From International Adventures

Zambia jeep safari with Wild Planet Adventures

Experience Extraordinary Zambia Safari Tours with Wild Planet Adventures

by Andrea Verdin

It’s time to plan your summer getaway, so the Wander team has begun to look at ways to get the most out of your vacation. We’ve been looking both at international and domestic travel, small weekend getaways and elaborate international excursions.

If you’re the type who loves diverse travel, looking for a chance to see exotic wildlife and stay in the middle of nature, then see Zambia – Africa’s Hidden Safari Gem – with Wild Planet Adventures.

zebras

The safari season in Zambia is year-round, but the best wildlife viewing is from July through October, so you want to make sure that you plan with this in mind. Because African safari travel is such a popular getaway, it may be hard to choose a travel company to plan a safari with. However, Zambia safari tours are a head and shoulders above all others for several reasons.

Wild Planet Adventures founder Josh Cohen explained that Zambia is one of Africa’s least visited countries, and since his company specializes in intimate encounters with exotic wildlife, this was a perfect option for his guests.

“Guests have the ability to see unusual animals and their behaviors that might not always be seen,” explained Cohen.

The reason Zambia safari tours are markedly different from other African safaris is the lack of tourism and jeep congestion.  With less than 860,000 annual visitors compared to South Africa’s 9.5 million, Zambia ranks among the least visited African countries.

canoe safari

“Unlike East African countries where it’s common to find up to 50 vehicles chasing a lion, Zambia boasts remote sectors where guests are unlikely to see other vehicles,” said Cohen, who explained that his Zambian tours do not require his guests to be in caged busses. “Safari-goers still enjoy 360 degree views from open jeeps instead of being crowded into nine-passenger mini-vans.”

Without numerous vehicles surrounding the same animals, there is no risk that animals will lose their ‘wild’ instincts.

“Wild Planet Adventures goes to great lengths to preserve the authentic safari experience by combining truly isolated and remote locations with master guides who exemplify tracking as an art form, so travelers see authentic ‘wild’ animal behavior while minimizing adaptation,” Cohen said.

lion at shumba camp

In addition, guests can choose to combine tours, so they can experience walking, jeep, and canoe safaris. This allows for a broader experience of animal exposure.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” said Cohen. “Once we saw a herd of elephants surround their matriarch while she gave birth. On our canoes, we enter watering holes where herds of elephants and hippos just walk across, right in front of us. When these factors come together, you get a superior experience.”

shumba camp

Of course, just because you are in the middle of the safari doesn’t mean that you have to stay in an uncomfortable tent on a lumpy cot.

“Zambia has the same high end camps that other African tour camps have,” said Cohen. “Overall, Africa has high standards for its guests.”
There are a lot of safari travel options for guests to choose from when planning Zambia Safari Tours, with options for every budget.
For detailed tour itineraries on all of Wild Planet Adventures wildlife eco-tours and safaris, call toll-free 1.800.990.4376, visit http://www.wildplanetadventures.com/ or contact trips@wildplanetadventures.com.

 

WPA Zambia from Wild Planet Adventures on Vimeo.

VengaVenga-LatinFoodFest

Latin Food Fest offers tacos, ceviche, tequila and spirits during San Diego heatwave

Puesto-LatinFoodFest
Puesto offers all of the fixings for their Pollo Chile Verde tacos

Written by Nadia Ibanez

With this blistering heatwave that has come through San Diego the last few days, I’m seeking daily, cooling refuge in the form of jumping into the ocean and seeking out food and drink that’s light and bright. Lucky for me, the Latin Food Fest in San Diego last weekend was just what the doctor ordered. Cocktails, tequila tastings, cool ceviche, delicious tacos and so much more were offered at the Grand Tasting Village at San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park.

San Diegans truly are blessed with easy access to some of the country’s best latin food. The team behind the Latin Food Fest work hard every year to bring forth the best restaurants and beverage vendors to accumulate over a single weekend.

