Posts Tagged ‘adventure travel’

Galápagos!

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Blue footed boobies are some of the many striking birds native to the Galapagos.

Blue footed boobies are some of the many striking birds native to the Galapagos.

Some of the most unusual wildlife found on Earth is living on the Galápagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. From sea lions and tropical fish to penguins and iguanas, the islands are teeming with animals who are as curious about you as you are about them. To the Left, a blue footed booby gets ready for a dance, which he’ll choreograph to impress the ladies, showing off his blue feet and flapping his wings. When a female bird finally chooses him, he’ll mate for life, taking his turn each season to incubate their eggs.

Click here to find out more about our Galápagos  adventure setting sail this July.

Which wild animal would you most like to get close to? Share please!

Video: Hollywood Auditions: Calling All Bugs!

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

We see them in movies all the time, and we all tend to squirm. Like in Indiana Jones, when Kate Capshaw is covered in creepy crawly bugs which would give most of us the heebie jeebies. Yet, there are professionals that love working with bugs, spiders and all of those other little critters that have more legs than we do. Entomologists study bugs while learning their behavior, habits, and how they work as a community.

The Smithsonian has studied some of the most common bugs in our backyards, including the everyday household ant. We may think they are simple little insects, but they actually create complex underground homes that include several spiraling caves into well-planned chambers. They communicate in a variety of ways, vibrating their bodies to let others know of food or danger. But there really is nothing like seeing the more exotic leaf-cutter ant in its own habitat, which you can do in Costa Rica. These ants create their nests by crawling up trees, carving out leaves, and then taking them back home. The leaves are then used to create compost to help feed the colony.

Paula, from our family show called SciQ on the Smithsonian Channel, was incredibly brave to complete this segment with a very special Hollywood actress named Rosie. If you are as brave as Paula, we’ve provided an opportunity for you to feed a tarantula at our O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History.

Take your future bug scientist on our Costa Rica Family tour this summer!

Which is your favorite bug you love to hate?

Dreaming of Baja California

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Jessica Engler has worked on the Smithsonian Journeys marketing team since 2006, editing and reviewing all online tours, managing our monthly e-newsletter, and providing editorial support for the Journeys blog as well as printed publications. A graduate of James Madison University, she has also worked for Shakespeare’s Globe in London and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. Here, Jessica shares her reflections on our Among the Great Whales adventure.

Stuck in a cube all day often times looking at fabulous travel images, I often find myself daydreaming of past journeys that I have been on. Two years ago, I joined Smithsonian travelers in balmy, dry Baja for one week in February. From the moment I stepped aboard our expedition ship, the National Geographic Sea Lion, I instantly forgot freezing  Washington.

For the first few days of the journey, we devoted our mornings to observing gray whales. Every year, thousands of gray whales migrate to the protective waters of Bahia Magdalena to breed, give birth, and nurture their vulnerable offspring. So each day, we boarded zodiacs (small inflatable motorized boats that can hold up to 15 people) in search of these fascinating mammals.

Whale watchers get incredibly close to the gray whales while out exploring in a zodiac

Lucky whale watchers meet and greet some friendly gray whales while out exploring in a zodiac off the coast of Baja California.

For three days, we followed the gray whales and watched as they nursed, played, and interacted with each other. The time spent among these majestic animals was truly memorable, but it was our final day of whale watching that I most cherish. That morning we departed as usual with a local driver, a naturalist, and approximately 10 eager passengers, including myself. We cruised for 30 minutes before we sighted a mother and calf pair and slowly approached for a better view. Our driver, well versed in the practice of keeping a non-threatening distance, maneuvered us to a slow idle. (more…)

Traveler Words: Inspired by Africa

Friday, March 13th, 2009

See what our travelers have to say about their recent journeys to South Africa. We’re grateful that travelers so generously share their thoughts with us. This week, read about what they loved about visiting Africa by rail.

“As a first time traveler to South Africa, Zambia and Botswana, I came away with a very special sense of Africa because of this tour…The tour was very diverse and I was able to get a sense of South Africa and an introduction to Zambia and Botswana. I loved Rovos Rail and all the safaris. I liked this trip so much, I plan to return to Cape Town and other countries.”

Judith Schwartz – South Africa’s Great Rail Journey

A traveler on Rovos Rail

A traveler on Rovos Rail. Photo: Patrick Wagner

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Gorilla Trekking with Kris Helgen

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Kate Desvenain managed a variety of successful tours as a Smithsonian Journeys Program Manager before following her dreams to Costa Rica. There, she and her husband are building a bed and breakfast from the ground up while getting used to life in the jungle. Here, she interviews renowned mammalogist Kris Helgen about his background and his upcoming gorilla trekking adventure to Uganda and Rwanda .

Kate Desvenain: Kris, you are known for discovering new species of mammals worldwide. Can you tell us about your most exciting discovery, and how you decided what to name it?

Research Zoologist Kris Helgen and a friendly tree kangaroo on a recent expedition.

Research Zoologist Kris Helgen and a friendly tree kangaroo on a recent expedition.

Kris Helgen: Though I go looking for mammals in some of the most remote corners of the globe, sometimes the most startling finds are right under our noses. Three years ago I “discovered” a fantastic new species of bat from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands—not out in the rain forest, but in museum cabinets at the Smithsonian. It’s a giant black bat with a monkey-like face, red eyes, a meter-wide wingspan, and larger teeth than any other bat in the world. Before you succumb to nightmares, I should tell you that it uses its big teeth to crack open nuts and big tropical fruits!

In addition to those found at the Smithsonian, I also found specimens of this species in museums in Sydney, Chicago, and Honolulu. The specimen in Chicago had been in the museum since 1929, the Sydney specimens since the 1930s, and the Smithsonian’s series dated to the Second World War when American troops were stationed in the South Pacific. You might think that such an conspicuous bat could not go overlooked in museums for so long, but there you have it. I named the species Pteralopex flanneryi after my doctoral advisor, Australian scientist and author Tim Flannery, to thank him for many years of scientific mentorship. Its common name is the “Greater Monkey-Faced Bat”. The species survives in the wild today, but only just—it is a highly endangered species that lives only in undisturbed lowland rain forest, is sensitive to hunting, and is extinct in most areas on the four islands on which it occurs. (more…)