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Editor's Letter,
November 2017
November is often a slower month for us as people are gearing up for their December trips as a rule. However, this month, we have members all over the globe. Here's where they are or where they're off to soon: India; Tulum, Mexico; Paris, France; Australia; Spain and Patagonia, Chile! Wow! We are so grateful to advise and help our adventurous clients explore this glorious planet of ours! What a thrill it is for us to design, guide, and book all kinds of wonderful hotels, experiences, and routes to discover these  fascinating  destinations.

Every November, ActiveTravels chooses a charity to contribute to as part of our Gift of Travel promotion. This year, for all members who sign up in November and December, we will donate half of the proceeds to One Caribbean Family. We'll send our donations to the Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund specifically, which is working to help restore and rebuild the tourism infrastructure after the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Tourism actually employs 2.4 million in the Caribbean. This is the livelihood of so many of the inhabitants of these islands. The more money we can raise together, the quicker we can get the destination up and running again and welcoming guests to their beautiful islands. And, the quicker we can get more people back to work. Consider buying an ActiveTravels membership as a gift this holiday season. Not only will your friend or family member get the benefits of an ActiveTravels membership but you'll be contributing to help rebuild in the Caribbean.

Now, on to our exciting newsletter this month! If you're considering a safari or river cruise, we have lots of information to share with you. We also present some great deals, a fun travel app to help you keep in touch while you're away, and an intriguing New England getaway destination you've probably never heard about. So, keep reading!

H appy travels,

Steve & Lisa
Break It Down: 
There are a slew of options to consider when booking a safari. Do you want to head to East or South Africa? Kenya and South Africa are the more affordable options, while Botswana's Okavango Delta is a bit more extravagant, with Tanzania priced somewhere in the middle. Do you want to visit in the summer during the wildebeest migration across the Mara River on the Tanzanian/Kenyan border? Or would you prefer a winter getaway when you could see the same wildlife and combine with a beach vacation in Mombasa, Zanzibar, or Capetown? Rwanda and Uganda are also becoming an increasingly popular add-on to safari in East Africa so you can see gorillas in the mist.
Other questions to ponder are the advantages of hiring a private guide or going with a group, and whether to visit a private game reserve where you have thousands of acres of exclusivity and the option to take night drives, walks, and veer off-road for close-up shots of the wildlife. National Parks like Serengeti or the Masai Mara in Kenya have much stricter rules when it comes to going on safari.
On my last trip to Tanzania in 2015, I stayed at over 15 properties. My first stop was the Hatari Lodge, a 45-minute drive from the international airport in Arusha on the northern edge of Arusha National Park.While other properties, like Legendary Lodge, nestled in the coffee plantations of Arusha, might be more luxurious, Hatari is the perfect welcome mat to Tanzania because it immediately gives you the feel of being in the African bush. You wake up to monkeys jumping on your roof, families of warthogs running across the property and magnificent views of the sun rising above Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. At breakfast on the outdoor patio, you'll spot your first giraffes and buffalos, then go on a game drive into the park to get close-up shots of elephants, hippos, and countless flamingoes. The lodge also gives you the opportunity to drive up the slopes of mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro for a day hike and picnic.

A 90-minute drive from Lake Manyara Airport or a morning drive from Arusha through the sylvan farmland around Lake Manyara is the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. This over the top "Out of Africa" style resort is perched on the rim of the crater. It's a spectacular spot and the perfect place to rest after an afternoon game drive in the crater or before the next morning's game drive. Ngorongoro Crater is best done in the beginning of your trip since the caldera floor is crowded with land rovers, yet the animals, familiar with traffic, reward visitors with fabulous close-ups. Realize, however, that the popular locale might feel too commercial after visiting the vast Serengeti.

A short flight from Lake Manyara and you reach Mwiba Lodge, the latest upscale property from Legendary Expeditions. All 9 rooms and main lodge are filled with modern African art to give it a contemporary flair. There's a small infinity pool, wine cellar filled with South African selections, two dining areas, and a small library, all looking over a watering hole where I spotted more than 20 elephants strolling leisurely down to the spot. Rooms are spacious and a bath filled with warm water, bubbles and salts is waiting after your afternoon game drive. Ideal for honeymooners or couples celebrating an anniversary, I would probably recommend staying at Mwiba after first staying at a mobile tent in the Serengeti bush. It offers a great dose of comfort before leaving Africa.
A 4-hour drive from Mwiba is one of the best mobile tent locales in the winter months, Kusini, just past Ndutu Safari Lodge (where Mary Leakey stayed, along with numerous BBC documentarians) in the southern Serengeti. Alex Walker's Serian is a master of glamping, offering six spacious tents with bucket showers and flush toilets that move close to the Mara River in the summer months for prime wildebeest crossing viewings. These camps are a great place to be lost in the bush for 3 nights, see and hear the animals, drink sundowners at sunset, and view the twinkling stars of the African night sky.
The most memorable part of my trip to Tanzania was the two nights we spent at Singita in the 140,000 hectare Grumeti Game Reserves that borders the north-central part of the Serengeti. The place feels exactly like the Serengeti with its swaying grasses and low-lying ridges, but without the traffic. We passed on average 2 other land rovers on each 3-hour game drive. It felt incredibly exclusive and the wildlife was phenomenal.

