Best Wildlife Experiences with African Travel, Inc. That Go Beyond Your Big Five Bucket List

By Chelsea Todaro of African Travel

Wildlife in Africa is so vast and plentiful, it’s sometimes hard to choose where you can find the best animal encounters. 

Whether it’s the big five, exotic birds, desert roamers, or aquatic life you’re searching for, an African safari will deliver for any wildlife preference. You can still enjoy sundowners, culinary delights and other luxury experiences while on safari, but there’s also extraordinary wildlife encounters that will check off your big five bucket list and also contribute to sustainability.  

African Travel Inc.’s safari experts curate wildlife experiences tailored to any traveler’s desires, and do so sustainably with their not-for-profit partner, TreadRight Foundation.  

Below, African Travel Inc. breaks down the top wildlife safari experiences in Africa. 

Help Save Rhinos in South Africa 

At Shamwari Game Reserve you’ll learn about the important conservation work done to help save rhinos and big cat species. Shamwari is one of the largest conservation initiatives in Southern Africa, and every guest participates in the conservation story – whether it is a through a donation made for each guests’ visit or their own experience with the animals. Learn about the balance between wildlife and plant life from the rangers or meet the veterinarians and ecologists at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. If conservation is your passion, consider a two-week volunteer program with the Shamwari Conservation Experience. 

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See the Greatest Show on Earth from Your Treehouse Balcony 

In Tanzania, the Great Migration is a must-see as millions of Wildebeest, zebras and gazelles– to name a few–come together for the largest animal migration in the world. If you’re staying in the Serengeti, you can have your own private showing from your treehouse balcony at Tarangire Treetops. These luxury elevated suites are perched on platforms in the branches of age-old Baobab and Marula trees. It makes for some of the best panoramic wildlife viewing from a high altitude!  

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Close Encounters with Gorillas and Chimpanzees 

To discover Rwandan wildlife, get your outdoor gear and camera ready as you hike into the rainforest mountains in search of the magnificent, and critically endangered, Silver Back Mountain Gorilla. Any fatigue from your mountain trek at Volanoes National Park will fade away with your first close glimpse of the gorillas while they forage and move through the forest. While visiting Nyungwe National Park, expert rangers will guide you during a chimpanzee trek deep in the rainforest. You’ll observe them playing wild and free, hooting and dashing through the trees—this is their home after all!  

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Take Wildlife Photography Lessons in Botswana 

Botswana offers one of the most diverse game-viewing in Africa with land and water safaris. At Botswana’s new Xigera Safari Lodge, travelers can relax for a night in the new Baobab treehouse experience and join the lodge’s wildlife photography expert Mike Myers on a private safari perfecting their photography skills. You’ll spot wildlife all over from the Okavango Delta’s diverse ecosystems—ranging from hippos, crocodiles, lions, leopards, elephants, wild dogs and a myriad of birds. Designed to frame the breathtaking floodplains and riverine forests, the Xigera’s spacious suites look out onto lily-filled lagoons, providing a front-row seat to the theatre of the African bush.  

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Take a River Cruise at the Mighty Victoria Falls 

Victoria Falls is hailed as one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders and attracts many wildlife species to its large water source. Sail upstream the Zambezi River on a sunset dinner cruise for a wildlife photographer paradise. Use binoculars to zoom in on the hippos cavorting in the river and look out for the elephants as they make their way to the riverbank for their last drink before settling down for the night.  

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Discover Pristine, Desert-Adapted Wildlife and Track Black Rhinos 

On Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, you can discover desert-adapted animals that live in this harsh environment, like the unique lions, and the conservation efforts to try and ensure their survival. You’ll also see one of the greatest concentrations of desert elephant, along with Hartmann’s zebra, oryx, giraffe, springbok, and even lion and brown hyenas. Dramaland is recognized for having the largest free-roaming black rhino population in Africa. Enjoy the thrill of tracking these rhinos with expert rangers and learn about the work being done by Save the Rhino Trust. 

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Chelsea Todaro is a Communications Specialist and Writer for The Travel Corporation, where she promotes family-owned travel brands across the globe. She graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a B.A. in Journalism and Multimedia Studies. Chelsea Todaro is also an opinion columnist for CEO World Magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn. 

About African Travel, Inc. - ”We Know Africa” 
African Travel, Inc. is the longest established luxury safari operator based in the US focused exclusively on the African continent. With a team across North America and in Africa, the luxury safari operator creates unforgettable tailor-made journeys. Each trip also has a positive impact on the people, place and wildlife through their #AfricanTravelCares program and partnership with The TreadRight Foundation. African Travel is one of the most awarded safari companies, including a Travel +Leisure 2020 Top 10 World’s Best Safari Outfitter, and a proud member of The Travel Corporation (TTC), a family-owned company with more than 100 years of expertise in luxury travel. 


A Guide to 7 of Colorado’s Top National Parks and Monuments

By Katie of Trafalgar

Colorado’s national parks and monuments are home to the state’s greatest treasures. You’ll find everything here from dinosaur bones and ancient ruins, to stunning scenery ranging from snowy mountains and river gorges, to rocky canyons and golden sand dunes. Whether you want to go hiking, kayaking, sandboarding, stargazing, or wildlife spotting, the Centennial State is the ultimate American adventure. Planning a trip? Read our guide to seven of the best national parks and monuments in Colorado – and be sure to add some to your bucket list.

