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Things to do on Easter Island

While most know and visit Easter Island for the ancient Moai statues left by the Rapa Nui civilization, there are plenty of other activity options on offer for adventurous travelers, though many are connected to seeing the Moai as well. The island lies some 3,000 miles off the coast of Chile, and although part of the country, its culture is Polynesian. Here’s the top 10 things to do in on Easter Island.

See the Moai quarry

Rano Raraku is located on the slopes of Teravaku in the Rapa Nui National Park. It was formed from a volcanic crater and was used by the Rapa Nui culture for around 500 years as the main quarry for creating the Moai statues seen across the island. They Moai were built somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 years ago and although they were built for the gods, ironically the felling of all the trees to transport the heavy statues led to a huge change in the environment and the downfall of the civilization. An enormous 21.6 metre incomplete statue weighing over 270 tonnes still sits at the quarry.

Swim at Anakena Beach

The white sand on Anakena beach is made from ground coral and is one of the best on the island. Though most visit to see the nearby statues, the beach is a highlight. While away an afternoon sunbathing or swim in the warm Pacific Ocean.

Join Tapati festival

The festival is over 40 years old and started to help maintain Rapa Nui culture and drawing in tourism. The two-week long festival starts at the beginning of February and is full of Rapa Nui dancing, singing and competitions. Every year, two females compete to become the Queen of Tapati and there are horse racing competitions on different parts of the island. It’s one of the best, albeit the most expensive time to visit.

Biking around Easter Island

Flickr: Helen K

Taking a self-guided or guided mountain biking tour around Easter Island can be a great way to introduce yourself to the Moai and the island scenery. There are plenty of routes including Hanga Roa to Orongo and Puna Pau to Tahai. There are some paved roads across the island, but many are trails and paths which can be quite challenging. Rentals cost around US $15 a day. Just check the quality of the bike before you hire it.

See the sunrise at Tongariki

A popular tour for visitors to the island. Head down to the site of Tangariki where 15 Moai statues stand on a ceremonial platform overlooking the ocean. During sunrise and sunset, the most amazing colours can be seen hitting the ocean, coastline and Moai. A magical experience, just remember to bring your camera!

Hit the surf

Flickr: anoldent

You might not know this, but Easter Island has some excellent surf. There are several hire shops and schools if you want to learn which are inexpensive and offer good quality equipment. After a morning of exploration, the Pacific swells are a great way to expend some energy.

Hike up Terevaka Volcano

The summit of Terevaka Volcano is the highest point on the island, towering over 500 metres above sea level and offering spectacular views across the island. Hiking to the top can be a rewarding experience that takes around four hours round trip. Few people decide to climb Terevaka, so those who do might very well have the summit all to themselves. For those who don’t want to trek, a horse riding tour to the top can be arranged.

Watch the Birdman ceremony

The Tangata Manu, also called the Birdman ceremony started sometime in the 18th century. Held in September every year, one man from each tribe contends in a dangerous competition to collect the first egg of the Easter Island (Manutara) seagull. To do so, the competitors must paddle across the rough ocean on floating reeds to the caves where the eggs are laid and then bring it back in tact to present it to the chief. The winner keeps the emptied egg Birdman’s house.

Gorge on seafood

Being an island, it’s not surprising that the main diet of the Easter Island community is seafood. There are plenty of great restaurants to gorge on fresh seafood including mahi mahi, tuna, swordfish, lobster and prawns. Look out for sea urchins which litter the beaches throughout the year. Eaten raw, these can be opened on a rock and the roe eaten right out the shell.

Want to visit Easter Island? Start planning your journey today. Take a look at our suggested Chile tours, call our Chilean travel expert on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here.

This traveler captured all 147 underground stations in Mexico City

 

Mexico City is geographically one of the biggest cities in the world, and the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere. It’s an astonishing 1,485 square kilometres with more than 8 million inhabitants and it is surprisingly, sits at quite a high elevation of 2,250 metres above sea level. It’s one of Latin America’s most interesting cities, with baroque Cathedrals, museums, colonial squares, and galleries including the Palacio Nacional which holds artwork by Diego Rivera.

