Category Archives: Nature Travel

NYS Opens First Nature Trail in US Designed for Autism Spectrum at Letchworth State Park

First Trail in U.S. Designed Specifically for Autism Spectrum Disorder Communities and Families

Project Supported By More Than $3.3 Million in Private Funds

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State. Supported by more than $3.3 million in private fundraising, the new Autism Nature Trail is a one-mile hiking loop that includes eight marked sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment.

“New York State is leading the nation in creating this public trail purposefully designed to bring the benefits of the outdoors to those on the autism disorder spectrum and their families,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “State Parks should be accessible to everyone, and this is a welcoming and inclusive place for an underserved community.”

Activities along the Autism Nature Trail support and encourage sensory perception and integration, while also providing enjoyable activities for visitors of all abilities and ages. The stations engage each visitor’s senses, using nature and natural materials as the tools for skill-building. The trail is set up to allow for safe social distancing and planned interaction.

Sensory stations and other features of Autism Nature Trail include:

  • Sensory Station, where a collection of leaves, moss, fossils, animal fur, acorns and other objects are to be touched, handled, and even smelled;
  • Sunshine Slope, a gentle maze in an opening that includes a viewing platform, three cuddle swings, and an “Alone Zone;”
  • Music Circle, where a variety of nature-inspired musical instruments encourage creativity, either alone or with others;
  • Curiosity Corner, an open space with a gliding seat, ant-shaped boulders, and access to a shortcut back to the beginning of the trail;
  • Reflection Knoll, a quiet point halfway on the trail under a canopy of trees, with etchings of woodland creatures hidden in the boulders;
  • Meadow Run and Climb, a place with paths to run, jump and balance along serpentine berms and an obstacle course;
  • Design Zone, where visitors can manipulate materials from along the trail into patterns and structures;
  • Playful Path, a place of twisting paths with different surfaces including coarse gravel, log rounds, and sand;
  • The Nook, an area of carefully spaced seating set under a natural canopy;
  • The Celebration Station, as the final stop on the trail, this area has a place for visitors to express themselves through writing and drawing about their experiences on the trail.

Located near the park’s Humphrey Nature Center with parking, restrooms and Wi-Fi, the ADA-compliant trail was designed with input from Dr. Temple Grandin, a cattle industry expert who was diagnosed with autism in 1950 at the age of two and is now one of the world’s most well-known advocates for the autistic community.

Support and programming for the trail comes from the nearby Perry Central School District in Wyoming County and Rochester’s Camp Puzzle Peace, an Adirondack summer camp for families living with developmental disabilities. Fundraising for the trail is being managed on behalf of State Parks by the Natural Heritage Trust. The trust is a not-for-profit charitable corporation that receives and administers gifts, grants, and contributions to support public programs for parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation and historic preservation purposes.

Last month, Autism Nature Trail supporters marked the sudden loss of one of the project’s most devoted early advocates, ANT co-founder Susan Herrnstein. Her family has requested that any donations in her memory be made to the Autism Nature Trail through the Natural Heritage Trust.

Fundraising will continue to support visitor programming for the Autism Nature Trail. So far, more than 650 separate donations have been made to the project, reflecting more than 430 individual donors, 50 corporate donors, 25 community groups, and 15 foundations.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The public-private partnership that envisioned and accomplished this innovative project shows what the power of collaboration and commitment can achieve. State Parks values our dedicated staff and partners who have put in countless hours and is grateful for the generous financial support provided by so many donors.”

“Our hope is that the Autism Nature Trail will become an exemplar, widely replicated, taking from what we learned in the seven-year process of creating a first-of-its-kind experience in nature,” Loren Penman, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said. “While others retrofit public places to make them accessible, we have created an accessible place and made it public–and that has made all the difference.”

Gail Servanti, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said, “This is our dream come true and I eagerly await the positive impact a walk on the Autism Nature Trail will have on individuals and families of all abilities.”

“Camp Puzzle Peace was founded out of a desire to share a love of nature and to allow all families to experience the joy of the outdoors in a meaningful way,” Camp Puzzle Peace Executive Director Jen Hackett said. “We are very proud to partner with New York State to expand our purpose by providing programming on the Autism Nature Trail for all families, regardless of ability or diagnosis.”

Perry School District Superintendent Daryl McLaughlin said, “The eyes of the world are on this project.  Everything we are doing has never been done before.  This project represents what is possible when individuals, groups, and municipalities engage with one another to advance a cause.  The Autism Nature Trail will be a powerful instructional space where cutting-edge learning and teaching will occur for all individuals.  This project also will be a paradigm shift for economic development.”

About 1 in 54 children in the U.S. have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and often has a tremendous impact on parents, siblings, and members of the extended family.

Statistics show that young people with autism spend disproportionate amounts of time indoors, often finding comfort in digital activities which results in social isolation. This disconnectedness not only affects individuals with ASD but also can affect caregivers and entire families, who can sometimes feel uncomfortable in outside settings.

For more information on the Autism Nature Trail, visit: https://autismnaturetrail.com/.

