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Getting Up Close and Personal with Iguazu Falls

28 Feb

To describe Iguazu Falls without blatant and unashamed flattery is an impossible task. They are some of the most beautiful and majestic falls man has ever encountered. With an incredible 275 cascades set in dense tropical rainforest, Iguazu is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Many such celebrated destinations don’t live up to the hype but Iguazu Falls packs a punch and left us open-mouthed and starry-eyed. We were in good company as even the late United States First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was lost for words upon first viewing Iguazu and simply gasped “Poor Niagara!”

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The Dazzling Gems of Chapada Diamantina

26 Jul

With thousands of kilometres of tropical beaches, happening cities and hedonistic festivals to be discovered along Brazil’s coastline, it might seem incredibly hard to drag yourself away and head inland. If you were at all tempted to haul yourself off your sun-lounger and hang up your dancing shoes to make just one trip into Brazil’s interior, this would surely be it! The National Park of Chapada Diamantina (Diamond Highlands) is located 300 kilometres west of Salvador and for a short time it was the diamond mining capital of the world. These days, its true value lies in eco-tourism and those who make the effort to travel here will rewarded beyond their wildest dreams. This is the Outback of Brazil: where space and big skies seem to go on forever; where larger than life landscapes filled with mountain plateaus, waterfalls, wooded valleys and underground caves stir your imagination; where a slower pace of life and laid-back attitude ensures you appreciate the smaller things; and where the range of exciting activities will leave you bewildered.

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The Real Jurassic Park – Roraima

18 Jan

Welcome to Mount Roraima. A mystical table mountain cut off from civilisation with seemingly impenetrable four hundred metre sheer cliff faces from which tumble cascades of water. It looks like a floating island of rock ascending into the clouds. The mountain’s base is embraced by dense Amazonian jungle and beyond that golden savannah rolls into the distance. Its flat summit is a maze of unusual stone formations, caves, sandy beaches, coloured pools and valleys scattered with crystals. It’s a land that time forgot. A dream-like landscape with shifting mists and home to species of flora and animals found nowhere else on the planet. Thought to be the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel “The Lost World” in which dinosaurs, cannibalistic plants and ape men still lived, this perfectly preserved ancient world remains to this day a real life ‘Jurassic Park’.

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Canaima National Park – Finding a Lost World

14 Dec

Rugged, remote and insanely beautiful Canaima National Park stretches over three million hectares in south-eastern Venezuela along the border between Guyana and Brazil. Comparable in size to Belgium, this area is the sixth biggest national park in the world.  It was established in 1962 and in just over a decade its protected areas more than doubled whilst being championed by scientists, geologists and historians. The small settlement of Canaima is a mixture of native village and tourist hub.  It’s the jumping off point for Angel Falls, undeniably the highlight of any visit to the area, being the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall at an enormous 979 metres but many will be surprised, as we were, to find that Canaima has plenty of attractions in its own right to offer tourists.  Here’s our top 6 reasons why Canaima is worthy of spending an extra day or two exploring.

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Angel Falls – Cascade from the Sky

10 Dec

Flying through uncharted Venezuelan territory in 1934 while looking for gold, American bush pilot Jimmie Angel nearly crashed his 4-seater plane upon noticing a waterfall nearly one kilometre high freely flowing from the top of towering Auyantepui, one of the area’s biggest table mountains. Little did Jimmy know he had discovered what would become known as ‘Angel Falls’, by far and away the highest single drop waterfall in the world, which cascades a massive 979 metres, more than double the height of the Empire State Building and 16 times the height of Niagara Falls.

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Venezuela – falling off the tourist radar

21 Jun

Venezuela, or officially “The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”, is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries on the planet but it remains hugely under-visited by international travellers. It is incredibly diverse with habitats ranging from glistening Caribbean coast to Amazon jungle, and snow-covered Andes mountains to dry desert-like plains. The sheer variety of activities would wear out even the most enthusiastic outdoorsy types and vibrant festivals and pumping samba clubs will keep the party owls up all night.

So why is it so far off the tourist radar?

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Adrenaline rush in Banos

18 Jan

Picking a destination to pass a birthday whilst travelling is always a game of chance when your knowledge of that place is only informed by guide books or internet reviews, and the pressure you put upon yourself to make it a special and unforgettable birthday can start to mount. The town we’d chosen to spend my 34th birthday was called Banos – the Spanish word for bathroom – and I began to fret that we’d find ourselves celebrating in the urinals of Ecuador!

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The hidden treasures of Chachapoyas

18 Dec

We cut through the thick foliage with a machete and inched our way forward. We scanned the unusually quiet jungle with nervousness, readying ourselves for a prowling jaguar attack or a poisoned dart released from a blowpipe resting in the pursed lips of the indigenous hunters who tracked us. The ruined temple, shrowded in mist and overgrown with vines, came into view across a small clearing and we knew we were getting close to laying our hands on treasures beyond our wildest dreams. As we approached the intricately carved grey stone temple walls we saw that a huge boulder had been rolled to one side revealing a small, dark entrance and a set of stairs leading downwards. It all seemed too easy. Before we could stop him, the youngest in our group let out a triumphant yelp and ran forward through the entrance to collect his prize. With the ease of a well oiled machine, the boulder rolled itself back in front of the door. The last thing we heard from our friend was his screams as we tried hopelessly to force the door back open…and then a deathly silence. The site had been booby trapped…

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