Both mother and father penguins feed the chicks- one of the great memories of a Hurtigruten cruise to Antarctica, (c) Lisa TE Sonne

Both mother and father penguins feed the chicks- one of the great memories of a Hurtigruten cruise to Antarctica, (c) Lisa TE Sonne

Are you ready for Antarctica? Now is the time to book your excursion to the “White Continent” where all the time zones converge and penguins play. With some advance planning now,  you can have  a “Summer” this Winter that includes gorgeous glaciers, leopard seals, and international research centers.

Winter in the northern hemisphere is Summer at the South Pole,  so your January at “the bottom of the world” may be warmer than in the Northeast of the US —- and you may see a chick being fed (by mother or father,) then go take a jacuzzi onboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM.

Check out the latest bargains and savings on the Hurtigruten cruise line.  Norwegians have a rich heritage of great polar exploration, and can share the wonders with those who sign up.

Is there an animal-loving kid inside you or inside your home waiting to get out in the real wilds next vacation? Summer is here and there are some wild specials for animal lovers who want to go beyond zoos, television, and stuffed toys.

Wild Planet Adventures Director Josh Cohen at Tiger Sanctuary in Thailand.

“After 23 years of feedback from families,” says Josh Cohen, Wild Planet Adventures founder and director, “we’ve selected our top five summer trips for animal-crazy families based on kid-friendly activities and experiences that appeal to all ages and attention spans.”

For best summer exotic wild animal trips, he recommends Brazil, Borneo, Galapagos, Peru, and Costa Rica. For summer planning for the top fall and spring trips, he advises you think Thailand and India. He also offers trips that aim to maximize the opportunities for wildlife in each destination.

Whether it’s customized night tours for nocturnal animals, quiet boats, walking safaris, kayaks, or remote floating lodges, Cohen works on including privileged access and exclusive activities that he has developed through years of guiding, scouting, and hands-on research.

Proboscis Monkey in Borneo

He hopes travel can ignite kids’ passions and concerns about protecting the world.

“Kids will thrill to cuddle a newborn monkey in the Costa Rican rainforest, witness the spectacle of hundreds of macaws at a clay lick in Peru, snorkel with playful sea lions in the Galapagos, glimpse a female jaguar nuzzling its newborn cub in Brazil, or wander the quickly disappearing rainforests of Borneo in search of adorable tarsiers, slow loris, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, and orangutans, the most human-like of all primates.

A Tarsier in Borneo

“These are life’s defining moments. They provide a counter to our violent video-game culture and remind us that life is precious. They inspire, exhilarate, and provide perspective to kids growing up. They remind us that we are a part of nature.”

Keep reading for seven super-sounding family trips picked by Cohen and described in his own words (from an interview this week and his writings.)


Brazil

Jaguar’s Trail: Pantanal to Amazon 15-day “Brazil is the new up-and-coming family destination when it comes to wildlife travel, with possibilities for adventurous activities exceeding even Costa Rica. This trip includes the seldom-visited Taiama Ecological Reserve in a remote part of the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetlands.

“A Wild Planet Adventures exclusive, Jaguar Safaris in Taiama, average 1.5 jaguar sightings per day viewed from the safety of a river boat. Tiama Ecological Reserve and the Paraguay and Pixiam rivers are home to the largest concentration of jaguars on earth. Giant anteaters and otters plus silvery marmosets can be spotted from horseback, boat or jeep.

Extraordinary photo opp. Jaguar photo by a non-professional client of Wild Planet.
Image thanks to Mary Ellen Endo/Wild Planet Adventures

“Guests then transfer from the world’s largest wetlands to the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, and are introduced to Wild Planet’s exclusive Primate Program, designed by a primatologist.”

*$6,898 per person double can be shortened to 11 days for $4,998 per person double.

A Wild Planet Adventures Borneo trip where families can see families of Orangutans in Danum Valley, Borneo

Borneo

Borneo’s Weird & Wonderful Wildlife – 12 Day tour  “The primeval rainforest here harbors an Orang-Utan sanctuary, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys with huge noses, and Borneon Gibbons who sing to each other, among countless other rare and endemic species.

“Highlights include a special expedition to see Borneo’s unique flying and gliding mammals, and a night excursion to view tarsiers and slow loris, two of the world’s smallest and cutest primates. Borneo’s rainforest is disappearing at alarming rates due to palm oil cultivation, making it the world’s #1 ‘see it while you can’ destination.”

*$5,898 per person double.

Family watching seal pups in the Galapagos. Photo courtesy of Ecoventura.

Galapagos

“Galapagos Islands Ultimate Wildlife 8 Day Nature Cruise on 20-passenger yachts in the Galapagos.  Two naturalists accompany groups of no more than 10 people on land tours. Guests can kayak, walk amongst colonies of sea-lions, witness the mating and courtship rituals of sea-birds, track giant tortoises and snorkel surrounded penguins and other marine wildlife. Many summer dates are designated as special family departures, or family-with-teens departures.”

*$3,375 to $4,350 per person

Macaws in Peru at a Salt Lick. Photo courtesy of Rainforest Expeditions

Peru

Peru Ultimate Wildlife Adventure comes in 13- and nine-day versions. “Nine days includes the cultural meccas of Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley. However, the focus of the trip is the Amazon Rainforest. Manu Biosphere Reserve is the world’s most bio-diverse park, with 200 species of mammals, including 13 species of primates.

“Nearby Tambopata Reserve is home to the world’s largest macaw and parrot clay licks where travelers can see up to 1,000 macaws and parrots transform the sky into a kaleidoscope of color. Exclusive family-friendly activities include a Wild Planet Adventures’ special ‘Jaguar Kayak Float,’ a shaman-led medicine trail to learn about the medicinal value of rainforest plants, and a special excursion to see the world’s smallest — and cutest —primate, the pygmy marmoset.”

*$3,375 to $4,350 per person

Costa Rica – In the Wild and to the Rescue!

A baby sloth for hands-on fun and education for the family at Proyecto Asis In Costa Rica

“On some tours guests, experience animals in the wild as well as at wildlife rescue centers, some of which offer ‘hands-on’ experiences sure to thrill kids of all ages.

“Costa Rica Ultimate Wildlife Eco-tour for 14-days focuses the wildlife of eight national parks harboring 10 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Included is a visit to Aviarios Sloth Wildlife Sanctuary where, says Cohen, ‘the cuteness factor is off-the-charts.’ Families enjoy hands-on interaction with animals at Proyecto Asis wildlife rescue center, and meet biologists studying the rainforest at La Selva Biological Preserve.  Activities include moderate whitewater river rafting, flat-water wildlife float-trips, cloud forest canopy tours, viewing volcanoes and hot springs, night hikes for nocturnal animals, sea-kayaking with dolphins and snorkeling at night in the bioluminescence.

Visitors can help feed a baby sloth at the ASIS Wildlife Shelter in Costa Rica


“Wild Planet is currently offering a special for the six weeks between early July and mid August, which includes free binoculars, extra nights in Corcovado and more. This coincides with a weather pattern called ‘veranito,’ (little summer) which tends to be one of the best times of year for seeing wildlife.”

*$4,598/person or 9-days at $2,998/person

Summer Planning for Other Seasons

“Not all of our most family-friendly wildlife trips are in season during the summer. November through June  – including Christmas and Easter breaks – offer a few additional options for wildlife adventures ideal for families:

Thailand

“Our #2 overall destination for families and #1 destination for women travelers, Thailand is the ‘Costa Rica’ of Asia in many ways. Wildlife safaris by jeep, foot, long-tail boat, and kayak in the national parks combine with mindful cultural experiences and end with snorkeling and relaxing on Thailand’s incredible islands.

