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TRAVEL BLOG

A Patagonia Penguin Primer

Who doesn’t love the animal that’s always ready for a formal event?  Monika Weinsoft from Zegrahm Expeditions will be speaking this coming Thursday evening, September 3rd, at our Santa Barbara office.  She’ll discuss their upcoming 18-day Patagonia trip, and the many ways you can see penguins up close, as well as whales, dolphins, seals and an enormous variety of other animals.

One lucky attendee at this lecture will win $1500 of airfare for themself and a traveling companion, so mark your calendar to attend NOW!

While you’re waiting, we’d like to whet your Patagonian palate with a penguin article recently published by Zegrahm Expeditions.

Penguins of Patagonia—A Primer

Zegrahm Contributor|June 8, 2015

Always looking dapper in their natural tuxedos, penguins are amazing little creatures. The dashing appearance of these flightless birds—evolved from sky-bound birds some 40 million years ago and found solely in the Southern Hemisphere—is quite strategic: their black backs provide camouflage to predators from above, while their white bellies blend into the water’s bright surface.

Magellanic Penguins

Magellanic Penguins

Most penguins mate for life, joining up to a thousand others in large breeding colonies. They return year after year to the same rookery, often the very nesting spot where they were born. (In Patagonia, females lay their eggs, usually two, in October; babies are born about 40 days later.) Both parents are involved in caring for young chicks, and in some species, the males incubate the eggs while the females hunt for food.

Although other sea mammals have a layer of blubber for warmth, the penguin’s feathers actually act as insulation, trapping warm air against the body. The seawater they ingest is filtered through a special gland behind the eye, then discharged through the beak—the reason penguins sneeze so often.

Gentoo Penguins

Gentoo Penguins

Four penguin species make their home in Patagonia between September and mid-March. The macaroni—standing some 30 inches tall and weighing in around 10 pounds—earned its moniker for the stylish yellow crest on its brow. About a third larger in size, the gentoo is the fastest swimmer among all penguins, reaching speeds of more than 20 miles per hour. There are approximately 250,000 pairs of southern rockhopper penguins, which come in at just under two feet and got their name from the colorful way they hop about on the sheer, rocky cliffs.

Rockhopper Penguin

Rockhopper Penguin

Also medium-sized, Magellanic penguins make up Patagonia’s largest population with upwards of 2 million breeding pairs. While its closest relatives are the African, Galápagos, and Humboldt found along the coasts of Chile and Peru, Magellanics prefer to winter in Brazil, swimming nearly 2,000 miles for its warmer waters.

Patagonia penguins feed on krill, cuttlefish, shrimp, and sardines; their predators include petrels, sea lions, leopard seals, and Orcas. Yet their biggest threats by far are polluted waters and the effects of climate change. 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Heat got you down?  Are you fantasizing about cool weather?  Then this trip will both cool you down and check several items off your bucket list.  See the Northern Lights?  Drive your own dogsled team? Sleep in an ice hotel?  …. and how about that ultimate Santa fantasy: Leading a team of reindeer!

These are all possible when you join National Geographic Adventures on a 9-day sledding and cultural adventure above the Arctic Circle.  National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers.  This one begins in Stockholm, then quickly moves above the Arctic Circle to Sweden’s Lapland region.

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Embark on an authentic dog sledding expedition.  Feed, harness and drive your own team of Alaskan huskies for over three days through vast stretches of forest and untouched wilderness. Evenings are spent in the private cabins of a wilderness lodge, with hearty meals and traditional, wood-heated saunas.

Says a previous guest about this departure, “The moment the dogs start pulling your sled, the rest of the world falls away. It’s just you, the wide, open tundra, the sound of your sled cutting through the snow, and a pack of loveable mutts.”

Lapland is home to the Sami people. Experience their way of life firsthand, and discover the cornerstone of their culture: reindeer herding.  Try your hand at the art of lassoing reindeer before heading off on a 6-mile, traditional reindeer sled ride.  The remote location of this tour makes it ideal for viewing the aurora borealis each evening.


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This 9-day adventure is scheduled with four departure dates next March:  March 4-12; March 11-19; March 18-26; and March 29-April.  It concludes with a bucket-list stay in one of the sculpted ice rooms at the Icehotel of Jukkasjarvi, the world’s largest hotel made each year solely of snow and ice.

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Off The Beaten Path in Burma: With Noted Explorer Richard Bangs

Although mostly hidden from the outside world until recently, Myanmar (or Burma) is – not unlike Cuba – on the verge of exploding with tourism.  Since it opened to the West a few years ago, the growth in travel has been almost exponential.  A million visitors arrived in 2012, then 2 million came in 2013.  Myanmar’s government has crafted a master tourism plan which targets 7.5 arrivals within the next five years.

