Posts Tagged ‘family adventure’

August 16, 2013

I wish I wasn’t in the Aisle Seat…

Flying to the Galapagos Islands

That’s a thought I never expected to cross my mind, but I realized a few days ago that to be two seats away from the window on a flight into the Galapagos Islands feels like a tragedy. Before I left for this trip to Ecuador, my highly general expectations associated wildlife with the Galapagos, and scenery and culture with the Andean Highlands – it didn’t take long for me to learn that the striking landscapes of the Galapagos are most definitely not to be overlooked as a huge part of what makes this natural paradise so extraordinary.

As we flew over the islands, it looked like someone had combined Mars and the US Southwest and plopped the result into the middle of the Pacific. Still, looking down on these arid, craggy, cacti-dotted masses of hardened lava on a deep blue backdrop, I had no idea just how unique this undisturbed ecological sanctuary would prove to be.

Once the flight touched down, it was evident that this place was going to waste NO time establishing itself as a destination like no other. After a 5-minute shuttle from the airport to the dock I was about to embark from, the sea lions of the Galapagos greeted me with a nice initiation to the next few days of my life. I hadn’t even boarded the small boat (called a “panga”) that would take me to the ship I would be staying on when I almost tripped over a sea lion lounging – carefree as could be – on the dock. A few moments later, a few more sea lions hanging out on the rocks beneath the dock started up a symphony of playful barks. Not a bad how-do-you-do from the most well-preserved ecosystem on earth…

January 23, 2013

Around the Serengeti in 80 Minutes

Rising above the Serengeti

Following is part 4 of Ed Prutschi’s story of his familys’ Thomson Family Safari in July 2012. For more photos go here. You can follow Ed on Twitter @crimetraveller

It’s 4:30 a.m. when I hear a voice at the flap of my tent.

Jambo Edward!” It’s my guide sing-songing the traditional Swahili greeting. He’s wrapped tightly in a fleece sweater to ward off the cold, while clutching a kerosene lantern in his gloved hand to stave off the darkness. Today, we have planned the ultimate capstone to our Tanzanian safari — a sunrise balloon ride over the Serengeti.

I grab an extra cup of coffee and push steaming mugs of cocoa into my daughters’ hands before crawling into the back of our Land Rover. We bounce through the inky darkness at speed, pausing only when our driver slams on the brakes to avoid a baby hippopotamus. We inch our way cautiously past the massive mother following closely behind her calf and continue to our launch site.

After a short pre-flight briefing, I’m lying on my side stretched out awkwardly in a compartment of a giant wicker basket that has been tilted to lie horizontally. My nine-year-old daughter is beside me, giddy with a combination of excitement and lack of sleep. I can’t see them but somewhere underneath me, in a separate compartment, are my wife and seven-year-old. Tongues of super-heated gas belch massive noisy flames less than two metres from my head. The intense heat is a shocking contrast to the crisp cold of the Tanzanian pre-dawn. The blackness of the Serengeti plains is quickly giving way to dappled muted smears of purple and streaks of orange as we race against the rapidly approaching sunrise.

I clench my teeth and grip the side runners, anticipating a lurch as we tilt vertically to begin our ascent. Instead, I experience a gradual weightless feeling as we float into position and begin drifting upwards. The powerful heaters fire intermittently up into the belly of the balloon but I am struck by the intense silence that exists between the flaming blasts. Our pilot, Captain Frank Bellantoni of Serengeti Balloon Safaris, cracks a joke under his breath about Serengeti air traffic beating the daily grind along Highway 401. I stare at him slack-jawed and he chuckles. “I’m from Guelph, I could tell from your accents that you guys live close to home.” Two international flights, a bush plane, and countless kilometres along an off-road dirt path in a Land Rover and my balloon pilot turns out to hail from a town 30 minutes down the highway from my house. Small world indeed.

My reverie at this amazing coincidence is broken as I am suddenly blinded by the appearance of the sun. The difference is dramatic as I begin unzipping layers of fleece, my face already perspiring in the heat. We glide over a pool, soundlessly floating just 20 feet above the water. The grey blobs I initially thought were boulders crack open giant maws revealing enormous stained teeth. Hippos.

Captain Frank hits the jets and we begin to gain altitude. We skim past a tall acacia tree and stare down at a vulture’s nest. The mother bird glares at us with fixed black eyeballs. She ruffles her feathers but stays fixed to her perch. We are close enough to count the eggs huddled protectively under her belly. As we clear the tree and continue our ascent, the criss-cross of thousands of trails begins to unfold. We have arrived here just a week late for the grand spectacle of the Great Migration, where 1.5 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras pound the ground into zig-zag patterns.

