Category Archives: Nature & Wildlife

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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Kontiki Expeditions Inaugural Sailings to Seldom-Visited Ecuadorian Coast

Kontiki Expeditions is introducing two itineraries on the luxury yacht, M/Y Kontiki Wayra, to five provinces of the seldom-visited Ecuadorian coast.

(Manta, ECUADOR) At a time when traveling to uncrowded areas is more desirable than ever, Kontiki Expeditions is introducing two itineraries on the luxury yacht, M/Y Kontiki Wayra, to five provinces of the seldom-visited Ecuadorian coast. Kontiki’s small  size, only 198 feet long, allows visits to off-the-beaten-track areas to one of the most biodiverse places in the world. With only nine staterooms carrying a maximum of 18 guests, Kontiki Expeditions offers “NEO Luxury” both above and beneath sea level. Sailings begin this summer.

The yacht sails two seven-night routes along the Ecuadorian coast, Toquilla and Spondylus, and takes full advantage of the country’s wealth of birds, animals, flora, fauna, indigenous foods and cultural traditions while adhering to a NEO luxury philosophy of sustainability and giving back to communities.

Kontiki’s 10 crew members and two local experts including wellness professionals, naturalist guides and a local chef – a nearly 1:1 crew to guest ratio – add to the distinctive Kontiki experience.  Gastronomic experiences feature local chocolate, seafood and produce; nature-loving guests can expect to see the country’s blue-footed boobies, sea lions and howler monkeys… without the crowds.

The M/Y Kontiki Wayra yacht offers luxury with a sundeck, gourmet salon, two outdoor lounges, bar, Jacuzzi, and a gym and fitness area. Staterooms are well appointed and include WiFi, on-demand entertainment and sustainable local amenities.

Pricing begins at $7245 per person per week, based on double occupancy, and includes all activities, meals, transfers to and from ports, park entrance fees, guided expeditions and more. Private charters and solo rates are available.

Health and safety precautions are paramount with all protocols prior to boarding, on ship and on land strictly maintained and updated as required. Sailings have met The Safe Travels accreditation by WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council). Sanitization and wellness protocols are summarized at https://kontikiexpeditions.com/en/health-policy/

For more information, visit www.kontikiexpeditions.com/en, call +5933984364149; email info@kontikiexpeditions.com.

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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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