Antarctica – Visit This Land Of Extremes

At the bottom of the world there is a mysterious land of eternal winter. The vast windswept continent of Antarctica was not even known to the outside world until the late 1700’s, and the interior was not explored until the early 1900’s. A land of endless glaciers and towering icy peaks, in some places the ice cap reaches a depth of nearly three miles. Antarctica is essentially a desert continent, and most of the interior receives less than 50 mm of precipitation a year, all of it in the form of snow. All of Antarctica remains below freezing year-round with the exception of the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. So remote and isolated is this frozen realm that it has been used as a proving ground for possible space missions.

Ruslan Eliseev_1415_IMGP2395.jpg

What sort of person would want to visit and explore such a hostile place? Only an intrepid adventurer. There are opportunities if you are bold enough and willing to step outside your comfort zone. You can be one of the brave cadres of explorers to visit the hidden continent. Sound appealing? If so, an Antarctic adventure tour might be just the thing for you!

There are a variety of trips and excursions you can take to this polar realm. They range from sea voyages on luxury ships from which you can comfortably watch the seabirds, penguins and other wildlife to expeditions into the remote interior. Some trips will use the ship as a sort of “base camp” from which you can land on the coast or even camp overnight. Remarkably, a census of polar life conducted in 2010 revealed that there are 235 species of marine life found in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, having somehow bridged the 12,000-mile distance in between. Blue whales, orcas, and giant squids can also be found in the rich fisheries near the Antarctic coast.

Ruslan Eliseev_1415_DSC_74101.jpg

In a land where the sun never sets, and the ice is miles deep, the austere beauty of the Antarctic summer is an experience of a lifetime. Underneath the ice, there are known to be a number of vast, subglacial lakes, some of which have been sealed away from the surface for millions of years. Who knows what secrets might lie in these stygian depths?

Tours depart from the southern port cities of Chile or Argentina and cross the tempestuous Southern Ocean. The newer tours have you fly to King George Island where you miss the rough Drake Crossing but get to experience Antarctica. Even in summer (northern winter), the weather will be cold, so you will want to dress accordingly. Depending on the trip you book, your accommodations will range from luxurious to spartan. As you approach Antarctica with the icy spray in your face, you will see the rugged shores and towering ice cliffs in the distance. What wonders lie in store? Book your trip today and find out! Visit Condor Tours & Travel as we offer a variety of packages to experience this destination.

Jordi Plana_0506_255.jpg

Condor Tours & Travel has four Antarctica packages for you to choose from; ranging from a 6 day / 5 night trip to the extensive 16 day / 15 night excursion. Starting your journey in either Chile or Argentina. You are met by the Antarctica21 team of experts who will take you through the Beagle Channel and to legendary Cape Horn. Cross the mythical waters of the Drake Passage and spend a day in one of the most spectacular places on earth – Antarctica.

Our most extensive package starts in Punta Arenas, Chile from which you will fly to King George Island in the South Shetland chain. You will be given an opportunity to explore the island before embarking on your trip aboard the expedition vessel, Zodiac. Leaving King George Island, you sail along the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, an area of spectacular ice filled fjords and vast icebergs. You will explore several spots in the Gerlache Strait that offer the best possible overview of the varied Antarctic environment. Weather permitting, you will visit Elephant Island where the crew of Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, found refuge while he and five handpicked men traveled on to South Georgia.

From Elephant Island you will journey on to South Georgia Island. South Georgia is a diverse landscape of majestic mountains, huge glaciers, grassy uplands and deep fjords. You will visit the former whaling outpost of Grytviken where you may pay your respects before the simple grave of Ernest Shackleton. At St. Andrew’s Bay you will be amazed by the sight of over 150,000 king penguins. Nearby Cooper Island is the nesting home of thousands of black-browed albatrosses and a large colony of macaroni penguins. Once your time in South Georgia is done, you will sail back to South America along the Beagle Channel and admire the rugged beauty of Tierra del Fuego and Navarino Island as you make your way to the Argentine port of Ushuaia to begin your trip home.

Ruslan Eliseev_1415_DSC_9895.jpg

Antarctica awaits those brave enough to make the trip. But plan ahead as there is limited space and it sells out quickly. 2019 is already sold out and there are only a few spots left for 2020. Contact Condor Tours & Travel today to get started on your adventure to the South Pole! You will make enough memories to last a lifetime!

Emerging Travel Destination – Colombia, South America

Colombia is a stunning country well worth visiting. You may be surprised by this statement, but the problems of the past don’t reflect the Colombia of today. Now one of the safest countries to visit in Latin America, Colombia has had severe issues in the past with drugs and crime, a reputation it has worked hard to eliminate. The drug wars have long since abated following their high-profile days in the ’90s. Colombia has been an unheralded success with gorgeous landscapes, exciting architecture, unforgettable cities and welcoming people. This destination is eager to show you the new Colombia and how it is welcoming guests worldwide to enjoy just about any travel experience you seek.Bogot+í 4

Positioned in the northwestern part of South America, Colombia connects Panama to the Continent and is surrounded by Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela. While the surrounding countries are known for their incredible wine tours, Colombia is famous for one delightful crop – coffee! Coffee region cupColombia has been growing coffee since the 1950s, and a coordinated effort with the National Federation of Coffee Growers has developed international popularity for their excellent brews. Did you know that Juan Valdez is a fictional character used to market Colombian Coffee? The Colombian coffee growers are known for producing well-balanced coffee beans and produce over 11.5 million bags annually – third highest in the world.

