The Four Seasons Resort Langkawi in Malaysia now offers a family-friendly Mangroves & Eagles Safari through the dramatic Kilim Karst, Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO Geopark.
Guest take a private boat from the Resort’s Serai beach and in just a few minutes are sailing past a maze of 550-million-year-old limestone cliffs, craggy rock formations and tangled mangroves.
The eco-adventure is led by one of the resort’s three resident naturalists through one of the world’s most accessible mangrove forests. The trip affords up-close encounters with majestic eagles and kites, mischievous macaques, fish that walk (mudskippers), colorful tree-climbing crabs, shy otters, elegant monitor lizards, coiled snakes and hundreds of sleeping bats. With the entire experience conducted from the comfort and safety of the Resort’s boat, this family-friendly safari offers an experience only pure nature can offer complete with Four Seasons-style commentary and refreshments.
With little intrepid solo explorers in mind, an hour-long kids-only Mangroves & Monkeys Safari has also been designed. Aboard a floating classroom, adventurers aged 4 – 12 (young-at-heart parents welcome too!) join the resort naturalists for an educational eco-experience to discover the magical mangrove world and watch the antics of hundreds of mischievous macaque monkeys.
The Resort also offers a Rainforest Immersion, a three-hour excursion to the uninhabited islet of Pulau Langgun, where the pristine rainforest encircles a karst lake. Here guests can ascend on foot through the vibrant rainforest, enveloped by thousands of plants and animals, before trekking downhill to the hidden sanctuary of Tasik Langgun – a freshwater lake in the middle of the jungle. To end this extraordinary experience, the return cruise takes in the intriguing Gua Cerita (Cave of Legends) – mythical home of a giant phoenix, a captive princess and a deadly giantess.
Back at the resort, the newly launched Geopark Discovery Centre serves as an educational tool for guests and the local community to learn about the Geopark’s key attributes, from the most complete Paleozoic sedimentary sequence in Malaysia to labyrinthine mangroves, lush rainforests and unique animal and bird residents. Through a series of exhibition boards, interactive presentations and display cases, the resort’s naturalists guide guests through Langkawi’s natural environment. The Centre also inspires deeper exploration of local wonders, from the resort’s impressive rock-climbing outcrop to the animal-filled mangroves of the Kilim Karst Geoforest, as well as towering sea stacks and ancient salt-water lakes, linked to the sea by cave tunnels.
Four Seasons Resort Langkawi is a luxury Malaysian retreat in the Langkawi UNESCO Geopark, offering 90 pavilions and villas in tropical beachfront gardens, a family pool with private coves, plus a 55-m adult quiet pool, an expansive range of natural and outdoor pursuits and an immersive Geo Spa that draws on Langkawi’s natural healing energies. Dining options include three waterfront restaurants and the atmospheric Rhu Bar.
Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti has introduced a new “Walk in the Wild Serengeti” experience with Masai guides, park rangers and the Lodge’s resident naturalists leading the way through the bush in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stop by the Discovery Centre for a viewing of the new Serengeti Lion Project Wildlife Photography Exhibition, August 1-31 by Serengeti Lion Project researcher Daniel Rosengren.
Proceeds from sales of photos will support the Serengeti Lion Project Research, the world’s most extensive daily mammal monitoring project, which has gathered detailed data on more than 5,000 lions since the 1960s. Rosengren, a Swedish biologist and senior field researcher who is passionate about travel and nature, traded in his globe-roaming bike for a Land Rover in 2010 to study the daily habits of the Serengeti’s lions. The exhibition will feature 40 or more of his most stunning images.
Inspired to follow in Rosengren’s photographic footprints? Visit The Lodge now and be among the first to experience its new Walk in the Wild Serengeti, a transformative 90-minute guided walk where you’ll help install a “camera trap” that digitally records the Serengeti’s majestic animals on the move. Elephants, cheetahs, lions and even notoriously hard-to-spot leopards are known for their cameos.
