If you are planning on traveling to southern India and want to get a different perspective on Indian culture, consider traveling to Coorg. This area is unlike any other area in south India and you will find that it is a land of surprises and mystique. The locals of Coorg have their own distinct culture and customs, so a visit is sure to produce some enriching experiences.

The people of Coorg are known as Coorgs, but locally they are called Kodavas. While they are Hindu, they practice ancestor worship known as “Karana” which takes priority over traditional worship of Hindu gods.  Coorgs usually keep images or idols of ancestors that have passed. These items are traditionally made out of wood or clay and are offered prayer and obedience.  Along with the worship of ancestors, the Coorgs also worship nature and consider the Cauvery River to be holy.

As you might guess, Coorg culture also has different values when compared to other areas in India.  Coorgs are the only race in India that are free from the Indian Arms Act and are allowed to possess guns without a license. The locals have become very close to their weapons and they even have a festival called Keil Podh which is dedicated to weapons. Even some family traditions have weapons involved. When a family has a newborn son, a gun is shot into the sky as a welcoming to the little one. When a Coorg passes away, two gunshots are fired into the sky to notify others of the passing. While the Coorg people are fond of their weapons, there is no need to be nervous as they are renowned for their hospitality.

Coorg is definitely a place that honors tradition yet finds a way to make its own way. A visit is sure to open your eyes to a different way of life in India.

Company announces 40 Ways to Sustainability

 Stuart, FL, (Feb 12, 2013) –  In honor of its 40th anniversary, Big Five Tours & Expeditions  is expanding its current sustainable practices initiatives with the creation of a 40-point sustainable roadmap that will lead the company to becoming fully sustainable in terms of product by 2016.

 “This is the perfect time to launch this,” says Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five. “February 12 was the day Big Five began, so it’s fitting that we begin our 40 Ways campaignnow.”

 Big Five is also asking the public to join in the process. “We wanted to have a little fun along the way so we are challenging them to share their ideas with us over the coming year. We will use the best ideas to help us create even more powerful journeys that encompass responsible tourism,” Sanghrajka added.

 “We know that some countries and regions are more advanced than others; so we take that into consideration.  Our concern is to see that the ideas of sustainability are being embraced and whatever resources are available are being fully utilized.” 

 The goal of this year-long project is to develop a comprehensive set of guidelines that will serve to further enhance Big Five’s journeys in meaningful ways.   

 This is a continuation of our tradition of caring for the planet. Since its inception in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1973, the company has been committed to what is today known as sustainable tourism practices – environmentally-friendly practices, protection of cultural and natural heritage, and support for the well-being of local people.  Company founder and CEO, Mahen Sanghrajka, joined several local tour operators in Kenya in the 1970s to form a code of ethics regarding behavior on safaris that included prohibiting drivers and guides from harassing animals on safari. 

The entries for 40 Ways to Sustainability will be judged by Mahen Sanghrajka, chairman of the nonprofit Spirit of Big Five Foundation; and Costas Christ, well-known sustainability expert and Ambassador-at-Large for the Spirit of Big Five Foundation.  Four winners will be selected, one for each of these deadlines: May 1, Aug 1 and Nov 1, 2013 and Feb. 1, 2014. Each winner will receive a Google Nexus Tablet.  People can submit ideas via Facebook, use 40 Ways at the beginning of the post; Twitter #40Ways, Pinterest #40Ways and Google+ #40Ways. They can also email 40Ways@bigfive.com.  For more information, visit www.bigfive.com/40ways. 

 Celebrating its 40th year in adventure travel, Big Five Tours & Expeditions offers luxury guided travel to Africa, Asia & the Orient, South & Central America, Arctic and the Antarctica.

Press kit available

Media contact: Deborah Kilcollins, Communications Liaison

(888) 244 3483, (772) 287 7995, ext. 2214, Email: deborah@bigfive.com

Mongolia is a very unique destination that seems to belong to another time period. For the willing adventurer, Mongolia will recall images of nomads on the Mongolian steppes, the ancient Silk Road, the Gobi Desert and herds of rugged wild horses. This destination is nothing less than amazing.

In order to provide the opportunity to explore everything Mongolia has to offer, Big Five Tours & Expeditions has teamed with Nomadic Expeditions to create Mongolia: The Private Collection. These incredible adventures will lead you to remote and seldom visited regions of Mongolia as well as offer you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the nomadic communities of the Mongolian steppes.

These unique journeys will allow travelers to experience the rich textures and contrasts of Mongolia today. From getting to know nomadic families to meeting one of the leading paleontologists of Mongolia, these amazing experiences are sure to last a lifetime. When meeting with the paleontologist, you will learn about dinosaur fossils and the first ever dinosaur eggs, which were discovered in the Gobi Desert. Due to the great distances between locales in these journeys, it is recommended to fly by private plane or helicopter to get in as much exploration as possible.

