Posts Tagged ‘family vacation’

August 30, 2013

Another Miraculous Day in the Galapagos

A male blue-footed booby performs his mating dance

Following a 6:45 wakeup call and a 7:00 breakfast, my third day in the Galapagos started with a 10-minute panga ride to Cerro Dragón, Santa Cruz Island’s “Dragon Hill.” After a dry landing, we set out on a two-hour walk through dry, rocky trails bordered by cacti and trees oozing a delightfully fragrant sap that actually works as natural insect repellent.

This area of Santa Cruz gets the name “Dragon Hill” from the Galapagos land iguanas that make their home here, and they are definitely a sight to see. The land iguanas are enormous and very prehistoric looking – quite representative of the unique wildlife and cycle of evolution in the Galapagos.

Depending on age and gender, these dinosaur-esque reptiles are different shades and combinations of yellow, orange, brown, and red.

The Galapagos land iguanas lounged on desert-like hills and in the shade provided by cacti and other plants, and some could be seen attempting (clumsily) to climb trees and get at higher vegetation to eat – a behavior our guide told us has been a recent adaptation born out of necessity that they’re still working on. During our walk around Cerro Dragón, we also came upon lagoons inhabited by flamingos picking around for foods like shrimp and algae, high in the keratin that’s responsible for the bright pink/orange color of their feathers.

We returned to the ship to relax, and I opted to tag along for an optional deep water snorkeling excursion. We took the pangas out into open water along the lava rocks at the edge of the island and jumped straight over the side. This excursion was recommended only for reasonably strong swimmers, as the water was somewhat choppy, but the encounter I had here ended up being the highlight of my time in the Galapagos. Two adult sea lions and a pup were lounging on a rocky ledge hanging over the water, and decided to hop in and go for a swim. All three sea lions then approached the other snorkelers and I and started playing with us. They would come up to within a foot or two of me, then dart away and circle around myself and each other. Having only really had the chance to see them rest lazily onshore, I was stunned by the incredible speed and agility with which they were capable of moving all that bodily mass underwater. This is what I came to the Galapagos for.

Later, the group took the pangas out to North Seymour Island for a two-hour walking tour. As was completely expected by this point, this island was another totally new experience, and it was dominated largely by birdlife. There were plenty of sea lions around, chilling on the brownish-red dirt paths, but the real show was put on by the frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.

All around us, they put on elaborate social displays to attract mates and looked after their eggs. Male frigate birds had the giant red air sacks on their chests inflated in hopes of catching the attention of a female flying by. My guide explained that the female’s decision isn’t actually based on the pouch itself; it’s based on the location and quality of the male’s nest, and the red pouch acts as a beacon to indicate his presence and to provide the female with a chance to come down and check out the nest. After she does this, the male flies away in search of a stick to bring back as an offering. If the female approves of the stick, she agrees to mate with him, and if not, she keeps looking, and he keeps trying. Love stinks.

However, the most remarkable thing about the visit to North Seymour was the display put on by the blue-footed boobies. Myself and the other people in my group were standing a foot away from mothers looking after their eggs, and they were so comfortable with our presence that they weren’t even suspicious of us in a situation as delicate as this. Equally close to us were male boobies doing their elaborate mating dances, ruffling their feathers, hopping around and letting out loud, competitive bellows. If I haven’t made this clear yet, the Galapagos Islands archipelago is a enchanting place.



August 29, 2013

Unreal Wildlife & Volcanic Terrain

My second day in the Galapagos began with a romantic Latin pop song, very gradually increasing in volume as it came over the ship’s speakers.  Just as I slipped peacefully out of my sleep and acknowledged that the music wasn’t simply a soundtrack to my dream, the ship coordinator softly informed the passengers that this was our 6:45 wakeup call, and breakfast would be ready in 15 minutes.

After a nice buffet breakfast in the main dining area, we prepared for the 10-minute panga (a small, motorized boat) ride to Puerto Egas on the island of Santiago. It didn’t take long to notice that this island was drastically different from anything I had seen on Santa Cruz. We spent about an hour and a half walking along a shoreline characterized by volcanic black sand, lagoons, and lava rocks, all harboring a magical array of birds, mammals, reptiles and crabs.

Sea lions lounged on the rocks and the sand. Galapagos marine iguanas rested on top of each other and made their way into the water, while brightly-colored Sally Lightfoot crabs scurried all around them. Fur seals (according to our expert naturalist guide, actually a type of sea lion, as opposed to true seals) kept each other company on rocky ledges overlooking pools of sparklingly blue water. Blue-footed boobies and American oystercatchers scanned the surface of the water for tasty sea life, yellow warblers and Darwin’s prized finches hopped around nimbly, and a mockingbird actually flew out of a nearby tree and landed on top of the backpack of a man in my group.

The scene was astounding, and unlike anything I had ever seen before. At this point, I was still utterly amazed at the fact that I could stand a foot away from any animal here and evoke no reaction of fear of defensiveness whatsoever.