This guided walk shines a light on the wildlife sanctuary’s most subtle and unusual characteristics. Led by the Resident Naturalist at Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Masai guides and national park rangers, you’ll explore the beautiful landscape of Serengeti National Park as your guides point out animal tracks, interesting insects and useful plants.
Guests can also help The Serengeti Lion Project classify the different animals found in images caught by over 200 remote camera traps that have been set up in the Serengeti by visiting the Snapshot Serengeti website.
The Walk in the Wild and the Serengeti Lion Project Photo Exhibition are among the many innovative experiences undertaken by Four Seasons Safari Lodge and its pioneering Discovery Centre. Part museum exhibit, part lecture theatre, it’s the first lodge-based conservation research and education platform in Serengeti. Chat with Lodge experts and explore a series of displays, exhibition boards and interactive presentations, or attend periodic talks by guest speakers. Participate in special research projects with local experts closely involved with Serengeti’s wildlife research and conservation projects.
Make your base camp in The Lodge’s two-story great house, with guest rooms and suites that all offer stunning views of the Serengeti landscape.
A more private escape can be had in one of the five freestanding villas. Ideal for couples and families, The Lodge is one of the first on the continent to welcome children ages 8+, a significant milestone for families with young ones and teens. The entire property is accessible via raised wooden walkways making short excursions into the bush not a far venture from the Lodge.
In addition to taking your exploration to an intimate new level during the Wild Walk in the Serengeti, The Kijana Klub offers children their own opportunity to learn about local culture and wildlife through a series of planned activities including short walks in the bush with a Maasai guide and learning basic wildlife research skills such as radio tracking and camera traps.
Other memorable guest experiences include sundowners at the infinity pool while elephants gather at the watering hole below, private romantic dinners in the bush, the Lodge’s celebrated Boma Grill and signature spa treatments featuring Africology spa products at purpose-built Spa.
Ecoventura, which operates an environmentally friendly fleet of small expedition yachts in the Galapagos Islands, plans to debut the region’s newest ship in early 2016.
Construction of the 20-passenger motor vessel is underway at the shipyard in Guayaquil, Ecuador but Ecoventura has begun taking bookings for MV Origin’s inaugural cruise Jan. 3, 2016. When launched she will be the newest and most comfortable 20-passenger yacht operating in Galapagos.
The vessel’s owner, Ecoventura, has more than two decades experience in sustainable tourism.
“We are exploring ways to make the Origin the most comfortable and environmentally efficient yacht in Galapagos,” Ecoventura founder and owner Santiago Dunn. “Our first goal is to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 45 percent (from 1800 gallons to 1000 gallons per week),” he explains. “This is no simple achievement when you consider our plans to sail at 12 knots on two engines so that guests can spend as much time as possible at each visitor site.”
MV Origin, designed for guests with a highly evolved lifestyle, will combine modern sophistication and a high level of comfort and service, with quality guided land excursions in small groups, gastronomical experiences, exciting physical activities and a dose of intellectual science for a life enriching experience. A veteran crew supervised by a master-level captain, two expert naturalist guides and a concierge will be at the beck and call of guests. Social areas offer private moments on board with a library, boutique, computer station, lounge areas, dining room, bar, Jacuzzi, sun deck, recliners and wet bar.
Guests aboard Origin will enjoy locally sourced, healthy, gourmet-style menus designed by top local chefs and creatively prepared by Ecoventura’s culinary school trained chefs. Some lunches will be served al fresco on deck. Passengers will have an open bar policy, including wine and local beer.
The vessel will feature 10 deluxe staterooms all located on the main deck with panoramic windows and private bathroom. Each stateroom is 140 square feet, with two twin beds that convert to a king, two connecting cabins, two triples, fine linens, bathrobes, and satellite TV.
Guests wishing to stay in shape will enjoy a fitness center with cardio equipment. The services of a professional masseuse can also be arranged at an additional charge on private charters only. Twice daily cabin cleanings are provided. Laundry service is also available. Guide lectures, cooking demonstrations and yoga will be part of the on-ship activities.
