The yacht named after a former owner, Princess Grace, now cruising the Galapagos via Quasar Expeditions.

Pinch me. I must be double dreaming. I am basking on the M/Y Grace, the yacht given by Onassis to Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco, the yacht the royal couple honeymooned on.  In every direction I see islands of the Galapagos, one of the world’s great destinations, and a spectacular part of Ecuador, the small enticing country that also shares the Andes and Amazon with travelers that love culture and nature.

Yes, I was dreaming — but dreaming of reality — of the trip I finished yesterday. I am swimming in joyful recollections. The teak and mahogany yacht for the voyage previously entertained Winston Churchill, served valiantly in WWII, and was a moving playground for the wealthy before Quasar Expeditions turned it into a romantic nine-suite vehicle for travelers seeking the extraordinary, far from the Mediterranean and Monaco.

A flamingo looking for shrimp in a Galapagos lagoon.

Onboard our week-long cruise of the southern Galapagos, there was a family of five, a couple in their 30s on their honeymoon, and another couple in their 30s who got engaged while on the paradisical Gardner beach of Santa Cruz Island. Just a few days later with accumulated Grace and Galapagos memories, the two medical professionals actually had the Captain marry them our last night, for a very spontaneous elopement not on the itinerary.

Was it the almost-full moon? The fresh lobster dinner?  All the laughter of the guests, now friends, remembering favorite moments of the trip? A desire to weave the trip’s joys more permanently into life’s quilt? A love that deepened in a remarkable place? The couple added yet another chapter to the romance and legacy of the yacht.

Blue-Footed booby birds and red crabs share a perch not far from playing sea lions in the Galapagos. “Panga” rides from the Grace with a knowledgeable naturalist, would take visitors close to the wildlife. Photo by Lisa TE Sonne

Wild Memories
Many additional cherished memories filled my well-named memory chip of photos from our daily hiking and snorkeling expeditions on different islands with up close views of flamingos, penguins, iguanas, blue footed boobies, mating comarents, newborn sea lions, newly hatched albatrosses, and the finches that helped Darwin form his revolutionary theories about the evolution of life.

It was a privilege to be able to move through the raw and wild movements of nature in parts of the islands without human habitation, but two of my favorite moments came when I stayed in one place and the animals came to me. On our last snorkel, led by the Captain beneath the striking monolith of Pinnacle Rock, I floated gently and just felt awe at the schools of fish shimmering around me, and the shapes of the immersed rocks with bright colored algae and aneomones.

Suddenly two penguins darted toward me, performed twirling twists right in front of me and zoomed off. Then back again. I laughed with glee and was glad my prescription mask didn’t leak when I smiled grandly. The penguins continued to dart around our little band of bipeds for ten minutes and even brushed against one snorkeler who said the bird felt soft.

Galapagos Penguins are the only penguins to live naturally north of the Equator



A different afternoon on the post card -looking Gardner Beach, I sat in the powder-soft organic sand, while Galapagos penguins were swimming in the waters that mingled turquoises and azures. A baby sea lion waddled toward me sniffing like a puppy dog. Somewhere else on the beach, a delightful couple (after several years together) were getting engaged to be married, while the rest of us were engaged with different wildlife.

Six hundred miles of Pacific Ocean from the mainland of Ecuador, surrounded by the life force, I think we were all glad to be able to say “I do” to the Galapagos with Grace.

Photos and Story by Lisa TE Sonne,  Luxury Travel

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. 


Malcolm looks to the future of Luxury Travel

Alex Malcom in Africa
Photo provided by Jacada Travel

Heli-surfing in Chile? Private picnics above Angel Falls in Venezuela? A tailored-to-you luxury safari honeymoon in Africa? Jacada Travel prides itself on originality with its luxury adventure trips. The founder, Alex Malcolm, started life in Oxford in the United Kingdom, but found his passion for unique travel in Brazil. Since founding Jacada Travel in 2008, he has aspired to share some of the best of South America and Africa with personally crafted trips. He shares recommends and trends in this cyber interview with Luxury Travel Maven Sonne while he was in the  Amazon.

Q: How do you define luxury travel?

A: Where one has space and time. Settings and experiences which take us far from the everyday as such to renew and replenish us. The ability to experience something completely unique and beyond the reach of the crowds.

Q: How is South America different than other continents for discriminating travelers?

A:I am a great fan of the landscapes of South America. There’s such variation, even within each country. However, what I think really makes South America stand out as a destination is how one can really interact with people and the cultures of the area. The people of South America really are open to outsiders, so it’s a great place to engage with the local people.

Q: What are the unique luxuries in South America for travelers?

