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Wish Away the Worst of 2020, Give Thanks, and Plant Hope - Tourism New Zealand's Forest Initiative
When the sun rises on the New Year, New Zealand’s location on the globe makes it the first country in the world to welcome 2021.

To get next year started on the right foot for the whole planet, Tourism New Zealand is launching a holiday initiative that generates hope, turns the disappointments of this year into something positive, and launches on Giving Tuesday, December 1st.

For the month of December, Tourism New Zealand will be planting a ‘Forest of Hope’ for 2021.
 
2020 has been a tough year, with cancellations, postponements, missed travels and weddings, graduations, birthdays and celebrations.

People from all over the world can submit their disappointments from the past year and New Zealand will transform them into hope, planting a native Kiwi tree for every entry.
 
The program is based on trees as Nature’s symbol of life and growth. New Zealand’s famously green islands are over 30% forest – that’s more than 8 million hectares of wooded land. Some native trees are found nowhere else in the world, including Kauri trees (pictured below), among the oldest trees on the planet, some estimated to have been alive over 4000 years!

(Kauri Trees, courtesy Trees That Count)
 
To take advantage of this symbol of renewal, readers can share their disappointments from the year on the Tourism New Zealand website’s 'Forest of Hope' page.
 
For every disappointment shared with Tourism New Zealand between December 1 and December 31, 2020, a native Kiwi tree will be planted along the iconic Queenstown bike trail in the Southland, or among the Wiapoua Forest in the Northland.
 
You can also give a gift of a tree this year to a friend or loved one, give back to yourself, or simply give back to the environment by purchasing another tree to be planted for a nominal donation.

(Trees That Count: Planting at Queenstown)
 
And once the country’s borders open for travel and New Zealand is able to welcome visitors again, people will be able to visit the tree they helped grow.
 
Tourism New Zealand is partnering with Trees That Count. It’s a local non-profit with a goal of planting 200 million native trees across the country. They are over 30 million trees towards that goal now, and estimate in the next half-century, the new native trees will cleanse the earth’s atmosphere of more than 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

(Tane Mahuta; photo David Kirkland)
 
It’s a wonderful way for us to feel connected to the earth and people on the other side of the world even as we dream of travelling again soon. 
 
And Tourism New Zealand’s Forest of Hope is also and mindful - and thankful - way to say goodbye to this year’s disappointments and plant a seed of hope to look forward to better times ahead in 2021.

 

#HappyHolidays



Top Photo: Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Eastland, courtesy Tourism Eastland Inc



A New 'Species' of Extreme Thrill Ride: the 'VelociCoaster' Takes 'Flight' in Orlando
Florida’s fastest and tallest coaster – along with a pack of fierce Velociraptors – will be unleashed at Universal Orlando Resort in 2021.

If you – or the kids in your life – have seen all the movies and fantasize about visiting Jurassic Park and its fierce dinosaurs, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster will bring the movies to life in a coaster ride that will take your breath away.

It’s a new ‘species’ of roller coaster, with a series of intense maneuvers that will send you and your family catapulting up to 70 mph and more than 150 feet in the air with the swiftest of prehistoric predators.
 
The Jurassic World VelociCoaster is the world’s first roller coaster based on the blockbuster dino movie series. It features its own original story that spins off from the creatures, thrills and environments on the big screen. You’ll join the original cast – Chris Pratt as Owen Grady, Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing and BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu – as you embark on a high-speed chase and feel the rush of the hunt while racing alongside a darting pack of Velociraptors.

Opening at Orlando’s Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster soars to new heights in extreme roller coaster design.
 
Coasting over more than 4,700 feet of track and reaching heights of up to 155 feet, the coaster’s one-of-a-kind maneuvers will have you twisting and soaring above land, barrel rolling just inches above water, speeding through near-misses and launches in the paddock, and more first-ever maneuvers. All within a Jurassic World environment. You’ll:

  • Accelerate through two pulse-pounding launches, the fastest reaching 70 mph in 2.4 seconds
  • Take a 360-degree barrel roll right above the Islands of Adventure lagoon
  • Experience a zero-gravity inverted stall that will send you upside down across 100 feet of track in a jaw-dropping, first-of-its-kind maneuver
  • Go airborne during the towering “Top Hat,” which propels riders 155 feet in the air and then immediately plummets into an 80 degree drop – it’s the steepest Universal drop to date
  • Brace for a total of 12 heart-pounding seconds of airtime – with the thrilling sensation of weightlessness lifted from your seat – throughout the adventure.
 

This edge-of-your-seat, dino-engineering marvel is the latest addition to Jurassic Park at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Only in this immersive land can the Jurassic fans in your life come face-to-face with life-size dinosaurs in incredible theme park experiences, including Jurassic Park River Adventure, where a leisure raft ride turns into a daring eight-story plunge to escape a ferocious T. Rex; and Raptor Encounter, where you can get up-close to Velociraptor Blue and the newest additions to the paddock – baby raptors – while learning more about the clever carnivores.

If immersion into the world of this epic film franchise – or an extreme roller coaster experience – fits your family’s vacation dreams, Jurassic Park at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure should jump to the top of your travel list.
Other members of the family will find their own thrills in one of the other two theme parks in the trio of Universal Orlando destinations. Universal Studios Florida is home to the technologically-advanced stunt show, The Bourne Stuntacular; and Universal’s Volcano Bay is a tropical oasis that features an actual beach right in the middle of Orlando. 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Universal Orlando

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Top 4 Places In The World To Go Hot Air Ballooning
Imagine yourself silently drifting along under colourful silk, cradled in a giant basket. You’re part of the breeze and Nature as you tranquilly float on the air over undisturbed scenery below. Your pilot lets the heat in the balloon drop to silently lower you closer to your birds’ eye view… then lifts you to majestic heights over an unforgettable panorama.
As epic as your photos will be, they will never match the reality of your experience.

If that is your idea of a bucket list trip, here are 4 of the most magical hot air balloon destinations in the world to make that travel dream come true.

 

Cappadocia, Turkey

A hot air balloon ride is so much established as the best way to experience Cappadocia (pictured top), virtually every photo of this region in Turkey features balloons wafting over its legendary chimney rock formations.
 
Millennia past, the limestone rocks near the town of Goreme eroded into a landscape of fairy spires and pillars. Early people carved subterranean villages with homes, churches and monasteries out of the soft stone formations. Possibly inspired by the mystical atmosphere, it became a monastic center 2500 years ago.
 
Extraordinary at ground level, the site is other-worldly from the perspective of a hot air balloon drifting across countless minaret-like formations at sunrise.
 

The Serengeti

Dreaming of an African safari? Make sure to add a hot air balloon ride to your trip of a lifetime to Kenya or Tanzania.
 
Even if you log all of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ list of iconic wildlife that includes the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and Cape buffalo… as well as other exotic creatures like zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, chimps and gazelles from the back of your guide’s Range Rover, don’t miss the scenes of the Serengeti from the perspective of a hot air balloon.
 
Floating silently – without alerting or disturbing the animals – over the grasslands and canopy gives you the purest way to experience Nature’s wonders below.
 
Take a hot air balloon ride in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya or the Serengeti National Park across the border in Tanzania between July and October, during the Great migration of gazelles, zebras and wildebeests, and be a witness to the incredible scale of this pre-historic phenomenon.
 

New Mexico

They say it’s the biggest hot air balloon race and festival in the world. For over a week every October, Albuquerque becomes the epicenter of the world of ballooning when it’s taken over by hundreds of hot air balloons during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Whether you’re lucky enough to be in a basket or observing from the ground, you’ll thrill at some of the highlights of the festival. Don’t miss one of the simultaneous ‘mass ascents’ of hundreds of colourful balloons against piercing blue skies. There are even races - although balloons ‘ride the wind’ and therefore travel the same speed as the wind, pilot expertise can influence speed.

Year round, you can hire local hot air balloon pilots for your own ride over the mountain and desert landscape over the Rio Grande Valley.
 

Bagan, Myanmar

Incredibly, there are said to be 5000 temples, monasteries and pagodas built between the 11th and 13th centuries dotting the plains of Bagan. It was the capitol of a number of ancient kingdoms in this South-East Asian country and is a UNESCO World Heritage site today.
 
A sunrise hot air balloon ascent at Bagan gives you a breathtaking vista as the ruins glow golden. 
 
It’s also the best way to get a sense of the astonishing scale of this archaeological wonder and the civilization that created it.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 

Images: Getty

 

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Explore the Oldest Protected Forest in the Hemisphere
If you haven’t been to the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the chance to discover the wonders of the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve should add it to your Caribbean travel list.

Covering two-thirds of the island, the Reserve dates back to 1776 – the same year as American Independence!

The historic ordinance protecting the tropical rainforest recognized some of the earliest science showing the relationship between abundant trees and the rainfall that contributed to the fertility of the land. It is considered a conservation landmark, with Scientific American noting, “the protection of Tobago's forest was the first act in the modern environmental movement'.

Legacy of Conservation 

Today, the 10,000 acres of prolific tropical rainforest is a dream for naturalists, outdoors enthusiasts and especially bird watchers.  It’s home to dozens of species of mammals, (non-poisonous) reptiles and amphibians, including the ocellated gecko, not found anywhere else in the world.
More than 200 types of birds live in the reserve and you can see many of the colorful winged residents of the rainforest. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the White-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird. It’s one of the world’s rarest hummingbirds and unique to the island of Tobago. Thought at one time to be extinct after a hurricane tore through the region, the species has been recovering since its rediscovery in the 1970’s.

Nature Trails

There are a number of marked trails through the lush and tranquil Reserve. The oldest and most prestigious trail is the Gilpin Trace. Cutting through the heart of the forest, it’s generally flat and accessible to birders, nature lovers and hikers of many levels of fitness. An experienced guide will help you make the most of the sights and sounds of this naturalists’ nirvana.
For more intrepid explorers, turn your sights on the island’s highest point – Pigeon Peak – at the eastern end of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. In a half-day hike, you can traverse the challenging, overgrown and mostly unmarked trail. The main route follows an old plantation road that cuts along the hillside. Just before a gully, a steep trail leads up into open rainforest towards the summit.
 

