Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Luxury in East Africa, jungle adventure in Guatemala and Zimbabwe 'supermom'

Tikal is a must-see site in Guatemala, but for archaeological buffs and
adventurers, venturing to the remote El Mirador ruins takes it to a whole
new level! Photo by M. E. Garcia

What's happening this week in the Kusini Collection:

Arrive at Chem Chem in style by chopper or depart on one
to your next destination
Albatros Travel: Looking for the East Africa safari to beat all safaris? You know that Albatros Travel hits the mark every time with fantastic value set departures, but do you know that they also design amazing 6 star luxury itineraries (and everything in between)? Their East Africa in Style safari is a great combination of landscapes, incredible exclusivity, conservation-oriented properties and diverse activities. Guests can enjoy biking and biplanes in Lewa, horseback riding from Mara Plains/Faru Faru, hunting with Hadzabe from Crater Lodge and walking safaris at Chem Chem. An optional helicopter upgrade is available so guests can feel the thrill of skimming above the vast East African wilderness. Contact Jennie with any questions.

Be sure your travelers understand the rules of the East
African Tourist Visa
Classic Africa Safaris: The East African Tourist Visa allows guests to travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, taking the place of a separate visa for each country. Classic Africa Safaris reminds us that the Visa allows multiple entries to each of the three countries for up to 90 days, however the countries must be visited consecutively, and the visa is voided if travelers make a stop outside of these three countries. The visa fee is US $100, and it must be purchased from the country of embarkation. It can be purchased on arrival for visitors starting their journeys in Kenya or Uganda, but must be purchased in advance for those visiting Rwanda first. Contact Hilda with any questions.

VIDEO: See what impact the 'oil men' have had on the Huaorani
Tropic Ecuador: Last year Tropic Ecuador regretfully had to temporarily close their award-winning Huaorani Ecolodge due to oil-related seismic exploration in the area. The Lodge provided work for 80 locals and profits for the communities, as well as helping to establish a 55,000 hectare reserve. Tropic continues to work with the government to find a solution. Emmy award-winning media presenter David Yetman came to see what was happening with the Lodge. He transports viewers to Huaorani Ecolodge to get a glimpse of this special part of Ecuador. He also speaks with Tropic GM Jascivan Carvalho and the Huaorani about the coming of the 'oil men' and the impact it has had on their community.
Sable Alley is designed to allow guests to soak in the quiet
of the Delta

New Frontiers: Ever vigilant to bring the best new properties to your attention, New Frontiers has been out and about again - this time in Botswana! Sally is back from a visit to the Okavango Delta where she spent time at the impressive new Sable Alley. Activities at the camp include game drives, bush walks (must be pre-booked), mokoro and boat excursions, and really great birding. Learn about the fantastic wildlife (including lots of wild dog), the beautiful main areas, the thoughtfully appointed rooms and more on the Agent Zone.

Boobies' love lives aren't as straightforward as you might
think! Photo by Colin Ruggiero.
Todos Santos Eco Adventures: Did you know that blue-footed boobies can be seen within the near vicinity of Camp Cecil, on Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez? The lovely and awkward birds that call Espiritu Santo home are part of what might be the largest boobie colony in the world! Blue-footedness, it turns out, is enhanced by the bright yellow pigments found in the carotenoids of the fish the birds consume, so those who catch and eat more fish get bluer feet. Learn all about these enchanting characters and the lessons they can teach us in an article from Todos Santos Eco Adventures on the Kusini blog!

Ultimate Safaris guide and photographer Tarry Butcher
swears by his Canon EOS 70D
Ultimate Safaris: See Ultimate Safaris guide Tarry Butcher featured in Travel News Namibia! Guides are are in a position to capture amazing photos every day, so Travel News Namibia decided to follow three professional guides and share tips from their photographic adventures. Check out the article for some incredible photos, a few stories and some photography pointers. It's a reminder that it's your guide (and their ability to position you best at a sighting!) that makes a Namibian safari unforgettable! Ultimate not only has specialist safari guides, but also customized vehicles equipped for serious photographers. Learn more about photography journeys with Ultimate Safaris here.

