by Miranda Krestovnikoff, British radio and television presenter specialising in natural history and archaeological programmes
I am a natural history radio and television presenter with a passion for the marine environment. I learnt to scuba dive in the shadow of Skomer Island and always feel at home when I’m in or on the water. I’ve been lucky enough to incorporate this into my presenting work through television projects such as diving shipwrecks on “Wreck Detectives” for Channel 4 and exploring magnificent coastal wildlife on the BAFTA award winning series “COAST” for BBC2.
I love travel and adventure and nowhere better than on our very own coastline, without the need to fly abroad. Here in the UK, we have some of the best coastal and marine wildlife anywhere in the world with over 20 species of cetacean and places where you can snorkel and dive with grey seals and blue sharks. For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, the seabird colonies around our shores are stunning with offshore islands offering exciting opportunities to get close to some of the world’s largest colonies of puffins, Manx shearwaters and gannets.
I have always wanted to embark on a trip that encompasses all of my favourite parts of the UK coastline and this cruise does just that. Visits to my favourites islands of Lundy, Skomer and the Scillies are all included along with Islay of the Hebrides. The wildlife we’ll see en-route will be just stunning – I can’t wait!
Wildfoot’s polar travel expert Gillian Landells tells us about her favourite polar cruise destination, Snow Hill Island, Land Of The Emperor Penguins. As a wildlife enthusiast and keen amateur photographer, she reveals why she feels drawn to this remote island wilderness.Continue reading →
Wildfoot Travel’s Natalie Greenhalgh reflects on her time in Costa Rica and the wildlife she encountered on her adventure.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Howler Monkeys … the loudest of all the primates in the world. I was in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica on a small canoe with just my husband and our guide.
We were floating down one of the canals very early in the morning around dawn. The morning mist was still rising and I remember thinking how peaceful and beautiful the surroundings were when suddenly, I heard an almighty roar amongst the rainforest that lined the riverbank. It was terrifying. Like something out of a horror film! I froze and held my breath as our guide told us about the animal behind the noise. A day later whilst enjoying a trek in the area, I was surprised to see how relatively small these monkeys were in relation to the noise they make!
Tortuguero is most famous for…you guessed it…turtles. Green Sea Turtles, leatherback and Hawksbill turtles nest on the beaches here. Taking a guided trip to the beaches at night, you will be rewarded with the sight of turtles struggling up the beach as they dig their nest and lay their eggs. Or if you’re really lucky, you might spot newly hatched turtles racing to the sea.
This is just one of the many National Parks on offer in Costa Rica. As a country, it has so much to offer, especially for wildlife enthusiasts. Costa Rica 0.03 percent of the earth’s surface bit it contains nearly 6 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Around 25% of the country’s land area is in protected national parks and protected areas, the largest percentage of protected areas in the world.
Corcovado National Park is well known for its biodiversity (including big cats and tapirs) and is the only national park in Costa Rica where you can see all 4 Costa Rican species of Monkey. Manuel Antonio National Park is home to hundreds of bird species, three toed sloths and not to mention a vast diversity of tropical plants and wildlife.
Monteverde Cloud Forest is also not to be missed. With over 26,000 acres of Cloud Forest, the reserve consists of 6 ecological zones with 90% of those being primary forest. It also has an extremely high biodiversity with 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species and 2,500 plant species. If you have ever wanted to try zip lining, then this is the spot to do it…you could almost class a zip lining tour as a safari! I saw howler monkeys, white faced monkeys and Toucans as I zipped through the rainforest. I ended my ziplining tour as “superman”! Zip lining horizontally at a height of 180 meters, I felt like a bird whilst soaring over the mountains and pasture. It’s certainly an experience I will never forget.
The varied scenery on offer in this country is second to none. Stepping off the bus in La Fortuna, the gateway to Arenal National Park, I was amazed to see this huge volcano just sitting at the end of town…which is still active! Home to beautiful waterfalls, huge hanging bridges in the Rainforest and thermal hot springs, a trip to Costa Rica wouldn’t be complete without visiting this fascinating area.
