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Travel Deal of the Day, Part Two – August 24, 2012

Enjoy the Travel Deal of the Day, PART TWO! Brought to you by The Student Globe Trotter!

Happy travels!

Moroccan Excursion + Flight – Elite Tour and Travel Club (trading as Encounters Travel)  Source: LivingSocial

Lights, Camera, Action in Scene-Stealing Morocco

Encounters Travel • Marrakech, Morocco

Escape Kit

  • A Ten-Day Moroccan Excursion for One Guest Based on Double Occupancy ($2,170, $2,276, or $2,397 Based on Departure Date)*
  • Round-Trip International Flights from JFK International Airport to Marrakech International Airport
  • All Hotel Accommodations Indicated on Itinerary
  • Eight Breakfasts and Eight Dinners
  • All Transport and Transfers Including 4WD Desert Jeep Safari and 24-Hour Airport Arrival-and-Departure Services
  • Local English-Speaking Tour Guides
  • Entrance Fees to Select Monuments, Parks, and Sites
  • Departure Dates: November 23 and December 7, 2012, January 4, January 18, February 15, and March 8, 2013 ($2,170); March 15, 2013 ($2,276); or December 21, 2012 ($2,397)

You’ve admired the beauty of Morocco through the iconic lenses of film’s greatest directors and cinematographers. Get ready to start rolling your own camera with this week’s Escape from Encounters Travel. You’ll star in a ten-day guided excursion (length of trip includes flight time) for one person based on double occupancy from Marrakech through the stunning Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert ($2,170, $2,276, or $2,397 based on departure date).*

Lights, camera, action on a package that includes round-trip flights between JFK and Marrakech international airports and an exciting itinerary that provides for all hotel accommodations, eight breakfasts and eight dinners, all transports and transfers including a 4WD desert jeep safari and 24-hour airport arrival-and-departure services, English-speaking tour guides, and entrance fees to all stated monuments and attractions.

After your first evening in Marrakech, move your set on-location to the iconic Koutoubia Mosque and spend the afternoon exploring the bustling streets surrounding Jemaa el Fna Square.

Drive past the paths of acting legends with a tour through the highest pass of North Africa at Mount Toubkal. Take an epic tour of the dramatic landscape of Ouarzazate where iconic Academy Award-winning films were shot. Then experience star-quality treatment during an overnight in Ouarzazate at the Hotel Kenzi Azghor.

Later, cross-cut fairy-tale chic with wild wonderment with a jaunt along the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs before arriving in Boulmane followed by romps amid natural wonders like the Dades Canyon, boasting incredible desert views that fade into the distance outside your Saghro Hotel window.

Far from the city lights, you’ll want to maximize your stargazing potential with a night spent in a traditional Berber camp after a day touring Todra Gorge. Ride through the desert in your 4WD safari jeep, and if you wish, for a truly authentic experience take a camel ride at sunset for an additional fee.

Continue to add sparkle to your sojourn by venturing into Rissani––the birthplace of the Alaouite Dynasty and Morocco’s current royal family—before topping off your visit with a stay in the Palais Asmaa Hotel.

After circling back to Marrakech through the Draa Valley and bounding over the Tizi N’tichka col, capture a final free day in Marrakech, where you’ll hunt for souvenirs in the city’s bustling bazaars, take an aerial shot of your surroundings on a spectacular hot air balloon flight, or bond with your castmates on a quad-bike ride through the desert.

Cut and print: With an epic Escape like this, you’ll have a highlight reel of life-changing moments to watch again and again for years to come.

For additional information, view the Encounters Travel full itinerary.

*Departure dates: November 23 and December 7, 2012, January 4, January 18, February 15, and March 8, 2013 ($2,170); March 15, 2013 ($2,276); or December 21, 2012 ($2,397)

 

Travel Deal of the Day, Part One – August 24, 2012

Enjoy the Travel Deal of the Day, PART ONE! Brought to you by The Student Globe Trotter! More deals to come!

Happy travels!

8-Day Angkor Wat and Singapore Trip  Source: LivingSocial

From Ruins to Royalty in Angkor Wat

Globotours • Singapore, Singapore

Escape Kit

  • An Eight-Day Trip to Angkor Wat and Singapore for One Guest ($2,199 to $2,549 Depending on Departure Dates) Including:
  • Round-Trip Flights via Singapore Airlines from IAH, LAX, SFO, or JFK
  • Round-Trip Ground Transportation Between Airports, Hotels, and Sightseeing Destinations
  • Three Nights in a Superior Room at Tara Angkor Hotel and Two Nights in a Superior Room at RiverFront Hotel with Daily American Buffet Breakfast
  • Guided Sightseeing Tours

You may be familiar with Western architecture, but Eastern design has an exotic aesthetic all its own. See for yourself with this week’s eight-day Escape to Angkor Wat and Singapore, engineered by Globotours.