Let’s start at the capital, Bogota, a beautiful, historic and colorful city. As in any urban center, you want to be aware of your surroundings when you are walking around. Bogota is experiencing a resurgence that you should not miss, especially with Condor Tours & Travel as your supplier for complete travel packages to insure you get the trip experience you seek. Bogot+í 2We have a fantastic travel package that includes the capital city and the coffee farms region known as The Coffee Triangle that is located two hours south. Also known as Zona Cafetera, the three regions that make up the triangle are Caldas, Quindio, and Risaralda. The mountain scenery makes this area one of the most lush and beautiful areas to travel to; what could be better than a beautiful view of nature and an aromatic cup of coffee. Can you say “aaahhhh”?

Not a coffee drinker? More of a foodie? Condor Tours & Travel has just the trip for you – the city of Cartagena! Considered the jewel in Colombia’s crown, Cartagena is a culinary treasure chest.Cartagena by night From ceviches to arepas your taste buds will not be disappointed. Colombia has a rich culture that is expressed in its traditional foods. Bogota, the capital city of Colombia, with its 8 million people is the cosmopolitan heartbeat of the country. The days of high crime and drugs are gone and replaced with a budding tourist-friendly city! You will eat and drink your way through this thriving metropolis. Each region of Colombia has something to do and explore. Enjoy nature in beautiful national parks like Chicaque natural reserve where you can hike the trails or visit the Otún Quimbaya Wildlife Sanctuary in the Pereira region. If you seek adventure, we have a region known for its in hiking, biking, hang gliding and so much more. Once you visit Colombia, you’ll want to return again and again! Contact Condor Tours & Travel today – we’ll keep a cup of coffee hot and ready for you!

Experience Latin America – A new and different way to see this part of the world!

I have just spent four days at an event called REMOTE. We had no WIFI or TV for 4 days and were immersed into properties located in remote areas of Latin America. As a travel wholesaler for over 20 years, it is always wonderful to learn about new places and properties to share with world travelers. There are the big players of the world that dominate peoples’ minds – like Cancun, Mexico and all those all-inclusive groups, or the group tours in Europe, or now, the hot trend is river cruising. They certainly have the attention of the travel markets. But what about going to an off-the-beaten-path destination – the world less traveled, where there are no crowds. You may not even know to ask for some of these locations. Latin American locations talk about “sustainable tourism” or “eco-friendly lodges” and it just doesn’t sound sexy to most travelers. Rethink this state of mind, and experience one of these types of vacations or adventures. If you are tired of the same old vacation experience, let me share just a sampling of what awaits you if you think you are that person who wants something new and different.

For the US market, the air lift into Central America is very good so the opportunity to explore some of these amazing lodges is easy to get to. Best known to our market is Costa Rica. IMG_6783This country has captured the hearts of many US travelers, especially the region of Guanacaste. But there is so much more to see and do. You can head to the south Pacific coast to experience nature with luxury rustic-chic at Lapa Rios or Playa Cativo Lodges in the Osa Penisula. These properties are almost 100% self-sustaining and nature abounds. If you want a little less nature and more pampering – head a bit north along the coast to Kura Lodge or Hacienda Altagracia where the food, the staff, the spa, the rooms, and the views will take your breath away.

Panama, which seems to only be known for its Canal, has an entirely different world to explore.Bungalow Just a one hour flight from Panama City to David, Panama and a 1 hour 15 minute car and boat ride, you can sleep in a beach-front bungalow on a remote island called Isla Palenque. Each luxury bungalow has an outdoor shower and tub. There are only eight “casitas,” and each has green spaces, so privacy is not an issue. Swim as if you are on a deserted island, eat from the fresh gardens and hike the many trails on the island.

If you want culture rather than nature and beach, I can recommend Guatemala. On arrival, head directly to Antigua, and stay in a seven-room boutique property while exploring this wonderful small town and all its history, then head up to lake Atitlan to the Casa Palopo Relais & Chateaux property perched above Lake Atitlan. Then head to Tikal, where you can explore the Mayan Ruins. Here you will stay at the Las Lagunas Lodge luxury boutique in the Mayan World. Do some trekking, kayaking, bird watching or immerse yourself in the spa.

