Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

This Company is Sending a Local Hero - and their Nominating Travel Advisor - On a Life-Changing Trip to Africa
Until June 30th, travel advisors can nominate a person from their community they feel deserves recognition.

Courtesy of African Travel Inc., a sister travel company to luxury Insight Vacations, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Red Carnation Hotels among other outstanding travel providers, the chosen hero and their guest will receive the ultimate 8-night escape to South Africa and Botswana, experiencing Red Carnation’s Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa and the new Xigera Safari Lodge as well as the Chobe Game Lodge.
 
The advisor who nominates the winning hero will receive their own complimentary spot on an African Travel educational journey to South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania.

For over 40 years, African Travel has created luxury, handcrafted safaris ensuring immersive and authentic cultural encounters across the continent with exceptional service by local experts every step of the way.

(Chobe Game Lodge is an elegant, five-star, fully Ecotourism-certified safari lodge and the only property located inside the world-renowned Chobe National Park)

From now until June 30th, 2020, travel advisors can nominate a person who they feel deserves recognition for going above and beyond in their community. African Travel wants advisors to share their stories, whether it’s about an essential worker on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic or a co-worker helping their community heal.
 
Advisors nominate local heroes by briefly explaining how their hero has positively impacted the people, planet and wildlife in their local community, which reflects African Travel’s philosophy to TreadRight.
 
The TreadRight Foundation was established by The Travel Corporation’s family of brands, that includes African Travel, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Trafalgar Tours, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, among others. The foundation sets the standard on sustainability for those travel companies, and executes its mission to #MakeTravelMatter.
 
TreadRight supports community-based projects worldwide that safeguard the planet, people and wildlife. To date, the foundation has supported 55+ sustainable tourism projects in 280+ communities worldwide, that have included WWF, Conservation International, WildAid and The National Trust in the UK, while current initiatives include WE.org, Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School, Wilderness Foundation Africa and Wildlife SOS. 
 
This contest is in gratitude for people’s efforts to make their communities better places, a theme especially powerful during COVID, which has reinforced how ‘we are all in this together as a travel family’.
 
Advisors can nominate a hero by completing the online form here.
 
African Travel will shortlist the top 10 heroes and host a poll July 13-23rd, 2020 for the travel community to choose the deserving hero.
 

Nominations close June 30th.


Don’t miss this opportunity to reward a deserving local hero!

 
 
 
 
 





First In-Person New Cruise Ship Delivery Since Pandemic Lockdown: The Silver Origin

Silversea has welcomed its first-ever destination-specific ship, the Silver Origin, designed for ultra-luxury expedition sailings in the Galapagos.

It’s a good-news, milestone event for the cruise line - and for cruising.

The global pandemic shutdown has resulted in a number of scheduled new ships to be delayed or postponed, so the official flag ceremony marking the completion of the Silver Origin will also echo through cruising, and is hopefully symbolic of its return.

The Silver Origin is a unique addition to the Silversea fleet; it was designed entirely with cruising to one destination in mind: the Galapagos.
Silversea, a trend-setter in luxury expedition cruises, was the first line to launch an ultra-luxury ship in the Galapagos. This year’s launch of the Silver Origin takes it to the next level, with the ship concept to design to operations all focused on year-round service in this very unique and sensitive group of islands.
The 100-guest Silver Origin integrates state-of-the-art technology and advanced execution of four pillars: sustainability, destination experiences on-board and on expedition, authentic local culture, and Silversea’s signature levels of comfort and service.

Silversea Lifestyle Customized for The Galapagos

Even in one of the most remote groups of islands in the world, returning Silversea guests will recognize the signature features of Silversea cruising on the Silver Origin – with destination-specific touches, including:
The Explorer Lounge:
An elegant space at the aft of the ship to relax, that on the Silver Origin also doubles as a state-of-the-art lecture room for Galapagos enrichment. Outside, a beautiful terrace with with a fire pit allows guests to maximize every moment in this extraordinary destination.

The Restaurant & The Grill:
Silversea’s new S.A.L.T. culinary program as it’s offered on the Silver Origin focuses on local ingredients and Ecuadorian cuisine, just as Silversea’s beloved ‘Hot Rocks’ concept is tailored with an Ecuadorian twist along with advanced sheltering system protecting diners from less-than-tropical conditions.
Guest Suites:
All suites. All private balconies. Among the most spacious accommodations in the Galapagos. And the only ship in the archipelago to offer butler service to all guests. All the Silver Origin suites also focus on providing guests with the best views of this life-changing destination, including some with ocean-view bathtubs accessible from balconies.

New Innovations on the Silver Origin


The Marina: Guests accustomed to embarking on zodiac expeditions or an afternoon of watersports via the marina will see this aft space in another, new light: On the Silver Origin, the marina is a groundbreaking arrival/disembarkation experience. With more zodiacs per guest than any other ship in the Galapagos, the Silver Origin’s marina features comfortable sofas, showers to rinse your gear, storage for wetsuits and equipment and special boarding facilities for two zodiacs at once.