Take a look at our favorite bites and drinks from the 2014 Latin Food Fest.

When I’m totally parched, the first thing I look for is fresh coconut water. Since the trend has gained momentum, this thirst-quenching juice can get a bit pricey at your local grocery store. Luckily the guys behind Coco Jack have created a line of tools so that you can break through your own young coconut and serve yourself. The tools may look like they’re straight out of the caveman era but they do the trick within seconds.

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Slinging mallets and jacks with Coco Jack at the Latin Food Fest.

Coco-Jack-Latin-Food-FestBy far, my favorite taste of the day was the Smoked Albacore Ceviche from the Tequila Bar & Grille located inside the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. The ceviche was perfectly seasoned and sat on top of a crunchy tostada.

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Hands down, our favorite bite from the Latin Food Fest.

Another favorite of the day was the Choritos a la Chalaca from Cafe Secret in Del Mar. I’m not a huge mussel fan but these were served with perfection. LatinFoodFest-Cafe-Secret Ceviche was plentiful throughout the Grand Tasting Village, but I especially loved the Ahi Ceviche from Venga Venga. Bright with citrus, avocado and fresh fish, this ceviche was fantastic.

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Ceviche from Venga Venga…check them out in Chula Vista!

While I wish there were a few more dessert offerings at the event, one of my favorites was the Chocolate Mole and Tres Leche ice creams from Calexico Creamery. The ice cream was super creamy and their mobile ice cream shop was absolutely adorable.

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This mobile ice cream shop makes stops throughout SD County so check out their site for where they’ll be next.

The drinks were flowing at the Latin Food Festival and we had our pick from dozens of different tequilas, cocktails, beers, micheladas and wines. It was like having a taste of Tijuana and Ensenada without ever crossing the border. Attending foodie festivals like this one is great because you find out about restaurants, wineries and spirit purveyors that you would have never stumbled upon otherwise. DSC_8242 Svedka-LatinFoodFestDSC_8296 The Latin Food Fest in San Diego is one of my favorites each year and I’m always so excited to be invited back to cover this delicious event. From the tequila tent and endless food, to the entertainment and beautiful San Diego skyline backdrop, the Latin Food Fest is definitely one to add to your calendar. For more information, visit www.latinfoodfest.com.

Volunteerism: For Those Looking to Travel and Give Back

As a luxury and travel website, Wander magazine wants to take a moment to remind readers that you can visit exotic parts of the world doing one of the greatest things in the world – giving back to those in need through volunteerism.

We are all for traveling on luxurious, fun trips, but volunteerism, a blend of overseas traveling and volunteering, has begun one of the most popular ways to give back. Essentially, you become the charity you donate to. You are the action, the change in the world. You get to see your time and money make an impact immediately, while working with others looking for the same adventure you are.

From Australia to South America, there are plenty of places for you to reach out and make a positive impact, while traveling to a beautiful, exotic part of the world that you might not have seen otherwise.

To help us get a better glimpse of volunteerism, the Wander team has reached out to some international volunteer programs that are looking for an adventurer with a heart to serve others.

International Student Volunteers: Two Week Volunteerism Trips

Ranked as one of the Top Ten Volunteer Organizations” by the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy in conjunction with the U.S. State Department, International Student Volunteers (ISV) offers two-week volunteer placements in teams in numerous countries around the world such as Costa Rica, Thailand, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Australia and New Zealand.

ISV courtesy photo
ISV courtesy photo

ISV has sent over 30,000 students around the world, even giving academic credit to students for their hard work.

This isn’t just a vacation that students take during their spring break. According to Narelle Webber, the ISV International Program Director, ISV partners with local non-profit, voluntary citizens’ groups in each host country to set up safe, meaningful, sustainable and life-changing volunteer projects with achievable goals that benefit the environment and local people.

ISV courtesy photo
ISV courtesy photo

Volunteers with ISV could very well be providing water and sanitation, building or maintaining community facilities, or helping teach children about health, environment, and English language.

