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Ireland

A road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way

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Venture to Southern Ireland

Gripped by Normal People and the love story in Sligo inspired us to talk to our friends in Southern Ireland to come up with a post lockdown plan...so drum roll please for the Wild Atlantic Road trip...which will provide the leap mix of culture, challenge and contribution.

Known as the Emerald Isle, Ireland has been romanticised for years – ballads, dances and poetry all trying to sum up its charm, rugged landscapes and history – history which has pushed the Irish to their limits, often forcing people to emigrate and seek an easier life elsewhere but the Irish blood remains thick and draws families back to their roots time after time. The Irish are proud, they are brave but above all else they love to laugh and tell a tale or two.

This 2 or 4-week program aims to get you exploring the rugged Atlantic coast camping, canoeing and kayaking whilst learning how to cook under the eye of Onora. But, as always, The Leap is all about contribution and never have you been more needed as lockdown has put the projects our Irish team supports on hold. The beaches need cleaning up, the organic farms need assistance and the hungry horses need some love.

The whole experience will give you an insight into this spectacular country, to become part of it of its fabric to be so much more than a tourist.

This is what we have planned…

Join our new 2 or 4-week road trip across Southern Ireland which has been designed to invigorate and challenge testing the group as a team, a resilient one at that.


Program Itinerary

The following is a sample itinerary.

Wks 1 + 2

County Donegal Challenge, Culture and Contribution,

Challenge, Culture and Contribution
Your journey will start in the adventure town of Bundoran in County Donegal, nestled away on the west coast. This pretty town has been popular since Victorian times due to its wide-open beach, big Atlantic rollers and spectacular mountainous surroundings.

Here you will live as a team in a beach side holiday home just a short walk away from the base of our Irish partners who have planned 2 weeks of adventure, culture and contribution which will guarantee to invigorate and immerse you in the landscape whilst challenging your team work and resilience – so get prepared to be pushed out of your comfort zone and to explore the best of County Donegal.

Accommodation

Here you will live in one of the self-contained beach side Portbeg Holiday Homes which are immaculately organised and a short walk from the home of our organisers. All the food will be provided and Onora (your gorgeous cook) will be on hand to help you cook supper - team effort.

https://www.portbegholidayhomes.com/https://www.portbegholidayhomes.com/

Food

3 meals a day provided of home cooked food.

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Challenge trekking + kayaking + surfing

First challenge is surfing through these Atlantic big rollers. With tuition on hand there's no reason why you won't be standing tall on that board by the end of a surf session. Next is a clamber up Aroo Mountain with a hidden tear-shaped lake at the summit. To cool off there's the obligatory Polar Dip Challenge, come rain or shine, which is a quick jump into what are generally arctic temperatures.

County Donegal is blessed with some of the most beautiful trails in Ireland - rugged coastal trails, forested walks dotted with waterfalls and 360-degree panoramas from the peak of mountains. Tackle the spectacular peak challenge of Slieve League (a respectable 596 metres) and end up under canvas at Glen Head in the abandoned village of Port, one of remotest locations in Ireland adjacent to the Glenveagh National Park.

From here sea-kayaking is the next water-based adventure and there's no finer way to explore sea caves, cliffs and the inland water ways of Donegal.

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Contribution Community + Conservation

As with every Leap program there's an element of giving back and in Donegal, no thanks to Covid, there are two initiatives that have ground to a halt and need an enthusiastic team's input.

First up the Hungry Horse Outside is a charity set up for hungry, neglected and abused horses, ponies and donkeys. Here you will help to clean their shelters, mend fences, give them gentle exercise and hugs aplenty.

The second project is to learn more about the Community Supported Agriculture initiative which is a partnership between community and farmer. Members receive a share in the CSA when they pay an agreed sum to the farmer, in return they get food produced locally and a healthy engagement between the community and the food provider. Here you will help with planting, harvesting or maintenance.

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Culture Derry Walking Tour

Of course when stepping into Ireland, one has to look and learn about its history, which you will absorb on a daily basis – the Irish love to tell their stories but as you are so close to Northern Ireland you will be taken over to Derry to complete the Derry Walking Tour.

Derry is one of the most historic towns on the island with over 1,500 years of history and culture enclosed within a walled city. From the sixth-century monastic settlement to the vibrant European city of the twenty-first century and home to over fifty natural and built attractions in the region, such as Derry’s Walls, The Bogside, The Peoples Gallery (Murals) The Bloody Sunday Story, The History of the Apprentice Boys, The Marching Season Traditions. Comfy shoes at the ready.

