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July 21, 2010

An Introduction to the Masai Mara

By Guest Blogger

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Sunrise on Masai Mara National Reserve
A Masai Mara Sunrise (Ziara Safaris)

A lot has been said about the Masai Mara before, and for good reason. Tucked away in southwest Kenya, it's the country's most popular national park, and if you take in the small size of the reserve in comparison with some of the giants like Amboseli or Tsavo West, you can immediately glean that there must be something truly special about this park.

The Masai Mara, totalling 938 square miles, is essentially the northern continuation of the Serengeti of Tanzania. Though dwarfed by its southern sister, the richness and concentration of wildlife in the Masai Mara is second-to-none. It is undoubtedly considered the best place in Kenya for spotting each of the "Big Five”—lion, elephant, leopard, cape buffalo, and black rhino—due partly to the sheer diversity of landscape and vegetation in this corner of Kenya.

Wildebeest migration
Wildebeest migration, Masai Mara, Kenya (Ziara Safaris)

Start with the image that's immediately conjured upon hearing the word "safari”—that of the open, rolling savannah. The Masai Mara offers plenty of this quintessentially African landscape. You will gaze from your safari vehicle, or if you're lucky from your lodge or tented camp, and be faced with open plains, a washed-out greenish-gold in the dawn hours, and a deeper orange-gold under the blaze of the sunset. Open lands such as this are often favoured by cheetahs, which can sprint unhampered across the landscape in pursuit of an unlucky gazelle or ungainly wildebeest.

Continue reading "An Introduction to the Masai Mara" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Exotic Escapes

May 07, 2010

The Reemergence of Volcano Tourism

By Lacy Morris

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Iceland is starting to wake up and throw their legs out from under the blanket of volcanic ash that covered the picturesque country following the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull. Roadways, flights, and airports are back to normal, though Icelanders are still giggling over the media attention they received from the unparalleled eruption of a volcano that no one can seem to pronounce. (Check out this entertaining video montage—below—of the many attempts, though I would like to state up front that I can't do much better.)

Thankfully, the damage in Iceland caused by the untimely eruption was minimal and local tour operators have been amending cancellation policies and reopening their doors. As a result, "volcano tourism" has become the new hot ticket with many Icelandic companies moving quickly to add Eyjafjallajokull Volcano tours to their schedules. Here is a list of Iceland tours that will take you to the brim of the volcano that discharged chaos worldwide.

Iceland on Track
The South-Shore, Waterfalls, and Glacier Tour wheels you around the area of the eruption. If conditions are right, the lucky tourist will see ash clouds rising from the volcano, hear small explosions, and witness the effects of the lava flow. This tour also takes you through waterfalls, black beaches, and the cliffs of Dyrholaey, formerly a volcanic island. The tour will run you around $26* and lasts around anywhere from eight to ten hours.

Continue reading "The Reemergence of Volcano Tourism" »

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Related Topics: European Travel · Exotic Escapes · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Trends

January 28, 2010

Top Five Family Vacations, From a 12-Year-Old Perspective

NZ_Arthur's Pass sheep herd_Simon Russell-Photodisc-Getty-83298051
HERD CROSSING: Bring your brood to Arthur's Pass, New Zealand, where sheep have the right-of-way (Simon Russell/Getty)

As the founder of an adventure-travel company, I often have the chance to speak with our guests about their travels. One question I hear a lot is, "How do I know if my kids are ready for a trip to Europe?" (or Costa Rica, or New Zealand, or Peru...)

A recent conversation I had with my oldest son illustrates why I think it's never too soon to introduce kids to the big, wide world.

Jack, now 12, has been traveling abroad with us since he was an infant. (In his first passport photo, aged 11 months, he's wearing a Winnie the Pooh sleeper.) On a recent river-rafting trip, I seized just the right father-son moment to ask him which trips he remembers most fondly and why. With little or no prompting, he offered me the short list of his all-time top five.