Basecamp: On the Silver Origin, the marina is connected to ‘Basecamp’, one of the ship’s most innovative spaces, connecting the destination with the ship itself. It’s where Silversea’s team of local resident experts guide educational activities about the landscapes, wildlife and history of the Galapagos. They’re aided by an immense interactive digital wall, bespoke software, and multi-media content, some provided by the Royal Geographical Society of London.

Sustainability

Environmental Impact: The Silver Origin doesn’t just meet current requirements for ships in the Galapagos, it goes even farther to protect the archipelago, with additional fuel efficiencies, exhaust emission reductions, dynamic positioning to prevent damage from dropping anchor, waste management, recycling, and even conversions of seawater to drinking water to reduce the use of plastic on board.
Fund for the Galapagos: In addition, Silversea Cruises has launched the Silversea Fund for the Galapagos to support educational projects and promoting conservation in the Galapagos Islands to preserve them for future generations. Guests can also get involved in the fund, and the cruise line will match donations in the form of future cruise credits to reward their commitment to conservation in the Galapagos.

You don’t need to wait long to experience the Galapagos on the Silver Origin. Silversea’s newest ship
is scheduled to begin service in August, 2020.
 

Start Your Trip!

 
Images and renderings courtesy Silversea
 
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The Whale Shark Whisperer of Cabo
It’s a paradise where Mexico’s Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. Los Cabos has become synonymous with a chic coastal retreat for Hollywood celebrities and global jetsetters.

The southern tip of the Baja Peninsula teems with luxury beachside resorts and spas, where stylish people relax, go golfing, horseback riding, and dancing til dawn.

But Cabo is first and foremost about the sea. Its signature landmark is the Arch rock formation rising from the ocean at the ‘End of the World’, and water-based activities like kayaking and paddle boarding, snorkeling and diving dominate the holiday lifestyle.


Cabo is the launching pad for visits to the area of Cabo Pulmo, Mexico’s protected National Marine Park known as “The Aquarium of the World”, and its most famous resident, enormous whale sharks.

They’re called ‘sharks’, but these ‘Gentle Giants’ are slow-moving filter feeders completely harmless to humans. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the seas, growing to more than 30 feet and 20,000 pounds, making them far and away the largest non-mammal creature alive.

Any glimpse of a whale shark in the wild is magnificent. But in Cabo, visitors can join tours that allow you to swim among these breathtaking creatures. Cabo’s whale shark viewing season runs October through April, and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
 
We asked Los Cabos diver and expert whale shark tour guide Oliver Hernandez what it’s like to swim with these gentle giants.
 
How long have you been swimming with the whale sharks?
“My first season swimming with the sharks was in 2013. I had been working with Cabo Adventures as a guide for a number of other tours since I moved to Los Cabos in 2008. I’ve loved the water since childhood, so that type of tour was a natural fit for me. When I learned that there were whale shark tours operating out here, I knew I had to apply to become a tour guide.”
  
You have a job that a lot of people likely envy. What amazes you most about what you do?
“I feel extremely lucky to be able to swim with these incredible animals. It’s truly a mind-blowing experience. The very first sighting of a whale shark in our waters was only in 2006, and many people had no idea that a swimming excursion with them was even an option. In my first season, we only had tours every third day with maybe eight guests.  Of course, it exploded in popularity rapidly and we quickly had to develop a system to avoid disturbing the sharks. Today, you may be on a waitlist for a tour because we cap it at 14 boats in the water at a time to ensure the sharks remain comfortable. I’m proud of how we moved quickly to accommodate the sudden increase in demand while still remaining respectful of the needs of the wildlife.”
 
How has the marine tour industry and its protocols evolved?
I’ve personally witnessed many changes in my time here, and all of them have been for the better. There have been different rules and restrictions in place over the years and all of them have been guided by the desire to provide the best experience possible for the guests and the animals. I feel confident and proud in saying that Los Cabos takes the utmost caution to tour the waters respectfully and cultivate a love for the sharks. I feel that, since our inception, we have demonstrated respect and care for this species and that is an amazing thing.”
 
You work with whale sharks almost every single day. What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve learned about them?
“The most important thing for me, when dealing with any species in the ocean, is care and perseverance. It is important to respect the ocean’s wildlife, and I think that doing so has helped to maintain that sense of wonder I get every time I dive in. Unlike in say a zoo, these animals are not here for us to look at: we are entering their home and humbly requesting an audience with them. We should always feel grateful for the opportunity to interact with these creatures in their habitat.”

