From photography to painting, stargazing to wildlife, having an expert guide can take travel experiences to the next level. Here are some of the best new expert-led trips...
Knowledge is everything, as the old saying goes. Travelling with an expert guide can be the key to turning a great trip into a truly unforgettable, and informative, one. From helping to unravel the mysteries behind an architectural wonder to explaining the habits of local wildlife, from improving your wild photography skills to brushing up on your stargazing, here are 10 trips with experts that will bring new dimensions to your travels...
1. Sweden, Norway & Finland
Track the lights across Arctic Europe with an aurora hunter
Crane your neck skyward and join Off the Map Travel’s aurora hunter Jonny Cooper in tracking the Grand Aurora. A leading expert on the Northern Lights, Jonny’s keen eye helps you to hunt this cosmic wonder, as you cruise Norwegian fjords, sled Finland’s wilds and visit Sweden’s Sky Station. During the day, you can herd reindeer and ride dog sleds before retiring to your ICEHOTEL.
Who: Off the Map Travel (0800 566 8901)When: 17 Mar 2017
Get all starry-eyed in Africa with an astronomer
Gaze the pitch-black canvas of the Namib Rand Nature Reserve with astronomer Rob Johnstone on ATI Holidays’ Star Gazing in Namibia tour. See everything from solar flares to the Hamburger Galaxy as Rob – with the aid of the largest mobile telescope available in the world – maps the skies above, while daytime sees you track cheetahs and leopards in the Okonjima Reserve.
Who: ATI Holidays (0808 2349378)
When: Year round
How long: 7 days
Frame the wild side with a top landscape photographer
Boost your skills on Wilderness Scotland’s Photography: Knoydart and the Small Isles trip. Leading UK landscape snapper Colin Prior guides treks across Knoydart peninsula, dispensing tips as you shoot the mirror-like Loch Coruisk and volcanic beaches of Laig Bay, hopping wild isles and spying whales and puffins en route.
Who: Wilderness Scotland (01479 420020)When: 13 & 20 May and 5 Aug 2017
Use nature as a canvas with an artist
Pencils at the ready for Steppes Travel’s Sketchbook Tour of Morocco. Artist Maxine Relton schools all-comers on capturing the wild outlines of the Atlas peaks and the bustling, chaotic souks of Marrakech, before heading west to trace the old city walls and port of Essaouira.
Who: Steppes Travel (01285 601752; steppestravel.co.uk)When: 4 May 2017
Spot birds on the White Continent with a naturalist
Explore the birdlife of the Antarctic wild on Wildfoot Travel’s Off the Beaten Track tour, spotting species in the company of naturalist and broadcaster David Lindo. Tick off petrels, albatrosses, gulls and skuas as you track the peninsula, skirting colonies of elephant seals and penguins.
Who: Wildfoot Travel (0800 195 3385)When: 8 Nov 2016
Discover the happiest place on Earth with a diplomat
Meet Thimpu’s red-robed monks, explore the rarely-trod Phobjikha Valley and wander Tiger’s Nest Monastery, all in the company of the UK’s Honorary Consul to Bhutan Michael Rutland. On Mountain Kingdoms’ Definitive Cultural Tour, you get the inside track to this remarkable land.
Who: Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400)When: 8 Apr 2017, 4 Nov 2017, 17 Dec 2017
7. Borneo, Malaysia
Join an octet of experts as well as the orang utans
Meet not just one, but eight specialists on Wildlife Worldwide’s Festival of Wildlife tour. Based in Malaysian-Borneo’s Danum Valley, team up with TV naturalists Nigel Marven and Nick Baker, photographer Nick Garbutt and others in spying gibbons, hornbills and red leaf monkeys, as well as the island’s signature orangutans.
Who: Wildlife Worldwide (01962 302086)When: 2 Jun 2017
Write your way around Andalucia with a best-selling author
Join writer and former Genesis drummer-turned-hiker Chris Stewart on A Walking Week with Inntravel. Trail Chris as he hunts down Granada’s secret spots, from the Moorish quarter of Albacín to walking the rugged Sierra Nevada, summitting the hills of Alpujarran for views across to Mulhacén, mainland Spain’s highest peak.
Who: Inntravel (01653 617002)When: 5 Nov 2016
Spot killer whales and enjoy cosmic thrills with a zoologist
You’ll spend your days on Discover The World’s Whales and Northern Lights trip, with zoologist Mark Carwardine, getting photo tips and info as you set sail for the Vesteralen Islands’ fjords, where playful whales await. By night, guides Cathy Harlow and Alexa Kershaw join you as you savour the thrill of chasing the aurora borealis. A truly wild two-fer.
Who: Discover The World (01737 214250)
When: 19 & 23 Jan 2017
How long: 4 nights
Take a dive with dolphins and a freediver
Find friendly mammals off the East African coastline on Steppes Travel's Mozambique – Freediving, Yoga and Dolphins tour. Fine tune your underwater breath-holding and swimming skills with freediver Hanli Prinsloo (pictured, top) before hunting for dolphins off the coast of Ponta Malongane. Spend your afternoons relaxing mind and muscles with yoga sessions and lend a hand to a community project that helps youngsters overcome their fear of the ocean.
Who: Steppes Travel (01285 601754)When: 30 Jan, 27 Feb & 20 Mar 2017