Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, features larger-than-life luxury and exotic desert landscapes. Join Modern Day Explorer Max Aly as he scouts local activities and inclusions for itineraries from SITA World Tours to Abu Dhabi.

 

USTOA Modern Day Explorers: Adventure Awaits in Abu Dhabi

Adventure awaits you in Rub al Khali, one of the largest deserts in the world. Go camel riding, fat biking and dune bashing with  Modern Day Explorer Max Aly of USTOA tour operator member SITA World Tours and discover his expert tips for exploring this incredible destination.

 

USTOA Modern Day Explorers: Discover Luxury in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi redefines the concept of luxury with fabulous hotels, elegant restaurants and splendid shopping. Go behind the scenes with USTOA’s Modern Day Explorer Max Aly and discover the luxurious accommodations and experiences available to SITA World Tours guests.

 

USTOA Modern Day Explorers: Explore the Desert Culture of Abu Dhabi

Ancient traditions and modern luxury coexist in perfect harmony in Abu Dhabi. Get an insider look at the culture that awaits you in this modern metropolis with Modern Day Explorer Max Aly as he scouts experiences and inclusions for itineraries from USTOA tour operator member SITA World Tours.

 

Interested in learning more about Max’s journey to Abu Dhabi? Go behind-the-scenes with him as he uncovers a modern metropolis with desert flavor.

Ready to visit? Visit here for details on traveling to Abu Dhabi with SITA World Tours.

Max joined SITA in 1993 & has worked in various capacities from sales to operations to product development. Possessing a vast range of experience in the field of tourism, he is ideally suited to serve as SITA’s ambassador in the Modern Day Explorer role. Max started his career in tourism in India as a tour guide and has since traveled widely throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, North & South America and the South Pacific. His destination knowledge is of immense value not only to the organization but also to many of the clients whom he comes in contact with.

Discover more destinations with our team of Modern Day Explorers here.


By Max Aly, Director of Group Operations, SITA World Tours

 

Behind every great tour experience is a phenomenal product manager – these “Modern Day Explorers” scout undiscovered experiences in new, emerging destinations, rediscover what’s new in beloved places, and get to know the community with the single goal to design enriching itineraries for you to book.

How do these explorers find the most memorable, culturally rich experiences you ask? Well, USTOA is taking you behind-the-scenes with a handful of these Modern Day Explorers to find out. Today Max Aly of SITA World Tours reveals his experience in Abu Dhabi. So, in his words… 

Modern Day Explorer Max Aly of SITA World Tours

Modern Day Explorer Max Aly of SITA World Tours

Though I had often connected through the Abu Dhabi airport and enjoyed a bird’s eye view of this desert Emirate while landing and taking off, I had never actually set foot outside of the airport. I was therefore intrigued and excited when USTOA, on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, approached SITA World Tours with the opportunity of exploring this fascinating destination. From the moment I landed until I left five days later, the experience left me wondering why I had waited this long to grasp what turned out to be an incredible desert adventure.

Abu Dhabi is absolutely captivating. With its fabulous architecture, luxurious accommodations, fine dining and myriad attractions wrapped in warm Arab hospitality, it defines the very nature of tourism at its best. Abu Dhabi is not only the political, but also the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates and host to the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, World Cup Sailing and other leading international events relating to art, music and sports. Very soon it will be home to the Louvre and Guggenheim Museums, as well – they are expected to open later this year.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

I am at a loss to describe my feelings upon beholding the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. To say I was overawed would be an understatement. It is a poem in white marble with delicately inlaid floral patterns created from multicolored semi-precious stones. The interior of the mosque is equal to the exterior. The sheer size is overwhelming and all of the superlatives applied to describe this magnificent edifice are completely justified. It must be seen to be believed.

I was afforded a personal tour of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital by the incredibly charming and accomplished Dr. Margit Muller, director of the facility. To most citizens of the Arabian Desert, the falcon is like family and an integral part of their cultural heritage. This is exemplified by the care and attention that is lavished on these birds here at the most advanced and sophisticated falcon care institution in the world. Falconry and falcons are held in such high esteem in the Arab world that each individual bird merits his or her own passport to facilitate travel.