Rocky Mountain National Park

1. Rocky Mountain National Park

As one of the world’s most extraordinary landscapes, the Rocky Mountains National Parks is regularly hailed as one of Colorado’s top national parks. It’s filled with snowy peaks soaring more than 12,000 feet high, alpine lakes and waterfalls, and gorgeous meadows dotted with moose, elk, bighorn sheep and more. If you can tear your eyes away from the views, you’ll also find campgrounds, fishing spots and 350 miles of scenic trails ranging from short walks to multi-day treks. The central area of Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park are great places to start your Rocky Mountains adventure. And be sure to take a drive along the Trail Ridge Road, a spectacular scenic byway crossing the continental divide, famed as the highest continuous paved highway in the USA. 

GET INSPIRED BY: Welcome to Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park

2. Mesa Verde National Park

If you’re looking for the best national parks in Colorado, you can’t go past Mesa Verde. Set in the stunning Four Corners area of Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park offers both natural beauty and fascinating history. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, here you can trace the ancient footsteps of the Ancestral Puebloans who carved cliff dwellings out of the sandstone canyon walls. The park is home to some of the country’s most well-preserved archaeological sites, including more than 4,000 ruins dating back hundreds of years. Drive along the Mesa Loop Road to see the amazing carved dwellings or walk the Petroglyph Point Trail for stunning views and the best rock art in the park. You can also take a ranger-led tour to see more impressive archaeological sites, including the Balcony House with 40 preserved rooms and Cliff Palace, with 150 rooms and 23 kivas. 

Colorado National Monument

3. Colorado National Monument

The Colorado National Monument protects one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the US. Set in the northeast of the Colorado Plateau, you’ll come face to face with sheer-walled canyons plunging as deep as 500 feet, and granite rock monoliths towering to 450 feet. It’s all red rock and green juniper forests, and as you gaze out over this mesmerising landscape, you might even spot soaring eagles, mountain lions and bighorn sheep. You won’t want to blink as you drive the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive along the spectacular plateau lined with spectacular views. Or get on solid ground with the 14 hiking trails in the Colorado National Monument, including the popular Serpent’s Trail, a zigzagging trail that takes you along the original dirt road into the monument in just 2.5 miles.

RELATED CONTENT: Hit 10,000 steps a day on these 7 iconic USA National Park hikes

Dinosaur National Monument

4. Dinosaur National Monument

Ever wanted to see a dinosaur? You’ll find them in Colorado’s national parks. Well, the bones at least. The Dinosaur National Monument is one of the few places where you can see and touch massive dinosaur bones sticking out of the rocks where they were found, and even see ancient petroglyphs. But dinosaurs aren’t the only attraction here. You can hike along miles of trails, and go swimming, fishing and boating around the gorgeous area where the Yampa and Green rivers meet. Take a drive along Harpers Corner Road for mesmerising views over the rivers, or grab a raft and float along while admiring the ancient canyon walls and spotting elk on the riverbanks. Dinosaur National Monument is even an International Dark Sky Park, and astronomy lovers flock here for stargazing and night hikes in summer.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Preserve

5. Great Sand Dunes National Park Preserve

With 149,000 acres of sand dunes, forest and wetlands, and home to the tallest dunes in the country towering 750 feet high, the Great Sand Dunes National Park Preserve is one epic sandbox. While the incredible scenery provides plenty of photo opportunities, this is also one of the most fun national parks to visit in Colorado, with outdoor adventures like sandboarding, sand sledding and four wheeling. Start at the fantastic Visitor Centre to see the exhibits and short film about the park or meet a Park Ranger to uncover the secrets of this unique natural phenomenon formed more than a million years ago. If you want to go climbing or sandboarding, make your way to High Dune and Star Dune, or head to the 22-mile Medano Pass Road for a four-wheeling experience across sandy creeks. After the spring snowmelt, the Medano Creek is also great for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing after your ride down the sand dunes.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
It may not get the hype of the Rocky Mountains, but this national park is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The park surrounds a 53-mile gorge plunging 2,700 feet into the earth, with the marbled rock walls carved out by the Gunnison River. The deepest points of the canyon barely receive sunlight, and it’s a mesmerising experience to stare into the dark depths. For the best views of the gorge, head to Devil’s Lookout and Dragon Point. You can also walk the Chasm View nature trail on the north rim or stop at the viewpoints along the South Rim Drive, where you’ll also see the striped Painted Wall. Besides the scenery, there’s also plenty of wildlife including golden eagles, elk and mule deer, a railroad museum that tells the story of the railroads that used to cross this gorge. It’s even an International Dark Sky Park with sky parties and astronomy festivals in summer. 

RELATED CONTENT: What to pack for a trip through America’s great national parks

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

7. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
If you want to get closer to Colorado’s prehistoric life, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is the place to be. You’ll find thousands of fossils dating back millions of years, including plants and insects, and huge petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide, which are best seen along the 1.1-mile Petrified Forest Loop. Other hiking trails reveal the natural beauty of the park, with alpine forests, granite outcrops and lush meadows spread across 6,000 acres. You can even explore the pioneer history of the area, with a fantastic museum and an early homestead that shows what life was like during Colorado’s settlement. For the perfect mix of history and nature, this has got to be on your Colorado bucket list. 

