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On the Couch with acclaimed travel photographer Richard I'Anson

There are few corners of the world where Richard I'Anson has not photographed. His work features in over 500 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including five editions of the 'Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Photography', as well as the large format pictorials, 'Australia: 42 Great Landscape Experiences, Nepal' and 'India: essential encounters'.  He is a Master of Photography awarded by the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) and represents Canon Australia as a Canon Master Photographer.

Richard has built an enviable career on his twin passions: travel and photography. Over the past 35 years, Richard has travelled the world, amassing a substantial and compelling collection of images of people and places – in more than 90 countries on all seven continents. And when he’s not on the road, Richard lives in Sydney, Australia and runs workshops teaching all aspects of travel photography for individuals and small groups.

Over the last two decades Richard has made a significant contribution to World Expeditions' brochures and guides a number of our specialist photography trips. If you haven't yet seen the National Geographic Channel television series Tales by Light, now screening on Netflix, add the series to your watch list. Richard was one of five adventurous photographers selected for the award-winning documentary, where he provides insights into his craft and the art of telling powerful stories from images.

 

But before you click off to Netflix, have a read of the amazing destinations Richard has captured over the years and adopt some of his helpful photography tips the next time you're out on your adventure. He shares ways to improve your photo taking skills, his must-carry gear items and how he started in the business.

Being a travel photographer is something many people aspire to be, however the industry is very hard to get into. How did you start your career as a travel photographer and what advice would you give someone wanting to start a career in travel photography?

My first foray into travel photography was in 1986 when I headed overseas for seven months. I soon realised that not only was there a wonderful connection between travel and photography but that I loved to travel just as much as I loved photography. I now consider that trip, which took me through a dozen countries including China, India, Nepal, Morocco and Turkey, as my apprenticeship.

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Back at home I studied the results and realised I still had a lot to learn. Two years of intense picture taking around Australia, lots of reading on photography and studying the work of other photographers followed, as I prepared for my next big trip, two years in Asia. This second journey was clearly focused on building a comprehensive collection of photographs from across the region. When I returned to Australia I had enough material to confidently approach picture editors, publishers and travel companies (including World Expeditions) and announce myself as a travel photographer.

Travel photography is arguably the most competitive of photographic genres thanks to the fact that the subject matter is the preferred subject matter of nearly everyone with a camera, especially when they are on holiday. Aspiring photographers need to understand that travelling to take photographs with the aim of making a living is very different from taking photos while travelling.

Professional travel photography is about commitment to the image.

Nothing gets higher priority than being in the right place, at the right time, all of the time which will give you the best chance of building a large collection of images with broad geographic and subject coverage. You also have to be prepared and able to invest time and money in travel to build a substantial collection of high quality images to license as stock and to prove to potential clients that you can do the job.

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You’ve won some impressive awards over the years, what does it mean to you to be recognised as one of the world’s leading travel photographers?

It is of course gratifying to receive some recognition, particularly from industry peers, through the various awards. I’ve been in the business now for over 30 years and it’s good to know that people still relate, respond to and enjoy my photography whether it’s through the use of the images in publications or by buying my books and prints or joining a photography trip. Ultimately, I guess it means I can keep doing what I love for a bit longer.

You’ve said that you travel between 90-120 days a year. How do you manage to balance your work as a photographer with spending time actually experiencing the locations you visit?

For me there is no distinction. I have always travelled with photography as the main purpose. I actually think I experience and see way more than the average traveller because I am looking for more than the obvious sights, I often spend longer in places and often revisit places at different times of day.

Some of your most portfolio shots include portraits of people. When you are approaching subjects to shoot, how do you go about it? Do you chat and explain what you’re doing? Or shoot first, ask questions later?

Yes, I do shoot a lot of people pictures, both portraits and environmental portraits. Either way, for really good people pictures, you’ve got to be prepared to get close to your subjects. Except for crowd shots, standing at a distance with a long lens will rarely result in pleasing images, as you generally won’t be able to fill the frame with your subject, and these kinds of shots usually look as though you’ve tried to sneak them, which you have.

Because I’m usually working at close range I always ask permission to take someone’s photo, I see it as common courtesy. Asking permission allows you to use the ideal lens, get close enough to fill the frame, provides the opportunity to take several shots, as well as to communicate with your subject if necessary. In order to still capture natural looking shots, I work quickly and have developed techniques that make photographing people easy and minimise the intrusion into my subject’s day.

I plan the shot before I approach my subject. I think about the composition and make sure I’ve got the right lens on the camera.

Should it be portrait or environmental, horizontal or vertical? I also decide on the viewpoint I think will work best. I study the light on the person’s face and check where it’s coming from; this allows me to position myself correctly in the first instance. Once I have permission to take a photo the person will usually follow me with their eyes if I move.

The slightest change of camera angle can make all the difference.

Being organised and efficient means I minimise drawing attention to what I’m doing, which helps my subject remain relaxed and results in more natural-looking photos.

Finally, I really enjoy sharing the photos by showing the results on the camera’s LCD screen. It’s is a great way to say thank you and, assuming I’ve taken a flattering photo, leave the person with a positive memory of their encounter with me.

What percentage of photos from a trip is pre-planned versus spur of the moment photos that you were inspired to take along the way?

I do a lot of pre-trip research into the places and subjects I want to capture so as to ensure I allow enough time at each destination but I also love just wandering and discovering lesser known places, sights and capturing daily life, so it’s probably 50/50.

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Do you feel as though being a travel photographer has changed the way you view the world?

No, not really. I’ve always had a very positive view of the world and its people and my travels and photographic experience have only ever reinforced that.  I am truly privileged to have seen so much of the best of the world, rather than conflict, death and destruction that others deal with.

My images are a celebration of the diversity of environments, landscapes and cultures that make up our incredible world.

