If your family is searching for a fresh experience, consider a farm stay.  Here are five places where your crew can collect eggs, milk a goat or get their hands dirty in the garden:  

farm stays family travel

Weatherbury Farm. PA.

Give your kids the chance to hand feed ( from a bottle ) baby lambs and toss grain to the free ranging chickens. By joining in these morning chores and learning about organic farming, they can earn the “Official Weatherbury Farm Kid” designation. Discover how the owners of this 100-acre, idyllic spot near Pittsburg, focus on using integrated techniques to manage their sustainable farming operation. You’ll stay in historic buildings and of course, dine on farm-fresh taste treats.

Contact: www.WeatherburyFarm.com

Mary Jane’s Farm. Moscow, ID.

Check into a stylish wall tent on Mary Jane Butters’ farm and the worries of the world will melt away. Gather your own eggs for breakfast. Pick vegetables you’ll enjoy for lunch. Visit the library housed in a barn. Burn calories helping out with farm chores. Relax in the outdoor living room area nestled in a grove of plum trees. Go for a hike or play cards or board games. Later get clean in the outdoor tub or showers.

Contact:  888-750-6004; www.MaryJanesFarm.org

Leaping Lamb Farm. Alsea, OR.

Stow your technology and get to know this charming farm, the animals and the folks who run this 40-acre homestead in Oregon’s Coast Range. Enjoy a leisurely family breakfast in your cozy cabin that includes local eggs ( yep, right from the farm ) and other fruits, breads and cereals.  Find your way to the orchard to pick apples, pears or plums. Lend a hand in the greenhouse and garden or learn about raising lamb and Heritage turkeys.  Visit the horses, admire the peacock and make time for a hike or bike outing on neighboring trails. 

Contact: 877-820-6132; www.leapinglambfarm.com  

Pagett Farm. ME

Your kids can pal around with the pigs, goats, chickens and ducks and learn about organic farming. Gather the family to help out with the chores on this 63-acre spread or simply relax and enjoy the natural environment. Check out the starry night sky before falling asleep inside the luxe platform tents, each decked out with braided rugs and colorful quilts.  Consider a visit to nearby lakes for kayaking, swimming or canoeing. Also, Acadia National Park is within an hour and a half drive.

Contact: www.PagettFarm.com 

The Inn at Celebrity Dairy. Raleigh, NC. It's an eight-room, Greek-Revival farmhouse an hour southwest of Raleigh, rewards early risers: At 6 a.m., the five dozen goats are milked, and soon after, guests dig into award-winning cheese and eggs from the inn's free-range chickens.

Contact: www.CelebrityDairy.com.

Published in My Travel Style

1. Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel. Brazilian Amazon. Located 35 miles from Manaus, a bustling city considered the gateway to the Brazilian Amazon, this eco-lodge was among the originators of treehouse getaways. Climb stairways, and scoot across catwalks as you make your way to your leafy retreat. Enroute linger to observe monkeys at play, the rich vegetation, butterflies and views of the Rio Negro below. Don’t miss the chance to embark on an excursion that offers the opportunity to swim with the region’s pink dolphins. Contact: (888) 462-7428; www.ariauamazontowers.com/

Published in Family Travel Blog

For a day, a weekend or a week, leave civilization behind and challenge yourselves on the whitewater. Take the rustic approach and camp along the river’s edge. Or float by day and snuggle in at the lodge overnight.

Here are five places where the rivers are wild and scenic:

Rogue River Lodge-based Wilderness Rafting:   One of the most famous rivers in the American West, the Rogue flows through a large Wilderness area as it winds from Oregon’s Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It’s the only wilderness rafting trip where you can raft by day and sleep in remote lodges at night! Fun, intermediate rapids, warm water and a green-forested canyon make the Rogue River the perfect natural playground. Combine the trip with a visit to Crater Lake National Park and/or the Oregon Shakespeare festival. Three- and four-day trips depart weekly May to September. Contact: 800-451-6034; www.rowadventures.com/rogue-river-rafting-oregon.html

Adventure on the Stillwater, Red Lodge, MT. Join guide Marek Rosin on a trip down the family-friendly Stillwater River as it winds its way through a one-sided canyon that once served as home for the Crow Indians. Relax in a raft or pop into an inflatable kayak. Run the scenic river near the charming town of Red Lodge, Montana, then take time to explore the river’s source in the majestic Beartooth-Absoraka Wilderness. Contact: 800-897-3061; www.AdventureWhitewater.com

