On The Tail of the Komodo Dragon in Indonesia

“The Komodo Expedition” is a seven-night adventure, March to October, designed to explore the pristine wilderness and waters of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, a World Heritage Site.  The Park is near the eastern end of a long skinny string of the 17,508 islands that make up Indonesia and covers three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar.

The Komodo dragon, simply the biggest and fattest lizard on earth, is undisputed superstar of the park.  Some grow to almost 10 feet long.  And they eat meat, especially the little local Timor deer. Yikes. Komodo Island is also distinguished by its pink sand beach, one of only seven in the world.

In addition to dragons, these islands are also a rich refuge for buffalo, monkeys and wild horses, civets, cockatoo and macaques.  Over 1,000 species of fish are happily at home in the now-protected coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds.  There are at least 260 species of reef-building coral and 70 species of sponges, plus dugong (a manatee cousin), sharks, manta rays, and about 14 species of whale, dolphin, and sea turtles.  As you may imagine, this is a world-class diving site too.

The experience starts or ends with a two-night stay at Amanwana, an ultra-luxe tented wilderness hideaway on Moyo Island. The Amanikan, their 3-cabin 105-foot coastal cruiser magically infuses the romantic old spice trading-type vessel with luxurious modern amenities and proceeds slowly through the Nusa Tenggara island chain. Dive and snorkel some of the world’s most biologically diverse underwater sites – a forgotten Eden – on land and sea.

The incomparable Aman Resorts offers this ultra-extraordinary expedition of 5 nights aboard the professionally crewed Amanikan, all meals, two dives a day per person; and 2 nights on land in the Amanwana resort, all meals, with one dive a day per person.  How? Americans fly to Singapore or Hong Kong, then to Bali … and a last lap via floatplane.

Exclusive and expensive.  Jungle and/or Ocean Tents (fabulously, artistically furnished) start at $27,840 US.

Click on: www.amanikan.com and www.amanresorts.com or call the U.S. office at 800-477-9180.



Burma Bound!

With pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi recently released from house arrest in Myanmar, David Weber and his wife Patty, of the exceptional R. Crusoe & Son travel company recently revisited and excitedly report that in spite of the military junta still in place, the Burmese people are friendly and warm. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is still by and large an undiscovered destination. Yangon (formerly Rangoon), a bustling historic city, is filled with awesome architecture and great restaurants, a thriving modern-art scene and a developing entrepreneurial spirit.

In addition to custom trips, they offer a 9-day “Burma & the Road to Mandalay” tour: glide in a traditional long-tail boat to visit enchanting Inle Lake for an experiential understanding of Burmese life, visiting private homes and places of work. And on the Irrawaddy River, central artery of the country, float aboard the 5-star Road to Mandalay, an Orient-Express river cruiser with superb food, service and ambience to visit the breathtaking city of Bagan, miles of 11th-13th cent. sacred Buddhist shrines.

Though some might question visiting Burma at all, the Webers feel American visitors benefit the Burmese directly. They use hand-picked Myanmar companies, privately owned, without government partners, and the income flows directly to local employees.

Their 9-day trip costs $4450 pp sharing but for the full scoop and many options, contact Jane Franklin at jfranklin@rcrusoe.com, or call: 888-490-8019. Note: even if you are not the least bit interested in Burma, the R. Crusoe international catalog is by far one of the most original, charming and artistic in the travel industry.

Baltic Sea Pearls

Hit the high points of the Baltic Sea, the pearls strung along its perimeter: Copenhagen to snoop around its great museums, vibrant cafes and excellent shopping; Helsinki, the dynamic sea-city chosen as World Design Capital for 2012 and home of Temppeliaukio, the amazing underground domed church hewn from solid rock. Sail on to Bornholm, darling little Danish island south of Sweden (artists and fishermen and really round churches); St. Petersburg to cruise the Dostoyevskian canals (and, of course, The Hermitage Museum), and tie up, too, in formerly forbidden Tallinn, capital city of Estonia.

Push off from easy-going Oslo aboard the Norwegian explorer ship the MS Fram, on May 5, 2012 for 9 marvelous days. Prices start from $2721 pp. Click on: www.hurtigruten.us or call: (800) 323-7436.

The End of the Earth

Patagonia! Explore the wild wonders of southern Argentina and Chile – the glaciers, fjords, the granite pillars in Torres del Paine National Park, the snowy volcanoes — land and sea — for 18 exhilarating days in one of Odysseys Unlimited’s small adventure-seeking groups.

Begin luxuriously in Buenos Aires for sightseeing, shopping and, of course, a sinewy tango show. Cruise in Southern Patagonia for 3-nights through the Strait of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego the last southern city on earth, and then Cape Horn National Park where the Atlantic and Pacific merge. Zodiac expeditions into Chico Sound will bring you close to the Piloto and Nena glaciers and Magdalena Island, home to over 120,000 hardy penguins.

Three nights in Chile’s Torres Del Paine National Park, a 700-square-mile World Biosphere Reserve, and top contender for one of the world’s most beautiful places. Three nights in Puerto Varas, in the heart of Chile’s Lake District, to hangout in Technicolor scenic wonders: glacier-topped volcanoes, dark forests, and cobalt lagoons. Wrap up in Santiago the capital of Chile for sightseeing, a private wine tasting, and a home-hosted meal.

Good value: priced from $5,495 all-inclusive, this 18-day ”Patagonian Frontiers”  trip also includes round-trip air from most US cities, all flights en route, hotels, three nights aboard the M/V Via Australis or the M/V Stella Australis with open bar, most meals, sightseeing, the works.  No wonder they were voted one of the “World’s Best Tour Operators” in Travel & Leisure magazine for four consecutive years. 14 tour dates available from October 2011 through March 2012.

For further information, surf to: www.odysseys-unlimited.com or call: 888-370-6765 ext. 700.