Wks 3 + 4

Road trip Adventure + Culture + Contribution

And now it's time to hit the road less travelled. On Ireland's equivalent of an overland bus (read mini bus) this journey will weave through Irish towns which are charming and dreamy in the extreme.

The following is just some of the amazing sights and experiences planned for your team.

Accommodation

Local hostels, single sexed dorms.

Food

Breakfast and supper included. Lunch will be extra out on the road.

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Louisburg, Galway and Ennis off the beaten track

Croagh Patrick Mountain
Starting with a 7km hike to the summit of sacred Croagh Patrick Mountain along the Pilgrim Path in County Mayo. On the last Sunday in July thousands of pilgrims (many barefoot) climb Croagh Patrick in honour of St Patrick who, according to tradition, fasted and prayed on the summit for forty days in 441 AD. The summit offers incredible views of the Wild Atlantic Way.

The lost Valley
Next stop is The Lost Valley, the finest memorial of Ireland's Great Famine from 200 years ago. Visit the ruined famine village and see the multitude of potato ridges that have remained undisturbed and unattended for nearly two centuries. The Lost Valley offers unique views of the entrance of Ireland's only fjord, Killary Harbour, where dolphins frequently visit.

Onwards to Connemara National Park and the Diamond Hill which is an isolated peak, beside the village of Lettterfrack, offering uninterrupted views of the Twelve Bens mountain range.

Galway
Galway is the next stop and Europe's Culture Capital 2020 no less. Great art, music and dance happen throughout Galway which has always been known as Ireland's Cultural Heart and in 2014 was officially designated a UNESCO City of Film.

Final hike is through the Burren National Park walking from Dooling village up to the Cliffs of Moher, where 20 species of seabird are represented including guillemots, razorbills and the ever popular puffins.

Dingle
And last but by no means least arrive in the ancient fishing port of Dingle, on the edge of an estuary on the southwestern coast of the Dingle Peninsular. The colourful buildings on the harbour front and ancient streets climbing up the green hilly lowlands of the Brandon mountain range have earned Dingle it's byline of "the most beautiful place on earth". This town has many charms and is known for quality food and restaurants, interesting shops and galleries plus a very friendly dolphin called Fungie.

A perfect finish.

Program Details & Costs

2020 programs have been cancelled due to Covid.
We are currently working on 2021 dates so watch this space.


Options and costs

2020 programs cancelled due to Covid.
2021 dates and prices are currently being arranged so watch this space.

Whats included?

Budget:

Spending Money: Approx £100 per week for drinks and lunches on the road trip.


Off grid

Live off grid to explore the local highlights of Southern Ireland

Social Life

Guaranteed. You will be part of a tight team of like minded volunteers, who come from all over the world, creating happy campfire moments.

Community

Your chance to become part of the local community and to make a difference.

Contrast

The road trip has different experiences to keep you on your toes

Working Hours

Each day the itinerary will be different but expect to be busy for the best part of each day

Ryan Allen and Killian O’Kelly are the founding force behind The Irish Gap year Company. A dynamic and fun pair they have built up a fantastic infrastructure and following.

We are lucky to have persuaded them to put something together for us - nothing like lockdown to make you look closer to home, but still keeps the element of exploration alive. Forever grateful for them for putting this unique plan together for our leapers.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers say from around the world...

Our Namibian Adventure has started... The May Namibian Team

First week feedback...

This first week has been incredible. We have had so much fun. Red and Andrea are the best, Roland is a legend and Professor Barry is an amazing guy with great knowledge and even greater quotes which we will remember for life such as...

“if you see something catch it”

“if it bites you, don’t let go of it”

“Amelia, I can’t understand a word you are saying with that accent”

“Stella, you speak like the Queen”

“Angus, I’m going to use your shirt to start to braii, it’s horrible”


Read full blog -

Tackling the rapids of the Orange River Will and Abby

Day 11 - Today was a very early morning. The whole camp woke up before the sunrise and headed over to one of the cow baits in hopes to catch sight of a leopard. Although we didn't see any leopards, we still had an exciting day of travelling to the South Africa-Namibia border to start out white water rafting adventure. We met our guides, Max and Heinrich, and began to prep for our expedition.

Day 12 - Setting off in pairs, we began rafting down the Orange River today. Our rafts were loaded down with all of our camping supplies for the next three days. Approaching our first rapid, Abby and Nina quickly became stuck on a rock, while Adolph and Will took the more adventurous route, completing the the rapid backwards. Our first campsite was on a beautiful shoreline of the river, and we enjoyed swimming in the river and sitting around the campfire.

