Thursday, August 25, 2016

Special Photographer Departure and Workshops from Tropic Ecuador

Tropic Ecuador's set Galapagos land-based departure on October 23 will have a special guest. Paul Bertner is a professional wildlife photographer, explorer and biologist. His macro portraits of reptiles, amphibians and insects have found a global audience in the BBC, the Discovery channel, Scientific American and many other international news outlets. He will be joining Tropic's set adventure to Floreana and Isabela islands in the Galapagos archipelago.

Whether it’s motorbiking thigh deep through a muddy gallery of paths in Southeast Asia, trekking the remote rainforests of the Congo, or bushwhacking through the Amazon, Paul has traveled to many of the world’s last refuges of biodiversity to document and share not only the rare and the previously unknown, but also the beauty in the everyday creatures that often pass unnoticed underfoot.

“The way I see it, every new species documented is yet another reason to encourage preservation and raise awareness. Frankly there is no better time to visit, appreciate and support these last bastions of biodiversity”. The Amazon, and Ecuador’s rainforests in particular have proven to have some of the highest levels of species recorded anywhere. This September through October, he will be here with us in Chilcabamba, Sani lodge, and the Galapagos, offering photography workshops, presentations on his biodiversity findings and joining tours to explain the fascinating ecosystem workings and natural history of some of the most important and yet overlooked inhabitants of this beautiful country.

Clients have a number of options to travel with Paul including two set departures, as well as to join daily photo workshops for nature lovers. The following locations/dates are confirmed, with more possible dates opening up:

  • September 5 - 9: Cotopaxi Lodge-to-Lodge
  • September 10 - 22: Daily workshops at Sani Lodge in the Amazon
  • October 23 - 27: Galapagos set departure
  • October 28 - November 1: Daily workshops on Santa Cruz Island
Email Andrea for availability and to book.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kusini Oases - favorite escapes for a vacation within a vacation!

Wolwedans is a luxurious oasis in Namibia's NamibRand Nature Reserve

At the aptly named Clouds Lodge, views are simply astounding
Classic Africa Safaris: Perched high atop a mountain in the Ugandan rainforest, Clouds Lodge is the ultimate retreat in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Private villas with personal butlers afford guests the ultimate in both space and luxury with every need attended to. Skilled massage therapists are available to work out any knots from a day of gorilla trekking. Relaxing with a sundowner on the terrace with the glowing Virunga volcanoes in the distance is unforgettable. Contact Phil at Classic Africa Safaris to make Clouds a part of your clients' Uganda safari.

Always be sure to give your clients at least two nights
at Gibb's Farm
Albatros Travel: Tanzania's Gibb's Farm is an organic oasis known as a "sanctuary for the senses" with good reason! Even with the teeming herds of animals (both four and two-legged) nearby in the Ngorongoro Crater, every guest leaves wishing they'd planned more time to enjoy this special retreat situated among terraced gardens and ancient trees. Fresh coffee, farm-to-table cuisine and amazing Maasai healing treatments celebrate the healthy sense of well-being no traveler can deny. Contact Juliet at Albatros Travel for availability.

Pacific views from Los Colibris might include whales or
some of the area's 150 bird species
Todos Santos Eco Adventures: Los Colibris Casitas in Baja California Sur are bordered by tropical gardens and desert mountains. An inviting and refreshing pool promotes relaxation, while yoga on the sky deck both calms and invigorates. Afternoon brings magical light near sunset, and guests might even spot a whale from their terrace. Visitors can chill out in hammocks or get a massage - and after a languid day they can enjoy fresh fish tacos and mango-infused margaritas. Todos Santos Eco Adventures not only runs Los Colibris, they've made it their home!

