Natural Habitat Charters “Grizzly Ship” Ursus For Close Encounters with Alaska’s Giant Brown Bears

Natural Habitat Adventures has just announced its exclusive charter of a legendary vessel it has rechristened the M/V Natural Habitat Ursus, to take guests as close as possible in safety to the largest coastal grizzlies in the world.
Natural Habitat Adventures has just announced its exclusive charter of a legendary vessel it has rechristened the M/V Natural Habitat Ursus, to take guests as close as possible in safety to the largest coastal grizzlies in the world.

BOULDER, CO, — Natural Habitat Adventures has just announced its exclusive charter of a legendary vessel in it has rechristened the M/VNatural Habitat Ursus, to take guests as close as possible in safety to the largest coastal grizzlies in the world, in Alaska.

The new adventure, Alaska’s Coastal Grizzlies: Kodiak to Katmai, will accommodate just eight guests at a time aboard the Ursus.

Two versions of the trip are scheduled weekly from mid June through mid September 2015: Alaska’s Coastal Grizzlies: Kodiak to Katmai (seven days) and Alaska’s Coastal Grizzlies: Kodiak to Katmai Photo Tour (eight days). The rate is from $7,995 per person, double occupancy. Photo-focused departures are led by a naturalist guide who is also a professional photographer.

M/V Natural Habitat Ursus (Latin for ‘bear’) has been recently refurbished to provide comfortable accommodations. It was originally built in 1984 as a crab fishing boat called Time Bandit, which plied the stormy waters of the Bering Sea and gained fame in the Discovery Channel TV series “The Deadliest Catch.” Its shallow draft allows cruising near the shoreline, where guests can watch bears forage in meadows and dig clams on the tide flats in remote Katmai National Park on the Alaska Peninsula.

The route is flexible in order to follow the bears while aboard this classic 73-foot-long wooden vessel. The Ursus accommodates a maximum of eight travelers in four guest cabins with upper/lower bunks. It carries a full complement of state-of-the-art navigation and safety equipment. The ship’s interior is intimate and simply appointed, with ample space for meals and activities. Guests share two toilets and two showers. A well-lit galley and dining area provide for convivial conversation over gourmet meals prepared each day by the onboard chef. Fresh Alaskan seafood, including halibut, salmon and crab, highlight the menu.

“With Ursus providing our offshore expedition base, we are able to visit some of the planet’s most pristine wilderness in Katmai National Park without leaving an impact. Shore excursions, which get us even closer to the bears, take place via Zodiac rafts carried on board,” explained Ben Bressler, founder and president of Natural Habitat Adventures.

Nature puts on few displays as arresting as Alaskan brown bears feeding on summer’s bounty. These bears – the largest coastal grizzlies in the world – gorge on spawning salmon as the fish swim up the rivers that pour onto these wild beaches. “Nothing can prepare you for the drama of an actual encounter with these magnificent beasts, just yards away,” says Bressler. Since these bears live in protected habitat and have never had negative experiences with humans, they are nonchalant to the group’s presence and are safely approachable at close range.

The adventure begins on Kodiak Island where guests are introduced to Alaska Native and Russian cultures. A local boat excursion follows rocky shorelines for sightings of sea lions, otters, puffins, bald eagles and occasionally whales. A floatplane on Day 3 flies guests to Kukak Bay to meet the M/V Natural Habitat Ursus, which immediately begins cruising slowly along the coast toward Hallo Bay to spot the first bears. Days 4 through 6 unveil the drama of multiple encounters with North America’s largest land predators (an adult male can weigh 900 pounds).

Guests take a skiff to shore to explore on foot, guided by a highly experienced Expedition Leader. It’s not uncommon to find massive grizzlies in great numbers; previous trips have seen as many as 30 to 40 of them at once. And far from dozing lethargically, these bears put on quite a show in their efforts to fill up on enough protein-rich food to prepare them for a long winter in hibernation. Depending on the time of the visit, bears may be mating or cubs gallivanting. On Day 7 guests depart from Kodiak.

NHA Expedition Leader Brad Josephs leads the Kodiak to Katmai Photography Tour (10 dates have been scheduled for 2015). A noted bear expert and Alaska resident (when he is not guiding bear adventures around the world from China to Churchill), he is one of Alaska’s premier naturalist guides, as well as a superlative professional wildlife photographer who is gifted at sharing photography tips and guidance with his guests.