It’s no surprise then that it has many underground stations to help commuters and travelers cross this vast city. Mexico City underground, called the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, in second in size only to the New York City metro. It also carries the ninth largest number of tourists for any subway with a staggering 1.6 billion travelers riding the trains every year.

The Mexico City Metro is known as the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo or STC, and is the largest second largest metro system in North America after New York’s subway. As of 2015 it also ranked 9th in the world for number of passengers with 1.623 billion travellers riding the rails.

Flickr: 16:9clue

In 2011, 31-year-old Australian expat Peter Davies from Australia decided to visit and record all 147 underground stations. After travelling to over 20 countries in the Americas, Davies settled in Mexico City for a while. During his travels he’d lived in Valparaiso, worked as a volunteer project in Granada and wrote about his travels in online publications.

Over a 6-month period, Davies got off and explored every single station on every line on the Mexico City underground. This meant a visit to 175 stations, but many of these crossed over and the actual number was 147. He recorded these stops in great detail on his blog mexicocitymetro.com. The site was popular with over 100,000 visiting and following his updates. Along the way, Davies visited and saw some pretty wacky things including being led through crowds by stray dogs, visiting a museum housed inside an enormous model of Benito Juarez as well as photographing some incredible street art. This much travelling is hungry work. Plenty of street tacos were eaten along the way.

18 months after the end of the project, Davies revisited Mexico City to complete the new lines. His very last station on Line 12 was Estacion Lomas Estrella. In his last piece, the blogger takes a look at the graffiti, tries a torta cubana (a sandwich filled with meat, eggs and accompaniments), wandered the districts streets, saw a circus and talked about the amenities of Lomos Estrella. For now, Davies has left Mexico City and is working on other projects, but we are looking forward to his return after the creation of new underground stops in the city.

Want to explore Mexico City? Take a look at our Mexico tour suggestions, speak to one of our travel experts at +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or contact us by email here.

A guide to the best street food in Colombia

The best food of a country often comes from the streets. We’ve never quite worked out why, but perhaps it’s the vendors dedication to cooking just one or several things really, really well. While restaurants require a full menu, street vendors can put all their efforts in doing the best arepas or the best empanadas. It’s also cheap. With few overheads, and relatively humble dishes, the food is always inexpensive to produce. Are you planning a visit to Colombia? Hit the streets and find some of the Colombia’s best food.

Arepas

Flickr: lesleyk

Arepas are found on street corners across the land. To say they are popular is an understatement. Considered part of the cultural heritage of Colombia, these little street snacks are made up maize discs filled with indregdients like melting cheese, avocado and meat. There are even sweet arepas which work well for breakfast in hot chocolate.

Corn

Corn is a stable in South America and has been eaten there for thousands of years. It can be bought simply barbecued over hot coals. Alternatively, corn is cut off the cob and mixed with cheese, meat and salad, a less filling meal that most Colombian dishes. Be sure to look out for mazorca desgranada.

Almojabana

Almojábanas are round rolls made from cheese and corn.  They’re simple but filling and best eaten straight out of the oven in the early morning washed down with Colombian coffee.

Plantain chips

Flickr: Ben Ward

Plantain is seriously popular across the Americans. In Colombia, they’re cut thinly and deep fried until sweet and golden. Look out for little mobile vendors selling this across the Bogota and Cartegana. Though fried in oil, they are actually really nutrious. The perfect little snack to eat on the go.

Salchipapa

Flickr: Gary Stevens

The original ‘drunkies’, salchipapa is the simply amalgamation of sausages (usually of the frankfurter variety) and potatoes doses in sauce. What could be better to soak up the booze after a cold cerveza or two.

Churros

Flickr: Karl Baron

It may be the Spanish who are famous for the churros, but Colombia do it just as well. Dough is piped into hot oil and fried until golden. Unlike the Spanish who eat them with hot chocolate in the morning, Colombians prefer them dosed in arequipe and condensed milk. The perfect way to finish a street food meal.

Fruit

Colombia has a wealth of exotic fruits. Some make it into smoothies, but most just eat it as it is. Vendors piled high with sweet pineapples, papayas, starfruits, custard apples, guavas, passion fruit, melons and much more. Look out for vendors selling refreshing fresh coconut water.