The cubs are still breathtaking - now they're just bigger!
Imvelo Safari Lodges: There's a supermom in Hwange National Park, and Imvelo Safari Lodges has been helping us to closely follow her incredible success over the last 15 months! HNP013's (aka 'Queenie') cubs made their debut in May 2016, and since then guests at Bomani and Camelthorn have been treated to myriad sightings, including Queenie giving climbing lessons, a family stroll past camp, and much, much more. Upcoming visitors will have the opportunity to see these cubs disperse and become independent adults, and hopefully see Queenie's new litter in a few months' time! Read more about Queenie's success as a mom on our blog.

The view of El Mirador from a helicopter is amazing and
gives a sense of its scale
Maya Trails: El Mirador is the highest and largest Maya city ever discovered and it just happens to be where Raiders of the Lost Ark meets real life. The city is nestled deep in the Guatemalan jungle (it takes 5 days to walk there!) and is still an active dig site. Maya Trails guests that choose to visit El Mirador can have a one-on-one encounter with one of the world's foremost archaeologists, Dr. Richard Hansen, in a hands-on 'archaeologist for a day' experience. For those looking for an easier way to get to the site (and totally epic vistas that give a real sense of El Mirador's scale), a 30 minute helicopter ride is available. Check the blog for more details or click here for a sample itinerary.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

El Mirador: Ancient Mayan culture and adventure hidden in the heart of Guatemalan jungle

La Danta complex at El Mirador
El Mirador in Guatemala's northern Peten region is now widely considered by archaeologists to be the cradle of the Mayan civilization and one of the earliest and most developed Mayan cities of this ancient civilization. This Pre-Classic Mayan city flourished as a trade center from around 300 BCE to 150 BCE. It's two main attractions are the two pyramids complex that face each other called El Tigre and La Danta. The La Danta complex is technically lower than El Tigre; nevertheless it is located on a hillside, making it the tallest structure in the Mayan World (230 ft high). El Tigre is 18 stories high (nearly 200 ft) and it bases covers the area of three football fields.

El Mirador has been under active excavation for nearly forty years but due to it's remote location, it sees only a handful of visitors each year, arriving either via a 5 day round-trip trek or 30 minute helicopter ride. Maya Trails' founder James Rogers recently visited El Mirador for the first time. And while Jimmy has finished two full marathons and numerous half marathons, he decided to forgo the trek and opt for the birds-eye view via helicopter of this stunning Mayan complex.

Here is Jimmy's account of his journey to El Mirador:

Taking that chopper ride from Flores to El Mirador was amazing - the pristine virgin jungle, it was amazing to fly right over the jungle's canopy of the trees. The department of Peten is a very flat region with no mountains and very few hills even. From miles and miles away we could see the large structure of La Danta.

Our pilot flew us over La Danta and La Tigra, two of the most amazing and largest structures in the Mayan World. He circled around them twice so we could get some great photos and videos.

We landed at the "visitors center" where the active archaeologist dig is happening and where they live while at the site.

From here we started our journey of a 7k walk in the middle of the jungle, finding different structures, howler monkeys in the backgrounds, spider monkeys jumping in the tree canopy over you, and so much more wildlife. This 7k walk through the El Mirador site included visits all the way up La Danta and La Tigra. We also saw the site where Morgan Freeman filmed his segment on
Guatemala and the Maya for the series "The Story of God."

It was an amazing walk, looking at all these Mayan artifacts, structures, etc.

Walking through this site gave a me feeling like if we were traveling back into the past, to the 1960's when Tikal was first being uncovered and discovered by archaeologist in that time. You have the site completely to yourself. There were no visitors, only protectors of the reserve/Mayan Basin and some archaeologists. There must have been less than 10 people on the site. 

