Swimming with wild dolphins

The year was 1996 and Wannabe was overtaking the Macarena as the school disco hit du jour. I had recently mastered long division and was obsessed with the film Flipper starring a young Elijah Wood. All I wanted to do in life was swim with dolphins, and sure, that film might be responsible for planting the idea in my eight-year-old head, but it’s something I’ve dreamed about ever since. Well, I have some news. It’s taken me almost twenty years, but I finally made that dream come true. I was pretty open minded about how I would spend my time…

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Adventures with barn owls

England is many things — it is green, it is pleasant, it is disarmingly pretty in places and breathtakingly grand in others. One thing it is not, though, is exotic. This is a fact best supported by the obvious lack of venomous, virulent and predatory fauna we have to fear. But even if British wildlife is on the mellow side, there are still plenty of reasons to appreciate the creatures that make their homes in England’s hedgerows, waterways and woodlands. There is the feeling of victory when you spot a harvest mouse the size of your thumb in the undergrowth.…

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Life well travelled: family Christmas in Australia

  I can still remember the feeling of being a child and opening the first door on my advent calendar, popping the chocolate in my mouth and sighing at the deeply frustrating test of my patience that lay ahead. With 23 doors to go it felt like Christmas would never come. But of course come it did, nice and predictably right on schedule, just as it did every year. The wait I endured leading up to this last Christmas however has been far longer, more flecked with uncertainty and with more logistical roadblocks to overcome than any of those childhood…

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Why lowering my expectations has made me a happier traveller

Is there something fundamentally misguided about what we expect to get out of our holidays? Are we setting trips up to fail by promising ourselves the absolute best time, because it just has to be, because you need it and you’ve dreamed of it? These are things I have been thinking about recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that for many people, myself included, the answer is frequently yes. The good news is that I think I’ve also found a solution that relieves the pressure somewhat and will make us all happier holiday makers as a result. Not all…

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St Regis Venice: a palatial private island hideaway

As the pale waters of the lagoon licked the sides of the speeding boat, it was easy to forget that only moments ago I was caught up in the pandemonium of St Mark’s Square. Squinting in the heat of the early afternoon sun, I searched out the right jetty through a rainbow of bobbing, bundled-up umbrellas, held aloft by patient tour guides. I passed underneath the Starwood-emblazoned arch and onto the boat, immediately entering into a more peaceful, more elegant world. Our path to the St Regis was not straightforward and as we zigzagged across the lagoon, I made several…

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