Ferrari World

Ferrari World

Abu Dhabi is truly a family friendly destination. There are countless activities for children… as well as the inner child in most adults. For example, the Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World, leaves one breathless with excitement. For those wishing to dispense less adrenaline, there are more sedate activities to be pursued as well. The Abu Dhabi Pearl journey, where you can pull out your own pearl from a freshly harvested oyster, a visit to the Emirates Zoo, the Heritage Village, Yas Waterworld and an umpteen number of beautiful beaches and marinas to relax and soak in the ever shining sun. The beautiful Abu Dhabi Corniche is a promenade, a place to see and be seen.

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara

Leaving the gleaming metropolis behind me, I headed out into the vast desert with my guide Amaan. The Rub Al Khali, which literally translates to ‘The Empty Quarter,’ certainly lives up to its name. The silence is deafening and the tall sand dunes, stunning. We drove for miles and miles until we reached the resort oasis of Qasr Al Sarab, an amazing property located in the very heart of the desert wilderness. Managed by the Anantara group, this hotel captures the desert romance and tastefully blends it with all the modern luxury a discerning traveler appreciates. Desert adventures awaited me at the Qasr Al Sarab. We went dune bashing in specially equipped 4WD vehicles, ascending steep dunes and descending gut-wrenching drops. The camel ride that followed calmed me down after this exhilarating adventure. The camel, also known as the Ship of the Desert, serves the desert dwellers in multiple ways and is among their most precious possessions. Later in the evening a banquet under the desert sky left me with the surreal feeling of living the Arabian Nights. The sky was a riot of stars and constellations. Having witnessed a fast fading sunset, I rose before the sun in order to witness a glowing desert sunrise from atop a dune, enveloped in peace and tranquility.

The Emirates Palace

The Emirates Palace

Abu Dhabi redefines luxury! In order to soak in as many experiences as possible in the short span of time, I stayed at a different hotel each night. The Emirates Palace qualifies as a tourist attraction in its own right. The central cupola of the hotel is as high as St. Peter’s basilica and was decorated using 39 tons of gold. A gold cappuccino is served in a cafe close by. The Bab Al Qasr, the Rosewood, the Dusit Thani and the Crowne Plaza on Yas Island are among the many luxury hotels that are recommended in Abu Dhabi. The city also abounds in Michelin starred restaurants featuring every conceivable cuisine. The Sunday brunch at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is to die for. The street food is equally delicious and there is something tasty to match every purse. For the shopaholic, Abu Dhabi is a veritable paradise. Apart from the trend setting malls and the bazaars, exceptional bargains are to be found regardless of what one seeks to buy or browse.

As a Modern Day Explorer I am completely sold on Abu Dhabi – a modern metropolis with a desert flavor – and welcome all travelers to call SITA World Tours so we can make your experience equally rewarding!

Interested in learning more about Max’s journey to Abu Dhabi? Go behind-the-scenes with him in our video series, A Modern Day Explorer’s Quest to Abu Dhabi, launching later this month here.

Ready to visit? Visit here for details on traveling to Abu Dhabi with SITA World Tours.

Max joined SITA in 1993 & has worked in various capacities from sales to operations to product development. Possessing a vast range of experience in the field of tourism, he is ideally suited to serve as SITA’s ambassador in the Modern Day Explorer role. Max started his career in tourism in India as a tour guide and has since traveled widely throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, North & South America and the South Pacific. His destination knowledge is of immense value not only to the organization but also to many of the clients whom he comes in contact with.

Discover more destinations with our team of Modern Day Explorers here.


From the Atacama Desert to Patagonia and the Antarctic territory, plus the imposing landscapes of the Andes Mountain Range and coastal areas along the Pacific Ocean, few countries offer as much diversity as Chile. Join Modern Day Explorer Rebecca Rhyan as she scouts local activities and inclusions for itineraries from Cox & Kings, The Americas to Chile.

 

USTOA Modern Day Explorers: Adventures in Chile 

From the northern border to the very southern tip of the continent, Chile offers a huge variety of landscapes and natural wonders for outdoor adventure. From kayaking and boating to horseback riding and hiking, USTOA tour operator member Cox & Kings, The Americas takes the hassle out of travel by pairing guests with the best local guides. Discover more with Modern Day Explorer Rebecca Rhyan.

