Merzouga Tips: Recommendations for Moroccan Desert Tours

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Merzouga tips: My best recommendations to make your Sahara experience that much better.

I recently took my first trip to the Sahara on a 3-day Merzouga Desert tour arranged by KKday on my recent trip to Morocco. Here are my best Merzouga tips from my experience.

*This post is in partnership with KKday, and of course all opinions are my own. KKday connects travelers with local tour and activity operators in over 170 cities! And PS: This post does contain some affiliate links. 

Where is Merzouga?

Merzouga is a village on the edge of the Moroccan Sahara that serves as a great jumping off point for greater adventures into the Sahara Desert. Many people take 3-day desert tours from Marrakech that include one night camping at a Berber desert camp in Erg Chebbi nearby to Merzouga. A night in the Sahara will give you phenomenal stargazing as well as a small look into the lifestyle of the nomadic Berber people.

Why Merzouga?

There are tons of desert camps in Morocco when you start searching on google. If you don’t have much time to dedicate to thoroughly exploring the Sahara and want to get the most out of your experience a tour to Merzouga comes most recommended. How did I come to find this information? This post by Anna Everywhere clued me into which location would be better: Desert Tour in Morocco: Mergouza vs Zagora.

Weather in the Moroccan Sahara:

Let’s cut to the chase: The best months to visit are February-April and September-November. Why? Because that’s when temperatures are most pleasant, spring and fall. Deserts are a land of extremes, temperatures can range from dangerously hot in the summertime to downright freezing cold in the winter! Here is a handy chart for temperatures in a nearby city in Algeria (yes, Merzouga is very close to the Algerian border).

Average min and max temperatures in Merzouga, Morocco

What does a 3-day Merzouga Desert Tour usually include?

You’ll start by departing Marrakech early on day one towards the Atlas Mountains where you will make several stops for scenic viewpoints before descending out of the mountains and onto Ait Ben Haddou. Ait Ben Haddou is an ancient village that is famous for appearing in several big name movies. After exploring a bit of the Kasbah at Ait Ben Haddou head toward Ouarzazate: the Gate of the Sahara, a large city. After leaving Ouarzazate roll down your windows as you head into the Valley of Roses (it really does smell like roses!). You will arrive in the evening to Boumalne Dades for the evening. Day 2 is a jam-packed day, in the morning you will head off for the oasis town of Tinghir via the ‘Road of 1001 Kasbahs’. After exploring the lush, green oasis of Tinghir and a demonstration on how traditional Berber carpets are made you’ll head to Todgha Gorge to briefly explore the monstrous canyon before making way to Merzouga. In Merzouga you will meet your camels and nomadic guides and set off for a camel ride into the sunset and to camp at a Berber camp in Erg Chebbi for the night. Day 3 will begin before dawn so that you can leave by camel as daylight breaks and make it to the biggest sand dune around to catch the sun as it rises over the horizon. Day 3 is mostly spent in transit back to Marrakech with scenic stops along the way.

General Merzouga tips for the tour:

Bring an external battery for charging electronics and extra batteries for cameras! If you didn’t book the luxury camp you won’t have access to electricity the night you sleep in Erg Chebbi. You’ll likely be taking lots of photos and videos of your trip, so better safe than sorry!

If you’ve not booked a luxury desert camp: Pack a small backpack with necessary items the morning before you leave your accommodation in Boumalne Dades and head for Merzouga (ie: change of clothes, toothbrush, etc). Our driver failed to tell everyone this, which lead to everyone having to pack a small backpack when we arrived in Merzouga. Not the end of the world, just a little chaotic and a waste of time, that could’ve easily been avoided by simply telling the group to pack a bag at dinner the night before.

Tips for the Sahara:

Look at daytime highs and nighttime lows during the period of time you plan to take a Merzouga Desert tour. I visited in mid November and temperatures ranged from about 0°C (32°F) at night to 20°C (68°F)- warm days and chilly nights.

Pack necessary layers to accommodate the weather. It can be scorching hot in the summer to downright freezing in the winter. One woman on our trip had brought a winter jacket with her- was she glad she had it!

Bring water! Getting dehydrated is no joke. Some tours will provide water (best to ask before hand), but it’s still better to bring more just in case. This is the desert and it’s extremely dry out here.

Bring a long scarf. The local nomadic men who will take you out to camp on camelback will wrap your scarf on your head for you to keep sand from pelting you. It was very windy the evening I went by camelback, so I was glad to get to camp without sand in my hair and mouth!

