Written by Ellen McIlvaine
I've been lucky enough to visit India a handful of times and I'm thrilled that we're returning to one of my favorite destinations this May—the Himalayas in Northwestern India. A treasure-trove of holy sites, time-honored traditions, and otherworldly scenery, our expedition truly captures the spirit of this area. I'm most excited about our return to Amritsar, Dharamsala, and Shimla.
Amritsar is home to the Golden Temple, an important site of pilgrimage for Sikhs. The temple itself is stunning, somehow remaining a peaceful refuge despite the constant flow of pilgrims and visitors. I’ve long thought the structure rivals that of India’s most iconic palaces, forts, and mausoleums.
Surrounded by stunning Himalayan peaks, and home to the Dali Lama, it's no surprise that Dharamsala is one of the best places in the world to observe Tibetan culture. Our Spirit of the Himalayas adventure visits His Holiness's compound, along with the Namgyal Monastery and the Nechung Monastery, both reconstructed in the late 20th century under the Tibetan Administration. I also have fond memories of momo dumplings in the Tibetan Market—traditional street food, and completely delicious!
Our last stop, Shimla, is the perfect place to reflect on our journey; established as the summer capital of the British Raj, this quaint city has grand colonial architecture and is surrounded by forested mountain scenery. Considered a weekend get-away by locals, we'll be staying at the luxurious Wildflower Hotel, a destination in and of itself, with its old world charm, blended with modern amenities.
Of course there will be even more to see on our Spirit of the Himalayas adventure—a city tour of bustling Delhi, the opportunity to chat with monks and students at the Tibetan Buddhist Lamayuru Monastery in Ladakh, and engaging with friendly locals. Find out more here, or call us today 800.628.8747.
Ellen at the Golden Temple
A Sikh man praying
Volunteers making chapattis
Pilgrims eating lunch
We are thrilled to announce our 2015 expedition line-up! Our founders, field directors, and program managers have crafted 39 unique adventures for the 2015 season, with itineraries spanning all seven continents. Not only are we offering 19 overland adventures and 20 small-ship cruises, we'll also be using eight vessels—Caledonian Sky, Isabela II, Island Sky, La Estrella Amazonica, Oceanic Discoverer, Sea Adventurer, Sea Spirit, and Variety Voyager.
By small ship, we are offering several new itineraries, beginning with Insider’s New Zealand: Milford Sound to Auckland, February 4 – 20. This fascinating voyage showcases the natural history and culture of both the North and South Islands, plus visits off-the-beaten-path Tiritiri Matangi Island and Waiheke Island. From February 7 – 27, our Philippines expedition will visit the most intriguing destinations within this 6,000-plus-island archipelago. Explorers will cruise up a subterranean river in St. Paul National Park; snorkel or dive in the region’s crystal clear waters; and search for over 600 species of birds, among other highlights. Then, from March 11 – 28, we will trace nearly 3,000 miles of Coastal Brazil with Buenos Aires & Montevideo. This 18-day journey offers the perfect blend of natural history and culture, from snorkeling in the clear waters of Abrolhos Marine National Park and the Ilhabela Islands to discover some of Brazil’s healthiest marine systems, to visiting a small seaside artist community and exploring Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
In addition to new small-ship cruises, we are also offering a number of innovative overland adventures. Veteran expedition leader, Mark Brazil, reveals Wild Southern India’s amazing wealth of birds and wildlife (plus a good dose of local culture) from January 1 – 17. In the company of Zegrahm Cofounder, Jack Grove, enjoy the unique opportunity to explore the Heart of Cuba on an 11-day adventure from January 15 – 25. Explorers will not only immerse themselves in the local culture, but also enjoy the country’s natural wonders like the Zapata Wetlands, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that is home to 171 species of birds. And, on the March 19 – April 3 Oman: Jewel of the Arabian Gulf expedition, adventurers can admire the stunning landscapes and architecture of this fascinating and seldom-visited country.
These new expeditions will be complemented by a number of our signature voyages from Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands, Ultimate Galápagos, and Circumnavigation of the Black Sea to Snow Monkeys and Cranes of Japan, Classic Botswana, and Iran: Wonders of Persia.