Despite its novelty, a tourism ‘triangle’ – encompassing Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon – has already quickly developed, and the country is changing just as quickly.  Everyone wants to go to Myanmar before it loses its unspoiled charm.  But you’ll need to get off the beaten path for an authentic experience.

Many companies go to Myanmar, including Natural Habitat, Travel Indochina, and Exo Travel.  Abercrombie & Kent, and AMAWaterways even have river cruises through the country.  One company, though – Mountain Sobek Travel – has a  special, immersion itinerary that takes travelers to  isolated areas of Western Myanmar which are still largely unspoiled by tourism.

Adventure travel godfather Richard Bangs will be leading a special 'Discovering Burma' tour.

Adventure travel godfather Richard Bangs will be leading a special ‘Discovering Burma’ tour.

By foot and mountain bike, guests with Mountain Sobek Travel traverse the remote mountains of the country, visiting seldom encountered ethnic Chin villages. Guests learn about their unique traditions, particularly the women’s tattoos which cover their faces in an elaborate spider web.  Taking a day and half to complete, these tattoos were formerly given to girls around the age of nine.  Now forbidden by the government, this is a custom which is quickly disappearing in the country.

Women of the remote Chin tribe were tattooed at an early age

Women of the remote Chin tribe were tattooed at an early age

Noted explorer, producer and host of the Emmy award winning PBS series, ‘Adventures with a Purpose’ and co-founder of Mountain Sobek Travel  Richard Bangs will be leading this itinerary between November 10 – 18, 2015.  November is the beginning of the coolest and driest time to visit Myanmar.

Although there are several other departures scheduled for 2016, all led by experienced guides, the November ‘Discovering Burma‘ tour with Mountain Sobek Travel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel in a small group with one of the world’s great adventurers, authors and TV hosts.

 

Who does Adventure Travel?

When you hear the phrase ‘adventure travel’, what images spring to mind?  Indiana Jones?  Crocodile Dundee?  …. or just generally those buff, 20-something fellows who rock- climb the face of Yosemite’s Half Dome with nothing but their bare hands and an occasional rope?

Well, surprise.  According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the average age of an adventure traveler is 48. And as for the image of  adventure travel being a guys’ world?  Wrong again.  More than half – 53% – are female.  In fact, women traveling solo on adventure excursions has become one of the hottest trends in travel the past few years.

In fact, the entire field of adventure travel is quickly growing. The ATTA found that adventure tourism companies were estimating a 24% increase in revenue for 2014.  Why?  The appeal of active travel might lie in the broad variety of possible experiences, or having an immersive experience with the globe’s natural and cultural treasures.

On Thursday, September 3rd, Santa Barbara Travel will be proud to host Zegrahm Expeditions at its State Street office location.  For over 25 years, Zegrahm has been leading inquisitive explorers to the farthest corners of the globe and -with a staggering return traveler rate of over 70% –  providing the opportunity to fully immerse in the culture and natural history of each destination.

Nina Ruhland from Santa Barbara Travel meets up with Monika Weinsoft, acting as 'adventure princess' for Zegrahm Expeditions during Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas

Nina Ruhland from Santa Barbara Travel meets up with Monika Weinsoft, acting as ‘adventure princess’ for Zegrahm Expeditions during Virtuoso Travel Week.

On September 3rd, Zegrahm will be focusing on some particularly unique departures, including their trip next March to Patagonia in Chile. This trip includes visits to both the Falkland Islands and Cape Horn, and has opportunity for plenty of activity, including complimentary kayaking and zodiac excursions to see dolphins, whales, seals and penguins.

Part of that huge demographic that wants to travel solo? Well, take note: Zegrahm is waiving any single supplement on this departure.

Santa Barbara Travel Goes to Virtuoso Travel Week!

Over the next few days, many of the advisors in our three offices will be braving the August heat of Las Vegas, Nevada and heading to Virtuoso Travel Week.  You may not have heard of it, but in the travel industry it’s pretty much the Super Bowl of luxury travel.

Nearing its 30th anniversary, more than 4,700 attendees are expected for a full week of activities.  At its core, though, are the interactions between travel advisors and providers – hotels, cruise lines, tour companies, etc. – The providers share what’s new, what’s hot, and what is out there that fits the bill of their clients’ needs.

During Virtuoso Travel Week, advisors from Santa Barbara Travel Bureau will be collecting ideas for travel experiences to share with our clients.