With coastlines on both the Pacific and Caribbean, there are many beach spots to relax after a busy trip around this wonderful country. One of my favourites being Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean coast in the south. It has such a great laid back Caribbean vibe and the town itself is very lively with great bars and restaurants. The beautiful palm tree lined beaches with crystal clear blue waters are a great spot to relax at the end of a busy and exciting tour of Costa Rica.
Whether it’s a private guided tour, self-drive tour or small group tour, we have a huge variety of trips on offer along with first-hand experience and a real passion for this destination.
Check out this gallery of photos from our Costa Rica wildlife & adventure holidays.
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”5″ gal_title=”The Natural BeautyOf Costa Rica”]
Wildfoot Travel expert Natalie Greenhalgh explains about the legendary stretch of water know as the Drake Passage and what it means to those venturing to Antarctica.
The Drake Passage…an infamous 600-mile-wide passage between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Island’s of Antarctica. For some, this crossing is all part of an exciting adventure. For others, severe sea-sickness can prevent them from fulfilling a life-long dream of visiting Antarctica. Reputed as the roughest sea-passage in the world, the Drake Passage is the stuff of legends and crossing it is often an experience that passengers on Antarctica cruises look forward to the most. For those who have experienced it they would say there’s something quite exhilarating about taking on rolling waves aboard an ice-strengthened Antarctica expedition vessel.
What makes the Drake Passage so infamously rough is the fact that this is the spot where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Seas converge, creating a roaring current mix known as the “Drake Shake”. Currents at this latitude meet no resistance from any landmass making this the only unhindered flow of ocean on the planet. Luckily, nowadays expedition vessels are equipped with stabilizers to absorb much of the swaying. Thanks to the advancement in sea sickness medication, most Antarctica cruise ship passengers get by with just a queasy stomach. At times, the passage is so unpredictable that it can, also be eerily calm, referred to as the “Drake Lake”. But if all of this makes your stomach churn and you think you just can’t face this crossing, there is another option.
Antarctica XX1 were the first company that came along and introduced the Fly-Cruise option. Instead of enduring the 2-day passage, you can fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands and meet your cruise to explore Antarctica. You vastly cut your travel time down from a 2-day crossing to a 2-hour flight, giving you more time to spend exploring Chile if you wish.
Of course, the flight operation is weather dependent and delays may happen. However, in the 14-year history of the company, only 1 flight was delayed to the point where clients could not make it to Antarctica at all.
Simon Rowland, Wildfoot Travel’s Managing Director took a Fly the Drake expedition recently on MV Ocean Nova. Simon had this to say about his trip.
“One of the most fulfilling expeditions I’ve taken part in. Kayaking in Antarctica is a must for those seeking even more adventure and it’s an aspirational way to see the wildlife even more up close with no more than 10 other kayakers.
The fact that from your hotel in Punta Arenas to the start of this unique Polar adventure in this winter wonderland environment is just over 2 hours. Quite remarkable. If you are time sensitive or just don’t wish to contemplate the Drake Passage, this is certainly the trip for you!”
We also work closely with Quark Expeditions who offer the option of flying to the South Shetlands and also the option of taking on the Drake Passage on one of their fantastic expedition vessels: Island Sky; Ocean Diamond; Ocean Adventurer and Ocean Endeavour to name a few.
So if you fancy this intrepid adventurous crossing and can imagine yourself cheering on the waves, you’ll be rewarded with the chance to spot spectacular wildlife watching along the Drake. Ships in the passage are often good platforms for the sighting of whales, dolphins and seabirds including giant petrels, albatrosses and penguins. And what a way to be rewarded when you arrive…you’ve made it to Antarctica!
Paulina Ramirez form Antarctica XXI stopped by our office the other day to discuss forthcoming trips. While she was with us, we asked her to tell us what was so special about ‘Flying The Drake’. You can hear what Paulina had to say in this short video.
Cynthia Bressani joined us for another adventure recently. This time Cynthia opted for our ‘Wildlife Spectacular To Ecuador and The Galapagos’. Here she kindly shares her photos from that trip in this beautiful and varied photo gallery.
Pioneering Indian conservationist, wildlife expert and good friend of Wildfoot Travel, Harsh Vardhan is coming to talk at the Rutland Birdfair this August.
