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Wildlife Viewing

Monday, December 04, 2017

Rob Barbour Leads Trip to Ethiopia

In March 2015, I had the privilege of traveling with Rob Barbour around northern Tanzania, with stops in Arusha and Arusha National Park, the southern Amboseli plains, Mwiba Wildlife Reserve, Ngorongoro Crater, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Kusini Camp in the southern Serengeti, the Grumeti Wildlife Reserve, and the Lamai section of the northern Serengeti, where the legendary wildebeest migration takes place across the Mara River. Rob not only serves as director of African operations for the safari operator, Epic Private Journeys, but he’s a native Tanzanian who formerly owned his own lodges in Lamai and Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania. It seems like every restaurant, hotel, and airport stop we made, he ran into an old friend. What was invaluable to me was the wealth of information he shared on taking a safari in Africa, knowledge accumulated over a lifetime. 

 
Now Rob is taking his expertise to Ethiopia, April 15-28, 2018. The 14-day adventure involves a range of accommodation styles and modes of transport, including trekking in the high plateaus of the Simien Mountains and the Bale Mountains. Ethiopia offers a diverse cultural experience from the Coptic Christians and medieval rock hewn churches in the north to the remote tribes of the Omo Valley. The country is also home to incredible wildlife including endangered Ethiopian wolves, Bale monkeys, Geladas and the Walia Ibex. Please contact ActiveTravels for pricing if interested. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/04/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Canada Week: Manitoba’s Big 5 Safari

Family owned and operated for over 30 years, Manitoba-based Frontiers North is best known for their polar bear explorations in Churchill. Come to northern Manitoba in October and November and you’re almost guaranteed to view polar bears in the day, the Northern Lights at night. Now the company has their sights set on summer. On their weeklong Big Five Safari in early August, you’ll still stop in Churchill to find polar bears and pods of beluga whales swimming in Hudson Bay. You’ll also visit the thick forests, mountains, meadows, and gorges of Riding Mountain National Park to view the herd of bison, moose, and black bear. Dates are August 2-9, 2017, and cost is $5,999 CAN including round-trip airfare from Winnipeg to Churchill, all lodging, meals, and activities like a zodiac ride on Hudson Bay. If you’re interested or have any questions, please contact ActiveTravels.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/11/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 20, 2017

Introducing Uganda’s Shaka Tours & Travels

Working as adventure travel contributing editor for Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine, I once wrote a story on eliminating the middleman. How big-name American tour operators were jacking the price by adding another layer of cost to the traveler. Simply go to the same small tour operator they’ve hired to design their trip and you’ve eliminated the excess cost. Uganda’s Shaka Tours would certainly make the cut if I were writing that article in 2017. They join a growing list of small African operators I’ve worked with over the past five years that clients have loved, including African Scenic Safaris in Arusha, Tanzania, and Ghana Tour Consult. I work with Okongo Joshua Fredrick, managing directing at Shaka Tours, designing a wondrous 5-day gorilla trek tour to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Longer trips included chimpanzee tracking at Kibale National Park, game drives at Muchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park, and cultural highlights of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Price of the 5-day gorilla trek starts as low as $950 per person, not including visas. That’s what I call a bargain. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/20/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands

On the boat ride over to Floreana, dolphins were jumping in the wake. Our lodging for the next two nights was the Floreana Lava Lodge, simple wooden cabins on the beach with the sound of pounding waves to lull you to sleep. The owners, a brother and sister team of Claudio and Aura, were two of 12 siblings that were brought up on the island. Their father and mother moved to Floreana in 1939 and today there are only 150 full-time residents. 

 
The following day was my favorite of the entire Ecuador trip. Claudio and our guide Carlos drove us high into the hills to first see giant tortoises, many over 100 years old. We walked through caves that housed early German settlers, picked juicy oranges from a tree, took a short hike to an overlook with exquisite views of the island, and then had a glorious lunch of grilled beef and chicken with a delicious chimichurri sauce, salads, and fresh fruit juice at the former estate of Claudio and Aura’s parents. We felt privileged to see where their father was buried on the grounds under the 12 fruit trees he planted for the birth of each of his children.
 
In the afternoon, we snorkeled by ourselves with huge sea turtles. Afterwards, a sea lion swam up to our beach, rolled in the sand in front of us and went to sleep. When the night sky grew dark, we could see all the glittering stars of the southern hemisphere, including the Southern Cross. That’s what I call a special day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/23/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Checking Out The Caves and Monkeys of Barbados

The allure of Barbados has always been the stretch of soft white sand on the west coast that serves as a welcome mat for the warm aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea. Yet, it’s the ecological wonders in the northern and eastern section of the island that make Barbados an intriguing island destination. At Harrison’s Cave, you hop on a tram that slowly ambles into the dark corridor of limestone coral. The 100-foot high Great Hall is teeming with stalagmites and stalactites, the color of a creamsicle. Even more impressive is the crystal-like formations found in the Rotunda above pools of rushing water. Next stop is the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, home to green monkeys that were first brought to the island as pets of slave traders in the mid-17th century. The monkeys tend to be shy, so you have to be still. There are also flamingos and pelicans drinking from the shallow ponds, toucans that blurt “hello” from inside an aviary, and peacocks who squawk at the slow moving red-footed tortoise. You finish with a swim on one of those blissful beaches. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/22/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Spotting Scarlet Macaws in Jaco, Costa Rica