Are you dreaming of visiting Colorado’s national parks and monuments? Guided touring company Trafalgar Tours offer incredible travel experiences to many of America’s great National Parks. Visit their website or get in touch to start planning your next vacation today.

Katie is a regular contributing writer for Trafalgar’s The Real Word blog, based in sunny Perth, Australia. She lives for and writes about all things travel, culture, food and nature, and loves to inspire people to discover the world through her travel blogs.


A Guide to Sunny SouthWest Germany

By Terry Dale, President & CEO of USTOA

Hohenzollern castle / TMBW, Gregor Lengle

With ancient art caves, rolling green valleys, and vibrant cities, the lively region of SouthWest Germany offers a varied treasure trove of experiences for visitors.  There is a wealth of luxury, culinary, and wellness opportunities for travelers who want to visit the sunny side of Germany. Here are some top tips and trips to keep top of mind for your next European vacation.

Kurhaus in Baden-Baden © TMBW, Mende

WHAT TO DO

SouthWest Germany is renowned for its Black Forest and Black Forest Highlands, where picturesque farms, villages, and vineyards dot the wide-open valleys and mountains. Crystal clear lakes and vineyards can be passed by bike, hike, or car. On the border of the Black Forest sits Baden-Baden, a spa town with traditional 19th century baths. The region’s capital city of Stuttgart is home to wineries, artists, and attracts car-lovers for its world-renowned Porsche and Mercedes-Benz Museums.

Hiking at the Swabian Alb © TMBW, Gregor Lengler

HOW TO GET THERE

Located in the heart of Europe, it is easily accessible. Rail is the convenient alternative to flying and is often the quickest way of getting around Europe and SouthWest Germany. By air, travelers can fly into Stuttgart Airport, Frankfurt Airport, Munich Airport, Zurich Airport, and Basel Airport. SouthWest Germany has an excellent network of highways if travelers prefer a car. River cruises also often make stops in the region.

Typical Christmas treats at the Christmas market © trickytine/Christine Garcia Urbina

WHEN TO GO

SouthWest Germany is a four-season destination with a pleasant and mild climate year-round. For spring, explore the blooming countryside and its forests and lakes. Summer is for watersports like tubing and paddle boarding, as well as city festivals. Fall foliage offers scenic hikes and cycling. During the winter, Christmas markets are a popular attraction.   

Porsche Museum, Photo Courtesy of Tauck

INSPIRED TO TRAVEL?

Call your travel advisor or find a new one at www.ustoa.com/travel-advisor-directory and ask them about SouthWest Germany.

Trips from USTOA tour operators include:

  • Collette’s Classic Christmas Markets includes a winter excursion to the scenic Black Forest before visiting the Christmas markets of Würzburg. The nine-day tour is available in November and December 2021 starting at $1,849 per person.
  • Grand Circle Travel’s Romance of the Rhine & Mosel is a 16-day river cruise of the Rhine and Mosel rivers with excursions to the Black Forest Open Air Museum via Strasbourg, and a cuckoo clock presentation. Departures are available from April to October starting at $4,495 per person.
  • CroisiEurope River Cruises offers a Bountiful Christmas in Alsace and The Black Forest with a four-day cruise along the Rhine to explore the Black Forest and Christmas traditions. Sailings are available in November and December of 2021 and 2022, starting at $736 per person.
  • Tauck takes travelers to The Rhine and Moselle on a 15-day river cruise to experience Heidelberg Castle, visit the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, and an optional excursion to the spa town of Baden-Baden. Departures are available October 2021 and April, May, August through October 2022m starting at $7,590 per person.
  • SITA Tours’ 12-day Germany’s Southern Highlights  is a river cruise that includes visits to Baden-Baden’s thermal baths, the Black Forest, and more. Departures are available throughout 2021 and 2022 starting at $5,875 per person.
Cuckoo Clocks of SouthWest Germany, Photo Courtesy of Grand Circle Travel

ARE YOU A TRAVEL ADVISOR?

SouthWest Germany is offering a complimentary Going Cuckoo specialist program filled with interactive quizzes, games, and videos to become an expert on the region. Travel advisors will learn what to pack, when to go, where to stay, and what to do while visiting the region so that they can become a go-to agent for SouthWest Germany vacations.

Find more information about SouthWest Germany at www.tourism-bw.com.

Travel advisors can register for the training by visiting www.going-cuckoo.com


Travel Expert Terry Dale Chronicles His Trip to Turkey

What it’s really like to travel internationally in the age of COVID-19

By Terry Dale, President & CEO of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA)

If there is one lesson I learned from my recent travels to Turkey, it’s that the value of tour operators has increased tenfold. Even though I’ve spent countless hours in airports and traveled to more countries than I can remember, I still experienced a wave of anxiety when I thought of traveling during the age of COVID-19. Between negative tests, quarantine requirements, and travel restrictions, it’s nearly impossible to manage it independently while trying to enjoy your travels.  

