A Private Island in the Maldives Awaits!

Have you ever dreamed of escaping your daily life to a private island in paradise? Well, there is a private island in the Maldives just waiting for you! White sand beaches and crystal clear blue water as far as the eye can see and not another soul in sight!

Take strolls along the sand or dip your feet in the surf to create the perfect picture of relaxation. This particular island is aptly called Dream Island!

A Week Long Grand Canyon River Trip

The Grand Canyon is truly a majestic sight to see. Another way to experience this wonder of the world is from the Colorado River below it! Follow the flowing river and admire the various rock formations and layers up close and personal.

Get a good night’s sleep by the water’s edge, enjoy hearty buffet-style meals and dip your toes in the water of one of the more secluded beaches you will ever visit. Get your hiking fix by climbing a one of a kind ladder and following a trail along the canyon wall for views and perspectives that you will need to see to believe.

Next in Our Imagine Series: Morocco

Imagine…

Morocco!

You hear the muezzin’s call to prayer, you can almost smell the ginger.  You are lured down the sloping Tala’a Kbiraf  into the crumbling medina, deep in the heart of Fez.

The mayhem of this Moroccan souk quickly swallows you.  It’s a teeming and twisting warren where tables of goat heads and homemade soap are crammed alongside crates of chickens whose squawks compete with the clang of artisan tools from the ceramic studio.   Mules laden with gas tanks plow through the narrowing pathways, as shouting schoolboys careen between them, their backpacks swinging. You melt into a stream of humanity between djellaba-clad mothers and shopkeepers, and, alongside your Berber guide, you begin to market.

Today you are on a journey to learn the art of tagine cooking.  The market’s scents of rosewater and white artichokes fresh from the earth envelope you as you sort through quince and test aubergines for ripeness.  You select a chicken from the feathered flurry of the pen, then gratefully accept the vendor’s offer to deftly slice the neck and de-feather it for you in the nearby boiling pot.

Wafting scents of fiery cumin and warm cinnamon draw you to the neighboring stall where you weigh out grams of spices to create your own Ras el Hanout, a blend translated as Top of the Shelf that will be the secret to your delectable tagine.   Back at your guide’s Ottoman-style home, called a riad, you chop and sauté all your new ingredients and the kitchen fills with an exotic aroma.  You know that this dish will be unlike any beef stew you have ever made.

And then there’s the khobz, or flat bread.   You knead the dough, but in an ancient neighborhood where homes rarely had their own ovens, you take your tray out into the bustling medina, to the nearby community oven.  For a few dirhams, the baker shoves your bread into the wood-fired oven, to bake next to your neighbors’ cookies.

During your week in Fez, you mingle with bidders at the rug auction and meet with a seamstress to have a caftan custom made.  You sip steaming mint tea as your foot taps to the alluring beat of a drum circle, and you treat yourself to a steam bath in the communal hammam.

You have practically become a local!

That was a trip of a lifetime!”, you say.   “Let’s do it again next year!”

If Morocco is not your dream destination, then join me next month for a sail through the Galapagos Islands.

Til then,

Rare Finds Travel Design

…sometimes rustic, often luxurious, but always unique!

 

Key West Road Trip to Paradise

Want a sunny adventure through paradise? Try a road trip through the Keys to Key West. Rent a car and put the top down to feel the wind in your face as the palm trees fly by! Complete a one of a kind scavenger hunt through some fun spots along Highway 1.

Eat at Alabama Jacks, visit a sea turtle hospital, or the diving museum, or actually take a day to explore a national park. Save the best for last by soaking up the fun and sun at the one and only Key West!

Next in Our Imagine Series: South Pacific

Imagine…. you are on a minute volcanic island in the South Pacific.  It’s the most remote, continuously inhabited island in the entire world and its storied occupants are the Moai.  It is they you have come to meet.

 

Ramon will introduce you.   He and his wife Josie are hosting you at their guesthouse at the edge of Easter Island’s lone village, Hanga (translated as “bay”) Roa.  Avocado trees, laden with dark fruit, and pink fluffy Chinaberry trees edge their flowered garden where you sit at breakfast, enjoying homemade guava jam and their tales.  Josie’s grandfather was the archeologist who headed up the restoration of the Moai in the 1960’s, and Ramon’s grandmother was the last baby born in a native settlement on Ovahe Beach before the British converted much of the island into sheep pastures in the 1920’s.

 

Ramon will show you this beach, as well as the lava tubes where early Rapa Nuians grew bananas and tobacco and grapes with protection from the ceaseless trade winds.  He will 4-wheel drive you to the various ahu, or platforms, where the Moai stand proudly. You wander amongst them, their faces towering 40’ over your head and their impassive gaze staring inland, right past you.  You squint up at their proud noses silhouetted against the day’s clouds, and marvel at their oversized topknots, looking heavy and precarious. You sense the generations that have stood on this very ground, their sweat and hopes and despair all brought to the feet of these rigid yet spiritual giants.

