10 great female explorers you’ve probably never heard of.
It goes without saying that you don’t need a Y chromosome to have a thirst for adventure. Although more women are free to travel these days, the assumption that those who lived pre-20th century had none of today’s freedoms is not quite correct.
Some of them had adventures that would make the hairiest of hairy-chested male explorers quake in their hiking boots: reaching uncharted regions of Iran and Iraq, living with tribes, riding a dugout along a Kenyan river.
We look back at their adventures, and reveal how to follow in their footsteps today…
Isabella Bird, 1831-1904
No patriarchal Victorian society would stop Isabella Bird in her tracks. This intrepid naturalist, photographer and writer explored America, Hawaii, India, Kurdistan, the Persian Gulf, Iran, Tibet, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and China on her travels, and was the first female to be elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She published at least 18 works of travel notes, photographs and sketches, and became a household name in the 1890s. Among her most adventurous trips included an embed with British soldiers, travelling on horseback from Baghdad to Tehran. She travelled well into her final years, dying just a few months after her return from a trip accompanying Berbers in Morocco.
Follow in her footsteps: Naturally Morocco offers a camel trek that deviates from the more usual tourist trails through the deep Sahara desert, spending the night under the stars among the dunes (01239 710814;