Ahead of his trip, we caught up with him and asked him a few questions, to find out exactly what he’s been up to and what his plans for the future are.
If you are coming to the Birdfair, make sure you don’t miss Harsh’s talks:
18 Aug Friday 2pm‘Great Indian Bustard’ – only 90 left in the world, what’s next for this amazing iconic bird.
20 Aug Sunday 2pm ‘Indian Tiger population increases’ – a good news story. But do tigers have a place to go?’
After the lectures Harsh will be on the Wildfoot Stand to meet anyone interested in visiting India.
1. At what age did you start to feel that something had to be done about conservation and wildlife protection within India?
A: In 1969-70, when the IUCN General assembly met in New Delhi and the crisis over Tigers erupted . India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi banned Tiger hunting in 1970 all over India. So emerged Project Tiger. “An impossible project” we all thought!
As it rolled on, I tried to attend most meetings. I read all about wildlife and as a journalist I commenced reporting wildlife conservation.
I covered the visit of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands to Ranthambhore in 1974, at the time he was President of WWF – International.
My news item went round the globe within hours and the die was cast.
Prince Bernhard observed a Tiger and a leopard sharing the same kill at 10 pm in the park in the peak of winter and we all shivered as we watched the scene through torch lights fixed to the engine of a jeep!
2. What are the most important conservation and wildlife issue in India today?
A: The needs of our population creates a huge amount of pollution. The natural habitat is disappearing and finding a solution seems to be a low priority. Things are improving but only at a snail’s pace thanks to layers of bureaucracy (a legacy left by the British).
3. You are a major force and campaigner for Indian birds and wildlife, what is the good news to come out of India at this time?
A: Science has been a priority in conservation for the past two decades. Tiger Conservation is an iconic success for India in the eyes of the world. There has been global cooperation from WWF, BirdLife International etc., which has helped us to gain ground.
Yet all this is simply a drop in the ocean, the force of Indian non-government organisations (NGO) is fierce. Each one keeps a vigil over wild species and each on is willing to take a stand against authorities who are in the wrong. These organisations are spread all over India, though not networked yet they are doing a very good job individual.
I myself am an NGO.
4. We know you will be giving two lectures at Rutland Bird Fair this year in August, one on the Ranthambore Tigers and the other on The Great Indian Bustard looking at the future for both species.
Can you see a positive outcome for the survival of the Bustard Harsh and the growth of the numbers of Tiger in India?
A: Bustards: India started its conservation in 1979-80 when I successfully prevented Arab Sheikhs from carrying out illegal falconry in the That desert.
The Bustard conservation was started and inviting overseas experts, we held the first ever international symposium on Bustards in Jaipur in 1980. We produced a book “Bustards In Decline.” But the bureaucracy and the damned forest officers paid little attention, so the Great Indian Bustard was driven to the brink of extinction. The population has plummeted from 1,300 in 1980, down to only 90 today!
Hue and cry has been our lone defence. 2017 saw a meeting in Jaipur attended by experts from Britain and Spain to decide on captive breeding of the species in the Desert. I attended the meeting but a strong section of the government did not want me to be included. They thought I was too harsh and too critical, so they tried to keep me out but I went to the meeting anway .
We live in hope. The habitat has been better protected for the past 4 years in the Desert, by the same set of forest officials who were doing nothing earlier, so officials can improve.
A. Tiger: Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is overflowing with cubs. Nine females have cubs at present (July 2017) or about to become adults or are pregnant.
We have nearly 68 Tigers compared to only 14 in 1994.
They are moving out of the park. Adult male cubs go out, as the dominant males do not allow them to remain inside (psychologically not letting them mate with own mothers too).
They go out and live in scrub areas with no natural prey. So they prey upon cattle, which makes the villagers unhappy . The forest officials have no plan to deal with the excess tiger population. They say it is a success but we say ‘yes it is a success but the excess population is getting decimated in areas where there is no Tiger Management’.
5.You have edited, co-written and authored various wildlife, birding and conservation books in the past. You are working on about an Indian tribe called Bishnois – Can you tell us more about the book and its subject?
A: More than 500 year old success story .
