In Search Of The Snow Leopard – An Extreme Adventure

Although “once in a lifetime” has become the travel cliché of the generation, a new Colorado-based exploration seems to actually fit the bill. Colorado-based Natural Habitat Adventures, voted “world’s best outfitter,” offers the first and only trip “In Search of the Snow Leopard” in Western Mongolia this summer.  August 18-31, 2013.

Together with their partners at World Wildlife Fund,  ultimate expeditioner, Olaf Malver,  will lead a small intrepid group in quest of one of the most beautiful, elusive, and endangered cats on earth- the silver white snow leopard. This trip is rugged.
Fly from Ulaanbaatar westward into Ulaangom, the capital of Uvs Aimag, in the Altai Mountains of the Central Asian steppe. Accompanied by WWF partners, researchers and local conservationists, the group will trek into the high glacial valley of Yamaat to “hunt” the snow leopards. This region is also home to the Siberian ibex, a large wild goat which also happens to be the snow leopard’s meal of choice.

The landscape is filled with expansive reed beds and marshes which support a multitude of birds and other wildlife in Mongolia’s Great Lakes Basin, a designated WWF Ecoregion. These plains are also home to the Mongolian saiga, a migratory antelope, as well as to the hardy nomads who tend their grazing horses, Bactrian two-hump camels, and cashmere goats.

Snow leopards, aside, the expedition leader is himself a bit of a marvel adventurer and eco-activist, Malver has been trekking the world’s most dangerous terrains for more than 25 years and in at least 80 countries – just the type of guy you’d feel good about following into one of the most remote areas on earth. Malver earned a PhD in Chemistry and a Master’s in International Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University, and not parenthetically, he speaks six languages.

Although the snow leopard numbers are relatively high in this area, actual sightings are not frequent.  Most important though, Olaf says, “We may or may not see one, but being in its habitat, finding signs of its presence, and learning firsthand about the efforts of global conservation leaders and traditional nomads to save the legendary feline, is worth the endeavor…”

Rated “Extreme Adventure,” those who sign on must be able to hike 4 to 8 hours a day (with breaks) over high mountainous terrain. Much of the route is trail-less, and spectacular … and surely an epic experience.

For A New View Of The Italian Riviera Consider Kayaking

In Liguria, northwestern Italy, there are 30 superb coastline miles between Portofino and Cinque Terre, perhaps the loveliest of Italy’s thousands of miles of beach. It is here that the Apennine Mountains drop a thousand feet straight down into the turquoise Ligurian Sea.  Small, colorfully painted homes cling to the rugged cliffs.  Ancient olive trees dot the terraced hills framing the inlets, harbors, bobbing boats, vineyards and scrub – barely accessible even by foot.

Instead of the usual hiking tour, Tofino Expeditions, the 25-year sea-kayaking outfitter top-rated by National Geographic Adventure, is now offering  a new way to explore this fabled coast – by gentle kayak over the course of 11 days.  This soft manner of travelling will provide paddlers with an unusually personal introduction to Italy’s marineria culture (“life of the sea”.)  And the local fishermen welcome those exploring by sea in a way they do not welcome the hikers.

A sea kayak is about 18-19 feet long and carries one or two paddlers.  Adventure kayaker Grant Thompson, founder, welcomes novices, preferably those with muscles. He calls kayaking a “cadence” type of sport, like cycling or cross-country skiing, where one becomes immersed in rhythmic movement as opposed to having to exert a great deal of strength. From the water, participants will enjoy a unique view of this intensely dramatic and intricate coastline.

Beginning in Genoa, the capital of Liguria and birthplace of Columbus, time to explore the city’s labyrinthine medieval old quarter, the 17th century walls, grand cathedrals, a bustling promenade, the enormous “Lanterna” (lighthouse) and the monumental Piazza De Ferrari, the heart of the city.

As you and your small group (12 max) paddle south along the coast of Cinque Terre (“five villages”) there will be plenty of breaks to enjoy short hikes into vineyards and olive groves. Visiting the car-free fishing village of Vernazza will be a satisfying treat, sampling warm focaccia bread, sipping the vino delle Cinque Terre, and hiking in ancient Phoenician ruins.

