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Quick facts about the Galapagos

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Ever thought of visiting the Galapagos Islands, a group of volcanic islands that straddle the equator and sit 525 miles east of Ecuador?

Well if you did, here are some quick facts about your next adventure location.

Some may know that the Darwinian Theory of the Origin of Man was developed after studying the Galapagos Islands, but did you know that confluence of four ocean currents (Equatorial, Cromwell, Humboldt, and Panama) in this area is what gives it such an unpredictable and unique climate?

Think that penguins are only found in the Southern Hemisphere? Wrong. Penguins found in the Galapagos Islands are the only penguins known to breed in the Northern Hemisphere.

Ever wondered why the cormorants don’t fly away from the islands? Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) for them they have evolved to grow too large to spread their wings and fly. The birds wings are only one third of what they should be for a bird of that size making this type of cormorant one of the rarest birds on Earth.

Speaking of birds that can’t fly, the marine iguana is the only lizard that is known to swim.

You knew the tortoises were another large animal on the island, but did you know they were almost 600lbs and can live up to 150 years?

No trip to the Galapagos ever takes place without learning a great deal about nature and wildlife.

Join us on a 22 day tour to Ecuador this once in a lifetime location and discover why so many people have fallen in love with the Galapagos. Click here for more information about our Galapagos tour and our shorter 8 day adventure.

 

 

The Best of Brazil Tour – A Quick Photo Journey

As the world changes, so do our tours. We’ve recently improved our best of Brazil  tour, allowing more time to explore and enjoy the top sights.

Our first run at the improved version ran in February and was hailed a success. Despite venturing to Brazil in what was supposed to be the rainy season, our group was gifted with sunny skies the entire trip.

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For the first portion of the journey, we take you to an Amazon Lodge outside of the city of Manaus and inside the Amazon Rainforest. Explorations into the jungle are taken by boat and by foot with binaculars and cameras at the ready in case of any wildlife opportunities.

From the Amazon, we make our way south with a pause at Brasilia, the capital city.

 

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Once a model town, this clearly 1960s creation is a social and architectural design experiment. We spend the day roaming from colossal political monuments to cement and stain glass churches, learning about Brazil’s modern history before moving to its largest wetland, the Pantanal.

 

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Birders rejoice as we set up at a ranch for a few nights rest. Farmers take us to explore the sprawling grounds by foot, horse, and boat. Toucans, parrots, and anteaters are just a few of the friendly animals found in this part of Brazil and likely encounters.

 

Rio Brazil Rachel Kristensen (2)

 

After our rural get-a-way, our journey continues to the big city of Brazil where we enjoy all the famous sites. From the beaches to the Cristo, our tour of Rio includes a fully guided tour of all the iconic spots.

 

Brazil Side Iguazu Rachel Kristensen

 

Last but not least, our tour finishes with a roar. The roaring waterfall that is. Of all the large waterfalls in the world, Iguacu usually ranks number one as the people’s favourite. We take in the falls from all sides and get soaked by the mist in the meantime.

Join us on our next departure to tour Brazil this October or next February and click here for more info.

 

 

 

Lessons from Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece (photo credit Rachel Kristensen)

When the ancient Greeks created something they did so because of their beliefs in bettering themselves in their body, soul, and minds. They knew that by acting in a ‘we’ mentality vs a ‘me’ mentality, that the stronger their individuals became, the strong their society would become.

Stadiums and gymnasiums were built across the country to train their soldiers. Competitive games such as the Olympics served for sporting purposes to perfect the body. Every four years, a sacred truce would be announced, no wars would take place for the one month leading up to the games and for the entire duration.

Boys and men from all over Greece would descend on Olympia, swear to Zeus while standing on a set of bull testicles (the origins of the world ‘testify’) that they had trained for the one year prior, they were 100% Greek and they would not cheat.

Cheaters were shamed with a wall of statues dedicated to Zeus, on display as athletes walked into the ancient tracks and would bear the disgrace of being spat on by every passerby for centuries to come. Winners were awarded with not only the olive crown but free food for life and a city-state that would boast your name for the duration of your life.

There was no greater honour than to have an Olympian in your community.

The games were similar in essence to our modern games. Sponsors had their forum, hotels for the wealthy were supplied, and competition was fierce.

Unlike today, we have to use our imagination as to how fast or how strong these nude athletes were. Glory was never recorded in times or distances, only in the names and years of their victory.

Imagine what the Olympics today would be like if weren’t focused on personal bests or world records.

For their souls, the Greeks erected many temples to worship in.

Temples for the 12 Olympic gods carved in fine marble, sprawling complexes built with stadiums and theatres nearby.

