Macedonia Experience Paves Way for Foodies to Discover Macedonia’s Culinary Heritage

Macedonia Experience (www.macedoniaexperience.com) introduces “Culinary Experience,” a 10 day/9 night sampler with hands-on demonstrations of traditional Macedonian cuisine.
Macedonia Experience (www.macedoniaexperience.com) introduces “Culinary Experience,” a 10 day/9 night sampler with hands-on demonstrations of traditional Macedonian cuisine.

SKOPJE, REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA – Sitting due north of Greece and near Turkey is Macedonia, a yet-to-be-discovered country just beginning to pop up on the culinary radar thanks to cheese, wine and wild game.

Macedonia Experience (www.macedoniaexperience.com) introduces “Culinary Experience,” a 10 day/9 night sampler with hands-on demonstrations of traditional Macedonian cuisine combining Balkan and Mediterranean characteristics of fresh fruits and veggies, mountain-grown herbs and local wines. Toss in Turkish tastes that prevailed during long centuries of Ottoman rule, a few wild game dishes and gustatory senses will be overjoyed.

This pepper-spiked adventure includes accommodations (guests select the class of hotel they desire); all transfers, tours and activities; ingredients for the preparation of dishes; guidance and tutorials for preparation of the dishes in a traditional setting; and the services of a tour guide. This tour is offered year-round for a minimum of two people or a maximum of 12. An average tour cost for guests booking medium-priced hotels throughout the journey starts at €2000 per person, double based on four participants.
macedoniaexperience.com/specials/culinary-experience-trip-around-macedonia

Guests transfer from Skopje Airport to their hotel in the historic town of Skopje, inhabited since 4000 BC. Here the culinary games begin. Lunch is in a restaurant built in a traditional style with live Macedonian music surrounded by the mystery of the Old Bazaar where wines and spirits (mainly rakija, a typical Macedonian spirit made by distillation of fermented fruits) and cheese are served in bars and eateries. The next day a pre-breakfast visit to a pazar (typical market) introduces foods and spices before a traditional breakfast of pastry with chorba (a minestrone-type soup). Guests learn how to prepare makalo (gravy), pot cheese and proja (preparation of cornmeal into a type of bread). Later comes a wine and cheese tasting before dinner at a winery near Skopje.

Days 3, 4 and 5 bring guests to Mavrovo National Park to sample wild game specialties, an exploration of Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a market tour to purchase ingredients to prepare selsko meso (Macedonian and Balkan pork and mushroom dish) and pastrmajlija (Macedonian bread pie made from dough and meat). Embroideries, musical instruments and objects made of clay are also available in the markets. A visit to a handmade paper workshop (one of only seven in the world where the paper is made in the original Chinese way from the 2nd century BC.) shows how this paper was used on Gutenberg’s original printing press from the 15th century. The equipment and clothing here are 100% authentic.

Days 6 and 7 continue with tours and tastings in Bitola and Krusevo, distinguished as the highest town in the Balkans. Guests learn how to make lokum (traditional sweets) before sampling region-wide famous Krusevo sausage and kebab. Next come Krusevo pies filled with cheese, leeks, cabbage and spinach. An enologist meets the tour in the Tikvesh wine region before visiting the ancient ruins of Stobi and passing on to Berovo, a small town near the Maleševo Mountains where nature combines with the history of the Ottoman Empire. Guests prepare their own dinner here. At Berovo Lake guests mingle with locals who share their customs through handicrafts, musical instruments, songs and dances preserved for centuries. Guests dine in a traditional sheepfold on ingredients sourced locally before departing the next day.

For more information and reservations contact the North America representative office: 866-748-8867, or by email: northamerica@macedoniaexperience.com.

 

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Baja AirVentures Flies Guests to Both Coasts of Baja For All-Inclusive Winter Whale Watching Adventures

Baja AirVentures makes it possible to encounter whales on both sides of Baja Peninsula.
Baja AirVentures makes it possible to encounter whales on both sides of Baja Peninsula.

SAN DIEGO, CA– San Diego-based Baja AirVentures has created a travel program that enables the best opportunities for marine mammal encounters on both sides of the Baja peninsula in one all-inclusive six day air-supported package.  And the timing couldn’t be better because of a record number of whales in an area which is believed to have the highest concentration of Grey whales in the world.

The 6-day/5-night Best of Baja’s Whales, Dolphins & Sea Lions Tour departs every Monday and on several Tuesdays throughout February and March 2015. The all-inclusive per person rate, including private air carriage from San Diego, across the peninsula and back, is $2,795 (exclusive of 13% IVA Mexican tax and 3% Marine Park entrance fee).

