Category Archives: Travel

Here Many Amazing Spots in Goa You Never Want to Miss

Goa is not the place you visit once and tick down from your checklist. The western state of India is one of the most scenic places to visit. Right from the spice gardens, to sand and from adrenaline pumping water sports to hotels in Goa; everything presents you with something or the other.

After your first visit it turns into an inclination and after the second, a custom! This Portuguese Shangri-la on Indian soil has such a large number of beguiling universes that even the most prepared explorers can’t make the best of their Goan occasion. However, as the saying goes, when in Goa, do as the Goans do.

Here are some amazing spots in Goa that you can explore as a traveler.

Excellence and the Beach – An immaculate day at the shoreline…

It needs to begin with beaches! While coastlines in North Goa take the spotlight, South Goa shorelines are less swarmed. We choose Arossim Beach and Utorda Beach close to the town of Majorda for the best South Goa shoreline grant. For North, Baga, Calangute and Anjunapack the people’s choice award for favorite beach! Water sports on these seashores incorporate jet skiing, parasailing (the view from the top is justified, despite all the trouble), scuba dives (the glimmering undersea life adjusts for the missing corals) and tumbling from a banana boat (most exciting of the lot). To make the best of your shoreline encounter, book yourself a hotel in Goa which is located near the Northern beaches.

Spice Plantations are Serene

No, it’s not what you thought truly! I’m talking about the Spice Plantation in the Ponda region called Sahakarispice gardens and your nostrils will remind you why Europeans came to India! This biggest spice plantation of the locale gives you a chance to cull and taste pepper, nibble a Peri (most hotchillies of the world), bathe through an ‘elephant shower’ and devour a customary Goan lunch cooked with farm spices. While not many people are aware of these world class spice gardens in Goa, but who do are all praises for them.

Old Goa is Gold Goa!

Popular for the design, Goan houses of worship are justified regardless of a visit. In Panjim, history is still alive.This is Old Goa, the state capital for most of three centuries and known as the ‘Rome of the East’. The processions of churches, chapels, cloisters, museum halls, art displays, government structures, cottages and bakeries together make it intense to propose what to not find in Goa.

However, Basilica of Bom Jesus (for its architectural greatness) and Sé de Santa Catarina (biggest church in Old Goa) are the most visited ones. Not to overlook, Old Goa is right now an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So, if you are in the mood to beat the summer heat this year, do yourself favor by booking hotels in Goa through online websites (as they present you the most affordable rates), and relive the serenity of Goa, with spice gardens, churches, and yes, some heart pumping water sports.

Here amazing cities for street art

Adorning urban spaces across the globe, this form of art is often deeply interwoven with the culture and history of a place and offers an eye-opening way to explore a destination. Here are eight amazing cities, straight from the pages of our new Street Art book, where you can see some of the best of these metropolitan masterpieces.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is a rich hub of street art. Post-reunification, an abundance of large, empty buildings, a relatively cheap cost of living and a thriving counterculture have combined to bring an influx of artists and musicians to the city. Berlin was prominent during the early street art boom, and has become an essential pilgrimage site for visiting artists – it’s now known ironically as ‘the most bombed city in the world’. This time, though, the bombing is with spray paint, paste-ups and stickers, as well as alternative mediums like Lego (as seen in Jan Vormann’s colourful creations) and even yarn.

During the Cold War, the Berlin Wall was a symbolic target for politically motivated art, though only the west side was covered in graffiti – it was impossible for residents on the east side to get close enough. A section of the original wall, replete with contemporary graffiti, can still be seen on Mühlenstrasse.

New York, USA

As the birthplace of modern graffiti, it’s no surprise that New York and its artists played a starring role in the global growth of street art. Despite the increasingly frequent appearance of commissioned murals, New York’s scene retains a rawness. Each area has a distinct vibe, despite sometimes being separated by only a few blocks.

Visitors should gravitate to Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn – home to many of the city’s best-known artists – as well as the Lower East Side, SoHo, NoLita and Harlem. Away from the streets, the new One World Trade Center lobby houses a 27m mural from Brooklyn-based artist José Parlá, who has successfully blurred the line between street and gallery.

São Paulo, Brazil

Prior to experiencing the São Paulo street art scene for the first time, it’s worth educating yourself about the history behind the visual onslaught of tagging that seemingly adorns every surface in this sprawling urban metropolis. Pichação (‘writing in tar’) began as political graffiti during the Brazilian dictatorship, with its distinct calligraphic font inspired by the heavy metal album covers that dominated the São Paulo airwaves during the 1980s. Today, however, the ‘Pichadores’ are mostly interested in extreme tagging, with success measured in volume and height – the latter gained through use of modified fire extinguishers, roller extensions and life-or-death free climbing.

London, UK

From the late ’90s to mid 2000s, London was pivotal in the explosive growth of the street art scene, centred on the back streets, alternative galleries and underground drinking dens of the post-industrial East End. This trend peaked around 2008, when the Tate Modern staged a groundbreaking street art exhibition on the banks of the Thames and Banksy pioneered his ‘Cans Festival’ in the Leake Street tunnel – still a graffiti hotspot today.

The scene remains fairly focused on the East End – particularly the now ultra-trendy Shoreditch, and neighbouring Brick Lane and Hackney areas, where cobbled roads and streets of painted and pasted walls exist side-by-side with members’ clubs, Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end boutiques.

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is arguably Australia’s cultural (and countercultural!) capital, and is regularly voted one of the world’s most liveable cities. One of the reasons for its distinction can be traced to its streets. Thanks to the vision of its founders, the city centre has a uniquely navigable combination of wide, sweeping avenues and characterful, bluestone-cobbled lanes, making it something of a joy to explore. It’s a safe, clean, vibrant metropolis brimming with residents who love to meet, eat, drink and create.

Although graffiti is still technically illegal in the city, the public and private response to street art is generally positive – when Banksy first painted here, the council even tried (unsuccessfully) to preserve his work behind perspex panels. Today, Melburnians tend to embrace the ephemeral nature of public art, although work has been undertaken to restore a rare Keith Haring mural in the city.

Lisbon, Portugal

The first half of the 20th century saw Portugal stifled by a right-wing dictatorship, but the 1974 revolution resulted in an upsurge in politically motivated public art. By the time this trend had abated in the early ’90s, the arrival of traditional graffiti artists had taken up their forebears’ mantle. In recent years, Lisbon city council has actively supported street artists, and the advent of organised efforts such as ‘Underdogs’ and the CRONO Project – as well as the emergence of homegrown artists like Vhils – has attracted a high-profile roster of international names to the city. Today, Lisbon is one of the best locations in the world to experience street art in all its forms.

