Feijoada is a slow-cooked stew of black beans, salty, fatty pork or beef, fresh and smoked sausages, garlic, bacon, and onions. Allowed to cook in a clay pot for hours, feijoada is served with white rice, collard greens, refogada, or fried garlic, deep-friend bananas and cassavas, and pork rinds. For those who like it hot, a hot pepper sauce is served on the side, and for those who like it cold, the meal pairs perfectly with Brazil’s favorite distilled liquor, cachaca, or beer.

Brazilian feijoada is more than a treat that keeps your mouth watering as you wait for it to simmer to perfection; it is a perfect symbol of Brazil’s cuisine. It is created with care; it reflects not just the tastes of the country, but the culture of its people. It is, like Brazil itself, a melting pot of colors, tastes, religions, and ethnicities that come together into a rich, fragrant whole. The best way to experience Brazil is to dig into its delicious cuisine.

Brazilian food integrates indigenous elements, as well as influences from Europe and Africa. Its many immigrant populations – from, primarily, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, and Germany – contributed new ingredients and cooking methods to their new home. Ingredients like leafy vegetables, wheat, dairy, and wine found their way into the country’s cuisine, alongside staples like yams, acai, mango, papaya, polenta, hog plum, rice, beans, and root vegetables. You can find foods more typically associated with Asia and Arabian countries than South American ones, but Brazil always gives them its own flavor.

Fortunately for the hungry traveler, Brasilians like to eat! Breakfast typically includes fruits, cakes, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, bread, smoked turkey, honey or jam, cheeses, ham or turkey, juices, sweetened tea, or the national drink, coffee. Elevenses, or brunch, is the morning snack. Once again, fruit is a star, but light sandwiches are also served. Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day. Typical is a dish of rice and beans, with perhaps some meat, polenta, salads, and vegetables. At tea time, more snacking on fruits, cheeses, and the like. Next, it is dinner time. This is a light meal of soup, salads, or whatever one has left over from lunch. Finally, at late supper, you might have some soup, salad, or pasta.

Not everyone eats these “secondary” meals but it can be fun to try a Brasilian diet for a day or two all the same! You can find numerous restaurants, from haute cuisine to comida a quilo. The latter are buffets where you pay for food by weight; also common are set-price buffets. Another fun style to try is “rodízio,” where you pay a set price and servers walk around with food that you can take. You don’t have to spend a lot to sample the best of Brazil.

Whether you seek out traditional dishes or modern fusion cuisine, whether you skip elevenses and save room for lunch, Brazil will reward you with some of the most hearty, delicious foods in the world.

Vindaloo Pork, originally a Portuguese dish, is made by steeping pork in red wine with garlic. The dish was given a kick when it was adapted into the Indian culture. The Bhut Jolokia, or Ghost Pepper, was added to reflect the tastes of India. Recognized as the hottest in the world, it brings the Vindaloo Pork dish into its own special category of spicy. Spices are an integral component in dishes from cultures around the world; each of which uses them in unique, and delicious, ways.  If you like your food so hot that it comes with a fire extinguisher, here are some destinations where you can indulge.

Southern India

India is home to not only Vindaloo Pork but also phaal. This is the hottest curry in the world, and it also features the infamous Bhut Jolokia. Phaal also has at least 9 to 10 other peppers, including the brutal habanero that are mixed into a thick curry. This is not for beginners!

Sichuan Province, China

Here you will find the authentic Hot Pot. Imagine a big pot filled with chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, vegetables, and basically anything else that chefs have handy, including any and all parts of a pig, cow, or chicken, eel, and other tasty treats. The star is the Sichuan “flower” peppers. Some don’t believe the Sichuan pepper to be “hot” as much as numbing!

