The Magnificence of Iguazu Falls

Posted on Monday, November 13, 2017

At four times the width of Niagara Falls, the magnificence of Iguazu Falls is comprised of 275 individual waterfalls all ranging in height between two-hundred and two-hundred sixty-nine feet. The tallest of all the waterfalls, which span almost two miles in an enormous breve, is what’s normally coined by the locals as Devil’s Throat. Natives tell of an interesting myth behind this marvelous natural wonder located in the tri-border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay: A God masquerading as a boy asked the parents of a beautiful human girl for her hand in marriage. Unbeknownst to the God, the girl was already in love with another boy and when she heard her marriage was arranged, she ran away with her lover. Upon learning of the betrayal, the God sliced the Iguazu River causing the canoe carrying Naipí and Tarobá to fall into the never-ending abyss.

In 1897, a Brazilian officer by the name of Edmundo de Berros proposed the creation of a National Park near the falls. Once the boundaries of the falls were clear as being part of both Argentina and Brazil, two national parks were created - Iguazu National Park in Argentina and Iguacu National Park in Brazil, which UNESCO declared World Heritage Sites in 1986.

Climate

Unlike particular countries or cities, which have favorable weather conditions during specific times of the year, the climate at the falls is consistently hot and humid. The falls aren’t too far from the equator making them virtually accessible for travel any time. The heaviest rain occurs during the months of December, January, and February, which is summertime in the southern hemisphere. This time frame brings the most heat and humidity. Temperatures can rise above ninety degrees Fahrenheit.

Best Time to Travel

When traveling to the falls you may want to consider visiting when water levels are at their highest, but you’ve got to be willing to get a little wet as precipitation can be a bit high. The best time to see the falls at its most impressive state is during December, January, and February. Going for a boat ride and getting wet with all the water is perhaps one of the most adrenaline-charged things to do during this time frame. But if you prefer less water and brighter blue skies, you can visit during the months of March, April, August, and September. The skies during these months are clearer, but the water level is lower, but don’t fret... This would provide you with the transition between water-filled falls and less-filled with the chance of catching all the rock formations that normally can’t be seen due to the high levels of water.

Getting Here

The most popular way to get here is either through Argentina or Brazil. However, if you decide to take the Brazil route, you must know a Visa will be required. Argentina on the other hand doesn’t require a Visa and it contains the most falls. US Passport holders will undoubtedly need a Visa to enter Brazil. If you’re unable to personally visit the Consulate General of Brazil in Miami, third party Services are available online, but be warned you would need to relinquish your passport to these companies. In order for third party online visa companies to provide their services, which consists of providing the necessary paperwork consulates will need to process your request, passports will be required. Needless to say, it would be prudent to do the necessary research in searching for the right company. Another route to take is booking an escorted South America tour with reputable tour operators like Globus, Trafalgar, or Tauck who work hand in hand with Visa Processing Services for US Citizens who require entry Visas to countries like Brazil.

Do and See

There's lots to do and see as the falls are a destination in itself, which means the only thing you’ll want to consider is when you’ll want to go as time of year calls for different things… The rainy season brings more water for the falls, which means the experience will be all the more impressive. Taking a boat ride during the rainy season will bring that much more exhilaration to your experience. This time of year also brings in more crowds from all over the world, especially locals vacationing from Argentina and Brazil in order to see the falls, which will be at their peak. Another thing to consider is the time of day to visit the falls. The most spectacular part of the falls is hands down Devil’s Throat! The best time to visit Devil’s Throat is first thing in the morning, but it also means looking into the sun as you look out over Devil’s Throat. However, it’s also when there will be less crowds gathering. The best time for picture-taking is during the late afternoon when the sun is at your back. Navigating the upper and lower trails of the falls is best done in the morning as the sun lights up the falls while rising from the Brazilian side.

Brazil: Home To The World's Largest Wetland

Posted on Sunday, November 05, 2017

At a time when Rio's pollution is eroding the country's image, Brazil is also home to the world's largest wetland area, a wildlife andecotourism paradise.Sail down the Paraguay River through the Pantanal and visit with 720 species of birds, 89 kinds of mammals, 230 varieties of fish, 52 types of reptiles and diverse flora.Spot the crocodiles and alligators in their natural habitat. Start in Port Manga and board a safari vehicle for a journey crossing the heart of the Pantanal. See the capybaras, giant otters, caimans,herons, macaws and dozens of other species along the way.Visit with the Brazilian Cowboys and learn about their way of life navigating cattle drives through the wetlands.