“The Buddhist culture oozes joy and open-heartedness, and the sensuality of Thai food, Thai massage, and the Asian aesthetic combine to create a richly joyous experience. And did we mention feeding and playing with elephants and cuddling baby tiger cubs?”

Clouded Leopard on a Wild Planet Adventure

India

“India will ignite your family’s passion to make a difference in the world. It will instill a genuine sense of gratitude and appreciation for your life, for the opportunities you have, and for the things you take for granted. It is ideal for families with teens and adult children, who want a meaningful – and potentially transformational experience.

“Our wildlife expertise shines at India’s top national parks, wildlife reserves, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites where you can thrill to the sight of wild leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, tigers, and more. You’ll feel transported back to a romantic era of turbaned warriors, valiant princes, and sultry harems as you explore the forts and palaces of Jodhpur and Jaipur, the magnificent Taj Mahal, the remote villages of Rajasthan, and the contrasting bustle of modern Delhi.”

For more information and a complimentary 2013 catalog call toll-free 1.800.990.4376, or e-mail: trips@wildplanetadventures.com. To review current trips, schedules and itineraries log onto:
http://www.wildplanetadventures.com.
Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/mywildplanet

Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens
Photos provided by Wild Planet Adventures unless credited otherwise in the caption.
Explore the Family and Adventure sections of Luxury Travel Mavens for more great trip ideas.

If you are looking for domestic luxury this summer, consider National Parks and stellar acommodations!  Get a nature and nurture fix when you combine first class Parks and pampering – and can get a package deal.

I don’t usually pass on press releases or information for things I haven’t tried, but I am a big fan of National Parks, and luxury-oriented  J Public Relations pairs Parks with pampering digs, and suggests some tempting trip ideas for outdoor wilderness creations with indoor comforts (no camping!). Below are words, images and links provided by them.

Tanque Verde Ranch paired with the Saguaro National Park (read on for more)

 

Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park with 2.2 million acres of natural wonders and wild animals.  Top sights include the Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Prismatic Spring on the Lower Loop, Mammoth Hot Springs on the Upper Loop and Yellowstone Falls near the shared section of the two.  At the southern edge of Yellowstone Park lies Grand Teton National Park which boasts majestic views of the jagged peaks of the Teton Ranges and miles of hiking and wildlife-watching by Snake River.

Hotel Terra paired with the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park

Hotel Terra Jackson Hole

Located at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park and a short one hour drive to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the LEED-Silver Certified and AAA Four Diamond luxury Hotel Terra Jackson Hole’s Passport to the Parks package provides the ideal destination for adults and families looking to explore some of the world’s most treasured natural sites.

The Passport to the Parks package includes:

·       3 nights lodging in a Terra Guest Room

·       7-day park pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park

·       $20 daily breakfast credit at Terra Cafe

·       Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

·       Backpack for 2 children with kids guide book, reusable water bottle and camera

·       Rates start at $235+ per night; Minimum 3-night stay

·       Valid Valid May 16 – September 30, 2013

Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa

The AAA Four Diamond Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, is also steps from the entrance to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone.  Located in one of the most spectacular places in the United States, Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is granting guests an all-access pass to explore both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks with Teton Mountain Lodge’s National Park Explorer Package that also includes a $50 gas voucher and daily breakfast credit at Spur.

 The National Park Explorer package includes:

·       3 nights lodging at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa

·       7-day park pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park

·       Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

·       $30 daily breakfast credit at Spur Restaurant & Bar

·       $50 gas voucher

·       Rates start at $189+ / night; Minimum 3-night stay

·       Valid May 16 – September 30, 2013 (blackout dates do apply)

The Grand Canyon National Park:

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and has a depth of over a mile.  Known for it’s visually overwhelming size and intricate and colorful landscape, the Grand Canyon boasts some of the world’s most jaw-dropping and dynamic views.

L’Auberge de Sedona in Arizona

L’Auberage de Sedona, Arizona

Situated just 45 minutes south of The Grand Canyon in Sedona, Arizona, L’Auberge de Sedona is just a short drive from the country’s acclaimed Grand Canyon National Park.  The experts at the luxury boutique hotel have a breadth of knowledge to share with their guests if they’d like to tackle the trails on their own, or guests can book the Grand Canyon Package.

 The Grand Canyon Package:

The Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring monument that must be seen. Guests can relax in L’Auberge’s beautiful accommodations, then spend a memorable day on a professionally guided tour of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The travel up Oak Creek Canyon, via luxury mini coach, is one of the top 10 scenic drives in America.

The package includes:

·       Two nights in either Lodge Room or Cottage Room

·       Grand Canyon tour for two; tour times range 10-11 hours

·       $36 breakfast credit at L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek

Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest:

Divided into two sections, called districts, Saguaro National Park is 91,442 acres, 70,905 acres of which is designated wilderness.  The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus which is native to the region.  Close by is the Coronado National Forest which is spread throughout mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  Divided into five ranger districts, each consist of multiple “ski island” mountain ranges.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Tuscon, Arizona

Ideally located amongst Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest, Tanque Verde translates as the “green pool,” a name given by the Pima Native Americans due to the seasonal river that runs through the land to create a mountainous desert oasis of vibrant cacti and various unique plants. Tanque Verde Ranch offers a variety of activities that allow guests to take advantage of this beautiful landscape, including expert-guided hikes through the Sonoran Desert or rugged Rincon and Catalina ranges, mountain biking tours, trail rides on horseback, birding adventures and nature walks. All of these activities are complementary with all-inclusive rates, which also include three daily meals and accommodations in tastefully decorated southwestern styled accommodations.

Coming Soon- the Salamander Resort & Spa paired with Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park, Virgina

This 200,000 acre park is haven to deer and songbirds and is an ideal location for outdoor activities for the whole family.

Be the First: Salamander Resort & Spa 

Salamander Resort & Spa is set to open this August in the heart of Virginia wine and horse country in the quaint 18th century village of Middleburg and a short 2-hour scenic drive along Virginia’s Skyline Drive to Shenandoah National Park. Set on 340 acres of farmland, the brand new resort will offer an unparalleled luxury experience in the region with 168 guest rooms and suites; a culinary program led by Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant in DC including a two restaurants, wine bar, cooking studio and 2-acre culinary garden; a world-class spa with 14 treatment rooms and a couples suite and an array of activities including an onsite Equestrian program to rival any other in the world, with a 22-stall barn, practice ring, riding trails and instructional classes. The property boasts tennis courts and an outdoor pool complex, and guests have privileges at the nearby Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. Fifty wineries are within an hour’s drive of the resort, as are opportunities for whitewater rafting, sporting clays and raceway spectating.

**************

Where would you like to park you and loved ones this summer? If you try any of the above this summer, please let Luxury Travel Mavens know what you think!

Submitted by Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos, descriptions and links supplied by J Public Relations

 

Travelers enjoy watching the active Arenal volcano. On their backs: a Kelty Flyway backpack, an Ultimate Destination Jurek Endure waist pack, and ISIS turquoise top & Aqua Rain Shell.

Carry On!

“Carry-on” goes the British call in the face of any challenge. “Carry-on” is also many traveler’s mantra whether it’s about attitudinal stuff in your head or physical stuff in the overhead. Seems like increasingly air travelers are trying to avoid baggage claim delays and possible lost luggage hassles by going all carry-on.

