Is adventure travel for you? Are you up to swimming through waterfalls, meeting animals on their own turf, climbing high, diving deep? A first step is to become an armchair adventurer by browsing the many beautifully illustrated free catalogs that describe what is involved and what trips cost. You seldom find bargains but do get a lot for your money. Here are some examples:
Geographic Expeditions will take you to The Sacred Summits of Bhutan in a 17-day trip beginning at $4,995. Travelers hike to the Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake base camps, through seldom-visited villages, valleys, and forests, with a high probability of seeing blue sheep , takin , and a lot of bird life along the way. Dome-style tents, inflatable mattresses, marmot down sleeping bags, and solar showers are provided. The trek is offered five times a year, in April, May, September, and October. As with most adventure travel, groups are kept small and many meals are included.
Call 800-777-8183 or visit geoex.com .
Abercrombie & Kent combines luxury with adventure. A 16-day exploration called the Ancient Cultures of Papua New Guinea costs $7,990, although you can get a $250 discount on some trips. Participants have a "sing-sing " with Bilbil villagers; archery lessons with Huli wigmen; and go on safari in search of one of the 38 species of birds of paradise. Six trips are available from May to November but four are wait-listed.
Call 800-554-7016 or visit abercrombiekent.com .
Family adventures are increasing in popularity, and one of the players is Adventures by Disney. However, as a company representative stresses, "This is not Mickey in the Mountains." Families meet no talking animals; instead, they may take a cooking class in Italy, go backstage at a production of "Mary Poppins" in London, go on a treasure hunt at the Louvre, or chat with a Roman gladiator at the Coliseum. If that doesn't sound adventurous enough, during a trip to Costa Rica, families can hike parrot-lined trails, zip-line across rain forest ravines, and swim in the Pacific where whales migrate and dolphins frolic. The six-day Path to Pura Vida expedition begins at $2,449 per person and is offered through late November .
Call 877-728-7282 or visit adventuresbydisney.com .
Adventure travel isn't only for the young. Grand Circle Travel, which specializes in trips for those 50 and older, has a 16-day Voyage to Antarctica aboard the 91-passenger, privately chartered MS Andrea during which passengers almost always get to splash ashore and greet the penguins, as well as see whales, seals, and wondrous ice formations. Unlike the preceding offers, the price, which starts at $5,970, includes air fare from 14 cities, including Boston. As I can vouch from experience, another price you pay to see the wonders of Antarctica, no matter the company you choose, is a potentially rough sail through the Drake Passage. Five departure dates in November and December remain .
Call 800-959-0405 or visit gct.com .
Odysseys Unlimited also includes air fare in its prices. A 15-day Machu Picchu- to- the- Galápagos trip begins at $5,495 from Boston and takes small groups from the mysterious ruins near Cusco, Peru, to the Pacific islands off Ecuador with their unique animal life. Ecuador's capital, Quito, and other destinations are also on the itinerary . The Galápagos cruise boat holds just 20 passengers.
Call 888-370-6765 or visit odysseys-unlimited.com .
With a name like Overseas Adventure Travel, you know what the company does. What you may not know is that you can find last-minute specials on its website. Last week, you could save up to $1,000 per couple on a May 4 departure of Cairo & the Eternal Nile River for a new starting price of $2,395 per person, or save up to $1,200 per couple on the May 6 departure of
Visit oattravel.com . For a catalog, call 800-493-6824 .
Earthwatch participants are volunteers who immerse themselves in a local culture and work to make their destination a better place. For example, in an eight-day Belize trip, volunteers work with local researchers to find how coral reefs are responding to global warming by snorkeling the reefs of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve , sometimes photographing the reefs and, out of the water, recording data and preparing materials. The usually tax-deductible contribution is $2,449; this year's trips are May 12-20 and June 23-July 1. In all, there are more than 130 trips in 50 countries, and a wide variety of ways to help.
Call 800-776-0188 or visit earthwatch.org.
The Greenland Kayak Adventure Trip is a 12-day journey in the upper reaches of Uummannaq Fiord region. Kayakers paddle with ice all around and camp near "calving" glaciers and fresh water streams, with 2,000-foot-tall cliffs as backdrop. Included are round-trip flights from Baltimore to Greenland, nine nights' camping accommodations, two one-night hotel stays , tours and sightseeing, and equipment. Departure dates are July 2, 16, and 30 . Prices begin at $6,200 per person.
Call the Great Canadian Travel Co. at 800-661-3830 or visit greatcanadiantravel.com.
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.