 

The main gateway for the Pantanal is Corumba, the areas hub for arts and culture.Bonito is the most popular destination for ecotourism in Brazil. High-end lodgings such as the Zagaia Eco Resort would be a great base to explore Bonito's rivers, lakes, waterfalls, caves and grottos, but access to it is by several weekly flights into Bonito Airport.Bonito's most popular attraction is its caverns.

July and August are popular months for jaguar spotting safaris.A number of great dining opportunities are available in Bonito, with Casa do Joa being on top of the "must eat here" list.

Near-by the Recanto Ecologico Rio da Prata offers an opportunity to snorkel in crystal-clear waters. Hiking at the Estancia Mimosa Private Reserve is another opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors this part of Brazil has to offer; a far cry from the polluted Rio we hear about from the media.

Panama Canal, A Modern Day Engineering Marvel

Posted on Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Panama is steeped in history – from early Inca traders and Spanish conquistadors, to the Panama Canal, a modern-day engineering marvel. Completed in 1914, almost 50 miles long and one of the most complex engineering projects ever undertaken, your journey across the Isthmus of Panama takes you through the Gaillard Cut, carved through the Continental Divide. Take a partial transit cruise on the Pacific Queen for a once-in-a lifetime chance to view this marvel up close and learn all about its construction and importance in world trade. Pass through the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks, and learn about the canal expansion project. It’s an unforgettable journey between the seas.  Learn more about this unique destination on our Discover Panama: The Land Between the Seas vacation.

We enter the canal at the north end of the Gailard cut, where the Chagres River flows into the canal. The Gaillard Cut (also known as Culebra Cut because its curves resemble a snake) is one of the main points of interest for visitors because it was carved through the Continental Divide and this section of the Canal is full of history and geological value. The Pacific Queen will travel the Cut's 13.7 kilometers on the way to The Pedro Miguel Locks. As you transit the Cut you will be able to appreciate the continuous maintenance that this area requires, because it is very susceptible to landslides. In this area you will also be able to observe the work in process for the Panama Canal expansion project.

Before reaching the Pedro Miguel Locks at the southern end of the Cut, you will be able to view the new Centennial Bridge which crosses over the Canal. Next, the Pacific Queen will enter Pedro Miguel Locks, which is one of the two sets of locks on the Pacific side, and here the vessel is lowered 9 meters in one step. You will then enter Miraflores Lake, which is a small artificial body of fresh water that separates Pedro Miguel from Miraflores Locks, the latter being the final set of locks before reaching the Pacific Ocean. At Miraflores Locks the vessel is lowered 18 meters in two distinct steps.

Once in the Pacific Ocean the vessel will sail to the beautiful Flamenco Marina where passengers disembark. On the way to Flamenco, you will pass under the Bridge of the Americas, and later, you will be able to admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City's splendorous skyline.

Exploring Quito

Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The city of Quito is often overlooked by travelers. It’s a shame really as it’s a beautiful area and often gets a bad reputation because of crime. Most crime is theft and pick-pocketing, but if you stay in the touristy areas and not flash any valuables you should be fine. Here are some of the things that you can see in Quito.

 

Inside Of Old Town

The majestic, historic and beautiful Old Town is where you can find many small cafes and authentic Ecuadorian restaurants for breakfast. Here you can also see the magnificent Iglesia de San Francisco, which is the city's oldest church. While the outside is beautiful with it’s stunning architecture, make sure to go inside as well. Spend some time walking around and visit the adjoined museum, to soak up the history and the significance of this church to Quito. Another church only a few minutes away, La Compania de Jesus, is a Jesuit church that is famous for it's baroque and Moorish architecture and influence. You can easily spend hours walking around the church and the complex without getting bored. Then, walk a little bit to Casa Museo Maria Augusta Urrutia, which is a mansion that Pope John Paul II visited, and has some beautiful architecture and an interesting history.  The Plaza de la Independencia is the city's main square and biggest tourist attraction. This area is safe during the day, but at night, as with many parts of Quito, it is unwise and ill advised to venture too far without a big group or a local. However, by day, this plaza is incredibly beautiful and historic, and not to be missed. There are many cafes nearby with authentic Ecuadorian snacks that are delicious and relatively cheap. While in the plaza, you can enter the Teatro Nacional Sucre and walk around and, if you have time, you can go for a show. This is Quito's oldest and most historic theater and has amazing performances.