For those who are more passionate about helping in an environmental aspect, ISV has environmental projects involving long-term scientific research in tropical rainforests and endangered species, animal care and sanctuary maintenance, and habitat restoration.

“Volunteers have done everything from monitoring dolphin behaviour, tagging and collecting data on sea turtles, to planting thousands of native trees in incredible locations,” said Webber. “Our mission is ‘to support sustainable development initiatives around the world through life-changing volunteer and responsible adventure travel programs designed to positively change our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.’”

ISV courtesy photo
ISV courtesy photo

While most participants are university students, ISV doesn’t require only students volunteer, nor do volunteers have to specifically trained in special fields. Volunteers can be as young as 15, and although ISV has a few projects that require students to be studying certain things like veterinary science or medicine/health, ISV provides all the training needed and ensures that tasks are appropriate for volunteer’s skill level.

The ISV adventure tours are jam-packed with cultural and eco-adventure activities, so that after two weeks of working hard, volunteers can explore their host country and experience its diversity in an ethically responsible way.

“ISV tour leaders challenge and motivate students to push outside their comfort zones while having fun,” explains Webber.

ISV programs operate between May and September, and November and February each year. Applications are open now for each upcoming season.  For more information, check out their website.

Projects Abroad – Spring Break Spent Preserving the Earth

If you’re looking to make an impact on the environment, Projects Abroad is playing an important role in contributing to the preservation of the earth. With ten Conservation & Environment projects on four continents, Projects Abroad is making great strides in conservation work and promoting environmental awareness in communities around the world, with the help of dedicated volunteers.

Founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography professor, as a program for students to travel and work while on break from full-time study, students were originally sent to Romania to teach conversational English. After a few years just sending volunteers to Eastern Europe for teaching, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects.

Projects Abroad currently has projects in 29 countries and recruitment offices in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Holland, Hong Kong, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and the United States. The benefit of volunteering with this non-profit is the fact that you can find nearly any type of service that you would enjoy.

Projects Abroad Courtesy Photo

For instance, animal and nature lovers can join Projects Abroad to protect the Amazon Rainforest by running the Taricaya Ecological Reserve in Peru, which has partnered with Projects Abroad since 2001. The reserve has an animal rescue shelter, which after six years, has seen birth of a howler money and the release of a rescued anteater into the reserve. The rescue center at Taricaya is leading the way in animal rescue in the Amazon and has been officially appointed the first Animal Release Center in this part of South America. Over 40 different species in all have already been released back into their natural habitats, including a jaguar, a puma, and two tapirs.

Those driven to teach can head to Costa Rica, where Projects Abroad is collaborating with three schools to demonstrate environmental awareness and teach sustainable development. Projects Abroad volunteers assist with education, training, and the building of ecological strategies that will aid the social development of these three communities in an innovative and sustainable way. For the next year, volunteers will be working on bio-gardens, recycling separation centers, recycling containers, and a butterfly/hummingbird garden for each school, plus educational resources to run environmental awareness projects.

For ultimate adventure lovers, Projects Abroad has a brand new program in Fiji: shark conservation. So far, over two-hundred volunteers have worked hard on scientific shark research, mangrove reforestation, recycling, and shark education initiatives. Last month, volunteers giving an educational talk at a multi-cultural school had the privilege to be joined by Ian Campbell, the Program Manager for the World Wildlife Foundation’s Global Shark Program. Campbell described the day as “inspiring” and also said that the project is “possibly the most important shark project in the world.”

Projects Abroad courtesy photo

According to Christian Clark, the US Deputy Director for Projects Abroad, volunteers aged 16 and over are welcome, but even 4-year-olds are welcome with parents who consider family volunteer options.

“We actually just had an 87 year old join us,” said Clark. “It is our philosophy that anyone willing to help out should be able to volunteer. We do have some programs for specific demographics as well, including our High School Specials for teens, Global Gap for gap years, Alternative Spring Break Trips for university students, and Projects for Professionals for skilled volunteers.

