I love to travel off the beaten path. You can call me a little bit of a rough rider! And since I’m an environmental scientist and entomologist by training, I like to see a country through its natural environment. Some of my favorite places have been Mozambique, Indonesia, Colombia, and Costa Rica, all of which have incredible flora and fauna (and bugs!).
Additionally, I’m a sucker for botanical gardens. I’ll try to go see every city’s botanical gardens if I have the time.
If you ever travel to Mozambique, I’d highly recommend staying on the beach in Inhambane. The Indian ocean is blue, blue, blue, and there’s incredible diving to see whale sharks. If you’re able to make it all the way up north, then I’d also recommend staying on the Ilha de Mocambique, which used to be the capital of the country before Maputo was donned the capital during the gold rush. The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and has the remnants of a very cosmopolitan city. You must see the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, which is the oldest European building in the Southern Hemisphere and a fine example of Manueline vaulted architecture. And if you don’t mind the most modest of stays, I’d encourage you to see sustainable development and forest restoration first hand at the Mezimbite Forest Centre with Allan Schwarz outside of Beira, which is in South-central Mozambique. Just keep in mind that he’ll put you to work, but he’ll surely give you a good price on their beautifully-made product.
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I’ve spent some time in Colombia and there are so many gorgeous places and it’s an easy flight from New York, which is where I’m based. Highly recommend checking out Villa de Leyva—it’s a town built on and made from fossils—literally—but unfortunately, a number of the fossils have been stolen from the pathways and sides of buildings. Regardless, it’s an incredible little town, and you can see a museum that was literally built around a 115 million year old Kronosaur that had been unearthed. It’s also a short drive from Boyacá, Colombia, which has a archaeoastronomical site featuring phallic megaliths—good enough to get a rise out of you!
If you make your way down to Costa Rica, try to visit a town by the name of Turrialba. Gorgeous little town. Stay or dine at Hotel Casa Turire, which is situated near the water, has horse riding, forested trails, and even an organic farm, which they harvest from to make the food there, which is excellent.
Highly recommend as well, heading to Tapanti National Park, CATIE and Lankester Botanical Gardens, particularly if you're plant lovers. The latter has one of the most stunning orchid exhibits that I've seen.
It's worth it to rent a car in Costa Rica, but fellow travelers have told me that it's best to rent a car far in advance, as you get a much better deal. There are some horror stories of car rental, largely because of the taxes, but I rented with Dollar Rental in Costa Rica, and they were splendid!