 
What’s the secret for consistently finding these breathtaking animals and introducing them to the guests?
“It’s all about teamwork. The captain, Jorge, seems to instinctively know exactly where to position the boat. As guides, we are in the water simultaneously watching the position of every guest and every shark. On days where it’s proving difficult to spot them, we manage to approximate their location by reading the flow of the waves and the ‘trail’ they leave in the water as they swim. As the captain spots from the boat, he relays what he sees to the guides and gets us moving in the right direction. “
 
Although whale sharks are docile filter feeders, there are definitely people out there who will have reservations about swimming with any kind of shark. What would you tell a guest who might be feeling a bit hesitant to get in the water with them?
The good news is that unless you are plankton, you aren’t on the menu. Whale sharks are gentle and will show respect as long as their space is respected. We encourage guests not to impede their movements and to stay out of their way so they feel relaxed. When in the water with any species, the key is always to blend in. Once you jump into the water or start splashing around wildly, the whale sharks can feel the vibrations and motions of the water and they are bound to take off rather than approach. The key to having a good experience with the animals is just to be calm and don’t interfere with wildlife. Whether it’s whale sharks, dolphins, or hammerheads, they will respond by remaining calm as well.”
 
What are some of your most memorable moments while leading a tour?
We had a guest once who was swimming and was grazed by a whale shark. Whale shark skin feels like sandpaper, so she had a big shock. At times, when there are many whale sharks in the water, you have to become a matador. One time I was following along with the group and I felt a presence next to me, so I turned around and found myself staring into the huge open mouth of a whale shark coming towards me. I had to roll myself like a tortilla and I was just floating along the surface while the whale shark passed, the fin gliding right between my legs. It can happen more than once because the whale sharks are everywhere. That’s what makes the experience so fun.


Top, middle photos: Getty
Bottom photo: Visit Los Cabos

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4 Places in Chile for Your Next Adventure Vacation
Chile is easy to spot on a map of South America. It’s the very long, very narrow ribbon of country stretching over 4300 km (2700 miles) along from the middle to the very tip of the Pacific coast of South America. In spite of its length, it’s only 350 km (220 miles) wide at the widest point! 

With the storied Atacama desert in the north and the dramatic landscapes of Patagonia in the south, bordered by the epic Andes mountain range in the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west stretching all the way to its fabled Easter Island, Chile’s incredible geography has created climates and landscapes ranging from lava fields and sand dunes, volcanoes and lakes, to forest and fjords, snow-capped mountains and endless maritime wonders.


They are wildly different backdrops for your next perfect adventure. Chile’s supersized natural settings have helped make it four times in a row the ‘World’s Best Adventure Tourism Destination’. 
 
Whether you are looking for a way to be immersed in Chile’s spectacular outdoors or you’re in search of adrenaline-pumping action, the country’s expansive and unique terrain offers travelers a full range of active experiences, including hiking, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, mountaineering, climbing, surfing, sport fishing, kayaking, rafting, diving, canopy, sandboarding, kitesurfing and paragliding.
 
What’s more, many of Chile’s outdoor adventure experiences involve sustainable practices, protecting the environment you’re there to explore.
 
Here are four regions in Chile where you can get your heart pumping and create travel memories of a lifetime.
 

Atacama Desert 


In Chile’s north, it’s the driest desert in the world. It’s also one of the most unique eco-systems, occupying a vast, 105,000 square km (40,000 square mile) plateau between the Andes mountains and the sea.

 
The Atacama Desert’s sand dunes don’t just take your breath away with their scale and beauty, they provide the one-of-a-kind terrain for the unique adventure of sandboarding.
 

Punta de Lobos 


Chile may be narrow, but it has a whopping 4000 km (nearly 2500 miles) of coastline, which cruise travelers embarking and disembarking from Valparaiso get to enjoy, but we hope you explore Chile’s beaches more than from the rail of a ship. 
 
Chile has a well-earned reputation as world-class spot for surfing. Its Punta de Lobos beach south of cruise port Valparaiso and the inland capital of Santiago, has been named ‘Best Surf Capital of the World’.
 

You don’t have to be a world-class surfer to get in on the beach party scene and celebration of surf. And since it’s said to be one of the most consistent places to catch a wave in the southern hemisphere, it’s buzzing pretty much any day you visit.

 

Chilean Patagonia 


It’s a mystical destination near the bottom of the world, at the bottom of the Andes mountain range, straddling the border of Chile and Argentina. The last stop before the waters that lead to the Antarctic, Patagonia is South America’s great white south. 
 
This is the Chilean destination for lovers of vast, snow-topped mountain landscapes and cool climate or winter adventures like skiing, hiking and glacier trekking.
 

Easter Island 


Chile’s – and arguably, one of the world’s - most famous islands, Easter Island’s gigantic stone heads, called mo’ai, are instantly identifiable. Their lore draws culture-seekers from around the world and puts Easter Island at the top of adventure-lovers’ travel bucket lists.
 
Marine adventurers can get a different perspective on the mysteries of the mo’ai. The waters surrounding remote Easter Island are so clear, scuba divers are treated to visibility of the maritime environment up to 60 m (nearly 200 feet) away, including underwater caves and submerged mo’ai gazing inscrutably into the distance of the sea.
 
