Archive for the ‘the amazon’ Category

Get Off the Beaten Path Without Roughing It. Say Hello to Guyana and Madagascar, my little friends…

Ah Guyana...

Not too long ago, satisfying your craving for destinations that offered under-the-radar appeal, active excursion options and authentic glimpses at the local culture meant bunk beds, hostels or dragging your tent from place-to-place. While they still adventure and a deep sense of discovery, today’s discerning travelers have less time and higher standards. That’s where nature travel pioneer International Expeditions comes in, handling all of the logistical details for intrepid explorers in remote destinations like Guyana, Madagascar and beyond. You enjoy an upscale adventure to spot exotic wildlife, hike pristine trails and sample tantalizing cuisine in destinations where few other tour operators go. Plus, IE takes care of details like your transfers and tips to ensure a seamless vacation. Phew! (Since that part can be a real pain in the butt, sometimes)

In Guyana & Trinidad, you spend 10 days deep into the heart of one of Earth’s last untouched tropical rainforests and have the chance to spot more than 800 bird species. The 10-day tour starts at $5,598 per person and includes accommodations, most meals, ground transportation, bottled water, entrance fees, transfers, and tips to porters, local guides, drivers and to waiters for included meals.

Nosy Iranja is a small tropical island located off the Northwestern coast of Madagascar, 45km (28 miles) South of Nosy Be, a slightly larger and more popular island.

While island life takes on new meaning in Madagascar, where lemurs cavort in the shade offered by lush forests and charming Malagasy people welcome you to Earth’s oldest island. On IE’s newMadagascar safari, guests spend 17 days on naturalist-guided hiking, snorkeling and boating excursions. Accompanying guests is a seasoned IE expedition leader joined by a Malagasy expedition leader and local naturalists. Why so many guides? Travel to Madagascar typically involves flight delays and last-minute schedule changes, and the IE expedition leader and guides are there to Sherpa you through these changes. This 17-day tour starts at $7,598 and includes accommodations, soft drinks/local beer at lunch and dinner, most meals, ground transportation, transfers, and tips to porters, local guides, local expedition leader, drivers and to waiters for included meals

IE also offers a way to harness your inner “backpacker” with a fully customized trek on the Salkantay Trail. A less-touristy alternative to the Inca Trail, Salkantay passes through stunning Andean scenery before ending at Machu Picchu . Although the surroundings are reminiscent of rugged mountain climbs, the accommodations are anything but rustic. After a day of guided hiking along the trail, you spend evenings at boutique mountain lodges, with a warm shower and cold drink. Prices vary based on length of trek. or 800-234-9620

The Amazon and Bahia, Baby!

On the Amazonian Basin with Blue Parallel

Blue Parallel… when I first saw this in my inbox I thought it was some sort of vacation drink or scientific standard, but alas… it’s actually an exotic tour company. Following in its mission to take time-constrained (and discerning) travelers to the most spectacular natural and cultural wonders of Latin America, here’s the news we dig. Blue Parallel has expanded offerings in Brazil and the Amazon Basin with new extraordinary experiences custom designed (as with all Blue Parallel journeys) to suit individual interests and needs.

Bahia, Brazil

In case you’ve never been… Bahia, Brazil, a big favorite of our staff, is an enchanting coast of lush vegetation, miles of virgin beaches and picturesque colonial architecture where European and African heritage have come together to form an exceptional way of life unique to the people of Bahia. Well now, with Blue Parallel, travelers can stay in a historic convent converted to luxury hotel in the colonial city of Salvador de Bahia (also known as the “capital of happiness”) then travel on by private helicopter (hollah!) to the hidden gem of Corumbau and the luxurious paradise of Trancoso frequented for decades by Brazil’s most elite (and more recently by Hollywood stars and other notable figures). Spectacular deserted beaches and estuaries of southern Bahia have offshore reefs creating uniquely calm and warm natural pools ideal for snorkeling at low tide; other VIP offerings might include private drumming classes with renowned local musicians, private Capoeira lessons on the beach, private boating excursions and countless other extremely exclusive services and accommodations. Additional details and sample itinerary can be seen here:  Brazil’s Best Tours

Pricing is $8,500-$10,000 per passenger for 7 days, private party of 2.