Bishnoi Sect (not a tribe), were born in the desert and live by 29 principles, nature conservation being one of them.
Of the million people on earth who are Bishnois, one fifth of the them live in Jodhpur, the gateway to the desert.
They give away their lives to protect gazelles and black bucks and what do they receive a double column piece in the daily newspaper!
I’d like to revive the spirit of the Bishnois and make it as widely acceptable as possible.
Flora and fauna both are for humanity’s welfare, and should not be confined to one community or a single country. The Bishnois were the first ‘Hug The Tree’ movement starters. In 1730, 363 men and women gave away their lives at Khejreli (near Jodhpur) when the prince wanted to cut trees to burn lime for a new palace to be built. Four such self sacrifices have occurred around that area since.
We all should take their exemplary examples forward. The book is to outline all this in a broader context including other communities across the world involved in similar initiatives. There is a long way to go.
6. How can our wildlife and conservation community from all over the world support Indian wildlife campaigns especially the ones you are involved in right now?
A: By joining hands together, arriving at consensus and assuming the lead role in fields. Not merely as academics, or confined to face-book items and pep talks over dinner. Together we can make a difference.
Look at Wildfoot Travel’s and Simon Rowland. We were unknown until a year ago Today, Simon is taking the the lead and putting us on the map. Now we need a thousand more Simons dotted around the UK.
7. Your love of wildlife has no doubt rubbed off on your children and also your grandchildren and I know you are very close with them. Do you feel there’s a growing wildlife and conservation movement within the youth of India today?
A: It is Incredible. 21 years ago, inspired by my first visit to BBWF when Tim Appleton MBE (One of the founders of Rutland Bird Fair) took me around Rutland in a golf cart, my eyes were opened and I decided to have a Birding fair at Man Sagar lake at Jaipur to conserve it.
The Officers laughed at me, some laughed and said – ‘he has no money but he talks big!’ The Birding Fair will be 21 in Feb 2018, incurring a few million rupees expenditure.
I knew people s would not join it, so I lured students-teachers community. Not an exaggeration, we have a quarter million constituency of students-teachers who support conservation. At each walk, some one says hi to me, so I ask them who they are, they answer “sir I attended 5 or 7 birding fairs, now I am an engineer or a doctor!”
Lake restoration was our biggest success. People had to use a handkerchief by 2006-07 as they would walk by this 1.5 sq. km lake, But not today. Thanks to an eco system, based approach the heritage lake got conserved but the same lake is once again getting degenerated – the government, has different ideas.
I am currently pitted against the present Chief Minister, she is imperious but I am willing to go to jail if she can pronounce a sentence from her side, which she cannot!
8. Simon tells me you are a very modest person Harsh, you are always committed to highlighting “the cause” rather than yourself. You have been associated with fierce & sometimes overwhelming conservation struggles within India. What’s next for Harsh Vardhan and what’s close to your heart right now?
A: I have handed over leadership to the next generation and I am trying to ensure they do better than I could.
We had no volunteers 20 years ago. Today there are about sixty volunteers and a core team of ten. They provide technical inputs, leadership and support.
So the ‘White-naped Tit’ work is led by them. I take a back seat. This bird is rarely observed and only in 6 – 7 places in arid India. It is found about 15 km away in the hills from where I live.
Writing a book on the Bishnois, a profile of wetlands etc. are high on the agenda for me, hopefully they will progress nicely.
The Oriental Bird Club, run by Krys, a Brit, will soon mention the White-naped Tit. Krys informed me yesterday as I introduced Sajal Jugran, next in command here with me, to join hands with Krys. Why just me alone, they should all be involved.
9. What are your five “must see” wildlife locations of India?
A: Of a total 50 Project Tiger Reserves in India designated so far (2017), only 5 can actually show you Tigers. Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench and Tadoba.
Others are not well managed and are facing problems from terrorism or do not offer basic facilities to vsitors
It is difficult to single out a must see five. I am more emphatic on habitat conservation, I have never been a botanist but my emphasis for the past decade has been more on vegetation, edible and non-edible grasses. if cattle are fed well, there will be less pressure of grazing on forests so forest species shall survive better.