Your Escape includes round-trip flights via Singapore Airlines. Depart between September 1 and November 30, 2012 from Houston’s IAH ($2,199), California’s LAX or SFO ($2,199), or New York’s JFK ($2,299). Or, leave between January 7 and March 25, 2013 from IAH ($2,299), LAX or SFO ($2,399), or JFK ($2,549). Round-trip ground transportation between airports, all hotels, and sightseeing destinations and daily American buffet breakfast are included.

Begin your model getaway in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where you’ll spend three nights in a Superior Room at the Tara Angkor Hotel. You’ll trace the history of early Khmer architecture, starting with the Preah Ko, Bakong, and Lolei temples of the the ninth and tenth centuries, then reaching the graceful 11th-century Shiva and Ta Prohm temples.

On your final day in Cambodia, sketch your plans around visiting the ancient city of Angkor. Tour the ruins of the Royal Palace, the Elephant Terraces, and the Leper King Terrace, before spending the afternoon marveling at the famous temple of Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument. Its five towers represent the peaks of Mount Meru, the mythical center of the Hindu universe.

Next, travel to Singapore, where you’ll spend two nights in a Superior Room at the Furama RiverFront hotel. Embark on a guided tour of the city, before scaling back your activities and spending the rest of your time at leisure. Modern Singapore swells with new development, but its richly textured past is never far from view if you know where to look.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens blossom with history. “The past settles around you as you wander the vaults of the venerable botanical garden,” says Travel + Leisure, “where century-and-a-half-old banyans rise from buttressed roots, where orchids are trained to grow into through-the-looking-glass archways, and where frangipani trees scatter their sweet-smelling blossoms all over, lending the place an air of floral deshabille.”

Once you’ve seen the wonders of Angkor Wat and Singapore, you’ll look at architecture from a whole new angle. Consider this week’s Escape your blueprint for an awe-inspiring adventure.

Travel Article – The Beasts and Beats of Belize (The New York Times)

The Beasts and Beats of Belize  Source: The New York Times

A jaguar preserve loaded with natural wonders is driving an eco-tourism boom in the country’s Stann Creek District. But nature isn’t the area’s only draw…

The Cockscomb Basin Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve in Belize.
© David Ponton/Design Pics, via Newscom
& The New York Times

August 17, 2012

The Beasts and Beats of Belize

By Claudia Dreifus

We were hiking through the woods of the Cockscomb Basin Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve in Belize, the more-than-150-square-mile verdant reserve that is a no-hunting haven for many species of this hemisphere’s wild cats — the puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, margay and jaguar. As we moved along well-tended trails, there were signs of activity — muddy paw prints by a riverbank, bits of jaguar scat — but we were unlikely to actually see any of these magnificent creatures.

A jaguar in the Cockscomb Basin.
© Greg Johnston/DanitaDelimont.com, via Newscom and The New York Times

“They don’t like to get too close to humans,” said our guide, Dr. Rebecca Foster, a staff scientist with the conservation group Panthera. “I hope you’re not disappointed.”

How could we be? Even without a jaguar sighting, the sanctuary was a gorgeous Eden, full of natural wonders. Giant ferns lined the trails. Above us, howler monkeys scampered through the trees, and parrots and toucans glided through the air. Moving quietly, one might catch a glimpse of a deer or pig-like peccary — the jaguar’s preferred prey. After a few hours at Cockscomb, it felt as if we had stepped, full body, into a Henri Rousseau painting.

Given this richness of nature and wildlife, it’s no surprise that the sanctuary is driving an eco-tourism boom in the Stann Creek District, the south-central coastal area of Belize that it abuts. And Stann Creek’s appeal extends beyond the sanctuary. For birders, there are some 300 species roosting in the district’s marshes and forests. At the shore, only a few minutes from Cockscomb, are miles of white sand beaches, facing out onto one of the largest coral reefs in the world. A marine reserve district at the reef ensures first-class skin diving. Stann Creek also has a good supply of lodging at all prices and opportunities to interact with the interesting local cultures.

Right outside the entrance to Cockscomb, for instance, in the village of Maya Center, visitors can stay with indigenous families and learn something of their way of life. The town’s former mayor, Ernesto Saqui, offers plain though spotless rooms with private bath for 60 Belizean dollars, plus tax (about $30; the Belizean dollar is approximately two-to-one to the American dollar) a night at his Nu’uk Che’il Cottages. Backpackers can bunk there for 20 Belizean dollars per night. His wife, Aurora Saqui, a traditional Mayan healer, sells homegrown botanicals and gives seminars in herbalism. (Reservations by e-mail at nuukcheilcottages@yahoo.com.)