The package includes private roundtrip air from San Diego with ample opportunity for aerial flightseeing, Pacific whale watching in Scammons Lagoon by motorized panga, two nights at a B&B in the Mexican hamlet of Guerro Negro and three nights of total seclusion at Baja AirVenture’s Las Animas beachside eco-lodge a scenic hour’s boat trip south of Bahia de Los Angeles on the pristine shores of the Sea of Cortez.

“The unique combination of both aerial and sea viewing on both coasts of the peninsula is something no other whale watching operator in Baja is able to offer,” says Kevin Warren, founder and owner of Baja AirVentures (http://www.bajaairventures.com/). “In fact, the opportunity to view these magnificent creatures from a bird’s eye perspective is a thrill and rarity in itself.”

Guests this year are in for a special treat. According to Warren, through conservation efforts, the Grey whale population in the Pacific continues to rebound and grow. Last year saw a new record with nearly 2,000 breeding adults and babies sited at Ojo de Libre (Scammons Lagoon). This prime location has the largest concentration of the Grey whales on the planet.

After departing from San Diego in a private plane for Scammons Lagoon, participants spend the better part of three days scanning and interacting with migrating California Gray whales by boat and from the air. This is where guests often get to actually “pet friendly whales” in their natural environment. Two nights are enjoyed at a cozy B&B in the small village of Guerro Negro. Prior to boat transfer to Las Animas Wilderness Eco-Lodge on Day Three, there’s more whale watching and an aerial tour of Laguna Ojo de Libre and the Midriff Island chain in the Sea of Cortez. Days Four and Five are spent desert hiking, kayaking, birdwatching and snorkeling with sea lions and dolphins. Boat excursions from Las Animas provide an added opportunity to view several types of whales, including Blue and Fin whales (the two largest species in the world).

A recent guest had this to say on Trip Advisor about their intimate encounters with the Grey whales, “The small-plane flights alone, with one pilot and five passengers, were a treat. Once on the water of Scammons Lagoon, we did not merely ‘watch’ wales! Instead, our skiff was at times surrounded by these magnificent creatures. Playful and seemingly curious calves met out-stretched hands, allowing themselves to be stroked and patted, while their enormous mothers swam watchfully close by.”

After crossing the peninsula to the Sea of Cortez, guests stay at Las Animas Wilderness Eco-Lodge. The only boat-in lodge along the entire coast, Las Animas is a remote, eco-friendly property that accommodates up to 14 guests in seven romantic, private beach-side yurts equipped with bathroom, solar shower, composting toilets, comfortable Queen and King sized beds, covered decks and skylight roofs. The yurts are built around the spacious main palapa which offers an expansive deck that serves as a central dining area, game area and communal lounge space.

The all-inclusive tour price of $2,795 includes double occupancy B&B and yurt accommodations, roundtrip air from San Diego, naturalist guided outings and lectures, boat transportation, healthy homemade meals, beverages (including beer and margaritas) and such activities as kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, sailing and hiking.

For details on the Best of Baja tour call 800-221-9283 or visit online:
www.bajaairventures.com/WhaleWatching.html

For information on other adventure packages offered year-round by Baja AirVentures visit  www.bajaairventures.com.

 

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Pullman Rail Journeys Opens Reservations for Chicago-Florida New Years Holiday Special

Traveling in first-class rail style, the special trip will depart Chicago’s famed Union Station in meticulously restored Pullman cars the evening of Dec. 27, arriving at its southernmost stop of Miami the evening of Dec. 29.
Traveling in first-class rail style, the special trip will depart Chicago’s famed Union Station in meticulously restored Pullman cars the evening of Dec. 27, arriving at its southernmost stop of Miami the evening of Dec. 29.

CHICAGO – Pullman Rail Journeys is bringing back the era of grand rail journeys with an exclusive one-time holiday itinerary from Chicago to the “Sunshine State” for a New Year’s celebration.

Traveling in first-class rail style, the special trip will depart Chicago’s famed Union Station in meticulously restored Pullman cars the evening of Dec. 27, arriving at its southernmost stop of Miami the evening of Dec. 29. The return journey departs for Chicago from South Florida beginning the morning of Jan. 2, 2015. Riding the legendary Capitol Limited to Washington, D.C.and Silver Meteor along the East Coast routes, historic menus will be served with renowned Pullman service for a timeless rail travel experience.

“We continue to see great demand for our regular service between Chicago and New Orleans and 2014 has been a banner year for nostalgic train travel,” shares Edwin E. Ellis, president of Pullman Rail Journeys and its parent company Iowa Pacific Holdings. “What better way to ring in 2015 than with an epic train trip to escape the cold paired with iconic Florida hotels.”

