Monday, 27 December 2010

Snow Boosts Britain's Wildlife

2010’s double-freeze, at the beginning and end of the year, brought fears over the plight of British wildlife struggling to adapt to the arctic conditions; birds dehydrating from the lack of running water, berries and fruits inaccessible through inches of powder and chicks unable to withstand the freezing conditions. However, The Times and The Guardian revealed today that over the course of the year, British Wildlife gained more than it lost.

For the first time in ten years, Britain has experienced a year of four distinct seasons, in contrast to the mild winters and overcast summers of the past decade. The National Trust, who has closely monitored Britain’s ecological activities, say that there have been distinct challenges for several species this year but that, on the whole, wildlife has benefitted from the greater contrast in seasons.

The biggest challenges came with January and February’s cold snap, when wildfowl in the fens disappeared in search of open water, and trees were stripped of their bark by rabbits unable to access grasses beneath the snowfall. A late spring in 2010 led to a delayed daffodil season and postponed arrivals of skylarks and bluebells. Sadly, Cornwall’s recently reintroduced choughs saw not one of their new chicks survive early-spring’s harsh climate.

Thankfully, gains later in the year helped nature to bounce back from a tough start. In August, cranes in the Norfolk Broads had one of their best breeding seasons, and both hoverflies and ladybirds flourished. Somerset’s large blue butterfly had its most successful year ever and abundant rains in September encouraged high yields of fruits and berries, giving birds, mammals and insects plenty to feast on.

In addition, the cold winter has now given perfect conditions for animals to hibernate properly and, whilst the extremes of temperature have certainly brought challenges, the overall benefits of a return to a more traditional four-season year have been marked, including an increase in several endangered populations. Let’s hope to see much of the same in 2011!

Read the full article here in The Times or The Guardian

Image taken from

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Friday, 24 December 2010

Going Wild in China

When we think of modern-day China, it’s often the gob-smacking rate of urbanisation, the business hubs of Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong and the potential of the world’s largest and most industrious population that captures our imaginations. Glistening Peking duck, beef in oyster sauce and an appetite for dog meat and chicken feet complete the stereotypical imaginings of the nation, alongside a penchant for using endangered animals such as shark, tiger and panda, in delicacies and traditional medicines.

But it’s easy to forget that one of the fastest developing countries in the world also harbours some of our greatest tracts of forest and is home to some of the most diverse and unique wildlife on the planet. Yet China has largely neglected its natural heritage, sacrificing much of its rich wildlife in the name of economic and social advancement. Yu Kongjian, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Peking University, comments that “China is almost completely a brownfield”, adding that “some 75 percent of China’s water is heavily polluted and 50 percent of wetland habitat has been lost”.

Whilst ancient beliefs emphasized the harmonious co-existence of man and nature, as the world’s number one coal-burning nation and with just 14% of its original forest cover remaining, today’s economic gain and material wealth in China have largely been achieved at the expense of the natural world.

However, it seems that we may be entering a new era of environmental awareness in China. NGOs and student groups have begun to campaign for the protection of endangered wildlife and in October this year, China announced an ambitious conservation plan to reverse the decline in habitat and species diversity.

Broadcast earlier this year, the BBC series Wild China gave a fantastic insight into the beauty and importance of China’s landscape, reconnecting its people with nature through documenting ancient and modern-day interactions.Co-produced by the BBC Natural History Unit and China Central Television, the series detailed China’s natural history in a six-part series, highlighting China’s ancestral ties with nature, from ancient fishing methods to the protection of sacred mountains.

A highlight was programme six, a feature on the iconic Giant Panda, listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Animals. With around 1,000 left in the wild it was encouraging to see the positive, if somewhat bizarre efforts made in parts of China to protect and re-populate the species. The series was also broadcast in China, Australia and Canada, heralding a turning point in attitudes towards China’s natural heritage.

Watch highlights from Wild China here

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Tourist Ban in Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market in central Tokoyo is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and is a major tourist attraction for visitors to Japan, who come to witness the 2000 tons of fish which pass through the market each day. But the market’s daily auctions have become such an attraction, that fish-traders have called for a ban on sightseers, who have become so prolific that they are beginning to disturb everyday business functions in the working market.

It’s estimated that a quarter of visitors to Tokyo wish to visit the market ( but, as bidding can only be done by licensed participants such as wholesalers, agents for restaurants, food processing companies and large retailers, the visitors come purely as spectators.

In December 2008, all tourists were banned from the tuna auctions, because of the disturbance they created, and subsequent, short-term bans have followed. The most recent ended in May 2010, and was followed by a restriction which allowed a maximum of 140 visitors a day.
Wanderlust Magazine and The Sunday Times recently reported that a new ban has been put in place, which will last ‘several weeks’. It was suggested that the restrictions will not only allow business to operate smoothly, but will also safeguard visitors, in ensuring that the market remains ‘accident free’.

Image taken from Wanderlust Magazine

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Monday, 6 December 2010


After several shark attacks last week, Egypt’s tourist minister reported that the waters around tourist hotspot Sharm-el-Sheik were safe – shockingly, the mauled body of a 70year old tourist proved the claims to be untrue...

Following the attacks of three Russian and one Ukrainian tourist, Egyptian officials assured holiday makers that the ‘killer sharks’ had been caught and that the Red Sea waters surrounding Sharm-el-Sheik were once again safe. However, just days later a 70-year-old German female was found with her limbs torn off and four other tourists suffered fatalities.

Sharm-el-Sheik is one of Egypt’s most popular tourist spots and is a magnet for Britons seeking the winter sun. Famed for its world-class scuba diving, as well as being a mecca for many other watersports enthusiats, including windsurfers, kitesurfers and sailors, the sea is often the main, if not the sole attraction for many visitors.

Marine experts have commented that the attacks are very unusual and that the area has not reported signs of sharks for around 15 years. Several theories have been put forward, to explain this abnormal behaviour:

1. Overfishing in the region has brought the sharks closer to shore to feed.

2. Cattle and sheep imported from Australia that die during the journey to Egypt are thrown overboard, attracting the sharks – made more prolific with the approach of the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha.