M/V Natural Habitat Ursus was built in 1984 and transitioned for research use by the National Park Service in 1989, conducting scientific study and monitoring. It has since been converted and comfortably appointed for custom marine charter use. In addition to Nat Hab’s grizzly adventures, the ship has outfitted two international filmmaking projects, the 2012 BBC/Discovery Channel documentary Great Bear Stakeout, and an NHK (Japanese public television) program on orcas hunting gray whales and humpbacks.

Natural Habitat Adventures is a world leader in responsible adventure travel and nature-based ecotourism. Since its founding in 1985, the company has offered eco-conscious expeditions and wildlife-focused small-group tours to the planet’s most remarkable nature destinations. Inspired and created from years of scouring the planet for the singular and extraordinary, Nat Hab’s itineraries are artfully crafted experiences that are far from “typical.” Trips are guided by professional naturalist Expedition Leaders, and Nat Hab enjoys a longstanding reputation for hiring some of the world’s best guides. Conservation is at the forefront of everything NHA does, and its philosophy is simple: tourism must work with and benefit local communities, which will in turn find value in protecting natural resources and wildlife. NHA is proud to be the travel partner of World Wildlife Fund, sharing a mutual commitment to travel as a means of helping to protect the world’s wondrous natural places.

For trip information, descriptive itineraries, date availability and reservations, call 800.543.8917 or visit http://www.nathab.com/. Click HERE to order a copy of the 2015 catalog.

 

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Tara Tours markets ‘Private Peru’ 6-Night Inclusive Tour to Lima, Cuzco & Machu Picchu

Tara Tours' Discover the Inka Empire features a visit to Machu Picchu.
Tara Tours’ Discover the Inka Empire features a visit to Machu Picchu.

Tara Tours is promoting a six-night “Discover the Inka Empire” itinerary that features private guides and services for six nights, priced from $2175 per person/double occupancy, including local airfare, hotels, and sightseeing.

This program lands in Lima where you stay for 2 nights with private transfers, private city tour and 2 nights of hotel accommodation.

Then on to Cuzco. A quiet morning is spent here in order to get used to the high altitude and to allow time to explore the surroundings. During the stay in Cuzco, once known as the Capital of the Inka Empire, there is a private city tour and visit to the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Kenko, Puca-Pucara, Tambomachay and other archeological sites nearby.

The next day you travel by bus and train to one of the most exciting places on earth “Machu Picchu”. Temples, palaces, towers and staircases are built into the side of the mountain. Here a private local tour guide takes you from site to site explaining the advanced world of the Inkas.

The group overnights in the village of Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Town, just at bottom of Machu Picchu ruins.

The next day is at leisure, so you can go back to explore “The Lost City of Inkas” or visit the Inka Thermal Baths of Aguas Calientes and visit the local market. Mid-afternoon return to Cuzco.

On the way back, there is an opportunity to enjoy incredible views of the Andean peaks, the Urubamba Valley and the powerful Vilcanota River.

The itinerary departs daily from the United States.

The cost per person including domestic airfare Lima-Cuzco-Lima via local airlines and all private ground arrangements with daily breakfast, entrance fees, Vistadome train tickets, private tours, private transfers, room taxes-service charge, is $2175 based on double occupancy at 3-star properties; $2590 pp/dbl using 4-star properties or $3706 using 5-star hotels.

These rates are in effect from Dec.1, 2014 to Nov.30, 2015

Airfare is available from Miami from US$650-850, New York $750-950, Los Angeles $900-1100 and add-ons from other major cities are available upon request.

You can see the full itinerary at www.taratours.com/peru.htm#Lima,_Cuzco_&_Machu_Picchu_Private

Tara Tours Inc., which has been operating tours to Latin America since 1980, is based at 12002 SW 128 CT, Suite 209, Miami, Fla.33186, 305-278-4464 or 800-327-0080, www.taratours.com.

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Cycle the Maratona dles Dolomites, One of Europe’s Biggest Granfondo Races

Cycling the Maratona dles Dolomites (courtesy of Dolomite Mountains)
Cycling the Maratona dles Dolomites (courtesy of Dolomite Mountains)

Dolomite Mountains, a leading Italian company specializing in guided mountain travel, is offering an opportunity for amateur and avid cyclists alike to join an exclusive bike race in Italy’s Dolomites in July 2015.

National Geographic described this Italian Granfondo as “one of the biggest, most passionate, and most chaotic bike races on Earth”.

The July 1-6, 2015, event cycles over breathtaking Dolomite mountain passes while enjoying the camaraderie of 9,000 cyclists from more than 40 nations. The Maratona dles Dolomites is the one of the most popular Granfondo road biking races in Italy. This annual, single-day road bicycle race takes riders across four to eight spectacular mountain passes.