For more information about Conservation & Environment projects, please visit www.projects-abroad.org/volunteer-projects/conservation-and-environment.

Cross Cultural Solutions: An Open-Ended Opportunity to Serve

Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS) boasts a hefty amount of places for you to volunteer. With programs around the world, including Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India (Dharamsala and New Delhi), Morocco, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania (Bagamoyo and Kilimanjaro), and Thailand, volunteers have nearly endless options on where to lend a helping hand.

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According to Danielle Key, CCS program specialist and three-time Brazil Volunteer, those interested in CCS can not only choose where they want to volunteer, but also get to choose the start date that works best with their schedule, along with how many weeks they would like to participate for.

“We offer start dates year round and our programs are generally available from 1 to 12 weeks in length with some longer term options to include gap year programs,” said Key. “Our volunteers work in partnership with local people on sustainable community initiatives within the areas of education, social services, and public health.”

CCS attracts those who are people-to-people oriented, and are looking for a strong emphasis on the opportunity for cultural exchange. Volunteers can do anything from teaching English, care-taking for elderly community members, improving the quality of care for individuals with disabilities, to supporting individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.

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As an added element for volunteers, CCS offers cultural and learning activities throughout their program such as in-depth orientation, discussions on social issues, insight into cultural norms, language assistance, guest speakers, and special events.

“These activities will help you to learn more about the culture in which you are working, so that you can immerse yourself more fully into the experience,” said Key. “Free time is also a component of the overall program design. Weekends and evenings are your personal time to absorb the program and/or possibly do some ‘adventure travel’ on the side, whether independently or with new friends.”
For more visual information on the CCS programs, check out CCS’s Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/crossculturalsolutions/.

For a greater idea of what it’s like to volunteer with CCS, check out this video.

My trip to Indonesia summed up by traditional food and drink

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

They say your taste buds change every seven years and I’m a strong believer in this statement. The last time I visited Indonesia, which was 14 years ago, I was just a kid who had no idea how to even tackle the enormous traditional Indonesian menu. Instead, I remember two things about my last trip when it came to food: walking around the neighborhood with my cousins looking for candy and cracker shops and the one time I got deathly ill from eating from a food hawker stand on the street.

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Mom being mom and pretending she’s cooking behind one of the millions of food stalls in Jakarta

I had the chance to celebrate my last month as a 29 year-old in Jakarta and Bali and I knew my taste buds were in for a treat. Traditional Indonesian and Balinese food ranges from noodle soups to grilled goat, fried fish and more. While American food is growing popularity in Indonesia, I wanted nothing more than a traditional meal whenever I could.

In my family, catching up over a meal is a daily occurrence and there was no difference among my extended family in Jakarta. We couldn’t have a single conversation without chatting about the next must-see restaurant or where we planned to have our next meal, coffee, or dessert.

Here are some photos from just a few of the delicious meals I enjoyed while traveling through Indonesia.

Es Campur
Es Campur is a traditional dessert found on the side of the streets and on the dessert menus of the city’s top, five-star hotels and restaurants.

Es Campur was one of my favorite desserts to order after a meal or on a super hot and humid day. Shaved ice is covered with layers of sweetened condensed milk, grass jelly, coconut jelly, basil seeds, and coco pandan syrup, among many other toppings. The cold and sweet dessert is delicious and extremely cheap.

Noodles from Bakmi Boy
Simple, cheap and delicious: This may have been one of my favorite meals the entire trip

Bakmi Boy is a culinary institution in Jakarta. Hidden down one of the narrow alleyways in the Fabric District, Bakmi Boy has been around for generations serving up its famous Mi Baso, a warm noodle dish topped with chopped chicken and bok choy. Always, always, always order a side of warm beef meatballs and broth and an order of fried dumplings to balance out the crunch factor. The iced orange juice is fresh and believe me when I say that the oranges found in this tropical part of the world are unlike anything you’ll ever find in the states. This entire meal was way less than $10 and I completely regret not making a second trip before the end of our vacation.