It continues to amaze me how welcoming and willing people are, from the most remote villages to the biggest mega cities, to share their lives briefly with a stranger and his camera.

 

What is your favourite destination from a traveller's point of view and from a photographer's point of view?

 

I’ve been lucky enough to make more than 25 trips to Nepal and can confidently say that for a traveller and a photographer, Nepal is pretty hard to beat. The landscape is so utterly grand it takes your breath away. Importantly though, it is alive with people in the villages and on the ancient trade trails, as vital today as they were centuries ago.

The towns are crammed with magnificent Hindu and Buddhist temples, justifiably famous in their own right, but made so much more interesting because they are an integral part of Nepali life, and the focus of daily religious rituals and annual celebrations.

Since my first trip 30 years ago, witnessing Nepal’s vibrant, open culture against a backdrop of spectacular urban and natural environments has been a regular highlight of my travels.

You’ve led trips to China with World Expeditions, what is it about China in Autumn that you find so appealing and what are some key moments or places you capture on your visit?

China is a brilliant destination for photography at any time, but on this trip we’re going to some of the country’s most scenic places when they will be looking at their absolute best thanks to the vibrant colours of the autumn trees. Apart from the remarkable and quintessential Chinese landscapes around the Great Wall, Yellow Mountains and Yangshuo we aimed to capture a wide range of subjects that portray the diversity of landscapes, urban environments, people and cultures that make China such a fascinating destination.

You’ve said that there are five categories you aim to cover at every location; the landscape, people, urban environment, events and wildlife. Do you have a favourite category to photograph and why?

No, I don’t have a favourite. As a travel photographer I photograph just about everything and I think my strength over the years is that I actually do get excited about shooting just about everything. Ultimately, though I most enjoy the transformative power of light, and I work very hard to be in the right place at the right time in order to capture my subjects in the most beautiful and dramatic light. I’ve come to this conclusion because no matter how magnificent the landscape or built environment if the light isn’t right I tend not to shoot, preferring to return at another time.

How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of feel do you try and create in your photos?

Because I shoot so many different subjects, it’s difficult to define a specific style. My aim is to match the subject with the best light, and then to compose the elements to produce vibrant images that capture the reality of the moment. I aim to take strong individual images, but am always conscious of how the pictures can build on each other to create a comprehensive coverage of a subject, event or destination, so that viewers get a sense of what it might be like to experience it for themselves. Ideally, I’m aiming to add something new to how people perceive a place and the people who live there.

Can you tell us about the gear you use for your travel photography? What is typically in your camera bag while travelling?

I take the same gear on all my trips except for the 200-400mm zoom, which I use mainly for wildlife photography. It’s big and heavy and so it only comes to places where I know I’ll need it. My choice of equipment is aimed at giving me the flexibility I need to capture the wide range of subjects I cover while being easily manageable and accessible so that I can shoot quickly and efficiently. I rarely leave the hotel without both DSLRs - one with the 24-70mm zoom and the other with the 70-200mm zoom. However, the majority of my pictures are taken on the 24-70mm.

This is what I use:

  • Two Canon EOS 1Dx MkII DSLR camera bodies
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f4 L II USM zoom lens
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 L II USM zoom lens
  • Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 L II USM image stabiliser zoom lens
  • Canon EF 200-400 f4 zoom with built in 1.4x converter
  • Gitzo G1228 carbon-fibre tripod with Induro ball head.

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What are 3 tips for taking great travel photos? 

  • Don’t assume that your eye level or the first place from where you see your subject is the best viewpoint. A few steps left or right, going down on one knee or standing on a step can quickly improve a composition.
     
  • Make sure your photograph has a clear point of interest. This is usually the thing that caught your eye in the first place and should be the element around which your composition is based.
     
  • Know how your camera works so you can take pictures of all sorts of subjects in all kinds of light and conditions and quickly. So many of the best images are of fleeting moments.


Join Richard on a photography adventure

Learn from the best of the best as Richard takes you through some of the most captivating destinations and scratch beneath the surface to glimpse into the hidden corners of regions, such as the Indian Himalaya and more as he takes you on a photographic exploration of these incredible destinations! View his upcoming photography trips - but hurry, spaces fill up fast.

3 dishes you shouldn’t leave Jaffna without trying: Peter Kuruvita

Sri Lanka is emerging as the island country to visit, especially after being named as the number one country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet.

Among some of the unmissable experiences are the tea trails, the gorgeous surf spots, the game reserves, the spectacular birdlife and of course, the food culture – we’re talkin’ food, spice and everything nice.

While civil conflict made certain areas of Sri Lanka off-limits to tourism in the past, travellers are turning to the regional parts of the country, including the stunning north-west area of Jaffna.

“It's an undiscovered area that's still opening up and I think now is the perfect time for anyone to visit,” says TV chef and award-winning restaurateur Peter Kuruvita. “The flavours of Jaffna cuisine are different; they're very spicy compared to the rest of the country.”

Kuruvita, who will be returning to the far north and east coast of Sri Lanka when he escorts a culinary tour in June, is putting Jaffna in the spotlight and recommends these three must-try foods when in the area.

Jaffna kool

“For me, one of the stand-out dishes of Jaffna would be the Jaffna kool.”

“Made with all the amazing seafood that's pulled out of Jaffna Lagoon, it's thickened with something very unique, which is palmyra.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Palmyra root flour, which is a bit like arrowroot, gives the seafood soup a beautiful, silky feel which Kuruvita likens to a bouillabaisse of Sri Lanka.

Palmyra palm treacle with buffalo curd

Palmyra palm trees are synonymous with Jaffna and the treacle from this variety of palm offers the perfect amount of sweetness when served with silky, smooth curd made from buffalo milk.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“Now the buffalo curd comes from down south, from Hambantota, but the palmyra palm is endemic to Jaffna area.”