We had lunch in the visitors center - this isn't like]a visitors center like in Jurassic Park or Tikal! It's very, very basic. The water there is very scarce and there is no power. So for our Maya Trails guests, we bring in a catered picnic on the helicopter from Flores - talk about a very unique luxury picnic in the middle of this Mayan ruins in the middle of nowhere! 

All in all, this is a must. If your guests are looking for bragging rights and want to see and experience something very few other people have seen, El Mirador is the place to go. And if you want to up the ante, we can provide the tour with the renown archaeologist in charge of the Mirador Basin Project, Dr. Richard Hansen himself! 

Click here for details on a short sample itinerary which includes a helicopter itinerary to El Mirador.

Queenie the super (cheetah) mom

Imvelo Safari Lodges has been helping us to closely follow the development of a special and very successful cheetah family in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe over the past 15 months.

Dr. Esther van der Meer of the Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe remarked 'It is thanks to the sightings and photographs from people like [Imvelo] that we are able to follow the development of cheetah HNP013's [Queenie's] little cubs into sub adults.' On average, cheetah females give birth to 3-4 cubs which are hidden in a lair until they are about 2 months old. After two months, the cubs accompany their mother on hunts and begin to feed on solid food. 'This is generally the time when we start to receive sightings; when the guide and clients of Imvelo Safari Lodges first sighted HNP013 with cubs, the cubs were indeed about two months old.'

Cheetah cubs stay with their mother until they are 18-22 months old. During this time period the mother teaches them how to hunt and how to avoid larger predators. Usually only 2-3 cubs make it to adulthood in areas with lion presence. 'It is therefore an amazing achievement that female HNP013 so far managed to raise 4 of her 5 cubs; 2 males and 2 females,' said Esther. We wonder if it isn't a Southern African record!

The cubs are now approximately 15 months old and will disperse in a few months' time. Initially they will stay together, but as soon as the females become sexually mature, each sister will go her
separate way while the brothers stay together for life in a male coalition. Shortly after the first litter has dispersed, cheetah female HNP013 is likely to give birth to her next litter. In her lifetime, a cheetah female gives birth to around 3 litters.

Guests at Bomani and Camelthorn were treated to the cubs' debutQueenie giving climbing lessons, strolling past camp and more in the last 15 months. Upcoming visitors will have the opportunity to see these cubs disperse and become independent adults, and hopefully see Queenie's new litter in a few months' time!

The Blue-footed Booby’s Baja Boogie

Blue-footed Boobies at Isla La Gaviota in the Sea of Cortez. Photo by Colin Ruggiero

Bryan Jáuregui, co-owner/operator of Todos Santos Eco Adventures in Baja California Sur is at it again with another informational and humorous article - this time focused on the antics of the Blue-footed Boobies! Most people don't know that these lovely and awkward birds make their home within the near vicinity of Camp Cecil, on Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez. Read on of contact us to learn a little more!

By Bryan Jáuregui
This article was originally published in Janice Kinne’s Journal del Pacifico

At a time when over half the single people in the Americas have created an online dating profile through which they send out their virtual avatars to court potential partners, it may be difficult to remember the days of Saturday Night Fever and Strictly Ballroom when plumage and dance moves were everything.  But off the coast of Baja California Sur on islands like La Gaviota, Isla Isabel, and Isla San Pedro Mártir, dancing to show off mating suitability is alive and well, although the practitioners looked so silly to early outside observers that they earned themselves the name of Booby, from the Spanish word bobo meaning “stupid” or “clown”.  Pretty much your worst dancing-in-public nightmare.

