Tips on Planning Trip to the Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon is the second longest river in the world after Nile, and its basin, which is also a marvel in itself, spans across eight countries. These include Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname, apart from the little overseas territory of France, viz., French Guiana. The Amazon rainforest, also known as the Amazon Jungle, covers most of the area occupied by the Amazon Basin in South America, and is undeniably the largest forest on our planet. It is a dense, moist, broadleaved jungle that supports such an unparalleled and varied ecosystem and offers such countless possibilities that at times, it almost seems like a fantastical dream―a folkloric region that boasts of near mythical inhabitants and happenings. But what really holds an element of mystique is the river itself; the majestic Amazon keeps on displaying its power and might from time to time.
Welcome to the Jungle!

The Amazon rainforest, as mentioned before, is the region of countless possibilities. It has so much to offer to the adventure-seekers that there comes a point when the forest expanse just starts seeming endless; you might stumble upon something new and exciting with every single step that you may take in Amazon’s wilderness. And this is precisely what makes the rainforest one of the most sought-after destinations of adventure enthusiasts―whether it is individual/group adventure or family fun, the Amazon Jungle is a treasure trove of ample opportunities for everyone.
Best Time to Travel
◆ In general, the Amazon rainforest experiences rainy season between November (or December) to about June.

◆ This is the time when the water level in the Amazon river rises, and the low-lying areas along its banks tend to get flooded. But owing to the risen water levels, many of the smaller channels along the basin actually become accessible at this time.

◆ This is best time for river cruising/kayaking adventures.

◆ On the other hand, between the months of July to December, the forest experiences dry season.

◆ This is the time when the water levels start receding with the rise in temperature. As the water recedes, a number of submerged beaches and trails get uncovered, thus, adding more exciting possibilities for adventures.

◆ For people who wish to indulge in activities such as fishing, hiking, and watching wildlife and birds, the dry season is the best time to travel.
Basic Factors to Consider
◆ The very first factor to take into consideration while planning a trip to the Amazon rainforest is whether you want to hire a tour operator or travel on your own.

◆ While traveling independently is possible, it often comes with its own set of complications. However, if you have a lot of time at your disposal, this option might suit you.

◆ If you opt to travel on your own, you will need to conduct thorough and adequate research, and make all your bookings―transport and accommodations―well in advance, and confirm them again before embarking on your journey.

◆ On the other hand, if you have limited time at your disposal and/or are planning your Amazon adventure for the first time, it is recommended that you hire a reputed tour operator who can take care of all the details of your trip and help you manage your budget.

◆ Independent travelers, even those who have been to the Amazon rainforest before, need to note that in most cases, you will feel the need to hire local tour operators, who will be able to help you with inland transfers and other basic facilities such as food and drink.

◆ The most important thing to consider is that you will need to have a local guide with you, especially if you intend to visit certain remote areas in the forest. A local guide who is well-versed with Spanish as well as the indigenous language of the region may be provided to you by your local tour operator.

◆ It should also be remembered that the Amazon region is prone to torrential rains that occur in the region almost every day. Owing to this, problems such as delayed flights and people missing the connecting flights are quite common there.

◆ Therefore, while booking your tickets, ensure that you do not miss out on this point. See to it that there is enough interval of time between the two flights you are going to take.

◆ Independent travelers must keep in mind that booking online will give them plenty of opportunities to avail discounted offers and other benefits, especially if they are booking well ahead. So, look for them and compare prices before making the final payment.

◆ Apart from the ones mentioned above, the most important factor to be considered is your overall budget. If you choose to go on a lavish, luxury trip to the Amazon rainforest, it would mean traveling by domestic flights/private cars, staying in upscale lodges/camps, eating grand lunches and dinners, and enjoying state-of-the-art facilities. However, such a trip will perhaps cut you off from the local culture and keep you from enjoying the reality of life in the Amazon.

◆ Budget travel to the region will mean that you will probably get very basic amenities like windowless chalets, public transport, and mediocre lunches and dinners.

◆ The best way to balance your budget in the Amazon region is to choose a good package deal that will include―apart from lodging―food, excursions, and other necessary facilities.
The Easiest Routes
◆ The Amazon rainforest can be best accessed through four countries, viz., Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.

