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While we each wait for travel restrictions to end, timing is perfect for a virtual visit live to plan your next trip for 2021. Start with Brazil and Sri Lanka and see why they were two of my very top trips of a lifetime!
My personal adventure: an “Amazon Christmas”:
Home alone for the holidays? Not a chance! As a solo traveler, I have a traditional holiday at home early and then head out alone for another adventure abroad. One of my most exciting ones was going upriver on the Amazon on a small boat for 15 guests.
I chose the Brazilian Amazon for two reasons: First, it was closer geographically and easier to get to. Secondly, it added balance to my multiple prior trips to Spanish-speaking Latin America. I envisioned landing in a small plane as I had in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, flying as “co-pilot” in a 2 seater plane. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Airbuses and 737’s land routinely in Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas Province, with non-stop service via Miami.
Manaus, a city of 1+ million, provided an easy transition into life at the Equator. The traditional city tours include the Opera House/Teatro, outdoor market, Sao Sebastiao church and Palacio Rio Negro. To complement the 8 day river cruise, I chose an alternative: spending my two days in Manaus focused on learning more about the local wildlife, a task that would be difficult in the dense rainforest.
I split my time between the Hotel Tropical’s Zoo and the larger Bosque da Ciencia, both ranked among the top local attractions. The latter is a rescue and research center set in a park configured as a natural wildlife reserve. The admission was under $3.00. Although I was told the #120 bus went there, having never made the connection after several conflicting directions, I opted for the more costly taxi for the 30 minute ride to the suburbs. When I had just arrived, a fast moving local inhabitant (a small rodent?) dashed across my path before I could whip out my camera. The key attraction near the entrance was a large underwater manatee pool with an observation window below ground. Harder to see were monkeys in the treetops overhead. At ground level, a number of curious rodents crossed my path, including an agouti, one with bright red ears. For my return, there was a taxi stand outside, a welcome sight after hovering under a covered picnic table while a quick but heavy tropical rain fell. Although the center is technically closed to incoming visitors during lunch, those of us already inside were allowed to stay.
The Hotel Tropical’s zoo, with 22 species, was smaller but fit into the eco-resort’s lush 400 square meters of foliage set on the banks of the Rio Negro. It, too, was a rescue facility certified by the Brazilian government. The resident biologist, Dayse Campista, and her co-worker, Andre, very kindly spent substantial time with me so that I could learn more about the unique rainforest inhabitants. They included an endangered White Bellied Spider Monkey, Nina. A true celebrity she starred as Zuzu in a feature film, Taina 2 an Adventure in the Amazon. As a new mother, Nina very cautiously hid her young baby underneath her paws to protect it from visitors’ intruding eyes. I was delighted when Dayse was able to coax Nina into showing off her new, as yet unnamed, offspring. I was intrigued also by the Collared Peccaries. Like miniature Wild Boars, they reminded me of my time as a German exchange student watching “Hans” and “Sissy”, a full-size version, run around the local castle moat.
Even before arriving, I was most fascinated with the Capybara, billed as the world’s largest rodent. Although weighing up to 150 pounds, these gentle creatures look more like a giant Guinea Pig than a snarling rat. As a result, one of my chief goals was to see the Capybara while in Brazil. The Tropical Zoo had a family of five Capybara in residence. Having found on the Internet that the local sunrise was at 5:45 AM, I had visions of getting up after 3-4 hours sleep to be at the zoo at that hour for feeding time. I would have presented a comical sight since luckily having slept in, I discovered the Zoo opened at 8 AM not sunrise. I wandered in at 8:30 AM and after visiting the Blue and Yellow Macaws and the Collared Peccaries happened upon Andre en route to feed the Capybaras. I then met with Dayse to learn more about the Amazon wildlife and preservation efforts with follow-up visits that afternoon and on my last day in Manaus.
For those interested in ecotourism and wildlife, combining Manaus with a river trip is the perfect answer. The former provides an opportunity to really study the unusual Amazon species in depth and at a close range. Traveling on the river and trekking in the rainforest then provide a view of wildlife in their natural habitat but at a distance.