If you have ever wanted to take a journey that will provide culture and adventure, look no further than Mongolia! With the Mongolia: The Private Collection journeys, you will have the opportunity to take in the best experiences that this unique destination has to offer.

The Kalahari Desert is a vast desert that is majorly located in Botswana, but also extends into smaller areas in Namibia and South Africa. While one would think that a desert is devoid of life, the Kalahari is home to antelope, lions and meerkats. These animals have specially adapted to live in the unforgiving Kalahari and are a sight to see! There are various viewing platforms in which you can safely view these incredible animals up close and personal. This is a wonderful experience for anyone who marvels at African wildlife.

In order to stay comfortable in the Kalahari, it is ideal to stay in a camp for travelers. There is a luxury tented camp called Jack’s Camp, which is located on what once was one of the world largest super-lakes, the Makgadikgadi. This prehistoric lake dried up thousands of years ago due to the continued shifting of the Earth’s crust, so staying at Jack’s Camp provides a unique opportunity to camp out in the Kalahari and still stay comfortable as its accommodations include ten Bedouin-style canvas tents with en suite bathrooms and spacious bedrooms with Persian rugs and cool cotton sheets. It is a mix of old world and new.

For those interested in traveling to Africa, the Kalahari in Botswana is a must see destination. This is one of the few places in the world that will allow you the opportunity to have personal experiences with African wildlife and stay at the edge of a thousand year old super-lake. Make sure you bring your camera, as there will definitely be moments that others will have to see to believe!

Tucked into the Himalayas, Bhutan is one of the world’s most isolated, mysterious, and majestic lands. Often called the “Kingdom in the Clouds,” Bhutan offers a magical adventure for intrepid travelers, for those who have always dreamed of touching the sky or of getting closer to the gods than ever before. Visiting the Kingdom of Bhutan is a heady experience and one that grants entrance into an exclusive club of explorers who tread where few others have.

Here is a small sampling of Bhutan’s secrets and surprising facts:

  • Tourism is limited. This may not be so surprising given the Bhutanese respect for and love of their environment. Tourists began visiting the tiny, landlocked nation in 1974, and there is a concerted effort to balance economic gain with historic, cultural, and environmental preservation. The country can accommodate about 15,000 visitors per year. This is great news for those who do venture into the clouds: you can enjoy the marvels and mysteries of the Kingdom without wading through throngs of tourists. You can really take in not only the sights, but the sounds, smells, hospitality, and spirit of Bhutan.
  • It is a biodiversity “hotspot.” From soaring mountain peaks to subtropical forests, the small Bhutan boasts more than its share of ecological wonders. It is one of the world’s Ten Biodiversity Hotspots and is home to 120 species of butterfly, including 28 endemic species, 750 endemic plant species, 221 endemic bird areas, and much more. This is your chance to experience natural life in a very personal and exciting way.
  • Bhutan is happy! Bhutan was named the happiest country in Asia and eighth happiest in the world by Business Week. Why so happy? The air, the scenery, the rich culture, the biodiversity…perhaps the visitor can unlock this secret and take it home with him!
  • Festivals abound. These marvelous festivals could also be a factor in the “Gross National Happiness.” The festival of Tshechu, for instance, is held in temples, monasteries, and dzongs across Bhutan, celebrating the birth of Guru Rinpoche. Villages come together to see ancient religious mask dances, entertainments, and, of course, blessings and the washing away of sins. The costumes are enchanting, the masks thrilling, and the culture alive in every step and every heart.

Bhutan is said to be where one can contemplate and mediate to be closer to the gods. Pristine air, majestic surroundings, and a friendly, spiritual population certainly lend themselves to discovery and exploration, both of the body and the soul.

In the winter, San Carlos de Bariloche is a scene straight out of the magical land of Narnia. This luxurious Argentine city is crisp, white and majestic. In the summertime, San Carlos de Bariloche changes into a Mediterranean paradise with warm weather and sparkling beaches. Known best for its superb skiing, which rivals Switzerland, San Carlos de Bariloche is a premiere destination for those who want more than just a vacation.

Bariloche lies at the confluence of the Patagonian Steppe, Andes Mountains, and Nahuel Huapi Lake. Even if all you did was sit in front of a window and stared at the scenery, your vacation would be complete. Luckily, there is a lot more to do when you venture outside. Visitors come for skiing in the wintertime, but Bariloche is a year-round destination. From leisurely sightseeing and drive tours to mountain trekking, you can find it all in Bariloche.

The  city itself is a study of contrasts. It is a busting city in the midst of incredible wilderness. Apartments, clubs, migrants, crowds and tourists have all made “el centro” a bit chaotic. The busiest times of year are from mid-December through February and July for the ski season. For the rest of the year, the crowds are fairly thin. Many visitors spend little time in the city, preferring to travel ten minutes to the lakes, forests, and mountain peaks.