Wheels or straps? More wildlife seen thanks to great guide Tex’s sharp eyes and helpful scope. ALA trains local guides and works with Sun Tours in Costa Rica

The question I pose is “wheels or straps?”  Carry your stuff via straps on your back and shoulders and be hands-free for flexibility?  Or roll it and be “weight-free” on your body?  “Wheels or straps?” applies whether you are master-minding a “carry on” only plan, or are checking in bags and still want an optimal sized carry-on bag.

I’ve been an “omni-directional wheels on small suitcase” traveler the last couple of years, but I had a chance to re-visit the “wheels or straps” carry-on question when I was one of the writers invited on a remarkable Kelty trip to Costa Rica that included trying out different gear, clothes, and travel bags.  I was game to look for other ways to “Carry On!”

River guide Otto oars the Kelty backpacks- both Flyway without wheels, and the Ascender with wheels-that are stuffed in dry bags to forge the class 3 and 4 river rapids– part of the ALA adventure of traveling to and from the Rios Tropicales Eco-Lodge in Costa Rica.

Our one week trip in Costa Rica, customized by the stellar Austin Lehman Adventure (ALA) company,  included river rafting, ocean kayaking, outrigger canoeing, zip-lining, hiking in jungles and second growth rain forests, as well as waterfall rock sliding, hammock swinging,  river floating, and eating at local farms and restaurants.  Plans called for river rafting into the Rios Tropicales Eco-Lodge, not accessible by road or plane, and then going downriver for a road trip to the Arenal Observatory Lodge for volcano watching, then on to the famous Manuel Antonio National Park and the Pacific Ocean for resort and sea time at Si Como No, part of the Greentique Hotels of Costa Rica. That called for some diverse items in packing, and durable, flexible luggage.

 

A lovely hike with Kelty packs to one of Costa Rica’s many beautiful waterfalls. Howler monkeys heard in the canopy.

Kelty has been an iconic name in backpacks for decades. I was curious what their brain trust would create for the adventure traveler. Instead of wheels or straps, we were given both to try out:  The Flyway back pack, and the Ascender series backpack that attaches and detatches from a sturdy frame with inline skating wheels.  Both would be put through some paces on our action-filled trip.

Kelty- For Straps 

“The Flyway” backpack is designed with air travelers and adventures in mind, coupling Kelty traditional back pack features with a separate pocket for wet clothes, dirty clothes, or shoes. The padded shoulder straps have their own pocket to streamline the bag if you want to check it in. I used the Flyway to Carry On, and appreciated how easy it was to pull my laptop in and out of the interior padded sleeve for Airport Security.  Once airborne, when I could use my computer, I also could smoothly pull my laptop out of the backpack while it was in the overhead without pulling the whole bag down (something I can’t do with a small suitcase). My travel pillow was also easy to nab from the side pocket.

Less hang-ups with extra camera gear in the Kelty Flyway backpack on one of the many Hanging Bridges in Costa Rica. Howling monkeys soundtrack.

Once in Costa Rica, the backpack could serve as a comfortable day pack for hikes as well – helpful for

*photo gear awaiting sloths, toucans, monkeys, deer, colorful poison dart frogs, orchids and bromeliads,

*more activities:  towel, sunblock,  and swimsuit for hikes to pristine pools and wondrous waterfalls, a raincoat, dry clothes

*shopping for Costa Rican coffee, cigars, woodcraft, organic papayas

There’s even a rain hood that pulls out of a pocket — good the sudden downpours in the rainy season of Costa Rica

The Flyway sports exterior pockets for water bottles and interior pockets for cards, travel docs and pens.  I wish there was a little secret compartment to hide a passport and money, and that the bag sat better when taken off, but I appreciate its relative comfort and versatility to serve for both trails and travels!

Kelty- For Wheels

Andrew demonstrates how the Ascender series of bags can all use the same frame with inline skating wheels. The new Kelty line debuts August, 2013.

 This August,  Kelty debuts the Ascender 22  series of three travel bags ( a backpack, WR Duffel and  Trunk bag) that can all be attached to an expandable sturdy frame with wheels- not just any wheels, but hardy, in-line skating wheels.

The adjustable frame can shorten or lengthen to hold various new Kelty sized bags We checked out the Ascender backpack which fits with the frame in the overhead bin.  You can also extend the rollable frame to balance the Flyway on top of the Ascender bag to wheel it all through the airport.

The Ascender backpack has an expandable pocket and the frame can accommodate the added height. The bag is no longer a carry on then. I loved being able to pick up gifts for family and friends, put them in the top pocket, and watch the bag grow.

The Ascender bag can also be detatched from the frame and worn as a backpack.  This kind of flexibility makes it a desirable way to roll for trips that ask for squishable luggage — cruises and barge trips with limited cabin space, and outdoor adventure trips where suitcases don’t roll well with the rocks.

For this adventurous, memorable trip, I was glad to be both wheels and straps!

Are you a “Wheels or Straps” traveler? How do you Carry On?

Photographs by Lisa TE Sonne in Costa Rica

 -Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

 

Here Comes the Sun-Protection

I’m packing for the US tropical islands for Spring Break. Not the Hawaiian Islands this time, but the Caribbean. The US Virgin Islands don’t require a passport and the average water temperature is about 80 degrees .  The Saints are waiting (as in the islands of St Thomas, St Croix and St. John)  Sun and sea here I come!

Solumbra

Ready for a day of sunshine. SPF clothes for protection by Solumbra.

The #1 item for packing? Sun protection, and I don’t mean sunblock. Yes, I will pack my favorite, but I can also buy it there and not worry about 3 ounce maximums for carry-on. I mean my clothes. I specifically mean clothes designed for sun protection made by a company called Sun Precaution– a line by Solumbra and referred to as SPF Clothing.  I do not want my vacation to be a race to cancer or aging skin! I do want “safe” clothes for outdoor adventure, and sun  lounging.

Most people now know that the sun’s rays can penetrate t-shirts and go through windows and do damage, and that we rarely apply sun block thoroughly and often enough to fully work.  Do you know how many ounces you could go through in a vacation outdoors if you fully followed the instructions?

Shaun Hughes needed sun protection so he invented a wearable “medical solution.”

 “Medical Solution” Fashion

When Shaun Hughes got melanoma skin cancer in his 20s, he got inventive too. He created and patented what he calls a “medical solution” — a tightly woven cloth that is tested to be SPF (sun protection factor) of 100. And then he developed a line of clothing other people would wear too. He has made improvements over the last 20 years based on research and fashion.

There are Sun Protection stores now on the West Coast (Santa Monica and San Diego in California, and Seattle, Washington), but I liked perusing the goods online, organized by item or by activity.

For my last trip to Nicaragua, I took three long-sleeved shirts, two pairs of long pants and two hats to give them a real test (me). They were very lightweight and took up little room, so I could still fly carry-on for an 8 day adventure trip, if I wore my hiking boots and jacket on the plane ( I did.)

The complimentary colors allowed mixing and matching for many outfits. I added jewelry and scarves for accessorizing. The extras also dressed up the outfit and detracted from any sense of Safari motif.

Horseback Riding in Solumbra duds, Nicaragua above Morgan’s Beach

I also supplemented my traveling wardrobe with a skirt, a little black dress,  and two Scottevest items that were also on trial  (a long jacket with hidden pockets and their cargo pants with pockets.  These clothes are not designed for sun protection, but with multiple pockets to free up hands and eliminate the need for a shoulder bag. ) Verdict: Keepers for travel and home. The long -hanging lightweight jacket dressed up my other shirts, travelled wrinkle free and gave me the extra warmth needed in the evenings. It’s flowing lines attracted compliments too.

