Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Africa – in terms of people. When it comes to wildlife, though, you will find a variety of awe-inspiring and interesting residents. From antelopes and wildebeest to elephants and African wild dog, Botswana offers visitors incredible vistas and opportunity to see nature at its finest.

When in Botswana, hit the following wildlife hotspots:

Chobe National Park, Chobe District

The most famous wildlife viewing area in Botswana is the Chobe National Park, which covers over 11,000 square kilometers (4,247 square miles). It has a number of designations, including being the first national park in Botswana. While it is the third largest, it boasts the most diversity. Here, you will find the largest number of African elephants in the world. The Kalahari Elephants are the largest elephants in the world, so have your camera at the ready. Keep your eyes open for antelope, giraffe, Cape buffalo, warthogs, kudus, impalas, lions, zebra, hyenas, leopards, hippos, and scores of bird species. Your Chobe safari can include driving and activities, as well as accommodations.

Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta

The big cats and predators hold immense interest for us. We are fascinated by their strength, speed, agility, beauty, and power. Moremi Game Reserve, in Northern Botswana, offers “predator safaris,” your chance to see these incredible creatures without the comfort of zoo walls. You will also see a number of other species, including wildebeests, black and white rhinos, hippos, Nile crocodiles, and some 400 species of birds. Guided tours are available in the park, and intrepid travelers can opt for self-drive tours as well.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

This park is on the border of Botswana and Namibia. The country’s first “transfrontier park,” South Africa and Botswana have come together to protect wildlife. This is a great choice if you’d rather see more animals than people. You can see wildebeest, eland abound, meerkats, leopards, and gorgeous black-maned lions. The elusive cheetah is also a resident, and you might spot some by rivers as they hunt. Birdwatchers will be in heaven, especially if they enjoy seeing birds of prey in action.

The Kalahari Desert sprawls over 70 percent of Botswana; in those areas touched by rivers and lakes, a rich ecosystem exists and is home to a wealth of animals. A premium African safari destination, Botswana is a must for those who want to see animals most others only see in zoos or photos.

Jordan is an incredible and storied Arab kingdom in Asia, bordering Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Israel. In a region so rich in culture, in history, in meaning for so many people, it is tempting to think we know everything there is to know about it. But Jordan has a few surprises to bestow upon the sophisticated traveler who is willing and eager to learn about the secrets of the Middle East.

Healing in the Dead Sea

Forgot chemical peels and laser treatments! In Jordan, you can get an ancient, effective, and invigorating body scrub. The Dead Sea waters are home to 35 different minerals, which are believed to cure everything from psoriasis to arthritis. The mud on the shore is very mineral-rich and visitors luxuriate in its restorative properties.

Jordan is one of the world’s premiere medical tourism destinations, and the Dead Sea is a big reason why. The Dead Sea Research Center, for instance, offers programs for patients that promote sun, Dead Sea baths, emollient creams, thermo-mineral baths, mud soaks, scalp treatments, sulfur baths, and more. Those seeking relief from respiratory illnesses benefit from Jordan’s high oxygen levels and low pollution and allergen levels.

Ancient Art Revealed

In the magical city of Petra, “a rose red city half as old as time,” ancient cave art has been restored. Far from primitive, the paintings feature angel-like figures, flowers, and birds, all intricately and brightly rendered. It is believed that the cave in which these are found was a refuge for a cult which worshipped Dionysus, the god of wine. Greek-inspired art in Jordan; a city carved into sandstone cliff faces; an adventure waiting for every visitor – especially those who are fans of Indiana Jones. Several scenes from the series were filmed in Petra.

The Holy Month of Ramadan

It’s not surprising that many Jordanians observe the holy month of Ramadan. What may be surprising to visitors is that the month of fasting, where eating, drinking, and smoking are prohibited during the day – is actually a great time to visit. Try to fast yourself so you can feel a part of the sacrifice and celebration; you break the fast at iftar, or the evening meal. This is often a community ritual, and people gather to eat and celebrate. The westernized hotels and restaurants offer meals, or you can head out (early – lots of hungry people will be waiting in line!) to cafes. Stay up for the festivities that occur after iftar; it is a month-long party – at least at night!

Jordan is an intriguing land where visitors will find something new and fascinating with every day that dawns and every night that falls. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan invites you to explore its mysteries and charms.

