A Dream of Adventure

We all have that big adventure we’ve really wanted to go on but have put off for one reason or another over the years. The opportunity will always be there, we tell ourselves. If there’s one thing we know after seeing life abruptly come to a halt, it’s that things can change in a hurry and nothing is truly guaranteed. Once it’s safe to travel again, it’s time to take that adventure. And the time to start dreaming about it and planning it is now.

As part of our “Travel Dreaming” series, Dr. Travel himself Paul Largay spoke with three people who know their way around an adventure: Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions, Don Martinson of Natural Habitat Adventures and Ashish Sanghrajka of Big Five Tours & Expeditions. They’ve always specialized in going off the beaten path to seek out what there is to discover in the remote areas of the world. With those places soon to be more sought out than ever, they’re the ones to turn to for an authentic and sustainable adventure. There’s no better time to get started with the planning and settle on the dates when more is certain. As Dr. Travel put it, “What coronavirus has not stopped is our curiosity, our need to know and, most importantly, our desire to dream.”

With that, our guests shared some of their favorite adventures, from polar bear viewing in Manitoba to gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda to getting up close and personal with Adelie penguins in Antarctica. Whatever your definition of adventure, these companies can accommodate it while making you feel comfortable at the same time.

Expeditions are not, “eating borscht and sleeping on a wooden pallet,” Bain said, Lindblad trips offer the opportunity to go on an exerting hike then have a great glass of wine when you get back. Martinson stressed the abundance of options on a Nat Hab trip. There are always activities for those who want them, but no one is left out if not feeling up to the challenge. For instance, on Nat Hab’s Yellowstone wolf quest photo adventure, participants have the option to snowshoe to Old Faithful or ride to the iconic geyser in a coach. Sanghrajka noted that on the same trip in Colombia, guests can paraglide then do a rum tasting with the mayor of Cartagena’s son. “It’s the stuff you can’t script that speaks to me,” he said.

While as Martinson said, if you walk across a football field unassisted, you can go on most of these trips, you might want to ease yourself into adventure, especially if you have young kids. The Galapagos is a great place to dip your toe in the water. “Each time you go, it’s a different experience,” Bain said. “It’s great for kids and a good precursor to Africa.” Martinson also recommends the Galapagos, along with national parks and Costa Rica for getting kids hooked on adventure and science. Sanghrajka relayed that he first took his kids to Guatemala, where the roasted marshmallows in steam from an active volcano before watching another spew lava from deep within the earth. “When your teacher asks what you did for summer vacation, you’re gonna win,” he told them.

As the kids get older and your family works it way up the adventure rung, you can discover places such as East Greenland, “a place that made me feel smaller than I’ve ever felt before” as he kayaked around huge icebergs and waterfalls in a transformative experience. While the guides are world-class and the accommodations comfortable, some places are hundreds of miles from the nearest five-star hotel. “It’s not about the thread count, it’s about the animal count,” Martinson said. If you’re an avid diver exploring the waters of the South Pacific, Bain noted, that’s where true luxury lies, in making a dream come true.

What remote adventures are on the horizon for when we can finally escape and get back out into the world? Bain recommends the Russian Far East and Northeast Passage from Norway to Nome. Martinson is keen on small-group and private excursions in America’s national parks. Sanghrajka is excited about northern Peru. “Kuelap is 1,000 years older than Machu Picchu and sees about 100 visitors on a busy day,” he said. “The third highest waterfall in the world is there. I can’t wait to get up there.”

We know we can’t wait to get out into the wide open spaces again and take the road less traveled. We’re thrilled to have partners who have blazing trails in these remote areas for years. “When you people say we’re going to want to get out of the box, I say we’ve been waiting for you. What took you so long?”

Top Safari Destinations

Ask anyone who’s been on safari, and you’ll hear all about the transcendent beauty of sunsets, the majesty of the vast open spaces, the thrill of getting up close and personal with exotic animals. It’ll leave you with only one conclusion: You have to go see for yourself. As Richard Mullin said, “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” Now that’s it decided you’re going, the question is which area you should choose for your safari.

 

Kenya / Tanzania

When most people picture a safari, they’re thinking of East Africa. The great migration of wildebeest and zebras takes place annually across Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain and Kenya’s Masai Mara. Hundreds of thousands of animals make the trek in search of grass to graze on. The Maasai people provide an enriching cultural exchange. Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater is rich in wildlife, while Olduvai Gorge is a goldmine for the study of human evolution. Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are the tallest mountains in Africa and make for excellent, if challenging, climbing.

 

Botswana

Though it’s nearly 1,000 miles long, the Okavango River never does quite find its way to the sea, instead of crashing into the sands of the Kalahari Desert to form the sublime Okavango Delta, a maze of swamp, salt and lakes that provides a staging area for a dramatic interplay of animals large and small. Botswana attracts colorful birds, a huge migration of zebra and large numbers of elephants. The San people, the famed Bushmen of the Kalahari, share insights on their culture and its relationship to the natural world.

 

South Africa / Namibia

A safari in South Africa offers loads of advantages. First, you can pair it with time in the spectacular city of Cape Town and the surrounding Cape Winelands. Second, malaria-free reserves make it an ideal choice for families with young children. Private game reserves are packed with lions, leopards, elephants, impalas, and zebra. To the northwest, Namibia is a vast wilderness of sand dunes where elephants, lions, and endangered black rhinos manage to eke out a living and thousands of birds, including flamingos and pelicans, flock to the infamous Skeleton Coast.

 

Zambia / Zimbabwe

Separated by the Zambezi River, these two countries are more or less defined by water, making them excellent venues for abundant wildlife. The main attraction is Victoria Falls, “The Smoke That Thunders,” but each country also offers national parks filled with Cape buffalo, impalas, zebras and elephants, among many more diverse species. Zambia’s Kafue National Park is a great place for leopard-spotting, while Zimbabwe boasts splendid game-viewing along the shores of Lake Kariba.

 

Uganda / Rwanda

In the highlands of the Virunga Mountains that straddle these two countries, you’ll find an entirely different and rare game: gorillas. Only a few hundred mountain gorillas are left in their natural habitat, and they offer a fascinating study in primate behavior. It is in Uganda that Lake Victoria drains into the Nile River, and Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to traditional safari species. Rwanda is renowned for its wide variety of bird and plant species, including more than 100 varieties of orchids.