Grilled and fried squid...both were perfectly cooked
Grilled and fried squid…both were perfectly cooked
Grilled prawns were enormous and super fresh
Grilled prawns were enormous and super fresh

Sunda Kelapa has been serving up their signature seafood dishes to celebrities, dignitaries, politicians and the normal folk since 1970. My uncle treated us to an evening of prawns doused in sweet soy sauce and butter, squid served up two ways, braised vegetables, and so much more. A bit off the beaten path, Sunda Kelapa is definitely a must-see.

Rambutan-Indonesia
One of my favorite fruits in Jakarta, Rambutan is popped open with either your teeth or fingers. The pear-like fruit inside also comes with a huge pit
World-renowned as the stinkiest fruit to have ever existed, Durian is for the adventurous eater and will definitely linger around long after you've eaten it...if you get my drift
World-renowned as the stinkiest fruit to have ever existed, Durian is for the adventurous eater and will definitely linger around long after you’ve eaten it…if you get my drift

When we weren’t treating ourselves to fried fish or bowls of noodles, I was constantly on the hunt for local fruit. Indonesia is home to dozens of different kinds of bananas, spiny fruit that you have no idea how to open, juicy mangoes and melons, and so many other fruit that you didn’t know even existed.

Go for the weirdest and ugliest looking fruit and I guarantee you’ll find one to fall in love with — I certainly did.

Start your meal with a pot of the local Teh Poci or an Iced Melon Juice
Start your meal with a pot of the local Teh Poci or an Iced Melon Juice

Kampung Daun in Bandung, about two hours outside of Jakarta, was one of my favorite places for a meal. The restaurant and cultural center is set inside of a rain forest and serves up traditional and American food. No matter what you ordered, the sounds of a trickling waterfall or surprise thunderstorms will make any meal magical.

A plate of steamed rice, chicken satay, fried tofu and a mixture of vegetables
A plate of steamed rice, chicken satay, fried tofu and a mixture of vegetables
My brother ordered the biggest meal possible
My brother ordered the biggest meal possible

Every meal is served to you inside your own personal cabana and the service is impeccable. I suggest starting your meal right before sunset so that you can walk through the restaurant by moonlight. You also can’t miss watching traditional candy being made by local villagers at the base of the restaurant. Take your pick from hand-spun cotton candy, sugar-sculpted lollipops, taffy, and more.

One of the many cabanas to have a meal in at Kampung Daun
One of the many cabanas to have a meal in at Kampung Daun
At the base of the restaurant, you'll find men making traditional Indonesian candy from scratch
At the base of the restaurant, you’ll find men making traditional Indonesian candy from scratch
Kampung Daun at night is pure magic
Kampung Daun at night is pure magic

One of the many plates of fried noodles and fried rice we devoured everyday
One of the many plates of fried noodles and fried rice we devoured everyday

I don’t think there was a day that went by where fried rice or fried noodles weren’t served at either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Whether it was cooked every morning my a relative’s maid or served up at a local restaurant, it was a cheap and easy way to fill up for the day.

Would you just look at how many plates this guy can carry?
Would you just look at how many plates this guy can carry?
Dig in!
Dig in!

Padang is an idea that I don’t think would ever make it in the US, mostly because of health reasons and also because it’s just kind of insane. As soon as you walk into the Padang restaurant, the waiter will bring you a plate of one of everything the chef has cooked for the day. Plates range from the ordinary grilled or fried chicken to cow brains, intestines and chicken liver. You eat what you want and the waiter comes back and only charges you what you consumed before bringing your leftovers back and serving it up to the next patron. Regardless, I ate what I could recognize and would do it again in a heart beat.