Mass participation cycling events have been popular in Europe for decades and are gaining momentum worldwide. Over time, the Maratona, one of the biggest Italian Granfondo bicycle races, has attracted an increasing number of fans, to become one of the most important amateur cycling events in the whole of Europe.

While the 9,000 places for this race sell out quickly each year, there are guaranteed entries through the Dolomite Mountains program. Rates for participants include the entrance fee and five nights lodging (double room accommodation) at €2.880 per person (single rate € 3,760). If the partner is not participating in the event the rate starts at € 1,650/person. Lodging is at the 5-star Relais & Chateaux Rosa Alpina. (See: http://dolomitemountains.com/en/summer_fall_trips/bike3235.htm).

The package includes a tour briefing with logistics and map, guaranteed race registration, all breakfasts (including pasta breakfast on race day), two dinners at the hotel, an aperitif in the kitchen of Restaurant St. Hubertus, dinner at a Michelin star restaurant, cleaning service for bike gear and services of a bike mechanic for four days, one sport massage, services of a local English speaking Professional Bike Guide for two days (three cyclists per guide), private transfers as per itinerary, local medical and evacuation insurance, local tourist tax and Italian VAT tax. Airport transfers are available upon request at an extra charge.

Warm up rides cum touring and sightseeing before Day 5, race day, are scheduled with guides and technical assistance as needed.

Maratona dles Dolomites starts in La Villa in Alta Badia with three course options: a short course of 55 kilometers (34.1 miles) with four passes to cross; a middle course of 106 kilometers (65.8 miles) crossing six passes; and a long course of 138 kilometers (85.7 miles) climbing over eight passes. The first four passes are the same for all.

At the start of the event, participants are free to select the route best suited to their ability; they may alter their course during the event. All riders complete the four pass Sellaronda course first. After completing this, riders can either choose to finish the race or proceed directly onwards with the Middle course, followed by the Maratona course. The roads are lined with tens of thousands of cheering spectators, and the entire event is broadcast live on Italian national broadcaster RAI. Along the courses, seven refreshment stations are manned by volunteers; riders can strengthen themselves with food and drink. All courses end in Corvara in Badia (end 1,561m / 5,120′). A post event celebration concludes the day.

Dolomite Mountains srl is a local company in the Dolomites which for over 15 years has crafted adventures within one of the most beautiful natural settings on Earth. Types of trips offered include hiking, biking, Via Ferrata, climbing, snowshoeing, photo safari, skiing, self-guided and luxury trips. Customized guided and self guided active trips and luxury and gourmet adventures take travelers off the beaten path for authentic experiences that reveal the real Dolomites. For trip information and reservations call 866-247-4860 or log on:
http://dolomitemountains.com/en/home.htm

 

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Wildland Adventures Designs ‘ Far-Flung Regions of Costa Rica’ For Families with Teens

Wildland Adventures’ nine-day Costa Rica Far-Flung Family Adventure targets families with adventurous teens with an itinerary that takes travelers on river rafts, surf boards, zip lines and small aircraft, en route viewing exotic wildlife, helping local youngsters brush up on English, dining well and overnighting in some of Costa Rica’s foremost ecolodges.
Wildland Adventures’ nine-day Costa Rica Far-Flung Family Adventure targets families with adventurous teens with an itinerary that takes travelers on river rafts, surf boards, zip lines and small aircraft, en route viewing exotic wildlife, helping local youngsters brush up on English, dining well and overnighting in some of Costa Rica’s foremost ecolodges.

SEATTLE – Following the path less-touristed, Wildland Adventures’ nine-day Costa Rica Far-Flung Family Adventure targets families with adventurous teens. This itinerary brings travelers from the Caribbean to the Pacific on river rafts, surf boards, zip lines and small aircraft, en route viewing exotic wildlife, helping local youngsters brush up on English, dining well and overnighting in some of Costa Rica’s foremost ecolodges.

Scheduled departures are Dec. 20-28, 2014; Dec. 26-Jan. 3, 2015; Jan. 10-18 and Feb. 14-22, 2015.  The group size is a maximum of 12. The per person double rate is from $3,995. Private departures may be arranged upon request and the program can be tweaked for families with young children or adults only.

This itinerary unique to Wildland Adventures was created by Grettel Calderon, the company’s Central America Program Director and a native “Tica” from Costa Rica, who for 20 years has been designing eco tours to Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Belize and Guatemala. The main ingredients of her expert mix of adventures include wildlife viewing in cloud forests and jungles, natural history, cultural exchange, active adventures and local cuisine.

