Monthly Archives: October 2019

An Interview With Doug Allen

Doug Allan

At Wildfoot Travel, we’re exceptionally proud to be sponsoring award-winning wildlife cameraman Doug Allan’s fantastic UK theatre tour.
This month we managed to sit him down for an exclusive chat to find out some more about his wildlife travel experiences.

Of your many wildlife encounters, which stands out as the most memorable?

The biggest ones always involve big mammals. Underwater in the company of friendly humpbacks in Tonga. Sharing quality time with a polar bear who’s only relaxed because you’ve been patient approaching her. When Doug Anderson and I filmed the orcas for Frozen Planet hunting the seals in the pack ice, washing them off the ice floes by making waves with their tails – well that was probably my most memorable encounter. Spectacular, dramatic, never before filmed, so many elements to the story.

Doug diving with humpbacks in Tonga

What is the ‘trickiest situation’ you have found yourself in on your Polar travels.

I was grabbed by a walrus while I was snorkelling off the ice edge in the Canadian Arctic. He came up from right below me without warning, hugged my thighs with his flippers just as they do when catching seals in the same way. I looked down, hit his head with my fist, he let go and I swam back to the solid ice. Took less time than it has done for you to read this. Now if he’d held on and taken me down …… well no more Doug I guess.

Of all the Polar regions you talk about in your mesmerising UK lecture tour, which is the area that stands out the most?

Between 1976 and 1987 I spent a total of five winters and eight summers working in Antarctica. Four winters as diving officer, biologist and finally film maker at the British Antarctic Survey base on Signy Island in the South Orkneys, a small group of islands on the northern edge of the Weddell Sea. The other winter as base commander at Halley station, at 75o south on the eastern side of the Weddell. Wintering with 18 other men but just as importantly for me, within visiting distance of a colony of 25,000 pairs of emperor penguins. Those ten years were formative to everything I’ve done since. I developed from photographic neophyte to full time film maker. In the years since, the chance to visit places like South Georgia and down the Antarctic Peninsula was a wonderful privilege, filming the kind of animal encounters only the Antarctic can offer.

As a fierce campaigner for cleaner oceans and a sustainable environment, what is the key piece of advice you would like give to:

a). Every Politician

b). Every individual

For politicians – take your heads out of the sand over climate change. Give us worldwide, joined up strategies, faster goals than 2050, new economic priorities as the old model is clearly not fit for purpose. You found $2 trillion ten years ago for the Troubled Asset Relief Programme that saved the banks. What price a Troubled Planet Relief Programme?

For individuals – we used to sing All You Need is Love and I bet we all could still sing the tune. But now – All We Need is Less would serve us better.

Reflection of icebergs - copyright Doug Allan

If you hadn’t become a world renowned natural world photographer and film maker, what alternative career would you have pursued?

I was fortunate in that I found my passion for underwater at only 10 years old. All since was in a way bolted on. Marine biology, expeditions, the Antarctic, photography. When I met David Attenborough and his three person film crew in the Antarctic in 1981, I realised that Hugh Maynard, the cameraman with him, was doing all the things that excited me. Diving, photography, travelling to exciting places, working with wildlife, involved with worthwhile projects and with fascinating people. It was two days helping them that took me to wildlife filming full time.

Doug` Allan with David AttenboroughSo to ask me what alternative career would I have pursued, well how far back do you want to go? Something definitely outside an office, an element of unpredictability, an adrenaline kick now and again, something that felt ‘worthwhile’. Working for the emergency services, being the guy who was winched out of the helo for the rescues? But on the other hand I know myself to be an incorrigible showman so how about something on the stage?

Doug using a filming blind

What are the three top travel destinations still outstanding on your Bucket List

I plan to spend more time in the wild parts of UK and Ireland. They’re the match of anywhere on the planet, I like that they’re not predictable, that they reveal all their moods only to the persistent, and that they can challenge all your survival and field craft skills if you choose the season and place to explore.

