22 reasons to be cheerful in 2022
It can sometimes feel like all we ever hear is bad news and so far, this year has been no exception. Of course, we can’t brush over everything with positivity, but it is important to strike a balance and look on the bright side. That’s exactly what we’ve tried to do by highlighting these 22 things to be cheerful about in 2022!
1. Getting our roots down with Ecologi
Working with our climate action partner, Ecologi, in February alone we funded the planting of 1000 trees in a reforestation project in the Mau Region of Southern Kenya. The planting is carried out through an 'employ-to-plant' scheme, which employs people within the community as planters, nursery staff and forest guards. While promoting sustainable land-use practices, the project provides a consistent income for employees, which in turn is supporting community development.
Read more about the Kenya reforestation project and watch the Wild Frontiers forest grow, as we continue to plant trees on behalf of every person that travels with us.
2. Saying goodbye to Covid testing
The relaxing of covid restrictions this year has been more than welcome in the travel industry. While our passengers' safety is always paramount to us here at Wild Frontiers, we also believe that we can be cautious, still travel the world and visit the communities we’ve so missed (and who need our tourist dollars more than ever) as has increasingly been the case in 2022.
The UK has scrapped the legal requirement to wear masks in public and when it comes to travel, as of last week, passenger locator forms and the requirement for testing all unvaccinated arrivals has also been dropped. We’ve also seen India relax travel rules from mid-February for vaccinated travellers, just as Sri Lanka, Turkey, Portugal, Iceland, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia and a host of other countries also have.
We hope we continue to move forward and that we all make sensible choices in order to protect each other so we can get back to connecting with our fellow humans all around the world.
3. New tours
Does a tour count as new if it’s actually a few years old but has yet to run due to (mostly) Covid reasons? We’re going to say yes. But 2022 may finally be the year that we get these awesome tours off the ground and we’re very excited about that prospect. Check out:
Turkey: From the Black Sea to the Golden Horn
Israel & Palestine: Ancient Lands, Modern Challenges
Galicia: Camino, Compostela and Costa da Morte
Poland & Slovakia: Krakow, Tatras & Bears
Discover Eritrea: Highlands & Dahlak Archipelago of The Horn of Africa
Iceland: Northern Lights, Geysers & Glaciers
Central American Odyssey: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras & Guatemala
4. Jonny‘s on the road again
It feels like we were waiting a lifetime for India to open its borders to tourists again after a turbulent few years. It perhaps felt even longer for our founder Jonny who has been trying to get back into India for the best part of six months. After a few false starts - including making it all the way to India only to be turned around and sent back home due to visa cancellation, then rescheduling for December and covid quarantine stopping that trip in its tracks - Jonny is hoping it’ll be the third time lucky for his tour of India and Sri Lanka!
He departs this week and will arrive in Delhi, then swing by the Taj Mahal and Castle Bijaipur before flying on to Srinigar, Kashmir and then over to Colombo, Sri Lanka. There he’ll spend the next week taking in the best of the sacred Island - Sigiriya, Kandy, a tea plantation and Yala National Park.
We have a whole page dedicated to his travels, where you’ll be able to live vicariously through Jonny, read the blogs he writes on the road and keep up with his jaunts via social media.
Leaving climate doom aside for a moment, we do have some positive environmental news to share already from 2022.
Earlier in the year, scientists made the rare discovery of a giant, pristine coral reef near Tahiti that may just be the largest in the world. At 2 miles long and 200ft wide, the coral reef looks to be incredibly healthy. One Ocean - who also held a summit this year that saw representatives from more than 100 countries agree to protect the oceans from pollution, plastic and overfishing - has partnered with UNESCO and will fund expeditions until 2030 to map the ocean’s biodiversity and find solutions to any threats.
Considering only 20% of the entire seabed has been mapped, hopefully, more discoveries like this will be made. Now, for the love of Poseidon, let’s collectively agree to leave it well alone.
6. Egypt commemorates the centennial of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb
This year, Egypt commemorates the centennial of the discovery of the ancient boy-king Tutankhamun’s tomb, who died at the age of 19 after a ten-year reign.
Back in 1922, on November 4th, after many years and plentiful expenses spent searching Egypt's Valley of the Kings, British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter along with his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, finally discovered the tomb that they weren't even sure still existed. It had lain undisturbed for 3,000 years.
