One of the challenges of selling adventure, nature, and expedition
travel is that the territory covers the world. The opportunities
and destinations seem almost endless -- whitewater rafting in
Idaho, cruise excursions on the Amazon, horseback expeditions in
Mongolia, bicycle tours in Tuscany, nature tours of Panama, safaris
to East Africa, sea kayaking in British Columbia. The list goes on
and on. How can any agent expect to keep up with the product and
make reliable recommendations to clients?
One way, of course, is to focus on suppliers whom agents know to
be trustworthy and rewarding. Another is to read voluminously to
stay abreast of trends and new destinations. Another, to attend
seminars and product briefings regularly.
The following roundup of destinations and sample packages
provides just a glimpse of the many sales opportunities in this
burgeoning travel niche for the upcoming year. Except where
indicated otherwise, commissions for the packages detailed below
start at 10% and prices are per person, based on double
Reefs, rain forests and ruins -- these are the calling cards of
the tiny Central American nation of Belize. Belize is best known by
divers who for years have flocked here to explore the underwater
riches of its barrier reef -- the longest in the Western
Hemisphere. The 185-mile-long reef creates a lagoon that provides
protected waters for snorkelers, and the area's many tiny islands
cater to divers and snorkelers alike.
In recent years Belize has gained popularity as a destination
for nature lovers and for those intrigued by ancient Maya culture.
Among highlights for these travelers is the Cockscomb Basin
Wildlife Sanctuary, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the
Xunantunich Mayan Ruins, and Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.
Sample package: Clients who prefer their adventure on the softer
side, might consider a Belize/Barrier Reef cruise with American
Canadian Caribbean Line of Warren, R.I. New for 2000 is a seven-day
itinerary aboard the 84-passenger Niagara Prince, a shallow draft
vessel with a bow ramp that gives passengers easy access to remote
beaches. The cruise visits a number of the more than 200 small
islands and atolls on Belize's Caribbean coast and includes
snorkeling and glass-bottom boat tours of the Great Barrier Reef
and a trip by skiff to a bird rookery teeming with frigates and
Price: From $1,050 to $1,540. Departures: Feb. 25; March 3, 10,
17 and 24.
Call: (800) 556-7450
If there is one country that is associated with ecotourism,
adventure travel and nature tourism more than any other, it is
Costa Rica. The country is a leader in environmental protection,
and its tremendous natural assets combined with its proximity to
the U.S. make it a consistent top seller in this travel niche.
This year as many as 1 million visitors are expected to sample
Costa Rica's travel product. They are drawn to Costa Rica in large
measure by the natural diversity that makes the country so rich in
ecological habitats and provides travelers with a wide variety of
experiences in a relatively small area. Rain forests, cloud
forests, mangrove swamps, deciduous dry forests, coral reefs,
active volcanoes, palm-fringed beaches -- these are among the many
environs that travelers can explore during a short stay in Costa
Rica, and the country's naturalist guides provide deft
Suppliers continue to open up new opportunities for visitors,
especially for active vacationers. White-water rafting on the
rivers that tumble off Costa Rica's mountains and sportfishing on
the Caribbean coast were two of the original adventures offered
here. Today, outfitters also offer horseback riding excursions, sea
kayaking, mountain biking, scuba diving, windsurfing and more.
Sample package: For the upcoming season Holbrook Travel of
Gainesville, Fla., has introduced a nine-night Adventure in Costa
Rica itinerary. Highlights include rafting on the Pacuare River and
overnight river camping, full-day excursions to Corcovado National
Park and Cano Island, a full-day biking tour, hiking and an Arenal
Volcano tour and a float trip on the Corobici River.
Price: $1,713, including all meals, private guide, tours and
activities and internal flights, through April 30. Departures:
Call: (800) 858-0999
This relatively unspoiled arid island has long been high on the
list of destinations favored by scuba divers. Bonaire is surrounded
by fringe reefs and an underwater drop-off begins just a few dozen
yards off-shore, and divers are treated to spectacular sights such
as large yellow and purple tube sponges. Lovers of natural beauty
shore-side also find Bonaire a rewarding destination. Of special
interest are its salt flats, an adjacent breeding area for pink
flamingoes and a wildlife sanctuary that has caverns and secluded
coves and hosts 130 species of birds.
Fortunately, Bonaire has taken measures to protect its natural
treasures both on land and underwater, establishing the 13,500-acre
Washington-Slagbaai National Park in 1969 and the Bonaire Marine
Park in 1979. Moreover, local suppliers cater to divers and
snorkelers as well as to those interested in bird watching, biking,
kayaking, fishing, exploring by jeep and other adventures.