Many of the city’s street art gems can be found in and around the Bairro Alto area, with key hotspots including a series of legal walls along the Calçada da Glória, as well as along the river to the south.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The fourth most populous city in the Americas, Buenos Aires shares a very active contemporary street art scene with its table-topping cousins. The European-influenced architecture of the city provides a great backdrop for street art, reminiscent of cities such as Valencia, Barcelona and Lisbon. Unlike in those cities, however, there is no need to obtain permission from local authorities to create new murals in Buenos Aires – you simply need permission from the property owner. This legal and logistical freedom has led to an active and innovative street art scene, built on the city’s historical legacy of stencil-based political protest art.

Street art flourishes throughout the city, but areas particularly worthy of attention include Coghlan and Villa Urquiza. Here, a now-abandoned plan for a new motorway led to the demolition of many buildings and the creation of scores of giant murals, including one by famed local artist Martin Ron.

Los Angeles, USA

Famed for its calligraphic ‘cholo’ graffiti style, which evolved from Latino gang graffiti, the Los Angeles street art scene developed in a noticeably different way to other places in North America, helped by the fact that artists could sometimes take days to paint one piece thanks to the gigantic spread of the city.

LA has a typically laid-back attitude to the crossover between traditional graffiti and street art, with many artists blurring the boundaries. Most notably, Retna – a member of the renowned MSK crew along with the likes of Saber, Revok and Risk – is now just as likely to be found on the cover of a Justin Bieber album or Louis Vuitton storefront as on the streets. His unique script, developed from a combination of gothic, Egyptian, Hebrew and Arabic calligraphy, can be seen in several high-profile locations across the city.

Exploring Beaches In The Gambia

In some cases, you need not even leave The Gambia’s sandy shores to soak up some sensational cultural experiences, while other traveller treats involve trips into dense forests, mangrove swamps and petite villages.

The village of Tanji

Set on a wide, sweeping beach, this tiny village is ripe with cultural and wildlife opportunities. Stand with your feet in the surf and watch the colourfully-painted fishing boats bobbing rhythmically in the waves as local women ferry the day’s catch to shore in buckets atop their heads. Behind you is the fish market, which heaves with Gambians shopping for everything from fish and flip flops to vibrant vegetables and loudly-coloured clothing. As the sun starts to set and the crowds begin to wane, the beauty of the scene seems to grow tenfold – the water sparkles, elegant silhouettes parade across the backdrop of a golden sky and the long light cuts deep into the incredibly atmospheric smoke houses.

The village also has a charming museum where you can explore a recreated Mandinka village, complete with huts and displays about this ethnic group’s traditional customs, beliefs, music and crafts. For a wilder, more nature-based experience, check out the Tanji River Bird Reserve, which hosts as many as 300 species of birds. This area also protects lagoons, woodland, dunes and Bijol Island, a noted breeding ground for Caspian terns.

The village of Tanji is less than 30 minutes’ drive south of Serekunda and the Atlantic coast resorts.

Gambian cooking lessons

Make your fish market visit all the more rewarding by turning the acquired foodstuffs into a traditional Gambian meal. To the uninitiated this is easier said than done, but for those who want to learn a thing or two about the nation’s cuisine there are some great cooking classes available. One such lesson is available at Yabony Home Cooking (www.facebook.com/gambianhomecooking), which is run by the irrepressibly charming Ida Cham-Njie from her home in Brufut.

The half-day course at Ida’s starts with each student choosing some Gambian attire from her large collection of garb in her courtyard, and then donning it before venturing out to Tanji’s fish market where ingredients are procured. Once back at Ida’s it is a communal affair, with everyone pitching in to help with various parts of the process – either peeling and chopping vegetables, pounding peppers and onions with an oversized mortar and pestle, or stirring aromatic components on the outdoor charcoal stove. During the proceedings Ida not only discusses the various elements of the dish being prepared (and its history), but also regales the group with stories from her life in The Gambia and teaches local games. The hours pass quickly and it’s soon time to sit and enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labours.

Dishes include delicious domoda (peanut butter stew) with fresh fish and rice, superkanja (okra stew) and the iconic benachin (one pot), which contains fish, chicken or beef in combination with ingredients such as tomatoes, carrots, spring onions, sweet potatoes, onions, aubergine, cassava, bitter tomatoes and butternut squash.

Gambian wrestling

Once the national sport of The Gambia, traditional wrestling is on the comeback. And while the entertaining pre- and post-match goings on – complete with strutting, chest slapping, oiling up and boisterous displays of physical prowess – are more theatrics than anything else, the matches themselves are impressive (and very competitive) displays of pure athleticism. The raw aggression is plain to see in the eyes of each competitor, and the speed and forcefulness of the grappling manoeuvres are a sight to behold. The victor is the first to ground his opponent within the sand ring. Some venues, such as the one on Paradise Beach, encourage audience engagement and raise the entertainment stakes by getting specific sections of the crowd to support particular wrestlers.

Street art in rural villages

Encountering world-class urban street art in remote villages of The Gambia isn’t something you’d expect, but thanks to the Wide Open Walls project you will be rewarded with just that. Started in Kubuneh in 2009 by British artist and lodge owner Lawrence Williams and the Gambian painter Njogu Touray, Wide Open Walls has been described by the latter as “a democratic and interactive street art project bringing artists of the world to celebrate through art, all good things in life, environmental awareness, peace, love and respect for our cultural values.” Renowned artists such as Roa from Belgium have now created more than 400 murals in some 14 villages within the Ballabu conservation area, which borders the Makasutu Culture Forest. Besides creating a valid art installation, the goal of Wide Open Walls has been to generate a sustainable income for the rural communities who host the works. Future plans include interactive sculptures to encourage recycling within the communities. To tour the sites, contact Makasutu (www.mandinalodges.com).

Makasutu Culture Forest

It may be just 10 sq km in size, but this easily accessible wedge of nature is rich in diversity, with savannah, wetlands, palm groves and mangrove swamps all being present. Touring the latter in a piroque (traditional canoe) is a peaceful exercise, while guided walks through the other landscapes bring their own rewards, such as encounters with baboons, monitor lizards and hundreds of bird species.

Best 10 idyllic day trips from Dubrovnik

Two other countries, Bosnia & Hercegovina and Montenegro, sit within easy reach, as do lushly green islands, captivating wine lands and charming river deltas.

Seafood, beaches and sunsets in Cavtat

An easy outing east of the city, Cavtat offers an air of tranquillity lost years ago in Dubrovnik. Idyllic seaside promenades line its wooded peninsulas, leading up to a number of pristine beaches. Hike up to the top of Rat peninsula for splendid vistas and a visit to the beautiful and moving Račić family Mausoleum. Next stroll down to Ključice beach for a swim and some tasty seafood under the shade of pines at Rokotin restaurant (facebook.com/Restaurant-RokotinCavtat). Witness a spectacular sunset before making your way back along Rat promenade to the bus station.

