Experiential travel is the best and what better way to get into the shoes of a destination than learning a new skill under the guidance of local experts? From cooking and dancing to surfing and diving, and a host of craft activities, here are some suggestions for educational and hands-on activities to try on your next trip.
Make a hammock in Belize
In Punta Gorda, Belize’s quiet Toledo neighborhood, barefoot children chase chickens in the yard of an unassuming farm. As you cross its threshold, you will meet a Mayan family who earn their living by weaving baskets, fans and hammocks.
It is a complex and absorbing work, which consists of stripping the strands of plants and spinning them into a fine thread. Each hammock can take weeks to weave and complete by hand, one loop is missing, and everything has to be unrolled. You’ll be amazed at the skill and speed of the kids helping out – it’s the family trade for many Belizean Mayans, and they start very young.
Cooking ceviche in Peru
Ask any Peruvian what their national dish is, and they’ll tell you ceviche. Learning how to prepare this plate of fish delicately marinated in citrus juices and spices is a great way to see one of the best things about Peruvian cities: the markets. A half-day cooking class usually begins with a visit to market stalls, where local produce is examined and appraised, tropical fruits are sampled and fishmongers are visited – it takes the freshest catch for a good ceviche. It’s a vibrant, loud and delicious alternative to hitting the supermarket.
When the shopping expedition is over, a top chef will teach small groups of students how to make ceviche, before you all sit down to a collectively prepared gourmet lunch.
Scuba Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand
The undeveloped island of Koh Tao is an excellent place for novice divers, the currents are gentle and the marine life is varied and accessible. During a ‘trial dive’, an instructor will teach you safety checks and other basic scuba skills, before embarking on a shallow dive down to 32 feet (10 m) deep. depth. Even at this depth, there is plenty to see. Look for eels, groupers, barracudas, turtles, nudibranchs and neon yellow boxfish.
There is an added bonus to diving here too. Since so many visitors are busy exploring the underwater riches of the island’s waters, the beaches remain relatively calm, which is ideal for relaxing after snorkeling.
Housed in a former almond warehouse in the heart of Essaouira, Atelier Madada offers oriental pastry workshops in a relaxed and informal setting. Here you will learn how to make traditional delicacies such as gazelle horns made from almonds and orange blossom cookies. These pastries are found throughout Morocco and are mainly served to welcome guests and celebrate special occasions.
You will watch the cook prepare the different ingredients, before assembling them yourself and working the dough to give it the right shapes. While they cook in the oven, you can sip a customary mint tea, before taking your creations home.
Explore fabric printing near Jaipur, India
Bagru, a village about 19 miles (32 km) from Jaipur, has a thriving industry of hand-printed fabrics. Its simple designs use uncomplicated techniques and natural dyes in earthy tones. Textile enthusiasts can learn about the printing, washing and boiling processes before heading to Chippa Mohalla (Printing Quarter) to see all these methods in action. Here, you’ll watch block printers at work as they hand block fabrics and make natural dyes and printing inks.
While the finished fabrics dry in the sun, you can have breakfast and drink tea with the artisans, before creating and printing your own designs under their guidance. To explore this fascinating village and its vibrant textile traditions comfortably, consider availing a convenient Jaipur car rental service. It will provide you with the freedom to visit Bagru and other nearby attractions at your own pace, ensuring a memorable and immersive experience.
Cash cows in Sri Lanka
Jim’s Farm in the Central Province of Sri Lanka is a working farm with three villas scattered among palm and pepper plantations. During your stay, you can take a tour of the farm and learn about traditional farming techniques. Every afternoon, at milking time, you will even have the opportunity to try your hand at milking one of the cows on the farm.