3. Dive operators have been criticised for chumming the waters to encourage sharks for paying tourists, encouraging an association between humans and food.

Egypt is hugely dependent on tourism and Sharm-el-Sheik alone attracts over four millions holiday makers each, so bad press is certainly not welcome. But officials have been accused of playing down the dangers and putting the lives of their guests at risk. Authorities have been criticised of being too slow in reacting to the danger and for not informing holiday makers of the dangers. It was claimed that, just hours after the first attacks, tourists were pictured enjoying the waters once more.

Tourism minister Zuhair Garana insists that further investigation is underway, but that there is no need to disallow scuba diving, as “We are advised that sharks will not attack divers”, adding that “I cannot say that deep waters are completely secure but shallow waters are 100 per cent secure”.

However, British travel operators are following warnings given by the Foreign Office, and have taken the authority to cancel all boat and dive excursions. Thomson and First Choice have also advised holidaymakers to stay out of the water altogether.

Whilst both an oceanic white-tip and a mako shark have already been caught, it seems that the real monster is still out there…

Read the full article at the Mail Online

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How to Ski Green in the French Alps

Skiing and snowboarding occupy a tenuous position in the field of responsible travel. On one hand, it can be claimed that an affinity with the natural environment is key to promoting preservation and that mountain resorts are fundamental in creating a tangible awareness of climate change. On the other hand it’s undeniable that mountain tourism holds huge potential to threaten nature’s fragile beauty and that if we want our beloved pistes to be there in ten years’ time, it’s high time we started to ‘ski green’.

One problem is that, when surrounded by never ending vistas of seemingly pristine natural beauty, it’s quite easy to become oblivious to the idea that there’s any problem at all. So let’s tackle this one issue at a time…

Issue 1: Fake Snow
Barometers of climate change, ski resorts are threatened directly by rising global temperatures, which have led to low altitude resorts like Abondance in the Haute-Savoi being forced to close. Yet you’d be forgiven for thinking the issue had resolved if you’d visited resorts such as Tignes, Val Thorens and La Grave la Meije last year, which extended their 2009/10 season until the second week of sunny May.

It’s likely that you were skiing on man-made snow. Determined not to be beaten, most resorts now rely on snow cannons to replenish their rapidly thawing pistes. Over recent years, investment in ski resorts has shifted from getting you around the mountain, to giving you something to ski on; it’s largely been acknowledged that recharging the snow pack must take priority over upgrading lift systems, and many resorts now depend on ‘fake’ snow, having given up on the reliability of the real stuff.

Referred to by the French conservation group, Mountain Wilderness, as ‘the cancer of the Alps’, snow cannons work by spraying water particles and nucleating agents into frozen air. They require vast quantities of water to fuel the machines and then later in the season, drain the melted snow back into rivers, full of nutrients which disrupt natural biodiversity further downstream. In addition, cannons use masses of energy to create the snow, and the unnatural snow cover can prevent fauna germinating come spring time.

So what’s the solution? Should we start sabotaging the snow machines and ski on grass? No, don’t be silly. What we could do is avoid booking holidays at the tail end of a ski season. Fuelled by increased demand, many resorts now remain open until early May thanks to snow machines, despite temperatures reaching the high 20°Cs. We could also give other snow-related activities better recognition. Before the revolution of snow cannons, if cover was light, we turned to activities such as snow shoeing, ski touring and ice-skating.

Issue 2: Carbon
Perhaps the biggest environmental impact of skiing is the carbon produced getting us out there. Around 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK are thought to derive from flying, a figure which increases year on year, with the appearance of new flights. The European ski-season has a big part to play in this; the past decade has seen ski-specific airlines such as Snowjet appearing on the market, and additional flight routes are added each year to keep up with the ever increasing demand – in 2009 Snowjet opened their new Gatwick to Geneva route and for the 2010/11 ski season British Airways announced a new scheduled flight from London city airport to Chambery.

Mountain Riders, a French environmental ski charity, believe that reducing carbon travel costs is the most important step we can take towards skiing green. Following an environmental audit of French resorts with the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, it emerged that 74% of carbon emissions associated with a ski holiday came from transporting skiers and snowboarders to and from their resort.

This doesn’t bode well for the UK government, who are aiming for a 60% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. But the good news is that, if we choose to ski within Europe, even more so in France, the alternative options for getting into the mountains are often more convenient and less expensive than the combined costs of flying and transfers…

Option 1: Rail Travel - Daniel Elkan, founder of snowcarbon (specialists in rail travel to ski resorts), suggests that travelling by rail produces less than 10% of the carbon a flight does. The added bonuses include a wonderfully relaxing journey with room to move around in, sleep and do a few stretches ready for the first run, so that you arrive in resort refreshed and ready to hit the slopes.

Option 2: Self Drive - The website saveoursnow claims that a single short haul flight for one person generates as much carbon as three months driving a 1.4 litre car. So long as your car contains more than one passenger, a road trip across France can massively reduce your carbon footprint, plus you have the added advantage of travelling door to door with no hanging around at airports. Oh, and don’t forget to save some boot space for duty frees on the way home.

Option 3: Carbon offsetting – Always an option to help ease the conscience of anyone who can’t tear themselves out of their confined, refrigerated easy-jet seat. Approved by TICOS (The Tourism Industry Carbon Offset Service), the additional money paid by passengers can go towards projects such as replacing diesel generators with hydro-electric plants in mountain resorts, or replanting areas of woodland.

Issue 3: Litter
Snow is a litter-bug’s dream. Drop as much as you like and just watch it sink beneath the surface, gone forever…well, at least for a few months. Cigarettes, banana skins, bottles, gloves, hair bands, dropped poles, even skis, the debris left behind after a few million skiers have descended on the Alps for a season is immense but is rarely seen by those who cause it – blissfully unaware litter-bugs are likely to return the following year to a fresh blanket of pristine snow, oblivious to the damage created the previous year.