The variety of experience, being able to stand atop a glacier one day and to be in a tropical rainforest the next. Remote private lodges tucked between mountains where one can experience true solitude.

Jacada Travel

The remote Atacama Desert in South America
Image provided by Jacada Travel

Q: What shouldn’t be missed in South America?

A: Taking a more private experience of Patagonia and visiting the glaciers where the crowds don’t visit. Experiencing the unique atmosphere of Trancoso in Brazil, or flying over the Amazon by hydroplane to reach your luxury riverboat deep in the pristine rainforest.

Q: What are some of your favorite luxury memories in South America?

A: Watching the sunset in the Colca Valley of Peru on my own with not a sound around me. Flying over the amazing landscape of the Pantanal wetlands in Brazil, a lattice of green and blue with brilliant white light shimmering on the top.

Q: What are some of your favorite luxury moments elsewhere In the world? 

A: Outside of Latin America, it has to be my time in Africa. Lying in my large tent in the Okavango Delta listening to the sound of the elephants right outside of the tent or watching the sun set from a coppice in the Samburu area of Kenya, joined by the local Samburu people as I relaxed and took in the landscape.

Q: What’s still on your dream list of luxury experiences in the world?

A: I would really very much like to get up close with the gorillas.

Q: What does Jacada offer that other travel services don’t?

A: An amazing attention to detail, from start to finish. We’ve all lived in the places that we work with, so we have a unique insight into the way the country works and how to genuinely get the best out of your time there. It’s very much like plugging into a vast network of friends.

We’ve always felt that travel is a very personal experience so we listen well and ensure our guests have the trip they are looking for. We hand pick our guides and select the right guide for the right client. We know many of the lodge/hotel managers personally and are in touch before the arrival of every client to ensure they get a special welcome on our behalf.

Jacaa Travel in the Galapagos

Galapagos Penguins are the only penguins that live in the wild north of the Eguator. Image provided by Jacada Travel.

Q: Your company sent out a press release predicting that your Travel Designers will be the future of luxury travel. What is a Travel Designer?

A: We put together a complete experience from an intimate, personal knowledge of the area the guest will be travelling to. There’s so much detail involved, from choosing the correct guide, to selecting a restaurant you will like for your trip. Or even adding in little touches and surprises.

Q: How is it different than a travel agent?

A: First of all we are not selling an “off-the-shelf product” and are really not just a booking service. The knowledge and the depth of planning that is involved from our end is exhaustive. We go the extra mile to ensure our guests have a trip that is perfect for them and it is something that we can personally vouch for on a first-hand basis.

Q: What do you predict is a trend in South American and African luxury travel?

A: We are trying to push the boundaries ourselves for our clients, creating brand new ways of experiencing the most remote, pristine, and beautiful areas away from the crowds for a privileged few.

Q: What will be offered within five years that isn’t now?

A: I think more “experience-based” properties are likely to spring up in remote locations, where clients can experience comfort in a unique, pristine environment.

Q: What are the three most popular Luxury Jacada trips?

A: In South America

  • Luxury Peru Explorer, which takes in the Amazon, Machu Picchu and Cusco
  • Luxury Argentina Explorer, which takes in Patagonia, the wine Region, and Buenos Aires

In Africa

  • Safari Wine and Waterfalls Tour, which takes in Cape Town, Wine Lands, Safari and Victoria Falls.

Q: Do you have any stories to share about how a Jacada trip changed someone’s life?

A: We had a couple on their honeymoon in Argentina. They were actually lodge managers of a safari lodge in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. After their trip, they enjoyed Argentina so much that they moved there!

by Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

 Photographs provided by Jacada Travel

Jacada Travel in Africa

Rhinos in Africa

Snorkeling may be the easiest entry for traveling underwater — home to some of the greatest destinations, attractions, and wonders.  Snorkelers stay in the upper layer of water, where sunlight dances and the full array of colors are still visible for memories and photography.  Floating gently on the sea and peering down at nature’s life force in motion is soothing meditation, relaxing exploration, and privileged access.Scorpion Fish of La Paz, Mexico

I am passionate about scuba, small submersibles, and the emerging infrastructure of underwater tourism, but I would never give up the basic joy and beauty available through snorkeling.

Some of my favorite snorkeling memories are in the Sea of Cortez, the Galapagos, Palau and Papua New Guinea. Just getting to be there is a luxury – and then there’s snorkeling!

Baja’s Sea of Cortez

To see sea lion pups twist and twirl in a 360-degree aqua-ballet around you, head to the rookeries in the Sea of Cortez, “the world’s aquarium.” This UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve is a long finger of water between the Mexican mainland and the skinny peninsula below California known as “Baja,”  The Sea of Cortez was made famous by writer-biologist John Steinbeck and oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.

