Tag Archives: adventure travel


Amanemu Resort, Kumano Kodo, Mie Prefecture, Honshu, Japan, Ago Bay

Amanemu surrounded by the forests of Ise Shima Natl Park

Aman Resorts are renowned for space and privacy, and embracing a sense of belonging at each one of their properties.  Each resort is designed to fit within the destination’s diverse and historical landscape.


Set in a national park, Amanemu is Aman’s first mineral hot spring destination.  The hillside property offers 24 suites and four 2-bedroom villas offering either garden views or picturesque views of Ago Bay (the Bay of Pearls).  The Aman Spa offers two ONSEN bathing pavilions fed by its own rich mineral spring.  Take a sea expedition and explore the many islets and pearl rafts, visit a pearl oyster farm, or walk the Kumano Kodo, a UNESCO-protected pilgrimage route of sacred sites that crisscross the Kii Peninsula and wind through verdant forests.

Amanemu villa, exterior shot

Amanemu Villa

Ago Bay view with pearl rafts

Amanemu Suite, Suite Onsen, Ago Bay -pearl rafts


Amankora Paro, Bhutan

Amankora Paro, Bhutan

Bhutan, located in Eastern Himalayas between the Tibetan Plateau and India, is one of the most remote and unaltered areas of the world.  The sole surviving Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom established the GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS INDEX vs the GNP (economic index) based on spiritual value and other Buddhist principles.  Visitors to Bhutan require a VISA and we highly recommend staying in the beautifully appointed Amankora properties.

Aman’s Amankora is a unique circuit of lodges set throughout Bhutan’s central and western valleys.  A suggested stay of at least 11 nights gives you enough time to visit all five valleys and properties.  Amankora Paro is closest to the international airport and features beautiful monasteries and monuments, including the famous Taktsang “Tiger’s Nest” – a magnificent monastery built on the face of a sheer 3,000 ft cliff.  Stay in one of the lodges’ twenty-four (24) suites with the traditional bukhari, a wood-burning stove, witness contrasts of rustic elements with contemporary design.  Amankora Thimphu, located in the upper Thimphu Valley within a blue pine forest, offers 16 suites and is close to the capital of Bhutan’s many attractions, shops, and local restaurants.  Amankora Punakha, originally built as a residence to oversee the surrounding rice paddies and fruit orchards, offers 8 suites located in three rammed-earth buildings, and is situated in one of the lowest-lying valleys in Bhutan. Visit Punakha Dzong (the old capital of Bhutan) which straddles the Mo (mother) and Po (father) rivers, and 21 temples including the monk’s hundred-pillared Great Assembly Hall and other monuments.  Amankora Gangtey’s 8 suite property is set against a knoll offering views across the picturesque Phobjikha Valley – one of Bhutan’s most important wildlife sanctuaries and home to the 300 black-necked cranes.   Amankora Bumthang is adjacent to the 1st and 2nd King of Bhutan’s palace within the town of Jakar in the Choeskhor Valley – known for its cottage industries which produce renowned Bumthang butter, cheeses, honey and fruit spirits. The 16 guest suites are spread among four separate structures, each suite offering the traditional bukhari and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the courtyard and views of the shared palace grounds.

Amankora Lodge photos: Punakha Lounge; Punakha Suite,  Gangtey Living Room

Amankora: Punakha Lounge; Punakha Suite, Gangtey Living Room

Amankora Bumthang Courtyard, Bhutan, Choekhor Valley

Amankora Bumthang Courtyard

Santa Barbara Travel will work with Amankora to create your personalized Bhutan experience with a private car and driver, trekking tours and other excursions, plus flights to/from and within Bhutan. Email Erin ( or contact one of our experienced travel advisors to learn more about Amanemu, Amankora and Aman Resorts’ 31 awe-inspiring worldwide resorts, hotels and residences.

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau

Santa Barbara: 805-966-3116

Montecito: 805-969-7746

Ventura: 805-650-6999

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.


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.


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.


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.