100 years later, Egypt plans to mark this momentous discovery with The Grand Egypt Museum, a new, state-of-the-art project in Giza that will be the biggest museum in the world dedicated to one civilisation, housing King Tut’s numerous treasures and over 100,000 artefacts in total. Egypt's antiquities and tourism minister Khaled el-Anany told ABC News that as long as “coronavirus-related conditions are stable, then the (museum's) opening would be in the second half of the year.”
7. A year to earn your stripes
According to the lunar calendar, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. We celebrated this new rotation around the sun on the 1st of February with a fun blog dedicated to the Chinese zodiac signs and where each should venture to earn their travel stripes this year. The Chinese believe the tiger personifies courage and daring, so it’s the perfect time to push the boat out and get adventurous.
From dogs in Botswana to roosters in Portugal, check out our blog and see what country calls to your zodiac sign.
8. Greece vows to stay open
After so many restrictions and what seems like constantly changing rules, it was exciting to find out in January that Greece vows to stay open ‘non-stop’ for tourists throughout 2022. As reported in an article by TTG Media, tourism minister Vassilis Kikilias said:
“This year, we will not close at all with the right protocols and the digital passport of Covid. We will be open non-stop for 2022 for tourists, travellers and people who want to get a glimpse of our magnificent scenery.
“We are strengthening the possibility of travellers to come together – not just in the narrow summer months of June, July and August – but around the clock, year-round.
“We will be starting [the season] earlier this year with hotels, beaches, bars and restaurants going to open from early March.”
This is great news for us with our Northern Greece: Along the Via Egnatia tour, running from May through to October. Check it out!
9. We have a new 'Where to Go' page!
Need some inspiration on where to go at what time of year? Well, no need to turn to Google, you can now find out on a month-by-month basis the best place to visit based on weather, festivals, peak seasons or when to avoid the crowds, right here on our website.
10. The World Cup
Qatar may not be everyone's first choice when it comes to the ideal host nation for the World Cup, and no doubt it won't be without its controversy, but try as we might we'll no doubt find ourselves drawn into the global sporting drama. The action kicks off on November 21 with the final being held on 18 December. Is it coming home? We live in perpetual hope.
11. The Pink City Rickshaw Company takes to the streets once again
The ladies at the Pink City Rickshaw Company, the innovative not-for-profit organisation that provides employment opportunities for women from low-income households in Jaipur, are back!
We partnered with the PCRC back in 2019 after we discovered them researching an International Women’s Day blog. After paying them a visit and experiencing their services for ourselves, we swiftly incorporated these tours into some of our India itineraries.
Not only do they provide opportunities for women in a country where gender stereotypes are quite deeply entrenched, but the rickshaws the ladies are trained to drive are also environmentally friendly, which is essential to avoid contributing to the growing pollution problem in India. Beyond incorporating them into our tours, we raised money through the Wild Frontiers Foundation and were able to fund two new electric rickshaws and guide training for five more women. You can read all about it in this blog: Riding through the streets of Jaipur with the Pink City Rickshaw Company.
Unfortunately, once the pandemic hit and the country closed to overseas tourists, work naturally dried up for the Pink City guides. We were able to help provide some support to them during that time, but since the ladies are able to buy shares in the company with the purpose of one day running and owning the business themselves, it was quite a setback.
But it looks like the ladies are ready to move onwards and upwards, continuing to introduce tourists to their beautiful home and give visitors an insight into the ‘real’ Jaipur! We wish them the best of luck.
12. For the first time in 60 years, the ancient Trans BhutanTrail will open as a hiking route for tourists
After a huge restoration project, one of the most exciting trails in the world of travel launches in 2022, the Trans-Bhutan Trail. For hundreds of years, the trail was used by pilgrims, armies and traders. In fact, until the 1960's it was one of the few ways of travelling around the country. The trail runs 250 miles from Haa in the west to Trashigaang in the east. Keen hikers can walk the entire length of the trail, taking around 28 days, or smaller sections, with accommodation ranging from guesthouses and homestays to camping and luxury hotels. You'll be hearing a lot about this exciting trail in 2022!
13. New year, new hotels
All areas of the tourism industry are bouncing back this year! There have been some great new hotels popping up that we can’t wait to try out for ourselves.
