This undated photo shows Virgin Galactic’s first SpaceShipTwo. Travel advisors are poised for the advent of suborbital flights. Virgin Galactic via Associated Press
This undated photo shows Virgin Galactic’s first SpaceShipTwo. Travel advisors are poised for the advent of suborbital flights. Virgin Galactic via Associated Press
— Maria Lenhart
It’s time…I’m now announcing the Wandering Earl Tours for 2020!
Are you ready to join an awesome small group trip that is nothing like a typical tour?
These are my laid-back adventures that focus on local interaction, authentic activities, unique itineraries, off-the-beaten path destinations and having an incredible amount of fun along the way!
I’ve now been offering these trips for 7 years, with over 350 travelers having joined tours to 22 different countries. And with the excellent feedback I receive after each one, I get even more motivated to continue creating these types of travel experiences!
So for 2020, I’m announcing trips to…
– Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
– Egypt and Jordan
– Georgia and Armenia
– The Surprise Tour (Yes, a 100% surprise!)
Check out the details for all the trips over at my Wandering Earl Tours website. And if you have any questions at all, just let me know!
When heading to the Galapagos, you certainly have some options. You can try and do it alone, basing yourself out of Puerto Ayoro and arranging day trips to other islands. Or you could join a multi-day Galapagos cruise and travel between the islands on a boat.
A Galapagos cruise is not a typical cruise. These are not huge ships with thousands of passengers. Most of the boats are of the yacht type, some looking good and others looking like they’ve seen much better days, holding anywhere from 10 – 100 passengers. Itineraries vary between 3, 5 and 8 days (sometimes longer) and between eastern and western and central routes as well.
I took an 8-day, eastern itinerary on board the S/S Mary Anne, run by the excellent Andando Tours.
The Mary Anne is the only sailing vessel in the Galapagos and the only vessel that could indeed complete its voyages by wind power only.
She had a presence. She was different than every single other boat we saw during our 8-day trip. She had a classic style to her, whereas the other boats were just that, boats.
The Mary Anne holds 14 passengers, with a combination of double, twin and single cabins (with no extra fees if you’re a solo traveler!). There are 10 crew members, too. The price of the trip includes accommodation, transportation, food, local permits and all activities.
Here’s a short video I made that shows you what it’s like on board the S/S Mary Anne…
The cabins are a good size, if not the largest cabins I’ve ever seen. And while they are simple, they are spotless, bright and comfortable (they have A/C, great beds and even closet space, along with good-size bathrooms with a full shower). I slept wonderfully every night, falling asleep within seconds of hitting the pillow.
All meals were eaten communal style at two large tables, with all kinds of dishes being served. The food was excellent and varied at all times. Breakfast would involve eggs, fruit, breads, local pastries and more. And for lunch and dinner, there was fish and meat, salads, soup, a couple of local sides and a delicious dessert.
After most of our activities, there were also fresh snacks waiting for us when we got on board and there were always snacks, coffee, tea and water available in the dining room throughout the day.
When it comes to activities, each day is divided into a morning and afternoon session and usually, there were two activities per session. These could be any combination of hiking, snorkeling or kayaking, depending on what island we were at and what there was to see.
The hiking was never too strenuous as it was always along well defined paths set up by the Galapagos conservation board. The hiking pace was always slow as there was simply so much to see everywhere that our guide would stop frequently to explain what we were looking at. Even after a two hour hike, our group wanted more every time!
Kayaking took place on sturdy two-person kayaks and we usually took them out along the coast of an island, into beautiful coves, along white sand beaches where sea lions were playing around and past rocky outcrops where we could spot all kinds of wildlife. It was super fun to be out there paddling around in such settings.
With the snorkeling, the equipment was top notch, and the snorkel sites were some of the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Hundreds of fish, sharks, sea lions, octopus, stingrays, turtles and more would make up a typical snorkel session. Every time we went snorkeling I said to myself that I would only stay in the water for 20 minutes or so and every single time I ended up out there until the end, usually an hour or more.
(One of the staff from the boat would follow us in a dingy so that if anyone wanted to get out of the water at any time, he was right there to pick you up.)
All of the above were not mandatory of course. Every activity is always optional as the idea is for all passengers to have the experience they want to have, something the staff stressed often.
