Off the Beaten Track Adventures
impractical to journey solo. That’s when a group tour offers a liberating alternative: On an adventure tour you can wander way off the beaten track and still feel comfortable with a seasoned guide leading you and a sophisticated back-up system in place to aid you if needed. The members of the Adventure Collection excel at such far-flung explorations, so I asked them to nominate their own favorite off-the-beaten-track adventures. Here are ten tempting itineraries, stretching from Oregon, Wyoming, and Vancouver Island to Arctic Norway, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic.
Off the Beaten Path: Winter Wonders --Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Great winter adventures await in the steamy, ethereal geyser basins and sparkling, snowy expanses of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Your journey begins with special snow coaches carrying you over closed roads through Yellowstone to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, where frosty-faced bison linger near the warmth of geysers. Wildlife watching can be superb during the winter, and naturalist guides take you out looking for bison, elk, wolves, coyotes, otters, bighorn sheep, eagles, and other well-adapted creatures. Activity options range from energetic to laid-back: Experienced guides will teach you the fundamentals of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing so you can enjoy exploring the trails to other Upper Basin geysers; you can ramble the snowy boardwalk on foot to see many steaming, bubbling thermal features; or you can just sit by the fireplace and chat, play games, or read. Sleigh rides and wildlife watching are the highlights when you move down to Jackson for the last two days of the journey. Whether you’re an old winter hand or have never even owned a pair of snow boots, you’ll uncover what’s lovely and cozy about the season – and these special parks -- on this adventure.
Winter Wonders --Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks: 6 days, 5 nights; departures Dec. 23, 2008, and Feb. 1, Feb. 15 and Dec. 23, 2009; from $2,595.
OARS: Rafting on Alaska's Tatshenshini River
Deep in the Alaskan wilderness, the Tatshenshini River lies at the heart of the Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Park, encompassing over 27 million acres and five U.S. and Canadian parks and preserves. Bound by two towering mountain ranges — the Alsek and the St. Elias — the Tatshenshini is a river forgotten by time. This rafting trip begins in a lake of ice flows, then runs toward the ocean, merging with the Alsek River. This one-of-a-kind adventure leads next onto a glacier of moraines and frozen falls and finally into the shadows of ship-sized icebergs and the terminus of Alsek Bay.
Rafting on Alaska's Tatshenshini River: 10 days; departures August 15 and 30; from $4,295.
NOLS: Pacific Northwest Sea Kayaking and Sailing
If you love being on the water and you’re looking to gain ocean experience in different skill areas, this is the course for you. You’ll sea kayak on the west coast of Vancouver Island for the first two weeks; with pristine beaches and the chance to see bears, wolves, seals and whales, this remote area offers one of the more beautiful areas for a sea kayaking expedition. The second part of this course takes you back to Vancouver Island where you’ll board a 36-foot sailboat and head out to explore the Strait of Georgia and Desolation Sound. Here you’ll learn to sail as you go and have classes on boat handling. You’ll anchor at peaceful inlets and explore some the area’s remote islands. With this combo course, you’re sure to grow into your sea legs.
Pacific Northwest Sea Kayaking and Sailing: June 7-July 7; $4,100.
Natural Habitat Adventures: Wild Madagascar
Madagascar is a world apart. Its forests are home to indri indri, diademed sifakas, aye-ayes, tenrecs, fossa, didiera and pachypodia. For even the best-traveled nature-lover, Madagascar offers a kaleidoscope of discoveries. In fact, many of its rare and intriguing plants and animals, like lemurs, exist nowhere else on earth. Once part of a super-continent, Madagascar broke away from that land mass 100 million years ago and has existed largely in biological isolation since. More than 80 percent of its native species are endemic, making Madagascar a living time capsule. Come with us to discover a continent you never knew existed.
Wild Madagascar: 14 days, 13 nights; departures June 5 and 26, July 24, and September 25; from $8,895.
Micato Safaris: Botswana’s Great Herds
Botswana is one of the best-kept secrets in Africa -- unspoiled and untamed, a wonderland of natural beauty and prodigious wildlife. The astounding variety of species, combined with a sparse population and a government that is committed to protecting its natural treasures, makes this an awe-inspiring safari destination. The appeal of this country lies in its astonishing contrasts: the winding waterways and lush lagoons of the immense Okavango Delta, the parched landscape of Chobe National Park, the immense floodplains of Moremi Game Reserve, and the gape-inducing grandeur of Victoria Falls. We will explore densely forested islands and vast grasslands, take invigorating game drives through the wildlife-rich bush and serene boat rides through the marsh. The proud majesty of elephants and lions will take our breath away, as will the stunning sunsets on the savannah. This well-designed, impeccably paced adventure will take us into the wild heart of Africa.
Botswana’s Great Herds: 15 days; multiple departures; from $9,975.
