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Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Jaguar Express Visit

© David Horwell

© David Horwell

I recently travelled to Brazil’s northern Pantanal and took a short trip to spot Jaguars. Brazil’s Pantanal is probably the best place in the world to see these elusive cats, but a lot of luck is needed too. For wildlife buffs spotting a jaguar (America’s largest cat) is up there on most bucket lists. The majority of visitors who go in search of Jaguars stay on houseboats that are found on the Cuiabá river east of Port Jofre, which lies at the end of the Transpantaneira road. The last 20 or so kilometres are also good for encounters with the cats and many other creatures. There is also a small but expensive hotel by the river from whence you can take speed-boats.

© David Horwell

© David Horwell

I was staying at Araras lodge in the north of the transpantaneira, and was short on time so took advantage of a one day ‘Jaguar-express’ visit and kept my fingers crossed. We set off early at dawn to travel a couple of hours south along the bumpy dirt road. There seemed to be a bridge every kilometre or so, some of them in bad need of repair. I hope it will remain like that to keep away more traffic and give the wildlife a greater chance of survival. There was plenty to see along the road strange birds like the ostrich-like rhea, the huge jabiru stork, the divine roseate spoonbill and the odd raptor like a snail kite and scavenging caracara. I also saw an anaconda, tortoise, capybaras and opossum.

© David Horwell

© David Horwell

At Porto Jofre we went down to the dock and just a young boy walked over the wooden jetty a caiman alligator glided below, both oblivious to each other. I set off with a Brazilian family in a small speedboat. I was glad that ours had a sun roof, and noted that many of the other boats did not. As the temperature was about 40C., the roof was much appreciated. We sped off along the jungle-clad river and took smaller creeks to where jaguar sightings are more likely. We were lucky enough to see a family of giant otters fishing and making peculiar sounds.

© David Horwell

© David Horwell

For an hour or so we saw little except aquatic birds then suddenly our boatman accelerated, he had received a message, Jaguar! All the guides communicate by radio and let each other know of a sighting, so it is not an exclusive experience. As we were on the way to join other boats already in position on the opposite bank, we saw a young male jaguar calmly walking along the bank. I managed to get a reasonable shot which was lucky as later views were partially obscured by vegetation. The majestic feline was totally unconcerned about the dozen or so boats full of paparazzi-like cameramen with huge lenses. A capybara walked between the boats but all eyes were in the direction of the big cat that soon walked off, and the boats went their separate ways. We saw another jaguar sleeping in the shade under some trees, but after waiting about 45 minutes decided that it would not move, and as the heat was getting to the youngsters the guide decided to call it a day, but what a day…

You can visit the Pantanal on a bespoke trip such as our Brazilian Safari

The Tin Tin straight line and the Bishop’s slope

Tin Tin straight

In Argentina’s arid and mountainous Northwest there are two striking roads. One is a nearly 20km straight road that follows an ancient Inca route near Cachí and is now part of Route 33. Tin-Tin is named after a nearby river and mountain (nothing to do with the Belgian detective). The road is surrounded by high Andes mountains and crosses the high plains through the Los Cardones National park. The tall Cardones candelabra cacti appear to watch like sentinels in their hundreds and thousands. These strange plants grow perfectly spaced over the wide valley. There is not much wildlife but guanacos (a kind of wild llama) can be seen grazing among the cacti. It is a wonder how the Incas created such a perfect straight line and some have suggested extra terrestrials visited the area and still do.

Bishops-slope

The Cuesta del Obispo by contrast is a very winding unpaved road that snakes down from Piedra de Molino pass at 3,348m down into the valley of the Escoipe river. This is truly one of the great drives of the World but not for the faint-hearted. With more hairpin bends than any road you can imagine. It is named after a Bishop Cortázar who had to spend a awestruck night here in 1622. There are great views of Cachí mountain and the Cafayate Gorge and with a bit of luck a condor or two.

Both roads are on the Salta – Cafayate circuit and feature in our tour The route is also ideal for a self drive tour of 2-3 days or part of a longer trip to the high Andean region of Salta.

12 Delicious Things You Can Do With Dulce De Leche

Dulce de leche is a seriously addictive South American caramel that’s becoming increasingly popular in the UK. For the sweet-toothed there’s probably nothing better. Rich, sweet, sticky, creamy and versatile as you will see from the list of twelve things you can do with it below.

1. Classic alfajores from Argentina

Flickr: jamieanne

Flickr: jamieanne

2. Added to chocolate brownies

Flickr: Jessica Merz

Flickr: Jessica Merz

3. Used above the base in yogurt cheesecake

 

Flickr: Theresa

Flickr: Theresa

4. Simply spread on toast

5. Added to vanilla ice cream

Flickr: wenday :D

Flickr: wenday 😀

6. Stirred into your morning porridge

Flickr: stu_spivack

Flickr: stu_spivack

7. As a dip for your churros

Flickr: Alpha

Flickr: Alpha

8. Slipped into a crepe

Flickr: Brett

Flickr: Brett

9. Add to banana bread

Flickr: Cher

Flickr: Cher

10. Made into a flan

Flickr: Miriam Ramos

Flickr: Miriam Ramos

11. Eaten on your Cheerios

Flickr: Mike Mozart

Flickr: Mike Mozart

12. Eaten with beignets or donuts

Anything we’ve missed? Let us know below.

8 Amazing Things To Do in Puerto Vallarta And The Riviera Nayarit

Our product manager has just returned from the city of Puerto Vallarta located on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Below he reports on the best things to do in the region.