Luxury hotel packages at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando, the Chesterfield Palm Beach and The Biltmore Hotel in Miami are available as well as a rail-only option.

Onboard Accommodations

All interiors are fully restored in the original Pullman style. The basic streamlined room accommodations feature one large picture window with exterior views out one side of the train. The open sections have a large picture window with the advantage of being able to look across the aisle out the other side of the train.

Standard cars are configured with open sections, compartments and drawing rooms with double windows. Bedrooms have a single window with a view out one side of the train. Pullman accommodations feature premium white linens and each bed has custom recreated Pullman blankets and blue-stripe towels.

Dining and Entertainment

Meals are served in the Lounge and Dining Cars with the option for room service included in fare. Signature dishes include Railroad French Toast, Fresh Greens with Illinois Central Dressing or Pullman Vinaigrette, Roast Beef Tenderloin with Madeira Demi-Glace and a Fresh Strawberry Parfait. A full range of soft drinks, coffee, local Chicago and New Orleans beers as well as a selection of red, white and sparkling wines and premium spirits are included in the fare.

Guests socialize with fellow passengers in the Club, Observation and Dining Cars, enjoying onboard entertainment on select departures. A current selection of newspapers, magazines and board games are available in the Pullman Library in the Lounge Car as well as DVDs and a collection of classic books.

Following his passion of reviving the elegance and refinement of rail travel, Edwin E. Ellis resurrected the classic rail brand in 2012 after rescuing and refurbishing a collection of Pullman cars dating back as far as 1917.  Renowned for its stylish Art-Deco design, plush accommodations and superb service from attentive porters and stewards, each car has been carefully restored to its original splendor with modern enhancements to offer the public an authentic heritage travel experience-one that their parents or grandparents would have enjoyed.

Hotel Packages

Once in Florida, passengers can take advantage of a hotel package:

Grand Floridian (Orlando): Package begins at $4,198 per person, based on double occupancy and includes three-day Park Hopper pass, Grand Floridian Garden View Room, three meals and two snacks per person per night and a Magic Your Way Platinum Package including unlimited use of select recreation including golf, Cirque du Soleil LaNouba admission, fireworks cruise and reserved seating at Disney’s Hollywood Studios ® Fantasmic, a select spa treatment as well as round-trip transfers between the train station to the hotel.

Chesterfield (Palm Beach): Package begins at $2,497 per person, based on double occupancy and includes New Year Champagne and Dreams Package with a five-course New Year’s Eve Gala dinner for two in the Leopard Lounge, champagne toast at midnight and New Year’s Eve Day brunch. Daily breakfast and round-trip town car transfer between the hotel and train station are included.

The Biltmore (Coral Gables): Package begins at $2,737 per person, based on double occupancy and includes the New Year’s Gala and dinner along with daily breakfast and round-trip sedan transfers between the hotel and train station.

A round-trip rail-only package begins at $2,408 per person, based on double occupancy.

Chicago-based Pullman Rail Journeys is an independently-owned operator of first-class passenger service. Featuring artfully restored vintage rail cars, Pullman’s regular scheduled service operates between Chicago and New Orleans via the Illinois Central line. Parent company Iowa Pacific Holdings, LLC (IPH), is the owner of the largest number of original Pullman cars in the world, with approximately 70 cars in various stages of restoration and service. Pullman Rail Journeys seeks to provide the same authentic experience of the golden era of rail travel with their Art Deco design, luxury accommodations and superb service.

For more information on packages, visit www.TravelPullman.com/packages/fun-in-the-sun, call 888-978-5563 or a travel agent.

 

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‘Shop & Share’ Event Nov 21 to Support Palm Beach Zoo

Lilly Pulitzer shop at The Gardens Mall is supporting the Palm Beach Zoo with 10% of sales donated on sales November 21.
Lilly Pulitzer shop at The Gardens Mall is supporting the Palm Beach Zoo with 10% of sales donated on sales November 21.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Come join the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society at Lilly Pulitzer this Friday, November 21, at The Gardens Mall. Visitors will be able to shop from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with 10% of any sales to be donated to the Zoo. A few of the Zoo’s furry and feathered friends will be making guest appearances between 2 and 3:30 p.m. and between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Shoppers can enjoy light refreshments.

“How can it be that shopping helps wildlife? In this case, it does!” said Andrew Aiken, president and CEO for the Zoo. “We hope that this event will inspire people to shop on behalf of wildlife, and this will give them the satisfaction of combining two loves: shopping and animals.”

