South African Safari with Kapama Private Game Reserve

A Safari, particularly one which offers an opportunity to spot the Big Five (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros), is high on the bucket list for many people. There are, however, a few things to consider when planning a safari of your own. One of the main decisions you’ll have to make is whether you want to go to a private reserve or an open park, like Kruger.

For a recent short safari we decided to go to a private reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park called Kapama. Kapama is literally across the road from Hoedspruit Eastgate airport. Kapama offers four different types of accommodation to suit your preference. There’s hotel-like accommodation in the River Lodge, all suite accommodation in the Southern Camp, luxury tented accommodation in the Buffalo Camp and the ultra high end Karula Lodge. For our three days in Kapama, we stayed in the Buffalo Camp. Kapama is a very large reserve, measuring 13000 hectares (over 50 square miles) and contains all big five in its grounds in addition to 40 other species of mammal, 350 bird species, numerous lizards and snakes and a multitude of insects, fish and other things of interest.


To call the rooms in the Buffalo Camp tents is a stretch. These are detached buildings elevated on stilts with solid walls. The space is the size of a good sized hotel room complete with air conditioning, two vanity stations, a shower, free standing bath and Nespresso Machine. Camping, this is not.

There’s also a decent sized balcony offering a view of wildlife if you’re lucky (we saw Giraffe and Impala during our time there). You are warned upon arrival to keep the doors to the balcony closed otherwise monkeys will get in to your room and will steal things (there are monkeys everywhere).

The Buffalo Camp is all inclusive, so food and drink, including those found in the mini-bar in your room, are included in the price. Generally, I found the food to be of good quality. Typically, lunch offered an Entree choice (usually soup or something else), three choices of main and a choice of dessert. The quality was fairly consistent throughout although I think a bit more variety would have been good (sometimes the options were too similar). There were some standout meals, like the chicken in tomato herb sauce with mozzarella pictured here. Whilst lunch was served in the central building (there’s also a bar) dinner might also be served in a communal eating area. We only experienced this once as the weather was too bad the other two nights. The communal dinner consisted of a BBQ with sides and gave us all the opportunity to try some zebra, something I wouldn’t have ordered otherwise (although it was delicious).

The Schedule

One of the aspects of visiting a private reserve I was concerned about was how regimented it would feel. We are definitely the sort of people who like to do our own thing and go off the beaten track, and I feared we wouldn’t be able to do that in a private reserve. Whilst this was true, it’s also true of visiting the main Kruger park as access times are limited as are the areas you can visit. You’re also constrained to your vehicle and have to content with lots of other tourists all trying to capture photos of the same animals.

The staff at Kapama give you a schedule which outlines what happens and when. The schedule whilst we were there was:

  • 05:00 – Wake Up Call
  • 05:30 – Coffee and Light Breakfast
  • 06:00 to 08:30 – Morning Game Drive
  • 09:00 – Breakfast
  • 13:00 – Lunch
  • 16:00 to 19:30 – Evening Game Drive
  • 20:00 – Dinner

Some of the timings, especially the end of the game drives, were fluid and dependant on whether you saw anything interesting and where in the park you were.

There were other activities available in addition to the standard itinerary. These included a visit to a rehabilitation/conservation centre, a sunrise hot air balloon ride, a walking safari and an elephant experience. As these would result in you missing a game drive, we decided to give them a miss (it was also highly unlikely the hot air balloon ride would match the one we experienced in Bagan last year).

The Game Drives

 A typical Kapama vehicle

A typical Kapama vehicle

The main reason you go to a place like Kapama is to see the animals. To give you the best chance possible to see everything you want to there are two game drives a day with skilled, trained drivers and trackers. The drives themselves take place in modified Toyota Land Cruisers with nine seats for guests (although it’s far more likely there’ll be eight occupants) plus a driver and tracker. The tracker sits on a seat perched on the front of the vehicle, above the front wheel. Note that most of the vehicles aren’t covered, so if it starts to rain (and we experienced incredibly heavy rain one evening whilst out on a drive) you’re left to battle with a provided poncho.

If you’re using a camera with a long lens (I used a Sony A7Rii with the 70-200mm lens), they have adjustable rests you can affix to the hand rail in front of you. These are extremely helpful when trying to get a sharp photo using a long lens.

 Out on a game drive.

Out on a game drive.

