Nat'l Wildlife Federation 2010 Expeditions: Cost Efficient and Something for Every Eco-Traveler
Macaw in Belize
Sustainable, Eco-Friendly, and Educational Tours
By Lisa Linsley
Searching for a wildlife expedition is not as easy as it sounds. If you type “wildlife tours” into an internet search engine, you’ll find more than 65,000 entries. The choices can be overwhelming, considering that you then have to compare prices, make sure the attractions are everything you anticipated, and then make sure it is a reputable agency or website.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has taken the guesswork out of the process by creating 15 wildlife-viewing trips for 2010 that meet a wide range of locations, prices, and dates. While each tour has variables such as price and location, each is educational, eco-friendly, and sustainable.
The NWF has been putting together a selection of wildlife tours since the 1970’s. Many of this year’s expeditions are located in North America, such as the Wild Alaska trip, June 5-June 12, 2010, Greater Yellowstone Predators: A Research Expedition, February 24-March 1, 2010, and The Wildlife and Wildflowers of The Great Smokey Mountains, scheduled May 1-May 7, 2010.
However, for those looking to splurge and head outside of the United States, trips to Belize and Costa Rica are available. “This year many of the locations are in North America. We wanted to highlight the great sites and research taking place right here and plus, it’s more convenient for people to get to,” says Daniel Gifford, manager of the NWF Expeditions program for the past seven years.
Each tour is organized by reputable tour operators that have long-standing relationships with NWF. This year’s trips offer a variety. Whether you want to see polar bears, sea turtles, or butterflies, there is an NWF tour for you.
NWF Expeditions Are Cost-Efficient
Many of the NWF tours are under 2,000 per person. The Greater Yellowstone Predators, Sandhill Cranes of the Platte River, Big Bend, Wildlife and Wildflowers of the Great Smoky Mountains, Cape Cod Wildlife and Walking, Rockies Wildlife Spring-Tacular, and Baja Escape: Exploring the Sea of Cortez are all under 2,000.
The tour price includes all accommodations, transportation, meals listed in the itinerary, a carbon-neutral offset, and gratuities to hotel staff and restaurants.
For the past two years NWF has partnered with Native Energy Travel Offsets to create a
carbon offset for each Expedition traveler. This ensures that members can enjoy the trip without contributing further to global warming. NWF pays for these offsets, without increasing the price of the trips.
Something For Everyone
The featured tours cater to the simple and extravagant. The Cape Cod Wildlife and Walking tour will suit members seeking a more leisurely vacation full of beaches, hikes, and wale-
watching. Greylock Discovery Tours has created an itinerary which included whale-watching in Provincetown, a nine mile hike on Sandy Neck in Barnstable, and exploring at Nauset Light Beach and Three Sister Lighthouses.
The trip is scheduled May 23 to May 28th, 2010, before the towns become overcrowded with tourist during the prime season.
Greylock Discovery Tours develops itineraries that minimize traveling from destination to destination to more fully integrate guests with their environment. This makes for both a more eco-friendly trip and allows the travelers to explore a location to its full advantage.
For those looking to travel farther, participate in adventurous activity, and see a variety of species, The Jade Route of the Ancient Maya may be appealing. This trip is February 27 to March 7, 2010. This trip takes you on an adventure through Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Activities on this trip include kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking. The Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance has created an itinerary that includes a beautiful float down the Rio Grande, allowing the chance to see parrots, iguanas, and elusive river otters.
A trip by boat will allow for a full day of exploring the Rio Dulce area. This excursion will include two national park visits and a chance to spot manatees and freshwater dolphins, along with monkeys and tropical birds.
The Belize: Rainforest, Reefs, and Ruins trip lets travelers spend a couple of nights on a coral reef island. The trip includes snorkeling activities, boat trips, and a visit to the Smithsonian Station.
One of the many highlights of this expedition is a trip to the Belize Zoo. Steve Cox, the co-founder of International Expeditions and Itinerary developer, says “It is a very interesting place. It is formed by animals that may have been injured, or abandoned. They are put in natural settings.”
Cox describes Belize as “a small country that has everything.” A few of the attractions are the waterfalls, savannahs, and extremely good bird life. Cox says, “Archaeology is the heartland of the Maya. You think it is a hill but in reality it is a pyramid from an ancient Mayan town.”
Another interest aspect of Belize is the natives. The natives are still a community and have an interesting culture full of language, song, and dance.
International Expeditions has been working with NWF for over 20 years and was the first North American tour group to establish eco-tourism. International Expeditions helped the government to look at eco-tourism as important.
Signing Up For An Expedition
To sign up for an expedition, one must be a NWF member. To become a member is only $15. Then, one can visit nwf.org/expeditions/#2010 to choose a tour.
Lisa Linsley is an intern at GoNOMAD and a journalism major at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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