Bahia with Blue Parallel

The Amazon Basin is another fabu excursion for Eco-Adventurer’s desiring an eco-tour and luxurious accommodations. A year-round destination that is one of the world’s greatest natural resources, the Amazon stretches across nine, that’s right, nine countries in South America with a great majority located in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. Filled with unparalleled diversity and home to half of the world’s remaining rainforest, the Amazon region is the most bio-diverse on earth and provides a spectacular setting for those who wish to combine the love of nature with exploration and adventure. Blue Parallel’s Amazon journeys include comfortable eco-lodges in the heart of the rainforest, private hydroplane transfers, personal hosts around the clock and expert naturalist guides.

Check out more information here: The Amazon’s Best Eco-Tours

Pricing is $6,000-$8,000 per passenger for 7 days, private party of 2.

Ecuador & Eco-Travel Voluntourism

The Amazing Yasuni National Park

In the mood for a little eco-travel and voluntourism? Brand spankin’ new programs in the field of international volunteering have just been launched… hurrah! United Planet, a leader in the field, has recently added to its offerings in the beloved country of resource rich Ecuador. United Planet is an international non-profit based in Boston that strives to create a world in which all people understand, respect, and support one another. Their global network of leaders and volunteers fosters cross-cultural understanding and addresses shared challenges to unite the world in a community beyond borders.

Sue, a Nurse, Volunteering in Ecuador

Over the past ten years, they’ve worked with local communities all over the world to find meaningful work for volunteer travelers; and have placed thousands of volunteers in those communities to live and work – for periods ranging from a week to a year. Volunteers may now work with wildlife/animals in the Amazon; indigenous people in the Amazon jungle; or in environmental conservation in the Galapagos.

Amazon River Dolphin!

These programs supplement the long-standing and popular programs in Quito and the Cloud Forest, where volunteers can work with children (teaching, childcare, working with at-risk youth);healthcare; or on environmental projects. We likey. Did we mention our father-in-law has lived there for the last 20 years. Ecuador is one of those still-off-the-beaten-track countries for mainstream tourists so it’s managed to hold onto it’s indigenous culture (and it’s inexpensive prices), unlike some it’s competitors.

Why are these new programs so great? you ask.

Because volunteers ‘get to experience more of Ecuador’s diversity,’ says Theresa Higgs, Vice President of Global Operations at United Planet. “United Planet is looking to provide its volunteers with new experiences in a variety of projects. Ecuador is a wonderful place for almost anyone seeking to volunteer: it’s easy to get to, the dollar is strong, and the people are famous for their warmth and hospitality. ”

At the Wildlife Project, volunteers have the opportunity to care for animals that have suffered from maltreatment or been victims of animal trafficking. Volunteers can work at an Animal Rescue Center and help protect the wildlife of Ecuador’s Amazon. Volunteers also have the opportunity to island-hop through the Galapagos.  At Tortuga Bay, they can observe marine iguanas and turtles, sharks and hike through an ecologically diverse rainforest. If they’re looking to relax, volunteers can enjoy the stretches of white-sand beaches.

The White Sand Beaches of Tortuga Bay - Galapagos Islands

In Floreana, volunteers will be exposed to the history of the island, having the opportunity to explore caves once inhabited and used by pirates. Snorkeling in the crystal bay after a day of new discoveries in the caves is also available. At the Charles Darwin station, volunteers will continue to explore the history of the Galapagos and enjoy the clear-water that yields sights of reef sharks. There is also a chance to see colonies of Galapagos Penguins who have recently been relocated to this site.

So, I don’t know about you, but taking off to give and receive some Amazonian love sounds really good right about now.

Eco-Brazil: Cristalino Jungle Lodge

Brazil Eco-Lodge Cristalino

How impressive is this?  In 1992, Victoria Da Riva Carvalho bought 1,730 acres of Brazilian rain forest and built a lodge in one of the most diverse regions in the world.


Because 550 different birds flock to the region and she wanted to protect her beloved homeland.  So, when loggers threatened to purchase a nearby old growth plot eight years later, she pulled the money together to buy it herself. Now, she’s created a 24,000 acre private reserve of primary forest that borders a state park.