Solumbra Lessons on the Road

Here’s some of what I learned about my “SPF Clothing” during the active experiment in Nicaragua;

*I was the only one in a group of intrepid wonderful travelers on the Austin-Lehman trip that did not have some part of me get sunburned at some point during full days of city and nature activity.

*The ventilated shirts were well-engineered and breezy, so I didn’t get hot and sweaty the way I would of in jeans and a t-shirt.

*The hats were flexible enough for me to bend back the rim when I needed to for photography. The chin strap saved the windy day when others were chasing after their hats.

Zip-lining in Nicaragua with Solumbra shirt, Scottevest pants, local red hibiscus and helmet on an Austin-Lehman Adventure

*I didn’t suffer from any bug bites either (I had sprayed everything with Sawyer’s Clothing insect repellent before the trip- “good for six weeks protection against ticks chigger, mites and mosquitos”)

*The clothes are versatile and hardy. They (sans hat) worked:

  • upside down while I was ziplining,
  • under the thick overalls worn for ash-boarding down a volcano,
  • after getting splashed in kayaking (they dried quickly),
  • during horseback riding in the jungle under monkeys and on the gorgeous beach of Morgan’s Rock.

They were loose enough for working the press, one of many steps in making Don Elba cigars

* They served well too as good city-tour clothes and kept me comfortable (culturally and physically) when we visited the cathedrals, restaurants and museums of Leon and Granada.

*They are easily hand-washable and so thin they dry relatively quickly. I tested this out after sitting in a wet field to get a better angle for a photo of a volcano, and after getting chocolate spread on the pants accidentally when I went for a chocolate massage (another story for another time.)

*The clothing is so soft that I felt sometimes like I was wearing pajamas. I now like wearing them at home and around town for errands.

 And in conclusion…

So, in conclusion, it’s all going with me to the Caribbean too. I just wish I had thought to get the “skirted sea leggings” and “swim top” and maybe surf jacket for all the time I plan to spend in the water!  Snorkeling, paddle boarding, swimming, maybe the new jetpacks.  How wonderful not to worry about going back to shore and re-lathering legs and arms and back, and trying to do it without acting like a glue-magnet for sand.

Now, where’s my swimsuit? And what books should I bring ?

Lisa TE  Sonne,  Luxury Travel Mavens

Photo of Shaun Hughes from Sun Precautions Website as well as first story image

Feature image of St Croix provided by US Virgin Islands Tourism

others taken on  Austin -Lehman Adventures Nicaragua trip

Lisa’s Luxury Likes- Papua New Guinea Picks

Cultural Diversity in Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea is a bucket list best for anyone who wants to explore cultures and nature, not homogenized by chain stores, cookie-cutter tourist attractions, and popular media. Over 800 languages are spoken amidst 300 islands, in a varied realm promoted with the tag “ a million different journeys.”

Known as “PNG” to more savvy travelers, the country lies south of the equator and North of Australia.  Tribal village ceremonies, giant purple clams, and tropical orchids are just part of the alluring diversity.

Amazingly, “remote” and “roughing it” are not synonymous in chosen pockets of PNG. Travelers with a sense of adventure can still enjoy great comforts while gathering indelible memories and authentic mementos, instead of staged photo opportunities and factory made souvenirs.

The Luxury Picks

*The Sepik Spirit Lives up to its claim as “ A floating luxury lodge” that takes people up rivers to remote Papuan villages famed for word carving, Spirit houses, and tribal dancing.  Birders, photographers, art collectors, and amateur anthropologists- sign up now!

*Lissenung Island Resort: A private island with contextually classy R & R–great food, snorkeling, diving and culture.

*Karawari Lodge – A real tropical beauty set on a ridge above dense jungle; a great home base to experience Highland cultures and festivals.

*Malolo Plantation Lodge on the Bismarck Sea – A short paddle from this cozy north shore sanctuary, Tadwai Island offers corral cays, ancient reefs and views of paradise

Click here for more information on travel in Papua New Guinea

Click her for more on high-end PNG tours.

Click here for Check Lists Before going on any International Travel

and for Luxury Travel Mavens top  tips on Long Distance Air Travel 

 

-Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens

© Lisa TE Sonne

 International trips organized around annual festivals and remarkable events may be packed and unpacked with “Ah!” and awe at human nature and earth’s nature.

Iceland, Solstice Celebration in June, photo courtesy of Kensington Tours

A camel beauty pagaent in India? Cherry blossoms in Japan? A solstice  celebration in Iceland? A leg rowing contest in Mynamar?  These are trips you can take that few have (and links to intineraries for that festival travel are below).

What better way to learn about a culture than by being part of the festivities it honors?  One of my most remembered (and photographed) trips was customized around the Tshechu dance festivals held in the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas.  Our private trip beautifully developed by Bridge to Bhutan included a local guide, great access to the festivals and temples, and some luxury accommodations (Zwha Ling in Paro, the first Bhutanese owned-and-operated hotel and resort to receive five stars, Uma Paro for peaceful pampering, is part of the upscale Como Hotels and Resorts,   Taj Tasha, a modern landmark in Thimphu and a Taj Resorts and Palaces.)  I hope to return this summer to Bhutan with my husband to provide luxe trav readers updated details.

LTM Festival Travel

Pushkar Camel Fair, India, courtesy of Kensington Tours

You may have a destination in mind and start checking into what festivals are celebrated as a memorable portal to unique experiences or you may know of a festival you like– St Patrick’s Day in Ireland in March, the big Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico in October, or the Water throwing festival in April that is part of Thailand’s New Year. You can start creating your own adventure with or without a company that customizes trips.

You may want to join a festival trip that has already been carefully planned. Since many destinations can be well booked by locals and foreigners for annual events, and festivals may have specialized customs, the expertise and clout of a seasoned travel company  could save you time and trouble. I have not experienced the festival trips below, but the photos and descriptions are beguiling:

APRIL

Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japan Photo provided by Kensington Tours

Japan`s Cherry Blossom Trip

As described by Kensington Tours: “Picnic under trees radiant with cherry blossoms and take part in the centuries old Japanese tradition of “hanami” on this private journey showcasing Tokyo and Kyoto during the most desirable time of year. Delve into this ancient spring custom and more, as you’re swept into a land of kimono-clad geishas, zen gardens, sushi, samurai castles and shrines, all narrated by private guide.

“Stroll the flowery “Philosopher’s Walk,” tiptoe across nightingale floors, cruise the Sumida River, visit mountain temples and behold cherry blossoms season at its finest!”

 

JUNE

Iceland’s Summer Solstice Tour: June 21, 2013

As described by Kensington Tours “Celebrate the Summer Solstice in “the land of the midnight sun” on this exclusive tour to the top of the world. Honor this mystical ancient tradition marking the longest day of the year in Reykjavik, Iceland.

“From druid priests, live music, bonfires and culinary feasts with the locals to champagne toasts, drinking “Viking blood,” carving sacred runes and unveiling legends of old with private Icelandic folklore guide, this northern adventure makes the most of all 24 hours of light.”

Nature’s spa at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon during the Midnight Sun, photo from Kensington Tours

 JULY

Spain’s San Fermin Festival: July 6 – 14, 2013

As described by Kensington Tours, “Not for the weak of heart, this wild Spanish fiesta is known for the Running of the Bulls which dates back to 14th-century Pamplona. Over time it has evolved into a daring weeklong fête where 2,000 people

San Fermin Running of the Bulls Fiesta In Pamplona, Photo provided by Kensington Tours

run in front of 15 charging bulls.

