- Created: 10 December 2008
"I'm going to Madagascar!" I'd tell people gleefully."The movie?""No, THE COUNTRY."
And people would scratch their head, not quite knowing where Madagascar is on the map. So let me help you. Just wander over 12,000 miles by plane (approximately 26 hours of flying and 10 hours of layovers in Dallas and Paris), through 3 continents and enough time zones to screw up your sleeping patterns for at least a week. Madagascar is a country just east of South Africa, separated by the Mozambique Channel on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other, an island that floats peacefully isolated and is blissfully ignorant of the rest of the world.
I was honored to be invited to travel there by Conservation International and the Madagascar Tourism Board as one of only 10 international tour operators that best represent responsible tourism practices in the world. The 10-day itinerary was designed for us to hit the ground running from Day 1, and for the next nine days, we scoured the country testing standards for hotels, guiding practices, infrastructure, etc, often with schedules that got us up and running from 5:30 am and had us straggling into our hotel rooms well after 10 pm. The final verdict: it is in desperate need of reformation, but is making the right strides to get there...eventually.
- Created: 25 November 2008
HELLO from Guayaquil! We returned to Guayaquillast night after a week in the amazing Galapagos Islands.I've never experienced more tame wildlife in my life. After so many years aboutreading about this place, it was a treat for us to finally come and spend ourhoneymoon here. Just us and a few thousand of the world's most friendlywildlife species!
We went diving one day and swamwith hammerhead sharks (which was a bit scary for me, but exhilarating),numerous marine turtles, white tip reef sharks, sting rays, sea lions and more.Unlike the graceful reef sharks, the hammerheads are so quick so you never knowwhere they are. The best was swimming with a sea lion at the end of oursecond dive. He was so curious about us, playfully checking us out with hishuge eyes swimming around and underneath us. He was especially curious aboutKevin. A Galapagos turtle came mask to nose with me before heading over to ourdive master and taking a playful bite out of his head. It was as if he had apersonal vendetta with the dive master! Fortunately he was fine.
- Created: 17 October 2008
It was so hard to leave the Atacama Desert. Years from now, archaeologists will look askance at the scratched fingernail marks at the doors of the Tierra Atacama hotel and wonder what poor, desperate human would be so distraught to leave the desert that one would carve her fingers into the wood of a door of a luxury all-inclusive resort in a futile attempt to avoid being dragged away to civilization? Umm, that would be me.
On my last day in the desert, I got up at 4:30 am. I had chosen to see sunrise at the Tatio Geysers. That meant leaving by no later than 5:00 am, then driving two hours across the sands into the Altiplanico high desert plateau to an isolated spot where burbling hot springs spittle and gurgle and percolate, emitting sulfurous gas fumes into thin air. Better to go as early as possible, I was told. The colder it is, the better to see fumes. Be prepared for bitter cold. No one mentioned that 90 minutes of the drive would be on teeth-rattling, bone-shaking gravelly dirt roads that meandered up and down and around and about the Andean mountains in the pitch dark of the pre-dawn.