While I successfully produced a negative COVID test in time for my departure flight out of Fort Lauderdale, others were not so lucky. I took the trip to Turkey because I had the honor of speaking at a travel conference in Istanbul. But on the opening night of the event, nearly 15 attendees were missing because they did not fulfill all the testing requirements to fly.

Each country has its own protocols that need to be followed, and it’s constantly evolving. With the ever-changing landscape of travel requirements and lockdowns, this is a challenge for airline employees, travelers, and destinations alike.

Surprisingly, I was not asked to show my test results at any of the airports in route to Turkey, even though they were requested while flying back to the U.S. It was clear that a global health credential system would be so useful for travel, so that each visitor and employee know exactly what is going on. It’s 2021, paper CDC cards with the dates of vaccines and written confirmation of test results seem primitive!  

One observation was that every airport I visited was bustling with people wearing masks and social distancing. The pent-up demand for travel is real and immediate.

As for Turkey itself, the weather was rainy and grey, but the people brightened the destination each day. At a small, vibrant and colorful restaurant in Istanbul, the waiter treated us like royalty. The meal served left my stomach full of chicken kababs, hummus, and olives, and even though I don’t know much about Turkish food, I know it was delicious.

A river cruise of the Bohasmas is a must-do while in Istanbul. In the quick trip up the narrow straight, visitors can gaze at Asia on one side and Europe on the other. The two major continents come together where you stand, and it is stunning.

Terry Dale of USTOA (left) with the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Ersoy (right)

Turkey is ready to be open for business. At every hotel, the sanitization protocols were thoughtful and professional to make sure travelers feel safe. There’s a natural culture of service and hospitality that makes everyone feel welcome. Plus, there’s great value for American travelers given the exchange rate. After meeting with the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Ersoy, I felt confident that Turkey is going to bounce back quickly.

It was a learning experience to make the trip as a vaccinated business traveler. If it were a vacation or personal adventure, it would have been much more manageable and relaxing using a tour operator or one of our travel advisor partners.

In closing, I was grateful for the opportunity to meet some incredible people (see below) and experience the thrill of travel once again.


Why the Green Season is Great in Africa

By Lion World Travel

We are letting you in on a safari secret – the Green Season! If you have no idea what the Green Season is, that is ok, Lion World Travel will fill you in. Suffice to say, if you have been wanting to get the best value in luxury safaris, the Green Season is the answer you seek. 

What is the Green Season? 

The Green Season is also known as the wet season, or rainy season, in Africa. Its timing varies from East Africa to Southern Africa, and it can be the best time to take a safari.  

When is the Green Season? 

In East Africa (including Kenya and Tanzania), you have the short rains that often start in November, and then the long rains that usually start in April.  

In Southern Africa (including Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe), the Green Season can run from about December to March. Of course, anything to do with weather is unpredictable, and the timing of the rains fluctuates every year.  

You may think that these warm, rainy months would be an unfavorable time of year for travelers to go on safari. However, many safari connoisseurs will argue that traveling during the Green Season perhaps the best times to visit. Want to know why? 

Baby Zebra by Kate Berg 

“Having been to Africa during both High Season and Green Season, I can say they are equally amazing in different ways. They each have their own charm. It is less expensive during the Green Season; it is less crowded and best of all, there are lots of baby animals.” - Lucille Sive, CEO Africa Division, The Travel Corporation 

Top Reasons to Travel to Africa during the Green Season 

#1 – All the Baby Animals 

Without a doubt, this is a huge reward for visiting during the Green Season. The rains signal to the animals that food will soon be in abundance. This means it is the best time to have babies, so the wide-open plains of Kenya and Tanzania are filled with adorable cubs, pups, calves, foals and fawns.  

This abundance also draws in the predators, such as lions, who follow the large herds of zebras and wildebeest in search of their own meals. It is a time of abundance for all animals. If someone is particularly keen on seeing the big cats of Africa on their safari, there is a good chance of seeing the “thrill of a chase” during the Green Season in East Africa.  

Similarly, the Green Season is a great time in southern African countries to spot babies, from giraffes to buffalo to zebra, it is their natural cycle to give birth during times of plenty and forthcoming rains are a time to celebrate for all in the animal kingdom. 

#2 – Fewer People 

Amazingly, with the arrival of new animals, there are fewer travelers. While Africa is known for its wide-open wild spaces any time of year, during the Green Season travelers often feel like they have access to their own personal wildlife paradise. In East Africa, for example, it is possible to be out driving on safari for a couple of hours before coming across another safari vehicle. 

At Elewana Serengeti Migration Camp – No Crowds, Except the Animals! 
#3 – It is Turning Green 

Arriving on safari when the Green Season is underway means being blessed with a more colorful safari experience. Some, or most, of the classically dry scrublands and grasses will have come to life and turned green. For photographers, this can make for some more lively, high contrast images. 

