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Wildlife

Penguins are funny creatures, especially when out for a walk or a run. Photo by Catharine Norton

Penguins are funny creatures, especially when out for a walk or a run. Photo by Catharine Norton

Having just returned from an unforgettable Antarctica cruise aboard Hapag-Lloyd’s five-star expedition-style ship Hanseatic, I experienced first-hand the fact that penguins are very funny animals.

Penguins are ubiquitous in many parts of Antarctica and on the many islands of the Southern Ocean, including South Georgia, where we spent three amazing days gazing at penguins as far as the eye can see.

They walk funny, then talk funny (some of them sound just like braying donkeys), they even stand funny (especially the poor fellows who are molting and look totally morose because they can’t go in the water at that time).

And they’re particularly funny when they run, especially when the penguin chicks are chasing their parents for food.

It’s possible that this parent thinks it’s time junior went out on his own… Continue reading

This is one of the beautiful images you'll find on StrideTravel.com. Photo by Dennis Cox.

This is one of the beautiful images you’ll find on StrideTravel.com. Photo by Dennis Cox.

“The Savvy Path to Breathtaking Travel, Without the Hassle”

“Less Planning, More Experiencing”

“A Journey of a Thousand Smiles Begins With a Single Click”

These are some of the taglines that express the essence of the new travel website, StrideTravel.com, where I worked for more than a year as Content Director. (My job is now in the capable hands of Content Coordinator Samantha Scott, who, together with co-founders Gavin Delany and Jared Alster, comprise a formidable team.)

In practical terms, Stride aspires to be — and in many ways already is — the best place on the Web to survey the wealth of multi-day, pre-planned trips that are now available from hundreds of travel suppliers around the world.

“Pre-planned trips” may encompass guided group or private tours as well as independent journeys… Continue reading

Santorini's harbor is part of an ancient volcanic caldera that wiped out Minoan civilization. Photo from Visit Greece.

Santorini’s harbor is part of an ancient volcanic caldera that wiped out Minoan civilization. Photo from Visit Greece.

Here’s Part 2 of our two-part series on Ten Top European Natural Wonders, starring five more incredibly scenic spots on land, on water, and up in the sky:

The Greek Island of Santorini 

If you bypass the often-crowded Aegean island of Santorini — also known as Thira or, in ancient times, Thera — due to its popularity as a sun-soaked tourist destination, you’ll also be missing one of the most memorable and expansive seascape panoramas in all of Europe.

Few views can compete with those from a terrace perched high atop the cliffs overlooking Santorini’s deep, seven-by- four-mile circle-shaped lagoon, formed from a mostly underwater caldera left by a titanic volcanic explosion some 36 centuries ago. One of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in history, it wiped out the island’s… Continue reading

An iceberg in Tracy Arm, Alaska -- great for summetime viewing. Photo by Catharine Norton

An iceberg in Tracy Arm, Alaska — great for summetime viewing. Photo by Catharine Norton

Yes, I know it’s getting cold and snowy in many parts of the country, and Alaska may seem an odd choice when contemplating future travels during the post-holiday doldrums, especially when it’s sleeting outside.

But it’s not too early to begin planning your summertime Alaska vacation, which for most people involves a cruise and perhaps a land tour before or after the shipboard experience.

Generally speaking, to be assured of securing space on the ship you want and the type of cabin you prefer, it’s wise to book an Alaska cruise in January or February (especially if you require family-sized cabins in mid-summer, popular with multi-generational groups).

Last-minute discounts that are often available for other cruise destinations are harder to come by in Alaska. The reason is that high demand, combined with a short season… Continue reading

An African rhino, in the wild. Photo from Travellers Building Change.

An African rhino, in the wild. Photo from Travellers Building Change.

The statistics are staggering.  Over the past half century or so, Africa’s black rhino population has fallen by some 97.6 percent, mainly as a result of poaching.

