February 13, 2013

Walking Palms of the Amazon

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The walking palm – or stilt palm - is a very common palm tree found in the lowland forests of Central and Northern South America, including the Peruvian Amazon. The tree gets its name from it tall, spiny root system that may be upwards of five feet in height, appearing like multiple legs.  While the tree obviously cannot move, the walking palm may lean toward a light filtering through a gap in the canopy, as the crown of the 50–60 foot high tree seeks light. 

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On the isolated island of Madagascar, 51% of all bird species, 96% of the reptiles and of course, all 86 varieties of lemurs (species and subspecies) are endemic. This Verreaux's sifaka was spotted in the Berenty Reserve during International Expeditions' 2012 Madagascar tour. The reserve is a wildlife hotspot which protects 250 hectares of spiny forest and dry tamarind gallery woodland along with six species of lemur and a large colony of Madagascar fruit bats.

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Participants on IE's people-to-people Cuba experience travel to this orchid garden in Soroa. Through our interaction with the garden’s keepers, guests not only learn about endemic species, but more importantly, the relationship between Cubans and land. The most interesting story of course, involved the story of how Cuban women once used the national flower – mariposa – to relay secret messages. During the Cuban fight to overthrow the Spanish, Cuban women would wear the mariposa in their hair.

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At least once a day, International Expeditions’ travel planners field the question “When is the best time for a Galapagos cruise?” So, our favorite naturalist Greg Greer sat down to tackle this popular question.

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Our friend, the World Wide Will at MedjetAssist is an expert on all things travel related. This is the first in a series on making the best buying decision when purchasing luggage.

January 29, 2013

Costa Rica's Best Volcanoes

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Many people frequently ask me: “Should I go to Belize or Costa Rica, and what is the difference”? Well, the two countries, though not separated by a tremendous number of miles, are as different as night and day. One of the major differences, are the presence of volcanoes in Costa Rica along the central spine of mountains running northwest to southeast from Nicaragua to Panama.

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The Amazon rainforest is home to many different primate species, including titi monkeys. There are many varying subspecies of titis, including the white-eared titi, red-bellied titi, ornate titi and the recently discovered caqueta titi.

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The harpy eagle is one of the most powerful predators in the Amazon and one of the largest eagle species in the world. This winged hunter preys on monkeys, sloths, reptiles, rodents and other birds, and the sight of a harpy eagle snatching a monkey from a tree branch with ease is one you won't soon forget if you're lucky enough to witness it on International Expeditions’ Amazon river cruises.

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Most people do not think too kindly of caterpillars — especially those with flower or vegetable gardens — and certainly farmers, who do all that they can to rid their crops of the little eating machines.

When one considers the diversity of butterflies and moths, it is quite overwhelming. There are researchers who spend their entire lives searching out new species, and others who spend their lives trying to come up with new chemical technologies to wipe out insects, including caterpillars, that are harmful to crops.

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When most people hear the words “sea snake,” they immediately think of highly venomous snakes that inhabit marine (salt water) environments, just part of the reason sea snakes are greatly feared by many people. Most people also believe that sea snakes are only found in the Indo-Australian regions and the South China Sea, but sea snakes are much more wide ranging than that.

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