Sustainable Luxury Travel in Africa

By Sara Verk, Lion World Travel

 

Traveling is more than just visiting new places. It’s about the enriching experiences when we explore and learn about the history, culture and people of the places that we visit. We need to be aware of our environment, be ecologically responsible, travel lightly and not leave a large footprint on the land we’re exploring. We feel it is vital to protect the people, places and wildlife of Africa in order to be able to share it with travelers in the future. We are so happy that we’re not alone in this vision, as there are many safari lodges and hotels in Africa who are adopting eco-friendly and ethical business practices.

 

At Lion World Travel we are committed to supporting our partners in Africa who are serious about the environment. Here are five African lodges/hotels that have embraced the spirit of sustainable travel.

 

1. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa

Grootbos offers five-star luxury in the Western Cape and is a leading example of sustainable eco-tourism. The nature reserve is home to 791 plant species, including 100 endangered plant species, and 1000-year-old milkwood forests. The owners run an extensive conservation and horticulture programs to preserve the flora and have a true passion for the environment. They have even formed a Non-Profit Organization to help other hospitality businesses implement their own ‘green’ initiatives.

 

Grootbos Flower Safari

Grootbos Flower Safari

 

2. Mombo Camp, Botswana

Wilderness Safaris camp in the Moremi Game Reserve underwent a major renovation to bring the traditional camp up to modern design and environmental standards without disturbing the natural habitat. They even brought in an arborist to oversee the protection of trees and their roots. Mombo is 100% solar powered thereby reducing energy consumption and fuel, while a reverse osmosis water filtration system provides guests with high-quality drinking water. Grey water is treated in an above ground sewage plant, ensuring that the water is clean before being allowed to enter the natural environment. They only use approved eco-friendly detergents and chemicals.

 

Wilderness Safaris

Wilderness Safaris

 

3. Bushmans Kloof, South Africa

At Bushmans Kloof indigenous herbs and vegetables are picked daily from their organic garden and incorporated into dishes on the menu. All vegetable waste is composted, minimizing landfill contribution and reducing the need for chemicals to fertilize and enrich the soil in their garden.

 

There is a rich array of local indigenous wildlife here, including the rare Cape Leopard. Along with The TreadRight Foundation, Cheetah Outreach and The Cape Leopard Trust, they have purchased seven Anatolian Shepherd dogs to act as livestock guardian dogs to safeguard against these Cape Leopards.

 

Anatolian Shepherd dogs – Image: Bushmans Kloof

Anatolian Shepherd dogs – Image: Bushmans Kloof

 

Bushmans Kloof is a member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, recognizing their dedication to preserving our planet’s natural and cultural heritage.  They serve as a steward for more than 130 cave sites painted by the indigenous San people. Preservation efforts have helped the Rock Art earn distinction as a South African National Heritage Site.

 

4. Chobe Game Lodge, Botswana

At Chobe Game Lodge, they are leading the way in responsible tourism with a variety of sustainable tourism initiatives including a fleet of electric safari vehicles and electric solar-powered safari boats – a clean and quiet way to enjoy a boat safari.

 

Chobe Game Lodge

Chobe Game Lodge

 

Chobe Game Lodge has embarked on a multitude of environmental and social projects to ensure the long-term sustainability of the lodge. They recycle 15,850 gallons of grey water every day which irrigates the lush green surroundings. Approximately 95% of Chobe Game Lodge’s waste is sorted and recycled! The 800 foot+ boardwalk and deck are built from recycled timber-plastic decking and the poles sourced from a sustainable forestry operation. The decking is maintenance free, removing the need for harsh cleaning chemicals.

 

5. Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp prides itself on being eco-friendly and conservation conscious. The camp is 100% solar-powered, using innovative eco-friendly systems to break down wastewater. Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp supports the Namibia Desert Lion Conservation and assists with protecting a unique population of desert-adapted elephants. The Camp is also a center for research and conservation of the desert-adapted lion and brown hyena, plus they have partnered with the neighboring communities, so that ecotourism can benefit the people of the area.

 

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

 

With so many great initiatives in Africa, why not choose a more sustainable safari option? Choose a travel company that is committed to reducing any negative impact a trip might have on the destinations you visit and consider an eco-friendly property.

 

Some final tips – pack a reusable water bottle and carry bag. Avoid using single-use shampoo bottles and avoid using plastic straws. Have a great (sustainable) safari!

 

Create your own custom safari, or sustainable Africa vacation package with Lion World Travel. For more than 55 years, Lion World Travel has been making safari dreams come true. We Love Africa and wish to share our passion with you! Our travelers have come to expect exceptional wildlife encounters, five-star service, and the best affordable luxury safari experiences. Visit www.lionworldtravel.com to start planning your journey to Africa.

 


How to Visit Japan as a VIP

Meet knowledgeable locals, see iconic sites, taste exotic flavors and wonder at Mother Nature in true luxury 

By Chelsea Todaro, Communications Specialist with The Travel Corporation

Himeji Castle photo credit: @danminsighttd

Himeji Castle photo credit: @danminsighttd

 

From laid-back Osaka with its eclectic food scene to traditional Kyoto with its lantern-lit cafes and captivating geisha district, Japan has something to thrill even the most seasoned traveler. When it comes to the finer things in life, Japan serves up slick design, bullet trains, Michelin-starred restaurants and five-star hotels, all of which can be experienced on Luxury Gold’s 11-day Majestic Japan journey.