Getting there: The 15km to Cavtat can be covered by Libertas bus 10 or a more refreshing boat transfer from the old town harbour.

Peace and heritage on the isle of Lokrum

Sprawled just a few hundred metres offshore from Dubrovnik’s bustling old town, the leafy island of Lokrum is the perfect place to immerse yourself in pine forests, olive orchards and botanical gardens. Swim in the clear, sparkling waters of the sea or take a dip in a huge rock pool-lagoon known as Dead Sea. The island is also dotted with heritage sites, including a Napoleonic fort and the Benedictine Monastery ruins, where Game of Thrones fans can pose on a replica of the Iron Throne. Take a picnic (but beware of the domesticated peacocks who may take an interest in your sandwiches) or savour a peacock-free meal at the lovely Lacroma restaurant (lacroma.restaurant).

Getting there: Boats run from the old town harbour on a regular schedule (15 minute ride). Inquire about the last departure from the island, as overnight stays are prohibited.

Explore the idyllic Elafiti archipelago

Often visited together on a ‘three islands’ cruise, Koločep, Lopud and Šipan are the main drawcards of the Elafiti archipelago northwest of Dubrovnik. Each island is alluring in its own right: Koločep nurtures a Robinson Crusoe feel and Šipan is packed with historic heritage, especially evident in the Renaissance-era Skočibuha castle in Suđurađ, but if you must choose just one, opt for Lopud. Let its main promenade guide you past abandoned monasteries and rustic stone houses, and over wild and remote cliffs to sandy Šunj. Electric cars line up by the beach to take you back to the main settlement, where a tasty lunch comes complete with a sea view at La Villa (lavilla.com.hr) or Obala (obalalopud.com).

Getting there: Jadrolinija boats run four times a day from Gruž harbour and take 30 minutes to Koločep, 55 minutes to Lopud and 1 hour 15minutes to Suđurađ on Šipan.

Get active in Mljet island’s divinely green national park

Most day-trippers to Mljet island will spend their time in the national park on its western tip, hiking, cycling, diving, kayaking or simply taking in the meditative beauty of its two saltwater lakes. Great Lake comes adorned with the tiny islet of St Mary and its 12th century monastery, dotting the ‘i’ in idyllic. If you do happen to have extra time on your hands or a car, venture across the island to sunbathe in the sandy Saplunara or relish the familial atmosphere at Konoba Maestral in Okuklje.

Getting there: Car ferries run 5 times a day to Sobra on Mljet from Prapratno, 60km northwest of Dubrovnik on the Pelješac Peninsula. Alternatively, take the 1 hour 40 minute G&V boat ride from Gruž in western Dubrovnik to Polače on Mljet, where complimentary vans await to take you to the heart of the national park.

Wander the streets of Korčula’s enchanting old town

Like a Venetian Dubrovnik, Korčula Town’s compact walled citadel hogs the spotlight on Croatia’s sixth largest island, with treasures like the Cathedral of St Mark and Cukarin pastry shop strewn between its watchtowers, lion statues and curvy streets. Make sure to leave room for brudetto (fish stew) at Adio Mare and a toast with a glass of local Grk or Pošip white wine.

Getting there: Buses run year-round from Dubrovnik main bus station to Korčula Town, but in July and August, take advantage of G&V boats, cutting travel time from 3.5 to 2.5 hours.

Pair fresh oysters with local wine in earthy Ston

The gatekeeper of Pelješac peninsula’s wine empire, Ston sits an hour’s drive west of Dubrovnik. Try a taste of fleur de sel from its historic salt pans and work up an appetite walking part of its walls. Then delve into the succulent oysters and mussels fresh from the neighbouring Bay of Mali Ston at Bakus, all washed down with local wine. To see where the local tipple comes from, venture 10km further to Miloš winery in Ponikve.

Getting there: Libertas bus 15 runs a few times each day, directly to Ston. Oenophiles should consider a wine tasting tour of the peninsula, such as Insider Holidays’ tour (insiderholidays.eu), run by local sommeliers.

Stray off the beaten path into the marshlands of Vid

Often overlooked, the tiny village of Vid on the River Neretva showcases a completely different side to the region. Start with 360-degree panoramas of the valley from the top of the hill, then stroll down to the remarkable in situ museum of Narona Roman temple (a-m-narona.hr). Across the street at Đuđa and Mate restaurant (djudjaimate.hr), jump aboard a shallow traditional boat, known as a ladja, for a photo safari through the peaceful and picturesque local marshlands. Upon return, round off your day with a tasting of ultra-local specialities like frogs and eel.

Getting there: From Dubrovnik main bus station, take any intercity bus which stops in Metković (1 hour 40 minutes). Grab a cab for the 3 kilometres to Vid, or book a pick-up in advance with Đuđa and Mate.

Nature meets tradition in the Konavle valley

You really need a car to get the most out of the fertile Konavle valley, but for a dust-sprinkled, adrenaline-powered taster, book a quad-bike safari with Kojan Koral (kojankoral.com). In addition to nature, these villages adjacent to the Montenegrin border jealously preserve their traditions, so on Sunday morning, venture out to Čilipi village for folklore dances and a craft market. To make a day out of it, continue to Koraćeva Kuća in Gruda for a traditional lunch.

Getting there: Buses 11, 25 and 27 run from Dubrovnik to Konavle, but these lines are scarce on Sundays, when you’re better off taking bus 10 to Cavtat and exploring the valley in a taxi. Kojan Koral organise pickups for their guests.

Spectacular scenery and atmospheric streets of Kotor

Across the border in Montenegro, sky-high mountains plummet straight into the sea, interrupted only by the quaint villages that speckle the jagged shorelines of the Bay of Kotor. Once an outpost of the Venetian Republic, Kotor is slightly rough around the edges, but makes up for that with its spectacular location. The strenuous climb up to the town walls is rewarded with breathtaking vistas from San Giovanni castle. Return to explore the curvy alleyways of the medieval town, visit St Tryphon’s Cathedral and the Square of Arms, and then pop into the open market in front of the Sea Gate, before wrapping it all up with a fancy but well-worth-it lunch at Galion restaurant.

Getting there: Several bus lines run between Dubrovnik and Kotor every day (approximately 2 hours 30 minutes), but inquire about the Libertas departure, as it goes straight to Kotor. If you’re driving to Kotor, take the ferry at Kamenari to arrive faster.

Admire Mostar’s picturesque Stari Most bridge

Famed for its majestic Ottoman bridge spanning the Neretva river, Mostar is one of the brightest treasures of neighbouring Bosnia & Hercegovina and within day-tripping distance of Dubrovnik. A Bosnian coffee will fuel your wanderings between the Franciscan Monastery, Kajatz House and the Old Bazaar, before you succumb to ćevapčići and dolmas (grilled minced-meat and stuffed vegetables) at Šadrvan restaurant.

