have helped rehabilitate more
than 85,000 seabirds in the Western Cape. The centre in Bloubergrandt just
north of Cape Town relies on volunteers to help the thousands of sick and
injured birds that arrive every year. Hands on experience is guaranteed if
you want to join in, but beware: for all their comedy waddling, penguins
stink. Seriously, they do.
This half day tour took us to the most incredible beaches where we saw wildlife in it's natural environment and this is so much nicer than zoo conditions.
As with most Kiwis the guide was passionate about conservation and bringing back the wildlife that not that long ago roamed free in NZ.
The highlight was seeing the yellow eyed penguins come home after a day out at sea. They run towards their partners with their flippers out as if to give them a giant hug - very cute!
This is an organisation that saves orphaned elephants and rhinos, and rehabilitates them out into the wild. They also run community outreach programmes, a desnaring project and mobile veterinary unit.
You can visit the centre daily in Nairobi National Park. The visit will allow you to get up close to these magnificent animals and see them play.
Sponsoring an elephant or rhino costs $50 US per year. You can sponsor an elephant via: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org
Near the Karen area of Nairobi.
Mailing address: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust P.O. Box 15555 Nairobi Kenya
This is a great introduction to one of Africa's most glamourous animals. They pose like supermodels and the wardens are extremely knowledgeable. On top of all that, you get to feed the giraffe at their head height which is a breathtaking experience.
Giraffe Centre, Karen, Nairobi
Sacha Lodge in the Northern Oriente area of Ecuador is a fantastic place to experience the Amazonian rain forest. It’s made up of a collection of cabins on the banks of a lake. Whether you are an avid bird watcher, or just a curious traveler, the lodge have staff who will do everything they can to make your visit rewarding, educational and whole lot of fun. Accommodation is comfortable, the food is amazing, and the level of customer care from all of the staff is exceptional. Our guides were knowledgeable and friendly and were only too happy to pass on some of their knowledge of the flora and fauna that surrounded us. I can’t recommend this place highly enough and on top of all that it does valuable work in conservation too.
Some tour companies in the area are providing hunting expeditions with members of the local indigenous communities. While it’s legal for the indigenous population to hunt, it is illegal for tourists to take part in hunts, and the activity damages local wildlife populations so you should decline, and find another tour company if they offer you a hunt as part of your tour.
Take a short flight from Quito
If you love elephants, animals and care about the environment then visit this wonderful elephant sanctuary.
Over 30 elephants live here free from work and they live a natural life in social groups. There is no riding but that doesn't matter because you can feed and bath them in the river. Just watching them interact with each other is really special.
They give you lots of information about elephant conservation and the whole day is great.
Try to avoid staying in a guest house in the fort as the large number of them leads to the large volumes of water used by their guests, which the fort's sewers are unable to deal with and is now undermining the sandstone base on which it is built.
Instead, enjoy the daily walk up to the fort and a cold drink when you get there.
The Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) is endemic to the lowland Atlantic Forest of Rio de Janeiro state and one of the most endangered primate species on earth. The Golden Lion Tamarin Association works to protect this beautiful monkey and its habitat by stimulating creation of private reserves, re-introduction of zoo-bred animals, restoring ecological corridors and environmental education. Visit the Poço das Antas Biological Reserve Education center, learn about conservation in the area and proceed to nearby farms with private forest reserve to see the Tamarins roaming free.
EleAid has been supporting the Elephant Nature Park since its earliest days. Originally we signed up for their two-week conservation volunteer course in 2002. We ended up working with them for a whole year and rescuing 3 elephants and rehousing them at the Park.
The Elephant Nature Park has undergone many changes since then and has grown and is now home to 28 elephants of which 5 were rescued by EleAid.
It is still possible to sign up for the excellent two-week course, stay for a couple of nights or visit for an elephant conservation day. The elephants are allowed to live as natural lives as possible and watching them will take your breath away.
The best elephant experience for visitors to Thailand.
Penguin Place is a privately funded penguin reserve which specialises in the preservation of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin. You can book a 2 hour tour through trenches and hides. The trenches and hides mean that you can view this almost extinct species close-up in their natural environment without interfering with, or disturbing them.
One word of advice...dress up warm and wear walking shoes as some of the terrain is a bit rocky.
Get actively involved in sea turtle conservation. Archelon, The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, provides a chance to track nesting turtles and their hatchlings, hone your public speaking skills and live on communal campsites with international volunteers (May - Sept). Alternately help out at the rehabilitation centre in Athens (all year round). It doesn't cost thousands of pounds either - just 150 euros.
For application details see www.archelon.gr
This beautiful nature reserve is 1km offshore in Mahébourg bay. Run by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), it is a great place to see the critically endangered flora and fauna of Mauritius and to get up close to a giant tortoise. The guided tours also allow an insight into the ongoing efforts of MWF to restore the habitat of the island.
This beautiful destination is well worth a day out and what's more, all proceeds go to aid MWF in its ongoing conservation efforts.
Numerous boats depart from Mahébourg
Tel: 631 2396 for tour bookings
A homage to Wolf Vostell and all that is Fluxus. His home for many years, this group of original 18th century wool washing buildings is simply splendid in its own right and quite bizarre, with the Vostell installations still shocking after all these years. The Fluxus collection is still thought provoking, and includes a Yoko Ono.
The whole area is protected because of the amazing rock formations and stork colonies.
Malpartida de Caceres, 10kms from the centre of Caceres
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