Advertisement

Visiting the animal kingdom

Benedict George rounds up some unusual nature holidays, from diving with sperm whales to a sanctuary for feral cats.

946_MW_P39_Dominica
In Dominica, diving with the whales is very closely controlled to avoid scaring them away.

Hunting giant squid

The largest toothed predator in the world turns out to be a pleasant holiday companion, says Richard Water in the Financial Times. A sperm whale could fit a Fiat Uno in the cavity in its head; it's the loudest animal in the world, communicating across 35-mile stretches using clicks; and each day it dives the distance from Everest's summit to its base camp in search of giant squid, part of the ton of food it has to eat every day.

Advertisement - Article continues below

In Dominica, diving with the whales is closely controlled to avoid scaring them away. If you get a permit before the annual maximum of ten are sold out and you're willing to part with your share of $3,000 you and five other divers can try to see the whales up close.

There is no guarantee you'll find any on the day, however. On his trip, Water thought they were gentle giants: "the teeth could easily sever me in two but my only sensation is something akin to empathy." No wonder. "Their spindle cells, which neurologists believe govern love and compassion, are even denser and more complex than our own."

Hang out with hundreds of Hawaiian cats

It all started when a flock of endangered Hawaiian petrels was discovered in the mountains of Lanai island, says Jay Jones in the Los Angeles Times. The birds built their nests on the ground, making them easy targets for local feral cats.

946_MW_P39_Lanai

The authorities prepared to round up the cats and kill them until local cat enthusiast Kathy "Kat" Carroll stepped in. Initially, back in 2009, she housed 100 cats in an empty stable. Today, she has 620 living on half an acre of land. Some are tame enough to humour cat lovers from around the world by allowing themselves to be cuddled in return for treats. But 370 are still classed as feral. A much-needed new enclosure will be completed this year.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

In total, it takes half a million dollars a year to keep the sanctuary running. Carroll raises money for the sanctuary by selling T-shirts and cat treats at her husband's art gallery. Her husband paints the cats and gives the sanctuary 10% of the money he makes selling the pictures.

Some visitors make day trips, while others stay for weeks, soaking up the feline atmosphere. Jones asked them about the sanctuary's appeal. "I don't see any cats here that fight, which tells me they are happy," said Kristen Schroder from Alabama. "Instead of just euthanising them... they take care of them." If you get tired of palm-lined beaches and decide you're missing your cat, you have plenty to see here.

Pig petting and llama farms

For a truly rustic experience, you can pay to sleep in a barn at Wolfseggstall organic farm in Austria. But it won't go down well with arachnophobic kids, says Gemma Bowes in The Guardian. "The farmer pulled back the doors to reveal a tractor surrounded by mounds of hay and cobwebs, so many cobwebs that they hung down in grassy clumps like Spanish moss." If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, there are plenty of mammals around the farm, not to mention the odd spider-less bed for city types.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hens and ponies all put in an appearance for cleaning, feeding and petting by guests. The region is a hotspot for cute animals in general. Up in the Kaiser mountains, which overlook Wolfseggstall and are said to resemble the profiles of medieval kings, there is Lamahof, a llama farm.

Tourists take llamas for hikes, while the obliging quadrupeds carry their rucksacks. When she gave it a try, Bowes found that "the forested foothills didn't look so different from a Peruvian hilltop that misty day".

 

946_MW_P39_Travel_Box

Try your hand at taxidermyThe animals you holiday with don't have to be abroadand they don't have to be alive. The Museum of London is offering an £85 taxidermy masterclass on 15 June. Artist Elle Kaye will guide participants, who must be at least 18 years old, through the process of stuffing a mouse in a four-hour session. The museum warns that the experience "is not for the faint-hearted". It also asks politely: "Please do not bring any dead animals with you to the class." Tickets include entry to the Beasts of London exhibition, tracing the city's history through animals, which runs until next January.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

The charms of a trip on a canal
Travel and holidays

The charms of a trip on a canal

You have no choice but to slow down and enjoy yourself on Britain’s waterways. Chris Carter reports
7 Aug 2020
The best places to take a swim on the wild side
Travel and holidays

The best places to take a swim on the wild side

With indoor pools closed until recently, people have been taking to wild swimming. Chris Carter reports.
28 Jul 2020
Five of the best alternative camping sites
Travel and holidays

Five of the best alternative camping sites

From an open-air bed in Devon to a peaceful retreat by the coast in Wales.
24 Jul 2020
Six hidden spots around Britain and Ireland
Travel and holidays

Six hidden spots around Britain and Ireland

Find some peace and quiet in some of the UK's most secluded spots. Chris Carter reports.
17 Jul 2020

Most Popular

Eagle Lightweight GT: the reincarnation of the E-type Jag
Toys and gadgets

Eagle Lightweight GT: the reincarnation of the E-type Jag

Jaguar’s classic E-type sports car has been reinvented for the modern age. The result – the Eagle Lightweight GT – is a thing of beauty.
7 Aug 2020
Platinum: the precious metal that looks set to play catch-up with silver and gold
Silver and other precious metals

Platinum: the precious metal that looks set to play catch-up with silver and gold

Gold and silver continue to soar, but there's still time to get in. And there's another precious metal that looks set to go on a bull run too, says Jo…
7 Aug 2020
Don’t despair on dividends – these companies could be set to bring them back
Income investing

Don’t despair on dividends – these companies could be set to bring them back

The value of dividends paid out by UK stocks has plummeted this year as companies “rebase” their payment policies. But things could soon start to look…
6 Aug 2020