5. New Zealand's South Island
While you won't spot any hobbits from the Lord of the Rings movies that were shot here, the whole family will find plenty of miraculous discoveries. Walk on amazing beaches, swim with the world's smallest dolphins, and explore a parrot-filled jungle with its own glacier. At a high-country sheep station, you can spend the day checking on baby lambs and watching the sheepdogs do their work. There's even jet-boat rides on the Dart River. Adults can enjoy sipping their way through award-winning wineries as well as some of the most scenic walks on Earth. New Zealand is a friendly country that captures the imaginations of all ages.

Continue reading "Top Five Family Vacations, From a 12-Year-Old Perspective" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Central America Travel · Exotic Escapes · Family Vacation · Outdoor Adventures · South America Travel · Trip Ideas

December 02, 2009

New Year's Alternative: Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival

By Lacy Morris

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Ice and Snow World, Harbin, China (Lin Yang)

For an interesting and different way to spend New Year's this winter, try Harbin, China, where below-freezing temperatures don’t stop thousands of visitors from traveling to one of the world’s most spectacular ice and snow festivals. Every year on January 5, the International Snow and Ice Festival kicks off with a chilling celebration amongst a grandiose display of ice art. The arctic climate of Harbin yields perfect conditions for the annual festival, not to mention making it an early forerunner to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Ice and Snow World is a subcategory of the event, a place where the most extraordinary ice sculptures are displayed. Visitors are met with enormous castles towering above them—some of which reach more than 80 feet into the frigid winter air. LED lights are installed to create a spectacular lightshow inside the multi-tiered structures. Sports enthusiasts will bask in the snow-filled options for outdoor adventure—alpine skiing at the Yabuli Ski Resort, snowsledding, winter swimming in the Songhua River flowing down from the Changbai Mountains, and testing your own creativity levels with much smaller-scale ice and snow carvings.

Travel Tip: Such bitterly cold temperatures can wreak havoc on your camera. Protect it by keeping it under your coat when not in use. In the event that condensation does occur, take all removable parts off and let them dry out. Keeping the camera outside with condensation in it could cause the camera to freeze.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Exotic Escapes · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

November 20, 2009

Sweden's ICEHOTEL Celebrates 20 Years

By Lacy Morris

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COOL PAD: Exterior walls of the ICEHOTEL, Sweden (Håkan Hjort)

Thirty-nine carefully selected artists have gathered in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, a small village north of the Arctic Circle, to begin construction on this winter's version of the ICEHOTEL.  In preparation for the hotel's 20th anniversary, two of these artists, Americans Andre Landeros Michel and Dennis Rolland, will have two and a half weeks to transform their winning "Gotham on Ice" design into an ICEHOTEL suite. Like the rest of the hotel, the room will be constructed solely of snis (snow and ice) and their particular room will reflect inspiration from New York City's skyline, the music of Cole Porter, and memories of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The hotel is under construction during November and December and will open for overnight guests in January. The hotel can remain open to visitors through mid-April before the summer sun begins to melt the world's first and largest hotel made of ice. Accommodations vary at the ICEHOTEL, including 62 guest rooms, one deluxe suite, three group rooms, nine snow rooms, 29 ice rooms, and 20 art suites. A night in a deluxe suite will run you around $1,000 per night.  Beyond the hotel's chilly walls, visitors can stay entertained with activities including dog- and reindeer-sledding, snowshoeing, moose tours on horseback, ice driving, and dining under a grandiose starlit display put on by the Northern Lights.    

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Outdoor Adventures · Places to Stay · Travel News

October 28, 2009

Getting Out There With Afar Magazine

Afar Traveling home from a conference in Québec last week, I picked up a copy of the premier edition of Afar, the newest travel magazine to grace an already crowded category on airport newsstands. An hour later after a thoroughly absorbing in-flight read, I can report that I was impressed. The magazine is "for readers who are curious about everything the planet and its people have to offer," according to founder and editorial director Greg Sullivan. In this day and age, when magazines seek to impress with the most luxurious travel experiences imaginable or cater to a budget-minded, close-to-home crowd, Afar bites off the essence of experiential travel with an honest, open, and upbeat appraisal of the world we explore. A bimonthly publication to start, each issue of Afar will be organized under the typical See, Connect, and Go sections; its first edition profiled everything from Japan's costume-play fetish to a local's guide to East London to the world's best treetop lodging. As someone who reads a pile of travel magazines each month for work, I'm happy to say that this is one travel magazine that will open your eyes, mind, and heart—not just your wallet!