Off The Beaten Track

Surprisingly for a nature reserve that’s been voted “World’s Leading Eco-Tourism destination” multiple times, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve still flies under the radar. So it’s the perfect place for an off-the-beaten-track tropical nature holiday.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images Courtesy Tobago Tourism; Photo credit: Alexa Fernado

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Mount Fuji and 3 Other Mountains You Need to Visit in Japan

France has the Eiffel Tower. The U.S. has the Statue of Liberty. But the visual shorthand for Japan is not man-made. It’s Mount Fuji.

The Japanese archipelago is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Chains of volcanic mountain ranges form the spine of the Japanese islands, and mountains have assumed immense cultural and spiritual significance over the millennia.

Nearly every population center is associated with one or more mountains, where forests of bamboo, Japanese cypress or maple, and fields of wild flowers like azaleas have provided the Japanese with the opportunity to commune with nature. 

Japanese culture even has a phrase: ‘shinrin-yoku’, or ‘forest bathing’ to describe the national practice of interacting with natural spaces and enjoying physical and spiritual benefits. It’s almost always associated with mountain terrain.

Fuji-San

And the grand-daddy of them all is Mount Fuji. Other peaks have names like Asama-yama, using the word ‘yama’ meaning mountain (in English we’d say: Mount Asama). But you would never say ‘Fuji-yama’. Fuji is an almost human character in the fabric of Japanese culture, and is given the personal honorific title: Fuji-san.
At 3,776 meters (nearly 12,500 ft), its peak is the highest point in the country. Its form is spectacular in almost-perfect volcanic symmetry, dramatically snow-capped nearly half of the year. And unlike many mountains in Japan, Mount Fuji rises from flat plains and so is perfectly framed to be viewed from several stunning vantage points.
Only 100 km (60 miles) south-west of Tokyo, Mount Fuji acquired national significance when early Tokyo became the capital hundreds of years ago. Poetry was written praising its beauty, which was captured by countless generations of Japanese artists. Mount Fuji became one of the earliest images of Japan to other countries and the West. 
Fuji-san is considered a holy mountain in Japan, and for centuries, people have been making pilgrimages to the summit. 
Hundreds of thousands of Japanese climb Fuji every year, and many visitors to the country join them. There are a number of trails to the summit. They all have 10 stations, and most people start at the 5th station, the last point where vehicles can reach.
You can look at hiking Mount Fuji from a purely active-travel point of view, to say you’ve done it, and to enjoy the experience and the view from the top.
But to make the climb the spiritual experience the Japanese seek, do as most Japanese do, which is make the 7-hour or so climb during the night to be at the summit as the first, pure rays of the sun illuminate the peak. Sun rise is symbolic in Japanese culture (the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’). 
The spiritual approach adds meaning to the historic shrines and teahouses, stone monkey guards at the entrance of the main, Yoshida trail, and the monuments at each historic station on the way up erected by followers of the local, Fuji-ko faith.
 

Mount Asama, Nagano

It’s one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. You can almost always see smoke curling into the air from Mount Asama, in the Northern Japanese Alps in the prefecture that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. 
A bonus of a hike up Mount Asama is that most people start from the chic, forested, summer-retreat town of Karuizawa. Japan’s Imperial Family have their summer home there, and other elite Japanese have followed their lead, making it a stylish vacation destination as well as a cool retreat from sweltering summer heat in nearby Tokyo.
The 4 hour climb to the summit takes you through cool, dense forests in the lower ranges, then above the tree line where the view opens up in a spectacular way. After your hike, an outdoor natural hot springs located at the trailhead is the perfect way to ease any climbing aches away in the fresh mountain air at 2000 meters (6500 feet)!

One of the most unforgettable experiences at Mount Asama is in the wake of its massive, 1783 eruption. In addition to a Buddhist temple in memory of those who perished, the lava field is now a park. It is like a sci-fi movie set, where trails take you through a ‘forest’ of stark and jagged lava formations and superb views of the volcano in the background. The park is memorably named Onioshidashi, ‘The Place Where the Devils Emerged from the Earth’.

Shiretoko Mountains, Hokkaido 

While the southern parts of Japan are tropical, its northern island prefecture, Hokkaido, is more like Russia and Alaska at similar distances above the equator. 
The Shiretoko Mountains are the feature of a National Park known for its unspoiled beauty, variety of wildlife and its drifting sea ice where visitors can take ice walk tours in winter. As sea ice drifts along the peninsula, brave visitors walk along a seeming conveyor belt of ice - with a few polar dips in between!
The park itself is dotted with hot springs. One very special hot spring phenomenon is Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall, a unique cascade of hot water at the river’s head that can only be reached by foot. Visitors wade through warm water that increases in temperature higher up the river. Walking over waterfalls and upstream feels like discovering unexplored, mystical emerald-green terrain, and your final reward is the source of this hot shower called ‘Water of the Gods’ in the local indigenous Ainu language.
 

Mount Aso, Kumamoto 

Japan’s largest active volcano looks downright tame, covered in a smooth rolling layer of green felt. Mount Aso’s 100km (60 mile) caldera is one of the world’s largest, and there are several smaller volcanoes inside.
Like most active Japanese volcanoes, you need to check before you go if you hope to climb. Mount Aso’s peaks are occasionally closed due to volcanic activity. Helicopter tours are a popular way to view the steaming crater. And the nearby Aso Volcano Museum explains the volcano’s activity and its status in Japan as a deity.
A bonus of a trip to the area is the chance to see local Akaushi cattle, prized for their high-quality wagyu (‘Kobe beef’), freely roaming the plains. It’s one of the few places in Japan where you can go horseback riding, along trails that ribbon the picturesque landscape. You might be a little sore after your ride, but no worries, because the volcanic activity means the area has many hot springs Two are inside Mount Aso’s crater itself! 

 

Japanese, like mountain cultures the world over, associate peaks, fresh mountain air, and outdoor activity with purity and good health. In the aftermath of a global pandemic, mountain escapes have a special resonance. A trip to Japan focusing on its revered alpine experiences is a spiritual and wellness journey for the times.


#DreamNowTravelSoon


Mount Fuji images courtesy of JNTO;
Mount Asama image courtesu of JNTO;
Kumiwakka courtesy of JNTO;
Mount Aso image: Tom Vining, Unsplash

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Hidden Secrets and Natural Wonders of 4 Costa Rican Volcanoes
From breathtaking beaches, up through rainforests and cloud forests, Costa Rica’s terrain rises from the sea to mountain ranges and, like icing on a scenic cake, a string of volcanoes that are evidence of the country’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
There are over 200 identifiable volcanoes in Costa Rica that date back more than 65 million years. Half of those show volcanic activity but only half a dozen are classified as active volcanoes.
Costa Rica’s volcanoes are signature features of the scenic landscape and have been key to the country’s lush biodiversity. Costa Rica is famously one of the world’s most ecologically rich destinations and is the first tropical country to reverse deforestation. It occupies a tiny .03 percent of the Earth’s surface, but is home to more than 5% of the planet’s species, and over a quarter of the country is designated protected. Bordered by the sea to the east and west, the nation’s waters host 3.5% of the world’s marine life.
National parks around Costa Rica's volcanoes are also the setting for some of the best adventures in the country, from hiking and mountain biking, to white water rafting, fishing, and kayaking, and birding, horseback trail riding and camping.
Costa Rica’s volcanoes make the vacations of anyone who loves nature and the outdoors magical. Frame your next tropical vacation around the sights and activities of one - or all! - of these 4 amazing volcanoes.

ARENAL
If you were asked to draw a volcano, it would likely look a lot like Arenal (pictured, top). With its picture-‘perfect’ volcanic cone, Arenal is Costa Rica’s most famous volcano and towers in the country’s Northern Plains in Arenal Volcano National park.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and also home to 75% of Costa Rica’s bird population and its most popular natural hot springs, a favorite destination for wellness journeys.
The volcano is the backdrop for Costa Rica’s adventure capital, where visitors enjoy zip-lining, white-water rafting, thermal hot springs and waterfalls, hiking, birding and wildlife-watching opportunities.
Fun Fact: Arenal was until recently the most active volcano in Costa Rica, regularly putting on a show of spewing hot gas and steam, until it suddenly just stopped in 2010.
RINCÓN DE LA VIEJA
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and its dormant sister Santa Maria Volcano form the center of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, which is part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Standing over 6000 feet tall and measuring 9 miles wide, Rincón de la Vieja is the largest volcano in the Guanacaste province and features no fewer than 9 volcanic craters, dozens of rivers cascading down its sides, with waterfalls sending romantic mist into the air. Even though it’s the most active volcano in the region, it’s a nature lover’s paradise with an enormous variety of wildlife.
Like many volcanoes, there are hot springs where visitors can ‘take the waters’. In fact, the region is such an active geothermal area, the Costa Rican government has developed eco-friendly projects that harvest the geothermal energy.
Fun Fact: Rincón de la Vieja’s last big eruption was in January 2020!
POÁS
You guessed it. Another volcano, in another national park. The Poás Volcano in the national park of the same name lies in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. It’s one of the largest volcanoes and the most accessible, only half an hour from San Jose.
Poás Volcano has one active and two dormant craters. The active crater sounds like it could be the setting of fantasy action movies, with a boiling acid lake! Laguna Caliente, or ‘Hot Lake’ is one of the most acidic lakes on earth, and it even changes color hourly from emerald green to eerie grayish white.
One of the dormant craters is the opposite: an icy cold water lake that drains down the side of the volcano.
Fun Fact: Bird lovers can spot 79 different species of birds in the park.
IRAZÚ
At 11,260 feet, Irazú is the country’s tallest volcano. On a clear day, from Irazú’s summit, you have incredible panoramic views of both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans on either side of the country.
This volcano is also located inside its own Costa Rican national park consisting of the volcano and nearly 6000 acres of mountain and cloud forest. While you’re climbing to the summit for those ocean views, you may also may also spot exotic tropical birds including tanagers and tapirs.
Irazú Volcano has several craters but the most famous has a breathtaking blue-green lake inside.
Fun Fact: Irazú Volcano last erupted while US President John F. Kennedy was visiting Costa Rica.
 