“Led by a real picador guide, behold the spectacle from a private balcony as Ernest Hemingway did and head to the country where the famous bulls are raised. Not ready to take life by the horns? Fireworks, gigantes y cabezudos, contests, dancing and spirited locals will keep any globetrotter on their toes.”

OCTOBER

Myanmar’s Leg-Rowing Festival: Oct 5 – 22, 2013

In the words of Kensington Tours: “Cruise the waters of time back to a celebration evocative of Southeast Asia centuries ago with a pilgrimage to Phaung Daw Oo – otherwise known as Myanmar’s Leg Rowing Festival. Held upon the shores of Inle Lake, a trip to this spiritual 18-day pageant is true cultural nirvana. Watch as a golden barge holding four Buddhas is towed by ornamented leg-rowers from private boat with expert guide.

“Take part in the eclectic festivities, from magic shows, dancing, leg rowing races and fireworks to fortune tellers, spiritual blessings and Burmese banquets. To amplify your experience, plan your visit to coincide with Thadingyut, the festival of lights!”

Myanmar Leg rower contest, Photo provided by Kensington Travel

NOVEMBER

Pushkar Camel Fair – India: Nov 6 -17, 2013

Kensington Tours: “There’s nothing quite as mind boggling exotic as a trip to India’s Pushkar Camel Fair. Held every year in the desert of Rajasthan during the full moon, this spectacular event attracts over 300,000 people and up to 50,000 camels.

Family at the Pushkar Festival in India, Photo from Kensington Tours

“Led by expert private guide, plunge into this cultural spectacle while staying at a whimsical luxury tented camp. From camel painting, beauty pageants, races, livestock trade, religious rituals to music, gypsies, mouth-watering feasts and other lively events, this exotic festival has it all!”

****

Keep clicking in for future luxury festival trips as readers and luxe tour operators share their favorites. Coming up: Food and Wine Festival Trips

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos provided by Kensington Tours

 

The Zen of Ziplining with Dan Austin, founder of Austin-Lehman Adventure now Austin Adventures

Dan Austin, founder of Austin Adventures, not only walks his talk.  He ziplines it, kayaks it, and  ash-boards it. He makes the world his office and playground, as he aims for each AA adventure travel vacation to be “incredibly fun and deeply memorable”, (part of the company’s mission statement.) Not an easy feat, with 80 programs “evolving” in the Americas, Africa and Europe, but his family- run company keeps getting top awards and high praise.

 He credits his family, AA team and the hand-picked local guides. It’s also clear, he is all-around hands-on (both paddles and plans,) and is comfortable with a variety of Boards ( executives and sports.) He even ash-boarded down a young volcano with fellow travelers and me on AA’s inaugural trip to Nicaragua-

Dan Austin stays plugged in (with camera, smart phone and smiles) so guests can stay unplugged if they want.

enjoying the field research with his wonderful enthusiasm and observant eye.     He  slipped in some texting to his family and AA team  between zipline stations in  jungle canopy, from a kayak, and between courses to help keep things “fun and memorable” on this trip and dozens of others.

How do you define “adventure travel “?

Austin: “That is a tough question Lisa, Adventure Travel can be anything from climbing Everest to a walk in your local dog park.  It really comes down to what it means to the individual (or company in our case).  To AA it simply means staying active and exploring a bit more off the beaten path in each and every region we visit.  Definitely not a “typical bus tour.”

Family adventure travel by an award-winning, family-run company

“As you experienced in our recent trip to Nicaragua, we tried to balance seeing the country and cultural activities, with a bit more calorie burning modes of transportation like kayaks or hiking along with some heart pounding activities like ash boarding off a volcano.  Key is knowing what adventure is to you and making sure your goals and ideas are in line with your fellow travelers or an outfitter if you so choose. Also key to trust you always have options and that everything is introduced in a way that is as good for a novice as a veteran.”

 Why did you found your company?

Austin: “Now that is a bit of an adventure on its own.  I had a bit of experience in the industry back in the late 70’s.  I was a passionate rafter and thought it would be great to get people to pay to join me. Then some 25 years later my wife talked me into joining an “adventure vacation” to the Tetons with what was then Backcountry Tours.  I reluctantly agreed. I mean I was one of those macho do it yourself guys that looked at group travel, led by a couple of young guides as it had to be painful.

LTM Adventure Travel

River Rafting continues to be part of the Austin story. Rafting the Yellowstone River on ALA’s Montana Adventure. Photo Credit: Austin-Lehman

“Boy was I wrong!  It took all of the first day for me to realize this was my first true vacation.  Everything from someone else fixing the flat on my bike, to deciding where we would eat or what trail we would hike.  That and they carried by bags to our room and were a wealth of non-stop energy and learning’s.  After that week, a group of us approached the owners and ended up buying the company.  That was back in 1995, I have had no regrets since!”

 What are some of your most popular trips over the years and what is your rate of customer return?

The lower falls of Yellowstone River, a popular Austin adventure destination. Photo courtesy of Austin-Lehman.

Austin: “Yellowstone continues to be our #1 selling trip as it has for decades!  It is simply sensory overload and offers something for everyone. From the rich history (our country’s first National Park), to its spectacular geography (a giant caldera and more geo thermal features then the rest of the world combined) and of course the wildlife!  But that is just one of many tried and true favorites.

“Year after year Alaska continues to shine, as do the Canadian Rockies.  In Europe, Holland, Germany and Italy are always at the top of the list. Heading south, Costa Rica is our #2 selling program overall, with Peru and the Galapagos not far behind.  In Africa, my favorite and that of many of our guests, has to be Namibia, with South Africa a close second.

“About 70% of our guests are either repeat travelers or direct referrals from repeats.  One of our favorite alumni couples Chuck and Judy will be taking their 52nd and 53rd trips this year. In fact they will be repeating a trip the first trip they ever did to the Loire Valley, led by our Europe Operations Manager Ron van Dijk who was their guide on that trip so many years ago.”

Do you have anything particularly exciting coming up that you want to share?

Austin:We are always “cooking” up new trips.  We just finished putting the final touches on a new Inca Trail Luxury Camping program (Glamping)  combining hiking the Inca Trail with over- the-top services and amenities like massages and down comforters. We also are just finishing up a new Montana Based Best of the West family program.  Best bet is to sign up for our E-News letter and or catalog, of course that and Facebook. We are always communicating what we are up to.

 How can your company tailor things to be more luxurious if the client wants? Can you give some examples of things your company has done along those lines?

Sweet Adventure Travel, photo from Austin-Lehman

Austin:” Now that is clearly the fun part of the business!  About 25% of our guests choose “custom or exclusive” adventures.  Fact is if you can dream it, we can create it.  I love sharing these stories.

“There was the guest that had a vision of his wife standing knee deep in the surf off the coast of Kauai on her 60th birthday, cocktail in hand, Hawaiian trip playing as the sun set, topped off with rose petals falling from the sky!  Or the grandparents that wanted to treat their six- year-old twin grandsons to five National Parks in six days by private jet!  Then there are a lot more conventional adventures where a multi-generational family just want to get together for an adventurous family reunion.

Would you say you have a “family company”? What difference does that make?

Family Adventure: Austin guests hike up Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, Canada. Photo Credit: Austin-Lehma

Austin: “You bet I would or could say that. We are family owned and operated.   But I actually think the readers –and our guests– said it better when they awarded us the #1 Family Tour Operator in the world recognition in 2012! And  #2 overall !  It just helps that we know families!