 

Later on, Ramon walks you into the quarry, Rano Raraku. This is where, for 400 years or more, these carved likenesses of the islanders’ forebears were etched out of the tuff of the mountain.    They were rolled into sandpits and stood upright to be tattoo-ed and detailed with earrings and elongated fingers. The completed Moai were then rolled onto wood sleds, and dragged to ahus on the coast.  The islanders ran out of trees for their sleds before they ran out of stone for their Moai. This deforestation is just one of the ways that the Rapa Nuian society, as their tribes grew ever larger tribes and ahu ever more plentiful, exhausted their natural resources to near extinction.

 

As you walk through Rano Raraku, the abrupt dissolution of the civilization is apparent. Some Moai stand abandoned on the quarry’s hillside, the largest, Te Tokanga, or “El Gigante”, still lies attached to the mountainside – all 65’ and 270 tons of him.

 

On another day, a caballero rides with you along the remote north shore through a stark, stone-strewn landscape that once was woodland. You ride atop cliffs against which the cerulean waves crashed, through herds of wild horses, and past archeological remains from the 1500’s.

 

At dusk, you pause at Ahu Tahi,  Sitting on the soft grass, you watch the sun set behind these Moai.  They are still, timeless, serene, stoic, yet not blank. Their expressions are inscrutable yet moving, and you are anchored to this grassy spot long after the orange eddies of the sky turn to violet and the stars fill the heavens like powdered sugar.

Dinner awaits.  Down by the single harbor where scarlet and blue and mustard colored fishing dories rock, side by side, the Taverne de Pecheur has a table for you. On a batik-covered candlelit table, you savor Easter Island’s tangy specialty: ceviche

 

The last morning, Ramon takes you to the small airstrip and places a necklace of shells around your neck.  “Iorana”, he says. Goodbye, from Easter Island.

 

That was a trip of a lifetime”, you say.  “Let’s do it again next year!”

 

Sharing the love of travel!

 

Next in Our Imagine Series: Belize

Imagine…

the equatorial sun of Belize toasts your shoulders as Roberto drops anchor on the north side of Ambergris and hands you a hooked 6′ pole!  It is time to lobster dive.

Once overboard, outfitted with snorkel and mask, you scan the limpid shallows for lobster “carports”, 12’x20’ wooden flats that look a bit like flattened parking carports on the sea floor.  You are on the lookout for a protruding antenna or a flurry of sand from the Caribbean crayfish known locally as Spiny Lobsters.

It turns out that hooking the crafty crustaceans is not so easy!  You hyperventilate in the waves, but dive down, again and again, as your lungs scream and you laugh underwater at your poor prowess.  You slap the water and curse the reef gods, but you finally get the hang of it and snag one!

Lunch is not in doubt however as Roberto is a master lobster-diver.  Before you know it, the cockpit teems with your catch. He ties off the mooring ball and putters over to a secluded cove where, with pelicans as your only company, he whips up a BBQ lunch unlike any other.

You have been curious all day about the bulging sack of dried coconut husks in the cockpit, which Roberto handily converts into a beach bonfire!   And as the coals smolder in a shallow pit beneath some palmetto, he cleans and foils your catch, spices it up with onions and spritz of lemon, and slathers on his secret ingredient …mayonnaise!

As enticing scents and sizzles rise off the fire, you get an icy Belikin out of the cooler and float on the aquarium-clear water.

When Roberto announces lunchtime, you let the waves coax you gently up onto the soft beach and with your toes wriggled into the lapping water, you lounge on the warm sand and pull lobster chunks out of the charred shells, juice running down your wrists.

Later, you motor out to Shark Ray alley where you chum triggerfish to attract dozens of nurse sharks.  The idea is to jump in and barrel-hug them for, as Roberto reassures you, nurse sharks fall into a trance when you turn them over and rub their bellies.   The trick, it seems, is to get them turned over!

On your boat ride home from the Hol Chan (“little channel”) Marine Preserve, you feel quiet, reflective, and above all, sated.  

Ambergris Caye’s manicured resorts spread out before you.  

Did you really spend the afternoon like Robinson Crusoe?

 

That was a trip of a lifetime”, you say.  “Let’s do it again next year!”

Sharing the love of travel.