What's more relaxing than hanging out in a private splash pool
overlooking the river at Zambezi Sands?
Imvelo Safari Lodges: Victoria Falls is a must-see for many, but its vibe can feel hectic for vacationers. Escape the crowds and endless helicopters at Imvelo Safari Lodges' Gorges Lodge. With breathtaking views over Bakota Gorge, a pool, and lush, peaceful gardens, it has easy access (30 min) to the Falls while also offering seclusion. Clients can choose community visits, gorge walks, fantastic birding and more. Zambezi Sands River Camp is another option where travelers can get on the water to fish, paddle or enjoy a sunset cruise. Both are proximate to Vic Falls, but offer a true sense of escape and exclusivity.

Wolwedans' rooms can be completely opened to take in the
serene surroundings
Ultimate Safaris Namibia: Namibia's landscapes are amazing to lose oneself in, but perhaps none is as special as the NamibRand Nature Reserve with its crimson dunes, rocky peaks and endless vistas. The silence is all-encompassing and gives guests the feeling of being a million miles from anywhere. That impression is only enhanced with a stay at Wolwedans Dunes Lodge. Rooms are simple but luxurious, meals and wines are exquisite, and the heavens will leave stargazers breathless. It's the perfect end to an Ultimate Safaris adventure, where visitors can slow down to absorb their experience.

Kuriftu's decor is exotic and almost sultanesque
Travel Ethiopia: Situated on the edge of Lake Tana, Kuriftu Resort and Spa is a place to linger. While clients should be sure to see the source of the Nile and the area's ancient island monasteries, they should also have time to slow down and enjoy Kuriftu. Named by The Telegraph as one of 'Ethiopia's Best Lodges,' its lovely rooms, fantastic pool and full-service spa give visitors a sense of calm. Sunsets are spectacular from the terrace. Travel Ethiopia can make a stay part of your clients' visit to Ethiopia's historic north.

Escape to El Convento's terrace to enjoy the fire while
Maya Trails: Antigua's colonial charm extends beyond its street fronts, and we sometimes struggle to choose which charming spot to lay our heads. Panza Verde's art gallery tempts, as does Posada del Angel's romantic garden. Casa Santo Domingo beckons with its storied history and hideaway nooks, but it's El Convento with its pool, lovely gardens and fantastic roof deck (complete with cozy fireplace for those cool Antigua evenings!) that we'd like to escape to next! Work with Maya Trails to pick the perfect Antigua oasis for your clients.

Chilcabamba's Cotopaxi view is incredible!
Tropic Ecuador: Travelers don't have to venture far from Quito to find an idyllic retreat. Tropic Ecuador's Chilcabamba Mountain Lodge is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet it's just a short and scenic drive. Sweeping mountain vistas and an outdoor playground await visitors to this special lodge, and after a hard day of play in the Andes, a cozy fire and piping hot meal await. Guests can visit on Tropic's newly relaunched lodge-to-lodge trek, or opt for a longer stay on a customized itinerary.

We love the relaxing pool at Athol Place in Johannesburg
New Frontiers: South Africa has no shortage of oases, but we have a few to highlight. A peaceful retreat is a must Johannesburg and clients will love Athol Place with its spacious and thoughtfully-appointed suites. A four course tasting menu followed by a candlelit tub soak will make them forget they are in the city! For those in the Western Cape, New Frontiers recommends the new Leeu Estates in Franschhoek. Gorgeous rooms, fabulous wines, an amazing spa and a reading room with a unique collection make this property much more than a home base for Winelands visits.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Volcano trekking in Ecuador, 'Surfari' in Baja and Honduras golf!

Great Plains Conservation ensures excitement and comfort while on the
Selinda Adventure Trail
Tropic staff climbed up to Cotopaxi's snow line last weekend
Tropic Ecuador: Tropic Ecuador reports that Cotopaxi NP has fully reopened for fun and recreation! The decision is based on monitoring reports indicating the volcano has shown decreases in both internal and surface activity. The Tropic team adventured through the park last weekend to check all of the facets of their fantastic lodge-to-lodge trek that is relaunching with the park's reopening - we'll share the full itinerary soon! In the meantime, they are pushing for their Huaorani film to place in this year's 'Adventure In Motion' contest - vote now!

