Posts by: Ben Illis

1. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

With much of the western world awash with Christmas Markets, Ben Illis took a trip to Munich, capital of the German region of Bavaria, to check out where it all began: 48 Hours at the Christmas Markets – and galleries – of Munich, an Instagram tour…”

Home to Sri Lanka’s ‘big three’, elephant, leopard and sloth bear, Yala is the island’s second largest national park, where big skies and big crowds come as part of the package, and patience is a virtue.

elephant family bathing

One teenager sneaks up on another, rears up and ducks his companion clean under the water. His victim spins round and pushes his tormentor, who loses his footing and disappears momentarily under the surface. A female lazily flicks her trunk, administering an admonishing cuff round the ear. Chastened, the boisterous youths take their rough-housing to the other side of the wewa, or tank – a manmade water-hole that serves as an oasis in the arid, thorny scrub of the park. On the water’s edge a baby – no more than six months old – trembles visibly, bracing herself. Her mother gives her a gentle nudge and she nervously takes to the shallow water. Watching elephants at play, it is hard not to anthropomorphize. Their joy is palpable as they lounge and frolic in the cooling waters, trumpeting and spraying water over each others’ backs. It is a joy that often manifests in what looks suspiciously like a broad grin. All the usual family dynamics are present; characters are strong and easy to identify. Of course, witnessing elephants bathe is itself a rare treat and one to cherish.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are thirty images to give you a 30,000 word flavor of Athens, one of Europe’s undisputed cultural capitals and a city which exudes culture from every pore.

Special thanks to YES! Hotels  and Original Senses Bespoke Tours


Exhaling, I sink gently to the soft, white sand seabed as a Southern Stingray ripples elegantly past. Scores of tiny, pearlescent Yellowhead Jawfish dart backwards into their little burrows, spitting mouthfuls of sand in apparent disgust as they retreat. Ahead of me, myriad reef fish swarm around the coral stack that rises sharply almost to the water’s surface. Our guide beckons us forward and I scan the tower for some sign of the promised swim through, marveling at the diversity of coral. As I approach, a tunnel opens before me, and, checking the group is with him, our guide sinks into its cavernous maw. The tunnel levels out and, taking care not to damage the fragile orange sea fans all around, we swim towards the dappled light ahead. We emerge onto the wall, a three foot Hawksbill Turtle drifting gently by on slow, powerful strokes of its flippers. It’s awe-inspiring.

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Chasing The Lights

I have a confession: I owe my first glimpse of the northern lights to my terrible smoking habit. Pacing around in blast-freezer conditions, I was puffing away on my after-dinner cigarette (my face and hands progressing from cold, through stinging, to completely numb) when I happened to glance to the skies. There it was. A faint beam of eerie green light snaked overhead, curling and intensifying, then slowly unfurling into a delicate, shimmering curtain. As I watched, a second swathe of rosy pink light began to materialise. I was mesmerised. Eventually I snapped out of my trance and burst into the restaurant to share the news. A stampede for the door ensued.

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