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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Swimming with Manta Rays

One of the most memorable moments of my life was snorkelling in the Galapagos Islands and getting close to a giant Manta ray. Despite being over 5 metres wide these creatures are graceful and benign and present no danger to humans. They are continually in motion, feeding on plankton and must move in order to breathe and can only swim forwards. They can go up or down so to change direction may loop around. I approached this one from behind and got within a couple of metres of the huge majestic ray, it wheeled around took a look at me spluttering through my snorkel then headed off into the deep blue. Mantas are considered one of the most intelligent fish in the sea. They have become a big attraction worldwide for diving and snorkelling tourism. Though they have long been fished for subsistence purposes, Mantas and other rays are now under threat for their use in oriental remedies, as the Chinese believe their gills are a miraculous cleansing tonic, though there is no evidence to support this. In Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia there are proposals to protect the species, but sadly this attitude is not universal.

Hotel of the Month – Toca da Coruja

There have been so many award ceremonies recently, the Oscars, Baftas and Grammys to name a few that we felt the urge to do a little awarding ourselves. We work with so many magical, secluded, full of character and outright luxurious hotels that we thought we would feature our choicest picks every month.

We try to personally visit the hotels we recommend and this is one that certainly didn’t fail to impress when we stayed there. The beautiful Toca da Coruja at Pipa in the north east of the country is our winner for a relaxing getaway.

Lush tropical gardens surround the enchanting Toca da Coruja, built in traditional colonial style this hotel consists of a series of wooden bungalows set within a jungle oasis within minutes of the stunning beach. The bungalows, connected by wooden walkways, range in size and are decorated in bright Caribbean colours and are furnished with both contemporary and antique pieces.

Feijoada recipe

Feijoada, the national dish of Brazil – a hearty bean stew traditionally made using the tails, trotters and ears. Here’s a recipe using ingredients more familiar to home.

500g dry black beans (don’t use tinned)
500g salted pork ribs
500g salted bacon
8 tablespoons of olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic
2 large smoked sausages, cut into large chunks
500g smoked pork ribs, cut into chunks
500g smoked bacon, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon ground pepper
5 bay leaves

1. Soak the beans, salted ribs and bacon in cold water overnight making sure they are fully covered
2. Drain the beans and add them to a saucepan with fresh cold water. Bring them to the boil over a medium heat and then simmer for 30 minutes until tender
3. Run the soaked salted ribs and bacon well and add to the saucepan of beans cooking for a further 30 minutes over a medium heat. Heat a large saucepan and pour in olive oil so it covers the base. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add the sausages, smoked ribs, bacon, pepper and bay leaves. Pour in the cooked beans and meat from the other saucepan and top up with water. Simmer for around 90 minutes until the meat is tender
4. Serve up the Feijoada with fluffy white rice, slices of orange and farofa (a Brazilian manioc flour). Enjoy!

New airport in Quito

Ecuador’s showpiece Mariscal Sucre International Airport at the capital Quito was officially opened last week, replacing the 1960’s town centre operation which had completely outgrown the facilities and is now closed.

The 13,450ft runway (4,100m) is located 1,310ft lower than the current location, bringing more efficiency to aircraft, allowing take-offs with full passenger, cargo and fuel loads, also allowing for direct long haul services.  It is about 12 miles from Quito city centre.

The facilities have a capacity to handle 5.5m passengers and 250,000 tonnes of cargo per year.

The airport is, in the main, served domestically by Lan Ecuador, Tame and Aerogal (Avianca).  Iberia has flights to Madrid, KLM to Amsterdam, Lufthansa connects to Frankfurt via the Caribbean.  US carriers include American Airlines (Miami), Delta (Atlanta) and United (Houston).  Flights to the Galapagos are normally routed via Guayaquil on the coast. www.aeropuertoquito.aero

RELATED: Fiestas of Quito

New Uyuni Salt Flats Airstream

Enjoy a unique perspective of the Uyuni Salt flats onboard a vintage American Airstream. Spend a few days exploring every corner of this salt desert in comfort. The camper includes a bedroom area, living space and a bathroom with hot shower.

You will be accompanied by a personal chef and support (including a 4×4 vehicle) and once the crowds have left back to Uyuni you’ll have the salt flats all to yourself where you can enjoy spectacular sunsets.