And make sure the heights of a volcano are part of your next Costa Rican adventure.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy of Visit Costa Rica
 
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3 Top Trips for Golfers Who Cruise - From Close to Home to Around the World
Suddenly, everyone is golfing again.
With only a few minor tweaks that courses have easily implemented, the game checks all the boxes for a COVID-safe pastime. So it’s no surprise that even less committed golfers have dusted off the clubs, rediscovering the delights to be found on the greens.
As we rediscover travel, the same features that make golf the ideal pursuit in our own neighborhoods also make it an excellent theme for your post-COVID travels.
The list of famous golf courses, resorts and destinations is long and world-wide. And there’s one unique way to enjoy multiple, top-tier courses on one, relaxed trip where you check into a single, floating 'hotel' that takes you to multiple courses: golf-themed cruises.
With a concierge approach that gives guests access to courses and tee times they might not be able to arrange themselves, golf cruises allow golfers who love the cruise lifestyle to enjoy two passions on one trip.
Here are three top picks:

Golf Cruise on the Mississippi River

Cruise line: American Queen Steamboat Company

Golfers have one chance in May to enjoy this unique American cruise. AQSC’s ‘American River Golf Classic’ 9-day cruise from Memphis to New Orleans gives golfers the chance to play at 4 of the most prestigious courses along the Lower Mississippi River, with an option to play in New Orleans after you disembark, too.
While American Queen sails the country’s largest paddleboat, on this journey, you’ll sail on her sleek and contemporary sister ship, the American Countess, complete with custom Italian fabrics, rich walnut wood, premium linens, a host of sociable or secluded verandas with comfy seating in the tradition of Southern hospitality, floor to ceiling windows with panoramic views of Ol’ Miss, and fresh, regional cuisine. You’ll be one of the first to experience her elegant décor as she makes her way down the mighty Mississippi.
Iconic cities of the South on this golf cruise include Natchez, Mississippi, St. Francisville and Baton Rouge Louisiana, with included overnight stay in Memphis before the cruise departs and disembarking in NOLA. The Lower Mississippi River has stories to share – a legacy that flows from Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico. A new chapter – and a new golf course - awaits around each river bend.
Golfers enjoy four top-rated local courses along with the history, culture and memorable scenery of the South, including:
·     Colonial Country Club in Memphis;
·     Copper Mill Golf Club in Zachary, Louisiana;
·     Black Bear Golf Club near Vicksburg;
·     The Bluffs Golf & Sports Resort in St. Francisville, an Arnold Palmer designed course;
·     With an option to play at TPC Louisiana in New Orleans after disembarkation.
That’s up to 5 top courses in different cities in 9 days, with the relaxation of a river cruise and the company of fellow cruise travelers and golfers – with your golfing made easy. The cruise line’s ‘Rounds on the River’ package includes lunches, special giveaways, a special guest appearance from a recognized golf expert and professional, all equipment transportation and club cleaning prior to play.

 

Golf Cruise in the Heart of Europe on the Danube River

Cruise line: AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways’ Concierge Golf Program offers the same opportunity to golf at world-class courses all in one trip. Along the storied Danube, that means golfing in multiple countries during a 12-night journey that includes pre- and post- cruise stays in Prague and Budapest at either end of a 7-day voyage on AmaWaterways’ flagship AmaMagna. At twice the width of any other river ship, it has re-imagined river cruising with more personal space, more dining venues, more leisure space and activities than any other ship sailing the rivers of the world.
There are nearly a dozen departures of the Concierge Golf Program from May through October that include the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. The route features some of Europe’s premier UNESCO sites, fabled culture, architecture, beer gardens, local wines and scenic sailing. 
Even if you’ve sailed the Danube before, the exciting golf programming is a whole new way to enjoy the region. Golfers on the program play at:
·     Albatross Golf Club in Prague, host of the Czech Open, featuring 7 lakes and bordering on a nature reserve;
·     Quellness Golf Resort in Bad Griesbach, Germany, host of the Porsche European Open
·     Diamond Country Club on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria;
·     Penati Country Club in Slovakia and host of the Slovakia Open, a ‘Nicklaus Design LEGEND COURSE’ that meets world PGA standards with a fantastic view; and
·     Pannonia Country Club in Budapest, and host of the Hungarian Open, designed by famous Austrian course designer Hans. G. Erhardt.
It’s the European golf trip of your dreams where your luxury hotel follows you from one dynamic destination to the next. The program makes the cruise – to – golf experience seamless and easy for golfers. Guests are transferred from ship to course and back by private luxury Mercedes. Your tee time, practice balls and golf cart are prepared in advance, and after your round, you enjoy lunch in the course clubhouse with beer and wine all included. When it’s time to transfer back to the AmaMagna, your clubs will be cleaned and ready for the next course on your golf odyssey.

 

Golf Cruises Around the World

PerryGolf on Azamara

Azamara, the boutique ocean cruise line, doesn’t just offer a single golf itinerary. For a decade, it’s been partnered with luxury golf vacation company PerryGolf to offer a selection of golf cruises that just keeps growing. There are now two dozen golf voyages that include play at over 70 marquee courses in 23 countries, including some of the top 100 courses in the world, like Ireland's Royal Portrush, Scotland's Turnberry and New Zealand's Cape Kidnappers.
Above: Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland
Top: Emirates Golf Club (Majlis Course) in Dubai
The voyages follow the sun and the prime golfing seasons around the world, beginning in the New Year Down Under in Australia and New Zealand, plus a new South Africa golf cruise, followed by Spring and Summer in Europe, in the Med as well as the Baltics including St. Petersburg, plus a new itinerary to Norway, as well as flagship itineraries in the British Isles with country-intensive voyages to Scotland and Ireland, then in the Autumn, the dramatic courses of the Arabian Gulf countries and South America late in the year, including a first-time sailing from Rio to Buenos Aires.
Depending on the destination, cruises range from 7 to 17 nights, with between 3 and 6 rounds of golf on a cruise. There’s a full-time PerryGolf program manager on board your cruise as well as onsite at each course, and you’re taken care of at every step, including tee times, carts or caddies, pairings, competitions, social events for fellow golfers on board, handling of your golf equipment, transfers and tips. It’s like an international floating golf club that’s unparalleled in cruising.
Everyone’s considering what types of trips to kick-start post-COVID travel with peace of mind. The outdoor distancing of golf and the appeal of access to multiple new, world-class courses, combined with the luxury and convenience of a safe, single floating hotel that transports you to different destinations with exciting new courses every day, make golf cruises more popular than ever.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV producer host and cruise expert

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
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Are Disney Parks Re-opening? And A Taste of Disney at Home with a Recipe for a Favorite Disney Treat
Can you take a Disney family vacation this summer? The answer is not as simple as you might wish (…upon a star… See what we did there?)
 
Disney Parks have multiple locations in both the US and around the world. Asian Disney Parks have successfully re-opened already. In the US, the company had announced it would begin a phased re-opening in July.
 

Masking Up and Other New Health Measures

Be prepared for changes to your next Disney experience. The company has implemented new measures that increase sanitation and reduce contact, including mandatory advance ticket booking, social distancing in line ups, on attractions and in venues, as well as temperature checks and face masks for everyone over the age of 2. (Get full details from Disney Parks’ Chief Medical Officer here.)

Even with these new protocols in place, with Disney Parks located in two of the biggest current COVID hotspots in the US: Florida and California, fans, season pass holders and travel industry observers had been waiting to hear if those opening dates would be pushed back, (like we’ve seen in other travel sectors). 
 

Disneyland

And in fact, that’s what's happening in California. Citing the high volume of new cases in the state, and taking employee concerns into account, Disneyland re-opening has been put on hold, with no new re-opening date yet set.
 

Disney World

In Florida, there’s a different story. Disney World is still on track for its partial re-opening July 11th, beginning with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Park, followed in a few days by EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. Other area theme parks have already opened, including Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando.
 
Even though Disney World is opening, with international and even national travel still restricted, it primarily accommodates guests who can drive there.
 
So it looks like most families looking for a chance to pose for a pic with Mickey and the gang or immerse themselves in their favorite Star Wars scene or superhero universe will have to wait just a bit longer.
 

Disney Parks Churro Bites Recipe

 
You can drum up a little Disney magic yourselves at home, though. Like other travel companies during COVID, Disney has shared a recipe for one of the most popular treats found at all its parks around the world.  
 
Churro bites are irresistible, and a sweet snack you can make in the summer heat without turning on your oven!

 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup sugar
Method
(You can follow Disney’s helpful video here, if you’d like.)
  1. Combine water, butter, salt, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon in 1 ½-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring pot to rolling boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low.
  3. Add flour and stir vigorously, cooking the dough on low heat for a few minutes as the mix forms a ball. Remove from heat and let rest and cool for 5-7 min.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and stir until combined. Set aside.
  5. Heat oil in medium skillet or 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat or until temperature reaches 350˚.
  6. Spoon dough into piping bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe 1-inch strip of dough over saucepan, cut with knife, and drop into hot oil. Repeat until churro bites fill saucepan with room to fry. 
  7. Fry churro bites until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon or mesh spider strainer.
  8. Drain churro bites on paper towel.
  9. Mix sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in medium bowl. Toss in churro bites until coated. Place on serving plate and serve with favorite dipping sauce.
 
 
Making these churro bites isn’t the only way to get a taste of Disney from home. You can snack on them while you’re online enjoying Disney’s special virtual viewing of the all-new “Magic Happens” Parade at Disneyland park, the behind-the-scenes tour of Walt Disney Imagineering or a creative at-home recreation of Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images and recipe courtesy Disney.
 
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In some very special places in North America, Mother Nature has found a perfect formula to make dramatic hillside scenery decked out in autumn colors even more breathtaking: she’s added waterfalls.