This off-the-tourist-track adventure brings guests from San Jose to the Pacuare River for Class III-IV whitewater rafting before a two-hour boat trip to Tortuguero National Park, so remote it can be accessed only by jungle canals or small air strip. A short repositioning flight back to San Jose points guests in the direction of the Pacific and an ecolodge a short distance from the beach in the Dominical region that accesses Marino Ballena (Whales) National Park, Osa Animal Sanctuary, Corcovado National Park and Cano Island, one of the most prolific humpback whale migratory routes and dolphin habitats in Central America.

“Many areas of Costa Rica that aren’t promoted to visitors have a lot to offer and Dominical is one of them. We’ve located still-secluded beaches surrounded with lush tropical forests teeming with wildlife, and pristine tropical waters where marine life thrives,” Calderon underscored.

“We’ve discovered wonderful local restaurants that offer extraordinary culinary experiences. For example this little rural town of Ojocha is nothing but amazing restaurants where local ex-pat resident chefs who have moved there from France, Italy and Indonesia, have blended recipes from home with fresh tropical ingredients and Tico-style cooking to open restaurants in their homes and gardens offering creative cuisines in an ambiance you would never expect in the middle of nowhere,” she said.

In her years of scouting trips Calderon has recently uncovered new private reserves, small coves and barely known beaches, an animal rehab sanctuary, off-the-tourist-track villages to visit and some of the hemisphere’s best whale watching.

Kurt Kutay, who founded Wildland Adventures (www.wildland.com) in 1986 after having worked for the Costa Rican National Park Service, noted that “most outfitters run insensitive (and even illegal) whale viewing trips and Grettel found the right boat operator who provides education and great viewing in comfortable and safe boats.  Another far-flung aspect of this trip is that we return overland from the southern coast over the Cerro de la Muerte mountain pass, stopping for a hike in the new Los Quetzales National Park where there are good chances of seeing the Holy Grail of birdwatching – the Resplendent Quetzal.”

In Tortuguero, besides kayaking, boat and village tours, families may join locals in a fun and interactive word adventure game helping kids learn a bit of English (while guests practice their Spanish). On the Pacific participants can join in several water activities: outrigger kayaking (an ancient form of kayaking), regular kayaking or stand up paddle boarding.  En route to Caño Island looking for whales, a stop is made at Playa Violines, a secluded beach accessed through mangrove forest on the Sierpe River. Here are opportunities for sightings of monkeys, sloth, crocodile, boa constrictor, iguana and more before reaching the ocean.

Departures are guaranteed for two or more people. Group is limited to 12 people. The trip begins and ends with overnights in San Jose. See: http://www.wildland.com/trips/central-america/costa-rica/costa-rica-far-flung-family-adventure/overview.aspx#/overview

For more information and reservations contact Wildland Adventures at 1-800-345-4453 or by email at: info@wildland.com.

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Hornblower Begins Season of Whale Watching Adventures by Yacht from San Diego

San Diego, California – Starting December 14, Hornblower Cruises & Events will once again offer San Diego visitors and residents the epic experience of getting up close and personal with some of the most magnificent creatures on earth – guaranteed. For nearly 25 years, Hornblower’s captains have introduced thousands of passengers to the wonder and excitement of whale watching.

There is no better, safer and drier way to witness the whale migration as thousands of grays, finbacks and humpbacks migrate off the coast.

As Hornblower’s yacht heads out to the Pacific, passengers will also enjoy 360-views of the San Diego skyline, as well as sightings of sea lions, dolphins and sea birds. Throw in the fresh salty air and the feeling of freedom that comes with gliding across the ocean — and passengers will make memories to last a lifetime.

Highlights include:

Interaction with Trained Docents from theNat (San Diego Natural History Museum): To make Hornblower’s cruise truly educational, volunteer naturalists from theNat provide ongoing commentary for spotting spouts, flukes, and massive whale tails, as well as information about whale behaviors.

A Comfortable (and Dry) Experience: Unlike traditional small boat whale watching trips (where foul weather gear is a necessary accessory), Hornblower provides the ability to view these beautiful creatures from large yachts, which provide unparalleled stability through the ocean waves. With top-level outdoor sundecks rising 30 ft. above the water and climate-controlled indoor levels, Hornblower yachts ensure optimal comfort and panoramic views for everyone.

Whale Sighting Guarantee: If a whale is not sighted during a cruise, passengers will receive a pass good for a choice to return for another Whale Watching Cruise or a tour of the harbor instead. Hornblower guarantees that every passenger will experience the exhilaration of seeing a whale break the surface of the water for the first time.