Bring sunglasses. This pairs great with the scarf mentioned above to keep blowing sand out of your eyes, and of course the bright sun. If I hadn’t worn glasses I’d have not seen most the journey with the sand flying around.

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Camel riding tips:

For many of you this will be the first time you ride a camel. Comparatively I find travel by camelback more comfortable than travel by horseback.

Stretch your legs before, especially your inner thighs. You’ll likely be engaging these muscles to help you balance as you mosey along.

Hold on! It can be a bumpy ride and require a bit of balance on going downhill. There are handles on the saddle to hold onto.

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Tinghir & Todgha Gorge Tips:

Bring a water bottle. In the morning you’ll walk through the oasis of Tinghir. Luckily for you you’ll be in a nice shaded oasis but it’s a decent amount of walking (nothing strenuous).

Make sure to have money to tip your guide here. This guide is included in the tours and ours was great. Very informative and entertaining.

Todgha Gorge, Morocco, Merzouga Tips

Ait Ben Haddou tips:

This ones more of a recommendation than a tip: The local guide in Ait Ben Haddou is not included in the 3-day tour prices. This is stated in the description, and that it would cost 2€ per person, which is fine. However I found our local guide that we were very much pushed to go with by our driver to have been utterly useless. He didn’t describe anything that wasn’t easily readable online in about 30 seconds time on the Internet. The part I found annoying was that our driver kind of pushed us that we had to. My recommendation is skip the guide, unless you can confirm you’re being set up with someone that gives good information and does more than cross the riverbed with you and tell you to walk to the top on your own and meet him back in 15 minutes. He also demanded tips on top of the 2€ per head. He walked us through the old Kasbah and spoke for about 3 minutes. 2€ x 17 people for about 10 minutes total of work is pretty high, so asking for tips demanding tips on top was asinine in my opinion.

Avoid the hotel restaurant in Ait Ben Haddou next to the bridge. This is where we were dropped off by the Ait Ben Haddou guide and told to eat. Two things that I found bothersome: 1) They would not allow anyone to share meals. We were told no as many people in or group were paired and weren’t that hungry. 2) The most unprofessional restaurant move I had ever seen. One couple that was in our group split off from us and ate upstairs in the same restaurant. They paid THEIR waiter upon leaving. After we were all loaded up on the van to leave. The waiter that catered to the remainder of the group rushed onto the van stating that two people did not pay, pointed them out and started demanding money. The couple insisted they paid their waiter. The man then informed them that they were to pay him directly and not the staff member who handled their meal. (There was never any mention of this before, during or after the meal). It finally ended with the couple having to leave the van to settle the matter, in which they did absolutely nothing wrong. Not only was it embarrassing for the couple for being accused of stealing, it was ludicrous that a restaurant of that scale would have staff that behaves this way. My point: There are other dining options in Ait Ben Haddou.

Ait Ben Haddou, Ben Haddou, Morocco, Merzouga tips

Merzouga tips for packing:

Not sure what clothes to bring with you on tour?

Summertime:

1-2 loose fitting, light shirts. Aim for breathable fabrics.

1-2 pairs of loose, lightweight trousers.

1 sarong. Can be worn as a scarf, to cover shoulders or as a skirt.

1 scarf. Keep that blowing sand out of your hair and face.

Sunglasses. Block the bright light and the blowing sands.

Socks and underwear.

1 sweater/jumper or light jacket. Because it does cool off some in the evenings.

Spring and Fall:

1-2 loose fitting shirts.

1-2 pairs of trousers.

1 sarong.

1 scarf.

Sunglasses.

Socks and underwear.

1 sweater/jumper.

1 jacket, it gets chilly in the evenings.

1 hat, because majority of your body heat leaves from your head.

1 pair of light mittens.

Wintertime:

1-2 loose shirts. At least one long sleeve is a good choice.

1-2 pairs of trousers.

1 sarong.

1 scarf.

Sunglasses.

Socks and underwear.

1 sweater/jumper.

1 insulated jacket.

1 hat.

1 pair of mittens.

Ready to book a Moroccan Desert Tour?

Start your search here!

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What It’s Like To Spend The Night In The Sahara Desert

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What it’s like to spend the night in the Sahara Desert.

Amazing, need I say more?

I recently spent the night in the Sahara Desert under a kabillion stars on a 3-Day Merzouga Desert Tour with KKday. KKday is a worldwide tour booking engine and can arrange this trip and more in Morocco for you.

*This post on my 3-day Merzouga Desert Experience is in partnership with KKday, and of course all opinions are my own. KKday connects travelers with local tour and activity operators in over 170 cities! And PS: This post does contain some affiliate links. 