Visited by nearly one million people annually, Letchworth State Park covers more than 14,000 acres and is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. In 2015, readers of USA Today voted it the best state park in the United States. Surrounded by lush forests, the Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs as high as 600 feet in some places. The park features 66 miles of hiking trails, as well as trails for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Letchworth offers nature, history and performing arts programs, as well as guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, a pool for swimming and hot air ballooning.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which were visited by a record 78 million people in 2020. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

See: DRIVEABLE ADVENTURES: HIKING/CAMPING IN THE ‘GRAND CANYON OF THE EAST’ – NY’S LETCHWORTH STATE PARK

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View the Aurora Borealis from a Pair of Glass-Topped ‘Igloo Cabins’ in Finnish Lapland

Wow House “igloo” is lodging for a new Stars of Scandinavia tour from Off the Map which features exceptional viewing of the Aurora Borealis (photo by Tundrea)

The new Stars of Scandinavia tour from Off the Map Travel takes visitors to two locations in Finland known for exceptional Aurora viewing. The six-day tour features accommodations in new luxurious igloo-style, glass-roofed cabins with a striking presence against the Finnish tundra. Guests can lie on the luxe queen-sized beds in comfort and warmth while experiencing the magic of the Northern Lights overhead. Rooms have been specially outfitted with low-level red lighting to enable guests’ eyes to adjust to the night sky.

The program begins in Tromso, Norway and travels first to Kilpisjärvi, Finland where the new two-story Wow House “igloo” cabins face North for optimal viewing of the Northern Lights. Just 30 miles from the Arctic Ocean, Kilpisjärvi has virtually no light pollution with a population of a little over 100 residents.

The second stop travels south to Rovaniemi, Finland, the capital of Lapland, located right on the Arctic Circle. Here the Lappish Kammi Suites have been ecologically designed to provide both clear viewing of the Aurora and sustainable accommodations. The igloo design extends to full glass domes over the bedroom on the mezzanine level for clear viewing of the night sky.

Daytime activities offer a range of Lapland adventure with dogsledding, a fat bike tour over the frozen tundra, and snowmobiling to the border point of Norway-Finland-Sweden to meet reindeer and indigenous people in an exploration of Sami culture.

The six-day/five-night “Stars of Scandinavia” tour is priced starting at £179 5 ($2454 USD per person at the time of writing), based on double occupancy, including some meals, all transfers, four-star accommodations in Tromso, four nights in luxury glass-roofed “igloos,” and all activities. Airfare is additional. The tour is available from December 2021 through March 2021.

The new concept was developed by travel experts at Off the Map Travel who recognized a desire for visitors to experience an exciting, socially distanced holiday. “With two top locations for viewing the Northern Lights, plus a range of outdoor activities, we can offer a trip that’s both fulfilling and safe,” notes Jonny Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel. “The snowy magic of Lapland makes for a special winter experience,” he added.

The team at Off the Map Travel works with experiences and destinations that allow people to explore hidden wonders of our planet. Specializing in Soft Adventure, Off the Map Travel creates tailor-made holiday itineraries offering authentic experiences not offered by many larger travel companies.

For more information on Off the Map Travel itineraries visit www.offthemap.travel; call +44 (0) 800 566 8901; email info@offthemap.travel  or join in the conversation on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube or Pinterest.

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Insight Vacations Offers Discount on Summer Tours to Iceland, USA, National Parks

On Insight Vacations’ Iceland tour, see luminous blue icebergs and the setting for the James Bond film ‘Die Another Day’ at Lake Jokulsarlon. Insight is offering 20 percent off select Iceland and USA tours for a limited period. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York, N.Y.– April 27, 2021:  Insight Vacations, a leader in premium guided journeys, is offering U.S. travelers the chance to book last-minute domestic and international getaways that are open for travel with a special 10-day sale on select tours.

From April 27 to May 6, guests can save up to 20 percent on trips this summer to Iceland and the USA departing between May and August.

On all Insight journeys, guests will travel in relaxed style, stay at premium, hand-picked hotels in the best locations, taste delicious, authentic cuisine and explore a variety of cultures with local experiences unavailable to most travelers.

“With travel starting to reopen domestically and internationally, we are excited to get our guests back on the road again,” said Guy Young president of Insight Vacations.  “Being part of a family-owned and run business for the past 100 years, the well-being of our guests and team has always been our top priority, and when clients are ready to travel again, we will have implemented various new protocols so they can travel and relax in style.”

Now’s the time to live your stylish life on a remarkable journey, as we venture to some of the most iconic and remarkable destinations. Several Insight journeys include new MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences with our not-for-profit partner,TreadRight, that are designed to uplift local communities and ensure Insight’s travels are used as a force for good while supporting the United Nations’ Global Goas

Insight Vacations has taken enhanced measures to ensure the wellbeing of its guests.  These include:  Small Group Departures with a maximum of 24 guests and Small Private Groups allowing guests to travel privately on any existing journey with as little as 12 guests; a new Well-being Director who will provide assistance during guests’ travels; new well-being protocols and hygiene standards developed with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the World Health Organization (WHO); and the Peace of Mind Promise, offering guests the assurance they can book with confidence. 

