Producing something that is tailor-made....
....is something that we both relish because then we can give full rein to a wide spectrum of interests and background knowledge gained over many years of personal travel and of leading both our own tours and those for other companies. In terms of cost, for a group of minimum four people, we can provide something that is similar in price to one of our regular tours. There are several areas both within Italy and outside which we hold in great affection and in which we've travelled extensively making numerous contacts, taking thousands of photographs and writing articles and books.
For example, from 1978 to 1981 Paul HD lived and worked in Cyprus using the opportunity then and later to travel widely in the Greek-speaking world. This resulted in a number of guidebooks – Crete, Cyprus and the Greek islands. Those links and friendships made have been retained over the years. We can offer bespoke trips to Cyprus, the Peloponnese, Crete, Turkey and the Massif Central in France. Some idea of what we can provide is given below:
We concentrate our attentions on the western part of the large Mediterranean island of Crete. It is geographically a part of Greece but the Cretans have a great sense of independence and it seems a world away. We explore both the northern and southern coasts as well as forays into the snowcapped Lefka Ori (the White Mountains) where there is a spectacular display of wild pink tulips after the snows melt. Paul HD first visited Crete in 1974 and has been back innumerable times since – that first visit was to gain material for his book "wild orchids of Britain and Europe" and these plants feature strongly in the trips that we make whilst we are there. As with all of our tours and workshops there is far more than an emphasis on a single aspect for we are first and foremost naturalists, with a great passion for everything that crawls, flies and colours the landscape and so we tend to travel where there is a sense of immersion in what is going on around us. We find that many of our clients share that love of nature even when they have specific interests in birds, orchids or butterflies, for example. We are of the firm belief that to understand any particular aspect of the natural world necessitates being connected to everything else… The landscape, the small villages and the people.
The Peloponnese is very nearly an island joined to the mainland at Corinth. It is a wild mountainous land for a large part of its area with plains near the coast and the further south you go, the wilder it gets. We tend to concentrate our attentions on the Mani, the middle one of the three peninsulas in the far south of the landmass. Much of it is still wild, untamed territory where the mountains drop down to a myriad inlets and the deep, azure blue sea. It is possibly the most obviously flowery part of Greece for intensive agriculture in this stony landscape is far from easy and thus many plants survive. It has an especially rich orchid flora though not always easy to discover. We certainly do not neglect classical sites and visits to Mistras, for example, where the ruins drip with wildflowers against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains… is very much part of the magic of this part of Greece.
Turkey has an astonishing orchid flora though it can often be difficult to find plants thanks to the traditional practice of digging up the tubers to make a preparation called Salep. This is used in a kind of glutinous porridge and in ice cream - it is claimed to have aphrodisiac properties and the collection has severely reduced populations of orchids. However, in the far south some superb orchid sites still remain and we shall be travelling with a local botanist to help us find them. The orchid season extends from late March into June and we shall plan to visit in mid May when jewels such as Himantoglossum caprinum, Cephalanthera kurdica and various Ophrys (O. schulzei, O. phrygia and O. cilicia are in full flower). A special quest will be for Himantoglossum comperianum a superb species that Russians call the Tsarina where it occurs in the Crimea.