If you’re planning a trip to Morocco and want a magical Sahara experience, then a Merzouga tour to spend the night in the Sahara is perfect for you!

First, get dressed up by local nomads.

The local Berber men will show you how to wrap your scarves for optimal sand and sun protection. The traditional scarf worn by the Berber either draped on shoulders or wrapped into a turban is called the keffiyah.

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Ready to experience the desert without sand everywhere!

Next hop up on your trusty steed for your sunset ride to camp.

Get ready, and maybe stretch out your legs before you hop on! You’ll likely be a little sore from using your legs to help balance yourself.

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Arrive to home-sweet-home for the night, your Berber-style desert camp.

These camps can range from basic, simple Berber-style desert camps to all-out luxury. We chose to go the more traditional route.

Welcome to camp!

Have a hot meal inside the tent dining room.

Get ready for a bubbling Tagine, a big bowl of Harira soup and a big glass of Moroccan whiskey (that’s mint tea).

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Tagine!

Now head out to the bonfire after dinner.

Stay warm under the starry open Saharan sky and listen to traditional Berber songs.

Now, throw on your warm clothes, it’s time to go stargazing in the Sahara!

For many of my group they had never seen the Milky Way with the naked eye before. Not to mention we saw countless shooting stars.

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Then the camels got brought into the picture.

Our guides saw a couple of us out taking pictures of the stars and came over and asked if we wanted to get some shots with the camels. Uhhhh heck yes we do! They brought us over to where the camels were resting. Camels make for great models, they hold pretty still for those long exposure shots.

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After an evening of stargazing, go snuggle up in your tent to get some much needed rest…

Because rise and freakin shine.

You’ll be getting up at the crack of dawn. Well, actually… just before the crack of dawn.

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Watch the sky change colors on camelback.

Bob the camel, leading the way!

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Stretch them legs out real quick!

Cause now you’re climbing a monster of a sand dune to watch the sun peek over the horizon.

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The golden hour.

Before you know it, you’re back in Merzouga!

Time to say goodbye to your camels and your local guides.

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Want to spend the night in the Sahara?

Start shopping desert camping trips in Morocco here!

 

Changing the World One Liter At a Time: The Day One Response Waterbag

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Day One Response Waterbag- Providing safe and clean drinking water.

The Day One Response Waterbag

*This post is sponsored and brought to you by my partnership with the Day One Response team. Of course all opinions are my own. I do personally believe that access to clean drinking water is one of the most important causes out there.

As many of you know, I love camping and trekking whether I’m at home or while I’m traveling. I’ve camped all over Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Africa, Europe, the USA, South America and New Zealand. I’ve done many huge treks the world over. But do you know the most important thing of all that I need to tote along with me?

Clean drinking water.

Most of us from western countries take access to clean drinking water for granted. Did you know 6.3 million people worldwide lack access to safe water sources?

Millions of people die every year from consuming unclean water, and children are unfortunately the most susceptible.

This where the Day One Waterbag™ steps in and is going the length to make a difference. Day One Response is sending out Day One Response Waterbags™ worldwide to help bring safe, clean drinking water to those who need it the most.

With the purchase of every Day One Waterbag the Day One Response company will donate 600 liters of water to those in desperate need.

What is the Day One Response Waterbag™?

The Day One Waterbag™ is a backpack style water purification system that provides all four functions to purify and safely store clean drinking water.

It can hold up to 10 liters (2.5 gallons) of drinking water and purify it for safe drinking in 30 minutes. When completely full the Day One Waterbag™ bag weighs in at 10 kg (22 pounds) and with handy backpack style straps can easily be taken along with you whether camping or going on a multiday treks.

The Day One Waterbag™ and purifying tablets can provide a family of 4 with clean drinking water for up to two months!

It removes bacteria, viruses, protozoan cysts, DDT, sediments, pollutants, lead, humid acid, and arsenic from water after 30 minutes.

How to use the Day One Response Waterbag™:

 

1. Fill The Bag.

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Fill the Day One Response Waterbag™.

Simply fill the Waterbag with water from your nearest source to the fill line.

2. Add The P&G™ Purification Packet.

Open and add the P&G™ purification packet contents to the contaminated water and then close the bag.

3. Mix the contents.

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Add, mix and let sit.

Mix around the contaminated water and the purification packet for 5 minutes.

4. Wait 25 minutes.

Let the Day One Response Waterbag™ and its contents sit for 25 more minutes.

5. Drink up!

Voila! Clean drinking water.