 

Oyster Farm Visit in Virginia

Attention oyster lovers! Here is a Tidewater treat for you! Visit the Pleasure House Oyster Farm in Virginia Beach for an immersive oyster experience like no other! Learn all about the history of oysters in the area, get a first-hand look at the oyster farm and all the ways to taste them 🙂

Take a boat out with Captn’ Chris and come back with a wealth of knowledge about oysters and your taste buds will be forever changed. Do you know all the different types of oysters and how they grow? You will learn all of this and more!

Next in Our Imagine Series: Machu Picchu

Imagine…

You are poised at the Gate of the Sun.  Before you, just visible in the day’s emerging light, a shadowy outline in the valley below unveils the end of your quest:  Machu Picchu. Your morning has started in the wee hours with tea service, brought to your tent by your Peru Trek guide. By headlamp, you rise to follow him down the rocky trail, just to catch this sunrise.   Your frosted breath mingles with the mist encircling the moss-cloaked gate, lending a spiritual quality to this morning.

To arrive at this threshold, your small group has spent the last three days following in the footsteps of your sturdy porters.  Past dusty fields where local kids kicked a futbol amongst grazing oxen, alongside the splashing Kusichaka River, and up the grade to the mountain pass, you notice that the price of Gatorade toted in by trailside vendors is going up as quickly as the elevation.

At the mountain pass, your guide Victor treats your altitude-induced headaches with herbal oils that you inhale from his caring palms.  You meander down the wooded trail, lush with orchids and snow-white clumps of begonia that mirror the distant snow-capped Andean mountains.  You emerge from the forest to find lunch set up, tablecloths and all, on the riverbank.

Peru’s many marvels have roused your imagination over the past week. You cheered, shoulder to shoulder, with red-clad locals as they boisterously waved homemade banners in the final minutes of Cusco’s local soccer match.  

You stepped ashore onto the southern floating reed islands to learn weaving from the tribal women, and you floated down the Tambopata, a feeder river to the Amazon, past brick-colored clay cliffs brightly dotted with blue and yellow macaws.   As howler monkeys settled for the night in the treetops, you too withdrew to your screened-in jungle hut to fall asleep by the chirp of the katydids.

And you will always fondly recall Amaru, a Quechuan village 15,000’ up in the Andes where you spent one unforgettable night in the dirt-floored home of a local family.   Their lima bean tea warmed you against the mountain chill. Then Hilda, your host Mom, cooked you dinner over the fire in their open hearth as guinea pigs ran back and forth.   

Are those creatures dinner or pets?   Yes.

 

But this morning’s sunrise is what you really came for.  Somehow, it surpasses your imaginings.

 

As you stand at the Gate, it occurs to you that what had begun as a mountain hike had ended, thanks to Victor’s mystical communion with these mountains, as a pilgrimage.   This Incan city’s mysteries are yours alone, at least for the next few hours until the first tourist-packed train arrives. You step out.

That was a trip of a lifetime”, you say.  “Let’s do it again next year!”

Sleeping in a Costa Rican Treehouse

Ever wanted to spend the night sleeping in a treehouse! Well now is your chance! There is a one of a kind treehouse nestled in the amazing jungles of Costa Rica just waiting for you!

This three-story treehouse is surrounded by wild jungle and includes a spectacular ocean view. The open-air space includes 360 degree views which are breathtaking. The house includes hand carved furniture and a dream kitchen. Have your morning coffee among the calls of the macaws and watch the monkeys swinging through the trees on this once in a lifetime adventure.

Next In Our Imagine Series: British Virgin Islands

Imagine…

 

your guide cuts the skiff’s motor as you slip onto the sand of this deserted island.

 

You’ve landed on a crescent of pearly beach in the British Virgin Islands.   It is fringed with palms, lapped by aquarium-clear water, and breathtakingly perfect.   

 

And it is just yours, for the entire day.

 

Provisioned with a picnic basket full of champagne and salmon, your snorkel and fins, and some comfy towels, you wave goodbye as the boat putters off, and then you are alone…

 

…Deliciously alone, a no-one-can-find-me-here alone!   You turn to survey your private playground and wonder,

“When have I ever been at such leisure, untouchable by the world and all its distractions, to savor a day and a place, just for myself?”

You string up your hammock and sway.

 

At your BVI resort, beach drops like this are just one of the indulgences awaiting you.  Over the week, you will take salt-sprayed sails on their sloop, dance to reggae drummers beneath the stars, and stroll to the neighboring cove to visit the Baths, quiet pools created by giant boulders where you can soak in the sun and explore sea caves.  Back at your casita, you will bathe al fresco in showers secluded in the seagrapes.  And at day’s end, you will feast on the distant isle of Anegada, licking lobster butter off your fingertips, wriggling your toes into the sand, watching the sunset.

 

That was a trip of a lifetime”, you say.  “Let’s do it again next year!”