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Looking for a Memorable Experience in 2019? Take a Wildlife Vacation

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It seems like yesterday that 2019 started. Everyone set their resolutions and the yearly race is on. Just like that, a month has already run past us.

During this time, a few New Year’s resolutions have been fulfilled, some have been forgotten, while others are still waiting to be met. The people associated with the latter segment are still looking for ways to fulfill their plans. Doing it properly than doing it quickly seems to be a popular approach these days.

Keeping this in mind, if your New Year’s resolutions involved travelling, then they might still be on that to-do list. After all, a vacation is a big expense and needs to be treated as such. You want to make the most out of your vacation that you can, and no one can blame you for having that mindset.

If you want to fulfill that resolution in a way that leaves a long lasting smile on your face, then consider a wildlife holiday.

And if you select a platform such as Naturetrek Wildlife Holiday, which presents several wildlife vacation options all over the world, then you have the comfort of having several different choices at your disposal.

Why Should You Choose a Wildlife Holiday?

Even if it involves an extended safari or a few short treks; a wildlife vacation can be a wonderful source of inspiration, memories and unforgettable experiences.

They bring you close to nature, make you appreciate the simpler things in life, and present the beauty of Earth and its many creatures in a profound manner.

Whether you are going on a vacation with your family or just with that special someone, the experience provides an opportunity to bond with them and share the sincerest of smiles as you witness the beauty of nature together.

Due to the different options that are available to people in terms of a wildlife holiday, you can choose through a variety of vacation types and experiences.

Here are a few different types of vacations that you can choose and enjoy through the platform.

Go on an African Safari

The very mention of a wildlife holiday brings about images of the rich and beautiful lands of Africa.

With its tall Savannah grass, warm weather, and some of the most magnificent animals in the world, an African safari has everything that you can think of in a dream wildlife vacation.

If you go on an African safari, then you can see some of history’s most popular creatures up, close and personal and in their natural habitat.

Some of the animals who you can expect to see include but are not limited to:

  • Lions
  • Elephants
  • Giraffes
  • Rhinoceros
  • Buffalos
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebras
  • Gazelles
  • Cheetahs
  • Hyenas

But land animals are not the only attractive aspect of the region. Similar to how an aviary acts in a zoo to showcase the best of birdlife that it could offer, the lands and skies of Africa do the same for its many different inhabitants.

But in an open-air setting that is definitely hard to surpass.

In terms of birds, you can expect to see the following:

  • Ostriches
  • Great white pelicans
  • Grey crowned cranes
  • Hoopoes
  • Crowned eagles
  • African penguins
  • African wood owls

And when it comes to fauna and trees, witness unique sights such as the magnificent baobab tree, the beautiful marula tree, and the one of a kind dragon blood tree.

Expect to see all of these four-footed and winged members of the African wildlife as well as their different companions through a few countries in the African region.

But witnessing them on a safari doesn’t mean that you always need to be “roughing it” in the woods. On the contrary, your visit will be completely safe and could be designed to provide you with the most luxurious of experiences. You just need to be aware of what you want out of the vacation and how much you can spend on the vacation as well.

Go to the South American Wonderlands

If you are one to enjoy lush greenery, a variety of climates, and some of the richest wildlife in the world, then visiting the South American continent would certainly be a great choice.

While Galapagos is known as the tourist and wildlife hotspot, it would be quite unjust to place it down as being the only region that is rich in wildlife. South America is full of areas that boast of that quality as well, which is why exploring your options before selecting a destination would be the correct way to go.

From visiting the wonderful and nature-rich Amazon to the penguin heaven that is The Falkland Islands, you can be certain to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences throughout your time in South America.

Whether seeing the jaguars is a more exciting prospect or watching the birds is what tickles your fancy, ensure to find something that would make for an exciting memory for days to come.

