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Scotland’s West Coast offers 33 sites to spot Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises from Land
Thanks to the launch of the United Kingdom’s first dolphin and whale trail, travelers to Scotland can now journey between 33 designated sites on the country’s west coast to spot marine wildlife from land. Known as the Hebridean Whale Trail, www.whaletrail.org, the venture is the result of a two-year development project from the Scottish conservation group Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust which has worked for more than 20 years to preserve marine mammals. The trail’s website includes routes, transport options among some of Scotland’s most picturesque islands and site details. On-site interpretation at key locations will explain which species of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – might be seen.
“Ultimately we want people to experience the thrill of watching a fin breaking the surface, and the challenge of identifying which type of whale they’ve seen, sharing that experience with others, and learning about the threats these animals face in our seas,” said Alison Lomax, director of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
Navigating the Hebridean Whale Trail website, and figuring out what to look for in the water is fairly straightforward. To start your research, choose a section of the Hebrides archipelago: Lewis and Harris, Uist and Barra, North West Highlands, Skye and the Small Isles, Inner Hebrides, or the Southern Hebrides and Clyde. Then, click into one of the 33 specific destinations identified on the online map, where you can find transit directions, information about accessibility, and things you may see offshore. For instance, look for humpback whales off Gallan Head on the Isle of Lewis, or bottlenose dolphins in Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran. Because the sites are spread across multiple islands and Scotland’s west coast mainland, visitors would be wise to sketch out their route before they hit the ground.
While sightings of whales and dolphins can never be guaranteed, the Hebridean seas are exceptionally rich in wildlife. Twenty-three species of whale, dolphin and porpoise have been recorded in Hebridean waters. That’s more than a quarter of all known cetacean species found worldwide. The Hebrides is also an important area for other marine megafauna like basking sharks, seals and otters. Some of these species live in the area year-round while others migrate through these waters year after year. Rare and elusive species have been seen here too, which includes visitors like the fin whale. The best time to try to spot them is from May to September.
For up-to-date whale-spotting activity, download the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s free app, Whale Track, which has a live sightings map and whale and dolphin ID guide. It also lets users report their own sightings.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Croatia’s Katarina Line shows how “small steps lead to big changes”
If you are old enough to remember astronaut Neil Armstrong’s declaration from the Moon in 1969, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, then it is your turn to make one small step. Katarina Line, www.katarina-line.com, is challenging its guests and other cruise operators to take some simple steps for the environment by reducing plastic usage. This challenge is to reduce single-use plastic waste every day everywhere. Say “no” if offered a single use plastic spoons, straws, glasses, and reuse your plastic bags, buy food without plastic wrapping or packages. When going ashore on a cruise, maybe take your own shopping bag too for any purchases you make.
Leading by example, here is what Katarina Line is undertaking aboard its 60-ship fleet to help protect the Adriatic Sea and its coastal communities:
Step One: All ships now have unlimited water availability from on-board water fountains instead of water that used to be provided in single use plastic bottles.
Step Two: The Line is making sure there are more than enough glass or reusable plastic glasses for those guests that do not have their own water bottle at hand.
Step Three: Plastic straws are gone! There are many alternatives / ECO straws for this small object that is such a big polluter, or just drink from the glass or bottle with no straw needed.
Step Four: Instead of the usual four-course meals being served aboard Deluxe and Deluxe Superior vessels, Katarina Line has decided to serve three courses at the table and the fourth course buffet style as a salad and cheese bar. This is a significant step toward preventing food waste.
Future plans aboard any of Katarina Line’s NEW ECO cruises launching soon will combine cruising the Adriatic with some beach cleanup. Guests may also take part in various educational workshops about the environment along the way. These are all small steps to secure the future health of planet Earth. We’ll deal with the Moon later!
Images courtesy of Katarina Line.
Unique vacation accommodations you can exchange that are like nothing you’ve stayed in before!
HomeExchange, www.homeexchange.com is the world’s largest home exchanging community, which offers travelers a warmer, more authentic, and budget-friendly alternative to staying in traditional paid accommodations. As a reminder, the model is simple: lend your home to another family/individual for any specified period of time and in return, go stay at their home (simultaneously, or not), or simply accrue GuestPoints to use in future when you stay in another HomeExchange property as a guest. Here, HomeExchange highlights four unusual and exotic homes that you will want to consider exchanging because they’re unlike anything you’ve experienced before:
In Nova Scotia, a contemporary gem just 40 minutes from Halifax, you will find that Valentin’s “box house” is a peaceful, nature lovers residence at the end of a private road, on a little peninsula that stretches out into the bay. The house boasts private access to the bay and your own canoes for exploring. With four bedrooms, three bathrooms. and a swimming pool sheltered from the wind, this is a great place for any family to come and relax.