I’d also like to spend a spell sailing slowly round some of the less visited islands of the Pacific. Using my French in some places, feeling the big ocean spaces, having the time to spend with the locals.

I haven’t yet had the chance to go deep in a submersible. I’d love to go down to the bottom of one of the oceanic trenches, say + 8000 metres, spend a few hours there.

 

Freeze Frame By Doug AllanBuy a copy of Doug Allan’s latest book ‘Freeze Frame’ here

Find out more about Doug Allan’s theatre tour here

doug allan's tour dates

 

Harry & Megan’s Romantic Get Away & Other Reasons To Visit Botswana

 

As part of his tour of Southern Africa, Prince Harry recently visited Botswana. Harry has been returning to Botswana for over 20 years now, doing a huge amount to raise awareness for humanitarian and wildlife conservation with each visit.  But also, returning simply to enjoy this beautiful country and its unspoiled wilderness.

These days, Prince Harry’s love for Botswana is shared by his wife, The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. The couple have enjoyed several dates in secluded safari lodges in Botswana and even spent their honeymoon there. To underline their connection to this natural paradise, Meghan also has a diamond sourced in Botswana as the central piece in her engagement ring.

But aside from simply taking holiday recommendations from the royal family, there are countless other reasons why a trip to Botswana should be on your travel wish list.

Here are just a few of the reasons you should pay this beautiful country a visit.

african elephants in BotswanaElephants

Botswana’s national commitment to conservation means there is no better pace to see African Elephants. The number of elephants has tripled in the last thirty years and today it is estimated that there are over 160,000 wild elephants in Botswana.

leopards in Botswana

Big Cats

Leopards, Lions and Cheetah’s are a regular sight in The National Parks of Botswana.  Today, It is one of the top spots to see big cats in the world.

Rhino in Botswana

Rhinos

Perhaps the most threatened of African species, the rhino, which has been hunted through the ages for its horn, can be seen at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary in East Botswana. Here black and white rhinos are closely monitored by conservationists, who are keen to increase the number of rhinos living in Botswana.  

National Parks

Almost 50% of the entire country of Botswana is protected as part of a National Park. These carefully and sympathetically managed wildlife parks are vast, and their success has lead to an abundance of a rich variety wildlife.

The Chobe National Park stretches to over 12,000 km in size, with the Chobe river winding through it , attracting all kinds of exciting wildlife and a huge variety of species of birds.

Other highlights include The Moremi & Khwai Game Reserve, which alongside lions, leopards and elephants, is home to packs of fascinating African wild dogs.

The okavango delta

The Okavango Delta.

One of the seven natural wonders of Africa, The Okavango Delta is vast inland river delta in Northern Botswana which attracts and nourishes an endless array of animal and birdlife all year round. Travelling through these waterways in a dug-out canoe or ‘Moroko’ will get you closer to wildlife and lead to much more intimate wildlife encounters.

Makgadikgady Pan

Makgadikgadi Pans

Visiting these vast, remote salt water flats is a breathtaking experience. Taking a quad bike safari will allow you to travel greater distances through this fascinating, eerie moon-like wilderness.  Although wildlife is in short supply here. Buffalo and Zebra have been known to migrate across these plains in vast numbers from September to December. This also is the perfect place to get up close to Meerkats, who are resourceful enough to thrive in this arid wilderness.
The clarity and definition of the star-scapes in the night sky is are also completely mesmerizing and something that really has to be experienced on any trip to Botswana.

Tsodilo Ancient Art In BotswanaAncient Art In The Desert

World Heritage status has been awarded to Tsodilo, which Unesco describes as the “Louvre of the Desert”. Discovered in the Kalahari Desert , Tsodilo is home to one of the highest concentrations of primitive rock paintings in the world. Revered by the Hambukushu and San communities, this ancient art gallery boasts some 4,500 paintings, some of which are 100,000 years old.