“You can get treacle out of the coconut palm, or you can get treacle out of the palmyra palm. The flavours are incredibly different, so make sure you have a little scoop of palmyra honey as well.”

Ice cream from Rio’s

One point of difference between Sri Lanka’s south and the north are the milk bars which are popular in the north. Families, teens and couples on a date will treat themselves to a visit to a milk bar, so, when in Jaffna, a trip to Rio Ice Cream is a must.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“[It] has made it through the war years… so a scoop of ice-cream at Rio's is a bit of an institution.”

Located near the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil Hindu temple, the well-known ice cream parlour is a pleasant treat to help you cool off from the heat, especially after taking in the local sights of the town.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Sri Lanka’s other half: why you should visit Jaffna

According to Kuruvita, Jaffna and the east coast are relatively empty of tourists, with a few new hotels starting to open. The main part of Jaffna town still has its original little market that’s bursting with exotic produce, as well as street stalls run by friendly locals who welcome visitors to the area.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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There’s even an incredible strip where old British cars are parked. “It's kind of like a small Havana, except that all the cars are not Chevrolets,” says Kuruvita. “They're more like Austins and Morrises, and most of them operate as taxis.”

“There are very noticeable differences between the country's south and the north: the produce, the landscape, the food and the people, so it's an important part of any visit to Sri Lanka,” he says.

Temples adorned with colourful statues in northern Sri Lanka. Photo: Peter Kuruvita

While many people may think they’ve seen Sri Lanka after visiting the southern areas, the northern half of Sri Lanka is definitely a place to add to your adventure list.

Want to spice up your Sri Lankan adventure? Travel with Peter Kuruvita and open your taste buds to the delectable cuisines of Northern Sri Lanka, as well as experience the amazing wildlife and cultures of remote villages rarely visited. View his 2019 trip >

Inside Iran - Our CEO recounts her travels through this intriguing country

What's it really like inside Iran? World Expeditions Travel Group CEO, Sue Badyari, shares her observations as well as her must see highlights.

For a long time the idea of travelling to Iran had been frequently returning to my conscience. Having met dozens of others who have, including well travelled colleagues in the travel industry, they’d speak avidly about the ancient lands of Persia; often placing Iran as the most interesting destination they’d visited.

So last month, with much anticipation, I stepped out of my busy work life to take this long anticipated trip to Iran. Travelling with family and friend on the Emirates flight into Tehran, I witnessed the tattooed, the blue haired, the tight clothed female travellers around me, don head scarfs and long jackets, transforming their image very quickly to the conservative attire of Iranian women.

I had been curious about how to dress but quickly learned that by covering your hair with a scarf and your bottom with loose clothing you fit right in.

January is winter in Iran and as a keen trekker, many of the mountain trekking opportunities in the north and ascents of Mt Damavand are ‘off limits’ at this time. That however, certainly doesn’t limit the possibilities to still enjoy an active holiday in Iran at this time of year. In a little over two weeks I was able to compile a quite lengthy list of travel highlights.

 

 

In Tehran, head on a short hike just above Tehran city through a ‘cultural gorge’, enjoy the atmosphere of the night markets and visit the Golestan Palace, National Museum.

The old city of Yazd’s Zoroastrian Sky Temples are truly impressive, while in Isfahan it is easy to get lost among the various book shops, tea & coffee houses or while shopping for carpets, jewellery or perhaps hand printed tablecloths and painted pottery. Shiraz however, was my favourite city, with its beautiful decorative structures, the Nasir-ol-Molk mosque, Eram Garden, the Vakil bazzar and bath, and Haezieh.

The Persian Gulf Islands provided wonderful escapes into nature, with great hikes on Qeshm Island’s Valley of the Stars in the Chahkuh Valley while Hurmoz Island was simply an incredible natural wonderland. Then there’s the stunning Rainbow Valley, Silver Coast, Statue Valley and the interesting Portuguese fortress to keep you occupied.

The caravan serais, ancient bathhouses and the delicate mosques of Kerman and the nearby desert provide plenty to do for the active traveller. Explore the ancient fortified mud city of Rayen, hike in the Kaluts in the Lut Desert while enjoying a traditional homestay in Shahdad Kaluts.

 

 

There really are so many more highlights of places to see, but the experience is complete with the warmth and genuine local people, beautiful food, exotic smells of spice markets, ease of travel and the many comfortable lodgings, some quite ornate.

It must be said that Iran is a very misunderstood country. It is a highly educated, sophisticated society, progressive in industry but also sustainability and utterly fascinating in its culture and historic aspects. Many associate Iran with desert landscapes yet mountain ranges carve the entire country hemming vast tracks to desert but also verdant valleys.

Ancient village of AbyanehAncient village of Abyaneh is like a living museum, dating back 2500 years

I loved every minute of my time there and cannot wait to return, which I’m already planning for. And it was not just me affected by this journey, the words from my 25 year old son to his community are very telling and are written below.

“My musings of Iran... I knew from the moment we met, that my nightmarish imagination of a murderous, anti-American, missile making, woman muting land was but a misconception meticulously manufactured by mainstream media to muddy the mind But I won’t remember Iran for its military might or Khomeini command, I will remember Iran for its mastery of mosaic, bringing magic to every medieval mosque, I will remember the musical mayhem of marketplaces beaming with miraculous Persian mats and manicured men with musky perfumes and mysterious moustaches - the merchants of menace I will remember the many images of immortalised martyrs, mystical mullahs and modest yet cosmetic mothers, I will remember the majestic mountains and it's meadows of mouth-watering mandarins But most of all, I will remember the amazing mates whose warm welcomings made me feel so at home.” J. Badyari

Ready to travel to Iran? View our range of tours to Iran.
Pedal off track: 6 unusual cycling destinations

Off road cycling holidays can be hard to find as maps and route notes are less available. The terrain may be undeveloped or the weather conditions may make the tracks less (if not at all) accessible at certain times of the year.