In the resort of Val Thorens, it’s estimated that over 30,000 cigarette butts are found beneath the lifts when the snow starts to thaw. Taking up to five years to biodegrade, the butts not only contaminate water supplies but are also ingested by animals who graze the slopes during the summer months.

French resorts do not ignore the issue, and many have a commendable supply of recycling bins in resort towns, but on-piste waste disposal remains an issue, where the presence of bins is not a particularly practical or aesthetically appealing option, not to mention potentially hazardous for skiers and boarders.

We can’t really blame the ski-resorts or tour operators for this one, although they could be encouraged to follow the lead of some US resorts and ban smoking on chair lifts altogether. But is it really too much to ask skiers and boarders to take litter back to their chalets and dispose of it there? And thanks to a rather bespoke range of portable ashtrays available nowadays, it need not mean smelling of decomposing rubbish in your back-pack all day - Keep Britain Tidy has the low down on some of the coolest.

So it seems there’s so much room for redressing the balance between environment and exploitation within the ski industry but the good news is that there’s much that we as skiers and boarders can do directly, and with immediate impact. By not fuelling the demand for unseasonal snowfall, considering alternative travel options to flying and by taking greater responsibility for our own waste, we’re already moving closer to the reality of skiing green.

Luckily, there’s plenty of momentum behind this move. Compared to other commercial ventures, the majority of people involved in the ski industry, whether chalet owners, tour operators or first time skiers, there’s a genuine desire to conserve nature’s beloved mountains. We just need a firm reminder and a push in the right direction…

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Friday, 3 December 2010

High Hopes for Google Earth Engine

New forest monitoring platform 'Google Earth Engine' launched this week. Their are hopes that the cloud sharing engine will strengthen international trust and will be used by researchers and policy makers worldwide.

With the depletion of tropical forests thought to be responsible for around 17% of our greenhouse gas emissions, forest protection is ever high on the agenda.

Effectively measuring the success of conservation schemes is vital but can be expense, timely and difficult to monitor by land, due to obstacles such as corruption and illegal logging that purvey in areas such as the Amazon, Indonesia and Congo Basin.

Earlier this week, reported that Google Inc have recently launched ‘Google Earth Engine’, a platform which takes satellite forest images and uses cloud computing through shared data centres to allow scientists to instantly monitor the forests from computers around the globe.

Google believe that that the tool will valuable to carbon traders, policy makers, and researchers, as well as speeding cooperation in the global forest conservation and climate change plan, named ‘reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation’, or REDD.

REDD is an international agreement that involves wealthier countries financially rewarding poorer nations for forest restoration. At last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen, rich nations, including the US, Japan and Norway promised $3.5 billion, to fund the development of REDD.

Google Earth Engine will not only cut the costs of monitoring the forests but will also allow both donor and developing countries access to exactly the same tools and data. It’s hoped that this sharing platform will strengthen trust and international negotiations.

Read the full article here

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Thursday, 2 December 2010

Love the snow? Try the Arctic

There are two kinds of people. Those who, after three days of snowball fights and frozen toes are sick and tired of the white stuff, and those who just can't get enough. If you're in the later group, I've got just the thing...

How about spending a couple of weeks, a month, or even two whole months in the stuff, learning real polar survival skills? You'd be mastering the art of crossing glaciers in a pair of crampons, finding out how to deter a polar bear, practice ice-ace arresting and crevasse rescue and could even try your hand at ice-climbing.

You don't have to be a mountaineering expert or polar guru, in fact all you need is a bit of drive and enthusiasm, and a love of being out in the open. Anyone from the age of 16-23 can apply as a Young Explorer, and adults with experience might like to consider leading.

The British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) are the 'Daddies' of Arctic adventure and have been running polar expeditions since the 1930s. You can choose from a 3 week or 5 week Arctic Adventure, 2 week Arctic Skills or Environmental Studies expedition, or for those up for a challenge, the 2 month Extreme Arctic Gap Year Expedition.

Check out the website or contact to find out more!

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£2500 BSES bursaries available to the North East

In addition to offering bursaries in the Channel Islands, The British Schools Exploring Society (BSES), based at the Royal Geographical Society London, has also secured funding of £2500 for young people aged 18 and over, who are residents of the North East.

Lucy Grewcock, a marketing coordinator with BSES will be speaking at schools, colleges and youth groups in December and January to inform students of how they can get involved and apply for a bursary. Offered on a first-come-first-served basis, the bursaries are available to residents of the North East, who apply for BSES Extreme Arctic 2011.

This two month long 'Gap Year' trip is open to anyone aged between 18 and 23, and gives young people the opportunity to learn essential Arctic survival skills such as polar bear defence, ice-axe arresting and cravasse rescue whilst staying in the comfort of a guest-house in Norway's Svalbard archipelago, before heading deeper into the Arctic wilderness to complete adventure and research phases of their expedition.

The expedition departs the UK on in April 2011.

If you're up for the challenge, check of the finer details of the trip at or contact

Schools or youth groups that would like to find out more or book at talk should contact

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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

How to build an igloo

There's loads of snow outside and it's still falling, school's closed or you're off work... there's only one thing to do...BUILD AN IGLOO!

Watching the experts build an igloo
Now, building a safe, good looking igloo is going to require a bit of effort and a lot of snow. The best people to learn from is from the people who traditionally live in them - Inuits. Take a look at this BBC clip to see how it's done:

Making bricks to build your igloo
You Probably noticed how he used 'wind slab' and you may be patting at the snow outside and watching it poof away in the wind, thinking "this ain't wind slab!" So you're going to have to make some....

Do this by packing snow densely into a square/rectangular frame (use pieces of wood or strong cardboard) and leave to re-freeze for as long as poss (even overnight). You could even add a spritz of water to it if your snow is very dry and powdery.

Building the shape of your igloo
When your slabs are ready, saw them out and start to build you igloo. You should aim to build it like a snail shell, starting at the bottom and winding up.

Great step by step guides= for building an igloo
For a detailed step by step guide with diagrams, this is by far the best I've found There's even a link to Bear Gryll's making an igloo, if you're a fan!