For anyone with a passion for history, archaeology and /or art, a visit to this fascinating site can be a spiritual experience.

victoria falls

Victoria Falls

Whist not strictly In Botswana, Victoria Falls is so close to the border that is would be madness not to nip over into Zambia to see this iconic natural spectacle.

The Scale of this waterfall is utterly breath-taking. The sensation of power that five hundred million cubic metres of water a minute crashing down around you will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Not to mention the noise and the cloud of spray which can be seen from miles away.
Taking a cruise on the Zambezi and watching one of the regular vibrant sunsets across the falls is a vision that you will never forget.

And for those with a taste for adventure, there are many opportunities on offer here including kayaking, white water rafting and bungee jumping.

Find out more about our trips to Botswana here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polar Cruise Vessel World Explorer The World Explorer

Zoe The Antarctic Explorer

Wildfoot Travel Advisor Zoe Savage-Morton took a a trip down to Southampton recently to check out the new cruise vessel ‘World Explorer’. Here she gives us her first hand impression of this groundbreaking new ship.

I was invited to Southampton along with fellow Expedition Cruise industry members in September, to inspect and gain first had knowledge of the brand new World Explorer for future guests. This is an invaluable experience when identifying the right expedition vessel for our clients traveling on an Arctic and/or Antarctic expedition.

The weather wasn’t being kind in Southampton, so the guests travelling on her current voyage were unable to dis-embark, so we got to see the ship on a working day.  A pleasant selection of light snacks were enjoyed after meeting our hosts, followed by a walk around the ship.

The World Explorer

Built in 2019 made her maiden voyage in August 2019, she is a 1B ice class ship.  At 126 metres long, she sets a steady pace at 16 knots. Rolls Royce Diesel Electric engines that reduce carbon emission means she leaves a lower footprint in comparison to more traditional expedition vessels.

Stabilisers have come a long way since the first were installed on a Japanese ship in 1933, in 2019 the World Explorer has been fitted with two Retractable Fin Stabilizers, developed for demanding conditions both at zero speed and whilst underway – simply put, you feel less roll on your Arctic or Antarctic cruise.

Here are my thoughts and findings of this fresh and lovely small ship.

 

Crew & Expedition staff

A warm welcome awaits, setting a friendly atmosphere for the duration of our stay. There is strong solidarity amongst Quark staff, which presents a genuine family feeling that is shared, creating a firm impression that you are in well experienced hands, all the better for our guests’ comfort.

Staff encourage guests to ‘get outside’ on all journeys and are always readily available to assist, advise or teach.  A total of 130 staff (25 being the qualified Expedition team) to 176 guests, means a staff to guest ratio of 1:7 at full capacity.

Sustainability on board

All passengers receive a reusable eco-friendly water bottle on arrival, easily accessible water stations are posted throughout the ship. Guests can take the water bottles home.

Due to the complicated process of desalinating sea water for use on board, guests are asked to practice water conservation at all times.

Common Areas

Outside

  • There are plenty of outside areas for observing the passing scenery and wildlife.
  • The restaurant located on deck 4 has a large outdoor seating/observation area where BBQ’s will be available – weather permitting.
  • Decks 5 & 6 – all the cabins are located on these decks – offer large quiet areas, with seating at the rear (aft) of the ship.
  • Deck 5 also offers a large open area on the Bow, a great place to be when whales are frolicking in the water. Short promenades either side of the Observation Lounge and bar on deck 7, with a large open area in front of the lounge.
  • You can enjoy a 360 degree viewing from deck 8 – perfect for photo opportunities, and a 190 metre walking track. There’s also a helicopter pad that unfortunately won’t be used on the Antarctic itineraries – there are alternative ships available that will offer helicopters.
  • Deck 7 has a large open space with a plunge pool flanked by 2 spa’s.
  • There is an allocated smoking area on deck 7 adjacent to the bar.

