Suriname latest trek for Mountain Travel Sobek

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EL CERRITO, Calif. -- Mountain Travel Sobek expanded its range of Latin American destinations to nine for 2003, with the addition of a program to tiny Suriname on the northern coast of South America.

The adventure-travel company, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, notes several reasons why Central and South America keeps growing.

"The region south of our border is perceived to be safe, and, indeed, is so," said Robyn Gorman, director of marketing for Mountain Travel Sobek.

With the Suriname program, the company is adding to its wildlife and natural history/cultural encounters category.

"How could we resist a country whose Central Suriname Reserve -- a Unesco World Heritage site -- is the largest and most pristine tropical reserve in the world?" Gorman said.

Three departures -- March 20, Aug. 28 and Oct. 16 -- are scheduled for the eight-night tours, priced at $2,150 per person for eight to 14 members; costs include accommodations in lodges, two hotel nights and one night in a rainforest hammock camp.

Clients on a Mountain Travel Sobek trip to Suriname might see the ocelot, one of seven species of cats found in Suriname. Starting in the capital of Paramaribo, activities will include jungle hikes and river floats by motorized dugout canoe to spot giant otters, capuchin monkeys and scarlet macaws -- one of the more than 400 species of birds in the region.

Suriname also features cultural attractions; in the Awara'an region, participants will visit communities of the Saramaccans people, hiking to examine medicinal plants of the rain forest and enjoying an evening dance and music performance.

Mountain Travel Sobek's other additions for Central and South America in 2003 include:

• River rafting and cultural encounters are features of the new, seven-night Rio Upano program in Ecuador.

Departures are set for December and January, and again in December 2003 and January 2004; costs start at $1,890.

The Rio Upano -- one of the headwaters of the Amazon -provides elements for a classic river adventure, including a variety of birdlife, cultural encounters, rapids and waterfalls.

Tours are accompanied by a local guide, who instructs guests on the culture of the native Shuar people inhabiting riverside villages along the route.

• For 2003, the company will offer 32 departures of its 10-night Galapagos Islands and Ecuador program throughout the year, except September.

The centerpiece of the itinerary is the seven-night Galapagos cruise, which is operated with seven yachts, chartered by the company, accommodating eight to 16 passengers.

"Our passengers like the small-yacht experience," said Gorman, "for it gives them a chance not only to anchor off small coves and sea kayak, swim, snorkel and take naturalist-guided walks, but to enjoy air-conditioned cabins with private bath and showers."

Priced from $3,395 per person, double, the cruises, Gorman said, are particularly suited to and popular with families and groups of friends.

• In Central America, the firm offers the Kayaking the San Blas Islands of Panama tour.

Participants fly from Panama City to remote Tigre Island, where they board sea kayaks for a week of paddling, snorkeling, visiting Kuna villages and camping on unhabited beaches.

Previous kayaking experience is highly recommended.

These trips operate in December and January; the last departure this year is Dec. 27. Prices start at $2,190, plus $300 for charter flights.

For more information, call (888) 687-6235 or visit www.mtsobek.com.

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