But the Blue-footed Boobies of Baja remain unruffled, secure in the knowledge that shaking their tail feathers has resulted in what is possibly the largest Blue-footed Booby colony in the world. And it’s not just the moves that are important in their dance, but the exact cerulean hue the footwork displays. Blue-footedness, it turns out, is enhanced by the bright yellow pigments found in the carotenoids of the fish the birds consume, so those who catch and eat more fish get bluer feet. Ipso facto bluer feet connote better health, better health connotes greater ability to provide for a nest, and as every dancer in life thinking about raising a chick knows, those are the moves that really count in a mate. So the booby dance includes a series of steps in which the feet are raised up to allow potential partners to inspect their blue-ness (apparently a vibrant aquamarine is the most desirable) and determine if that’s the blue they want to get tangled up in. And unlike in some species in which only the male sports the color, in boobies both sexes are focused on the blue tones of a potential partner’s feet. In fact, males will avoid mating with females whose blue feet have been dulled with paint. With boobies, it definitely takes two to tango.

Blue-footed Boobies. Photo by Colin Ruggiero
And in many cases, three. Researchers have found that Blue-footed Booby rookeries could easily provide source material for the most salacious telenovelas; in over 50% of booby couples one or both partners engage in what scientists call extrapair behavior (what the rest of us would call an extramarital affair), and it is not at all uncommon for a booby to toddle off for a quickie with the neighbor while its mate is out foraging at sea. Dr. Hugh Drummond, Professor of Biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), who has studied the Blue-footed Boobies at Isla Isabel for the last 37 years, notes his education on this point. “There was a time when we thought that all bird species were monogamous and mated for life. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of studies indicate extra pair behavior in birds. This is not surprising in males as this behavior can provide them with extra offspring at no cost. What is surprising is that in the vast majority of bird species, including the Blue-footed Booby, the females stray. It’s surprising because this behavior can be accompanied by some fairly high costs.”

Scientists, being scientists, have been searching for a rationale for the female booby’s lustful leanings as “because she can” doesn’t square in a world in which behaviors are generally explained by survival and advancement of the gene pool. The working hypothesis was that a female who is nest hopping with the neighbors must be doing so because she is not paired with the ideal biological partner, and is therefore driven to hook up with a better set of genes. But, as Dr. Drummond notes, “Most studies have found no difference in the success of the mated pair’s offspring versus the success of the extra pair’s offspring. The extra pair males have not consistently proven to provide better genes than those of the mates. So we have to consider that the female’s behavior may not be for the benefit of the offspring after all.” Have female boobies liberated themselves from the Darwinian grind?

Blue-footed Booby. Photo by Colin Ruggiero
Possibly, but the males aren’t taking it lying down. They will destroy an egg in their nest if they suspect it was fertilized by another, and if the female was out of their observation range for a few hours or more during the 5 days of fertility prior to egg laying, then they are definitely suspicious. Dr. Drummond and his colleagues tested this by “kidnapping” males during the 5 critical days. Under these circumstances, the males destroyed the first egg subsequently laid, ensuring that they didn’t have to raise some other guy’s chick. If they are kidnapped prior to the fertile period they leave the egg alone. Male boobies will actually abandon particularly perfidious partners, and seek out others to soothe their ruffled feathers. Says Dr. Drummond, “Isla Isabel has roughly 2,000 pairs of Blue-footed Boobies, and at the end of every season half of the pairs break up.”

Before egg incubation starts, nearly all male boobies on Isla Isabel court extra pair females, while roughly one third of the females develop sexual relationships with one or more male neighbors. But booby mates who retain the same partner for successive years definitely reap gene pool rewards – Dr. Drummond has found that they produce 35% more offspring those who change partners. And while all booby couples share in parental duties, longtime mates spend equal time caring for their young. They are completely in it together, with males spending just as much time as their mates on household duties. Female boobies. Has their behavioral long game all along been shaping male boobies into the perfect domestic partner? That would be a remarkable evolutionary feat!