“My kids grew up in the business as my crash test dummies (just kidding.)  We have always put a focus on doing family adventures right, not just calling an adult program “family” to sell more spots.  They are truly built for families, by families.  Here is a link to a fun webinar we did just to learn more from kids as to what kids wanted out of a family vacation.

 How would you define “Sustainable” or “Green,”  “Eco-travel?”  How important is it to your company?  Can you give examples of how you implement/ integrate it?

Austin: “Another great question and like the question on defining adventure travel, its all about what it means to you. I like to look at it in its simplest form.  The triple

In the middle of the hike, guide extraordinaire Julio Flores surprises everyone with Nicaraguan pastries. Ken sets a good example.

bottom line:

  • People
  • Planet
  • Profits

“All working together.  Another helpful definition is that of Sustainability: “ The ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their needs.

“We look to work with hotels and restaurants that follow these beliefs.  Is the produce local or flown in?  Do they practice recycling? Conservation?  But also things like hiring locals (starting with our guides).  Are they giving back to the communities they reside?

“One of our more significant programs that we are exceptionally proud of is our own nonprofit Wheels of Change.

Also check out www.austinadventures.com  for more.

What kind of awards have you gotten? What moments are you most proud of?

Austin: “We truly have been blessed in this arena. As I mentioned Travel and Leisure recognized us as the #1 Family Travel company in 2012 (beating out companies with names like “Disney”, that same year we were ranked #2 overall.  We have finished in the top 3 since we were first announced as #1 overall Tour and Safari operator in 2009.  But that is really just a start.

Austin-Lehman Awards

“National Geographic Adventurer listed us as one of the top companies in the World, several times as well as recognizing specific trips in the top trips category, year after year.  Outside Magazine gave our Cuba program the 2012 Hall of Fame award and so much more.  You can see more. You asked what award am I most proud of.. that has to be the Global Vision Award for our efforts with our bike program Wheels of Change.”

What else should potential travelers know about Austin Adventures for luxurious, adventure travel?

Austin: “I think it is not so much Austin Lehman –although we would love all your readers to join us– it is just travel itself.  As I recently penned for an email broadcast, travel is good for the soul!

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, photo thanks to Austin-Lehman

“I think Mark Twain said it best ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  

“You can of course start with our website  or on Facebook.  I also just encourage all to just call or email.  1-800-575-1540 or even better yet.  email me direct at dan@austinlehman.com  Yes, you will get a personal response.

“We are all eager to talk about travel and adventure anytime!  And if we don’t go where you want, we probably know who does and does it well, and are just thrilled to help you on your way!”

by Sonne

Dan Austin in the largest lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua

(c)Lisa TE Sonne,  Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos by Lisa TE Sonne, unless credited to Austin-Lehman or Austin Adventures

Stay tuned for more Q & A with Dan Austin about how to Design an Adventure trip and for more on ALA’s innovative travel philanthropy

What do you think “Adventure Travel” is? Do you have Austin-Lehman trip stories to share in the comments below? Here’s my Luxury Travel Maven story and photos of the Austin Adventures Trip to Nicaragua

 

Anytime can be a good time to think about our love for this planet we so passionately like to travel on and explore.  As Valentine’s Day approaches, are there Luxury Green Travel gift trips that provide tlc (tender loving care) for the planet and the traveler?  How can we  visit places and not harm the cultures and nature we seek? Machu Pichu, Patagonia, Kenyan safaris, Belize….

The main room at Toka Leya Camp, a recommendation for Green Luxury Travel from Greenloons

To learn more about how trips might be both  “luxury travel” and “sustainable travel” and how they could count as Valentines for us and the people and places we touch, I  contacted Irene Lane founder of Greenloons.

She  describes her company: “Greenloons is the only web platform that connects mindful travelers with unique, meaningful and eco-certified travel experiences all over the world.”

Please check out her tips and five top trips, and share your own tips and trips in the Comments section to add your own “Valentines” to the earth (in what I will call “Thoughtful Luxury Travel”  as we continue to explore what “green,”  “sustainable” and “eco” and “luxury” mean.)

Why do you think it is important that we be responsible, thoughtful loving travelers?

 Lane: “Genuine green travel that incorporates the values of social empowerment, economic viability and environmental responsibility can help travelers have more meaningful journeys and enable communities to achieve on their own where charities and international loans do not.”

How can luxury travel HELP not HURT?

Lane: “When done properly, luxury travel has the power to help communities AND help create unique travel experiences that benefit visitors.  A luxury property that is built using locally-sourced sustainable materials, that links its natural resource capital such as landmarks, ecosystems and wildlife with financial capital, and that is locally managed/owned can help communities by increasing their standards of living, their collective pride and their likelihood for preserving their surrounding ecosystems for generations.  The resulting experiences can provide visitors with opportunities for authentic cultural immersion as well as enlightening history, vistas, architecture and art.”

What are some of your top trips that you recommend that are both “luxury” and “sustainable”?  Lane’s written answers are quoted below:

Salkantay Lodge in Peru, Photo courtesy of Mountain Lodges of Peru, Provided by Greenloons

South America: Machu Picchu Trekking & Lodging Experience

“It is a seven day program and the only lodge-to-lodge trek to Machu Picchu. Adventurers trek among four mountain lodges from the Salkantay Peak of the Peruvian Andes to Machu Picchu.

“These four premier mountain lodges, stretching from the Salkantay Peak of the Peruvian Andes to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, are committed to providing exciting travel experiences for their guests in a safe, eco-friendly and socially responsible manner. There are three unique adventure experiences available to visitors including a lodge-to-lodge trek, an equestrian program and a Peruvian immersion experience.  Each adventure provides fun and interesting ways to enjoy the nature, culture and history of Peru while supporting local people and communities. The per person rate is $2,690 including accommodations, meals, luggage transport, activities and guide.”

Irene Lane traveling green

The LuxuryAll four mountain lodges, which are only used by trekking guests, have been designed and built in accordance with traditional building techniques, Inca architectural & mythological concepts, and respect for the surrounding environment. The lodges have private double, twin or triple rooms with private bathroom facilities (with hot water), outdoor Jacuzzis and saunas as well as personalized services such as professional massage.  Gourmet meals, fine wine and seamless transport of your personal belongings by pack horses/mules round out the experience.”

Central America a la Alexandra Cousteau Expedition

Central America: Alexandra Cousteau Expedition offers eight days in the footsteps of Explorer Alexandra Cousteau, experiencing Belize as she did when she was gathering information for “Expedition Blue Planet: Belize”, a documentary to raise awareness about Belize’s crucial water issues. Travelers will learn about the conservation work for endangered Scarlet Macaws, Maya Mountain Massif, Jaguars, Pumas, Ocelots and Raptors. The per person rate is $3,015 including internal air transport, accommodations, meals, activities, and guides.”

 The Luxury: “The small resort of Blancaneux Lodge is a haven of relaxation and tranquility. Offering concierge, ‘private dining’ experiences as well as full dining services, the lodge is also a center of wildlife exploration, cultural interaction and discovery.  The enchanted cottage at the lodge affords panoramic views of the Privassion Creek, surrounding valley and waterfalls all unfolding beyond the infinity pool. Luxury bathroom with steam room and open fire, full kitchen, wireless internet and private staff make this the ultimate hideaway with sustainability in mind.”

Luxury Lodge In Botswana, Courtesy of Wilderness Safari, Provided by Greenloons

Africa: Greenloons Conservation Safari of Botswana,

“An exclusive for Greenloons’ clients only, it is a 12-day Botswana safari focusing on commerce, conservation, community and culture through its wildlife and tourism businesses that ensure the sustainability of conservation and wildlife areas of Botswana. The per person rate is $13,995 including luxury accommodation, internal air transfers, meals, activities, park and entrance fees, laundry, guides and applicable taxes.”