The wildlife that you can experience within the South American region includes but is not limited to:

  • Llama
  • Anaconda
  • Capybara
  • Sloth
  • Emperor tamarin
  • Maned wolf
  • Giant Galapagos Tortoise
  • South American Tapir
  • South American Coatimundi

With that you can also enjoy the many ancient sights such as the Inca ruins in Machu Picchu, the path to which is strewn with llamas itself.

Take a Trip Down Under

Australia is known as one of the most wildlife-rich regions in the world. That is why, considering it as only the hub of kangaroos would be quite an understatement.

Apart from kangaroos, Australia is home to cuddly koalas and the curious looking emus. And of course, who can forget the famous Steve Irwin and the many reptilian friends that he introduced to the world. So is the effect of Australian wildlife that his whole family continues to nurture and care for the creatures that the late Crocodile Hunter loved so dearly.

The creatures that you can witness within Australia include but are not limited to:

  • Marsupials
  • Wallabies
  • Platypuses
  • Tasmanian devils
  • Dingos
  • Wombats
  • Cockatoos

This means that if you visit Australia, you can actually bet on seeing animals that you would never be able to see anywhere else in the whole wide world.

But going on trips to see these magnificent beings doesn’t mean that it has to be an excruciating experience.

There’s no reason to subject yourself to uncomfortable and foreign lands. On the contrary, Australia has some of the world’s best offerings in gastronomy, hospitality and modern recreation.

The many natural tourist spots such as the Shelly Beach would be there to help you relax between your wildlife adventures, also witness some unique and interesting turtles while doing so.

With that, it is not that expensive to take a trip down under. Australia could very well be the spot to visit on your wildlife vacation.

The Options are Virtually Unlimited

From the sun-soaked regions of Africa to the icy lands of Europe, you can ensure to find something that matches your dream destination – with its own distinct wildlife to boot.

You just have to know what you want out of your vacation destination and how much can you spend on it. No matter what kind of budget you have, specialized tour companies would always accommodate you wherever they can.

Keeping this mind, if you have the intention to see wildlife, then making it happen is just a step away.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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Adventure Travel

The 4 Best US Cities for an Outdoor Adventure

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If you are looking for a destination that will get your heart racing and adrenaline pumping, you will be spoilt for options in the US. Offering various landscapes and tough terrains to tackle, outdoor enthusiasts can find some of the biggest and best challenges in different states across the country.

If you want to enjoy an adrenaline fix in 2019, check out the following four best US cities for an outdoor adventure.

  • Los Angeles, California

There is more to Los Angeles than celebrity homes, high-end stores and boutiques, and fun Hollywood tours. Not only can you book charter jets Los Angeles to touch down in the city with ease, but there are many superb outdoor pursuits for adventure enthusiasts.

For example, you could try your hand at horseback riding at Griffith Park, or you could hike up Mount Baldy, which is the highest mountain point within Los Angeles County. Also, if you want to come face-to-face with various forms of marine life, you will be happy to learn you can snorkel in the stunning Lover’s Cove.

  • Seattle, Washington

As Seattle is surrounded by water, you can choose from a multitude of fun watersports during a visit in the Emerald City. For example, you can take to the city’s lakes and waterways to enjoy a spot of:

  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Sailing
  • Jet skiing
  • Paddle boarding
  • Kite boarding

While hikers, cyclists, and runners will love to tackle the Burke-Gilman Trail, which is an extensive trail located north of Ballard by Puget Sound.

  • Portland, Oregon

Offering more than 40 state parks and eight beautiful beaches, those looking for a fun outdoor adventure should look no further than Portland. Avid hikers should head straight to Forest Park once they arrive in the cool, laidback city, as it covers approximately 5,100 acres and is one of the largest urban forests in America.

Visitors can also escape the hustle and bustle of the city at Columbia River Gorge, which offers the largest concentration of waterfalls in the US, including the 620ft tall Multnomah Falls. It will offer a great hike for almost every age and can help visitors to reconnect with nature.

  • Aurora, Colorado

Offering more than 300 days of glorious sunshine throughout the year, it is easy to see why many people make their way to Aurora to enjoy its many outdoor pursuits. One destination you shouldn’t overlook is Aurora Reservoir, which allows visitors to enjoy a spot of fishing, sailing, swimming, windsurfing, and boating.