Want to go further south to South America? Then check out some of these hidden gems found in Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

In Argentina, visit Aguas Arriba Lodge in Santa Cruz. This five-room lodge was formerly the home to a local family. In the high season, they have 17 hours of daylight. It isn’t easy to get there, but you will experience the beauty of the famous El Chalten Mountain along the Lake Del Desierto. Thirty days prior to arrival, you will provide your diet preferences, as they grow all they can and the rest has to be brought in. There is no grocery store to pop into and the chef provides an amazing cuisine.

Chile is known for their wine and Patagonia, but there is so much more to this destination. Castro, Chile in Chiloe is a virtually unknown and unvisited archipelago of Chile. Or, head north to the Atacama desert, where you can enjoy the most amazing star gazing experience. The best time to travel here is when there is no moon.

SONY DSC

I had the pleasure of getting to know the owner of the Tierra hotels in this area, and her commitment to environmentally friendly travel while experiencing the beauty of each region is heartfelt. You could combine a trip to all three of their properties, including their lodge at Torres Del Paine, which, for me, is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I have ever seen.

There is an island off the northeastern shore of Brazil called Fernando de Noronha. This island is so small, they do not allow babies to be born there. Women are flown back to the mainland to give birth to their children. This is a diver’s paradise! If you consider yourself a true diver, then this destination has to be added to your dive list. It is not easy to get here – it will take you at least three flights from anywhere and the accommodations are pretty simple, but the diving will take your breath away.

If cruising is your preference, how about a small boat experience? stella_high712Explore the Amazon from Iquitos, Peru aboard one of the three Delfin boats from one of four oversized luxury suites, or, if you like a bit more interaction, the Delfin III with 22 suites. Each itinerary allows you to experience the wildlife found throughout the Amazon. Each of the boats has been carefully designed to give you beautiful views along the river. Another great option is Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, which you can do on smaller boats to get a true up-close and personal experience at each island. Or, go even further south, and cruise the Straights of Magellan on one of the two Crucero Australis boats.

Avoid the crowds found in all the “touristy” cities, and let us create your lifetime adventure to South America. Contact us at info@condortoursandtravel.com or visit our website at www.condortoursandtravel.com.

Argentina and Chile Wine Tours

The wines of South America have aged in vineyard beauty, luxurious flavor, and brilliant creation since the 1500s. Throughout the centuries, viticulture has expanded from the Mission grape wines grown by the Catholic Monks, to the Vitis Vinifera by the Spanish Conquistadors, and now to the most complex varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc, Carmenère, and Malbec. South America is now a leader with its extraordinary vino and dramatically impacts wine culture throughout the entire world! Today, Condor Tours & Travels will escort you on the “Argentina Wine Route Tour” throughout the mountains and vineyards of South America to explore the stunning wineries and the plantations of exquisite Argentinian grapes, sample the variations of delectable wines and discover the history of the Argentine and Chilean vintages.

SONY DSC

One of the most impressive areas to experience during the tour is Argentina’s beautiful Mendoza province! Mendoza, at the highest altitudes of the country, is well-known internationally for its Malbec, closely followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Chardonnay. The province, which has provided nearly two-thirds of the wine production for the entire country since the 16th century, is a memorable adventure worth every moment on this tour.

The first few days of the Argentina Wine Route tour will begin in Buenos Aires, the capital and largest city of Argentina. You will experience an immersion into Argentinian culture, promoted wines from all the regions of the nation and a city tour of Buenos Aires’ historical districts with architectural beauty and some leisure activities to suit any taste. Your next step is a flight across the country to the stunning Mendoza region, which is surrounded by hectares of lush vineyards. The rustic life in a vineyard with fine wines will be the best part of the introduction to Mendoza winery culture. Another incredible connection to Argentinian culture will be discovered on the “Roads of Wine” tour, where the production of superior wines is offered with visitation to various wine cellars and a sampling of the finest wines. Finally, the tour winds down with a visit to the vineyards of Chile including even more history of the picturesque South American viticulture before your tour is complete.

Chilean viticulture began centuries ago and has become a leading region worth experiencing through our “Wines of Chile package.”

SONY DSC

Chile owns the entire western coastal line of South America and includes the beauty of the Pacific Ocean to the west and the stunning, scenic experience of the Andes to the east. All that outside beauty does not take away from the interior valleys of Chile and all that it offers with its delicious aromas of the vineyards adding to the already breathtaking experiences of your tour.

The 16th century held the inception of Chilean viticulture when the Spanish Conquistadors entered South America carrying the Vitis Vinifera. Like Argentina, Chile has flourished and grown throughout the centuries, landing as a leader in the international wine market. The fruits and herbs throughout the Chilean landscapes have produced aromatic and full-flavored wines. The fertile terrain of these valleys inspired a French influence with Bordeaux vineyards in the region. The most popular wines for you to experience in Chile include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and more.

SONY DSC

The Wines of Chile tour will begin in Santiago, the Chilean capital and another one of the largest cities in The Americas. With a gorgeous view of the Andes Mountains from nearly any point in the city, you will experience Santiago’s scenic, historical, and impressive attractions. Your visit will also include a downtown walking tour, views of the city from the Andes, and an experience of the more modern parts of the city. Of course, wineries are not forgotten! The following days in Chile, you will be introduced to the vineyards, cellars, and wineries of Colchagua Valley.

