What better month than often-gloomy February to dream of adventure in exotic places. As travel catalogs roll in and websites are updated, it is easy to picture yourself far from the everyday grind. Here are some things the adventurous among us can do:
View exotic marine life. Pleasant Holidays' seven-night Wildlife Spectacular takes you to New Zealand, where Auckland's Hauraki Gulf is home to orcas, bottlenose dolphins, and Bryde's whales (as well as America's Cup yachters). An overnight sail on Milford Sound, meanwhile, takes travelers to a rugged, isolated wilderness. And on the Tasman Sea, you can explore sheltered fiords by kayak. The week ends in Taiaroa Head of Dunedin's Otago Peninsula, with its yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, seals, royal albatross, and shearwaters. Packages start at $2,138 per person, including airfare from Los Angeles, seven nights' accommodations, and the wildlife excursions. Book by Feb. 15 for travel April 1-May 31, which is autumn down under.
Visit pleasantholidays.com or call 800-742-9244.
Attend seldom-seen ceremonies. On Papua New Guinea, tribes gather in the Highlands and put on wildly ornate costumes for the Tumbuna Sing-Sing, a multiday competition of tribal rites, song, and dance. The 15-day trip from Asia Transpacific Journeys also includes a three-night cruise on the Sepik River, home to remote tribes known for their complex ancestral cults, artistic tradition, and sacred spirit houses. The price is $7,395 and May 18 is the departure date. Nearly all meals are included.
Visit asiatranspacific.com/tumbuna or call 800-642-2742.
Ride horses in Ireland. The Clonshire Equestrian Centre, in conjunction with
Visit equestrianvacations.com or call 800-828-8768.
Bike through history. The Adventure Cycling Association's 48-day, 2,100-mile Underground Railroad trip, April 27-June 13, traces the route escaped slaves may have followed to freedom 150 or more years ago. Averaging 53 miles a day, cyclists visit sites ranging from Alabama's Tombigbee River Valley to Shiloh National Military Park to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. The $2,699 trip is self-contained, meaning the group is self-sufficient, with shared cooking and camping. As one of last year's participants put it, "This was a tough bicycle ride. But it's nothing compared to what the people who were escaping slavery had to go through."
Visit adventurecycling.org/tours or call 800-755-BIKE (2453).
Be a cowboy, for a few days, anyway. Four new Spring Roundup Weekends are planned at Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Mont. The packages include authentic experiences from cattle branding to barrel racing, and are offered May 3-7, 11-15, 25-29, and June 1-5. The packages include all meals, beverages, house wines and spirits, and on-ranch activities at the Triple Creek, a Relais & Châteaux property. Rates range from $3,150 for a cedar cabin to $4,350 for a luxury cabin.
Visit triplecreekranch.com or call 800-654-2943.
There are, of course, many more possibilities. Just a few of the other names in adventure travel are Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.com) for luxury travel; Adventures by Disney (adventuresbydisney.com) for family journeys; Austin-Lehman Adventures (austinlehman.com) for both adult and family trips; Grand Circle Travel (gct.com) for older adventurers; Odysseys Unlimited (odysseys-unlimited.com) and Overseas Adventure Travel (oattravel.com) for small-group trips; Quark Expeditions (quarkexpeditions.com) for polar adventures; and Geographic Expeditions (geoex.com) for trips everywhere, including "the ends of the earth."
Just around the corner
If you have yet to make Valentine plans, it is comforting to know that you don't have to go far for a getaway with your sweetums.
The Taj Boston calls its romance package Prelude to a Kiss. Lovers get a deluxe room, a selection from the Bath Butler menu, champagne with chocolates, a rose-petal turndown, and valet parking. Prices begin at $275. The $1,000 Taj Boston Suite Indulgence, meanwhile, includes all the preceding in a suite with a wood-burning fireplace and the services of a fireplace butler. Prices are per night, with the packages available through Feb. 23.
Visit tajhotels.com/boston or call 617-536-5700 or 877-482-5267.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.