I have to admit that the day I found myself wandering around a nature reserve clutching a wooden suitcase which contained, amongst other things, made up animal poo and a jar holding a wet sponge, was a bit on the odd side.
How did I end up myself in this scenario, you ask yourself? Well, I was invited down to Brindisi in Italy to take part in a blogger experience program, where we did all kinds of exciting things, from stuffing ourselves silly on Italian food to racing yachts to Greece. Experience? It sure was.
But fake poo and a wet sponge? How did I get there? Let’s take a look at that day.
It started off well. We were to take an old Turkish yacht along the coast, with our destination being a marine national park where there was the promise of snorkelling. Sure, the sea wasn’t exactly warm given that summer had taken her time getting to Europe, but how cold could it be?
Unfortunately, against the weather forecast, and despite a gorgeous start to the day, it wasn’t long before the skies started to become a little ominous. And then, a lot ominous. Ominous like this in fact:
Whilst seeing mammatus clouds was indeed very cool, I would have preferred to see them from a nice, stable, not surrounded by water vantage point. It wasn’t long before the rain started whipping in, and thunder and lightning danced around the skies. Not exactly snorkelling weather.
Luckily, this being Italy, the boat was well equipped with plenty of fine wine and tasty snacks, with which we were able to pass the time whilst slowly puttering down the coast to our destination, storm raging around us.
Thankfully, as we arrived at our destination – the protected marine area and reserve of Riserva di Torre Guaceto – the skies cleared beautifully and sun was all around us. Perfect for a spot of snorkelling? You bet.
As it turned out, the water wasn’t exactly warm. Some of the braver souls amongst us opted to go without wetsuits. I was not one of these souls. Along with fellow photographer Daniel (check out his blog, Canvas of Light), I suited up into a rather fetching blue number. Which I think you will agree, is quite stylish.
And then it was off for an hour or so of peering at fish, sea grass and, rather excitingly, an octopus. So despite the temperature it was a lot of fun.
Ok, ok, I know, we haven’t quite got to the suitcase yet. It’s about to arrive, I promise.
After we’d snorkelled, it seemed only fair to spend a bit of time on the beach, drying off and generally enjoying the wonderful day. And, in my case, taking pictures of the fantastic scenery. Never a chore.
And then, just as I thought the day was coming to a close, with the sun starting to sink towards the horizon, and the light getting oh so golden and lovely, a man arrived on the beach, with a great number of wooden suitcases in tow.
It was time for us to take an experiential tour of the Torre Guaceto Nature Reserve.
We sat in a circle on the sand, and were each issued with a gorgeous handmade and hand-decorated wooden suitcase. Mine had an owl on it. Upon opening the suitcase, we discovered a range of treasures inside, each of which would be explained to us as part of the tour.
And so we set off across the golden coloured landscape, as our guide passionately explained to us the history of the area, the importance of conservation, and why he had spent so much time and effort creating these unique suitcases.
It was all about the experience. The idea was for people to be able to visit the nature reserve and experience it with all their senses. Some of the items in the suitcase were for the eyes of course. But others were to listen to, or touch, or, in the case of the wet sponge, to help with smell (it seems a wet nose makes smell more apparent).
And so we wandered. We learnt about the people who had come to the Torre in a boat as refugees, hoping to find peace away from their war torn nations. We read passages left behind in notebooks from previous visitors, and put in our own passages for future visitors. And we tried to take it all in with all of our senses, to truly experience this place that clearly meant so much to those who worked and lived here.
And of course, we looked, puzzled, at the strange section of the suitcase which held the fantasy poo which, our guide explained to us, was meant to help us imagine the sorts of creatures that might call this park home, and may produce different shapes and sizes of poo.
Finally, our visit came to an end. But not before we took a brief side trip to experience the sun setting across a five hundred year old olive grove, filled with gnarled twisted trees which had clearly experienced a great deal in their lengthy lives. A fascinating place to visit, and one that is well worth your time.
If you want to visit Torre di Guaceto for yourself, the best way is to hire a car and drive there. The visitor centre at Serranova can help with access, and you will find the reserve 15km north of Brindisi on the coast.
I’d like to thank the Brindisi is My Destination folks for arranging my trip down to Italy and sorting out experiences like this visit to Torre Guaceto.
And finally, if you’d like to get more of a feel for Brindisi and what our trip was like, then I can very much recommend taking at look at this incredible video put together by two fabulously talented video artists. Remember when I said video was hard? Well, these guys clearly know what they are up to. Enjoy – and do check out more of their work at their Vimeo channel!