Maya Center is also a base for excursions into Cockscomb, though it’s possible to stay within the sanctuary itself at extremely basic accommodations that range from 40 to 300 Belizean dollars a night (belizeaudubon.org/parks/cbws.htm). (Admission to the preserve is 10 dollars, which supports the work of the Belize Audubon Society.)

Ten miles away, the seaside village of Hopkins is home to the Garifuna, descendants of indigenous Caribbean people and escaped African slaves who enjoy sharing their vibrant culture with visitors. At the Lebeha Drumming Center on the north side of town, one can hear or take lessons in traditional percussion. To try especially tasty Garifuna cooking, head to Innie’s, where a lunch of cassava, mashed fish and plantains comes to about 14 dollars.

A Garifuna drummer.
© Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis and The New York Times

Things get far more upscale at Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort (877-552-3483; hamanasi.com), not far from downtown Hopkins and possibly the greenest of eco-lodges in Belize. The resort has won certification from Green Globe, an international sustainability monitoring service.

How can a hotel provide hard-to-please tourists with the types of high-end amenities they demand and yet stay true to an environmental mission? The answer involves paring down on wasteful extras and emphasizing nature. Though the rooms and grounds have an informal beauty, it’s the Belizean countryside that is the resort’s true featured attraction. Instead of playing golf and tennis, guests head out and encounter the tropical wilderness. Hamanasi offers a summertime weeklong package that begins at $1,731 U.S. a person, including three daily meals, air and land transfers from Belize City and five guided tours into the woods or water. (The resort’s owners said that winter rates are likely to be about $2,300 U.S. per person.)

The pool at the Hamanasi Resort.
© Hamanasi Resort and The New York Times

On the day my partner and I checked in, an exhausting list of possibilities was posted on the activities board: night walks through Cockscomb, waterfall climbing, rain-forest trekking, snorkeling, scuba, kayaking.

The next day we rose early to meet up with our guide, Hartsdale Drysden, who took us to a remote part of the rain forest near the Guatemalan border, where we hiked around a 3,000-year-old Mayan pyramid. As monkeys screeched in nearby fig trees, Mr. Drysden, a Garifuna raised in a Mayan village, offered rough translations of the hieroglyphics.

On another morning, we went snorkeling. The coral in the area often looked distressed and bleached out — “hurricane damage,” our guide, Eric Miranda, explained. Nonetheless, Mr. Miranda, a son of a Garifuna fishing family, led us to spots rich with parrotfish, grouper, barracuda and sea turtles.

Another day, the hotel’s ace birder, Pedro Ical, took us to a nearby marsh in search of toucans with multicolored beaks. He knew a place where they regularly roosted. Sadly, they were no-shows that morning, but our consolation prize included snowy egret, blue heron and woodpecker sightings.

Hamanasi finds ways, large and small, to conserve. The hotel’s cars and boats have fuel-sparing motors. Kitchen leftovers are composted for the garden. Staff members sort through and recycle garbage. Soaps, shampoo and mouthwash are offered from refillable bathroom dispensers rather than plastic bottles.

“We do have air-conditioning,” said Dana Krauskopf, a Virginian, who with her husband, David, owns and manages the hotel. “It’s not sustainable, though we’ve developed systems to minimize its use. And we try to incorporate sustainable practices in other ways. For instance, we built the hotel without clear-cutting trees, which keeps the property cooler and attracts wildlife.”

Hamanasi is committed to helping guests connect with its surrounding culture. Once a week, after the dinner dishes are cleared, teenagers from the Lebaha Drumming Center arrive to perform traditional Garifuna music — rhythms and chants that are spirited New World reflections of the Africa their ancestors were taken from.

“Come, join our dance,” one of the drummers beckoned during the performance we attended. Soon, a doctor from Montana, a banker from North Carolina and a journalist from New York City were all up and moving.

Hopkins has nearly two dozen other hotels with varying prices and sustainability practices. Up the beach from Hamanasi, Jungle Jeanie’s (501-533-7047; junglebythesea.com) offers very basic rooms for 50 to 110 Belizean dollars a night. More costly is the Belizean Dreams resort (800-456-7150; belizeandreams.com), where we stayed after our reserved time at Hamanasi ended. For 414 Belizean dollars, we were upgraded to a palace of a two-bedroom suite, with multiple bathrooms and many appliances, not all of which functioned. (The winter-season rate for the same-size suite starts at 1,150 dollars. Though the resort now offers packages similar in price to Hamanasi, drinks, food and tours were all extra.)