Kudu in Chobe National Park, during the Green Season by Red Hunt

“On one trip to Africa I visited Tanzania and Botswana at the start of their Green Seasons. In the Serengeti, we were surrounded by zebra and wildebeest as far as we could see, and not another safari vehicle in sight, it felt truly special! What I noticed most on that trip were the colors coming to life. It wasn’t all dry and dusty like on my previous trip. Vegetation was coming to life, the smells were different, and it really made photography more exciting. The kudu photo above was one of my favorite shots taken during that Green Season trip.” - Red Hunt, VP Marketing, Lion World Travel 

#4 – Stretch Your Dollars Further 

At Lion World Travel we are all about Affordable Luxury, and the Green Season enables everyone to get a little extra value for their money. During peak season, prices are at their highest. During low season, you will get a better value. If your or your clients are flexible on timing for a safari, planning a safari for the start or end of the Green Season can mean being rewarded with the combination of optimal wildlife viewing and lower prices. 

#5 – The Migration is Always in Motion 

Did you know that the migration in East Africa never stops? Since the seasonal rains vary, the enormous herds of zebra and wildebeest are always on the move. So, no matter what season, if someone is planning to visit both the Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya, they will likely witness the greatest migration on earth. 

#6 – Perfect Timing with Holidays 

With the Green Season covering the coldest months of the year for Americans, anyone yearning for more warmth should consider a Green Season safari. The timing is perfect to escape for part of winter. As vacation days can be limited, having the Green Season cover popular holidays from Thanksgiving through to spring break, means travelers, including families, have lots of opportunities to turn holiday time into safari time. 

With great rates, fewer travelers, and cute baby animals to see, who wouldn’t want to visit Africa on a safari during the Green Season? 

For more than 56 years, Lion World Travel has been focused on offering the best Affordable Luxury Safaris. Making safari dreams come true during the Green Season, or any season, Lion World can work with you and your clients to create a custom safari experience for any budget. Our travelers have come to expect exceptional wildlife encounters, five-star service, and the best safari experiences. Visit lionworldtravel.com to see our full selection of African Safaris. 


A Taste of Southern Cooking

Hospitality on a Plate

By Cindy Clarke, senior travel writer for Tauck

Culturally diverse with a storied history that speaks volumes about the people who created it, southern cooking is best described as “hospitality on a plate” alluding to the abundance of comfort food you’ll find on menus in Savannah and Charleston. Think shrimp and grits, an iconic dish in the coastal Carolinas and Georgia, buttermilk biscuits smothered in gravy, she-crab soup and fried chicken that only southern cooks have mastered, cornbread, collard greens and crustaceans perfectly prepared, and you’ll be in the right food aisle. And forget counting calories. We’re talking pure indulgence here, with taste trumping will power in every bite.

Aptly nicknamed the “Hostess City,” it is no surprise that Savannah is home to some of the South’s best dining experiences, with recipes passed down and refined through the generations. Dressed in American history and draped in Spanish moss, Savannah is awash in cobblestone charms, antebellum mansions and gardens full and fragrant that make the city eye candy all by itself. Art, in all its incarnations, enhances the cultural feast showcased here.

You can stroll down streets your eyes walked first in films like Forest Gump or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. You can wander in wonder in museums, cemeteries and squares – 22 of them – dating back centuries, and you can ride trolleys and horse-drawn carriages past stately homes, parks and landmarks that chronicle the city’s storied past from the Revolutionary and Civil wars. And while you’ll cover a lot of ground – and history – during your explorations, you won’t go hungry.

Parties are a favorite pastime in Savannah, both inside gracious dining rooms and outdoors in springtime gardens abloom with flowering azaleas. Brunch and picnic menus typically boast sweet succulent oysters, locally harvested, and roasted to perfection. Savannah red rice, fried chicken, ham sweet potato biscuits and jalapeno cornbread often follow, with traditional favorites like Georgia peach cobbler with blueberries, peach ice cream and pecan praline bars sweetening the line up. Evening menus may include old-time favorites like Corn Pudding, Rice and Peas, Fried Green Tomatoes, Jumbo Lump Crabmeat and Beef Tenderloin with Madeira Sauce, all Savannah staples you may find at a number of great eateries all over the city.

Local seasonal ingredients reflect Charleston’s “sense of place” in the Lowcountry, where the roots of southern cooking run deep and the fertile fields, forests and waterways that surround the city provide ample sustenance all year long. Its food heritage reflects the cultural influences of its residents, African slaves and their Gullah descendants, French Hugenots and English aristocracy from centuries past, and culinary stars and rising chefs from around the world today. Award-winning restaurants, housed in historic homes and repurposed buildings, have creatively blended lowcountry cooking with high-brow haute cuisine to tempt taste buds with the complexity of flavors and spices that make this multicultural city one of the top food destinations in America – and the “#1 Top City in the US in 2020” by the readers of Travel + Leisure.  

The irresistible allure of Charleston, palmetto-lined streets, ballast-stone alleys, rainbow row houses, grand mansions and carriage rides, inevitably whets your appetite for discovery in more ways than one. So while you’re here soak up the tales of the town with its golden rice, a mainstay from its colonial day economy; a bowl of gumbo, a.k.a. okra soup to the folks who live here; fresh from the sea oysters, served raw, stewed and steamed; and its signature she-crab soup, created in a private home when dining in was in fashion. Then raise a timeless toast to its culturally infused cuisine with the city’s magnificent Madeira wines, long aged and locally produced, as you drink in history with every sip.