Jamaica

You’ll need those cool sea breezes after eating Jamaican jerk chicken, pork, or goat. The jerk is made with a blend of cinnamon, cloves, garlic, salt, nutmeg, thyme, and scallions. It gets its heat from the Scotch bonnet peppers, which are as hot as the habanero. Jerk spices have their roots in African history, and they have evolved as cultures have added their own flair. You can also find Jamaican or Caribbean jerk in many restaurants in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Your Neighborhood! You don’t need to travel to exotic locales to find tongue-numbing, mind- blowing heat. Many restaurants incorporate the spices of faraway destinations into their dishes with excellent results. Whether it is the “Suicide Wings” at Hoagies and Wings in LA,  The “Hell Brined, Smoked, and Grilled Jerk Chicken Wings” at East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or the deceptively simple-looking “Level 100 Pearl’s Fried Rice” at Pearl Cafe in Florissant, Missouri, you don’t have to go far to feel the burn.

Our first 40 Ways campaign winner is Neal Metha, who offered more than a dozen ideas that encompassed solar power, electric vehicles, guest education and locally produced foods and goods.

Some of these we are already doing.  Several of the suggestions we have received fit within the initiatives Big Five already has in place.  A prime example is the suggestion of limiting the number of ‘tracking cars’ on safari in Africa.  The sight of a mass of vehicles surrounding one or two animals is all too common a sight on safaris today.  That very reason inspired Big Five to switch from large lodges to private conservancies in East Africa several years ago.

We encourage you to enter your sustainable ideas.  The next segment for entries will close at the end in July.

And, you could win a Nexus tablet!

I am always gratified by the enthusiasm our Destination Specialists have when it comes to furthering their knowledge and understanding about our destinations.  

 This month, Tatiana just returned from Indonesia; Justin is currently gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda, and Volker is attending Indaba and doing site inspections in South Africa. 

 Personally, I and my wife, Usha, will be traveling to Peru at the end of the month. We will be staying at two hotels – the brand new Hotel B, scheduled to open in June in Lima; and Titilaka Lodge on a private peninsula at Lake Titicaca. We are interested in learning about their sustainable practices.

 It is so important for all of us to keep current on what’s happening so we can better serve you.  We will all report back to you with what we discover.  We wish each of you safe journeys.

 Best wishes,

 Mahen Sanghrajka

CEO & Founder

Usha Sanghrajka is Big Five’s CFO.  Originally from Sudan, she has worked hand and glove with her husband, Mahen, from the beginning of their fledging company.  She is the heart of Big Five, yet continues to work quietly and tirelessly in the background.

Her enthusiasm today harks back to her first safari into

Tanzania during the annual migration of thousands upon thousands of wildebeest and zebra.  On the vast Serengeti, at one point there were so many animals crowded around and next to their vehicle they had to stop moving.

Surrounded by so many wildebeest, zebra, antelope, and, never far off, lion and cheetah, she was mesmerized. “I watched as all these animals moved past me.  It was such an amazing moment for me,” Usha recalled.  It was in that moment that she realized how important it was to share this experience with the world.

You may never meet Usha in person, as she steadfastly shuns the spotlight, but you will see her touch in every aspect of Big Five, including in the founding of the company’s nonprofit arm, the Spirit of Big Five Foundation in 2007.

If you take steps to be more environmentally responsible at home – recycling, reusing, driving less, walking more, etc. – you don’t need to throw that eco-effort out the window when you travel. While you can reduce the impact you make during any trip, many destinations are now lending a hand and making it easier to be green. Here is a look at a few vacation spots you will feel good about enjoying!

  • Oahu, Hawaii.

Disney, the “Happiest  Places on Earth,” is also one of the most green. Disney’s Oahu property, Aulani, highlights local culture, and fresh produce and fish from local sources. Trade Teacups and It’s a Small World for snorkeling, kayaking, native art, and a pool where you can pet stingrays. The 21-acre resort has LEED Silver certification.

  • Nikoi Island, Indonesia

Perfect if you want to leave the kids at home, this island features 15 beach houses for guests. These have natural ventilation to take advantage of those refreshing sea breezes, driftwood roofs, and abundant native wildlife. The villas were constructed in a way that did not require any trees to be cut down. Relax, enjoy, and be green (or tan).

  • Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia.

Situated on the south coast of the Alaska boarder, this forest is home to the marbeled murrelet and the Kermode “spirit” bear, among other gorgeous and rare animals. Visitors can’t help but be awed by the soaring 1,000 year old western red cedars. Take your Dramamine because small boats and kayaks are among the only ways to see the treasures of the rainforest. About the size of Ireland, Great Bear Forest is the ideal destination for those who yearn for rugged, natural beauty – and lots of it!

  • Namibia

Africa is a land rich in resources and culture. Many countries are becoming ecotourism gems. At Namibia’s Desert Rhino Camp, for instance, visitors can enjoy the striking desert landscapes that permeate the 1 million acre Palmwag Reserve. You can track rhino (for pictures or fun only!), picnic, go on nighttime nature drives, and luxuriate in the simple yet sophisticated resort.

  • Norway.

For those who prefer bracing air and mountains over deserts, Norway’s beauty is unparalleled. The country is also progressive in environmental policies and tourism. They take pride in protecting their natural treasures, such as the coastline and remarkable fjords. There are lots of activities to participate in, from biking and hiking to boating and, if you time your visit right, marveling at the Northern Lights.

An ecofriendly traveler can tread lightly anywhere, but these great destinations – and many more – are helping make it much easier to travel responsibly.

The world’s creatures are all treasures to be valued and protected.  From the astonishing 100-foot Blue Whale to the tiny bee hummingbird, which can fit on your thumb, Mother Nature has created a menagerie of stunning, elegant, fierce, massive, petite, and gentle animals – but she also threw us some curveballs. Look at the star-nose mole, the proboscis monkey, the loveable platypus, or the absolutely terrifying aye-aye of Madagascar. Just as Africa boasts an incredible wealth of the fierce and fabulous, it has an abundance of freaky and funky.

Here are some of Africa’s most unusual, but no less magnificent, residents:

Pangolin – Pangolins have no teeth or claws with which to protect themselves, so they depend on their scales. When curled up, they resemble pinecones – but they’re much tougher! Their strong scales keep them safe from big cats and other predators. Pangolin meat is popular, and its scales, when ground, are ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. Both factors have endangered these little tanks.

Okapi – “Odd” doesn’t mean these animals are not gorgeous! It looks like a cross between a horse and a zebra; but the line of the neck is reminiscent of a giraffe (but by no means on the same scale!). Its velvety fur helps keep them protected from the rain – a must for these rain forest dwellers. The Ugandan native snacks on grass, leaves, buds, and the occasional fruit.

Bat-Eared Fox – This canine species resembles a jackal and features enormous ears. The better to hear its prey; the bat-eared fox prefers termites but will settle for other insects in a pinch. A single fox can eat 1.5 million termites a year! These small animals are family oriented and typically mate for life; males help raise the young while mom goes hunting.

Shoebill – Odd, sure. Big – oh yes! The shoebill, a type of stork, stands about five feet tall with a wingspan that can be double that. It is a fierce hunter who likes to feed on fish, small birds, turtles, and even baby crocs. The shoebill’s bill is rounded and nubby, contrasting with the long, narrow beaks of other storks.

Elephant Shrew – A mouse. With a beak? While it does resemble a shrew, and some think it resembles an elephant with that snout, it is in fact neither. The elephant shrew is an insect-eating mammal, known for being shrewd. They are very difficult to catch and observe given their great caution and camouflaging techniques. They prefer to be left to patrol their carefully-constructed pathways in the undergrowth for insects.

These animals are all great examples of the tremendous diversity of life in Africa. Odd, strange, weird…and wonderful.

Big Five targets sustainability in Australia

Stuart, FL (April 29, 2013) – “Sustainable travel is not only the road to the future,” said Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five tours & Expeditions.  “It represents the best of our present.  In developing these journeys, we strove to share the authentic face of Australia; its true self.”

