If you are looking for a fascinating and unique place to visit, South Africa is for you! It is home to a wide range of climates, landscapes, and a very diverse population. This destination is world famous for its gorgeous national parks, abundance of gold and an emerging wine industry.  South Africa is one of those rare destinations that offer something for everyone who has a sense of adventure.

The major problem with visiting South Africa is the abundance of things to do. Among all of the great activities available, one of the first things you will want to do is eat. South African cuisine is every bit as diverse as its people. You will notice various influences from indigenous tribes, as well as German, Dutch, British, Malay, Portuguese, and Indian cultures.   If you enjoy meat-based dishes, definitely try the Braaivleis or the spicy Boerewors. No South African meal is complete without a fine glass of South African wine to compliment it.

If you are a fan of wine, you will definitely want to pay a visit to Stellenbosch or Constantia. Constantia is home to gorgeous views, relaxing breezes and of course, delicious wines.  The white wine offerings of Constantia include Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay and Semillon. If you are more of a red wine lover, you will be delighted by the selection of Bordeaux, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. The experience of the South African wine regions is something that your taste buds will never forget.

Once you are done wining and dining in South Africa, what is left to do? Many Things! If you are an animal lover, you will fall in love with the parks, private reserves, and farms of South Africa. They are all home to a huge variety of wildlife. For instance, Kruger National Park is home to 114 species of reptiles, 507 species of birds, 34 species of amphibians and 147 species of mammals.

When traveling to South Africa, you will definitely want to give yourself enough time to take in everything it has to offer. Food, wine and wildlife all come together to form the romancing essence of South Africa.

The food of China is renowned throughout the world for its enchantingly complex taste and rich aroma. But there is another aspect of true Chinese cuisine: the color. In Eastern philosophy, balancing opposing forces – or in this case, balancing and blending different tastes, smells, and sights – creates harmony. It also creates wonderful dishes that are as aesthetically-pleasing as they are palette-pleasing.

Food is an integral element of Chinese culture. Its ancient rituals are steeped in great meaning. One reason for the abundance of color in traditional Chinese cuisine is that it is thought that the attractive appearance increases the appetite. We agree! Because food is considered a vital component of good health, the explosion of hues can also indicate the freshness of the dish’s ingredients, as well as the harmonious blend of nutrients it offers.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a concept of the 5 Elements, and each element has a corresponding color:

  • Fire: Red.
  • Earth: Yellow.
  • Metal: White.
  • Water: Blue/Black.
  • Wood: Green.

Not surprisingly, red, yellow, white, blue, black, and green are the most frequent tones found in Chinese cuisine. The elements also correspond to specific body organs: fire, for instance, corresponds with the tongue (think of those spicy red peppers on your tongue!), vessels, pericardium, and intestines. Eating foods that are red are thought to boost functioning in these body areas. In traditional dishes, the blend of colors may be beautiful – but also intended to balance and strengthen the body’s organs and functions.

Even the most simple of dishes, like beef and broccoli, is a work of art: the white of the rice, the rich brown of the meat, the fresh green of the broccoli, and the flash of orange from sliced carrots entice the hungry diner. A bowl of Mapo Tofu turns humble soy or bean curds into a spicy delight as it blends the flavors, aromas, and colors of ginger, garlic, tofu, Sichuan peppercorn, mushroom, and scallion. Regardless of whether you believe this will balance your body and health, it certainly makes for an alluring meal!

When prepared well and with a balance of the three key elements – color, aroma, and taste – Chinese cuisine is a cultural experience not to be missed. Take a moment to savor the tones and hues of the foods before indulging. It will only enhance the taste that much more!

In the forests of Cambodia lies a mythical place that is unmatched in history, culture and spirit. This hidden beauty is Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is one of the two major temple complexes in Southeast Asia and is so enriching that the only souvenirs you’ll need to take with you when you leave are the memories of exploring it.

The Angkor Wat temple complex features over one hundred temples. Time has taken a toll on the complex as the earth has reclaimed many of the wooden outbuildings, public buildings, houses and palaces. Luckily, the temples that were built in the 12th century to honor the Hindu god Vishnu are still standing. Angkor Wat is massive, yet most of the fascination surrounding it is due to the arrangement of its temples. Some researchers believe that the temples were arranged according to celestial patterns and sacred numbers, such as 108 and 72.

Angkor Wat is so special to Cambodia that is featured on their national flag. To get an intimate experience with this Cambodian treasure, it is recommended to visit the Angkor Archeological Park. Sprawling over 400 kilometers, this park welcomes millions of visitors each year. A visit to the Angkor Archeological Park can be very pleasant, but also very frustrating depending on what time of the year you go. The temples are full of tourists during the warm, dry months of November through February. If you don’t mind the rain, June through October is a good time to go. The temples are very quiet and it’s possible to tour them before the rain starts.

