The Complete Guide to Hiking Torres del Paine

UPDATED Nov. 2019: A lot has changed since we visited Torres del Paine in 2015. Trekkers doing the O and Q circuit can only hike counterclockwise, and all campsites and refugios need to be booked in advance including the free CONAF campsites. Note that Campamento Torres will still be closed during the 2019/2020 season due to maintenance. Read on for more details.

After several months of indulging in amazing luxury experiences in Peru and Argentina, Tony and I were craving a good challenge and decided to hike the O circuit around the Torres del Paine Massif. It had been way too long since we did a multi-day trek on our own, so hiking Patagonia without a guide was just what the doctor ordered. Continue…

Camping in Antarctica

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…

Rajasthan Camel Safari

Everybody does it here – it has become somewhat of a touristic cliche. It can range from a luxury tented eco-experience to an off-the-beaten-track adventure. You might find yourself in a sea of tourists waiting to pose for a portrait on a dune, or perhaps like us, you’ll end up sitting out a sandstorm in a herder’s desert wigwam. It is the Rajasthani camel safari, and it is whatever you make it.

Eager to make ours an adventure, we did our homework first. There are endless options in Rajasthan, but we wanted to get Continue…

Big Cats and Where We Actually Saw Them

Tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park, India

Big cats are the ultimate wildlife thrill. In national parks and wilderness regions around the globe, hikers scan the hills and forests for fleeting glimpses of these elusive creatures. Successfully spotting wild cats requires equal parts effort and luck. As you can see from this post, we have put in the effort and we have had A LOT of luck.

In all, we have spotted 12 different types of wild cats, big and small. The pictures below represent 25 years of travel and trekking. They also represent a tremendous amount of good fortune and even better timing. While most of the big cat posts on the web have been cobbled together by people in a cubicle, this list is based on our experiences and our sightings. So if you are interested in fantastic beasts and where to find them, start reading. Continue…

El Nido, Palawan: 100 Ways to Kill Coral

El Nido's Coral: Crown-of-thorns Starfish

We first published this article on El Nido’s coral destruction in 2010 after our month-long visit to Palawan. Sadly, eight years later, we are still getting comments from travelers confirming further environmental degradation. Read on to find out what causes the coral destruction and make sure to check out the comments below documenting the state of El Nido’s corals in 2018.

Above water, the Bacuit Archipelago is one of the most stunning places on the planet. Below the surface of its perfectly turquoise waters, it’s a different story. A story of neglect, corruption, mismanagement and ignorance.

It is estimated that only 1% of the Philippines’ coral is still in pristine condition. Sewage run-off, anchor damage, shore erosion, a crown-of-thorns starfish infestation, and overfishing are some of the more typical culprits. And, of course, coral bleaching due to global warming is a huge problem. But to kill that much coral, you need to employ some of the more destructive practices such as Continue…

Kayaking in Antarctica

Kayaking in Antarctica around Cuverville Island

Gliding through the waters off Petermann Island, I cautiously dipped the paddle into the subzero Antarctic ocean to steer the kayak around a small flow of brash ice. Startled by my change of direction, four Adélie penguins leapt from the water and porpoised alongside me. Up ahead, the One Ocean Expeditions kayaking guide Michelle rounded the tip of the island backed by a couple of sculpted icebergs.

The second guide Mark paddled off to my right. A humpback suddenly surfaced in the distance behind him, a monstrous tail lifted into the air and then slipped below the surface. I reflexively glanced down into the water suddenly remembering that YouTube video of the whale that almost swallowed a scuba diver. Nothing below. We Continue…

Spring Hiking in Gozo

The Azure Window, Gozo’s famous natural bridge shown below, collapsed on March 8, 2017. Read on for more info.

Tony and Thomas near the Gozo Azure Window (collapsed in March 2017).

While many might scream hysterically at the concept of visiting any Mediterranean island before temperatures make swimming comfortable, we beg to disagree. Spring brings waves of colorful flowers to many of the arid islands, and cooler temperatures are perfect for long coastal hikes. Gozo, Malta’s smaller neighbor, is a perfect example. Continue…

Lisbon Oceanarium

One of Lisbon’s number one Tripadvisor attractions is the Oceanário de Lisboa, an architectural statement in the futuristic Parque das Nações on the Tagus River. The highly conceptual building houses the city’s cutting-edge aquarium designed by architect Peter Chermayeff. Its centerpiece, a massive cylindrical tank holding 100 species, serves as the heart of this aquarium experience.

As visitors circle the 5-million-liter saltwater tank on two different viewing floors, their perspectives constantly shift. They can be eye-to-eye with a school of mackerel floating at the top, or get a close-up look of a bottom-dwelling leopard shark on the sandy floor. The pre-designed path around the aquarium also passes through many smaller side exhibits representing marine habitats from the North Atlantic, the temperate Pacific, the tropical Indian, and the Antarctic 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…