Talk about a hero.

The Cristalino Jungle Lodge, together with other organizations such as Botanic Kew Gardens and Fauna and Flora International, now supports the Cristalino Foundation, which is a Non-Profit-Organization located in the municipality of Alta Floresta, Brazil.

The main projects are focused in the buffer zones of the Cristalino State Park and are dedicated to the promotion of environmental awareness and the sustainable use of Amazon’s natural resources.Brazil Eco-Lodge Cristalino

The main projects are:

This is a program with two main divisions – one destined to students from all over the world and the other to the local community. The latter is centered on teenagers from local schools and aim to increase their ecological awareness. This program received the Whitley Award in 2007 from the Whitley Awards Foundation, United Kingdom, as a recognition for its valuable work.

This project brings local children to spend a whole day learning about the rainforest and its importance to their daily lives.

This is a research project focused on studying the forests in the Cristalino Region, being the first large program gathering information on this issue. It has already identified more than 700 species – three of them were new to science.

This project was conceived by Silvio Marchinni and is destined to prevent the killing of jaguars, especially in the buffer zone of the Cristalino State Park.

This program uses the White-Whiskered-Spider-Monkey as an icon to raise ecological responsiveness with the children.

The lodge has a friendly restaurant with bar serving delicious regional dishes and appetizers including the famous Caipirinha. For special nights there is a thatch roof patio where candlelight dinners are served. A common living room is used for presentations and meetings, having a small but carefully selected library
Eco-Lodges Brazil Adventurefloating deck above the river is also great for swimming and resting on your free time. Canoes & inflatable boats are available at any moment. The lodge also keeps a rustic Screened Tree House in the forest which is used for spotting tapirs and peccaries.  For the adventurers like us, there’s even a station with a Rope Bridge and Rappelling!

Your arrival is made through the city of Alta Floresta, in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. There are daily flights and coach lines from Cuiaba – the state capital – to Alta Floresta, but the lodge is only accessible by boat. After arrival in Alta Floresta, there will be a 1 ½ hour transfer by car and a ½ hour boat ride, but once you get there… trust us… wildlife watching is top-notch. Burrowing owls and macaws are just a few gems along the way. The property functions with a generator so it can be noisy and this is the amazon… bring bug repellent, but otherwise, you’re set!

Discovery Adventures

Armchair travel just got an upgrade!

Morocco Discovery Adventure Travel TourRemember when you saw your first episode of Deadliest Catch and the next time you ate Alaskan King Crab you held up a bright red two-foot long leg and said, “Cheers to the men who bravely risked their lives so that I could enjoy the succulent white tendrils of this soft salty meat like never before”?  Or how about the time you channeled Man vs. Wild’s star, Bear Grylls, when you were lost during a hike in Montana so you decided to walk along the dangerously close edge of a suspended railway bridge? Oh we can’t say enough about our love of all things Discovery.  For one thing, Discovery Channel used to be our EIC’s client when she worked as a VP in entertainment advertising.  Shark WeekDeadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs… we know our Discovery Channel.  We can’t get enough of their entertaining content and their commitment to the natural world.

discovery_adventures_logoAs such, when we caught wind that the Discovery Channel had *just* launched Discovery Adventures, their first ever adventure travel vacation group, we said, “Where do we sign up?!” Starting last Friday, July 31, 2009, there are 31 itineraries to 18 different destinations with departures slated for this December 2009. Discovery Adventures not only ‘makes adventure travel accessible, less intimidating and offers 3-star service levels at more affordable prices,’ but they also promise to deliver die-hard, often “can’t be found with any other tour” real life experiences.

Expect to explore regions featured on Discovery Channel programs such as Man Vs. Wild, Out of Egypt and Discovery Atlas China.  Trips focus on educational tourism, cultural immersion, wildlife encounters, participation in sustainable world practices, epicurean adventures, geographic and environmental exploration.  Destinations include, North America (Alaska, Southwest), Latin America (Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica), Africa (Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Egypt, Morocco) and Asia (India, China, Thailand).