Despite Kapama being a closed reserve, with something like 40 vehicles roaming the area at any given time, they offer no guarantees regarding wildlife sightings. In fact our driver said it wasn’t unusual to go weeks without seeing a leopard (leopards are especially difficult to spot). The reserve is enclosed in electrified fences but it’s large enough, and the vegetation dense enough, that it feels like you’re in the wilderness. They also have a rule of thumb that there should be no more than two vehicles at any one site at any given time. I found this to be generally true apart from one instance where there were three watching some male lions (contrast this to the potentially hundreds of vehicles you’ll find driving around the busier parts of Kruger).

 Leopard tracks.

Leopard tracks.

Our driver, Chris, and tracker, Ian, were in constant communication with each other and regular communication with other vehicles. The majority of their chatter was in Afrikaans which they do for a number of reasons. Seeing them work was actually quite a treat. At times they would stop the vehicle to examine tracks, determine what animal left them, how recently and in what direction it was travelling. A standout highlight was a leopard sighting. There had been reports of a leopard in an area of the park so we headed in the general direction. Ian, the tracker, spotted some tracks. Upon seeing these Ian left the vehicle and ventured in to the bush, unarmed and alone. We drove around some adjacent roads to see if there were corresponding tracks indicating the leopard had left the area. After about 20 minutes a call came from Ian over the radio saying he had a leopard in his sights. Ian was, by this point, deep in the bush. Typically, Kapama doesn’t allow vehicles to deviate from the established tracks, the one exception is where there is a confirmed leopard sighting, so off roading we went. After about ten minutes of navigating some dense bush, including some incredibly thorny trees (one of the other guests was pinned, literally, to his seat by a thorn), we spotted this magnificent leopard, just as the sun had set,

 A leopard shortly after a failed hunt

A leopard shortly after a failed hunt

As it happens, despite leopard sightings being relatively rare, we stumbled across another the next day in the middle of a hunt. This bit of luck was fairly typical of our game drives. In the first hour we saw four of the big five along with numerous other animals. One of the couples in the vehicle with us noted, repeatedly, how fortunate we were to be seeing the animals we were, so quickly. They did mention that they had been on drives that took 45 minutes to see anything. On one drive we came across two rhinos within 30 seconds of leaving the camp. On another, we saw a pride of lions hunting at night. We were also fortunate enough to see a large group of elephants drinking at a watering hole, including young calves.

In total we saw lots of animals on every drive. Some were more memorable than others, but none of them felt like a waste. I’ve included some photos from the drives below so you can get a feel for the experience, click on any image for a larger view.

One thing to note is that the evening drives mean you not only return in the dark, but also experience approximately 50% of the drive in the dark. This is a very different experience as it requires the tracker to be constantly sweeping the area with a spot light in search of things of interest. It is remarkable how many animals they spotted in the darkness including porcupines, lions, impala, owls, hyenas, jackals and a chameleon (yes, they spotted a chameleon in the dark whilst driving).

Photographing animals at night can be extremely challenging. Your tracker will normally shine a spot light on the animal which produces a very harsh light. It’s better to slightly underexpose to make sure you retain detail. Underexposing should also give you a slightly shorter exposure time, helping to reduce camera shake. It’s at night when the camera rests I mentioned earlier are absolutely necessary.

There is a break mid way through each game drive where drinks and snacks are served. This allows you to leave the vehicle to stretch your legs and relieve your bladder, providing you’re comfortable using a bush toilet (i.e. a bush).


I mentioned, briefly, earlier that we got caught in some heavy rain whilst out on a game drive. We experienced roughly four storms in our three days at Kapama. Travelling during the shoulder season, we knew this was a risk. Fortunately, only one game drive was affected as the other storms hit either over night or in down time. When a storm hits, the rain is extremely heavy (50mm in a few hours) and is accompanied by high winds, thunder and lightening. I should point out that this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm in the slightest.

Flying in a Hot Air Balloon Over Bagan, Myanmar

I had never been in a hot air balloon, but if was going to I figured why not do it somewhere spectacular, and I am so glad I chose to do it in Bagan, Myanmar. The spectacular scenery combined with an almost guaranteed to be stunning sunrise combine to make it a truly special experience.  


