Zegrahm 15-night tour explores the Philippines


SEATTLE -- Zegrahm Expeditions is offering a 15-night trip featuring an exploration of the Philippines.

Travelers joining the Islands of Diversity tour will visit Singapore and Manado, Indonesia, before boarding the 335-foot expedition vessel Clipper Odyssey, which will take them to scheduled and spontaneous stops throughout the Philippines.

The trip departs Los Angeles on March 31.

The Clipper Odyssey's amenities include 62 oceanview cabins with private facilities, a library, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, a jogging track, a salon, a boutique and snorkeling and scuba diving facilities.

The Islands of Diversity tour takes travelers to snorkeling and scuba-diving spots. The Clipper Odyssey also carries a fleet of Zodiacs enabling passengers to venture to ideal diving and snorkeling spots. "We aim to offer clients the most exposure to natural wildlife in the area," said Diane Mapes, Zegrahm's marketing manager.

"We make unscheduled stops. Expedition team leaders will go out and scout an area if it looks beautiful and make sure it has good landing conditions before loading the passengers onto Zodiacs."

One excursion to the Philippines' Luzon island will offer passengers the opportunity to swim with whale sharks, which are prominent in the waters there, according to Mapes.

The whale shark is known to reside in the waters off the island of Luzon. "The sharks are rare, and I've heard them referred to as the 'Holy Grail' of divers because it is such an incredible experience to see one. People were blown away by it the last time we went," she said.

Other stops will include Bunaken Island, a National Marine Park; the rain forests and rice fields of Mindanao, the Philippines' second-largest island; Bislig Bay, a prime spot for bird-watching; Bucas Grande; Cagayan de Oro, and Baclayon, home of some of the oldest churches in the Philippines.

Expedition leaders will be joined by a lecture team that will educate passengers on bird life, tribal cultures, marine life and history of the area.

The expedition team for this trip will include Jack Grove, marine biologist, photographer and co-founder of Zegrahm Expeditions; Peter Harrison, ornithologist and co-founder; Shirley Metz, explorer, photographer and co-founder, and Kim Saunders, an expert on Philippines culture.

"We have done two trips to the Philippines before, and there is an incredible diversity of cultures, with tribes that are still in existence near big bustling cities.

"The scenic wonders of this area, including volcanic islands, rain forests and undersea scenery with colorful fish and hundreds of species of coral are a nice mix," Mapes said.

Land-only prices start at $7,990 per person.

Prevoyage extensions to Torajaland on Indonesia's island of Sulawesi are available.

For more details, call (800) 628-8747; e-mail [email protected], or visit the Web site at www.zeco.com.

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