 

Since major cities in Japan are known to be densely populated, travelers may run into overcrowded areas that can negatively affect their vacation experience. But travelers with Luxury Gold don’t have to worry—because Luxury Gold goes above and beyond for their guests so they can experience this diverse country in luxurious comfort and style. With small groups, VIP experiences, exceptional dining, elegant hotels and a Traveling Concierge–who’s there to tailor everything to your desire—Luxury Gold truly creates a journey beyond the ordinary.

 

The Golden Pavilion, also known as Kinkaku-Ji Temple, in Kyoto, photo credit: @orslnsight

The Golden Pavilion, also known as Kinkaku-Ji Temple, in Kyoto, photo credit: @orslnsight

 

Part of the unique traits of a Luxury Gold journey are the special experiences crafted to put travelers into the heart of the destination. In Osaka, guests will discover why the city is known as the kitchen of Japan as they embark on a food-tasting exploration along Dotonbori Street with a passionate local foodie and their Traveling Concierge. Having locals be part of the travel experience is important because they bring authenticity and excitement to the journey.

 

Todaiji Temple in Nara, photo credit: @orslnsight

Todaiji Temple in Nara, photo credit: @orslnsight

 

Guests will gain a local perspective in Hiroshima with a special VIP experience, by meeting a survivor of the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb, which destroyed most of the city during World War II and changed world history forever. Guests can also join in on paper crane making and learn about the meaning behind this symbol for peace.

Another special feature about Luxury Gold’s journey is that guests will ride the famous high-speed Shinkansen bullet train numerous times while traveling from city to city. This lets guests catch the everyday experience of traveling like a local—all while catching views of mountains and quaint Japanese towns between each city.

 

 

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, photo credit: @orslnsight

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, photo credit: @orslnsight

 

Nothing screams Japanese culture more than Geishas, Cherry Blossoms and sushi, all of which Luxury Gold guests will experience in VIP-style. While in Hachinohe, guests will learn about the meticulous care and nurturing of cherry blossom trees from a cherry blossom doctor who ensures all cherry blossoms, from saplings to mature trees are healthy and thriving during the beautiful cherry blossom season. In Tokyo, travelers will get to participate in a private sushi-making class in Tokyo and discover why it takes ten years to perfect this 2000-year-old Japanese art before sitting down to a freshly prepared lunch. While in Kyoto, guests will enjoy a performance by a Maiko, an apprentice Geisha, as they savor a lunch of traditional Kyo-Kaiseki cuisine made of seasonal ingredients. They can also embark on a guided walking exploration of the vibrant Gion neighborhood, known as Kyoto’s primary geisha district.

 

Gion neighborhood in Kyoto, photo credit: @orslnsight

Gion neighborhood in Kyoto, photo credit: @orslnsight

 

Japanese cuisine is of course a big highlight of this journey, and guests will experience this in five-star settings. In Tokyo, guests will enjoy a famous tea ceremony and watch as locals demonstrate the traditional art of making matcha green tea. Later, travelers can join in the exploration of Nakamise Street and Kappabashi–the local backstreet known as the city’s foodie hub. Guests also have a “Your Choice Evening” for a true local experience. They have the choice of two hand-picked restaurants, each specializing in local delicacies: the Shabu-shabu, which are hotpots of meat and vegetables, or Teppan-yaki, where rice, meats and vegetables are freshly cooked on a grill.

 

Last but certainly not least, guests will dine at the dazzling Michelin-Star Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai, a famous restaurant with old-world charm and surrounded one of the most tranquil Japanese gardens in the heart of Tokyo. It specializes in tofu cuisine, but guests can savor a range of intricately prepared dishes including simmered eggplant and fried shrimp, fresh sashimi and deep-fried tofu coated with miso.

 

Overall, if travelers want a fully immersive experience of Japan with the fine luxuries attached, Luxury Gold will go beyond their expectations for a truly immersive and unforgettable journey.

 

About Luxury Gold
Luxury Gold sets an unmatched standard with its collection of award-winning journeys. Guided by a Traveling Concierge, Luxury Gold is a journey beyond the ordinary, where guests enjoy exclusive VIP Experiences, savor exceptional dining and relax in luxury hotels on every curated itinerary. As global leaders in luxury travel with expertise accumulated over nearly 100 years, Luxury Gold epitomizes extraordinary exploration to some of the world’s most spectacular destinations. To find out more, visit www.luxurygoldvacations.com.

 

 

 

 


Top Five Wildlife Encounters Off the Beaten Path

By: Kelsi Auld, TCS World Travel

Nothing compares to the thrill of seeing animals in the wild. From encountering loveable lemurs only found in Madagascar to witnessing the epic Great Migration across the African savanna, first-hand animal experiences create unforgettable vacations, cherished memories and a deep appreciation for nature that lasts long after returning home. Discover how you can venture off the beaten track with TCS World Travel, who has been taking guests on incredible around-the-world journeys for over 25 years, to encounter extraordinary wildlife and enjoy adventure along the way.