Your travel advisor can connect you to adventures where you can explore Chile’s one-of-a-kind natural wonders, be embraced by the renowned warmth of its people, wander the streets of UNESCO heritage historic sites – oh, and don’t forget to taste the wine and especially the country’s signature beverage, pisco!

 

Start your Trip!


All photos courtesy of Imagen de Chile.

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Maybe you've had the fun of a zip line adventure before.  But have you ever taken a zip line over the ocean? 

When Norwegian developed Harvest Caye, its private island beach resort port of call for cruises in the Norwegian family: Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania, it took the concept of a zip line adventure to another level (pardon the pun.)

Standing tall on the island is the 'Flighthouse'.  A tower that looks, no surprise, like a lighthouse.  It's the focal point of the island's air-borne adventures.  Guests depart from the Flighthouse onto ropes courses over the beach and lagoon, and this is where you can take flight on a zip line that sets you sailing over the crescent-shaped beach, then right over the water to a safe landing back on shore.  It was a highlight of our BestTrip.TV visit to the island, and we're sure it will be yours, too.

Start your Trip!

 

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If You Haven't Visited Uluru Yet...

This UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the most recognizable natural landmark symbol of Australia, has banned visitors from climbing.

Uluru/Ayers Rock rises nearly 350 meters (1142 feet) high above the hot, dry, desert in the center of Australia. This monolith is almost 10 km (6 miles) around.  And it isn't just a miracle of survival of the erosion of the rest of the landscape around it. At different times of the year and in the light of dawn and sunset, its sandstone also appears to magically glow red. (Top photo credit)

Cultural and Spiritual Significance

Photo Credit

No wonder it is a place of cultural and spiritual significance for the local Aṉangu people, the traditional local inhabitants. The area also has springs, waterholes, and rock caves with ancestral petroglyphs and paintings.  Members of the aboriginal community lead walking tours to introduce visitors to the local plants and wildlife unique to the area, aboriginal cultural traditions, and their Dreamtime spiritual stories.

But they don't lead treks up the steep slopes to the top.

10,000 Years of Human History

Archaeologists have determined humans inhabited the area more than 10,000 years ago. Europeans arrived in the late 19th century, and tourism to the site began in the first half of the 20th century.  Since the site was given UNESCO World Heritage designation, even more people  - half a million visitors a year - have made the journey to this spectacular site at the heart of Australia.

As interest and visits rose, the challenge to balance conservation, respect for Uluru's spiritual significance, and visitor experience grew.

To Climb or Not to Climb?

The local aboriginal people do not climb the sacred Uluru rock themselves to avoid violating sacred Dreamtime ground.  And they have long requested visitors follow their lead.

Photo Credit

Nonetheless, about a third of visitors to Uluru/ Ayers Rock make the hour-long, steep, 800 m (half-mile) climb to the sometimes dangerously windy summit.  In recent years, unfortunate videos have even popped up of truly disrespectful behavior by tourists at the top.

Those incidents have added to pressure to ban climbing Uluru.  First, Ayers Rock was re-named using its aboriginal designation.  Then, in 1985, ownership of Uluru was returned to the local aboriginal people, who now share decision-making on the management of the National Park where Uluru resides.

New Rules at Uluru

In November 2017, the park board voted unanimously to prohibit climbing Uluru. The new rules take effect in October 2019, coinciding with the 34th anniversary of the return of the site to its aboriginal owners.

If you visit Australia, there are still many ways to experience the awe-inspiring site of Uluru other than climbing.  Since 2009, there have been special viewing areas whose design and construction were supervised by the aboriginal community.  They provide visitors road access, walking trails and views from angles at both sunrise and sunset.

Start your Trip!

 

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Sometimes we think that the best travel experiences can only be found in distant, exotic destinations. And they're waiting for you right in your back yard.

Kieran Andrews of Wild Rock Outfitters leads cycling tours in some of the most famous and storied locations in the world. But when BestTrip.TV's Ryan McElroy asked him about one of his favorite places to cycle, it was at home in Canada in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.

In this BestTrip.TV video, Kieran takes Ryan in a two-day cycling journey across rolling hills and scenic vistas to waterfront in cottage country. Ryan gets an insider's introduction to local cycling community favorite trails, views and 'energy stops' (that is, fabulous restaurants!) as well as its network of passionate, connected cyclists.

Start your Trip!

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Why Inject Adventure Travel Into your Next Vacation
We get it. You really need a break. Downtime. Relaxation. Time to book a vacation so you can… Try a new adventure. Does 'adventure travel' sound way too energetic, even the opposite of what you need in a holiday? Think again.

Lynn Elmhirst, Executive Producer, Host and Travel Expert from BestTrip.TV, explains why finding a way to leave the beach and make soft adventure part – or all - of your next holiday, whether it's a cruise, multi-generation family vacation, a couples' escape, a girl- or guy-friend getaway, bleisure time from your business trip or business conference, might be the best travel decision you can make. And way better for you than a week on a lounge chair.

