Cutting your way through a dense jungle in Madagascar or riding on horseback through a war-ravaged village in Afghanistan may not seem like a conventional holiday.
But a group of ex-military officers from the British Armed Forces have worked out the perfect way to open up these inaccessible corners of the world and argue they can offer you the experience of a lifetime.
Graham Wood, from Tallis Journeys, said the guided tours gave him an unprecedented glimpse of life in isolated regions like North Korea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Uganda – but warned they are not for the ‘faint of heart’.
‘The trips are certainly a little rough around the edges. You will come back feeling tired and worn down, but if you want an authentic, immersive experience then there is no better way to do it,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
A glimpse into the unknown: A young boy in Afghanistan looks into the distance only an arms reach from two rifles
A local in Iraqi Kurdistan charges ahead in poor visibility while followed by the group of intrepid adventurers
He said each trip has been put together by a highly organise survival specialists who will guide you through destinations across Africa, Antarctica, South America and Asia.
‘If you are doing white water rafting in Uganda you will be with an experienced rafting specialist while if you are trekking up Kilimanjaro there will be a mountaineering specialist.
‘All the tour leaders have a very specific set of skills and once they finish up in the military, when a daily nine to five job just doesn’t do it for them, they use their experience to put together these amazing trips.’
He said the holidays may not be suited to those who spend most of their time lazing around on the couch, but you wouldn’t need to be an ‘uber athlete’ to meet the physical demands either.
Inquisitive locals gather on a large rock in Madagascar to watch the expedition team set up camp at sundown
The expedition team walk toward the distant horizon in Iran as they prepare to explore the Lut desert
‘There is a nice mix of the difficult and challenging stuff – it is all graded by how far you travel, how much weight you are carrying, the terrain, climate and altitude.’
The 30-year-old traveller, who has visited 53 countries, said while the trips navigate through regions touched by war, they would never send a group into an active conflict.
‘There is no voyeuristic element but you are sending people to places that have gone through serious political change or been torn apart by war – like the Congo – so there is always going to be a residual part of that war left.’
Mr Wood said the landscape almost appears frozen in time, with rusted tanks abandoned on the side of the road which now serve as playgrounds for the local children.
‘In any country that’s been touched by war there are always vehicles of war left behind,’ he said.
‘These countries trying to pull themselves out of the grips of war and it takes a lot of time for those scars to heal.’
Two women in Afghanistan walk along a dirt road as their traditional blue Afghani Burqas flow behind them in the wind
The interior of a yurt, a tent like dwelling used by nomads in Afghanistan’s Wakhan corridor, is adorned with colourful mats
A tank lay abandoned on the side of a raod in Afghanistan’s Wakhan corridor which is now used by children as a playground
An Afghani elder in a fur hat holds on to a loaded gun in the Wakhan corridor as the tour group visit
A local man from the Deomcratic Republic of Congo stands on a gun just outside Virunga National Park
He argued adventure tourists will often re-open the doors to a country forgotten by the Western world, allowing them to re-connect with outsiders.
‘I think while these trips are an amazing and life changing experience for the client, it is also about opening these places that have been closed off to the world and adventure travellers are the ones who show people there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope out there,’ Mr Wood said.
He said a lot of locals are living ‘so far below any poverty line in Australia’ and often have no idea about what lies beyond their village.
‘I remember chatting to ex-militia guys in the Congo and just showing them that there is a normal life out there, the interaction is unlike anything you will ever experience.’
‘Even showing them our Facebook photos, it is so foreign to them but it also illuminates their picture of the world – it is fascinating.’
An armed ranger looks out over the mountain ranges in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park
Two wild hippopotumuses lock jaws in a river that runs through the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
A Silverback Gorilla sits stoically in the Congo’s Virunga National Park, with some troupes containing up to 30 gorillas
Three armed rangers smile for a photograph, one with an arm slung over an expedition participant
Adventurers were treated to a glimpse of red hot molten lava in the Congo’s Nyiragongo Crater – the world’s largest lava lake
Three lone figures involved in the adventure expedition walk across seemingly endless sand dunes of the Lut desert in Iran
Set in the expansive sand dues in the Lut dessert, explorers had the chance to visit an old abandoned fortress in Iran
Mr Wood said he was often surprised by how generous locals were, particularly in Mongolia when he was warmly welcomed into the ‘incredibly beautiful’ huts they live in.
‘It is hard to imagine but when people have very little, the colourful rugs you see on the walls are their entire worldly possessions. They have been handed down from generation to generation.
‘They will invite you in and you think it is very simple but it is the literal equivalent of these people rolling out the red carpet for you, a complete stranger, it is incredible.’
He said some critics claim travelling in war torn areas in turn supports negative regimes, but he argues that ‘if no one ever visits the country, it will never see change’.
An exhausted expedition team follow one another as they approach the summit of Mount Halgurd in Iraqi Kurdistan
The team set up camp overlooking the snowy mountain peaks of Iraqi Kurdistan – taking in the phenomenal view
Above the clouds: Two mountain climbers journey 3,607 metres up Mount Halgurd – the second highest summit in Iraq
The expedition team were treated to a bright orange sunset after setting up camp in the Zagros mountains
The Tallis Journeys team descend down a grassy patch of the mountain after successfully summitting Mount Halgurd
A man sits quietly, allowing a tourist to snap a photograph, as he overlooks a city in Iraqi Kurdistan
Travellers observe two local children passing the time by watching two adults play a game of chess in Iraqi Kurdistan
Two bright orange eyes peirce through the brown scenery as a lemur checks out the travellers in Madagascar
The group look up as they approach Pic Boby, also known as Pic Imarivolanitra, the highest climable summit in Madagascar
Two men wade through a river in Madagascar’s highlands during their expedition to Madagascar’s Pic Boby
Dappled sunlight pierces through the canopy while travellers take a rest in Madagascar’s misty landscape
Two groups sit on opposing rocks as rafts are loaded up for a journey down a remote river in Northern Madagascar
‘We can show them what happens in the west, and that we aren’t just this big empire trying to challenge and change their way of life,’ he said.
Mr Wood said he, like many people, often have an idea about what a country is like before ever visiting, but argued his own preconceptions were shattered once he had a chance to interact with locals.
‘When I went to North Korea I had this vision of a horrible kingdom where you will be watched all the time and not have the chance to interact with people, but they were so open and friendly.
‘It just goes to show people are people. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, Nabia or North Korea, if you sit down and have a chat with them you’re bound to bond no matter who they are.’
You can find out more about organising your own trip with Tallis Journeys on their website.
A tour guide from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation Museum in North Korea motions toward two large sculptures
A captured American tank from the Korean war remains on display at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation Museum
Three North Korean children in red scarves play a song for visitors at the Mangyongdae School Childrens Palace
Commuters in North Korea line up as a train in the Pyongyang Metro system pulls up and opens its doors
[Source:- Daily Mail]