Whale Watching

You catch the bubbles out of the corner of your eye. As you turn, you see the churning sea water smooth out for a quarter of second before the behemoth surges upwards, higher than its bulk should allow, arcing into the air with its white throat pleats glistening in the sun. As it lands with a roaring splash, a massive, forked tail flips up, hovers momentarily as if waving, and then slides back into the deep waters with a whispered gurgle.

Whether your name’s Ishmael or not, watching a whale surface is an unforgettable experience. Luckily it’s an experience you can enjoy in nearly 120 countries, yet these are our favorite spots.

Alaska – Like humans, whales love to sail through the cold, glacier-fed waters of the Last Frontier. While more than 20,000 Gray whales will swing by on the way to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas of Northern Alaska, Humpbacks are the real draw here. You’ll see quite a show when groups team together and form large circles to trap vast shoals of herring, and then propel themselves upwards with mouths wide open.

Australia – Whales, apparently, can’t get enough of Australia’s stunning coastlines and tropical waters. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s whales can be found here, more than 45 species, including Southern Rights, Minke whales, Blues and Orcas. Unlike Alaska, they come down under to breed and raise their young in the shallow, sheltered waters of the Whitsundays and Hervey Bay, where you can spot the grand creatures from viewing platforms placed along the coastal roads.

Dominican Republic – Christopher Columbus noticed whales in the DR’s Samaná Bay and Silver Bank areas back in 1493, and visitors have been returning ever since. In the clear, Caribbean waters, you can watch the gentle giants swimming peacefully among the corals, or, if you’re feeling brave, you can snorkel besides the 40-ton Humpbacks and peer into their dark, dinner-plate sized eyes.

South Africa – Watching Humpbacks and Southern Rights line up for an endless buffet of krill and sardines on the nation’s southern coach is, to some, even more rewarding that seeing African elephants and Cape buffalos on a game drive. You can often spot whales easily at outdoor cafes in the delightful company of a glass of Pinotage from Stellenbosch. For closer observation, head to Hermanus, the self-proclaimed whale-watching capital of the world, where your clothes may get soaked by whales breaching just a few meters from the seaside footpaths.

This excerpt is taken from our Travel Tips Quarterly. Check out our website and sign up for these informative newsletters along with alerts on specific sales to your favorite destinations. Or, give us a call at 618-687-2100 to find your dream vacation.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Africa & Egypt, Alaska, Asia & South Pacific, Caribbean

Count Your Blessings

We give thanks for the love of our friends, families, and customers who’ve become our friends. We give thanks for good food (especially pumpkin pie) and the gatherings wherein Thanksgivingwe can enjoy them. We give thanks for the beginning of a holiday season which allows us to reflect on the good things that have come to us and perhaps some not so good things that we’ve endured but have survived. May you and yours be so blessed with the richness of family and friends this season. Thank you

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Eating Like a Local on Vacation

Cuisine has always been, and will always be, an integral part of travel. Food is a language everyone speaks, bringing people and cultures together in a way few other things can. So keep these tips on the menu to ensure that your next trip is even more memorable and delicious.

Find the nearest market – Markets offer great insights into the area’s seasonal produce and local specialties, like beeswax candy from Pikes Place Market in Seattle or low-country shrimp and grits from Charleston’s famous farmers’ market.

Nosh on street fare – Eating out every night can be expensive, so supplement pricey entrees with street fare. In places like Southeast Asia, the best eats can be found on street carts and cost less than $10 USD for a complete meal.

Take a food tour – If you’re going to a place for the first time and aren’t sure of the local specialties, sign up for a food tour and taste your way through the city. They take you to the most well-known eateries, ranging from pubs to five-star restaurants, and include bites or drinks at each stop. These tours are typically led by locals, so you get a truly unique insight into the place you’re visiting. There are even some tour companies that offer “foodie” type vacations if you are an avid fan or a critic or connoisseur.

Learn the language – If you’re traveling abroad, learning some key food phrases can help you determine the best restaurants from the tourist traps. If you’re short on time, download a translation app so you can better communicate with locals, read menus or convey important messages to waiters, like if you have a food allergy.

