Coral Gardening in the South Pacific

April 25, 2012

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National Parks Week begins today!

April 21, 2012

Today begins National Parks Week which runs from April 21 to April 29.  397 National Parks are offering free admission for the entire week including admission to some of the most popular parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and the Everglades National Park.

Participating Parks by state

Huffington Post page of videos from National Parks

Presidential Proclamation

Be sure to check out the cheesy video the National Parks Service put on YouTube…

Along with admission being free for this week, the National Parks Association also has additional fee-free dates through 2012.

Free Entrance Days in the National Parks

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America’s Best Idea – the national parks – gets even better with several fee-free days at more than 100 national parks that usually charge entrance fees.*

Mark your calendar for these fee-free dates in 2012:

  • January 14-16
    Martin Luther King Jr. weekend
  • April 21-29
    National Park Week
  • June 9
    Get Outdoors Day
  • September 29
    National Public Lands Day
  • November 10-12
    Veterans Day weekend

To make the fun even more affordable, check out these discounts and special offers from park partners and neighboring businesses:

Here’s a tip – many of your 397 national parks NEVER charge an entrance fee. So start Planning Your Visit!

*Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.


New York Times article on the sunken Costa Concordia cruise sink

April 20, 2012

The New York Times posted a good article on the sunken Concordia cruise ship that sank off of Italy’s coast.  It summarizes the concerns of the local economy of Giglio which is the island where the cruise ship sank.  There is a large influx of people on the tiny island and local business is benefiting from this, but it’s still uncertain of the long term effects the island will go through because of this tragedy.

“A Shipwreck Cuts Two Ways for an Island’s Lifeblood”


Volunteering trip to Botswana and Zambia

April 19, 2012

Today I came across an interesting trip being offered by Groupon.  They recently created a new venture called Groupon Grassroots in which people can “discover local causes, rally together, and lend a helping hand.”  This unique travel opportunity offers the chance to get an amazing travel experience while also contributing to a worthy cause.  The trip is $2,000 and does not include the international airfare.  Figure another $1,500 for roundtrip int’l airfare and it brings the total to about $3,500 which is a pretty solid deal considering it includes all accommodations, travel within cities/countries, an excursion to Victoria Falls, and all meals.

Grassroots Zambian Volunteering with Cultural and Nature Excursions

In 2003, Charles and Margaret Mumba opened the doors of their Zambian home to a few orphans and today they serve more than 250 orphans through Hope Ministries. When Chicago natives Rich Johnson, Dan Marcus, and Scott Barbeau flew to Zambia for a volunteer trip of their own in 2006, the three friends were set on helping out the Mumbas at the orphanage. Johnson, Marcus, and Barbeau formed such a strong bond with the kids that they wound up dedicating years to helping them. Soon, the friends founded Spark Ventures, which partnered with the Mumbas’ Christian nonprofit to provide sustainable support for grassroots education programs in Zambia.

On a nine-day volunteering trip, Spark sets the stage for a transformative experience similar to the one the three friends once had. You’ll read with students in a schoolhouse, dine with Zambian families, and visit historical sites for an immersive cultural experience. Meals are included in the package, and they are a combination of common American meals as well as traditional local fare such as chicken, fish and the maize-based porridge known as nshima. You’ll round off the trip with excursions to the gorgeous Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park.

To celebrate the launch of Groupon Grassroots, Groupon will provide a $1,000 kickoff grant to Spark Ventures’ programs in Zambia. If you want to get involved too but can’t make the trip, donate to Spark Ventures directly.

Days 1–3: From Ndola Airport (NLA), guides lead the way to Twapia township, located about five kilometers outside Ndola in the Copperbelt, a region known for its copper mines. Here, Hope Ministries oversees Hope Village, a cluster of stucco and brick buildings. Hope Community School teaches more than 250 locals, and Hope House Orphanage is home to about 15 children, many of whom lost parents to HIV/AIDS. After taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities and having conversations with development workers, you’ll help serve a meal to hundreds of malnourished kids.

Days 4–6: An Ndola motel serves as your home base before you head out to a few cultural sites. One of these will be the Zambian national monument known as the Mukuyu Slave Tree, which marks the spot of a 19th-century slave market. Nearby, the Masala Market sells fresh produce and chitenge, sarong-like fabrics ornamented with colorful batik patterns. Finally, you’ll take a day trip to Hope Ministries’ poultry farm, where you’ll witness the program’s work to achieve financial independence with the help of thousands of cheeping chicks. In between excursions, there will be plenty of time to fly kites or swap stories with the program’s kids.