If you do find yourself in town, it’s easy to find many entertaining things to do. A little known fact is that San Carlos de Bariloche is home to some of the best chocolate in the world. Mamuschka, Fenoglio, Rapa Nui, and other world class chocolates are made and sold here. It is a treat to buy chocolate with local fruit and liqueur inside. You will want to save room in your suitcase to take some home!

San Carlos de Bariloche offers world class skiing, hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, horse riding and of course, eating. It’s possible to find accommodations that cater to a variety of budgets, so even if you are running on a tight budget it’s possible to have a great time.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, chocolate lover,  or an adventure seeker, San Carlos de Bariloche is for you!

There is something special about Australia that attracts visitors from all over the world. These travelers are looking for adventure, beauty and culture. Luckily, it’s very easy to come across all of these elements in Australia.

There is a sense of excitement engrained in the aura of Australia. Just the name of one particular destination should peak your interest. Kangaroo Island is home to gorgeous landscapes and course, kangaroos.  As one of Australia’s biggest islands, the island is home to national parks full of wildlife, isolated beaches and quaint locales to taste the local cuisine.

For those seeking an adventurous wildlife experience, there are a few tours that are very enjoyable. The Flinders Chase National Park offers four-wheel tours where you might see everything from echidnas to koalas. You might also consider taking a tour of Seal Bay, where you can observe a colony of rare seal lion soaking up some sun. No matter what tour you decide on, make sure you bring a pair of binoculars. You never know what birdlife might soar overhead.

Kangaroo Island is also known for its food. The cuisine here is fresh and usually straight from the ocean. If you are a lover of fish-dishes, you will be very pleased! There are also a number of wineries on the island. You will definitely want to grab a bottle of Australia’s best wine and take it hope with you.

Kangaroo Island is a very nice place to visit due to the lower number of tourists and the knowledgeable guides that are available to show you around. This is one destination that will give you the sights, sounds and tastes of Australia all in one trip.

Couples who want something more than just a sunny beach on their honeymoon will want to look into planning a trip to Belize. This beautiful country offers a truly unique experience. There are many activities available for couples such as tours of the jungle, waterfalls and Mayan ruins. Add this to the luxurious resorts and something new to see or do every day, and you have the makings of an unforgettable trip.

There are many inclusive honeymoon packages available in Belize. These options make it easy to plan and enjoy the richness of this unique country. For instance, booking a stay at one of the luxurious tropical resorts will allow you to wake up to sounds of the rainforest and the smells of the local foliage as a soft breeze comes in your window. You can sample delicious food, participate in outdoor activities and be pampered by impeccable service.  The main advantage of these packages is that the stress of planning is gone as are a majority of the costs. Therefore, there is more time to spend with your new husband or wife.

If you want more control over your trip, you can always plan it yourself. There is a wide variety of accommodations to choose from. You will want to plan excursions to the rainforest, enjoy scuba diving, swimming, strolling on the beach or biking.  You can even try kite surfing, windsurfing or parasailing as you make good use of the beautiful weather.

If you are looking for a honeymoon destination where you do more than just lounge on a beach, Belize is the place for you. There is literally something for everyone. Whether you are newlyweds or enjoying an anniversary trip, Belize gives you even more to celebrate!

If you travel to Chile, you will want to be sure you stay a night at one of the best hotels in the country. This magical hotel is Hotel Refugia Chiloe and rests on Chiloe Island, which was recently chosen as one of the most recommended destinations by the New York Times. This luxury hotel papers its guests with world class accommodations and a backdrop consisting of Chilean mountains and volcanoes.

The Hotel Refugia is an all-inclusive hotel that is full of rich experiences. Each of its 12 rooms all have beautiful sea views. All of the hotel’s furnishings are hand made by locals using Chiloe Island’s wood and textiles. If you are hoping for relaxation, you’re in luck as the hotel spa has many services available such as dry saunas, wet saunas, Jacuzzi and a massage room.

If food is your passion, you will be pleased to know that Hotel Refugia relies on local produce from the Rilan Peninsula. Here they have kept tradition and environmentally sound farming methods alive. The resident chef creates dishes using the very best surf and turf coupled with delicious house wines which were selected from the best Peruvian vineyards.

For those in search of a bit of adventure, the Hotel Refugia offers a variety of full-day or half-day excursions that range in difficulty. Whether you are looking for a peaceful walk or a more challenging multi-sport activity, the hotel would be be happy to accommodate.

If you are in search of the ultimate hotel set in a Latin paradise, look no farther than Hotel Refugia Chiloe. It literally has something for everyone and will leave an impression on you with the relaxation, cuisine and possible experiences that are available to its guests.

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