When we think about our next vacation we often consider visiting relatives for a week or so, or perhaps camping and fishing or even a cruise to the Caribbean or Alaska. Have you ever considered “going out of the box” and making your next vacation an adventure or expedition? This type of vacation is becoming more and more popular with Americans and we’ll give you some ideas in today’s travel column.
Perhaps an Amazon River voyage in South America might interest you. Two popular methods are traveling up the river by entering from the Atlantic side or flying to Lima, Peru on the West Coast then winging on to Iquitos where you can embark on a river boat and cruise downstream. Both approaches have their pluses.
A few years ago we cruised from Florida down the Atlantic Ocean to the mouth of the Amazon River and then cruised up river 1,000 miles to the city of Manaus. From there, our ship turned around and cruised down river into the Atlantic again and returned to Florida. We visited a few islands in the Caribbean going to and returning from the Amazon. It was very much an adventure and one we will never forget. You witness animal life, which you have never seen before and experience people you never knew existed in this far away part of our planet. The Amazon is just below the equator and the climate is hot and humid all the time. There is the rainy season and so-called dry season. I recommend the dry season to travel this part of the world since the rainy season can be unfriendly in several ways.
As stated, the other way to visit the Amazon is from Iquitos where you will board a river boat that will accommodate 26 to 35 people and which will offer all meals, guides, informative talks and you will feel as though you are on a real expedition in this very out-back part of the world.
The Amazon is actually a chain of tributaries that flow into the main river as it streams toward the Atlantic. These smaller vessels will be able to navigate the rivers to give you an up-close look at the shoreline with its exotic plants and trees. You will cruise by small villages with natives staring at you as you pass by.
Sometimes, the boat operators have made friends with the natives in these small villages and will cruise up to the riverbank and tie up allowing you to step ashore and walk through the settlements. Some will have no more than 100 people and they will stare at you as you look at them. These people are very primitive and live lives as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. No electricity and little or no communication with the outside world except to see the few tourists from time to time.
You will probably be given rather primitive fishing poles to attempt to catch the local piranha fish. These little creatures would love to feast on you if they are hungry and you may wish to feast on them if you are lucky enough to catch a few. They are white meat and very tasty. Crew members will cook them over a grill on the boat right after you catch them.
Your guide will escort you on a few jungle walks explaining the local flora and fauna and these are experiences you will not forget.
The riverboats vary in size and amenities and I would recommend booking with a very reputable company that has been in business for many years. Your travel agent will be able to assist you with this decision.
Perhaps a Kenya, East Africa wildlife safari might interest you. After arriving in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, you will be driven or flown to the outback portions of this amazing country to view some of the most amazing collections of wildlife in the world. Kenya also sits along the equator. Where you will travel is in the altitude range of 5,000 feet, but is still warm to hot, but not as it would be in the sea level tropics.
There are two ways to see this exciting, adventurous area. One is to take a land safari where you travel to the various regions by safari cars. The other is by flying from one safari camp to another and then taking safari cars out from these locations to see and photograph the wildlife. The choice is yours, but if you have the dollars to spend, the flying safari is faster and easier. You can see the thousands of animals from the air as well as from ground level. Either way, you would probably visit such places as Samburu Reserve for zebra, giraffe and wild birds. Then perhaps to Nakuru National Park for more game runs.
In Masai Mara Reserve there is a concentration of plains game and predators: lion, zebra, cheetah, hyena, topi antelope and giraffe. You will also have an opportunity to visit some local villages where life is still lived in a primitive manner. Some tours will also visit Murchison Falls, Kibale Forest, Bwindi, and Ngorongoro crater, Serengeti, Olduvai Gorge and Arusha. Other tours will extend to include a tropical gorilla trek in Uganda and perhaps a visit to Mt. Kilimanjaro with its altitude of 19,340 feet.
Africa is a thrill no matter how you slice it. Various tours and operators will entice you with their itineraries and method of travel. So, collect all the information you can and make that important decision as to which one you select.
Here is one adventure that is very different: Papua, New Guinea. Situated above northern Australia in the far Pacific, it is an island nation that is now independent and, in part, remains quite primitive. I first visited New Guinea in the late 1960s when it was still a protectorate of Australia. The Director of Tourism for New Guinea invited me to spend a few days as their guest touring this fascinating nation. If you travel there, definitely book a tour and stay with it at all times.
You would probably enter from Australia and arrive in Port Morseby. Then, a flight into the highlands for visits to Mount Hagen where you will witness a “sing-sing” show given by the natives over two days with thousands of participants dancing and recounting tribal beliefs.
Travel on through this rugged, mountainous terrain to Madang on the coast, then cruise on the tropical Sepik River for real jungle atmosphere and a stop at a couple primitive villages and a variety of lifestyles. Next, go on to Karawari Lodge for relaxation in the outback with interesting feasts, Ambua Lodge for more culture viewing and back out through Mount Hagen, Port Moresby returning to Australia.
New Guinea remains quite primitive in the highlands section and the jungle growth is rather dense. There is some farming on land that has been cleared and the natives have been trained to do such by the Australians. When I visited in the ’60s and ’70s, some of the tribes would kill one another as “pay back killings.” If you hurt one from a tribe, even by accident, someone from the other tribe would be killed as “pay back.”
I once witnessed a feast consisting of the smoked body from a “pay back killing” as the main dish. I decided not to partake in the main dish offering, but did inquire, through a translator, what the best tasting portion of the human body was. I was told it was the thigh!
Maybe Antarctica has been of interest for future travel in your book of “someday I’ll do this.” There are several ways to accomplish this. Many travelers fly south to the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, Argentina for a day or two stay of sightseeing and then onward by air to Ushuaia, the southern most city on the planet. Here, you board a small ship for the voyage south across the Drake Passage to reach the Antarctic Circle and cruise through the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula. You do this in their summer — December, January, February or March. Most of the boats that visit try for two daily “landings,” weather permitting, which will give you the opportunity to walk about near the shore through thousands of penguins. Take a clothespin with you to help mask the smell!
You will also be able to see abundant sea life such as whales, dolphins, seals and birds such as albatross. On board, there will be naturalist talks to explain the area in detail as well as to impart information regarding the many icebergs that will be floating by your vessel. This is a once in a lifetime adventure expedition and one your friends and family will actually enjoy viewing your photos upon return.
When thinking about various exotic journeys be sure to research each area in detail and to carefully check out the tour operators. Most of these out of the way destinations are often not the most luxurious and be aware that all tours and cruise vessels may not operate as the brochure may promise. Travel insurance is recommended.