Getting Back to Nature

Article excerpt

Indulge your wanderlust with some exotic, ambitious and adventurous expeditions, from trekking in Nepal to birdwatching in the Outer Hebrides. Deborah King finds plenty of ideas to send you packing

BORED WITH THE USUAL HOLIDAY? Want to learn a new skill or cover new ground? Then why not consider taking part in an expedition or project, where you will meet people of all ages, occupations, backgrounds and nationalities. Accommodation is simple but clean and usually no special skills are needed as training is given on site. With so many operators you are spoilt for choice -- whether you are retired or have just left college, you should have no problem finding a trip to match your expectations. If funds are short, you could always try raising the money -- many of the companies mentioned have experience in this and can offer advice. Below are a just a few to whet your appetite. (Any future project dates are provided in brackets.)

Science & Nature

With more than 140 projects taking place in 50 countries, the Earthwatch Institute is one of the largest organisations of its kind and offers a wide choice ranging from trapping and banding birds in Eilat, to collecting data on water quality, and animal populations beside Lake Naivasha in Kenya (21 Nov-6 Dec). In addition, and as a good introduction if you are unsure, the Institute runs a series of UK weekend Discovery Projects. These include the monitoring of mammals in Wytham Woods, Oxford, led by Dr Chris Newman, from Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

Naturetrek specialises in natural history projects, many of which are led by an ornithologist or botanist. Its five-day trip to the Slovakian High Tatras offers the chance to see brown bears collecting enough food from the meadows to last them through the long winter. A rare sight, but with three full days in the mountains, the chances of seeing one, or more, are good (27-31 Oct).

For an unforgettable marine experience, Sea Trek expeditions are hard to beat. Based on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, trips visit locations rich in wildlife such as the small islands of Mealista, Taransay and St Kilda.

Gap Year

Why not follow in Prince William's footsteps and join a Raleigh International project? Volunteers aged between 17 and 25 years old are needed for environmental, community or adventure-based projects for about three months. Expeditions operate from Namibia, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Ghana and Mongolia, and offer the chance to learn about the environment and culture of a country at first hand. For a longer experience, Trekforce Expeditions offers trips of between two and five months to Belize and Sarawak in east Malaysia.

Over 50s

World Expeditions offers a broad range of trips off he beaten track for the over 50s, with all the adventure but at a more relaxed pace. However, if you are more energetic and used to leading an active life, you will still find a trip to suit your ability. Expeditions include a moderate trek in South America, a challenging trek in the Andes, mountaineering in Bolivia and cycling in Cuba (3-12 Nov). …