Day 13 - Our second day of rafting begin with a risky, large rapid. After successfully completing the rapid, we carried our rafts on foot to our lunch location. In order to launch for our afternoon of paddling, we repelled the boats down a cliffside. Our camping site for the night was near a beautiful large waterfall that we got the chance to check out, and some even got in the splash zone! We spent the afternoon fishing, swimming, and lazing around.

Day 14 - Our last day of rafting was concluded with the largest rapid of the trip, Big Bunny. After a briefing and demonstration of the rapid, our teams set out. Adolph and Will once again completed the rapid backwards, while Abby and Nina had a textbook run. Red and Beth completed the rapid as well, but got caught up in the excitement and continued down the river without us! When we arrived to the pickup location we unloaded our rafts and began the hour drive back to the rafting camp. Arriving back at the rafting camp involved beers, chocolate, and large amounts of food.

Day 15 - We had a long drive back to camp in the morning and spent the rest of the day was a lot of lazing around.

Day 16 - To start the day off we collected some camera traps we'd previously set up which had some great zebra, Orix and Kudu pictures. In the afternoon we sketched out a water hole design then marked it out and began to dig.

Day 17- Once again we were back digging out the water point and making a few final adjustments which seemed a lot harder than it should've mainly because of a freakishly hot wind that just wouldn't seem to go away.

Cow heads and the 5 peak challenge Beth and Nina

Day 1 - After arriving at camp on the truck, "Kong," we settled into our tents the girls all bundling into one and the two lads taking one each. Dinner at the Octopus (the main tent) was closely followed by a number of beers and ice breakers for us all to get to know each other before heading to bed.

Day 2 - The morning bought a slower start as we went through how the camp operates, the safety briefing and the itinerary. Then we went for what Red defined as a "light" hike; this was not accurate at all! Half way up a vertical rock face, sweating and unable to breathe we realised our differences with his definition. However, we powered through making it to the top where the views were breathtaking and for sure worth the trek.

Day 3 - Today's task was to destroy some invasive tree species. We all loaded onto Kong and drove to where a few trees had already been cut down to stumps. We hacked the branches into smaller pieces for kindling with saws, axes, and machetes, then set the base of the stumps alight.

Day 4 + 5 - Today we did our first walking transect, which is when we cover a certain area of the conservancy and record data on animal sighting, dung, and tracks in an app called CyberTracking. We walked about 8 kilometres and collected lots of data on kudu, eland, oryx, zebra, and others.

Day 6 + 7 - Camera traps - we all piled into the truck to check some baited camera traps. Most of what we found was mischievous mongooses. Then we drove to three different water holes and set up new camera traps.

Day 8 - Today we started constructing a water hole for the animals. We dug a hole, shovel-mixed a batch of cement, and laid flat rocks in the bottom.

Day 9 - Today was an interesting day to say the least. We prepared fresh cow heads and hooves for leopard bait. Each of us took turns stabbing thought the hooves in order to thread a wire through and hang them from a tree. The first time was terrifying but by the third head we were a little more used to it. That evening we all enjoyed very thorough showers. Dinner was hamburgers, which we all found ironic and mildly disturbing, but delicious nonetheless.

Day 10 - Peak day. Our task for today was to climb five peaks and spend an hour on top of each recording all the wildlife we could see. We woke up at 6am and were at the top of our first mountain by 8:15. The first two peaks were the hardest and also unsuccessful in terms of finding game, but again the views were worth it. The last three peaks were more fruitful and we finished up and got back to camp, completely drained, by 6pm. Dinner never tasted so good and it was early to bed for all of us.

Snake hunting and volleyball matches Ellen Robshaw

The game count we did in the Wild West sector on Sunday was much more successful than the Gemsbok study at the start of last week as we saw Gemsbok, Springbok and Red hearted beast. When we got back to camp, everyone, except Katie and I, decided to have a volleyball game; Max, Minty, Jonty, Will Gray and Dre on one team, Hamish, Hayden, Welles, Beth and Red on the other. As the game was finishing, a Horologist, named Francois, from Nankuse arrived to teach us about the native snakes and lizards, with three of the students from the research project. After introductions, the sun had just set, so we all set out on a night walk around camp, looking for snakes and lizards. Will Gray found a Cape Coral shield cobra almost immediately, then one of the volunteers from Nankuse found a shovelled nosed snake and others found two geckos.

