Centennial Celebrations & VIP Access in Central America

August 1, 2013

In February 2014, join us for a 15-day adventure in Central America. At the crossroads of two continents, this expedition reveals the wonders of five countries, including Belize, Honduras, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama, and is ideally timed during the centennial year of the Panama Canal.

We are thrilled to announce that in honor of the 100-year anniversary of these historic locks, we have just enhanced this already-fascinating itinerary with a VIP tour of the five billion dollar Panama Canal expansion project that began a decade ago and is scheduled to be completed in 2015. You will go behind the scenes at the Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center to observe the four billion cubic meters of structural concrete that is being poured into the ditches that comprise the new set of locks from a vantage point rarely visited by the public, plus meet one of the authorities currently working on the expansion project.

In addition to your VIP tour and a daylight transit of the Panama Canal, additional highlights of this itinerary include:
  • Searching for Central America’s incredible diversity of wildlife during Zodiac cruises and nature walks—over 750 species of birds have been recorded in Costa Rica alone;
  • Meeting the Kuna Indians of San Blas and the Emberá Indians of the Darién who proudly preserve their cultural heritage; and
  • Snorkeling nearly every day, from Belize’s Half Moon Caye to one of the world’s largest marine parks in Coiba, Panama.

For more information, visit our trip page.

Spring Break in the Land of the Sami People

June 19, 2013

Looking for an interesting way to spend spring break (no run-of-the-mill Caribbean cruise or all-inclusive resort for this family!) that would inspire and educate their two middle school-aged children, Tobias and Kristin W. contacted our Private Travel team to plan a locally-hosted trip to Northern Norway’s Lapland region. The team went straight to work planning the perfect expedition for this adventurous young family. First, they secured one of Zegrahm’s ground operators as the family’s personal guide. Next, they arranged a mix of activities that would appeal to kids and parents alike. Here’s a peek at their personalized itinerary:

  • A night in Kirkenes at the Snowhotel with a private dog-sledding lesson and tour to explore this Arctic wonderland.
  • Snow mobiling through scenic wilderness for an overnight at a cozy backcountry lodge.
  • A fjords cruise to stay at a charming guesthouse to view the northern lights.
  • Three full days with Sven Engholm, an 11-time winner of Europe’s longest dog sled race and the family’s guide for immersing themselves in the Sami way of life, including meeting a reindeer herd and dog sledding.
  • An overnight stay with a Sami family in a traditional lavvu; this communal tent made of reindeer hide is the base of operations for a reindeer-drawn sleigh and ski excursion.

To learn more, contact our Private Travel team at privatetravel@zegrahm.com.

South Georgia Restoration Project: UPDATE

June 13, 2013

As a follow-up to our October 2012 post about Zegrahm cofounder Peter Harrison’s recognition from Princess Anne for the contributions from many Zegrahm travelers to the rat eradication project on South Georgia, we just received an exciting update from the South Georgia Heritage Trust. “Team Rat” just completed their second season of work in South Georgia and are now at home in the United Kingdom preparing for their third, and hopefully final, season of the project. Scientists estimate that once all of the rats and mice are removed from South Georgia, native birds will be saved from extinction and the island's bird population will increase by 100 million. Here is a full report of their progress: Newsletter of the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project.
 

Thanks again to Peter Harrison and our travelers for helping to make this project possible. Stay tuned for more updates as we receive them. 

The Northern Lights

June 4, 2013 | Tags: Arctic, Lapland, Northern Lights

Named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) have inspired legends, myths, and superstitions for millennia. Like the magnetic fields that cause them, the beliefs surrounding these ghostly lights are polarized between positive and negative associations—as precursors of royal births on one hand, and of war and famine on the other.

The various people inhabiting Lapland had their own divergent theories: the Sami feared and respected the aurora, and placed auroral symbols on their magic drums, believing that the Northern Lights had supernatural powers to resolve conflicts; Finnish legends refer to mythical firefoxes, brushing up sparks with their tails; and in Norse mythology, some attributed the aurora to reflections from the shields of the Valkyries, warlike women chosen by Odin to guide fallen warriors to Valhalla, while others believed their glow came from the beautiful Viking goddess Freja, riding horseback.