SONY DSC

You will also get to sample the complex and savory wines among lush greenery of the vineyards. The guides will introduce you to the Laostolle Winery, Santa Cruz Winery, and the Viu Manent Winery, just to name a few. Your Colchagua visit will include a cable car ride that is overlooking the vineyards and valleys below while heading up to the Chamán Hill for the indigenous villages and the Colchagua Museum. On the way back to Santiago, you will have the honor of traveling through the gorgeous Maipo Valley; this is the most essential valley for wine production, Maipo Valley is home to a Bordeaux that is worth every moment of the experience. We know you will build memories in Chile you will never forget.

We are confident that your luxurious exposure to the vineyards, mountains, and landscapes of South America will create a lasting memory of the history and taste of wines worth every penny. See you soon!

Condor Tours and Travel is a 2018 Pinnacle Award Winner!

Pinnacle photoWe are so honored that the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has acknowledged our passion, hard work, and tailored customer care with the Pinnacle Award! You may find yourself asking, “What is a Pinnacle Award?” Well, here is the inside scoop.pinnacle

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce is a business advocacy organization in our community that focuses on business, civic, and political priorities. One of the best ways they support local businesses is by hosting the prestigious Pinnacle Small Business Awards during the Gwinnett Chamber Small Business Summit each year. The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce pays tribute to the leading small businesses in our community. There is also a handful of categories that define the nominations and recognition of their awards. This year there were over 1200 applicants 99 finalist in 11 categories. Condor Tours & Travel was a finalist in the 0-5 Employees category against 13 other businesses and was chosen as the top company in this category.

Our agency, Condor Tours & Travel, Inc, began in 1991 selling customized Travel packages in Latin America only. Due to our success we expanded to selling travel worldwide and teaming up with suppliers to offer clients the travel experiences they seek. We now provide ongoing international vacations with customized or set tours and work alongside our clients in every step in designing their perfect getaway. In addition, we remain connected with our clients throughout their entire trip to make sure we can meet or even exceed their expectations. Due to our expertise in Latin America we now also have a wholesale division to help other travel agencies sell custom itineraries to destinations in Central and South America. We also have expanded our services to offer travel protection coverage and airline ticketing along with travel packages so clients have a one stop shop. The staff at Condor also prides itself in its community service from mentoring high school students, supporting local charities like the Giving Girls and national initiatives like the Alzheimer’s Walk to find a cure. The majority owner, Lori Snow, also works tirelessly to raise awareness for drug and alcohol prevention locally and helps with many underserved charities in Latin America with children wanting to improve their chances of success in life.
As a local, woman-owned, small business, we were nominated finalists in 2016 and 2017 before the final voting polls in 2018 where we won the award. This year we were voted in and have been presented the Pinnacle Award for Small Business 0-5 Employees winner! This Pinnacle achievement acknowledges our passionate work, commitment to our staff, clients, and our whole community as we provide excellent business services to our customers. We are so grateful for this honor to be an appreciated part of our business community.

So, are you looking for a perfect dream getaway? We are thrilled to provide you with our award-winning services on your next trip with Condor Tours & Travel!

Patagonia: Fire and Ice at the Bottom of the World

When you think of towering mountain peaks, glaciers, and icy fjords, places that come to mind include the coasts of Norway and British Columbia, or perhaps the Alps in central Europe. However, there is another part of the world that has all these features and more: Chilean Patagonia at the bottom of South America. South America usually brings to mind steamy jungles and the Amazon basin but the southern part of Chile has a much more alpine climate reminiscent of parts of Europe and northwestern North America. In addition to mountains, there are also cosmopolitan cities, spectacular ocean views and the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth! The high deserts of this region host some of the world’s largest astronomical observatories that are located here to take advantage of the clear dry air and excellent viewing conditions.

SONY DSC

A trip to Patagonia is certain to build enough memories to last a lifetime. Your trip to this region will start with your arrival in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Santiago is a sprawling city but with a compact city center and is easily walkable. There are many historic churches and other historic buildings located here, along with trendy restaurants and nightclubs. The experts at Condor Tours & Travel are happy to work with you to plan your stay in Santiago and find just the right neighborhood for you. The city features a variety of tours and entertainment including an innovative dinner show that features Chilean cuisine combined with a journey through Chile’s rich cultural heritage. Chilean cooking includes many seafood dishes and a great selection of Chilean wines. Because of the difference in seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, many of the fresh fruits and vegetables we get here in the United States during our winter months are imported from Chile.

Once you leave Santiago behind, you may want to visit the national park of Torres Del Paine, famed for its spectacular scenery and outdoor sporting opportunities. Kayaking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all available here. There are numerous mountains, rivers, pampas (high grassy plains), and glaciers just waiting to be explored! The best time of year to visit is in December and January during the Chilean summer, but be advised the park is likely to be crowded and nights will still be cool so you will want to make sure you dress appropriately. The more adventurous among you might want to visit Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. Los Glaciares has more than 350 glaciers whose meltwater tumbles into the icy blue lakes below. Thrill-seekers may want to climb Fitz Roy massif or scale the borders of the Perito Moreno glacier.