Happy New Year! Whether we traveled with you on our recent West Coast of South America or Tasmania to New Zealand journeys, are about to see you in Antarctica, or perhaps haven’t had the pleasure to travel with you lately, we always reflect fondly on our fellow Zegrahm travelers at this time of year. As you ring in 2014, here’s an update on what voyages we’re excited about leading in the coming year:
Rain Forests & Reefs
February 7 – 21, 2014 | Aboard Island Sky
“In February, I’m thrilled to join one of my favorite adventure-packed expeditions in Central America. The snorkeling opportunities in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean foster myriad discoveries of marine life. Plus, we get to explore one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth—the tropical rain forest.” ~ Jack Grove
Lapland: Home of the Sami People
March 15 – 29, 2014 | Overland Adventure
“Visiting Lapland in winter is a magical experience, and this itinerary is just plain fun. It will get you well off-the-beaten-path and offers some fairly strenuous physical activity—operating your own snowmobile and dog sled and exploring by snowshoe, for example. It is not an easy trip, but the rewards are, in my opinion, amazing.” ~ Kevin Clement
Across the Arctic Circle: Iceland & Svalbard
June 24 – July 13, 2014 | Aboard Island Sky
“After countless trips to the Arctic, I still look forward to each and every visit. Not only is the scenery spectacular, searching for polar bears, walrus, and other wildlife always proves to be exciting!” ~ Mike Messick
Faces of Polynesia: Fiji to Tahiti
September 15 – October 1, 2014 | Aboard Caledonian Sky
“The South Pacific has been one of my favorite destinations since 1984, and I can’t wait to return to Bora Bora, Wallis and Futuna, and Samoa. These isolated islands present the rare opportunity to see a host of endemic birds found nowhere else on the planet, including orange doves, blue lorikeets, and purple-capped fruit doves. Add to that some of the best snorkeling ever, and it all adds up to a South Seas adventure not to be missed!” ~ Peter Harrison
“Many of the islands we visit were given their name by explorers such as Captain James Cook and Samuel Wallis, and their explorations live on in books and adventure stories. Every day will be like turning the pages of one of their historic tomes—verdant-sloped volcanoes, vast internal lagoons, reefs teeming with brilliant-colored fish, glistening-white sandy beaches, and ancient Polynesian rituals. My only problem is that I just don’t know if I can wait for September!” ~ Shirley Metz
Ultimate Aldabra: A Voyage through the Seychelles
November 16 – December 2, 2014 | Aboard Island Sky
"Of all the Indian Ocean archipelagos, none is as renowned for sheer, picture postcard perfection as the Seychelles: sculpted granite boulders and snowy coral sands washed by aquamarine waters… the stuff of dreams. Having operated Seychelles expeditions for years, we wondered how we could do it even better; for 2014 we have added extra days in the remote Aldabra group. This will allow us time to snorkel the wall at Astove—which Jacques Cousteau called the 'Best Wall in the Indian Ocean'—and, best of all, have a full four days to soak in the glory of Aldabra, the 'holy grail' of the Indian Ocean. That's what excites me about the Seychelles expedition!" ~ Jonathan Rossouw
There is still space available on all of these voyages, so please, join us in 2014!
All our very best to you and your family in the new year,
Jack, Kevin, Mike, Peter, Shirley, and Jonathan
Our Private Travel department recently developed a three-week custom itinerary of extraordinary proportions throughout Cameroon and Congo for an adventurous solo woman traveler. Beginning with 15 stops in northern and southern Cameroon, the itinerary was centered around cultural touchstones—artwork, architecture, agricultural techniques, royalty, community, family, and colonialism—so she could experience the “total culture” of the destination.
Throughout her custom itinerary, our client was afforded unforgettable opportunities to engage with the people of Cameroon, from Bamileke chiefs and the Tikar people within the western highlands to the Mousgoum people bordering Sudan in the north. She traveled with local guides by train and private car, who were able to translate not only the language, but also the customs and everyday traditions of Cameroon.
Her itinerary also allowed for viewing incredible landscapes: volcanic lakes, west Africa’s highest peak, remote jungle waterfalls, and Rhumsiki—once described by French Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide as “one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.”
Our client concluded her visit to central-western Africa with gorilla trekking in northwestern Congo—an emerging destination for travelers seeking up-close encounters with western lowland mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Over the course of three nights and two full days at Ngaga Camp, our client successfully encountered gorillas, with the help of specialized local trekkers. She also spent time at nearby Lango Camp, encountering wildlife during game drives, night walks, and from behind nature blinds at several bais—naturally-occurring open-air jungle clearings where diverse animals sometimes congregate in large numbers.
If this sounds like how you want to see the world, start your journey today by contacting our Private Travel department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bamenda Highlands, Cameroon
Ekom Falls, Cameroon
Western Highlands, Cameroon
The Asmat people are the indigenous coastal dwellers of southwest New Guinea. They were once famous for headhunting, but are now better known for their unique art and culture, particularly their intricately carved masks.
Art has always played a major role in Asmat ceremony, and wood and carving are at the heart of the culture's mythology. The Asmat believe that Fumeripits, the Great Woodcarver, created the Asmat people, first building a men’s ceremonial house, then filling it with wooden figures of men and women. He then carved a drum and, by playing it, brought the figures to life.
The diverse and exotic plant and wildlife forms are an inspiration for the art and material used for adornment; items such as wood from various trees central to their life, leaves, beaten bark, seeds, fruit, shells, birds-of-paradise and other plumage, mammal pelts, insects, human hair, and colored earth and clays, are all used.
Along with ceremonial masks, ancestor poles, and shields, many everyday objects are also elaborately carved, such as oars, bowls, and drums. Below are a few examples of the incredible art of the Asmat. If you’d like to see (or purchase!) these amazing items in person, consider joining New Guinea: Raja Ampat & Asmat Villages, departing March 19, 2014.
Agats, Papua; Photo Credit: Mike Moore
Agats, Papua; Photo Credit: Mike Moore
Sjuru, Asmat Village, Papua; Photo Credit: Natalia Baechtold
Jayapura Museum, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea; Photo Credit: Shirley Metz
Owas Village, Papua; Photo Credit: Shirley Metz
Owas Village, Papua; Photo Credit: Shirley Metz
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Photo Credit: Natalia Baechtold
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Photo Credit: Craig Ward