Lilly Pulitzer at The Gardens Mall is located at 3101 PGA Blvd Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410. Photos from the 2013 Shop & Share — http://on.fb.me/1xfyJe5

Catalogs are printed on responsibly-sourced Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper

The Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches exists to inspire people to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world. The society advances its conservation mission through endangered species propagation, education and support of conservation initiatives in the field. Its commitment to sustainable business practices elevates our capacity to inspire others.

The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is located at 1301 Summit Boulevard in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, visit www.palmbeachzoo.org.

 

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Context Travel Offers Gastronomic Experience in Vienna

Old World traditions in Vienna © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Old World traditions in Vienna © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vienna– Context, organizer of critically acclaimed walking tours, expands its program in Vienna, with Tasting Tradition: An Appetite for Austria, a new gastronomic experience that uncovers Austria through a multicourse annotated meal.

The influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire continues to have an impact on local cultures, including contemporary Austrian cuisine. At the same time, regionality is heavily reflected in the country’s culinary traditions, and continues to shape its cuisine today. This three-hour annotated meal tells the rich story of Austria past, present and future, offering a menu of foods from the nine federal states, each of which have their own unique terroir and cuisine. Led by a scholar of food anthropology, the experience takes place in an exceptional restaurant in the vibrant capital.

Tasting Tradition: An Appetite for Austria comprises five courses with optional wine pairings. Choices include goulash, different types of dumpling, the world-famous Wiener Schnitzel (veal), as well as pork roast, pan-fried carp, pasta, poppy-seed specialties, and seasonal dishes based on apricots and asparagus, chestnuts, chanterelle, game and pumpkin. The experience also offers the opportunity to sample some cold cuts, regional cheeses, and of course drinks and dessert – including the legendary Kaiserschmarrn.

The dinner sets the scene for discussions about Austria’s eating habits, Vienna’s burgeoning streetfood scene, issues around produce procurement and availability, as well as food trends, from Asian fusion and fifties Americana to organic and vegan to burgers and cupcakes. Breaking bread together, participants learn about how tradition and modernity have collided to create an exciting and truly multicultural food culture.

“We developed this meal as a new and unique way for visitors to picture Austria throughout history, by sampling its culinary heritage and geographic variety,” says food anthropologist Katerina Nussdorfer, who co-designed the tour.  “It’s also a chance to find out firsthand just how royal Kaiserschmarren really is, and experience the untranslatable Germanic feeling of Gemütlichkeit – the art of cosy joy in the company of good people and good food.”

Tasting Tradition: An Appetite for Austria lasts 3.5 hours (including 30 minutes transport time) and is available Tuesday to Saturday at 6 pm (excluding December 22, 2014 to January 2, 2015). Group walks cost €75 per person. Private tours cost €330 per party. Tasting fee is €65 per adult and €55 per child up to age 16. As with all Context walking seminars, groups are led by a credentialed expert and limited to six (6) people maximum.

Founded by National Geographic writer Paul Bennett and designer Lani Bevacqua, Context Travel is a network of English-speaking scholars and professionals, including art historians, writers, architects and gastronomes, who organize and lead walking seminars in twenty-five (25) world cities, including: Florence, Rome, Venice, Naples, Paris, London, Edinburgh, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., Istanbul, Athens, Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Tokyo, Kyoto, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires. A certified B Corporation, Context Travel was named one of the fastest growing American companies in 2011 by Inc Magazine. Travel + Leisure has called Context one of the top European tour companies for its innovative approach to travel and the depth of its programs. To learn more about Context, visit its website at:www.contexttravel.com

 

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Explorateur Journeys Launches Gastronomy/Cycling Fusion Experience through Uruguay

Explorateur Journeys has launched Chef On Wheels, a trip infused with special experiences of Uruguayan gastronomy, interactions with local chefs, instruction on traditional dishes blended with an active cycling adventure that gets travelers up close and personal with quaint villages and a traditional slice of life.

The journey begins with insider access to a special winery, where guests can bike trough the charming town of Carmelo, tasting along the way and stopping for a home cooked Uruguayan asado. They’ll enjoy dinner one evening with a celebrated local chef who will prepare a “secret menu” for them based on the “La Cuisine Secret” invitation-only nomadic dining concept that’s become popular with local foodies.

As travelers move on through the country, they’ll shop in a fresh farmers market with a local chef and try their hands at local secret recipes that the chefs will dispel in a gorgeous kitchen, paired with a string of exclusive cocktails.

Back in Montevideo, time will be spent cycling along the beach and into small towns, with access to special art exhibitions along the way and more home cooking in a cozy chef’s kitchen.

The journey rounds out with a cycling and canoeing adventure at the Garzon lagoon, where a boat crossing brings guests to a hidden “Lagoon Shack”, where a local chef prepares lunch and provides an opportunity to mix and mingle with village children who attend special cooking classes designed to help educate the local community.

