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Monthly Archives: July 2017

6 magnificent marine creatures you can see off Belize

The Belizean Cayes are a snorkeler and divers’ dream destination. The country is home to the second largest coral reef in the world, beaten only by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The waters are inhabited by far too many marine species to name in a list (over 600 different fish species and 40 different types of coral), but here are the highlights.

Manatees

Arguably the highlight of any visitor to the Cayes is seeing a manatee, the gentle giants of the sea. These intriguing looking creatures are large, reaching over 3 metres in length. Though they spend their whole life under the sea, they come to the surface every half an hour or so to breathe. They are herbivores and live entirely off aquatic plants. Manatees live in small groups and tend to give birth to a single calf.

Dolphins

No introduction is needed for the world’s most playful marine mammal. If you take a boat out to the snorkeling or diving site, they tend to follow and jump in the wake of the boat. Once in the water, dolphins are equally inquisitive and tend to circle and nudge. Who wouldn’t want to see a pod of these magnificent creatures.

Nurse sharks

Snorkelling with nurse sharks is often the highlight. Though it sounds daunting for many, jumping into shallow waters with sharks is adrenaline-inducing. Fear not, these nurse sharks are harmless and have no teeth. Almost all full day snorkeling tours visit Shark Alley where it’s possible to get into the water with dozens of these sharks.

Spotted eagle rays

The most graceful marine creature in the waters. Spotted eagle rays glide elegantly feeding on mollusks, shrimp, small fish, octopus and crustaceans. They are superb swimmers and have the ability to jump out of the water up to several metres when needed. The biggest can grow up to a 3 metre wingspan and 5 metres in length.

Whale sharks

Though most of the marine creatures are there all year round, whale sharks migrate during the spring. They visit the reef called Gladden Gladden Split off Placencia, an area which is used by dozens of Caribbean fish to release eggs. Snorkeling with whale sharks is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. These harmless giants of the sea will happily allow swimmers to get close without reacting. April and May are the best months to see whale sharks in Belize.

Sea turtles

There are three main species of turtle in Belize – hawksbill, green and loggerhead turtles. Of the three, the hawksbill is the only one protected. Unfortunately, the others are hunted for their eggs and for their shells during the right season. One of the best places to see the huge loggerhead turtles is a the conch graveyard in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Here, enormous resident loggerheads wait for the fishermen’s’ conch and happily swim just feet away from eager swimmers.

To see the marine life in Belize for yourself, call one of our Belize experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or take a look at our suggested tours here.

Colombian changua soup recipe

Flickr: manuela y daniel

Typically served for breakfast in the highlands of Colombia, this rich warming milk soup is perfect for a cold morning. Be sure to try this dish in Bogota where some of the best changuas are served.

Ingredients:

1 litre water
1 litre full fat milk
5 spring onions
6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Handful of chopped coriander
1 garlic clove, minced
4 eggs
1 tbs butter
Pinch of cumin
Mild cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper

Method:

Take a large heavy bottomed saucepan and add the water, milk, butter, potatoes, garlic, most of the coriander and a little salt. Put on a medium heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart.

Turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Crack and drop each egg into the soup being careful not to break the yoke. Cover and leave for three minutes (or longer if you want a harder yoke).

Fill a soup bowl with chopped spring onions, a little of the cubed cheese, some pepper and cumin. Carefully remove one of the eggs and lay in the bowl. Pour over the creamy soup and garnish with a little chopped coriander. Serve with toast.

Want to try changua in Colombia? Get in touch with our Colombia travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.

TROPICANA BIRD PARK IGUAÇU

Toucan in the Bird Park

Brazil’s Iguaçu Falls National Park is full of exotic wildlife. Exploring the tropical waterfalls is a real ‘bucket-list’ experience, but there’s much more to discover. Often overlooked, is the Parque das Aves or ‘Bird Park’, an ornithological sanctuary. Here rescued birds are find a home. This attraction is a bonus for any wildlife enthusiast. Our private excursion will take a behind the scenes look at the park. You will spend time in the company of chattering songbirds, start at either 7.30am, 10.30am or 2pm. Though we recommend the early morning slot for keen twitchers.