Our guide, Fernando, was phenomenal. Every other guide we passed during our hikes would stop and ask him questions as he clearly had more knowledge than all of them combined. His lengthy experience in these islands was unmatched and his passion for his work turned every single activity into an eye-opening, educational treat.
Again, phenomenal is the only word to describe him.
He also took safety very seriously.
While we watched as passengers from other boats fell on rocks, got separated from their group and were forced to board their dingy in dangerous conditions, we never had any of those issues. Fernando and the team were always watching, always helping and always making sure that everyone was safe at all times.
This might not seem like a big deal but in the Galapagos Islands, it’s a wild and rough terrain. And if you’re not careful, there are opportunities to hurt yourself. But again, nobody on our trip had any issues at all thanks to our guide and the incredibly attentive staff.
At night, we would head outside and stare up at the sky in order to take in that magical delight that is a sky full of stars, from horizon to horizon. The boat gently pushed through the small waves, we sipped our beers and enjoyed a mix of conversation and silence until we were ready for sleep.
In the mornings, despite the early wake-ups, there was plenty of chatter, with the excitement about spending yet another day in these islands quite evident among us.
And if you think that watching sea lions and sharks and iguanas and albatross and blue-footed boobies and turtles would get old after a couple of days, believe me when I say that boredom is not possible when in the Galapagos. Every moment spent observing wildlife is beyond fascinating, it’s never the same as any other moment and it only further solidifies the notion that a trip to these islands is an experience of a lifetime.
It’s not only the wildlife though. It’s the views, volcanoes, beaches, colors, natural aromas, plants and trees, warm winds and pure remoteness that builds this trip into something that can’t be copied anywhere else on this planet.
A Galapagos cruise is surreal. It needs to be experienced. And I can’t imagine a better way to visit this mind-blowing destination than on the beautiful S/S Mary Anne, a ship as unique as the islands she travels around!
Any questions about the Galapagos or about my trip on board the Mary Anne? Let me know!
More posts from my Galapagos cruise:
The post A Galapagos Cruise On Board the Incredible Mary Anne appeared first on Wandering Earl.
If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of others around the world, you can bet that Worldpackers has got you covered! Volunteering abroad not only quenches your thirst for world travel, but it also fills your soul. There are countless people from various backgrounds, groups, areas, and countries that are in need of humanitarian aid, or simply just a friendly helping hand.
Worldpackers believes in travel that makes an impact on both the traveler and the community they choose to visit. What better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than to serve its hard-working residents, experience how the locals live, and help a good cause? Volunteering is a fantastic way to make a difference, big or small, in the world we live in. You can change someone’s whole outlook with one selfless act.
The Worldpackers Social lmpact Program has a wide array of important volunteer activities that you can exchange for accommodation and meals. You can browse through the list of experiences by country, host type, skills needed, length of stay, and trip style to find a social impact program that suits your skills best. Each listing tells you all the details of your volunteer experience, including:
• How many hours you’ll be working each week
• What type of skills and requirements need to be met
• What tasks you’ll be completing as a volunteer
• The benefits of the exchange (meals per day, language lessons, laundry service, private room, shared room, etc.)
• The minimum and maximum length of stay you are permitted
• Worldpackers insurance
• What’s not included in your trip (flights, Visa, travel insurance, etc.)
• A detailed description of the experience
• Reviews other volunteers have posted
• Photos of the experience from other Worldpackers
• A photo and short biography about the host detailing who they are and what their organization stands for
You can easily apply to volunteer abroad with any volunteer exchange program that matches your skillset, chat with the host, or save your favorite listings to your wish list for later. Volunteering has so many benefits for all parties involved, and you’re sure to find something that speaks to you. You’ll discover so many exciting opportunities to dive into, like teaching English in India, helping out at an animal shelter in Costa Rica, teaching sports in Africa, shooting videos and handling the social media of a welfare group in Nepal, caring for children in Thailand, and so much more!
The free housing and food during your stay really helps cut down costs of travel, and some hosts even offer local food, drink, and tour discounts! Once your shift ends or on your days off, you can set out to see a tropical sunset, eat your way through a city lined with food vendors, see the sights, and just enjoy your new destination to its fullest. When you fall asleep each night of your stay, you’ll be exhausted and happy to know that you’re living life to the fullest while altering someone’s reality for the better. Knowing your hard work is creating such a positive impact will motivate and excite you about what tomorrow will bring.