For more information, visit www.explorateurjourneys.com, email info@explorateurjourneys.com, @theexplorateur, facebook.com/theexplorateur.
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AdventureSmith Explorations Adds Historic Yacht Westward To Inventory of Small Ships Exploring Baja Peninsula

Small ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations announces a new 10-day Baja, Mexico cruise aboard the 86-foot, historic eight-guest adventure yacht, Westward.
Small ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations announces a new 10-day Baja, Mexico cruise aboard the 86-foot, historic eight-guest adventure yacht, Westward.

TAHOE CITY, CA–Small ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations announces a new 10-day Baja, Mexico cruise aboard the 86-foot, historic eight-guest adventure yacht, Westward.

Launched in 1924 as the flagship of the Alaska Coast Hunting and Cruising Co., she is arguably Seattle’s most famous motor yacht having pioneered hunting, fishing, and adventure travel in the remote regions of Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.

“Westward Voyages in the Sea of Cortez, launching January 2015 is our perfect complement to an already outstanding portfolio of Baja small Ship Cruises,” said Todd Smith, AdventureSmith Explorations’ Founder/Owner. Ten-day itineraries featuring both the Sea of Cortez and whale watching in the Pacific’s San Ignacio Lagoon are offered in January and February 2015.

Smith likened cruising the eco systems of the Baja Peninsula to cruising the islands of the Galapagos. Both regions offer explorations of geography, flora and fauna, bird and wildlife. Both regions are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Westward Voyages in the Sea of Cortez spends seven days cruising in the Sea of Cortez with three days watching gray whales based from Kuyimita Tent Camp adjacent to San Ignacio Lagoon Whale Sanctuary. The resulting 9-night/10-day cruise/tour is the most in-depth and intimate Baja exploration available. The per person double rate is $5,750. See: www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/westward-voyages-in-the-sea-of-cortez .
Westward will ply the pristine waters of Baja in the coolest months in order to enhance the cruise experience that includes the cacophony of leaping rays, spouting whales, acrobatic dolphins and chirping bird song from the dawning shore.

Guests and crew gather on the 17 by 14-foot shaded back deck for meals and conversation.  Each stateroom has three portholes that open. In addition each bathroom has one opening port. Staterooms are outfitted with a portable, battery-powered fan to provide a breeze on still nights. The air may be warm and dry in the Gulf of California winters, but the water is cool and helps offset the warmth of the day, especially in staterooms that extend below the waterline.

Other cruise programs on ships for up to 84 guests are available. (See: www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/baja-california).

Additional options include two eight-day whale watching cruises January-March on a variety of small ships. Rates are from $2,995 per person, double, aboard the 84-guest Safari Endeavor. Rates are from $5,990 per person, double, aboard the 62-guest National Geographic Sea Lion and Sea Bird. Additional cruise programs for up to 15 days are also offered in this region.

Westward is listed with the US National Register of Historic Places and remains dependably powered by her original Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine. Westward’s historical and adventurous spirit enriches the voyages of those lucky enough to cruise the waters with her. Modeled after a salmon cannery tender, she launched in 1924 as the flagship of the Alaska Coast Hunting and Cruising Co. Westward served a noteworthy clientele of hunters and fishermen for nearly 20 years. Distinguished guests included Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, E.F. Hutton, John Wayne, Dean Witter and numerous other VIP’s of the era. During WW II Westward served as a patrol boat off the California coast before returning to the Pacific Northwest. See: http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/westward

Founded in 2003, AdventureSmith Exploration has become a global leader in small ship, expeditionary cruise vacations. Company president and founder Todd Smith pioneered the concept of wilderness cruising – combining the comforts of a small cruise ship with the adventure of sea kayaking and exploring ashore in remote wilderness areas. In 2012, Smith joined the ranks of Conde Nast Traveler’s prestigious 14th Annual Travel Specialists List as the world’s expert on small ship expeditions, and again in 2013 and 2014. For information, availability and 2015 reservations, 800-728-2875 or visit www.adventuresmithexplorations.com.

 

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Natural Habitat Adventures Unveils “Undiscovered Cuba” Showcasing Culture, Nature, Local Contacts

Natural Habitat Adventures' 12-day "Undiscovered Cuba" explores Cuba’s intriguing culture and stunning tropical ecosystems and facilitates people-to-people contacts.
Natural Habitat Adventures’ 12-day “Undiscovered Cuba” explores Cuba’s intriguing culture and stunning tropical ecosystems and facilitates people-to-people contacts.

