Archive for February, 2012

February 26, 2012

Top Five Destinations for your Graduate. And You.

Who's bold enough to try grasshopper?

Many popular destinations are just plain fun for a young child, but can be revisited – or seen for the first time – with very different eyes once your child is out of high school. Here are our picks for the most sophisticated and exciting places to visit, or visit again, with your graduate.

5) Alaska. It’s pristine, and so different from the rest of the continental USA. And it’s changing so fast, there may well be species, habitats and glaciers that will be disappearing in the future. Take your graduate to explore up close, with plenty of physical activities to challenge you both while you all learn about how climate change is affecting this part of the country.

4) Galapagos. On select dates we offer families with older kids the opportunity to explore the islands from a 16 passenger catamaran. Or, if you prefer, you can join our MultiSport Adventure with real beach camping and up close experiences with those frigate birds, seal ions, and blue footed boobies. In both options you’ll also have the chance to learn something about rock climbing, early Incan ruins, and the delightful culture of mainland Ecuador.

3) Peru. Whether you like to camp in remote mountains with no one but your camp crew nearby, or you prefer, thank you very much, to sleep in a comfortable hotel…Peru offers mystery and culture you can dive into, and breathtaking scenery to explore. Both versions, the Trek and the Land of the Ancient Inca offer great hiking and plenty of time to contemplate the wonders of Machu Picchu.

2) Turkey. Whether you choose a photographic journey, our Secrets of Turkey, or the special Smithsonian Adventure, Turkey is full of inviting people, scenery, and culture. Oh, and the food! Turkey is an adventure of history and art, Roman ruins, miraculous landscape, and the smooth Mediterranean. So much more than just a vacation!

1) Thailand With a fascinating culture, gorgeous temples, and a philosophy that invites conversation…. plus verdant forest to hike, retired elephants to care for, and rivers to raft…. here is an adventure to change your life forever.

0) It’s hard to stop when I’m on a roll.. how about Morocco? Wander the souks, watch a snake charmer, trek in the High Atlas Mountains, and ride a camel on the beach… Practice your Arabic as well as your French, and tantalize your taste buds in this exotic land of couscous and fragrant tagines.

The truth is, any one of our destinations can be sophisticated and enriching for your older kids, and for you too! Our expert guides are ready to talk up to your level, and challenge you to take home in your heart a piece of their country. Come join the like minded and similar aged families traveling with us in 2012 and beyond.



February 12, 2012

Family Travel: Not Just for Kids

Traveling with the Graduates

With my third and last child up and off to college I find myself rethinking the definition of “Family Travel”. Of course we’re still a family even if we don’t have dinner together every night, if we don’t all live under the same roof, and even if my kids are more grown up than I ‘m ready for them to be. And we still love to travel together – none of us are too grown up to discover new places, thank goodness.

But when we call it Family Travel – it might seem too young for what you are really after. How about: Graduate Adventures.

Your children graduate from high school, or from college. Maybe even from graduate school. And you are graduating from a full house of responsibilities to spare time for thinking about what comes next. Just like dinnertime used to be the time to catch up on the day, now your Graduate Adventure can be the place to reconnect with your busy kids. A time to continue to grow together.

When your kids graduate from high school, college or graduate school you don’t stop wanting to travel together – you just want more sophisticated opportunities. Welcome to our Graduate Adventures. Full of history, mystery, and discovery. Great activities to challenge yourself AND your ‘kids’ (won’t we call them that forever??)

It makes sense that we began with 6 year olds 15 years ago, and now have families with 20-someting year old kids traveling with us. So give us a call and see what opportunities there might be for your graduated family. Turkey, Thailand, Tanzania, Peru, Costa Rica – we have older groups going almost everywhere!



February 8, 2012

A Turtle by Any Other Name…

Galapagos Tortoise photo by MFawcett

Thanks to our alumni Katie Pickard Fawcett for sharing her post about the great turtles of the world….she writes a lovely blog!

In art, literature, and mythology the words “tortoise” and “turtle” are often used interchangeably, though turtle refers to an aquatic creature while a tortoise is the slow-moving land dweller. The Galapagos giant tortoise can weigh more than 600 pounds and survive for a year without food or water. The big guys can live to be more than 150 years old. They’re vegetarian and they take life slow and easy. Perhaps that’s the secret.

I used to see the Galapagos giants in their dusty enclosures at the zoo and figured they were doing okay with plenty of water and food and didn’t need much space. Most of the time they looked like big stones scattered about in the sun. You could stand forever waiting for one of them to stick out his head and take a step or two. Then we went to the Galapagos Islands and hiked in the Santa Cruz highlands where the tortoises roam free. They get out and about where they have the space to do so and, although these tortoises can live without water for long periods, they also enjoy a leisurely soak when a water source is readily available.