10. We are hoping you will be expertly leading small groups for us in the next 24 months, with a focus on the Indian Tiger, Leopard, Asiatic Lion, Birding, off the beaten track India and also with a little culture thrown in. What can we expect from these unique itineraries and what exciting spectacles do you have in store?
A: India has limitless attractions. There are few people who have the skill and knowledge to make sure you get the most out of an indian Wildlife experience.
I can offer A mix of Tigers, Birds, Bishnoi and Culture within two weeks. Visitors need authenticity, simplicity, no show business, and an easy pace with plenty of time to observe the target species.
Check out this captivating video of a tiger shot by Harsh’s son and fellow Wildfoot Ambassador Manoj Varhan.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the M/V Sea Spirit after she had undergone recent refurbishment on all cabins.
The M/V Sea Spirit is a purpose-built expedition ship that takes passengers to the beautiful regions of the Arctic and Antarctica.
She has a very classic look inside with lots of wood throughout along with a modern touch – it is a good mixture of feeling spacious but cosy at the same time.
Being able to accommodate a maximum of 114 guests is just the ideal size in my opinion to enable everyone to get on shore as much as possible.
During my time onboard it was really easy to talk to the other guests and that was in part to the lovely homely surroundings of the ship.
The crew took the time to talk to every single guest and were more than happy to answer questions and regale us with stories on the unique wildlife they have encountered. The vessel has great camaraderie between all onboard and this I felt added to my experience.
The refurbishment has made everything look very fresh and the small touches throughout were very much noticed.
The old and new photographs on each side of the corridors was great – it was very interesting to see the exact same image from years gone by mirrored by the present day.
On the final day of Sara’s Brazil wildlife holiday, she spots an anteater and bids a fond farewell to the country she’s called home for the last 12 days. Read her final journal entry right here on the Wildfoot travel blog.
Shock horror: it’s another early start! We head out for a morning drive at 5.30 am before breakfast, and spot some playful coatis and a troupe of capuchin monkeys, but unfortunately, the giant anteater escapes us once again.
On returning to the lodge for a last hearty Brazilian breakfast, we spot a pair of great rufous woodpeckers scratching around in a huge pile of dung with their long bills.
It seems a shame to sit inside to eat, so I opt for a bit of alfresco dining on the veranda, determined not to miss out on any action, and I’m rewarded with dozens of hyacinth macaws and blue-fronted parrots joining us.
Without the cool river breeze, I soon notice the ever increasing temperature – it’s up to 38 degrees Celsius now – but refuse to be deterred, so suggest to Jose that we take a short hike on one of the many trails around the lodge.
However, it seems that the heat of the day is also taking its toll on the wildlife, with very little to see or hear apart from a couple of black tegu lizards seeking shelter in a fallen tree trunk.
We admit defeat and return to the lodge for a very-much-needed cold drink, and decide to enjoy our surroundings from the shade of the veranda like our fellow guests. After lunch, we head off to visit a nearby lodge called Pousada Rio Claro, in search of the black-headed parakeet for which it is famous.
The access road to the lodge is great for birding, passing alongside a small stream and through several sections of deciduous forest, where we were able to spot tiger herons, wattled jacanas, rusty-backed antwren and roseate spoonbills among many others.
As we park our car at the reception, a flock of screeching black headed parakeets pass us overhead, as if on cue. Although my mission had been accomplished, it seemed too rude to turn around without speaking to the owner and accepting their kind offer of a cold drink.
The owner seemed thrilled to have a captive audience that he could tell about the anaconda and jaguar that were seen on the grounds of the lodge only the day before by a group of Japanese tourists, but unfortunately, neither could show themselves again during my visit.
Feeling refreshed, we head back to Pousa Alegre to pack, as I leave tonight for Cuiaba, ready for the early morning flight back to the UK. Once again, dinner is delicious and only bettered by the warmth and humour of the owner.
We finally load up the car and make a start on our three-hour journey back to the city when, all of a sudden, Jose slams on the brakes and shouts the infamous word “anteater”! I cannot believe it!
Right in front of us, a giant anteater crosses the road, as though waving us a fond farewell. My trip is complete!
I came with such high expectations in terms of wildlife, but they have been exceeded. I just cannot wait to return!