John Muir, the early conservationist who did so much to protect and preserve the wildernesses of America, once said: “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
A hundred years of technological progress later – it still feels true, for many of us. And, whether exploring a new landscape or revisiting a favourite beauty spot, nature travel is as popular today as ever. In fact, nature travel’s popularity was surely a factor when – in 2017 alone – travel and tourism as a whole contributed an astonishing 8.27 trillion USD to the global economy.
If you’re looking to join those already out there, read on for our tips to make the most of your time in the natural world.
Once you have an idea where you want to go, the next question should be when to do so. And the answer to that should depend on what you want to see there. Because, unlike manmade amusement parks, the environment is always changing, and what to expect there will depend on the time of year.
This can be especially important in terms of wildlife. Many birds, for example, migrate – so do double-check when they’ll definitely be in residence. And, even for those animals at your destination all year round, there are still rhythms of their life it’s best to know about – such as increased numbers (and thus visibility) in breeding season. Or, if you’re keen to see an animal’s young, research when babies will be old enough to venture into the open. Vegetation will also alter hugely across the year.
Even more practically, be aware of the usual range of weather conditions for the time of your visit, so you can pack the appropriate gear. A sudden storm in the wild is a magnificent sight – but you won’t remember it so fondly if you only brought a T-shirt with you.
The first instinct for many people, when they decide they want to get out into the wild, is just to set off and see what happens. For experienced travellers, this usually works out fine. But, if the destination in question is new to you, it’s often worth considering a guided tour – especially if the landscape in question is likely to offer challenging conditions.
The benefits of a guide are obvious – they impart intimate local knowledge to newcomers. And this goes not only for the best routes and views, but also the best places to find wildlife, to rest up, or find water. Indeed, some who fall in love with a particular corner of the world begin with a guided tour but will return again free to explore – armed with both the guide’s lessons and their own experience.
It almost seems obvious – but still bears repeating – nature holidays should be taken at their own pace.
Repeated scientific studies have shown that wandering the wilds has great health benefits, especially with regard to the exercise of the hike and taking in clean air. But you’ll minimise this de-stressing if you set an unrealistic itinerary and obsess over hitting particular targets at particular times. That’s city-thinking – leave it behind and let the trail take you.
Sadly, another urban habit to watch out for is littering. Most travelers nowadays are aware of how damaging their visit could be if they don’t take steps to minimize it. So please – store food in reusable containers, use eco-friendly toiletries and prioriti
It’s often assumed that the further you get from cities, the better the access to nature.
But this isn’t always true – and going deep into the wilderness isn’t practical for everyone. Those with families or health conditions may need to stay close to travel hubs or amenities, for instance. The good news is, there are plenty of natural environments within a short bus ride from urban areas – and, if you know where to look, even little pockets of nature inside cities themselves.No one should feel they can’t share in our planet’s beauty. But finding the right fit for you may simply be a matter of doing a bit more research.
It’s no substitute for being there, but most travellers like to take at least the occasional photograph as a keepsake of the more extraordinary places they find themselves.
As always, you’ll tend to get better results with better equipment (so long as you’ve familiarised yourself with how it works) but making a striking and memorable image is open to anyone.
Big landscape shots may lose a fair amount of detail when shot on lower-quality equipment, but lenses can boost the capabilities of most cameras (including camera-phones). Meanwhile, if you’re looking to get decent shots of wildlife, consider how long you’re willing to wait in one place to capture a shot – and how likely the colour scheme of your clothes is to alarm your subjects. Lastly, make sure you have sufficient storage for many photos (at a decent image quality). Large memory expansion cards are very affordable these days.