Nature Travel

October 11, 2011

Get to Galapagos!

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Dear Traveler,

The Galapagos Islands are truly unique in the world. The opportunity to walk among curious and unafraid wildlife is just extraordinary. I have been fortunate to have been to the Galapagos many times, but the experience of being with wildlife that is so accessible, wildlife that is unafraid and non-threatening, is always joyous and amazing.

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Paddling along the Clarinho River in Brazil's northern Pantanal will offer many fantastic wildlife sightings, but the capybara may be one of the most interesting for those seeking a rich nature travel experience.

Resembling both a guinea pig and a beaver, the 100-pound mammal is the largest rodent in the world. Found in several South American countries, the capybara lives in the dense vegetation that surrounds lakes, rivers, marshes and ponds, which is why visitors to the Pantanal — a spectacular wilderness of wetlands — are likely to see one.

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Just a strip carved out of Senegal, The Gambia may seem like it does not have much to offer. However, for those seeking nature travel experiences in this remote part of Africa, The Gambia hosts some of the continent's finest treasures. In fact, the nation has been dedicated to preserving the natural environment ever since the 1977 Banjul Declaration, which states the country's commitment to conservation.

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The hot, arid bushland that visitors traverse on a Kenya safari is exactly the type of habitat the Beisa oryx likes. Once found all across the drier regions of Africa, about 33,000 oryx are now found in Eastern Africa from Ethiopia to northeastern Uganda and Kenya, 25,000 of which are Beisa oryx.

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Not many people go to the Galapagos Islands for a show, but that is exactly what they may get if they run into an albatross pair along the craggy cliffs of Española (Hood) Island. Between April and December, the critically endangered birds nest on this island, the only place in the world where they nest, providing visitors who stop off during Galapagos Island cruises with plenty of entertainment.

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Wildlife enthusiasts on a Costa Rica tour often hope to glimpse sea turtles, but the country is also home to a bright green lizard that can run across the surface of water at the rate of five feet per second.

While it was named for its resemblance to the legendary monster, the green basilisk lizard is more commonly known for its ability to run across streams and puddles, earning its evocative nickname.

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Although nature travel to the island of Borneo can allow visitors to see beautiful turquoise waters and hundreds of technicolor birds in the sky, venturing underground gives explorers a whole new world to discover. According to Bat Conservation International, the island is home to more than 100 species of bats, many of which live in the vast cave system there.

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 While the Amazon River may be home to larger aquatic animals, piranhas are perhaps some of the best-known residents — primarily for the lore associate with their sharp teeth and voracious appetites.

Travelers who venture into a tributary with slower-moving waters on International Expeditions’ Amazon River cruise will likely find red-bellied, white or black piranhas. Of these three species, the red-bellied variety had the strongest jaws and sharpest teeth of all of these carnivorous fish.

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Strolling along the powdery, white sand of Cerro Brujo - one first stops on International Expeditions’ Galapagos Islands cruises - visitors can expect to spot blue-footed boobies and finches as they hop about on the beach. However, it is likely that the most memorable encounter they will have will be with a Galapagos sea lion.

"Swimming with the sea lions was one of the most unforgettable highlights of the Galapagos trip,” said recent Galapagos traveler John Newman.

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Eco-travel has been allowing vacationers to explore the world in search of natural beauty and unspoiled wilderness for years, and though some travelers have their heart set on scenic vistas and natural formations, others are searching to commune with some of the native wildlife in these distant regions. If rare and exotic animals are at the top of your "must-see" list, then an Amazon River cruise will be right up your alley.

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