During Virtuoso Travel Week, advisors from Santa Barbara Travel Bureau will be collecting ideas for travel experiences to share with our clients.

Virtuoso Week’s goal is to foster both connections and knowledge, which our advisors can use to work with you to craft a better travel experience.   Santa Barbara Travel’s goal is to make sure that your vacation – whenever and wherever it occurs – is exactly what you want.

So let us know if there are any particular destinations, travel brands, properties or ships that you’d like us to find out more about.  We’d be happy to investigate them for you so we can pass on the latest updates or newest options that are available.

Downtown Santa Barbara’s Unofficial Holiday: It’s Fiesta Days!

Starting tomorrow afternoon, folks will be setting up chairs in front of our Santa Barbara office on State Street.  Why?  It’s Fiesta Days!  Fiesta is Santa Barbara’s answer to Mardi Gras, and takes place over five full days every year the first week in August.

This year marks the 91st anniversary of the Fiesta Parade. Celebrating Santa Barbara’s rancho period of history, the parade is filled with old Spanish regalia and gorgeous costumes.  It is also one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades, featuring over 600 horses, as well as many antique carriages, coaches and wagons.

The Santa Barbara Fiesta Historical Parade is one of the nation's largest equestrian parades

The Santa Barbara Fiesta Historical Parade is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades

It’s estimated that last year over 75,000 people watched the Fiesta Parade pass through downtown Santa Barbara.  We can believe it, as the sidewalks in front of our State Street office begin filling up early. By the start of the parade, on Friday at noon, they are packed wall to wall, with locals and visitors of all ages.

 

The enthusiastic Fiesta Parade crowds are wall to wall along State Street, including in front of Santa Barbara Travel Bureau's office

The enthusiastic Fiesta Parade crowds are wall to wall along State Street, including in front of Santa Barbara Travel Bureau’s office

 

During the 2-3 hour parade, most businesses along State Street are closed. There’s an exuberant air of celebration, with  mariachi bands wandering the streets to serenade visitors, local Mexican street food for sale, and confetti eggs or ‘cascarones’ also available for purchase.  Cascarones are beautifully crafted and decorated paper eggs – they’re cracked  over the heads of your friends, or saved as unique souvenirs.

The sale of 'cascarones' or confetti filled eggs are a firm tradition of the Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade.  Sometimes they're so beautifully hand crafted and decorated it makes you want to save them, instead of cracking them on someone's head.

The sale of ‘cascarones’ or confetti filled eggs are a firm tradition of the Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade. Sometimes they’re so beautifully hand crafted and decorated it makes you want to save them, instead of cracking them on someone’s head.

 

Congrats to Our Outstanding Agents!

Check out the latest leaderboard results for the National Geographic Expeditions Travel Advisor of the Year contest: Two of the top 10 agents in the country are from Santa Barbara Travel – Cathy Kroll in our Ventura office, and Tina Slimp in the office in Santa Barbara.

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Santa Barbara Travel is proud to offer a broad array of travel experiences with National Geographic Expeditions. With more than 65 destinations, each expedition is led by either a National Geographic expert, an expedition team or a trip guide. Possible experiences include:

– Meeting wildlife experts in Australia on a trip from Tasmania to the Great Barrier Reef;

– Following a naturalist through the cloud forests and jungles of Costa Rica;

– Joining an archaeologist for a journey by rail and riverboat through Malaysia and Thailand.

Other opportunities include family and student expeditions, photography and scuba diving trips, plus voyages aboard the vessels of the National Geographic-Lindblad fleet.

National Geographic Expeditions‘ mission is to inspire people to care about the planet by providing meaningful opportunities to explore it.  Let our experts at Santa Barbara Travel help you craft the most meaningful expedition that is perfect for you.

To Selfie or Not to Selfie?

All Disney Park have recently banned the use of selfie sticks

All Disney Park have recently banned use of selfie sticks

The selfie stick was listed in Time magazine’s 25 best inventions of 2014. It’s incredibly popular with the public – but not so much with many public attractions. Within the past few months, all Disney theme parks, all Six Flags parks, the Sistine Chapel and even the entire country of South Korea have banned the ever-present photography accessory.

Visiting a popular attraction, but don’t know whether to bring your selfie stick along or leave it behind? Never fear! CanIBringMySelfieStick.com, is a new website that provides all the answers to where selfie sticks can and cannot be used.

It’s a British-based site, so many attractions listed are located in the UK. However, you’ll also get information on locations all over the world. The Acropolis? Yes, you can. The Colosseum? No, you can’t. And don’t even think about it at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, or the Getty Center in Los Angeles.