Soft adventure is about being active and interacting with the outdoors and nature. It's not about extreme activities that involve intensive training or baked-in danger. Think hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking, spelunking, tree walks, orienteering, photography, bird and wildlife watching, agriculture and rural volunteering - not tagging sharks, climbing Everest, or base jumping!

Tapping into your inner Scout, not SEAL.

Soft adventure vacations are one of today's top travel trends. Some reports say 50% of North American travelers have started choosing soft adventure travel experiences over beach vacations. There are outdoor adventures waiting in some of the world's most beautiful, inspiring places for travelers of every age and most levels of fitness. Cruise lines are getting into the 'action', pun intended, wit active and soft adventure options in ports of call, and even with some ship board activities.

Get active on your next vacation and here are some of the benefits:

Physical Wellness

Fill your 'park prescription': anytime you can be active rather than sedentary, you're doing your body good. Doctors are starting to prescribe 'park prescriptions' to get people moving outdoors, deep breathing clean air, absorbing Vitamin D to reduce the impact of, and even treat common modern ailments, from heart disease to obesity to ADD. And of course you've heard that sitting is the new smoking. Anytime you're moving not sitting, your overall health and fitness is winning. Outdoors just makes it more effective.

And knowing you're going on an adventure on your next vacation can give you motivation to stay on your fitness program at home so you can enjoy the kinds of soft adventures you want to experience when you travel.

Acid Balance: Breathing fresh outdoor, clean air is believed to have an alkaline effect on your body. This can reverse or balance acidity from stress and lower oxygen levels from a more indoor, sedentary life. Ultimately, being active outdoors is a valuable tool to fight impaired fat loss, poor endurance and more unwelcome physical effects and make your body stronger and healthier.

See green to get fit: Getting outdoors is one of the best ways to support your fitness goals. Research shows that when you're viewing the color green (that is, plant life in a natural setting) exercise actually feels easier! So you'll enjoy it and stay with it longer, and it feels less like a 'workout' than play.

Get dirty to get healthy: It's possible our lives have just gotten too… clean. It's time to get down in the muck to strengthen our immune and digestive systems. Contact with soil and the earth is now believed be important to reconnect us to the good bacteria, enzymes and other organisms in soil that helped our ancestors – and can help us – strengthen our bodies against allergies, asthma, chronic digestive problems and support our overall immune systems.

Mental Wellness

Reduce stress, improve your mood and perceived energy: Being active in nature has been shown to realign thinking associated with stress and depression and low energy levels, and viewing natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, releasing endorphins and trigger a purely natural mental 'high'.

Take a hike, grow your brain-power: Memory loss as you age is linked to a shrinking hippocampus in your brain. Guess what? Hiking and walking or similar moderate outdoor activity grows the hippocampus, with just 3, 40 minute walks a week. And brain scans after being active show focused activity in the pre-frontal cortex.

Increase your confidence to deal with uncertainty: The one thing you can always say about Mother Nature is that she isn't afraid to throw you a curve ball. Soft adventures give you low-risk opportunities to grow your problem solving skills when things don't go according to plan, practice staying cool under pressure, and acquire confidence in your ability to cope with life's uncertainties.

Give yourself a sense of accomplishment: Physical adventures give you opportunities to push the envelope of your safe zone and acquire new skills and knowledge outside of your daily routine, especially when they take place in a new environment. When you set yourself a challenge – like getting to the top of a new hill, to the end of a new trail, and achieve it, we get a chemical reward from our brains that creates euphoria. Don't we all need some natural euphoria in our lives?

Personal Growth

Create Memories and Stories: Our earliest ancestors knew the value of group memories and storytelling. Outdoor adventures and challenges create new memories, shared stories, opportunities to learn from challenges and share them. Even tough times create great stories, and fantastic times can give us inner resources to draw on for a lifetime.

Forge new relationships: embarking on challenges, achieving goals and getting those outdoor and physical 'highs' together with other people, can forge lasting bonds, whether it's with family, new friends, or even business colleagues.

Develop Self-Awareness/ Mindfulness: Outdoor adventures, especially ones that keep your body busy, free your mind to reflect on what you're seeing and experiencing, and on big picture 'life' itself. Most of our days are occupied on mentally-heavy work, family scheduling, and multi-tasking. Hiking or paddling or most other soft adventure remove us from our day-to-day mental loads, and let the side of wonder, self-reflection, and interaction with a world that's greater than ourselves take over.

Help the World

A lot of soft adventure travel options involve interacting with the natural and unspoiled world. Increasingly, soft adventure tourism, when it is about responsibly interacting with those natural spaces and resources, wildlife and local / indigenous people, provides one of the only – and best – sources of income to financially support their ongoing protection. The value of adventure travel creates a 'business case' for preserving them from development or other encroachment.

