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Green Travel

Friday, November 10, 2017

Day in the Life: Kosrae, Micronesia

Guest Post and Photos by Claudia Danford 

Welcome to Kosrae, a small island in Micronesia where I’ve wisely decided to spend part of my gap year between high school and university. It was my cousin who initially came to Micronesia ten years ago for WorldTeach. In 2014, he founded the Green Banana Paper Company, an eco-factory making wallets from the fibers of banana tree trunks that would otherwise rot. Matt now has 25 employees and is one of the largest private employers on the island. While Kosrae itself is not a big travel destination, certainly not compared to the other islands in the Pacific region, I hope to give you a taste of “island life” through this blog post. 

I grew up in a small town in western Massachusetts, far from the ocean and jungle. Now I’m smack dab in the middle of the Pacific with 6,600 people and a bunch of tropical fruit. I am outside the realm of any past experiences. My days consist of surfing, scuba diving, consuming lots of coconuts and bananas (many varieties of bananas!), learning to speak Kosraean, and hiking in the jungle to waterfalls. Living in this land of piercing sun and luscious green, soaking up local culture, working in the eco-commerce world at Green Banana Paper, and writing for its website have been wonderful learning experiences. 

Kosrae is part of the Federated States of Micronesia, comprised of Kosrae, Yap, Pohnpei, and Chuuk. The USA gives FSM money for education and government, and, in return, America gets land, air bases, and water for military use. Big ships deliver goods every few weeks, and there are four flights a week: two towards Hawaii and two towards Guam.

Most mornings, I amble out of bed to the colorful, expansive Pacific Ocean and let the waves and sun awaken me. I have also loved scuba diving since being introduced to it here. On one of my first boat rides to a scuba diving site, dolphins swam in front of the boat for a while, just another friendly reminder of all of the beautiful and vibrant life that surrounds this little gem of an island. I later went diving in Lelu Harbor to find two shipwrecks. Apparently there are four ships and two or three planes from World War II in the Harbor. The visibility was very poor because the bottom is murky, but swimming around was wild and somewhat eerie. Above the water are the beautiful lush green mountains and picturesque views, but underneath the remnants of war. Quite a contrast. 

One Saturday afternoon, I was reading in my hammock, hung between coconut trees at the beach, when I noticed a little girl of around 5 years old curiously looking at me. She giggled and came closer, and started drawing in the sand. We ended up playing together for a while, drawing in the sand and swinging in the hammock. She fanned through the book I was reading, looking at the pages and excitedly pointing out pictures. She also climbed a little ways up a coconut tree and jumped into my arms, then ran back to the base of the tree to climb again, and again, and again. She constantly chatted in Kosraean and I only understood a small fraction of what she said. I am now very motivated to improving my skills with the local language. We mostly laughed together; I used Kosraean when I could.

All in all, I encourage you to consider being “active travelers” and explore the Western Pacific and the greater Pacific region if you have the chance. Kosrae is known as the Island of the Sleeping Lady because its collection of mountain peaks resembles a sleeping lady. The beauty of this region is breathtaking, and embracing the island culture is fulfilling my goal of experiencing a vastly different way of life.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/10/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On the Road to Tobermory

While ActiveTravels members are cavorting all over the world this month (locations include Colombia, Yellowstone, Alaska, California, Oregon, Colorado, Chicago, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Austria, Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Vancouver, the Canadian Rockies, Quebec, and all over New England), I spent last week two hours north of Toronto, in and around Georgian Bay. It’s not a well-known tourist destination unless you are from the Toronto area. But we were rewarded with many treats including a spectacularly beautiful day in Tobermory, at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, jutting into Georgian Bay (and, to the west, Lake Huron). 
The shores and waterways of Georgian Bay are the traditional domain of the Anishinaabeg. Due to high interest in a current Anishinaabeg exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum (where my husband Josh is Director), this journey was of particular interest. On a purely “personal enjoyment” level, Mermaid’s Cove, just a few miles away from Little Tub Harbour, was another highlight. Josh and I climbed on the rocky shore, swam in crystal clear fresh water, and enjoyed the view. Maybe next time, we’ll take one of the glass bottom boats to see the shipwrecks in Fathom Five National Marine Park for which Tobermory is famous (22 shipwrecks and several historic lighthouses), or ride the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry to Manitoulin Island. It was easy to see why Tobermory has become an inspirational destination for naturalists, photographers, divers, hikers, and kayakers.
Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/16/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Zealand In Depth To Debut New Conservation-Focused Trip

