At Lonely Planet we’re simply obsessed with travel; rarely a week goes by when someone hasn’t just got back from an epic trip. This month Lonely Planet staff share some of their recent adventures, from fulfilling lifelong dreams in Mauritius to munching a mega sandwich in Porto.
Scoping out secluded beaches in the Seychelles
Having spent a few weeks hopping between the islands of Mahé, Praslin, Desroches, North, Félicité, Silhouette, Fregate and La Digue, I’d thought it wouldn’t be possible to find another beach that would leave me speechless. Yet, after a challenging 1¼-hour journey – part hiking, part crawling, part bouldering, part wading (chest deep with backpack above head) – along La Digue’s stunning southeastern coastline (complete with nesting turtles), I found myself lost for words at Anse Marron.
An absolute gem of pure solitude (thanks to the effort required to get here), its white sands slid gently into a natural pool of calm, crystal-clear water. Huge granite boulders – looking more like they were spawned from the mind of Antoni Gaudí than from the forces of nature – stood guard over the scene, protecting it from the crashing waves beyond.
I was soon swimming, sharing the surreal setting with some seemingly translucent fish. With so much to marvel at, both below and above the surface, I was struggling to know where to look. It was simply that beautiful. The hike back out from Anse Marron took me along the southwest shore of La Digue, past Anse Source d’Argent. Despite this being the nation’s most famous beach, I couldn’t help but think that I preferred the perfectly remote sands of petite Anse Marron.
Matt Phillips, Destination Editor for Sub Saharan Africa. Follow his tweets @Go2MattPhillips.
Tackling one of the world’s toughest sandwiches in Porto, Portugal
I’ve never been scared by a sandwich before, but then I’d never encountered the francesinha. Porto’s signature dish, the francesinha is a four-inch stack stuffed with ham, sausage and steak, served smothered with cheese, topped with an egg and generous lashings of a tomato and beer sauce. Having been raised vegetarian, I’m still a little squeamish about very meaty things so didn’t relish the thought of sampling one, but decided in the spirit of culinary adventure that I must.
Arriving at Café Santiago – regarded as one of the best francesinha joints in the city – I was reassured by the tables full of locals, cheerfully tucking in on their lunch hour. Every chef has their own take on the dish, and clearly this particular sandwich – served, with laughable excess, alongside a portion of fries – had been lovingly prepared. Nevertheless, sawing through five dense layers of protein really took the edge off my appetite. Each meaty forkful only dented it further, until – having made it through a mere quarter – I downed tools. I’d starred in my own personal episode of Man v. Food, but was woman enough to admit that on this occasion, food had won.
Orla Thomas, Features Editor at Lonely Planet Traveller magazine. Follow her tweets @OrlaThomas.
Swimming with wild dolphins in Mauritius
When I was a kid, I had dreams of being a dolphin trainer. I wanted to go to Florida so badly to see them in the marine parks, but (luckily) my parents didn’t give in. At the time I felt duped, but looking back I realised I would have hated seeing such beautiful creatures cramped in a pool, forced to perform tricks. On a recent holiday to Mauritius I was still keen to swim with dolphins, but in the wild and on their terms. We found a great company run by knowledgeable (and most importantly, responsible) locals at the mouth of the Black River.
Every morning, pods of dolphins swim out to the reef to feed and play. Our captain was careful not to hound the pod (this is where it pays off to pick a responsible company); we moved away from the other boats and waited until the pod came to us. Dolphins are incredibly fast and never stop moving so we donned snorkels and paddled as fast as we could, whilst still giving them plenty of space. The experience was incredible. The dolphins were so curious and it was such an honour that they came so close. I got to achieve my dream with zero Blackfish guilt.
Lottie Bell, Key Account Manager. Follow her on Instagram @mrslottiebell.
Taking a beautiful boat trip on Honduras’ Lago de Yojoa
With a belly full of chicken, rice and fried banana, hopping on a speedy boat didn’t seem like the wisest decision. But there I was, front seat, swift breeze in my face and in utter awe of Honduras’ beautiful mountainous landscape. Lago de Yojoa, nestled between forested mountains and lush rainforests, is Honduras’ largest lake. It lies in a depression formed by volcanoes, and on this particular December day the blue waters glistened under the early afternoon sun.
My quick boat tour took me to the centre of the lake where I saw a pair of tilapia fins (Honduras’ famed freshwater fish). Truth be told I didn’t see any of the other fish my guide pointed out, but the opportunistic birds hovering above sure did. Between the full stomach and stunning landscape, my first trip to Honduras began in grand fashion.
Alicia Johnson, Destination Editor for Central America and the Caribbean. Follow her tweets @Ajgoin places