Worldpackers knows that volunteering abroad can help travelers realize their true potential, teach them new skills, open their minds, and inspire them to conquer challenges with confidence. If something seems out of your comfort zone, that’s usually a sign you should try it! Assess the skills you have now and decide what you’re an expert at, what you’re good at, and what you’re open to learning. What skills are you a bit rusty at that need improvement? Which languages would you love to learn? Do you have any hidden talents you’d like to pursue, like painting, cooking, photography, or gardening? Put your knowledge to the test and choose a volunteer experience that will broaden your horizons.
If travel is about leaving your footprint on the world, you’ll be amazed at how taking it a step further through dedicated volunteer work can leave your permanent footprint in someone else’s world. Try out the Worldpackers Social lmpact Program to find a cause that will turn your month of travel into a deeply rich, meaningful learning experience that can’t be beat.
World travel has never been so rewarding.
The post Volunteer Abroad with Worldpackers Social Impact Program appeared first on Wandering Earl.
I never thought I’d go hang gliding. Then one day while in Rio de Janeiro my girlfriend said, ‘A friend of mine told me that we should go hang gliding.’
That was all it took.
We did 15 minutes of research, made a reservation and two days later we were in an Uber on our way to Sao Conrado Beach. It really was time for some Rio de Janeiro hang gliding.
The whole experience happened quickly.
We met Paulo, the owner of Just Fly Rio and our main instructor, on the beautiful beach. We signed some paperwork at the office of the local Rio de Janeiro hang gliding association. And then, after one last weather check, we hopped into Paulo’s jeep and began the journey to the top of the nearby Pedra Bonita mountain (520 meters high).
We were fitted with gear, given a safety lesson and provided with a few minutes of instruction while an assistant assembled the first hang glider.
Suddenly, Georgiana was hooked up to the wings and the instructor and two final safety checks were performed. Then, off they went. Running down the ramp and off into the sky, straight into the clouds. It was nuts.
At first, they immediately disappeared below, as if they plunged straight off the ramp. But after ten seconds, they re-appeared in the mist, soaring upwards along the edge of the mountains. And so her Rio de Janeiro hang gliding adventure began.
Ten minutes later, it was my turn. Henato, another instructor, showed up and we went through the same routine. Harness, instructions, safety checks…and before I had a chance to really soak it all up, I was also running down the ramp, attached to this huge green triangular wing.
And then the ground was gone and we were flying through the sky.
I’ll let this photo and video explain it all…
In brief, we loved it. Every minute of it. The sensation of flying really is something special…when you’re maneuvering with the wind, turning and twisting, rising up and floating down. At first it feels bizarre, but it doesn’t take long to become soothing and almost meditative.
Depending on where you do it, the scenery certainly helps too.
While flying, I actually asked Henato about his favorite places to hang glide (yes, we were having normal conversation up there!). He said the Swiss Alps was probably his favorite but this particular Rio de Janeiro location was second. And he has over 800 hang gliding flights under his belt, all over the world.
It’s hard to argue really. This Rio de Janeiro hang gliding experience takes off from a mountaintop above the dense jungle of the Tijuca National Park. You then fly through the clouds towards the white sands of Sao Conrado Beach, passing over neighborhoods tucked into lush green valleys, with views out over the rocky islands off the coast. And you actually land on the beach itself.
It’s beyond remarkable.
If you’re in Rio de Janeiro and want to fly, it’s worth looking into. I can’t imagine a better spot and as soon as you’re up there in the clouds above this gorgeous city, you’ll see why I’m so enthusiastic!
Here’s the company we used:
*The flight lasts between 7 – 20 minutes, depending on wind and weight. For a very reasonable rate you can receive photos ($15 USD) and videos ($20 USD) of your flight as well.
The owner, Paulo Celani (he was the main instructor as well), was thorough, very thorough, in terms of safety. Completely professional in every way. Whichever company you use, just make sure to read the reviews and see how others felt about the safety standards.
Have you been hang gliding?