New Zealanders are serious about protecting their country and its native birds from introduced predators, with a goal to be predator-free by 2050. New Zealand In Depth, a team of trusted local travel experts, is doing their part. November 2017 through April 2018, they will debut a 25-day itinerary with many of the trip’s proceeds contributing to the purchase and placement of new traps and creation of local initiatives. View New Zealand’s rarest birds and experience the country’s conservation efforts while enjoying “natural” luxury accommodations in B&Bs, hotels and lodges; some meals; rental car use; and domestic flight from Dunedin to Auckland. Cost starts at $8,800 per person and highlights include a full-day guided trip with Elm Wildlife on the Otago Peninsula to see albatross and yellow-eyed penguins, and a night walk on Stewart Island in search of the brown kiwi. 

I'm off to the Adirondacks to see my high school buddies. Back on Monday. Enjoy the weekend and keep active! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/13/17 at 09:30 AM
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Stocking Stuffer No. 3: Lather’s Road Warrior

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for years know I’m a big fan of Lather products. I came across their goods in LA, but now I’m starting to see their olive oil based soaps and mint thyme hair wash in the northeast, recently at several Lark Hotels. Lather is owned by Pasadena-based Emilie Davidson Hoyt, who grew up sensitive to synthetic fragrances found in most cosmetics. She started using natural ingredients and now she’s celebrating her 16th year in business. The trial sized shaving cream and face lotion are always with me when I travel with my carry-on luggage; the sea kelp body wash and shampoo are with me when I hit the gym. Now you can get all these products and more in a nifty dopp kit holiday package called the Road Warrior. Priced at $48, it’s perfect for that special man in your life. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/14/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Abercrombie and Kent Week—Living with Elephants and Other Philanthropic Projects

On the second day of our safari, I woke up at sunrise to the cacophony of high-pitched bird calls. French-press coffee arrived at my lodge at Stanley’s Camp and I drank a cup overlooking the high grasses of the Okavango Delta. After breakfast, our group of six was driven to a clearing where we soon stared in awe at a massive 11 ½-foot high, 5 to 6 ton elephant named Jabu. A gentle giant, Jabu was joined by two other elephants, the playful Thembi, and the oldest of the trio, 40 year-old Morula. The elephants were led by American Doug Groves and his South African-born wife, Sandi, two zoologists who adopted the threesome when culling operations in South Africa and Zimbabwe left them as orphans more than 25 years ago. 

Doug first came to the continent in 1987 to help with a feature film about the early days of South Africa. He met Sandi, adopted their elephants, and never returned. In 1999, they founded the charity, Living with Elephants, dedicated to creating a harmonious relationship between people and elephants. That morning, I had the opportunity to touch the ears and tusks of Jabu, walk Morula by the trunk, even get a slimy kiss from Jabu before we had lunch. But this is no hokey tourist trap. The primary goal of Living with Elephants is to help Botswanian schoolchildren overcome their fear of elephants and other large mammals that could very well have killed members of their family in the past. An estimated 30,000 elephants are now killed every year in Africa due to poaching. That leaves some 350,000 elephants on the continent with more than a third of these amazing animals in the small country of Botswana. If the Groves can show locals how compassionate elephants really are, this can only help stem the mass killings. 
On our last day of the trip, we visited the community of Nakatindi, not far from where we stayed at Sanctuary Sussi and Chuma in Livingstone, Zambia. When the government promised this village a medical clinic, fresh water, and a primary school and never came through on that promise, Abercrombie and Kent came to the forefront. They built a clinic that now serves 10,000 people annually. They were also instrumental in educating the community about Malaria and AIDS, the two killers that have left many children in this village as orphans. When the villagers had to walk through a national park to get their water from the Zambezi River, they were frequently attacked by wildlife. So Abercrombie and Kent created a water pump to get fresh water piped to their village directly. They also opened a bike shop, shipped old bicycles directly from America to Zambia and Botswana, trained locals to become bike mechanics, and then bought those refurbished bikes back. They are now used by schoolchildren who need to bike 7 kilometers each day to get to school and by farmers who need to get their goods to market.
I was once skeptical of these philanthropic projects in Africa. Saw it as a drop in the bucket, especially when you consider that the cost of one day on safari is comparable to the yearly earnings to someone in the village of Nakatindi. Then I visited a school in the Maasai Mara that was built largely due to the donation of one safari client on vacation. I met a young woman there who was continuing her studies at Oxford. She told me that before the school was built, no girls were allowed at the local public school. In one of the largest slums in Nairobi, I saw how a Johnson and Johnson executive on safari returned to donate a factory that created tampons. That way, girls would not miss 2 to 3 days of school when they had their period. Another executive, this one from Warner Brothers, created a computer room where locals could not only play video games but learn about the risk of AIDS. Then, of course, there’s Bill and Melinda Gates, who also went to Africa on safari. Eradicating malaria is now their top priority. I often say to clients that you visit Africa the first time to see the wildlife, but you return often to be with the people. Those people need a helping hand. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 08, 2016

Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Trustees

It was wonderful to be at the Crane Estate Saturday night to hear Megan Hilty and the Boston Pops Orchestra perform at one of the most majestic spots in Massachusetts, the Grand Allée. The gala celebration commemorated the 125th anniversary of The Trustees of Reservation, the nonprofit conservation organization that maintains over 100 sites in Massachusetts and has a yearly membership of more than 125,000 people. The Crane Estate is one of the gems in the Trustees’ collection. Another one is Naumkeag, the recently renovated Stockbridge estate, which will be hosting a free open house this coming Friday, August 12th. The celebration continues throughout 2016. An exhibition, From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary, is currently on view at the Boston Public Library through August 28. Starting September 18th at World’s End, artist Jeppe Hein will install a reflective structure made of mirrored posts of differing heights whose form mimics the shape of the surrounding drumlin formations. On Columbus Day, October 10th, Massachusetts’ residents will gain access to all Trustees sites for free. So if you haven’t join in the festivities yet, you still have a chance. 
(Photo by Amy Basseches) 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/08/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 09, 2015

Top 5 Caribbean Adventures, Dive Bonaire

As leaves blanket my backyard in suburban Boston, my mind turns to the warm weather locales of the Caribbean. Next week, I’m excited to be blogging live from that lush paradise known as St. Lucia. To get you in the mood, I’m going to devote this week to my Top 5 Adventures in the Caribbean, always a favorite at ActiveTravels. 

A mere decade ago, Bonaire was known only to scuba enthusiasts—a coveted gem discussed in hushed conversations with other serious ocean lovers (types who come out of the water with seaweed in their hair). Now that the secret is out, travelers are learning that nature thrives here both above and below the water. The reef’s proximity to shore is ideal for divers and snorkelers who want to swim with blue and yellow queen angelfish and orange trumpetfish in waters with visibility of 100 feet or more. Bonaire’s semi-arid landscape is home to some 200 types of birds, including one of the world’s largest colonies of pink flamingoes, numbering some 15,000. Overlooking one of the island’s loveliest beaches is the Harbour Village Beach Club. Heinekens and gouda are the sustenance of choice on this Dutch colony, but if you prefer gourmet, go with the resort’s La Balandra Beach Bar and Grill.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/09/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Trustees of Reservations Week, Exploring the Berkshires