 

USTOA Modern Day Explorers: Cuisine in Chile 

The ingredients, quality and passion that go into the food in Chile is remarkable. Eat your way through this amazing destination with Modern Day Explorer Rebecca Rhyan of Cox & Kings, The Americas and discover how USTOA tour operator members provide guests with unparalleled insider access. From small organic farms to the owner’s private quarters at exclusive wineries, Cox & Kings, The Americas helps bring guests closer to the special culinary experiences they crave.

 

USTOA Modern Day Explorers: Culture in Chile 

Curious how tour operators find the most memorable, locally immersive experiences for guests to book? Follow USTOA’s Modern Day Explorer Rebecca Rhyan of Cox & Kings, The Americas as she discovers hidden cultural gems in every corner of Chile.

 

Interested in learning more about Rebecca’s journey to Chile? Go behind-the-scenes with Rebecca as she gets off the beaten path in Chile.

Ready to visit? Click here for details on traveling to Chile with Cox & Kings, The Americas and here for more information on the destination.

Rebecca loves to explore Latin America, searching for authentic experiences to include in every custom itinerary she creates. Her extensive travels throughout the region have given her the opportunities to craft the perfect journey for each client’s interests and tastes — she particularly enjoys building multigenerational journeys for families to explore and learn together through cultural interactions. Among Rebecca’s recent favorite destinations in Latin America: Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.


By Rebecca Rhyan, Senior Destination Specialist for Latin America & Antarctica, Cox & Kings, The Americas

 

Behind every great tour experience is a phenomenal product manager – these “Modern Day Explorers” scout undiscovered experiences in new, emerging destinations, rediscover what’s new in beloved places, and get to know the community with the single goal to design enriching itineraries for you to book.

How do these explorers find the most memorable, culturally rich experiences you ask? Well, in 2016, USTOA is taking you behind-the-scenes with a handful of these Modern Day Explorers to find out. Today Rebecca Rhyan of Cox & Kings, The Americas reveals her experience in Chile. So, in her words… 

Modern Day Explorer Rebecca Rhyan of Cox & Kings, The Americas at  Lapostolle Residence in the wine regions surrounding Santiago

Modern Day Explorer Rebecca Rhyan of Cox & Kings, The Americas at
Lapostolle Residence in the wine regions surrounding Santiago

I fell in love with the history and culture of Chile when I was in college, long before I had the chance to visit.  One Chilean Spanish professor brought the country to life for me, and encouraged me to read the famous works of Pablo Neruda and Isabel Allende.  The dream of visiting this narrow country in South America finally came true, and I keep going back.  Every journey that I have taken to Chile with Cox & Kings has been filled with adventure in striking natural landscapes, cultural discoveries, and outstanding food and wine.

Wine tasting at Neyen Winery

Wine tasting at Neyen Winery

Late this September I landed in Santiago and headed straight for the Lastarria neighborhood to check into my hotel.   The Singular Santiago opened recently and I was excited to see this new staple of luxury perfectly located in one of Santiago’s trendiest neighborhoods.   Santiago’s easy going urban vibe is the perfect place to begin or end an adventure in Chile. My guide led me off the beaten path to the Brazil and Yungay neighborhoods to admire the 1940’s mansions and stop at La Peluquería Francesa, a barbershop established in 1925 that still offers men an old fashioned shave with a hot towel.  We then grabbed a coffee in the restaurant next door, which serves double duty as an eclectic antique shop.

Old Vines at Neyen Winery

Old Vines at Neyen Winery

The Wine Regions surrounding Santiago are an idyllic next stop, and the next day I went straight to the Colchagua Valley.  I arrived at Neyen Winery for a tour and tasting, and to see the old vines that, planted in 1889, are rooted so deeply they do not need to be watered.  That evening I had the fantastic good fortune of staying at Lapostolle Residence with just four luxury casitas overlooking the valley and a breathtaking view of the Andes Mountains.

Gorgeous Views at Lapostolle Residence

Gorgeous Views at Lapostolle Residence

I could not stay for long, however, and the next day I was off to the old port city of Valparaiso.  Wandering through the colorful streets of this unusual city I was impressed with the intricate murals and stylistic graffiti at almost every turn.  My guide introduced me to some of the friendly local artists of the neighborhood who were happy to share their craft and talk about this romantic city, beloved as well by the Noble Prize Winning poet Pablo Neruda himself.  Casa Higueras, a beautiful boutique hotel in a historic mansion overlooking the harbor was my comfortable home for the evening and I enjoyed a cup of tea up on the rooftop.