Overnight ferry to the wild isle of Sardinia and the Maddelena Archipelago, a group of 7 big and many small islands, national park and UNESCO World Heritage site (one of three on this tour) and explore stone monuments from 1500 BC, way older than the Etruscans on mainland Italy.



Join Celine Cousteau’s Sea Safari In Chilean Patagonia

Patagonia, a word that conjures remoteness … jagged snow-peaked mountains, glacial lakes, vast scrubby brush, brooding pampas, galloping horses, deep silence and Bruce Chatwin’s best-selling travel meditation on the “end of the world.”  Patagonia beckons with a distinct hint of eternality.

The Patagonia Sur Reserves, specialists in well-crafted wilderness and wildlife adventures, has announced a unique opportunity to travel in Chilean Patagonia with Celine Cousteau, world-renowned ocean explorer, photographer, documentarian, environmental champion.  She is the granddaughter of the legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau whose career inspired three generations of ocean conservationists.

Seems that she inherited the marine gene – big time.

In a recent interview at the World Resources Institute, she said, “I think on a very personal level, Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a very charismatic, engaged person who was so passionate about what he did that he spoke of it in a very powerful way. I believe a great attraction for all of us is the exploration and adventure, like it was for him, but more importantly we have a desire to protect those areas that we know are fragile. In my family, we have been taught that we are active participants…”

Surf and Turf

Patagonia Sur Reserves encourages guests to combine their two distinct properties into one over-the-top experience: Melimoyu and La Estrella Ranch in Valle California, a short flight away.

Melimoyu excels in martime excursions.  A sea safari with Celine Cousteau elevates this trip from an adventure to an inspirational and possibly life-changing adventure.

Venture with Celine Cousteau into the private Melimoyu Reserve, a one-of-a-kind glacial bio-haven, home to a variety of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on earth. Wild and beautiful.  Set on the Gulf of Corcovado, Melimoyu’s rainforests, waterfalls, ice-covered mountains are all home to rare and unique species of animals and birds, such as Darwin’s frog, Magellanic penguins, pumas, pudú (an endangered miniature deer), gigantic blue whales, fur seals, and sea lions.

Chug along on with Ms. Cousteau in the touring boat.  Their pioneering study of blue whales in this area reveals its significance as breeding and feeding grounds for the largest creature on earth. Paddle the shoreline in double or single kayaks, hike in the temperate rainforest and visit the village of original settler descendants.  In the evening at the family-style dinner and before a hot tub soak, Celine will share her travel tales and ocean adventures.

La Estrella is their luxuriously rustic ranch in the Valle California Reserve, set along the river in the Andean foothills. The expert expedition team welcomes only 12 guests at a time, with a menu of experiential treats: horseback riding, river fishing in the pristine El Tigre River, hiking, kayaking, float trips, mountain biking, and limitless bird watching.

Only one departure this year features the chance to be with Ms. Cousteau: March 2 – 13, 2013, (it’s still summer there) with a maximum of 10 guests.

Patagonia Sur Reserves is dedicated to conservation in combination with rural community businesses and development.  The visionary and highly energetic owner and founder, Warren Adams promises to keep its environmental footprint small and its experience exclusive.


Explore Jordan – Sea to Sea: from the Dead to the Red

Set amid the vast deserts of the Middle East, Jordan is a compact, very varied, and hospitable country.  It is also a new destination for cycle-enthusiasts seeking the freedom and exhilaration of rolling through an exotic land. One week’s exploration will turn up millennia of history, raw nature, and a nip of nomadic Bedouin culture.

Cycling adventures are notably lower-in-price and higher- in-authentic experience than most forms of travel (this one in particular will cost you $2,185 including bike rental).

A new 8-night trip in Jordan, offered locally by Terhaal can be booked in the U.S. via Tennessee-based Bike Tours Direct. Rated “moderate” means pedaling and “sailing” for about 28 miles a day. The good news is that the hills are not-that-high and your small group (maximum 14) will be accompanied by professional local cyclist-guide, as well as a support car for those too pooped to pump. This thoughtfully-constructed trip also features family, village and Bedouin visits, music, dance and even a goat-milking opportunity.