Here are several itineraries to choose from:

Natural Wonders of Iceland – 9 Days

You’ll experience a world of natural phenomena, with gushing waterfalls, volcanoes and stunning landscapes at every turn. In Hellisheidi, guests will visit Iceland’s newest geothermal heat and electric power station, Hellisheidavirkjun, the second largest of its kind in the world. A new MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience, they’ll learn why Hellisheidavirkjun is a world leader in the utilization of geothermal energy. Guests can explore Reykjavik with Insight Choice, choosing between visiting the mineral-rich waters of the Blue lagoon, or discovering Reykjavik’s top sights on a walking tour with a Local Expert. At Lake Jokulsarlon, clients will see its luminous blue icebergs and the setting for the James Bond film ‘Die Another Day’, and in Skaftafell, they’ll visit the amazing alpine setting of the National Park and experience the might of Vatnajökull – Europe’s largest glacier. Clients will explore many other natural wonders such as Gullfoss’s two-tiered waterfall, the hot springs at GeysirSnæfellsjökull National Park’s most famous volcano, and the scenic mountain passes of Almannaskard and the Mödrudal Desert.

Jewels of Alaska –7 Days

This remarkable escape to Alaska explores sweeping landscapes, calving glaciers and spectacular national parks. Guests will embark on the world-famous Alaskan Railroad train for an unforgettable journey over swift-rushing streams and through majestic mountains. They’ll explore the iconic Denali National Park, which is abundant in wildlife and breath-taking views. Guests will delight in a special Insight Experience of meeting the champion dog team of four-time Iditarod winner, Martin Buser, learning about the challenges of competing in the 1,049-mile dogsled race and enjoying lunch at his home. In Talkeetna, they’ll enjoy an included Jet Boat Tour up the Chulitna River and visit a Trappers Cabin. While in Anchorage, guests will join Local Experts in an exclusive presentation on making Eskimo ice cream at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. To end the journey on a scenic note, guests will board the 26 Glacier Cruise in Whittier for a 100-mile boat tour of Prince William Sound and into the College Fjord, afterwards enjoying a Deliciously Authentic Dining experience, joining the Captain in the wheelhouse for an included lunch.

Enchanting Canyonlands -7 Days

This all-American journey introduces you to America’s West in complete style. For a Unique Insight Experience,  guests will join Local Expert, Canyon Tim, for an informative talk about the wonders of the Grand Canyon, teaching about the origins of the five-million-year-old canyon, its rock formation and impact now. They’ll journey on through the barren beauty of the desert to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, where they’ll board all-terrain vehicles with open sides to explore the valley with a Navajo guide. They’ll enjoy Deliciously Authentic Dining while mingling over a delightful Welcome Dinner at Hotel Valley Ho’s renowned Zuzu Restaurant in Scottsdale, named for the beloved matriarch of the family that owns the property.

Wonders of the American West – 10 Days

This comprehensive exploration of the American West visits breathtaking natural wonders and captivating landscapes made famous by classic Western movies. Starting with the glamor of Las Vegas, guests will feel like royalty at the renowned Cesar’s Palace enjoying the iconic Las Vegas strip nightlife. For a Unique Insight Experience, guests will explore Monument Valley with a Navajo guide, boarding an all-terrain vehicle for a private tour through the mythical formation of the Navajo Tribal Park. Along the way they’ll discover the majestic Grand Canyon, the ancient pueblo cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, the sandstone cliffs of Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park’s most scenic canyons in the United States on a private Zion Canyon Shuttle. hand-picked hotel in the heart of the destination, guests will stay at the historic Bryce Canyon National Park Lodge, offering unrivaled access to breathtaking views, world-class hiking trails, and just steps from the Bryce Amphitheater of ancient rock formations.

For reservations call Insight Vacations at 1-800-582-8380 or visit www.insightvacations.com

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Eco-Lodge in Ecuador’s Amazon Offering 25% Discount

Sacha Lodge, a wildlife lodge on a 5,000-acre ecological reserve in the heart of Ecuador’s Amazon Basin, is offering 25% off all 2021 tours booked by June 30, 2021. A haven for nature lovers, birdwatchers, scientists and adventure seekers, Sacha Lodge features luxurious accommodations, first-class meals, and expert native guides.

(Quito, Ecuador) — Sacha Lodge, a wildlife lodge on a 5,000-acre ecological reserve in the heart of Ecuador’s Amazon Basin, is offering 25% off all 2021 tours booked by June 30, 2021. A haven for nature lovers, birdwatchers, scientists and adventure seekers, Sacha Lodge features luxurious accommodations, first-class meals, and expert native guides. A 4-day/3-night tour starts at $1,390 per person double before the discount is applied. Airfare is not included.

One of Sacha Lodge’s many highlights is a wildlife observation tower suspended 135-feet in the air on the highest branches of a giant kapok tree. Another main attraction, and the only one like it in all of South America, is a 940-foot-long canopy walkway suspended 94 feet above the ground. Both offer an astounding opportunity to spot dozens of animals and epiphytes seldom seen from the ground. New for 2021, the exploration crane is a spectacular feat of engineering offering a unique perspective of the canopy treetops. A metal basket is suspended on a 135-foot boom which moves up, down, forwards, and backwards as well as rotating 360 degrees, which allows guests to get close to the monkeys, sloths, toucans, and macaws of the lush Amazon jungle. 