Charter Flight to Castro on Chiloe Island

Charter Flight to Castro on Chiloe Island

My next destination was the archipelago of Chiloe, and as I boarded the plane I was not sure what to expect.  Landing in Puerto Montt, I had a short charter flight to the town of Castro on Chiloe Island.  The pilot asked if we would like to fly low for views of the water and small habited islands along the way.  Of course we did!  From above I realized how enormous the archipelago is, although it seems so small on the map.  Landing in Chiloe I was immediately charmed.  The landscape is stunning, green with rolling hills and grazing sheep and the calm ocean. I met my guide, Cyril, a warm and friendly man who I soon learned is as knowledgeable as he is passionate about the island.

The view from Hotel Centro de Ocio

The view from Hotel Centro de Ocio

I never wanted to leave Hotel Centro de Ocio, one of the coziest properties I have ever visited with gorgeous views over the bay. This was my home base as Cyril and I explored the island together visiting local organic farmers, hiking in exotic rainforests, sea kayaking in the bay and horseback riding with an authentic gaucho. There are 16 UNESCO churches on the island, built without metal hardware by the Jesuits in the 17th and 18th centuries.   I tasted homemade apple cider on a local farm and steamy empanadas from a local roadside stand.  The ultimate delight was the local “Curanto” a traditional local barbeque with lamb, chicken, seafood and vegetables prepared in a fire in a pit oven, in the center of the floor of the family dining room of the original homestead that is now managed and preserved by Centro de Ocio.

Stunning Views in Chiloe Island

Stunning Views in Chiloe Island

After every journey to Chile I return with new experiences and ready to help our clients plan a customized journey, whether they are looking to visit the iconic sites like the Atacama Desert and Patagonia or to veer off the beaten path and discover a place like Chiloe.

Interested in learning more about Rebecca’s journey to Chile? Go behind-the-scenes with Rebecca with our video series, A Modern Day Explorer’s Quest to Chile, launching later this month here.

Ready to visit? Click here for details on traveling to Chile with Cox & Kings, The Americas and here for more information on the destination.

Rebecca loves to explore Latin America, searching for authentic experiences to include in every custom itinerary she creates. Her extensive travels throughout the region have given her the opportunities to craft the perfect journey for each client’s interests and tastes — she particularly enjoys building multigenerational journeys for families to explore and learn together through cultural interactions. Among Rebecca’s recent favorite destinations in Latin America: Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.


Located only eight hours from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui, The Islands of Tahiti are pure paradise in the heart of the South Pacific. In addition to natural beauty and tranquility, the islands offer diverse outdoor experiences and rich Tahitian culture. Join Modern Day Explorer Bronwyn Hodge as she scouts local activities and inclusions for itineraries from Goway Travel to The Islands of Tahiti.

 

Modern Day Explorers: Luxury in The Islands of Tahiti

Only eight hours from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui, the Islands of Tahiti are a secluded, yet surprisingly accessible, paradise. Get an insider look at how luxurious accommodations and experiences are arranged for Goway Travel guests as USTOA Modern Day Explorer Bronwyn Hodge discovers the best of the Islands of Tahiti.

 

Modern Day Explorers: Culture in The Islands of Tahiti

Known for its idyllic blue water and French Polynesian culture, The Islands of Tahiti offer a tranquil and enriching island escape. Modern Day Explorer Brownyn Hodge of Goway Travel takes you behind the scenes in Huahine, Tikehau and Rangiroa to showcase the insider access provided by USTOA tour operator members.

 

Modern Day Explorers: Cuisine in The Islands of Tahiti

Curious how tour operators find the most memorable, enriching experiences for travelers to book? Follow USTOA’s Modern Day Explorer Bronwyn Hodge of Goway Travel as she eats her way through the Islands of Tahiti, visiting a vanilla bean plantation, fishing, tasting spirits at a local distillery and enjoying a private Motu picnic.

 

Discover even more at http://ustoa.com/blog/finding-paradise-lesser-known-islands-tahiti/ and www.ustoa.com/modern-day-explorers.

Ready to visit? Visit https://www.goway.com/trips/dest/australia-and-south-pacific/cntry/tahiti/ for details on traveling to The Islands of Tahiti with Goway Travel.