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Asia Travel · Beach Vacation · Budget Travel · Caribbean Travel · Eco-Tourism · Exotic Escapes · Outdoor Adventures · South America Travel

October 05, 2009

Western Australia Launches New Trails Resource

The Kimberley_ATC
Western Australia's The Kimberleys (courtesy, ATC)

Western Australia—home of the Coral Coast and some of the country's most far-flung cities and pristine landscapes—launched a great new travel resource last month.  TopTrailsWA provides a fun, info-filled resource on over 50 of trails within the region, from an hour-long mountain bike jaunt to days-long treks, along with packing lists, tips on "leave no trace" low-impact hiking, and dates to key events.

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · From Around the Web · National Parks · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Websites

September 18, 2009

Phu Quoc: Vietnam's Best Beaches

By Guest Blogger

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Phu-Quoc-sunset-over-Gulf-oSunset in Phu Quoc (Mike Sieburg)

For a country with a mainland that stretches for nearly 4,000 kilometers along the South China Sea, I find Vietnam’s most beautiful beaches to actually be on the island of Phu Quoc. Set in the Gulf of Thailand just west of the Mekong Delta and less than 20 kilometers south of Cambodia, Phu Quoc is home to vast, lovely stretches of sandy unspoiled beaches, and dotted with towering palm trees overlooking turquoise waters. Dense forests and pepper plants line the slopes of the island’s mountainous interior, while a rugged dirt road hugs the coast. With most of Vietnam’s coast facing east, the island of Phu Quoc is one of the country’s few beaches that offers views of the sunset.

The seas surrounding Phu Quoc offer excellent diving and snorkeling, especially in the quieter waters of the dry season. Most hotels arrange boat trips out to popular snorkeling and dive sites. The interior of the island has trails, allowing for jungle hikes through dense foliage to waterfalls and mountaintops with views that stretch to the Cambodian mainland on clear days. For those wanting to explore the outer reaches of the island, it is possible to rent a motorbike for the day. The island’s main road follows the coast, making for stunning views throughout any drive.

Continue reading "Phu Quoc: Vietnam's Best Beaches" »

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Budget Travel · Exotic Escapes · Trip Ideas

September 11, 2009

Watch Behind-the-Scenes Footage from Kelly Slater's New Surfing Movie

Nine-time world champion surfer, Kelly Slater, and his big-wave companion, Raimana Van Bastolaer, have just wrapped principal photography for Ultimate Wave Tahiti, the first 3D IMAX and giant-screen movie to use extreme surfing to focus on the science of waves, according to its executive producer, K2 Communications, Inc. The film, scheduled for worldwide release in February 2010, was primarily shot in Teahupoo, a legendary "slab wave" in Tahiti. Check out the behind-the-scenes clips below for a look at some of the awesome cinematography, not to mention surfing! wiae6pyn87

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · Surfing · Travel Videos

August 20, 2009

Guide to the World's Best Resorts & Lodges

Cayo Espanto, a private luxury all-inclusive in Belize (courtesy, Cayo Espanto)

For the past 12 months, I have been neck-deep in one of the toughest assignments a travel editor can expect: Scouring the globe for the world's best destination resorts and lodges. I know, it's a hard job gazing at images of unspoiled, faraway places (like the one above), but I wasn't alone for my journey. We assigned a crack squad of travel writers with clips in publications including National Geographic Adventure, Travel+Leisure, and Lonely Planet to track down the cream of the crop, including their selections for the best family resorts, beach resorts, national park lodges, all-inclusive resorts, and six other distinct travel categories. One year later, with my list of must-visit places in a state of morbid obesity, we're excited to announce the launch of's new Resorts & Lodges Guide, featuring 200 of the world's ultimate destination-resort experiences. If you're looking for inspiration about where to stay next, this is the place to start.

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · All Inclusive Vacation · News · Beach Vacation · Eco-Tourism · Exotic Escapes · Family Vacation · Hawaii Vacation · Mexico Travel · National Parks · Outdoor Adventures · Places to Stay · Skiing & Snowboarding

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