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Monday, 29 November 2010

Responsible Christmas Shopping – is it possible?

There are so many things the ‘green’ shopper has to think about these days; reducing your carbon footprint, supporting local and ethical businesses AND getting buying something’s that’s just right … is all this actually possible?!

Tom Cox, founder of brand new website claims to have found the answer…

Reducing your carbon footprint
15gifts is an online shopping service which works with efficient and ethical gift companies that deliver directly to your door; no petrol needed to trudge endlessly to the shops and back. 15gifts also source their products from within the UK, so don’t encourage importing from abroad and splurging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Supporting local and ethical businesses
All the sellers on 15gifts are handpicked for the quality of their gifts rather than the popularity of their brand name. Tom Cox thinks it’s ‘about time’ that smaller, under-sung businesses should be put on an equal footing with big names such as the Tate Gallery and Red Letter Days. “We recognize that the perfect gift could just as much come from a household name as an un-known artist. So long as they offer genuinely good gifts and great service, they’re invited to join 15gifts”.

Getting something that’s just right
15gifts is the UK’s first intelligent gift recommendation service and only shopping website that is powered by the people who use it – it learns from the likes and dislikes of similar people throughout the country, to find unique gift ideas which perfectly match the recipient.

That’s all good and well, but does the site actually work? Only in its third week of launch, 15gifts has already been featured as ‘the website - in demand’ in the Mail on Sunday’s Live magazine and has been dubbed as ‘a lifesaver’ by But of course, the only way to really find out is to have a go for yourself…


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Sunday, 28 November 2010

£2500 BSES bursaries available to Channel Island Students

The British Schools Exploring Society (BSES), based at the Royal Geographical Society London, has secured bursaries of £2500 for young people aged 18 and over, who are residents of the Channel Islands.

The bursaries, offered on a first-come-first-served basis, are available to residents of the Channel Islands, who apply for BSES Extreme Arctic 2011.

This two month long 'Gap Year' trip is open to anyone aged between 18 and 23, and gives young people the opportunity to learn essential Arctic survival skills such as polar bear defence, ice-axe arresting and cravasse rescue whilst staying in the comfort of a guest-house in Norway's Svalbard archipelago, before heading deeper into the Arctic wilderness to complete adventure and research phases of their expedition.

The expedition departs the UK on in April 2011.

If you're up for the challenge, check of the finer details of the trip at or contact

For travel journalism and copywriting services visit

Thursday, 25 November 2010

RYA Go Green!

This month, the RYA launched their new book, aimed at 7-12 year olds, entitled ‘RYA Go Green!’. Researched and written by author, artict and experienced sailor Claudia Myatt, this illustrated book promotes environmental awareness of our planet’s water resources, yet steers purposefully away from ‘preaching’ about environmental impacts.

Claudia describes the book as starting ‘big’ and then homing right in. It takes youngsters on a journey from the very beginnings of the planet, when it’s thought there were no oceans at all, before taking a closer look at shorelines, rivers, our homes and, finally, the water inside out bodies.

Working alongside children during the creation of the book, Claudia hope that it will inspire the ‘scientists of the future’. She suggests that by getting people to understand how things work is the key to driving environmental awareness. She believes that every child, and preferably adult, should read this book, and that it’s as important for those who live near an ocean as those who don’t.

An official launch will be held in March 2011at the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show in London, but the book is available to pre-order now from the RYA and will be delivered when stocks arrive in the New Year.

For more details, visit the RYA

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Places available for gap-year students on BSES Svalbard Expedition

Gap-year students with a lust for adventure and a passion for environmental science are urged to apply for the last few places for The British Schools Exploring Society’s Extreme Arctic expedition to Svalbard this Spring. The young explorers will be working alongside highly qualified scientists to conduct glacial geomorphology and phrenology studies, contributing to long-term projects concerning the measurement of key indicators of climate change.

BSES’ press release:

Last few places available for Arctic adventure of a lifetime
November 18, 2010

Gap-year students with a lust for adventure and a passion for environmental science are urged to apply for the last few places for The British Schools Exploring Society’s Extreme Arctic expedition to Svalbard this Spring.

Svalbard, a far-flung snowy archipelago on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, is just 600 miles from the North Pole. At 78 degrees north, the average temperature on arrival in April is -20C, with the islands already experiencing 24 hour daylight.

Living in tents and snow caves in sub-zero temperatures, the young explorers will be taught how to survive in the extreme cold before venturing further afield as weather improves, allowing access to unspoiled landscapes as far as the eye can see. Mountaineering, cross-country skiing and travelling with pulks across the mountain tops, valleys, and tundra, the team will experience the vast expanse of astounding natural beauty, with the freedom, under the guidance of world-class leaders, to explore wherever they choose.

The young explorers will also be working alongside highly qualified scientists to conduct glacial geomorphology and phrenology studies, contributing to long-term projects concerning the measurement of key indicators of climate change. In addition, an ornithological survey will also be undertaken, gathering and collating data on some of the indigenous species.

Those taking part will have to be physically fit, enthusiastic and resourceful in order to comfortably live under canvas for the duration of the expedition and to bear the mental and physical hardships of such an adventure.

The young explorers will benefit from contact with highly experienced volunteer leaders from the fields of education, industry, medicine and the armed forces, who will ensure that the expedition works to a professional standard so that ambitious scientific and adventurous training objectives can be safely undertaken.

Any young people inspired by this opportunity, brave enough to take on the challenge and keen to experience the adventure of a lifetime should see more details or contact Lucy Grewcock or Charlie Masding at

For travel journalism and copywriting services visit

Monday, 22 November 2010

Over 200 killed in Cambodia Water Festival

The BBC have just reported that over 200 people have been killed in a stampede during the Phnom Penh Water Festival in Cambodia.

Following a concert on the final day of the festival, several members of the crowd fell unconscious, allegedly causing panic in the crowd, which lead to a stampede across a bridge, causing people to become crushed and fall into the water.

Over 2 milllion people had been expected at the three-day festival, which celebrates the end of Cambodia’s Monsoon season.