 

Photo Courtesy of Karine Aigner

Photo Courtesy of Karine Aigner

 

1. FOLLOW THE TRACKS OF TIGERS IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK

On TCS World Travel’s upcoming Wildlife and Natural Wonders expedition, explore Ranthambore, once the royal hunting grounds for maharajas and the ideal destination for observing wild tigers in their natural habitat. Ranthambore National Park works hard to protect the diverse wildlife within its borders, including some 80 Royal Bengal tigers who rule their own dedicated sanctuary. Accompanied by an expert naturalist, embark on an early-morning game drive amid the dry tropical forests, scenic lakes and open grasslands for your best chance to follow the tigers in their daily routines.

 

Photo Courtesy of Karine Aigner

Photo Courtesy of Karine Aigner

 

2. COME FACE-TO-FACE WITH MOUNTAIN GORILLAS IN RWANDA

Take the trek of a lifetime into the Rwandan rain forest and discover one of the most moving animal experiences: to observe the highly endangered mountain gorilla in the wild. These peaceful and powerful giants live in groups of up to 30 individuals and make their home in only three places in the world. Hike through the thick forests of Volcanoes National Park with knowledgeable local guides in search of a mountain gorilla family, and watch in awe as they munch leaves, groom each other and play.

 

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3. WITNESS THE WILDLIFE OF THE MASAI MARA FROM ABOVE

Observe one of the world’s most ancient migration rituals from a hot air balloon. Every year, more than 30 species of herbivores and nearly 500 species of birds make the perilous trek across the Masai Mara plains, following the rains in search of lush feeding grounds. With a breathtaking bird’s-eye view, watch as the sun rises over the golden African savanna and witness millions of migrating wildlife—including wildebeest, zebras and gazelles—pour over the seemingly endless horizon.

 

4. SPOT ENDEMIC LEMURS IN MADAGASCAR

Due to its geographic isolation from Africa’s mainland, Madagascar is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. Some 80 percent of the island’s plants and animals exist nowhere else on the planet. And of all Madagascar’s impressive inhabitants, the most famous may be the lemur—60 species of this big-eyed mammal call the island home. From ring-tailed and wild black to Hawks’ sportive and Sifaka, see how many lemurs you can spot as you traverse the lush Lokobe National Park or Canyon des Singes (Canyon of Monkeys) with an expert naturalist guide.

 

5. ADVENTURE ACROSS LAPLAND BY DOG SLED

Explore Finland’s rugged frontier on TCS World Travel’s Winter Wonders expedition, offered during “Northern Lights season” when conditions are just right for spotting this astounding natural light display. Experience how Laplanders traveled before the arrival of snowmobiles by embarking on a snow safari by dog sled. Listen to the skids hissing softly as the dogs reach speed and the sled glides across the snow-covered wonderland. Set out on a nighttime ride to float underneath the breathtaking sky, or make the most of the precious daylight hours and opt for a daytime ride where you can get the chance to drive the team of huskies through snowy fells and forests with a dog sledding expert.

 

Want to learn more about these immersive wildlife experiences? Check out TCS World Travel’s upcoming journeys and discover how you can encounter some of the world’s most incredible creatures by private jet.

 

TCS World Travel has been enriching lives through jet expeditions and custom itineraries for over 25 years. With over 300 luxury jet expeditions to more than 200 destinations, TCS World Travel is the most experienced jet expedition company in the world. This expertise has led them to be named a top Tour Operator by Travel + Leisure magazine three years in a row.


How to Prepare for a National Park Visit

By Betsy O’Rourke of Xanterra Travel Collection

Known as “the best idea we ever had,” America’s national parks are glorious icons of the country’s natural beauty.  And, with proper preparation, the parks — from California’s Death Valley to Wyoming’s Yellowstone — can offer some of the most spectacular and unforgettable experiences. Follow these 10 savvy tips to prepare for a visit as epic as the scenery.

Glacier NP Red Bus 5

1. Choose the right park.

 

First, choose the right park. While the famous parks are the undisputed show stealers, don’t discount the under-the-radar ones for worthwhile experiences, too.

 

The National Park Service offers useful tools to help you find the right park, plan your activities, get the right permits, check the rules, and find local tours that help you get the most out of your trip. The Find A Park site is searchable by park, state, activity, and topic. Recreation.gov is its self-service trip-planning site. FindYourPark.com, a collaboration between the NPS and the National Park Foundation, has a park finder filtered by activity, state, zip code, and park name. Xanterra Travel Collection operates the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier, Zion, Death Valley, Mt. Rushmore and Rocky Mountain national parks.  Go to www.xanterra.com for lodging, dining and activity inspiration.

 

2. Know when to go.

 

While spring break and summer are by far the most popular times to visit a national park, if you have more freedom in your calendar, choose the shoulder season and avoid the crowds.  Parks such as Death Valley are actually best in winter when temperatures are in the 70’s and 80’s with little to no rainfall. Enjoy the spring fed pools with 86-degree water, the lowest elevation golf course in the world, and completely refurbished rooms and restaurants at the Oasis at Death Valley as well as the majestic views, amazing hikes and brilliant night skies the park offers. Other parks like Zion and the Grand Canyon are magical in winter, and at Yellowstone, the winter snow makes animals easier to spot.