Growing up in a family travel business, Bronwyn has been traveling from a very young age. Her favorite experience was three months spent backpacking through India and Southeast Asia. She counts many countries among her ‘favorites,’ but is especially fond of Australia for its lifestyle, Cambodia for its culture and resilience, and Japan for its contrasts. She holds the proud distinction of being Goway’s only former Bollywood star – having once starred in a Coke commercial in Mumbai.


Yellowstone National Park was set aside in 1872 for its abundant wildlife, beautiful landscapes and fascinating geothermal features. Join Modern Day Explorer Kasey Austin as she scouts experiences, activities and inclusions for Yellowstone National Park itineraries from Austin Adventures with the support of Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

Modern Day Explorers: Adventure in Yellowstone National Park 

Yellowstone National Park was set aside in 1872 to protect its abundant wildlife, beautiful landscapes and fascinating geothermal features. Explore the first National Park with Modern Day Explorer Kasey Austin of USTOA member Austin Adventures as she puts together the ultimate adventure vacation with the support of Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

Modern Day Explorers: Nature in Yellowstone National Park

Sunrise is always the best time of day to be out in Yellowstone National Park. Modern Day Explorer Kasey Austin of USTOA tour operator Austin Adventures with the support of Xanterra Parks & Resorts shows you why with a variety of wildlife sightings, from bears to bison.

Modern Day Explorers: Relax in Yellowstone National Park

Want to visit an increasingly popular national park without the crowds, hassle or planning? Modern Day Explorer Kasey Austin of Austin Adventures takes you behind the scenes in Yellowstone National Park with the support of Xanterra Parks & Resorts to showcase the insider access provided by USTOA tour operator members.

 

Discover even more at www.ustoa.com/blog/experience-yellowstone/ and www.ustoa.com/modern-day-explorers/yellowstone.

Ready to visit? Visit www.austinadventures.com/destinations/yellowstone/  for details on traveling to Yellowstone National Park with Austin Adventures.

Kasey works with ground operators around the world as well as domestic guides on the home front when it comes to the details of planning a vacation. She grew up in the business learning about adventure travel from a kid’s perspective and now puts what she’s learned since she was six years old to use both in the office and out in the field. Kasey has guided trips across the western United States and gets out to travel abroad whenever she gets the chance.

 

 


By Kasey Austin, Vice President of Operations, Austin Adventures

 

Behind every great tour experience is a phenomenal product manager – these “Modern Day Explorers” scout undiscovered experiences in new, emerging destinations, rediscover what’s new in beloved places, and get to know the community with the single goal to design enriching itineraries for you to book.

How do these explorers find the most memorable, culturally rich experiences you ask? Well, in 2016, USTOA is taking you behind-the-scenes with a handful of these Modern Day Explorers to find out. Today Kasey Austin of Austin Adventures reveals her experience in Yellowstone National Park. So, in her words… 

 

One hundred years… On August 25, 2016 the National Park Service is celebrating its Centennial, its kick-off to a second century of stewardship, its 100th birthday…whatever you call it, it’s a BIG DEAL! At Austin Adventures, we’re fortunate to host adventure vacations in the United States’ most precious gems, the national parks. This year is the most special year in the national parks’ history to date as we celebrate the big 1-0-0-TH birthday of the National Park Service. As our beautiful, precious parks grow their reputations as memorable vacation destinations, my job as an itinerary developer is to figure out ways to provide our guests with extraordinary experiences in these parks that rapidly grow in popularity each year. My week spent as a United States Tour Operators Association Modern Day Explorer gave me the chance to explore new places, meet old and new faces and show off a side of Yellowstone National Park that most visitors never see. Here are a few national park vacation planning tips I thought of along the way!

Blog - Kasey jumping_YL Sign

Access to National Park Lodging

First things first, like any great itinerary creationist, I’m going to first review local lodging and make sure I can secure it before I move on to any other steps of the itinerary building process. When traveling to Yellowstone, you’ll notice that Xanterra Parks & Resorts is the official in-park provider of all lodging, whether you’re looking to stay at the historic Lake Hotel or the famous Old Faithful Inn. In the peak summer season, it can be more challenging to find last minute accommodations, especially as the popularity of our national parks continues to grow. But, as a tour operator, we’ve been planning for two years prior to your vacation date, so even if you’re not able to secure room space for your get-away, all it takes is a simple call to see what lodging and itineraries we have available in the national park you want to visit. We’ve already done the planning for you (what a piece of cake!)

