July 21, 2015

6 Things You Have to See in Brazil to Understand

Brazil is a wonderful country that has been a regular stop on the travel circuit for some time now. The great weather, beautiful beaches, scenic views, adoring people, and exciting culture are just a few of the reasons why this is the case. There is a lot of information out there about Brazil given its size, fifth largest in the world in area and population, and being the host country for major global events, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. But no matter what you read (yes, including this article!), there are a few things that you can only truly understand by going to Brazil and seeing them for yourself!

Spot a Jaguar

A jaguar sitting on a log in the Pantanal.

A jaguar sitting on a log in the Pantanal.

The jaguar is a truly majestic creature that prowls the jungles of South America. There was a time when jaguars were abundant in the wild but that is no longer the case. The jaguar is elusive, stealthy, powerful, and one of the best places to spot the big cat is in the jungles of Brazil. Seeing the jaguar in its natural habitat is a rare experience that not many people have.

Experience the Pantanal

A large area of Brazil is jungle and one of the most fascinating parts of that jungle is the Pantanal region. If you mixed the Amazon rain forest with the Serengeti of Africa and sprinkled a bit of Florida’s everglades on top, you’d have the Pantanal. This is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet and is home to wildlife such as capuchin and howler monkeys, jaguars, giant river otters, caimans, extremely colorful and diverse birds, and thousands of fish species. It’s hard to imagine until you see it with your own eyes.

Stand with Christ the Redeemer

Christo Blanco

One of the new Seven Wonders of the World is the Christ the Redeemer statue. This impressive sculpture overlooks the brilliant city of Rio de Janeiro. It sits atop Corcovado Hill and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. There is a certain feeling that only comes with standing next to the statue and overlooking Rio.


Enjoy a Churrascaria

A favorite for all travelers, this Brazilian style BBQ gives a new definition to all you can eat. In this style of BBQ, the meat is brought fresh off of the grill to your table and sliced directly on to your plate. It’s hard to find anything as fresh as that! Not a fan of meat? That’s all right too. These meals are usually full of fruit and vegetable dishes that have made Brazilian cuisine famous.

See The Beautiful Game

Brazil has won the FIFA World Cup a record of five times. No other country has done that and it may be because Brazil plays the game more beautifully than anyone else. The style of play is unique to Brazil and was even the source of a Nike campaign almost a decade ago. The passion that Brazilians have for football is unmatched and seeing a game in Brazil is enough to get anyone, even the most passive fan, excited about the beautiful game!

Learn About the Golden Lion Tamarin

golden lion tamarin

There are only about 1,500 Golden Lion Tamarin monkeys remaining in the wild in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. These tamarins are dapper and under severe threat. Take a trip to the Golden Lion Tamarin Project outside of Rio and learn about the conservation efforts in place to save these animals from extinction. Actually seeing the Golden Lion Tamarins in their natural habitat will be an unforgettable education that you can only get there!

All of these are great options for families that want to have a memorable, educational, and truly Brazilian family vacation. We’ve just updated our itinerary to make this the best possible trip for your family, call today and book your Brazilian family vacation!

July 10, 2015

Four of Our Favorite Family Vacation Destinations on Four Different Continents

One of the toughest parts of planning a family vacation is deciding where to go. With so many places to travel for your next vacation we understand that choosing a destination can be a little overwhelming. Is the place kid friendly? Will my kids have fun? Will they also learn? Will I be able to have fun and relax? The answer to all of those questions should be a resounding YES. We have a few destinations that are a firm yes to all of those questions across the globe. Here are four (each on a separate continent for variety) that are a good place to start looking to plan a family vacation!

Africa: South Africa

A view of Cape Town from the water

A view of Cape Town from the water

One of the premier destinations in Africa for all things fun, educational, and family friendly is South Africa. After holding its first democratic election in 1994, the country has come a long way. Just off of the coast of Cape Town an important spot to visit is Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner for 18 years. Apart from the political history of the country, there are also incredible sites. From the view of the magnificent Table Mountain to the wild fynbos of the Cape Floral Kingdom, you will always be left in awe. This isn’t even to mention what you’ll see on a South African safari (here’s a clue: think Big 5 and then way more). Also for mom and dad, South Africa has an amazing selection of locally produced wines to make for optimal evening relaxation!



Asia: Thailand

Having some fun with an elephant!

Having some fun with an elephant!

Exotic? Check. Exciting? Check. Exhilarating? Check. Other adjectives that start with ‘ex’? Check! Thailand is a great family vacation destination that offers families a great cultural experience. The streets of Bangkok are a constant hustle with tuk-tuks, food stalls, and people darting in and out of shops and work. While it is a site to see, getting around can be a bit easier and more fun on a boat! The khlongs (canals) in Bangkok are a great way to see the sites without getting caught in the traffic of the city. Thailand also has a wonderful northern region full of hiking opportunities and chances to care for elephants all day. That’s right— all day! No conversation about Thailand would be complete without mentioning the cool emerald and teal waters of the islands like Phuket and Koh Yao Noi where relaxation is not only encouraged, but guaranteed!