Albatros Travel: Albatros Travel reports that Saruni Samburu has opened a new photographic hide - the first of its kind in Kenya. It is just a few steps from the Saruni waterhole and is 'painted' with Samburu red earth and covered with shrubs and bushes. It's the perfect spot for 'stealing' amazing shots of wildlife. The hide accommodates up to 8 guests, and offers close up viewing of elephants, birds, the "Samburu Five" (reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, gerenuk, Somali ostrich and Grevy's zebra), and predators such as lion and leopard.

Newly opened Little Machaba has only four 1950's-style
luxury tents
New Frontiers: During the quiet of the green season, several camps in Botswana have taken the time for refurbs or rebuilds. A Botswana Camp Update from New Frontiers gives the skinny on all of the happenings, from rebuilds that most have heard about, like Sanctuary Chief's Camp, to the lesser-known camps like Meno a Kwena, as well as a roundup of future openings. Additionally, a number of lodges are expanding their activity options to include horse riding, scenic flights by helicopter and balloon, village visits and (our favorite!) sleep outs.

Maya Trails: Fore! Are your golf travelers looking to keep their swing loose during the upcoming winter months? Maya Trails has them covered. Their signature 'Golfer' itinerary sends links-lovers to Indura Beach and Golf resort in Honduras to tackle the Gary Player-designed championship course. Non-golfers will enjoy the visit as well, with myriad activities available including hiking, zip-lining, fishing, kayaking, snorkeling and more. Direct flights are available from the US on American, Delta and United. Contact Adriana for availability.

Happy surfers on Baja Sufari
Todos Santos Eco Adventures: Mario Bercerril, surf instructor and originator of MIST (Mario's Infallible Surfing Technique) claims that he can get anyone to ride a wave in the first hour of instruction. Try for yourself on one of Todos Santos Eco Adventures' Surfari: Baja Surf Camp for Women scheduled departures - a week of fun in the sun. Not looking for a ladies' trip? There is no discrimination when it comes to a sufari. Todos Santos Eco Adventures welcomes groups of friends and families on their own schedules as well. Read more on the Kusini blog!

Imvelo Safari Lodges: Still finding Zimbabwe a tough sell? We're here to help. Imvelo Safari Lodges has put together a great sales document which counters the myths and negative perceptions about the country held by some. Zimbabwe boasts some of the best-trained guides in Africa, still has fantastic wildlife, a wide variety of active and unique safari activities, many newly refurbished lodges and offers a great value. Lower tourist numbers also provide much greater exclusivity for your guests, and when they travel with Imvelo, local communities benefit through employment and social programs. Learn more here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hang Loose on a Surfari in Baja California Sur

Happy surfers on Baja Surfari!

Yoga on the sky deck
Mario Bercerril, surf instructor and originator of MIST (Mario’s Infallible Surfing Technique) claims that he can get anyone to ride a wave in the first hour of instruction. With the help of an expert and fun team: Mario is joined by Mauricio Duran in the water, Kim Wexman for yoga, and Kaia Thomson for horseback riding; every participant is guaranteed a ride on a fun and diverse week! Just read what a recent guest had to say - “It is hard to describe how much fun we had on this week-long adventure... We surfed, did yoga, rode horses, snorkeled with sea lions, had massages, learned to make the perfect margarita and cook an incredible meal (not to mention that Chef Iker can dance!) - all the while laughing and being surrounded by a remarkable/supportive/fun group of people….”

See the video for more inspiration.

Swimming with curious sea lions
Bryan and Sergio Jauregui, owners of Todos Santos Eco Adventures (TOSEA) have crafted an incredible week of activity and fun – leaving you with no responsibilities, no planning, and no worries! Their ‘Surfari: Baja Surf Camp for Women’ is the perfect all-girl getaway. Based from the town of Todos Santos, ladies will enjoy a week featuring yoga and surfing every morning, with afternoons filled with other indulgent activities – topped with fabulous dining experiences each evening. Did we mention the added bonus - not one but two massages during the week? These scheduled group departures are all about sun, surf, and fun!