After our guided walk, we descended upon a peaceful little beach and spent about an hour snorkeling. I saw vibrant schools of tropical fish, and legitimately almost crashed straight into two massive sea turtles by accident as they swam contently and occasionally breached the surface. Another optional snorkeling excursion a bit later in the waters around the famous Pinnacle Rock presented us with an ocean floor populated by starfish far bigger than I knew existed.

With the day’s snorkeling behind us, we made our way to the island of Bartolomé. As I was quickly coming to expect, this island was starkly distinct from the ones before. Its relatively recent formation is resoundingly evident, with fascinating, Mars-like terrain stretching vastly and only very new pioneer plants growing out of the volcanic ash covering the hillsides. Natural, black and gray rock structures stick out dramatically and beautifully all over the place, and the groove marks left by lava flows cut through the compacted ash.

We trudged up about 400 steps to the island’s scenic lookout point, and the heaving and panting was more than worth it. The iconic Galapagos view provided was absolutely stunning, with glassy blue waters surrounding the piece of the island that juts out, with Pinnacle Rock looming proudly on the right side, and the much larger island of Santiago in the background.

The group returned to the ship, and an unforgettable day was capped off with a delectable churrasco-style barbecue buffet and some stargazing on the top deck.



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 . . .



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.



July 26, 2012

A Safari Cabbage Soup Recipe

Cooking Adventures on Safari

Catch the video here! (And bear with our technical difficulties)

Some of our families just returned from a awe-inspiring, heart-stopping, life-altering safari this week (they’d be glad to chat with you if you want more information!) I always love the stories and the photos, but what came back with this group really got me excited. Read on to see what they were up to at Gibb’s Farm (told by 13 year old Maxwell in an email to his friends and family):

Hi Everyone,

As you all know, I was in Tanzania on a Safari. One of the lodges we stayed at was called Gibb’s Farm. Gibbs Farm is in the mountains of Tanzania. It is a fantastic place to stay with a farm, coffee plantation, livestock and much more. On my trip Sofia and I met some really nice kids around our age. Their names are Rada, Allison, and Isabella. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the vegetable garden. We were running around the huge vegetable part of the farm wondering what to do. Then we came up with an idea to make cabbage soup. All of us got supplies from the nice Scottish chef and we went around the farm picking veagetables such as carrots, turnips, corn, cucumber and etc.. They let us cook the soup at the staff kitchen. We renamed the farm in our own minds and called it IRASM’S FARM & CO. Me and the rest of the kids could pretty much conclude that this was probably the best part of the trip. Here is the recipe. We hope you enjoy!

IRASM’S CABBAGE SOUP: ( pronounced IRSAM’s) THIS SERVES ABOUT THIRTEEN PEOPLE

- One large green cabbage sliced into thin shreds

-Six big red potatoes chopped in small bits

-Seven large carrots cut in thin circles

-Two white onions diced

-A handful of chives , cut it with a scissor

-A few strands of anise leaves only, do not add the bulb

-Six cobs of corn, slice off the kernels and don’t keep the cob

-Two or three cucumbers sliced in thin circles

- Three turnips chopped thinly

-Three small pieces of garlic

-salt and pepper to taste [pepper it generously]

-1/8 a cup of olive oil

-One large pot

-Fill pot half with water and the other half with chicken broth

—Put all the vegetables washed, chopped, sliced, and diced in a bowl together. Fill a large pot half with chicken broth and the other half with water. Put all the vegetables in the pot and cook on a high flame until all the vegetable are cooked thoroughly. Every five minutes poke a fork through the vegetables to see how they’re cooking. If it cooks too fast, lower the flame down to a medium heat level. This whole cooking process of the soup will take about 40 to 45 min. We hope you enjoy your soup. Make it on a chilly day when it will warm you up and taste at its best! Thank You!

Sincerely,

Maxwell, Sofia, Rada, Alison, & Isabella :)



November 7, 2011

Egypt! A Miracle Offer for December Travelers.

Imagine

If you are bold, adventurous and you really want to get off the beaten path… if you don’t yet have plans for your December holiday…How about something extraordinary? How about visiting Egypt at a super serious discount? How about below cost?!

Like, $2990 per person, plus the local flights of $400 adult, and $300 under age 12 for 9 days in Egypt, on our scheduled itinerary. Why would we do this? Here is our story.

We know the scoop. We know there has been some stuff going on in Egypt. Since last January we’ve watched this exotic and wonderful destination slide from one of our most popular to one of our most avoided. Well not completely – families still ask about it, and want to know about it – but they aren’t quite comfortable enough to go for it. Even though the travel warnings are lifted, and our colleagues in Egypt are confident they can provide something safe, comfortable, easy, and oh-so-special for your family. And for $700 less per person this year over December 2010! But still, it feels hard for most of you (exception: the excited family heading there for Thanksgiving! Yay!)

