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Class Acts

After so long at home, making the most of every holiday is going to be key for many of us when we next book, here James Litston offers up ten experiences that combine travel and learning

Bird-watching in Tanzania East Africa

Elephants, rhinos and the rest of the Big Five game may be the main safari draws, but it’s often the supporting cast of birds that make these trips unforgettable. From rainbow-bright bee-eaters and neon-hued rollers to sunbirds, flamingos and cranes, Tanzania has a particularly varied feathered ensemble. All the more so in March, when resident birds mix with an array of Europe-bound migrants. The wildebeest calving season starts around the same time, providing rich pickings for vultures and brilliant photo-ops for twitchers. Your chances of capturing great shots are maximised with trips to the main wildlife hotspots, including Serengeti, Tarangire and Arusha National Parks, plus the incredible Ngorongoro Crater. You'll be taken by experienced guides who’ll help you tell your orioles from your ostriches.

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Travel Details

An 11-night, tailor-made private safari for two people costs from £3,160pp, including flights, transfers, accommodation, guiding, park fees, game drives, a canoe trip and most meals.

Meditation in Bhutan South Asia

The lockdowns of the last year have undeniably put a strain on our mental health, so reclaim your sense of wellbeing with a trip to one of the world’s happiest nations. With their Buddhist values and positive relationship with the natural environment, Bhutanese people have fostered a uniquely kind approach to life. Join them by learning to get Zen in the manner of the monks at Gangtey Monastery. Start the day with morning prayer and the lighting of butter candles, which is thought to help dispel darkness and ignorance, then embark on a journey to find peace of mind through meditation. For a surge of endorphins, go whitewater rafting or on mountain hikes. For relaxation visit the Himalayan kingdom’s age-old palaces, temples and Tiger’s Nest Monastery – there'll be plenty of Buddhist blessings en route.

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Travel Details

A 14-night tailor-made Bhutan Mountains and Valleys itinerary costs from £5,345pp, including flights, transfers, accommodation and guided activities.

Photography in China East Asia

Villages seemingly held in time, mist-shrouded mountains and vibrant waterways are all part of China’s magic. Gain practical know-how for turning these sights into quality, one-of-a-kind images thanks to the expertise of photographers Matt Arnold and Andreea Elle Vas. Participants on this small-group tour to northern Guangxi and Hunan provinces can sharpen their skills on diverse subjects, both cultural and landscape wise. You'll capture landmarks like the Li River and Longji's undulating rice terraces, and go for wide-angle shots to capture the karst mountain range featured in the movie Avatar at Zhangjiajie. Other subjects include village life, Yangshuo’s iconic cormorant fishermen and the stilted ancient town of Fenghuang.

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Travel Details

The 15-day Amazing China Photography Tour costs from £4,800pp, including transfers, accommodation, all admission fees, some meals and unlimited tuition. Departs 16 September 2021.

Cooking with spice in India South Asia

Black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla and tamarind are among the flavours that give Keralan cuisine its signature fragrance. Dishes in India’s most southerly state cover the full spectrum from mild and aromatic to fiery and pungent. Learn how to cook with the region’s ingredients on a culinary tour through the Western Ghats' famously peaceful backwaters to the coast. Along the way, you'll get to visit food markets and spice plantations before learning, through demonstrations and hands- on experiences, how to make the most of local seafood and the art of balancing flavour in regional stews and dahls. Take a break from the feasting to visit to Periyar National Park and keep your fingers crossed for glimpses of some unusual local wildlife – gaur (Indian bison), wild elephants and Malabar giant squirrels.

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Travel Details

A 10-night Kerala Culinary and Culture Tour costs from £1,630pp including transfers, accommodation, all admission fees, some meals and tuition.

Cowboy skills in Argentina South America

Part farmhand, part freedom fighter, gauchos are the enduring folk heroes of South America’s grasslands. Discover their culture while sampling life on the open range at Estancia Los Potreros, a 2,630-hectare working ranch on the rolling Argentine Pampas. It’s away from it all yet accessible – less than an hour’s drive from the nearest airport. The family-run estancia offers eight charming guest bedrooms spread across four historic buildings. In just a week you’ll get a real insight into the everyday workings of estate life. Days may be spent making empanadas or indulging in long, lazy lunches made with all-local ingredients, including their estate-reared meats. You’ll spot eagles and condors and learn how to play polo, but the main attraction is saddling up and exploring the ranch on horseback, with the added bonus of helping to round up the cattle in true gaucho style.