 

3. Plan your activities.

 

To the extent possible, develop a plan for your visit. Pick the right activities and determine the skill level needed to safely enjoy them. Rather than racing around trying to see everything, prioritize a few key things.  Start with the park website or if you’re already onsite, go to the park visitor center. Many offer free Ranger-guided and Junior Ranger programs. There are also many tours available, like the famous Red Bus Tours at Glacier operated by Xanterra or many yellow bus tours at Yellowstone, including the family favorite old-fashioned covered wagon BBQ.

YNPL Old Faithful Geyser and Inn from Ground - Andy Austin

4. Check park regulations.

 

Learn the rules for permits, wildlife encounters, camping, trash disposal, and safety. Parks usually require permits to stay at campsites, for some activities (e.g., fishing), and even to access certain hiking trails. Bring paper versions since cellphone service can be unreliable in remote areas.

 

5. Learn about park conditions.

 

Prepare for your park’s natural environment, weather, and any risks or hazards involved in your activities. Study the trails and stay current on the latest weather and road closures via your park’s website and social media channels.  Understand the level of difficulty and technical skills required of certain hikes, i.e. Subway or Angels Landing at Zion.

 

6. Research how to get around.

 

You can drive through some parks easily; others require guests to park outside and shuttle in. Some parks are sprawling and isolated with few roadside facilities, so carry water, and even gas. If you plan to drive off road, make sure your vehicle is equipped for rugged terrain. And always bring maps; don’t count on GPS.

Pool at twilight - The Oasis at the Death Valley

7. Bring proper gear.

 

Pack strategically to guarantee your safety and comfort based on the park, the weather, and your activities. Most important is comfortable footwear — that is broken in. If you plan to hike, bring essentials such as a daypack, hat, water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, flashlight, map, and first aid kit. If you plan to camp out, test your equipment in advance.

 

8. Stay at a national park lodge.

 

If you want to stay inside the park, don’t pass up a national park lodge. Many, like the lodges in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon, are beautiful, historic lodges, and most do not have in-room televisions.  Star-lit skies, fire pits and smores and family games offer a non-digital alternative. Staying in the park is the best way to experience it. Once the day-trippers leave, you can enjoy sunsets, starry nights and sunrise with fewer people around.

 

9. Reserve early.

 

Book your park lodge (or campsite) early; many fill up quickly with some as far as 13 months in advance. This is especially true of peak summer season and holidays. If a lodge is full, check back regularly for cancellations as you may get lucky.

 

Advance reservations are also essential for popular activities with limited capacity, such as the mule rides at the Grand Canyon and the Red Bus tours at Glacier.

 

10. Consider a tour group.

 

Planning a national park trip can be very time-consuming. One way to ensure you’re seeing the best offerings is to opt for a guided tour. Depending on your ideal trip length and level of activity you seek, consider a bike tour with VBT, or a walking/hiking tour with Country Walkers, or a more traditional sight-seeing tour with Holiday Vacations. Packaged tours can save you time and money and they all offer the accommodations, meals, and activities for you with local guides and can arrange air and transfers as well.

 

A nationally known executive and thought leader in travel and tourism, Betsy O’Rourke is Chief Marketing Officer at Xanterra Travel Collection, part of the Anschutz Corporation.

 

Known for its “Legendary Hospitality with a Softer Footprint,” Xanterra Travel Collection manages lodges, restaurants, tours, and activities in the national parks including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain National Parks, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. It also owns and operates the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel in Williams, Ariz., The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., The Oasis at Death Valley in Death Valley, Calif., Windstar Cruises, Holiday Vacations, VBT Bicycling Vacations, and Country Walkers. Xanterra is also affiliated with two Forbes Five-Star resorts, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Sea Island on the coast of Georgia.

 

 


Heritage Travel in the UK and Ireland

By Europe Express 

Photo by Ingo Doerrie

Photo by Ingo Doerrie

The United States is home to a spectacular diversity of cultures—cultures that connect us to histories and communities and people across the globe. Every American has a heritage story that takes us beyond our country’s borders and into the wider world.

Fueled by television shows like “Who Do You Think You Are?” (wherein celebrities trace their ancestry overseas), our interest in our own genealogy has skyrocketed. We’re learning that our identities are strongly rooted in the identities of those who came before us, and that it’s important to know where we come from in order to know where we’re going.

 

What is Heritage Travel?

Heritage travel is a way for people to connect to their roots in their ancestors’ home country. Depending on how much you’d like to learn about your history, this type of travel can encompass a range of activities. Some people may choose to explore the archives of ancestry agencies, while others prefer to simply taste the foods their ancestors ate or walk the streets where their ancestors lived.

 

Heritage Travel Destinations

As part of the English, Irish, Scottish, or Welsh diasporas, many Americans can trace their genealogies to ancestors across the UK and Ireland. If you’re planning a heritage trip to one of these destinations, here are some ideas for your travels:

 

Ireland

Photo by Christian Bowen

Photo by Christian Bowen

Considering that one in every nine Americans can trace their ancestry back to Ireland, the Emerald Isle is among the most popular destinations for a heritage trip. You can access Catholic parish registries in towns like Adare and Shannon, comb through records at the National Archives, or consult with a professional genealogist at the Irish Family History Centre in Dublin. Another great resource is the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, which employs a resident genealogist to help you access over 1.5 million burial records dating back to 1828.