I don’t think there was an Indonesian dish that I didn’t enjoy and devour. I happen to think that my taste buds were appreciative of going back to its roots and partaking in all of the caloric festivities. While legitimate Indonesian food is hard to find back at home, I’ll be happy to make up for lost time during my next trip to Indonesia.

 

 

The Royal Pita Maha in Ubud, Bali is ethereal beauty in the forest

The Royal Pita Maha in Ubud, Bali
There’s something to look at and feel everywhere you turn…at The Royal Pita Maha in Bali

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

It’s hard to sum up my Bali trip in a few sentences. I’ve been back from traveling abroad for a few days now and whenever friends ask about my trip, I can only say that it was magical. Bali’s ethereal beauty really took my breath away from the moment we landed, to our stay in the forest, from our days on the beach and the hours walking by myself in the streets. The traditional Balinese food, sightseeing, wood and stone handicrafts and the entire Balinese culture promised to keep me busy throughout my stay. But one of my favorite parts of my trip to Bali was my stay at The Royal Pita Maha.

King-Ubud-Tjok-Putra
An enormous Thank You to the King of Ubud for allowing us to stay at The Royal Pita Maha

Situated about an hour outside of central Bali and within a stone’s throw of Ubud’s Arts District, The Royal Pita Maha is integrated into the natural landscape, rice terraces and forestry atop the Ayung River. The King of Ubud, Tjokorda Gde Putra Sukawati, is the owner of the property and we had the unbelievably fortunate opportunity to meet and share a cup of tea with him.

He generously offered a night’s stay in the Royal Pool Villa at The Royal Pita Maha, along with another two nights at sister resort, The Pita Maha. Although our stay was short, I could immediately feel a sense of peace and a complete change in energy as soon as I stepped foot onto the property.

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Have you ever seen such an ornate elevator button?
Inside the Royal Pool Villa at The Royal Pita Maha in Ubud, Bali
Inside the Royal Pool Villa at The Royal Pita Maha in Ubud, Bali

Exploring the Royal Pita Maha in Ubud, Bali

Rock-formation-Royal-Pita-Maha
Take a walk through the resort and you’ll find this rock formation along the Ayung River.

Royal-Pita-Maha-viewsBali is renowned for its beaches and holy grail surf spots, but Ubud is surrounded by forests, mountains and rivers. The Royal Pita Maha was constructed with the natural habitat in mind so don’t be surprised when you see farmers harvesting the rice paddies above your personal infinity pool or when you find geckos and giant katydids in your garden and walkways.

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Walk to the bottom of the resort and you’ll find the outdoor yoga and meditation compound

No matter the length of your stay, you’ll probably find yourself spending most of your time walking around the property. There are plenty of walkways that lead you to the outdoor yoga studio, self-sustaining organic farm, restaurants, or one of the several Balinese statues found all across the resort. Don’t forget to take a dip in the Holy Spring Water Pool, which is believed to heal the mind, spirit and bodily ailments.

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One of the many Balinese statues you’ll see on the property
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Greeters at the Holy Spring Water Pool
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Cleanse your mind, body and spirit at the Holy Pool

Dining at The Royal Pita Maha in Ubud, Bali

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The fruit is unbelievable in Bali! Make sure to pick up a few pieces for the day ahead.

Even if you have plans to venture out into Ubud for your meals, you must absolutely have breakfast at the Ayung Valley Restaurant. Traditional Indonesian and other global dishes are served alongside fresh fruits and juices with spectacular views. You definitely won’t want to miss having your morning coffee with a bird’s eye view of the resort and forest below.

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Royal-Pita-Maha-views
The views with breakfast are absolutely breathtaking.

There really aren’t enough words — or photos — to show how amazing the island of Bali truly is. A single week is nowhere close to the appropriate amount of time to spend exploring this magical island. It really was a life-altering trip and I believe my stay at The Royal Pita Maha had a lot to do with it. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to visit and looking forward to planning a return visit. For more information, visit http://www.royalpitamaha-bali.com.

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