North of Santiago lies the famed Atacama Desert, a place so dry that there are regions where it does not rain for years at a time. If you are a person, who enjoys quiet and solitude, the Atacama may be right for you. The desert stretches for hundreds of miles along the southern coast of Chile. Feel free to explore the salt flats, arid valleys, and eroded lava flows of this harsh but beautiful land!

No visit to Patagonia would be complete without a stop in the Chilean Lake District. The Lake District is one of the most bio-diverse and culturally interesting regions of Chile. The area is rich in fish and bird life and ranges from azure lakes to temperate rain forests and active volcanoes. The indigenous Mapuche people still live here in their traditional fishing villages alongside the descendants of German settlers who arrived in the 1850’s! The whole region is a uniquely beautiful, and at the same time, culturally enriching experience.

For those truly interested in something exotic, you might want to consider a trip to the area of Tierra del Fuego and the very southern tip of Argentina and the South American continent. In these remote lands, the climate becomes harsher and wilder and amenities fewer. Mossy forests, craggy mountain peaks and winding fjords dominate in these regions. A visit here is best done during the local summer season as winters are long, cold and dark, but you will be rewarded with spectacular views and a truly unique experience. Merely a few hundred miles away across the gray storm tossed southern seas lies the icy fringe of Antarctica. Only a few intrepid souls ever make it this far south!

If your interest is piqued, we encourage you to contact Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. today. Patagonia is a land of contrasts, adventure, and romance. So why not leave behind the mundane and boring everyday world for a while? Rejuvenate yourself with a trip to Chilean Patagonia. You can contact Lori at info@condortoursandtravel.com for more information or visit their web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com.

A South African Safari

When my wife asked me if I wanted to join her on her South Africa Safari trip to Makutsi Resort, I have to admit I wasn’t overly excited about going. Why spend money and sit on a plane for many hours to go and look at animals I can see at the local zoo? I committed to the trip still reluctant about what I was getting myself into, but it didn’t take me long to change my tune!

We left Atlanta with a direct flight to Johannesburg and after an overnight layover we took a short flight to Hoedspruit Airfield. The local airport was an experience in itself. After landing, it seemed we taxied forever to get to what was considered the terminal. We stopped on the runway, took the stairs down to the tarmac, and walked through a small fenced area into what looked like a small house. As we waited, a tractor with a luggage carrier delivered our luggage to the front of the building and everyone grabbed their bags.

We were met by our Makutsi driver, who loaded our luggage into a van, and we started the journey to the lodge. It was about an hour drive, passing through the city and farm areas. The fence companies here must be making millions, because fences were everywhere along the sides of the road, some electrified and some just standard wire fencing. Not sure if they were keeping things in or out! We turned down a bumpy road and were greeted at an attended gate by a very friendly man that let us in. Finally we entered the Makutsi property, at about 5:00pm.

We were taken to the Lapa, an outside bar/wildlife viewing area, where we were greeted by Karen, a very pleasant woman who was always smiling. We went over the rules: no walking about before 7:00am or after 5:30pm, no approaching the animals, etc. WHAT? There are wild animals walking about that you really need to be told not to approach? We were given a map of the surrounding area and were pointed in the direction of our rondavel. As we walked to our home for the week we were taken aback by the trees, flowers, and greenness of the resort. AND YES, the animals you weren’t supposed to approach: impala, warthogs, nyala and monkeys, to name just a few, were all around.

We entered our rondavel – which is a round hut with a grass thatched roof, and found it to be spacious, clean and comfortable. It had a king bed with mosquito netting, two rattan chairs, rattan loveseat, desk, refrigerator, shelf unit, wardrobe, and a full bath with a huge walk in shower. Very rustic looking and appropriate for the location. I wondered how I would survive without cell phone, internet, TV or even a radio – but I found that I did not miss any of them!
We unpacked and got settled and waited for the van to pick us up for dinner. Around 6:45pm the van picked us up in observance of the rule that we not walk about after 5:30pm. We waited in the Lapa with others and at 7:00pm the sound of beating drums was heard around the property, signaling that dinner was about to be served and for us to head towards the dining area.

Dinner at the resort was served at two long tables, where we all sat together, which encouraged guests to share the day’s adventures and pictures. Dinner was an affair with appetizers, main course and dessert. The food was really delicious, and one would guess so, as it is basically a farm to table establishment. No menu to ponder over. You get the menu for the day, and they are very accommodating of special dietary needs. Wine and sodas are extra, and the local wine is wonderful.