 

England

Photo by Lea Fabienne

Photo by Lea Fabienne

In 1538, King Henry VIII’s chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell, decreed that every church in England maintain records of all baptisms, marriages, and burials. Today, these parish archives provide information about ancestors who lived as far back as the mid-1500s. The Society of Genealogists in London houses an extensive collection of published family histories, as well as census records for the whole of the UK. In Kew, the National Archives are an excellent resource for military and court records.

 

Scotland

Photo by Mitchell Luo

Photo by Mitchell Luo

Nearly 50 million people around the world claim Scottish ancestry. If you head to Scotland on a heritage trip, you can visit the seat of your ancestor’s clan, get a taste of long-held cultural traditions at the Highland Games, or learn about your ancestor’s trade at museums dedicated to everything from fishing and farming to textiles and war. If you’re in Edinburgh, the ScotlandsPeople Centre at the National Records of Scotland houses a comprehensive collection of census records, marriage and death certificates, parish registries, coats of arms, wills, and more. At the National Library of Scotland, you can look through emigration lists and ship manifests, browse newspaper articles, or locate the graveyards where your ancestors are buried.

 

Wales

Photo by Benjamin Ranger

Photo by Benjamin Ranger

Whether you’re interested in a one-on-one session with a genealogist in Swansea or you’d like to search centuries’ worth of parish records at the Glamorgan Archives in Cardiff, Wales is home to a wealth of family research resources. In addition to its census records, civil registrations, and newspapers, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth houses an impressive collection of tithe maps, which show the names of landowners and occupants in parishes across the country. If you don’t find what you’re looking for at the National Library, you may have better luck at a Record Office in the county where your ancestors lived. These can often provide you with photographs, sound recordings, or videos that help connect you to your roots.

 

Managing Expectations

It’s important to keep in mind that while it can be easy to get your hopes up about finding information that connects you to those who came before, you might not always find what you’re looking for. Remember that at its core, heritage travel is about making connections to your roots, whether that means hearing the languages, tasting the food, walking the streets, or learning the history of the places your ancestors called home.

 

 

Established in 1990, Europe Express provides high-quality custom travel to Europe, working exclusively with travel advisors to create unique vacations that fit the needs, interests, and budgets of each individual client. The company serves both group and FIT leisure markets and books everything from air and rail to hotels and sightseeing tours. With a well-traveled reservations team and buying offices in Europe, Europe Express provides seamless service before, during, and after each trip.

 


9 ways to preserve the polar regions for future generations

Aspiring polar explorers learn about sustainability and conservation on polar voyages with Quark Expeditions

By Doug O’Neill, Quark Expeditions 

 

It was one of those travel moments that was both Instagram-perfect—yet simultaneously soul-stirring. I stood on the deck of Ocean Adventurer as it sailed into Krossfjord, a 30-km long fjord on the west coast of Spitsbergen in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Most of my fellow passengers were at breakfast so I had the deck to myself, with my camera at the ready, my eyes peeled on the horizon for my first glimpse of Lilliehöök Glacier, and my ears alert for the signature thunder of glacier calving.

 

USTOA Blog1

 

In the midst of all that anticipation of nature’s drama unfolding before me, I was suddenly overcome with a sense of quiet, a stillness that brought with it a razor-sharp clarity of my surroundings.  My mind began to run through an inventory of every stunning image I had experienced in the days leading up to this moment: the sculpted icebergs, the expansive glaciers, the snow-capped mountains, the long-abandoned historic sites, the polar bears prowling along the ice edge, the reindeers that cantered past me when I was on a shore landing, the walruses that gazed at me as I kayaked 30 metres away, of the whales spotted from the ship, and of cliff-tops covered in thousands of nesting Brunnich’s guillemots.

 

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And in my private polar epiphany, I was overcome not only with an intense appreciation for this pristine polar wilderness before me but also with a desire to protect it for every future visitor who came after me.

 

USTOA Blog3

 

This realization was by no means unique to me—it’s a moment shared by many who visit the Arctic or Antarctic. And this raised a fairly basic question: what can guests do to help preserve the pristine polar regions?

 

 USTOA Blog4

 

For this answer, I turned to my colleague, Lyndsey Lewis, Operations + Sustainability Manager at Quark Expeditions, a long-time sustainability advocate and one of the forces behind Polar Promise, Quark Expeditions’ holistic sustainability framework for protecting the polar regions.

 

USTOA Blog5

 

9 ways to be kind to the planet on your next polar voyage 

By Lyndsey Lewis, Operations + Sustainability Manager 

 

  1. Pack and use only reusable bottles (the only option when on a voyage with Quark Expeditions), coffee cups and reusable bags that you can take home with you.
  2. Choose refillable toiletry containers or non-plastic packaging that are free of microbeads. Your Quark Expeditions cabin is equipped with refillable dispensers of body wash and shampoo.
  3. Don’t introduce non-native species. Pack clean gear, including clothing, footwear, and bags. Decontaminate boots before leaving and upon returning to the ship by using the provided Virkon disinfectant bath.
  4. Bring a reusable waterproof bag to protect your camera and/or phone from the elements. (Avoid single-use plastics at all times.)
  5. Don’t dispose of waste during shore landings. Where waste is unavoidable, bring along a reusable bag and carry the waste back onto the ship to be disposed of properly.
  6. Support local communities in the Arctic: Purchase goods from local artisans during community visits in the Arctic, but don’t purchase important goods like groceries and supplies as stock is limited and deliveries are rare.
  7. Follow the environmental and conservation guidelines established by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), who outline strategies, policies and behaviors to protect the polar regions.
  8. Place a bid during our onboard auctions: proceeds from our onboard auctions support polar research and conservation groups.
  9. Become a Polar Ambassador. Talk to one of our Expeditions Team about becoming a Polar Ambassador.  This program teaches you how to make changes to reduce your carbon footprint every day. It’s also your way of educating your respective communities on the importance of protecting the majestic polar regions.