If you’re planning an autumn colors getaway, here are three fantastic falls that will put the icing on the cake of the fall color pictures you’ll want to post on your social media accounts.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

America’s West is full of great heights – and great falls. From the Grand Canyon, to Yosemite, to the very shores of the Pacific in California, dramatic waterfalls have taken visitors’ breath away since humans first set eyes on these wonders.
But unlike many western falls that dry up in late summer, Oregon’s Multnomah Falls work their magic year round, fed not just by melting snow and rain runoff, but also underground springs in the cliffs that line the Columbia River Gorge.
WATCH BESTTRIP TV’S VIDEO ABOVE ABOUT THE MAGIC OF MULTNOMAH FALLS
Said to be the most visited attraction in the state, at 620 feet, this two-tiered falls is also the tallest of the nearly 80 falls on the Oregon side of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge.  
The falls are tucked into a hollow in the cliffs, and mist and spray off the cascades create its own, lush microclimate that feeds fairytale moss on the basalt rocks, and lacy, leaved trees all around. It’s an incredibly romantic vision that you can feel a part of by walking up a trail to the bridge that spans the lower cascade.
The romance of the site is rounded out by a lodge at the base of the falls built from local rock in National Park lodge style that dates back to 1925. In addition to the usual lodge amenities, you’ll find hiking trail information. You can hike to the very top of the falls as well as on many surrounding trails, including to other falls along the Columbia River Gorge.
How to experience the falls:
  • The site falls within the Mt. Hood National Forest, and along the Columbia River Gorge, yet it’s only 30 minutes – an hour’s drive outside of Portland, Oregon. We always recommend taking the slower, scenic route, which will take you along some of the most breathtaking sites of the Columbia River Gorge. 
  • Many people make the falls, the gorge, and Mt. Hood a splendid day trip from the artistic and hipster attractions of Portland.
  • The falls are also a highly rated excursion from Columbia River cruises.

 

Niagara Falls – Ontario, Canada and New York, USA

The granddaddy of waterfalls in North America, Niagara Falls are remarkable in so many ways.
  • It’s the only dual-country attraction in North America, straddling the US-Canada border. 
  • Niagara Falls refers to what are actually three side-by-side falls on the Niagara River dropping 160 feet down where Lake Erie flows into Lake Ontario eastward to ultimately drain into the Atlantic Ocean almost half a continent away.
  • They are the most powerful falls in North America, with more than 6 million cubic feet of water flowing over the edge of the falls every minute!
  • It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
  • The water flowing over Niagara Falls is a signature vivid green, created as the water erodes the rocks it flows over and absorbs the minerals.
The biggest falls are the perfectly-named ‘Horseshoe Falls’ on the Canadian side, where a nightly, year-round light show illuminates the Falls for awed visitors. Every few years, the Falls freeze in the winter, creating a fantasy of icy shapes and lacy frozen mist.
No matter which side you’re on, Niagara Falls, USA or Niagara Falls, Canada – the view is incredible.
How to experience the falls:
  • Observation vantage points and towers, helicopter tours, and (very wet) tours behind the falls and boat tours beneath the falls that take you incredibly close to thunderous cascades, are all favorite experiences on both sides of the border.
  • Niagara Falls, New York is only a half-hour from Buffalo, and Niagara Falls, Ontario is just over an hour’s drive from the bright lights of Toronto. On the Canadian side, the Niagara wine region provides the world with its best ice wine.
  • Great Lakes cruises often dock nearby for guests to enjoy the Falls, wine region, gardens, and other tourist-town attractions.
  • TAKE A VIRTUAL VISIT NOW: You can view the majestic Niagara Falls from home 24/7 with the Niagara Falls Live Web Cam, including the nightly Falls Illumination.
 

Montmorency Falls – Quebec City, Quebec

9 of the 10 tallest waterfalls in Canada are in the West / Northwest; 8 of them are in the Rockies (one on the Alberta side and 7 on the British Columbia side). Another is in the Northwest Territories.
But only one waterfall east of Alberta makes that list. And it’s not Niagara Falls.
Quebec’s Montmorency Falls are actually a hundred feet higher than Niagara’s famous falls, dropping 272 feet from the Montmorency River over a cliff into the Saint Lawrence River.
Year-round, visitors can climb a staircase or take a funicular to the top, where a suspension bridge spans the cascades.
How to experience the falls:
  • The Montmorency Falls are a popular day trip and an easy drive from Quebec City. It’s less than 10 miles from the heart of the more than 400-year Old Quebec City, considered a little piece of Europe in North America, with the only remaining fortified city walls on the continent north of Mexico, and historic, French-style buildings.
  • It’s a popular excursion from a Canada & New England cruise. You’ll want to make sure you add a pre- or post-cruise stay in this magical city, and include a trip to the falls, where many cruise lines offer excursions.
  • Helicopter tours of Quebec City often include the Montmorency Falls.


#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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When a destination’s nickname is ‘The Rock’, you don’t expect a warm and cozy place. Newfoundland is the eastern most point in North America, the vanguard of the continent where it faces into the North Atlantic waters and winds that once brought Vikings and still bring icebergs to its shores.  
In this dramatic setting and tough climate, only the strong survive. Newfoundlanders are tough survivors, but the opposite to their stark environment with famously welcoming, colorful, charming, musical and comedic culture.
The ponies that Newfoundlanders brought over from Northern Europe developed the same characteristics over 400 years, until they became their own breed of tough, sweet, sure-footed and gentle ponies.
Nearly extinct only couple of decades ago, Newfoundland Ponies are now, along with Newfoundland dogs, the animal symbol of the province, and a special treat to meet ‘in person’.
BestTrip TV met these Newfoundland Ponies at The Doctor's House Inn & Spa, an hour away from the province’s capital of St. John’s. The graceful Tudor-style mansion occupies 100 acres of oceanfront Newfoundland terrain with breathtaking views of Trinity Bay. 
Converted into an inn with charming rooms, acclaimed fine dining, one of the most beautiful private gardens on the island, walking trails, luxury spa and an event venue in the restored barn, it’s become not only a country retreat and hub for visitors to explore the region, it’s also become a world famous wedding destination.
Warm Newfoundland hospitality at The Doctor’s House Inn & Spa includes the welcome of sheep, goats, chickens, ducks… and a small herd of now-rare Newfoundland Ponies. They add a ‘Newfoundland theme’ to weddings, drawing the bridal couple in carts.
Not only picture perfect, but irresistible, too. 
 

#DreamNowTravelLater




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Earth Day Marks A Quarter Century of Conservation for Disney

For more than 60 years, beloved fictional animals have been central to Disney storytelling and families’ experiences in Disney parks and ships. 

And for the last 25 of those years, the Disney Conservation Fund, inspired by the conservation of Walt Disney himself, has played a role in saving real wildlife around the world.
Founded on Earth Day (April 22nd) 1995, the conservation fund has inspired millions of people to take action to protect the planet, directed millions to reverse the decline of wildlife in more than half the countries in the world, engaged communities in conservation, and connected kids and families around the world with the magic of nature.
Earth Day in 2020 is overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic that’s keeping much of the world self-isolating at home.
So festive gatherings may be off the table, but we can still join in celebrating the Disney Conservation Fund’s contributions to wildlife preservation over its first 25 years: 
  • $100 million to non-profit organizations to save wildlife;
  • 1000 species protected, focusing on apes, butterflies, coral reefs, cranes, elephants, monkeys, rhinos, sea turtles, sharks/ rays, and tigers;
  • 53 million kids connected to nature through Disney experiences like those found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and through programs, tools and resources supported by the Disney Conservation Fund;
  • 315 million sensitive acres protected; and
  • Projects supported in 6 of 7 continents, all 5 oceans and over 100 countries around the world.
Recent Wildlife projects include momentous contributions like these: 
  • 103,000+ square miles of critical forest habitat achieving protection to support endangered apes in the Democratic Republic of Congo through a Great Apes Conservation Action Plan (the Jane Goodall Institute) (Jane Goodall pictured top at a previous DCF event, courtesy Disney
  • 2,000+ Atala butterflies and 1,000+ endangered Shaus’ swallowtail butterflies raised and released in the wild (University of Florida)
  • 2,300 coral pieces grown, 12 coral nursery sites established, and 3,000+ coral fragments planted to repopulate reefs in The Bahamas (Perry Institute for Marine Science)
  • 7 Siberian cranes outfitted with satellite transmitters during their migration to identify the most important wetland areas for conservation and protection (International Crane Foundation)
  • 1 million+ acres of forest habitat surveyed to protect important areas for African elephants (Wildlife Conservation Society)
  • 20 tons of plastic waste removed from the environment, 175+ families supported through income-generating programs, 164,000+ trees planted, and more than 37,000 acres of forest protected in Colombia and Brazil to protect cotton-top tamarin and golden lion tamarin monkeys (Associação Mico-Leão Dourado, Proyecto Tití, Save the Golden Lion Tamarin and Wildlife Conservation Network)
  • 20 Rhino Protection Units (anti-poaching teams) in Indonesia trained in advanced monitoring practices to better protect two national parks and the Sumatran rhinos who live there (International Rhino Foundation)
  • 238,000 pounds of marine debris removed from sea turtle habitats and 1.2 kilometers of sea turtle nesting habitat restored and cleared of debris (University of Florida)
  • 156 species of sharks and rays studied to help identify where management or protection efforts are needed the most around the world (Wildlife Conservation Society and partners)
  • 4,131 miles of forest patrolled by community rangers to protect tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia (Wildlife Conservation Society)
The DCF is also involved in projects Protecting the Planet
  • Helping strengthen the livelihoods of 52 communities while aiding in the protection of more than 200,000 acres of critical habitat to support endangered species including Sumatran tigers;
  • Supporting implementation of water restoration projects across California and Arizona to improve water use efficiency on agricultural land, reduce the amount of water diverted from rivers and creeks, and improve water quality, recreation and wildlife habitats;
  • In celebration of Disneynature films, The Walt Disney Studios and the Disney Conservation Fund have collaborated to support animals and habitats around the world, resulting in:
  • 3 Million trees planted in Brazil’s most endangered forest.
  • 40,000 Acres of a new marine protected area established to conserve coral reefs in The Bahamas.
  • 65,000 Acres of savanna protected to create conservation corridors in Kenya.
  • 130,000 Acres of wild chimpanzee habitat protected in the Congo, and 60,000+ local youths educated, and chimpanzees cared for.
  • 495,000 Acres of forest protected to restore key corridors for wild pandas and establish a new snow leopard conservation program in China.
  • Conservation projects across 400,000 acres of US national parks supported, park visitors educated, and animal and plant species protected.
  • Conservation projects supported across one million acres in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka, benefiting hundreds of species and protecting fresh drinking water for local populations.
The DCF also annually recognizes local people or teams who have dedicated their lives to conservation in their communities. So far, it has acknowledged the work of nearly 200 wildlife heroes in 4 dozen countries. 
As we wait to create new family memories at Disney parks and cruises, we can learn more about The Disney Conservation Fund on its web site (https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/disney-conservation/), and explore an interactive map of its world-wide projects that help care for the planet and ensure a world where wildlife thrives, and nature is treasured and protected.
Image: Disney
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#LookUpTogether During Dark Sky Week and at the World’s Largest Dark Sky Preserve’s Festival in the Rockies

The COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone at home, resulting in an unexpected and heartening clearing of skies and revival of Mother Nature in surprising places. But one thing that continues to disappear from the world… is darkness.