The Pacific, the Caribbean, mountains, beaches, cities, untamed wilderness, beauty, grit, crowds, solitude, culture, nature, architecture…Colombia has it all. One of the largest countries in South America, as well as one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, Colombia has much more than coffee to serve visitors (though tourists who want a cuppa joe will find both delicious brews and great historic tours). Come and see what this tropical gem has to offer.

The Great Outdoors

Colombia offers residents and visitors alike diverse landscapes, from beaches to the Andes to the Amazon. There are coral reefs, mangrove forests, lagoons, prairies, natural forest, savannahs, wetlands, and a wealth of fish, birds, reptiles, butterflies, and mammals. You can enjoy these at preserves, national parks, and other protected areas. There are parks throughout Colombia’s various ecosystems, from Tayrona in the Caribbean region to Cueva de los Guacharos in the Andean region to Cahuinari National Park in the Amazon region. Wherever you visit in Colombia, take a day trip to a nearby national park for incredible beauty and the photo ops of a lifetime.

San Andres

If a day (or two or three!) of fun and sun is on your agenda, then head to San Luis Beach, ten minutes from downtown San Andres island or Bahia Sardina, in the north. The latter is in a more touristy part of town, but don’t hold that against it: you’ll find white beaches, great diving and swimming, palm trees, and gorgeous views. It doesn’t get any less hot at night; visit outstanding restaurants – heavy on the seafood – and nightclubs.

Bogota

If lounging on a beach is a tad tame for you, travel to Colombia’s capital. A teeming city of nearly 9 million, Bogota mixes old and new with grand old churches and plazas and modern buildings, quiet neighborhoods and hectic city centers, traditional culture with metropolitan business influence. You can find traditional Ajiaco, or potato soup, to fusion cuisine and fast food. Visit El Centro, the original Downtown, El Occidente, home to parks and sporting venues, and the North, where you will find upscale shopping, restaurants, and clubs. You’ll fill your quota for culture – if there is such a thing! – with museums, art galleries, and other historical and cultural sites of interest.

Cartagena

More than a beach resort – though that’s enough for some of us! – Cartagena is a historical center, rich with architecture, history, libraries, museums, theaters, historic canals, and tastes of modern life, such as clubs, restaurants, and shops. A must for any Colombian adventurer.

Whether traveling for work or pleasure, you will certainly find more pleasure than anything else in this diverse, contradictory, remarkable, old, new, and gorgeous South American paradise.

Many of us only see rare and exotic animals in the confines of a zoo, and indeed, well-run, compassionate zoos have been integral in saving endangered animals. A trio of white lions, for instance, was born last year in a Ukraine zoo, and a liliger, offspring of a female liger and male tiger, was born in a Siberian zoo. The world’s rarest animals are often very few in number and very adept at hiding from threats, even nature-loving tourists with cameras. Where can you find the rarest of the rare in the wild?

  1. Mountain gorillas. This is a magnificent beast found in the mountains of Uganda. With recent ecotourism efforts, this is one rare animal that you have a good shot at seeing – and up close, at that. With a guide, you can get within meters of these giants. A permit to trek through Bwindi National Park is expensive, but the proceeds help preserve and protect the 700+ gorillas still living.
  2. Polar bears. Churchill, Manitoba is the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” Each fall, hundreds of these gorgeous creatures gather by the Hudson Bay, waiting for it to ice up so they can move out to winter hunting grounds. This is a great opportunity to see these beautiful animals in their home environment.
  3. Leatherback sea turtles. This species can grow up to 7 feet and 2,000 pounds. They travel up to 3,700 miles one way to mate and lay their eggs. Your best chance at spotting these gorgeous animals is to visit Grande Riviere, Trinidad. The population has rebounded, and 500 females come onto the beaches in May and June. People here are very protective of their turtles!
  4. Black rhino. With a population of only 4,000, black rhinos are vulnerable to poachers and habitat disruption. They have, however, been re-introduced into some areas, which will hopefully boost numbers. They are found in Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Hluhulwe-Umfolozi Park in South Africa is, perhaps, your best bet as this is where 20 percent of all black and white rhinos live.
  5. Giant pandas. These gentle giants are favorites in China and abroad. The Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya’an is the largest in the world and is home to 155 giant pandas. While not exactly “in the wild,” the panda base features breeding and research programs designed to help these threatened pandas survive and thrive.

Even if you cannot spot your favorite rare creature in the wild, you are sure to encounter a wide range of animal life that is equally worth experiencing. And don’t forget zoos; they can offer a home away from home for many exotic and endangered animals.