 

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Quark Expeditions is the leader in polar travels. Quark Expeditions has been taking global travelers on immersive journeys to the Arctic and Antarctica for almost three decades.


5 Easy Ways To Be A More Responsible Traveler 

By Intrepid Travel

Do Your Pre-trip Research

Intrepid Travel-Iran_esfahan_Sheikh_lotfollah_mosque_049A4102

One of the first steps to traveling more responsibly is to conduct pre-trip research. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the country – including its religion, the local rules and values, and the cultural and social norms – to learn what is appropriate behavior while you’re visiting.

During your research, you should consider tour operators and travel companies that support the local economy by using local guides and supporting local businesses, hotels, restaurants and other services. Book with companies that have strict sustainability and animal welfare guidelines and who also give back to local communities, to ensure you are traveling in the most responsible manner and also using your holiday as a force for good.

 

Offset Your Trip

Intrepid Travel-Nepal_Doban_2019_78648 1

While tourism is responsible for about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is also responsible for a lot of good in the world. Travel allows us to learn about other cultures and their everyday lives and challenges, brings income to communities that rely on tourists and makes us all more open-minded.

Instead of choosing to not travel, consider reducing your footprint and offsetting the impact of your travels. Some airlines offer you the opportunity to offset your flights, and you can also choose to travel with carbon neutral companies who will offset your trip on your behalf.

For instance, for less than the cost of a Netflix subscription, you can commit to a subscription service that helps the planet, through the company Offset Earth. Starting at $6.50 per month, you can part of the climate crisis solution. Offset Earth partners with climate projects all over the world to offset carbon emissions on behalf of subscribers and, as a bonus, plants trees. By committing to a subscription plan via the Offset Earth x Intrepid page, Intrepid Travel will match subscribers’ tree for tree, meaning for every tree planted through Offset Earth, Intrepid will plant one too, effectively doubling your offset contribution.

 

Behave Like a Traveler, Not a Tourist

Intrepid Travel- Thailand-chiang-mai-elephants-4159

While it might be okay for you to act or wear what you please at home, in many countries it is disrespectful to show too much skin or do certain things in public. Using a tour operator that employs local guides to assist you along the way is a great way to learn more, but it’s good to follow a few basic rules too. As a rule of thumb, travelers should abide by the following:

  • Be prepared to cover shoulders and knees and remove hats when in traditional areas and places of worship.
  • Always ask permission before taking photos of local people.
  • Don’t participate in direct interaction with a wild animal, such as riding elephants, or support any attractions in which animals are used for performances.

 

Support Local Businesses

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By choosing to invest your money in local services you are putting money directly into the local economy and supporting local families. Eat local food, use public transport, hire a bike or walk where convenient – you’ll meet local people and get to know the place. Shop from traditional artisans and for locally made products, helping keep traditional crafts alive and favor local products over imported items. By default, you’re also lowering your carbon footprint since the businesses are likely to source their supplies locally. Not only is this style of travel responsible, it will also make your travel experience that much more authentic.

 

Leave Nothing Behind

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Minimizing your waste and impact is one of the easiest ways to be a responsible traveler. Travel with some basics: a reusable cup, a water bottle, a metal or bamboo straw, reusable cutlery, and a fabric shopping bag. You can even buy water purifiers that filter out harmful bacteria, making bottled water less necessary. Plastics and other products aren’t biodegradable, so it’s important to be mindful of how much waste you’re producing and ensuring it’s being disposed of properly. Take care of the environment as you would your own home.

 

 

Intrepid Travel is the worlds largest B Corp certified adventure travel company. The company offers more than 1000+ trips in more than 120 countries and on every continent. A world leader is sustainable small group adventures, all of Intrepid’s trips are carbon-offset and designed to truly experience local culture – to meet local people, try local food, take local transport and stay in local accommodation. For more information: www.intrepidtravel.com


How to Get More Out of Seeing the Cliffs of Moher

By Roman Godzich, Director of Content at Sceptre Vacations

The spectacular Cliffs of Moher are one of the most popular bucket list destinations.  To make your visit the absolute best it can be, check out these tips before you hit the cliffs.

 

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Time your visit

Keep in mind that the Cliffs are most crowded between 11 am and 4 pm. Because this is right after all the tourists wake up, eat their Irish breakfasts, and venture off for the day. It’s also the time when many bus tours show up and when you’ll most likely be surrounded by large groups.  Take the time to explore beyond the visitor’s center, you’ll find room to breathe and roam around. There is so much beauty to see, why stay in one spot?