Read the full story here

Article also published by Responsible Travel News

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Fishermen in Scotland's western Isles campaign over coral reef protection

Today the Scottish Herald reported that Fishermen in the Western Isles have accused Scottish National Heritage of ‘cultural imperialism’ . The accusation was made over plans for a new conservation area at sea that they claim will have a devastating impact on jobs and the local economy, particularly to local fishermen in the prawn industry.

The group Southern Hebrides Against Marine Environmental Designations (SHAMED) will fight the proposed designation of a site around East Mingulay as a new marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which has already been approved by the Scottish Government.

Aimed at protecting a rare coral reef, East Mingulay is the only location inside UK waters to feature the cold-water coral Lophelia Pertusa and scientists have identified at least 400 species living within the reef complex.

Around 900 local people have signed a petition opposing the plans, with fisherman directly influenced by the plans insisting that they strive to develop the renewable side of fishing and have no qualms about protecting the reefs, but that the conservation area will cut them off from important fishing areas.

Local fisherman claim that economic and cultural objections are being ignored and John Hermse, of the Mallaig and North West Fishermen’s Association, accused the government of enacting a policy of “cultural imperialism”, adding: “The contemporary movement towards environmentalism at any cost, threatens the fragile existence of the traditional communities of rural Scotland and does so without robust scientific evidence that the environment will be any better preserved as a result.”

Read the full article here

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Sunday, 21 November 2010

BSES Himalayas on youtube

Footage of the British Schools Exploring Society's 2010 Himalayas trip is now available for public viewing on youtube: click here to view.

The British Schools Exploring Society's Himalayas 2010 expedition witnessed the devastation caused by heavy rains and flooding in Ladakh. This meant that, in addition to conducting field work in the Thanglasgo and Palzampiu valley, hiking with Sherpas in the Tanjarta valley and summiting the 6000m mount Dawa, the young BSES volunteers worked on several successful projects, run in conjunction with local villages:

One set up a medical clinic [to care for victims of recent flooding]; a second assisted with repairs of the local water supply; the third project made visits to schools in nearby villages; and the fourth involved transporting stones for the repair and rebuilding of damaged bridges. All projects are proved a fantastic success and are provided the Young Explorers with a personal development opportunity potentially more significant than any summit attempt would provide them.

To discover more about the 2010 expedition take a look at footage of this year’s team or read the expedition blog.

To find out how to get involved with the 2011 expedition, email, or take a look at and choose ‘exploring’.

£1000 BSES funding for the Channel Islands and North East

The Royal Geographical's Society affiliate charity, The British Schools Exploring Society, is offering young people in the Channel Islands and North-East £1000 towards expedition costs.

The British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) has been running expeditions to extreme locations for 16-23 year olds since the 1930s. Most expeditions run during the school summer holidays for three or five weeks, offering young people the opportunity to explore the Arctic wilderness, Himalayan mountains, Amazon rainforest, Oman desert or Namibia's savannah.

Older students have the opportunity of spending extended periods of time in the Arctic or desert, on longer gap-year projects, and can opt for specialist expeditions such as 'Arctic Skills' and 'Polar Nights'.

BSES expeditions are called 'adventures with a purpose', meaning that environmental responsibility and research are an integral part of all trips. From monitoring glacier retreat to collecting data on river dolphins and caiman populations, all BSES conservation research is published, presented and archived at The Royal Geographical Society.

In addition to ongoing research and contributions to the society, BSES gives young people first hand experience and direct interaction with some of the most pressing global concerns of the 21st century.

Anyone aged 16 or over can apply for a place on an expedition and learn about fund-raising techniques. With BSES's strong ethos that no-one should be excluded from opportunities, to assist students in the North East, £1000 funding in now available to each student to apply for on a first-come-first-served basis. Young people in the Channel islands are also eligible to apply for this funding, to assist with additional travel costs they will incur flying to the UK to embark on their adventures. For students based outside the North East and Channel Islands, significant support and grants are also available to assist young people in meeting their expedition costs.

Find out more by visiting or contact to ask for expedition details.

This article was also posted at

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 is Top Rated Site

This month, was rated one of the top websites of the month by online guide, 'whats good on the web'.

The glowing review of this brand new, intelligent gift recommendation and reminder tool hailed the slick usability of this 'life tool' and the quality of it's hand-picked gift selection.

'What's good on the web' decided that ' is going to be a lifesaver for men', who 'don’t have a great deal of imagination' and 'more often than not get totally the wrong thing'

See for yourself at

Read the full review here

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Jersey teenager signs up for the Arctic

16 year old boy makes plans to head to the Arctic with the British Schools Exploring Society

Blue ventures wins responsible tourism award 2010

Since 2004 the Responsible Tourism Awards, organised by, have called on travelers to nominate the very best organisations, the most dedicated individuals and the most committed destinations in the tourism industry to be recognised for the most prestigious Awards of their kind in the world.

At the 2010 Awards yesterday, Blue Ventures won the 2010 volunteer tourism category, for the sixth consecutive year, recognised for its commitment to using responsible volunteer tourism to support grassroots marine conservation and community development projects in some of the world's poorest countries.

"It's a huge honour for our work to have been celebrated in this prestigious award for six years running" said Kathleen Edie, Blue Ventures' volunteer coordinator. "This global recognition shows the extent to which Blue Ventures continues to lead the field of volunteer tourism”.

Managed from headquarters in London, this funding supports a team of over 50 full time conservationists working on grass-roots conservation programmes in Madagascar, Belize and Malaysia.

Commenting on Blue Ventures' record success in the awards, the judges announced “Blue Ventures is an example of how social initiatives can contribute to local livelihood diversification, and support community resilience in the face of upheaval. In 2009 their project in Madagascar was threatened by the political crisis and many organisations chose to pull out of the country. Testament to their principles, Blue Ventures stayed committed to the project, with head office staff in London taking a 25% pay cut to ensure the maintenance of the jobs in Madagascar.”