After dinner we took a short walk to the Lapa for after dinner drinks and more socializing. If you preferred, you could be immediately picked up by the van and escorted back to your rondavel. The drivers were careful to walk you to your door for safety. We settled in and I walked outside to star gaze before retiring. Star gazing was encouraged with the warning to leave your door ajar in case you needed to retreat quickly. The night sky was amazing! I had never seen so many stars. It was very quiet as I sat on the porch in the chair. I could hear animals off in the distance, and then I heard something close by. I could not see it because it was too dark, but I could hear it, and it was coming my way. It was the first night and as I didn’t want to get eaten by a lion, I hurriedly excited my chair and came inside for the evening, peering through the window, a little scared. We were tired from the trip and sleep came easy. Our morning safari pick-up was at pre-dawn.

After a restful sleep, the Range Rover picked us up a little before 6am and off we went into the wild. The roads were bumpy, the sun was rising, and the weather was chilly. We traveled along winding trails and spotted impalas and kudus, but we were looking for bigger game. Across the river, which was dry, we had our first sighting of a herd of elephants. There were roughly six to eight elephants eating, and we stopped to watch. It was unnerving how close we were to the herd. Those guys are big, and I would guess no further than 10 to 15 feet away. We spotted some baboons in the trees while we watched the gentle giants go about their day. All the while African go-away birds (grey lourie) screeched letting everyone know that intruders were in the area.

Onward we traveled as the sun rose on the horizon. Spotting animals became a mission – scanning the horizon and brush looking for any movement. I was terrible at this part! We would stop and the guide would point things out, but it always took me awhile to see what he was seeing.

That morning, in just three hours, we came across elephants, impalas, nyalas, baboons, kudu, giraffes, Y-Bills and more. aIMG_7518We headed back to the Lapa and unloaded. Everyone was excited about our first safari and what we had seen. Breakfast was waiting for us outside on the lawn. Long tables were set up with plenty to eat. You could choose from an assortment of fruit, yogurt, breads, cheeses, lunchmeats, cereals, juices, milk, coffees and teas, and eggs to order. The kitchen staff was very friendly and pleasant, and we really enjoyed them.

HippoLater that day we visited Hippo Hide, which is a watering hole a couple of miles away from the resort area that has a viewing station with a covered deck. 0821181556The gamble with the Hippo Hide is that you never know what you might see, other than the hippo, covered with terrapins, sunning himself, who apparently has his own private lake. After arriving, we spotted nyalas and kudus each taking their nervous turns at the watering hole. We heard crashing through the brush and trees and spotted a herd of elephants heading our way. We waited in anticipation as they approached. We spent several minutes in awe, cameras clicking away, watching as they ate and wandered to the water. There must have been six to eight with two babies. It was humbling to watch them drink and spray and frolic in the water. They are amazing creatures and I have to admit, they became my favorites. Returning to the Lapa, we headed back to the rondavel to freshen up for dinner. On a later Hippo Hide visit we spotted giraffes drinking from the pond and a leopard with her baby, actually being run off by the nyala. Who would have thought that could happen?1534829396142

We experienced a safari day to include a morning and afternoon safari, and a day which included a five hour night safari. We also took a day trip to visit Kruger National Park, and another day trip for Blyde Canyon. aIMG_7726It was amazing to walk around Makutsi and see nyalas, kudus, monkeys, and warthogs going about their business as you walked past them. There was one time that elephants passed behind the tennis courts, and giraffes walked beyond the Lapa. Buffalo also frequented the viewing pond at the Lapa.aIMG_7775

The staff was amazing, friendly, and always willing to assist or answer questions. The guides were great as well. These guys know everything from plants, birds, stars, as well as the animals and how they live. How they spot everything they do is still a mystery to me.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details of every day; however, it seemed each day was better than the one before. During our stay, we saw zebras, giraffes, impalas, kudus, waterbucks, hyenas, wildebeests, monkeys, warthogs, hippos, ostrich and some amazing birds, and the sought after BIG 5: leopards, lions, rhinos, buffalo and elephants. Some of our highlights were of a lion and lioness with cubs, out just before dusk. The female walked no further than 10 feet from our vehicle. We spotted a male lion in the brush very close at no more than six feet from us.

I’m pretty sure you could just go on a bird watching safari; there were some amazing birds, from the African Fish-Eagle, White Stork, Cape Glossy Starling, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Guinea Fowls, the Go-Away birds and many more that I’m sure we missed.

The take away for me was that it was a once in a lifetime experience. You will experience how wild animals live in their environment, and how nature’s laws are in full effect for all of them. You are just a bystander watching it all happen. The amazing fact is that the animals don’t seem to worry about the vehicle or who is in it. They will stop and watch you as much as you are watching them. At times it was unnerving how close we were to some of the world’s most deadly predators. If an African Safari seems like the vacation of a lifetime, contact us at Condor Tours and Travel, and let us make this dream a reality for you!

