INSPIRATION • November 2018
Though the days are getting shorter don’t let the dark nights leave you feeling gloomy, says travel writer Ellie Ross – there are plenty of adventures that are even better once the sun has set. Here are five of the best ways to take a walk on the dark side
Few things are as magical as watching baby turtles hatch and race into the sea en masse, leaving the beach behind them until they return – years later – to nest in exactly the same place. Between November and March, endangered leatherback and loggerhead turtles come to shore along Durban’s blonde-sand beaches to lay their eggs. There are five licensed companies in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, north of Durban, offering the chance to glimpse turtles hatching or a mother laying her eggs, so you can see the spectacle up close. Tours depart in the late afternoon and return around 11pm.
The end of the day doesn’t have to mean the end of your day’s cycling. Night-time mountain biking – where riders strap lights to their bikes and set off into the wilderness – is even more thrilling than its daytime alternative. The advantages include less busy trails and an adrenaline rush like no other. Tuscany’s coastal roads make for great enduro tracks, while the Chianti hills offer a more remote ride, with tasting of world-famous wines at the finish line. For a dose of culture, try a guided electric night bike tour in Florence. It’ll take you past city highlights such as the Santa Croce church and the spectacular Duomo – with a battery-powered boost to help you up to Piazzale Michelangelo, the city’s most famous viewpoint overlooking all of Florence.
Up the ante of your next ski holiday by racing down the slopes – in the dark. Night skiing lets you carry on when the sun has gone down and most of the other runs have been closed by the ski patrol. Les Arcs, in the French Savoie region, holds the world record for the longest torchlit descent – where you ski holding a flame or torch – and lights up three of its pistes for floodlit skiing throughout winter. The Mille 8 area is open daily until 7.30pm, and until 9.30pm on Thursdays, with free access to the Villards gondola.
If you’re looking for a safari experience with a difference, you need only swap day for night. Not only are the cooler evening temperatures more comfortable, but you’re also in with a chance of spotting rare nocturnal animals. The exciting new night-time leopard safari has launched in the Sri Lankan tea country, around 70 miles east of Colombo. Here, guests of Ceylon Tea Trails, a luxury bungalow complex, can join resident naturalists and conservation experts in open-top trucks to track rare Sri Lankan leopards, monitoring the big cats’ movements, looking out for paw prints and their eyes glinting in the torchlight. The tours, which take place after dinner, also offer the chance to spot sleeping lizards, snakes and wild boar.
Saddle up for a ride to remember in Death Valley, California. The USA’s largest dark-sky park comes into its own after sunset, as stars shine brightly in the pollution-free sky. Monthly horseback rides are offered beneath full moons, where you can enjoy a spot of stargazing from the back of your steed. The one and two-hour guided trips depart from Furnace Creek Stables and take you either into the valley floor or into the foothills of the Funeral Mountains, with startling views of the valley below.