Much of our time is spent exploring the hidden corners of Asia researching new expeditions and imaginative trip ideas. Needless to say, we discover a few hidden gems along the way. And so below, we have curated a select number of special interest themes around which we design truly unique, experiential adventures for our clients, followed by a photo essay of some previous trip examples we have delivered.
We also love nothing more than a challenging trip-planning brief. So, whether you want to discover rare rhododendrons in the wilds of western China, photograph esoteric Buddhist festivals in eastern Tibet, or live and trek with the eagle hunters of western Mongolia, get in touch and give us a try.
We promise you two things; an ability to think outside the box, and, honesty. If your request falls outside our area of expertise, we will do our best to point you in the right direction.
The fabled eagle hunters of western Mongolia have captured the imagination of travellers for years. To this day, the close relationship between man and raptor seems to touch a deep desire in many of us for a closer connection with nature. Their nomadic home range, in the large glacial valleys and snowy peaks of the Altai mountains, also remains one of the last untouched frontiers of Asia.
Every summer, from June to September, we arrange a small number of uniquely private homestays with our friends of many years - one renowned eagle hunter and one noted horsebreeder - who live in the wilds of western Mongolia. Our guests typically spend 3 or 4 days living alongside (in their own private ger) each warm-hearted family, immersing themselves in their way of life, riding horses and fat bikes, hiking, attending local festivals and experiencing daily demonstrations as the eagle hunters train their magnificent birds for winter: Truly amazing trips and fantastic for adventurous families.
Thank you so much for organising a wonderful trip for our family. The team were very caring throughout. We enjoyed getting to know the families, experiencing their way of life, and marvelling at the panoramas everywhere we turned.
Their generous hospitality and clean heartedness will remain with us forever. It was such a unique adventure, sights that we had not seen before. In terms of things that that could be improved, in all honesty I don't think we could spot any!
Botanical: Unique Biosphere Of Western China
After years of trekking through China's most pristine epicenters of plant endemism, we are now expert at designing unique botanically-themed trips throughout Yunnan and Sichuan. In May 2015 for example, in partnership with the N.Z. Rhododendron Society, we designed and lead a pioneering expedition into the wild borderlands of Burma and Tibet to hunt for new hybrid species of rhododendron, ultimately classifying over 100 varieties of flowers.
Likewise, if primulas, blue poppies or arisaema are your thing, the high mountains, valleys and grasslands of the region are unrivalled in terms of the variety of flowers. So, to showcase this floral beauty, every year we organize private treks to discover 'hidden' botanical sanctuaries and - for more sedentary enthusiasts - road trips that gently explore more accessible hotspots.
I embarked on one of Whistling Arrow's botanical adventures in June 2015 and found it to be extremely well organised and managed. We discovered very remote areas probably not explored since the great plant explorers were in the area in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
The pristine plants were just fantastic! Whistling Arrow prepared an exceptionally well laid plan for our adventure with everything you could think of - good tents, good food, good people and good times.
Trekking: Wild West Of China & Mongolia
If there is another corner of Asia, where most people's perception of it is so far removed from the reality on the ground - a land of soaring peaks, dramatic gorges and esoteric minority cultures - then we would love to hear about it. In western China (particularly northern Yunnan, western Sichuan and southern Qinghai) unique opportunities for immersive farmhouse treks and expeditionary wilderness adventures are almost endless. And unlike many other destinations in Asia, you will likely have the whole trekking route to yourself.
Similarly in the spectacular Altai mountains of western Mongolia, we have explored a number of un-trekked routes along the border of China that offer some of the best expeditionary-style treks in Asia. Guided by eagle hunters, and supported by Bactrian camels, these adventures truly offer our guests an adventure of a lifetime. As in western China, there are also other 'softer' options that can also be tailored specifically to the requirements of your family or other pre-arranged group.
There have been many enthusiastic comments from the group; truly our Altai adventure was above all our expectations.
Thank you for making it possible and for all your patience, organization, fun and pure good humour. We are all agreed - it was absolutely the best trip we have ever done!
Photography: Tibetan Festival Trips
The eastern Tibetan region of Kham, historically renowned for its fierce warriors and enlightened sages, has for centuries been more accessible to intrepid travellers than the holy city of Lhasa which lies further to the west. Since the 18th century, the monasteries of Kham have been the epicenter of Tibetan cultural and religious customs and, if you know where and when to visit, still offer a fascinating window into a world of esoteric tantric festivals and age old nomadic traditions.
The added attraction here, is that much of these spectacular Buddhist festivals, which usually take the form of ritualized Cham dances and colourful horse racing events, take place in what is present day western Sichuan, and remain largely open to western travellers without the hassle of applying for a Tibetan travel permit. Needless to say, the authentic festivals (we are usually the only outsiders there) and spectacular scenery represent a heady mix for keen photographers (and/or those of you just interested in Tibetan culture).
Family Adventure: Coron (Palawan) Sea Safaris
Our bespoke island-hopping adventures in Coron, northern Palawan, (Philippines) embrace the alluring simplicity of being off the grid and connecting with nature, and are perfect for more adventurous families who love being in, and on, the water. Setting out (typically for five days) on your very own expedition banca - complete with captain, chef and local guide - you will explore secluded limestone bays, deserted coral atolls and the indigenous Tagbanwa tribal culture of this amazing archipelago.
So, imagine lying on powdery white sand, snorkelling WW II wrecks, swimming in gin clear lakes, and kayaking across tourqoise lagoons framed by spectacularly sculptured shards of limestone. At night, beach camp under the stars, dine on freshly caught fish, and relax around the orange glow of a campfire. Last but not least, as you dive into Coron's electric blue waters be prepared (with a little luck) to be seduced by a dugong; one of the modern day sirens of the sea - an experience that is incredibly beautiful, if a little bizarre (they are related to an elephant after all)!