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Monday, February 28, 2011

Hiking Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica

“Follow me closely,” says our guide Kent Augiste as we make our final steps down the steep flanks of Morne Watt into the so-called Valley of Desolation. The landscape is a study of contrasts, from the rock slides that create the barren brown slopes to our right to the green mountain ridges straight ahead that rise dramatically from almost every viewpoint in Dominica. At the moment, however, it is the white smoke billowing up from the scorching stream at our feet that holds my interest. The smell of sulfur is overwhelming and the sounds of foamy, gurgling water doesn’t exactly instill confidence in my footing. I’m on Kent like an avocado clings to its branch on this nature isle. 

People flock to the Caribbean to sift their toes in the pearly white sands. But in Dominica, the attraction is not the relatively few beaches, but a lush mountainous interior ripe with every tropical fruit and vegetable imaginable, and inundated with so much water that around every bend is another raging waterfall, a serene swimming hole nestled in the thick bush, or a hidden hot spring to rest your weary body after a day in the outdoors.  Indeed, this island closest to Martinique, has become an affordable haven for the active traveler who yearns to hike through a jungle-like forest, scuba dive and snorkel on living reefs, and sea kayak in sheltered coves with little if any boat traffic. Sure, you can still lounge with a good book, but it won’t be on an overdeveloped strip of sand. You’ll be high up in the hills on some small eco-resort balcony sipping fresh passionfruit juice and listening to the waves of the Atlantic crash onto the rocky shores below.

Dominica’s volcanoes might be dormant yet there’s still fire in the belly of this island. The Valley of Desolation was just one of the highlights on a 7-hour round-trip hike inside Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Kent led my climbing partner and me over muddy trails through a dense forest of tall gommier trees, used to make dugout canoes for 20 to 30 paddlers, and past the massive trunks and aerial roots of the banyan-like chatagnier trees, some more than 300 years old. As we made our ascent out of the darkness of the rainforest canopy, iridescent purple-throated hummingbirds kept us company as they stuck their heads into the tubular orange and red heliconia flowers.

At the far end of the Valley of Desolation, we climbed through chest-high vegetation along a river, then up and down a series of hills to finally arrive at the rim of the crater known as Boiling Lake. The second largest lake of its kind in the world, steam emanates from this cauldron of bubbling water where temperatures top out at 198 degrees Fahrenheit. “Don’t get too close to the edge,” said Kent as I peered down, wondering how many people met their demise in this unforgiving witch’s brew. 

Kent Augiste works for Ken’s Hinterland Tours, an outfitter that specializes in guided hikes all over the island. Hiking boots and an experienced pair of legs are advised for the somewhat strenuous Boiling Lake trek.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/28/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Rafting Down the Rivers of Jamaica

Two years ago, I was in Ocho Rios riding a tube down the White River under a canopy of green. Today, I’m headed back to Jamaica for a weeklong stay with the family in Negril. This trip, I'll be on the Great River, which starts in the mountains between Negril and Montego Bay. This is the lush Jamaica, the one I think of when Bob Marley sings, “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing’s gonna be all right.” I’ll listen to the high-pitched call of the yellow banana quit bird as I float under a green mosaic of ferns, banana trees, and thickets of bamboo that climb the banks of the waterway like ivy climbs a wall. Irie, mon! Have a great week. I’ll be back on Monday, February 28th.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/18/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

New at ActiveTravels

Today marks my 400th blog entry. To all of my subscribers, I want to thank you for sticking with me. To everyone else, you can simply go through the list of categories on the home page to find biking, green travel, lodging, family adventure, and many more topics that interest you. In the upcoming month, I’ll be updating the Go Play section of the website to include much more content on the outdoors from previously published articles that will be useful as a reference for any upcoming trip. I’ve also started to add video to my YouTube page and I’m working on a Facebook fan page that will be updated often. You can also follow me on Twitter at @ActiveTravels and visit Everett Potter’s Travel Report, where I’m a weekly contributor. Thanks again for checking in!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/17/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Get In Shape for Your Wedding

 

New York’s

Physical Advantage

is best known for getting professional athletes and Broadway casts in shape. Now the fitness center is honing in on the lucrative bridal trade. They have just introduced “The Bridal Body Shop,” a boot camp designed to prepare brides-to-be and their wedding party for the big day and beyond. The program allows future brides to train in their own home with one of Physical Advantage’s personal trainers. Workout sessions are comprised of cardio activity, free weights, floor work, and kettle balls, depending on the individual. The Bridal Body Shop also has workouts designed for the soon-to-be groom and his wedding party.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/16/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Ski Vermont Insider App