Founded in 1925, Tauck is a world leader in upscale guided travel, with more than 150 land tours, safaris, river cruises and small ship ocean cruises to 70+ countries and all seven continents. In each of the last 23 years, Tauck has been honored in Travel + Leisure magazine’s annual “World’s Best Awards” celebrating the very best in luxury tours, cruises, hotels and more. Tauck resumed operating its Southern Charms – Savannah, Hilton Head & Charleston itinerary in March 2021.


The Advantages of Small Ship Cruising

By Emerald Waterways

What inspires you to travel?  Is it adventure, culture, food, relaxation, interaction with the local communities, peace, or all of the above?  A small ship cruise is about all of these vacation goals and delivers them on a personal level, with no queues to stand in for buffets, no long lines to embark or disembark, simply no waiting and, therefore, less stress.

Imagine this:  a straw hat on your head, sunglasses shading your eyes, a gauzy flowy summer chemise blowing in the breeze, a drink in your hand and your feet resting on the lounge chair as you gaze to the shoreline, taking in the charming harbor coming into view.  You realize with a start that soon you’ll be strolling ashore, ready to tackle the day to discover what lies ahead.  This is small ship cruising!

What exactly qualifies as a small ship?  Typically, a small ship is considered one that has fewer than 500 guests. (Some lines consider their ship small if it’s under 1500 guests, which doesn’t seem so small at all).  In the case of the small ships in the Scenic group portfolio, Scenic Eclipse is 228 guests or less, while the recently announced Emerald Azzurra will welcome just 100 guests.  With more space per guest, these two beauties will attain unmatched comfort and luxury for those that sail them.

A yacht or small ship is a more intimate experience, both on board and on shore.  Public spaces are laid out in such a way that you never feel crowded or closed in by other guests.  You almost have the feeling of being in a guest house, with relaxed, comfortable lounges and inviting outdoor spaces with plenty of room for everyone.  When you ask what makes or breaks a cruising experience, it’s the crew that go out of their way to make a connection and to ensure that you have the best trip possible.  You’ll become well acquainted with the staff and crew.  They’ll know your name, remember which table you prefer, whether you prefer an intimate dinner at a table for two or if you’re more likely to join those new friends you just made.  They’ll know which drink you prefer when sitting on a lounge chair overlooking the sea and which one you prefer pre-dinner in the cozy lounge.  Your travel partner prefers his coffee black and cappuccino is your choice – they’ll know!  You’ll always feel like you are their number one priority.  You’ll leave your small ship feeling that you’ve made new friends, not only with the other guests but also with those staff members who delivered your trip of a lifetime.

The destinations are unique with small ship or yacht cruises.  They can enter pristine harbors where larger boats cannot, and will not, as these larger ships will overwhelm the location and have to shuttle their guests by tender to shore.  For the lucky few on a really small ship, you’ll be able to not only visit the bookend must-sees, like London, Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Lisbon, Athens, and Venice, for example, but you’ll also be able to put down anchor and perhaps even swim off the back of your vessel onto a remarkable beach like you’ve never seen before, most notably lacking in visitors.  Or perhaps you’ll take a zodiac for a short trip to shore, only because the harbor that you’ve pulled into doesn’t have substantial docking facilities.  Whatever you do on a small ship, the smaller the better, you’ll never have long lines, you’ll be free to leisurely embark and disembark.

With a small ship you can have everything included or opt for a line that gives you choices to tailor your adventure.  If you want discovery, opt for a line with fewer inclusions, to make the experience uniquely your own.  Take a bike and go off the beaten path.  Dive off the swim platform and be one with your surroundings.  Walk alongside your guide, taking in the local points of interest and then branch off on our own, meandering until you find something that suits your fancy – perhaps a lunch at a local taverna, sip a glass of locally sourced wine, chatter with the purveyor of the local coffee shop to learn about their daily life.  It’s all up to you how to spend your time.

If you prefer the surety of all-in-one pricing and are looking to up the adventure and discoveries, lines like Scenic Eclipse go above and beyond to include everything AND give you choice.  Choose from a daily menu of excursions or simply choose to indulge in the onboard amenities, perhaps a day in the spa, or reading a book in the observation lounge.  Feel like getting some exercise, check out the yoga lounge or take out a paddle board and go for a swim off the swim deck.  Take a tour of the wheelhouse where the captain will be happy to answer your questions.  As small expedition ships up the ante, look for bells and whistles like helicopters and submarines!

What’s for dinner you ask.  Of course, food is always an important part of your vacation so be sure to read the reviews to see if your small ship fits your culinary style.  Do you want multiple dining venues, which are usually only available on the bigger ships?  The Scenic Eclipse is unique in that it has more space per guest than any other ship of its kind.  Scenic Eclipse, while being a small ship, offers 10 dining venues, each with its own unique story.    From Koko’s sushi and teppanyaki to Lumiere’s fine French cuisine, there is something to please every palate.  On smaller yachts which tend to be slightly more relaxed, the options won’t be as plentiful but there will always be great food and choice at every meal. 

Destination is always paramount and small ships offer many options, with many of the options off the beaten path.  Whether it’s the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Adriatic, Yukon & Alaska or the Great White Wonders of the Arctic and Antarctic, you’re sure to find the next great adventure with a small ship cruise.  So, what are you waiting for?!  You surely won’t be disappointed and you surely will be looking for your next small ship adventure sooner than later!