We can incorporate this into your bespoke Bolivia journey.

RELATED: 9 amazing places to visit in Bolivia

David meets Michael Palin

Presenter, traveller, author and ex-Monty Python star, Michael Palin, was recently presented with LATA’s ( Latin America Travel Association ) 2013 Media Award for his recent TV series on Brazil, and for his wider work in promoting an understanding of Latin America in the UK and elsewhere.

The series of four BBC programmes focused on some the less discovered regions of this vast country including Lençois Maranhensis in the far north, Sao Luis, where European and African religious rituals come together in typically Brazilian celebrations, in Salvador, Michael has his fortune read by a priest who practises the local religion of Candomblé, to the vast wild wetlands of the Pantanal and finally to the southern extreme which feels like part of Bavaria.

David shared only a brief moment with Michael at the House of Lords event so we don’t know if he is planning any more ‘Select’ journeys to the region.

RELATED: Our David meets Sir David Attenborough

Boris Johnson needs a South American holiday

Our director David Horwell meeting London’s mayor Boris Johnson. We had a surprise visit to our office from London’s Mayor Boris Johnson. He came to our building which he described as ‘a womb of creativity and enterprise’ and had time to stop and chat with David about his future holiday plans which may include certain Latin American destinations. Boris’ father Stanley has already visited the Galapagos Islands and is an Ambassador for the Galapagos Conservation Trust, which raises money for conservation. We can’t reveal where Boris is thinking of going but it is unlikely to be Venezuela – where his old rival Ken Livingstone struck up a frienship with Hugo Chavez.

RELATED: Galapagos in 3D

Our David meets Sir David Attenborough

This month’s celebrity photo shows our director and ‘Mr Galápagos’ David Horwell meeting his hero David Attenborough. This was at a fund-raising dinner by the Galápagos Conservation trust, after their annual Galápagos Day event. For those interested in recent scientific research of the Galápagos archipelago and conservation of the ‘enchanted isles’ we suggest that you become members of The Galápagos Conservation Trust (UK) or your local ‘Friends of Galápagos’ organization. Each couple who books a Galápagos trip with us will be given a year’s membership to this laudable non-profit organization (UK only). David Attenborough has had a long association with the GCT and has taken part in debates and enthralled audiences at London’s Royal Geographical Society with his stories about filming his iconic wildlife documentaries. David Horwell is a leading authority on Galápagos having worked there as a naturalist guide in the Galápagos in 1978 and has been leading small group tours there almost every year since 1985 when this company was founded. He is author of Galápagos Wildlife: A visitor’s Guide (Bradt travel guides) and written many articles about the archipelago.

RELATED: Galapagos in 3D

Galápagos Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide, Third Edition, Bradt Travel Guides

The Galápagos Islands have an almost legendary status among biologists, wildlife enthusiasts and adventurous travellers alike. At over 1,000km from the Ecuadorian mainland, the flora and fauna of this volcanic archipelago have long evolved in isolation. Today its lunar landscapes still remain remarkably untouched by human presence, and visitors are stuck by the supreme nonchalance of the animals that wade, waddle and soar around the islands, from amiable sea lions to flamboyant albatrosses.

Galápagos Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide, 3rd edition, is the most up to date guide book to the archipelago. The lively text describes all the endemic animals (and more) and illustrated with superb colour photos on land and below the sea. All main visitor sites are described in precise detail with accompanying colour maps. This fully updated and extended third edition offers a colourful and informative guide to the island’s unique flora and its marine and terrestrial wildlife. Packed with fascinating facts about the species and their habitats; plus invaluable tips on when and where to see what, Galápagos Wildlife makes and engaging companion on the ground and an ideal souvenir. For all wildlife enthusiasts, contains over 140 colour photographs, written by licensed Galápagos naturalist guides David Horwell & Pete Oxford. Includes all major wildlife groups, from mammals to invertebrates, Island-by-island summary of key sites, with full-colour maps and and extended section on plants.

“Extremely useful, with a good section detailing all of the main visitor sites” The Daily Telegraph

“Bradt Travel Guides simply have the best wildlife coverage of any of the popular guide books” BBC

Signed copies of this best-selling guide are available direct from Select Latin America for £16.99 plus P&P – please contact us.

RELATED: Albatross Breeding Season Comes to Galapagos