Food Service and Full Bar: Passengers can purchase delicious snacks and lunch, complimented by a full bar service.

Reservations are now being accepted:

Times: With two 3½hour cruises offered daily starting at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., everyone can find the perfect day for their adventure. Cruises leave from the San Diego Navy Pier at 970 N. Harbor Drive.

Tickets: Weekend (Saturday and Sunday) costs are $44 for adults, $22 for children ages 4 to 12 and $42 for seniors and the military. Weekday costs are $39 for adults, $19.50 for children ages 4 to 12 and $37 for seniors and the military. Tax, service charge and landing fees are additional. Children under 3 are free. Discounts for groups of 20 or more and Hornblower Whale Club Card season passes are also available. For more information and to make reservations, please visit www.hornblower.com/port/overview/sd+whalewatching or call 800-ON-THE-BAY.

 

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In the footsteps of ‘Downton Abbey’: Castle that ‘Stars’ in ‘Downton Abbey’ Episode Highlights Wayfarers Walking Vacations’ New Program for 2015

Alnwick Castle in England’s Northumberland, which will take a leading role in a special Christmas episode of "Downton Abbey," highlights a new 2015 Wayfarers Walking Vacations trip.
Alnwick Castle in England’s Northumberland, which will take a leading role in a special Christmas episode of “Downton Abbey,” highlights a new 2015 Wayfarers Walking Vacations trip.

In what can be classsed as truly “In the footsteps of Downtown Abbey,” Alnwick Castle in England’s Northumberland which has a leading role in a special Christmas episode of “Downton Abbey” as Brancaster Castle, also is a highlight of a new Wayfarers Walking Vacations 2015 program.

No stranger to the cameras, Alnwick (pronounced ‘Annick’) was also the setting for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.

The cast and crew of “Downton Abbey,” PBS’s hugely popular Masterpiece Classic series, spent two weeks at the castle last summer, filming extensively in the spectacular State Rooms, as well as in the castle’s grounds and at the semi-ruined Hulne Abbey in the Duke of Northumberland’s parklands in Alnwick.

Visitors to Alnwick Castle in 2015 can explore a brand new Downton Abbey exhibition, featuring photography, costumes, and props from the filming.

The castle is a centerpiece of The Wayfarers’ new itinerary, ‘Northumbria – Land of Castles, Saints and Vikings’, based on the ancient kingdom of one of Britain’s most remote and beautiful landscapes.

It is one of three Walks new to the schedule. The others are in Italy’s Puglia region and a new take on the historic pilgrimage route of the Via Francigena in Tuscany.

A Wayfarers’ “Downton Abbey” vacation already includes a visit inside the ‘real’ Downton, Highclere Castle, in the south of England, other key locations and hiking amid classic English villages and countryside.

In festive spirit, the company, which has been providing all-inclusive hiking tours for more than 30 years, is offering ‘a walk in an envelope’ – Gift Certificates which can be redeemed by the recipient for a Wayfarers’ vacation in one of 20 countries across the globe. The vouchers are available for values from $500, up to the full price of a Walk.

“‘Our Walk in Northumbria was designed before we knew Alnwick would be a location in Downton Abbey, because it is such a wonderful place, steeped in more than 700 years of history,” The Wayfarers’ founder Michael West said. {As on our Downton Abbey Walk, we aim to give our guests much more than just a sight-seeing stop – we really aim to get beneath the skin of a place and I guarantee that Northumbria will be unforgettable.  Meanwhile, our Gift Certificates are the chance for someone to give a truly wonderful gift of one of our Walks as a surprise on Christmas morning – or at any time of the year!”

Founded more than 30 years ago, The Wayfarers Walking Vacations was named by National Geographic Traveler as purveyor of one of the ‘50 Tours of a Lifetime,’ and by National Geographic Adventure as one of the ‘Best Hiking Companies,’ The Wayfarers offers an eco-sensitive walking vacation of both culture and fitness in 19 countries with 40+ itineraries.

Walks cover England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, New Zealand, Patagonia, Alaska, Colorado, Southwest USA, and a barging/walk combination in Burgundy, France.

Wayfarers Walks offer exclusive entrees into homes and gardens otherwise closed to the public, graceful accommodations, outstanding cuisine, and meetings with local residents. Walks are from 6-13 days and are rated on a five-level challenge scale. Price per person is all-inclusive from Day One: including all transfers, hotel accommodation, full board plus twice daily snacks, wine with dinner, tips, entrance tickets, maps and postcards.