There are three air ballon companies that operate in Bagan with the government imposing a strict maximum number of 21 balloons that can fly each day. Having read numerous reviews I chose Oriental Ballooning. My main reason for this was that they offered smaller baskets –  the majority of companies offer flights in baskets which hold 16 passengers however Oriental Balloning have a mix of 8 and 16 person baskets.  Baskets with 16 passengers looked quite cramped and if you were in one of the middle sections, you only really had a view out of one side (as opposed to the eight person baskets where pairs of passengers are in corner sections with views in two directions).

I contacted them though their website to get a quote, which I duly received via email the next day.  As I was happy with all the details in the quote I emailed back to confirm that I would like to go ahead with the booking and also requested that we be allocated a smaller basket if possible – as I was doing this two months before the flight time they were happy to oblige.  The next day I received an email with a payment link (to KBZ bank) with instructions on how to complete the payment, this was simple and a couple of days later I received an email saying the booking was completed and asked for some information about when we were arriving in Bagan, what hotel we were staying in and once we had checked in, our room number.  I couldn’t figure out why they need our room number but all became clear later. Oriental Balloning called the reception desk at our hotel the night before our flight to pass a message to our room (hence the request for a room number) to let us know the time we would be collected from reception.

If you are considering taking a similar flight it is essential you book in advance. There are only three companies (Golden Eagle, Balloons Over Bagan and Oriental Ballooning) allowed to operate in the area and they are limited in the number of balloons they can fly each day. On the day we flew, every single space in every single balloon was taken. I also overheard someone in our hotel trying to arrange a flight for their time in Bagan but they were unable to do so, despite having a few days of flexibility.

The Flight

Pre Departure Breakfast

At 5.30 in the morning we were collected from our hotel reception in a mini bus and driven to a field (after the driver got briefly lost by overshooting the unmarked entrance in the dark – understandable) where all the balloon companies appear to take of from.  When stepping out of the mini bus we were greeted by a very british voice welcoming us and asking us to take a seat at one of the empty picnic tables.  Once we were seated we were offered tea and coffee along with a selection of breakfast pastries. We sat here for about 20 minutes while the sun began to rise in the background. There is also a toilet available, although it’s an old, local squat style, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re desperate (bearing in mind you’re going to be without one for the next 90 minutes or so).

After all the passengers had arrived, been checked off the register and had their refreshments the pilots stood in front of the group and welcomed us all with introductions. We were given some simple instructions to follow and listened out for our pilot to call our names.  It was clear that all the pilots loved their job and their enthusiasm really came though. 

Once all the passengers found their pilots we were taken over to the balloon we would be flying in that morning.  We were given a thorough safety brief and then invited to watch (from safe distance) as the balloon was filled with hot air.  This was a bizarre experience. A previously flat, empty series of fields suddenly started to feel like a city as the balloons from all three companies started to rise around us.

As we climbed in to the basket we were handed a complimentary baseball cap to keep some of the heat off our heads. As we had been allocated an 8 person basket – it was divided into 4 compartments plus an area in the middle for the pilot – myself and my partner had a corner all to ourselves. There’s not a lot of room in the basket, but it was never uncomfortable. Having a corner helped to make sure no one in the basket missed out on a sight.

It was then time for take off, which is when the spectacular landscape came into view. I am not sure words can describe how amazing Bagan looks from the air especially in a slow moving air balloon at sunrise, so here are some pictures.

The pilot of our balloon was very informative, telling us all about our field of view. The mist that you can see in some photos is in fact smoke, the locals collect dried leaves every morning and evening and burn them. This elevates sunsets and sunrises in Bagan beyond anywhere else I’ve visited, the colours are unreal.

The precise path of your flight will vary depending on conditions on the day, your pilot, and the movements of other balloons. There are, though, some things you won’t want to miss on your flight.

The first, and relatively close to the take off area, is the Aureum Palace Hotel and it’s controversial viewing tower. The viewing tower is seen as an eye sore by many but does provide for some spectacular views, especially at sunrise and sunset. The hotel itself has been visited by a number of celebrities in recent years, including Beyonce and Jay-Z. We stayed in a villa at this hotel, and there’s a review coming soon.

The Aureum Palace

You should also be on the look out for Old Bagan town. The large white building in the image below is, I believe, the Archaeological Office of Bagan, should you ever doubt where your entrance fee is being spent. Old Bagan also has a concentration of temples and pagodas around it with them, generally, becoming more sparse the further from the town you travel. But as there are over 2200 of them, sparse is a relative term.