Olympia had the giant Statue of Zeus, an ancient wonder of the world crafted with ivory and gold that stood above an olive oil pool making Zeus life-like.

In Delphi, the Temple of Apollo stood above two tectonic plates emitting a hallucinogenic gas which allowed an oracle to invoke the spirit of the gods and speak with the people. She responded to questions in a very vague manner, and the gods required one to know thyself before deciphering their answer.

The ancient Greeks clearly understood that understanding your own self would keep you better connected with your soul.

For their last pillar of creating a better person, theatres became the natural setting to expand the mind.

As early as 5th century BC in theatres dedicated to Dionysus in Athens, Epidaurus or Delphi, audiences would watch performances based on real life tragedies that would pose moral dilemmas faced by the citizens or state.

Plagued by continual wars against outsiders like the Persians or internal wars where Greek city-states fought against themselves for power, the ancient Greeks were no stranger to the traumas faced by soldiers.

Plays such as Sophocles’ Ajax spoke directly to the people as a character and a dilemma many could relate to.

Ajax, a solider of the Trojan war, became enraged and tortured by his experiences. His depression, and anger left him with an inability to grip current reality from the murderous reality of war. In the play he is duped by Athena to try to murder his comrades but after he lashes out, he has to try to deal with a shame he brought to himself. Ultimately, the pain and shame is too much and he commits suicide.

This theme was written nearly 2500 years ago.

In no war has any army left with clean hands. No matter how small the fight, someone will ultimately lose and at the hand of another. The Greeks understood this and its enormous emotional impact on their people. If that impact was left without being addressed it would eat away at their society. So plays were performed as a therapy and a community forum to discuss the problems of soldiers.

Now picture this in our present day life.

Armies all over the world continue to fight battles. As an example, the largest military, the US Army has over 21 million veterans. In 2008, only 40,000 US soldiers were admitting to suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress syndrome. No one was talking about it, and at less than 1% of people admitting to the stress after war, something needed to be done.

In an effort to remove some of the stigmas attached to PTSDs, the internal depression and struggles that many soldiers face, the Americans created the ‘Theatre of War’. Ancient plays such as Ajax are being performed for groups of veterans for the same reason the Greeks performed it: as a therapy and community forum to discuss the problems facing soldiers.

If one considers how a society thousands of years old created not only art that has enchanted and is still treasured, a premier sporting event played today, but crafted a form of therapy that would be relevant thousands of years later,  it makes the magic of classical Greece even more impressive.

Join us and find out more about our next Classical Greece Tour.

Prague: The City of 100 Spires

Czech Tourism

(Photo Credit of Prague: Czech Tourism)

 

Just how did this beautiful 15th century city gain the nickname of the City of a Hundred Spires?

“Surely, there are more than 100” exclaim most of our travellers.

We travelled past the astronomical clock, over the Charles pedestrian Bridge, and into the towers of dozens of cathedrals to find out.

The origin of the name comes from Bernard Bolzano, a Bohemian mathematician who counted 103 spires at the beginning of the 19th century. Now two centuries later, we find the influence of art nouveau mixed in with the renaissance symmetry, the dramatic baroque play on light and shadows, and of course the ribbed vaults and pointed arches of the Gothic architecture style.

Currently, there are over 500 spires in Prague, so our travellers are indeed correct in believing there are more than 100 spires.

But regardless of the number of spires, Prague is truly a city that enchants. A city of wonder, set between seven hills, Prague was never touched by war and allows one to enjoy an old world charm of a city often listed as one of the best cities in the world.

Join us on any number of trips to Prague, from active to cultural tours. Click here to browse our tours of Prague:

Touring the Five Stans: A Photo Journey through Central Asia

Stans

 

Often thought of as one of our most exotic explorations,  each Stan holds a unique history and culture that has been shaped over the centuries and influenced by many empires.

While on tour to the Five Stans, expect to see 2000 year old fortresses, famous silk road cities that captured the imagination of leaders like Alexander the Great, cultural epicentres from the 14th centuries, remote oasis’, local bazaar, grand mosques, stunning 19th century palaces with European and Asian influences, and gorgeous drives through snow-capped peaks and deep valleys with vast vistas.

Of course, also expect to see the old world charm mix in with Soviet era architecture.

Our Five Stans tour has been a hit with our groups, and runs twice annually.

Here is a preview of what you’ll see on this amazing 21 day tour through Central Asia, as shown by our senior tour leader and professional photographer, Jonathan Hodgson.

All photos are from his Instagram account (@owilybug).