Getting there: Instead of spending three and a half hours on a Sarajevo-bound bus, consider a tour with a company such as Dubrovnik Day Tours, which will allow you to squeeze the nearby fortress-village of Počitelj into your visit.

The Family travel myths worth forgetting

Travelling with children – particularly babies and young kids – certainly has its challenges, but it’s also one of the most eye-opening adventures of family life, as long as you’re prepared.

Long-haul’s a bad call

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, that’s for sure. And just the thought of having to hush the baby or keep a writhing toddler still in the aeroplane seat for 10 or – gulp – up to 24 hours when, chances are, they simply will not sleep, is enough to make most parents retreat into a dark chasm of despair.

But the reality isn’t nearly that bad. Babies are often coaxed into a sleepy state by the drone of the plane’s air regulator. True, flying with young kids of a certain age – let’s say roughly between one and two years old – can be a constant trial, but once they are old enough to appreciate in-flight entertainment, two thirds of the battle is won. The trick is to understand what you’re getting yourself into and plan ahead.

Top tips: Take a night flight if you can, when your kids are at their sleepiest and the cabin lights will be dimmed, and tag-team with a flying partner so each of you gets some respite if the kids are playing up. Run your children ragged in the airport before boarding, and always overestimate the amount of carry-on clothes, nappies and snacks you think you’ll need.

It’ll be too hot – or cold – for little ones

Nobody wants to see their children wilt under a scorching sun, or shiver in an Arctic gale. But kids are more resilient than we think. Extremes of weather are just another point of fascination for fledgling travellers – be that the sultry 24/7 heat of Thailand, or the theatre of ice and snow in Lapland.

The tropics, in particular, are guaranteed to fulfil the wildest dreams of clothing-averse young ones. That daily struggle to get your kids dressed? Gone.

Top tips: In the tropics, hot nights call for air-con so your little ones can sleep easy. Pack cooling spray for sizzling days out. In freezing climates, bring portable hand heaters and insulating underclothes made of quality fabrics such as merino wool (widely available for kids, and even babies).

Beach is always best

All kids love wallowing in sand, right? Sand castles feed the imagination for hours on end, and chasing shallow surf is a game that knows no bounds.

Unfortunately, sand gets everywhere (ears, nose, nappy… you name it!); the salty stuff can be excruciating for grazes or baby eczema; the sun can be relentless, and kids get bored surprisingly quickly. The point is, try as you might, it’s not always possible to predict what’s going to float your kids’ boat.

Top tips: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes, and that applies to your children too. Pick destinations that have plenty to see and do around the beach and easy transport for day trips. Pebble beaches can also be great for stone-skimming – just pack sturdy jelly shoes.

Fussy eaters won’t touch a thing

Children aren’t known for their sophisticated palates, but it’s a myth that they’ll wither away if their familiar favourites aren’t available. Removed from their routines, you may find your children are more open to new foods. And trust us: every culture will have something that your child loves.

Spicy curry might be a no-no in India, for instance, but potato- or cheese-stuffed dosas could make them drool. The tropics will tempt them with seasonal fruit and freshly whizzed juices that’ll make their eyes pop. Local markets and hands-on, child-friendly cooking classes can also inspire tiny tummies.

Top tips: Pack a stash of snacks from back home to temper the new food experiences. Try using the one-bite taste-test rule. If all else fails, every country has a staple plain enough to satisfy the pickiest of eaters. Don’t beat yourself up if all they want to do is eat bread, rice or chips for the entire trip. Life’s too short.

Kids and fancy establishments don’t mix

Every parent will tell you there is nothing more embarrassing than watching your kids run amok when you’ve forked out for a sophisticated restaurant or hotel. In fact, many would argue that kids have no place in such fancy venues.

This view will always hold true with some establishments – and their clientele – but an increasing number of luxury businesses are catering for family travellers in new and interesting ways. Be that through the introduction of baby-sitting services and children’s spa facilities in swanky resorts, or because of the rise of more intimate luxury guesthouses and experiences.

Top tips: Redefine how you think about luxury. Businesses that champion personalised service (such as family-run boutique hotels) and private experiences (such as guided tours) are your new best friends, because they share one key principle: it’s all about you.

Road trips bore kids to tears

Trapped inside a tin can, with kids bouncing off the walls and whining ‘are we there yet?’. This not-so-pretty picture might be prophetic if you plan to cover several thousand kilometres of empty road in a week (wave goodbye to that Route 66 trip), but you just need to readjust your expectations. Small countries, for example, often make excellent road-tripping terrain for little ones.

Top tips: Consider European countries such as Montenegro, where distances are short, scenery is staggering and interesting stops are plentiful. Small, sleepy babies can make excellent road-trip companions; just coincide your driving time with their day-time sleeps. Got older kids? No problem – it’s all about engaging their imagination. Snacks always help, too.

Parents can wave goodbye to the night

The thought of spending your evening sitting in a darkened hotel room, talking in hushed tones and contemplating how on earth you’re going to get a bite to eat while your baby drifts off at 7pm is grim. But while travelling with babies and toddlers makes night-time exploration harder, it doesn’t have to mean you lose the evening completely.

Darkened skies can offer a whole new perspective on a destination and if kids can be encouraged to embrace a late-afternoon siesta, you might just find they’re fresher and eager to get out after dark.

Top tips: Choose accommodation carefully. A balcony with a view could provide a private oasis for evening relaxation near your sleeping baby. Look for small hotels with a garden, on-site restaurant or hip roof terrace – pack a decent baby monitor and these can all be convivial places for you to spend the evening if your kids need to hit the pillow.

Destinations Places to go for wildlife and nature

Between silverback gorillas, whale sharks and manta rays, these adventures will see you rub shoulders with some of Mother Nature’s giants. Alternatively, downsize the creatures but scale-up the number, watching legions of baby turtles hatch in Borneo; or discover the whole cast of the Lion King with a walking safari on Zambia’s vast plains.

Dive with giants on Australia’s other barrier reef

Now’s the time to think Big. Visit Australia’s largest state (area: around one million sq miles; 2.5 million sq km) in June to swim with the world’s heftiest fish, the whale shark (length: up to 60ft; 18m) and manta rays (wing width: up to 18ft; 5.5m) as well as watching humpback whales (weight: up to 30 tonnes) on – OK – only Australia’s second-largest reef, Ningaloo.

Coral spawning from March prompts a zooplankton explosion, attracting the sharks until mid-August, while manta rays – present year-round at Coral Bay – tend to visit Exmouth May to November, and humpbacks migrate past June to November. The turquoise waters are beautifully clear for snorkelling and diving among dazzling reef fish, too.