Ski Vermont has teamed up with Insider Network to develop a new app that offers skiers and boarders exclusive deals and discounts based on where they like to ski in the state. So far, Killington, Mad River Glen, Mount Snow, Okemo, Smugglers’ Notch, Stowe, Stratton, Sugarbush, and Suicide Six are participating in the Ski Vermont Insider. The latest snowfall and trail openings, lodging and après-ski deals, two-for-one lift tickets, ski rental discounts, even a chance to win a free ski pass for next season are currently being offered. The app launched in January.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/15/11 at 01:59 PM
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Giants Fans Should Head to the Hotel Valley Ho this Spring Training

Similar to the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc in Miami Beach, Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona was a favorite hideaway to Hollywood stars like Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood when it opened in the 50s. Then, like those Miami Beach icons, it fell on rough times until reopening in 2005 after an $80 million refurbishment. Now the seven-story stylish hotel, home to the legendary Trader Vic’s, is back to its former self and is ready to host baseball lovers for spring training. Hotel Valley Ho is less than a mile from Scottsdale Stadium, the venue for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. The property is also close to Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the spring training home to the Oakland A’s. For a great overview of spring training facilities, see my story in FamilyVacationCritic.com.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/14/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 11, 2011

A World of Adventure at the Boston Globe Travel Show Tomorrow

For those of you in the region, I’ll be leading a panel at the Boston Globe Travel Show tomorrow on “The World of Adventure.” A very generic name for what many travelers are really yearning for, an authentic travel experience. A truly authentic vacation refuses to be prepackaged and is hard to emulate. Indeed, it’s the opportunity to live like a local for one hour, one day, or one week. The panel includes Rob Burbank from The Appalachian Mountain Club, Judy Allpress from The Wayfarers Walking Vacations, and Joe Luchison from Ciclismo Classico, as we discuss off-the-beaten-track locales to hike, bike, and paddle across the globe. The talk takes place from 10:15-11 am, Saturday, at the Seaport World Trade Center. Hope to see you there! If not, do something active this weekend.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/11/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

At the southernmost tip of Costa Rica, Lapa Rios is a 1000-acre private rain forest perched above the Pacific Ocean. 16 spacious bungalows feature hardwood floors, bamboo walls, and vaulted thatched roof ceilings created from local palm trees. Yes, those outdoor showers are solar-powered and more than 70 percent of the materials used are renewable, but take a look at the big picture. Nearly 1000 acres of valuable rainforest have been saved from deforestation and the wildlife within those borders are free from poaching, pollution, and real estate development. More than 45 local families are employed on the property and the resort has been instrumental in providing primary education for children in the area. Rise and shine on a three-hour morning hike with a naturalist through the rainforest to a waterfall and swimming hole, stopping to view spider and howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, toucans, parrots, and many other native birds. In the afternoon, sea kayak in the ocean around Matapalo Point, surf the Golfo Dulce, or saddle up on a horse. Rates start at $245 per person, including all meals and guides into the rainforest.  
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/10/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Chaa Creek, Belize

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011, Chaa Creek led the eco-friendly movement in Central America, promoting conservation and low-impact sustainable development long before green was the magic word. They also employ local artists to create the furniture in each bungalow and buy produce from local farms to ensure fresh food on the table. The 365-acre nature preserve sits on a hillside of tall mahogany and cedar trees overlooking the Macal River. The property offers two dozen deluxe bungalows, including a treetop suite with whirlpool, new spa, and a restaurant that thrives on local fare. Yet, Chaa Creek’s real forte is guiding folks deep into the jungle. Set up trips to go horseback riding through the Mountain Pine Ridge, paddle the Macal River to see the resident colony of toucans, swim under waterfalls, and visit the Mayan ruins at Caracol.  Bungalows start at $270 a night, including breakfast. 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/09/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESiaK), Mexico

Close to the Mayan ruins of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area on the Mexican Caribbean. Grab one of the raised cottages on site and you’ll be immersed in the 1.3 million-acre mix of beach and wetlands. CESiaK runs completely on sun and wind energy, using rainwater for water needs, and utilizing a wetland waste treatment system. Grab a sea kayak to go bird watching, fish, go with a naturalist on a hike, or simply relax with a thick book in the hammock. All proceeds fund education and conservation programs at Sian Ka’an, including dune restoration and native plant propogation. Cabins start at an affordable $70 a night. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/08/11 at 03:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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