There are also thousands of temples and pagodas scattered throughout the Bagan area many of which look stunning from the air in the warm morning light, surrounded by smoke.

Towards the end of the flight we passed over a couple of small villages which afforded a unique view of some of Bagan’s local residents, who seemed keen to wave and take pictures of the low flying balloons.

Coming from Bristol in the UK we were interested to see that the the balloon itself was made by the Cameron balloon factory in our home town.  After about an 1 hour in our hot air balloon we descended into a field where we were treated with a glass of champagne, some fresh fruit and a certificate.  The locals took this ad an opportunity to try to sell us some of their wears whilst we were a captive audience (we didn’t know this would happen, so didn’t bring any money as everything was pre-paid). Afterwards a mini van took us back to  our hotel where we had a spot of breakfast and rounded off the morning with a quick nap before heading out to explore the delights of Bagan once more.

The flight cost about £300 each, which seems expensive but is understandable given the location, maintenance costs of the balloons, licensing costs to the government and having to hire specialist pilots. There was also a small army of support staff following the balloons along their flight path to ensure everything goes smoothly. In doing my research I had read that you could occasionally get a better price by using a local travel agent to book your flight but deemed this a risk not worth taking.  As I said above we booked our flight a few months before we did see a couple arriving at the hotel hoping to book a flight to only be told that all the flights were fully booked for the duration of their stay so if this is something you are considering I would strongly recommend you book this in advance.  This was one of the highlights of our time in Myanmar and something I will never forget.  If you have the budget I highly recommend taking in this experience.

Seeing Ayer’s Rock at Sunset from the Sky

We spent a couple of days near Ayer’s Rock earlier this year and one of the options available from our hotel was a sunset helicopter ride with Professional Helicopter Services, which of course we jumped at. Shortly after the agreed time a small people carrier collected us at the hotel for the short journey to the airport. The helicopter actually takes place from a piece of land adjacent to the main Ayer’s Rock airport, so it’s a familiar journey.

The company we used clearly wasn’t a significant operation. The van driver was also the pilot and organiser (collecting payment if necessary, checking everyone’s where they should be etc.). There was no waiting area, so we sat in the van whilst the pre-flight checks were completed. Shortly afterwards we made our way to the waiting helicopter and the pilot kindly took photos of us in front of the aircraft. We were sharing with two other passengers on this occasion.

At this point it’s worth pointing out that the trip we had booked was for Ayer’s Rock and Kata Tjuta, the two independent rock formations in this area. Whilst Ayer’s Rock is the more well known of the two, Kata Tjuta is the more interesting. It’s taller and the formation itself is more visually interesting. However, Ayer’s Rock does have an allure to it that’s difficult to describe.

 Ayer's Rock at the start of the flight.
Ayer’s Rock at the start of the flight.

Both rock formations stand in stark contrast to the surrounding area which is completely barren and flat. Seeing them from the sky really emphasises just how far away you are from anything else. It’s rather humbling.

This trip is arranged so that you see Ayer’s Rock as the sun is setting, which means heading out towards Kata Tjuta first. I was sitting in one of the back seats and saw Kata Tjuta emerging on the horizon. Quite a sight with the low sun casting long shadows and basking everything in a warm light.

Kata Tjuta is very large, the photos don’t really do it justice. In fact, if you look at the photo below you can see a black spot just above the horizon, about a quarter in from the right. This is actually another helicopter that was take the same tour that evening. You can also, just about, make out vehicles on the ground. They are tiny in comparison to Kata Tjuta. I also like that from that angle, Kata Tjuta looks like a question mark.

 Kata Tjuta from the sky.
Kata Tjuta from the sky.

After circling Kata Tjuta, getting to see it from multiple angles, we headed towards Ayer’s Rock for the finale. The flight is actually very well coordinate to ensure everyone gets a good view and an opportunity to take photos. As I mentioned, I was in one of the rear window seats and there was never a need to reach across my seat mate as the pilot flew in such a way to allow everyone an equal opportunity. The windows were also bubble shaped allowing for a great view and photographic opportunities.

The sun was low by this point, so the sight of Ayer’s Rock in the distance is one to behold.