Israel: Adventures in the Holy Land

For untold centuries, the ancient land of Israel has beckoned to pilgrims and adventurers from the West. Sitting on a narrow wedge of land not much larger than the state of Connecticut but unaccountably rich in history, belief and meaning, Israel is also a fully modern state. Travelers will find a plethora of things to see and do; indeed, there is so much to see that you will likely have to plan several trips to see it all! In 2017, some 3.6 million tourists visited the Holy Land and pumped in excess of $20 billion into the Israeli economy, making tourism one of the leading industries in the country. The most popular attractions include the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the ancient fortress of Masada. You will find plenty of fellow Americans in attendance; in recent years one fifth of all tourists have been from the United States.

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and one of the most ancient cities in the world, holy to all three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Old City is divided into four quarters: Armenian, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. The holiest site in all of Judaism is located here, the Western Wall, the last remaining remnant of the ancient Jewish temple and a site of continual prayer. High atop the mount sits the Al –Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest shrines in Islam, revered as the site where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. Nearby is the Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley, with Jewish tombs and burial grounds dating back some 3000 years. There are also numerous ancient churches including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which contains the supposed burial site of Jesus. A visit to Jerusalem is a must for any tourist to Israel and allows you to walk the streets where Jesus and the prophets once strode, where King David ruled in splendor, and where some of the earliest writings that later became the Bible were compiled.

Things to see and do in Israel don’t stop with Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is a modern city with many amenities, shopping, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. National Geographic ranked Tel Aviv as one of the “world’s ten best beach cities”. It is also considered a mecca for gay life in the Middle East. The holy city of Safed is sacred in the Jewish tradition and is the site where much of the Jewish Talmud and the mystical writings of the kabbalah were assembled. Safed also contains the grave of the legendary Rabbi Shimon bar Yocha, considered by many to be the author of the Kabbalah. The city of Haifa includes the ancient Mahmood Mosque, and the cave of Elijah, a famous site associated with the prophet.

Tiberias is another holy site overlooking the Sea of Galilee and includes an ancient site traditionally revered as the home of St. Peter. Of course, the town of Nazareth is famous as the hometown of Jesus and the site of many of his reported acts and miracles. The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth marks the site from which the Archangel Gabriel announced the future birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. The town of Beersheba is associated with the patriarch Abraham and is famous for its incense while the city of Eliat at the southern tip of Israel is a popular destination for scuba diving, camel riding, and wildlife observation.

No visit to the Holy Land would be complete without a trip to the ancient desert fortress of Masada. High atop a rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judean desert, it was the final refuge for Jewish rebels against Roman rule. More than 900 Jewish rebels committed suicide rather than face enslavement or worse at the hands of the Romans. To this day members of the Israeli Defense Forces take a solemn oath never to allow Masada to fall again.

These sites are just a smattering of the many historical and cultural places you can visit on a trip to Israel. Generally, weather conditions are mild though it can get quite hot during the summer! There are also numerous opportunities for fine dining, shopping, beach visits, winery tours and much, much more! Not to mention the many museums with their vast collections of ancient artifacts.
Don’t waste another moment! Contact Condor Tours and Travel today and let us help you get started on your adventure in the Holy Land! Visit their web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com or email info@condortoursandtravel.com.

Colombia

The image of Colombia that many Americans have was formed during the height of the drug cartels during the 1980’s and 90’s. Images of shoot outs and “cocaine cowboys” roaming the streets along with fears of guerrilla fighters in the rural parts of the country combined to turn Colombia into something of a tourism black hole. However, these ideas are very much out of date with the Colombia of today which is a warm and inviting place and very welcoming to foreign tourists. Of course, like anyplace, Colombia has its less desirable areas and so vigilance and common sense are required as they would be in any foreign country. It is generally a good idea to not stray too far off the beaten path into remote areas, and also be cautious of any new “friends” who might offer you a drink. Naturally, drug tourism is never a good idea and should be avoided.

Nevertheless, many major Colombian cities have a lively street life and cadence all their own and are as safe or safer than comparable big cities in the United States. The biggest risk is that after visiting Colombia you may not want to go home! The major cities include the capital, Bogota, and other major cities such as Cartagena and Medellin. The Museo del Oro is the most famous museum in Colombia and one of the most fascinating in the world. It includes more than 55,000 pieces of gold and other art objects from the major indigenous cultures of Colombia, all neatly laid out and described in both Spanish and English!IMG_3631

Just west of the town of San Agustin you will find the famous Parque Arquelogico which includes more than 130 statues either found on the site or collected and brought there from other areas of the country. These include elaborate carvings in a rocky stream bed which form a complex network of ducts and small pools decorated with images of serpents, lizards, and human figures. Archaeologists speculate that this area may have been used for ritual bathing and the worship of water-based deities but no one really knows for sure.DSC03094

Bogota is also famous for its eateries, including the renowned Andres Carne de Res, a legendary steakhouse with a 75 page menu! Colombia has many beautiful white sand beaches such as the Cabo de la Vela, Cabo San Juan, and San Andres Island to name just a few. The City of Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, founded by the Spanish in 1533 and located on the northern coast of Colombia. IMG_3641It is famous for its colonial architecture and city walls. Once characterized by crime, the neighborhood of Getsemani just south of the ancient fortress has become Cartagena’s hippest area and one of Latin America’s newest hotspots. Many of the buildings are being turned into boutique hotels and restaurants!IMGP3739

Another great Colombian city is Medellin. Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and is located in the Aburra Valley in the foothills of the Andes. The city is promoted globally as a tourist mecca and has seen great growth and prosperity since the start of the 21st century. Medellin has also been recognized for its smart approach to growth, careful urban planning, and commitment to sustainability. Medellin includes many parks, plazas, festivals and events and is characterized by a lively and colorful street life. Some of the major events held in Medellin include the Festival of Flowers in late July, Christmas lighting, an international poetry festival, and the International Tango Festival, among many others.