Inside

  • All the public areas have large windows, so you don’t miss the scenery while cruising along.
  • Polar Boutique – stocks all the essentials you may have forgotten, including a selection of expedition gear, along with small souvenirs.
  • There isn’t a library on board but there are two small areas designated to reading with some available literature on deck 7 either side of the Observation Lounge.
  • There are two lounges, the one on Deck 4 being where you can grab a tea or coffee, its also used for special occasion. The other on deck 7 being the Observation Lounge where you can relax, wrapped in one of the soft blankets provided, and enjoy the panoramic polar views.
  • The Auditorium on deck 4 accommodates all on board and is where lectures, presentations and videos are presented for guest enjoyment and education. Anything that is presented here is streamlined live to all cabins and also recorded, so if you don’t make a lecture you can watch it at your leisure in your cabin.
  • A reasonable sized mud rooms gives a designated open locker for each cabin – so no taking wet outdoor gear back to your cabin.
  • Additional spaces include a well fitted gym, spa with L’Occitane products, cigar lounge – cigar smoking is allowed in here, computer room – WiFi fees apply.
  • There is a lift on board.
  • A medical clinic is available on deck 3 in case of an emergency.

Cabins

All suite cabins are large and spacious with plenty of storage room, essential amenities, beautifully appointed in soft tones and comfortable.

All cabins are on the outside of the vessel with either verandas or Juliet balcony.

Cabin on the World ExplorerWhat you’ll find in your cabin:

  • L’Occitane bathroom products
  • Hairdryer
  • Bathrobe loan for the duration of your stay
  • Safe for your valuables
  • Individual cabin thermostat
  • Laundry service
  • Life jackets
  • 220AC electrical outlets with European two pin and North American flat pin outlets
  • 110-volt shaving sockets in bathrooms

 

TRIPLE: Located on Deck 6, and approximately 242 sq. ft. (22.5 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, and a 55 sq. ft. (5 sq. m) walk-out balcony.  Quad share cabins are not available.

 

INFINITY SUITE: Located on Decks 5 and 6, and approximately 270 sq. ft. (25 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, and a floor-to-ceiling glass Juliet balcony.

 

VERANDA SUITE: Located on Decks 5 and 6, and approximately 215 sq. ft. (20 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, and a 55 sq. ft. (5 sq. m) walk-out balcony.

SUPERIOR SUITE: Located on Decks 5 and 6, and approximately 278 sq. ft. (26 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, and a 110 sq. ft. (10 sq. m) walk-out balcony with access from sitting room and bedroom.

 

DELUXE SUITE: Located on Deck 5, and approximately

334 sq. ft. (31 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, and a 110 sq. ft. (10 sq. m) walk-out balcony with access from sitting room and bedroom.

 

OWNER’S SUITE: Located on Decks 5 and 6, and approximately 355 sq. ft. (33 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, and a 110 sq. ft. (10 sq. m) walk-out balcony with access from sitting room and bedroom.

Activities & Provisions – WEATHER DEPENDENT

Depending on the region, pre-boarding activities are available at an additional cost.

Zodiacs

zodiac cruise in antarctica

With 18 zodiacs onboard, all guests are able to be off ship at the same time. On average 10 guests disembark into each down a 5 step gangway.

 

Camping

Camping is available for guests 18 years and over up until early January.   A liability waiver form is required, bivvy bags, insulation mats and -20 degree sleeping bags are provided.

 

Kayaking & Paddling

New Ploar Cruise Vessel Wolrd ExplorerrKayaking is booked for the expedition duration.  Paddling can be undertaken for a few hours and is available in the Arctic only.

 

Bridge Visits

The BridgeAn open bridge policy exists outside of European water to allow a pleasant walk along the bridge window.  However, the Captain and Bridge officers do restrict access during arrivals and departures from port and during times of complicated navigation.

Journeys end

A trip log and photos are given to guests at the end of their expedition on a USB as a memorable keepsake.

Dining & Drinking

  • The restaurant has a casual atmosphere and seats all guests at one time – open seating.
  • Buffet’s for breakfast and lunch, and an A La Carte menu for evening meals.
  • The menu has a variety of options available, with the usual dietary requirement options available on request.
  • Coffee, tea and water are free and available throughout the day. All other beverages, such as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, can be purchased in the bar or lounge areas.
  • Afternoon tea is served daily.