Prices and trips range in length in cost, but an 9 day/8 night trip through Costa Rica runs approximately $1149 (air fare not included).

Discover the unexpected…

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Red hairy chiggers that consume human flesh, cyanide-squirting millipedes, and the candiru, a translucent toothpick-like creature that burrows into the gills of a fish or human orifices like the vagina or penis, latches it’s spines and sucks out the blood of the victim until they perish…

This is the Amazon of the 1920’s and the Amazon you’ll find in David Grann’s new book, The Lost City of Z, chronicling the infamous tough-as-nails British explorer, Percy Fawcett, as he ventures with his son, Jack, and Jack’s best friend, Raleigh, to discover the famous (gold laden and lost) city of El Dorado. Grann’s well-documented tale takes you deep inside the jungle for a peek into the mind of this sometimes ruthless, always brave, explorer. The trio, in so many respects, takes you back to a bygone era when well-heeled gents at supper clubs thirsted for the high stakes of an Amazonian adventure. Not only do the characters look straight out of the movies, but the cinematic story reads like one as well (likely why Brad Pitt and Paramount have optioned the film rights). Just as his piercing blue eyes make their way into your own, so will Fawcett’s adventurous tale. It is one man’s ultimate quest to find, with tragic consequences… a fantasy.

Grann deftly tells a real-life story from both a historical context and a personal one. The author himself ventured to the very place where many believe this fantastic civilization once existed. As I read his story, I found myself being bitten by vicious gnats and fearing the wrath of parasitic worms as the three men journeyed into the heart of one of the world’s most inhospitable regions.

Grann writes, “The cramped, dirty hold of the SS Panama was filled with ‘toughs, would be toughs, and leather faced old scoundrels,’ as Fawcett put it.” Flesh and carrion eating bees, an area so hot that fish were cooked alive in the waters… the countless explorers that died along the way. Whether Percy, Jack, and Raleigh became victims of the elements or the native Indians, one thing is certain: they never made it out alive.

I was so enamored with this impossible, painstaking journey that, instead of reading it quickly as I do with most tales, I found myself intentionally re-reading passages and flipping through the photos. Like my own travels to South America, El Dorado, as well as this tale, is like the love you can never have. It will keep you constantly wanting more.

Kudos to Grann for all of his own painstaking research and bravery. After reading about the candiru, I’m not sure I’d be heading into that part of the jungle anytime soon. I will, however, recommend, for those who love a good jungle jaunt, ordering a copy of his obsessive and mysterious story.

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker and has covered everything from an Aryan Brotherhood prison gang to the hunt for giant squid. His work has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. His collected writings will be published by Doubleday in 2010.

Peru: The Amazon & Ayahuasqueros, A Voyage to the Deep

Blue Morpho: Iquitos, Peru

Some people think that wearing skulls and leather, having tattoos, and drinking to excess makes them a ‘Rockstar,’ but you know where they’re wrong? They wouldn’t tell their boss they’re taking a mental health vacation and heading to the Amazon with little more than a month’s notice. That’s where the legitimate rockstar differs from the conflict diamond wearing latte toting stand-ins. The legitimate Rockstar flies by the seat of his or her pants and worries about the boss after they worry about their mental health. That said, most of us aren’t fearless (or stupid) enough to venture alone to the Amazon and stay with the local tribe. In this case, shamans, caimans, and the Jaguar people of the Peruvian Amazon.

(c) Piers Vitebsky

Alas! Jaunt uncovered two options that we think are strictly for the cutting-edge:

Option #1: For the Shaman Ready Rockstar
Option #2: For the Luxury Eco-Loving Rockstar

I recently heard about ayahuasqueros and their icaros (sacred medicine songs). I thought to myself… I must have suddenly grown up because even I couldn’t do that, but it tugged at me… this mild fascination with the art of ritual hallucination. In fact, it sounded so heady mind-fu@king exhilarating that I had to dive in and find out more for you.

Here’s what I uncovered (after several misspelled versions of the magical plant entered into Google). If you feel like heading to the Amazonian jungle, staying in thatch and wood huts (don’t worry… they’re clean and moderately bug-free), get ready to drink a scared plant with similarly-minded Ayahuasca Adventurers and check out:

The jungle surrounding the Amazonian town of Iquitos, Peru.