A pair of bat-eared foxes dart out of a burrow while a group of five dik-diks appear to defy gravity as they bounce over a thin stream. A lioness suddenly senses our proximity and I can see the muscled fur of her shoulders tense, her ears twitch and flatten, as she turns her head skyward to watch our strange contraption pass overhead. We climb higher and higher until we can clearly see the ribbon of emerald green marking the path of the Seronera River slashing its way through the brown and tan coloured plains.

Too soon Captain Frank announces that we are approaching our landing site. The balloon descends, the basket bouncing as it hits the ground before gripping the dirt and finally tipping smoothly over, leaving us lying on our backs staring up at the blue sky. Our safety latches are quickly unhitched and champagne flutes are pressed into our hands (fresh orange juice for the girls). We toast our successful flight before being driven just a few hundred feet where, in the shade of a giant acacia tree, we settle in for breakfast. Toast. Fruit. Eggs to order. All while a group of disinterested wildebeest, zebras and gazelles chew their own morning repast within sight of our tables.

December 3, 2012

Fabulous Photos! #3 – 2 – 1

Winners of our 2011 – 2012 Photo Contest!

Biking in Yangshuo, China

That’s Number 3 above, by the Basile Family

Next is # 2 below, the crab by the Hacohen Family

Crab in the Galapagos

And finally, our #1 winner, by an overwhelming margin I might say, is this beauty from the Weissman Family Safari:

Wise elephant in Tanzania

October 18, 2012

Memories from Father to Son

Balloons over Cappadocia

Following is a journal entry written by a father from California to his 11 year old son, while they were visiting Turkey with Thomson Family Adventures. We love that Bruce has been keeping this journal for Jacob since he was born. Do you keep a journal for your kids too? Such a great idea, and it’s not too late to start!

June 28, 2012

Weʼre having a marvelous time in Turkey. Two days in Istanbul and two in Cappadocia so far. Yesterday, we got up at 4:30 a.m. to go hot air ballooning over the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia It was surreal as we lifted off, watching the crew on the ground get smaller and smaller. We drifted all over the region, with what seemed like a hundred other colorful balloons dotting the skies. After we landed (and a short nap), we went to the underground city of Kaymakli–eight levels of rooms and “buildings” where Christians would hide from invading Arabs. Afterwards we had lunch at Mustafaʼs (our driver) house. We were served on the floor by his wife and three daughters. After lunch, the girls showed us some Turkish dancing and even you and the other boys joined in.

But it was the end of the day that was the best. We drove into town and met a group of local boys and girls, including your pen pal, Yusuf. None of them spoke English and you and your friends certainly didnʼt speak any Turkish. But it didnʼt matter. We mixed up the kids and played an exhilarating game of soccer. You were our key defensive player, and we won 9-8 (as if anyone was really keeping score). Then all of the kids; boys, girls, Turks, Americans, walked into town for ice cream All of you were completely exhausted, hot, drenched in sweat and incredibly happy. What an experience. You were so sweet and kind to your pen pal–high-fiving him and putting your arm around him while you were both eating ice cream. Sort of a dream day; Iʼll remember this one . . .

October 15, 2012

17 to Infinity: It’s a New World of Travel

Wachirathon Waterfall, Thailand

Family celebrations don’t stop just because the kids get older. Think of all the reasons: High school graduation. College graduation. Admission to college. College graduation. Admission to graduate school! Graduating from grad school. A job offer! Before they go to work for 80 hours a week. Celebrating a job well done…..

Or it’s Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary… the 25th. The 50th. The 60th.

Or big birthdays! Their 21st, or 25th. Our 50th. 60th. 70th. 80th.

All of these occasions are times we want to gather together with family, to share and appreciate the memories we’ve built over the years. And to make new memories to carry forward. Maybe you want to be with just your family, or maybe you want to join other families at the same stage of their life. Either way, it is a pleasure to have someone else do the dirty work, while you relish the anticipation of the adventure ahead.

As our kids get older we have more flexibility to travel at the fringe of peak season, and to enjoy more sophisticated encounters. Why not take advantage of this new stage of life and learning, and explore the world together?

Family adventures are not just for kids anymore.

September 25, 2012

Nothing Better than Baby Turtles

Thankful for Turtles

It’s hard to know what more I can say to enhance the photos, but let me try and paint a picture…. Imagine a nice family adventure vacation in a quiet corner of the Baja Peninsula. No big resorts or rowdy crowds, but plenty of surfing, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and swimming with sea lions. There is fabulous whale watching here in February, but in October and November you’ll find…baby turtles!