 

Experiencing the World Explorer

To enjoy the World Explorer for yourself and create unforgettable memories, you can book your adventure with Wildfoot Travel today. Our expert team are available to guide you through your options and ensure you have the most incredible trip.

More information on the can be found here:

https://www.wildfoottravel.com/antarctica/vessels/world-explorer

The World Explorer will be operating in the upcoming Antarctic and Arctic starting in the Antarctics upcoming season November 2019 to March 2020.  For itinerary examples, visit the links below:

Antarctica:

https://www.wildfoottravel.com/itinerary/5068/south-georgia-antarctic-peninsula-penguin-safari-16-days

South Georgia & Antarctic Peninsula Penguin Safari – 16 days

27th Dec 2019

Up To 50% Off! 

https://www.wildfoottravel.com/itinerary/5055/antarctic-express-fly-cruise-fly-8-days

Antarctic Express Fly/Cruise/Fly – 8 days

14th Feb 2020

 

Arctic:

https://www.wildfoottravel.com/itinerary/5624/spitsbergen-in-depth-14-days

Spitsbergen In Depth – 14 days

27th June 2020

Up To 10% Off Plus a Free Transfer Package!

https://www.wildfoottravel.com/itinerary/5628/three-arctic-islands-15-days

Three Arctic Islands – 15 days

11th Aug 2020

Up To 15% Off Plus a Free Transfer Package!

 

SECRET FLASH SALE!

Book Select World Explorer Antarctica 2019/20 Voyages by Tuesday 22nd October and Receive up to 50% Discount!! Please enquire for full details and discounts.

 

 

 

Emporer Penguins The Pecking Order Of Penguins

 

Who doesn’t love penguins? These beautiful, fascinating, intelligent, hilarious creatures are as graceful in the water as they are clumsy on land. There is simply so much to watch and to learn about these flightless birds and seeing them ‘up close and personal’ in their natural habitat is a moving experience.
From the tallest to the smallest and the fastest to the slowest, in this short article, we take a quick look at which penguin species top the table in each important area.

The Biggest Penguin

emperor penguin

Standing at around 1.1 to 1.3 meters and weighing in at up to 45kg, The Emperor Penguin is the largest and heaviest of all the penguin species. They are the fifth heaviest living bird species on the planet.

The Smallest Penguin

Fairy Peguin

The Fairy Penguin is the smallest species of penguin. It grows to an average of around 33 cm high, though specific measurements vary by subspecies. These tiny bundles of cuteness live on the coastlines of New Zealand and Southern Australia.

The Fastest Penguin

Gentoo Peguins

Reaching speeds of up to 22 miles per hour, The Gentoo Penguin is the fastest of all the penguin species. Easily recognisable thanks to their bright orange bill and the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of the head. Gentoos often jump out of the water to maximise speed as they travel faster through the air than through the water.

The Slowest Penguin

Claiming its second award, the Fairy penguin also picks up the trophy for slowest swimmer. These pocket-sized penguins reach full speed in the water at about 1mile per hour. A poor performance when compared to the Gentoo’s blistering 22 miles per hour.

The Oldest Penguin

Kumimanu

Kumimanu biceae is an extinct species of giant penguin which lived around 60 to 56 million years ago. Fossilized remains found in New Zealand suggest these fierce marine predators stood a terrifying 5 feet 7 inches and weighed around 250 pounds.

The Rarest Penguin

yellow eyed penguin

Many species of penguin are under threat of extinction with the effects of climate change and the decrease in the volume of the world’s sea ice. With 10 of the 18 species of penguin currently listed as threatened with extinction, sadly the Yellow Eyed Penguin is the species which is closest to fading away completely. Found only in Australia and New Zealand, Scientific research estimates that there are only 3,400 Yellow Eyed Penguins remaining.