First try is a charm
Make note, there is no surfari discrimination when it comes to who can plan this adventure week. TOSEA welcomes anyone to bring together a group of friends or family on your own schedule. This thrilling experience is for adults and young “grommets” alike! Todos Santos was rated one of National Geographic’s Best Adventure Destinations and there are plenty of waves for the accomplished surfer - Los Cerritos Beach outside of town boasts perfect waves for the novice with its smooth sandy bottom and clean, clear waters. As summer wraps up, now is the time to plan your fall or winter getaway! Contact Bryan for more information!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Celebration of Cultures - World Indigenous Peoples' Day

A visit with the Batwa people in Uganda delves into 60,000 years of history

August 9th marks the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. We represent companies and destinations with a kaleidoscope of cultural backgrounds and traditions. This week we present a sampling of a few of our favorite cultural experiences in Africa and Latin America. . .

Dolores Ratzán will immerse visitors to Lake Atitlan 
into Mayan culture. Watch a video of Dolores here.
Maya Trails: With 12 indigenous villages dotting its shores, Lake Atitlan is a cultural highlight for any visitor to Guatemala. But travelers who visit Lake Atitlan with Maya Trails' guide Dolores Ratzán experience an even greater immersion into the culture, rituals and traditions of the Mayan people. Dolores has an amazing life story including 13 years exile in the USA where she learned English. She still lives a very traditional Tz'utujil Maya lifestyle and is particularly passionate about Mayan art, traditional weaving and natural dyes. Meet Dolores in this video

Proceeds from a Tengeru visit benefit the local orphanage
Albatros Travel: Few people think past the Maasai on a cultural exploration of Tanzania, but there are over 120 ethnic groups in the region, and a visit with one is a great way to enhance a safari. The country is thick with diversity, from the hunter-gatherer Hadzabe tribe near Lake Eyasi to the animist culture of the Sandawe, and Albatros Travel has unique cultural experiences available to your travelers. A visit to Tengeru near Arusha allows travelers to get a glimpse of local Meru culture, whether for an hour or a full day. It's the perfect activity for an arrival 'rest day' before setting off to the parks.

One of the Amazon's Sani women demonstrating
local cooking techniques
Tropic Ecuador: Sani Lodge in Ecuador's Amazon has the mod cons that travelers need (fans, wifi, great food and comfortable cabins), as well as access to incredible jungle wildlife. In addition, insight into the Sani culture is interwoven into every stay. Guests learn how to shoot a blowgun, how to identify plants in the forest that have medicinal or culinary properties (they have the chance to sample some edible forest delights, too!) and how to cook using local ingredients, all while accompanied by a skilled Sani guide. Tropic Ecuador is offering 30% commission on 4 or 5-night Sani bookings when combined with one of their Galapagos land-based itineraries.

Imvelo guests enjoying the walk to school with local children
Imvelo Safari Lodges: At the core of Imvelo Safari Lodges' ethos is their commitment to local communities near their lodges. They work closely with the communities and in particular with schools, focusing on improving education by providing tools to teachers to help create fun and interesting learning environments. Guests at Bomani and Camelthorn can see Imvelo's philanthropic efforts firsthand on their community-based activities - village, school and homestead visits - now with a fun new element where guests are given the opportunity to accompany groups of children on their walk to school!

Learn more about Uganda's 'Forest Keepers,' the Batwa
people, in this video
Classic Africa Safaris: There's more to Uganda's Bwindi area than gorillas. The Batwa people are the forest's longest-standing residents, going back 60,000 years or more. Classic Africa Safaris offers an activity allowing travelers to experience Batwa culture on a walk through their village and surrounding area. Seeing (and sampling!) beer brewing operations, visiting the local medicine man and talking with residents to learn about their daily lives gives a glimpse into Batwa culture and their efforts to keep it intact after losing their ancestral lands when Bwindi was created in 1991.