Starting off near The Dead Sea, the lowest, saltiest and one of the most mysterious places on earth, ride the tarmac ribbon called the “King’s Highway” to the first stop: the ancient town of Madaba. The marvel of an early Byzantine mosaic map of the Middle East was discovered on a church floor here last century and is on view today. Stops en route to visit Crusader castles in Karak and Shobak, the natural springs and olive groves of Tafileh, and on to the hidden pink city of Petra, UNESCO Heritage site.

In the great Jordanian Rift Valley visit in and around the wind-cut sandstone cliffs of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, home to a great variety of plants, birds and the rare Nubian ibex.

Near Petra, cyclists will have the unusual opportunity to explore Wadi Rum, a massive sand valley that’s now carved forever into world consciousness as one of the most dramatic locales in the film, “Lawrence of Arabia.”  The very one T.E. Lawrence described as “vast, echoing and god-like.”  Unique overnight with a nomadic Bedouin family at their campsite in the Wadi, possible descendants of those who made up Lawrence’s army…

The two departures scheduled are both at optimal times of the year – April and October, 2013.


For another angle on Jordan, award-winning Toronto-based G Adventures offers 8 days to soak up the country’s highlights in a less strenuous manner. Partnering with The Discovery Channel, participants on this tour benefit from maximum variety –  a healthy mix of active exploration, uncommon landscapes, amazing wildlife and local cultures, simple language lessons and a hands-on cooking demo before dinner in Wadi Musa, near Petra.

Departing from Amman, the hilly capital, travel by mini bus and 4×4’s with some good walking prospects en route. Although one cannot sink or swim in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, one can float and read while bobbing on the surface.  In the Red Sea resort city of Aqaba, there’s time for snorkeling and sun.

Their CEO, Chief Experience Officer, is the full-time guide, and local experts are engaged during the trip.There are one or two departures a month year-round for 16 participants maximum.


Sub Antarctic Adventure Of The Decade: Russian Icebreaker Expedition

Are you an “Island Ticker?”

“Island Tickers” are travelers with a burning desire to visit islands on which no one else has stepped foot. If inspired by this aspiration, nab one of the four remaining available cabins on a Heritage Expedition’s Russian research icebreaker (approximately 3-star) sailing on November 8 – December 2, 2012 from Western Australia to two of the most remote islands on the planet.


Cut through the icy waters to Heard andMcDonald Islandsterra incognita.  Deep in the South Indian Ocean, these two protected World Heritage sites, a mere 1,010 sea miles north of Antarctica, are rarely visited, and not at all for the past decade. Travel trophy of a lifetime.

Wild! Heard Island boasts no ports and no harbors. Zodiac access only. In addition to its beginning-of-the-world astonishing beauty, expect two active volcanoes, tens of thousands of Southern Elephant Seals (biggies with really big noses), Antarctic and Sub Antarctic Fur Seals, predatory Leopard Seals, the rarer, slender and pale Crabeater, the plentiful Weddell Seal, and the rare, small, sort-of-sexy Ross Seals famous for their trilling and siren-like sounds.

A bird paradise too: Penguins are the most populous: King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Eastern Rockhoppers; plus three species of albatross, and burrowing petrels.


Who’s onboard?  In addition to other daring “island tickers,” Rodney Russ, owner- founder of New Zealand-based Heritage Expeditions with 25 years of experience under his windbreaker. Lively professional staff, hands-on photographers, two Australian Geographic lecturers and some top birders.  Lectures. Library.

How: Fly to Perth in Western Australia, then drive about half an hour to the port of Fremantle. Return to the port of Albany on the southern coast.

  • Average age: around 60.
  • The sea: rough
  • Grub: Family-style “hearty” cooking.
  • Gear: layers to protect from single-digit Centigrade cold.
  • They provide brand-new waterproof gear.
  • Mandatory: evacuation insurance
  • E-mail: Amazingly, yes.
  • Price: $16,000 pp.