Obleas

Those with a sweet tooth should look out for oblea. Jam, whipped cream, arequipa and fruit are sandwiched between two thin circular wafers and devoured right away. Best eaten on a sunny day.

Empanadas

Empanadas need no introduction. Eaten throughout Latin America, this iconic street food snack is particularly good in Colombia. The name comes from empanar, the Spanish verb for wrapping something in bread. Dough, sometimes made from corn, is filled with meat, cheese and sometimes vegetables before being fried or baked into a mouthwatering morsel.

Perros calientes

Hot dog lovers should rejoice. Perros calientes are popular throughout Colombia. Like a Chilean completo topped with cheese, fries, avocado and plenty of sauce. Not something to eat on a date, there’s no way of gorging on one of these politely.

Bollos

Like much of Latin America, Colombia has its own version of tamales known as bollos. Best eaten in Cartegena for breakfast, bollos are boiled hominy or yucca, sometimes including other treats like small pieces of chicken or boiled eggs. Be sure to get them hot when they taste best.

Chicharrón

Flickr: James

If you’re on a diet, this may not be for you. For everyone else, chicharron is one of the tastiest things you can eat on the streets of Colombia. Pork belly is deep fried until crisp and sometimes served with a spicy salsa dip. It makes up the national dish, bandeja paisa, an enormous plate of chicharron, chorizo, steak, eggs and beans – aka the gut buster.

Bocadillo

Bocadillo is a sweet paste made from guava. It’s best eaten with crumbly white Colombian cheese, one of the most perfect combinations.

Ceviche

Don’t be put off street seafood. Along the coast, the seafood is incredibly fresh. It’s quite different from its Peruvian counterpart. Colombian ceviche is similar to a shrimp cocktail – raw seafood marinated in lime juice, tomato sauce, onion and garlic.

Want to try the street food of Colombia? Take a look at our suggested Colombia tours, call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

Watch this memorizing penguin colony timelapse

This video may be a few years old now, but it is still just as fascinating. Over a three-month period, an Adelie penguin colony was filmed in the Ross Sea. Every 45-minutes, a photo was taken and then stitched together to create a memorizing timelapse. The footage was taken by Jean Pennycook from the National Science Foundation and was shared on the Armed with Science blog.

It’s not the Adelie penguins waddling that is interesting to watch. Throughout the film, the ice can be seen ‘breathing’ as the tide rolls in and pushes it up and down.  Over the three months, the ice begins to shift, break away and then finally melt into the sea.

The person behind the project was Jean Pennycook, an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow for the National Science Foundation. She was a school teacher for over 25 years and her website Penguin Science provides resources to school children around the world. This includes lesson plans, call-ins and teaching and learning forums with a focus on penguins and the Antarctic. Throughout her time in the Antarctic, she broadcast daily updates around the penguin colonies and at its peak during breeding season, her website was receiving over a million users a month.

Adelie penguins are a fascinating species. They only live along the fringes of the Antarctic coast, preferring to be close to the water. Along with animals like emperor penguins and snow petrels, they make up some of the most southerly living seabirds. To get technical, they are part of the Pygoscelis family which split more than 38 million years ago into three subspecies. Research suggests there are more almost 4 million breeding pairs of Adelie penguins in 250 colonies. Colonies are decreasing in numbers on the Antarctic peninsula but increasing in East Antarctica. This has led to an increase of over 50% since the last census was completing, suggesting that they are not at risk as a species.

The penguins breed between October and February and build their nests from stones found along the edge of the Antarctic. Both parents take turns to incubate the eggs over a month and once hatched, they stay in the nest for a further month. Within 2 months of being born, the chicks have dropped their juvenile plumage and take off into the sea. They are some of the smallest of penguin species and reach around 50 cms and 5 kg in weight.  They have distinctive black and white marks around their eyes and along their body which gives them the appearance of wearing a tuxedo. They have a red bill, but long head feathers cover most of it. They can swim up to 5 miles per hour. They feed on krill, squid and silverfish, but they are in turn preyed on by orcas, skuas and leopard seals.

Would you like to go and see Adelie penguins? Take a look at our Antarctic cruises, get in touch with one of our Polar experts at +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or contact us here.