If, however, you are looking for a destination that offers superb horseback riding opportunities, don’t miss out on 12 Mile Stables, which has been serving both locals and tourists for many decades. It’s an experience you will not forget in a hurry, as you can enjoy 27 miles of riding trails across 3,300 acres at Cherry Creek State Park.

If you are considering an outdoor getaway in the United States, you can rest assured the above destinations will not let you down.

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Adventure Travel

Review: 10 Day Egypt Explorer Tour with Expat Explore

A comprehensive review of Expat Explores 10 Day Explorer Tour through the stunning country of Egypt.

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Expat Explore Group in Egypt

We have been wanting to visit Egypt for a while now so when the opportunity to get away over the Christmas and New Year period arose we knew we needed to head there for a break. We joined Expat Explore on their 10 Day Explorer Tour through Egypt taking in the sights of Cairo, Aswan, Luxor and Hurghada.

Expat Explore Group Photo

The reason we chose Expat Explore was that they were the cheapest in price with all the same sights and in the end we were happy with our choice.

Pre-departure they emailed us our itinerary with the optional excursions and additional costs for entry fees included so that we could budget properly. As well as following up with our pre-trip questions regarding flights, insurance and uhealth and safety advice.

From the start they were very professional. Landing in Cairo we were personally greeted the day before our tour and transported to our City centre hotel. That drive was an eye-opener to Egypt with crazy lane changes, honking, swerving, flashing lights with animals, people and vehicles everywhere.

El Tonsy Hotel is your base for your arrival and last night. Luckily we didn’t expect much as our door didn’t lock which was a bit dodgy and the rooms were freezing cold with a broken heater and only one blanket. You wouldn’t think you would need heat in Egypt but it was the middle of winter and it was chilly at night. No complaints with the location though as we could see the Pyramids in the distance and were only 5 minutes walk from the Nile and 15 minutes to Tahir Square (perfectly safe by the way). Plus they have a little bar/restaurant with cheap food and free Wi-Fi. Just buy your snacks and water from the supermarket across the road and you will get on fine.

El Tonsy Hotel View of Pyramids

It’s quite hard to break down a whole trip into one post but here goes:

Day One

Your tour starts with the best in my opinion by touring some sights of Cairo. The steeply angled Step Pyramid, mind-blowing Pyramids of Giza and the smaller than expected Sphinx. This day was definitely the highlight.

That night is spent aboard the train for 10-12 hours to Aswan. I highly recommend the Sleeper train for an extra £50 per person. Others that caught the standard train froze their butts off while we had a toasty sleep with a served dinner and breakfast. Unfortunately Expat Explore never told us about the provided food so we ate before we got on-board but what we could fit in was delicious.

Day Two

The tour splits in Aswan as one group embarks on a River Cruise aboard a 5 star ship while the others spend time in hotels and on a Felucca. No surprise that we went with the cheaper option aboard the Felucca so the next few days are from that point of view.

The afternoon is yours at Sara Hotel on the banks above the Nile. We lapped up the beautiful rays of the sun and managed to turn our pasty white bodies a more fitting slightly white shade. The Hotel was great until the toilet next-door erupted sending a river of smelly waste across our bedroom floor (throw your toilet paper in the bin not the loo)! Luckily we woke in time to rescue our bags from the watery mess! Not the fault of Expat Explore and we didn’t blame the Hotel either as shit happens.

Day Three

Your day begins by visiting the monstrous High Dam for 10 minutes (fairly boring) and a drive past the Unfinished Obelisk. While the highlight is definitely the Philae Temple. When the sunsets across the Nile reflecting off the stonework it really is quite magical.

Philae Temple Sunset

The evening ended with an optional dinner in a traditional Nubian families house. The food was scrumptious and you better bring your singing and dancing shoes.