 The luxury:Greenloons Conservation Safari of Botswana Vumbura Plains Camp is a private luxury camp situated in the extreme north of the Okavango Delta.  Vumbura Plains Camp comprises two separate seven-roomed satellite camps, each with its own raised dining, lounge and bar area tucked beneath a canopy of cool, shady, indigenous trees. Magnificent vistas across the Okavango Delta floodplains are a feature. A star-gazing deck with comfortable cushions protrudes into the floodplain, a place to gaze upwards, or a convivial campfire setting.  Each large, luxurious room is raised off the ground on wooden decks and each comprises a bedroom, lounge, shower and full en-suite bathroom. Outdoor showers are standard. It is open on three sides, and the billowing curtains between the various areas create the sense of a yacht floating through the floodplains. Each room also has a plunge pool and ‘sala’ – a comfortable area to lie and relax, watching the waving grasses of the floodplain.”

Eco-camp dome in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Photo courtesy of Cascada Expeditions, provided by Greenloons

South America: Patagonia United

“Explore the best of Chilean & Argentinean Patagonia including the highlights of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares NP and Perito Moreno in Argentina with the comfort and charm of private services, high-quality local accommodation including staying in a suite at the world’s first Geodesic dome camp and unparalleled nature. “

 The Luxury:  “Patagonia United” EcoCamp Suite domes cater to those looking to combine adventure and nature immersion with a more comfortable relaxed stay in the heart of Torres del Paine. Suite domes were designed for sleeping in the highest level of comfort allowed by sustainable development in a natural untarnished environment.  They are comfortable 300 ft² Geodesic domes built in the same shape as the ancient Kaweskar tribe dwellings. Their structure produces minimal environmental impact while providing an efficient thermal and wind resistant unit, with great exposure to nature in the most magnificent Patagonian setting. Guests can gaze at the stars through the ceiling windows while falling asleep each night, after enjoying a spectacular sunset from their private terrace.”

 Africa: Maasai Conservation Safari

 “Kenya’s Campi ya Kanzi (Camp of the Hidden Treasure) is a community project with the local Maasai on their Kuku Group Ranch of 400 square miles. Set within the Chyulu Hills and overlooking Mount Kilimanjaro, the boutique eco-lodge built by the Maasai shelters only 16 guests at a time in the solitude and adventure of true wilderness. Guests stroll down (rather than ride in a 4×4 vehicle) the foothills of the savannah, go on walking safaris with a Maasai leader and learn cultural traditions from the Maasai by visiting them with their families at their homes, schools and medical clinic.

The Hemingway Suite of the Masai Conservation Safari, courtesy of Camp ya Kanzi, provided by Greenloons

The Luxury: “Located near Mount Kilimanjaro and at the foothills of the Chyulu Hills, you will be in one of the most iconic (if not the most iconic) places for a safari with many opportunities for spotting the ‘Big 5’.  Campi ya Kanzi accommodates a maximum of 16 guests (within its 280,000 acres) in six thatched roof luxury tented cottages and in the Hemingway and Simba suites. The tented cottages and the suites are conveniently located, with ample distance from one to the other, to guarantee every guest’s privacy.

“Each accommodation has a dedicated Maasai attendant and all activities are customized based on your desires, from classic game drives in many different habitats, to lovely game walks with a Maasai guide and a Maasai tracker. Furniture was made at the camp with local logs (trees fallen by elephants). A table, two safari chairs, a colonial trunk, kilim rugs, brass lamps, shelves and hangers for your clothes, and daily fresh flowers complete the interior décor of the tented cottages. The suites feature a clothes room between the bedroom and the bathroom, and a sitting area next to the bed.

“All accommodations are constructed of stones, canvas, and wood, and they feature a full elegant bath with shower, bidet, basin, flush toilet and electric light. Bathrooms in the suites have double sinks. Brass plumbing fixtures add an unexpected touch of elegance and comfort, with hot (solar heated) and cold running water.  Each accommodation has a wide veranda to let you enjoy superb views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Tsavo Hills, and the Chyulu Hills.”

 

Travel with your conscience and body comfortable? Greenloons offers trips they say are both “Luxury” and “Green”

 

South America: Galapagos Islands Yacht Cruise

“Sail through the Galapagos Islands on a yacht that serves as a means to access, with minimal environmental impact, and learn about endangered species.  With higher quality wildlife viewing spots away from the crowds and a certified naturalist on board, guests can go on nature and birding walks, sea kayaking through mangrove forests, swimming with sea lions, or just slipping into provided wetsuits and safely exploring on your own.  Whatever the activity, guests are directly contributing to the economy and preservation of the archipelago.”

The Luxury: “Built in 1991 and refurbished annually, the company’s first-class yachts accommodate no more than 20 guests and feature three decks of spacious staterooms with polished teak interiors trimmed with brass fittings. Accommodations are fully air-conditioned with private bathrooms (hot and cold water showers), bio-degradable soap/shampoo dispensers, plenty of storage space, intercom and separate climate controls for comfort.  There’s a dining room that serves gourmet international meals, a well-stocked bar and a conference area with a flat screen TV, library and panoramic picture windows. There is also the opportunity to relax in a lounge chair on the sun deck, enjoying sea breezes and a sky full of stars.”

Double Room on a Yacht in the Galapagos, photo is courtesy of Ecoventura, provided by Greenloons

How do you define “Sustainable” and” Luxury”? Hw can a traveler be comfortable and consciously thoughtful?

Lane: “Greenloons focuses on ecotourism, which is slightly different than sustainable tourism.  Ecotourism travel focuses on the discovery of a natural or wildlife habitat in a manner that maximizes local economic and social goals, and reduces the possibility of environmental degradation.  It is about preserving ecosystems, educating visitors about conservation, empowering localities, operating environmentally responsible tourist attractions – and, most of all, having fun and unique travel experiences!  Greenloons defends the principles of ecotourism in that it should:

  •  Support the conservation of natural areas and wildlife
  •  Minimize air and water pollution as well as tourist waste
  • Offer safe and enriching or educational visitor experiences
  • Respect the cultural tradition of the host destination
  • Maintain and enhance the landscape so as to avoid physical or environmental  degradation
  • Efficiently use scarce or non-renewable resources, and
  • Maximize opportunities for local prosperity for the host destination in the form of long-term economic viability for tourism, local management control, quality employment, local retention of visitor spending, and fair distribution of economic and social benefits.

Natural views from Bed, Botswana luxury

“While sustainable tourism does not deplete resources and allows for a smaller number of tourists to experience nature so as not to disturb an animal’s normal mating, feeding, or migratory patterns (i.e. rafting trips on a free flowing river), the difference with ecotourism is that there may not be a focus on the preservation of the natural habitat or a focus to economically benefit the host destination.

“Mindful travelers can search trips using various parameters including country, activity, departure date and eco-style.  There are three eco-styles to choose from namely eco-luxurious, eco-ventional, and eco-nomical. 

“Eco-luxurious trips are ones where travelers are not giving up the spirit of adventure to enjoy more comfort.  Depending on the itinerary, which is for the most part customized, travelers will get around via upgraded transportation-using private vehicles, comfortable trains, and convenient flights (if applicable).  As a result, they spend more time exploring.  While this service level offers a greater number of inclusions, it still offers the flexibility to be independent with activities.  Travelers are to expect accommodations that have been handpicked for their great locations, upgraded amenities, facilities and personalized service – all with sustainability in mind.”