Like the beautifully converted 14th-century fort that was once owned by a Rajasthani Royal family, Six Senses Fort Barwara, which Jonny will be checking out soon. There’s also the Serena Altit Fort Residence in Hunza, Pakistan, situated in the footsteps of the 1100-year-old Altit Fort, restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
We’re also excited to be booking stays with Brim Tbilisi in Georgia, a beautiful, quiet hotel in the historical part of the city and the first complex there to use solar panels as its main source of energy. Then all the way across in Argentinian Patagonia is the stunning El Chaltén Lodge.
The location of this unique accommodation is the real draw, as it’s situated in a forest where this Argentinian side of Patagonia is generally fairly dry. Plus, it kind of looks like a Bond villain's house.
14. The World Nomad Games in Turkey
The World Nomad Games returns in 2022! The ‘Olympics for nomads’ will be taking place in Turkey in September and provides an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the rich traditional sports, games and cultures of the Central Asian nomads. A colourful gathering of Tajiks, Tatars, Uzbeks and Uyghurs, this spectacular festival brings together an array of food, entertainment and sporting prowess that epitomises the tribal peoples of Central Asia, Persia and the Siberian steppes.
15. Getting back to our travels
Wild Frontiers is entirely made up of enthusiastic travellers, and just like our clients, we also had many of our personal and celebratory trips cancelled over the last few years. Our Head of Responsible Travel Nardia is excited to finally be able to make her 50th birthday celebration trip with Vietnam on the cards later in the year. Our Marketing Executive Hayley also has a delayed 30th birthday trip to Japan that will hopefully go ahead in autumn. But giving us all hope and a reason to smile was our Ops Manager, Lou, tying the knot at the beginning of the year in Mexico.
With family and friends travelling from Europe and the US, it was not dissimilar to one of her Wild Frontiers group tours in Latin America! The wedding event itself took place on a private beach in Playa del Carmen. From there, guests enjoyed day trips to the famed Yucatán cenotes, Chichén Itzá and the colonial city of Valladolid.
After a week of celebrations, Lou and her new husband headed to Costa Rica for their dream honeymoon which they had fun organising with our very own Latin America expert Richard, taking inspiration from our tailor-made itineraries. They chilled in hot springs, spent their nights glamping in the forest and spotted sloths - which is, in our humble opinion, the best way to welcome in married life.
Congratulations Lou and here's to many more events and travels in 2022!
16. The Queen's Jubilee
Her Majesty the Queen will be the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee after 70 years of service and the UK will be celebrating from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June 2022. That means we get an extended bank holiday weekend! A pretty good reason to be cheerful, we think. It could be the perfect excuse to take a holiday if you’d like to avoid the festivities or you can just make the most out of your annual leave by planning a trip over that weekend.
17. Train Travel
This year, we’re looking into getting some flight-free itineraries in our books in the hopes of promoting sustainable, environmentally-friendly travel. We also love to travel slow to really get a feel for a country. Plus, the characters you meet along the way, especially on trains, only enhances that sense of fun and discovery. And who doesn’t love a train ride?! (the Northern Line at rush hour doesn’t count)
There are some brilliant train journeys to enjoy all across the world like the Trans-Siberian rail journey and the Glacier Express in Switzerland or even the famous bullet trains in Japan, and perhaps one day, the high-speed, electric trains of Uzbekistan will make that list. First installed over ten years ago and now boasting close to 1,000 kilometres of electrified rail transports travellers across the country in record time - what used to be a five-hour journey by bus or car from Tashkent to Samarkhand, now takes only two hours on the train - has proved so popular that travellers have had to buy tickets months in advance. So watch this space…
18. Mongolia's Eagle Hunter's Festival
Beautiful, wild Mongolia has always held many draws for the adventure traveller, with its vast steppe and wide-open spaces, semi-nomadic population and abundant wildlife. Mongolia opened its borders to fully-vaccinated international travellers in February, which is good news if you’d like to check out one of the most fascinating festivals in the Mongolian calendar. Beneath expansive skies, in the shadow of the majestic Altai Mountains, the Golden Eagle Hunters Festival will return in September of this year.
Over two days, this intimate celebration offers the chance to enjoy the splendour and spectacle of this colourful festival that includes an opening ceremony with a parade of the eagle hunters, competitions to test the agility and mastery of bird and hunter and equestrian games that include horse archery. On the second day, the eagles will be put through their paces as they are called by the hunters to land on a moving target from a great height. There’ll also be women's equine competition.