Blog - Old Faithful Inn

Finding New, Unique Ways to “Discover” Old Favorites

So you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone and you want to visit the iconic spots – Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, Mammoth Hot Springs, Lake Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River… the list continues. Go on your own during the busy summer months and risk visiting these beautiful places with hundreds of your closest friends if you choose to walk in from the parking lot and stick to the boardwalks. With a tried and true adventure itinerary and knowledgeable guide, you’ll discover these old favorites by hiking into the Grand Canyon “the back way” through flowery meadows, lodgepole pine forests and secret backcountry geyser basins. You’ll “happen” upon Old Faithful after having taken a fascinating walk past bubbling hot springs and goopy mud pots where you won’t see another tourist just a mile from the main boardwalk. Our jobs as adventure professionals require us to find those hidden attractions, just outside the public eye, and combine these experiences with the “gotta see ‘em” icons to create a one-of-a-kind adventure vacation.

Blog - Grand Canyon

There’s More to Yellowstone than Yellowstone Itself

Alright, so that heading is a bit confusing…! What I’m trying to say is that even though Yellowstone is the number one attraction on your Wyoming/Montana vacation, sometimes you’ve got to head just outside the park’s borders to truly add rich experiences and appreciate the region’s majesty. We combine our Yellowstone Vacations with zip lining outside the park’s west entrance in the Gallatin Canyon; horseback riding outside the park’s north entrance in Paradise Valley; and rafting outside the park’s south entrance in Jackson Hole. No trip to Yellowstone is complete without some exhilarating adventure activities – as a tour operator, we’ve scoped out all the options and picked the best of the best for your vacation out west! Plus, you won’t be dealing with the same magnitude of crowds if you wish Yellowstone au revoir for a few days (don’t worry, it’ll still be there when you return!)

Blog - Horseback riding

We are a tour operator who is proud to operate in our national parks. Heading into century number two of a dedicated National Park Service, places like Yellowstone will be dealing with the challenges and growing pains of an ever-increasing tourist population. However, with a USTOA member, your vacation to a national park can be one you’ll remember, without the crowds, hassle or planning that goes into creating the ultimate adventure vacation. We do all the work for you and love what we do!

 

Interested in learning more about Kasey’s journey to Yellowstone National Park? Go behind-the-scenes with Kasey with our video series, A Modern Day Explorer’s Quest to Yellowstone, launching later this week.

 Ready to visit? Visit http://www.austinadventures.com/destinations/yellowstone/ for details on traveling to Yellowstone with Austin Adventures.

Kasey works with ground operators around the world as well as domestic guides on the home front when it comes to the details of planning a vacation. She grew up in the business learning about adventure travel from a kid’s perspective and now puts what she’s learned since she was six years old to use both in the office and out in the field. Kasey has guided trips across the western United States and gets out to travel abroad whenever she gets the chance.


Situated at the center of the Mediterranean a mere 58 miles south of Sicily, Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world, filled with ancient towns, expansive beaches, breathtaking vistas, mouthwatering cuisine and 7,000 years of history. Join Modern Day Explorer Carol Dimopoulos as she scouts local experiences and activities to include in new wellness itineraries to Malta for Perillo’s Learning Journeys.

Modern Day Explorers: Wellness in Malta

USTOA tour operator member Perillo’s Learning Journeys diversifies the meaning of transformative travel. Discover wellness in Malta as Modern Day Explorer Carol Dimopoulos experiences soothing Ayurveda spa treatments, holistic fine-dining, and the healing benefits of horses.

Modern Day Explorers: Cuisine in Malta

While exploring Malta for USTOA member Perillo’s Learning Journeys, Modern Day Explorer Carol Dimopoulos explored an array of Maltese specialties. With access to traditional cheese makers, pioneers of wine tourism, restaurant owners, and executive chefs, newly designed itineraries will satisfy any guest’s appetite.

Modern Day Explorers: Art & Culture in Malta

The arts have always played a large role in Maltese culture. Join Modern Day Explorer Carol Dimopoulos of USTOA tour operator member Perillo’s Learning Journeys as she discovers the cultural history of Malta, visits local artists and models Malta’s vibrant fashions.

Discover even more at www.ustoa.com/blog/category/malta/ and www.ustoa.com/modern-day-explorers/malta.