We spent one night in the contemporary rooms of Singita Faru Faru, perfect for families because of its two pools to unwind after lunch. The spacious rooms overlook a watering hole with good wildlife viewing from the outdoor shower (opt for Room 2 or 3). The next night we moved to Singita Explore, 6 mobile tents that move around the property, depending on the season. This was glamping at its best, with sundowners around the campfire and S. African braai for dinner. You could easily spend 3 nights at Explore and 3 nights at Faru Faru or Singita's private 4-bedroom house, the Serengeti House, and call it a safari. Better yet, go on a horseback riding safari between the Singita properties, arguably the best place in Africa to ride.

Going on safari is one of the most magical trips you can take. Yet, we realize the complexity of travel and the high cost involved. We are here to answer all questions, point you in the right direction to our favorite safari outfitters, and ensure that your African escapades are authentic and special. 

Let us know if you're contemplating a trip to Africa, we'll guide you to the best destination for you at the right time. Contact ActiveTravels to get started!
River Cruising 101:
Europe and beyond Are you considering the idea of a river cruise but can't decide? You are not alone! These smaller, more intimate, cruise lines are hugely popular right now and many people come to us with questions about which one to choose. Are you considering a romantic cruise with your honey but want the appropriate age range on board? Bringing your kids? Are you active or do you prefer to wine and dine your way down the river?

Here are some of the brands you've probably heard about through countless ads: Viking, Ama Waterways, Avalon, Scenic, Emerald, Tauck, Crystal and Uniworld, to name a few. All of these brands can be compared with regards to these variables:
  • Which lines include shore excursions? Crystal, Scenic, Emerald, Viking and Tauck-some offer more choices than others.
  • Which lines include drinks (alcoholic, specialty coffees, soda)?  Crystal, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld
  • Which lines have bikes onboard? Ama who is pairing up with active adventure company Backroads, Emerald, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld
  • Which lines are family friendly? AmaWaterways (they are now partnering with Adventures by Disney), Uniworld and Tauck. Minimum ages can be anywhere from 3 years old to 13 years old.
  • What if I'm in the 21-55 year old age range? Try U by Uniworld. Their first two sleek black vessels will debut next year on European rivers and will   feature more active offerings, nightlife fun, and more affordable rates for solo travelers.
Once you've decided on the cruise line, then you need to choose the river you want to journey upon. Will it be the Danube, the Rhone, the Rhine, the Bordeaux, the Douro, or the Seine?  Here's a quick rundown on what each river has to offer:
  • Danube: Germany, Austria, and Hungary- a great first river cruise filled with storybook villages, beautiful scenery and the fascinating cities of Nuremberg, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and more
  • Rhone: Southern France between Lyon and Arles- Burgundy and Provence, Roman ruins, biking, art of Van Gogh, wines, excellent food
  • Rhine: Amsterdam to Basel-A very popular route to see lots of countries: Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland and many castles, UNESCO sites, riverside vineyards, and wonderful biking paths to explore
  • Bordeaux: France - great for active travelers who like to hike and bike and love wines
  • Douro: Portugal-If you love wines, and want less river time and more port time to explore. The Douro flows between Porto on the coast of Portugal and the Spanish border.
  • Seine: Begins and ends in Paris-can see the beaches of Normandy, Monet's Gardens, Rouen, and the shipping port of Honfleur.
  • Elbe: Berlin to Prague-see the highlights of Hamburg, Wittenberg (500th birthday of the Reformation this year), Dresden, Germany and pretty little Czech towns along the way
What's new in river cruising?
    • Viking Ra will be cruising the River Nile in Egypt in 2018. Just 52 guests on this upscale vessel with suites (see picture above)
    • Century River Cruises will cruise the Yangtze
    • Avalon will offer trips down Vietnam's Mekong River and Burma's Irrawaddy River
    • Amadeus will present new golf-focused river cruises next spring including visits to 4 prestigious golf courses
    • Foodies will enjoy Scenic's cooking school aboard select ships
    • Un Cruise Adventures will feature eight Rivers of Wine itineraries on the Legacy, a turn of the century steamer sailing the Columbia and Snake rivers in the US and their Rivers of Adventure series will allow for hiking, biking, kayaking and more from their starting point of Portland, Oregon.
    • And, much more: barges down the Seine, multigenerational cruises on CroisiEurope where kids under 16 go for free.
Sales happen all the time with the river cruise companies: some offer 2-for-1 fares or free international air or they waive their single supplements.
Here's some offers going on right now:  
  • Avalon Cruises: Save $2,000 per couple on 2018 Active Discovery River Cruises on the Rhine or Danube
  • Viking Veteran's Day Sale: 2-for-1 Cruise plus Free Air. Offer expires by November 13th for March and April cruises.
  • Paul Gauguin Cruises: Two Week Sale for cruises in the South Pacific. $2,900 per person savings on select sailings if you book by November 11th.
  • Emerald Waterways: Sensations of Southern France: if 6 people book, then the 7th person is free.