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Enjoy clean drinking water!

More Info:

  • All-in-one patented solution
  • Closed multi-treatment system
  • Uses P&G™ Purifier of Water
  • Meets emergency drinking water guidelines
  • U.S. Marines Ranked #1 in water performance and user operation
  • Clear and simple user instructions
  • Easy to transport
  • Tested Worldwide

Want to get one of your own?

Click here to purchase your Day One Waterbag™.

10 Reasons Why ‘Visit The Ross Sea’ Should Be On Your Bucketlist

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Ross Sea

Are you looking to find ‘off the beaten path Antarctica‘? Look no further than the remote and rarely visited Ross Sea region. The Ross Sea was named after Sir James Clark Ross who discovered the sea in 1841 and is home to abundant wildlife, the largest ice shelf in the world and is the closest open water to the South Pole.

*I have a business relationship with Oceanwide Expeditions and traveled onboard the M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea and Antarctica as an independent press & media representative. All these opinions are my own, but trust me, the Ross Sea impressed far far more than it disappointed.

The Ross Sea is as remote as remote gets.

Shrouded in mystery and thick pack ice the Ross Sea is cut off from the world for majority of the year. In the short Antarctic summer the thick ice will finally give way, allowing access to the Earth’s most remote and pristine waters. Doesn’t get much more off the beaten path than this. The only thing around to bother you are the next culprit on the list.

Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, ice

Can’t beat these wide open vistas.

The wildlife.

The nutrient packed waters of the Ross Sea support a plethora of plankton which allow for its waters to be teaming with wildlife. 10 mammal species, 6 bird species, 95 species of fish and over 1,000 invertebrates are known to frequent the Ross Sea. Some of the stars of the Ross Sea wildlife scene include: Adelie & Emperor Penguins, Weddell, Leopard & Crabeater Seals, Skua, Antarctic & Snow Petrel, Antarctic Toothfish, and Killer & Antarctic Minke whales.

Ross Sea, Antarctica, Emperor penguin, penguin,

An Ice floe fit for an emperor… penguin, that is.

The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest in the world.

Coming in at nearly the size of France the Ross Ice Shelf is 487,000 square kilometers of solid ice (188,000 square miles). The ice shelf covers a large portion of the southern reaches of the Ross Sea as well as all of Roosevelt Island.

Ross Ice Shelf, Ice Shelf, Ross Sea, Antarctica

The famed Ross Ice Shelf. Don’t let those mountains towering above convince you otherwise, IT’S MASSIVE!

As close to Mars as you can get.

Did you know Antarctica is home to one of the most inhospitable, extreme deserts on Earth? Welcome to the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Scientists consider the Dry Valleys to be the closest terrestrial environment to that which exists on Mars. Even weirder is the blood waterfall located on Taylor Glacier here in the Dry Valleys.

McMurdo Dry Valleys, Taylor Valley, Antarctica, Ross Sea, Oceanside Expeditions

Hovering above Taylor Glacier, in the southernmost of the three McMurdo Dry Valleys- Taylor Valley.

The History.

Follow in the footsteps of some of Antarctica’s most famous explorers. Borchgrevink, Scott and Shackleton all led expeditions in the Ross Sea. Cape Adare, Cape Evans, Hut Point and Cape Royds all house well preserved historic huts important to the legacy of exploration of the most remote continent.

Scott Hut, Cape Evans, Antarctica, Ross Sea

Inside of Scott Hut, Cape Evans.

Ice, Ice…. You know the rest.

Imagine waking up to a sea of pancake ice surrounding you and giant icebergs teaming with penguins and seals staring right back at you. This is an all-to-regular occurrence here.

Cape Adare, Icebergs, Iceberg, Antarctica, Borchgrevink, Ross Sea

zipping between giant icebergs by zodiac near Cape Adare.

The Pristine Nature.

Owing to its remote location, the Ross Sea is home to some of the cleanest waters and untouched, raw nature on Earth. Its even gained the nickname of ‘The Last Ocean’.

Adelie penguins, Weddell seal, penguin, penguins, Weddell seal and adelie penguins, Cape Adare, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Seals and Penguins, galore!

The Ross Sea is the world’s largest marine reserve.

In October 2016 an agreement was finally reached which will protect 1.5 million square kilometers (983,00 sq. miles) of the Ross Sea, that of which no fishing will be allowed in 1.1 million square kilometers of the marine reserve. Read more on the agreement here.

leopard seal, Antarctica, Ross Sea

And come face to face with giant leopard seals!

See Science Live in Action.