Research social media – Before you go, download Yelp or Trip Advisor, two universal apps that rate and review restaurants, tours and bars. These will help you avoid places that serve lackluster or over-priced grub. In addition, contact local food bloggers and writers and ask them for their favorite restaurants or dishes.

This excerpt was taken from our Travel Tips Quarterly newsletter. Give us a call to help you plan your dream vacation or next great adventure.

 

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Filed under Activities, Bucket List Ideas, Family Travel, Traveler Tips

Thank You Veterans

Thank you Veterans for your sacrifice and service

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November 11, 2016 · 7:00 pm

Visiting Cuba

For decades, Cuba has been a forbidden fruit to many travelers, geographically close yet so far away. Now, thanks to restored diplomatic relations and lifted travel restrictions, the iconic island’s landscape, culture and economy is finally accessible. Keep in mind that at this time, most of the packages involving Cuba are “educational” tours which means traveling with a group. Before too long, I’m sure it will open up to more independent travel such as we have to Mexico and other parts of the Caribbean. And while there’s no way to fully prepare yourself for the enriching and multifaceted cultural experiences you’ll have while on the ground, these tips can help you plan ahead and navigate the country more easily.

You’ll be off the grid The best way to describe Wi-Fi access in Cuba? A novelty. Though there are places throughout larger cities that provide internet access, the signal will be sparse at best, and you’ll spend more time trying to connect than being connected. So just enjoy the freedom of being disconnected.

There are Other Options than Hotels Keep in mind, hotel rooms across the country – even in Havana – are limited. To broaden your options, talk to our agents about a vacation rental, a private home or a cruise. At this time, these choices are limited and restricted.

Driving can be time-consuming Many of the roads between cities are challenging to navigate. A drive between Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba could take as long as 14 hours, and driving at night is nearly impossible since no street lights exist. So plan your route carefully and give yourself plenty of time. We would recommend going with a group for your first time.

It’s key to learn some Spanish If you want to see lesser-visited cities like Varadero or Trinidad, it helps to have a basic understanding of Spanish, since English is not widely spoken among locals. Plus, it breaks down language barriers when you can speak a few key phrases.

Most places only take cash Many vendors, restaurants and cab drivers don’t accept credit cards. In addition, ATMs are few and far between, so stock up when you get a chance.

The Easiest Way to Explore is by Cruise On a cruise, you’ll not only get to experience the charms of Havana with a local guide during a shore excursion, you’ll also explore other highlights around the island, such as Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Plus, Cuba’s coastlines are stunning when viewed from your private balcony. And, rather than packing and unpacking with each city you visit – why not take your hotel with you?

Give us a call when you’re ready to visit Cuba at 618-687-2100 or send us an email at tbirdtvl@msn.com. You can also visit us at http://www.tbirdtvl.com.

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Filed under Bucket List Ideas, Caribbean, Cuba, Miscellaneous News

Caribbean but no passport required!

Puerto Rico beaches     Did you know that Puerto Rico has the only tropical rain forest listed in the U.S. Forest Service? El Yunque has the best hiking with dozens of trails leading to peaks, waterfalls and streams cascading into pools. But besides all the caves, wildlife, spelunking, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, cave diving, body rafting down the Tanama River and scuba diving, it has so much more to offer. Ponce is a town with Mediterranean style buildings that have been white washed. The scenery reminds me of sailing into Greece and the shopping is great too. For history buffs, there is no better place than El Moro, the Spanish fortress built to protect San Juan, which has been standing guard for over 400 years. Not to mention, Old San Juan with it’s cobblestone streets, 17th century churches, and historic buildings. The largest radio telescope in the world is at the Arecibo Observatory for all you science nuts. There is so much to pick from  – relax, play in the sand and turf, go sightseeing, get active or go for the spectacular nightlife after the sun sets – maybe even do it all. Call us for a price on your biggest adventure yet and best of all – you don’t need a passport!

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Caribbean, Destinations, Family Travel, Travel News, Travel Trivia, Traveler Tips

Show the Boss some Love

Thank you Cyndi for being you. I appreciate you as my boss. Have a great day!

Thank you Cyndi for being you. I appreciate you as my boss. Have a great day!

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