New tour visit the Carnival and Amazon

It might only seem like the last Carnival was just yesterday, but we’re quickly racing towards 2018. If you want to visit the famous Carnival, now’s the time book, as hotels and flights only get more expensive.

If you’re going to take part in the Carnival, why not combine it with some of Brazil’s other highlights? We’ve created a new tour which takes visitors to the Carnival, the might Iguaçu Falls and takes a comfortable, but adventurous cruise down the Amazon in search of some amazing wildlife – Carnival & Cruise.

After arriving in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll be picked up and taken to your hotel. We suggest you stay at the Arena Leme Hotel, though if you book early there are plenty of options to chose from. Head down to the beach, grab a icy cold caipirinha, dig you toes into the sand and soak up the atmosphere – the perfect introduction to Brazil.

The next fours days, you’re going to quickly pick up how to party like a carioca at the world’s largest street party. Get a seat at the Sambadrome and watch the colourful parade of dancers and performers. The parade has been a tradition for almost 90 years and there are over 70 samba schools that take party. 90,000 spectators pile into the 2,300 foot long stadium to watch the extraordinary dancing and floats.

The parade might be fun, but there are other things to do in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. Blocos are 24-hour street parties that pop up throughout the city. People con costumes and here is plenty of beer and Brazilian rum. Numbers can quickly reach the thousands when live music arrives. For something a little more exclusive, there are several balls going on throughout the event. The Copacabana Palace Hotel on Rio’s seafront, hosts an annual ball where guests dress up in evening gowns and tuxedos.

If this is your first time in Brazil, don’t worry. You won’t miss out on the bucket list activities during your stay. During the tour, we’ll arrange for you in visit the Christ Redeemer, Tijuca National Park, Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain. After five days, you’ll almost be able to call yourself a carioca!

After the festivities are over, we’ll whisk you away to see Iguaçu Falls where you will stay at the Falls Iguazu Hotel on the Argentine side.The Indians believed that the falls were the mouth of the gods, and when you see them, you’ll release why. The falls were made famous in Robert De Niro’s film, The Mission, in which you see him teeter over the edge strapped to a crucifix.

For the next two days, you’ll explore every side of this huge natural wonder. Cross over to the Argentine side to see the falls from the wooden walkways. One of the biggest thrills is walking over the suspended platform that traverses The Devil’s Throat, a gurgling, spitting, rampaging flurry of water. We can even arrange for you to stay a boat trip into the heart of the falls, where you get so close you can feel the spray on your face.

Lastly, you’ll fly north to Manaus, a city in the centre of the Amazon. The city boomed in the late 19th century when it was used as a base for rubber tapping. We’ll take you to see the huge 18th century Amazonas Theatre, an impressive piece of architecture. Afterwards you will board the comfortable Amazon Odyssey expedition cruise boat, your home for the next four nights. Venture into the Rio Negro and along the Amazon River. Hike through the forest in search of exotic bird life and mammals including many species of monkey. You’ll be accompanied by expert guides which ensure you make the most of your time here.

To book Carnival & Cruise, call us today or +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here. You can find out more about the tour here.

Peruvian pollo a la brasa recipe

Flickr: inyucho

Peruvian rotisserie chicken, sometimes called blackened chicken, is one of the most popular dishes in the country. The dish originated in Lima in the 1950s and is often eaten on Sundays with family and friends. When it was first created, it was only the very wealthy that ate pollo a la brasa, but the dish has now become cheap enough for the masses. The chicken is typically served with French fries, salad and a variety of mayonnaise-based and chilli sauces.

Serves: 4
Time: 8 hours

Ingredients

2 kilo chicken, cut into quarters
5 garlic cloves
100 ml soy sauce
2 tbs lime juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tps paprika
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp black pepper
1 tbs oil
1 lime, quartered
Seasoning

French fries

Method

Put the soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, cumin, oregano, paprika, pepper and oil into a blend and wizz up into a paste.

Put the chicken into a large mixing bowl and cover in the marinade, rubbing well into every part. Place into the fridge and leave for at least 8 hours, taking it out every half an hour to baste and rub the marinade. If you have the time, 24 hours is even better.