  • Trip plan: Coral Bay and Exmouth are both good bases for visiting the reef. Learmonth airport near Exmouth is served by flights from Perth, an 800-mile (1300 km) drive away. For a road-trip, stop off en route at the Pinnacles Desert near Cervantes, craggy Kalbarri National Park and the ancient stromatolites of Shark Bay.
  • Need to know: No more than 10 people are allowed in the water with a whale shark, and must not approach closer than 10ft (3m).
  • Other months: Apr-Jul – moderate heat, whale sharks; Oct-Apr – summer, high 30s°C/90s°F; Aug-Sep – warm.

Explore jungles and see turtles hatching in Borneo’s dry season

For some of us, Borneo seems a long way to travel for a beach. But if that beach is liable to erupt with hatching turtles and is backed by wildlife-rich rainforest, in which former head-hunters live largely traditional lifestyles – well, then the long journey seems entirely worthwhile. That’s Borneo – or, more specifically, the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah, at their best in the (relatively) dry month of June, when turtles hatch and orangutans thrive on plentiful fruit.

Sarawak has the longhouse communities along the Batang (River) Rejang, the bat-thronged caves of Gunung Mulu National Park, the proboscis monkeys and enormous rafflesia flowers. Sabah has mighty Mt Kinabalu, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, fine diving and those turtle-nesting beaches. Both offer incredible wildlife and cultural experiences. And yes, both have beautiful stretches of sand on which to simply lie back and relax.

  • Trip planner: Fly to Kuching or Kota Kinabalu from Kuala Lumpur. There are regular flights between those two state capitals, and buses and boats serve other regional destinations.
  • Need to know: Some governments advise against travel to islands off the far eastern coast of Sabah. Check the latest advice before visiting those areas.
  • Other months: Apr-Sep – driest, but rain possible any time; Oct-Mar – wet, still hot.

See eye to eye with a silverback gorilla in Rwanda

That something so huge (a male gorilla can top 180kg) can be so vulnerable is hard to understand. Yet only 700 or so endangered mountain gorillas survive in two isolated subpopulations. June, the start of Rwanda’s dry season, is the time to venture to Volcanoes National Park to track one of its 10 habituated groups; prepare for muddy, steep trails, heady altitude (around 9850 ft; 3000m) and the heart-melting sight of a precious primate family.

A gorilla encounter is far from the only reason to come to Rwanda. The calm, neat capital, Kigali is a fine place to start, redolent with the aroma of Rwanda’s great coffee; Nyungwe Forest harbours large populations of chimpanzees and Rwenzori colobus monkeys, while to the east Akagera National Park is a pretty mix of savannah, hills and valleys, with giraffe, zebra, elephant and some shy lions.

  • Trip plan: Fly to the capital, Kigali. Independent travel is fairly straightforward, with a good minibus service, though it’s easiest to book a tour (including gorilla tracking) with an international operator.
  • Need to know: Book your gorilla-tracking permit (currently US$750) well in advance for this popular season.
  • Other months: Jun-Aug – driest season, gorilla-trekking easiest; Mar-May & Nov – heaviest rain; Sep-Oct & Dec-Feb – damp, possibly cheaper, better gorilla-permit availability.

Walk with the wild animals in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

The eyes of a lion give nothing away: not anger, not fear, not curiosity. That’s something you notice when you encounter this majestic carnivore without the protection of a vehicle – on foot in the birthplace of the walking safari: Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. June’s the ideal time to explore ‘the valley’ as it’s the start of the dry season, before vegetation has withered.

Amble alongside one of the continent’s finest guides, spotting elephants, giraffes, dazzling birdlife and, if you’re lucky, even wild dog. Seeing wildlife of any kind on foot is both electrifying and enlightening, bringing into focus not just the sights but also the sounds and smells of the bush. Leopards and various nocturnal species are often seen on night drives, too.

  • Trip plan: Fly via Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, into the airstrip at Mfuwe, near the main park gate. It’s easy to combine a few days in South Luangwa with Victoria Falls and other Zambian parks such as Lower Zambezi, Mana Pools in Zimbabwe or Lake Malawi.
  • Need to know: Though most visitors stay in luxurious accommodation in the park, budget safaris are possible staying at cheaper lodges or camps at Mfuwe.
  • Other months: Jun-Oct – dry season; Nov-May – ‘emerald’ season: trails may be washed out, fantastic for birders and photographers.

Here a guide to the locations of the cult classic

The Roadhouse

The heart of Twin Peaks country is the Snoqualmie Valley, in the hills east of Seattle. It’s at an easy distance for a day trip from the big city. Drop in first to Fall City, a town that is home to the building which starred as Bang Bang Bar, generally referred to as The Roadhouse. This was Twin Peaks’ adult entertainment venue, filled with couples and bikers listening to live music and downing a beer or two.

One of the most memorable scenes here featured the mystical Giant appearing in a vision to FBI Agent Dale Cooper, warning him of a murder with the line ‘It is happening again.’ Nowadays the century-old building houses the Fall City Roadhouse (fcroadhouse.com), offering food and accommodation.

Out back is another location: the cabin used to depict The Bookhouse, headquarters of the secret society known as The Bookhouse Boys.

Location: 4200 Preston-Fall City Rd SE, Fall City

White Tail Falls

Heading farther south-east to the town of Snoqualmie, the next major location is this impressive waterfall, falling majestically across our screens as the opening credits played to the haunting theme of composer Angelo Badalamenti.

In reality known as the Snoqualmie Falls (snoqualmiefalls.com), it’s a significant site to the Native American Snoqualmie people, who say the mist from the falls connects the heaven and earth. Since 1899 it’s also been the site of a hydroelectric power plant, which you can learn more about at the nearby Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Museum.

Its great beauty makes the location a popular tourist attraction, and there’s an observation platform from which to catch that Twin Peaks selfie featuring you, the falls and our next location: The Great Northern.

Location: 6501 Railroad Ave SE, Snoqualmie

The Great Northern

Sitting proudly above the waterfall, this grand hotel with timber interiors bearing Native American totems was the domain of scheming businessman Benjamin Horne and his daughter Audrey. It’s also where Agent Cooper was shot by an unknown assailant in the cliffhanger ending to the first season.

The first hotel built here was the 1916 Snoqualmie Falls Lodge, a small inn where travelers rested on their journey through the mountains. In 1988 it was remodeled and expanded to become the upmarket Salish Lodge. With its spa treatments and scenic views, it’s a good base from which to explore the Twin Peaks universe. At the end of the day the hotel bar will serve you a Dale Cooper cocktail in memory of the Twin Peaks agent, featuring gin, cider, and the establishment’s in-house honey.

Location: 6501 Railroad Avenue SE, Snoqualmie

Ronette’s Bridge

Across the Snoqualmie River from the Salish Lodge, Railroad Avenue takes you past the Northwest Railway Museum and the giant Snoqualmie Centennial Log which appeared in the credits of Twin Peaks’ pilot episode. A left turn on Meadowbrook Way will lead you back to the river and the most chilling of filming locations: Ronette’s Bridge.