The variety of fauna around Sacha Lodge is astounding, with up to 60 species of mammals including monkeys, marmosets, anteaters, and sloths. A variety of lizards and snakes can also be found along the trails, including boas, vine snakes and even the giant anaconda. Birding at Sacha Lodge is something to behold too, with almost 600 species (that’s a staggering 7% of the species found in the entire world). On a normal day, it is common to see parrots, toucans, hummingbirds, tanagers, hawks and oropendolas. 
 
Ideal for families, the new Lake Pool is the only one of its kind in the Amazon region. Protected by a mesh cage, the plunge pool allows guests to cool off and relax in the black shallows of Lake Pilchicocha, without the fear of encountering the unknown. It is not uncommon to spot caiman and giant otters swimming on the other side of the net.  Piranha fishing is another activity not to be missed.
 
Each of the 26 cabins, with high thatched roofs and private shaded terraces, is constructed with traditional materials and well concealed in the lush surroundings. From the private rooms, visitors may overlook the jungle from hammocks and often report seeing wild fauna such as anacondas or capybara (the largest rodents in the world) while resting between activities. Electricity is provided 24 hours a day and the private bathrooms provide hot showers. All cabins are screened against insects and have air conditioning. 
 
Guests may use free time to hang out at the main bar and lounge, which offers a scenic view of Pilchicocha Lake and excellent opportunities to bird watch. Meals are prepared to please the international traveler, and vegetarians are more than welcome.    

​Given the effects of COVID-19, Sacha Lodge will have a capacity reduced to 50%. That is a maximum capacity of 26 people during social distancing, on the recommendation of the Ecuadorian National Service for Risk and Emergency Management (COE). During social distancing protocols, private guides as well as private paddling canoes will be provided for all groups at no additional charge. Maximum of six people in each group. QR codes will be used to provide information on services and activities to reduce the use and delivery of printed material. Prior to opening, all employees will be tested for COVID-19 to increase the safety of staff and guests. All staff will receive protective equipment and ongoing safety and wellness training.

For more information, visit https://www.sachalodge.com/.   

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REI Focuses on Domestic Outdoor Experiences With Aim to Help 3 Million Get Outdoors Annually; Discontinues International Adventure Trips

Camping in Letchworth State Park, New York. REI Co-op is revising plans for the future of its experiences business with a goal of getting 3 million people outdoors each year through its experiences programs, which will focus exclusively on U.S. domestic adventures. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

SEATTLE – REI Co-op is revising plans for the future of its experiences business with a goal of getting 3 million people outdoors each year through its experiences programs, which will focus exclusively on U.S. domestic adventures.

The co-op is investing in an expanded network of experiences close to iconic U.S. outdoor destinations, building on its expertise of small group active travel and local programming currently offered across the nation. REI expects to launch at least 12 new experience centers in the next two years where customers can tap into REI’s guided tours, gear rental and instruction. As part of the announcement, the co-op will discontinue its international adventure travel trips effective May 2021 in order to invest in its domestic travel growth strategy and expand offerings in hiking and camping, backpacking, cycling, women’s only, under-35, family and weekend adventures.

With more than 100 itineraries across the United States, REI adventure travel offers one of the broadest activity assortments of any U.S.-based tour operator. Sales of REI domestic adventure trips have gotten off to a fast start in 2021. As of March, domestic trips were up by 28 percent compared to 2019, making it one the strongest years in adventure travel sales.

“REI is a leader at getting people outside. We’re the only national organization with a wide range of experiences that provide life-changing outdoor moments, whatever someone’s skill level may be,” said Curtis Kopf, who was recently named REI’s chief experience officer. “The co-op’s bold investment in our U.S. experiences will help us welcome more people into the outdoors by making nature more accessible and attainable for everyone.”

A leader with REI since 2018, Kopf’s new role is an evolution of his previous oversight over REI’s experiences and digital divisions. As chief experience officer, he will oversee REI’s acceleration of efforts to design and build differentiated customer experiences that are interconnected across the company in physical locations, digital platforms and hosted experiences.

In recent years, REI annually has helped over 310,000 individuals across the country progress their outdoor interests and explore iconic outdoor destinations like national parks. Beyond multiday adventures, REI also offers fun and educational local experiences in major markets across the country through beginner-to advanced-level classes and guided day tours for hiking, cycling, paddling, climbing and more. REI is a top provider of how to ride a bike classes and wilderness training through its long partnership with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). The co-op also operates a destination adventure center based in Scottsdale, Arizona with gear rentals, day tours and education for residents and tourists visiting the region.

As REI focuses exclusively on U.S. domestic adventure travel and experiences, the co-op will provide full refunds to any guest who was booked on an international adventure. The co-op’s final international trip will depart in early May. All camping and hiking gear provided by REI to its international vendor network will remain in country for the continued use by individual operators.

REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. One of the nation’s largest consumer co-ops, REI is a growing community of more than 19 million members. REI has 168 locations in 39 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.comREI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.