My kids weren’t too pleased to wake up at 6:30 am on spring break, but I wanted to be at Carara National Park at 7 am when it opened. I knew from prior trips to the country that Carara was one of the few places to see that majestic bird, the scarlet macaw. Last time here, I heard the loud squawking and peered up at a family of four vibrantly colored macaws. That is an image I was hoping to recreate as we started our hike in. An hour later, we were covered in sweat from the sweltering rainforest humidity and had only spotted one very large Jesus Christ lizard. No macaws. We drove back to the hotel and I was bumming big time. Later that afternoon, we were driving south on the coastal road outside of Jaco to our next stop, Manuel Antonio National Park. Out of nowhere, I heard that unmistakable loud squawking and suddenly seven to eight large macaws flew overhead, only to land in an almond tree to our right. I stepped on the brake and pulled over, upsetting the truck behind us who was honking. As he drove by, he swore at me in Spanish, which fortunately I can barely understand. I could care less. My wife and kids were in their glory taking snapshots of the multicolored macaws. It made my trip. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/21/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 30, 2017

Bald Eagles Return to Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

This is the time of year when bald eagles make their annual pilgrimage to the Shepaug Dam on the Housatonic River in Southbury, Connecticut. When their fishing grounds freeze over further north, these majestic birds head to the dam, where the turbulent waters prevent freezing and push fish to the surface for easy pickings. Everyone is invited to view these graceful creatures whose wingspans often reach 7 feet at the Eagle Observation Area near the Shepaug Housatonic Hydroelectric Station. An organized eagle watch takes place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm through March 12. Admission is free but space is limited and reservations are required. In addition to eagle viewing, Connecticut Audubon will host a birds of prey show on Saturdays throughout the viewing season. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/30/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Top 5 Dream Days in 2016, The Magical Sunsets of the Okavango Delta

There were so many highlights of our 9-day trip with Abercrombie & Kent to Botswana and Zambia in September that it’s hard to pick one day. I loved watching the elephants swim across the Chobe River on the Namibian border, spending an hour with a leopard on a tree in the Okavango Delta, surprising a rhino after an early morning drive, meeting Jabu, a massive African elephant who helps locals overcome their fear of wild animals, canoeing past hippos on the Zambezi River, watching the pounding waters of Victoria Falls plunge to the bottom of the chasm from the Zimbabwean side, and listening to our wonderful guide, Kebby, describe each and every bird like the brightly colored lilac-breasted roller and the southern carmine bee-eater.  

But most of all, I loved each and every sunset, a massive orb of fiery red, orange, and yellow sun that sets the bush aglow before darkness descends. There are few things in life as magical as a sunset in Africa. Late afternoon on our third day of the trip we were picked up at Chief’s Camp and treated to a mokoro ride. In a traditional canoe, a guide poled us through the tall grasses on a leisurely paddle, Botswana’s version of a gondola ride. The sun started to set and the tall reeds surrounding us were aglow. When the paddle ended, we celebrated the last embers of light on land, vodka tonic in hand nibbling on meaty biltong. That’s as close to perfection as it gets in the world of travel. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/03/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

G Adventures Partners with Jane Goodall Institute

Toronto-based G Adventures has just announced their new partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute. Called The Jane Goodall Collection by G Adventures, the selection of 20 wildlife-themed tours include a chance to observe gorillas in the jungles of Uganda, meet the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, sail up the Amazon River on a small riverboat, and much more. G Adventures will carry on the esteemed primatologist’s mission to protect wildlife and empower local communities. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/02/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 23, 2016

Abercrombie and Kent Week—The Cherished Memories on Safari

Those close-up shots of leopards, lions, hippos, rhinos, elephants, and giraffes might have impressed my Facebook friends these past two weeks, but 5 years from now I won’t remember any of those animals. Okay, maybe that one rhino in the Okavango Delta we surprised who ran off in a blur. What I’ll remember is that marimba band playing solely for our group as we arrived for lunch at the Victoria Falls Hotel; my guide, Kebby, clearly enunciating the name of that colorful bird, the lilac-breasted roller; waking up to French-pressed coffee at Stanley’s; all those glorious sunsets, especially the one overlooking the Zambezi on the deck of Sussi and Chuma; heading back to our room at Chobe Chilwero after a long day of game drives and boat rides to find that a bubble bath had been prepared; jumping with young children in hand at the Zambian village of Nakatindi; and all those wonderful stories we shared at dinner with our new friends. These are the special moments I’ll remember and inevitably the driving force behind another trip to Africa some 2 years from now when thoughts about taking that long international flight have faded. I yearn to return to that continent and its people more than any other destination. It’s my spiritual retreat where I feel most alive. I want to thank Abercrombie and Kent for the opportunity this time. 

I’m off to Bloomington, Indiana, for Parents Weekend at IU. I’ll be back on Tuesday with blogs about our trip to Cape Town. Have a great fall weekend and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/16 at 04:00 AM
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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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