Ultimate's Birgit Bekker sharing a laugh with Himba women
Ultimate Safaris: Namibia's Himba are a semi-nomadic pastoral people, many of whom live in very remote areas. Ultimate Safaris offers the only truly authentic Himba visit in Damaraland. While it's a long, rough drive to the village, the scenery is amazing and the journey adds to the experience. There's nothing contrived here - spontaneous things happen, whether it's shared amusement over a hair color (hope you didn't miss this story in our webinar! Replay available here), or a demonstration of otjize application, a visit is enriching and special.

The somber but beautiful site of the Battle of Isandlwana
New Frontiers: Clients can trace the footsteps of brave Zulu warriors on the battlefields of KwaZulu Natal. A day tour from Zulu Lodge immerses travelers in fascinating history - the war was the greatest defeat in British colonial history. Zulu Lodge is one of Isibindi's four lodges in KZN, each in unique destinations including Kosi Bay Nature Reserve, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. New Frontiers  recommends combining Zulu with a Kruger Lodge like Rhino Post or Rhino Walking for a culture and wildlife adventure! Isibindi offers long stay discounts of up to 15% for 5-8+ nights.

Welcoming hosts Don and Doña make sure guests
have a memorable visit
TOSEA: Todos Santos Eco Advetures offers an active exploration of the ranchero culture of Baja California Sur with hosts Don Catarino, Doña Luz and their son Rogelio who have one of the prettiest ranches in the Biosphere Reserve. They are great fun, and love sharing the many wonderful activities at their ranch. Famous for their encyclopedic knowledge, they offer workshops on a range of skills including traditional leatherworking, cheese making, traditional tortilla-making and candy creation. Guests can set off to explore on foot to view rock art paintings, waterfalls and more!

Watch a video of Ethiopia's faithful on the streets of Axum
Travel Ethiopia: A trip with Travel Ethiopia to the country's historic north is akin to stepping back in time, and a visit to Axum transports travelers to the dawn of Ethiopian Orthodoxy. The Orthodox faithful believe the "lost" Ark of the Covenant resides in Axum and several times a month, the monks of Saint Mary of Zion bring out a replica for a pre-dawn procession. Faithful pilgrims dressed in white robes carry flickering candles and sing traditional hymns while following the Ark through the city's ancient streets, creating a goose bump-inducing scene.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Axum, Ethiopia: A time machine to the 4th century

St Mary of Zion Church, Axum, where the Ark of the Covenant
resides according to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians
The history and culture of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is all encompassing for the visitor to northern Ethiopia. Lalibela and Gondar rightfully occupy prominent positions in any tour of the country. However, Axum holds special significance as a holy site for Ethiopian Christians - a bit like Rome for Roman Catholics or Mecca for Muslims - as the resting place of the original Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark conjures up images of mystic and mystery, from the Knights of Templar to Indiana Jones. But for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, the Ark holds a sacred place at the center of their faith (each church has a replica located in the inner sanctum called the Holy of Holies) and there’s no debate as to the original Ark’s location - it resides inside the humble church of Saint Mary of Zion in Axum, looked after by a handful of monks, only one of whom (the "guardian monk) is even allowed to see the Ark itself.

But several times a month, the monks of Saint Mary of Zion bring out a replica of the Ark for a pre-dawn procession through the ancient streets of Axum. Faithful pilgrims dressed in white robes, carrying flickering candles and singing traditional hymns follow the Arc through the ancient streets of Axum.

The experience is like stepping back in time and if not for the street lights, it's like being transported back in time to the 330 AD at the dawn of Ethiopian Orthodoxy.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Uganda visa now $50, Ethiopia on the rise and Galapagos by land!