This railroad bridge was the location where a dazed and injured Ronette Pulaski was found, having escaped the fate of the murdered Laura Palmer. In the present day the rails have been removed and the bridge is now part of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, used by walkers and cyclists. Despite this healthy modern purpose, the dark girders of the structure still seem to loom ominously over the waters below.

Location: 40412 SE Reinig Rd, Snoqualmie

Sheriff’s Station and Packard Sawmill

North of Ronette’s Bridge, 396th Drive leads through trees to the location which stood in as the sheriff’s station, occupied by Sheriff Harry S Truman and his loyal deputies. It’s instantly recognizable, though it’s now occupied by the DirtFish rally driving school (dirtfish.com).

From the parking lot, there’s a clear view of another Twin Peaks landmark, the Packard Sawmill. This facility was portrayed as the key asset of the Packard and Martell families. Opened in 1917 as the Weyerhaeuser Mill, the facility closed in 2003 and now only a single smokestack is left to bear witness to its history and television fame.

Location: 7001 396th Drive SE, Snoqualmie.

Double R Diner

Back over the river on Railroad Avenue, head southeast to the small town of North Bend. Here you’ll find the most fondly remembered Twin Peaks location, the Double R Diner. This old-school café, presided over by owner Norma Jennings in her retro blue uniform, was the quintessential small town eatery in the series. It was also a favorite haunt of Agent Cooper, who famously praised its cherry pie and ‘damn fine cup of coffee.’

Actually known as Twede’s Café, the family-owned diner that opened in 1941 has been through various ups and downs since its 1990s starring role (including a fire). With the filming of the new Twin Peaks season, it was transformed into its old appearance. If you visit now, you can still drink coffee, eat pie, and eavesdrop on small-town secrets.

Location: 137 W North Bend Way, North Bend.

‘Welcome to Twin Peaks’ sign

For a bonus location, steer your vehicle to 41483 SE Reinig Rd, Snoqualmie, then carefully pull over. You’re gazing at the view once graced by the ‘Welcome to Twin Peaks’ sign in the opening credits of every episode. The sign is no longer there, but the scenery hasn’t much changed. Sit back, take in the view of the mountains, and try to interpret the mysteries whistling through the mighty trees that Agent Cooper so admired.

Celebrating street art with eight festivals for the urban art form

From Europe’s largest urban art festival in Banksy’s hometown of Bristol to the comic book-inspired POW!WOW! in Hawaii, these are just some of the fabulous celebrations you can find in our new Street Art book.

Upfest – Bristol, UK

Hailed as the largest street and urban art festival in Europe, Upfest (upfest.co.uk) draws artists from all over the world to Bristol – renowned for its street art and the rumoured birthplace of Banksy – in July to paint at the festival’s home in Bedminster. Using the streets, walls, boards, double-decker buses, vans, cars and even a New York subway train as their canvas, more than 300 artists bring their brushes here each year.

Upfest remains true to its roots as a platform for some of the world’s most creative artists to get together and paint live in front of thousands of people, with the artwork remaining in situ until the following year. Held over one weekend, the festival also includes workshops, musical performances and other types of live entertainment. A portion of the money raised goes towards the charity NACOA, which assists children whose parents suffer from alcoholism.

Nuart – Stavanger, Norway

Norway’s third-largest city probably isn’t the first place you’d look for one of the world’s oldest street art festivals, and yet that’s exactly what you’ll find in Stavanger. Since 2001, the renowned Nuart Festival (nuartfestival.no) has provided an annual platform for the world’s best urban artists to exhibit their creativity. From the first week of September a team of local and international street artists leave their mark on the city’s walls – both indoor and out – creating one of Europe’s most dynamic and constantly evolving public art events.

The festival includes a series of citywide exhibitions, events, performances, debates and workshops, by some of the world’s leading practitioners and emerging names in street art. In 2016, a new partnership with local bus company Kolumbus also led to the introduction of eight ‘street art buses’ – mobile artworks that bring street art even closer to the heart of the city.

POW! WOW! – Hawaii, USA

The name ‘POW! WOW!’ was inspired by the colour-filled pages of comic books – ‘POW!’ being the impact of the art, and ‘WOW!’ being the reaction of the viewer. Together, the words pay homage to the Native American pow wow, a gathering that celebrates culture, music, art and community. The main event of the POW! WOW! (powwowhawaii.com) calendar takes place over a week in February in the Kaka’ako district of Honolulu. The festival brings together more than a hundred international and local artists to create murals and installations in public spaces.

Since its beginnings in Hawaii, POW! WOW! has expanded across the globe, taking the festival to Taiwan, Japan, California, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and Texas. The organisation has grown into a global network responsible for art exhibitions, lectures, schools for art and music, creative community spaces, concerts and live art installations worldwide.

MB6: Street Art – Marrakesh, Morocco

In 2016, the Marrakesh Biennale included urban art as part of its integral programming for the first time since its inauguration in 2004. Twelve leading local and international street artists were invited to Morocco to participate in the Biennale as part of the MB6: Street Art project (mb6streetart.org). The focus on public art is indicative of the inclusive motivations behind the festival, allowing audiences of all backgrounds to engage with artistic works across the cityscape.

The murals are located in key public spaces, including the rooftops of the souks in the Medina, the area around the palace, and walls across the Mellah and Gueliz districts. The project also included the installation of North Africa’s largest mural, a 6400 sq metre work by Italian artist Giacomo Bufarini (aka ‘RUN’), painted on the ground of the Moulay Hassan Square in Essaouira. The artwork depicts two figures communicating across borders, echoing the rich musical heritage in Essaouira while also addressing the migration crisis.

BLOOP – Ibiza, Spain

BLOOP International Proactive Art Festival (bloop-festival.com) is an independent initiative that showcases art, technology, music, education and gastronomy. The month-long festival has run in July and August every year since 2011, covering the streets of Ibiza in murals, interactive installations, paintings, video mappings, sculptures, parties, workshops, exhibitions and more.

One of the main activities within this fiesta is OpenAir.Gallery, which currently exhibits more than 20 murals by artists from around the world. The gallery is open year-round, embodying the festival’s ethos: ‘art is for everybody’. After six consecutive years, the festival is now considered a tourist attraction in its own right, with something for everyone from art lovers through to partygoers visiting Ibiza for its renowned nightlife.

HKwalls – Hong Kong, China

The HKwalls festival (hkwalls.org) adds a much-needed street art element to Hong Kong Arts Month, held annually in March. HKwalls invites local and international artists to create large-scale works on the streets of the city. The festival celebrates creativity, originality and freedom of expression, actively connecting and building relationships between artists and the community through high-quality public art.