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USTOA Member Tour Companies Offer Wildlife Encounters Around the World

Sri Lanka is one of the destinations where intrepid travelers and animal lovers can join small group trips that contribute to conservation and protection of species © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK –Observing animals in their habitats around the world can be a life changing experience for not just animal lovers but intrepid travelers of any age. Tour operator members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) are committed to offering wildlife-focused itineraries and small group trips that contribute to the conservation and protection of species, while offering access for travelers to learn from nature. 

“Explorers who are searching for enriching nature-based experiences need to look no further than our tour operator members, who offer sustainable wildlife experiences and open-air excursions from Thailand and Norway to Tanzania and Russia, and many more destinations around the globe,”said Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA. 

Wildlife itineraries offered by USTOA tour operators include:

  • Birdwatching in Costa Rica – The tailor-made 13-day itinerary from Audley Travel showcases Costa Rica’s pristine tropical forest trails and the tranquil cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota. Home to 448 species of birds, the trip offers a naturalist guide and a stay at the renowned birding lodge, Rancho Naturalista. Rates start at $5,410 per person. Find information on departures at www.audleytravel.com.
  • The Great Migration + Gorillas in the Wild – On a Gorilla Trek with Alexander + Roberts, guests will observe gorilla families living in the forested mountains of Rwanda. A hot air balloon adventure is available to watch zebra, gazelle, and more from above at the 5,700 square mile Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The twin lakes of Buerra and Ruhondo offer a variety of birdlife. Departure is available on September 20, 2021 starting at $12,499 per person. www.alexanderroberts.com
  • Exploring Russia’s Far East & Wrangel Island – A 13-day exploration with Lindblad Expeditions of the remote Siberian coastline reveals bird cliffs teeming with puffins and landscapes that are home to walrus and polar bears. Even grey whales can be spotted in their feeding grounds while cruising through the Chukchi and Bering Seas. Departures are available on August 3 and August 15, 2021, and August 7, 2022 starting at $17,830 per person. www.expeditions.com
  • Sri Lanka Expedition: Wilderness & Wildlife – AAA Club Adventures offers 12-days of nature in Sri Lanka. Guests will visit Project Orange Elephant, dedicated to sustainable farming practices and wildlife conservation, and stay at an eco-lodge in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve to see monkeys, big cats, and more in their tropical habitat. Departure is available on September 3, 2021 starting at $1,890. www.clubadventures.com
  • Intro to Spitsbergen: Fjords, Glaciers and Wildlife of Svalbard – Quark Expeditions’ 10-day journey through Spitsbergen, also known as the wildlife capital of the Arctic, showcases walruses, reindeer, polar bears, and more in their natural habitat. Guests will learn the history and geology of this remote land while traveling by ship. Departure is available June 12, 2021 starting at $7,495 per person. www.quarkexpeditions.com

Find all the wildlife itineraries offered by USTOA tour operators at www.ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/wildlife

For more information on USTOA, visit www.ustoa.com, call 212-599-6599, or email information@ustoa.com.

Representing nearly $19 billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 9.8 million travelers annually unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe. Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business.  As a voice for the tour operator industry for more than 40 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents.

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Lindblad Expeditions Acquires Duvine Cycling, Off the Beaten Path Adventure Travel Companies

Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, a global provider of expedition cruises and adventure travel experiences has acquired majority stakes in DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co., a leading luxury cycling and adventure travel company, and Off the Beaten Path LLC, a leading active travel operator with a specialization in U.S. national parks. 

NEW YORK– Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, Inc, a global provider of expedition cruises and adventure travel experiences today announced that it has acquired majority stakes in DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co., a leading luxury cycling and adventure travel company, and Off the Beaten Path LLC, a leading active travel operator with a specialization in U.S. National Parks.  These acquisitions further broaden and deepen Lindblad’s platform of high-quality experiential product offerings in robust adventure travel sectors, including the rapidly growing cycling tourism and domestic expedition market.

Similar to the acquisition of Natural Habitat, Inc., Lindblad will leverage its experience and resources to accelerate the growth of these unique and profitable businesses and capitalize on the growing demand for authentic and immersive adventure travel. These best-in-class companies are also united by a focus on nature and sustainability, and will benefit from Lindblad’s and Natural Habitat’s scale, resources, marketing experience and conservation leadership. 

DuVine is an award-winning international luxury cycling and adventure company based in Somerville, Massachusetts focused on providing immersive cultural experiences across the globe through thoughtfully designed itineraries led by expert local guides.  DuVine’s trips include top-quality gear and support and are tailored to riders of all abilities with emphasis on exceptional food and wine experiences, along with boutique accommodations.  DuVine also currently runs a variety of extraordinary trips that combine sail and biking experiences, which will be further expanded as part of Lindblad.  Founded in 1996 by Andy Levine, DuVine’s diverse tour offerings include small group and private custom trips to destinations across Europe, the United States, Latin America, Asia and Africa.  Mr. Levine will retain an ownership interest in DuVine and will continue as President and Chief Executive Officer of the new Lindblad subsidiary.

Off the Beaten Path, based in Bozeman, Montana, offers active small-group and private custom journeys around the world, with a long-standing focus on U.S. National Parks and connecting the heart of the traveler with the soul of the place through localized, authentic experiences.  Founded in 1986, Off the Beaten Path’s small group product offerings include unique expeditions throughout the U.S, as well as trips across Europe, Africa, Australia, Central and South America and the South Pacific.  Cory Lawrence, Off the Beaten Path’s President and Chief Executive Officer, will retain an ownership interest in Off the Beaten Path and continue in this role for the new Lindblad subsidiary.