Taking you away from the highway and into the hills and vast valleys, check out these unique and memorable bike tours that take you off the beaten track.

With the latest addition of mountain biking in Ladakh, these below destinations have just become more accessible for you.

Ladakh, India

Snowcapped peaks, high mountain passes and striking moonscapes dotted with prayer flags and Buddhist monasteries await you in this remote and majestic Himalayan region. Explore Ladakh at handle bar height on some of the world's highest roads

It's an unmissable corner in the Indian Himalayas with rugged landscapes, Champa nomadic encampments, remote Buddhist settlements and spectacular lakes.

Normally travelled by trekkers, you can be one of the very few to delve into Ladakh on a mountain bike crossing three passes over 5000m on a route never commercially cycled before. The challenging two-wheel expedition will be led by avid cyclist and adventurer Kate Leeming, who designed and tested this stunning route and will see you camping beside lakes whose clarity and colour you would never think possible if not seeing them with your own eyes.

Mountain Bike through the remote Indian Himalaya >

Quebec, Canada

Off road cycling holidays: Blueberry route in Quebec, Canada

Just two hours north of Quebec City, you will find Saint-Jean Lake. There is a circuit around the lake that offers a gentle ride through peaceful farmland, green forests, quaint towns and secluded beaches. Most other travellers will come to this area by other means of transportation so you will find the track is often for yourselves. Along the way, you will encounter many small tourist attractions. Truly discover the region and indulge in the route’s namesake – blueberries, of course! They grow wild and are farmed extensively throughout the area. You will find them sold by the basket, in pies, chocolates and, for a real local delicacy, combined with local game meat.

Cycle Quebec’s Blueberry fields >

Limpopo and Mpumalanga, South Africa

 

Experience the culture, nature, cuisine and attractions of this diverse region at handlebar level as you pedal your way through scenic provinces in North-Eastern South Africa. Combined with a safari experience in the world-renowned Kruger National Park, you'll also go in search for the Big 5 on a game drive. Major highlights on our cycling route include riding through the majestic Wolkberg Mountain range of Limpopo and visiting the breathtaking Blyde River Canyon and the picturesque Panorama Route - with the Three Rondavels and Bourke's Luck Potholes. Taking an exploratory ride through the bushveld where it'll feel like a safari cycle as you enjoy personal encounters with some of the animals of the African Bush. You can also opt for an e-bike for that extra assistance, so you can enjoy every enchanting side road you pass without physical limitations.

Cycle to South Africa's picturesque north >

Mandalay Region, Myanmar

Things to do in Southeast Asia? Cycle in Bagan for a day!

Explore upper Myanmar by bike, following trails that are mostly off the beaten track. Start in Mandalay, the last royal capital of Myanmar and where the Royal Palace can still be visited, and cycle to Bagan. This city is home to one of Southeast Asia’s finest collections of ancient pagodas and temples of a bygone era with intricate carvings, murals and astonishing architecture. In between both destinations you’ll find timeless villages where you can observe the traditional way of life. For stunning panoramic views, climb the 700 steps from the golden temple at the summit of sacred Mount Popa. For bustling local markets, handicrafts and stilted villages, go off-road cycling on the shores of Inle Lake.

Cycle from Mandalay to Bagan in Myanmar >

Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Off road cycling holidays: Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan with World Expeditions

Are you looking for exhilarating mountain biking adventures with a twist? Ever thought about going on an off-road cycling holiday to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan? The countries were once part of the Silk Road and their grasslands are dotted with nomads and yurts. Perhaps unexpectedly, in this area it’s possible to have a helicopter drop you (including bike) off at altitudes of 3,500m from where you can take an unforgettable yet daunting descent (1,300m!) on switchback trails and forest dirt roads. If you also like some pampering, in the remote Karkara Valley we stay at a property with a traditional sauna and a bar.

Heli-bike through Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan >

Southern Alps to Pacific Ocean, New Zealand

Off road cycling holidays: New Zealand mountains to the sea

In a country where most visitors go on a self drive holiday, why not consider a cycling holiday that takes you away from the popular trails? From the mighty Southern Alps to Ocean this spectacular trail takes you past the turquoise blue lakes at Tekapo and the golden tussock lands of the Mackenzie Country with superb mountain backdrops of New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook.

Get the chance to soak in the local hot pools, enjoy a lakeside picnic and savour delicious local produce and wines prepared by an award winning chef. This region of New Zealand is great for an off-road cycling adventure that includes ancient Maori rock art and dramatic limestone landscapes.

Cycle off the beaten track in New Zealand >

Feel like exploring one of these destinations on an off road cycle adventure? At World Expeditions we’ve been operating active adventure holidays since 1975 and while some of these trips have been running for a longer time already, others have a more exploratory character. For more information and booking details, contact our team of travel experts around the world.

How to choose the right hiking boots

When we venture into the wilderness, it can be for long periods and over some pretty rough terrain. Your feet are the ones doing the hard yards, so making sure that they stay happy is a top priority. With a pair of well-fitted, suitable, durable, and comfortable shoes, you’ll be striding in your adventure and hiking on a high.

We sought the wisdom of the gear experts at Paddy Pallin to drill down what to look for in your ideal boot so your next outdoor adventure is a comfortable one.

Finding your boot type

To keep your feet happy, firstly you need to think about the type of shoe that best fits your needs. Will you be taking days walks on undulating terrain, or are you planning for a more serious trek that will see you on offbeat trails for over five hours a day? Typically hiking footwear can be divided into a few categories and each type tends to be accompanied by a varying set of features.