Most of the low-lying islands in the Galapagos chain are flat, dusty, and dry, but Santa Cruz has six different vegetation zones. The highlands, where the tortoises live, are lush and green. These moist forests are speckled with ponds and marshes. Passion flowers and the poison apples of the manchineel grow along the trails. Some of the huge ponds are covered with red pond weed.

It’s hot and humid here, the forests are filled with bird calls, and the air is filled with the wet earth scent of a rainforest. The trip from the town of Puerto Ayora took us about 30 minutes on a recycled school bus with no air conditioning, but it was worth it to see one after another of these enormous fellows go lumbering by, crossing our paths. I know many animals in the wild are not as healthy as those kept captive and some don’t live as long as their caged kin, but there’s something about freedom that’s way more appealing.

Turtle/Tortoise Trivia:

1) Several Native American tribes believed that the earth rested on the back of a giant turtle.

2) The Chinese once believed that turtles were sacred; the Burmese thought them to be divine and kept them in tanks in pagodas. Temples devoted to turtles can still be found in Asia.

3) In The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck used the tortoise as a symbol of the tenacity of the “Okies” traveling west for a better life. For D.H. Lawrence the turtle was sometimes a symbol of aloneness and indifference.

4) Turtles figure prominently in Early Egyptian art and were used for medicinal purposes. Ancient Egyptians believed that turtles had a special knowledge of medicinal herbs and other remedies.

5) The Romans associated turtles with the god Mercury. One of Mercury’s first acts as an infant was to kill a turtle and turn its shell into a lyre.

6) Some early Christians considered them “heretical” animals that chose to live in filth and scum.

7) The tortoise appears in Hindu writings as a famous sage. One of the chief dieties, Vishnu, was believed to have descended to earth in the form of a tortoise to help the other gods stir the oceans in the search for the essence of immortality.

8) One of the most famous fables, of course, is the story of the tortoise and the hare.

9) Tortoise tales occur in many African nations and the tortoise is often portrayed as a cunning hero, a greedy intemperate creature.

10) Giant marine turtles, especially green turtles, played a major role in the settlement of the New World. They could be kept aboard ship for months without being fed and became a major food source for sailors on long voyages. The Galapagos tortoise, for example, was a food staple for New England whaling ships that spent several years at a time in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

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February 7, 2012

Crocodiles in Egypt!

This guy is not mummified. Yet.

Who knew crocodiles had such a revered place in history??

The first “Museum of Crocodiles” is to open in front of the Temple of Kom Ombo in Aswan, Egypt coinciding with Aswan’s National Day. The museum will display a collection of mummified crocodiles, and statues of the god Sobek, the crocodile god, as the Ancient Egyptian worshipped him believing that he was the creator of the world who arose from the “Dark Water”. For that reason they built the temples in Kom Ombo, Esna, Fayoum and in other areas.

A total of twenty two mummified crocodiles of various sizes: from the smallest, 1.5 meters long, to the real giants of almost five meters of length will be exhibited. The display shows the crocodiles in its natural environment, as well as another display of a burial place for the crocodiles, showing how they were mummified and buried, eyes and teeth from gold and ivory that replaced the crocodile’s own after its death, as well as coffins from clay and an altar where the crocodiles were placed for worship.

In the museum, visitors will also view twenty statues and plaques on the worshipping of the crocodiles including the god Sobek. This museum is considered one of the largest in the world for crocodiles.

Neat!



February 5, 2012

An Ancient Story from China

Floating on the river

Thanks to the Linden Centre for their retelling of this story about the Chinese New Year.

Long ago, the world was not a safe place; monsters dominated the world. There was one horrifying monster that came out on the same day each year to eat people. This monster was named Nian, and the people marked the end of a year by his visits to the human civilization. That is where the Chinese word for year came from.

This monster was the most feared by the people because every time it came out, whole villages would be destroyed at a time. So, every time the monster came, people would huddle together in their homes and stay up all night, wanting not to be eaten. This happened for many years until a wise man thought up a plan to scare the monster away.

This man proposed that the people should light bamboo. The bamboo would crack and make a lot of noise, possibly scaring the monster away. The villagers thought this was a very good idea and started to light the bamboo. The noise was tremendous. The monster was scared by the loud noise and ran back to its cave without eating any people.

The next morning, everyone was present. They were all elated. The people congratulated each other for executing the plan effectively. So, from then on, people stayed up late, lit firecrackers (to simulate the lighting of the bamboo), and congratulated each other when the new year came.

This is a well-known story among China, The origin of the Chinese New Year itself is centuries old, it can be traced back to Xia Dynasty, which is around 4,000 years ago.

You can stay at the Linden Centre on our Smithsonian Family Adventure