Although the rainy season had begun in December, I planned the trip to coincide with the holidays and hoped for the best weather possible. The good news was that only a few times in 10 days were there dramatic but short cloud bursts. It actually provided some welcome relief and was less humid after the short (but heavy) rainfall. In addition, notwithstanding what I had read, mosquitoes were not prevalent. The most frequent insect encounters were with wasps and ants although it is important to follow the recommendations as to malaria pills/other precautions.
From Manaus, the next step in this unique journey was “Going Up River”. For more on my Amazon Adventure, see this follow-up.
Beyond Brazil’s famous beaches and wildlife tours in the Amazon, there is so much more to learn about the people and their history. A new and safe way to travel without leaving your couch… tour guides are busy finding fun options for you to continue to travel, learn, connect and explore…virtually! From home, you can now meet certified tour guides on a Live Virtual Tour! During your tour, you’ll spend about an hour and a half with a certified tour guide on your selected tour and you will learn about their city’s culture, landscape, food, art and history. Via your laptop or tablet, you can do everything from learning more about Brazil, explore the Iguassu Falls, go on a ride till the top of Corcovado mountain and see the Christ Redeemer statue and much more…. These are NOT PRE – RECORDED EXPERIENCES: it’s you and a tour guide, live. After the presentation, you can ask questions and the work with Neyla and Gisela to tailor-make the right trip for you.
Please click the above link, and see how many options of Live Virtual Tours are waiting for you to try, and note that every day they will have more tours launching! Be sure to say Solo Trekker 4 U sent you!
Sri Lanka is now open for tourism in 2021!
On my trip to Sri Lanka as a guest of NKAR Travel & Tours, I had seven different vacations in one. I had an authentic view of Sri Lanka from beaches to towering hills. It has something for everyone either as a standalone visit or combined with India, the Middle East or the Maldives. I flew on Qatar Air for a stop over in Doha, capital of Qatar.
Sri Lanka’s small size makes it possible to have a good first introduction to the country in a week. For many of us in the US with limited vacation, the timing is just right. It is a very clean country even in rural areas and very safe. As one commentator quipped: If two bicycles were stolen in one day in Sri Lanka that would be deemed a major crime spree! As a woman solo traveler, I had no security concerns.
People were warm and friendly, and pricing was good. With the help of NKAR, I even found several hotels that had solo-priced rooms! That was the first time I had seen single room pricing outside of Europe where lodging commonly has discounts for one adult rather than a standard rack rate. (For more on 200+ European solo-priced hotels, go to our SoloTravelPricingTrackerTM..)
Sri Lanka affords five types of very different trips:
Add Sri Lanka to your bucket list. You will be delighted. For three sample tours from NKAR, please go to Sri Lanka Safari, Wildlife and Ecotourism, Solo Travel Cultural Adventure Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Adventure and Optional Maldives Extension. They can be tailored to your own travel style and budget.
A Couch Safari for Free!
Now you can travel there “for free” in 2021. Sri Lankan authorities announced Wednesday that they will offer livestreams from the island nation’s wildlife parks, in a move to help revive a tourism industry that has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. The government’s Tourism Promotion Bureau said livestreaming will initially cover four national parks to showcase the South Asian country’s exotic wildlife, including leopards, bears, elephants, crocodiles and birds. The project will offer eight wildlife streaming video sessions of one hour each which will be shown on social media platforms and shared further through broadcast media, the bureau said in a statement. Sri Lanka was named the world’s top travel destination for 2019 by Lonely Planet. Take advantage of the free “safari” with upcoming videos that introduce you to the countryside and rich wildlife.
Join this couch safari by registering now as registration for the event began last fall and continues on this link: Monday, 26th October 2020.
For more global tours with no (or low) single supplements and well-priced hotels, check frequently for our recommendations at our free SoloTravelPricingTracker.net.