A rare rain shower on the horizon

Much like Kata Tjuta we circled Ayer’s Rock to get multiple views. We even managed to catch an incredibly rare sight in this part of the world, a rain shower in the distance. This was made all the more spectacular by the warm sunset light illuminating the falling water against a blue backdrop. Simply stunning to see. The pilot mentioned that on occasion you can see wild kangaroos and other animals roaming the surrounding area but we weren’t so fortunate.

Ayer’s Rock casts a long shadow at this time of day, as you can see form the photo below. It also glows a warm red colour that evolves throughout sunset. It seems to actually emit its own light at times and the shadows play and dance across its face.

Seeing it from the sky was a magical experience, and far superior to the previous night where we watched it from a viewing area with hundred, if not thousands, of other people complete with tour guides, buses and so on. You can see the viewing areas in the photo below towards the bottom right.

 Ayer's Rock at sunset, from the sky
Ayer’s Rock at sunset, from the sky

This was a remarkable experience, and one I’d recommend. Overall I found Ayer’s Rock, Yulara and Uluru to be a little disappointing. It felt forced and overly touristy, but this experience made the journey more than worthwhile.

Landing on a Glacier in a Helicopter in New Zealand

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit New Zealand on a couple of occasions. The first time I tried on three separate occasions to take a helicopter flight to the glaciers. Each time I was thwarted by the weather. I even got so far as having the safety briefing before the flight was cancelled on one failed attempt.

So when revisiting New Zealand earlier this year I was more determined than ever. Unfortunately, my original flight was cancelled. I’d booked through the concierge at the St Moritz M Gallery Hotel in Queenstown and he quickly rearranged our flight for the morning. As morning rolled around, the flight was cancelled again, with a tentative reschedule for an hour later. It wasn’t looking good. Thankfully, the incredibly helpful concierge took my number and said he would get us on the first flight that day, and call me when they were ready to pick us up. A few hours later, and the call came, the Helicopter Line van was ready for us.

After a mad dash to get back to the hotel, we were sat in a van on our way to the airport (the helicopters take off and land adjacent to Queenstown’s main airport). We were sharing the helicopter with a family of three from the US. Once we were all weighed, seats were allocated to balance out the weight, and we were off.

Whilst the focus of the particular flight we chose was a glacier landing, the entire flight was absolutely stunning. Takeoff gives you a wonderful of Queenstown, and the trip to the glacier is really quite exhilarating. We were incredibly lucky with the weather. Heavy cloud was just clearing, revealing blue skies. This not only created some really interesting light, but also left small clouds hanging on some of the peaks and hovering in some of the valleys. Other than flying at sunrise or sunset, I can’t think of a better time to fly.

Our pilot was great fun. Unlike the rather sedate Helicopter flight around Ayer’s Rock, this was far more exciting. We hugged the rugged mountains, swerving around and over rocky outcrops before landing on the glacier itself. The pilot really was having fun.

The glacier landing itself was equally fantastic. We have around ten minutes to explore the area immediately around us. It’s difficult tot explain, but you’re in a small group, on top of a glacier which itself is on top of a mountain, which is in the middle of a mountain range. The photos don’t really do it justice.

 View from the glacier.
View from the glacier.

The flight back followed the Shotover river, giving stunning views, with clouds hanging in the valley. The pilot also did a superb job of pointing out points of interest along the way.

If you get a chance to take this flight, I’d thoroughly recommend it. Not only do you land on a glacier, but you get to see some stunning scenery from the air and, to top it all off, you get an exhilarating helicopter flight.

Staying in Traditional Japanese Accommodation Part 2 – Buddhist Temple

In the first part of our look at traditional Japanese accommodation we looked at a ryokan, the traditional Japanese Inn. For many, this represents the final word when it comes to traditional Japanese accommodation, but there is another option.

Buddhist Temple

Yes, it’s possible to stay in a genuine, functioning Buddhist temple.

Unlike ryokans, which are plentiful, staying in a Buddhist temple will require a little more adventuring. Not a lot, and far less than you’d expect, but a little more. The temple we stayed in was in a small town called Koyasan, which is located mid way up Mount Koya.

Yes, this is a Buddhist Temple mid way up a mountain! Awesome.