Day Four

The following day and night is spent relaxing aboard the Felucca for a sail up the Nile for several hours. Sleeping no more than 8 people you will be snug if you bring your own sleeping bag like us. The rest of our crew were jealous as it did get quite chilly in the evening however blankets were provided.

With delicious pita bread and falafel cooked on the boat you will not be disappointed with the food either.

The day ends with a bonfire on the Nile shoreline as you sing and dance with the crazy fun Nubian crews. This was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip for us.

Travel Tip: Don’t be put off by doing your “business” amongst the reeds of the Nile. Just enjoy the view and remember to bring your own toilet paper (which you need everywhere in Egypt anyway).

Felucca on the Nile

By all accounts, from the other tour members, the River Cruise is just as great with 3 nights on-board in comfortable accommodation, a pool and  buffets morning, noon and night.

Day Five

Waking to a sunrise breaking the morning chill is a glorious way to start a new day. Unfortunately there is little time for relaxation before you are off the Felucca and on a bus to Kom Ombu and Edfu Temples. I must say, all of the transportation was more than adequate with toilets on the buses and room enough for everyone. It’s lucky because you do spend the majority of the time being driven around.

The Lotus Hotel in Luxor was probably the pick of them all. Situated on the Nile bank with a swimming pool and tasty buffet breakfast.

Day Six

One more day, one more busy schedule. Rushing to beat the crowds at the Valley of the Kings it’s another 8am start. You are only allowed to visit three tombs and we recommend the guides picks which were Ramses II, IV and IX.

Travel Tip: You are NOT allowed to take your camera with you off the bus. Please don’t ruin it for everyone by taking photos as you will be charged by security when caught.

We also squeezed in the crowded rock carved Hatshepsut Temple but only drove past Luxor Temple as we ran out of time as you need to drive 6 hours to reach Hurghada that night.

Day Seven and Eight

The next two days at the Red Sea are yours to do whatever you like so use them wisely. We joined most of our group for a spot of snorkelling and diving. The dive and the staff were great but the whole day seemed a little rushed which was a shame. Keep an eye out for our post on our diving experience in Hurghada.

Diving in Hurghada on the Red Sea

So nice being able to relax on a beach and read a book after such a hectic schedule. It’s hard to leave and the 6 – 8 hour bus ride back to Cairo is tough.

Travel Tip: If you plan to do the tour over New Years Eve then you will have to depart Hurghada half a day early which sucked as it meant celebrating the New Year at the Hotel in Cairo. Bit of a let down but when hasn’t New Years Eve been!

Day Nine

Your final day of sightseeing is spent around Cairo. Our favourite part of the day was definitely the Cairo Museum with an excellent tour guide. It fits perfectly at the end by seeing all the history close-up after having learned about it over the last 8 days.

By the time we hit the old area of Cairo and the Coptic Hanging Church we were spent on history but our guide made a good effort at keeping us entertained.

The last group activity is free time for an hour or so at the Khan El Khalili souk markets where the touts try to prise your cash from you for the last time from every nook and cranny.

Day Ten

With the tour over it’s time to head home. Our flight was late the following night so we walked around the city and Souks on our own for the day. Expat Explore provides transport back to the airport which was great.

The Negatives

The trip was awesome but we think it’s important to note the little things that could make a huge difference to the overall experience:

  • It felt like we were always hungry. Maybe it is just Kiwi’s and Aussies that eat all the time but it seriously felt like we were constantly starving with lunches being served usually after 4pm and dinner at 9pm onwards. It might be the Egyptian way to eat at those times but not for us. Travel Tip: Buy lots of snacks for the road which are very cheap at supermarkets.
  • There was sometimes a lack of direction in what seemed to be happening. Everything is done on Egyptian time so be patient.
  • We were often delayed or behind schedule with little to no guidance as to how long it would take to get from place to place. A little knowledge goes a long was as then we can plan ahead.
  • More free time would be great to explore places on your own rather than have our hands held everywhere.

The Positives:

As we said above, the trip was amazing and the little positive things far outweighed the negatives which helped make it a memorable trip.