It was not until the 1950s that the mystery of the Northern Lights could be explained by scientists. When an excess of charged particles from the Sun, often caused by solar flares, streams into Earth’s atmosphere, the particles are attracted to Earth’s magnetic poles, where they collide with gas particles that then emit light, causing a glow high in the atmosphere. Auroral displays appear in many colors; although pale green and pink are the most common, shades of red, yellow, blue, and violet have been reported. Variations in color are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains, or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

Though sightings are never guaranteed, the appearance of Northern Lights has been predicted to reach an 11-year peak during the winter of 2012-13. Don’t miss your chance to witness one of nature’s most awe-inspiring events.

 

Rare Birds Ahoy

May 6, 2013

During a series of voyages led by Zegrahm directors Peter Harrison and Jonathan Rossouw, Zegrahm travelers have once again been enjoying some exciting birding in the southwest Pacific. The Zegrahm team, traveling aboard the Clipper Odyssey, recently visited Papua New Guinea as well as the Solomon and Vanuatu islands.
 
Past Zegrahm travelers will be well aware of the region’s commoner seabirds: brown and red-footed boobies, plus the hoards of brown and black noddies that follow the schools of predatory bonito as they herd baitfish before them to create massed feeding frenzies. Searching carefully amongst the mobs of noddies, one of the least-known and most enigmatic of all seabirds, the Heinroth’s shearwater can sometimes be found. Described as recently as 1919, the breeding grounds of this near-mythical species still remain a mystery and only a handful of photographs have ever been taken. During recent research in the area by Peter Harrison in preparation for his forthcoming publication (A Handbook to the Seabirds of the World), several thousand images of this rarely observed shearwater were taken.
 
Rarer still, however, is the Vanuatu petrel, a lone individual of which crossed in front of the vessel’s bow on the recent Faces of Melanesia voyage. The first at-sea encounter with this species was by Peter and Jonathan north of Pentecost Island on an earlier Zegrahm voyage in 2010, where the first ever at-sea images were also taken.
 
Incredulously, there are still new seabirds to be discovered in this region. Following the Zegrahm Faces of Melanesia voyage in March of this year, Jonathan and Peter headed a team of international ornithologists on an eight-day expedition to seas south of Noumea, New Caledonia. Their hope was to find and photograph a mysterious, undescribed species of storm-petrel that was first photographed in 2008. Superficially resembling the recently rediscovered New Zealand storm-petrel, the "New Caledonia" storm-petrel is larger, with a different underwing pattern, but has the same striking white belly and streaked underparts. Over the eight-day expedition period, 16 chum slicks were deployed to entice the as-yet undescribed bird within range of the same powerful, air-operated net guns that successfully caught the recently discovered Pincoya storm-petrel in seas off Chile in 2011. Jonathan was the expedition’s dedicated net-gun operator and on one occasion came within inches of capturing the undescribed bird. In total, the expedition encountered the mysterious storm-petrel on 21 occasions, but failed to capture one. A follow-up expedition is now being planned, with chum recipes and net-gun tactics refined to better match their quarry’s speed and feeding traits. The near-capture of the mysterious storm-petrel has prompted the French government to perhaps consider lending logistical support for next year’s planned follow-up attempt.
 
In the meantime, Zegrahm travelers have now turned north and are in seas off New Britain, where Jonathan is leading the search for another of the world’s rarest seabirds, the Beck’s petrel. It was in this area, in 2010, off Cape St. George, that a Beck’s petrel was discovered on the deck of the Clipper Odyssey. This was the first time that a live Beck’s petrel has ever been held in the hand. In addition to Beck’s petrel, the Zegrahm birders are also enjoying fine views of Gould’s, Tahiti, and collared petrels.
 
Stay tuned for further updates from the Zegrahm team!
 
Brown Booby
 
Black and Brown Noddies
 
Red-Footed Booby
 
Heinroth's Shearwater
 
Heinroth's Shearwater
 
Heinroth's Shearwater
 
"New Caledonia" Storm-Petrel
 
Beck's Petrel
 
Beck's Petrel
 
Gould's Petrel
 
Tahiti Petrel
 
 
Tahiti Petrel
 
Collared Petrel
 
Collared Petrel