SET in the heart of Old Town Quito, Casa Gangotena has quickly established itself as one of South America’s finest boutique hotels. I bedded down there on a recent visit to the Ecuadorian capital and found it a calming influence. You can read my full review, which was published with World Travel Guide, here.
EARLIER this month I interviewed Nick Baker, the TV naturalist and all round good egg, best-known for presenting Springwatch on the BBC. He chatted to me about sleeping with penguins in Antarctica, why bats were nearly the death of him in Costa Rica and the best places to go for wildlife watching holidays.
You can read the full interview with him, which was published through World Travel Guide, here.
Galapagos in pictures
Straddling the equator, the Galapagos Islands are formed by a volcanic hot spot beneath the Pacific Ocean...[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_2.jpg]190
...the oldest island is 4.5 million years old and the youngest a mere 300,000 years[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_3.jpg]190Famous residents
The Galapagos Islands are a hotbed of biodiversity and its playful sea lions are amongst the most popular residents [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_4.jpg]170The Darwin connection
Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution in Galapagos. This iguana has evolved differently from its relatives on mainland South America[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_5.jpg]190A twitcher's delight
This swallow-tailed gull is one of the many birds that attracts twitchers to the islands [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_6.jpg]180Beneath the waves
Three ocean currents converge at the Galapagos Islands bringing with them bountiful marine life [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_7.jpg]180Star attraction
The giant tortoise is synonymous with the Galapagos Islands and there are estimated to be 35,000 of them living here... [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_8.jpg]200
...but that's no thanks to international sailors who nearly hunted them to extinction in the 19th century [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_9.jpg]160Gone with the wind
Most of the plants that have colonised Galapagos came as seeds on the trade winds - they were blown over 600 miles across the Pacific[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_10.jpg]190Feeding time
A baby Nazca booby waits for dinner to be delivered by his parents[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_11.jpg]150Big mouth
A wonderful bird is a pelican, his bill will hold more than its belly can[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_12.jpg]200Siesta time
A young sea lion stirs from a siesta on the beach [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_13.jpg]180Back to school
Galapagos guide, John Garate, leads a quick lesson in the geology of the islands[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_14.jpg]150An unlikely resident
Galapagos penguins are thousands of miles from their native Antarctica, but the water here is just cool enough to sustain them [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_15.jpg]150Not on your own doorstep
This Nazca booby has turned shitting on its own doorstep into an art form [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_16.jpg]160Hooray for boobies
Red footed boobies are one of the most celebrated birds on the islands and not just because of their red feet...[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_17.jpg]140
...they also wow visitors by diving into the ocean at nearly 100kph to catch fish[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_18.jpg]140Expectant mother
A Nazca booby protects a recently laid egg from the wind and potential predators [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_19.jpg]160The silent hunter
This short-eared owl will make no sound when it swoops in on unsuspecting petrels[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/galapagos-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_20.jpg]130Another stalker
This heron is also a stealth hunter and will pluck fish from the sea when it gets hungry
FADIOUTH is an island located just off the Petite Côte of Senegal and is made entirely out of empty seashells. Even the graveyard – pictured above – is fashioned from mollusk casings, but that’s just one of the many remarkable things about this place. Find out more about Fadiouth by reading my blog for National Geographic Traveller here.
THE Ecuadorian Government has ploughed millions into restoring the country’s historic railways, so I headed to the South American nation and jumped aboard. Here’s a blog about an experience I had on Ecuador’s trains, which was published with National Geographic Traveller.
SENEGAL remains under the radar for many travellers, which is hardly surprising considering its poor infrastructure, lack of international air links and undeveloped tourism industry. But those visiting this diamond in the rough will discover a country rich in natural beauty, character and culture. This is my view of Senegal, through the lens:
IT’S been a bit quiet on the blog front for a few weeks because I’ve been on assignment in Senegal, writing this feature about desertification for The Independent (click on the picture to read the article in full).
There will be more to come from me about Senegal in the coming weeks, but I thought this article might set the scene for my trip.
This expedition wasn’t simply about uncovering the destination from a travellers point of view, but about understanding the phenomenon of desertification and how it affects not just those living in Senegal and other African nations but all of us.
Senegal is at the front line in the battle against desertification, a process that organisations and individuals are trying to reverse in Africa with the so-called Great Green Wall.
My research took me deep into the Sahel, where I not only got to understand more about desertification but also got to me some of the most affable and inspirational people I have ever encountered. But there will be more about that later.
TO celebrate its 40th anniversary, British Airways asked 40 journalists from around the world to help identify emerging travel destinations.
Gambia in pictures
Gambia is one of the most diverse countries in the world when it comes to bird life[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_pelican.jpg]90Pelican crossing
Some of the bigger species are easy to spot…[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_fruit-bat.jpg]80
…others like this fruit bat are a bit trickier [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_monkeys.jpg]80Monkey business
A baby baboon hitches a ride on mum at Makasutu Cultural Forest [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_jmming.jpg]70Jamming
This local man plays a traditional stringed instrument called the kora to Makasutu visitors[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_mangroves.jpg]80Mangrove mooring
Those looking to stay in Makasutu can rent floating rooms at Mandina Lodges [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_portrait.jpg]60West Africa apparel
Guaranteed to brighten up any situation are the Gambian women [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_ferry-port.jpg]70Moderately flamboyant
As a Muslim nation women are encouraged to cover up…[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_street-scene.jpg]60
…but they are conservative in the most flamboyant way possible [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_woman-and-baby.jpg]70Baby on board
A baby snoozes while his mother waits to catch the Banjul ferry [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_ferry-terminal.jpg]60Ferry late
Foot passengers disembark from the notoriously unreliable Banjul ferry[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_van.jpg]80Trade descriptions
A “BMW” van is loaded up with goods to take over on the ferry [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_fishing.jpg]70Casting out
A woman fishes for crabs in Oyster Creek [img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_sunset.jpg]50African sunset
The sky turns a deep orange as the sun goes down on Bijilo Beach, Gambia[img src=http://gavinhainescom.fatcow.com/wp-content/flagallery/gambia-in-pictures/thumbs/thumbs_flag.jpg]30Gambian colours
In the national flag, red represents the sun, blue the rivers, green agriculture and white peace
THE Banjul ferry has gone awol again. Explanations aren’t forthcoming, but rather than making the routine, 7km crossing of the Gambia River, the boat appears to be floating haplessly towards the Atlantic Ocean. Officials at the terminal are pleasantly unhelpful; scratching their heads they tell would-be passengers to find another way of crossing the choppy waters. The ferry ain’t happening.
Apparently there are two alternatives; either we (myself and a retired British couple called Mike and Jenny) take a five-hour detour to a port downriver and catch another boat there or we holler a pirogue from a nearby beach and make it to Banjul within half an hour. It’s a no-brainer really and we agree to the latter.
Of course there is a catch. Like the ferry, these handmade wooden boats are horribly overcrowded and what’s more, they leak water. Getting on one is extremely undignified too; passengers are piggybacked from the beach and through the surf to the waiting boat, where young boys grab their limbs and drag them on-board. Got a back problem? Then forget about it.
Unfortunately we know nothing about this ignominious procedure until it is happening to us; there we are trying to pay our taxi driver and all of a sudden we have people’s heads between our legs. “You’d pay good money for that downtown,” quips Mike.