Malawi St Peter Cathedral copySurprising, startling, amazing, magnificent… This is the general reaction when travelers come upon the Anglican Cathedral of St. Peter on the small island of Likoma, one of two islands located in Lake Malawi. The cathedral, which is actually one of the largest churches in Africa, was built primarily with granite from the island and fired brick stones from the mainland. It has a well-kept tin roof, some quite beautiful stained-glass windows and soapstone choir stalls as well as a lovely garden.  The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Gerard Trower on January 27, 1903 and the church was consecrated eight years later on November 14, 1911. Considered a feat of engineering due to its location, it was built to serve as a center for the Anglican Church in Central Africa.

Many visitors are taken aback to find this remarkable cathedral on Likoma, which is home to some 9,000 inhabitants who are widely spread out in settlements across the island. Chipyela is the largest town there and is home to the church and a market. Visitors are welcome to attend services in this very active church. Local dance competitions are often held on weekends with participants use traditional instruments and are dressed in colonial costumes, offering a truly original cultural experience. Ironically, the local witchdoctor in town is said to be the most prominent in all of Malawi.

Likoma encompasses rocky slopes, sandy bays, swamps, and crystal-clear blue waters and has views of Mozambique’s wilderness and mountainous terrain. Both Likoma and nearby Chizumulu Island lie just a few miles from Mozambique, and are entirely surrounded by Mozambique’s territorial waters, however, they became part of Malawi because of the presence of British missionaries when national borders in East Africa were established after World War II.

You can incorporate a visit to the cathedral when you travel to Lake Malawi on our new 13-day Zambia & Malawi adventure.

An Ecuadorian market

An Ecuadorian market

Friday, April 22nd, will mark the 46th year of what would prove to be the birth of an amazing social, political and environmental movement. It comes barely a week after the devastating earthquakes hit Ecuador’s southern coast.  The affected area continues to suffer from hundreds of aftershocks.

About 90% of the world’s earthquakes and some 81% of the largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, which includes Ecuador and much of west coast of South America.  Saturday’s quake was a megathrust quake that occurs in the boundary zone where one of the planet’s tectonic plates is sliding under another, a process called subduction. In the case of the Ecuadorean quake, the Nazca, a heavy oceanic plate, is sliding under the South American, a lighter continental plate, at a rate of about two inches a year. Strain builds up at the boundary, which is then released suddenly in the form of an earthquake.

On this 46th Earth Day, we support Ecuador’s road to recovery.  Many of the most visited areas in Ecuador were unaffected by the quakes, which allows us to aid the people of Ecuador in a real, tangible way – through continued tourism that will provide essential dollars vital to the rebuilding efforts of the country.

As a sign of our solidarity with Ecuador and its engaging and determined people,  we launch our new President’s Pick: Mainland Ecuador.


Please note: Some areas of this itinerary may have been affected by recent events. We launch this program knowing that Ecuador will rebuild and that these areas will emerge better than before.




The ghost pepper! In 2007, Guinness World Records certified that the ghost pepper was at the time the world’s hottest chili pepper, coming in 400 times fierier than Tabasco sauce. It is rated at more than one million Scoville heat units (SHUs). The ghost chili also goes by several names including bhut jolokia. The word Bhut, given from the Bhutanese people, in this instance means “ghost” and may have gotten the name from the way the heat sneaks up on you.

From the genus Capsicum, chili peppers originally came from Central and South America. Several species have been domesticated to produce many cultivated types, ranging from mild and sweet to hot and pungent.

Chili peppers may have been the first plants to be domesticated in Central America, where evidence suggests that they were consumed as early as 7500 BCE. Mexico and northern Central America is thought to be the center of origin for the Capsicum annuum, and South America for the Capsicum frutescens.

Chilies are not native to the Himalayas high altitudes, but they are now ubiquitous in South Asian vegetable dishes. One theory proposes that Portuguese explorers where the first to bring chilies to Asia sometime in the 15th or 16th century.

Today the favorite spice, considered a vegetable by the Bhutanese, is grown in gardens and plots throughout the country, and you see the brilliant red pods drying on rooftops and hanging from windowsills everywhere. You can even catch a whiff of it in the fresh air.

The Bhutanese, especially, are crazy about the spicy pepper, which is an integral of Bhutanese cuisine. Even toddlers are encouraged to have a little heat by their elders. The peppers are looked upon as a vegetable and not merely a spice here. Indeed, the national dish of Bhutan is the ema datshi, or emma datschi – meaning chili cheese – and that is the total list of ingredients – chili and yak cheese

To explore the wonders of the ghost pepper and so much more, concoct your own Bhutanese recipe for adventure such as our 12-day Central Bhutan journey.

Humans’ love affair with chocolate reaches far back into our history – possibly as far as 1500 BCE. For those of us who adore this favorite in all its many forms that is no surprise.

In Latin, cacao trees are called Theobroma Cacao, or “food of the gods.” The cocoa or cacao bean comes from trees native to the Americas. It may have originated in the foothills of the Andes in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, in what is current-day Colombia and Venezuela, where wild cacao can still be found. Cacao trees can live up to 200 years, but they produce usable beans for only 25 years.

The cacao bean was a common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest. Today, cocoa products, including chocolate, are used worldwide. And, Colombia grows some of the finest cocoa available, which is exported around the globe.

In Cartagena, you can explore the world of this talented bean, see how it is processed and roasted at 149 degrees.  Make your own chocolates during a fascinating workshop at the Museo de Coco! They also have a family version of the class that will delight your kids.

Include a hands-on chocolate workshop during our 13-day Guatemala & Colombia journey.

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