Explore with an expert

Wade Davis has experienced festivals in Peru.
Wade Davis has experienced festivals in Peru. Photo: Wade Davis

Around the world in 24 days

Canadian Wade Davis has lived in the Amazon collecting botanical samples and in Haiti exploring the zombie phenomenon.

But of all his job titles, from ethnographer to author (one of his 17 books, Into the Silence - an account of British adventurers' attempts to scale Mount Everest in the 1920s - won the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize), surely the most romantic is his role as explorer-in-residence for the National Geographic Society.

An artist's vision of the Las Vegas human jackpot.
An artist's vision of the Las Vegas human jackpot. 

As a guest lecturer on the society's 24-day around-the-world journeys by private jet, Davis presents on a dozen subjects according to the country, including Polynesian navigation, the Killing Fields, Tibetan 20th-century history and the salt caravans of Mali and the Dogon.

"In a way, you're like a stone skipping through the stratosphere, but you get a sense of the wondrousness and the interconnectedness of the world," Davis says of the journeys.

Davis says his mission with the society through such storytelling is to change the way the world views the definition of culture.

Other recent projects by the adventurer include curation of the exhibition No Strangers: Ancient Wisdom in a Modern World, featuring esteemed photographers such as Steve McCurry, at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles until February 24. His Everest journals of Oliver Wheeler, the first Canadian on Mount Everest, will also be published in 2013.

Davis's next 24-day journey - to mark 125 years of the National Geographic Society - to Oman, Bhutan, the Maldives, Botswana, Rwanda and Spain leaves from London on February 26. It costs from $US72,950 ($69,500).

Into the Silence (Vintage, $29.95). See nationalgeographicexpeditions.com; annenbergspaceforphotography.org; daviswade.com.

Eurostar shines

In the lead-up to the European summer, Eurostar will add an extra service from London to the southern French cities of Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.

The weekly, non-stop spring train service in May and June 2013 is in addition to Eurostar's existing Avignon journey and takes fewer than six hours to Lyon and just over seven hours to Avignon and on to Aix-en-Provence.

Return fares cost from $152 to Lyon and $167 for Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.

See railbookers.com.au.

All rocky roads lead to ...

There's now even more reason to visit Victoria's Yarra Valley, an hour's drive from Melbourne. Already well known for its wine and produce, a dedicated chocolaterie has also opened, with six chocolatiers from Belgium and France overseeing 150 varieties made with local ingredients and Belgian couverture chocolate that denotes at least 32 per cent cocoa butter. Alongside pralines, rocky road, nougat, chocolate sauces and take-home ice-creams, a cabinet will display 2500 truffles at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. At 35 Old Healesville Road (corner Melba Highway), Yarra Glen, Victoria. Open 9am-5pm daily. See yvci.com.au.

Lose your shirt in a zip

Adjust your sequins for take-off. Las Vegas's Fremont Street - with 10 casinos and countless poker machines - is about to launch the world's first powered-launch zipline attraction, in which the rider is the jackpot.

Opening early next year, the human prizes will launch from a 37-metre take-off tower, fly for more than 500 metres above thousands of people on Fremont Street (the region attracts 15 million annually), and exit the poker machine through a giant pay table and coin tray.

See zipline.com.

Bird's eye on the reef

From giant clams to manta rays, Lizard Island, on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, is the place to see aquatic life up close.

But for a bird's-eye view, two helicopters have landed at the resort owned by Delaware North Australia Parks and Resorts for scenic flights of the region.

Skysafari Australia will operate five flights in a four-seater Robinson 44 helicopter and a five-seater Robinson 66, with a doors-off option for the journeys. From 150 metres, guests are likely to see marine and mainland wildlife.

The trips will include a 20-minute photographer flight, setting off over the island's Blue Lagoon, then Palfrey and South islands, past Cooks Look for a shot of the island's 24 white sand beaches.

A 5-hour fishing flight will stop at remote barramundi fishing spots.

The photographers' flight is $200 a person; the fisherman's paradise, $1240.

See lizardisland.com.au.

Send news items to smarttraveller@fairfax.com.au.

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