Read full press release here
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Monday, 1 November 2010

Explore 2010

The annual expedition & fieldwork planning weekend is being hosted at the Royal Geographical Society, London from Friday 11th to Sunday 13th of November.

Three days of presentations, workshops, exhibitions and networking opportunities will be delivered by over 100 leading field scientists and explorers. The weekend kicks off on Friday with a 'pre-Explore lecture' from Pen Hadlow and the Catlin Arctic Survey. The weekend goes on to cover a huge range of talks and workshops for novices and experienced explorers, on areas as diverse as 'writing for newspapers and magazines', 'Polar & Arctic Environments', 'Education Projects', 'Bicycle Expeditions' and much much more.

Delegates include the Earthwatch Institute, BSES Expeditions, the Heart of Borneo Project and Connection Communities Worldwide, with lectures and workshops hosted by an impressive array of speakers, such as Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop (Digital Explorer), Ben Gorelick (Mountaineering Training School), James McNeill (ITV News' Ice Warrior Reporer) and Rita Gardner (Director of the RGS).

To find out more, visit the RGS Explore website, where you can also book tickets: RGS Explore

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Lost Land of the Tiger

If you’ve missed the BBC 1 series ‘The Lost Land of the Tiger’ this week, make sure you catch up on BBC iplayer…

In the mountains of Bhutan, battling dense tropical jungle, crippling altitude sickness, rotting food supplies and hailstones the size of golf balls, the BBC's team of explorers, scientists and camera-men, filmed tigers in the mighty Himalayas at 4,000m above sea level - an elevation previously thought to inhospitable for tigers to inhabit.

With the BBC claiming its film was the first evidence that the animals could live and breed in the highest mountain range on earth, hopes have been raised for a high-altitude sanctuary that could provide a refuge for the endangered animal. The discovery has initiated ambitious plans to study and conserve Bhutan’s wildlife by creating a series of ecological corridors.

"This is such a significant discovery for tiger survival," said wildlife cameraman, Gordon Buchanan. "The tigers' behaviour suggests they are breeding and I am convinced that there must now be cubs somewhere on this mountain."

Conservationists believe that Bhutan’s sparsely populated, extreme-altitude habitat is relatively unthreatened by human development and could provide a ‘tiger corridor’ that could link animals in other parts of Asia. With over 70% of the country covered in forest, strong Buddhist beliefs, limited tourism and very little exploitation , Bhutan is potentially one of the safest habitats on earth for one of world’s most threatened species. Knowing that the world’s largest cat can live and breed at such an altitude gives massive hope to tiger populations worldwide.

This breaking research has been key in filling in knowledge gaps about Bhutan;s tigers, but there is still much work to be done. Over the past century, species of tiger have vanished from Bali, Java and the Middle-East, with populations of the Sumatran and South China tigers now at critical levels. In neighbouring India, China and Nepal, habitat loss and hunting have dangerously depleted the tiger populations, and globally, there are thought to be just over 3,000 tigers left in the wild - a 5% drop from the start of the last century.

Image taken from
If you missed the series, watch on BBC iplayer

Related links:Read Justin Francis' blog 'India bans Tiger Tourism' at Responsible Travel's blog

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The new Nissan Leaf - Pricey!

The new Nissan ‘Leaf’ car is now in production and is due to arrive with its first British customers by March next year. The world’s first publically available zero-emission car produces absolutely no carbon, running entirely on battery power. To ensure drivers don’t get caught out, the in-car computer screen warns when battery power is getting low and directs drivers to the nearest charging station. There’s also huge savings to be made, in terms of running costs; maintenance costs are expected to be 15% lower than conventional cars, parking’s free in certain areas, drivers are exempt from congestion charges and travel costs should work out at around £1.70 per 60 miles.

‘Sounds fantastic! What’s the snag?’ That would be the massive price tag…

At £28,990, the Leaf will retail at a similar price to the new, super slick (and super -fast) BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics – a tough decision for some. Another drawback is that the Leaf will have a maximum range of around 100 miles before battery power runs out. This parameter was set following research showing that the majority of UK drivers travel less than 60 miles per day. Yes, the range could be extended, but with the lithium-ion battery already one of the most expensive elements of the car, a further price hike would be tough to swallow.

A UK government scheme currently offers assistance for the first 8,600 petrol-free cars sold – a massive reduction on the initial projections that the grant would be available for 43,000 vehicles. This means that buyers of the first Leafs, will pay £23,900 – a saving of £5000. There are concerns that, once this funding has run out, consumers will be put off by the hefty price. Watch this space…

Monday, 6 September 2010

Adventure Sports Guide to Canada

My Country Guide to Canada, published by Adventure Sports Holidays:

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Serengeti Highway

Mention ‘African safari’ and most people think ‘Serengeti’. The setting for Disney’s Lion King and the most iconic savannah biome in the world is central to Tanzania’s cultural heritage and has been protected by its people for centuries. The integrity of the 1,476,300 hectare park is under threat, with plans to send a high-speed, commercial highway through its north-eastern territory, connecting the Lake Victoria area with Eastern Tanzania. Recently approved by Tanzania’s government, an Environment and Social Impact Assessment, to be completed by the end of 2010 will determine the overall viability of the project, and construction is due to begin in early 2012.

The approval has been long awaited by some; twenty years ago, submissions to build the road were rejected on the grounds that it would cause environmental degradation and, following recommendations from an EIA, the World Bank turned down funding.

Now, the 2012 highway is to be funded by the Tanzanian Government and the section from Serengeti to Musoma, expected to cost around £144 million, is part of a larger plan to link a proposed new port at Tanga to Musoma on Lake Victoria via Arusha and Lake Natron’s shores.

Supporters of the project say that the road is essential in meeting public and economic needs. Mr Deusdedit Kakoko, of the Tanzania Roads Agency, says that the current route connecting Lake Victoria and Eastern Tanzania requires drivers to travel 418km to the South, to avoid the UNESO World Heritage Site and Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ms Shamsa Mwangunga, insists that that the road would not interfere with wildlife migration patterns or the wider Serengeti eco-system. Ms Mwangunga stated that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has already proved the feasibility of the project and added that “We’re all keen to preserve our natural resources…We’ll never compromise on that”.