“Bringing DuVine and Off the Beaten Path into our portfolio of brands will allow us to better serve a broader based clientele that has a diverse set of travel interests”, stated Sven Lindblad, President and CEO of Lindblad Expeditions.  “The high level of quality and integrity of both these companies makes them perfect partners in our strategy of expanding our platform of experiential offerings.  Our proven ability to leverage our platform and effectively cross market creates the opportunity to accelerate growth across our entire portfolio, and we will continue to look for additional opportunities to broaden and deepen our adventure travel offerings, both organically and through acquisitions, to aggregate larger audiences and generate greater lifetime value from our loyal guests.” 

Ben Bressler, Founder and President of Natural Habitat is enthusiastic about the joining of forces. “DuVine offers invigorating experiences in nature for our more active guests, and Off the Beaten Path’s exceptional depth in creating custom U.S. national park adventures will appeal to Nat Hab travelers,” Bressler stated.  “These two companies provide Lindblad and Nat Hab guests a depth of choice for premium life-enhancing travel experiences within a family of complementary brands – all driven by protecting our planet and inspiring travelers.” 

Andy Levine, DuVine’s Founder and President, stated  “I have long admired Lindblad for their exceptional expeditions and commitment to responsible travel, a core value that has also guided DuVine’s philosophy. Our companies share not only a desire to sustain the world’s most compelling cultures and communities, but also the belief that authentic, deeply rooted experiences make travel more fulfilling. DuVine’s journeys offer a new perspective grounded in active travel, local flavor, and an appreciation of nature from the seat of a bicycle. I can’t wait to introduce the transformative power of bike travel to a greater audience of adventure seekers.”

Cory Lawrence, Off the Beaten Path’s President, stated “We couldn’t be more excited to join Lindblad Expeditions and Natural Habitat Adventures to further our mission to change peoples’ lives through exceptional travel experiences. With our unique style of travel, strong domestic presence, and small group and bespoke travel design offerings, we are well-positioned to have immediate impact on the newly expanded family of companies. Expanding awareness of Off the Beaten Path and its unique offerings by leveraging the reach and expertise of both Lindblad and Natural Habitat is a major opportunity for our company in its 35th year of operation. We are thrilled!”

Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, Inc. is an expedition travel company that focuses on ship-based voyages through its Lindblad Expeditions brand and on land-based travel through its subsidiaries, Natural Habitat Adventures, Off the Beaten Path and DuVine Cycling and Adventure.

Lindblad Expeditions works in partnership with National Geographic to inspire people to explore and care about the planet. The organizations work in tandem to produce innovative marine expedition programs and to promote conservation and sustainable tourism around the world. The partnership’s educationally oriented voyages allow guests to interact with and learn from leading scientists, naturalists and researchers while discovering stunning natural environments, above and below the sea, through state-of-the-art exploration tools.

Natural Habitat Adventures partners with the World Wildlife Fund to offer and promote conservation and sustainable travel that directly protects nature. Natural Habitat’s adventures include polar bear tours in Churchill, Canada, Alaskan grizzly bear adventures and African safaris.

DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. designs and leads luxury bike tours in the world’s most amazing destinations, from Italy’s sun-bleached villages and the medieval towns of Provence to Portugal’s Douro Valley and the vineyards of Napa, California. Guests bike, eat, drink, and sleep their way through these regions and many more while sampling the finest cuisine, hotels, and wine. 

Off the Beaten Path is an outdoor, active travel company offering guided small group adventures and private custom journeys that connect travelers with the wild nature and authentic culture of their destinations.  Off the Beaten Path’s trips extend across the globe, with a focus on exceptional national park experiences in the Rocky Mountains, Desert Southwest, and Alaska.

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Holiday River Expeditions Invites Adventurers Back to the River In Their Own Private Travel Pod

To take any lingering fears away from being out and about in Nature with family and friends together, Holiday River Expeditions has retooled its offerings by encouraging “pod” travel, or teaming up with a small group of friends and family who share pandemic protocol wave lengths.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – “Take me to the river” takes on whole new meaning this season as the lock-down weary seek Houdini-like strategies to free themselves from the shackles of the pandemic’s captivity.
 
Holiday River Expeditions for over 50 years has been freeing people’s souls on river rafting adventures and they hope that in 2021 the same opportunities abound.
 
To take any lingering fears away from being out and about in Nature with family and friends together, this trail-blazing company has retooled its offerings. Primarily, they have made it easier to travel in confidence by encouraging “pod” travel, or teaming up with a small group of friends and family who share pandemic protocol wave lengths.
 
When Holiday River Expeditions began running its 2020 trips it was quickly evident that adjustments needed to be made for guests to feel more secure joining a trip. One of those adjustments was allowing for and encouraging smaller, private trips. On most trips the company has lowered its required minimums in order to schedule an exclusive group trip. The smaller group minimums have allowed guests to travel with just their family members, or close friends with whom they’ve already created a pod or travel bubble.
 