Click: or write to the general manager, Dave Bowen:



A Week On An Authentic Wyoming Ranch – Reading, Writing and Riding

Hankerin’ for a creative, outdoor adventure this summer right here in the U.S.? The historic landmark Vee Bar Guest Ranch in Wyoming (2 ½ hours from Denver) beckons.  Authentic ranch is framed by the Snowy Range Mountains, pasturelands with real cattle, and cabins dotting the shore along the Little Laramie River.

Open to those at any level of writing and riding skills, Page Lambert, award-winning author and writing coach, and Sheri Griffith, legendary sportswoman/adventurer, invite you for one unique week, June 2 – June 7, 2012.  “Through the Eyes of the Horse – Literature & Landscape of the Horse Retreat” will surely rekindle even the most dormant of creative fires. Learn what horsemanship can teach us about our own natural instincts instead of relying only on the intellect.

Basic requirements for the retreat: you’ve got to be interested in equine culture, be happy to ride, and you should be able to read and write. The retreat is tailored to fit each individual – so let them know your creative goals (writing, painting, photography, journaling) and your horse-related/nature-related interests…

  • The Riding Part: Sheri teaches herd dynamics, communicating with horses, horses as working animals, horses (and us) as sensate beings in a sensate world, horse heartbeats, grooming and tacking up. Rides will be out in the open (abreast of one another) in 3 different groups – leisurely walking, trotting, and fast track. Each group has two wrangler guides, and the groups are fluid – ride with one group one day, then switch to a different one.
  • The Reading and Writing: Page leads literature discussions about horses and animals as characters, reads aloud appropriate excerpts, and shares the wisdom of ‘horse whisperers.’  She encourages immersion in the natural world, keeping journals, and dispenses fun, short writing prompts.

$300 will hold your horse.  Oprah loves these two gals and this retreat!  Cost: only $1490.


Or write directly to


Crash The Wildest Parties In The World In Papua New Guinea

Talk about eye makeup! These wild guys have known the value of bright yellow, feathers and proto-sequin shiny stuff since the Stone Age.

Papua New Guinea, or PNG to friends, is home to hundreds of separate tribal communities, some very small, each with its own customs, traditions and languages – 850 tongues, in fact, and mutually unintelligible.

Barely-explored, PNG is set in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia and north of Australia. Rugged mountains, swamps, mossy dense rainforests, a long coastline, tiny market villages, volcanic fjords, rainforests and reefs, and truly wild parties. The country beckons with many mysterious species of plants and animals; a huge variety of rats, bats, kangaroo, really big butterflies, whales, manatee and more.

Paradise for photographers, PNG is an ultimate destination for idealistic, inquisitive and energetic travelers eager to explore one of the most fascinating and non-commercial countries on earth.

Headhunting and ritual cannibalism are no longer as popular as they used to be but for this untamed, exotic place, we still heartily suggest travelling with a well-experienced, specialist outfitter such as:

Colorado-based, award-winning Asia Transpacific Journeys offers two “Mt. Hagen Sing-Sing” 14-day trips this August, 2012 when over 100 tribes convene. This could be your only opp to meet the Huli Wigmen and Crocodile People. Call 800-642-2742 or surf to

Chicago-based R. Crusoe & Son. Call 312-980-8000 or 800-585-8555 or surf to: In addition to receiving the most artistic brochure in the travel industry, travel to PNG with R. Crusoe and sail aboard either the 106-passenger Orion, or the 100- passenger Orion II, both luxurious, and carrying onboard experts in history, botany, biology, and geology.

Papua-based Trans Niugini Tours – gets high marks from my friend Jeannie, a fellow intrepid. Her small group were all thrilled with their trip guided by Greg Stathakis, escort to the intensely curious for 28+ years and still going strong. They got close enough to a group of tribal initiates, a widow in mourning and into the hair-raising 300-tribesmen ‘‘Tumbuna Sing-Sing.”

Re:Cycling in France

One of the liveliest festivals of the year, the Feria de Pentecôte (Pentecostal Fair), takes place in the Languedoc region of southwestern France in Nimes, May 23-28, 2012.  Positioned between the Atlantic and Mediterranean this region is a sexy mix of French and Spanish cultures dotted with vestiges of local Roman history.