Much like it has already done in Kenya, Tanzania and Ecuador, Big Five built these journeys from the beginning to feature genuine experiences with traditional cultures and the natural world.  Arnhem Land, for example, has been home to indigenous people for tens of thousands of years, with relics discovered that may date back 35,500 years.  It also has some of the finest examples of ancient rock art to be found anywhere.

“Arnhem Land today is the homeland of some 20,000 people, who represent living history.  And we want our guests to engage with this remarkable community.  These are not people selling trinkets on the side of the road.  They are professional guides and drivers, lodge staff, historians and community leaders,” Sanghrajka added.

Big Five has committed to the path of becoming fully sustainable in terms of product by 2016.  This deliberate refocusing began in earnest in 2010 with a major shift to private conservancies in Kenya and, where available, Tanzania.  It continued with a rebuilding of its Ecuador and Galapagos journeys to be more inclusive of the rich cultures and natural landscapes of mainland Ecuador.

Big Five defines its sustainability policy in three areas: conservation and protection of biodiversity, wildlife and natural habitat consistent with sustainable tourism practices; the support for poverty alleviation and community development, including capacity building, education, and healthcare in tourism destinations; and support for cultural heritage, archaeological and historical preservation in and around tourism destinations.   These Australia programs are the latest journeys to qualify.

One of three new itineraries, the 14-day Kipling Collection Wild Australia utilizes small camps that derive most or all of their energy through solar panels.  Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, with just nine

luxury tents, works to minimize its impact on its surrounding ecosystem.  Its carbon footprint is greatly reduced by its sustainable practices that include generating 100% of its energy needs through solar panels, a predominantly clean source of energy that also preserves the natural peace and quiet of this pristine area.  Each en-suite bathroom has an effective composting toilet, and the grey water from the showers and hand basins is carefully managed to ensure only filtered water is dispersed back into the ground.  Bamurru Plains also utilizes solar panels to generate about 75% of their energy.  The camp considers every aspect from waste disposal to the choice of linen to recycling bottles in terms of environmental impact.

“Sustainable travel and experiential travel are one and the same when done properly,” Sanghrajka added. “These programs were created after countless hours inspecting everything from the activities to the solar panels and dry cell batteries that power the camps.”

 

Big Five Tours & Expeditions

With more than 40 years experience in premier adventure travel, Big Five Tours & Expeditions offers luxury guided travel to Africa, Middle East, Asia and the Orient, South and Central America, and the South Pacific.  For more information, contact Big Five, (800) 244 3483, or email: info@bigfive.com; in Canada, (888) 244 3483, info@bigfivetours.ca.

Wild Australia: https://bigfive.com/tour/wild-australia-from-coral-coast-to-bamurru-plains/
Southern Australia & Tasmania: https://bigfive.com/tour/tasmania-southern-australia/
Australia:  https://bigfive.com/tour/australia/

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Press kit available

Media contact:   Deborah Kilcollins, Communications Liaison
(888) 244 3483, (772) 287 7995, ext. 2214. Email: deborah@bigfive.com

OMAN: CARAVANS OF THE BEDU
Tour featured on 2013 list “50 Tours of a Lifetime”

Stuart, FL (April 16, 2013) –  On the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman offers the traveler sunrises on a solitary beach, traditional Bedouin settlements and dramatic desert landscapes.

For the sixth year, one of Big Five Tours & Expeditions’ adventures has been ranked among National Geographic Traveler’s 2013 “50 Tours of a Lifetime.”   OMAN: CARAVANS OF THE BEDU journeys into the heart and culture of this fascinating country.  It article appears in the May 2013 issue.

“We are proud that this is Big Five’s sixth appearance on this list,” said Ashish Sanghrajka, Big Five’s president.  “This is a forum that embraces originality and destination knowledge.  Another important factor is that this program was crafted in keeping with our commitment to luxury sustainable tourism.”

Oman has a sustainability plan that is geared toward limiting the number of travelers who come to Oman at any one time in order to preserve the authentic nature of the country and its culture.  For example, this itinerary is designed to take a limited number of guests on a luxury, mobile-tented camping journey like no other.

