As I write this, I can't help
thinking of one client who is
currently in the middle of the
Australian Outback and another
client in remote Khajuraho, India. They know nothing of
the Super Tuesday results and
probably don't care. That's the beauty of travel; we can choose to
escape current events or reality, living off the grid if we so desire far away from headlines. I'm in the midst of working on a Power Point presentation for a talk I'm doing in Maine this month on the subject of adventure travel. I discuss why I've devoted so much of my career to the outdoors and the reasons for its allure. For me, it's the rare chance to be in the present thinking of nothing other than climbing that mountain, finishing a long bike ride, or paddling to the next campsite or backcountry lodge. It's a gift, really, and I don't take it for granted during these often dizzying times.
There's no doubt that the opportunity to see wildlife is one of the best reasons to get on a plane and travel. In this month's newsletter, we pinpoint five of our favorite places to see wildlife and the best form of outdoor recreation to get you there. All of these adventures come from firsthand experience. Lisa divulges her favorite lodgings on the glorious Amalfi Coast and talks about our best tips for getting oriented upon your arrival in a new locale. We also introduce you to a Tanzanian safari outfitter who can work with more moderate budgets, and discuss why March is a great time to visit New Orleans. We plan on doing exactly that with the kids later this month.
Wishing you safe and happy travels!
Lisa & Steve
News from the Road:
Seeing Animals in the Wild
Spring is just around the corner and already we have booked many summer travels. Many of these vacations focus on seeing wildlife, one of the most memorable encounters you can have while traveling. Here's five of our favorite ways to see wildlife around the globe:
Hike with a Naturalist
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 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 the horses.
Backroads Multisport Trip on the American Safari, Yellowstone
Blame it on the lightning fast speed of the web, but our attention spans seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Even on vacation, we can't relax and be content visiting one locale or trying one activity. This is certainly true in the world of adventure travel where the current hot trend is the multisport trip, trying as many activities as possible in one week. Backroads has been at the forefront of this trend and their multisport trip to Yellowstone is a client favorite. Bike beneath the Teton Range's Sawtooth Mountains amid shimmering lakes and dense forests; hike to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with its multicolored walls and dramatic waterfalls; and shriek down the Snake River on an exhilarating rafting trip. You want to see bison, elk, even grizzlies in a stunning terrain without the crowds? This is one of the finest ways to do exactly that.
Boating with Humpbacks, Eagles, and Otters
Unlike Juneau and Ketchikan, where cruise ship passengers are quickly immersed in streets filled with jewelry, T-shirts, and other souvenir shops, Sitka has more of an authentic feel. Stroll through the totem poles found at Sitka National Historic Park to the Alaska Raptor Center. Every year, 100 to 200 birds of prey, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, red-tail hawks and owls are brought to this large aviary hospital to rehabilitate. After your fill of town, splurge for the 3-hour Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest. Not only will you view exquisite scenery like volcanic Mt. Edgecomb and the snowcapped peaks that rise dramatically from the shores of Redoubt Bay, but the abundance of marine life is astounding. Within moments of leaving the docks at Sitka, humpbacks raise their tales, followed by harbor seals, bald eagles standing in the tall spruces, a colony of more than 50 sea otters lounging in the kelp, puffins with their orange beaks, and sea lions.
Hike with Tortoises and Snorkel with Sea Turtles Floreana Island, The Galapagos
Almost half of the 170,000 people who visited the Galapagos Islands last year chose a land-based tour instead of the typical cruise. The advantage of staying on the islands over taking a cruise is that you're traveling independently and meeting locals, many of whom have spent their entire lives on the islands. One spot worth visiting on that land-based tour is the Floreana Lava Lodge, where simple wooden cabins face the ocean and the sound of pounding waves lull you to sleep. The owners, the brother and sister team of Claudio and Aura Cruz, are two of 12 siblings that were brought up on the island. Claudio personally escorts guests high into the hills to see giant tortoises, many over 100 years old. You'll walk through caves that housed early German settlers, pick juicy oranges from a tree, and then have a memorable lunch of grilled beef and chicken chimichurri at the former ranch house of Claudio and Aura's parents. In the afternoon, take a short stroll from the hotel to a sheltered bay where you can snorkel with huge sea turtles. Don't be surprised if none-too-shy sea lions swim up to the beach and fall asleep right next to you.
Mountain Bike on Safari
South Africa's Nkomazi Game Reserve has unveiled a new type of safari. Instead of planting your bum in the back of a bone-jarring jeep, which is the norm on safari, Nkomazi is offering a mountain biking safari. Not only will you be guaranteed the chance to go eyeball-to-eyeball with the Big Five, lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and cape buffalo, but you'll be doing it in the wide open savannah with no place to hide. No worries. It's only a morning ride and you'll be joined by a rifle-toting ranger. Nkomazi is located in a malaria-free zone near Kruger National Park, about a 3-hour drive from Jo'Burg.
Hotels We Love:
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Did you know that the two-piece bathing suit known as the bikini originated in Positano, one of the most beautiful towns in Italy? Positano is located at the tip of the peninsula called Amalfi and an important stop while on one of the most scenic roads of the world, the Amalfi Coast drive. Overlooking the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, hotels, restaurants and shops cling to the cliffs offering stupendous views of sea and sky. Here's our picks for our favorite places to drip dry your bikini:
Whitewashed rooms contrast with the brick red 18th century walls of the hotel called Le Sirenuse (after the mythological Sirens who lure sailors out to the rocks). Intimate spaces, luxurious terraces that face the glorious sea, a champagne and oyster bar, you get the picture. It even sports a Michelin star restaurant on its premises. Audrey Hepburn stayed here when it was still a well-kept secret. Psst. The secret is now out.