The most pressing concern is that the road will disturb one of the biggest migration patterns in the world - the annual movement of 1.8 million wildebeest, as well as that of tens of thousands of antelope, elephant and zebra, between the Mara and Serengeti watering and grazing grounds.

The Frankfurt Zoological Society recently warned that if wildebeest are cut off from watering holes in dry season areas, their population could decline by around two thirds and potentially bring an end to ‘the greatest migration on earth’. The knock on effects of such a massive change would entirely alter the landscape of the Serengeti.

There are also fears that the route, which arcs from east to west across the north-eastern edge of the Serengeti, will massively damage the tourism industry on which Tanzania is so dependent. The high-speed route will also provide increased opportunity to poachers, who will have easy access to endangered species such as the black rhino – prized for its ivory horn.

Lying in one of the world’s Endemic Bird Areas, the park is home to around 500 species of birds, including 34 raptors, 6 vultures, and groups of over 20,000 water-birds. Cutting through a major flamingo breeding area, major international bird conservation groups, such as the RSPB, are amongst those campaigning against the construction. BirdLife International (a network of over 100 international conservation NGOs) have expressed fears over the impact the road will have on biodiversity, partly through road kill of mammals and scavengers. In addition, Birdlife uphold that Tanzania has an obligation to fulfil biological diversity commitments to the World Heritage Convention.

Campaigners do not deny the need for better transport routes but insist that slicing through this sensitive area of the park is not necessary. Dave Blanton, founder of The International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, is a major supporter of the coalition group ‘Save The Serengeti’, and emphasized that the campaign is not an ‘animals vs. people’ protest but one that favours an alternate route which would promote economic development whilst preserving Tanzania’s ‘greatest natural treasure’.

Upholding the cultural and political values of stewardship and sustainability, Save the Serengeti is an alliance of conservation groups who are campaigning hard to oppose the road. Despite government denial, they maintain that the proposed route cuts directly through a major wildebeest migration pathway and insist that a more economically and environmentally viable southern alternative route exists, which would skirt the reserve and avoid the immense damage of the northern route. Amongst others, their petition, was signed in June by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), whose president, Shannon Stowell expressed the association’s great concern and shares hopes for an alternative route to be considered.

To find out more, visit Save The Serengeti

Photo taken from

Seychelles and Vietnam Sign Sustainability Partnership

Earlier this month, Hanoi hosted its Second International Forum, on the theme ‘Vietnam-Africa: Cooperation on Sustainable Development’. The conference emphasized Vietnam’s efforts to develop and improve cooperation with African countries and Communities. A key outcome of the event was the signing of an agreement between Vietnam and the Seychelles.

Speaking on behalf of the Seychelles at the two day event was Minister Adam, who expressed the importance of cooperation in food security, agriculture and fisheries, and emphasised the importance of tourism, education, and training.

Minister Adam also conveyed the Seychelles’ view of the importance of maintaining open and safe maritime routes between Africa and Vietnam for trade, fisheries, research, and tourism, calling for greater cooperation from maritime and trading nations around the Indian Ocean.

Following discussions with Mr. Pham Gia Khiem, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Seychelles signed an agreement Vietnam concerning economic, cultural, scientific, and technical co-operation between the two countries. An emphasis on collaboration in agricultural, health, tourism and military affairs, and the establishment of air and sea links were discussed.

Following the agreement, the first joint commission will meet in Seychelles in early 2011.

Image Taken from The Foreign Press Centre

Monday, 16 August 2010

UK Heritage Sites to be Blacklisted?

Earlier this month, UNESCO warned that two UK Overseas Territories, Henderson Island – an unihabitated raised reef island, in the South East Pacific, and the Gough and Inaccessible Islands – one of world’s least disrupted islands and marine eco-systems in the south Atlantic, could be blacklisted.

Following a recent meeting in Brasilia, UNESCO say that the natural qualities for which these islands are listed, are coming under jeopardy, as poor management has lead to several of the islands’ native birds becoming Critically Endangered; non-native rats and mice are killing the islands’ unique birds species, including Murphy's petrel and the wandering albatross.

Henderson Island received World Heritage Site status in 1988 because of its pristine phosphate reserves and untouched bird life, including endemic species such as the Henderson Crake, Henderson Fruit Dove, Henderson Lorikeet and Henderson Reed-warbler. If rats are allowed to continue pillaging the eggs and killing Henderson’s chicks, the future status of the island will be seriously threatened.

UNESCO have also said that the Gough Islands, which owe their world heritage status to having no introduced species, will be added to the ‘danger list’ by 2014 if non-native house mice have not been removed.

Tim Stowe, International Director of the RSPB, expressed embarrassment on behalf of the UK, in falling behind in its duties.

Plans are now in place to remove the rodents, with fundraising well underway. However, unless the full £1.7 million needed is raised by October, the rats cannot be dealt with in 2011 and another 25,000 chicks are likely to lose their lives.

Many conservationists believe that the UK government should be taking greater responsibility for safeguarding the wildlife of the UKs overseas territories. Richard Porter, of Birdlife International, commented that ‘2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. Wouldn't it be a great boost if the new UK coalition government could attend the UN Biodiversity Summit in Japan, in October, and lead by example by finding the cash and commitment to fund our unique wildlife treasures.'

Downe House Turned Down

The application for Darwin’s home in Downe, Kent, to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site has been has been put on the backburner by the World Heritage Committee.

Responsible Travel News reported in July that, following nomination by the UK government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Downe House was being considered, alongside 32 other applicants, for UNESCO World Heritage Status, at the 34th committee meeting, held in Brasilia (read 'UK Submits Downe House for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status' here)

However, it was announced at the meeting in Brasilia, that greater investigation and more in-depth analysis of the site was needed before offering World Heritage Status. Not to be deterred, the bid partnership are taking a positive outlook; pleased at the recognition given to the site, they hope to re-nominate Darwin’s home and workplace in the future and are now looking at ways in which to strengthen their application.