Shoes/low-cut

These will be low-cut around the ankle, typically with a softer, more flexible sole. Generally, these types of shoes are used for easier day hikes and travel. A shoe like this could come in a burly, full-leather model that is good for hiking and travel to cooler climates. Whilst others will be lighter, with a synthetic/mesh upper, which is more suited to warmer humid climates.

Paddy staffers recommend: The Salomon XA Elevate GTX is a great all rounder trekking shoe and it’s available in men’s and women’s styles. It is stylish yet rugged and ready for adventure as it is lightweight, fully waterproof and has a Contagrip sole, meaning that you can maintain traction on uneven and wet surfaces.

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

Light hiking boots/mid-cut

As the name suggest, these are cut higher around the ankle than a shoe, but usually just high enough to cover your ankle bone on the side. By wearing a boot compared to a shoe, you will have more support for your ankles which is particularly important if you are carrying any weight. A light hiker will usually be a bit stiffer than most hiking shoes, but still quite flexible. They are lightweight and good for a mixture of activities, from travel in colder climates and day hikes to easier multi-day adventures with a lighter pack.

Paddy staffers recommend: The Merrel Moab 2 GTX as it is a lightweight mid-cut boot which still provides you with great support, both for your feet and ankles. Not only is this style waterproof, it boasts an aggressive Vibram sole and is available in both men’s and women’s styles.

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

Heavy trekking boots/high-cut

As expected, this type of hiking footwear is heavier, stiffer and higher-cut around the ankles. This category is for serious trekking and bush walking. This is the kind of boot suited to travelling over rough terrain, off-track and carrying a heavy pack for multiple days. The uppers will be well padded and the sole should not flex too much. This will allow for more support for your foot when walking on uneven surfaces.

Paddy staffers recommend: The Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX boot is a fantastic option for all of your rugged off-track hiking. The boot provides you with great shock absorption and support when walking on hard uneven surfaces, it is fully waterproof and has a protective TPU toe cap. It is also available in both men’s and women’s styles.

Fit and Sizing

After you have thought about which type of shoe will best suit your adventure needs, it’s time to look at the sizing and length of the shoe.

It’s important to know your foot size. The best way to do this is by using a Brannock Device, which is the worldwide standardised tool for measuring foot size. All Paddy Pallin stores are equipped with these and the experienced staff are happy to help take a measurement of your foot.

Photo credit: Ben and Alice

Staff tip: Always have both feet measured as one is often longer than the other.

Typically, the rule of thumb is your hiking boot or shoe size will be between a half to a full size larger than what your measurement is. For example, if the device shows your (longer) foot to be size EU 42, then start by trying on some size 42.5 to 43 shoes. This allows for your feet to have room to swell in the boots and will stop your toes from hitting the front of the boot when walking downhill. After a few kilometres of walking down a trail you will thank us.

When trying the shoes on, give yourself plenty of time to try some different styles and if needed, multiple sizes. Walk around the store and up and down the incline ramp (most Paddy’s stores have one of these). Feel for any uncomfortable pressure points or tightness. Basically, you’re looking for a snug and supportive fit, but with some room in the toe box for your toes to wriggle a bit and spread out.

It’s also important to try on boots with socks that are as thick, or even slightly thicker than the socks you would typically wear whilst hiking.

Finally, if possible, it can be good to try on footwear later in the day after you’ve been walking around for a while. Most people’s feet will swell slightly throughout the day.

Staff tip: Remember to buy them with plenty of time to spare before your hike as you will need to wear them in.

Now you understand what to look for in your hiking boots and shoes, it’s time to get out there and try some on!

Feature image credit: Ben and Alice

Travellers help build Laos wildlife sanctuary and raise $16,000

A dedicated group of World Expeditions travellers helped raise $16,000 AUD for more than 500 rescued bears who live at Free the Bears sanctuaries in Vietnam and Laos.

As part of our February 2019 charity challenge, the 17 volunteers spent a week at bear sanctuaries in Vietnam and Laos working with staff on a variety of bear enrichment programs during their Free the Bears journey.

I will never forget the tour I was on. It gave me the opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia, something I would not have done if not for World Expeditions. The trip broadened my mind, gave me an insight to the culture, poverty and how people in other parts of the world live.

– a traveller on the Free the Bears Vietnam and Laos journey

The group worked tirelessly to help complete the new home for animals affected by illegal wildlife trade in Laos in the lead-up to the launch and official opening ceremony of the new Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary, which now houses up to 150 bears. By getting involved behind the scenes, each traveller had a direct impact in helping the animals who are recovering from decades of abuse.

"Our newest sanctuary in Laos, the Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary, is home to many different species of animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade – besides the bears and red pandas.  Tortoises, macaque monkeys, leopard cats, civets and various birds are also cared for at the Sanctuary," says Matt Hunt, Free the Bears CEO.

Our hope is to re-release as many of these animals as possible back into the wild.

The Laos government’s new ruling to ban wildlife exports has been a game-changer for the industry and means that it's likely to see several bear bile farms close down in the coming year or two.

"This is wonderful news for the bears but will put a great strain on our team as they work to build the new sanctuary so that we can offer rescued bears the very best of conditions," Matt says.  "We really appreciate the help from World Expeditions' travellers, who lend a hand to make sure that when those bears are finally freed, they get to enjoy all the most wonderful of comforts such as tailor-made hammocks, treat balls and beautiful climbing frames to play on."

Bear hugs around for the amazing work to all involved! Stay tuned for new projects coming soon – subscribe to our enewsletter.