Natural Habitat Adventures, a premier ecotourism company, has unveiled a new “Undiscovered Cuba” 12-day itinerary that explores Cuba’s intriguing culture and stunning tropical ecosystems on an educational exchange that promotes people-to-people contacts designed to provide a human perspective of this captivating Caribbean island nation that has long been inaccessible to American travelers.

Travelers will experience the vibrant cultural centers of Havana and Trinidad as well as virtually unknown national parks, rare botanical gardens, lush tropical ecosystems and fabulous birdlife, and have opportunities to interact with Cuban scientists, naturalists, park managers, academics, organic farmers, community activists, artists, business owners and others eager to share their stories.

“This is a rare opportunity to embrace the daily lives of citizens here. Cuba has been off-limits to American tourists for decades. We are among a select few companies to secure a special U.S. government permit through the newly established People-to-People program, allowing us to offer this exclusive travel opportunity to our privileged guests,” said Ben Bressler, Natural Habitat’s founder and president.

2015 departures, each for a maximum of 15 guests, are: Feb. 10, Feb. 27, and Apr. 18. The per-person double occupancy rate is $7,695, based on a group size of 10 or more. Both international and internal flight costs are in addition to the trip fee. Internal air is $550 (subject to change). Nat Hab books the international flight from Miami to Cienfuegos, Cuba, and the return from Havana to Miami. These flights are organized through a licensed charter company authorized to provide direct flights to Cuba. (See http://www.nathab.com/central-america/undiscovered-cuba)

In addition to Cuban culture and history, the trip also showcases Cuba’s natural resources and diversity. Highlights include World Heritage Sites and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and hosted visits to organic farms and community-run ecotourism projects, such as:

Zapata National Park. Situated on Cuba’s southern coast, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve covers 1.5 million acres harboring some 1,000 plant species, of which 130 are endemic to Cuba, and showcasing a great diversity of habitats such as grasslands, mangroves, varied types of forest, coastal lagoons and coral reefs. “As far as we know, we are the only current People-to-People tour operator including it in their itinerary,” said Bressler.

Viñales National Park & the Viñales Valley embrace dramatic 250-million-year-old loaf-shaped limestone mountains laced with caves. These karst formations have been worn away by hundreds of years of erosion, becoming small islands that are self-contained ecosystems. The trip visits Cuevo del Indio (Cave of the Indians), the largest system of underground caves in Latin America.

Las Terrazas is an ecotourism center in which a sustainable rural economy has been developed based on the use of local natural resources and a strong focus on public environmental education.

“Accommodations are always the best available and extend an understanding of culture and history through their locations.”

The Grand Hotel Trinidad transports guests to the elegance of 16th-century Cuba under Spanish influence, with gracious archways and wrought-iron balconies. The colonial-style Hotel La Ermita offers magnificent views of the Viñales Valley, and in the heart of Havana the luxurious Parque Central is a mix of colonial and modern elements. Sunswept Playa Larga Beach on the southern coast along the Bay of Pigs is home to the Hotel Playa Larga, which offers basic accommodations with easy access to Zapata National Park.

Participants meet in Miami for an orientation and an overnight at Sofitel Miami Hotel. A chartered flight the next day makes the short hop to Cienfuegos where the group is joined by its local Cuban guide. The program includes a myriad of planned yet unscripted people-to-people exchanges enhanced by an exclusive immersion into Cuba’s rarely visited natural world.  Spend the first afternoon in Cienfuegos, which is recognized as an outstanding early example of urban planning in Latin America. At the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, enjoy identifying tropical flora and fauna accompanied by botanist Roger Pazos.

Driving on to Trinidad, there will be opportunities to meet the local people through music and the arts, including dining at one the city’s best private restaurants where guests chat with owner Lazaro Orellana who talks about operating a small private business in Cuba. There’s a visit to a community library where the director discusses how books are selected and the role of government censorship, a invitation to a traditional pig roast, and a visit to a late 18th-century plantation house, the Trinidadian residence of Julio and Rosa Munoz (Julio is a photographer, business owner and esteemed horse trainer).

On ensuing days the route moves west to the Zapata Peninsula where there will be ample opportunities to discover the rich endemic plant and bird life – look for the Fernandina’s flicker, one of the rarest woodpeckers in the world. Cruise down the Rio Hatiguanico hoping to sight rarely seen crocodiles.

En route to Viñales, the group stops at Las Terrazas and lunches with restaurant owner Tito Ramos who explains the business opportunities of private restaurants called paladares.

Explore Viñales National Park accompanied by Emma Palacios Lemagne, who has worked in the park for 25+ years. She is the leading gastropoda biologist and conservationist in Cuba.