Photograph taken from International Academy of Pathology

India to Reintroduce Cheetahs

The Wildlife Institute and Wildife Trust of India have recommended three sites as the best places to re-introduce 18 cheetah into India.Scientist Dr Y V Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India, reports that, mainly due to overhunting, the cheetah is India’s only large carnivore to have been eradicated from the country and have not been seen since 1967. Experts have decided to redress the balance for both ecological as well as ethical reasons; it is thought that the cheetahs will play a large role in restoring India’s grasslands and creating an ecological balance.

Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environment and Forests compared this function to that of other large cats: ’the way tigers restore forest ecosystems, snow leopards restore mountain ecosystem, the cheetah will restore grasslands’

Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh and Shahgarh Landscape in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan have been recommended as sites for reintroduction, sites that have been selected following detailed reports on their abundance of prey, forest resources and local community’s attitudes towards wildlife

It is also expected that the reintroduction program is likely to boost tourism in these areas, benefitting local communities.

Read the full article at Wildlife Extra News

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Green light for Cotswolds 'eco' service station?

Plans to develop Britain’s greenest service station by 2013 are set to go ahead in the Cotswolds, on Junctions 11 and 12 on the M5. Pinpointed as a ‘priority area’ by the highways agency, the site lies in a 50 mile gap between services at Ross-on-Wye and the South Gloucestershire border. Aiming to keep carbon emissions at an absolute minimum, the goal is to use five times less energy than a conventional service station and to take at least 10% of their energy from on-site renewable technologies.

The plans of the £35m project include a grass roof, vegetable patch, onsite recycling and composting facilities and a bus service for workers. Charging points for electric cars and bio-fuel pumps are to be featured and the fast food restaurants which are commonplace in most service stations will be banned, favouring local produce and farmhouse roasts, with 70% of meat, dairy, eggs and bakery products sourced from the local area. The ‘Gloucester Gateway’ project will echo its rural surroundings, using timber from the Forest of Dean and aims to blend in with the Cotswold countryside, so as not to create a blot on the landscape.

In addition to its environmental commitment, the company, Westmorland, who have already experienced great success with their service station in Tebay on the M6 in Cumbria, promises to donate around £500,000 a year to local charities over the next two decades.

Those in favour of the project say that the services will bring in around 300 jobs when completed, plus 200 temporary jobs in the construction phase. Local farms should also see a boost in trade, as the aim is to source much of its produce from a 30 mile radius.

However, following meetings with Stroud district council, environmental groups are fiercely opposing the ‘eco-service-station’, claiming that the development will scar the surrounding landscape on the site at Onger's Farm, Brookthorpe (a designated area of outstanding natural beauty), and fear that by improving facilities for motorists and, it will in-fact encourage more people to drive and potentially even attract them to visit the new attraction. In addition, the carbon emissions and noise pollution produced during construction will disrupt wildlife habitats and further damage the environment.

A disapproving Gloucestershire Green Party Councillor, John Marjoram, expressed that, despite an ‘eco-friendly design’, it was, nonetheless, still a motorway service station, designed to make car travel more convenient, a view shared by the site's editor, Mark Goodge, who described the controversial idea of an environmentally friendly service station as an oxymoron.

Lucy's article was also featured on

Image taken from

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Macchu Pichu - A Victim of its own Success

Earlier this month, The World Heritage Committee requested that “reinforced monitoring” should be applied to certain properties on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, voicing grave concern over governance of Macchu Pichu, highlighting urgent problems of deforestation, landslide risk, uncontrolled urban development and illegal access to the sanctuary. UNESCO demonstrated serious concerns over the future protection of the site and have considered putting Machu Picchu on its list of World Heritage Sites in Danger, entitling it to special attention and international assistance.

Machu Picchu is perched 8000ft above sea level in Peru’s South Western Andes. Before its discovery in 1911, this ancient Inca citdel had previously escaped destruction by Spanish Conquistadores but since its rise to international fame over the past 50 years, a new wave of invaders has threatened its longevity; like so many marvels of the world, Machu Picchu is in danger of being loved to death by tourists.

The unprecedented amount of tourism it receives is largely due to its international status as a ‘must see’ attraction. It was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981, spurring waves of visitors to travel to Peru to see the ancient ruin, but the tidal wave came in 1983, when the 500 year old site gained UNESCO World Heritage status and the tourists began arriving in swarms. Then in 2007, Machu Picchu was named as one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’ and, with this globally nominated status, the number of visitors doubled to 5000 per day, levels which spurred fears that the ruins could be destroyed by irresponsible tourist to a point of no-return.

As always, there is an economic verses conservation battle here. Around 858,211 tourists visited Machu Picchu in 2008 and Peru’s National Chamber of Tourism estimates that tourism brings in around $500,000 per day. UNESCO frequently fight battles to halt further developments, some of which have been successful; admission prices have been increased, an application for cable car access was turned down and in 2006, a proposal to allow flights was denied, following the protests of leading environmentalists, who said that they would cause irreparable damage to the ruins and rare wildlife. However, there are many recommendations that have been ignored: UNESCO suggest that visitor numbers should be cut to 800 per day, and that soft shoes should be warn to reduce the impact of scrambling over the ruins. A major concern is further uncontrolled development and unrestricted access to the site and in 1999 UNESCO suggested that tourist infrastructure was reduced, another recommendation that has so far been ignored.

A victim of its own success, Macchu Pichu is undoubtedly an astonishing construction and, despite the battles between environmentalists, governments, tour operators, conservationists and tourists, all parties share the common belief that the site is one of remarkable value. Sustainability is vital to all interest groups but some are more willing than others to make short term economic cuts in order to achieve longevity. The path to achieve this goal is unclear; would joining the ‘World Heritage Sites in Danger List’ be beneficial to Macchu Pichu’s preservation, or would it again spur a new wave of tourists desperate to catch the ruins before their original character is destroyed forever? Hands up if this article has made you rush to book a flight to Peru before it's too late!

Image taken from