For more information on “Eco-Certified” travel, click here.

For Greenloons’ “Six Traps to Avoid” in Eco Tourism Marketing, click here to download a pdf

Greenloon’s take on “What makes an Eco-Hotel”

Related Luxury Travel Maven’s articles:

Top Trips from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council

Travel in Central America: Nicaragua Adventures

Galapagos Snorkeling with Ecoventura, and other great snorkeling sites

Machu Pichu Travel by   train in Peru (two articles)

Please add your own tips and trips for Luxury Green Travel in the comments section below.

Happy Valentines Day to you and the planet!

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Bio provided by Irene Lane:

Irene Lane, leader of Greenloons, advocate of Green Travel

Irene Lane is the founder of Greenloons, which is a premier online resource dedicated to inspiring people to think different, be different and travel different – in ways that help to ensure a more sustainable planet.  An advocate of social empowerment, financial viability and environmental preservation, Greenloons is the only web platform that connects mindful travelers with unique, meaningful and eco-certified travel experiences all over the world. 

 Prior to Greenloons, Irene was at eBay where she was recruited to manage an IT group assigned to solving difficult customer service challenges.  She also spent more than 10 years working for various Fortune 500 companies as a process improvement specialist and overseeing software implementations.  Her clients included high-tech companies as well as domestic and international government agencies.

 Irene is a dual EU citizen who has lived in 5 countries and visited 30 more in Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe.  Drawing upon her professional and personal experiences to address authentic ecotourism from community, ecological and financial points of view, Irene is a frequent conference speaker, blogger and radio talk show guest.  She is a graduate of Boston University with a BA in Political Science, The American University with a MBA in International Finance, and earned a Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Management from George Washington University. 

 

A Nicaraguan two-toed sloth wakes up from a treetop nap, part of an Austin-Lehman Adventure that woke travelers up!  

“Welcome to Nicaragua, the land of lakes and volcanoes,” said Jesus, the guide picking me up at the Managua Airport January 25th. By day two of my one week trip, I had already decided it was the land of lakes, volcanoes and photographs.

Whether it was the steam surging from the volcanic ground as the earth continued to form, or an elegant bride and groom at the entrance of a 17th century cathedral trying to convince the little ring boy to get off the floor and stop his crying jag so they could proceed down the aisle; or a bicycle cruising by with a father peddling a woman nursing her child, or fireworks going off near a full moon, or monkeys swinging 30 feet through the air from one branch to another not far from a sleeping sloth— everywhere the landscapes and people-scapes seemed to invite photographs.

adventure in Nicaragua Sonne

Leon, Nicaragua in January          photographs by (c) Lisa TE Sonne

The words that Nicaragua formerly conjured (contras, revolutions, drugs) were replaced for me by cloud forests, revelations, and delights. I had said “yes” to Austin-Lehman Adventures’ inaugural trip in Nicaragua before the New York Times’ article touted the country as the #3 destination on the Bucket List of 46 places to go in 2013. So had half a dozen other curious spirits, all from New York. I am glad we experienced some of Nicaragua before it’s overrun with tourists.

Wonder-Full Week
A week in the course of decades of life is a small unit of time, yet it can be filled with so many experiences and people on a wonderful trip. Friendships clicked among fellow travelers (ages 36 to 57), with the ever-smiling knowledgeable guide Julio Flores and fun driver Juan Ramon, both from Oro Tours, the Nicaraguan ground team, with the warm local Nicaraguans and ex-pats met in the course of our days and nights, and with enthusiastic, intrepid Dan Austin, founder of Austin-Lehman Adventures who started researching the trip a year before and went along to see how he can make it even better  for future groups.

A howler monkey viewed from a horse while riding from jungle to beach at Morgan’s Rock, Nicaragua

My camera also clicked as I tried to capture some of the local life, beautiful smiles, and the participatory experiences offered on the trip from ash-boarding down a volcano, to getting covered in chocolate in a spa, and from milking a cow for a farmhouse breakfast to sipping Malbec in a private dining room with 1000 year-old artwork on the walls.

These initial images may give a visual sense of what visitors can enjoy in Central America’s largest country with the least dense population. For the sounds, smells, tastes and touches, Nicaragua awaits your own visit.

Adventure Photo Ops

In between leisurely meals, our adventures in Nicaragua for our Austin-Lehman week included:

Ash-boarding down a volcano, part of the Austin-Lehman Adventure in Nicaragua

*Ash-boarding down a volcano

Flying through the canopy in Nicaragua

*Zip-lining through jungle canopy

*Horseback riding under howler monkeys, up to promontories and on the beach

*Learning to roll a cigar at Dona Elba

*Kayaking in Lake Nicaragua to the private Zopango island for an organic lunch one day and in a Pacific mangrove estuary at sunset two days later.

*Savoring Morgan Rock’s private beach- releasing baby sea turtles in the morning and bogey boarding in the afternoon

*Enjoying a romantic carriage ride on cobblestone streets with empty neighborhoods (everyone was at the baseball stadium or watching the play offs on televisions)

*Walking the streets of Leon and Granada and witnessing daily life and milestone events- two weddings, a religious parade, and a gorgeous black carriage for a funeral with live musicians playing

*Milking a cow and gathering fresh eggs from the hens for a freshly made Nicaraguan farmhouse breakfast

*Buying original artwork from the artist at Granada’s international cultural center where violins are being made in the room next to painters filling canvases

*Being covered in real chocolate for a therapeutic massage and exfoliation spa treatment in the land where the source of chocolate (cacao beans) was the currency for hundreds of years.

Two locals in Nicaragua’s largest hammock, part of the Sonrisa Cafe where deaf and mute folks serve coffee, food and smiles as well as make beautiful hammocks. Granada, Nicaragau

*Lifting two little kids in and out of the largest hammock in Nicaragua at the innovative Sonrisa Cafe and Center where the deaf and mute make hammocks and serve coffee and food

*Hiking along dense fauna with occasional orchids, bromiliads, and heliconia to a narrow passage that the Chorotegas  believed was the source of the origin portal of the first people

After awhile, I felt very repetitive saying “Bueno” and “muy Bueno” and “excelente,” so often, so I asked our guide Julio, for a Spanish word that means great, wonderful, fantastic. He smiled and said ”pijudo.” The word was used many times since!

It was hard to leave Leon with its lion statues, and old history and my room at the pre-colonial La Perla with the 20 foot ceilings and breakfast in the fountain courtyard.

One of many horse drawn carriages in Granada, Nicaragua

It was hard to leave Granada staying at La Gran Frances with its interior open-roofed courtyard swimming pool, and location close to the Plaza which had its own rich life cycles from sunrise to sunrise.

And it was really hard to leave Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Resort with the forest, jungles, beaches, people, and my spacious bungalow in the canopy that felt like a stylish screened tree house with the oceans’ waves below, and the suspension bridge walk to the main lodge where good food and infinity pool awaited. And then there are all the roads and hiking traills taken and those not taken-yet.

So I hope it is “Hasta La Vista” for me and my camera- that we will see again  “the land of lakes and volcanoes” and photographs, friendships and adventures.

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photographs by Lisa TE Sonne © all rights reserved. Thanks to Austin-Lehman Adventure for creating the trip and to Anna, Dan, Ed, Erik,  Juan, Julio, Ken, Mark, Peter, Ruth, and Troy for sharing and enriching the adventures and road trips..

Three generations make this Nicaraguan Pottery in Granada. It takes 22 days for each piece.