I shall never forget my first Naturetrek holiday, taken in June 2009.  It was a cruise to the high Arctic island of Spitsbergen.  Standing on the quayside at Oban waiting to embark on the cruise ship, I could only wonder at what might lie ahead and I was feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension – after all, this was my first foreign holiday – at the age of 64!

At 4.30am I was slumped on a cold steel bench in Terminal 5 at Heathrow idly observing a fellow early bird drape his long form in corrugations across the intervening armrests. By mid-morning I was bowling along an open road in Sweden with a small, disparate group of other hopefuls on my way to Vargas Wilderness Centre. That’s how easy it was.

They have a saying in Africa: ‘You come with rain, you are a lucky person’. After 31 hours of travelling from the North of Scotland to the depths of the Okavango Delta I had just sunk gratefully onto one of the camp chairs round the table in the open-sided mess tent, a glass of cool G&T in hand, happily slurping, when a sudden local storm whipped up in the clearing before us. 

The summer days in Arctic Finland were certainly not without their pleasures. The hours passed swiftly by as we scanned the pristine lakes for birds, munched contentedly on reindeer stew, paddled in crystal clear waters and walked through pure forest to the Russian border, where a Golden Eagle swooped dramatically in front of our group.

'My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird, -the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!'

(Quote taken from 'The Windhover' by Gerard Manley Hopkins)