Case in Point: Not a single tourist has been harmed since the January 25, 2011 uprising, and Egypt has consistently and publicly declared that tourists will be safe. Because tourism is their biggest economy, and because they really want us to come visit.

So we decided to Go For It. We’re going to step up and help our friends. The heck with Margins and Spreadsheets and Business. We love our colleagues in Egypt, and they’ve been waiting for too long for the opportunity to have honorable work to support their families. So we’ve decided to send you off at Below Our Cost.

This means you still have a US partner who speaks your language and will help you prepare for this great adventure For Free. We’ll spend time on the phone, we’ll mail you information. For Free. Because we want to support our local colleagues in Egypt right now, when they are ready for work.

You’ll have every perk we normally include – airport transfers, included visas, bottled water, fabulous hotels, entrance to the Great Pyramid, access to the most wonderful sites, delicious food, trip insurance. You’ll be cared for every step of the way. We’ll organize all of this for you. You’ll pay only for the effort our colleagues in Egypt – who need this work so much – will provide. Thomson Family Adventures will donate our time, our resources, our postage, and our knowledge of the glories of Egypt, to help you plan for a real trip of a lifetime.

Is this for you? Do you want to be one of the first to visit this burgeoning new Egypt, without the crowds of past years? Do you love a bargain?? Call us now. This offer is good for any date planned for our family itinerary December 2011 or January 2012. We want to help you have a great time in Egypt! 800-262-6255



March 18, 2011

Back at the Ranch…

So after the kayaking and soccer, then a sleepy drive back to Todos Santos we slipped back in to our lovely casitas and enjoyed the pool and sunset on our last night



March 18, 2011

Killer Kayaking @ Beautiful Balandra Bay

Thursday: (Sorry I am out of date – just too much to do here to spend time on the computer!)

Balandra Bay is a thing of beauty. Clear blue water, and shallow enough to walk forever (thankfully our guides told us how to shuffle our feet so we would not be stung by sting rays; others were not so lucky) Kayaking here is easy on the smooth water, and the kayaks are steady. Though if you fell out you’d just stand up and climb back in. I think the boys did that a couple of times. We took off for a nice paddle around the bay and down into narrow lanes of mangroves – such awesome and peaceful beauty with egrets and herons gracing the shoreline. Our lunch spot was on top of a steep dune (can you guess how many times the kids ran and rolled up and down it??) overlooking the bay. We could see the tide going out – and in fact ended up having to pull rather than paddle the kayaks for the last 20 feet to ‘shore’. In no time the bay became the perfect field for an impromptu game of soccer….. then the ride back to Todos Santos became the perfect opportunity for a bit of a snooze!



January 4, 2011

A Man, a Plan, a Canal – a New Family Adventure!

Land Crab in Isla Iguana - there are tons of them!

In August Beth went to Panama to check out some new ideas for 2011. We’ve been showing families the beauties of Panama for years, but we are always looking for the fresh perspective, and the places waiting to be discovered. So we decided to check out some new directions. Like El Valle de Anton, inside the crater of the world’s second largest extinct volcano. (Whoa!) And for beaches and snorkeling along with fascinating wildlife we explored the Azueros Peninsula with its artisans and Spanish influenced villages.

After witnessing troops of howler monkeys swinging through the trees, humpback whales breaching, and tropical land crabs swarming the beach, Beth feels pretty confident that we’re on the right track for a unique and wonderful new family adventure. Add to that: meeting a Diablo mask maker, pen pals with the local Embera kids, a walking tour of Casco Viejo, the old part of Panama City – and of course the Panama Canal. The perfect recipe for an awesome adventure for all generations.

Call us now to book! We have space for your vacation week in February, March and April 800-262-6255



December 8, 2010

Secretly Stuck in a Vacation Rut? We Can Tow You Out.

family visiting waterfalls in Costa Rica

At the Waterfalls, Costa Rica

Hello Parents and Grandparents!I know you’ve been talking about taking your child / grandson on an adventure next year but something has stopped you from setting your plans. This year flights are limited and fares are up; let’s get going before you don’t have the choice anymore!

Being stuck is terrible; it stresses your brain and makes you feel unsettled. We can help!

If someone is concerned about safety, security, or comfort we’d love to to help you understand how a family adventure works. After all we’ve been running these trips designed exclusively for families longer than anyone else. We’re small and personal, but loaded with expertise. We’ll always take the time to be sure you understand the steps we take to ensure a safe and comfortable family adventure.

If the destination doesn’t feel quite right, we’d love to talk with you about other ideas. With all of our years specializing in family travel we’d love to help you choose just the right thing.

The perfect family adventure is an investment that you want to be sure will pay off for years to come. So don’t shop for price, rather look for the value for your money. This is a wonderful trip for both you and your child or grandchild. We know you want it to be perfect.

If you just can’t make a solid plan until after the first of the year we understand that too, but it doesn’t cost a cent to begin the research. Call us at 800-262-6255; we’re waiting for you!