Ecoventura’s Director of Sales & Marketing, Doris Welsh, explained that MV Origin rates reflecting a premium class vessel will be higher than those on its three existing first class vessels, the Eric, Flamingo and Letty. A per person double rate for an eight-day all-inclusive cruise will be $6,500. Rates include cabin accommodation, all meals and snacks, all beverages including open bar, Captain’s welcome and farewell party, guided shore excursions, services of a concierge, use of wet suits, snorkelling equipment, stand-up paddle boards and sea kayaks, and transfers in the islands between the airport and dock.
There are two distinct itineraries on weekly (Sundays), year-round departures from the island of San Cristobal. The tours visit the most spectacular visitor sites of the archipelago; western/northern and central/southern.
Ecoventura is a family-owned company based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with sales offices in Quito and Miami. In operation since 1990, the cruise company transports 4,000+ passengers annually aboard its fleet of at present three identical, 20-passenger first-class motor yachts, Eric, Flamingo and Letty, and the 16-passenger luxury dive live-aboard the MV Galapagos Sky. Departures are every Sunday from San Cristobal offering two unique seven-night itineraries.
Travel and tourism has been a boon to communities and cultures around the planet. For example, abandoned factories have been turned into art studios and hotels, providing a new base to support jobs and local economy instead of families having to migrate to find new sources of income. That means the culture and heritage stays intact, and the community has more of an incentive to preserve natural splendors as well.
Over the past couple of decades, as technology and globalization, economic recessions have caused such dramatic impacts on communities, there has also been a quietly growing interest in people traveling to see places before they literally disappear, and to have “authentic” experiences, engaging with local people and the ecology.
And this has given rise to companies that offer “ecotourism,” “green travel,” “sustainable travel” and “responsible travel.”
It came about first with the interest in soft adventure – the trips to sensitive ecologies of the Antarctic and the Galapagos. But with growing interest in visiting these places, there was also increasing threat to destroy those very ecologies.
That sparked a greater sensitivity among the travel providers, themselves. Lars-Eric Lindblad, whose company, Lindblad Travel, was a pioneer in such expeditionary-style travel, voluntarily restricted the number of visitors who could travel, and set a standard for the rest of the industry that has also been taken up by government authorities.
Increasingly, though, there are companies that not only bring travelers to destinations of particular ecological or cultural interest, but that also give back to those communities in order to sustain them.
That’s why they use the monikers “Sustainable” and “Responsible”.
ResponsibleTravel.com, established in 2001, is one of the first and leading online travel agents promoting responsible/ethical/eco/green travel. The company serves as a portal website, marketing a range of holidays on behalf of some 3,000 specialist tour operators, day trip providers and accommodation owners. With over 8,000 holidays worldwide, it claims to be “the world’s largest curated travel site for those seeking a more authentic, more immersive travel experience, as an alternative to the mainstream package tour.
“For us, responsible tourism is tourism that makes places better places to live in, as well as better places to visit. In that order,,” said Sarah Bareham, marketing executive for the company, based in Brighton’s North Laine district, England. “This is not just about reducing energy consumption or recycling – we look at holidays which are beneficial both to local environments, but also crucially to local communities as well. We believe that there is no “one size fits all” solution to responsible tourism – to be successful efforts need to be relevant to the people and place in each specific destination and take into consideration local priorities – and these will be vastly different across the globe.
“Authentic experiences and responsible tourism go hand in hand. If we treat people fairly and look after local environments they are more likely to open their homes, hearts and lives to us – resulting in a much deeper, immersive and authentic holiday experience. We believe in championing the small, local suppliers who know and love where they are, and want to share it with us and make us love it as much as they do. These are also the people that want to keep their places special and protect them for years to come. Travellers wanting authentic, responsible experiences should look for trips which use local guides, locally run accommodations which source local food, experiences which let them get closer to understanding the landscape they are visiting among others.”