It takes in some of Oman hundreds of miles of deserted beach and includes the ruins of the fabled Lost City of Ubar, chronicled in classical works such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ “Atlantis of the Sands.”  Travelers also spend a night camping in the great Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world.  Bedu caravans set out from here on a rigorous journey into a vast, vacant land.

This journey includes accommodations; most meals; all transfers/transportation on a private basis; English-speaking private guides; entrance fees at sites; Big Five’s 24-hour White Glove Service® guest assistance; and Big Five’s complimentary basic trip interruption insurance.  It begins at $15,000 land price, per person, double occupancy,

With more than 40 years experience in luxury adventure travel, Big Five Tours & Expeditions offers luxury guided travel to Africa, Asia & the Orient, South & Central America, and South Pacific.  For more information, contact Big Five, (800) 244 3483, or email: info@bigfive.com.   For information about Big Five and sustainability, visit www.bigfive.com/40ways.

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Press kit available
Media contact: Deborah Kilcollins, Communications Liaison
(888) 244 3483, (772) 287 7995, ext. 2214, Email: deborah@bigfive.com

Stuart, FL (May 8, 2013) – Contrary to some notions, luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.  You can have the best of both!

Big Five Tours & Expeditions has teamed up with two like-minded partners – Silversea Cruises and Hacienda Zuleta – to provide a true luxury experience in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.  Like Big Five, both companies offer award-winning services presented in luxurious surroundings, all the while remaining committed to sustainable principles.

“This is a niche that has needed to be filled in the Galapagos for a long time,’ said Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours and Expeditions, “Our goal with this partnership is continue to move away from the mass-market approach that has been predominant in the Galapagos for years.  Discounting is ruining the experience of these fragile ecosystems and ultimately has the potential to destroy them.”

Big Five’s goal in Ecuador and the islands is to counter that trend by choosing to create truly luxury journeys such as Luxury Ecuador with Silversea Silver Galapagos, which also encompass communities who have until recently been left out of the tourism equation.

Silversea Silver Galapagos, for example, is the newest ship in the Silversea line, and the most luxurious in the islands.  Once onboard, guests need only relax and enjoy.  A butler will even do the unpacking.   This all-inclusive experience offers guests all the creature comforts from nine different pillow types, to sumptuous gourmet cuisine, to complimentary beverages, wines and spirits served aboard a ship was specially designed for cruising the Galápagos Islands.

From the moment guests step inside the homestead of Hacienda Zuleta, they feel instantly at home.  This working farm has been the guardian of 300 years of tradition.  Today, the hacienda is also an award-winning boutique hotel that welcomes guests with warm touches such as antiques, family portraits and hand embroidered linens.  Every night, the staff lights the fireplace in each room, and places hot water bottles to warm each bed while guests are at dinner.

“We look for that attention to detail.  This is exactly the combination of luxury elements we were searching for when we created this program,” added Sanghrajka. “Yes, the price is going to reflect this change, but so, too, will the experience.”

Beyond that, guests can learn about the local community.  They explore the importance of textiles in preserving the heritage of the local Zuleta village, and meet members of the Zuleta women’s cooperative.  These woman create and sell colorful, handmade embroidered articles; and by doing so, help keep the traditional art form alive as well as provide income for their families and support for the entire community.

The 13-day Luxury Ecuador with Silversea Silver Galapagos journey, part of the Magellan Collection, melds Ecuador’s lesser-visited areas in the north of the country with the seven-day luxury cruise, creating more intimate and authentic cultural and wildlife experiences.  That includes a wide range of outstanding activities from horseback riding in the Andes, to snorkeling the sparkling waters of the islands.  The land cost of this luxurious adventure begins at $7,450 cruise price plus $3,684 land cost, per person, double occupancy.

Big Five Tours & Expeditions

With more than 40 years experience in luxury adventure travel, Big Five Tours & Expeditions offers luxury guided travel to Africa, Asia, the Orient, South and Central America, and the South Pacific. For more information, contact Big Five, (800) 244 3483, or email: info@bigfive.com; in Canada, (888) 244 3483, info@bigfivetours.ca.