While longtime mates may cohabit harmoniously, harmony is definitely not a word one would associate with their offspring in the nest. Dr. Dave Anderson, Professor of Biology at Wake Forest University, has studied boobies in the Galapagos Islands for most of his adult life. He explains. “Nazca boobies (the Blue-foot’s cousin) only want one chick but they sometimes have two by mistake when their extra insurance egg hatches. In such cases, 100% of the time the older (or healthier) chick will force the other one out of the nest with no parental interference, and perhaps even some parental facilitation. Once out of the nest, a chick has no way to survive on its own. Nazca boobies nest on the ground in such a way that the nest is essentially a gladiatorial arena that the parents observe from on high.”

“The Blue-footed Boobies, on the other hand, do want the option of having two chicks. So they will give the first egg a head start of 3-5 days before laying the second egg, such that a natural dominance hierarchy is established among the resulting chicks. If food is abundant, they will raise both chicks. However, the first-hatched chick fiercely beats up the second-hatched, and the second-hatched survives only by adopting submissive behavior.” Dr. Anderson points out that the parents help the subordinate by building nests that are bowl-shaped, which means that when the older chick is pecking the younger one, at least for the first ten days or so, the poor little guy generally doesn’t fall out of the nest like its hapless Nazca counterpart – there are walls to keep it hemmed in. Further, unlike the murder-permissive Nazcas, murder-restrictive Blue-footed Booby parents will actually sit on their chicks to prevent the dominant from killing the subordinate.

Dr. Anderson tested what would happen when the constraints of the parents and the bowl-shaped nest are removed. “What is really interesting,” says Dr. Anderson, “is when we put Blue-footed Booby chicks in Nazca nests with Nazca parents. They are much more aggressive than when in their own nests. And when we put Nazca chicks in Blue-footed nests with Blue-footed parents, they still want to kill each other but can’t because of the shape of the nest and the murder-restrictive Blue-footed parents.” They may fool around like mad, but the Blue-footed Boobies do draw the line at siblicide, unless of course, food is scarce – as in an El Niño year – and subordinate chick sacrifices must be made.

Blue-footed Boobies. Photo by Colin Ruggiero
Now you may well imagine that the poor second-hatch chicks, having been so horribly abused by their siblings and practically starved to boot, would turn into physically stunted adults, emotionally crippled by their circumstances and consigned to a lifetime of failure. “Not so!” says Dr. Drummond. “We compared 1,167 fledglings of two-chick broods for 10 years and found few differences between first-hatched and second-hatched birds. Even more surprisingly, where there were differences these tended to favor subordinates.” By almost every measure that counts in a booby’s biological life, Dr. Drummond found that the subordinate chicks matched or bettered those of their dominant tormenters including survival, defensive ability, brood size, nest success, and cumulative brood size over the first ten years of life. Blue-footed Boobies. Liberated females, progressive males, bullies not allowed to flourish over others. What else can we learn from our blue-footed friends?

Every mating season the Blue-footed Booby males stake out their territories and wait for females to come by and notice them. “The males then fall all over themselves trying to demonstrate their suitability as a mate” says Dr. Drummond. One would think in such circumstances that younger, more virile (and of course bluer-footed) birds, would rule the day. But once again, things are not always as one would imagine in the booby world. Dr. Drummond and his colleagues have found that May-December romances among the boobies, i.e., partnerships in which one bird is old and one bird is young, produce offspring that are significantly more likely to later become parents themselves compared to the offspring of parents of a similar age. And it doesn’t seem to matter which sex is at which end of the age spectrum, old mothers and young fathers or old fathers and young mothers, the results were the same in the 3,361 booby offspring that Dr. Drummond and his colleagues studied – breeding in age-mismatched parents provides greater success in contributions to the gene pool than those of similarly aged parents. In fact, the advantage to the chicks born of May-December parents was almost as great as those conferred on chicks whose parents are in long-term partnerships. Why this is so remains a scientific mystery. Could it simply be that Blue-footed Boobies are as socially evolved as the French?