Visit the Ocean grill

Ocean Grill

Head just south of Puerto Vallarta and you’ll find the Ocean Grill Restaurant. Not only is the seafood excellent, but this wooden structure is built on a cliff side overlooking a wonderful little bay. To reach the Ocean Grill drive thirty minutes south to the village of Boca de Tomatlan where they will take you by boat around the bay to the restaurant. Alternatively if you have the energy you can hike from Boca de Tomatlan through thick jungle for around an hour.

Go surfing in Sayulita

SurfFlickr: Villa Amor

The small town of Sayulita on the Riveria Nayarit offers great all year round surf. There are plenty of places to hire boards and if you are new to the sport there are some excellent schools. The surf breaks in two different places making it an excellent place to learn.

Eat oysters on Los Muertos Beach

OystersFlickr: Sharon Hahn Darlin

In Puerto Vallarta oysters are eaten in abundance. However, the best place to get them is down on Los Muertos Beach where three to four vendors compete for trade under the shade of the concrete pier. A dozen fresh oysters will set you back around 150 pesos (£6).

Swim with wild dolphins

Puerto VallartaFlickr: Ben Miller

Take a boat out to swim and snorkel with pods of wild dolphins. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Deep sea fishing in Banderas Bay

FishingFlickr: Harvey Barrison

The fishing around Banderas Bay is world-class. There’s a wide selection of fully-crewed fishing boats to choose, Likely catches including Pacific sailfish, marlin, dorado, tuna and red snapper. Afterwards you can take your catch back for a beach barbeque or to a local restaurant.

Whale watching

Whale watchingFlickr: Bruce Irschick

It’s well worth timing your holiday during the winter and spring months when you’ll have the opportunity to go whale watching. The warm ocean make it the perfect breeding ground for magnificent humpback whales and orcas.

Snorkel off the Marieta Islands

ScubaFlickr: ChrisDag

Famed for its hidden beach, this group of uninhabited Islands were used for military tests during the early 20th century. After an international outcry in the 1960s the islands were designated as a national park. Your likely to encounter thousands of tropical fish, octopus, manta rays, turtles and even whales when snorkelling or scuba diving.

Eating churros in Puerto Vallarta

There’s only one place you should be eating churros in Puerto Vallarta. Drop by the corner of Lazaro Cardenas and Aguacate after five in the afternoon and you won’t regret it. Churros is just 1 peso (4 pence) each.

Film Review: Wild Tales

Wild Tales

Pedro Almodóvar presents Wild Tales, a series of six fables exploring the most extreme effects of the stresses of modern day. It starts on board a domestic flight in Argentina. Passengers begin to realise that they have been duped onto the flight with the lure of a free ticket given by a man that each has wronged in some way. A horrific end awaits that unfortunately mirrors the tragic events in the Alps earlier in the year. A further five vignettes follow, all running along the same themes of personal breakdown, revenge, violence and a struggle to stay in control. Darkly comic and thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

10 Things You Must Do When Visiting Panama

Bocas del Toro

Bocas_del_toro_tour

The Bocas del Toro archipelago in the north west of the country is a must for any visitor to Panama. The town is worth spending a night or two – think laid back mix of open-air bars, music and beaches. The archipelagos islands contain numerous over-the-water style luxury bungalows to retreat to and spend days swimming in the calm waters, swinging in a hammock with a good book and a cold beer.

Visit the Finca Dracula

Finca Dracula
Flickr: Dick Culbert

Located on the surrounds of the world biosphere reserve of La Amistad, the Finca Dracula is home to over 2,200 species if rare orchid. It’s the largest in Latin America and one of the biggest in the world. It’s main objectives are the education, investigation and conservation of this wonderfully diverse family of flower.

White water rafting

white water rafting
Flickr: Ken Mayer

The white water rafting in Panama is superb, particularly in Boquete which offers a mix of beginner and expert rapids.

Eat like a local

Panama food
Flickr: Angela Rutherford

Panama is not known worldwide for its food, but for those who delve in there are some excellent local dishes that a simply a must. Panama is a melting pot of Latinos, Asians, Afro-Caribbeans and indigenous, and this reflects in the food. As everywhere in Latin America you’ll find plenty of delicious empanadas. Delicious soups and stews and fresh fish near the sea.

Pearl Islands

pearl islands
Flickr: Guillermo A. Durán

The Pearl Islands are an archipelago of over 200 islands, most of which are uninhabited, but all of which have incredible white sandy beaches. This is one of the best places in the country for marine life and scuba diving, snorkel and whale watching (when in season) are all excellent.

Panama Canal

Panama_canal_holiday

The famous Panama Canal is top of most people’s list. This feat of engineering was completed in 1914 and celebrated its 100 year anniversary last year.

Coiba Island National Park

Coiba
Flickr: LASZLO ILYES

Located in the Gulf of Chiriqui, this national park is one of the best marine reserves in Panama. The thirty eight islands that make up the park are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island was used as a penal colony which meant access was limited. This lack of human contact has allowed the region’s marine life to flourish.

San Blas Islands

Panama_san_blas_holiday

The San Blas archipelago located in the north of the country consists of 378 islands, most of which are uninhabited. To make the most of your time stay with the local Kuna people and spend your days fishing, snorkelling and relaxing on the white sandy beaches.

Casco Viejo

antiguo_tour_panama

The old town of Panama City is where you should be staying when you visit the capital. The original old town was destroyed by pirates in 1671 and rebuilt a number of years later. It has been given UNESCO World Heritage status.

Sendero los Quetzales

quetzal
Flickr: vil.sandi – away

This is arguably one of the most stunning trails in the whole country. Stretching for just over 8 kilometres between Boquete and Cerro Punta. Along the way you have a good chance of seeing the allusive resplendent quetzal bird.

To start planning your trip to Panama take a look at our trip ideas.

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