See more on our Facebook page here. Then you’ll just have to come see it for yourselves.

Thanksgiving anyone?


newly hatched leatherback turtle

September 17, 2012

What our Guests are Saying….

Seeking in the Galapagos

We offer all of our potential guests a list of references, people who have traveled with us and are willing to share their experiences. Today we heard from a favorite guest who had recently responded to such a request about our Galapagos MultiSport Adventure. She decided to share it with us as a thank you for her wonderful Thomson Family Adventures. Here is her review in its entirety (and no, she does not work for us!):

“Hi there…

It sounds as if you are in for a treat and an adventure! I cannot say enough good things about the Thomson Family experience. The Ecuador/Galapagos trip was the second I made with Thomson. The first was on Safari with two of my grand girls, the second, the multi adventure Galapagos, with my grandson. This past trip was wonderful as the first.

The Thomson guides are terrific. they are dedicated to making this an extraordinary experience for you and your family. They pay attention to your needs. They are interested and interesting. They keep the kids busy and informed.

The accommodations are first rate as is the food. The trip in general and the daily adventures were well planned and tight but with time to fully enjoy each experience. We loved the multi sport as we did something different all the time.

I was not looking to go from island to island, living on a boat and so found our trip fabulous. We loved our accommodations in beautiful inns and hotels, and the opportunity to camp on the beach for one night! Swimming in warm waters with baby seals coming up to your face piece was awesome. There are always guides with you on land , on sea, and in the water…

Jake, my grandson, was waterlogged much of the trip but whether it was exploring places on foot, horse or kayak, or hanging with the other kids (a blessing so he didn’t have ‘just me’ all day plus the delight I had in enjoying a Vodka in the bar some late afternoons upon arrival) he was fully occupied.

Is it worth the money..Yep. As a grandmother who does extensive traveling with her 9 grandchildren and knows what it takes to plan a trip that is an adventure in and out of doors, I travel with Thomson to non-European locations (as they don’t as of yet travel there) as they do all the planning and heavy lifting. For my Thomson trips, we simply show up.

I doubt whether, when it comes to places like Africa, Galapagos and the like, if I would have the wherewithal to know of the special places they book for us..find to feed us at,..or even how to get to camp on a Galapagos island. I also love the day we spend at a school, sharing our language and enjoying the similarities and differences of our schools and lives. The children become so involved with each other many of them end the day walking us to our bus and still talk through the window as we pull away.

I hope I have answered all your questions. Feel free to contact me again with anything else. If I do not hear from you I will assume you are on your way to a trip your family will always remember..

Midge Gordon
E Greenwich, RI”

August 24, 2012

What Travelers Say to Those who Listen….

Lions sharing stories

Word of mouth is the original Social Media, and we love it; it remains our finest source of new travelers. We’ve been talked about on planes, on cruises, at camp. I’ve heard about referrals shared at high school reunions and around the water cooler at work, at a knitting class and a book club meeting.

Today I received a little story from a family in the midst of booking their family safari with Thomson. This is what Laura from Chicago told me:

” A friend of mine just came back from a safari in Tanzania. She took the one organized by (a well known competitor). I told her that I was taking one too, with the kids, but I didn’t mention Thomson. She said that at the airport she had met a woman who just raved about her experience with Thomson, talking about how nice the accommodations were, and how wonderful the guides were. This friend recommended Thomson to me, saying that she thought it would be better than the one she went on! It sounds like you’re doing a great job there, and we can’t wait to go!”

Thanks Laura, we look forward to sending your family off on an unforgettable trip of a lifetime. Don’t forget to talk us up at the airport!

August 20, 2012

10 Things Kids Bring Home from a Family Trip

Jessie, Ed, and Lillie in their front yard.

Thanks to Jessie Voigts, our special Guest Blogger for this excellent perspective on family travel:

You spend a lot of time planning family trips – and coordinating said trips! Between teens off with their ipods to dealing with toddlers and diapers, how do you KNOW that these family trips are worth it? But wait – your kids bring home a lot more from family trips than you think. Take a look…

1) Memories. Of course! But it might not be the memories you suspect – of whitewater rafting, or seeing the Eiffel Tower, or hanging with their cousins. It might be the cute squirrels at the local park, the best meal ever, discovering a new food they love, or learning something new.

2) Photos. Be sure to give your kids a camera to take photos. You will be surprised at both the angles (closer to the ground? Or super high, if you’ve got a teen taller than you are!), and the subject matter. Our daughter takes a little stuffed ugly with her, and photographs it wherever we go. Little Ugly has been in a lot of strange places.