Four full days in Cuba’s vibrant capital of Havana conclude the journey, with highlights including a traditional Cuban lunch at the Hotel Nacional, a stroll through Old Havana with a prominent architectural historian and an invitation to the National Theater to watch a dance class at the Danza Contemporánea de Cuba.

For the complete itinerary see: http://www.nathab.com/central-america/undiscovered-cuba/itinerary/

Natural Habitat Adventures has been a world leader in responsible adventure travel and nature-based ecotourism since 1985. Inspired and created from years of scouring the planet for the singular and extraordinary, Nat Hab’s trips appeal to travelers who seek more than the standard, done-before tour commonly found in today’s marketplace.  Itineraries are artfully crafted, one-of-a-kind experiences that are far from “typical.” Natural Habitat Adventures enjoys the reputation for employing some of the finest naturalist expedition leaders. Conservation is at the forefront of everything the company does, and its philosophy about environmentally responsible travel is simple: tourism must work with and benefit local communities, which will in turn find value in protecting precious natural resources. NHA is the travel partner of the World Wildlife Fund, sharing a commitment to travel as a means of helping to protect the planet’s wondrous natural places.

For trip information, descriptive itineraries, date availability and reservations call 800-543-8917 or visit www.nathab.com.

 

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Norwegian Air Flies First Flight with Biofuel, Reducing Carbon Emissions 40%

Norwegian Air has just carried out Norway’s first ever flight with biofuel. Norwegian’s flight DY631 from Bergen to Oslo took off with almost 50 percent biofuel; a flight that emits over 40 percent less than an average flight with regular fuel.

The aircraft was filled with sustainable biofuel and emitted a total of 3178 kg – or 40 grams per passenger kilometre. Older aircraft with traditional fuels emit 5786 kg, which is 74 grams per passenger kilometre on the same stretch. In other words, this flight, with 50 percent biofuel, has over 40 percent less emissions than an average flight with normal fuel.

Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Tine Sundtoft, was among the passengers on board this milestone flight together with Norwegian’s CEO Bjørn Kjos.

“At Norwegian, we are keen to make aviation more environmentally friendly. We have a clear goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent per passenger in the period 2008 to 2015. The most significant improvement is our new aircraft, and Norwegian’s fleet is among the newest and most environmentally friendly in Europe. But this is not enough. Sustainable biofuel is also an important measure. This biofuel flight from Bergen to Oslo is an important milestone in the industry’s shared commitment to make sustainable biofuel more easily available for airlines,” says Norwegian’s CEO Bjørn Kjos.

Through the development of new technologies and frameworks, Norwegian is seeking to help make aviation carbon neutral by 2050.

Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, commercially branded “Norwegian”, is a low-cost airline listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Norwegian is the second largest airline in Scandinavia and third largest low cost carrier in Europe. More than 20 million passengers fly on its network per year. Norwegian has a route portfolio that stretches across Europe into North Africa and the Middle East, as well as long-haul flights to the US and Southeast Asia. The company has a total of 417 routes to 126 destinations and employs approximately 4,500 people in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, UK, Spain and Thailand. The company has 258 undelivered aircraft on firm order.

Norwegian was founded in 1993 and its headquarter is in Fornebu, Norway. In 2013 and 2014, Norwegian was voted Europe’s best low-cost carrier of the year by the renowned SkyTrax World Airline Awards. Norwegian offers better leg room than most competitors, in-flight WiFi, world-class punctuality and a fleet of 100 aircraft with an average age of only 4.8 years.

 

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Zoos, Aquariums Play Critical Role in Rescuing Species From the Brink of Extinction

Bali mynah at the Palm Beach Zoo
Bali mynah at the Palm Beach Zoo

The Palm Beach Zoo, West Palm Beach, Florida, is hailing a rare victory in the battle against global climate change: thanks to America’s accredited zoos and aquariums, more than 30 endangered species have been brought back from the brink of extinction. With climate change, population growth and deforestation, and poaching threatening species around the world, we are facing what scientists call the “Sixth Extinction.”

But the 229 accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have built a unique infrastructure to save endangered species – breeding programs that coordinate across many institutions to ensure genetic diversity, systems so that animals can be safely moved between institutions, and partnerships with local, national, and international conservation organizations working on re-introducing these animals to their native ranges.

Because of that infrastructure, there is good news in the face of the extinction crisis:  from the Florida manatee to the California condor, the Hawaiian crow to the Puerto Rican crested toad, the Chinese alligator to the American bison, zoos and aquariums have saved more than 30 species, and are working today on dozens more.