Sustainability is Responsibility

By Terry Dale, President and CEO of USTOA

Strong and symbiotic partnerships are key to the sustainability mission. Here are a few of the many USTOA tour operators who have firsthand experience in building these types of relationships.

Quark Expeditions

Quark Expeditions launched a sustainable strategy framework named the Polar Promise that’s dedicated to protecting the Arctic and Antarctica. Working with scientists, community leaders, and innovators, Quark Expeditions contributes $500,000 USD each year through donations and funding for more research and development projects. Partnering with the Inuit Cruise Training Initiative, they hire Nunavummiut guides, while other training programs are available for people to become ambassadors of the polar region.

Intrepid Travel

In addition to many other sustainability initiatives launched over the years, Intrepid Travel released a free 10-step guide in 2020 that is designed to guide travel businesses towards decarbonizing their operations. As a B-Corp certified tour operator and carbon neutral company since 2010, they have offset more than 351,000 tonness of carbon emissions worldwide. During guided trips, Intrepid Travel prioritizes public transportation and minimizes the number of flights included in each itinerary. With expert advice and experience, they are helping other tour operators join the zero emissions movement.

Lindblad Expeditions

With more than 50 years of responsible travel experience, a focus of Lindblad Expeditions’ daily operations is to source food from local farmers and fisherman whenever its possible. In the Galápagos, they collected 27 percent of provisions locally in 2019. This supports the local economy and preserves the ecosystem by reducing the threat of invasive species entering through imported foods. With a strong sustainable seafood policy, they do extensive research to ensure that they are keeping oceans healthy and fish stocks constantly regenerating. In the assessment, they measure fish quotas, stock levels in ocean zones, method of catch, maturity levels, and feed.


Ways to Prep Your Home for Your Next Vacation

By YMT Vacations

Prepping for your travels is exciting. You’ve gotten your itinerary squared away and your packing list is growing longer and longer. But before the adventures can begin, you should make sure your house is vacation-ready. You’ll need a pre-vacation checklist to help keep your home safe and clean while you’re away.

Home Preparation Checklist For Leaving On Vacation

Don’t let the excitement of your upcoming trip distract from the tasks needed to prepare your home before departure. Before jetting off to gorgeous parts of the world, be sure to consider the following tips so that you return to a clean house and optimal sanity. 

Clean Your House & Fridge

The last thing you want when you return from a beautiful vacation is to enter a messy house. Before you jet off, make sure you thoroughly clean your home. Cleaning your house before a vacation ensures you will have less work to do once you return from your trip. Dust surfaces, vacuum the floors, wipe the counters, take out the trash, and put away the laundry.

Throw out any fruits sitting on the counter and clean out your refrigerator. If you still have a few days before your trip, save money and cook up food that could go bad while you’re gone. Toss whatever you don’t use or place it in the freezer. Once you’re done cleaning the house, be sure to take out all trash so you can return to a fresh-smelling home.

Practice Fire Prevention

Before you head out, do a thorough scan of anything that could cause a fire. Unplug electronics that won’t need power while you’re gone. This includes routers, air fresheners, computers, televisions, chargers, and small kitchen appliances. You’ll protect your space from catching flames, as well as avoid a hefty energy bill upon your return.

Also, triple-check your smoke detectors. If something were to go wrong, you’d at least want them to sound off so your neighbors can take action.

Program the Thermostat 

A great way to save some money while you’re off exploring the world is by setting your thermostat. You want the air circulating so you can avoid condensation. If you don’t have a smart thermostat, set your thermostat to a warmer temperature in summer and a colder temperature in the winter. Just make sure it’s above freezing, since you don’t want to freeze your pipes. Leaving a fan on is a great alternative to keep that air flowing.

Put Your Mail on Hold

Built-up mail is a signal to burglars that someone isn’t home. If you are preparing your house for an extended vacation, reach out to the United States Postal Service before you leave and ask them to put your mail on hold. They will keep your mail anywhere from three to 30 days. You can also ask a friend to stop by your house every few days to check your mailbox.

Ask a Friend to Stop By

It’s always the best when your friends or family members show up for you even while you’re away. If you can, ask a friend or family member to stop by your home to water plants, check on pets that don’t need 24/7 supervision, and maintain other household chores.

If you aren’t comfortable asking a friend to check on your home while you’re away, technology can help. Some companies will match you with a house sitter while you’re out of town.

Secure Entry Points

The worst thing is being out of town and realizing you might have forgotten to shut the window after that warm, breezy day. Before leaving, be sure to close and lock all windows and doors. You want to eliminate the possibility of someone having easy access to your home.

If you have an alarm system and accidentally leave a door unlocked, someone could walk into your home or apartment without setting off the alarm to alert the authorities. Double-check all entryways to make sure you have secured your home.

Don’t Forget the Details

Getting ready for a trip means crossing off your packing list and preparing all your proper documents. Call your bank and let them know you’ll be traveling. Alert your alarm company if you have one, and be sure to follow the above rules when preparing your home for your time away. You’ll have peace of mind and enjoy your trip more knowing that a secure and well-prepped home is waiting for you when you return.