Middle Fork Mastery, Sun Valley, ID -This is no ordinary river adventure. Families will bond on the river while enjoying fly fishing, rafting, kayaking and hiking along the famed Middle Fork of the Salmon River. On your personalized vacation enjoy unexpected luxuries including massage in your chalet tents enhanced by carpets and elevated beds. Dine on organic seasonal fare prepared by a top Sun Valley chef. The outfitter’s American Safari concept promises five star services in a superb natural setting. Contact:   1-832-755-7661; www.far-away.com.  

Salt River Treat. Near Fountain Hills, AZ. Enjoy the surprising contrast of stunning Sonoran desert beauty as you float south via your raft, kayak or tube on the Salt River. Saguaro cactus stand guard along the shoreline, hawks soar overhead. Richly hued canyon walls rise from near the water’s edge. During the winter months bunk in at the charming Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, a family run operation that recalls the western charm often depicted in cowboy film. Saddle up at the ranch and explore the nearby landscape. Contact: 1 (480) 984-2194; www.SaguaroLakeranch.com

British Columbia Waterways. If you and your family are looking for a remote river experience, consider the pristine waterways of British Columbia. Choose from hundreds of rivers including the Tatshenshini, the powerful Stikine, the Gataga or the historic Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Teeming with fish and wild-life rich, expect natural bounty. The British Columbia Outfitters Association provides information about trips available in the region. Contact: www.BCROA.com.

Published in Explore

Gather the extended family and share a travel experience.

Here are five ideas that will appeal to multiple generations:

1.       The Family Cruise. Choosing to sail as an extended family is a great way to see the world together without decimating the family budget. Whether your idea of a good time is relaxing poolside or tackling the high suspension rope course, there are options for every energy level on board the modern cruise ship. Access water parks and kids’ camps by day. Then check out teen clubs, plus family and adult entertainment by night. Spa lovers can schedule treatments, and often casino gaming is available for adults. Gather for dinner where dining options are designed to satisfy the picky and the piggy eater in your gang. Design your time together to suit your family’s unique interests. Consider using a travel agent to help wade through deals, itineraries and cabin configurations. Contact: 1-800-764-7419; www.RoyalCaribbean.com; www.CruiseCompete.com

2.       College Bound.   Include multiple generations in the college search. If grandparents are grads, consider a visit to the town where they earned their degree. Encouraging senior family members to revisit this important time in their youth will be meaningful for all. Include elders when visiting your own college town and encourage grandparents to share memories of delivering their teen to the dorm decades ago. Make plans to take the University tour, and then explore the surrounding area. By planning this time as a multi-generational experience, a bit of family history may emerge that has long since been forgotten.  Contact: www.CollegeBoard.org

3.       Eco 3G Getaway.  Leave the wired world behind and gather your family deep in the rainforest on the banks of the Moho River in the southernmost region of Belize. Choose the solar-powered eco-lodge’s all inclusive package and enjoy birding, horseback riding, biking, kayaking and nature walks on 100 private acres. Tour nearby Mayan villages and linger to learn how chocolate is made at a cacao farm. Explore caves and waterfalls. Environmentally inquisitive family members will want to visit the organic garden and discover the local sustainability practices that include a reforestation project. Family-friendly cabanas are gathered around a central boardwalk. Contact: 866-480-4534; www.cottontreelodge.com

4.       Bike the Danube.  The active, extended family will enjoy a bike trip along the Danube River that enables speedy riders to scope out the best bakery in the town ahead while others linger along the scenic pathway. The route showcases medieval towns, castles, vineyards, cathedrals and magnificent scenery. With the cities of Passau, Germany and Vienna, Austria as bookends, the trip offers a storybook itinerary. Following an ancient towpath, there is little traffic and riders have the option to bike for as long as they wish. Once tired, they can hop on a train or boat and wait for the remaining bikers at the inn where the group will spend the night. Children’s bikes available. Contact: 1-877-462-2423; www.BikeToursDirect.com.