The next morning while it was still cold, we all set out to the planes behind camp to see if we could find any snakes or lizards. After a few near misses, we came back for lunch empty-handed. That afternoon, we headed up different mountains around camp, hopeful we would find snakes or lizards. Just as everyone was about to give up, Will Gray yelled that Hamish had found a snake, so we all went running to the other side of the mountain to get a look at it. By the time we got around the side of the mountain, Hamish had realized that it wasn’t a snake after all; only a lizard that Francois identified as a flat lizard.

The next morning, we went to check the traps then headed into the mountains, and up El Donio, looking for snakes and lizards. As we drove around, we saw a lot of game – Springbok, Eli, Rock Hyrax and Klipspringer – but spotted no snakes or lizards. After our climb up El Donio, and we ate lunch at the bottom of the mountains, we headed into the forest section, where we had found two horned adders before. We only found one snake on that hunt, but unfortunately lost it in some rocks, so we headed back to camp and started cooking the braai.

The next morning, we headed back to the Whale Back sector to continue taking down the old boundary fencing. It was a very hot day, so at one we stopped working and had a snack in the minimal shade the truck had, then carried on for an hour until it was too hot to carry on, so we headed back to camp. After we ate lunch, everyone sat in the octopus in a vegetated state due to the heat being almost unbearable. One by one, we headed for a cold shower, which turned out to be a very warm one as the sun had warmed the water in the tank to the point of it being a hot shower!

Welcome to the wilderness Sam Williams

Arriving at camp, a little later than planned, we were surprised at how nice the tents were and after a quick dinner and a tour of camp we went to sleep. Over the next couple of days we set up camera traps in different areas of the farm to try and catch some footage of some animals. We were lucky enough to spot an Black eagle’s nest so put up a camera trap close to the nest whilst on the look out for the parent eagles who were swooping above us. So hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will be able to send you some pictures of baby eagles!

Another highlight of the week was creating a vulture restaurant which involved dragging the carcass of a hartebeest out onto an open plain. We were all very excited for this. The weather has been a bit colder than expected and it has rained for the first time in three years, which Andrea and Ed have said is very lucky for the area and great for the wildlife.

We’ve had a jam packed week, including art activities with Andrea’s friend Tash from Cape Town as well as visiting the local primary school. The children were so cute and very excited to see us and we had a lovely afternoon playing sport, drawing and playing games. They were particularly interested in touching our hair, especially Monty’s hairy legs.

On Tuesday we visited the Fish River Canyon which is about 4 hours drive away and so set off at 5am with our hot water bottles and sleeping bags in the car. The views of the Canyon were incredible and on the drive there we saw zebra, ostrich and an aardwolf.

"The Leap is doing a great job"

The organisation and the briefing on the entire trip was great by "the leap". I felt very well prepared and ready to start my adventure. The people in the office are very friendly and always ready to answer your questions or problems. They take care all over the trip of you and they make everything to give you the perfect time in a beautiful new world.

- Johann Plato

"A great mixture of community volunteering and adventuring"

I really think the leap provides an amazing unique travel experience. We got to get so involved with the local people and learn about the country in a way I don't think I would have experienced without the leap. I did travel with other companies after in different countries and did not get the same sense of being immersed in the culture.

I travelled to Borneo with the company and the trip had a great mixture of community volunteering and adventuring. I made friends for life as I am still in close contact with the friends I made with the leap and would recommend this company to everyone. All the staff I spoke to on the phone planning it and then who looked after us in the country were so friendly.

- Alice Sharp

"Thank you so much for giving my son life long friends and experiences"

My son has just got back from an amazing trip to Madagascar. The Leap were great in keeping in contact with emails, blogs and can call and get a speedy reply if you need to contact them, thank you so much for giving my son life long friends and experiences.
Many thanks to Milly from The Leap who was amazing.

- Nikki Field

"Hand on my heart it's been the experience of a life time"

I've just been having THE best time here! It's gone so quickly, but I feel like I've been here forever at the same time.

We've done a lot of work already, so I feel like we've made a big difference. Through this work we've all learnt a lot, but it's mostly given us a good sense of liberation and generally put a lot of things in perspective. And of course, we now understand how difficult it is for these communities to get just essential amenities!

But the main thing is that I am very happy with the programme, and I can put my hand on my heart when I say it's been the experience of a life time, and I can't wait to continue for the 2nd half of it!

- Peter Blake

"Amazing hospitality and care"

These 4 weeks in the Namibian desert were definitely an unforgettable experience. We all learnt so much about not only wildlife conservation, but also the essential camping skills and how liberating life is without wifi!

The base-camp was very comfortable, clean, and homely with Red and Dre's amazing hospitality and care. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone of any age. I have no doubt that the landscape and tranquility cannot be found anywhere else.

- Sascha

Gap year post lockdown?

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