Ready to visit? Visit www.learningjourneys.com/malta-journey-wellness-gastronomy-and-culture for details on traveling to Malta with Perillo’s Learning Journeys.

Prof. Carol Dimopoulos is President of Learning Journeys powered by Perillo Tours where she brings her passion for learning and travel to transformative programs in global destinations in Europe, Latin and South America, Africa and India. A RYT-200 Yoga instructor with additional certifications in Yoga 4 Cancer (y4c) as well as a university professor who teaches sustainable leadership best practices in business management, she is also committed to wellness and servicing communities, and incorporates these principles in every journey.


By Bronwyn Hodge, IslandEscapes General Manager by Goway Travel

Behind every great tour experience is a phenomenal product manager – these “Modern Day Explorers” scout undiscovered experiences in new, emerging destinations, rediscover what’s new in beloved places, and get to know the community with the single goal to design enriching itineraries for you to book.

How do these explorers find the most memorable, culturally rich experiences you ask? Well, in 2016, USTOA is taking you behind-the-scenes with a handful of these Modern Day Explorers to find out. Today Bronwyn Hodge of Goway Travel reveals her experience in The Islands of Tahiti. So, in her words… 

Cruising in Huahine

Cruising in Huahine

When I tell people I’m going to the islands of Tahiti, I tend to get an envious reaction. Visiting this idyllic destination is a dream for many… yet Tahiti is only eight hours from Los Angeles, on a direct flight with Air Tahiti Nui. Tahiti is unique in that it’s secluded, yet (for many) surprisingly accessible.

With its pristine, turquoise lagoons and variety of overwater bungalows, Bora Bora is the Tahitian island that gets most of the attention (and I won’t deny its beauty). Our islands specialists at Goway always recommend visitors “island hop” (there are 118 islands and atolls in total) during their vacation, so I wanted to explore different ways to put itineraries together to give our clients the best experience. The goal of my trip was to venture beyond a typical itinerary and discover what the lesser-known islands have to offer our travelers.

Tahiti Tourism recommended three islands that offer an uncrowded, “off the beaten path” experience. My first stop was Huahine, part of the Society Islands (only 25 minutes from Bora Bora), followed by Tikehau and Rangiroa, both part of the Tuamotu Archipelago (an hour’s flight from Tahiti or Bora Bora). And so my island hopping adventure began.

Learning about Black Pearls in Huahine

Learning about Black Pearls in Huahine

Huahine has an amazingly lush landscape – a dramatic mountainous interior circled by a stunning lagoon. But beauty aside, this island is special in that it is home to a fascinating ancient culture and is dotted with around 200 archaeological structures. I spent the afternoon with an expert anthropologist who knew everything about Polynesian history, people and culture. What’s really interesting is the locals are still discovering ancient sites (marae) today. I also visited what is claimed to be the country’s smallest black pearl farm in Huahine, perched on the water and accessed only by boat. All the locals own black pearls and wear them in jewelry, so it’s really interesting to learn the intricate pearl-making process. During my stay, I felt like I met everyone on the island, whether it was a friendly local at the Fare (market), the pareo (sarong) artist, or the distiller who let me sample the most delicious coco-schnapps. This laid-back island has some of the friendliest people, who are proud to share their culture. These are the kind of authentic encounters our travelers are looking for.

Frank, the Pareo Artist, Huahine

Frank, the Pareo Artist, Huahine

I also discovered a unique way to island hop. I embarked on a beautiful catamaran (Tahiti Yacht Charters) that was essentially my own “floating bungalow.” The ship is rented out exclusively to groups as small as two, giving you a really intimate, personalized experience. The itinerary is tailored to what the clients want to do, and you can snorkel, swim, or paddle board as you journey between islands. A short 4-day cruise is a great way to add diversity to an itinerary.

Overwater Bungalows at Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort

Overwater Bungalows at Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort

Heading over to Tikehau, where the population is around 400 people, there are miles of beautiful pink and white sand beaches. Tikehau struck me as the perfect place to unwind. The Tuamoto Archipelago are atolls (a reef circling a lagoon), meaning the landscape is very different from the mountainous Society islands (like Bora Bora and Huahine). You can see along the horizon for miles. There are many secluded beaches to explore, easily accessed by kayak or canoe. I felt like I’d found my own slice of paradise. The Tikehau Pearl Beach resort is the hotel of choice here. The property offers beautiful bungalows on the beach or overwater bungalows/suites on the lagoon. I stayed in an overwater suite and woke up in the morning with a swim and snorkel in the pristine lagoon right from my deck– heaven!