Zenkov Cathedral. #Almaty #Kazakhstan #travel #asia @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Zarafshan Valley. #Tajikistan #asia #travel #nature @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum. #Samarkand #silkroad #uzbekistan #asia #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Kalan Mosque. #Bukhara #uzbekistan #asia #kalanmosque #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Walls of Ichan-Qala. #Khiva #uzbekistan #asia #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

 

How to decide which African safari is the best?

Choosing which African safari tour to take for your dream holiday can be a very difficult decision.

With so many parks and so many types of animals, the options feel endless.

Here is a quick list of some of our favourite destinations for game spotting:

 

Owilybug Travel - Africa

(Photo Credit: Tour Leader Jonathan Hodgson / Owilybug Travel Photography)

 

South Africa:

South Africa’s largest reserve, Kruger National Park, has more animal species than anywhere else in Africa. It is home to over 137 mammal species, 49 fish, 112 reptiles, and over 500 bird species. This park is close to the heart for birders and big game enthusiasts alike.

The Mkuze Reserve and its savannahs, swamps, sand forests and recorded 420+ bird species is an exceptional stop for birders as well.

Jonathan Hodgson Owilybug - Africa

(Photo Credit: Tour Leader Jonathan Hodgson / Owilybug Travel Photography)

 

Namibia:

As one of Africa’s lesser known safari destinations but still a photographer’s dream, Etosha National Park is a big surprise for many. It’s one of the world’s largest national parks with an extraordinary array of animals, which are mostly dependent on watering holes.

 

Jonathan Hodgson - Owilybug - Afirca

(Photo Credit: Tour Leader Jonathan Hodgson / Owilybug Travel Photography)

 

Botswana:

Boarding a boat down the Chobe River or venturing into the grasslands on an open-top vehicle, it is easy to discover why this park is so beloved. With over 100,000 elephants, big pods of hippos, very large crocodiles, lions, hyenas, giraffes and more, Chobe National Park has one of the largest concentrations of game on the African continent.

Another heavy hitter in the safari world, the Okavango Delta is best explored by canoe or by 4WD. Normally deltas unload into the sea, but this river system empties out onto the land creating a unique pulsating wetland filled with big game, as well as plenty of fish and birds.

There is nowhere like it in the world.

 

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(PC: blogs.scientificamerican.com)

 

Kenya:

A highlight in the Kenyan parks is the grassy plains of Ol Pejeta, home to the largest black rhino sanctuary and Kenya’s only chimpanzee population.

As an extension of the Serengeti, there is no way one could miss a safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Not only home to all the ‘Big 5’ game and the wildebeest migration, the Mara also holds the largest lion population and the best chance to view cheetahs, this stop is key for those who love big cats.

 

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(PC: wikipedia.org)

 

Tanzania:

Amboseli National park rests in the shadow of snow capped Mt Kilimanjaro and is a wonderful place to spot elephant herds on open plains with that uniquely African backdrop of the continent’s highest mountain.

For birders, you’ll enjoy a chance to spot ibis, flamingos, fish eagles and pelicans in the Lake Manyara National Reserve.

Tanzania’s most well known highlight is the chance to watch the 1.5 million wildebeest and half a million zebra migrate to better grazing and water pastures in the Serengeti National Park. We stake our vantage point from high on the kopje mountains or with a possible daybreak hot air balloon ride.

For those who are looking to see dynamic landscapes, the Ngorongoro Crater’s volcanic landscape with waterfalls, grasslands, and mountain forests is considered one of the greatest natural spectacles in the world.

 

 

 


 

 

To find out more about our African safaris, or our small group tours across Africa: click here.

Alternatively, click the link in the country name above and be redirected to a list of tours which includes the country desired.

 

 


 

A China tour highlight: the Terracotta Army

 

Terracotta Warriors - Adventures Abroad PC Rachel Kristensen

(Photo from our China tour including the Terracotta Army. Credit: Tour Leader Rachel Kristensen)

Discovered in 1974 by a local farmer who was digging for a water well, the Terracotta Army and museum are undeniably one of China’s most awe-inspiring collections.

In a space roughly the size of a football field, it is estimated over 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots ,and 520 horses were buried. As of now, over 2000 figures have been unearthed and are found guarding the tomb Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.

Construction of the site started in 246 BCE and was completed by the work of over 700,000 workers. It is thought the locals worked in an assembling line, producing the pottery figurines in sections, placing limbs together after made individually rather than as a whole piece.

The faces of the soldiers were created in 8 different styles. Crafted with details such as facial hair, a variety of bone structures,  and a diverse range of eye sets it is thought that the different soldiers represented the emotions and temperaments of the times.