Lindblad Expeditions: The Ice’s Edge -- From Arctic Norway to Iceland
A remote archipelago situated only 600 miles from the North Pole, Arctic Svalbard is a place of deep fjords, mountains, and massive glaciers. Svalbard is the best place to observe polar bears in the wild, and with 20 years’ experience in these waters, we can guarantee sightings. From Svalbard, we follow the ice’s edge via remote, volcanic Jan Mayen Island to re-cross the Arctic Circle for five days of exploring Iceland’s hot springs, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, and active volcanoes. Along the way we’ll explore by Zodiac and kayak, hike the tundra and visit little-known hamlets. This journey on the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer will be accompanied by National Geographic photographer Sisse Brimberg.
The Ice’s Edge: From Arctic Norway to Iceland: 15 days, 13 nights; departing July 22; from $11,290.
Geographic Expeditions: The Other Machu Picchu -- Choquequirao to Machu Picchu
How many places have you ever visited and asked: “I wonder what it was like here before they built the road?” This May Geographic Expeditions is offering an extraordinary opportunity to answer that question with a trip to the “other Machu Picchu” – Choquequirao. Located in the same region as Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is an even larger Incan archeological site, in an even more dramatic location -- but it is only partly excavated and the only way to reach it is on foot. Our mule-supported trek will cross the entire Vilcabamba Range from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu in eight days, including one entire day to explore Choquequirao in all its isolated splendor, passing through remote indigenous villages and over a 15,900-foot pass between sacred glaciated peaks before finally descending into the lush, orchid-profuse cloud forest surrounding Machu Picchu. The remainder of the trip will be based out of luxurious accommodations with time to explore Machu Picchu and the Incan capital of Cusco. For adventurers, “Choquequirao to Machu Picchu” offers the opportunity of a lifetime: to visit a prime archaeological site in a spectacular and pristine setting while its treasures are still being uncovered.
The Other Machu Picchu -- Choquequirao to Machu Picchu: May 19-June 2; from $5300.
Canadian Mountain Holidays: Adamants to Monashee Lodge to Lodge
This heli-hiking trip takes you beyond the Canadian Rockies to a great and little-known collection of peaks and ranges called the Columbia Mountains -- mountains so remote that only 100 people a year venture there. These are some of the world's most resplendent ranges, that until three years ago saw only intrepid early pioneers. When CMH decided to open up this area as part of their summer walking, hiking and trekking program, veteran mountain guides were brought in to establish areas of explorations. Our adventure features unnamed peaks, uncharted alpine regions with wildflowers as tall as children, oceans of wildness, and glaciers calving in high mountain lakes – and that’s just in the first afternoon. This European-style lodge-to-lodge trek features two premier CMH-owned and -operated lodges, casually gourmet meals, and unexpected service and amenities in unparalleled settings.
Adamants to Monashee Lodge to Lodge: 7 days, 6 nights; departures July 18, 24 and 30, and August 5; from $4,920 (Canadian) plus GST.
Bushtracks: Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic
We begin by boarding light aircraft for the Congo Basin and one of the most untouched national parks in Africa -- Dzanga-Ndoki. Our first afternoon we take a relaxing cruise in traditional pirogues (canoes) along the banks of the Sangha River in search of birds and monkeys, then watch the sun set over the river from our lodge, with cool cocktails in hand and stories to share, followed by a candlelit dinner in the heart of the African rainforest. Over the following days, our adventures continue. We'll explore this lush rainforest with BaAka (Pygmy) trackers. We'll visit several traditional BaAka villages, and hunters carrying hand-woven nets will lead us into the forest, singing and yodeling as they have done for centuries. We'll walk into the cool rainforest, through shallow streams and clouds of butterflies, reaching the top of an observation platform so we can look out over a natural salt lick. These clearings are frequented by scores of forest elephants; sitatunga, bongo and duiker antelopes; red forest buffalos; giant forest hogs; mangabey monkeys; raucous hornbills; and flocks of noisy African grey parrots. The elephants also bathe in colored clay, emerging in a natural rainbow of yellow, grey, and pink, offering photographic opportunities not to be missed.
Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic: departures and trip duration by arrangement; price varies with itinerary.
Backroads: Crater Lake Biking Trip Escape into Oregon's rugged wilderness to experience epic biking and magnificent scenery at their finest -- with heart-pumping routes that reward you with up-close views of geologic formations, alpine lakes, soaring high-desert mountains, and virgin forests. From historic Ashland, discover Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuge, a haven for birdlife and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Skirt the edge of one of the world’s most famous calderas, Crater Lake, on one of Bicycling magazine's favorite rides. Cradled by towering cliffs, the country's deepest lake is mesmerizing at every angle. Then bike the Cascade Lakes Highway, a National Scenic Byway that showcases the Northwest's unsurpassed beauty. Stroll through the classic mountain town of Bend and celebrate your accomplishments with an exhilarating white-water rafting trip down the Deschutes River. A full-service resort, classic national park lodge, and converted schoolhouse provide welcoming retreats along our journey's path.
Crater Lake Biking Trip: 5 days, 4 nights; multiple departures in July and August; from $1,998.
For more information on the Adventure Collection's wide world of tours, visit AdventureCollection.com.