Light pollution doesn’t just prevent you from seeing the constellations in the middle of the city. Light spilling far into the countryside interferes with nocturnal creatures’ ability to thrive, as well as the essential rhythms of nature. Many species, including the human species, need periods without light, and we hear about shift workers and peoples in the far north whose health and sleep are impacted by interruptions of natural cycles of darkness and light.
The loss of darkness by human expansion around the world is so profound, that, just as people have established reserves for wildlife and irreplaceable wilderness, spaces on earth with an unimpeded view of the stars above are being preserved, too.
The International Dark Sky Association in Arizona works to protect the night, and its International Dark Sky Places conservation program recognizes and promotes excellent stewardship of the night sky.
Over 130 Dark Sky Places around the world have been designated to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

International Dark Sky Week

International Dark Sky Week is a worldwide annual event hosted by the International Dark-Sky Association to celebrate the night and bring attention to the problems caused by light pollution. International Dark Sky Week is held during the week of April’s new Moon, when the sky is darkest and the stars most visible. 2020’s celebrations run from April 19th through the 26th, which appropriately coincides with Earth Day on April 22.
So if you and your family have ever wondered how to find a constellation in the night sky… Or how cultures around the world, and across time, saw their place in the stars... Or what critters are exploring the night while you sleep… You’ll find presentations daily during International Dark Sky Week on the organization’s.

Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival in the Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park is the largest of Canada’s mountain parks, famous for magnificent glaciers, lakes and mountains. Jasper has also been designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as a Dark Sky Preserve for its special commitment to protect and preserve the night sky and to reduce or eliminate light pollution in all its forms.
It’s one of 17 designated Dark Sky Preserves in Canada, the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, and the largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve - meaning there’s a town within the limits of the preserve.
As daylight hours begin to shrink, the month of October is the perfect time for Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival. Dozens of events including dark sky photography workshops, interactive experiences at Jasper’s Planetarium, black hole sculptures, and ‘Animals of the Night’ hikes, indoor and outdoor events, speakers and hands-on celestial activities celebrate the night skies that cradle the earth.
ASK YOUR TRAVEL ADVISOR ABOUT THE BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE JASPER’S DARK SKIES.
(Jasper National Park/ Jasper Tourism)

Jasper’s Wild Beauty and Darks Skies by Train on the Rocky Mountaineer

A Rocky Mountaineer rail journey has been called one of the ‘World’s Greatest Trips’. The incredibly scenic train, with its glass-domed, panoramic cars, gets rave reviews about the magic and wonder of a train trip through the majestic Canadian Rockies.
The Rocky Mountaineer is a presenter of Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and a visit to Jasper any time of the season, with a visit to its Dark Sky Preserve and Planetarium is a magical highlight of a rail journey through the Rockies.
Three Rocky Mountaineer journeys take you to Jasper National Park and its Dark Sky Preserve, including
  • Rainforest to Gold Rush Explorer
  • Canadian Rockies Circle
  • Journey through the Clouds Explorer

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Canadian Rockies Adventure by Globus

The highlight of this 9-day Canadian Rockies escorted tour is the natural wonder of the western skies.
From the forested seaside city of Vancouver, guests travel through mountain passes to the historic mining, rail and cattle town of Kamloops. 
The tour continues to Jasper and its Dark Sky Preserve for a special community Moon Viewing, complete with telescopes.
There’s time to explore Jasper National Park or the Jasper Wildlife Museum, then attend the Jasper Planetarium & Telescope Experience. Guests learn about this spectacular Dark Sky Preserve in a dome theater experience, complete with the most powerful telescope in the Rocky Mountains and venture outside to look for the Northern Lights. The tour includes a day at Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and a fascinating and inspiring Keynote Presentation by guest speakers steeped in astronomic lore.
After Jasper, the tour travels to Lake Louise for an overnight stay at the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise where guests enjoy crisp mountain air, a gondola ride up the mountain and the amenities of this world-renowned lakeside resort as well as Banff National Park in this remarkable Rocky Mountain setting.

Start your Trip!

Top 3 Images by Royce Bair, courtesy International Dark Sky Association
Top: Milky Way over the abandoned Lincoln Highway in Nevada 
Middle: North Star and Big Dipper over Grosvenor Arch, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah
Bottom: Milky Way star canopy over a silhouette of the ‘Wall Street’ canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
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How You Can Help Now in Australia - Hint: It's Not Knitting Another Koala Cozy
Maybe you’ve donated to wildlife rescue or the Red Cross funds to help. Maybe you’ve been one of the crafters who have knitted pouches and mittens for injured and orphaned koalas, kangaroos and other iconic Australian wild animals hurt in the fires.

Welcome and much-needed rains have come that are helping to put out the fires. New green buds are even peeping out of the charred landscape.

Now what?

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s producer/host spoke with officials from Tourism Australia as well as owner/operators of local tourism businesses who came on an urgent trip to North America to provide an update.

It’s not just the actual wildfires themselves that have been damaging to Australia. Misinformation reported about Australia’s wildfires online is hurting the country’s tourism industry. 

That directly impacts Australia’s ability to rebuild and to support and protect its famous wildlife.

Debunking Myths about Australia’s Wildfires


Tourism officials and local Australian tour operators explained that bushfires are a natural part of the seasonal cycle in Australia. This year, they admit the annual fires took place on an ‘unprecedented scale’. 

But everything you may have seen online about this year’s wildfires is NOT true. Here are 3 of the biggest falsehoods:

Myth #1: All of Australia is on fire.

Online maps that show the entire country ablaze are misleading and false. Fires are focused in specific areas and 97% of Australia is open!

Correct maps, real-time information about locations of fires and updated advice about travel to Australia can be found on this official source: Australia.com

In one example, famous Kangaroo Island was on the news for many days. But as officials pointed out, the part of Kangaroo Island that is NOT burned is still three times the size of the entire country of Singapore!

 ‘We’ve taken a big hit, but tourism experiences on Kangaroo Island continue… just modified.’

Myth #2: Sydney is on fire.

Australia’s capital is not on fire. Images of the iconic, harbor-side Sydney Opera House under scaffolding have nothing to do with wildfires. It’s a scheduled renovation!


Myth #3: All the animals are dead.

As in the case of any bushfire in any country, there has been a terrible impact on Australian wildlife in the affected areas. 

As a Kangaroo Island tour operator pointed out, ‘The humane 1st response to the wildlife in crisis was better than anything we’ve ever seen in Australia’s history.’ In 4 days, they built an animal hospital. A call for 80 volunteers to help care for rescued animals received 13,000 applications.

Now, the focus is conservation and habitat restoration.


How Can Travelers Help?


Reschedule, don't cancel.

Keep travel plans you already have to Australia.  Cruise lines and tour operators are proactively modifying itineraries and experiences to ensure you will still see the beautiful scenery, meet those only-in-Australia creatures, and take part in the ‘mate-ship’ lifestyle the country is known for and which the wildfires have not affected.

Talk to your travel advisor about how to modify your trip if you are booked to go to affected areas, or reschedule it so you can still support affected communities.

Book a Trip

You can support Australia’s recovery and rebuilding by:

  • supporting their tourism industry, 
  • sharing positive images of your trip to help counter false online stories, 
  • spending locally to support local economies to rebuild, and 
  • visiting wildlife parks and sanctuaries who rely on admission fees to carry on their essential work of preserving habitat and the one-of-a-kind creatures who call Australia home.

 
Volunteer During Your Trip

Tourism locals are developing ways you can volunteer to help rebuilding and conservation efforts during your vacation in Australia.

Examples of some of the voluntourism programs include

Placing artificial habitats
On Kangaroo Island, for example, endangered cockatoos reside in hollows in trees, and since they are big birds, only mature trees will do. Until large trees are available again, the project is planting boxes at the right height for the cocktaoos to carry on.

Tree planting and habitat restoration
In Australia, the tree-planting window is June-September. Tree-planting projects will be springing up in affected areas all summer. 
One example of a specific project is in Melbourne, where small group wildlife tour operator Echinda Walkabout is organizing volunteers to help restore koala habitat.

Protecting remaining wildlife
In an eco-system, the wildlife tour operators explained, ‘if you look after the small things, the big things take care of themselves.’  One project involves establishing tunnels for small mammals that shield them from predators like (non-native) feral pigs and cats that can wipe out surviving small mammals after a fire destroys the undergrowth where the animals usually hide from predators.
 
Local tourism operators in Australia are working to incorporate volunteer activities into their tours offered by companies like Kensington Tours, Goway, Butterfield & Robinson, and others.

Contacting your travel advisor today to book a trip to Australia is the best way you can be part of the solution to a terrible year of Australian wildfires.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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10 Amazing Facts about the Tasmanian Devil
Move over, cuddly koalas and cute kangaroos. Meet the Tasmanian Devil. 

No, not the Looney Tunes cartoon character that travels like a spinning top, drooling, snarling and terrorizing Bugs Bunny's friends. The real animal, found in the wild only in one state Down Under.

In Australia's collection of one-of-a-kind creatures, the Tasmanian Devil is a stand out member. So between photo ops with koalas, and watching kangaroos hopping through wildlife parks, head to Australia's southern, island state, to get to know the Tasmanian Devil.

It's a keystone species in Tasmania and the symbol of many organizations in the state. We visited a wildlife sanctuary only a half-hour's drive from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and discovered amazing things about Tasmanian 'Devils'.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 
1. Cute and cuddly they are not. Tasmanian Devils look a bit like bear cubs, or like a big-boned small-ish dog at under 30 pounds fully grown. When they're not aggressive, they look a bit sweet. But I had a chance to touch a baby being raised at the sanctuary, and even so young, its fur was like coarse bristles. And they are not sociable or friendly, living alone and coming out at night. 
 
