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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Award-winning wildlife travel expert Wild Planet Adventures has been granted special access to lead wildlife eco-tours in the remote Maliau Basin Conservation Area, famously known as “The Lost World of Borneo.” Located on the strait of Sabah, the region encompasses Malaysia’s easternmost state on the island of Borneo.
The Lost World of Borneo is one of three areas left in Borneo that encompass the last stands of the oldest rainforest on earth. Its geography – a basin surrounded by steep cliffs – has never been fully explored. Another of these areas, the Danum Valley, is also included in Wild Planet’s signature “Weird & Wonderful Wildlife Eco-tour” available in 12-and 16-day itineraries, the latter including an exclusive wildlife expedition into The Lost World of Borneo.
In April 2015 wildlife expert Josh Cohen, director of Wild Planet Adventures, mounted an extensive two-pronged expedition to Malaysia: first, to scout Borneo’s Lost World and then to investigate how to increase the percentage of rare animal sightings on its wildlife-focused tours.
Maliau Basin Conservation Area is a virtually self-contained ecosystem never inhabited by humans and where large areas still remain unexplored. Efforts are underway to nominate Maliau Basin as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cohen said.
“It’s no wonder Maliau Basin is called the “Lost World.” Here you can experience something that is nearly impossible to find anywhere else on earth: the forest floor is so pristine and untouched, if you step off the trail it is likely that no other human will have ever set foot where you are standing!”
He added that while wildlife is extremely shy, Maliau Basin Conservation Area offers perhaps the only remotely viable chance to see some of the world’s rarest animals including the clouded leopard, sun bear, pygmy elephant, Malaysian badger and the reclusive Bornean rhino.
“Wild Planet travelers will enjoy a nocturnal wildlife walk exclusive to our guests to monitor camera traps, conditions permitting,” Cohen said. Wild Planet has made special arrangements with wildlife researchers at Maliau Basin Conservation Area who will share recent camera trap photos of some of these and other rare animals.
Throughout Cohen’s Borneo scouting expedition, he and his staff went to great lengths to explore remote areas at unusual times of day, utilizing eco-responsible methods such as electric motor boats, silent safaris and ultra low-impact strategies to assure the best possible chance to spot animals not commonly seen by even the most diligent travelers. They scouted remote tributaries of the Kinabatangan River after midnight, arranged exclusive nocturnal access to wildlife-rich habitat surrounding Gomantong limestone caves, traversed uncharted riverbed trails in the Danum Valley and made special arrangements with scientific researchers to hike into remote camera trap destinations in Maliau Basin Conservation Area.
“The results were staggering,” he said. “In addition to seeing a huge volume of wildlife including 11 of the 13 primate species, pygmy elephants, tarsiers, slow loris, flying lemurs and other “gliders”, the expedition encountered an unprecedented number of wild orangutans – both alpha males as well as mothers with babies. But the highlight of the expedition was encountering an extraordinarily rare flat-headed cat, last sighted in the region nearly eight years ago, proving the efficacy of Wild Planet’s eco-responsible wildlife viewing methods.
As a follow-up to the initial scouting trip, he said “the extraordinary results continue to this day. The very first Wild Planet travelers to benefit from the new activities and destinations that we arranged saw a similar volume of rare animals, including a rare Bay owl, which had not been seen for many years.”
Both “Weird & Wonderful Wildlife” itineraries embrace Wild Planet Adventures’ unique scouting activities. They include Sipadan Reef, one of the world’s “Top 5” snorkel and dive spots, and the 16 day program also includes a visit to Seligan Island to witness sea-turtles laying eggs and the baby hatchlings returning to the sea. Both programs feature exclusive expeditions to see Borneo’s famous “gliders” – mammals, amphibians and reptiles that evolved to fly, such as Wallace’s flying frogs, colugos (flying lemurs), flying squirrels and Paradise flying tree snakes. There are also exclusive nocturnal expeditions to see Tarsiers and Slow Loris, two of the world’s smallest (and cutest!) primates.
SAUSALITO, CA – “All the world loves a lover,” mused American thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson. That being said, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s a week’s worth of romantic and beautiful courtship rituals of the wild kingdom.
Wild Planet Adventures, the recognized experts in viewing wildlife through habitat-sustaining practices, call these rituals “animal Valentines.” Following are founder Josh Cohen’s personal favorites.
1) Gibbons: Nature’s Great Crooners: For these tree-top swingers, marital harmony begins with sonic harmony. Each morning, males and females of these Asian apes sing love duets to each other as the mist burns off the rainforest. The duet is repeated in such precise sequences that it often takes newlyweds many months to learn to make beautiful music together. In a duet between a male and a female, the female’s part is a long, rising series of notes that end in a fast “twitter”. The male’s song is less complicated. He grunts, squeals and whistles in delight.
