Normally in this blog, you would have a special message announcing our office hours over the Labor Day holiday weekend, and a blog title that hopefully brings a smile to your face. Instead, we are using the space to talk about the tragic floods in Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
At the time of this writing, deadly floods have also severely affected areas of South Asia, which have already claimed more than 1,200 lives. And, unrest has flared up again at the borders of Myanmar and in Bangladesh in the Rohingya communities.
It seems as though the world is undergoing massive changes – both manmade and natural. Today we simply wanted to proclaim our solidarity with all who are caught up in these dramatic events. It is time for us to unite as one people with one home – planet Earth.
As you depart for the long weekend, we ask only that you keep all those suffering around the world in your thoughts and prayers. We also wanted to give you quick access through social media to organizations and group where you can help. Social media has proved to be an invaluable tool, and has never been used on this scale before to request direct help from those in need in Texas, Louisiana and Mumbai as well as serving as a means of live streaming updated news in these critical situations.
If you wish to help those affected by Harvey and the flooding in South Asia, below is a partial list of organizations, with their twitter handles, that have feet on the ground on the front lines of the recovery process.
We must and we will rise from this. #harveyheroes #southasiaflood
It always wise to do your homework using tools such as Charity Navigator, @CharityNav, if you have any questions about an organization.
Please note: Our office will be closed at 1:00 pm EST Friday and on Monday for Labor Day. We will reopen Tuesday, September 5th at 9am EST.
The gentle sound of the bell is clear and present. It lingers on the air and slowly fades into silence. That is the voice of a monastery in India. At beautiful Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, you can enjoy the unique privilege of participating in the Morning Prayer ceremony at sunrise. The monastery also has a two-story statue of the Maitreya Buddha seated on a lotus, a stunning prayer room with handwritten and painted books, and a temple dedicated to goddess Tara that includes her 21 images placed on glass-covered wooden shelves.
It’s time to take a new look at the India that lies beyond… beyond the worn routes that focus on Agra, Delhi, Varanasi and Udaipur; beyond the endless shopping stops; beyond the predictable. After all, that represents a mere ten percent of the country. The size and scope of India means that there is simply so much more to discover in the wealth of cultures, history, nature and landscapes.
Exciting, uncrowded, unique – that is what your trip to India should be. Our goal is to give you something extraordinary like the monasteries in northern India and the magnificent Leh Palace. We want to open doors for you to embark on an adventurous journey through spectacular landscapes into the realm of the Balti Dynasty to the quaint village of Turtuk, the only place in India to witness Balti culture, and the northernmost village in India, one of the gateways to the Siachen Glacier.
To the south, we offer you the extraordinary temples of Belur and Halebid, two towns built in the early 12th century by people of the Hoysala Empire. These stunning temples remain off the main tourist trails. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi on the south bank of Tungabhadra River features ruins dating from the 14th century that are all that remain of the seat of the fabled city of Vijaynagar kings.
We introduce you to places such as ancient Gujuart’s Shatrunjay Hill with its more than 900 Jain holy temples, where you can savor a rare opportunity to join pilgrims on a climb to the top via more than 3,800 stone steps.
Even when it comes to the popular tiger parks, we take you off the beaten path to Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra state in central India. This is the state’s oldest and largest national park and one of India’s 50 “Project Tiger” reserves.
Whatever your interests are – nature, history, culture, religion, people… India has something that will make your journey a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. To begin your exploration of this phenomenal destination, visit India today, or contact Big Five Tours today.
To wallow is defined as to roll oneself about in a lazy, relaxed, or ungainly manner, and to take unrestrained pleasure. Excessive wallowing in our culture is generally frowned upon… unless of course you happen to be an elephant.
At some point, we have all witnessed firsthand elephants or seen images of elephants getting down and dirty in the local mud pool, and wallowing, you might even say luxuriating in the thick, clay-like red mud. Mud baths are an all-time favorite activity with elephants whether in Asia or Africa.
They romp and play and roll themselves about, knocking into each other, throwing trunkfuls of water on one another. While the communal mud bath is a great playpen for the youngsters, the adults know the importance of these adventures in mud. Elephants need to cool down and mud helps provide relief from the very hot temperatures of their native homelands in Africa and Asia and elsewhere. When coming out of a bath in a river, elephants throw mud on themselves as a layer of protection.