Sample package: The dive shop at Sand Dollar Condominium Resort
has put together a Bonaire Adventure Package that incorporates six
days of activities. They include a guided kayak tour of Bonaire's
mangroves, a guided nature tour of Washington Slagbaai Park, a
guided snorkel tour preceded by a slide presentation, a bike tour
and a day of scuba diving (introductory course for non-divers or a
shore dive and boat dive for certified divers). The package may be
booked in conjunction with a stay at Sand Dollar or as an add-on to
other Bonaire vacations.
Price: $250, including most equipment. A $10 donation to the
Bonaire Marine Park, a $5 park entrance fee and a 10% service
charge are extra. Departures: Daily.
Call: (800) 288-4773.
St. Maarten/St. Martin
Sophisticated casino gambling, duty-free shopping and great
beaches are the attributes usually associated with this two-nation
island. But like other Caribbean destinations, St. Maarten/St.
Martin has plenty to offer travelers who want to enrich their
island vacation with a bit of learning about the area's natural
history and culture and a dash of outdoor adventure.
For example, local operators offer guided off-road mountain
biking trips and horseback riding regularly and there are plenty of
opportunities for snorkeling and scuba, including instruction for
first-timers. Deep-sea fishing is also an option, and charters are
available on a half-day or full-day basis. For a full soft
adventure experience, two local firms have teamed up to offer a
vacation that integrates elements of nature and cultural tourism
into a multi-sport itinerary.
Sample package: A seven-day Soft Adventure Package is offered by
Tri-Sport, a sports center on the Dutch side of the island, and
A.T.S., a destination management company on the French side. The
itinerary incorporates kayaking in the Caribbean's largest lagoon,
horseback riding, guided hiking through the Lottery Farm estate,
biking, snorkeling and a sailing regatta aboard 12-meter boats.
Also included are museum visits, time for shopping on Philipsburg's
Front Street and a visit by bike to Hope Estate archaeological
site. Activities also can be booked individually.
Price: From $375, including all transfers, guides for each
activity, entrance fees, 12-meter regatta, five lunches and use of
kayaks, horses, bikes and snorkeling gear. Departures: On request.
Commission: Prices are net.
Call: (011) 5995-54384.
"When you talk about adventure travel in South America the
classic example is going to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail. That's
one of the most, if not THE most, recognized adventure trips in
South America. It's magical," says Daniel Taramona, president of
Tara Tours, a Miami-based firm that specializes in travel to
Central and South America.
A trip to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail offers a cultural
experience involving considerable hiking or trekking in a striking
natural setting. The highlight, of course, is Machu Picchu, where
remains of the temples, palaces, staircases and towers of this
"Lost City of the Incas" occupy steep Andean mountainsides. En
route to Machu Picchu, hikers traverse mountain passes more than
13,000 feet above sea level and visit several lesser-known Inca
ruins. Adventure programs that incorporate the Inca Trail and Machu
Picchu are suited for clients who are prepared to hike about six
hours daily over hilly terrain.
Sample package: Tara Tours operates an eight-night program
called the Inka Trail that includes four days of trekking (about 26
miles) and camping assisted by a team of helpers who carry gear and
set up camp. The itinerary also includes a one-night hotel stay in
Lima, three nights in Cuzco, sightseeing in Cuzco, a full day of
guided explorations of Machu Picchu and return trip by train from
Machu Picchu to Cuzco.
Price: $1,599, including air travel from Miami, meals while
camping, ground transfers, air transfers between Lima and Cuzco.
Departures: Sundays, April to November.
Call: (800) 327-0080
Even for well-heeled travelers, Africa represents the ultimate
destination and safaris to East Africa, the ultimate adventure.
Here, visitors are treated to remote wilderness experiences and
wildlife viewing that is unsurpassed. On safari, travelers can
expect to see big game such as lions, zebra, gazelle, and
wildebeest roaming free in their native habitats. As Eric Gordon,
chief executive officer of Park East Tours in New York says, "On
safari, you see the way nature lives. The cheetah wakes up in the
morning and has to go out and hunt for food. You're the guest.
You're in the cage, and they run wild."
Travel sales to East Africa have been slow this year in the wake
of the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi last year and
terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens in Uganda earlier this year.