Bordered by Colombia, Peru, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean, Ecuador is one of the tiniest countries in South America – but do not be fooled. There is plenty to see, do, and experience in Luz de América (the light of America). There are thousands of reasons to visit Ecuador; here are five to whet your appetite.

  1. Unparalleled natural beauty.  Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. It boasts 50 ecosystems, from the Galapagos to tropical rainforests to forested valleys to the Andean mountains. In a country as small as Nevada, you can see and do it all! Ecuador is considered “mega-diverse” and several hotspots have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also the first country to put the rights of the environment into the country’s constitution.
  2. Adventure after adventure. Don’t passively watch nature go by; go after it! Hiking, biking, kayaking, horseback riding, diving, swimming, rafting, trekking through volcanoes…and rewarding your hard work with a good soak in a hot spring or an hour or two (or three) on a tropical beach.
  3. The weather. Enjoy perpetual spring. Ecuador, literally the “Republic of the Equator,” is mild, and you can plan your trip around your schedule instead of around the weather. Conditions are ideal for activities, lounging, and enjoying Ecuador’s many charms.
  4. The rich culture. Ecuador is home to a diversity of cultures, many of which (particularly in the Andean and Amazonian regions) live much the way they did centuries ago. In city centers, visitors will find museums, theaters, thriving markets, festivals, and very welcoming people. Ecuador blends Spanish culture with African and European influences, and this vibrancy is reflected in the people and its cities.
  5. The food! A great reason to visit any locale! The food of Ecuador is also very diverse, as we would expect from this country. Staples include beef, pork, seafood, beans, rice, yucca, potatoes, and a spicy Aji sauce. There are also exotic fruits, quinoa, and lots of fresh seafood. A favorite is shrimp ceviche. The shrimp is marinated in lime, salt, and seasonings, including hot pepper. Very simple, but very tasty.

Ecuador is a wonder of nature, but its people and cultures are equally diverse and beautiful. This is a perfect destination for those who want to do more than go on vacation, who want to live life to the fullest and experience a vibrant way of life.

Japan has more three-star Michelin restaurants than any other country in the world. When you dine at Komago in Kobe, you will see – or taste – why. Gorgeous, traditional bento boxes feature spicy spring rolls and miniature tempura. The yellowtail sashimi is marinated in sweet vinegar and brushed with horseradish and wasabi. Each bite is fresh, delicate, and delicious. From traditional sushi and sashimi to fusion, from Tokyo to Osaka, culinary treats of Japan are many, and they are incredibly diverse.

Japan features a variety of culinary styles, including:

  • Tempura. Familiar to many Westerners, tempera is seafood and vegetables that are dipped in a batter and fried. The batter is a mixture of water or sparkling water and wheat flour. It is important that it be cold and mixed very quickly to create a fluffy, light coating, unlike the very thick crust that is often on US fried foods. The result is a refreshing treat that is often the star of bento (lunch) boxes.
  • Sushi and sashimi. These menu items come to mind immediately when we think of Japanese cuisine. Once served only on very special occasions, sushi and sashimi are more of a staple in today’s Japanese restaurants. Different varieties of sushi, including maki and nigiri, and sashimi, unadorned by rice, offer fresh tastes, tender textures, and a bite of wasabi and ginger.
  • Kaiseki. Often described as equivalent to Western haute-cuisine, Kaiseki is a style of food prized for its quality. While there are “informal” Kaiseki restaurants, the tradition is very formal. Chefs improvise within the structure of Kaiseki. Meals consist of appetizers, both light and more substantial, soup course, seasonal sashimi platter with seafood and vegetables, cooked dishes (grilled, dressed, simmered, steamed, and vinegared courses), rice course, dessert, and tea. It is more of an event than a meal!
  • Fusion. Creative, fun, and delicious, fusion blends Japanese style with other culinary traditions. Japanese-Spanish, Japanese-Italian, Japanese-Thai…the list goes on and on! While fusion is popular in the United States and other areas, it is still catching on in Japan itself. Restaurants like the Two Rooms Grill integrates new and traditional styles, Japanese and international cuisine. From “bar bites” to High Tea, you will leave satisfied!

Japan is incredibly rich in culture, and its culinary traditions are among the most beloved in the world. What makes it so wonderful, though, is that it evolves and allows for creativity and improvisation. Well-prepared Japanese food always tastes fresh and exciting.