In the heart of McMurdo Sound sits McMurdo Station (US) and Scott Station (New Zealand). And nearby Terra Nova Bay is home to Gondwana Station (Germany), Jang Bogo Station (South Korea) and Mario Zuchelli Station (Italy). If you’re lucky enough to get clearance you can visit these stations and find out what the scientists down here do and get a peak into their super remote lives.

McMurdo Station, Ross Sea, Ross Island

Touring around McMurdo Station.

The world’s Southernmost active volcano.

It’s a land of fire and ice. Mt. Erebus has been active for roughly the last 1.3 million years. Erebus is located on Ross Island towering around its inactive neighbors- Mt. Terror, Mt. Bird and Mt. Terra Nova.

Mt. Erebus, Erebus, Antarctica, Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound

Mt Erebus towering over Emperor Penguins out on the ice.

Need any more convincing? 

If you’re ready for a once-in-a-lifetime style adventure and to meet some of the most interesting fellow travelers out there Antarctica, particularly the Ross Sea are the place for you. I have just returned from Oceanwide Expedition’s Spectacular Ross Sea Crossing. Check out the sailings they have coming up for next season, it’s never to early to start planning!

Franklin Island, Antartica, Ross Sea

Franklin Island.

A Flight Over Palau with Pacific Mission Aviation

This post contains affiliate links. 

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The Seventy Islands.

Flight seeing Palau with Pacific Mission Aviation.

*This post is in partnership with Pacific Mission Aviation.

My most favorite thing I did while I was in Palau? Nope, not diving because I failed to get my diving cert finished. It was definitely flying over the tiny island nation!

Pacific Mission Aviation offers a few different flight services. I chose the 40 minute flight seeing tour of the islands.

First, they send a car to come pick you up from wherever you are staying and bring you to the airport. You get driven right up on the tarmac and to the PMA desk.

PMA, Pacific Mission Aviation

Getting on the plane!

Check in takes no time and the day I flew with PMA there was only myself, a couple and their toddler on the flight. Before we knew it we were loaded up on the Cessna and taking off!

Palau, PMA, Pacific Mission Aviation, flight seeing Palau

The best part of the flight is that the door is wide open!

In no time you’re airborne and flying over Palau’s Rock Islands with the wind whipping through your hair.

Palau, PMA, Pacific Mission Aviation, the milky way,

The ‘Milky Way’.

One of the first of Palau’s famous spots you fly over is the Milky Way, most of the boat tours stop off here so that you can paint yourself in the stinky white sand.

Palau, Pacific Mission Aviation, PMA, German Channel

The German Channel.

Above is the German Channel, a world famous dive site located in Palau. The German’s dredged the barrier reef to allow for Europe-bound phosphate carrying ships to pass.

The Blue Corner, Blue Corner, Palay, dive site, diving, PADI, Palau, PMA, Pacific Mission Aviation

The Blue Corner.

Often ranked as the best dive site in the entire world is pictured above. The Blue Corner. Divers flock from all over the world for the chance to dive Palau’s famous Blue Corner. Or if you’re me you take a flight over tops of it!

Pacific Mission Aviation, Palau, flight seeing Palau,

The Seventy Islands.

This is probably the most famous shot of Palau, the Seventy Islands. It’s obvious why.

Soft Coral Arch, Palau, PMA, Pacific Mission Aviation

Another famous Palauan landmark: Soft Coral Arch.

Palau, Pacific Mission, Aviation, PMA, flight seeing Palau

I don’t think I could ever get sick of views like this!

How 40 minutes just flies by when you’re being spoiled by these amazing views.

Koror, Palau, flight seeing Palau, PMA, Pacific Mission Aviation

Getting ready to land back at the Koror Airport.

Ready to book your flight seeing trip with Pacific Mission Aviation?

Head over to their website for the most up-to-date information.  You can also ring them up (680) 587-4567 (office) and (680) 778-2747 (cell) or e-amil them at palauaviation@pmapacific.org to book your trip today.

PMA Pricelist:

40 Minute Flight Seeing Trip Over Palau: $180 per person.

Koror to Anguar/Peleliu or Anguar/Peleliu to Koror Air Taxi: $400 each way (can be divided up among 5 travelers).

Koror to Anguar/Peleliu or Anguar/Peleliu to Koror Scheduled Flight (2x/week): $100 per person.

PMA also charters flight to/from and within Yap.

Would you take a flight seeing trip?

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at World Nomads.

Oceanwide Expeditions Antarctica Itinerary

Antarctica Itinerary with Oceanwide Expeditions.