The new 12-person minimum for private rafting charters in 2021 apply to:

Holiday River Expeditions has also changed minimum requirements for its mountain biking itineraries to just 8 people for a small group, private charter backcountry trip. This applies to: 

Considered by enthusiasts to be Utah’s ultimate multi-day mountain bike trip, The Maze, deep inside Canyonlands National Park, is naturally a small group trip with a maximum capacity of just 7 guests.  Private charters can be arranged on two available dates; May 18-21 and September 7-10, 2021.
 
For more details, please see https://www.bikeraft.com/what-your-2021-trip-will-look-like-2/ and https://www.bikeraft.com/custom-charter-trips/.
 
Other Covid related adjustments and protocols the company has adopted and will carry into 2021 include: 

  • a 4 to 1 guest to guide ratio (to increase social distancing while in a raft),
  • decreased capacity in vehicle transportation with masks required,
  • a mandatory “Statement of Good Health” a week before departure,
  • temperatures taken at meeting point,
  • meal service change from buffet to served, with guides wearing masks and gloves during preparation and service,
  • always-available sanitizer,
  • additional PSA’s to create a “culture of care” that addresses comfort zones. 

For more information, availability, reservations or a copy of the 2021 catalog call 800-624-6323, Email: Holiday@BikeRaft.com or log onto: http://www.bikeraft.com/.
 
Holiday River Expeditions began in 1966, when Dee Holladay and his wife Sue took the plunge to become river outfitters. Due to its respect for the lands, rivers, guests and employees, the family-owned-and-operated company has grown exponentially. Each of its guides is professionally trained in first aid and river safety, and with 50+ years of experience, the company provides guests the opportunity to explore the nation’s wild lands safely and securely. Holiday River Expeditions has a commitment to protect the environment through education and conservation, so uses oar-powered and paddle rafts exclusively.

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Grasshopper Adventures Introduces New Multi-Sport Active Tours in North America for 2021

Grasshopper Adventures is bringing its biking and multi-sport tour experience across Asia to North America. One of the new program bikes in the Florida Keys, famous for sunsets © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

DENVER – Grasshopper Adventures is bringing its more than 15 years of adventure tour experience across Asia to the U.S. and Canada with three new multi-sport programs: Alaska & the Yukon, Coastal Maine, and the Everglades to Key West.

Long synonymous with eco-friendly tours that engage local communities, Grasshopper Adventures is bringing that same ethos to North America. Exploring the outdoors by bike, kayak, canoe and foot, the tours’ active elements are both non-intimidating and achievable for a wide range of fitness levels. The small group size offers guests a sustainable alternative to traditional bus or cruise touring and the opportunity to spend time with experts in local communities.

“To really experience the outdoors in North America we had to go beyond cycling,” says Grasshopper Brand Ambassador, Steve Grace. “We’ve included kayaking and canoeing, short hikes and even a wetlands walk, with tours led by expert naturalists and guides.

Asked to list a few highlights, Grace says that there are many to list, but his top five are:

  1. Cycling the Gold Rush route and canoeing the Yukon – “Breathtaking.”
  2. Kayaking to Mendenhall Glacier – “Ranks high on my “wow” scale.”
  3. The Everglades by airboat – “Thrilling ride through a remarkable ecosystem.”
  4. Biking overseas to Key West – “Tops many cycling bucket lists for good reason.”
  5. Coastal Maine, “Historic, gentle cycling and beautiful. You’ll want to come back”

Grasshopper Adventures’ North American Collection is on sale now, with scheduled dates from February 2021 through the fall, including a limited time $100 booking offer, allowing you to secure your vacation for less. 

The new North American tours also feature visits to artisan’s studios, indigenous villages and include interaction with local experts who are change makers in their respective fields. “We’re always enhancing the travel experiences, so I’m constantly tinkering with tour programs,” says Grace. “ Reflecting contemporary life, meeting folks engaged in community issues, that’s true authenticity and that sets us apart.”

While Grasshopper has been planning a move to North America for several years, the disruption in international travel was the motivation needed to kickstart these long dreamed of programs to new frontiers. Look for more, including the new signature series in Australia, home of company Owner & Chief, Adam Platt-Hepworth.

Grasshopper Adventures has taken thousands of people on multi active and biking tours through Asia for more than 15 years and in 2020 introduced a range of inspired adventures beyond Asia. All trips focus on the natural environment, meaningful stories and interaction with local communities. The company’s carefully crafted itineraries enable an active journey of discovery at a superior level of value. Accommodations are comfortable and unique, delicious food is a key element and guides are experts in their fields.

Grasshopper Adventures runs tours in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Taiwan, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, China and Uzbekistan. Tours range from 5 to 14 days.

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Western River Expeditions Offers Tips on Adventure Travel to Costa Rica

In the heart of the Costa Rica jungle sits the Pacuare Lodge, a remote rainforest paradise. Western River Expeditions guests raft in with a small group and, once at the lodge, find themselves surrounded mostly by dense jungle and the sounds of the nearby river.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – When it comes to a vacation in Costa Rica, the experts advise that “you gotta know the territory.” But how can you if you’ve never been there?
 