Graceful eyebrow and eyes representing a canny solider. Braveness was illustrated in eyes that are wide and staring.  While those with a  wide face, large head with bushy eyebrows and large eyes are thought to have been simple men.

While pieces from the collection have been shown around the world, no collection of the Terracotta Army can duplicate the mass scale of discovery which the museum in Xi’an has.

Archaeologists are still uncovering more pieces and our small group China tour includes a fully guided excursion to better understand the work archaeologists are doing on this famous discovery.

Click here for information on our next trip to China which includes the Terracotta Army.

MOA Journeys: In depth cultural and art tours

Withoutmasks Capture (Top three photos are part of the Without Masks exhibit. Bottom three from Heaven, Hell and Somewhere In Between Exhibit. Source: www.moa.ubc.ca)
 
For the art lovers and those exceptionally curious about cultural encounters, we’ve teamed up with Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology to curate unique cultural and art tours that coincide with their exhibits.
 
Our first journey led us to Cuba, to dive deeper into the contemporary Afro-Cuban art scene after a successful showing of the Without Masks exhibit. We ventured into exclusive galleries, institutions, and were joined by leaders in Afro-Cuban religions as they explained their communities.
 
Our next trip is to Portugal, inspired popular art in the current Heaven, Hell and Somewhere in Between exhibit. This trip will once again deliver exclusive access to artists’ studios and marketplaces where we learn what makes Portugal pulse.
 
To get a better idea of what these trips are like, once our Cuban adventurers arrived back at home, the group took time to share their stories on their own blog,  http://moajourneys.tumblr.com/.
 
By the looks of it, the group enjoyed the art tours as much as we did.
 
We can’t wait to rejoin  with MOA members this fall, for a closer look at the current and historic culture in Portugal.
 
To find out more about our next MOA cultural and art tour, please contact our sales staff at 1 800 665 3998.

Greece - AA - Rachel Kristensen

What island hopping on a Greek Island tour looks like

The term Aegean Blue was clearly coined after a visit to a Greek Island.

The vast sea and skyline provide a stunning backdrop for the picture perfect white houses that scatter themselves across the 227 inhabited Greek Islands.

In total, there are more than 6000 islands dotted across the Aegean and Ionian Seas that fall under Greek sovereignty. Each with crystal clear waters that lap onto the sandy or pebble shores complete with sea-caves or sheltered coves.

Our tour takes you to the highlights to see ancient Cycladic and Minoan civilizations such as tiny sacred island of Delos near Mykonos, once the political capitol for ancient Greece. We also visit the ancient site of Akrotiri, a bronze age civilization buried after a volcanic eruption over 3500 years ago.

To catch up with modern Greece, we explore quaint modern village life of pirate-proof cities on Mykonos,  as well as the beautiful Oia and Pyrgos while taking in the dramatic volcanic landscapes along Santorini’s caldera.

Of course, there is also time to taste local specialties that include unique grape growing techniques, while sleeping in comfortable locations next to those famous Greek beaches.

Off the regular tourist path, our Greek Island hop also includes multiple days on Crete. The guided tour of Knossos, Iraklion and Chania’s museums promises to enchant the history buffs, while the sights on the harbour cities deliver wonderful photographic opportunities of modern Greece.

For more information on a small group tour to Greece and the Greek Islands, click here.

Greece - AA - Rachel Kristensen Greece - AA - Rachel Kristensen Greece - AA - Rachel Kristensen

 

 

(Photo credit: all from Tour Leader Rachel Kristensen)

Yangshuo: A highlight on our China tour

 

Li River China PC Rachel Kristensen(Photo credit: On a China tour with Rachel Kristensen / @meandertheworld)

 

China is the third largest country in the world and has some of the most diverse landscapes, bustling cities and quiet villages to explore.

From the sandy dunes of the Gobi Desert, to the deep gorges cut by the Yangtze River and the karst mountains of Guilin.

Our Classic China tour takes you to the quiet village of Yangshuo, what many recall as their highlight of China.

The village is beautiful from all angles,  situated among breathtaking mist covered mountains that jet into the sky. With less car traffic and little air polution, it is easy to roam the streets and discover why so many love visiting this town.

No trip to Yangshuo is complete without exploring the winding rivers that cut through the valley floor. On the Li River, our small group tour sets sail beside bamboo rafts to watch fishermen collecting their catch with traditional netting methods.

The pristine environment complete with sweet smelling cassia flowers feels a million miles away from the high rises of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing and China’s other well-known cities.

Click here for more information on our trip to China which includes a small group tour of Yangshuo.