Features // Nature

Exploring the Great Plains
Exploring the Great Plains

Most US travel itineraries skip the “middle bit” – often stereotyped as a boring, endless and pancake-flat swathe of corn that makes up the Great Plains. But while the region lacks showstoppers – no Grand Canyon, no New York – the Great Plains are crammed with surprisingly intriguing attractions and great tracts are, well, quite…

Trekking to Door Mountain, Iceland
Trekking to Door Mountain, Iceland

At the wild and sparsely inhabited eastern edge of Iceland, the granite crag of Dyrfjoll towers above the natural amphitheatre known as Stórurð (the Elves’ Bowl). One edge is sharp and steep, the other a flattened tabletop, and in between, the giant square gap that earns the whole its name: Door Mountain. Hewn by a glacier millions of years…

Swinging through the Tsitsikamma forest canopy
Swinging through the Tsitsikamma forest canopy

Skip back a few millennia and we were all arboreal primates. We’ll never know for sure what those ancestors of ours looked like. But in Tsitsikamma National Park, you can discover the primate within by swinging through the canopy – 30m up. In fact, whizzing is a better word, for instead of bombing through the…

Island-hopping among the dolphins in Venezuela
Island-hopping among the dolphins in Venezuela

We were barely five minutes from the shore when the dolphins appeared, their splashing visible along the distinct line between the earthy-red of the landmasses and the deep blue of the Caribbean. At the tiller, Jhonny (the silent Spanish “J” affording him an unusual title) made a beeline for them, attracting their attention by rhythmically…

Extreme hiking in Iceland: the Laugavegur trail
Extreme hiking in Iceland: the Laugavegur trail

In an adventure only for the bravest hikers, David Leffman tackles the rhyolite hills, black sand deserts and the icy glacier caps of the 55km trail from Landmannalaugar to Skógar. Whiteout. Five hours into a five-day hike and I was already stuck in a blizzard, barely able to see my feet through the stinging wind-driven…

Turtle-watching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Turtle-watching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

It’s a clear, moonless night when we assemble for our pilgrimage to the beach. I can’t understand how we are going to see anything in the blackness, but the guide’s eyes seem to penetrate even the darkest shadows. We begin walking, our vision adjusting slowly. We’ve come to Tortuguero National Park, in northeast Costa Rica,…

The top five extra-terrestrial landscapes
The top five extra-terrestrial landscapes

Things aren’t always as they seem and although you may feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of a sci-fi movie, these extra-terrestrial looking landscapes are set firmly on our planet. Feel like you’ve been transported to a whole new world in these five striking, stunning and perhaps even a little bit spooky landscapes… Salar…

Toasting bad weather in the Scottish Highlands
Toasting bad weather in the Scottish Highlands

First, be glad that it rains so much in Scotland. Without the rain the rivers here wouldn’t run – the Livet, the Fiddich, the Spey. Without the rain the glens wouldn’t be green and the barley wouldn’t grow tall and plump. Be glad it’s damp here in Scotland. Peat needs a few centuries sitting in…

Hearing wolves howl, Sweden
Hearing wolves howl, Sweden

Deep in the Swedish birch forest your mind can begin to play tricks. As the shadows lengthen and a chill creeps into the pine-scented air you’re reminded of the folk tales that originated here, from gnomes and trolls to the siren call of the Tallemaja or “Lady of the Woods”. But there is one much-mythologized creature very much…

The Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
The Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

On the drive up through the Imlil Valley into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, you have a sense that you’re going somewhere special. The road passes rose-coloured adobe villages and fields terraced with ancient irrigation channels that nourish apple, cherry and walnut orchards. Mules trot along the road carrying children, women return from the…

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