Europe: Ireland

A classic destination that all types of travelers want to visit and it isn’t hard to see why. Ireland is known for its friendly people with talkative personalities but the real pull to Ireland, is its rolling green hills in the countryside and its fun historical cities. Dublin is one of a kind as it can immediately transport you to medieval times as you walk through the heart of the city stopping in the famous places such as Temple Bar, O’Connell Street, and Trinity College. Crossing the country west to Connemara is one of the most beautiful rides that your family can take as you wind through the scenic hills and quaint farms out to the Atlantic. With a friendly reputation and plenty of activities for kids, Ireland family vacations are great!

South America: Brazil

A jaguar resting in the Pantanal.

A jaguar resting in the Pantanal.

This is a country that can speak for itself. Rio is impressive and fun for travelers of any age with unlimited venues for entertainment and gorgeous beaches that stretch for miles. This is s a passionate city full of life and excitement! Although, many may argue that this isn’t even the most exciting area of Brazil. Heading out to the amazon and trekking through the lush and diverse Pantanal region is nothing short of unforgettable. With thousands of plant species and hundreds of animals you’re sure to see something in the Pantanal that you can’t see anywhere else. This includes the quiet and mysterious jaguar! Kids will love a nighttime jeep ride to try and spot the magnificent creature!

At Thomson Family Adventures we always have you on our minds. This is just a sample of a few places that families love to visit. Call us today to hear about them or feel free to explore our site and see the other destinations that we can help you see on your next family vacation!

June 16, 2014

Brazil: More than Soccer and Supermodels

Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro

With the World Cup underway, Brazil is very much in the global spotlight. The choice to host such an enormous international event here is a controversial one that has drawn plenty of opposition. Regardless, all this attention is a reminder that there’s a lot to love – and a lot to learn – about Brazil.

Brazil is a vast nation boasting a rich history and an astonishing degree of cultural diversity from region to region. Before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500, there were a very large number of distinct indigenous groups, lumped (in very general terms) into four major overarching groups: the Tupi (speakers of the many languages in the Tupi-Guarani family) and the Tapuia inhabiting the coastal regions, and the Carib and Nuaraque peoples in the interior.

The Brazil of today is an amazing melting pot whose vibrant culture benefits tremendously from a convergence of ethnic influences including indigenous Amerindian, Portuguese, African, and more recent immigration from all over the world. The friendly people, renowned for their striking looks, boast skin tones and hair colors of every imaginable hue. They dance to the rhythm of samba, jazz-inspired bossa nova, indigenous wooden flutes, Afro-Brazilian drum beats, and so many other fascinating styles. They parade down the bustling streets of tropical Rio de Janeiro in elaborate costumes and bring the spirit of Carnival alive. In the vibrant state of Bahia and its capital of Salvador, they carry on the captivating tradition of capoeira – a martial art full of movement and dancing invented by Brazilians of African descent.

The people of Brazil eat delicious and immensely varied cuisine influenced by indigenous crops, animals, and cooking methods, European and African recipes and ingredients, and so much more. They eat their national dish of feijoada (a stew of beans, salted and smoked meats, and vegetables cooked in a clay pot), a savory cheese bread called pão de queijo, and churrasco, an assortment of barbecued meats known for fueling the work of the South American cowboys known as gauchos.

Brazilians are a welcoming, resilient people who make up for the financial riches they may not have with the heart and personality that radiate from their kind souls.

In addition to its wonderful population, Brazil is home to unforgettable landscapes and wildlife. The city of Rio de Janeiro has quite deservedly been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with an urban landscape nestled snugly between forested mountains and blue bays. There’s no better place to people watch than on the lively beaches of the Copacabana waterfront. Nearby, in the lush Atlantic Forest outside Rio, primate conservationists work tirelessly to reintroduce endangered golden lion tamarins to their natural habitat.

Then there’s the Pantanal, a different world altogether. This enormous tropical wetland harbors a stunning array of creatures; the vast expanses of open grasslands here actually provide far better wildlife viewing opportunities than a place like the Amazon, because the abundant animals aren’t hidden by high, dense vegetation. This is the perfect environment to ride on horseback like a pantaneiro – a cowboy of the Pantanal – and spot wildlife at every turn.

And at Iguassu Falls, hiking trails and catwalks offer views of these mighty natural wonders that are higher than Niagara Falls and wider than Victoria Falls.

Long story short, there’s a LOT more to Brazil than could ever be captured in a blog post… you may just have to come see for yourself.

December 5, 2013

Family Reunions – Five Ways to Make it Work

Together in Peru

Together in Peru

The holidays have always been a time for families to come together, and more than ever families are meeting up in a new location, to share new experiences as well as each others’ company.  Whether it’s holiday time, a hard earned graduation, a milestone anniversary or birthday or just an excuse to get away, a family reunion can be a legacy trip of a lifetime. So how do you ensure your time and financial investment don’t go to waste?

1) Plan ahead! If your family is flexible and has an excellent sense of humor, a regrettable last minute decision to ‘wing-it’ may give you material to laugh about for years to come.  But if you prefer to not spend your vacation troubleshooting and negotiating every day, you’ll take your time and start planning for next year. The perfect villa, the right hotels, the ideal guide – those things don’t wait for late planners.