 

Outside Of Old Town

El Panecillo, which is about 10 minutes outside of Old Town, is up a large hill. Here, you can see a huge statue of the winged virgin and you will have amazing views of Old Town and Quito. This is one of the best, if not THE best, vantage point in Quito. Parque El Ejido, which is located in the newer part of Quito, sometimes has local vendors selling Ecuadorian clothing, crafts and souvenirs. Nearby, there is also a big artisan market called Mariscal Artisans Market where you can find a lot local items. Next, you can visit the country's biggest and most extensive museum, Museo Nacional de Banco Central del Ecuador. You can spend hours upon hours exploring the museum and it’s many exhibits. Nearby there is Plaza Foch, which is an iconic Quito landmark where you can eat at an open restaurant. Located in the heart of Mariscal, Plaza Foch is a huge tourist attraction and has many great restaurants, shops and places to observe local culture.

Tags: Quito

Sustainability Through Travel

Posted on Monday, June 26, 2017

Sustainability Through Travel

Sustainability Through Travel - Think about that for a moment... What better way to make our world more sustainable than through the help of travel tour operators? Operators such as Cosmos, Gate 1, Globus, Insight, Tauck, Trafalgar... The list goes on and on with operators such as these that have itineraries spanning the world; a world in such need of sustainability! Possibly the best example of Sustainable Tourism is what G Adventures has been doing! The story of Bruce Poon Tip and what he has done not to mention still doing to make our world a better place through G Adventures is nothing short of outstanding in terms of inspirational! His book (LOOPTAIL) tells the story of how an idea born from a backpack journey through Asia turned into a company with a mission to change the world of business by way of taking 90% of the word business out of the business and replacing it with something much more viable!

I'm all for progress and I wish nothing but the best for those who's growth is beyond the norm; however, I'm also for those who don't receive a penny for said success and there are many who don't and have to leave behind generations of tradition in order to find jobs in cities only for their customs to pass away forever. Take the Inca Hiking Trail in Peru that begins in Cusco and ends in the Lost City of the Incas (Machu Picchu). This rural area that spans twenty six (26) miles, is filled with villages of people who are struggling with our modern world, and as a result, culture, language, and traditions of the Inca People will die because there will be no one left to inherit them. Most of us think of travel as traveling towards a destination, taking in the sites, experiencing the food, and holding on to those memories by way of the stamp on our pssports, photographs, & videos. What we end up missing is the "In-Between", which consists of the meaningful stuff... Some operators give proceeds of what they make from you towards the environment, whether it be by way of planting a tree or keeping oceans clean, but what about you being a part of changing someone's world by way of not only traveling through these rural areas, but by also contributing your time? This is what Bruce and his company G Adventures have done. They've incorporated a solution to the problem in all their itineraries and the best part is that you are at the forefront of that solution! You and every other traveler will play the lead as the hero helping those who can't fend for themselves.

Since 2005, Bruce in collaboration with G Adventures has worked with the local women of The Inca Trail to establish what is known as the Women's Weaving Co-Op... Thanks to G Adventures, sixty (60) local Inca women (grandmothers, mothers, and daughters) produce handmade crafts for G Adventures' visiting guests who purchase the crafts directly from these wonderful people in order for them to continue the tradition for years to come. In addition to their Co-Ops, G Adventures keeps everything ABSOLUTELY Local on every one of their trips! Whether it be in the form of eating at locally owned family restaurant or staying at a locally owned hotel, G- Adventures believes small businesses strengthen communities by way of raising the overall quality of life. This is sustainable travel at its best and it's exactly what we need from so many other tour operators with the power to make this much needed shift. It's wonderful that they're investing some of their profits into planting trees, but too much of the money collected on their trips go to massive hotel chains and expensive city restaurants; hotel chains & restaurants that stretch their hands as far as employees, which some would call giving back by way of providing employment, but that only sustains a life in the city, not whole communities.

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