Each year, HKwalls selects one area of Hong Kong to focus on, with artists painting as many exterior walls, gates and windows as possible throughout the district. During the festival, HKwalls also hosts a number of supplementary events and activities including exhibitions, film screenings and public workshops. Works from the 2015 and 2016 iterations of the festival, which took place in the Sheung Wan, Stanley Market and Sham Shui Po neighbourhoods, are still visible to visitors.

Artscape – Gothenburg, Sweden

The 2016 Artscape festival (artscape.se) was one of the most ambitious urban art projects ever undertaken in Scandinavia, joining other established events in the region such as Nuart in Norway. Over four weeks in July and August, 20 international, national and local artists joined forces to create large-scale art in every single borough of Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg. Artscape seeks to promote public art for everyone, believing that the advertising jungle of the modern cityscape needs competition, and that great art shouldn’t be confined to galleries and museums. The festival was another important step for the Swedish urban art scene. It brings into the mainstream an art form that is still very much on the outer, in a country influenced by a conservative view of the purposes of public space and a long-standing ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards any kind of aerosol-based art.

St+art Festival – New Delhi, India

St+art (st-artindia.org) is a not-for-profit organisation bringing large-scale street art to public spaces across India. Since 2014, St+art has promoted annual festivals throughout the country, including in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, with the aim of moving art from the galleries to the streets, making it accessible to a much wider audience.

The fourth iteration of the festival took place in New Delhi at the beginning of 2016, in collaboration with the Ministry of Urban Development. It featured the creation of the first open-air street-art zone in India, the Lodhi Colony Art District. This vision of a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood transformed into an open-air art museum wowed locals and helped to reinvent the idea of public spaces in Indian cities.

The colony now exhibits 26 major new artworks by globally renowned artists running along the Meharchand Market Road and Khanna Market Road, and has become a tourist destination in its own right.

This essential guide to backpacking China’s Silk Road

The section of the ancient Silk Road that runs through China is an epic journey through desert dunes to the end of the Great Wall, a length of pink mud that ends abruptly in the magnificent beige towers of the Jiayuguan Fort.

This is not a voyage that many travellers experience; it’s often and understandably overlooked in favour of more accessible and famous destinations in China.

But for adventurous travellers looking for something truly different, backpacking the Chinese Silk Road reaps glorious rewards: sand-sledding down a magical unmoving sand dune, a camel ride around an oasis, a trek up the end of the Great Wall and sipping wine under grape trellises are just a few of the possibilities. So don a sand-proof rucksack and check out our guide to backpacking the Silk Road through China.

The route

Historically, the Silk Road was not one but many routes that connected east and south Asia to Mediterranean Europe, so named because the largest commodity traded down the route was sought-after Chinese silk. The route traditionally started in Xi’an (then known as Chang’an), China and continued northwest through modern-day Gansu and Xinjiang provinces before reaching Central Asia.

Several historical splits in the road mean that you have options when deciding your route. By far, the most traversed portion of the route is from Xi’an to Lanzhou and Jiayuguan in Gansu. From here, you can choose to head northwest to Urumqi in Xinjiang, where fascinating Uigher culture, China’s wine country, and the soaring peaks of the Tian Shan mountains await.  Alternately, the southern route heads through the fiery desert of Gansu, with its huge dunes and ancient Buddhist caves, ending in the distinctly Central Asian city of Kashgar, renowned for its bustling Sunday livestock market. Adventurous travellers and those with extra time could potentially explore both routes by heading southward from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang in Gansu, then upwards to Urumqi and finally south again to end in Kashgar.

Don’t-miss sights

Zhangye Danxia National Geopark. This incredible desert landscape is striking for its orange, red and yellow hues of layered clay and sandstone, forming bizarre rainbow mountains. While you’re in Zhangye, also be sure to see the Giant Buddha Temple, which contains one of the largest wooden reclining Buddha statues in China.

Jiayuguan Fort. The ancient Great Wall ends in this towering mud fortress, which rises out of the desert like a mirage. Just a few kilometres northwest of Jiayuguan town, the fort boasts a few touristy activities like archery and camel rides, but the real reason to come is for the sweeping views from its ramparts.

Overhanging Great Wall. Named because it looks like a dragon hanging over a cliffside, this portion of the Great Wall is one of the most visually stunning: a mud maze that zigzags its way up a stark desert mountain. The wall is open for climbing and views from the top are incredible.

Singing Sands Dune. To call this a single dune would be an understatement. On the outskirts of Dunhuang, Singing Sands Dune is the first in a series of thousands of dunes that make up the Taklamakan Desert. This particular dune, though, is legendary for having never covered the oasis below, despite thousands of years of sand erosion. Adventurous types can climb the dune for great vistas of yet more dunes – and then sand-sled back to the bottom.

Mogao Grottoes. Just outside of Dunhuang, this series of caves contains an incredible wealth of Buddhist art and murals.

Turpan Grape Valley. China may not be known for its quality winemaking just yet, but Turpan – an oasis town – is home to one of the oldest and most prolific wine-making regions in the country. No matter the quality of the wine (some is actually quite quaffable), sipping a fresh glass of white under grape trellises as a brook babbles nearby is great way to beat the desert heat.

Jiaohe Ruins. This 2300-year-old archaeological site contains the ruins of an ancient capital that was destroyed by Mongol invaders around the 13th century. What remains today is an elaborate network of structures in various states of decay, connected by a maze of streets.

Tian Chi Lake. This mountain lake, whose name means ‘heavenly’, sits in the cradle of the Tian Shan mountains underneath the looming 5445m gaze of Bogda Peak. A popular destination with domestic tourists, the lake’s serenity is sadly hampered by honking boat horns and tramping visitors, but if you can find a spot of solitude, the vistas are incredible. It’s also possible to camp or stay in a yurt with a local Kazakh family – highly recommended for delivering a slice of the water and surrounding forest to yourself.

Kashgar’s Grand Sunday Bazaar. One of the largest and liveliest markets in all of Asia, Kashgar’s bazaar is open every day but is especially bustling on Sundays, when the livestock market adds cattle, horses, sheep and goats to the mix.

Getting around

China’s northwest is historically one of its least connected regions. The Jiayu pass, where the impressive Jiayuguan Fort was built in the 1370s, marks the end of the Great Wall and the border of the ancient Chinese empire.

The region spreads over 2400km, most of which is separated by vast tracts of desert. Though you can still get on a long, bumpy bus ride if you want to, the region is now connected by high-speed rail, making getting around a breeze. Regular flights also connect most of the main airports in the region: Xi’an, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, Urumqi and Kashgar all have commercial airports, and tickets are often discounted.

