Kasbah du Toubkal – Luxury Trekking in the High Atlas

Warning: Two hikers were attacked and killed  outside Imlil in December of 2018. Danish authorities have stated that the attacks were “politically motivated and thus a terrorist act.” Exercise caution in the area.

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 Continue…

Ait Benhaddou and the Oases

If our lead picture looks familiar, it’s probably because it is one of the most filmed locations in Morocco. The ksar (fortified village) of Ait Benhaddou has been popping up in movies for decades. From The Man Who Would Be King to The Mummy to Gladiator, Ait Benhaddou is arguably Morocco’s most celebrated big screen legend. And if you are a Game of Thrones fan, this is the epic city of Yunkai (minus the giant CGI pyramids.) Can you believe it, we’ve visited Yunkai and Astapor in the same trip?

The UNESCO world heritage site was our entry point to the river valleys and remote oases of the Moroccan Sahara. The whole region is a playground for culture junkies and adventure travel fans. We grabbed another rental car in Ouarzazate, Morocco’s desert take on Hollywood, and set out on an epic seven-day exploration winding and bumping our way from ksar to ksar, kasbah to kasbah. I would officially like to thank Thomas for Continue…

Mallorca Highlights for Adventurers

Palma cathedral, Mallorca

Twenty-five years after my first visit to Mallorca, I returned to the Mediterranean island in October with Tony in tow. Like many visitors, my first experience here was a rushed trip spent on the busy tourist beaches near Palma. It was only later, through a German magazine article, that I learnt just how many adventurous activities I had missed. So this time around, I wanted to do it right. During our two weeks on the island, Tony and I set out together to discover the best of what the largest Balearic island has to offer. Continue…

Esteros del Iberá

Gliding through the shallow waters of the lagoon, our motorboat cut through a floating island of purple water hyacinths before coming to a sudden stop. In the distance, we could hear the loud squawking of a southern screamer. We scanned the sprawling floral carpet of blooming vines and water plants for life. Just as Tony leaned over to photograph a baby caiman hiding between the flower petals, our guide Javier pointed at a set of giant antlers peeking out from behind a tuft of tall reeds. The marsh deer moved quietly along the shore, its orangish fur glowing in the morning sun. As Javier pushed the boat back with a paddle, a capybara sprang up from its hiding place and stared us down as we Continue…

Close Encounters

Mountian Lion in Torres del Paine National ParkPhoto by David Valdés

It was day seven of our eight-day trek through Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile. My whole body hurt as I dragged myself slowly up the hill. We had been walking for several hours and I needed to rest. As we came over a steep ridge, I found the perfect place, a rocky ledge overlooking Lake Nordernskjöld and the green glacial valley before us. Unfortunately, two girls were sitting in our spot. Silently cursing them, I moved on while Tony suddenly stopped in his tracks.

“Thomas, look!” he whispered hysterically pointing at the rolling hills down by the water. I had no idea what he was pointing at, but I instinctively grabbed my binoculars dangling from my neck. “A mountain lion!” Tony blurted out. I almost started laughing. Continue…

Punta Tombo and Península Valdés

You’ve seen the videos, a killer whale surfaces behind the waves and slowly approaches a desert beach. Unaware of the encroaching danger, a seal pup strays away from its mother and cluelessly frolics at the edge of the surf. Suddenly, the massive orca lunges up onto the golden sand and tears the pup into the water. This is the wild coast of northern Patagonia!

Yes, Argentina’s southern province is a scenic powerhouse boasting glaciers galore, rocky peaks, powder-blue lakes, and thousands of kilometers of desert steppe, but it also doubles as one of the planet’s best wildlife destinations. While much of the world has its eyes on popular locations such as the Galapagos, Komodo or the Serengeti, naturalists in the know are exploring the lesser-known coasts of northern Patagonia. Two of the region’s more spectacular sights are the famous orca hunting grounds on Península Valdés and the world’s largest Continue…

The Antarctica Experience

Many visitors to Antarctica say the experience changes you. It’s true, but it’s hard to describe exactly how and why it has such an impact. Of course, it’s beyond beautiful – that goes without saying. The otherworldly panorama of snow and stone backed by the huge slopes of the continent’s ice domes are a sight to behold. But visiting the world’s last great wilderness has an existential effect as well.

It feels a bit like you are an ant standing next to an elephant. It’s humbling. The sheer power and scale of Mother Nature overwhelms you. And yet on some level, you feel connected to it. The continent awakens a long dormant survival instinct born in a world of glaciated extremes. An adventure here reverberates with the collective memories of a world man has not experienced in 10,000 years… of a glacier-covered Europe… of man crossing the Bering Strait. You feel it in your bones: stepping onto the continent is like waking Continue…

Our Crazy Antarctica Family

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An unexpected highlight of our trip way way way down under was the cast of crazy, fascinating, wacky, spectacular, smart, hilarious characters that became our family aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. It had never really occurred to us before, but Antarctica attracts an especially awesome crowd of people.

These are people who value experiences above all else, people who treasure exotic destinations, wildlife, extraordinary landscapes and adventure. These people – both passengers and crew – are living a dream to sail to the edges of the earth. They don’t end up here by accident; they end up here because they think a bit differently from the average Joe. Throw in some zodiacs and a hula-hoop artist and you’ve Continue…

Camping in Antarctica

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If there is one thing that’s guaranteed in Antarctica, it’s that there are no guarantees. We knew this when we booked our trip to the ice continent: all activities are very weather dependent. Mother Nature rules down here with a very raw sense of humor, and she sometimes likes to put humans in their place. Zodiac outings, landings, penguin viewing, hiking, every Antarctic activity listed in the brochures comes with an asterisk next to it clearly adding “subject to weather conditions.”

Everybody on board knew this, and we knew the most weather dependent activity of them all was camping in Antarctica. There were two designated days where the overnight camping excursion was possible. When we were told camping was not possible on the first night due to wind and rain, we all held our breath and prayed for Mother Nature to cut us some slack. Those prayers were answered the second night when it was announced that the camping excursion WAS ON! Cheers Continue…

Penguins and Oceanites

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Penguins are seriously entertaining animals. You can sit and watch them for hours. They steal from each other, give each other gifts, fight and flirt. They make “highways” that lead high into the cliffs. They even have protocols for how they move up and down their roads. It you mistakenly get in a penguin’s way, they look up at you as if to say, “Excuse me, you are not following the rules.”

They are curious creatures which show little fear of visiting humans. Much of the joy of visiting Antarctica is just sitting and watching penguins go about their day. It’s the ultimate animal soap opera. But beyond the avian comedy and drama, there is a lot to learn about these animals and scientists literally have to go to some of the most remote locations on earth to Continue…