Blue Morpho, based in Iquitos, specializes in, can you dig it… Shamanistic Workshops! Sitting on 180 acres of privately-owned primary forest, it’s a perfect setting of serenity where you’ll go back in time and attempt to heal your wounds, expel bad vibe, and greet your inner child. Keep in mind, you have to be that uniquely brave sort of person willing to rough it in the jungle and drink a hallucinogenic plant to find yourself. You’ll vomit and gag… potentially lose your mind, but hey, that’s life, isn’t it? It’s perfect for the lover of yoga, meditation, & tabs of LSD in the college years sort who’s all grown up with at least a few hours of pent up issues in need of a good purge. The sacred plant spirit is supposed to remove the weight of your sadness and get rid of that heavy energy or hucha.

A group of Ayahuasca Adventurers.

They say the songs of the Ayahuasqueros spontaneously come forth. These men of the jungle singing only what the plant tells them to sing, calling the plant to purge you from your past in order to find you again. Is this real Amazonian healing magic or just your imagination running wild as you drink from a trippy shrub? Hmmm… it’s certainly worth investigating. Just be cautious… and in a clear enough state of mind so you can handle whatever that glittery power plant sings to you.

Here’s a sample program:

“9 Days Shamanic Workshop and Jungle Trip” begins on a Monday morning at 10:00 A.M where you’ll depart Iquitos at 11:00 A.M. to begin an hour and a half trip to the Shamanic Center, go on a Medicinal plant walk and finish with an optional Camalonga Dream Journey. The Camalonga Dream Journey requires an evening fast where you drink Camalonga, a sacred teacher plant that guides through dream journeys.

For those wanting to stay in the Amazonian town of Iquitos, another helpful site highlights the medicinal markets, Belen Street Market, Jaguar people, Things to do, Restaurants, Hotels and how to navigate around as a gringo or gringa-rette. Apparently, hotels are negotiable and relatively pricey due to the isolated location. Iquitos can only be reached by plane. The secret is to ignore any attempt by the taxi driver to bring you to a hotel that he recommends.

If, however, you don’t want to find your content inner child or purge your demons, there’s always a more luxe way to go.

Amazonian River Boat: International Expeditions

Option #2
An Amazonian river boat trek!! Yes, International Expeditions, the world leader in nature travel, just announced a $500 per person savings ($1,000 per couple) on its February 29, 2008 10-day Amazon Voyage. Guests on this departure will travel twice as deep into the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve with an extra night on the river, going deeper into the Amazon than any other outfitter.

The per person price for the February 29 departure is $2,698 for lower deck cabins and $2,798 for upper deck cabins, including the savings. Prices include all accommodations, most meals, local transportation, guides, and group transfers. Airfare is additional, but can be booked by International Expeditions.

FYI – Back in 1980, they supported conservation projects across the globe before the word “ecotourism” was even coined, bringing some of the first leisure travelers to the heart of Peru’s Upper Amazon. Today guests explore the Peruvian wilds in comfortable style aboard an intimate 28-person riverboat (talk about Agatha Christie fun and mayhem). It’s specifically designed to sail the upper Amazon Basin, considered the most diverse ecosystem on Earth. You’ll witness the awesome panorama of a rainforest filled with more than 100 kinds of birds, pink Amazon River dolphins, eight species of monkeys, sloths, giant otters, and nocturnal animals such as caimans and capybaras. Throughout the journey, highly trained guides lecture on the complex environment in constant need of preservation.

Man, I love wildlife (and highly trained Amazon river guides).

In addition to explorations on small excursion boats for access further into the heart of the vast wetlands, you have the opportunity to visit small villages and get a glimpse into real life along the river. In case you’re not ready to purge your hucha with Shamans, of course. You can visit local schools, hand out donated supplies to children, and even assist with community projects.

What we like best?

International Expeditions is a pioneer of environmentally responsible travel, committed to preserving natural habitats and improving the welfare of the people and communities it visits.

So take your pick. Either way, I’ll think you’re Rockstar.

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