Intrepid travelers visit India to experience its rich history, to explore its diverse culture or their own spirituality. They go because the immense country is home to terrains from rugged mountains, arid deserts, and sandy beaches; because the value is incredible, the people hospitable, and the food unbelievable. But did you know that in addition to all of these wonderful reasons, India is one of the best destinations for wildlife viewing? Get your sunscreen and camera and prepare yourself for the journey of a lifetime.

India boasts 89 national parks, 13 bio-reserves, and over 400 wildlife sanctuaries. Deer, bison, antelope, snakes, monkeys, wild dogs, camels, rhinos, crocodiles, bears, foxes, wolves, leopards, lions, tigers, and pythons offer wonder, awe, and perhaps a little trepidation, if you should come just a bit too close!

One of the most biodiverse regions in the world, India also offers sanctuary to rare and threatened species, as well as several endemic species. When planning your visit, consider putting the following destinations at the top of your agenda:

Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan. One of Project Tiger’s conservation sites, the park was originally the private hunting grounds of the Majarajas of Jaipur. We can thank them because they forbade outside hunting, and the park was eventually rescued by Project Tiger. 400 square kilometers of crags, lakes, rivers, bush land, and forest offers great diversity and an abundance of plant life to feed hungry animals – which then feed hungry tigers. Unlike the inhabitants of most other tiger habitats, these are fairly active during the day and you have a great chance to spot them in the sun or hunting around lakes.

Jim Corbett National Park, Uttaranchal. Here you can view sloth bears, Himalayan black bears, otters, Indian pangolins, Indian grey mongoose, owls, rhesus monkeys, and much more. Safaris and treks allow you to explore the landscape and its many beautiful features up close.

Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh. This land inspired Rudyard Kipling’s famous Jungle Book. While the book has captured our imaginations for generations, this land, too, has the power to grip our attentions and thrill us. Tigers are just one species that thrives in the protected confines of the park. Indian elephants, Indian peacocks, black bucks, leopards, wild dogs, jackals, sloth bears, and barasingha, or swamp deer also roam through the diverse park.

There are, of course, many other reserves, sanctuaries, and parks to discover in this magical country. Timing your travel plans accordingly will help you avoid dangerously hot and humid weather, while still having the best chances of seeing the incredible animals of India.

More than 4 million people visit Australia each year – and that does not count the lucky residents of the country who stay right at home when they vacation! Known for its rugged natural beauty, Australia is home to the Great Barrier Reef, the “Outback,” gorgeous vineyards (when in Australia, try the wine!), and, of course, kangaroo, emu, and dingo. There is another side to Australia as well. Its cities feature distinctive architecture, modern and cultural attractions, a variety of restaurants and shops, and much more. Exploring the cities is just as exciting as adventuring through the Outback!

Australia’s largest and most important cities include:

Sydney

One thing that visitors notice is that even in the cities, nature plays a big role in Australian life. Sydney is built around its famous harbor, and visitors are sure to recognize the famous Sydney Opera House. An incredibly dynamic city, visitors can enjoy arts and festivals, shopping, exquisite food and wine, and special events. There is something happening during every season. In October, for instance, you can walk through a massive outdoor sculpture exhibit. Sculpture by the Sea features incredible works from Australian and international artists lining the Bondi to Tamarama coast walk. Make sure to take in a local event when in town!

Melbourne

If theater, art, and shopping are part of your dream vacation, you will fall in love with Melbourne. You can take in a show at the incredible Princess and Her Majesty’s Theaters, or opt for local shows at the Arts Centre and Malthouse. Or better yet, both! Wander through over 100 art galleries, visit trendy clubs for live music, and shop, shop, shop. Whether you want designer clothing or local crafts, you will find it in Melbourne. A must is Queen Victoria’s Market. At the historic landmark, you will find everything from seafood, fruits, and vegetables to clothing, toys, and souvenirs. People watching is yours for free!

Brisbane

What can’t you do in Brisbane? Eating, shopping, sightseeing, biking, walking, rock climbing, kayaking, visiting national parks, watching world class shows, sporting events, going to lively festivals. If you want to be bored on vacation, sorry! Brisbane is second to none in urban offerings and its rich culture is melded into every aspect of city life. Terrific for couples, singles, and families, this Australian city also offers a variety of free and low-cost activities.

Warning: if you come to Australia, you’ll never want to leave! You’ll just have to come back again and again to visit the rest of Australia’s fabulous cities.

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