Key words: responsible and soft. Soft adventure isn't just 'soft' on your body, it's ALSO soft on the world around you. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Soft adventure can be transformative travel for you AND for future generations together on this earth.

(Photo: Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam, a shore excursion on our Seabourn cruise. BestTrip.TV)

Start your Trip!
 
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High-Flying Winter Luxury at Whistler Blackcomb

Canada's Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia has been rated top in North America for the third year in a row.  The mountain and lifestyle are already legendary for skiers and riders, but Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler is upping the ante this winter with high-flying luxury helicopter mountain adventures that will give you epic memories and stories to share.

Winter "Glamping":

A custom snow hotel experience: A helicopter takes you to the a remote ice cap to explore ice caves before arriving at your own private enclave, for a stay in a luxury "snow hotel." The encampment is custom designed and built with comfort in mind, complete with pre-warmed down duvets, gourmet meals and a hot tub in a remote wilderness setting. This experience incorporates an array of bespoke Four Seasons services, including a natural thermal spa experience with a Four Seasons spa professional and culinary offerings prepared by Four Seasons' chefs.

Wilderness Wellness Hot Springs Experience:

Your journey includes a helicopter ride over a remote ice cap before arriving at a remote natural hot spring, where you are greeted by a master yoga instructor and a Four Seasons spa therapist to enjoy a private yoga session, followed by an aqua massage treatment. The experience includes thermal pool-side cuisine and cocktails prepared by a Four Seasons Chef de Cuisine.

Ice Cap Adventure and Exploration: 

Transportation begins via helicopter over expansive ice fields, after which guests will explore the vast ice caves with a private guide through natural, aqua blue ice sculptures, ice flows and gentle slides transporting you from one cave to the next. The adventure ends with a Four Seasons gourmet mountain-style lunch.

High Altitude Dining:

A private helicopter whisks you to a remote ice cap as you sip on a glass of sparkling Moët Ice Impérial. You're wearing a Canada Goose black label parka and sleek, waterproof Sorel boots, yours to keep, ensuring maximum comfort and warmth for this excursion and years to come.

When you arrive at a glacial peak, you embark on an ice cave exploration, discovering a spectacular 12,000-year old labyrinth of chambers of aqua blue magnificence, where you gather a crucial ingredient for the upcoming cocktail session - pure glacier ice. The resort's Mixologist will shake the ice into one of their signature specialties amid the majestic beauty of Whistler's mountain peaks. 

Once cocktail hour is complete, you re-board the helicopter and take in the alpine scenery before returning to a luxurious Private Residence  featuring panoramic views where the Executive Chef prepares a memorable dinner boasting locally sourced ingredients and premium meat cuts paired with custom cocktails that complement each dish. 

It may be hard to choose which of these one-of-a-kind exploration, culinary and wellness backcountry experiences – all with the brand's renowned style and finesse – will make this winter your best season yet.

Start your Trip!

 

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Go Glamping in Antarctica

Antarctica may be on your travel bucket list, but what if even the prospect of being one of the few people ever to set foot on the surreal, winter wilderness of the South Pole isn't enough to convince you to rough it?Well, you don't have to. We've discovered a tour operator that takes only a dozen visitors at a time to what they call the 'real' Antarctica, inland from cruise shore excursions, all the way to the actual Geographic South Pole.

And they do it in style. Inspired by luxury safaris of yesteryear complete with china, chefs, hampers and fine linens, White Desert creates an encampment of luxury pods that furnishes almost as unique an environment inside as outside.

Taking off from South Africa, it's a half-day's flight to the camp. While nothing to look at from the outside (and why would you want to when you're surrounded by scenic glaciers and ice waves?), the interior design would be at home in any luxury lodge. It's 'glamping' – that's 'glamour' meets 'camping'.

All photos: White Desert

The camp has six sleeping pods for two, equipped with a bed, desk, and wash/toilet area.

There are separate structures for showers, a kitchen, and lounge and dining areas, and your meals are catered by an award-winning chef. With your comfort assured, it's time to explore.

Guests can choose from two, eight-day trips, and even an extraordinary, 'best day ever' single day to Antarctica and back. Expert polar guides help you discover the wonders of the immense 'white desert' continent through different excursions out from base camp. You may trek to a magnificent colony of 6,000 majestic Emperor Penguins, explore exhilarating ice formations and tunnels, go technical rock climbing, abseiling, kite-skiing, even take a trip to the actual Geographic South Pole and the science station nearby. Imagine standing at the single place on earth where all points lead… only north!

Your actual footprints will be swept away by the snow, and the company ensures no ecological footprint will be left behind in this pristine environment either. The company's zero impact policy is complete: the camp is temporary, and re-created each season; all waste – including human – is removed; solar and wind power the camp; and even your flight emissions are offset through dedicated carbon projects around the world.