Of course no trip to Colombia would be complete without a visit to the coffee growing regions in the Colombian highlands. Colombia’s mild climate and rich volcanic soil have made it famous around the world for the production of high quality coffee beans. Many tourists travel to the city of Armenia in the center of the coffee growing region. From the city one can enter the famed Los Nevados National Park where the highest peaks in Colombia rise to more than 16,000 feet. You will definitely want to visit the Colombian National Coffee Park, a theme park dedicated to the process of growing coffee and bringing it to market. The park includes a coffee garden, coffee themed food stalls, animatronic shows and much more. Be sure to get a bag of Colombia’s finest coffee beans to take home with you at the end of your trip!

Colombia is a vast country with much to see and do. There are also eco-tours of the vast Amazonian rainforest and tropical savannahs as well as many other places to explore. So why wait? Contact the experts at Condor Tours & Travel and let us get you on the road to your new Colombian adventure!

Antarctica: Polar Adventure

Are you a person who likes adventure? Do you enjoy taking the path less traveled? If so an Antarctic adventure might be just the ticket, the trip of a lifetime. Most tours embark from southern Argentina or Chile during the Antarctic summer months (winter in the northern hemisphere) and there are a variety of options available from the rustic to luxurious depending on your taste and the specific regions you want to visit. You will have the opportunity to share with friends and family upon your return and with memories to last you for the rest of your life.

Jordi Plana_0506_255.jpg

Antarctica is a land like no other, the southernmost continent on earth is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, as well as the continent with the highest average elevation. The coldest temperature on earth was measured in Antarctica at the Vostok research station, a bone chilling -128 F. During an “average” winter in Antarctica the temperature hovers around -80 F. Anywhere between one and five thousand people inhabit the continent at any time, mostly research scientists conducting field work.

Initially known as the Terra Australis (southern land) Antarctica was first discovered by a Russian expedition in 1820, but because of the harsh and inhospitable climate, the first landings did not take place until 1895. Antarctica and the waters around it are rich in biodiversity and the continent is protected from exploitation by the international Antarctic Treaty, which preserves it as an international research and ecological park. There is no evidence that Antarctica was ever seen or visited by humans prior to the 19th Century. The first expedition to ever reach the South Pole was led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who accomplished this goal in 1911.

Antarctica is vast – about 50% larger than the United States, and is divided in half by the rugged chain of the Transantarctic Mountains. Some 98% of the continental surface area is covered by ice, averaging more than a mile in depth. However, it is also a land of harsh, austere beauty, and during the Antarctic summer, the sun never sets. Underneath the layer of ice, there are known to be a number of vast, subglacial lakes, some of which have been sealed away from the surface for millions of years. Who knows what secrets might lie in these stygian depths?

Sandra-Walser__MG_0553.jpg

Did you know that Antarctica is also home to the southernmost church in the world? The tiny Trinity Church at the Russian Bellingshausen station is staffed year round by one or two Russian Orthodox priests. To date, some eleven children have been born on the Antarctic landmass; all of them to parents at either the Argentines Esperanza Base or the Chilean Frei Montalva Station. Antarctica has little in the way of larger wildlife but fur seals and various species of penguins, including the famed Emperor Penguin, which can commonly be spotted along the coast and on offshore islands. Remarkably, a census of polar life conducted in 2010 revealed that there are 235 species of marine life found in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, having somehow bridged the 12,000 mile distance in between. Blue whales, orcas, and giant squids can also be found in the rich fisheries near the Antarctic coast.

If you are enticed by visions of this beautiful but remote land, you may want to consider one of the many expedition type tours that visit each year during the Antarctic summer. It is important to recognize that these tend to be smaller vessels, and, even in summer, the water around Antarctica can be rough, so you will want to keep that in mind. Most vessels visit specific scenic locations with significant concentrations of wildlife. Some trips also include visits to nearby islands such as the South Georgia islands and the Falklands. You can also consider an extended trip that allows you to explore for a few days in the southern regions of Argentina or Chile prior to your departure. Please note that even during the “warm” part of the year, the climate in these waters is cold, so you will want to dress and pack accordingly. The most important item to pack is a parka! Contact Condor Tours & Travel today or via email at info@condortoursandtravel.com to show your mettle, and set sail on your Antarctic adventure!