So now we know that these dancers who looked so silly they earned themselves the name of Booby may actually have some elegant lessons to share across species: 1. A rough start in life need not define your later years; 2. Sharing equally with a long-term partner produces better health for the family; 3. Age does not necessarily define your ability to contribute to society; and 4. Dancing your heart out no matter what you look like to strangers is one of the keys to a successful life. In fact, the future of the species depends on it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beach hopping by kayak, new airport in Kasane and Swahili head massage

Flamingos are a highlight on a visit to Lake Nakuru with Albatros Travel

What's happening this week in the Kusini Collection:

The MV Origin is one of Tropic's preferred small boats in
the Galapagos
Tropic Ecuador: Tropic Ecuador innovated land-based travel in the Galapagos, and we think it is a fantastic way to see the Islands. That said, we know that some people have their hearts set on a cruise, either for a particular species that can only be seen on one of the remote islands, or because they find it more 'traditional.' Tropic also books cruises and works with a number of boats where 20-25% commissions are possible. There are a few holiday spaces left (these will go quickly!), and Tropic is also able to offer some excellent specials at other times of the year. Contact Cristina for cruise rates and more information

Albatros' set departures in Kenya and Tanzania are an
amazing value
Albatros Travel: After some excitement due to last-minute changes to concession fees in Tanzanian national parks, Albatros Travel is pleased to announce the release of 2018 rates. Most of the programs are the same for 2018, with some minor adjustments and changes to a few of the products. Happily, Albatros is continuing with their weekly set departures in Kenya and Tanzania, with the opportunity to combine the two itineraries, allowing for a fantastic East Africa safari at a great price. Contact Jennie for price lists and with any questions.

Whales are just one of the fantastic species guests can see
when visiting Baja California Sur
Todos Santos Eco Adventures: Did you know that Mexico is one of only 12 'megadiverse' countries on earth? That means that they have 60-70% of the world's biodiversity represented within their borders! If you're just learning this fascinating fact, you must have missed our Todos Santos Eco Adventures webinar last week. You can watch the replay on our website in which Bryan Jauregui provides a short-and-sweet virtual tour around the region and the exciting experiences on offer. You'll be booking your own flights before the webinar is over! You'll also get a sneak peak into Todos Santos Eco Adventures' new beach-hopping by kayak with full service camping! 

Dona Miriam Adanis invites guests into her home in Tarcloes,
a small town on the Pacific
Costa Rica Sun Tours: It can be a challenge for travelers to immerse themselves into the local culture. The team at Costa Rica Sun Tours makes every effort to share special cultural exchanges with guests - leading them off the beaten track to meet the people that make the place. What better way to remove boundaries than being invited into a local family's home to share a delicious and typical homemade meal? Costa Rica Sun Tours' exclusive home lunches allow guests to freely experience the essence of country life with warm hosts and plenty of Costa Rican flavor! Learn more about this special activity on the blog.

An otherworldly landscape in Bale Mountains NP. Photo
Gretchen Healey
Travel Ethiopia: Great news for travelers to Ethiopia! Travel Ethiopia has shared that the government has introduced a new online e-visa system. Applicants apply, pay and secure their entry visa online. Once the application is approved, travelers receive an email authorizing them to travel to Ethiopia and will have their passport stamped with the visa upon arrival in Addis Ababa. The new e-visa will make it even easier for travelers to enjoy Ethiopia's wonders, including trekking in the remote and surreal Bale Mountains National Park, one of the last strongholds of the Ethiopian wolf.

The entrance to the shiny and new Kasane International
New Frontiers: If you haven't traveled through Kasane, Botswana, recently, you will be surprised on your next visit! New Frontiers reports that the dilapidated old airport building is gone, replaced by a new, state-of-the-art facility. The new airport features plenty of signage, lots of screens with flight information and plenty of seating. The bad news is it's still a bit of a work in progress. There are still queues at immigration, as only two officials are on duty at any one time (requiring them to move between arrivals and departures). Additionally, only one shop that sells beverages and snacks has opened, but no restaurant or curio shop as of yet. We'll keep you posted on developments.