Part of the allure of this trip is the vast journey overland, which hearkens to a day when explorers, traders and Buddhists rode and walked for weeks across the harsh desert. Doing at least part of your journey by rail is a good way to experience these landscapes up close. The entire journey could be done in 10 days by rail if pressed, but two to three weeks allow for explorations further afield and several days in each stopover to see the sights properly. Flying from Xi’an to Lanzhou and beginning your rail journey there would shorten the journey for those in a hurry.

An ideal Silk Road trip would include overnight or several-day stops in Lanzhou, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Turpan, Urumqi (or Tian Chi Lake) and Kashgar.

Tips and recommendations

Most of this route follows extreme desert, so pack for dry heat. Carry plenty of sunscreen and breathable clothing that covers the skin. A bandana or lightweight scarf can be useful for shade and breathing in dusty conditions.

If taking an overnight train trip, equip yourself with food and plenty of sealed, bottled water before you embark. Hot meals are offered on trains, but tend to be very basic Chinese staples like rice, vegetables and stir-fried meats. Instant noodles, fruit, nuts and seeds are ubiquitous, easy to carry and keep well. Trains also usually sell beer and wine, but at high mark-up, so be sure to pack your own, as having a ganbei (bottoms up) is a great way to meet locals and make friends while travelling.

Officially, the entirety of China is in one time zone, China Standard Time, but the northwest, particularly Xinjiang province, often operates on its own locally created time zones. When purchasing train and bus tickets, double-check the departure time.

In general, Mandarin is spoken throughout the region, including by taxi drivers and hotel staff and at large stores and restaurants. However, in some more remote areas and at smaller cafes, you may find older people only speak local dialects of Chinese or Uigher.

The trekking through Borneo’s rainforests

Dressing for the climate

Borneo – made up of the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah, the sultanate of Brunei and Indonesian Kalimantan – has wetter seasons and dryer seasons. Exactly when depends on where you are, but downpours of biblical intensity are possible any time of the year. And even when you’re not slogging through a deluge, the heat and nearly 100{7d65863ddcea96206568460ce157b2d1c53d96a464a21fbb1935b05b6b18533a} humidity will ensure that you’ll stay soaked with your own sweat. The best way to minimize discomfort is to bring kit made from materials that do not retain water. That means cotton is out, while synthetics – such as nylon, polyester, Lycra and (for higher elevations) Polar fleece – are in. All your gear, from socks to photographic equipment, should be packed in waterproof bags.

Bring two sets of clothing – one for hiking and the other to wear at the end of the day and at night. Your trekking duds will be soaked within minutes and will stay that way until you get back to civilisation. Keep your day and night kit strictly separate or you’ll find that you have two sets of wet clothing. Talcum powder can help alleviate chafing caused by wet underwear.

Coping with creepy-crawlies

Mosquitoes are not a huge problem in most parts of Borneo, thanks in part to the millions of insect-eating bats that inhabit the island’s countless caves, but you are likely to find yourself in a battle of wits with two varieties of leech. First is the ground-dwelling brown leech, notorious for its painless bites (you won’t know you’ve been tapped until you see blood soaking through your socks). The other is the tiger leech, which drops onto passing humans from overhead branches, inflicting a bite that stings like some ant bites.

You’ll hear lots of theories about the best way to keep the slimy blood-suckers at bay but one widely accepted method is to put an impenetrable fabric barrier between their jaws and your capillaries. Knee-length ‘leech socks’, made of tightly knit calico, do the trick. You can find leech socks on Amazon but you should really just buy them in Borneo – they’re made here and can be found for much cheaper. Some also use Spandex and some even use panty hose. Either way, a barrier is key. Beyond that, if you find that a leech has attached itself, salt is your primary weapon – touch the leech with a thin-fabric bag filled with a spoonful of salt and it will recoil pronto. Show good form when dealing with a leech – my Borneo trekking guide, Al Davies, advises that if other people are around when you’ve removed the leach, you should permanently neutralise it by chopping it in half with a parang (Bornean machete).

Sleeping safely and dryly

To keep yourself safely isolated from ground-dwelling insects, reptiles and small mammals while you sleep, hang a lightweight hammock between two trees. There are two great hammock companies to check out if you’d like to pack your own – Hennessy Hammocks (hennessyhammock.com) and DD Hammocks (ddhammocks.com).  To protect yourself against flying insects, wrap the hammock with a mosquito net soaked in permethrin. Then, to stay dry, hang a wide basha (tarpaulin) over the entire ensemble. Finally, climb into a lightweight sleeping bag with a comfortable liner to make this whole setup cosy.

Overnight, the rain-protected space under your basha bivouac can also used to dry out your footwear, socks and trekking clothes.

Rainforest first aid

Even a seemingly innocuous scratch can quickly get infected in the heat and humidity so bringing along proper first aid is essential. Apply an antiseptic such as povidone-iodine to cuts and scrapes. To reduce itching from insect stings and bites (and thus the urge to scratch, which can invite infection), use calamine lotion, sting relief spray or aloe vera. Purify local water using a filter or tablets.

Foot care is essential so after you take off your boots and peel off your soaking socks, completely dry your feet and then apply anti-fungal cream or powder as needed. Ask your doctor about bringing along a just-in-case supply of broad-spectrum antibiotics – and the conditions under which they should be used.

List of essentials

For a healthy, safe and enjoyable trek in the Bornean rainforest, here’s a checklist of the essential kit you’ll need:

Basha – waterproof tarpaulin for keeping the rain off your hammock.

GPS tracker – in the rain forest, figuring out where you are can be tricky. All day long, no matter where you are, all you can see is trees.

Hammock – string it between two trees to keep you and your sleeping bag comfortably above the slime, snakes and centipedes.

Hat – a wide brim will keep the rain off your face (and, if you wear them, your glasses); an absorbent band will prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes.

Hiking shoes – for well-used trails, running shoes with good traction should be fine, but for trekking in remote areas you’ll need serious hiking boots with mud-gripping cleats; make sure they’re well broken-in before you set out.

Leech socks – these serve as an impenetrable barrier between your blood and the leeches that crave it.

Medications – anti-fungal cream or powder will keep your feet, groin and other areas free of rot; talcum or prickly heat powder can soothe chafing from wet clothes; and sting relief spray, calamine or aloe vera will reduce itching from bites.

Mosquito net – keeps the bugs at bay while you sleep; especially effective if soaked in permethrin.

Parang – used by the indigenous Dayak peoples, Borneo’s version of the machete is essential for everything from whacking thorny vines to finishing off leeches.

Rain poncho – help keep some of the rain off you and your pack in a downpour.

Water purification agent or water filter – makes local water supplies safe to drink.

Waterproof bags – use a dry bag to create a waterproof space inside your pack, then fill it with plastic zipper storage bags containing, separately, your hiking clothes, dry clothes, electronics, medications and other gear.