You will have the chance to see staff at work, watch feeding and see rare species up close. Learn how passionate park rangers care for these beautiful, vulnerable creatures. Parque das Aves is also home to a blissful butterfly garden, and a resident boa constrictor. Round the visit off by enjoying some light refreshments and fresh fruit from the region. A delicious, sweet end to this insightful birding experience. This can be booked as part of any tour of the region.

UNUSUAL URUGUAY FOR CHRISTMAS?

Punta del Este

Even during summer, it is never too early to plan for the winter hols. With Christmas and New Year 6 months away, it is a good time to secure flights and hotels. Consider Uruguay. It´s about time this little gem nestled between Argentina and Brazil came into the spotlight. A small country but has around 660 km. coastline along the River Plate, the world´s biggest estuary. In the bustling capital Montevideo, enjoy strolling through the lovely old town and dining in fine restaurants. A few hours away, lies Uruguay´s oldest city, Colonia del Sacramento. Founded in 1680, it feels like stepping back in time. The city has a charming colonial ambiance, and old classic cars abound like in Havana. Jose Ignacio, a small coastal town, is an international jet-setter destination and Punta del Este is the must-see for beach lovers. Further north the coast becomes wilder and ideal for nature lovers.

The classy Hyatt hotel Carmelo Resort & Spa, on the banks of Rio de la Plata. It has holiday packages with activities: yoga lessons, Spa, bikes, tennis courts and daily activities at the kid´s club. The packages are subject to a minimum of 3 (Christmas) or 4 (New Year) consecutive nights. More information and rates on request. Contact us for travel ideas and itineraries.

New Suites at Napo Wildlife Centre

AMAZON IN STYLE

You can’t beat spotting Amazon wildlife at Napo Wildlife Centre in Ecuador. This lodge is set within the Yasuni National Park. This comfortable eco-lodge has now added four panoramic suites. If you fancy the jungle with a private whirlpool on a panoramic balcony, this is your place. Not to mention a cosy living room with a glass floor above the water to spot caiman alligators passing below. From your hammock, you might spot pre-historic hoatzins, huge arapaima fish, and even giant otters on the hunt for piranhas.

After taking a half-hour flight from Quito. Napo Wildlife Centre sits by Anangu Lagoon, a couple of hours by canoe from Coca/San Francisco de Orellana. You can explore the virgin forest on guided hikes, take canoe-rides and visits to a nearby parrot clay lick. For bird-watchers, there is a watchtower. For a bit of culture visits to an indigenous kichwa community. Ecuador is one of the most accessible places to visit the Amazon and one of the most diverse. You could easily combine this with a Galapagos cruise.

Whale watching in Costa Rica starts in July

Now is the time to head down to warm waters of the Golfo Dulce in southern Costa Rica. Pacific humpback whales arrive on their annual migration to mate and socialize. After spending the southern summer in Antarctica, they head to the tropics the breed. They stay until October. You will get up-close to giant sentient beings that share the planet with us. These southern whales hang-out in the protected waters of the Golfo Dulce and the Ballena National Marine Park. Here they enjoy shallow coastal waters and protection from natural predators like sharks and Orcas. National Geographic rated Costa Rica the 7th best place in the world for whale watching. Watch their tail-slapping displays, breaches above the water and spot their distinctive humps.

“I remember vividly the first time I saw a humpback whale in the wild. Suddenly, a spray of water erupted from the calm blue-green water a few hundred yards off the beach. The long, black and barnacled form of a mother humpback whale surfaced gracefully for air. Our little group pointed excitedly at the huge whale. Then we gasped in delight as we caught sight of the smaller shape of her baby swimming by her side.
We jumped into a boat, and at a respectful distance, we cruised along with mother and baby as they slowly swam along the dark green coast thick with rainforest. Pairs of Scarlet Macaws flew overhead as sunset neared, heading to roost in tall shoreline trees for the night. The whales disappeared out of sight, and we motored back enchanted.” Shannon Farley.

 
If seeing whales and dolphins up close in their natural environment is on your bucket list, you can go on Costa Rica whale-watching tours from Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge starting toward the end of July through the end of September. Keep a look-out also for visiting whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea. Nicuesa Lodge is giving a special offer of one free night when you stay a minimum of three or more nights. Contact us for more details.

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