YMT Vacations has been providing affordable guided tours for mature travelers since 1967. Our guided cruise and land tours, to destinations around the globe, are designed with value in mind. By thoughtfully bringing together each separate element of your vacation, we can guarantee you the best price and an easy, worry-free trip. Visit ymtvacations.com to learn more!


5 Ways Travelers Can Support Local Communities Through Sustainable Travel

Rachel Jordan is the Partnership Marketing Coordinator for Club Adventures, powered by AAA Exclusive Vacations®

“Take only memories, leave only footprints”.  It’s an oft-used phrase, and while the travel industry is filled with them, every iteration of this specific one provides the same message: leave things as you’ve found them and minimize your impact. Small changes travelers make can have large effects, whether that be on the environment, on people, or the larger world around us.

As of 2019, travel and tourism accounted for just over 10% of the world’s GDP, or roughly $8.9 trillion USD, demonstrating how many countries have come to rely on tourism to support local economies. As we become more interconnected and this number continues to grow, the idea of minimizing impact and the necessary advocation for sustainable travel is more important than ever. For all of us travelers in a modern age, we are constantly in search of immersive experiences, trying our utmost to forge authentic connections, dive deeper into a culture, and find ways give back to the local communities that welcome us. But, as a destination becomes more popular with travelers all seeking the same kinds of experiences, there are positive and negative impacts, and it can be challenging to strike a balance in making sure the positive outweighs the negative.

But what does that look like? How do we, as individuals and businesses, support local communities through sustainable travel efforts? Here’s a look at how we can all get started, cultivating the kind of responsible travel that establishes a solid foundation of well-sustained destinations to enjoy for generations to come.

1. Travel with companies who involve locals 

Truly sustainable companies keep sustainability in mind right from the get-go. They will be mindful when designing tours to ensure that as much money as possible will stay in the destination. These companies hire local guides, so the money earned by the guide stays within their family and is reinvested back into the community. These companies also seek out local restaurants and hotels, making the effects of visiting a destination more impactful on local businesses. The more you avoid the tourist “hot-spots,” the more money can help the overall economy. For example, at Club Adventures, on our Women Explorers trip in Morocco, we employ female guides and drivers. This commitment supports not only the local community, but also empowers an underrepresented demographic in the tourism industry.  

2. Get involved with local, sustainable efforts 

Many developing countries realize the impacts of industrialization and climate change, and while they may not have the infrastructure to switch to green energy, many have already established efforts that protect the local environment. With some research prior to your trip, you could plant trees in the Amazon or help clean up a polluted beach in Bali. There are countless ways to get involved, so spend your time doing some research to see how tangibly a business is taking an interest in local efforts, and how transparent they are about the effort and the benefit(s) to the destination.

3. Avoid creating dependent relationships 

With great power comes great responsibility. The power of tourism dollars requires operators and travelers alike to ensure responsible allocation. In keeping with this belief, Club Adventures does not visit or encourage tourism to any schools or orphanages on any tour. This ensures that any child-focused organization does not become reliant on funds from tourism, which is a fluid industry and could negatively impact the organization should tourism monetary support fluctuate.

4. Avoiding Animal Abuse 

We’ve all seen those pictures of people riding elephants in India or Southeast Asia.  As amazing as it might look on Instagram, many of these attractions are not treating these animals humanely. Sustainable companies and independent travelers alike should strive to not support these attractions, but instead specifically look for companies that have been strictly vetted to ensure they are treating the animals correctly, and do not allow visitors to touch or directly interact with local wildlife. Some of these companies may be rehabilitation centers, but still make sure to check if they have been thoroughly inspected before getting involved.

5. Practice green habits at home and abroad

Simple changes can truly make a difference, especially when the 40 million Americans who travel annually contribute to the change. Prior to our departures, Club Adventures encourages everyone to bring a reusable water bottle to exponentially decrease the use of single-use plastic. We advise to avoid getting plastic bags while shopping by putting souvenirs into your backpack, and to bring their own recyclable toiletries to avoid using one-use hotel containers.

At Club Adventures, we believe that sustainable travel should be the preferred style of travel, especially as our world continues to cope with over-tourism and climate change. Fortunately, sustainability is gaining wider traction across the travel industry as travelers start to dig deeper into who they travel with, and what impact their travels have on the world around them. Our suggestions are just the beginning to making a difference while traveling, but these small changes can have large effects. If we’re looking to take only memories, and leave only footprints, the work that comes along with that starts with each of us.

Rachel Jordan is the Partnership Marketing Coordinator for Club Adventures, powered by AAA Exclusive Vacations®. In her role, she assists with the implementation of comprehensive marketing strategies, while continually enhancing the strength of the Club Adventures brand. Rachel is also an avid traveler and blogger and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Global Tourism and Sustainable Economic Development. She continues to expand her comfort zone by exploring as many new cultures and destinations as possible. Follow her adventures on her Instagram account! 

Club Adventures, powered by AAA Exclusive Vacations®, is a small-group adventure travel provider created for those who want to explore the world through a local lens. With global journeys 8-14 days long, group sizes are kept small (16 passengers max) and leaders are local. Get closer, go deeper, and create memories that will last a lifetime, all the with support of a trusted brand.