5.       Explore Colorado Springs. Visit a high mountain zoo, the Garden of the Gods Park or tour the US Air Force Academy together. In the weeks ahead, this sunny Colorado city and the surrounding Pikes Peak region make it easy for your whole family to explore the area with their “Tank Full of Summer Savings” promotion. Travel industry partners, including tour guides, lodging establishments, restaurants and attractions, have extended discounts and offers designed to take the pain out of the higher gas prices at the pump.Contact: 800-888-4748; www.visitcos.com/fuel

 

Multigenerational travel is more important than ever.

Families are living geographically farther from each other than at any time in history.

A multigenerational trip is often the only option for today’s modern and mobile family to gather in one place.

 

The hyper-fast pace of life in the 21st century means evenings and weekends are no longer untouchable family time, creating a greater need for the escape that only travel can provide.

 

Baby boomers are trading in their briefcases for a roller bag.

Boomers now have the time, health and disposable income to make travel with their families a top priority.

Do you have your trip planned?

Published in Cruise

Visit an eco lodge where adventure is encouraged, eco-friendly practices are in place and community support is essential.

Here are six to consider:

Patagonia Wildlife Safari -

Visit southern Chile to experience a thrilling combo of wildlife and scenery in one of the most isolated regions of South America. Check out an expansive penguin colony near the town of Punta Arenas before exploring the jaw-dropping beauty of Torres del Paine National Park.

Wear yourself out exploring the park, then return to your EcoCamp. You’ll chill in large igloo-shaped tents built to minimize environmental impact while providing a comfortable setting. You’ll be cozy as you plan for your next adventure via candlelight, snug beneath feather comforters.

Contact: www.adventure-life.com/tours/patagonia-wildlife-safari-1355

Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge. Dominica, West Indies.

Explore the volcanic island on foot or on the back of a local donkey. Hike to secluded waterfalls, spend the day surfing or go turtle or whale watching. Later return to your tree house, cabin or cottage, tucked into the rainforest and surrounded by organic gardens. Learn how British owner Jem Winston, uses wind power to provide light and how his reliance on community resources enriches both locals and guests.

Contact:  www.rosalieforest.com

Playa Viva. Juluchuca, MX.

Stay in this family friendly, all inclusive, coastal lodge near Ixtapa, where the owners operate an onsite Turtle Sanctuary. Last year, guests helped save and release more than 100,000 baby turtles. The solar powered lodge was constructed with the help of local craftspeople, using indigenous materials. Your family is invited to join the chef for a visit to the nearby farmer’s market. Later, learn how to craft local specialties. Contact: www.PlayaViva.com.

Rosalie eco lodge family travelNature Inn at Bald Eagle. Howard, PA.

Through their every day practices, which include geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot water heat generation, rainwater harvesting, native habitat restoration and the use of rain gardens, guests can look forward to an eco-friendly retreat. The entire family will enjoy the beauty and wealth of activity and wildlife in the area. Look forward to hundreds of miles of trails, paths and trout streams in the Pennsylvania Wilds. You’ll also find a large elk refuge, local artisans and pristine natural beauty. Contact: (814)625-2879; http://natureinnatbaldeagle.com/; www.pawilds.com

The Borneo Rainforest Lodge.

Stay in one of 31 individual chalets, amidst a pristine rainforest that is part of the Danum Valley Conservation Area. From eco-savvy quarters, families can plan for outings that include scouting 300 species of birds, 120 species of mammals and 200 species of plants per hectare. Animals roam freely so be prepared to spot orangutans, pygmy elephants and Bornean hornbills. View the pristine environment from a 1,000 foot long, multi-tiered canopy walk, suspended 85 feet above the ground. Contact: www.tourismmalaysiany.com/

ft shakti himalaya

U Shakti 360¢ª Leti . Himalayas, India.

Unplug and soak in the stunning views from your cabin in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. A strong commitment to the local community includes employment of local guides, chefs and porters as well a determination to use traditional building techniques. The company has introduced solar heating and lighting, water reuse programs and created a foundation to foster local renewable energy, education and cultural projects in the community. Hike to your heart’s content and learn about the culture of this spectacular mountainous region.

Contact: 1 (866 )401-3705; www.shaktihimalaya.com.

Published in Lodges & Inns

Gather your family to wish upon a star.

Here are five extraordinary places to view the night sky:

African Skies.