The Wayfarers is a member of Trusted Adventures, www.trustedadventures.com, dedicated to the highest standards of small-group travel and supporting local economies.

The Wayfarers Walk Away Guide explains the benefits and practicalities of walking vacations and is guaranteed to inspire new walkers. Available at www.thewayfarers.com/walkawayguide

The Wayfarers 2015 Brochure http://bit.ly/1t2wwkr

For more information on all the Wayfarers Walks or the Gift Certificates contact www.thewayfarers.com, 800-249-4620 or email walk-info@thewayfarers.com.

Facebook The Wayfarers Walking Vacations; Twitter @wayfarers; Instagram Wayfarerswalks.

 

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Natural Habitat Adventures Debuts First Nature-Focused Tour in Myanmar (Burma)

Natural Habitat Adventures is debuting Exploring Nature & Spirit in Myanmar & Thailand in 2015.
Natural Habitat Adventures is debuting Exploring Nature & Spirit in Myanmar & Thailand in 2015.

Natural Habitat Adventures is debuting Exploring Nature & Spirit in Myanmar & Thailand in 2015. This 13-day active journey showcases the little-explored wild side of Myanmar along with the biodiversity of the world’s oldest rainforest, Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park.

Natural Habitat Adventures’ in-depth tours (maximum 10 guests per departure) are scheduled for Feb. 2-14, Feb.23 – Mar 7 and Nov 30 – Dec 12, 2015, plus four dates in 2016. The per-person, double rate is $8,895 (single supplement is $2,295) plus internal air of $1,275 (subject to change).

Until a few years ago Myanmar (Burma) was off limits to most US citizens because of political sanctions. Nat Hab now joins a select set of companies introducing travelers to Myanmar, yet with a fresh angle. Its nature-focused itinerary pioneers eco-travel here by providing access to little-visited national parks and wildlife reserves such as Popa Mountain National Park, home to rare langurs (leaf monkeys), and the Mergui Archipelago where Burmese macaques, one of the world’s few tool-using primates, live and breed.

The adventure begins in Myanmar’s capital, Yangon (Rangoon) where vestiges of British colonial life mingle with markets and commerce. Providing succor to monks (good karma for those on the path to enlightenment) and helping to feed and wash elephants at Green Hills Elephant Camp set the tone in the first days for a trip that mixes nature with spirit along the way.

At Inle Lake, the hub of a rural region centered on farming and local markets, guests witness age-old floating agricultural techniques passed down through the generations and visit Inle Lake Wetland Sanctuary, home to more than 350 different bird species.

Then, along the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River travelers explore Bagan (Pagan) that harbors the world’s most prolific collection of ancient Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and shrines, some dating to the 11th and 12th centuries. Back in Yangon are opportunities to delve further into Buddhist culture by circumambulating the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, a pilgrimage for the devout.

After this introduction to the spirit of this land where time has stood still, guests fly south to board a private luxury catamaran to cruise the Andaman Sea along southern Myanmar and a sliver of the west coast of Thailand. The voyage passes through the Mergui Archipelago comprised of more than 800 islands, 770 of which are uninhabited except for abundant wildlife. The Myanmar government has made this region a priority for conservation management. Here and in nearby Laem Son National Park in Thailand, guests can observe Burmese macaques, one of only three primate species on Earth to have developed a culture of stone tool use.

Transiting the marine border into southern Thailand brings guests to Khao Sok National Park, a karst landscape of vertical limestone mountains draped in the world’s oldest virgin rainforest and littered with caves, deep valleys and jade-green lakes. Accommodation here is in a floating “raft lodge” on Cheow Lan Lake, one of the best wildlife-viewing regions in mainland Southeast Asia. Recent camera trap recordings in the area by researcher Mike Clark have revealed extremely rare Malayan tapir, Asian elephant, leopard, guar (the world’s largest wild ox) and Asiatic black bear. Clark shares his knowledge of this intricate tropical rainforest ecosystem, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth, in advance of a guided trek, the last activity before a champagne breakfast on departure day.

Throughout the itinerary accommodations have been selected for proximity to nature and reflection of the culture and spirit of each locale. Among these are an ecolodge perched high on the side of the extinct volcano, 6,000-foot Mount Popa; an overwater resort on stilts, furnished in gleaming teak, on Inle Lake; and an intimate private yacht with six luxury cabins.

For more details on the Myanmar and Thailand nature adventure, see
http://www.nathab.com/asia-adventure-travel/myanmar-thailand-exploring-nature-spirit/

For trip information, descriptive itineraries, date availability and reservations, call 800.543.8917 or visit www.nathab.com. Click HERE to order a copy of the 2015 catalog.