From the outside, the Guest House at Field Farm in Williamstown is nondescript if not downright ugly. Then you enter the Bauhaus-era home, now a 5-bedroom inn run by the Trustees of Reservations, and you understand the beauty of American modernism. All those rectilinear lines created the perfect opportunity to place large glass windows around the exterior and take in the stunning views of Mount Greylock. Walking into the living room is like walking into a post-modern early 60s museum set where Don Draper is your host. Unlike the architecture, all furniture seems to have curves from the Isamu Noguchi glass coffee table to the swan-backed couch by Vladimir Kagan. For visitors hoping to take in the art at the Clark Art Museum, reopening on July 4th after a major renovation, there’s no better setting.
I started my final day sampling the TTOR properties with breakfast at the Field Farm. Then it was on to another architectural wonder, Naumkeag in Stockbridge. Formerly owned by the Choate Family of New York before it was bequeathed to The Trustees of Reservations in 1958, Naumkeag is a 44-room Berkshires “Cottage” from the Gilded Age, designed by the prestigious architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, and filled with arts, antiques, and collections around from around the world. But it’s the outdoor gardens that truly inspire, a masterpiece of 28 years of collaborative work by former owner, Mabel Choate, and her dear friend, Fletcher Steele, one of America’s first modern landscape architects. 
Described by the Library of American Landscape History as a “playground for the imagination,” The Trustees recently completed Phase 1 of an extensive 5-phase, 3-year, $3.3 million garden and landscape restoration project designed to rejuvenate the gardens and bring them back to Choate and Steele’s original vision. I was fortunate to visit Naumkeag prior to Saturday's opening with Mark Wilson, Curator of Collections. The place hasn’t looked this good since Mabel lived here. The transformation includes the renovation of Fletcher Steele’s iconic Blue Steps, one of the most photographed features in 20th-century American landscape design, lined with budding birches planted last summer. Wilson is almost finished with phase two of the restoration, the Afternoon Garden, where each stone was removed and then meticulously reinserted at the exact same location Steele originally intended. Talk about putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, this is stone masonry at its finest. Mending the retaining wall and fixing the fountains of the Chinese Garden is still on hold, but Wilson plans to complete the entire project by the summer of 2016. In the meantime, grab food in the café provided by Red Lion Inn and take in the glorious vista of Monument Mountain. 
It was August 5, 1850, when 46-year old Nathaniel Hawthorne met fellow author Herman Melville, 32, on a hike up Monument Mountain.  Along with Oliver Wendell Holmes and several others, they brought a wagon loaded with picnic food and champagne to keep the conversation lively.  Perched on a ridge, they began to read William Cullen Bryant’s “Monument Mountain,” the story of a young Indian maiden who plunged to her death from the rocky pinnacle when she was forbidden by her Mohican tribe to marry her beloved. When it started to rain, the literary party took to shelter and drink in a recess on the west side of the mountain. 
After leaving Naumkeag, I drove 15 minutes south on Route 7 to follow in Hawthorne and Melville’s footsteps and climb the 1,735-foot peak. The hike up, less than 45 minutes, is one of the easiest in the Berkshires—a gradual climb on a well-trodden path through mixed woods of hemlocks, oaks, beech, white pines, red maples, and birches. At a fork, look for a large boulder which commemorates the donation of the park to the Trustees of Reservation in 1899. Here, the trail crawls over rocky ledges to the summit. On this cloudless day, I had vistas of Mt. Everett to the south and the Taconic Range of New York to the west. 
Berkshires Regional Director of the Trustees, Joanna Ballantine, who joined me on the hike, shared the news that the Trustees is working out a deal to expand the Monument Mountain property all the way west to the village of Housatonic. This will double the size of the reservation and will include trails that will lead to the summit of Flag Rock. Look for an announcement shortly. 
Further south, near the Connecticut border, I made my final stop of the trip at Bartholomew’s Cobble. Walking on the Ledges Trail, the Housatonic River snakes through dairy farms on the left while eroding limestone and quartzite rocks formed the cobble to our right. I took a slight detour at Corbin's Neck to get a closer view of the river and the cows resting on its banks. Continuing on the Tulip Tree Trail, I strolled uphill through a forest of tall hemlocks before reaching a clearing. At a short summit, there was a bench to sit on and take in the views of Mount Everett and Mount Race.
Then I veered left on the Hal Borland Trail to visit the Ashley House. Built by Colonel John Ashley in 1735, this is the oldest dwelling in Berkshire County. Colonel Ashley was a pioneer, lawyer, judge and patriot who furnished iron and other supplies for the Revolutionary War effort. He would craft the Massachusetts constitution upstairs with his friend Ethan Allan. On tours on weekend days in the summer, you’ll hear the story of Mumbet, a slave of the Ashleys who sued her way to freedom. Both the Ashley House and Naumkeag are part of the free Home Sweet Home Open House Day on Saturday, May 31st. 
I want to thank The Trustees of Reservations for setting up my week, especially Kristi Perry for sharing her favorite properties. I want to thank Mother Nature for supplying five perfect days of sunshine. Be on the lookout for my story in the Boston Globe featuring many of the sites I visited this week. As always, thanks for checking in. Enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/23/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Trustees of Reservations Week, Central Massachusetts Highlights