Then there are the free-throwing, dirt-flinging fests in which both adults and youngsters indulge. Even though these giants, the largest living land animals, look incredibly tough, they are not. Their skin, for example, is very sensitive, and they have to take measures to protect themselves. Dirt and dust not only serve as a kind of sunscreen but also as rudimentary pest repellent. Adult elephants make sure to douse the young ones in the herd with dust. When calves are sleeping, adults often stand over them to provide shade and protection from the sun.
We all know by now that elephants are smart, social, family animals. They are an exceptionally intelligent species with extraordinary intuition. To be among them in any circumstance is a rare privilege and an honor. There are a number of locations to search out wild elephants at their favorite watering holes, especially in Southern Africa such as Zimbabwe and our President’s Pick Zimbabwe’s Wild Landscapes.
As much of the travel industry begins to descend on Las Vegas for one of the premier, weeklong travel shows, we took a minute to look back at last year’s event in terms of the amount of steps we took during that time. One of our team actually wore a pedometer last year, curious to see just how far he had walked. After this year long pedometer test, it turns out that he walked some 20,000 steps a day times seven days for a whopping 140,000 steps a week.
The unique turn of mind we have here at Big Five naturally led us to wonder how far that would take us if we were climbing Egypt’s pyramids. Yes, we tend to look at things a bit differently here, but isn’t that why you love us? Back to pyramids.
There are about 120 pyramids in Egypt. The average standard for pyramid heights is some 481 feet, which equals roughly 1,270 steps. That means you could choose to skip Las Vegas, board a plane, fly to Cairo and climb 110 of Egypt’s 120 pyramids. (No, we are not telling you to do that. We need our friends to stay OUT of trouble). It is up to you of course to decide which sounds like more fun. If you want to think about that for a while, visit our Egypt page for inspiration.
In the meantime, we look forward to seeing many of you in Nevada shortly. Safe journeys.
We are often asked what makes a good vacation for children. Of course, much depends on the interests and ages of the children involved. But kids are natural explorers, and they are anything but passive. They want to be everywhere; see, touch, taste, smell everything. A great adventure vacation for kids are the ones that challenge kids to be fully engaged, using all their senses. Not surprisingly, that does not necessarily happen when they are just riding in a safari vehicle, stopping to watch yet another sleeping lion.
Kids have a lot of natural energy that needs to be involved in the activities at hand. They learn to care about what they are exposed to, what they experience firsthand. And, sometimes the most profound experiences can be the simplest such as walking through the Africa bush with traditional Bushmen in Botswana, where they are introduced to and see the personal side of an ancient culture, how it fits into today’s world, and they begin to recognize the traditional relationships between man and nature.
The best experiences take the ages of the children into account. For younger kids that might include activities that involve authentic interactions such as the Junior Naturalist Program at Forsyth Lodge, Satpura National Park, one of India’s tiger reserves. Over three days, participants learn basic knowledge about the jungle and keys to understanding any wilderness. Sessions presented by naturalists are about two hours a day and presented between safaris and in the evening.
Older children and teenagers need adventures appropriate for their age groups to avoid boredom. They can, for example, explore the creative side of Johannesburg, South Africa to discover the city’s unique past at the Apartheid Museum. They learn about the graffiti culture and street art on a walking tour of the inner city with an experienced guide who has a passion for graffiti, and they meet local artists who share about their art and their lives.
In Australia, children over ten years of age and their families can join one of two vital conservation projects – one involving the koala and the other the threatened tiger quoll, the largest remaining marsupial carnivore on the Australian mainland. Participants work alongside conservationists to carry out a range of activities, including population surveys; deploying, retrieving and reviewing camera traps; habitat assessment surveys; habitat restoration; biodiversity surveys, and vegetation surveys.
The fabled Galapagos Islands are a natural fit for all who love animals. Here, animals and people meet face to face, or foot to fin in some cases. But it is not only animals trying to survive here. Galapagos Safari Camp is involved with a pilot program with the Galapagos National Park Service that aims to engage local fisherman in tourism activities as an alternative means of income with the added benefit of protecting local fisheries from depletion. Families have the opportunity to go out with these fishermen on safe, modern, private speedboats for the day. This is a true cultural exchange as these traditional fisherman teach the children local tricks for fishing with a net and line, while sharing stories from their culture and a lifetime spent at sea. This excursion is both a wildlife experience and a true cultural exchange opportunity.
The young learn by doing, by experiencing the world beyond. Traveling with children is not simply good for you and your family; it is in the long run good for the planet.