Check into Little Kulala, a desert eco-retreat within southern Africa’s Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Hop aboard a Land Rover to scope out springbok, ostrich and oryx or float above the dramatic landscape in a hot air balloon.   Visit the world's tallest dunes amid Namibia’s famed “sand sea”. Then fall asleep on your rooftop Sky Bed and enjoy a late night show where shooting stars and the Milky Way serve as headliners. Contact: www.wilderness-safaris.com/safaris/index.jsp; www.TravelBeyond.com.

Winter Star Party. West Summerland Key, FL.  

Every February, during the new moon week, amateur astronomers gather in the Florida Keys for six days to learn from guest speakers, observe an unobstructed clear night sky and share information with other star enthusiasts. Hosted by the Southern Cross Astronomical Society (SCAS), Inc., the Stellar Star Party also includes a Kids Kamp.  Contact: 1-800-FLA-KEYS; www.fla-keys.com ;www.scas.org.

Arizona Nights.

In 2001, the City of Flagstaff, in Northern Arizona, was designated the world's first "International Dark-Sky City" by the International Dark-Sky Association. Expect stellar stargazing as well as the chance to tour the Lowell Observatory. You’ll see the telescope where planet Pluto was discovered in the 1930's and look through the century-old Clark telescope. Further south, check into the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale where you’ll find high powered telescopes in your room and constellation charts on your pillow at turndown. Opt in for complimentary Friday evening stargazing with a local astronomer or a Celestial Picnic accompanied by a pro.

Contact: www.lowell.edu; www.FlagstaffArizona.com; www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale/

Red Rock Country.

By night, the dark skies of Utah provide ample opportunity for magnificent stargazing. Join astronomer Alex Ludwig atop a mesa to learn about star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. He will explain how Native Americans teach their children about the constellations, lancing the quiet night with stories that will entrance young and old. By day, a slew of parks, canyons and rivers provide outdoor adventure opportunities.

Contact: 435-210-0066; www.moab-astronomy.com; www.discovermoab.com/

Northern Lights From Norway.

Because of an increase in solar flares, NASA is predicting Northern Lights activity will be stronger this winter than any time in the last 50 years. Therefore cruising Norway’s coast high above the Arctic Circle could provide family travelers with the opportunity to experience the aurora borealis in a rare and extraordinary way. In addition to visiting ports that provide a glimpse into winter life in Norway, passengers will also be privy to lectures regarding the Northern lights as well as local culture and history.

Contact: www.VisitNorway.com; www.hurtigruten.com.

Photo: Copyright Lynn O'Rourke Hayes - Little Kulala, Namibia 

Published in Explore

It’s true.

Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and the rest of the Today Show crew followed us to Namibia.

Within days of our return from a ten day trek through this Southern African nation, Matt and his band of merry travelers, revealed their location on Day One of the “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” series. Namibia.

If he had only thought to share his plans with us, we could have given the crew a heads up on how to manage cameras while climbing on the world’s largest sand dunes and to expect to encounter lions licking their chops after a tasty snack of fresh springbok.  ( see the Today Show blog )

It’s nice to know they shared a meal around the same table that we did and that they were equally thrilled to find the desert adapted elephants after bouncing through the dramatic landscape in the comfort of a seemingly indestructible Land Rover.

So television viewers ( and other interested travelers ) you too can visit this amazing country that is twice the size of California, yet with a population just over 2 million.

Know that conservation is intrinsic to the country's ethos. All 1,200 miles of its Atlantic coastline is government-protected. An emphasis on conservation is woven into the country's Constitution, and only in Namibia are endangered species being translocated from National Parks to communal conservancies, where wildlife is protected  to the benefit the local communities and travelers from around the world eager to visit this magical land.

Stay tuned for more about my Namibia experience.

For now, find more information here:  

 http://www.namibiatourism.com.na/ 

To watch Matt and crew and to get excited about your own visit, go here: http://allday.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/07/8678801-where-in-the-world-is-matt-the-skeleton-coast-in-africa

Published in Explore

jordan 

Irene Lane, founder of Greenloons, offers her picks for ten compelling eco destinations:  

1.  Jordan’s eco-lodges combine local heritage and educational experiences while exploring a mix of modernity, ancient wonders and nature. Think horse or camel safaris, Bedouins, the endangered Arabia oryx, Petra, the Dead Sea and trekking through Dana Nature Reserve. 