And the best place to see Gibbons in the wild: From an exotic treehouse in Thailand. Wild Planet Adventures suggested trip: Thailand – Ultimate Wildlife 15-Day EcoTour (also 11 days) starting at $4,498 per person double.
2) Tarsiers – Tiny Tenors: These tiny, uber-cute, wide-eyed primates also use sound as part of their courtship rituals, but these are performed by the male. During courting, potential partners often chase each other around while making distinctive soft sounds. The male, if aroused, will escalate his sound within five minutes of merely looking at an attractive female. The female, if receptive, will display her genitals invitingly; however, if she is not sufficiently wooed, she’ll emit an antagonistic call, often followed by biting and pushing the male away. Ironically, when mating begins, they maintain complete silence. Once bonded, Tarsiers are extremely vocal and make loud shrieks with their partners. In fact, they call in harmony, with each partner making its own distinct sounds.
3) Resplendent Quetzel: Beauty with Equality: Perhaps the most beautiful of all birds, the resplendent quetzal sports gorgeous two-foot-long green tail feathers, a red breast, blue sides and green crown. In February, just in time for Valentine’s Day, males begin an elaborate courtship ritual to entice females. In a dazzling display of color and sensuality, they circle in the sky with their long tails dancing behind them, then dive down to the cloud forest treetops in hopes of attracting females. By March, once a mate has been selected and the mating process is underway, males can easily be seen sharing nesting duties with females, alternating guarding the eggs every half hour, including sitting on them.
4) Tigress – Saving Herself for True Love? Female tigers distinguish between true love and “friends with benefits”. Normally tigers take as long as a full day to develop mutual confidence, through ritualized purring, playing and moving their tails left to right with spring in their steps. Once the tigress has developed confidence, she will roll over on her back in a playful manner, rub her face, and move closer to the male tiger, who will mount her. Their climax is signaled by a loud roar. Then the tigress turns her head and takes a swipe at the tiger with her foreleg. The tiger instinctively takes evasive action. The tigress then rolls over her back to facilitate insemination. However, if the tiger is a transient male just passing through the area and its dominance is not clearly established, the tigress will treat him like a “friend with benefits”, engaging in “false mating”, but not rolling over on her back.
5) Giraffes – Nature’s Great Neckers: Male Giraffes will establish dominance by swinging their heads and necks at each other, followed by a longer period where they will caress one another with their necks and then actually have sex, including reaching climax. Interested females also rub their necks against potential mates as part of their courtship. Recently, researchers also observed adolescent giraffes performing a complicated, prancing, dance-like step that some observers have compared to the fox-trot. Could giraffes be nature’s greatest romantics?
Best place to see Giraffes in the wild: Zambia. The trip: Zambia – Ultimate Wildlife 18-Day Safari (also 15, 12 and 10-day programs) at $13,998 per person double and less. Here you can see a journey of giraffes right from your luxury tent, and perhaps view a live birth on a unique walking safari.
6) Waved Albatross – Kissing Fools: The complex and expressive courtship ritual of waved albatross includes extensive kissing and bill-fencing, in which the partners bend, face each other in an exaggerated upright posture, open their bills wide and shut them with a loud clap, often alternating with rapidly clattering their bills or slapping them back and forth. If that isn’t strange enough, they will also bow and circle each another while swaying their heads from side to side in an exaggerated manner. The newer the pair, the longer and more elaborate the dance.
Wild Planet Adventures Receives ‘World’s Best 50 Trips’ Award
In April 2014 the editors of National Geographic Traveler bestowed its fifth “World’s Best 50 Trips” award to Wild Planet Adventures for its “On the Jaguar’s Trail; from the Pantanal to the Amazon” wildlife safari in Brazil. Past awards have recognized their programs in India, Thailand, Panama and Zambia.
The expert wildlife guides of Wild Planet Adventures go the extra mile to explore remote wildlife habitat and study wildlife patterns in destinations not often accessible to the general public. Thanks to the company’s comprehensive itineraries that balance diverse and complex ecosystems and habitats, guests enjoy wildlife and game viewing that is carefully aligned with animals’ seasonal, daily and nocturnal migrations.
Following a philosophy that interacting with nature has the power to transform lives, tours are conducted in Africa, Baja, Belize, Borneo, Brazil, Costa Rica, Galapagos, India, Laos, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Thailand and Zambia. Wild Planet Adventures is recognized by top publications in the travel industry for its itineraries that combine intimate encounters with wildlife and local culture.