Though this dish can be made in the oven (200°C for one hour), it tastes a lot better by barbecue. Light the barbecue and wait into the flames have disappeared and the coals are grey. Move the coals cover the edge of the barbecue so there is no direct heat on the meat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cover with the lid. Turn every five minutes or so and baste with the remaining marinade. The chicken should be down in around 45 minutes.

Serve in the centre of the table with French fries, a salad, spicy sauces and lime wedges.

Garnish with lime wedges.

10 things to do in the Amazon

Seeing a clay lick

Parrot clay licks can be found throughout the Amazon. Hundreds of parrots and macaws descend upon muddy banks each morning to peck away at the clay. This phenomenon is still unknown; however, it is thought that the mud is rich in minerals and salt as well as high PH levels which balance out the acidity of the Amazon. It’s a magical experience spending time in the hide watching this chaotic spectacle.

Gliding downstream in a dugout canoe

Flickr: Emil Kepko

An experience you’ll have at any Amazon lodge. Jump into traditional dugout canoes and glide silently along the waterways. Along the mangroves and lakes, monkeys can be spotted swinging through the trees, sloths peacefully hang from branches, iguanas bask in the sun and colourful parrots and macaws fly across the river.

Spotting pink river dolphins

A highlight for many. The mystery pink river dolphin can be found across the Amazon, particularly at the basin. They prefer the lowland fast flowing waters. They are the largest river dolphin specie in the world and are different from other dolphins in that it has a flexible neck allowing it to move in different directions. They can reach up to 3 metres in length. Like other dolphins, they are social and curious creatures and often approach the boat.

Hearing the roar of the howler monkey

There is a high concentration of howler monkeys in the Amazon. They are the loudest of all the monkey species, their cry being heard over 3 miles away. They often group at dawn or dusk and make whooping barks to let others know where their territory is. When you are staying in the Amazon, you will get used to their amazing sounds in the morning and evening.

Meet the indigenous tribes

For many, getting the opportunity to meet and learn from the indigenous tribes is the highlight of their Amazon adventure. Most Amazon lodges will take you to the local village to find out about their way of life. Learn about local medicinal plants and the wildlife. In some communities such as Kapawi or Huaorani in Ecuador, there are shamans, but stay away from the ayahuasca, it’s strong stuff!

Cruising the Amazon

For those who want to visit the Amazon in relative comfort, there are several cruises. The M/V Aqua takes guests on four-day cruises down through the Amazon stopping for wildlife spotting and hikes through the forest. Return back for some excellent cuisine and a comfortable night’s sleep in the luxurious air-conditioned rooms.

Scaling a canopy tower

If birdlife is a priority, be sure to pick a lodge that has a canopy tower. Sometimes, birdlife in the Amazon can be tricky to spot up through the thick tree line. However, up in the canopy, visitors can be up close to colourful exotic birds as well as monkeys and sloths. Some also include walkways to allow guests to move through the trees and maximise their chances of seeing wildlife. Try the Posada Amazonas whose tower stretches an impressive 25 metres high.

See the famous Amazon Theatre

The city of Manaus sits right in the heart of the Amazon. Rubber tabbing helped the city boom in the late 19th and early 20th century. So much so, a grand opera house was built here in 1896.  The theatre is quite a feat of engineering. Materials where brought in from around the world including tiles from Alsace, steel from Scotland and marble from Italy.

View the Meeting of Waters

Flickr: Rob

One of the highlights of a trip to the Brazilian Amazon is a visit to the Meeting of Waters. At the confluence between the Amazon River and the black Rio Negro, the waters meet and flow several miles downstream side by side without mixing. The phenomenon is down to the differences in speed, water density and temperature. Often the Meeting of Waters is seen en route to the lodge, but if not, it’s well worth taking a half day excursion to see this natural wonder.

Live with scientists

To get even more of an in depth look into the flora and fauna of the Amazon, consider staying at the Uakari Floating Lodge located just over 500 kilomtres from Manaus. The lodge hosts many scientists and researchers who accompany guests on tours into the jungle. Situated on the largest reserve of flooded rainforest in the world, there are over a million hectares of protected land to explore. During your stay, take jungle hikes and canoe rides to spot fresh water dolphins, alligators, monkeys, and birdlife.

To start planning your Amazon tour, call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or take a look at our suggested tours here.

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.

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