 

Check the weather

The weather in Ireland is often unpredictable. But there’s a huge difference between a forecast that claims all sun, and one that claims all rain. If possible, choose a sunny day to visit the Cliffs of Moher. It can be still spectacular in stormy weather, but fog may impede the brightest photos.

 

Pack warm clothing and a rain jacket

Be prepared for a variety of weather experiences. One minute might be rainy, and the next one might be sunny. Even if you check the forecast for a general idea of the day, the weather around the Cliffs may be different. The best thing you can do is be prepared. Pack a scarf, a rain jacket, and waterproof shoes. We hope it stays sunny for you, but if it doesn’t, you don’t want your feet to be cold and soggy as you explore.

 

Find the parking lot

Although it’s pointed out by signs, many people miss the parking lot. That might be because it’s across the road from the Cliffs entrance. Every day, tons of tourists turn into the main entrance, only to turn around and go back to the parking lot. Be smarter by turning into the lot ahead of the entrance.

 

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Climb O’Brien’s Tower

Sitting at the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher, O’Brien’s Tower is an outstanding historical landmark. Offering incredible architecture and breathtaking views, the structure dates back 2,000 years. The spiral staircase is a narrow and daunting climb, but the view is worth it.

 

The visitor’s center is hidden

Upon arrival, you might think, “Visitor center? Where?” Many people ask the same question until they look a little bit more carefully. The eco-friendly visitor center is actually nestled into the hillside. It is built that way to minimize visual impact on such a scenic location. This fabulous center boasts a gift shop, exhibition, and café.

 

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Afternoon is best for photos

The Cliffs of Moher face west.  This means that your best bet at postcard-worthy pictures is in the later afternoon. We recommend arriving towards the end of the afternoon for some great shots. Another idea? Visit the Cliffs in the morning, then come back just before dusk for a breathtaking sunset! If you’re there in the summer months, you’re in luck. The sun sets much later in June and July, offering more afternoon to work with.

 

Watch the wind

It doesn’t just get windy, it gets windy. Like, really windy. Be prepared! The cliffs are jaw-droppingly high and set against the ocean, which creates quite a strong gale force. Keep your belongings secure, and don’t walk too close to the edge!

 

Yes, there’s WiFi.

Free customer WiFi is provided throughout the visitor center and some outdoor areas such as O’Brien’s Tower. Feel free to post photos, use your map app, or even Facetime a friend who couldn’t come along on your trip. But please don’t be one of those people who stare at their phones the whole time. You’re at one of the most beautiful, sought-after sites in Europe.

 

 

Roman is an internet industry veteran. He began designing ecommerce solutions on the French Minitel system. He has designed search engines, booking processes, affiliate programs and ad networks. Through his career, he has been responsible for over $1billion in online sales. Currently, his responsibilities at DH include content creation, management and optimization. In his spare time he writes fiction and catches fish. He is a 5 time Nanowrimo winner and author of the novel “No Higher Ground”.

Sceptre Vacations has been empowering travel agent success since 1981, specializes in FIT and group bookings to Europe, but also sells 500+ prebuilt packages to over 70 countries worldwide.

With prebuilt packages, sharable content and an industry-leading dynamic packaging engine (PerfectFIT), Sceptre provides travel advisors with custom online articles and digital brochures that can be branded for each agency.

Visit http://www.sceptrevacations.com and see why we say that “Sceptre is the Perfect fit for the smarter agent.”


Updated on March 27, 2020: The new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021.

Updated on March 24, 2020: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the October 1, 2020, deadline has been extended. No new implementation date has been set. USTOA will provide updates as soon as they are announced.

Updated on February 20, 2020: The Department of Homeland Security has made the decision to allow electronic submissions of the documents that are required to obtain a REAL ID, a positive step ahead of the deadline.

In order to board a commercially regulated aircraft on October 1, 2020, travelers must possess a REAL ID compliant travel document. In order to obtain a compliant REAL ID or to ensure that your current travel documentation is REAL ID compliant, please visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles or utilize your state’s or territory’s online resources before the October 1, 2020 deadline.

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Airline travel can be stressful for new and experienced travelers alike. Perhaps the most important part of any trip is ensuring that appropriate documentation and identification is in hand. For domestic travel, this generally means a valid U.S. driver’s license, or state identification card, while passports are required for international travel.

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency housed within the Department of Homeland Security, has been speaking to an issue relating to “REAL ID”. REAL ID represents the federal government’s attempt to create uniform minimum security standards for all U.S. driver’s licenses and identification cards in order to access Federal facilities, enter nuclear power plants, and board federally regulated commercial aircraft.

Creating these uniform standards is laudable and will ultimately make travelling throughout the U.S. safer. However, it is important that Americans are aware that their current form of identification, whether it is a driver’s license or state identification card, may not suffice to move through airport or other security settings, particularly with regard to traveling within the U.S. or elsewhere. The traveling public needs to be aware that updating travel documentation in the coming year will be necessary for those who are not already compliant. Otherwise, it is possible that come October 1, 2020 travelers could risk being turned away at the airport. To reaffirm, every American is currently required to possess a REAL ID compliant license or identification card by October 1, 2020 in order to, among other things, board a commercially regulated aircraft. Travelers without compliant identification could be turned away at the airport.