It's an Antarctic luxury 'safari' where you can have the world's rarest scenery, rushes of adrenaline, and stylish comfort, too.

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Get on your bike and cycle Scotland! Mountain biking is hugely popular in Scotland and the country is home to some of the best cycling ranges and trails in the UK. read more
Sloshing around the Czech Republic

By Anita Draycott

Last summer my friend Margaret and I literally sloshed our way around the Czech Republic. If we weren’t steeping in thermal springs or sipping mineral waters, we were knocking back the country’s many liquid libations—from Slivovice to Absinthe to Pilsner. 
I should explain that Margaret, an expert on all things distilled and fermented, makes her living writing and opining on wine and alcohol. 
In the name of research we thirsty travellers began our jaunt about 180 km south of Prague in the fairy-tale town of Cesky Krumlov. Just before sunset we boarded a raft and for forty-five minutes our guide poled us along the Vltava River that loops through the medieval town’s impressive collection of Renaissance and  Baroque architecture dominated by splendid castle towers. 


Cesky Krumlov was established in 1253. After German occupation during World War II many gypsies came to live here. The vagabond spirit still pervades, especially at Cikanska Jizba, a lively bar when tourists and locals cavort and Diego the dog is a regular. It was here that I got my first taste of Absinthe, a green potion, flavoured with wormwood. It tastes like licorice and packs quite a punch. Legend has it that “The Green Fairy” was the tipple of choice of Oscar Wilde and that Ernest Hemingway penned For Whom the Bell Tolls under its influence.
Groggily, the next morning, Margaret and I hiked up the hill to visit the second largest castle in the Czech Republic. This rococo gem houses the best preserved Baroque theatre in the world, complete with original hand-cranked wind and thunder machines, sets, props about 650 costumes and candle-lit orchestra pit.


No doubt the second most popular place in town is the Eggenberg Brewery, established in 1560. After a tour and some free samples (they even make a beer for diabetics) we washed a substantial lunch of liver meatball soup, potato salad, schnitzel and strudel down with a tankard or two.


En route to the spa town of Marienbad, we made an obligatory pitstop in Plzen, home to Pilser Urquell’s Beer World. This is the place where in 1842 the golden lager that many have tried to copy, originated. The comprehensive tour culminates with more free suds.
When Bads are Good
With forty hot mineral springs, Marienbad (German) or Marianske Lazne (Czech) has been luring those who come to take the waters for centuries. Its illustrious visitors have included Russian and English royals, Freud, Chopin and Goethe. We arrived on Saturday night. To say it was dead would be an understatement; the casino reminded me of a funeral parlor.


However, on Sunday morning the town was full of well-slept seniors slurping the mineral waters from the various arcaded fountains. Margaret described the taste as “rusty pipe spiked with sulphur.” However, folks swear by the therapeutic powers of Marienbad’s springs and the its pristine forest-fresh air. A tour of some of the spa facilities revealed a mind-boggling array of treatments including cinnamon packs, carbon dioxide baths and injections, bowel cleansing, flasking and lymphodrainage. In case your purified body craves some toxins, I noticed cream puffs in a revolving refrigerated case, as well as cigars, cigarettes and bottles of booze on sale in one of the spa hotel reception areas.  Perhaps the most exciting entertainment to be found was a musical fountain in the centre of town that plays classical tunes every two hours.


The livelier spa oasis Carlsbad (German) or Karlovy Vary (Czech), about two hours from Prague, is beautifully situated on the Tepla River. Thanks to the fact that during the Communist regime there was no money to tear down the classic 19th century “wedding cake” Art Nouveau buildings and put up proletariat eyesores, the elegant architecture remains intact both here and in Marienbad. 
Carlsbad’s twelve natural mineral springs are purportedly good for what ails you—from gout to obesity. As in Marienbad, folks taking the “cure” slosh around this Bohemian town’s four drinking pavillions filling their spouted cups with the thermal gold. The spout allows you to sip the water without staining your teeth. Rush hour occurs about one hour before mealtimes.


Fearful that too much of the sulphurous waters would have purging effects, we decided to indulge in some spa treatments. First we soaked up to our necks in a bubbling tub redolent of rotten eggs. Then came the massage, a half-hour pummeling by a brick of a woman lacking what I’d call people skills. The Czech’s have not adopted the North American concept of spa as place to be pampered. Also keep in mind that Eastern Europeans are blasé about nudity so it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a sauna or hot tub with “members” of the opposite sex. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!


Margaret with her inquenchable thirst for new libartions decided we should find a drinking establishment and order Carlsbad’s locally produced Becherovka liqueur. If I thought the Absinthe was awful, this bitter brew, with hints of clove and cinnamon, was brutal. It was originally invented by Josef Becher, a Carlsbad pharmacist, to relieve stomach ailments. 