As you already know if you follow along here regularly, I’ve just gotten to Sydney today. In one week I’ll be packing up again and heading off to Auckland to road trip around New Zealand for a couple of weeks making my way down to the far south to catch the ship in Bluff, NZ to Antarctica.

Today I’m going to give you an outline of what all is on the Antarctica Itinerary for my upcoming cruise with Oceanwide Expeditions.

*I have a business relationship with Oceanwide Expeditions and will travel onboard the M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea and Antarctica as an independent press & media representative. Follow my travel blog as I visit the Ross Sea & Antarctica.

Antarctica Itinerary:

Day 1: Embark in Bluff, NZ. (Feb 15)

Hop on the expedition shop, the Ortelius M/V in the later afternoon.

Day 2: A day at sea. (Feb. 16)

Making way to Campbell Island.

Day 3: Campbell Island. (Feb. 17)

Campbell Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is part of NZ. Known for it’s flora & fauna as well as its Southern Albatross. Eastern Rockhopper, Erect-Crested and Yellow-Eyed Penguins all breed on the island and populations of Elephant Seals, Fur Seals and Sea Lions have made recoveries after being hunted to near extinction.

Day 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: 5 days at sea. (Feb. 18-22)

These days will be spent sailing towards the entrance to the Ross Sea. Weather dependent, there will be a stop at Scott Island should the seas and skies behave. There are naturalist lectures, photography workshops and more on these expedition cruises, so I’m hoping to get in on some of these while cast away at sea here..

Day 9: Cape Adare. (Feb. 23)

Here we hope to see a colony of moulting Adelie Penguins that live around the Borchgrevink Hut.

Day 10, 11: Ross Sea. (feb. 24-25)

Here we will continue to sail south through the Ross Sea. Depending on weather, sea and ice conditions stops will be attempted at Cape Hallet, Terra Nova Bay, The Drygalski Tongue and The Mario Zucchelli Station.

Day 12, 13, 14, 15, 16: 5 Days in the Ross Sea. (Feb. 16-Mar. 1).

Hopefully if weather allows we will make a stop at Ross Island where you stand below the towering Mount Erebus, Mount Terror and Mount Byrd. There are also intended stops at Cape Evans, McMurdo & Scott Bases, to hike Castle Rock, and to hike Taylor & McMurdo Dry Valleys.

Day 17: Sailing the Ross Ice Shelf. (Mar. 2)

We’ll continue east along the world’s biggest ice shelf.

Day 18: Helicopter landing on Ross Ice Shelf. (Mar. 3).

If conditions allow for it we’ll try to land on the Ice Shelf to explore it.

Day 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24: 6 Days Sailing along the Amundsen Sea. (Mar. 4-9).

Along here we’ll be sailing along the ice and on the look out for Emperor Penguins, as well as all eyes on the sea looking for Minke Whales, Orcas, and Fulmarine Petrels.

Day 25: Peter I Island. (Mar. 10).

If weather behaves a helicopter landing here is in order. This rarely visited island is claimed by Norway and is located in the Bellingshausen Sea. The island is volcanic and completely uninhabited.

Day 26-27: Sailing the Bellingshausen Sea. (Mar. 11-12).

Sailing along the sea looking out for wildlife.

Day 28-29 The Antarctic Peninsula. (Mar 13-14).

This will be the first time we’ll technically be able to set foot on the 7th continent. Planned stops are Detail Island, Fish Islands, Prospect Point, Pléneau Island, Peterman Island.  We will also get to head through the famous Lemaire Channel and toward Drake Passage. On and along the Antarctica Peninsula we hope to see Adélie Penguins, Blue-eyed Shags, fur seals may, Gentoo Penguins, Kelp Gulls and South Polar Skuas.

Day 30-31: Drake Passage (Mar. 15-16).

We’ll be sailing along the Drake Passage looking out for wildlife and making way toward Ushuaia.

Day 32: Ushuaia (Mar. 17).

The morning of 3/17 I’ll finally step off the ship for good in Argentina’s southernmost city in Tierra Del Fuego.

This is just one of the many expeditions offered by Oceanwide Expeditions.

Visit their website here to start planning. They also do sailings to other parts of Antarctica, The Falklands, South Georgia Island as well as to the Arctic!

 

I’m going to Antarctica!

….yeah you read that right…

I’m going to Antarctica!

And I figured I’d make it official and all and announce it on here.

I’ll be traveling with Oceanwide Expeditions on the M/V Ortelius. The trip will last a month and cross from Bluff, New Zealand to Ushuaia, Argentina via the Ross Sea!