  • Pre-departure information and care was extremely good.
  • The tour was exceptional value for money and it was the cheapest tour we could find even though we still saw all the same sights the other groups did.
  • The guides were extremely knowledgeable and never failed to answer any questions we had. The insights into the daily lives of the people around us was a nice break from all the history. They also ensured you never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
  • The Felucca trip was better than expected and overall so was the accommodation and transport options.

All in all we highly recommend you book with Expat Explore if you are considering a trip through Egypt.

Make sure you subscribe now and come back soon so you can enjoy reading our new posts which will cover everything else in more detail.

Disclaimer: Expat Explore provided us with a discount for our 10 day tour of Egypt however as always our thoughts are always our own.

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Adventure Travel

Waterfalls and surfing in Panama

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If you are looking for some sun, waterfalls and surfing in Panama and don’t mind roughing it in buses or hostels then you will have a blast! After escaping Panama cities hustle and bustle, we instantly fell in love with the beautiful beaches, tonnes of surf and very chilled out culture!

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

Panama’s Main Destinations

Playa Venao (Surf and snorkelling)

Our favourite destination was a surf beach on the Pacific coast called Playa Venao. It has a lovely beach, surf, waterfalls and tonnes of wildlife! Being one of our first destinations in Panama, this was where we saw plenty of new animals we had never seen before – including fireflies, toads, howling monkeys and a 9ft snake!

Howling Monkey

Howling Monkey

We also loved our hostel which was right on the beach with awesome owners and a great chilled out atmosphere. We highly recommend staying at Venao Cove Beach Hostel if you are on a budget, or you can investigate the private rooms they have available.

At a waterfall with our Venezuelan friends that is walking distance from Venao Cove Hostel

At a waterfall with our Venezuelan friends that is walking distance from Venao Cove Hostel

Santa Catalina (Surf Beach)

Not too much further around the coast is Santa Catalina which is also known for its surf! Most of the accommodation is a 15 minute walk over the hill via the road to the main surf spot. Unfortunately, Moss found it extremely difficult to find anywhere that rented a 6 foot surf board as most companies only hire long and learner boards. Therefore, if you are a serious surfer, make sure you either take your own board, or befriend a local that’s willing to lend you one like we did.

Point break at Santa Catalina

Point break at Santa Catalina

Bocas del Toro (Surf and diving/snorkelling)

It is a long drive to Bocas del Toro! Add on a detour to find a beach and a very foggy drive over the hills, and it took us a total of 12 hours to drive from El Valle to the car ferry at Almirante. We decided to sleep in the boot of our tiny car that night, and as uncomfortable as it was, we heard that we made the right decision because the hostel was pretty gruesome. After an uncomfortable night’s sleep we found the car ferry which costs US$25 to transport a car, or US$1 per person (one way). So, deciding to leave the car behind we jumped on the ferry, which after getting a closer look had far too many coats of paint and was a rust bucket that we half expected to sink at any moment! Note: there are also water taxis available which are much faster than the 2 hour car ferry. However, as you can expect, they cost a lot more than US$1!

Car ferry arriving at Bocas del Toro

Car ferry arriving at Bocas del Toro

Without even realising it, we arrived in Bocas del Toro right as the biggest swell in years was hitting the coastline and this attracted pro surfers including Kelly Slater and Sunny Garcier. It also meant that there was rain, rain and more RAIN! So, putting on our togs (bathers) and hiring bikes costing $2 per hour, we headed off along the road. What we didn’t realise was that the beach was also classed as road in some areas, therefore we were swamped by waves as we attempted to push our bikes through the surf and coral rocks.

The large swell was creating mini islands on the beach/road at Bocas del Toro

The large swell was creating mini islands on the beach/road at Bocas del Toro

It was a neat adventure, with talented/daring surfers to watch, cows with massive ears, moss breaking his jandals that had survived 8 months of travel and having to fix a broken bike chain in the middle of no where. Moss even snapped this awesome shot as a wave hit a log on the beach!!

Panama - Bocas del Toro storm

Sand went everywhere!!