Getting to Koyasan requires a fairly convoluted train journey. We set off from Kyoto at around 11am and arrived at the temple at around 3pm. This involves catching a train from Kyoto to Osaka, then using the Osaka mass transit system to get to Namba and then another two trains before finally reaching the Nankai Koyasan Cable Car, which is the primary way in to the town. The cable car is quite an adventure in itself. It’s incredibly steep with stunning views all around. It’s worth noting that the Namba to Koyasan section of this journey is not covered by the excellent Japan Rail Pass.

The driveway leading to the temple

Upon reaching the top of the cable car, you simply locate the correct bus, jump on and away you go. Ten minutes later and we were outside our accommodation for the night, the Fudoin Temple. I’ll cover Koyasan in more detail in another post.

The entrance way is framed by two banners and a rock with Fudoin etched in it. It’s then a short walk up to the main complex.

The temple was reminiscent of the ryokan. Shoes had to be removed upon entry and the sleeping arrangements were the same (i.e. mats were laid on the floor only when it was time to sleep). Again we had a private bathroom. Apart from the morning ceremony and dining, we only really dealt with one monk (I’m unsure as to whether he was actually a monk, but I think any layman would describe him as such). He was very friendly, welcoming and spoke a little english. It’s always surprising how enthusiasm and friendliness act as ample substitutes for a common language.

 Dinner in the temple.
Dinner in the temple.
Dining room

Rather than food being served in your room, it was served in a communal dining room. It was a set menu and all meals were served to all guests at the same time. The communal dining room was beautiful, with approximately eight tables set out with screens between each. There were only three other tables occupied when we ate. The screens were adorned with traditional Japanese art, as were the walls. Some of the guests wore their yukatas to dine. Mine was on the small size, so I did not.

As this is a buddhist temple the meals served are entirely vegetarian. In fact they follow Syojin ryo, which is a buddhist approach to cooking that incorporates five cooking methods (raw, boil, grill, fry and steam), the five tastes (sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and salty) and five colours (white, yellow, red, blue and black). Koya Tofu is also served as well as sake should you want it (hot or cold). I’m not an expert in Japanese cuisine by any means, but I’m told that this particular style of cooking is inspired by the Koyasan area and is meant to provide spiritual and mental strength.

First, a disclaimer. For me to consider something a meal it has to contain meat. I’m a lover of meat and struggle with vegetarian meals. In fact, I believe this was the first vegetarian meal I’ve ever eaten. To say I was impressed would be a massive understatement. The meal was really quite fantastic. The standout was the Koya Tofu and the tempura style vegetables. My girlfriend, who’s a fair weather vegetarian, said it’s the best vegetarian meal she’s ever had. 

Upon finishing dinner we returned to our room to find that the beds had already been made. The beds were very very similar to those in the ryokan, with a pad laid on the floor and covered blankets provided. One thing to note, however, is that the temple can get very cold. We visited in November and whilst the rest of Japan was reasonably warm Koyasan in general was really rather cold and wet. There is a space heater provided in the room which we used, but the smell from the oil fuelling it was too much for extended use. Thankfully the blankets on the beds were warm and I had a comfortable night (although I generally prefer the cold). As you can see, a television was also provided in the room as was a private toilet.

You’re given the option of attending the morning ceremony. After all, this is a functioning Buddhist temple. The call is very early, and you’ll be fetched from your room at the agreed time. The ceremony lasts for about 30 minutes and is, to a degree, interactive. That is, you’re asked to come to the front and light candles. It’s actually very relaxing, with a lot of typical chanting and singing. There’s also an english section where some of the temple’s history is spoken about (the resident monk studied English at university). They also talk about the history of Koyasan, mount Koya and the particular sect of Buddhism practiced in this area (Esoteric, or Shingon, Buddhism). All in all, fascinating, and a great way to start a day of exploring.

Following the ceremony, you’re taken immediately for breakfast. Breakfast was significantly smaller than dinner but also delicious and meticulously served and presented. It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere in the dining hall when eating. It’s quiet and respectful. It’s completely incomparable to any breakfast you’ve ever had at any hotel.

Koyasan is a UNESCO World Heritage site and unsurprisingly there’s a lot of history in the temple itself, including the mausoleum of an Empress. The grounds are stunning, especially in the autumn (also, I’m told, May, when the rhododendrons are in bloom).

Koyasan should be near the top of anyone’s list when visiting Japan and if you’re looking for an authentic experience there’s few better options than Fudouin Temple.