Go Go Galapagos!

As the first to bring non-scientific explorers to the Galapagos in 1967, Linblad Expeditions, the venerable 50-year old adventure outfitter, has amassed over 40 years’ experience there and they are keenly focused on the preservation of this remote and unique site.  Together with National Geographic they have raised and donated more than $5.5 million for vitally important local protective projects in the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

An isolated archipelago, the Galapagos are set in the Pacific Ocean more than 500 miles west of Ecuador.  Over the course of many millennia, great numbers of large birds, reptiles, insects, and plants drifted or flew in to create its fragile and unique flora and fauna.  Their remote, pristine beauty beckons to us as it did to the British geologist and naturalist, Charles Darwin, who first arrived on the HMS Beagle in 1831. He landed, camped there, left and returned, studied, researched and conceived his earth-shaking theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species, in 1859.


Today the Galapagos are a designated UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Who’s home?  A great variety of unusually tame animals in big numbers such as the amazingly curious and seemingly fear-free (so far) gigantic turtles, huge iguanas, penguins, dolphins, sharks, colossal manta ray, fat sea lions and the rock-star locals: blue and red footed boobies (seabirds).

Cruise with them in the 56-cabinEndeavor -like a small, comfortable, mobile hi-tech beach town. In addition to seeing and barely believing the animals so up- close, anEndeavor expedition offers long and short hikes, coastal explorations by kayaks or Zodiacs, swimming, snorkeling, or floating in a glass bottom boat for amazing undersea viewing.  The Endeavor also offers a good library, a wellness spa and massages on a floating platform. In addition to staff naturalists, National Geographic Certified Photo Instructors are always aboard and available to photo enthusiasts at every skill level, ready to help capture fantastic images and document bragging rights.

Rates begin at $4,990 pp, double. And Happy New Year: A GOOD DEAL alert – Linblad is offering free roundtrip airfare (Miami/Galapagos) on 5 select trips if you reserve by December 31, 2012.


How Sweet It Is

Choc-o-holics! Heads up. For those of us with an intense sweet tooth, the good news is that you do not have to kill for great chocolate, merely trek to it… in Ecuador.

An offbeat and delicious cacao-centric trip, offered by Equatortrekking, is designed to explore gourmet chocolate production there. It offers insider samplings of high quality chocolate, cacao cooking lessons, and a study of its harvest. The itinerary stirs Ecuador’s rich chocolate history in with native life, landscape and culture. Visit the Guayaquil chocolate factory, and Vinces, known as “Little Paris,” and the capital of cacao world export for more than 100 years. Visit 16th century Quito where the chocolate story spreads through a cultural fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous Incan arts. At Baños de Agua Santa close to the rainforest and surrounded by mountains, join a culinary workshop in the Casa del Abuelo Art Hotel.

The rate per person for “Gourmet Adventure in the Cacao Route” is $2,430 (plus air) for 9-days and 8-nights. Remaining 2011 departures are: Aug. 15 and 30, and Sept. 15.

Equatortrekking, based in Cumbaya Ecuador, is a very personal company, well-qualified, and totally involved. Tailor-made tours are easily handled. For this particular trip click: www.equatortrekking.com/english/ and search “cacao.” See also their vast, amazing menu of other treks and trips.


Huaorani Headwaters

The Ecuadorian Huaorani nomads who live plying the headwaters of the Amazon had no contact with the outside world until the 1950’s. Today they number about 2-3000 and still speak their own totally unique language. An innovative community-based tourism project has created the Huaorani Lodge to help them to earn income as well as maintain control of their territory, lives and culture.

A new tour offered by Montana-based Detour Destinations begins with a fantastic overland journey past snow-covered volcanoes, down into the cloudforest to the tiny town of Shell in the eastern foothills of the Andes for a small-plane 45-minute flight into the Amazon. The Huaorani guide leads travelers down the Shiripuno River in a traditional dugout canoe to the lodge. Highlights: meet the local Huaoranis, hike with their guides who demonstrate traditional ways of life, kayak downriver for spectacular wildlife viewing, explore the nearby community of Quehueri’ono, a tiny town so not on any other itinerary.

Click on: www.detourdestinations.com, or call: 866.386.4168