Albatros Travel guides from Kenya and Tanzania training in Tarangire NP

Giant tortoises on the grounds of Tropic's exclusive Santa
Cruz highlands property
Tropic Ecuador: Tropic Ecuador is pioneering Galapagos land travel. For travelers are no longer content to spend an afternoon on an island, but rather want to connect to the land, culture, wildlife and people, Tropic is offering three new land-based group departures (min 2/max 12). These feature unique lodges full of character, atmosphere and charm on three very diverse islands - Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela - plus a day visit to iconic Bartolome or wildlife-rich South Plazas! Download the detailed itineraries or contact Andrea for more details!

Ultimate Safaris: Ultimate Safaris has a sparkling new Agent Zone! With information on camps, in-depth pre-departure, live Ultimate Namibia availability, photo and video galleries, insider tips and much, much more, it is an invaluable tool for helping to sell this amazing destination. You can apply for access on the Ultimate Safaris website.

Imvelo staff and rangers help rescue a baby elephant in
Hwange. Watch the video here.
Imvelo Safari Lodges: World Elephant Day is August 12th! Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is home to 40,000+ elephants, one of the largest populations in Africa. Tourism is critical to protecting Hwange's elephants and thanks to an increase in visitors and Imvelo Safari Lodges' pioneering community-based tourism program, the Park's elephant numbers are stable or increasing, making Hwange a paradise for any elephant-lover! Learn how Imvelo is empowering local communities and ex-poachers to protect elephants in this video.

Albatros Travel: Albatros Travel guides recently returned from a refresher training course in Tarangire National Park. Thirteen guides from Kenya and Tanzania were based at Tarangire Safari Lodge for bird, mammal and botany training led by the extraordinary trainers Clint Schipper and Ethen Kinsey, who also train guides from Serian camps. After training, the guides split into 2 groups and joined the Annual Arusha Bird watching competition which involved spotting as many birds within a 100 km radius of Arusha over a 24 hour period. They did well, finishing sixth overall!

There's nothing like experiencing a destination through its food
Todos Santos Eco Adventures: What happens when you mix the freshest ingredients from land and sea with the artistic talents of a local chef in the town of Todos Santos? Magic! Like the town's nickname, Pueblo Magico, the flavors of the food you'll eat here have a very special quality. Travelers with Todos Santos Eco Adventures have the option of simply indulging while on vacation, or can take part in a full-on cooking adventure to understand more about the ingredients and how to prepare (and eat!) prized recipes. Learn more on the Kusini blog!

Maya Trails: And keeping with the culinary theme, travelers can discover Guatemala's delectable street foods on a new Antigua walking tour with Maya Trails. Guests will enjoy noshing at their guides' favorite comedores, exploring the local market to learn about endemic Guatemalan fruits and veggies, and learning to make tortillas (which will become part of their lunch!). The tour ends on a sweet note with a stop at Antigua's best coffee and artisanal chocolate cafe. Read more about the tour here, or contact Adriana to discuss how to include this activity in your clients' itinerary.

Bar by night and yoga studia by day - Limalimo Lodge is
setting a new standard
Travel Ethiopia: CNN thinks the 'next big thing in Africa travel' is Ethiopia, and we agree! With continually improving infrastructure in Addis Ababa and beyond (including new light rail) as well as new lodging coming online, the country is ready for an increase in travelers and meeting demand for more comfort and luxury. A cultural and historical tour of Ethiopia's north pairs brilliantly with a safari in Kenya as Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines offer several non-stops per day between JKIA and ADD. Start with these itinerary ideas from Travel Ethiopia for inspiration.

Classic Africa Safaris: Good visa news out of Uganda from Classic Africa Safaris! Single entry visa fees have been cut from $100 to $50 effective July 22, 2016. Multiple entry and East African Tourist Visa (for travel between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) fees have not changed and remain $100. Uganda has introduced an online E-Visa which is working concurrently with visas on arrival until the online system is working flawlessly. However, CAS recommends your guests utilize the E-Visa system moving forward to be safe. Read all the details on our blog.