“Each of the holidays on our site has been carefully screened to ensure it meets our criteria for responsible tourism – each needing to show compliance with environmental, social and economic criteria relevant to the destination in which it is based, with a focus on grassroots initiatives and local providers.
“As such each holiday offers a much more authentic experience, rooted in local cultures and ways of life and offer the chance to see a place as it really is, rather than just passing through. Additionally we publish honest, open two minute guides to destinations and activities worldwide, which give a bite-sized overview to travellers, and do not shy away from controversial responsible tourism issues or overrated activities.”
Responsible Travel has recently published 2-minute travel guides also contain a section on responsible tourism issues – with tips and advice specific to each destination. Examples include:
The company has also been an activist for change in the tourism industry, raising important issues and bringing them to the attention of the wider tourism industry, consumers and media.
“Last year we removed 42 orphanage volunteering trips from our site following extensive research and concerns, and working with key industry leaders and child protection organisations including Save the Children and Friends International developed a set of guidelines for volunteering trips in settings with vulnerable children, to put child protection back at the heart of these projects,” Bareham said.
“Currently we have an ongoing campaign to ‘Stop the Orca Circus’ calling on the travel industry to stop keeping orcas and dolphins in captivity for public entertainment purposes, in conjunction with the World Cetacean Alliance. Our petition has so far been signed by over 10,000 people, travel companies and animal welfare organisations, and in a recent independent poll commissioned by responsibletravel.com and the Born Free Foundation (UK) we found that 86% of UK holidaymakers surveyed said they ‘would not wish to visit a marine park to see whales and dolphins as part of an overseas holiday’.”
Responsibletravel.com is also the founder and organiser of the World Responsible Tourism Awards, now in its 11th year, and held annually at World Travel Market, London.
‘Six of the Best Cycling Holidays You Never Knew Existed’
In my mind, cycling trips are the ideal for “responsible, sustainable” travel – you are out and about without a window separating you, you are part of the local scene, you travel at a pace where you can really see things and can stop when you want, and you do not burn fossil fuels (beyond calories).
Here are ResponsibleTravel.com’s selection of “6 of the Best Cycling Holidays You Never Knew Existed”:
1. Cycling Safari
Discover the back roads of East Africa on a ride through from the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro to the sparkling seas and white sand beaches of the Indian Ocean, through tucked away villages, lush rainforests and wildlife-filled savannah plains. The 16 day journey cost starts from £3,302 per person excluding flights and local bike hire.
2. Desert Adventures
Unleash your inner-Indiana Jones in Petra and pedal back in time in the deserts of Jordan. Ride along remote desert roads, camp out under the stars with the Bedouin in Wadi Rum and treat yourself to a soak in the salty waters of the Dead Sea. 9 days of desert adventure costs from £1,399 per person including flight, but excluding local bike hire.
3. Head in the Clouds
A tour to quite literally take your breath away, across the top of the world. A 16 day two-wheeled trip across the Tibetan Plateau, taking in the iconic Potala Palace, Everest Base Camp and dramatic Himalayan passes costs from £2,718 per person excluding flights and visas.
4. Your own Tour de France
The competitive with a love for lycra might want to consider a holiday to race your own Tour de France. This 5 day break gives you the chance to participate in the “Etape du Tour”, the very serious, amateur version of the main event. Last minute places available with a £175 discount for the already fit and well-prepared only. From £1,079 per person
5. Coast to Coast across India
From the backwaters of Kerala and the lush Western Ghats, to the vast plains of Tamil Nadu and the beaches of the Bay of Bengal. This 2 week cross-country epic takes you through some of India’s most stunning natural and cultural landscapes from £1240 per person excluding flights.
6. Foodie Finds
Just because a holiday is active doesn’t mean it can’t be indulgent. Your two wheels on this trip allow you to explore more vineyards, restaurants, olive groves, fishing ports and markets than you could on two feet. Spend 8 days cycling and sampling your way round a hidden Costa Brava from just £741 per person excluding flights.