#ThoughtfulTravel

What to challenge yourself on an active adventure while fundraising for your chosen charity? View our charity challenges >

A tribute to Edmund Capon (1940 – 2019)

It is with great sadness that renowned art scholar, former Art Gallery of NSW director and treasured friend and tour escort of World Expeditions, Edmund Capon passed away on Sunday, March 17, after a year-long battle with melanoma. Our deepest condolences and sympathies go out to Edmund’s wife Joanna, and his family.

In life you lead, you follow or get out of the way – and anyone who new Edmund would know he was always found at the front – living life to the fullest extent and with a flair that won the hearts and minds of everyone he came in contact with.

We first came to know Edmund through associates in the art world. With his flair for inspiring people with his incredible knowledge of Chinese art, it only made sense to have Edmund escort a tour to China to bring to life the antiquities, crafts and sites of this ancient land. He thoroughly enjoyed guiding our trips and went on to lead many more in different areas of China and along the Silk Route between 2014-2017. We have always admired Edmund's keen sense of humour and calm demeanour; no matter what the circumstances.

Those in World Expeditions are fortunate to have known Edmund, whether on one of his special tours, attending his inspirational and entertaining presentations in our Sydney office or in the course of life generally will have their own memories. Today we pay tribute to this gentleman, his wit, his warmth and his uncanny generosity of time and attention to whomever he came in contact with. The sparkle in Edmund’s eyes evoked all of these wonderful traits.

Edmund you will always be remembered by your friends and travellers at World Expeditions.

Edmund Capon AM, OBE (11 June 1940 – 17 March 2019)

2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan: Adventurer’s guide

Rugby fans get ready. It's not long now before the Rugby World Cup (RWC) kicks off in Japan and if you're planning to see the scrums live in action, you’ll want to add these Japan adventures to your itinerary.

With a total of 48 matches scheduled over six weeks (September 20 to November 2, 2019), the ninth RWC begins with the host country taking on Russia at Tokyo Stadium. (A complete list of game times and locations can be found here).

The tournament will be held in a dozen venues across the country, including Japan’s food haven capital, Tokyo; the mountainous city of Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido; the cultural metropolis of Osaka; and Kobe, home to third century Shinto Shrines and its world-famous marbled beef. It’s an opportune occasion to explore Japan’s rich and colourful past, from its must-see highlights to trails that take you away from the crowds.

Cycle the Noto Coastline and through the Japanese Alps

Starting in Kanazawa – renowned for its tea ceremonies, regional handicrafts, Noh theatres and Kaga cooking experiences – there are plenty of ways to get your cultural fix before pedalling your way to the popular Chirihama Beach driveway.

 

 

Over seven days, our Noto Coastline and Highlands Cycle adventure will see you riding between rice fields towards the rugged coastline, passing small fishing villages, local shrines and fishermen at work along the way.

Trip highlights
See the world’s longest bench (460.9m long) at Masuhogaura Beach, visit the Wajima Morning Market and try your decorative skills on a set of lacquer chopsticks. You’ll have the opportunity to stay in traditional ryokans and one of Japan’s best hot spring resorts, with an overnight experience in a beautifully preserved gassho-zukuri house (meaning "constructed like hands in prayer").

Sample the famous Hida beef in Takayama and learn about traditional salt works used 400 years ago, trying your hand at spraying seawater, which sounds easy but takes years to master.

As you follow beautiful coastlines, where many of the paths are on quiet back roads, each day offers a change of scenery – from a coastal landscape to a mountainous backdrop. For those nervous about steep climbs or the long journey by bike, e-bikes are available on this adventure. There's also a selection of high quality hybrid for a comfortable ride, or drop-bar road bikes for the more avid cyclist.

Dates: 11 Sep – 20 Sep 2019
Duration: 10 days (7 days cycling) | Grading: Moderate (5)

Games you can catch post-trip: You can still catch the RWC opening ceremony in Tokyo on September 20 by catching a four-hour train from Gifu, which is where the tour ends. Alternatively, travel to Osaka (approximately 2.5 hours by train from Gifu), where matches will be held in Higashi-Osaka (Hanazono Rugby Stadium) from September 22, and if you plan to stay longer, head to nearby Kobe (Kobe Misaki Stadium) for the September 26 game.

Combine an ancient pilgrimage hike with urban explorations

From the maze of Tokyo to a historic mountain-bound town in Kiso valley, and incorporating visits to the charming cities of Kyoto and lively Osaka, our most popular Japan itinerary offers a different way to see Japan.

On our Backroads of Japan tour, you’ll have opportunities to experience the tranquility of temple gardens, the wonder of Buddhist arts and architecture and its bohemian street culture.

Image: Felipe Romero Beltran

Trip highlights
As well as discovering the melting pot of cultures and enjoying tantalising food, this active itinerary incorporates day walks along a historical pilgrimage trail towards the sacred peak of Omine in Nara. Enjoy a hike that delivers incredible views of Mt Fuji and its five lakes (weather permitting) and explore the legendary trade route which connected the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean.

Image: Felipe Romero Beltran

Be enthralled by the famous Geisha district of Gion in Kyoto, visit scared temples and shrines, and stay in traditional, family run inns – a definite high point of any trip to Japan.

Dates: 5 Sep – 19 Sep, 29 Sep – 13 Oct, 6 Oct – 20 Oct 2019
Duration: 15 days (6 days hiking) | Grading: Introductory (3)

Games you can catch pre or post-trip: The September trip ends in Osaka on September 19, perfectly timed to witness the opening ceremony and match on September 20 at Tokyo Stadium and/or the France v Argentina clash on September 21. If you plan to stay in Osaka, you can catch matches in Higashi-Osaka (Hanazono Rugby Stadium) from September 22, or you can travel to nearby Kobe (Kobe Misaki Stadium) for the September 26 game.

There are plenty of games scheduled to suit those travelling on the late September or early October trips too.