2) Support, Support, Support . Leave yourself unfettered to nonstop planning. Whether your familiy is 6 people or 26, knowing someone else is managing tasty on-time meals, arranging safe and reliable transportation, and showing you the best things to do – this is the gift of freedom to enjoy every minute with your family without a care in the world.

3) Use local expertise on the ground. Don’t try to guess how long it takes to get somewhere or what activity will be best when, or how to find the special secrets of your destination. Make use of a local guide experienced in family, and committed to showing you the way while managing every detail in advance. An unexpected plus: a terrific guide makes everything more fun!

4) Make every day count. Instead of unscheduled days wandering aimlessly while bored kids glue themselves to their video games, try experiencing new things together.  One terrific group outing to start each day gives you a framework, and something to talk about forever. Your afternoons can be more restorative or more active, depending on each person’s desire – hang by the pool, playing board games – or head out shopping or hiking. Then everyone unites again over a wonderful dinner, to reflect on the day. Plenty of together time, plenty of flexibility!

5) Consider a thread of special meaning to weave throughout your vacation. For some it’s a community project, or starting a family journal together. It might mean creating a treasure hunt (we can do this!), or a quest to check off your list of flora and fauna. With the help of your reunion planners and guide these things can be simple for you to include, and inspiring for your family to do together.

During this 2013 holiday season start dreaming of what can blossom for you and your loved ones in 2014. Maybe it is hiking at Machu Picchu, zip lining in Costa Rica, or snorkeling in the Galapagos.Imagine the flora, fauna and music of Brazil, the souks and mountains in Morocco, or breathtaking wildlife in Tanzania… Whatever your dream, enjoy it with your family!

October 25, 2013

The Wild Wonders of Brazil – Part Two


Jaiburu, the largest stork in the world, nesting in the Pantanal

The Pantanal. I know you’ve never heard of it, but this is the coolest place you’ll ever go. I’ve ruffled a few feathers here in the office with my suggestion it just might be more awesome than the Serengeti….

For starters, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland covering as much as 75,000 sq miles, 80% of which is submerged during the flooding season. All of this water nurtures an astonishing collection of flora and fauna. Without the dense jungle of the Amazon, your ability to actually witness this population is guaranteed. Imagine 1000 different kinds of birds, 300 types of mammal, 480 reptile species…. right in your back yard.

On the drive from the city of Cuiaba to the lodge we didn’t have to go far before stopping to gasp at  hundreds of caiman and storks and egrets, just enjoying life right there on either side of the road. When I arrived at the lodge a Hyacinth Macaw swept in as if to greet me.. A wild one. Hundreds of birds – cardinals, parrots, finches, chacalacas,  currasow, herons, jacana – flit through the property. Five paces outside my cozy room was a marshy pond overflowing with caiman and capybara. One of those capybara kept moseying on over to the pool area for a nap on the warm pavement. And all around was an open vista of fields, with towering termite mounds, palms, and many trees in brilliant bloom. Somewhere out there were deer and tapir and bats and jaguar and puma and armadillo and giant anteaters, and I got to see many of these species over the next couple of days. This is magic-land!

October 19, 2013

The Wild Wonders of Brazil, Part One

Blue Skies and Rainbows!

Brazil is such a huge country, it’s no wonder I really didn’t know what to expect before I went the end of the summer. OK, I kind of knew that Iguassu Falls was designated one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Now I know why!

Starting with the facts, consider that Iguassu is wider than famed Victoria Falls in Africa, and higher and twice as wide as Niagara Falls. (Eleanor Roosevelt saw it and declared “Poor Niagara!”) It has the second greatest annual flow of water of any waterfall in the world. And because of its shape, like a horseshoe, it offers better vistas and views than any other waterfall (Vic Falls can only be seen in its entirety from the air!). The National Park tops that off with a terrific infrastructure – plenty of food and bathrooms, good walkways and balconies, and on the Argentina side much of it handicapped accessible.

Yes, there are two sides and it is totally worth seeing the falls from both vantage points. In Argentina I began with the trail to Devil’s Throat where a half mile walk takes you past vast amounts of water flowing at an ever increasing rate towards the falls. Think: a raised walkway across a giant lake. And then up ahead, the sound becomes greater, the current runs faster, the spray of water more dense…until you are getting soaked from the explosion of mist created by the crashing falls. Wow! This required several minutes of speechlessness during which I became pretty much soaked and didn’t care a bit.

On the Argentina side there is also a walk along the Lower Circuit where you feel a part of the pounding of the falls, and on the Upper Trail with its dramatic views of the long veils of water from over 200 falls. Both of these walks are easy, though there are a lot of steps on the Lower Trail.

On the Brazil side – the next day – I found I was really ready for more. From this vantage point you get a better panoramic view (since most of the falls are on the Argentina side), but still there are viewing platforms where you can get up close to feel the massive power of the water – and get wet too! Again, the paths are well maintained and easy to navigate.

Breathtaking, magnificent, other-worldly, magical, spiritual, musical… it’s hard to find the words to describe the power Iguassu Falls will have over you. Don’t miss it!