The Deepest Diving Penguin

Another penguin stepping on to the podium for second time, The Emperor penguin can dive to over 500 metres. The Emperor penguin regularly dives between 100 and 200 m but are able to dive a lot deeper. The deepest dive on record is an incredible 565 m deep.

Their dive time is equally impressive too with the average dive lasting 5-6 minutes and amazing dives as long as 22 minutes having been recorded by scientists.

The Longest Living Penguin

Magellanic Penguins

Magellanic Penguins can live up to 30 years, which is thought to be the longest lifespan of any penguin around the world.

The shortest Living Penguin

Unfortunately for them, Little Blue Penguins have the shortest lifespan of all the penguins , living only to up to six short years.

Little Blue Penguins

The Most Colourful Penguin

The Little Blue Penguin could also be considered the most beautifully coloured of all the penguin species. Whilst most penguin species are black and white, this particular species is blue with a white breast. They can be found in Australia and New Zealand and are known to the Maoris as ‘Korora’.

If you’d like to see penguins in the wild, check out our trips to Antarctica, The Falklands, Chile, Argentina and even The Galapagos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gough Island Gough Island

Photo: Chris Jones

Often compared to Jurassic Park by its few lucky visitors, Gough Island is a remote, uninhabited island in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, in the South Atlantic, more than 1,500 miles from Cape Town. Being so far from disturbance makes Gough an idyllic nesting ground, and it is relied upon by millions of the world’s most unique seabirds who breed nowhere else. Its importance for threatened species and sites of outstanding universal value earned Gough World Heritage Site status in 1995 and Important Bird Area status in 2013.

The Problem

However, invasive non-native species are driving an environmental catastrophe on Gough Island. Mice, which are not naturally found on the island, were accidentally introduced by sailors during the 19th Century and after populating the island soon begun to exploit all available food sources – including birds. They have now evolved to 50% larger than their ancestral relatives making it easier for them to attack larger species. Video cameras alongside nests reveal how the mice eat the flesh of seabird chicks. Tristan albatross chicks weigh up to 10kg, but open wounds inflicted over successive nights frequently lead to their deaths. Mice have even started to attack adult seabirds; the first evidence of this was recorded in 2018.

A Tristan Albatross Chick

Photo: Michelle Jones

Two of Gough’s unique bird species are now Critically Endangered, and a further four are classified as Endangered and heading ever closer to extinction.

There is a strong case for action on both welfare and conservation grounds.

The Solution

The urgency for action continues to grow but there is a solution and help for Gough’s seabirds is on the way!

The solution is relatively straightforward, though the operation is logistically complex, mainly because of the island’s remoteness, tough terrain, and harsh weather conditions. Using helicopters, highly experienced pilots will spread cereal bait pellets containing a small amount of proven rodenticide across the island, eradicating the invasive non-native mice.

Photo: Michelle Jones

We are well-placed to carry out such an important and complex operation. The RSPB and our partners have years of island eradication experience to draw on.

The programme also involves some of the world’s leading experts in the field of rodent eradications who have been buoyed by the success of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project and the successful delivery of the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project. Both projects highlight that complex island restoration projects are achievable in difficult environments.

Photo: Michelle Jones

 

The operation is on track to go ahead in the Southern winter of 2020.

Support Gough Island

The Gough Island Restoration is a globally important partnership programme – partner and funder support is vital! Thanks to generous donations from individuals and funders we have raised over £5 million.

Photo: Michelle Jones

 

However, there is a funding gap and support is still urgently needed! To equip this major operation for success in 2020 we are urgently seeking a further £2 million. This money will be used to purchase final pieces of equipment, including bait and specialist aviculture facilities, and to secure highly experienced staff and helicopter contracts.

If you would like to help us raise the final funds to secure the future of Gough Island please donate via the RSPB, or visit our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.

Alternatively, please get in touch to discuss funding and partnership opportunities:

Email: [email protected]

Photo: Michelle Jones