2. Borneo’s jungles, beaches, caves, exotic wildlife and more than 5,000 diverse and endemic plant species are revealed by, among others, trekking the relatively untouched Mt. Kinabalu and exploring the Kinabatangang River, home to wild boar, orangutans, elephants, king fishers, macaque and proboscis monkeys.  Award-winning eco-lodges harvest rainwater, use solar power and manage wildlife rehabilitation. 

3. The Philippines is among National Geographic’s 20 Best Destinations and Palawan Island its top eco-destination.  Among 7,000 islands guests swim with whale sharks, discover endangered sea turtles, spy on the rare Philippine eagle and discover the mountain-to-sea ecosystem of the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Eco-lodges serve locally sourced food and wildlife education.  

4. Belize offers more than 87 distinct types of ecosystems, making ecotourism the lifeblood of its economy.  Along with 150 identified species of mammals are rainforests, Mayan temples, the world’s second longest barrier reef and an abundance of eco-lodges educating travelers about the fragility of its ecosystem.  

5. Botswana favors low volume, high quality, environmentally conscious safari travel into the Okavango Delta and Kalahari Desert, the savannahs of the Moremi Reserve and the forests of Chobe and Linyanta Game Reserves.  Guests enjoy game drives, walking, elephant/horseback/bicycle safaris and boating, plus youth explorer programs emphasizing conservation and bush survival skills. Tented bush camps are environmentally friendly.  

6. Poland has mountains, rivers and wetlands and is a haven for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds as well as avid hiking enthusiasts. With 23 National Parks and forests covering nearly 30 percent of the country, Poland has its own Big Game: the European bison, lynx, stoats, martens and red deer.  Guests can enjoy eco-ranch lodges. 

7. Croatia’s eco/agritourism focuses on culinary tours with locally sourced organic produce and family farm stays. Activities can include hiking, biking, rafting and canoeing.

8. Guyana’s mountain ranges, savannahs and jungle canopy walks combine with river and rainforest eco-lodges for close-up views of exotic birds, jaguars, red howler monkeys, giant river otters and other wildlife.  The famed Karanambu Ranch rehabilitates orphaned giant river otters so they can be released back into the wild. 

9. Argentina is home to Glacier National Park and the active Perito Moreno, one of the world’s only advancing glaciers, as well as the tropical rain forests of Iguazu Falls near Brazil, the Antarctic environment of Tierra del Fuego, the Andean mountains, the wind-swept Patagonian steppe and the coastal marine habitat of the Valdes Peninsula. Eco-lodges are crafted from local materials to integrate with the environment. 

10. Ethiopia may be a trek across the Roof of Africa through the virtually untouched Simien Mountains, home of the Gelada baboon, Walia ibex and endangered Ethiopian wolf. Or it may be Rift Valley Lakes and Blue Nile Falls or Lalibela, considered to be one of the greatest spiritual-historical sites of the world. Eco-lodgings are built in the traditional “tikka” style and solar-powered.

Photo: Petra, Jordan 

Published in My Travel Style

School's Out For Summer

Ahhhh.... The vibrant sound of the school bell on a mid-afternoon June day is exhilarating.  It signals to rambunctious youth that 20 year-old textbooks, chewing gum-covered desks and tedious homework can all be left behind for a new summer of adventures.  Most kids reflect upon the sultry beaches and crowded amusement parks that they will visit.  But it is different in my family.
My dreams are not of the wonders of silky sand caressing my toes.  Instead I dream of adventure--- rich experiences I can take home with me.  I dream of foreign culture--- exotic encounters in unique communities.  In my family, that unreachable daydream can become a reality overnight. And it did.
It was like I was in a trance, because the next thing I knew, a jungle of mysterious creatures surrounded me. I felt the eyes of the wild animals tracking my every move.  It seemed in this Costa Rican paradise, a blink of an eye can change everything.
 
Into The Jungle
                                           
At one moment I was suspended hundreds of feet in the air, whooshing through a blur of foliage as I glided 2,000 feet over the gorgeous green canopy on my zipline cable.  Volcanoes on all sides hemmed me in, as I took in this rare aerial panoramic view.  Sooner than I thought possible, I found myself riding a roller coaster of whitewater bouncing from boulder to boulder in my humble little vessel -- a rubber inner tube.  It was like hitching a ride inside an aquatic pinball machine.  The next thing I knew, I was strolling the simple, funky city streets of coastal Tortuguera, walking by fluorescent-colored buildings and photographing its lively culture. 
 