There are a few different ways to get around while visiting Angkor Wat.  Tour buses are available; however they might only stop at the larger tourist spots. Private cars, guides and biked are also available as well. A few particularly special ways to see the park are via helicopter, carriage or even elephant. No matter how you decide to get around, any trip to Angkor Wat is sure to be worth the effort!

The Dalai Lama once said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” His words ring true to every visitor who has had the privilege of ascending to the “roof of the world.” Kindness, hospitality, politeness, respect…this makes up an international language that is spoken fluently in Tibet. Its people are its greatest treasure, but they are just one of the features that make this land so remarkable. Tibet is often shrouded in mystery; let’s peel back some layers – and entice you to visit this magical land.

Language is culture. In Tibet, there are no hurried or impatient greetings. Whether one is greeting a friend, a relative, a visitor, or even a domestic animal, time is taken. There is a Tibetan proverb which says, “Tea has a good taste if it takes time to cook.” Likewise, speaking slowly and with thought will provide a “good taste” for speaker and listener alike. As mentioned, people tend to be very polite and courteous to one another, and to visitors, and dislike profanity or insults.

Love the yak. The yak is an integral part of Tibetan culture. These hardy creatures are still used for transport along steep and arduous mountain paths; their hair is woven into yarn; their hides can be used to make boots and boats; their meat is a nourishing source of protein; their milk provides healthy fat and is used to make butter, cheese, and yogurt; their dung is used to fuel fires. You might be lucky enough to visit during an annual summer horse festival, which often features yak races. The Tibetan people do not waste anything; the yak provides everything from transportation to food to clothing to tents to entertainment!

Tibet is not a free nation. In fact, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, which was established by the Dalai Lama and 100,000 Tibetans, is not recognized by any country in the world. Tibet is officially a Chinese territory, though the Dalai Lama has “fought” for its independence for decades. The Dalai Lama, revered by his people and respected by non-Buddhists, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to liberate Tibet through non-violent action. The history and ongoing struggles of Tibet are as much a part of its rich tapestry as the landscape.

It’s up there! The world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest is on the border of Tibet and Nepal. The plateau of Tibet is the world’s highest plateau with an average elevation of over 4,500 meters. Visitors can get altitude sickness, so it is important to be as healthy as possible (train before your trip!). Ascend gradually, give yourself time to acclimate (you will probably experience symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and shortness of breath), don’t ascend higher if symptoms are present, keep hydrated, and avoid strenuous activity even if symptoms are only mild.

Enjoy Tibet; its rich culture, kind people, and stunning scenery make it a truly unique destination.

We are aware of our carbon footprints; stores are practicing more greentailing. We know about climate change and carbon offsetting.  We do more recycling, upcycling, and freecycling. All of these are elements of sustainability. There may be hundreds of buzzwords, but all you really need to know about sustainability is this: everything we need for survival and wellbeing ultimately comes from the environment. When we act to ensure that the earth can continue to give us – and future generations – what we need, then we are acting in a sustainable way.

Sustainability does not mean giving up the products or activities we enjoy. It may mean, however, that we change how we do so. Traveling, for instance, can be unfriendly to the environment, or it can actually benefit and sustain it. How can you travel in a way that is eco-conscious – and still fun?

  • Choose a sustainable destination. These are locales that have found a good balance between economic and environmental needs. While welcoming visitors, they do not discard their responsibility to the environment. Luckily, you have a growing list from which to choose. Brazil, Dubai, Belize, Canada, Kenya, and other destinations are changing how we travel.
  • Choose sustainable accommodations. Look for those who actually back up their claims of being eco-friendly. Do they recycle? Do they use sustainable products and building materials? What have they done to reduce waste and pollution? Do they participate in environmental initiatives? In Costa Rica, for instance, many hotels and resorts participate in reforestation.
  • Take nothing but pictures (when appropriate) and memories. Don’t snag a souvenir from nature. Those materials are part of the ecosystem. Instead, opt for ecofriendly, local arts and crafts. You’ll support local artisans, and leave nature where it should be. Likewise, don’t bug the animals! They don’t want to be petted, pushed, prodded, or frightened.
  • Tread lightly. When possible, walk, hike, kayak, or swim instead of relying on fossil fuel-using vehicles. This will also help you see more of the scenery and experience the culture up close!
  • Find fun close to home. Traveling far and wide is exhilarating. But also consider staying closer to home in your travels. Every locale has something unique and interesting to enjoy, whether it is nature, museums, restaurants, or cultural/historical landmarks. Be a tourist in your own backyard. This is ideal for the budget-traveler, as well as the world traveler who has a free weekend.