What inclusive treatment would you choose?
The Manta Resort: Need just one more reason to include The Manta Resort on Pemba Island in your Tanzania and/or Kenya itineraries? How about one spa treatment included per person per day? The trained therapists at the Kipepeo Spa welcome each guest to relax and recharge on a daily basis. Who passes up a complimentary aromatherapy or deep tissue massage? Another day, another treatment...a pampering facial? A pedicure? Our pick? The Swahili head massage - an exotic Indian massage of the neck, shoulders, and scalp. Swoon! This is an incredible added value to any itinerary. Contact us for more information or a full spa menu.

The stunning view from the deck of Kalize Island Lodge
Ultimate Safaris: Nambwa Lodge, one of Ultimate Safaris' recommended properties in the Zambezi region, has introduced a sister lodge, the Kazile Island Lodge, to their portfolio. These are the only two lodges located within the Bwabwata National Park, where no stay is complete without an iconic sundowner at Horseshoe Bend on the Kwando River, ideally watching a herd of elephant browsing and drinking at the lagoon. To learn how to make a visit to the Zambezi region part of your clients' Namibia safari, contact Birgit.

A Taste of Culture In Costa Rica

Home Hosted Lunch with Dona Miriam

One of Costa Rica Sun Tours' most exclusive experiences! Travelers enjoy an authentic opportunity to visit a local’s home, have conversational exchanges, and relish a homecooked Costa Rican meal!  

We all know that there is nothing quite like a home-cooked meal to bring people together and form connections. When traveling to foreign places, it can be a challenge to really immerse yourself into a local culture unless you know the right people! The staff at Costa Rica Sun Tours, make every effort to share these cultural exchanges with guests – leading them off the beaten track to meet the people that make the place. Not an experience you’d find on Yelp or Trip Advisor!

What better way to remove boundaries than to be invited into a local family’s home to share a delicious and typical homemade meal – sometimes even being invited to participate in the cooking! Costa Rica Sun Tours’ exclusive home lunches are for guests to freely experience the essence of country life in the most unspoiled natural landscapes, with warm hosts and plenty of tico flavor! 

One such family is that of Dona Miriam Adanis who invites guests into her home in Tarcoles, a small town on the Pacific. After a great morning of activity on the water, or exploring the lowland coastal forest on foot, being welcomed to her lovely abode is a really special treat. Dona Miriam lives with her husband Urbano and daughter Yahaira. One wonderfully fateful day 14 years ago, a beloved guide of Costa Rica Sun Tours, Marco “Tex” Fallas, was following feeding scarlet macaws when they led him to a beautiful canopy of tropical almond trees in front of her house. Marco couldn’t resist the smell of her cooking, noticed her home was spotless, and promptly asked her if she would be interested in cooking meals for guests. 

With the support of her family (many of whom work in tourism including her son Fernando, who is head chef at Villa Caletas!) she said yes! The rest of the story is one for the recipe books! The feedback has been so positive from both sides, she’s welcomed sharing meals with CRST’s guests and guides for 14 years! 
Of course, you’re wondering just what savory meals you might enjoy! Dona Miriam’s most famous recipe is a toss-up between her seafood plate and fresh sea bass wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. In addition, other favorites include “pinto con tortillas” and rice with shrimp. She also has a traditional clay over to make pizzas as back-up for those pickier eaters not as enthusiastic to try local foods. 

The icing on the cake? Her “dulce de coco” or “cajeta de coco,” of course! This sweet treat is made with condensed milk, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, lemon peel, and sugar – and best washed down with a flavorful cup of Costa Rican coffee! 