Contact ActiveTravels to find out the latest deals! We won't steer you wrong!

Deal of the Month: 
Flights departing from Providence's T.F. Green Airport
Providence's T.F. Green Airport is quickly becoming a hub for low-cost carriers. On the heels of Norwegian Air's new routes this past summer from Providence direct to Dublin, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cork and Shannon, both Allegiant and Frontier Airlines announced that they are starting new routes from T. F. Green this autumn. Allegiant is flying direct to Punta Gorda in southwest Florida (a 35-minute drive north of Fort Myers for you Red Sox spring training fans), St. Petersburg, and Cincinnati. Colorado ski lovers will want to know that Frontier now flies direct to Denver as well as Orlando. So the next time you think of booking a flight out of Boston's Logan Airport, be sure to add Providence's T.F. Green (PVD) into the mix.
Tried & True Travel Tips:
Touch Note App
Want a simple way to keep in touch with people at home while you're traveling? Sign up for Touch Note. It's as easy as pie. Right from your mobile phone, your tablet or your desktop, you can send postcards to your friends and family to keep in touch. 

Just upload a picture, create a caption if you'd like, add your note on the back, plug in the address and in moments, the team at TouchNote will print it and mail it off. The note on the postcard can even be customized to look like handwriting. A bit creepy, but also kinda cool. 

This is not a free service. You need to sign up and purchase credits. The more credits you buy, the less expensive they get. You can buy 5 credits for $9.95 and 20 for $34.95. You can keep an address book ready so when you're on the go, you can just plug in the photo and the text and press send. If you forgot to send a birthday gift, you can send a photo greeting card or a framed photo as well just with a few clicks.

Check it out!  TouchNote
Quick Escape:
Winvian and the Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

When the Smith family decided to transform their 113-acre estate into one of New England's most unique and exclusive resorts called Winvian, they spared no expense. In 2006, they hired 15 architects to create "cottages" nestled into the meadow s, ponds, and rolling farmland that flanks their circa-1775 Main House. Today, these 18 finished works are rare
architectural gems where inside each spacious abode, you'll find hidden wonders like an intact fully restored 1968 helicopter that now serves as the bar and entertainment center in the Helicopter Cottage.  The Treehouse Cottage is a two-story structure 32 feet off the ground, suspended atop a  tree. We stayed in the Library Cottage, inspired by the libraries of yesteryear and dominated by double-story shelves of books. A ladder accesses a wraparound second level balcony surrounding a glorious stone fireplace.

Each cottage is 950 to 1250 square feet and includes a private porch, wood-burning fireplace, sumptuous king bed with Italian linens and down duvets, ice machine and full bar, leather sofa, extra-large whirlpool tub, walk-in steam shower with rainforest heads, double vanity sinks, and radiant floor heating. When not admiring the cottages, you can stroll through the wildflowers to a pond where we spotted a great blue heron or take a much longer hike in the surrounding White Memorial Foundation, a 4,000-acre wildlife sanctuary. Afterwards, opt for a facial or massage at the spa.

Winvian is a Relais & Chateaux property as you'll soon realize at dinner or the exceptional breakfast where I dined on poached eggs over caponata,  a bed of fresh eggplant and zucchini just plucked from their garden. Dinner was a 4-course feast of tuna crudo, rabbit tortellini, and veal cooked two ways. Lisa's Atlantic halibut was also tender and fresh. After dinner, we played a game of pool downstairs before walking outside and looking up at the shimmering stars in the night sky. This retreat is as close to perfection as you get in a New England country estate.

In November and December, Winvian is offering a special Midweek Getaway, available for reservations Sunday through Thursday. The deal includes $200 to $450 off your daily cottage reservation, plus a full farm-to-table breakfast and a $50 spa credit. 

Let ActiveTravels know if you're interested and we'll find the best cottage available to suit your tastes! It's a great quick getaway to celebrate a special occasion with your loved one.
©2017 Active Travels