For trip information, descriptive itineraries, date availability and reservations, call 800.543.8917 or visit http://www.nathab.com/. Click HERE to order a copy of the 2015 catalog.

 

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Project Launched to Save Greenland’s Buried Archeological Artifacts Threatened by Climate Change

National Museums of Denmark and Greenland have formed a coalition to save archaeological treasures – bones, metal and wood captured and preserved in ice in Greenland – endangered by melting ice due to global warming.

The coalition is mapping out which areas are most threatened by climate change and an interactive map that pinpoints which areas are especially at risk and so should be given first priority by archaeologists.

Kitchen middens are getting particular focus because they contain valuable evidence of how Greenlanders have lived for thousands of years. If the ice encapsulating the kitchen middens melts, the potential finds will be exposed to air and will eventually rot. The artifacts are also at risk of being swept away by meltwater or covered by new tree and plant growth.

To pinpoint which finds and areas are most affected by climate change, researchers have filled several freezers in the Danish National Museum with samples from kitchen middens found all over Greenland. The researchers’ next job is to measure the oxygen consumption of each piece of wood, bone and metal, which has been collected, at different temperatures, in order to determine which materials are most affected by increasing temperatures. The results will provide the foundation for the interactive map and the mission to rescue as much of Greenland’s buried treasures as possible.

For more information, Visit Greenland, Greenland.com, info@greenland.com.

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Best Places to See the Night Sky: Nova Scotia is First in North America to be Designated ‘Starlight’ Destination

Lunar Eclipse on the winter solstice, Dec. 21, 2010. Nova Scotia is the first North American destination given "Starlight" certification. © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lunar Eclipse on the winter solstice, Dec. 21, 2010. Nova Scotia is the first North American destination given “Starlight” certification. © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Acadian Skies & Mi’kmaq Lands, Nova Scotia, have been awarded Starlight Reserve and Tourist Destination status by the Starlight Foundation, headquartered at the Canaries Astrophysics Institute in Spain.

Nova Scotia is the first destination in North America to receive a Starlight certification and is one of only four places in the world to receive both Reserve and Destination designations. The Starlight Initiative is supported by UNESCO, the “International Astronomical Union and the World Tourism Organization.

According to the Starlight Foundation, “a Starlight Reserve is a protected natural area where a commitment to defend the quality of the night sky and the access to starlight is established. Its function is to preserve the quality of the night sky and different associated values, whether cultural, scientific, astronomical, scenic or natural.

Starlight Tourist Destinations are defined as locations that can be visited which offer good conditions for the observation of the stars and which are protected from light pollution, making them appropriate for tourist initiatives related to the observation of the sky as an essential part of Nature.

Starlight Tourist Destinations must not only demonstrate the quality of their skies and the means to guarantee their protection, “but they must also have adequate infrastructure and tourism-related activities: accommodation and equipment for astronomical observation provided to clients, the training of personnel responsible for astronomical interpretation and their integration into nature at night, etc.”

“As the first Starlight Tourist Destination and Reserve in North America, Nova Scotia is well positioned to invite new visitors to experience the starry skies of Yarmouth and Acadian Shores,” Michel Samson, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, noted. “We look forward to working with businesses and community partners to develop new tourism experiences that grow our economy, motivate travel and share this part of our Province’s natural beauty.”

Trout Point Lodge Designated First Certified Starlight Hotel

This Starlight Reserve and Destination distinction follows the announcement in September that the five-star Trout Point Lodge, adjacent to Nova Scotia’s vast Tobeatic Wilderness Area, has been designated as the world’s first certified Starlight Hotel. Located in a particularly dark night-time zone of southwest Nova Scotia, Trout Point has developed astro-tourism offerings, including a permanent astronomer on staff.  This year the Lodge added a 16’x16’ stargazing platform and new telescopes, including a solar telescope for daytime use.  The website is www.troutpoint.com.

Trout Point Lodge proprietors Vaughan Perret and Charles Leary spearheaded the overall mission to apply for Starlight Reserve and Tourism Destination status on behalf of La Société Touristique Bon Temps d’Argyle, the region surrounding the lodge, of which Mr. Perret is Chairman. Perret and Leary have worked tirelessly to gain support for the project from the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, the Southwest Nova Tourism Task Team, the Nova Scotia Department of Environment, Acadia First Nation, and the Municipalities of Arygle, Clare and Yarmouth.