Follow the tips of Western River Expeditions, soon to enter its 59th season of award-winning adventure travel. Here are a few of many questions this company suggests you ponder before booking a Western River Expeditions’ 9-Day Costa Rica Vacation Package

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?  This is the question that everyone asks and the answer is, “It depends!” Mid-December to April can often be drier, but due to this, and the fact that it’s a popular time to get away to warm destinations, the crowds can be greater. During May through the first half of December, daily rainfall is more common. It’s a period the locals refer to as “the green season.” During this period, you might experience different wildlife and fewer crowds. Generally, the rain doesn’t last all day and guests find periods of lovely sunshine each day as well.
 
But here’s a little secret! In some years, visitors reap the rewards of Costa Rica’s “Little Summer” (Veranillo de San Juan or Little Summer of Saint John) in July. Because of a little-known weather phenomenon that in-the-know wildlife lovers are keen to, July is one of the best times to visit Costa Rica. The secret is a drier break after the rains of May and June that yield flowering trees and fruits, which attract a lot of wildlife.
 
Do you appreciate crowds or are you looking for something more secluded?  The time of travel will affect the crowd levels in popular destinations such as Arenal and Manuel Antonio, but Western River Expeditions has built in to its Costa Rica itinerary a few days of blissful seclusion. In the heart of the jungle sits the Pacuare Lodge, a remote rainforest paradise. Guests raft in with a small group and, once at the lodge, participants find themselves surrounded mostly by dense jungle and the sounds of the nearby river. A hike along centuries-old trails to the top of the Talamanca Mountains brings a visit with the Cabécar Indians, the largest indigenous group in Costa Rica. This is only one of the eight lodge-based activities to choose from. Extending a stay at the lodge (optional) gives visitors even more time to participate in the various experiences offered.
 
When is the best time to go rafting in Costa Rica?  The Pacuare River (rated among the top 10 rivers in the world by National Geographic) offers 38 Class II-IV rapids over 16 river miles with the caveat that the excitement varies by how high and fast the river is flowing. During the dry season of January to April whitewater rafting in Costa Rica is more sanguine than during the misting and green months of May through December. That said, there can always be unpredictable rainfall any time of year that raises the water levels – and the excitement levels.
 
Is birding a passion?  From a bird watching tour at the Pacaure Lodge, to the Mistico Hanging Bridges tour which boasts over 200 species of birds, to the Manuel Antonio National Park which is home to more than 180 different species visitors will find plenty of rare picture taking opportunities.
 
Interested in surfing?  Experienced surfers appreciate the bigger waves of September and October on the Pacific Coast. Adrenaline-seeking travelers wanting to take optional surfing lessons while in Manuel Antonio (highly recommended), might appreciate the somewhat tamer surf during the remainder of the year.
 
Do you love authentic wildlife viewing?  You’ll likely find wildlife in Costa Rica no matter when you choose to visit. One of the top destinations on the Western River 9-Day Costa Rica itinerary is the Manuel Antonio National Park. Home to a variety of mammal species, it is a thrill to be personally greeted by multiple curious Mono Titi monkeys on a day tour.

 
“Our guests experience Costa Rica by the activities they choose, such as river rafting, zip lining over the rainforest canopy and a 3km walk over 15 bridges suspended from the ground to the treetops. But guests are also taken to the base of the Arenal Volcano where they can soak in therapeutic cascading hot springs, through the sights and sounds of primitive rainforests and jungles as well as to Manuel Antonio National Park (named one of the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks by Forbes). This park is home to 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. Here on the Pacific Ocean are the sandy beaches and gentle surf that fulfill the requirements of a great vacation,” said company CMO Brandon Lake. 
 
The basic rate is from $3,705 per person, double inclusive of transfers, hotels, activities, 11 meals and most activities. Western River Expeditions’ core Costa Rica program can be arranged for just two people or for up to 25 and can be customized by lengthening or shortening the trip and by adding or deleting activities. Year-round departures on a space-available basis can be tailored to travelers’ schedules.
 
The tour utilizes four distinguished properties selected for panache, location and comfort. In the gateway city of San Jose is Hotel Grano de Oro. At Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort guests enjoy a swim-up bar, local and international gourmet cuisine and they are positioned to explore the geology of Arenal Volcano and nearby hot springs. While on the Pacuare River guests enjoy Pacuare Lodge (National Geographic Traveler World’s Best Ecolodge). Tulemar Bungalows (a Travel + Leisure World’s Best award winner) in Manuel Antonio National Park offers and ocean and beaches.
 
For vacation package details please see https://www.westernriver.com/costa-rica-vacation-package.
 
For more on how Costa Rica weather varies from season to season, see https://www.westernriver.com/costa-rica-vacation-package/weather.
 
To request a copy of Western River Expeditions’ 2020 catalog and for questions, availability and reservations, call toll-free: 866.904.1160 (Local: 801.942.6669), or visit the award-winning website at: http://www.westernriver.com/.
 
Western River Expeditions is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).
 
Western River Expeditions, providing Grand Canyon rafting, Utah and Idaho rafting, and international multi-sport trips, was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. It has been named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine. The company is the proud recipient of the “Best of State” award through Utah’s Premier Recognition and Awards Program for sixteen consecutive years.

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