Motu Picnic in Tikehau

Motu Picnic in Tikehau 

During my stay, I went out on a boat excursion visiting Bird Island, a reserve where you can get up close to several bird colonies in their natural habitat. Afterwards, I had a delicious picnic lunch on my own private motu (island). It was extraordinary.

Bird Island, Tikehau

Bird Island, Tikehau

Rangiroa (only 20 minutes from Tikehau) is actually the world’s second biggest atoll. The aerial view as the plane lands is simply stunning (aim for a window seat). While the snorkeling is pretty amazing off most islands, Rangiroa has French Polynesia’s most impressive underwater life, a top choice for divers. I snorkeled in a natural “aquarium,” filled with tons of fish and reef sharks. This snorkel site is a short boat ride from the lovely Kia Ora Rangiroa. The property has beach bungalows and overwater bungalows, but I personally loved the pool villa I stayed in which has a private plunge pool. A top activity is to “shoot the pass” in Tiputa, a spot known for its amazing drift snorkeling. We spotted wild dolphins during a boat excursion accompanied by a marine biologist. You can even see the dolphins from land every day at sunset as they come out to play in the waves.

Snorkeling in Rangiroa

Snorkeling in Rangiroa

At the end of my trip I felt like I’d seen a unique side of the islands of Tahiti. These smaller islands can easily be included into any itinerary, since they are very accessible and great value for money. Huahine, Tikehau and Rangiroa offer an enriching experience for travelers who want an authentic Polynesian paradise.

Enjoying a Hinano in Rangiroa

Enjoying a Hinano in Rangiroa

Interested in learning more about Bronwyn’s journey to The Islands of Tahiti? Go behind-the-scenes with Bronwyn with our video series, A Modern Day Explorer’s Quest to The Islands of Tahiti, launching this September.

Ready to visit? Visit https://www.goway.com/trips/dest/australia-and-south-pacific/cntry/tahiti/ for details on traveling to The Islands of Tahiti with Goway Travel.

Growing up in a family travel business, Bronwyn has been traveling from a very young age. Her favorite experience was three months spent backpacking through India and Southeast Asia. She counts many countries among her ‘favorites,’ but is especially fond of Australia for its lifestyle, Cambodia for its culture and resilience, and Japan for its contrasts. She holds the proud distinction of being Goway’s only former Bollywood star – having once starred in a Coke commercial in Mumbai.


The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands offering a unique blend of natural beauty, history, cultural attractions, white sandy beaches, bustling metropolises and so much more. Join Modern Day Explorer Louise Shumbris as she scouts experiences, activities and inclusions for Abercrombie & Kent’s first-ever itineraries to the Philippines.

Modern Day Explorers: Nature in the Philippines

The Philippines offers lush beaches, river trips, jungle explorations, and much more. Go behind the scenes with Modern Day Explorer Louise Shumbris of USTOA tour operator member Abercrombie & Kent as she discovers nature reserves, caves and ocean activities to include in new itineraries to the Philippines.

 Modern Day Explorers: Cuisine in the Philippines

Curious how tour operators find the most memorable, enriching experiences for travelers to book? Watch as USTOA’s Modern Day Explorer Louise Shumbris eats her way through the diverse, fresh and organic cuisines of The Philippines with the goal of designing enriching itineraries for Abercrombie & Kent guests.

Modern Day Explorers: Luxury in the Philippines

USTOA tour operator member Abercrombie & Kent is a luxury brand. Get an insider look at how five star resorts, private transfers and unparalleled access are arranged for guests as Modern Day Explorer Louise Shumbris discovers the best of the Philippines.

Discover even more at www.ustoa.com/blog/category/philippines and www.ustoa.com/modern-day-explorers.

 Ready to visit? Visit www.abercrombiekent.com/travel-destinations/asia-luxury-travel/southeast/philippines/ for details on traveling to the Philippines with A&K.

 Louise A. Shumbris joined A&K two years ago, bringing with her decades of experience in product development, tour design, contracting and operations. Louise has worked for the top U.S.-based tour operators, developing and managing travel programs around the world. Her specialty is designing luxury group journeys, but she has also created FIT, incentive and even sport group programs.