*I will be an independent press & media representative onboard Oceanwide Expeditions´s vessel M/V Ortelius sailing South to the Ross Sea. Follow my travel blog as I visit the Ross Sea & Antarctica. And just like normal, my colorful opinions are all my own, and we all know how brutal they can be.

But first, on January 21st I’ll be headed to Australia, location still to be determined. Really, suggestions here please! I’m fully aware that a week in Australia isn’t enough but that’s what I got! From there I’ll go to Auckland and make my way down to Bluff over the course of a couple weeks… then it’s Antarctica time! This trip will also knock out my visits to my 6th and 7th continent.

Back to Antarctica…

I’ll be on a 31 day expedition crossing the Ross, Admunsen and Bellingshausen Seas with what looks to be an awesome itinerary. A few highlights will include the Ross Ice Shelf, the Antarctic Peninsula, penguins, penguins, and did I mention PENGUINS? I’m obsessed with penguins, true story. Clearly you can tell I’m trying to hide all my wild excitement, especially about all the penguins. Naturally, I’ll be going on this trip locked and loaded with more photography gear than my puny body wants to really carry. That telephoto lens of mine is going to see the most action its had since I brought it to the Galapagos back in June 2016.

What will Antarctica be like?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Realistically I don’t know other than, you know, cold. I’m guessing Alaska-esque just colder and different wildlife. The one plus here is that I do have all of the necessary gear being from the Arctic. What will the expedition cruise be like? I don’t know. From what I’ve seen so far it sounds amazing, but only time will tell. I’m hoping it’s great.

So as you probably guessed it I’m beyond excited to head off to Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and Argentina. Of course it’s not to late to book an Antarctica expedition for this season, go check out Oceanwide Expeditions to see different itineraries. It’s also never to early to start planning either! This is very obviously one hell of a way to kick off 2017.

What are your travel plans for 2017?

Are you thinking about a trip to the Antarctic or even the Arctic? Start your plans here:

Rainbow Mountain Peru with Flashpacker Connect

Rainbow mountain Peru, Peru, Vinicunca

Rainbow Mountain Peru

A perfect place hid deep in the longest mountain range on Earth, the Andes. It was so beautiful I almost don’t want to share it with people.

Want to visit a magical place that has been more recently discovered by travelers and doesn’t have quite the mass crowds like other famous Peruvian sites?

I did.

A little over a week ago Tay and I visited the Rainbow Mountain (also known as Vinicunca) in Peru on a day trip with Flashpacker Connect. As I am sitting in the airport waiting to catch a flight to Panama I can say that the 1-day trek to Vinicunca was the highlight of my time in Peru. I now wish we had the time to do their 2-day Rainbow Mountain Trek, or better yet: the full Ausengate Trek.

Vinicunca is in the Willkanuta Mountain Range, which is nestled in the greater Andes Mountains. The closest well-known place is Cuzco. Little information is out there on the Rainbow Mountains, in fact, prior to the trek I wasn’t entirely sure where they were even located, aside from being three hours from Cuzco.

The trek begins early, or late depending how you look at it. Abel, our guide, was outside our Cuzco hotel 2:30am. We hopped in the van and off we went. Originally the tour that day had filled up, but once we got in we were told to spread out and sleep because it would only be the two of us, as the remainder of our group had missed their flight.

Three sleepy, bumpy hours later we arrived at the start of the trek. As soon as we hopped out of the van we saw the massive nearby Ausangate Mountain towering over us as the sun began to peak above the horizon and as we walked towards the local homes we were surrounded by hundreds of llamas and alpacas!

Rainbow mountain Peru, Peru, Vinicunca

At arrival you will be served a hot breakfast to get your day started. Flashpacker Connect has arranged with the local families in the area to prepare meals to start and end their hiking trips into the Rainbow Mountain (this helps bring some of the tourism money back into the local community). Our breakfast included coffee, tea, bread, peaches and scrambled eggs. Once everyone is awake and ready the hike begins.

The start of the hike climbs steadily up until reaching a wide open green valley. Once you reach the valley the hike eases up a bit and is fairly flat for about the next hour of trekking (which I was okay with, seeing I live at sea level).

Rainbow mountain Peru, Vinicunca, Peru

What I didn’t know signing up for this trip was that the entire hike is extremely colorful. Oh, and there are llamas all over! Many of the mountains on the way have splashes of bright reds, greens, teals, oranges and purples. You’ll have plenty of time to stand around enjoying all the colors as the trek starts and ends at very high altitudes, so it’s a lot more difficult than it appears. By the end of the hike you will climb above 16,500 feet! That’s well over 5,000 meters for you metric users.