Luxury Ecuador with Silversea Silver Galapagos: https://bigfive.com/tour/ecuador-with-the-silverseas/

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Press kit available Media contact: Deborah Kilcollins, Communications Liaison (888) 244 3483, (772) 287 7995, ext. 2214, Email: deborah@bigfive.com

The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations reads, “Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.” This inspiring quote gave rise to the “seven generation” principle. When we make decisions today, we must think not only of ourselves, or even of our children. We must think how our choices impact life for those seven generations in the future. Sustainability is far more than a buzzword or fad; it is a way of thinking and living that considers the needs of the future and dedication to ensuring Earth can provide.

We live in an era of rapid growth. Our population, our lifestyles, growing economies, and the “great expectations” we have of the Earth puts a strain on the environment. We hear constantly of climate change, greenhouse gases, carbon footprints, and melting polar ice caps. It’s enough to make us want to take the next flight to Mars! But what we do not hear about as often, or as loudly, is the many steps that we are making towards sustainability.

  • Green is taking over the corporate world. Being environmentally friendly is no longer the province of small and local businesses. Giants, including IBM, HP, Dell, Office Depot, Staples, Google, BestBuy, AT&T, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Disney, Ford, and scores of others have taken giant steps forward for mankind. Innovations in power, products, services, waste reduction and disposal, carbon capping, and more have cleaned up businesses. We have far to go, but we have taken the first steps – and many are running full stride now.
  • Transportation is more eco-friendly. When you hop on a plane to visit far-flung corners of the world, you are doing so in aircrafts that use less fuel and which pollute less. Our private vehicles are going farther with less, and more cities are using electric and biodiesel-fueled buses and trucks.
  • Cities and counties are taking the initiative and implementing a variety of sustainability programs. From more efficient street lights to city-wide recycling to bike lanes and safer walking paths, small steps lead to big change.

You are also playing a part. Every time you use your reusable water bottle; every time you walk to work instead of driving; every time you support a “green” business or buy an environmentally sound product; every time you repair an item instead of simply buying a new one you are helping. Big change is often accomplished with small steps taken by many.

We all work hard all year long in hopes of taking a relaxing vacation once a year. Sometimes it is just impossible to do everything we want to do. What if you could go to one place where you could relax on a beach, go surfing, explore a rainforest, tour museums and eat some of the best food in the world? If those all sounded like good ideas you will definitely want to plan a trip to Ecuador where you can literally do it all.

Ecuador is a smaller country than most, but for what it lacks in size it makes up for with lush rainforests, rugged mountain ranges and a pristine coastline. The cities of Ecuador offer a rich culture and the wilderness offers natural beauty. Here are three must-sees when visiting Ecuador:

The Galapagos Islands

If you are ever in Ecuador you absolutely must pay a visit to the Galapagos Islands. The islands are home to some of the rarest species on Earth, including the Galapagos penguins. This species of penguin is the only one that lives north of the equator in the wild. While in the Galapagos, you will want to do some bird watching, snorkeling and scuba diving to have an opportunity to see all of the diverse life. If you are a fan of nature and ecology, this is one destination you should be sure to visit.

Historic Quito

Quito is the historic center of Ecuador and is located 2,800 meters above sea level in the Andes Mountains. As a cultural center, Quito has beautiful chapels, colonial churches, museums, estates and architecture. The history buff in you will be stunned by the rich cultural heritage of Quito.

Salinas Beach

If you find yourself exhausted from the adventure of the Galapagos and the exploration of Quito, then you will want to treat yourself to a day of relaxation at Salinas Beach. Spend your day soaking up the sun and reflecting on all the wonders of Ecuador.

These are only three great things to do and experience in Ecuador. This is the ideal destination for the adventurous historian in you. There are plenty more sights to see, so make sure you plan a trip to Ecuador soon!

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