Explore Japan’s charming north

Apart from seeing the RWC games, exploring the rugged yet fascinating region of northern Japan in September and October is one of the best times to visit the region, especially if you want a truly off the beaten path experience.

On the 16-day Japan Northern Explorer trip, there is plenty of time to soak in the natural beauty, relax in natural hot springs, sample an amazing array of fresh local foods – such as Hokkaido’s specialty crab, and learn more about Japanese culture, history and heritage. And with autumn foliage (or koyo) in full swing, you’ll see vibrant waves of red and gold sweeping this stunning half of Japan.

 

 

Trip highlights
Explore the seaside village of Kamakura – home to the famous Big Buddha and visit breathtaking Nikko with its quiet cedar forests, fascinating World Heritage shrines and temples and world-class hiking trails. Catch a ferry to one of Japan’s best-kept secret islands, Sado, home of the famous Taiko drummers and full of natural splendours and colourful history.

Cruise pine-covered islands in the stunning Matsushima Bay, visit the old castle town of Hirosaki with its culinary specialty of apple pies and “samurai coffee”, enjoy the lively atmosphere of the young city of Sapporo, and prepare a traditional Japanese dinner.

Get a taste of Japanese culture away from the crowds with its legendary hospitality and array of fresh local foods.

Dates: 5 Sep – 20 Sep, 5 Oct – 20 Oct 2019
Duration: 16 days | Grading: Adventure touring (2)

Games you can catch post-trip: Our Japan Northern Explorer trip in September ends in Tokyo, in time for you to make the RWC opening ceremony, as well as some of the tournament's early rounds.

For those touring in October, catch the Quarter Finals or the Bronze Final to top off your Japan holiday.

 

 

Your Rugby World Cup adventure starts here, view more Japan trips >

Antarctica: the best wildlife encounters

Where else in the world can you experience the dramatic extremes of a frozen continent? Holding the title of the coldest, driest and windiest place on earth, it may surprise some that Antarctica is also one of the most wildlife rich continents in the world.

Encounter king penguins on a day trek, paddle alongside whales in your kayak, catch sightings of leopard seals, orcas, crab-eater and minke in the waters, as well as albatross, kelp gulls, petrels and blue-eyed cormorants in the sky.

Here's a quick guide on where you need to go to get up close and personal with the Antarctica's greatest wildlife.

Shetland Islands

The Shetland Islands have an abundance of wildlife, including Antarctic terns, chinstrap and Adélie penguins, blue-eyed shags and southern giant petrels. Venturing to the Shetland Islands will take you across the Drake Passage, justifiably famous for its cetaceans, large flights of albatrosses, as well as whales and dolphins that frolic in the waters.

If your idea of a good time includes encountering huge penguin colonies; viewing seabirds soaring overhead; or perhaps spotting whales and seals that frequent the icy polar waters, then a visit to the Shetland Islands is a must!

Take me there

Our range of Antarctic voyages cruise to the magnificent South Shetland Islands & the Antarctic Peninsula, with new trips aboard the state-of-the-art new vessel, Greg Mortimer, will make the voyage one to remember.

Passing through the Drake Passage, you’ll be accompanied by an expert crew and experienced naturalists, so you can fully appreciate this unique region whilst receiving great value for money. And if you're strapped for time, jump on the shorter 10-day Taste of Antarctica trip for an equally immersive voyage with two days experiencing the Shetland Islands.

 

 

South Georgia & the Falkland Islands

The sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia is blessed with huge glaciers and a profusion of wildlife. With over 45 species of birds including seabirds, albatrosses and many more, there’s no shortage of wildlife if you’re looking to the skies.

You’ll also catch sightings of the world’s only meat-eating duck, the pintail, as well as Antarctica’s famous songbird the popit. Not to mention literally thousands of king, macaroni and rockhopper penguins. The kelp-strewn beaches of South Georgia are cluttered with basking elephant seals, feisty fur seals and a plethora of penguins.

Tie your voyage with a visit to the Falkland Islands for the ultimate prolific birding experience, habitat to some of the world’s rarest and most enchanting feathered friends residing within the archipelago.

Take me there

If you want a white Christmas to remember, then hop on board the South Georgia and Antarctica adventure aboard the Greg Mortimer for the ultimate Antarctica wildlife experience. Visit the Falkland Islands where a plethora of birds such as thrushes, finches, tussac birds and Megallenic penguins inhabit its tussac grasslands. Pods of orcas, Peale's dolphins and leopard seals are also regularly seen in the waters around the island.

Spend time in South Georgia to visit rockeries and view the diverse wildlife that resides on the island, and kayakers can paddle the coastline’s nooks and crannies with the company of playful seals. Exploring the western flanks of the Antarctic Peninsula provides a further highlight before we recross the fabled Drake Passage – where you'll encounter an abundance of seabirds, including the majestic albatross and giant petrels – to arrive in Ushuaia.

 

 

Macquarie Island

Listed as a World Heritage area in 1997, Macquarie Island is a wildlife haven located 1,500 kms south-east of Tasmania. The island is recognised for its rich and diverse wildlife, designated as one of 'the most important and significant natural habitats on the planet'. The cool temperate climate creates prime conditions to support a vast array of wildlife including albatross, penguins, petrels, prions, shearwaters and marine mammals like sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals.

Macquarie Island is the only breeding ground in the world for the beautiful royal penguin, and large colonies of king, gentoo and rockhopper penguins are also found here.

Take me there

Journey to the Macquarie Islands, as well as the three unique sub-antarctic islands: the Snares, Aucklands, and Campbell, on our Macquarie Island Explorer to witness one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere.

 

 

When to go

Witness courtship rituals among penguin colonies and fur seals during November, or explore the frozen continent in December and be accompanied by Antarctica wildlife including sea birds, seals and whales as they make their migration south for the summer.

