Kasbah du Toubkal – Luxury Trekking in the High Atlas

As we sit sipping sweet mint tea gazing out the sculpted slopes of the Imlil Valley, the call to prayer echoes up from the Berber villages below. I adjust the cushy pillows around me and lean out to take in the mountain panorama that surrounds the Kasbah du Toubkal. Behind our hill-top refuge rises the barren, rocky peak of Mt. Toubkal, which at 4,167 m (13,670 ft) ranks as the highest mountain in North Africa. Opposite us, a wondrous waterfall pours into an oasis of walnut, apple, and – most importantly – cherry trees. It’s literally raining cherries in the valley below.

When trekkers talk dream destinations, the conversations often turn to distant lands such as Nepal, northern India, Tibet or Peru. Scanning our archives will prove that these reputations are well deserved. But trekkers-in-the-know keep a few dazzling finds to themselves, off-the-beaten-track treasures where the hiking enthusiast can walk the trails without the crowds. One of the best kept secrets

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The World’s Most Amazing Adventures

Thomas climbing to the Skylodge in Peru

What is adventure? Is it the thrill of exploring some remote corner of the globe, the rush of adrenaline as you come face to face with a wild animal, or the sense of personal growth that comes from breaking out of your comfort zone?

It’s not an easy question. For some people, it’s diving into the natural world to test their physical and mental limits. For others, it’s cultural discovery, meeting exotic people, or wandering through lost jungle-covered ruins.

For Thomas and me, it is all of the above. We’ve spent years exploring the far reaches of this incredible planet, seeking out the most exhilarating, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring experiences the world has to offer. And now, after countless miles, endless discoveries, and several decades of travel, we’re excited to share with you our list of the world’s greatest adventures.

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Exploring Coron Island by Kayak

Thomas Kayaks near Coron Island

Sitting in our stilt house recovering from our spectacular wreck dives, the second major reason to visit the Philippine Island of Busuanga is clearly visible on the horizon. Dramatic and mysterious, Lonely Planet describes mystical Coron Island best when it says, “It wouldn’t be out of place in a King Kong film.”

Ominous walls of jungle-covered black karst erupt from the surrounding turquoise seas. Jagged and spectacular, Coron Island is the ultimate karst showpiece. As mountainous as Yangshuo, as labyrinthine as the Stone Forest, mid-ocean like Halong or Pang Nga, and as razor-edged as the spiky tsingy of Madagascar, Coron trumps them all. The place is Continue…

Iguazu Falls – Which Side is Better, Argentina or Brazil?

Iguazu Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. Almost twice as tall as Niagara Falls and only rivaled by Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, the jaw-dropping Iguazu Falls leaves even the most seasoned travelers in awe (and yes, I’m talking about us). The 82-meter-high cascades of foaming water span an incredible width of 2.7 kilometers. At any one time, there are between 150 and 300 falls depending on the water level. Witnessing the power and noise of the falling water shrouded in perpetual mist is an unforgettable experience, an experience made even better by the incredible jungle setting. Continue…

The Akha of Northern Laos

Akha woman in northern Laos

The first time I went to Thailand in 1990, I had the opportunity to trek through portions of the North to visit many of the hill tribes. At that time, traditional clothing and culture were still very intact. Yes, there were already too many tourists, but there was still much to be seen and experienced especially in the remote regions along the borders of Myanmar and Laos. The markets of the Golden Triangle were filled with a mix of exotic hill people donning colorful garb buying and selling goods in a dozen languages.

The obvious stars of the markets were the Akha, a group whose unique culture, blood-red betel nut stained teeth, and over-the-top headdresses made them one of the most recognizable tribal groups in the world. I had hoped to share this amazing culture with Thomas during our visit to less developed Laos in 2010, but that proved a bit more challenging than I had thought.

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Komodo, Diver’s Paradise

Tony diving off the coast of Rinca

It’s not exactly a secret among experienced divers, but Komodo has some of the best diving in the world. While land-lubbers are more focused on the famous Komodo dragons, underwater fans realize that Komodo National Park protects some of the best-preserved coral and underwater life on the planet.

Why? As with Nusa Lembongan, deep channels with cold currents from the south seem to be protecting much of the coral from the hot water streams that have ravaged calmer Asian waters to the north. So far, bleaching seems to be less of a problem than in other parts areas of the tropics. Moreover, nature has gifted Komodo with wild ripping currents which make dynamite fishing difficult. Poachers can blow up the reef, but the strong currents drag all the fish away.

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Gyantse – Jewel of Tibet

Monk at the Kumbum in Gyantse, Tibet

Gyantse is easily the most beautiful and atmospheric town in Tibet. There is so much to see, we could easily have stayed a week – but, unfortunately, our 17-day adventure to Mount Kailash allowed for only one day in the photogenic town. Sometimes, you just have to make due with what you have.

To take full advantage of our single day, we started early; in fact, we were up and out before sunrise. This may sound a little too early, but the sun doesn’t come up before 8 AM in Tibet – China can’t be bothered to introduce time zones. Having said that, sunrise was the perfect time to catch Tibet’s stunning morning light.

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Sagada’s Cave Connection

Tony enters a chamber while spelunking in Sagada

Sagada, a cool mountain station in north-central Luzon, is a restful escape from the tropical heat of the Philippines. The destination offers up forests full of pines and tree ferns, exotic burial rituals, a once grand head hunter culture, and gorgeous slopes filled with extreme rice terracing.

Our principle reason for coming here was to bone up on our spelunking skills by doing the famous Sagada Cave Connection, a four-hour cave crawling tour linking the Lumiang and Sumaging cave systems. This tour requires its participants to repel down vertical shafts, crawl, squirm, dangle off of ledges, slip, slide, wade waist-deep through underground streams, and clamber over wedding cake cave formations – in other words, it’s serious food for your inner child.

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10 Highest Mountains in the World

Tony backed by Everest at the Gokyo Ri overlook

Can you name the top ten highest mountains in the world? You can probably name Everest, and if you are clued in, maybe K2. But can you list any of the others? Most people can’t. That quickly changes for travelers to the mountains of southern Asia.

Yes, when it comes to spectacular peaks, you really don’t have to scour the world to find them. In fact, you could theoretically complete your collection with a visit to just two countries, Nepal and Pakistan. Throw in visits to Tibet and India, and you can take in all the best views.

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Wildlife along the Kinabatangan River

The Kinabatangan River is both tragic and miraculous at the same time. One of Sabah’s premier attractions, the river flows through a stretch of surviving secondary and tertiary forest sandwiched between the industrial-scale palm plantations of the Kinabatangan region.

Perhaps the strongest testament to wildlife’s ability to survive and adapt under desperate conditions, I can personally say that, in all my travels, I have never seen such a boxed-in forest region with so much wildlife and such diversity – it is simply incomprehensible. Continue…