Saturday, January 14, 2012

Adventure Travel - Where Should You Go?

I was recently asked to write an article for our work newsletter on the topic of adventure travel. 

Adventure travel brings to mind different things to everyone. To some, “adventure” is getting off the resort in the Caribbean to climb Dunn’s River Falls or swim with the dolphins, or perhaps go diving or snorkeling on the nearby reef. To others, “adventure” is bungee jumping, zip lining or climbing a volcano. Sometimes it means getting to know the locals, seeing how the people native to an area go about their daily lives and interacting on a more personal level. Regardless of the definition, adventure travel is always about one thing – getting outside of one’s comfort zone and experiencing something new.

There are a lot of companies that offer a taste of adventure and experiential travel. G Adventures, Intrepid Travel, Tucan Travel and Geckos are all great companies that have a wide assortment of small group adventures in various comfort categories.  Service levels range from basic to comfort, and physical demand can range from easy to challenging. It’s not a stretch to say there really is an adventure tour out there for everyone.

Top Destinations for Adventure Travelers:
Peru: People who are active and want to test their limits can hike the Inca Trail or do the Lares Trek.  Those who are short on time or short of breath can do a much more leisurely trip and take the train to Ollantaytambo and take the bus up to Machu Picchu. Some companies offer the chance to do a homestay with local families where passengers can participate in daily life.  Peru also offers a taste of the Amazon, with many tours spending a night or two in the jungle.

Thailand and South East Asia: A tic on every backpacker’s checklist, Thailand and the rest of South East Asia is a great spot to do something out of the ordinary. From exploring ancient temples like Ankor Wat in Cambodia to elephant trekking in Chiang Mai, there is no shortage of interesting things a person can do. Thailand, the land of smiles, offers passengers jungle treks, cooking classes, temples and the chance to spend the night in a hilltribe village. Cambodia is less developed and gives travelers the chance to be immersed in Buddhist history. Most tour companies offer trips that combine multi countries and make it easy for first time Asia travelers to get around and feel like they are more than just a tourist.

Africa:  There are many ways to experience Africa, but not all of them make you feel like you’ve really gotten to know the continent. From camping to comfort safaris, trekking to overland adventures, there is something for everyone at all ends of the spectrum. Voluntourism is a fast growing component of any trip to Africa, allowing passengers to help out with various projects and give back to the communities they visit.  If passengers have lots of time available, overland trips can range from 21 days  to 50+, covering multiple countries, and consisting of camping and multiple forms of transportation.  Top places to go: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls.

North Africa and the Middle East: The word “safe” isn’t usually the first word that comes to mind when people think of this region, but there are plenty of places that a traveler can go and experience culture and adventure without putting themselves at risk. Morocco, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt (even with the recent disruptions) are huge with those craving a unique experience. Ancient history comes alive in these countries, and there is no need to feel uneasy when you have an experienced tour guide and a small group. Tour leaders help steer passengers away from troubled areas and adjust itineraries as needed, if needed.

There’s more to this planet than what you can see from the confines of a resort or by visiting only the main cities in any given country. Wherever your comfort level lies, why not step just outside it next time you travel and consider doing a small group adventure and get to actually EXPERIENCE the place you’ve gone to visit? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Water, Ruins and Buses - Tulum Ruins and off to Cancun!

Our night in the thatched roof cabin was enjoyable, and we woke up with the birds. We went down and sat down for breakfast with some of the other people staying at the hostel while the son of the lady we'd met yesterday brought us breakfast. 

It was amazing. And beautiful!

We checked out but left our stuff. We had use of the bikes for the morning/early aft so we biked across the road over to the Tulum Ruins. Paid our entrance fee and walked around the grounds. Since we didn't have time for a proper tour (and really just wanted to swim) we headed for the beach. 

the last time I saw these sunglasses.. a massive wave knocked them off shortly after this pic.

This fella guarded our stuff while we swam
After our swim in the ocean we headed back to the hostel, changed clothes and let them dry in the sun for a bit before hailing a cab and heading to the bus station to catch the bus to Cancun. 

The bus ride was uneventful and much shorter than we'd anticipated. We didn't realize we'd arrived and had to scramble to get ourselves off the bus after confirming with the driver that we were indeed in Cancun. 

I'd picked a hotel right near the bus station, knowing we were basically just spending the night before catching our early morning flight back Toronto. We checked in, met the desk guy who'd moved from New York earlier that year and had the accent to prove it. 

We opted to go to the bus station to exchange our vouchers for tickets (and after it taking over an hour and a lot of arguing in Chetumal we had learned not to do things last minute) before wandering around the city to see what we could see. 

Which, apparently, is not very much. 

We walked up and down the main "strip" of Cancun, and eventually just stopped on a side street for a Corona before heading back to the hostel. Asked the New Yowrk-uh for suggestions on somewhere cheap to eat, and he pointed down the road. 

We walked in the direction he indicated and saw an open-air food court with activities going on in the middle. We opted for "traditional" Mexican food (I had something vaguely resembling tacos.) and watched what appeared to be a mass exercise routine. 

Due to our early morning ahead we didn't stay out too late, and went back to the hostel. Our room was full of people so we got our things all packed and ready to go so as to not disturb them in the morning. Crawled into bed, played some ipod solitaire and eventually just passed out.

Next morning - up early, back to the airport and home. :(