Covo Dei Saraceni Hotel
Sitting next to the pier where the ferries come and go on their way to Capri and Naples, this family run hotel is unpretentious, small and delightful. It began as a restaurant but evolved into a hotel with a terrace overlooking the waterfront, a rooftop with a private salt water pool and all the rooms feature sea-view balconies.
If you drive 60 kilometers south of Naples, you arrive in the lovely town of Ravello. A wonderful place to stay in this town known for its outdoor musical concerts and garden estates, is Palazzo Avino. A major perk of this hotel is its beach club. Take a 15 minute shuttle and enjoy the club with its all-day grill, lounge chairs, small plunge pool, and ladders down to the chilly Mediterranean for those who dare.
Bellevue Hotel Syrene
We are especially fond of this hotel as it combines great food, thanks to its relation with Relais and Chateaux, magnificent views, and comfy accommodations. A spa, fitness center, whirlpool, sauna, small pool and beach club are welcome features as is their Winter Garden, Dali cigar room, and La Pergola, a restaurant perched high atop a cliff for dining in the summertime.
Hotel Santa Caterina
In the town of Amalfi lies this family-run hotel that dates back as far as 1880. Transformed from a roadside pension, it is now a snazzy resort that attracts celebrities and politicos like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (they stayed here while filming Mr and Mrs Smith) and none other than Hillary Clinton. The rooms hug the cliffs and offer views both day and night of turquoise waters and starlight. Eat pizza by the pool, breakfast on a flower-studded patio, enjoy their beach club near the sea, and relax thanks to their excellent service.
Allow ActiveTravels to plan your next trip to Italy!
Tour Operators We Recommend:
African Scenic Safaris
I've already written about Epic Private Journeys in this column, the outfitter I traveled with to Tanzania last April. But they cater to the high-end traveler. For those who want a more moderately priced safari experience that won't break the bank, consider African Scenic Safaris. We sent a family of five to Tanzania this past December and they were very pleased with the choice of lodging, guides, and the incredible wildlife experience. Tanzania is home to the vast Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and numerous off-the-beaten track private game reserves like Grumeti and Mwiba, so it provides the perfect safari experience. Most clients combine with a trip to Zanzibar and the coast to relax after days of driving. African Scenic Safaris was recommended to us by a British travel agent who enjoyed working with the husband and wife co-owners, Amanda and Simbo Natai. Amanda comes from Australia while Simbo grew up in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, close to where they live now in Moshi. They're also very much
involved with Path to Africa, a charity they founded that helps a small orphanage in Moshi's Hope Village. If you're interested in a safari, easily one of the most memorable travel experiences you'll ever have, please contact ActiveTravels.
Tried & True Travel Tips:
Conquer Jet Lag and Get Grounded
Traveling can incite many emotions. Let's see. Anticipation, excitement, nervousness, anxiety. These are just a few. It's natural to go through many stages as we prepare and embark on a trip that may be in our home state or across the globe. Either way, the fear of being in a new place, new time zone, with a different language being spoken and different foods can be eye-opening and enlightening and, at the same time, terrifying! They say, "Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone."
Here's some techniques to soothe your anxiety and smooth the rough edges when entering a whole new world. Feel free to <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" rel="nofollow" shape="rect" target="_blank">send us ideas of some tricks you have learned to help you adjust when traveling.
Jet Lag Rooster
You may want to download this free app when you next travel to a new time zone. All you do is enter in your departure and arrival cities and the flight times. This app will give you suggestions on the best hours to sleep to prepare yourself and avoid as much jet lag as possible. Each time you enter your trip details, you get a personal jet lag plan.
This is a more high tech version of Jet Lag Rooster. It's also an app used to conquer jet lag but it works in conjunction with your fitness wristband (Jawbone, Apple Watch, and soon, Fitbit) to monitor your health while flying. Input your flight number, date and class of travel, and then it offers you personalized tips and a regimen to follow pre, during and post flight.
Go for a Run
No matter where you are, most likely you
can find a place to take a run. You'll shake off your jet lag, check out your
surroundings, and give your body a chance to unwind after a
long and uncomfortable flight.
Take a Walking Tour
Just ask Active Travels. We have a vetted roster of excellent guides in many cities across the globe. If you take a tour shortly after arrival, you will not only have a guide to help you get oriented but he or she will likely give
Before you arrive to a new city, you
may want to download its offline google map and take a screenshot of the
locations you want to visit. Be sure to note the exact address and plug
it in so you get where you're going! Never hurts to ask a local if this
technique doesn't work. One member couple who traveled to Melbourne in
February did just that and they were escorted on a spontaneous 2 hour tour of the locals' favorite spots in their beloved city!
With average temperatures in the low to mid-70s and without the crowds of Mardi Gras, and Jazz Fest, March is the ideal time to take a 3 to 4-day jaunt to New Orleans. We plan to do exactly that at the end of March with our family. Yes, we'll walk around the French Quarter to grab beignets at Café Du Monde and listen to live jazz on Frenchmen Street. But we also plan to ride the Streetcar on St. Charles Ave, bike along the estates in the Garden District, and visit the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum. We're also excited to check out many of the new restaurants receiving rave reviews, like the Caribbean food at Compère Lapin, just reviewed favorably in last Sunday's New York Times, the James Beard award-winning Israeli restaurant, Shaya, and the Banh Mi-style po'boys at MoPho.
Jet Blue flies nonstop from Logan Airport in Boston to New Orleans roundtrip once daily.
Give ActiveTravels a shout if you want to plan a fun-filled trip to New Orleans.