A short time ago, I was on a flight to Ecuador, about to embark on a 7-day Galapagos Islands trip. As I’m traveling constantly, I barely had time to process my plans or to research or to gain a fair understanding of what I should expect.
All I knew is that my Galapagos Islands trip would involve:
a) Sailing for 1 week on board the S/S Mary Anne (run by the wonderful Andando Tours)
b) A lot of animals
c) Probably some other interesting stuff
How naive was I.
First, I spent 7 days/nights on board one of the coolest sailing vessels out there and in my opinion, the best ship for a trip around the Galapagos. As for interesting stuff…between kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, stargazing, constantly learning and just staring in awe at the otherworldly landscapes, I’d say that was easily covered.
And then the animals. A lot of animals?
In one week I ended up seeing an absurd amount of incredible, colorful, unique creatures…on land, in the water and in the sky. If I took a single hour from this one week trip, I would still be able to say that I did indeed see ‘a lot of animals’. Multiply that by 16 waking hours, multiply that by 7 days and you get the idea.
Here’s a taste of the experience that is an incredible Galapagos Islands trip (photos and a pretty cool video)…
When I mention my Galapagos Islands trip, one of the most common questions I’m asked is whether I saw any blue-footed boobies. Well, yes I did, along with red-footed and nazca boobies….EVERYWHERE!
By the end of the second day, we had already seen well over 50 sea lions. You might think this would be sufficient and any further sea lion spottings would become boring. Not the case! I would have been thrilled to see 50 sea lions every day as they were by far the most playful, active, curious and wacky of all the animals we came across (as you saw in the video above!).
What’s even better than 50 sea lions per day? Baby sea lions. Look at the photos, watch the video and tell me you don’t want to adopt a baby sea lion right away!
I think the photos speak for themselves but every time we hopped onto the little zodiac boat for a ride to shore, we had no idea what we would actually find. Yes, we knew that the nature would be stunning but until we stepped foot onto each island, it was impossible to know just how stunning it would be…
This is the awesome sailing vessel that I traveled on for the entire week during my Galapagos Islands trip!
With the super friendly Captain Mario at the helm…
From colorful marine iguanas to spaced out land iguanas to perky lava lizards and more…almost every island we visited was full of such creatures. There they would always be, sitting on the beach, swimming in the water, sunbathing on rocks or just wandering around.
There were actually so many iguanas and lizards that our guide had to constantly warn us to watch where we were walking to avoid stepping on one!
The giant tortoises were naturally impressive, often weighing in at over 730 lbs (350kgs) and living for over 100 years. They don’t move around too much but it’s difficult to take your eyes off of them. They seem to reach deep into your inner being when they stare at you (ok, not that intense but they’re fascinating to observe!)…
With their intricate courtship dance, huge size, crazy ability to fly super long distances and the fact that young albatrosses spend 6 years at sea before returning home to find a mate, seeing these birds on Espanola Island was a real highlight…
Everywhere I looked on this Galapagos Islands trip there were animals. Too many to remember, too many to even fathom. But every time I look at the photos myself, I realize that I spent an entire week completely amazed, impressed and thankful for such an opportunity, which is why a trip to this remarkable destination is worth every single dollar as far as I’m concerned. It’s a dream trip in every way.
Thanks for reading!
Any questions about the Galapagos Islands? Let me know!
If you’re interested in taking a Galapagos Islands trip, the 8-day experience aboard the S/S Mary Anne with Andando Tours is beyond incredible!
My other posts about the Galapagos Islands: My Galapagos Trip Was An Experience of a Lifetime
The post My Galapagos Islands Trip – 34 Favorite Photos (and a video) appeared first on Wandering Earl.
Hotels like KK Beach on Habaraduwa Beach are offering significant discounts to attract visitors after some lean times. Srilankacollection.com
— Allan Leibowitz
An Intrepid Travel cycling tour in Iran. Demand for Iran tours is rising globally despite reduced interest among Americans because of tensions between the U.S. and Iranian governments. Intrepid Travel
— Maria Lenhart
In this file photo, a man tries to hug a tree in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. Brand USA faces a funding crisis if Congress doesn’t renew its mandate. Faungg Photo / Flickr.com
— Maria Lenhart