Stormy swells during January 2015 in Bocas del Toro

Stormy swells during January 2015 in Bocas del Toro

Panama - Bocas del Toro ow with large ears

Biggest ears on a cow we’ve ever seen!

Due to the stormy surf stirring everything up, diving was restricted to the sheltered areas and visibility wasn’t amazing, so we befriended one of the scuba diving companies and jumped on board their day trip with our snorkelling gear. We also caught a water taxi to Red Frog Beach. It cost US$3 per person to enter the beach and even though we saw no frogs, it is a lovely beach!

Large starfish at Bocas del Toro

Large starfish at Bocas del Toro

El Valle

About 2 hour’s drive from Panama City, is a small town called El Valle which is built within an old volcanoes crater. We went on a Sunday to make the most of their market and even got sucked into purchasing two hammocks! Aside from the market, we didn’t really like El Valle. Yes you can walk or drive to the top of the hill for a great view of the crater but to be honest everything else was a bit of a disappointment. There are a few waterfalls in the area, including Puente Mama Chea which was far too overpriced costing about US$7 pp. We saw better waterfalls on the side of the road while driving to Bocas del Toro and its natural pool was nice for a cool down, but certainly was not ‘natural’.

El Valle - Punte Mama Chea natural pool

El Valle – Punte Mama Chea natural pool

San Blas

Unfortnately due to me getting sick over new year’s, we couldn’t explore both Bocas del Toro and San Blas, so we will have to explore San Blas another day. From our research the tours look pricey but everyone says that it is beautiful!

The Panama Canal

It is just over 100 years since the Panama Canal was officially opened on August 15th 1914. We couldn’t leave Panama City without learning more about the Panama Canal. The Miraflores visitor center contains a museum which is pricey (US$15pp) but very well set up and we found it very interesting. Moss enjoyed driving a ship in the virtual simulation, and I enjoyed looking up my surname in the database of workers.

View of Panama Canal from the Miraflores Visitor Center

View of Panama Canal from the Miraflores Visitor Center

Panama’s currency and accommodation costs

We were surprised to discover Panama used US currency. In general, we were able to find accommodation for US$15 per person per night. We found cheap hotels for this price in Panama City, and stayed in hostels (with kitchens) for the same price while exploring the rest of Panama. You don’t need to book far in advance either. We generally booked 2 nights in advance (during the new year’s period). However, it may pay to book in advance if you have a specific hostel in mind. But for Bocas del Toro, there is so much accommodation available, we just wandered the streets and found accommodation upon arrival.

Hiring a car versus public transport in Panama

We didn’t realise how good public transport would be in Panama. We were one of few people travelling who hired our own car, costing US$25 day with insurance (as third party insurance is mandatory in Panama). To be honest, if we went to Panama again, I would just use public transport. For the amount of little side of the road stops and drama that we experienced with an immobiliser stalling our car for over 24 hours, it wasn’t really worth it!

Sunset while watching the surfers at Santa Catalina

Sunset while watching the surfers at Santa Catalina

Food in Panama

The side of the road stalls/small outdoor restaurants with food in cabinets are worth stopping at. Most places are likely to serve chicken with rice and beans, but take a look in the cabinet and be daring. I discovered what seemed to be a deep fried sweet corn fritter and they were AMAZING!! Not to mention the road side stalls are super cheap – one dinner we had with a drink of coke cost $7 for the two of us.

Butterfly in Santa Catalina

Butterfly in Santa Catlina

Extra advice for Panama

  • You do not need a yellow fever vaccination to visit Panama
  • We recommend carrying insect repellent with you
  • While in Panama City, do not walk the streets with jewellery or expensive items. We did not have any trouble, but we were warned
  • Christmas Eve is much more of a big deal than Christmas day itself! We flew in to Panama at 2am on Christmas morning and the view from the plane was incredible with fireworks in every direction
  • Keep an eye out for the butterflies!
  • If you do hire a car, petrol is extremely cheap! It cost us about US$30 to fill the tank of our car

 

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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