In many ways, Belizean Dreams was the anti-Hamanasi. Our suite was pretty, but smelled heavily of chemicals. The property had been clear-cut, paved over and replanted during development. Sprinklers irrigated manicured grounds, while loudspeakers in the public areas blasted Bob Marley, night and day — seemingly aimed at giving disoriented guests some (invented) geographic positioning.

The only respite from the noise was a series of suggested tours: a visitor might take a cruise up the nearby Monkey River, or could head to Cockscomb, where parrots provide the soundtrack and, somewhere in the bush, a jaguar might be lurking.

Travel Deal of the Day, Part Two – August 18, 2012

Enjoy the Travel Deal of the Day, Part Two! Brought to you by The Student Globe Trotter!

Happy travels!

Australia and Fiji  Self-Driving Tour with Airfare – Sydney and Sonsali Island Resort  Source: Groupon

Self-Drive Tour of Australia and Fiji Island Escape

11-Day, 8-Night Tour from Pacific Holidays with Roundtrip Airfare, Car Rental, Accommodations, and Some Meals (Link to the Company Website)

What You Get

  • $2,299 per person for an 11-day, 8-night tour of Australia and Fiji (up to a $3,590 value). Valid for Travel with a Friend package (two Groupons required), or pay an additional $810 to travel alone. Read about different purchase options here.

Available departure dates: 10/20/12, 10/27/12, 11/17/12, 11/22/12, 11/24/12, 11/29/12, 12/1/12, 1/26/13, 1/31/13, 2/2/13, 2/7/13, 2/9/13, 2/14/13, 2/21/13, 2/28/13, 3/2/13, 3/7/13, 3/14/13, or 3/16/13

Book by: 8/31/12

Included in travel package:

  • Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport (SYD)
  • Seven-day car rental
  • Golden Chain Motel Blue Pass, valid for six nights in Australia
  • Transportation to Sonaisali Island Resort
  • Two nights at Sonaisali Island Resort in Nadi, Fiji, including daily breakfasts
  • Airport transfers

Sydney is home to some of Australia’s most legendary attractions, including the Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and Bondi Beach. But this bustling metropolis on Oz’s southeast coast is just the tip of the island—the eastern seaboard’s diverse landscape includes a renowned wine region, the rustic Blue Mountains, and scenic harbors and rainforests. With this deal from Pacific Holidays, you’ll set your own pace on a self-driving tour of the eastern coast of Australia, before boarding a flight to spend the remainder of the trip in Fiji’s paradise-like setting. Click to view the full 11-day, 8-night itinerary.

Days 1–2: You’ll board an Air Pacific transpacific flight at LAX, and cross the International Date Line on day 2.

Days 3–8: On the third day, visitors arrive in Sydney and transfer to the Thrifty car-rental depot. For the rest of your time in Australia, you have free range to explore Australia’s eastern coast on self-driving tours. With the included six-night Blue Pass, guests can retire to any blue-level Golden Chain motel locations.

You have several options for day trips. A two-hour drive west of Sydney lies the Blue Mountains, named after the bluish hue given off by eucalyptus trees. Hike to the iconic Three Sisters rock formation, or embark on a canyoneering excursion through the mountains’ narrow, fern-covered canyons.

You can also head north into the heart of the Gold Coast, home to Australia’s third-largest city, Brisbane. On the distant outskirts of Brisbane lies the aptly named Surfer’s Paradise, where you can catch world-class waves by day before partying at one of the city’s numerous nightclubs. An off-the-beaten path alternative is Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island with more than 100 crystal-clear freshwater lakes and ancient rainforests. The eastern coast of the island features the rusted remains of the massive SS Maheno, a steamer ship that ran ashore in 1935.

Day 9: After returning your car to the Thrifty rentals depot, you’ll board a flight to Nadi International Airport (NAN) on the island of Fiji. Upon landing, Pacific Holidays staff provides a transfer to the Sonaisali Island Resort, located across the lagoon, just a three-minute boat ride from the main island of Viti-Levu.

Days 9¬–10: The next two days are left up to you. Lounge on the beach, splash in the lagoon-style pool with swim-up bar, and dine in the hotel’s two restaurants and four bars. Through the hotel, guests can book excursions such as horseback riding, surf tours, or snorkeling.

Day 11: Guests are transferred to NAN for a flight back to LAX, where you will arrive on the same day after crossing over the International Date Line.

Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.

Travel Photo – August 18, 2012

jetsetterphoto:

Customize your stay in New Zealand!

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