January is great for seeing penguin hatchlings and seal pups, or voyage here during February and March for ideal whale watching time and to see penguin colonies in animation with baby seals at their most playful.

View all our Antarctic expeditions >

Why I fell in love with the Indian Himalaya

We sat down with trekking legend and Lonely Planet author, Garry Weare, to delve into his life-long passion for the Indian Himalaya.

Garry has been involved with World Expeditions since its beginnings in the mid 1970's and is a recognised authority on the Indian Himalaya. Garry Weare Nanda Devi

His intimate knowledge of the region is documented in his Lonely Planet guidebook, Trekking in the Indian Himalaya and his acclaimed narrative, A Long Walk in The Himalaya – an intriguing account of his five-month trek from the source of the Ganges to Kashmir.

Garry's infectious and enduring enthusiasm for the high mountains – particularly discovering the less-trodden paths – brings his expertise of trekking in the Himalayas to the fore. His passion may well leave you reaching for your passport!

What first drew you to the Indian Himalaya and what is it that you love most about it that keeps bringing you back?

I originally headed to India to pursue a career as a third rate academic but decided instead to go trekking in Kashmir. After that, I spent five months trekking in Nepal, which was a profound experience that evolved into lifetimes’ career and passion for the Himalaya. I am forever grateful that I discovered the Himalaya and embarked on a fulfilling vocation early in my working life.

Nanda Devi sunset. Photo by Garry Weare.Nanda Devi sunset. Photo by Garry Weare.

You must have seen great changes in the Himalaya since you first started going there in the 1970s. What do you think has changed the most? How is it different?

The extension of roads in the Himalaya has changed the culture of remote Himalayan communities. Indeed devising new treks that avoided roads was an ongoing challenge when updating my Lonely Planet guide. It reflects the adage that while trekkers want to visit remote villages, remote villagers want access to roads. Within a generation trekking in the Himalaya will more or less be restricted to National Parks.

You have walked over 25,000 kilometres on your trekking adventures; what is it that you enjoy so much about walking?

The more you return to the Himalaya you more you realise how much there is still to discover. Every time I pore over a map I appreciate the remote valleys and seldom crossed passes that are still ripe for exploration.

The Himalaya can be a life-changing destination for those who are lucky enough to experience its sheer beauty. What is it about the Himalaya that make it so life-changing?

Inspiration in the Himalaya can come from the most humble of origins. My work with the Australian Himalayan Foundation has provided me with the opportunity to ‘put something back’ in the regions that I love and regularly return to.

Indian_Himalaya_Ladakh_Markha_Valley-medium

You're placing the region of Nanda Devi on the adventure map for trekkers. What are your favourite aspects of the Nanda Devi walk?

Over the last 20 years I have returned regularly to the Nanda Devi region.

It offers a very special combination of superb mountain views, isolated village communities along with the opportunity to follow trails leading through magnificent forests and across alpine meadows. It is indeed similar to the Annapurna region of Nepal, but without the crowds.

Why is May the ideal time to trek in this region compared to other times of the year?

The Nanda Devi region is subject to the Indian monsoon. Both May and September are therefore ideal for gaining unsurpassed mountain views. In May, the climate is just about ideal: the long daylight hours, the rhododendrons still in bloom and the passage of the shepherds as they tend their flocks to the summer pastures make it highly attractive.

Nanda Devi India Himalaya Garwhal. Photo by Garry WeareTrekkers in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalaya. Photo by Garry Weare

What kind of cultural interactions can people expect walking along the trail in Nanda Devi?

Like villagers in most remote corners of the Himalaya, the people in the Nanda Devi region are forever curious as to why we have travelled half way around the world to meet them.

For them, the sight of foreigners trekking for pleasure supported by an entourage of helpers and mule attendant’s contrasts with their lifestyle where they rarely travel beyond the confines of their immediate environment. Trekking through the villages provides an opportunity to revisit our values.

There's something special about visiting the isolated Hindu communities that are only visited by a handful of trekkers each year.

While I am not suggesting that a trek in the Himalaya is life changing, the experience will undoubtedly remain for many years after returning home.

The Nanda Devi region is one of the few places where you can still experience traditional village hospitality – a world away from teahouse trekking.

The traditions of the two-day festival at Hemis, Ladakh.The traditions of the two-day festival at Hemis, Ladakh.

What is the best advice you can give someone who is preparing for their first trek into the Himalaya?

Get fit, but bear in mind that a trek is not a marathon event. A sound and positive frame of mind is equally important to get over the high passes.

You are a recognised mountain photographer, what are the best tips you can give people to take stunning shots in the Himalaya?

Leave your camera in your rucksack and compose images in your minds’ eye before taking a shot. Similarly, in villages establish a rapport with the people before taking out your camera. The results will be infinitely more rewarding.

Spectacular views from the Ganda La Pass on our Markha Valley Trek. Photo by Bruce GraySpectacular views from the Ganda La Pass on our Markha Valley Trek. Photo by Bruce Gray

Lastly, you must have met some incredible people while guiding your trips and through your work with Lonely Planet and the Australian Himalaya Foundation, yet who is it that inspired you most and why?

It’s been an honour and privilege to meet so many ‘Himalayan hands’. Not just world-class mountaineers but experts like Dr Rodney Jackson from the Snow Leopard Conservancy in California as well as lifelong friends in India and Nepal. In particular, I regularly drive to the Kangaroo Valley to catch up with Warwick Deacock, the still very active ‘grandfather’ of adventure travel. I only hope that I am still as active as he is when I turn 91.

Feeling inspired? Join Garry Weare – Himalayan trek guru, author and recognised authority on Indian Himalaya – on an unforgettable alpine trek in the Garhwal Himalaya. Find out more about his Nanda Devi May 2019 trip >

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