Located in the region of Apulia in southern Italy, discover the charming peculiarities of this Trulli home and the surrounding stone buildings of Alberobello. The owner of this jewel, Giuseppe, describes his house as rustic and close to many sought after places to visit. The sea is only a few kilometers away and the town most visited is Puglia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In British Columbia, Marcie’s treehouse was built by her husband Peter, a talented timber framer, artist and wildlife enthusiast. Heavily inspired by the fantasy world of Harry Potter, this masterpiece presents an original design with beautiful wood accents in every room. The cabin can accommodate up to 13 people with its four bedrooms, each with an independent entrance. Not far from Shuswap Lake in the province’s central interior and only five minutes from a local winery, this cabin has something to entertain each member of the family!
In Greece, Julietta’s bright apartment is located in the traditional village of Artemonas, Sifnos, in the Cyclades Islands. The breathtaking view of the island, the sea, and its beautiful garden pairs perfectly with a morning coffee or a romantic dinner. The city center is within walking distance, as are many small cafés and restaurants.
As the global leader home exchange community, HomeExchange offers authentic, sustainable, and affordable vacation opportunities for everyone to enjoy, by exchanging their homes for the vacations. After having successfully grown their first company, GuesttoGuest, they added to their portfolio in 2017 the American pioneer HomeExchange, then the Canadian EchangedeMaison, and at the beginning of 2019, NightSwapping. January of 2019 marked a turning point, when these communities were united under their flagship brand, HomeExchange.
All images courtesy of HomeExchange.
Calling All Grandparents Looking for a Five-Star Grandchild Gift!
These days the first introduction to a travel adventure for any 6 to 8 year old grandchild may well be an airport … or several airports if traveling long distances. Lonely Planet Kids’ book How Airports Work is an intriguing educational glimpse into the mysteries of airports and air flight that will be informative and fun to both children and adults. In fact, with this beautifully illustrated book with loads of informative flaps to lift, adults will discover just how little they know about the airports they fly through and the airplanes they board.
How Airports Work
By Clive Gifford; illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock, 2018
Published by Lonely Planet Kids, large board book of 24 pages
ISBN-10: 178701293X; ISBN-13: 978-1787012936
Available at local book shops or online, such as Amazon.
Where does luggage go after check-in? What happens in the control tower? How do planes actually fly? What is happening when you go through security checks? What are the most amazing (scariest) landing and take-off airport taxi ways in the world? You will also get a peek inside the airplane cockpit and discover the difference between passenger planes and cargo-carrying aircraft.
This sturdy hard cover book explores the earliest airports through to today’s giant transport hubs and ponders what airports could look like in the future. You and your young family members will never look at air travel in the same way again!
I have two seven-year-old grandsons already experienced in travel and passionate about airplanes. They have each spent endless hours pouring over copies of this book, beautifully illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock with content accurately created in consultation with airport expert, Tom Cornell. I have no doubt that it will be a keeper on their personal book shelves right into adulthood.
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” – Buddha
New U.S. National Park, first in State of Indiana
In February 2019, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park became America’s newest national park, bringing the total to 61 national parks in the United States. Located about 50 miles from Chicago, it is a 15,000-acre lakeshore area on the southern coast of Lake Michigan.
Even before this designation, the park already drew approximately 3.5 million visitors a year, making it the state’s most-visited site. However, Indiana’s tourism board is hopeful that the new designation will bring more visitors to the area from outside the region and around the world.
Known for its white sand beaches and dunes as high as 140 feet, there’s much more to experience at the new national park than sand. In fact, there are more than 1,100 native plants at Indiana Dunes (it ranks seventh in plant diversity among all of the National Park Service sites). The park includes 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, while moving inland, you can also explore prairies, swamps, bogs, oak savannas, rivers, and forests across 50 miles of hiking trails together with all the wildlife it attracts.
There is plenty of history and early culture to explore too. People have lived in the Duneland area for the last 10,000 years and there are a number of restored homestead structures to bring to life stories about settlement within the boundaries. Thanks to informed ranger presentations and displays, there are opportunities to learn how humans have adapted to and shaped the environment.
This park offers a year-round visitor experience … and yes, it does get snow in wintertime. Depending on when you visit, expect programs from stargazing with telescopes and boat tours to ranger-led history hikes and cycling tours, not to mention plenty of time to wander the lakeshore from sunrise to sunset.
Images courtesy of National Park Service Collection.
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