3) Humanity. Whether your kids are upset about the stray or mistreated dogs in Nepal, Barbados, or Bahrain; or visibly learn about animal and human rights wherever you are (we’ve all fielded the homeless question), travel is a great chance to teach about humanity. By learning that others are less fortunate than we are, and trying to act on such knowledge, they are on their way to becoming good global citizens.

4) Funny stories. Nothing brings a family together more than camaraderie, which is, in turn, fostered by going through experiences together. From the funny assistant at the airport, to ordering a meal in a foreign language (mostly via sign language), to finding out that people in a certain country just LOVE babies and will hold them for hours and parade them around like a rock star, travel is packed with experiences that will provide great stories…for life.

5) A desire for peace. Our daughter, when seeing cultural differences up close, has gained a strong desire for peace and people to get along. She thinks that intercultural differences are fascinating, and has pledged to learn more about different people and cultures around the world, firsthand.

6) New Experiences, new friends. Whether it’s ziplining, scuba diving, hiking, camping, snorkeling with turtles, or viewing great art, new experiences bring people together and can foster a lifelong fascination or hobby. As well, you can make new friends from group travel, or through meeting locals. These can become friends for life.

7) Learning more about your family. You can learn a lot about people from being in close proximity to each other for an extended period of time. You can also learn about how people react in any situation – often surprising us, how well they can deal with a crisis. By learning more about your family, everyone becomes closer due to these shared experiences. Your teen might ask you to read and talk together about a book about a place you’ve visited, or your 5 year old might surprise you by painting, from memory, a piece of art they saw in an art museum on your travels. You might surprise your kids and husband by jumping first off the cliff into the deep water below, or your father might show unexpected depths while riding a chicken bus.

8) New cultures. Our daughter’s best friend, when asked this question, noted that in Hawaii, she was amazed to learn of the Hawaiian culture. She loved the luaus, the colorful fabrics, and how they utilized the hibiscus flowers in welcoming people. Our daughter loved watching kids tv shows in Ireland – she learned some Gaelic, as well as how kids learn and play in a different country.

9) Love of new foods. It might be roasted tarantula (doubt it), Thai food, boiled peanuts in the south, new jams and pickles, or recipes. Wherever you go, I’m sure you’re eating locally – and shopping at the grocery store whenever possible! You’ll find new foods you love (and probably new foods you dislike). Bring them home, and incorporate these new foods into your meals and snacks!

10) A desire to travel more. Long after the sand has disappeared from your swimsuits and suitcases, and the special candy you brought back is digested, you’ll find something not so surprising. Your whole family will have a desire to travel more – to learn and play and experience the world together. And that’s what family travel is all about – having new experiences, and discovering new cultures and people – together.

Jessie Voigts is a mom who loves sharing the world with her daughter. She has a PhD in International Education, and is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, especially with kids (it’s never too young to start!). She has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. Jessie is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. She’s published two books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. You can usually find her family by water – anywhere in the world.

August 3, 2012

How Good Can it Be?

Action on the Mediterranean

I try to speak with each family when they return from their Thomson Family Adventure, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I’ve always known it’s never too late to hear the stories and see the photos, but today I got a great reminder of that. Here’s the email I received from Lisa in Virginia who traveled with her family last summer to Turkey:

Dear Moo,

I know its been almost a year since we came back from Turkey and I’m just now getting around to sending you our pics and thoughts. Time really gets away from you. I guess the best way to sum up the trip was when it was time to plan this year’s vacation, both my kids and my husband all said, “Can we go back to Turkey?”

It was an absolutely amazing trip and I can’t thank you enough for recommending it. Every single person we told that we were going, or had gone, to Turkey had the exact same reaction……Turkey??? with a look on their face somewhere between confusion, disbelief, and “are you serious?” Which was coincidentally my same reaction when you suggested it. If I had had to name a top 20 list of places to visit, I can pretty much guarantee that Turkey would not have made the list.

Now, looking back, I can say that I have never been on a more enjoyable or diverse trip. I’m sending just a few of our favorite pictures for you to post or pass on to anyone else who may have the same uncertainties that we had.

My daughter, 10 years old, downloaded an iPad app to learn some Turkish before we went, and she was right in the Grand Bazaar bartering away for what she wanted. It was such a thrill to see a foreign culture through the eyes of our kids. Even our son, who is bored by everything it seems, had a phenomenal time. I was surprised, but they both said the 5 days on the gulet was their favorite part.

Thanks again for the wonderful, unforgettable vacation.