Meeting The Monkey
 
I was even lucky enough to encounter two beautiful treetop-clinging mammals.  Before long I caught an almost perfect glimpse of an elusive, wild monkey.

At first it seemed the beast was deliberately antagonizing me, with its mocking howls echoing for miles.  Suddenly, I spotted his full head, which appeared with a surprised expression.  I was thrilled to meet my ancient cousin.  And, just when I thought I had reached the height of wildlife-spotting fortune, the clownish grin of a three-toed sloth came into view; the "lazy animal"  (his nickname amongst the indigenous people) only leaves the top of his canopy perch for a weekly defecation ceremony.

High Energy Adventure

While it may not have been a thoroughly relaxing trip, it was just the perfect tempo for an energetic family like ours.
In fact, I was in Central America to teach photography along with my father for Tauck Bridges- a fun-filled, family-focused program run by a high-end, luxury tour company (You can watch my photo/video presentation about the trip here- http://bit.ly/ontJsd). With my mom an accomplished writer, and my dad an award-winning travel journalist, I have been part of a creative and artistic family since birth. Becoming a photographer was a natural path and seemed an obvious progression that was bound to happen. I got into the art young, having always been transfixed by my father's work.

The Adventure Continues 

The end of our one-week Tauck adventure wasn't really the end of our Central American exploration, it was more like an introduction. Continuing our journey through Costa Rica, we made a luxurious two-day "pit stop" at the Tabacon Resort and Spa. Situated near Arenal Volcano, this dreamlike lodge hosts an array of luxuriant lava-fed hot spring pools and waterfalls deep within the rain forest.  

On To Nicaragua  

After several soaks, I had the realization that we were only five hours away from another intriguing nation--- a melting pot of indigenous Latin culture--- Nicaragua. I looked north towards the horizon, longing to experience a new nation.  

But the next morning, like out of a Biblical passage, it became so. My parents arranged a vehicle that whooshed us north beyond the borders of customs and immigration, and toward fabled Lake Nicaragua. We passed the jade-colored waters of the only freshwater lake in the world that sharks inhabit, before arriving at the colorful lakeside town of Granada.
"The rocking chair capital of the world," my dad proclaimed, as he observed the presence of that swaying furniture on every residential stoop.  I watched as elderly ladies consumed their dinners while rocking away in the doorways of their simple homes. A palpable energy pervaded the nearby market, chock-a-block with live fowl, spicy fragrance, narrow alleyways and frantic hubbub. Straddling the equator, tropical daylight here seems far too short, and this day was becoming shorter and darker as a violent storm ripped across the sky. We had to make the voyage toward the center of Lake Nicaragua in a small boat. As we made our journey across a windswept bay, a waterfall of rain doused our heads and poured on top of the vessel. We finally chugged our way to a Shangri-La--- the only lit island on the horizon of this monstrous lake.

Jicaro Ecolodge is a magical and hidden paradise in the middle of a spectacular volcano-dotted lake. Jicaro was the perfect, relaxing escape from the crowds of the city and the now cascading deluge. That night, the sounds of chirping insects and gulping frogs enveloped us as we indulged in a mouth-watering feast of local cuisine in Jicaro’s open-air dining room. The next morning I acknowledged the sad truth: we had only one day left. But in the Guttman family, no hour goes to waste. So we tried to cram yet more adventures into the trip.

The Powerful Masaya Volcano 

On our last day, we kayaked to a secluded area of the lake, where through a small opening in the marsh grass, we were permitted access to a secret hot spring. In that small cove, we swam and relaxed before hiking the winding trails in search of wildlife. To finish off the afternoon, we got up close and personal with the active, belching, powerful Masaya Volcano.  As night approached, we descended beneath the edges of Masaya’s crater and trekked through a forbidding bat cave.  Our footsteps moved closer to the edge of the pitch-dark cavern and like a scene cut from a horror movie, thousands of bats screamed out of the cave and flew right at me. Crashing into my hardhat, the vampire bats flooded the air and caused the others around me to scream. To make matters scarier, another torrential downpour suddenly began. We managed to dodge a porcupine and get away from the cave, but we still had to somehow get down from atop the crater in the dark.