2. They smell bad, too. Tasmanian Devils have a 'scent gland' used to mark territory with very strong and repulsive scent.
 
3. They have a great naming story. Tasmanian Devils are aggressive if they feel threatened or are competing for food. They bare teeth, lunge, and emit loud, blood-curdling shrieks in the dark hours that made early settlers imagine demons had surrounded them in the wilderness. That's how they were dubbed Tasmanian 'devils'. (Check out this video to hear Tasmanian Devils screeching).
 
4. Their oversized heads have incredible jaws that can open to 80 degrees wide! and deliver the strongest bite for its size of any mammal in the world. They have the power to bite through thick metal wire! The staff at the sanctuary joked to keep fingers away from the babies' mouths; even at that size and age, if they'd bitten onto our hands, 'they wouldn't stop til they reach your elbow'. Possibly a joke to make the point, but it paints a picture of:
 
5. The world's largest carnivorous marsupial. (Marsupials are mammals that carry their newborns in pouches). Tasmanian Devils eat only meat: they hunt birds, snakes, other mammals up to the size of small kangaroos, but they also eat carrion – dead animals. They put those tremendous jaws to good use, eating 'pretty much anything they sink their teeth into', crushing and ravenously ingesting even the bones.  
 
6. Even a Tasmanian Devil's teeth are unique. They have the same number of teeth as a dog - 42 – but unlike dogs, a Devil's teeth grow continuously throughout its life, contributing to its phenomenal ability to consume bones of its prey.
 
7. Like all marsupials, Devils store fat in their tails, which thicken up (like humans' waistlines!).  

8. Although Tasmanian Devils once thrived throughout Australia, now they are native only in the island state of Tasmania. There, they have adapted very well to a variety of environments in Tasmania, from coasts to forests to even suburbs. So rather than environmental change, it's believed their extinction on Australia's mainland can be blamed on the arrival of dingoes – which never spread to Tasmania to threaten the Devils.
 
9. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania, either. Those settlers who christened the 'Devils' mistakenly believed they killed livestock (a theory which has now been debunked) and hunted and poisoned them nearly to extinction, until the government stepped in to protect them in the 1940's.

 
10. The Tasmanian Devil population rebounded, but today, they're in danger again. Not from angry farmers. Tasmanian Devils adapted to modern life, with these carrion eaters finding a new food source in the form of roadkill … except these black animals eating roadkill at night are invisible to oncoming traffic, and they, too are killed in great numbers on roads. In addition, a catastrophic facial tumor disease is spreading through the population. The tumors build up in affected animals' mouths and stop them from eating, and they eventually starve to death. Tens of thousands of Tasmanian Devils have died since the disease appeared in the late 90's. 
 
Since 2008, Tasmanian Devils have been listed as endangered. Wildlife sanctuaries attempt to save and raise young in the pouches of mothers killed on the roads, and programs are isolating and breeding populations unaffected by disease. 
 
Devils are also being sent abroad to partner international zoos to contribute to population insurance programs for Tasmanian Devils too.
 
You can see Tasmanian Devils in some zoos – but better yet, by visiting and supporting a sanctuary on their home turf in Tasmania.
 

Start your Trip!

 
(Images: Getty)
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If you're like me, Spring can never come too soon. And nothing says Spring like new flower blossoms.

This year, treat yourself to an abundance of Spring in one of these famous floral travel destinations.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip TV
 

Tulips in the Netherlands

Where: Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding tulip fields
When: April

It's the world's largest spring flower garden. The Keukenhof Gardens are a showcase for the Netherlands' biggest agricultural export: flowers and bulbs. The tulip is the ultimate symbol of a Dutch spring, and there are an astounding 7 million bulbs – tulips and other spring flowers - bursting into bloom on the 80 acres of castle grounds at Keukenhof. Open just a few weeks every spring, Keukenhof is a gardener's dream: themed garden plots and pavilions, an windmill you can climb for a viewpoint over acres of surrounding tulip fields in bloom, boat rides in canals lined with never-ending blossoms.

You can also order bulbs of the blooms you can see at Keukenhof; they'll be shipped to you ready for planting in the fall.

WATCH VIDEO, TOP: THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPRING FLOWER GARDEN ON AN AVALON RIVER CRUISE
 
Also Find Tulips at:

The Ottawa Tulip Festival, Canada


There's a Dutch connection to this flower festival in Canada's National Capital. During the Second World War, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada's capital, and a royal baby was even born on Canadian soil, as overseas, Canadian soldiers led the liberation of the Netherlands. In thanks, after the war, the Dutch sent tulips. 100,000 tulips, and tens of thousands more each year since. The mid-May Ottawa Tulip Festival is not only a symbol of Spring, it's a symbol of peace and cooperation between nations.
 

Chelsea Flower Show

Where: London, England
When: 5 Days Late May

(getty/ BethAmber)

This might be the most famous flower and landscaped garden show in the world. Members of the British Royal Family join garden lovers from around the world at the 11-acre site of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual love-in of traditional, trend-setting and even avante-garde flowers and gardening. You'll see glorious displays of beautiful and also rare spring flowers, floral exhibits and cutting edge design as well as traditional English gardening that is loved and imitated the world over. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is the perfect place to buy English gardening tools and gifts for yourself or your friends at home.
 

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Where: Japan
When: Peak season on Japan's main island is early-mid April

(Getty/ Torsakarin)

The Japanese don't just have a word for cherry blossoms: 'sakura'. The also have a word 'hanami' that means to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back a thousand years or more, originating with the Imperial Family and continuing today for all Japanese. It's one of the most festive times of the year, when Japanese gather with friends, family and colleagues under cherry blossom trees filling parks, surrounding historic castles, temples and shrines, and lining riverbanks, drinking sake and picnicking under the trees long into the twinkling evening hours.

It's not just the stunning beauty of clouds of white and pale pink blossoms hovering overhead; the Japanese also view short-lived cherry blossoms as a poetic symbol of the fleeting nature of life itself.

Also Find Cherry Blossoms in:

Vancouver, British Columbia
An estimated 50,000 blossoming cherry trees line streets and grace parks from February all the way through April, including the city's famous urban Stanley Park.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year for most of the month of April.

Washington DC

(Getty/ zrfphoto)

America's capital has a glorious annual reminder of the thousands of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the US in the early 1900's as a sign of friendship. Famously lining the shore of the Tidal Basin, DC's cherry blossoms are celebrated annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April. 
 

Texas Bluebonnets

Where: Throughout the state, especially the City of Ennis and its 'Texas Bluebonnet Trail'
When: April

(Getty / leekris)

This wildflower is the state flower of Texas and believed to be named from its resemblance to a pioneer sunbonnet. Bluebonnets are actually several varieties of lupins. They thrive in lesser soil and so line roadways as well as fill public lands and pastures. 

The city of Ennis, south-east of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the official home of the bluebonnet, with over 40 miles of flower-bedecked roadsides, as well as an annual Festival. The Texas highway department not only delays roadside trimming so people can enjoy the spring bloom, its early officials were instrumental in encouraging these wildflowers to thrive. Today, they still plant about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year, contributing to the preservation of Texas' native vegetation.
 
Also Find Lupins:

In Canada's maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 (Getty / bilbowden)

The lupins you'll find growing wild in Canada's eastern provinces are a larger variety than Texas bluebonnets, and although they're more purple-y blue as well as pink and white, they're an equally cheerful sign of spring. Well, actually early summer. The cooler climate means peak lupin season here is late June – early July.
 
 

Azaleas in America's South-East

Where: Gardens throughout the region and especially: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
When: Throughout April

(Getty/MargaretW)
 
Azalea shrubs originated in Asia and were successfully taken to many places in the world. But in America's south-east, they've gained a special place as an iconic garden favorite and symbol of gracious Southern living. Unlike other spring blooms, they're quite long lasting, spreading joy for weeks of the season.

Many public and private gardens have a spectacular spring showing of azaleas, but special mention goes to Charleston's Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The former rice plantation dates from the 1600's, and is the oldest public gardens in the U.S, opening its doors in 1870 to visitors who wanted to enjoy its thousands of cultivated flowers and plants. The less-formal, 'Romantic' style garden is not only on the list of one of 'America's Most Beautiful Gardens'. Magnolia was also the first garden in the country to plant azaleas outdoors, in the 1840's.
 
Today, hundreds of thousands of azaleas bloom in flame pinks, oranges and reds, lining paths and lakes in a breathtaking spring bloom.

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They say on St. Patrick's Day everyone's a little bit Irish. So it's fair to say that on Rabbie Burns' Day, we're all a little bit Scottish. The national poet of Scotland – he wrote the song you likely sing every New Year's Eve: Auld Lang Syne – was born on January 25, 1759. And every year on January 25th, Scots and people of Scottish ancestry world-wide celebrate the man voted the 'Greatest Scot' in the country's history.

In Scotland and in many communities with Scots heritage, especially in Canada, where more than 15% of the population have ancestors from Scotland, the day is marked with Rabbie Burns Day Suppers. Gentlemen lucky enough to own a kilt suit up, bagpipers pipe in the haggis, Burns' 'Address to a Haggis' is read as the stuffed sheep's stomach is ceremonially carved and served, many toasts are made with whisky (all the better to wash down the haggis!), and it wraps up with everyone singing Auld Lang Syne.

If you're one of the millions of North Americans of Scots ancestry – or are an honorary Scot on Rabbie Burns' Day – we hope you attend a Rabbie Burns supper on January 25th in your hometown. Even better, once in your life, make the trip to join the festivities in Scotland itself. It's a bucket list trip much like being in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. You'll feel like a true Scot for the rest of your life.

Here's our salute to Robert Burns Day: BestTrip's video / love letter to the Shetland Islands, the most remote part of Scotland and northern-most point of the British Isles. (Click on the video above to watch).

The Shetland Islands are where 'Scotland meets Scandinavia and the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean'. Directly due west of Norway, the Shetland Islands are as far north as St. Petersburg, Russia, and Anchorage, Alaska.