While some operators are simply riding out the slump others,
including Big Five Tours & Expeditions in Stuart, Fla., are
seeking to stimulate sales by offering price leaders that provide
Sample package: Big Five Tours & Expeditions is promoting an
11-day Living Free Safari by offering half-price air-inclusive
rates for travel companions. The tour, offered in conjunction with
Serena Lodges & Hotels, incorporates visits to Kenya's top game
parks, including Mount Kenya, Samburu, Lake Nakuru and the Masai
Price: $3,295 for the first traveler and $1,648 for the second,
including air from New York, 20 meals and guaranteed window
seating. Departures: Monthly or bimonthly, through Dec. 3 and from
Jan. 18 to April 28. Commission: 12%.
Call: (800) 345-BIG5.
While China is more often thought of as a destination for
cultural travel than for adventure or nature tourism, it should
hardly come as a surprise that a country of such size and diversity
offers plentiful opportunities for all three. Over the years,
operators have offered expeditions by horseback that explore the
high plateaus of eastern Tibet, white-water rafting trips on
China's rivers and bike tours of the country.
Among opportunities for adventure, natural history and
expedition travel in China in the upcoming year is a 14-day biking
trip by Backroads in Berkeley, Calif. Also, Clipper Cruise Line in
St. Louis has created two itineraries for its new 120-passenger
Clipper Odyssey that combine China, Korea and Japan; they include a
14-night Trade Routes of the Orient and a 15-night Ancient
Treasures of the Orient.
A classic month-long China expedition offered next year by
Wilderness Travel in Berkeley, Calif., follows in the footsteps of
Marco Polo on the Silk Route. The overland journey crosses the
Taklamakan Desert by four-wheel-drive vehicle and takes in
highlights such as Xian, Lake Koko Nor, the Magao Grottoes, Turfan
and Kashgar before ending in Islamabad.
Sample package: Mountain Travel*Sobek is offering a 20-day Focus
on Ethnic China photo expedition designed for especially
adventuresome travel photographers. The exploratory trip spotlights
Guizhou Province, where travelers will have the opportunity to
photograph the spring festivals of the Miao, who are practitioners
of shamanism and animism and one of the province's largest ethnic
groups. The trip, which will be led by professional photographer
Nevada Wier, also will visit other festivals, markets and tribal
groups. The operator notes that accommodations on the trip are
"rustic at best."
Price: $3,990 per person, including photo seminar, ground
transportation, sightseeing and most meals; internal air is extra.
Departures: Feb. 4.
Call: (888) 687-6235
The Southeast Asian destination of Thailand lends itself to
cultural tourism that incorporates elements of soft adventure and
nature travel. Remote hill tribes in northern Thailand, ornate
temples, ancient cities, Buddhist traditions and the wildlife and
jungles of Khao Yai National Park are among the many highlights
here. Clients have a choice of trips that incorporates elephant
treks, easy day hikes in Thailand's rain forests, snorkeling, and
even biking. Among suppliers that offer cultural soft adventure
trips to Thailand are Asia Transpacific Journeys of Boulder, Colo.,
and Backroads and Wilderness Travel, both in Berkeley, Calif.
For scuba divers, snorkelers and other water lovers, it is
Thailand's long coastline that attracts attention. Especially
favored is the Andaman Sea on Thailand's west coast where dozens of
islands, clear waters, balmy temperatures, rich marine life and
dramatic underwater topography make for rewarding adventures.
Highlights here include the Similan Islands, a group of nine nearly
uninhabited islands that have been designated a marine national
park. Also of interest is the region's traditional fishing culture,
hints of Chinese and Portuguese influences left behind by traders
long ago and beautiful beaches.
Sample package: Every winter Star Clippers of Coral Gables,
Fla., repositions its 170-passenger Star Flyer, a clipper ship that
carries 36,000 square feet of sail, to Thailand's Andaman Sea. Here
the vessel sails roundtrip out of Phuket on two seven-night
itineraries that take it to various island clusters, focusing on
remote areas, small villages and national parks, and into the
waters of Malaysia.
Price: From $1,345, including snorkeling excursions, waterskiing
and use of windsurfers, Sunfish and Lasers. Scuba dive excursions
and resort dive courses are extra. Departures: About four times
monthly, November through March.
Call: (800) 442-0551.A Taste of Adventure
Clients interested in sampling activities often featured in
adventure vacations without committing themselves to a full-blown
adventure experience might consider a stay at Swept Away Negril
during the month of June. That's when the inclusive Jamaica resort
offers Adventure Month, one of a series of specialty months.
During Swept Away's Adventure Month, the resort expands its
lineup of activities to include off-property mountain biking tours
that explore Negril's countryside, sunset hikes led by a Jamaican
guide, kayak lessons, and excursions. The active excursions are
covered by the inclusive rate of Swept Away Negril, which caters to
travelers ages 18 and older.
For information or reservations, call (800) 545-7937.