My Life In Travel: Liz Bonnin, TV presenter
'The more I travel, the more I want to see'
Saturday 16 July 2011
First holiday memory?
My mum was born in Trinidad, so we used go to there twice a year to see family. I have fond memories of island-hopping with my cousins and aunts and being by the beautiful Caribbean sea. Every time I go, it feels like returning home, even though I've never lived there.
New Zealand. My sister and I hired a car and drove down from the North Island to the South Island. We skydived over Lake Wanaka and swam with wild dolphins in Kaikoura. We stayed in beautiful B&Bs with scenery that ranged from forests to wide expanses of landscape that looks almost like Mongolia. It really was the trip of a lifetime, discovering one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
The Cairngorms. When I went the sun shone every day, which was very unusual. I was filming a documentary about Scottish wildcats and came across a pair of wildcat kittens. Also, Rathlin Island, off the coast of County Antrim in Ireland. I went scuba-diving there and saw conger eels amid shipwrecks. The British Isles are second to none when it's a beautiful day.
What have you learnt from your travels?
The more I travel, the more I want to see. I think travelling is one of the most important things everyone should do in life. I went to Honduras for the first time recently and experienced that absolute thrill of not knowing what to expect.
Ideal travelling companion?
My sister. We're very different but very close. We've never had a fight. She's a wonderful companion who has inspired me to explore new places.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Sometimes I just need to get away to the nearest hot place with a suitcase full of books and do little else except swim in the sea. Other times, I'm into exploring wildlife, trekking in Patagonia or jumping out of planes in New Zealand.
Greatest travel luxury?
A cashmere shawl I own that's the size of a blanket. I wrap it around myself three times when I'm on a plane. When I got off after Honduras, you wouldn't have recognised me – I looked completely dishevelled, swathed in this huge blanket.
I read a lot of science and wildlife books for work, so when I go for leisure, I like to catch up on novels. I recently read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, who also wrote The Kite Runner. And I also really enjoyed The Elegance Of The Hedgehog, a beautiful book about a little girl and a courtier who live together in Paris, by French novelist Muriel Barbery.
Where has seduced you?
India. The first time I went I was freaked out by the utter difference. But as much as it's filthy, overcrowded and there is sheer poverty – there is absolute beauty in some of the villages. It's also where I saw my first tiger in a national park in Madhya Pradesh; I'm obsessed with tigers. That trip is what inspired me to do my MA and natural history programming on the BBC.
Better to travel or to arrive?
I enjoy flying. It's a little bit of escapism, where you cannot get access to your phone or contact anyone. I tuck in under my blanket and watch movie after movie. But I still get butterflies and a smile on my face when I land.
A tiny place in Egypt. We were driving between two oases in the middle of the desert and were absolutely filthy and dying for a shower. It was the only place I'd been to where the shower was dirtier than I was. We went for a few beers to get through it, got into bed, and I woke up in the morning with a massive spider bite on the middle of my forehead the size of a small country. We had breakfast outside and there was a pool with a layer of larvae on top of it.
A tiny little B&B called Mas de la Beaume in Gordes, Provence. It's set in one of the most beautiful old towns in the world. It's the screensaver on my phone because it's what my dream house would look like. It's a converted French farmhouse with little old stone rooms – lots of character and utterly beautiful.
A walk along the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. There's something very spiritual and powerful about that place. Also, driving through Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh, in an open-top 4x4 looking at the trees and the blue sky; and swimming in the Caribbean, near Sainte Anne in Martinique. The water is clear and utterly warm. There's nothing like it.
Best meal abroad?
Whenever I go back to Trinidad, I make my family stop for a prawn curry roti at the Hot Shoppe shack near Port of Spain. Also, eating grilled fish with Indonesian dipping sauce, greens and sticky rice on the balcony of the Kumara Sakti [a yoga retreat in Ubud, Bali] with the best vegetarian food I've ever eaten in my life.
I'm besotted with South American culture, language and music, so I'd love to spend six months there. I've been to Argentina but I would love to travel through Brazil and Chile. I've always dreamt of getting to know the continent better.
Rome. I love the romance of it: the peeling orange paint on green-shuttered buildings, the attitude to food and spending hours at lunch tables with friends and family. It's a beautiful city to stroll around.
I'm going to Botswana to film the elephant migration and some meerkats for the BBC with a show called Animal Einstein. I've never been on safari, so it's another privileged outing.
Liz Bonnin presents 'Egypt's Lost Cities', available on BBC DVD (£20.42).
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