With over 4000 years of history, enchanting wild coastline and charming farms - and an estimated 1500 of its famous, local namesake breed of Shetland ponies roaming its green pastures - the Shetland islands are a time capsule of unique Scottish history, heritage and traditional lifestyle. 

(Seabourn Ovation docked next to Oslo's historic fortifications)

We sailed to the Shetland Islands on our luxury Seabourn cruise of Scandinavia and the Northern British Isles. The Shetland Islands are yet another reason we love sailing on smaller ships like Seabourn, whose itineraries include not just marquee destinations like Copenhagen, Oslo and Edinburgh, but also small ports in remote destinations - like the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Imagine a cruise port where you barely see another tourist while you experience untouched Nature and authentic local life. 

It's cruise travel as the explorer inside you dreams it will be.

Start your Trip!


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5 Little-Known Facts about Africa's 'Big Five' Animals

'Safari'. It's a Swahili word simply meaning 'journey'. But for travel lovers, the word 'safari' ignites our imaginations of exploring vast Sub-Saharan landscapes and encountering majestic creatures in their natural environment .

Africa's 'Big Five' list dates from a time when human/animal encounters ended badly for the animal. The Big Five were the hardest to hunt on foot and therefore the most valued trophies.

Today, the Big Five remain essential African animal encounters on safari to capture through your camera lens. 

Here are some things you didn't know about Africa's Big Five:

Lions:

Possibly the most iconic of African large animals, this big cat is unmistakable. Lion sightings are even more impressive as lions are very social and live in groups called 'prides' so you may well see more than one at once. Although they are 'apex' predators – the top of the food chain! – they don't spend a lot of time hunting. Lions can sleep up to 20 hours a day! But when they are awake you'll know about it.  A lion's roar can be heard up to 5 miles away! This helps communicate with the rest of the pride; calling for stray members back, declaring territory, and for females, communicating with cubs and calling for help when threatened.

Leopards: 

This famously spotted creature is the least seen of the Big Five as it's the most nocturnal. Unlike lions, leopards are not social and spend most of their lives alone. They are like the superhero of the big cats: they are sleekly graceful and almost perfectly camouflaged in the dappled shade of trees; they have excellent night vision and are incredibly powerful, able not only to regularly climb trees, but to drag prey 3 times their own weight 20 feet high into trees to protect their dinner… and they are even strong swimmers who sometimes fish! Even feline superheroes need a break, though. Leopards are known to take naps in the treetops.

 

African Elephants:

These vegetarians are the largest land animals… whose closest relatives are rodents! Elephants have shock-absorbing pads on their feet that allow them to walk much more quietly than you'd believe of such enormous creatures. They also have rather delicate skin than can sunburn and get irritated by even an insect! That's why you see elephants using their trunks to throw sand over themselves to protect against the sun and bugs. They are also avid swimmers and can swim long distances using their trunks as built-in snorkels. Those trunks also come in handy for drinking and grabbing food – even something as small as a single grain of rice. Elephants can communicate with each other across great distances by making sounds in frequencies lower than humans can hear. And these social creatures mourn dead members of their herd with rituals that can last days. 

Cape Buffalo:

Africa's Cape Buffalo has never been domesticated even though it's the only type of wild cattle in Africa. It's probably due to the danger factor. These unpredictable and aggressive animals are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other, and still kill over 200 people every year, earning them nicknames like 'Black Death' and 'Widow Maker'. Cape Buffalos use attack as their first line of defense, circling back at anything hunting them. That's a lot of rock-hard muscle and horn and surprisingly, brains coming at you. They have excellent memories, even ambushing creatures who have previously attacked them. Lions are their number one natural predator. But it will still take several lions to take down a Cape buffalo, risking the fury of the rest of the herd, which will ferociously defend and rescue fellow buffalo and kill lions who have attacked one of their own.

Rhinoceros:

The rhino is the most endangered species on the Big Five list. Poachers go to shocking lengths to kill protected rhinos, just for the horns that are said in Asian cultures to hold medicinal properties. Rhino horns are actually similar in composition to human fingernails or horses' hooves. Rhinos look fierce, almost armored, and like an immovable wall. In fact, they run much faster than you'd think – and they run on their toes! Rhinos have three hoofed toes on each foot, and they graze on leaves and twigs, just like their relatives: horses and zebras. Rhinos don't have any front teeth and use their lips to pick up their food. Much more dainty than they look.


Africa's Big Five are so much more than poster children for safari tours or wildlife conservation. They, and other unique African creatures like giraffes, cheetahs, gorillas and chimpanzees, zebras, hippopotami, birds and marine creatures, are complex, fascinating animals with beauty and characteristics incredibly evolved to this unique environment. 

Many reputable safaris and river or ocean cruise + land safaris in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia know the best places and times of the year for different wildlife experiences; some even guarantee you'll see the Big Five plus some of your other favorite African animals.

Encountering any of these creatures in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience that transforms any traveler forever.

Start your Trip!


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The World's Tallest Geyser Is At It Again

It's a geological mystery and a rare spectacle of Nature at the world's first National Park. Yellowstone National Park occupies over 2.2 million acres of land in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho – larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined! The park's famously magnificent vistas include forests, lakes, waterfalls and petrified forests, all home to a treasure of American wildlife.

But beneath its surface beauty, that's where Yellowstone National Park gets even more interesting. It's over top of a giant volcanic hotspot, which has created over 10,000 thermal (heat-related geological) 'features', and more than 300 geysers.

The conditions that create geysers are rare. Yellowstone is one of the few places on earth where you see them. Geysers erupt when magma (underground molten rock from volcanic activity) heats up gas and water trapped below ground until they erupt like a teapot coming to boil. The hot water and gas generate enough pressure to break the surface of the earth and gush upwards in a tower of water that lasts minutes, followed by days of steam continuing to release.

That's what's happened at least 4 times in just a couple of months during the spring of 2018 at the park's Steamboat Geyser (photo credit). Each time, about 70,000 gallons of water have erupted from the world's tallest geyser, where powerful eruptions can spew steaming hot water over 300 feet into the air.

Like most geysers, Steamboat is completely unpredictable. Yellowstone's most famous geyser, 'Old Faithful', fulfills the promise of its name and erupts almost on clockwork every hour or so, and you can even monitor them on the dedicated Twitter feed created by the National Park Service. Scientists think Old Faithful's predictability is due to a simple underground structure, whereas Steamboat's structure is believed to be more complex, and the magma movement irregular.

In fact, it's the first time in 15 years that Steamboat has erupted 3 times in one year. The last time it erupted at all was in 2014. But in 1964, Steamboat erupted a record 29 times!

The truth is, other than general knowledge of how the park's underground volcanic activity activates geysers, scientists don't know for sure why Steamboat has started erupting again – or why it has already blown four times in a couple of months.

So the show may not be over.

That's why this might be the best year to make a trip to Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park; for the possibility of witnessing a rare display by Mother Nature you won't see many other places on the planet.

Let us help you plan a trip to Yellowstone and other National Parks in America's West this year; tour packages bring you to the heart of Yellowstone National Park, and hopefully, you'll have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Yellowstone's famous geysers. Start your Trip!

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A New Marine Reserve in Mexico is the 'Galapagos of North America'

Giant manta rays, sharks, whales, turtles, sea lizards and hundreds of other species are now protected in Mexico's vast new Revillagigedo marine reserve in the Pacific Ocean off the Baja Peninsula.There are four Revillagiegedo Islands about 240 miles (390 km) southwest of Baja California. They are small, uninhabited volcanic islands, but uniquely positioned where two ocean currents converge. (Top photo credit). That makes the islands and the waters around them a hub for hundreds of species of marine plants, birds and animals that live there or migrate there especially for breeding.

Previously, only the waters 6 miles around the islands were protected, leaving vital feeding, breeding and migration areas open for fishing. But in 2016 the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its biodiversity and in November 2017, the Mexican government created an immense marine reserve 57,000 square miles (148,000 square km) surrounding the islands. That's a protected area the size of the entire state of Illinois, and the largest marine protected area in North America.

(Photo Credit)

All fishing is now banned inside the reserve – a move that will actually support the fishery. Protecting breeding grounds of commercial fish like tuna will allow hard-hit fish populations recover to the benefit of local fisheries outside the reserve. (Other marine reserves around the world have seen the local fisheries benefit from the conservation of breeding grounds).

Mining, resource extraction and hotel development will also be prohibited. Plans for active protection are now in place. The Mexican Environment Ministry and Navy “will carry out surveillance, equipment and training activities that will include remote monitoring in real time, environmental education directed at fishermen and sanctions against offenders".

Already, conservationists are celebrating and calling it 'the Galapagos of North America'. The Revillagigedo islands are considered one of the wildest places remaining in tropical North America, where you can see the most giant manta rays and sharks and large fish in the world as well as soft coral gardens with sea fans, sponges and crabs.  

(Photo Credit)

What does this mean for us travel lovers? In addition to knowing some of the Earth's biodiversity and natural marine beauty are being protected, Mexico's creation and protection of the new Revillagigedo marine reserve is expected to increase the opportunity for dive tourism in the area. Boats currently often depart for the Revillagigedo islands from the popular resort destination Cabo San Lucas. Not a diver? It's anticipated that carefully monitored wildlife adventure cruises, like trips travelers can take to the Galapagos Islands in the waters of Ecuador, will also allow travelers to experience the biggest marine reserve in North America.

Start your Trip!

This is a cruise line private island experience we haven't seen before.  Our Caribbean cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruises included a day at Harvest Caye, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our cruise. And when you watch the video you'll see why.

Harvest Caye is an island a mile offshore mainland Belize.  Like other cruise line private islands, Harvest Caye was developed as a beach port of call in the Caribbean for its guests by parent company Norwegian for its Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Oceania guests.

It's a spectacular, resort-style experience. There's a 7-acre pristine beach. You can relax in clamshell tents or even better, in one of the luxury beach villas with porches over the water, hammocks, dining and beverage options and dedicated concierge service.

Or head to the pool.  This extravagant 15,000 square foot oasis has a swim-up bar and tables in the water, elegant lounges and canopy pool cabanas with beverage service.

A 130 foot tall 'Flighthouse' looks a lot like a lighthouse, but gets its name as the island's point of departure for adventure:  an over water zipline or ropes course. There are also eco/ water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing in the lagoon alongside the wildlife.