19. Our online travel talks are actually saving the planet (kinda)
We were quite sad when the pandemic put a stop to our in-person travel talks. It was always a pleasure to meet all of our clients and participate in an exciting evening of adventure with our guest speakers, in some very cool venues. But recent studies have suggested that prior to the pandemic, the global conference industry was contributing the same annual greenhouse gas emissions as the entire United States.
Switching conferences, or indeed our travel talks and staff meetings to the online sphere, or even employing a hybrid format, could be a productive strategy in mitigating climate change. What a silver lining! Already this year we've virtually explored India with Kate Humble, Laos and Cambodia and The Wonders of Georgia.
20. New experiences
2022 is set to provide us with a host of new experiences, including that of a visit to the Carpathian highlands, one of the last places to see Europe’s wild bears. The Projekt MedVed team of experienced rangers will take visitors to the heart of the Tatras Mountains to see and learn about the bears in their natural environment on our new Poland and Slovakia tour.
Also set to open in 2022 is The Grand Egypt Museum in Giza (see 15), the Silk Road Samarkand museum and the national State Museum of Arts in Uzbekistan. The first Studio Ghibli theme park is set to open in Nagoya, Japan in Autumn and Diego Rivera, Mexican muralist and Frida Kahlo’s husband and mentor, has his dream of an urban oasis of traditional Mexican art realized 80 years after its conception.
This ‘City of Art’ is centred around the Anahuacalli Museum, which he assisted in constructing and opened in 1964, has finally been added to and completed. The ‘city’ now includes galleries, performance spaces, workshops and new offices to celebrate the diverse cultural heritage of the region.
21. App-y days
Nevermore so than in the last few years has technology proved just how annoyingly useful it can be, with passenger locator forms, NHS Covid passports and flight tickets being summoned at the tap of a screen. It has been quite a transition for many of us who prefer carrying hard copies in a nice little folder. We almost miss the ritual of it all. It has proved a challenge for some to get used to this new normal and we have received some calls from those due to travel who were getting rather, understandably, flustered with it all.
But with a little bit of practice and a lot of patience, smartphone apps can actually be incredibly helpful! Need help packing? There’s an app for that. Desperate to find a toilet on your travels? There’s an app for that, too!
Here are five of our favourite travel apps, that actually makes things a lot simpler once we embrace them with eager thumbs:
PackPoint - a customisable packing list based on the weather forecast, if there are washing facilities in your destination and what activities you’ll be doing. You can cross them off as you pack.
XE Currency Converter - keep on top of changing transfer rates with this easy-to-use app.
Google Translate - can translate 103 languages by text, 59 offline, 37 by camera translation, 43 by 2-way speech translation and 95 by handwriting translations (phew)...pretty handy, right?!
Flush Toilet Finder - even if you don’t have an internet connection, this app will show you all the closest public toilets in the area. It has a growing database of 200,000 toilets.
Flightradar24 - keep an eye on your flight and stay up to date with delays, gate changes, cancellations and diversions.
22. Saudi success
We’re used to setting up tours in destinations that are thought of as…well, controversial. But doing so in a country that has never welcomed international tourists was certainly a challenge. But that’s what we do best!
And it seems to be paying off because we’ve been getting some great feedback from our Saudi tours, including this one from our traveller Hilary:
‘It was a privilege to be such an early non-Muslim visitor to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to catch a glimpse of how this ancient land is trying to reconcile its historic past with the challenges of the twenty-first century. Its archaeological and natural treasures are awe-inspiring and deserve to be more widely known. The people we met were charming and super-eager to please. And the food was extremely tasty and abundant. Add to all this the fact that women are now apparently becoming equal partners in Saudi life and that, travelling as a woman, I always felt completely safe - even on the days when I was in Riyadh on my own before the rest of my group arrived - and you have the recipe for a truly eye-opening experience. It would be fabulous to return in a year or so and see how the country is embracing tourism.’
BONUS (because technically it was in 2021)
Worthy of a 2022 celebration (there’s no such thing as ‘too much’ good news), 70 whole new species were discovered in 2021! That's 14 beetles, 12 sea slugs, nine ants, seven fish, six scorpions, five sea stars, five flowering plants, four sharks, three spiders, two sea pens, one moss, one pygmy pipehorse and one caecilian, across five continents and three oceans. Every single new discovery helps us to understand how our planet works and this news reminds us of how much hope can still be found on our planet that is well worth fighting for.