You can find ecotourism agencies, and you can, with some research, plan your own earth-friendly trips. The most prized vacation destinations, from Alaska’s rugged mountains to Ecuador’s bio-diverse forests, are in danger. While we do not have to forgo visiting many of these amazing sites, we do have to preserve them for their primary residents (people, plants, and animals!) and for future generations.

The term “melting pot” is often used to describe areas in which a blend of cultures has come together. Colombia is more of a salad. The flavors, colors, and aromas of its people, culture, and landscape do not melt into one another, so much as they contrast and complement one another’s vibrancy and uniqueness.  Cold, snowcapped mountains; crystalline water lapping on sandy beaches; fecund rainforests teeming with life; spicy South American influence; energetic African roots. Colombia offers visitors a taste of a colorful culture that is remarkable for its contrasts.

One of the best ways to experience Colombian culture is through its numerous festivals. Carnaval de Negros y Blancos, for instance, is a beloved festival that was also named a UNESCO “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” Celebrated in January, the festival is a New Year’s party like no other with music, dancing, costumes, religious significance, colorful parades, and much more. The festival is a celebration of culture the likes of which are unrivaled throughout Colombia. But, of course, there is an abundance of other opportunities, from the Festival de Luna Verde, Fiestas del Mar, Festival Internacional de la Cultura…the list goes on and gloriously on.

Food. Perhaps the best way to experience culture! The cuisine of Colombia is influenced by Spanish, Arab, African, and Asian cultures. One of the country’s national dishes is Bandeja paisa: made with red beans, pork, rice, ground meat, fried egg, plantain, avocado, lemon, black pudding, chicharon (deep fried pork rind), chorizo (pork sausage), arepa (made from ground corn dough), and hogao sauce (tomato and onion-based sauce). This rich dish features a perfect blend of savory seasoning. Talk about complementing flavors, aromas, and colors! Bandeja paisa is just as multifaceted as Colombia itself.

Colombia’s identity is deeply rooted in the land itself. Here, you can visit the cold Andean mountains, the humid Amazon rainforest, the refreshing Pacific coast, and the equally inviting Atlantic coast. As diverse as Colombia’s people are, its landscapes are even more so. This area has incredible biodiversity; there are more endemic species here than anywhere else in the world. In addition, Colombia is home to over 1,800 species of birds and 456 species of mammals. Visitors can hike, kayak, dive, swim, trek, bike, and gawk their way through this marvelous natural scenery.

Colombia’s rich culture is evident in every festival, every dish, and every step of a traveler’s journey. Experience Colombia; you will never forget the energy, the pride, and the beauty of this South American nation.

The Galapagos Islands is home to the famed Galapagos Tortoise. One of the most impressive animals in the world, this revered tortoise is the tenth-heaviest reptile in the world and can live over 100 years. A worthy representative of the wonderful archipelago! This wise emissary shares the islands with a host of other wildlife. The Galapagos is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. Find out what other amazing animals call it home.

  • Galapagos Penguin. When we think of penguins, we think of ice, snow, and frigid waters. The endemic Galapagos penguin, though, prefers the warmer waters of Ecuador. These pint-size penguins grow to be about five pounds and just under 20 inches. They do like to cool off now and then: the Humboldt Current brings cold water from Antartica, and the penguins survive on the nutrients and sea life that accompanies the current. There are only about 1,000 pairs on the Islands, and they have to be careful because they are a favorite treat for sea lions, sharks, fur seals, hawks, and even crabs.
  • Waved Albatross. How can you spot a waved albatross? Look for a large, bright yellow bill! This is the hallmark of these great winged beasts. That, and its mating ritual, makes it one of the Island’s favorite inhabitants. The pair engages in bill circling, bowing, beak clacking, and making lively “whoo hoo!” sounds. Perfectly choreographed, and perfectly enchanting.
  • Lightfoot Crab. Not only are these crabs vibrant with their bright orange and blue coloring, they have the ability to walk on water! Whether on land or sea, Lightfoot crabs are always on the move. If you want to snap a picture, be quiet and approach slowly so they don’t run and hide. You will get some of your best photos from these crabs, which like to congregate in numbers.
  • Marine Iguana. This iguana looks like the tough guy in the neighborhood. Not to worry; they much prefer algae over your toes. These iguanas are the only sea-faring lizards in the world, and they are incredible swimmers.
  • Blue Footed Booby. While a graceful bird, the blue footed booby makes the list on the beauty of its feet. Its baby blues are integral in mating rituals. Males strut their stuff before females, and may he with the brightest feet win. Females, too, are chosen for the hue of their feet.

There is no shortage of amazing animals and natural wonders to behold when visiting the Galapagos. Don’t forget about the sea lions, fur seals, sharks, dolphins, hawks, finches, snakes, pelicans, and other beautiful residents of the Islands. Any animal sighting is sure to be a highlight of your trip.

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