Beyond The Lava

As we reached our car, the visibility dwindled down to zero. The rain had mixed with steaming lava to create a thick sulphuric whiteout fog.  It was so bad that our guide had to direct the car down the road on foot in the middle of the raging lightning storm.  Save the bolts lighting the slopes, I could see nothing.  All I heard was our guide and driver screaming frantically in Spanish as we slowly crept our way down the mountain. Suddenly, we hit a big bump and I heard a loud thump. Everyone had a shocked expression across their faces. My heart rocketed out of my body as I thought we had fallen off the cliff edge into a chasm of lava. My dad opened the door to double check. It seemed we were still firmly on the road and okay. After playing hide and seek with Mother Nature we finally made it to the bottom. Safe. 

Back at home, I had a chance to reflect. School may be just around the corner again, but as Mark Twain once said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Chase Guttman is a passionate and talented photographer, political junkie, intrepid explorer, and world traveler. Chase visited more than 35 countries, 45 U.S. states, and 8 Canadian provinces by the time he was 12. All photographs that accompany this story are his. Find out more at www.ChaseGuttman.com.

Published in Go Global

Hike with your family

Introduce your young children to the world of adventure travel.

Here are a few great places to get started:  

Appalachian Mountain Club Adventures. New England.

Beginning at age five, kids can participate in pond studies, GPS treasure hunts, forest ecology lessons, and wildlife watching and tracking activities. It is all part of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s family camp and adventure programs. In beautiful outdoor settings in New Hampshire and Maine, the whole family will learn outdoor skills and safety tips. Also, participate in flat water canoeing, nature walks and even a day hike to a backcountry hut. Spend the night in a bunk room or your family’s own private quarters. Contact: (603)466-2727; www.outdoors.org/adventure_camps.

Wild West Train Ride. Horseshoe Bend, ID.

Add a little zest to a first train ride when you book Thunder Mountain Line’s Wild West Train Robbery ride through southwest Idaho. As the story goes, a sneaky con-man and his sidekicks set out to steal a chest of gold as it is transported on the rails. The US Cavalry is on board for protection, but passengers, young and old, experience the adventure, drama and suspense as the tale unfolds during the 3.5 hour round trip excursion. Available selected dates, July through November.   Contact: 208-331-1184 www.thundermountainline.com/wildwest11.htm

Windjammer Landing Resort. St Lucia.

Children under six and their older family members can choose from a range of soft adventure opportunities while staying at this Caribbean island resort. Hop aboard for a banana boat ride, play on the floating trampoline or check out the inflatable climbing wall. Learn to snorkel or try a guided SNUBA experience, a kid-sized, first step toward learning to Scuba dive. Experience sailing on a Hobie Cat. Then visit a nearby volcano or take a rainforest tour. Contact: 1 (877)522-0722; www.windjammer-landing.com.

Four Seasons Resort, Jackson Hole, WY.

Park your family within exploring distance of Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger Teton National Forest, the National Elk Refuge and Yellowstone National Park. In this ideal Rocky Mountain setting for first time adventure, young nature lovers will enjoy scenic float trips, horseback riding, wall climbing and some of the most majestic scenery available within our nation’s boundaries. The resort’s resident wildlife biologist is on hand to answer questions. Ask about the National Parks Explorer package, designed to maximize your time in the area.

Contact: 1 (307) 732-5000; www.fourseasons.com/jacksonhole

Costa Rican Adventure.

Explore the rainforest with your junior adventurers where they will delight at spotting monkeys and sloths, plus color-rich birds and butterflies. Plan for easy walks through national parks and kid-friendly rafting on the Rio Penas Blancas. Learn about volcanoes and later explore tide pools and build sand castles at the beach. Sail and snorkel in the Gulf of Papagayo and scope for whales, dolphins, turtles, and rays.

Contact: http://adventureswithinreach.com/costa-rica/itinerary.php?trip=9_day__Multisport_Volcanoes_And_Tropical_Coasts_

ft yell grizz

Photo: Copyright Lynn O'Rourke Hayes. Yellowstone National Park, June 2011

Published in Adventure
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