At the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, staff members are working on conservation programs for fifty endangered species, including for the Bali mynah bird as part of the of AZA’s Species Survival Plan(R) (SSP). Bali mynah are one of the rarest birds in the world, and two males, named R2 and D2, can be seen on exhibit in the Zoo’s Beuttenmuller Asian Aviary. As a part of the SSP, D2 will be moving to the Denver Zoo soon to form a new breeding pair. The Palm Beach Zoo has recently received another male from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo to join R2 once the new bird completes his quarantine.

“Every zoo in the SSP serves a vital purpose in sustaining the population of this critically endangered Bali mynah,” said Jan Steele, general curator for the Zoo. “And for us at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, it’s to provide a rocking bachelor pad for young males until they’re old enough to settle down and raise a family.”

Over the next several months, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums will celebrate these successes, and invite the public to support efforts to save even more species. In November, in honor of Thanksgiving, AZA is spotlighting endangered birds, including:

Bali mynah have striking white plumage with black wing tips and bright blue coloration around the eyes. The species can approach 10 inches in height. Bali mynahs are nearly extinct in the wild because poachers collect them for the illegal pet trade, where they are valued for their striking plumage and beautiful songs. Because of this poaching, Bali mynahs are found almost exclusively in zoos.  But much has been done to help the Bali mynah’s wild population recover, including protection of their native breeding grounds. In 1987, 40 Bali mynahs from US zoos were sent to the Surbaja Zoo in Indonesia to form a breeding group, with resulting offspring released into the wild. In 2009, Bali mynahs raised in managed care were introduced to a neighboring island, Nusa Penida, and seem to be doing well so far.

The largest bird in North America, the California condor once dominated the western skies, able to soar to 15,000 feet and travel up to 150 miles a day in pursuit of food.  With its keen vision, the condor hunts for carcasses of dead animals, and then swoops in to feast, serving as nature’s clean-up crew.  But destruction of habitat and poaching decimated the species, and by 1982, only 22 birds remained in the wild.  The San Diego Zoo Global, the Los Angeles Zoo and 16 other AZA institutions took the lead at captive propagation, working with a network of government and non-profit partners.  Beginning in the early 1990s, zoo-bred condors began being reintroduced into the wild.  From a low of 22, there are now more than 435 condors in the world, with almost 250 free-flying in the West.

Prior to the 1960s, there were probably around 10,000 Guam rails living on Guam, a South Pacific island. Sometime between 1944 and 1952, brown tree snakes arrived on Guam, most likely on cargo ships. The snakes’ population rapidly increased, because there was plentiful prey (such as the Guam rails) and no natural predators. The tree snakes wiped out the native animal populations, and by the 1970s, 9 of the 11 native bird species, including the Guam rail, had disappeared.  Trying to save the species, the last few birds were removed from the island in the 1980s. In 1989, reintroduction of these birds began on the island of Rota, near Guam, as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan(R) (SSP) for the species.

The palila Hawaiian songbird is one of the endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper species and efforts to expand the palila population back to its historic range at Pu`u Mali have included experimental releases of captive-bred birds, as well as relocation of wild birds to protected areas. The palila was the first animal to have a federal circuit court case named after it, in a precedent setting case that increased protection for endangered species.  While several zoos are working to preserve the palila, they are not currently on exhibit to the public.

Known in Hawaii as Alala, the Hawaiian crow is the most endangered corvid in the world and is the only crow species found in Hawaii. The birds are extinct in the wild, and the remaining population is managed at zoos, where the chicks are fed and cared for by animal care staff they never see to ensure they do not imprint on humans.  The last `alal? were recorded in their natural habitat in 2002. Planning is underway to restore the `alal? to the Big Island of Hawaii beginning this year.

The Waldrapp ibis, also known as the hermit ibis or the northern bald ibis, may not be viewed by some as the most attractive bird, but their strong character and bizarre appearance give them unique appeal. They look almost comical with their bald heads, long red beaks and crazy crest feathers going every which way. Their black feathers take on brilliant sheens of purple, green and orange when viewed in bright sunlight. With only about 420 wild Waldrapp ibis remaining, this is one of the world’s most critically endangered avian species.  But thanks to a very successful breeding and release program, there are over 1,100 Waldrapp ibis in captivity, and offspring from zoos are being released back to the wild.

For a list of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums where you can see some of these incredible birds in person, visit the AZA website: http://www.aza.org/SpeciesBeingSaved.

About the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society: The Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches exists to inspire people to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world. We advance our conservation mission through endangered species propagation, education and support of conservation initiatives in the field. Our commitment to sustainable business practices elevates our capacity to inspire others.

The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is located at 1301 Summit Boulevard in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, visit www.palmbeachzoo.org.

 

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