Buen Provecho! Contact us for more details! 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Elephants on safari, village-scale art in Guatemala and 2018 Rwanda/Uganda rates

The faithful gather to celebrate Timkat in Gondar

What's happening this week in the Kusini Collection:

You don't have to be a twitcher to appreciate Pemba's
glorious bird life
The Manta Resort: The islands in the Zanzibar Archipelago are known as the 'spice islands,' with 70% of the world's cloves coming from Pemba Island, home of The Manta Resort. When you are ready to spend some time off the water, a visit to a spice farm will have you experiencing the true tastes and smells of Pemba Island. Follow this with a walk through the ancient Ngezi rainforest, a protected reserve home to endemic bird species including the Pemba sunbird, green pigeon, and scops owl to name a few. It is also home to vervet and black colobus monkeys. Be sure to keep a keen eye out for the endemic Pemba flying fox! Contact us for more details.

Night skies over Tropic's Floreana Lava Lodge in Galapagos
Tropic Ecuador: When the New York Times goes to the Galapagos, they choose Floreana Lava Lodge! Journalist Allison Amend visited Tropic Ecuador's Lava Lodge and was charmed by Floreana Islands' strange history, the interesting and welcoming local characters and, of course, the fantastic Galapagos wildlife. She noted that choosing a land-based travel option to the Islands allowed her to experience "...if only for a few days, what it might be like to be real Galapagueña." Contact Tropic to learn more about what makes land-based visits to the Galapagos so special!

Hwange's 46,000-strong elephant population always
Imvelo Safari Lodges: Imvelo Safari Lodges offers a variety of unique ways to view and experience elephants on safari. Hwange is best known for its elephants, and it is home to a major portion of the largest remaining population of elephant in Africa. June is the start of 'elephant season,' as rain-filled waterholes dry up and the herds move toward permanent sources of water. Imvelo guests can see elephants on game drives, from the Elephant Express rail car, atop the seat of a mountain bike, while walking and from a sunken hide! Read more (and see Imvelo's incredible 2017 special) on our blog.

View of One & Only Nyungwe House main lodge area
Classic Africa Safaris: Classic Africa Safaris has completed compilation of their 2018 rates and sample itineraries for Uganda and Rwanda. For inspiration and ideas for a Uganda safari for your clients, view these sample itineraries. Phil can provide pricing and availability upon request. For Rwanda, standard itineraries and pricing can be found here, including for the new Bisate Lodge and the soon-to-open One & Only Nyungwe House. Contact Mandy with any Rwanda questions.
Travelers visiting Ethiopia during Timket will be treated to
an intimate look at the country's ancient culture
Travel Ethiopia: For everyone that was excited to read about Travel Ethiopia's special 10-day group departure from Jan 16 - 25, 2018 for the Timket festival (Ethiopian epiphany), we must apologize for a link mishap in our recent enews. We know you want all the details on visits to stunning hand-hewn rock churches, viewing beautiful medieval art, plying the still waters of Lake Tana and taking in the country's breathtaking landscapes that are part of the trip. Pricing starts at from US$2,597.00pp sharing and the maximum group size is 10, so don't delay! Email Samrawit for the full itinerary, current availability and to book.

CRST's thorough pre-departure info even reminds travelers
to disconnect!
Costa Rica Sun Tours: After nearly 30 years in the business, the team at Costa Rica Sun Tours has answered every question imaginable. And, with the travel advisor in mind, have created an immensely helpful tool to keep at your fingertips: Costa Rica Pre-Departure Information. Just jump to the first page and skim the table of contents to see what we are talking about...from packing tips and documents required, to tipping guidelines and distance charts and maps. This is a great resource to save!

Prototype design in Santa Catarina Palopo. Photo courtesy
The Guardian.
Maya Trails: An ambitious painting project designed to boost tourism and community spirit has launched in Guatemala's lakeside village of Santa Catarina Palopó. The community intends to turn itself into a monumental piece of artwork, with the intention of creating a new source of tourism income for residents. There are 800 houses that make up the village's 'canvas,' and enough paint for 100 so far, so an 'adopt-a-house' program has launched. Groups of up to five visitors who pledge $500 will be assigned a house and can help the family paint it. Hotels in the area, including Maya Trails' favorite Casa Palopó, will offer discounts to volunteers.