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Travel Details

A 7-night stay costs from £2,324pp, including transfers, full board and all activities.

Latin dancing in Cuba Caribbean

’Everybody salsa’, goes that catchy song from the 1980s. Take this to heart on a journey through Cuba, the home of this feelgood dance. Its sensual rhythms are ever-present wherever you go on this Caribbean island, so where better to master the moves or pick up impressive new footwork skills? Kick off with a couple of classes in Old Havana’s faded grandeur, before stepping out into Cuban culture through guided walks and private excursions. After heading west to the countryside and mountains of Viñales, city-hop to Cienfuegos and Trinidad for additional dance classes before strutting your stuff on the lively salsa scene. After your exertions head over to Santa Maria, among the loveliest of Caribbean cays, for a well-earned, chilled-out beach break.

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Travel Details

A 13-night, tailor-made Cuba itinerary to Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos and Trinidad costs from £3,227pp, including flights, visas, transfers, accommodation and four salsa classes.

Falconry in Dubai UAE

The art of hunting with falcons is revered throughout the Arab world, where it’s thought to have originated in the 13th-century BC. At Al Maha Desert Resort – a luxurious tented camp in Dubai’s Desert Conservation Reserve – the tradition is celebrated through falconry displays. Guests keen to get more hands-on can go behind the scenes at the Falconry Mews and discover how the birds are cared for and trained. Time it right and you might even get to see falcons receiving their monthly pedicure.

Talon-trimming is essential to the birds’ healthcare regimes. You'll also be taken by guides into the reserve to look for Arabian hares and houbara bustards (both prized as quarry by falconers), as well as larger game such as elegant oryx. Further options include archery and horse riding, or just relaxing in the spa.


Travel Details

A 4-night stay costs from £1,949pp including flights, transfers, full-board accommodation and all daily activities.

Painting and sketching in Morocco North Africa

Mix artistic flair with a sense of adventure on this journey in the footsteps of Jacques Majorelle, the French painter known for his realist depictions of Northern Africa. From an artist’s perspective, the colours of Morocco cry out to be captured on paper or canvas, be they ochre walls, vibrant tiles or souks filled with spices and hand-dyed leather.

Under the expert tutorage and guidance of Vicki Norman, you'll pick up the essential tips to turn these evocative sights into tangible memories. Focusing on Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, the small-group tour is timed to coincide with the blossoming of almond trees and follows a gentle pace to ensure ample time to be fully inspired by each stop.

Sketching in Morocco

Travel Details

The 9-night In the Footsteps of Majorelle tour costs from £2,136pp, including transfers, accommodation, meals and tuition. Departs 2 May 2021.

Writing in Scotland United Kingdom

Everybody has a book inside them they say. If you’ve got a story bursting to get out, a writing course is a good way to kickstart a project. Find inspiration on Scotland’s west coast at Eilean Shona, the island that the author JM Barrie used as the basis for Peter Pan’s Neverland. Under the guidance of novelist Raffaella Barker you will take writing workshops in groups and have one-on-one sessions. Yoga, hikes and wild swimming will help get the creative juices flowing. Alternatively, sail to the Western Isles with nature writer Karen Lloyd, who’ll help you put pen to paper and record sightings of dolphins, puffins, whales and the glorious scenery.

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Travel Details

The 6-night writing workshop (22-28 March 2021) costs from £1,600pp, including full board, boat transfers, tuition and activities. The 3-night cruise costs from £975pp, including full board, tuition and activities. Departs 20 June 2022.

Cookery and hiking in Spain Europe

There’s nothing like a country walk to work up a healthy appetite. On this small-group tour to Andalusia, get to know both terrain and terroir by pairing guided hikes through coastal sierras with market visits and cookery classes. From its hilltop home in Vejer de la Frontera, Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen helps gastrophiles to discover the Mediterranean slow food culture. Be it fish, meat, cheese, fruit, vegetables, sherry or wine, almost all of the ingredients used and consumed are produced right here in Cádiz province. While food miles are kept to a minimum, miles walked, are maximised on mountain trails with sea views. Afternoons are free for a slowdown siesta or trips to the various local beaches.

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Travel Details

The 5-night Active Hiking and Culinary Holiday costs from £1,500pp, including accommodation, cooking classes, hikes and other activities. Departs 2 June or 8 September 2021.

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