Authentic and Sustainable

The Shopping Village, with its outdoor art festival, local musicians and dancers, high-quality local retailers of locally made chocolates, spirits and artwork including local woodwork, features street-style Belizean cuisine for that truly authentic local flavor.

The development preserves and improves the local eco system, uses indigenous, responsible hardwoods in the buildings, and is creating 500 direct and 1500 indirect jobs for the local economy.

All those things you might expect from a well-planned cruise line private island that also wants to support and authentically reflect its host community, Belize.

But Harvest Caye takes that responsible approach one step further with a Wildlife and Conservation program.

Wildlife and Conservation:

The development of Harvest Caye has boosted local environmental conservation. More than 15,000 new mangroves have been planted to increase the natural estuary habitat for birds, fish and other marine species.

Conservation programs and education efforts have been developed by award winning author and wildlife expert Tony Garel, Harvest Caye's Chief Naturalist, who supervised a wildlife interaction program so you can actually meet and learn about local wildlife.  Tony is on the island daily to lead tours of the wildlife experience. 

Tony's love for and commitment to Belize's plant and animal life were the highlight of our visit, and meeting Tony will be the highlight of your visit to Harvest Caye, too.  (And his friends, Belize's National bird, the toucans.) 

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A Carry On Kayak

The world's first nesting performance kayak may not actually reduce to airplane carry on size.  But its 6 interconnecting sections pack into a custom-made wheeled backpack bag that's a mere 3 feet long and weighs only 55 pounds.  

So you can store it in a closet.  Then roll it like a piece of luggage and take it with you in a car trunk, a cab, train, ferry, check it on your flight, or even carry it on your back hiking to any body of water begging to be explored.

Once you reach the water, the Pakayak Bluefin 14-foot sea/touring kayak assembles in under 5 minutes – with no small, loose parts to lose in the sand. 

So even in a remote location anywhere in the world, you can create your own kayaking adventure.

Pakayak is a crowd-funding, adventure-travel success story. A Connecticut outdoor adventurer / entrepreneur designed and patented the nesting Pakayak. The company raised 125% of its kickstarter fundraising goal, supported by lovers of the outdoors eager for a full-scale, easily-stored and easily-transported kayak.  One supporter has pre-ordered one for each member of the family.

The interconnecting sections are made from high-grade kayak industry resin that nest into each other, then assemble with a series of patented clamps and seals resulting in a watertight and rigid performance kayak.

Once assembled, it looks and performs just like a conventional kayak.  It has a thick foam seat for comfort, adjustable foot braces and seat back, two watertight hatches, watertight bulkheads fore and aft, a padded folding seat, adjustable foot braces, reflective safety lines, bungee deck rigging, front and rear carry handles, and it's rudder-ready.  

Future planned developments include additional models of different lengths, and seats for fishing, kids and dogs.

Pakayaks aren't just the ultimate mobile kayaks. You can also feel good about the company's commitment to social and ecological responsibility.  Clamps and shells are made in the U.S., where the kayaks are also molded and assembled, providing local jobs. Manufacturing, assembly and distribution all take place at the same facility to minimize environmental impact.  The design reduces shipping and fuel costs compared to conventional kayaks. In fact, 6 times more Pakayaks than regular kayaks fit in a tractor-trailer.

Pakayak takes seriously the responsibility of outdoor adventurers to be active stewards of the environment and puts their money where their mouth is.

The first model, the Bluefin 14 is named after the endangered species, and future models will also be named after a threatened marine animal or fish, with a percentage of profit from each sale going towards efforts to protect that species and sustain the world's marine ecosystems.

Pakayaks are inspiring and empowering. They have opened up a whole new way to travel the world with your own kayak and the complete freedom to spontaneously explore the rivers, seas and coastlines on your list.

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Cowboys. Wild white horses.  Wild black bulls. And pink flamingos.

Hard to imagine any place on earth where you'll find all of them together, but the vast Camargue delta in the South of France is home to all of these colorful creatures.  You can't miss BestTrip.TV's introduction to French cowboys and the beautiful wilderness of the Camargue.

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Do you ever see social media posts of magnificent wildlife photos from someone's trip to Alaska and think: This just can't be real?But it is. BestTrip.TV cruised from Vancouver to Seward (near Anchorage) on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, hoping Nature would be kind and we'd encounter at least a couple of the animals and birds Alaska is famous for:
  • Whales
  • Salmon
  • Crab
  • Bald eagles
  • Puffins
  • Brown (grizzly) bears
  • Sitka deer
  • Sea otters
  • Sea lions
Like you, we were skeptical of shore excursion guides who jokingly promised guests 3 out of 5 of a list of iconic Alaska wildlife 'or your money back'. For Regent guests, this is truly a joke, because Regent has included shore excursions, so you can take wildlife tours in every port of call without going over your vacation budget. If you don't see the animal your heart is set on, another day, another port, another excursion just might bring you luck.
The truth is, our shore excursion guides and boat captains really know their corners of an enormous state; where whales feed or sea lions congregate. Plus we got lucky with weather and time of day...
In the end, over the course of a week-long cruise, we ended up seeing all of these creatures and others we didn't expect, and capturing them on video to share with you.
We think this video is the next best thing to actually being there watching whales come up for air or puffins fly past or a bald eagle swoop down into the water to capture a fish to feed her young in the nest. 
But don't take our word for it. Add an Alaska cruise to your travel bucket list.
Start your Trip! 
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Why Canadian Gardens Rock

Not all of Canada's natural wonders are wilderness. Communities across Canada have cultivated oases of trees and greens, colorful flowers, fresh air and serenity in the heart of busy urban centers.

Tara Nolan is a garden and travel writer, author of the best-selling book Raised Bed Revolution and co-owner of popular gardening website Savvy Gardening. She shares her list of favorite Canadian gardens, from west to east.

You don't have to be an avid gardener to appreciate Canada's public gardens. Gardens give residents and visitors a different perspective and experience in a city. The popularity of visiting gardens is astonishing: in any given year, more people visit public gardens in America than go to Disneyland and Walt Disney World combined! Canada's gardens are just as appealing, with engaging activities including some special programming for Canada's 150th birthday.

UBC Botanical Garden – British Columbia

Photo Credit

Not only does the UBC Botanical Garden play host to fabulous food and alpine gardens, the GreenHeart TreeWalk, a highlight of my trip to Vancouver last summer, takes visitors through the treetops of 100-year-old trees along canopy walkways, the highest of which is 23 metres above the forest.

The Butchart Gardens – British Columbia

Photo Credit

Magnificent Butchart garden draws a multitude of tourists, but it’s worth the visit to see the lush, colourful displays, from the Sunken Garden, which is beautiful through every season, to the Night Illuminations throughout the summer. I’ve visited in the fall when the dahlia walk was in full bloom.

The International Peace Garden – Manitoba

Photo Credit

Though a little remote, this garden is unique because it straddles the border with the United States—North Dakota on one side, Manitoba on the other. The message of this garden is one of contemplation and peace. You can even book a campsite to stay for longer than a day. This garden is on my list for a more rugged, outdoorsy trip that involves hiking and biking.

University of Alberta Devonian Botanic Garden

This 240-acre gem, 15 minutes from Edmonton, features a lovely Japanese garden and a Tropical Plant and Butterfly Showhouse. I made sure to visit the Herb and Sensory Gardens, as well as the Native Peoples Garden to learn more about what indigenous people foraged for and used for medicine, meals and ornamentation. When you visit this garden, time it so you can lunch at the Patio Café.

Toronto Botanical Garden

Photo Credit

This urban garden, nestled among leafy neighbourhoods, is looking at expansion to up its garden game even further. In the meantime, check the schedule for weekly entertainment, visit the bustling farmers’ market on a Thursday and sign up for a yoga class in the garden—it’s good to de-stress while on vacation, right?

Royal Botanical Garden – Hamilton, Ontario

Photo Credit

Not only does the Royal Botanical Garden have multiple sites (the RBG Centre, The Rock Garden, etc.), it also has multiple hiking trails that take you through the wilderness of Hamilton and Burlington and make you forget you’re in a city. Take the kids to the LEGO exhibit and check the schedule for jazz, blues and country music nights in Hendrie Park.

Gatineau’s Jacques-Cartier Park – Quebec/National Capital

A special exhibit has been built to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial: MosaïCanada 150. Expect massive, living sculptures packed full of plants and flowers. There will be 40 on display, representing the country’s history. And admission is free!

Reford Gardens/Jardins de Métis

Photo credit

This inimitable garden above the shores of the St. Lawrence River will appeal to especially arty types because of the International Garden Festival that invites landscape architects from around the world to design spaces based on a theme. The garden also features a fantastic culinary program. Visit the Estevan Lodge Restaurant to see what chef Pierre-Olivier Ferry, Gold Winner of the Canada Good Food Innovation Award, is concocting from his plant collection.

The Halifax Public Gardens

(Pictured, top. Photo credit)

If you’re wandering around Halifax, this is an easy garden to get to on foot for a visit—I strolled through last year for the first time and loved its proximity to shops and restaurants. Like Canada, it’s celebrating its 150th birthday. A special website has been put together—check it out for theatre and music events, special tours and more.

Start your Trip!

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Vancouver may be Canada's most famously 'outdoorsy' major city. Even in a city that drives Canada's vast Asia-Pacific business, athletic wear is more common than pinstripes! Nature thrives right on the city's doorstep: a gorgeous, picturesque harbor and bay, snow-capped mountains surrounding the city, and breathtaking Stanley Park, one of the world's top urban green spaces. For vacationers and cruise travelers in Vancouver, outdoor activities top the list of things to do. Even if you're traveling to Vancouver on business, if you don't take the opportunity to get outdoors, you've missed essential Vancouver.

Luckily, it's not only one of the most enticing big cities to be outdoors, it's easy to get outdoors and get active on a trip to Vancouver.

BestTrip.TV's Ryan McElroy 'test drives' Vancouver luxury harborfront hotel Westin Bayshore's active travel program. With cycling, run concierge, superfoods, yoga, and fitness equipment loan programs, Ryan discovers there is no excuse to miss enjoying the great Vancouver outdoors.

Start your Trip!

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