The Starlight Foundation is the body in charge of the operational management of the Starlight Initiative, providing human resources and means for its development and promotion.  The Starlight Initiative was launched in 2007 from a proposal of the IAC supported by UNESCO –MAB Programme, UNWTO, IAU and other  international conventions such as UNEP-CMS, SCBO and Ramsar Convention, and is designed as an international action in defense of the values associated with the night sky and the general right to observe the stars.

The final aim of the Initiative is to promote the importance of clear skies for humankind, emphasizing and introducing the value of this endangered heritage for science, education, culture, technological development, nature conservation, and tourism.  For more information, visit www.fundacionstarlight.com.

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House Passage of Key Legislation Positions Senate for Approving Most Significant Expansion of National Park System in Decades

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor (NY) is one of the areas that would continue to get funding, if legislation that already passed the House passes the Senate © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor (NY) is one of the areas that would continue to get funding, if legislation that already passed the House passes the Senate © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Washington, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that includes provisions that could mean the most significant National Park System expansion in decades.  If passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law, the legislation will carry with it the establishment of seven new National Park units, the expansion of nine national park sites, and the extension of 15 National Heritage Areas, effectively shaking loose a five-year stalemate on public lands measures in Congress.

National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), numerous local communities, local businesses, and scientists have spent years advocating for many of the new and expanded parks included in this legislation.

“If signed into law, this legislation will protect places taken right out of the pages of our history and science books,” said Clark Bunting, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association.  “From the sites associated with the Manhattan Project to the legacy of Harriet Tubman in New York and Maryland to the North Fork Watershed in Montana and Ice Age fossils in Nevada, these are stories that deserve to be told in the name of strengthening our country’s best idea.  And these are places that deserve to be preserved for all Americans to experience.”

Many of the proposed new and expanded national park sites would further diversify the National Park System, including the Tule Springs site which is less than 30 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip and would offer a significant opportunity for an urban community to visit a fossil-rich national park.  Many will permanently protect places that played key roles in our nation’s history, including the historic Gettysburg train station where President Abraham Lincoln arrived to deliver his seminal Gettysburg Address.  And many of these sites would provide visitors with a richer adventure, including the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve where the watershed and marble caves will be protected.

This public lands package is monumental in terms of expanding our national park system, however NPCA remains mindful that it is not perfect.

“While this legislation includes two dozen bills that will enhance our national heritage and highlight our collective history, from innovation to science and nature, it also includes provisions that could harm our natural resources.  It is those provisions that are of concern to us, both as park advocates and as conservationists.  However, the gains we make for our parks, their communities and their visitors will have lasting effects for our nation,” said Theresa Pierno, Chief Operating Officer, National Parks Conservation Association.

 

National Parks Package of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015

 

New National Park Units

1. Blackstone (RI)

2. Coltsville (CT)

3. Harriet Tubman (NY)

4. Manhattan Project (WA, TN, NM)

5. Valles Caldera (NM)

6. Tule Springs (NV)

7. World War I Memorial in Pershing Park (DC)

 

Park Expansions

1. Apostle Islands (WI)

2. First State (DE)

3. Gettysburg (PA)

4. Harriet Tubman (MD)

5. Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson Great Falls (NJ)

6. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve (OR)

7. San Antonio Mission (TX )

8. Vicksburg (MS)

9. Lower East Side Tenement (NY)

 

Special Resource Studies

1. Lower Mississippi (LA)

2. Buffalo Soldiers

3. Rota, Commonwealth of Lower Mariana Islands

4. Prison Ship Martyrs (Brooklyn, NY)

5. Flushing Remonstrance (NY)

6. West Hunter Street Baptist Church (Atlanta, GA)

7. Mill Springs Battlefield (KY)

8. New Philadelphia (IL)

 

National Heritage Area Reauthorization

The authority to continue funding 15 National Heritage Areas that had a sunset will now be extended

through September 30, 2021.

1. Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (PA)

2. National Coal Heritage Area (WV)

3. Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (PA)

4. Essex National Heritage Area (MA)

5. Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area (IA)

6. Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area (OH)

7. Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area (NY)

8. Motor Cities National Heritage Area Partnership (MI)

9. Lackawanna Heritage Valley & State Heritage Area (PA)

10. Wheeling National Heritage Area (WV)

11. Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area (AZ)

12. Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor (NY)

13. Schuykill River Valley National Heritage Area (PA)

14. Quinebaug & Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor (CT & MA)

15. John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (MA & RI)

 

Mineral Withdrawal around national park

North Fork Watershed Protection Act (MT)

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