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Explore exotic landscapes at Devon's Geopark Festival

About Britain

Sahara-style desert, Caribbean-like waters, drowned forests.

Few are probably aware that such a huge diversity of landscapes awaits exploration on one of the UK's southern shores. But a new tourism initiative in south Devon is encouraging visitors to uncover the geological stories of this region's dramatic coastline.

The aim is to entice us to explore these shores – a designated Global Geopark since 2007 – from different perspectives.

The English Riviera Tourism Company has dreamed up six new Discovery Packages launched to coincide with the area's annual Geopark Festival, which runs from 25 May to 5 June. Visitors can pick up a map from one of the local information centres – or go online (englishrivierageopark .org.uk) to find out more – and choose from themed outdoor experiences designed to capture the interest of everyone from adventurers to foodies.

A journey from the sea to the plate will be offered with Simon Hulstone, head chef of the Michelin-starred Elephant Restaurant in Torquay. It starts with a morning of mackerel fishing and day culminates in a session in Simon's kitchen, where he'll show off his skills and serve up a seafood lunch.

The warm, tropical waters of the Marine Devonian are the focus of a guided canoe trip. Visitors will be able to tap into the expertise of a local ranger to spot marine life such as seals and dolphins.

A day of coasteering is also on offer. An experienced instructor will help individuals negotiate the rugged coastline, swim across inlets, cliff-climb, and finish with a final leap into deep water.

Other experiences on offer include bushcraft survival, as well as a guided walk starting at Kents Cavern – which will take visitors back 400 million years to Britain's oldest prehistoric home.

Meanwhile, the annual Geopark Festival on the English Riviera – which kicks off on Wednesday – is the biggest collection of events on land, water and underground in the area since it was designated. The festival includes a performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest in Kents Cavern and prehistoric pottery-making sessions at the Brixham Museum. While Lupton House, near Churston, will open for star-gazing from its Italian Garden.

"Ours may be the smallest of the 78 Geoparks in the world," says Nick Powe, chairman of the English Riviera Global Geopark, "but this year the festival includes events and activities designed to attract visitors from home and abroad to stay in the bay and enjoy the outstanding natural beauty it offers."