North of Cabo San Lucas, and less than a two hour flight from Los Angeles, the city of La Paz (The Peace) is Baja’s historic and modern capital and a wonderful departure port for water lovers.

A luxurious way to enjoy the Isla Espiritu Sea Lion Colony is to indulge in an American Safari Baja Un-Cruise  for a week full of memorable wildlife opportunities with comforts for all your senses. After playful encounters with the big-eyed pups, the crew greets you with towels, drinks, and snacks, followed by hot showers or Jacuzzi soaks while looking for whales and dolphins, then a gourmet brunch.Sea Lions at Play

If you are enjoying La Paz and Baja from a land base, Fun Baja offers a delightful daytrip. I enjoyed the shady boat, international group of fellow snorkelers, and the fresh-fish lunch they made for us on a secluded cove of the island of Espiritu Santo.

Humans are the minority among the hundreds of barking and diving pups and parents in the sea lion colonies. The curious playful ones may even grab a fin.


The underwater wildlife of the Galapagos is as wondrous as the topside of the islands. The island group straddles the equator 600 miles from South America. Snorkeling is wonderful year round, although a wetsuit helps, since the cold Humboldt current sweeps down to this part of the Pacific to make for rich biodiversity.

Snorkelers can see swimming marine iguanas, fur sea lions, and even the famed Galapagos penguin! Penguins don’t normally live in the northern hemisphere, but the delightful Galapagos penguin is an exception.  After following the antics of sea lions and even a prowling reef shark, I lifted my head to get my bearings- and there was a little penguin debating whether to jump in the water!

Ecoventura’s one-week, ecofriendly “expedition cruises on 20 passenger yachts” island-hop to the highlights and are a great platform for snorkeling. Once the gear is fitted for you, including wetsuits, it’s “yours” for the week. Naturalists are onboard and underwater to help identify great creatures – blue-footed boobies on the trail, and schools of surrounding fish in the sea.

On one outstanding day, I saw large sea turtles in the morning and then an Ecoventura guide arranged for me to get close to Giant Tortoises on land in the afternoon.

Papua New Guinea

Cultural Diversity in Papua New GuineaPNG has some of the greatest cultural diversity on the planet – more than 600 languages are still spoken there. It’s hard to pull away from visits to tribal river cultures, shopping for the hand-carved masks displayed in working Spirit Houses, and witnessing the dances and festivals in the Highlands. But the hundreds of islands of Papua New Guinea, north of Australia, are surrounded by beguiling waters with their own alluring diversity.

The private South Pacific island of Lissenung resembles a sweet movie set – a paradise dollop you can walk around in an hour. Just off the Island of New Ireland in the Bismark Sea, the Lissenung Island Resort is set up for divers, with a thatched dining hall and hammocks hanging into the water, but I enjoyed some of the best snorkeling I can remember. A treasure found - to be photographed and returned.

The consistently warm waters and huge range of healthy corrals attracted fish of many colors to Lissenung, and I also enjoyed wonderful snorkeling off the North Coast of Madang. My souvenirs include photos of scorpion fish, corals and a memorable shell.

Trans Niugini Tours can help you plan your trip and indelible dips.


Stingless Jelly Fish

The Republic of Palau is an incredible Micronesian archipelago of  small tropical islands, touted as one of the top dive locations in the world. The snorkeling is also spectacular.

Hike inland on Eil Malk Island in Palau to the world-renowned “Jellyfish Lake,” where the pulsing orbs of jellyfish have evolved without the notorious stinging touch. Instead, snorkelers who brush against them feel a gentle softness. To get a sense of the other worldliness of their realm, you can see a video and piece I did for National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel.

The lake jellies are unique, but don’t miss the oceanic treasures either. Giant clams, colorful tropical fish, and Gorgonian corrals may be enjoyed by simply walking from your resort into the water with a mask.Japanese Zero on seabed off Palau

Palau has also declared itself a shark sanctuary to protect them from slaughter, so snorkelers may be treated to the sleek behavior of one of the food chains most intelligent creatures.

For wreck lovers, remnants of WWII Pacific battles litter the sea bottom, sometimes in shallow waters, like this Japanese Zero Plane.


Still ahead, I am looking forward to sharing with readers of Luxury Travel Mavens great warm-water places to snorkel with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, and with manatees, the mammal rumored to be mistaken for mermaids.

For more adventure, there’s night snorkeling to see the wonders of glowing bioluminescence or the swoops of manta rays, those glorious winged creatures called both angels and devil fish.

And for those who want to don a “dry suit,” unforgettable snorkeling awaits in Alaska.

—Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

All photos © Lisa TE Sonne except for jellyfish © Sharon Spence Lieb (travel writer/photographer)