Massachusetts might border the ocean, but it’s not until you drive the interior of this state on backcountry roads that you really appreciate the abundance of water. I woke up at Tully Lake Campground this morning and took the 10-minute trail to Doane’s Falls. Little did I realize I was about to witness one of the most majestic sites in New England. An onslaught of water came gushing down a series of rock ledges under a perfectly sculpted stone bridge, one that was built by the CCC under FDR’s helm. It would set the theme for the day—the rushing water of springtime and the wall of rock that’s continually shaped by these rapids. 
Chapel Brook in Ashfield is a popular swimming hole in summer, when this tributary of the South River snakes through a dense hardwood forest before cascading over ledges and forming natural pools. Earn that dip by walking across the street and taking the half-mile trail up Pony Mountain. You’ll be rewarded with a panorama of mountains and valley. 
The sound of rushing water also greets me at the next stop, Chesterfield Gorge, a 30-minute drive from Chapel Brook. Here, the East Branch of the Westfield River drops dramatically through rock walls that are close to 70-feet high. Below the gorge, fly-fishermen were seen casting their lines in the riffles in the hopes of hooking a trout. I took deep breaths of sweet pine and walked a ways through the thick forest on the East Branch Trail. This 7-mile long dirt road is open to both hikers and mountain bikers who can cruise through the adjacent Gilbert Bliss State Forest, perfectly suited for a day trip. 
Even my last stop of the day, the homestead of William Cullen Bryant, has a water theme. Stroll under the tall and ancient-looking sugar maples and hemlocks his family planted 200 years ago, when the great poet was just a boy, and you’ll reach a rivulet, a trickling stream. The Trustees has posted Bryant’s entire poem from 1823, “The Rivulet,” next to the spring. “The same sweet sounds are in my ear, my early childhood loved to hear,” wrote Bryant. Long after his family had sold off the land and moved to Illinois to farm, the poet and abolitionist would buy the land back in 1865, the same year his good friend Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Bryant, as he documents so well in his poetry, always preferred country life to city life and he would spend all of his summers here until his death in 1878. Look out at the meadows, forest, and Berkshire foothills and you realize little has changed thanks to conservation efforts. It’s still a sylvan slice of heaven, one that I’ll return to next time with a picnic lunch made by the Old Creamery in Cummington, just down the road. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/22/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Trustees of Reservations Week, Northeast Massachusetts Gems

As editor and publisher of the Atlantic Monthly, Ellery Sedgwick worked with some of the finest writers of his time, including Ernest Hemingway and Robert Frost. Yet, it’s his marriages to not one, but two accomplished gardeners and horticulturists that has had far more of a lasting impression. In 1916, Sedgwick moved with his first wife, Mabel, to a 114-acre hillside property in the North Shore. He built a Federal-style brick house and even had the verandah shipped from a former hotel in Charleston. The house sits atop a drumlin staring out at forest, but it’s the incredible gardens at Long Hill in Beverly that will capture your attention. 
I was fortunate yesterday to tour the majestic grounds with current horticulturist Dan Bouchard. He tells me that any season you visit Long Hill, there will be something in bloom. Right now, however, there’s an explosion of spring color from the beautiful blue forget-me-nots to exotic Chinese redbud to the soft yellow and very rare Molly the Witch peonies. The assemblage of trees is also exceptional, from the tall dawn redwood planted by Sedgwick’s second wife, Marjorie, to the signature copper beech in front of the house nearing a century old to the eastern red cedars that are native to this land. The needles on the Japanese umbrella pine feel like plastic, the thick bark on the weeping hemlock out of a fairy tale. You half expect a gnome to open a hidden door. That’s how special this place is. 
From Long Hill, I headed to Gloucester just beyond Stage Fort Pork to Ravenswood Park. This 600-acre refuge, filled with hemlocks and birches, is popular with local dog walkers and mountain bikers. Similar to Acadia National Park’s carriage paths, Ravenswood has ten miles of crushed gravel that’s ideal for first time mountain bikers. Even on a warm spring day, strolling past the many glacial boulders, I spotted few other people. If you need to escape the Cape Ann crowds this summer, try Ravenswood.
Then I was off to Andover to visit Ward Reservation and climb Holt Hill. The 1-mile round-trip trail brings you through forest and alongside meadows, where you look down and see a labyrinth of old stone walls. Keep on climbing the grassy trail until you reach the short summit overlooking the expanse of Merrimack Valley. Yes, those buildings on the horizon make up the Boston skyline with the Prudential Building standing all the way to your right. 
A quick stop to see the tulips at the nearby Stevens-Coolidge Place and then I was driving to the central part of the state to camp overnight at Tully Lake Campground. The Trustees has their own version of March Madness. It’s the time of year when the campsites at Tully Lake Campground are available for reservations. Within an hour, the prime waterfront camping sites on Tully Lake—numbers 7, 16, 20-A, and 31—are pretty much sold out on summer weekends. Come to this tranquil lake where there is little or no motorized boat traffic and tents-only campsites and you’ll understand why campers return year after year. Many bring their own kayaks to paddle to the sandy islands and within narrow Tully River. The Trustees rent their own kayaks and also offer stand-up paddleboarding lessons on Sunday in season, mid-May to late October. Hiking trails lead to Doane's Falls, where Lawrence Brook tumbles over a series of ledges before it reaches Tully Lake. Ranger Sara leads paddlers to see beavers and Ranger Keith teaches kids how to fish. Also bring your mountain bike, since there’s a 7-mile loop around Long Pond. Tully Lake Campground is one property that people in the know would like to keep a coveted secret. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/21/14 at 10:00 AM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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