Rainbow Mountain Peru, Vinicunca, Peru, Rainbow mountain

To make things even more comfortable, along the trail simple outhouses with squat toilets have been set up every so often. I mean, I didn’t do the Inca trail, but I have heard the horror stories.

Rainbow montain Peru, outhouse, Vinicunca, Rainbow mountain

Pretty soon the hour (give or take) is up and you begin to gain elevation again, this time non-stop until you reach the top. Pretty soon you’ll be able to make out the sides of the rainbow mountain that you’ll recognize from the pictures.

Rainbow mountain Peru, Peru

You actually climb the adjacent mountain to the rainbow mountain to take in the wonderful 360º panoramic views. But you’ll notice once you get up there that the mountain range continues on with its rainbowey, bright colors.

Rainbow mountain peru, vinicunca, rainbow mountain, peru, dog

And if you manage to summit in good time, you will get to continue to trek a little further to some more incredible views of the range.

Rainbow mountain Peru, Vinicunca, Peru

Beyond the Rainbow Mountain

After the trek back down you will have lunch at one of the local houses before heading back to Cuzco. Our lunch consisted of soup, quinoa, chicken and vegetables.

Reasons to book with Flashpacker Connect versus other companies you will see advertised all over Cuzco:

  • They only take small groups up, no more than 6 people per trek.
  • You go with well informed and experienced guides. Not only could Abel sprint this whole trek, he also educated us on what gives the mountains their colors, and if your a geology junkie or chemistry nerd you definitely will love this part.
  • You leave horribly early, but you wanna know why? This place isn’t exactly a secret anymore, it’s by no means crowded and crazy, but the secret’s out.. You will summit before others get the chance.
  • They are eco-conscious. They aren’t going to let you go walk across the mountain that everyone is going to view. Sadly, with some of these bigger groups of people we saw coming up later after us, the people aren’t all staying on trail and trying to walk up on the mountain…. Don’t be like the morons at Yellowstone ruining it for everyone else.

What to pack:

Rainbow mountain Peru, Vinicunca, Peru, rainbow mountain

  • Layers! Granted it is winter south of the equator right now as I write this…. due to the altitude this area isn’t known for being very warm. However, you will warm up as you start moving. I went with a t-shirt, long sleeve, hoodie and a insulated shell jacket. You can strip and add as you need. A rain jacket was recommended in case of rain, however, I did not bring mine as my shell jacket was waterproof.
  • Backpack, because duh. Bring a rain cover, just in case.
  • They recommend at least 2 liters of water per person. You may need depending on your water consumption.
  • Sunscreen. The atmosphere is thin at these elevations.
  • Accessories: sunglasses, hat, gloves.
  • Camera, and all the gear that comes along with it.
  • Hiking shoe or boots.

Tips:

Rainbow mountain Peru, Vinicunca, Peru, rainbow mountain

  • Make sure to give yourself some time to acclimate at high altitude before attempting this trek. I had been in high altitudes for 13 days prior to the hike (we started in the Salar De Uyuni in Bolivia and made way up toward Cuzco) and I still felt the altitude on this hike… slight dizziness towards the top, little appetite, still sucking wind and having to take frequent breaks. Tay lives at around 10,000 feet in Colorado so she was much faster and she only felt a little head pressure. And no, being in great shape doesn’t help you. Just give it time to adjust.
  • Try to book in advance, these treks fill quickly especially in the peak season (June-August).
  • The current rate for the 1-day Rainbow Mountains trek is $175 USD per person. If you feel you need it, for an additional $75 USD a horse can be provided to carry gear.
  • If you’re interested in longer treks, Flashpacker Connect offers the Rainbow Mountains on a two day camping trip ($375 USD pp), a shortened 3-4 day Ausengate trek ($575 USD pp), as well as the 6-day Ausengate trek including the Rainbow Mountain.

I have been on many amazing adventures, and the Rainbow Mountain Peru easily skyrocketed near the top of the list. Where is your next adventure?

Rainbow mountain Peru, Vinicunca, Peru

Click here to visit Flashpacker Connect’s website to read more or book a trip. You can also find them on Facebook and on Instagram, or drop them a line: flashpackerconnect@gmail.com!

* I received a one-day tour of the Rainbow Mountain with Flashpacker Connect in exchange for a review post of the tour on adventuresoflilnicki.com.

Rainbow Mountain Peru, Peru, Vinicunca