Mingle with the locals to watch the grand Pégoulade (procession) — a giant snake of dancers, singers and illuminated floats undulating through the streets. The air is filled with music of the peñas (small brass bands), everyone dances the ‘Sévillane’ ‘til the wee hours, eats paella, watches water-jousting in the Canal de la Fontaine, snoops around in the evening market, and goes to mass in the cathedral. It’s one big outdoor Spanish-accented French soirée, complete with fireworks and Provençal-style bullfights in Nimes’ Roman amphitheater, the best-preserved in the country.

One way to “get under the skin” and feel more of a participant and less a spectator is to pump your pedals in a cycling tour in the Languedoc timed to connect with this ethnic fair.

ExperiencePlus!, the first North American tour company to offer cycling tours in Europe starting in 1972, offers two new spectacular tours aimed to take advantage of the Feria de Pentecôte: an 11-day journey of over 430 miles for $4,550 per person (double) that begins and ends in Nimes/Perpignan. Or an 8-day version for $3,595 that ends in Carcassone, an awesomely intact medieval fortress town.

ExperiencePlus! Is the winner of two recent National Geographic Traveler “50 Tours of a Lifetime,” and features Maria Elena Price and Monica Price, co-owners, among its “World’s Top 10 Tour Guides.” Click or call them in Colorado: 800-685-4565.

For Grizzly Voyeurs in Canada

Intrepid solo travelers who can go for a little coddling too, how does the Great Bear Rainforest on the coast of British Columbia sound for an extraordinary expedition this summer?  Cool, huh?  What began as a wildlife passion for Tom Rivest and Marg Leehane evolved into Great Bear Nature Tours 13 years ago. Cited by National Geographic Adventure as one of the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth, their floating eco-lodge is beautifully set in a fjord and runs on wind, solar and water power.

Guided trips are available in spring, summer and fall, and each season offers unique insight into grizzly bear behavior. In the spring, bears emerge from their dens to graze on wetland plants and grasses. In summer, they search for food in berry patches, grasslands or in the rivers for early salmon and other tidbits…. With the beginning of fall and arrival of thousands of salmon, the wild drama is played out in front of your eyes, ears and nose from viewing stands along the river.  Photographers’ paradise.

A quickie one-hour seaplane flight from Port Hardy on the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island over Queen Charlotte Strait is phenomenal fun for the chance to see breaching whales, foraging bear, and sailing birds from the air. Great Bear programs include two professionally-guided viewing excursions per day, a warm shower, great meals, and a good snooze in one of the five cozy bedrooms. You will not get lost in the crowd: 10 guests max. per tour.

Their site: includes an enticing little video.  Phone: 888-221-8212 for rates and additional info, or write directly to

Whistle Stops: How To Travel By Train Almost Anywhere

Fed up with the unfriendly skies?  For a happy break from frenetic and increasingly unpleasant air travel, check out the award-winning “Man in Seat 61” a sophisticated, encyclopaedic website for travel by train, track-by-track, almost anywhere on the planet. This colossal collection of routes, prices, timetables, and even ferry connections generates fodder for heart-poundingly inspirational travel.

Hang out with The Man in Seat 61 for a fun jaunt like Moscow to Beijing via Kazakhstan.  Or, for more fun, he says, “It’s easy to travel by train all the way from the UK to Belgrade in Serbia, to Skopje in Macedonia or Podgorica, then to Bar in Montenegro.”

We love his “Beginners Guide to train travel in the Ukraine.” Malta anyone? Kenya? And/or even a choo choo in Morocco?  No prob. Delve directly into the details of even more far-flung tracks in Bangladesh (Dhaka to Chittagong e.g.) or in Australia: from Perth on the west coast to Adelaide, then south to Melbourne and ferry to Tasmania!

He seems to have worked out every route and permutation on earth.  Last one: The weekly Nile steamer links Aswan inEgypt with Wadi Halfa in the Sudan, and then a weekly train will deliver you directly to Wadi Halfa with Khartoum. This page explains not only how to make the journey, but also what it’s like.

We are crazy about that Man in Seat 61 who, in real life, is one Mark Smith, an energetic Englishman and international railroad encyclopaedist who is not as mysterious as his moniker.

To know more, click (and save this site for a rainy day):

Aaaall Aboard!