Days 7–9: After saying goodbye, participants will hop a plane to reach the Protea Hotel Livingstone and see Victoria Falls, originally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders.” The Zambezi River roars over a basalt plateau and becomes a massive sheet of falling water, and through the cloud of mist you can see the arcs of rainbows. The gorgeous scenery has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Then it’s off to Chobe National Park in Botswana, where you’ll traverse rivers and plains alike in a customized safari trip. Here, elephants stomp around freely, hippos wallow in the water, and giraffes help rescue frisbees from treetops. Afterward, you’ll fly homeward from Livingstone’s Harry Mwanga Nkumba International Airport (LVI).

For more information, see the full itinerary for the July and January trips.

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

Groupon deal page

Spark Ventures webpage

Images of Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Wikipedia

Botswana Wikipedia

Zambia Wikipedia


Budget Travel Magazine – March/April 2012 issue

April 17, 2012

My friend mentioned a magazine that came to him in the mail a few weeks ago.  He didn’t sign up for the magazine and he’s not sure why it was delivered but it had his name on it so it was a little odd.  Nonetheless, he saw a great deal in it he thought I’d be interested in so he gave me the magazine and I read through it.  It’s a pretty good travel magazine with a bunch of great articles, photos, and everything related to traveling in general.

Budget Magazine publishes 8 issues per year and it’s only $12 per year so it’s a little more than one dollar per issue.  I signed up to receive it myself so I’ll start posting good deals and interesting articles that I find in it.

The March/April 2012 issue has a few good reads:

– A Coffee Addict’s Guide to the World which talks about coffee from Mexico, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United States, Ethiopia, Ireland, India, and Italy.

– Dream Trips… 1) Walking on a Volcano in Hawaii, 2) A Night Under the Desert Stars in India, 3) The Life and Death of a Glacier in Alaska, 4) Snorkeling and Sunbathing at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, 5) Skiing in the Summer in Chile

Travel Deals

1)  13-Night Turkish Delight tour from $1,399 including airfare from NYC, all hotels, all ground transportation, daily breakfast, 11 dinners.

2)  6-Night Ireland trip from $949: “This six-night trip lets you design your own Irish Itinerary.  You’ll start off with a night in Dublin, followed by four nights in your choice of bed-and-breakfasts throughout the Irish countryside-and the rental care to get you to them.  Finally, you’ll spend a night at the Ritz-Carlton Powercourt, situated in coastal Wicklow, a.k.k. “the garden of Ireland.”  The deal also covers airfare from New York and the seven-day manual car rental.”

3)  6-Night Kenya Safari tour from $2,149 offered by Friendly Planet: “After exploring the Masai Mara National Reserve (home to gazelles, cheetahs, and more than 450 other animal species) and dining at Nairobi’s famous Carnivore Restaurant (where you can choose from offerings including ostrich and crocodile meat), you’ll know a thing or two about where the wild things are.  This six-night trip starts off with a two0night stay at Nairobi’s Intercontinental Hotel.  During your time in the city, you’ll be able to tour the house and farm that once belonged to Out of Africa author Karen Blixen.  Next, you’ll move on to lakeside Naivaisha Sopa Resort for a one-night stay complete with a wildlife-viewing cruise, and then on to Keekorok Lodge for a two-night stay, with three included safari excursions in the Masai Mara.  The trip returns to Nairobi for a final night and the farewell feast at the Carnivore.  The package also includes round-trip airfare from NYC, daily breakfast, three lunches, and four dinners.  Add $160 for airport taxes and the Kenya visa fee.”

4)  6-Night Sri Lanka trip from $1,699, including international flight from NYC, hotels, ground transportation, daily breakfasts.

5)  7-night Australia trip from $2,249.  Includes international airfare from Los Angeles on Qantas Airways, airport-to-hotel transfers, and all taxes.  It’s a great deal because it includes airfare on Qantas Airways which is a great airline rather than using the cheapest available.  The hotel is in a great location and the trip includes a sightseeing tour and a cruise on the Sydney Harbor.


Amazing bridge in Vancouver, Canada

April 15, 2012

The Capilano Bridge is 230 feet high and 450 feet long in the wilderness outside of Vancouver, British Columbia.  Originally built in 1889, it continues to be a popular tourist attraction.


Wikipedia Page about the Capilano Bridge

Trip Advisor page

(click the image above to go to the original page)


Great Travel Deal: ASIA!

April 2, 2012

I’ve been noticing a bunch of great travel deals lately being offered for sale by Living Social.  This one in particular includes a week visiting Cambodia and Singapore and includes all international travel (from US to Cambodia, Cambodia to Singapore, and Singapore to US), hotels, transportation between airport and hotels, some sightseeing, some meals, and the only additional fee is $20 for the visa upon entering Cambodia.

LivingSocial deal

Globotours Tour Company which is offering the tour for a discount via LivingSocial

(Ancient ruins of Angkor Wat – Cambodia 2009)