To her credit, Margaret consulted some locals and they suggested it was best downed in one quick swallow followed by a pint of piva (Czech for beer). Many demonstrations of Becherovka bravura followed. Somewhere along the line, we found ourselves dining with these merry Czechs. When I suggested the meal was sitting rather heavily in my gut, a new cure was procured from behind the bar. Slivovice, yet another national treasure, is plum brandy designed to digest the heaviest of duck and dumplings. 

Explore the Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations in Jamaica

When going to Jamaica, most vacationers think about the resorts that line the island's northern coast. It's not surprising that most travelers will head to that direction because Jamaica is known for exactly that: lounging in the pool, basking in the sun, or enjoying the buffets. But if you're tired of the usual Jamaican scene, why not try exploring the off-the-beaten-path destinations in the island?

It takes an adventurous spirit should you want to explore the other side of Jamaica. However, we can assure you that it's an adventure worth taking! Here are some of the destinations you can visit:

  1. Port Antonio: Located in the eastern side of the northern coast, you can enjoy a slow-paced stay in this local secret destination with lush and green secluded beaches. But, Port Antonio is not just about the beaches. You can try waterfall hikes here or go bird watching. You might also want to try dining on authentic jerk cooking.
  2. Southwestern Jamaica: Just a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay, Southwestern Jamaica is less isolated than Port Antonio, but can still offer you a less crowded vacation spot. Some of the activities you can join are a safari excursion on the Black River, a tour of the historic Appleton Rum Estate, and a relaxing dip at YS Falls. You might also want to visit Treasure Beach, which is the site of Lovers Leap where two Jamaican slaves were said to have leapt to their deaths.
  3. Pelican Bar: A 20-minute boat ride out on the sea, Pelican Bar stands on stilts. Guests can enjoy a frosty Red Stripe and some fresh-caught seafood here.
  4. Mandeville: When you think of Jamaica, you think of beaches. However, land-locked Mandeville is something else. Here you can find the Caribbean's oldest golf course, the Manchester Golf Club, which dates back to 1868. Expect an English vibe when you visit this place, with cricket games and English-style pubs all over the place.
  5. Flower Forest and River Head Adventure Trail: Go to this ecotourism attraction and enjoy a 130-acre tropical forest and 40 acres of landscaped gardens. Follow a hiking trail along Little River and feast on the beautiful sights that include dozens of tropical plants, flowers, and birds. At the end of your hike, you will find yourself in a 14-foot deep pool where you can relax and enjoy the view.

Experience Jamaica differently by exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations. Book your holiday with a travel agent today and get the best deals!

Escape to Florida Keys, Florida, where the fun never stops!

Located between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys is the perfect place to escape the city life and spend days being a beach bum! Kidding aside, Florida Keys is where you can enjoy an unlimited number of activities that are just simply awesome!

The Keys as it is often called, is also known as the American Caribbean. It is a Coral Cay archipelago composed of 1700 islands, most of which are uninhabited. 43 of these islands are connected by bridges. Florida Keys is divided into different groups, namely, the Upper Keys, Middle Keys, the Lower Keys and the Outlying Islands. The most popular islands are the Key Largo, Marathon, Islamorada, Big Pine Key, and Key West, the southernmost point in the Continental United States.

Aside from the usual water activities you can enjoy in any of the islands, Florida Keys has so much more to offer. It is the home of the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Dolphin Research Center, the Turtle Hospital, Harry S. Truman Little White House, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum, San Pablo Catholic Church, Vandenberg Wreck, History of Diving Museum, Lobster Trap Art Gallery, Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, and Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, just to name a few. You can also enjoy an African Queen Canal Cruise, food and cultural tours, ghost & vampire tours, and events such as Fantasy Fest, Marathon Seafood Festival, Cuban American Heritage Festival, Hemingway Days, and Florida Keys Island Fest

Head to Florida Keys and be captivated by its charm, beauty, and friendly locals!  

It's Time You Explore The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley in Andorra The upper part of the valley features an exposed glacial landscape with picturesque steep cliffs, rock and lake glaciers. Further down, the valley narrows and becomes more wooded. A secondary valley is also to be seen here at the point where Perafita Claror Valley blends into the Madriu Valley to the South West. read more
There's something inspiring about rainforests. Watch this vlog and you may catch the bug that has so many conservationists working round the clock to preserve what is left of them. read more
That the surrounding area teems with the amazing African wildlife is a major plus. Carry your binoculars and get a vantage point to see the magical jungles of Africa from Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira volcanic cones at the summit of the mountain. read more
5 Daily escapes in Costa Rica If there is something more dangerous than hiking into a national park that has an active volcano, then I would like to know...for now, I will say you are crazy to be even within a mile of the volcano, let alone on its foothills. All in all, it is one of the most satisfying experiences ever - and the reason why you will throw caution to the wind and attempt this. read more
Perhaps you are thinking…Thailand is an over-sensitized destination. Well, this would not be your sentiments if you can venture out of Bangkok. In fact, I challenge you to try other cities, top among them, Chiang Mai. read more