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Life in Botswana’s bush is all about spontaneity. To successfully track elusive game requires experience, and our expert naturalist guides and custom-built 4WD safari vehicles give you the best gameviewing opportunities. At night, we retreat to our deluxe camps or the lagoon-side lodges in the Okavango. Recently, one of our adventurers came back with impressive photos of unique experiences—some that our guides have never witnessed before!  

My Botswana: Okavango Explorer adventure went beyond my expectations. Each park presented its own unique experience. In Moremi, the sunrise every morning from our private camp in Xakanaxa started the day in awe. We set out by safari vehicle each day, witnessing various wildlife—lions rushing a herd of buffalo that first morning was an unexpected surprise.

And the river cruises along the Delta through papyrus that soared overhead captured a very different landscape of Botswana.

The variety of birds was astounding, like the beautiful lilac breasted roller that I captured in flight.


Chobe was a real highlight. With elephants swimming in the Chobe River (my personal favorite) followed by the sight of a lifetime – seeing a leopard 60 feet up perched on a fish eagle’s nest. Our Trip Leader said he never witnessed anything quite like this in all his years of guiding. Wow!

This quote by author Edward Abby neatly summarizes my experience: “This is a landscape that has to be seen to be believed, and then…it strains credulity.”

—Text and photos by six-time WT adventurer Barb Chiarella, Botswana: Okavango Explorer.

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To swim alongside humpback whales in the sheltered waters of Tonga (one of the only places in the world where you can do this) is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! We are thrilled one of our adventurers was willing to share his awe-inspiring experience with these amazing creatures.

In late September of 2018, we packed our snorkel gear and headed off to the Islands of Tonga to join Wilderness Travel’s Swimming with the Humpbacks of Ha’apai adventure. After spending one night in Tongatupu, that capitol of Tonga, we took a “puddle jumper” flight to the Ha’apai Islands. I took this photo right before we landed in Ha’apai.
This beautiful tropical island was our home for the next seven days. We stayed at an island resort set on the beach and enjoyed wonderful access to the crystal-clear water right from our bungalows.
On our first day out, we encountered humpbacks within the first hour. It was almost as if they were excited to see us!

I couldn’t wait to jump in and see these amazing mammals up close. I’ve been a scuba diver and underwater photographer for the past 30 years, but this would be my first encounter with humpback whales. I had my camera ready and was totally psyched to get in the water. From our boat, it was almost as if this whale was saying to us, “come on in, the water is fine!”
With our mask and fins on, we slipped off the side of our boat and headed toward the whales.
As I entered the water, the humpbacks came right up to me. It seemed like they were just as interested in looking at me as I was at them!
This whale’s pectoral fin came so close to me, almost as if he wanted to shake hands.

At this point, I was nearly “freaking out” and could barely keep my composure and steady my camera to take a photo. What an amazing experience!
This humpback stayed with us for at least one hour and showed off all of his acrobatic skills. As a former competitive gymnast, I gave him a 10.0 for his routine.
This photo that I took on the first day really shows how close the whales would come toward us and their amazing size in comparison to a human. The swimmer in this photo is our marine biologist guide, Ben Vieyra.
Our amazing trip leader, Jon Imhoof, having fun with this Humpback Whale.

Five of the seven days in Ha’apai, we were out on the open water looking for Humpbacks. We had truly great encounters each and every day of this trip.

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We recently sent one of our Area Specialists on our Top of the Alps journey to experience the high trails of Switzerland for herself. Take a look at some of her awesome photos!
All outdoor enthusiasts must make it a priority to visit Switzerland at least once. This gorgeous, green, mountainous country is a hiker’s delight! I was fortunate enough to join Wilderness Travel’s Top of the Alps trip in August 2018. Our journey started in the Swiss city of Lucerne and followed one of the routes of the Via Alpina, a long distance trekking network that spans the alpine region of central Europe. The trail took us through the celebrated Jungfrau region of the Bernese Oberland, as we spent our days in the shadow of some of Switzerland’s most famous peaks. We utilized all forms of “mechanical conveyances” (cable cars, cogwheel railways, and trains) to hike the very best trails this region has to offer.

Our first hike on the trip took us up Mt Pilatus, the craggy-peaked mountain towering over Lucerne. After enjoying lunch at the top, we took the steepest cogwheel railway in the world back down to the lake. The gradient of this railway reaches 48 percent!

Just a few minutes down the trail from this spot we stopped for a rest. Trip Leader Tanya Perret invited us to sit silently and fully appreciate our surroundings. A gentle breeze blowing through the late summer wildflowers, the surrounding peaks, and a chirping marmot made this an unforgettable moment!

Our “rest day” hike brought us up to a massive glacial network sprawling beneath towering peaks. We ate Rösti (a traditional Swiss dish of potatoes) at an alpine hut. It was such a pleasure to experience European alpine hut culture. The extensive network of huts provide refuge and warm meals to hikers and climbers all over the Alps.

Hotel Bellevue des Alpes was our home for a night under the awe-inspiring north face of the Eiger. This hotel dates back to 1840, and was the launch point for many climbers attempting to reach the peak. I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing next to a roaring fire after a hard day on the trail.

Some vantage points really struck home just how many peaks there are in a relatively small area. So many beautiful mountains all packed in next to each other! The mountains climb straight out of massive glacier-carved valleys, producing sheer rock walls up to 10,000 feet.

We spent two wonderful nights in the gorgeous town of Mürren overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley. This town seemed like something right out of a fairytale!

The quintessential Swiss photo! One of their famous cows overlooking the peaks of the Eiger, the Monch, and the Jungfrau (from left to right). You can almost hear the chiming of the cowbells.

It was always a pleasure to hear one of our fabulous leaders, Mike Browder, discuss the surrounding area while on the trail. It’s amazing how much you can learn on an eight-hour hike!

The hiking was splendid, the views were spectacular, but what really made the trip for me was this amazing group of people! Cheers to an amazing time on the Via Alpina!

—Text and photos by WT area specialist Dana Walsh, Top of the Alps.

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