Rhinos are killed for their horns, which fetch big prices in some parts of Asia. They’re reputed — wrongly — to have medicinal benefits, particularly as aphrodisiacs. After their horns are cut off, the rest of the rhino is left to rot. It’s a horrible, cruel death for any animal to suffer, much less one of these magnificent, endangered creatures.

In South Africa alone, the number of rhino deaths from poaching has tripled in the past four years.

At this rate, future generations will know of wild rhinos only through books. The so-called Big Five of African safaris — lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos — will be reduced to… Continue reading

A South African white rhino  -- endangered enough as it is. Photo by Dennis Cox / WorldViews.

A South African white rhino — endangered enough as it is. Photo by Dennis Cox / WorldViews.

According to recent reports, East African safari tour operators have suffered a 30-70 percent drop in bookings (including cancellations) in recent weeks due to the Ebola scare.

Southern Africa tour operators have been hurt somewhat less, but are nonetheless feeling the pinch.

Let’s put things in perspective.

Just because Ebola has tragically ravaged three West African countries — Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — doesn’t mean it’s not safe to travel to East or Southern Africa, where the vast majority of wildlife safaris take place.

Here are some (perhaps surprising) facts:

London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro are closer to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa than are East and Southern African safari centers like Nairobi, Kenya; Harare, Zimbabwe; and Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nairobi is about 3,300 miles from the outbreak,… Continue reading

Nelson Mandela's life is the focus of two tours now being offered by separate African safari operators.

Nelson Mandela’s life is the focus of two tours now being offered by separate African safari operators.

Sad news: Just hours after posting the item below, I learned that Nelson Mandela had died today. Following in his footsteps in South Africa would be an appropriate way to honor his life.

 

I don’t know who had the idea first, or whether it was simultaneous and coincidental, but two African safari outfitters have come out with similar trips tracing the “footprints” — or “footsteps,” depending on the tour company — of South African liberation hero Nelson Mandela.

Both are touting their trips as complementing the recent release of the film Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom, and both are meant to highlight milestones and significant sites in Mandela’s life.  

One outfitter, Great Safaris, is offering a trip called “Madiba’s Journey: In Nelson Mandela’s Footprints,” while the other, African… Continue reading

At this turtle farm, kids can pick up the turtles -- which can harm the animals. Photo from WSPA.

At this turtle farm, kids can pick up the turtles — which can harm the animals. Photo from WSPA.

Baby boomers were among the main driving forces behind the environmental movements that blossomed in the 1970s and beyond, and many baby boomers try to stay eco-conscious when they travel.

Eco-tourism is, in fact, a big force in the travel business, partly because baby boomers have embraced it so readily.

The last thing any of these boomers wants to do is unwittingly support a business that feigns eco-consciousness but is really the opposite.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has some tips for recognizing supposed eco-tourist attractions that actually hurt animals and the environment in general. They have a colorful name for this deceitful practice: greenwashing.

They single out a popular attraction in the Cayman Islands, the Cayman Turtle Farm — which claims to focus on conservation of… Continue reading

Learn sea kayaking with Sea Kayaking Adventures

Learn sea kayaking with Sea Kayaking Adventures

I was a little taken aback when I received a press release from  a company called Sea Kayak Adventures titled “Baja, Mexico Gray Whales For the Gray-Haired,” promoting a whale-watching base camp trip in Baja intended for travelers aged 50-plus.

While I myself would more qualify for the “Baja Hairless Whales for the Hair-Impaired” trip — having turned gray (prematurely, of course) some years ago, and then deciding to go more for the mostly shaved-head look — I wondered whether 50-plus folks who retained dark hair (natural or otherwise) might feel offended or even forego the trip for that reason.

(Hey, stranger things have happened when it comes to deciding how to spend vacation dollars.)

So while I don’t recommend that promotional approach, exactly — is the play on “gray” really worth possibly costing business? — I have to say the trip… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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