In the past, deadlines have been set on REAL ID compliance, and those deadlines have been kicked down the line. For the current deadline, recent reports indicate that this deadline of October 1, 2020 may hold. It is recommended that American travelers proactively check to see whether their identification is compliant to eliminate the possibility of added travel-related stress.

The good news is that anyone who holds a valid U.S. passport already has a REAL ID compliant form of identification. As of September 2019, 47 states, the District of Columbia, and three United States territories are compliant. Oregon, Oklahoma, and the Northern Mariana Islands are currently under an extension to update their licenses while New Jersey and American Samoa are under review. All states and territories are on track to be compliant before the October 1, 2020 deadline.

The bad news is that many of the states have only just begun issuing compliant licenses and state identification cards, meaning that many travelers may still hold a non-REAL ID compliant license. Therefore, it is imperative that all travelers visit their local Department of Motor Vehicles or utilize their state’s or territory’s online resources before the October 1, 2020 deadline to ensure that their travel driver’s license or identification card is compliant for domestic travel. Again, it is important to note that a valid passport is REAL ID compliant.

Unfortunately, not every state and territory have the same requirements for a REAL ID, meaning that the licenses or state identification cards will still not look completely uniform and the documents necessary to attain a REAL ID compliant license or identification card may vary. As mentioned previously, each traveler should visit their state’s or territory’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID. At a minimum, travelers must provide documentation showing:

1)     Full Legal Name;

2)     Date of Birth;

3)     Social Security Number;

4)     Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence; and

5)     Lawful Status.

REAL ID compliant licenses and identification cards are identified by the presence of a star in the top right-hand corner of the card similar to the below:

USTOA urges individuals across America to ensure their identification is compliant and to take the appropriate steps to achieve compliance, if necessary. We strongly caution against reliance on the possibility of an extended deadline.

More general information on REAL ID can be found here.

More information on each state can be found here.


10 Passport and Visa Tips For Hassle-Free International Travel  

By Fatemeh LeTellier, Chief Marketing Officer of Travel Document Systems and co-founder of Pinnacle Travel Documents

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  1. Make sure you have at least six months validity on your US passport!  Most countries require six months validity because they don’t want any traveler to get stranded in their country and be burdened with their expenses.  Further, most airlines require the six-month passport validity.
  2. If you travel a great deal, consider obtaining a second US passport valid for four years.  This will allow you to obtain visas on one passport while you travel on another. A second passport gives provides flexibility for the frequent traveler.
  3. Make sure you understand which countries require a visa for US citizens to enter. This way you are not barred from boarding your flight and missing your vacation or business trip.
  4. Make sure your name on your passport matches your name on your airline ticket/itinerary.  With heightened security measures at US airports and abroad you could be denied boarding.  If the name on your passport must be corrected, then you must renew your US passport as the US passport agency no longer amends names on US passports because of the new electronic chip passports.
  5. There seems to be confusion regarding the Passport Card.  The Passport Card can only be used at border crossings when driving between the US to/from Mexico and Canada.  You cannot use the passport card for flying! The Passport Card can be issued when the Passport is renewed for an additional government fee of $50.00. It is best to do both at the same time needed to save money and time.
  6. Many countries have gone to electronic visas which means the visas are e-mailed to the traveler. These visas are different than the traditional visas that are stamped in the actual passports.  E-visas can have a shorter validity and at times only valid for tourist travel and not for business travel. It is imperative that the traveler check to see that they apply for the correct type of visa based on their trip.  What we do at Pinnacle is assist the traveler in selecting the correct visa type for their specific travel needs. Some countries that issue electronic visas are India, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Oman.
  7. Children under 16 years of age are issued passports that are only valid for five years. The reason being that children’s features change so the picture needs to be changed every five years. Once they become 16 the passport is issued for 10 years. Both parents must be present to get the child’s documents sealed and if one parent is not available then the absentee parent must provide the accompanying parent with a notarized consent letter to apply for their child’s passport. The Passport Agency is very strict because of child abductions cases so they want to make sure both parents have given permission for a child to be issued a passport.
  8.  It is imperative that the signature on passport and visa applications match the exact signature on the US passport!  If the signature doesn’t match the application could be rejected which could delay the issuance of the US Passport or visa for international travel.
  9. The Passport Office and countries that issue visas require the photographs submitted for processing to follow specific guidelines.  The Chinese do not want the applicant to wear any glasses, jewelry or smile in the photo.  The US passport office doesn’t want glasses or smiling in photos. Further, The Indians don’t want any glasses on the photo. There are specific photo requirements that must be fold for smooth passport and Visa processing!
  10. Make sure you don’t apply too early for a Visa!  If you apply too early, then your Visa will not be valid for entry which could cause you to be denied entry to that country. For example, The Kenya E-visa is valid for 90 days from date of issue. The Visa for Laos is valid 60 days from date of issue and the visa for Rwanda is valid 30 days from date of issue.  We advise all our clients about visa validity requirements for business and tourist travel.

 

Pinnacle Travel Document Systems, one of the largest passport and visa service companies in the world, prides itself on providing exceptional customer service by taking the guess work out of travel documentation. Their experienced staff will streamline and simplify the process for any travel document, passport and Visas. Services include speedy, even 24 hour, passport renewal and second passport issuance, applications for minors, and passport cards, as well as precise visa application assistance to ensure the correct documentation is delivered accurately and in a timely fashion.