◆ If you wish to get into the rainforest from Brazil, the easiest and fastest route is from Manaus―the largest city of the Amazonas state in northern part of the country. You will find a good number of tour operators in Manaus, catering to all kinds of budgets.

◆ From Peru, the easiest way to access the Amazon rainforest is via the city of Iquitos in the Loreto Region of the country. Almost all the excursions to the Peruvian Amazon start from Iquitos. However, it should be noted that Iquitos can only be accessed from the rest of the country by air and water.

◆ The Ecuadorian Amazon can be accessed by means of flights and buses from various places in the country. The easiest option is to charter a small plane from the Ecuadorian capital city, Quito, or from Guayaquil, the country’s largest city. You can land on one of the regional airports on the edge of the Ecuadorian Amazon, such as that of Shell Mera. Road travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon is possible―the most common route is from Baños in central Ecuador to Puyo on the western edge of the Ecuadorian Amazon. However, it should be noted that the road journeys in this region may be dangerous owing to its rainy weather and hazards posed by landslides.

◆ The major hub for excursions into the Colombian Amazon is the country’s southernmost city, Leticia. It is surrounded by numerous paths that lead right into the Amazon rainforest, and one can take a bus or rent a car from the city. Several river cruises to the jungle can also be booked from Leticia, which take tourists to seemingly forbidden places of the Colombian Amazon, thus, making them a unique experience.
Duration of Stay
◆ Irrespective of the country through which you opt to enter the Amazon, a week is generally regarded as a good amount of time to spend in the region and enjoy it satisfactorily.

◆ Out of the week’s seven days, a maximum of two to three days are usually required for travel and transfers. This leaves out four to five days for indulging in activities and excursions, which tend to be just enough.

◆ Those who have a longer duration of time at their disposal can explore different regions of the Amazon, rather than sticking to one particular area. This will not only enable them to discover more of Amazon, but will also increase their opportunities to indulge in various adventures.
What to Expect
◆ There are a few common activities which virtually every visitor to the Amazon indulges in. These include hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, bird watching, camping in the wilderness at night, and fishing. Most of these activities are often included in the tour; however, confirming the same is always a good idea.

◆ If you enter from the Brazilian side, you get a very typical, textbook-type glimpse of the Amazon rainforest, but only at the surface level. If you are interested in wildlife, Brazilian Amazon may be disappointing for you. There has been large-scale deforestation in the area of late, owing to which the wildlife therein has been dwindling. However, you can indulge in adventures such as river cruising, kayaking, sport fishing, and tree climbing.

◆ Brazilian Amazon is known for the various indigenous communities that reside there, and travelers to the region get enough opportunities to visit them and interact with them.

◆ If wildlife interests you more, opt to enter the jungle either from Peru or from Ecuador. There are great spots in these areas for bird watchers and lepidopterists, and of course for wild animals like jaguars, spectacled bears, and rare species of monkeys.

◆ Those wanting to experience the best of both worlds should choose to travel from the Colombian side. Colombian Amazon boasts of both, indigenous settlements as well as great flora and fauna.
So, what are you waiting for? Head to the Amazon rainforest and experience the adventure of your lifetime. Only remember to respect the sanctity of the jungle and the privacy of the species in there. Moreover, as far as possible, avoid going in the wilderness without a local guide. Lastly, travel as light as possible, but remember to carry all the essentials including insect repellents, sunscreens, and antiseptic hand gels.

Finding Affordable Family Vacations

Parents today are busy working and providing for their families. A family vacation brings the entire family together in a relaxed and joyful atmosphere. It strengthens the bonds between them. However, during this time of economic depression, one has to spend money wisely.

With companies closing down, and jobs at stake, the last thing one wants to do is throw away all or most of the savings on an expensive family vacation. However, recession or no recession, vacations are a must.

The solution to this is resorting to cheap holidays. Joining hands with friends is also another way to reduce the costs. Several affordable getaways are available, wherein one can have fun without burning a hole in the pocket. Let us take a brief look at some ways you can enjoy a budget vacation.

Camping
One of the most inexpensive ideas available is camping. Moreover, camping is fun and exciting. The camping gear for a family of four will cost less than $1000, and can be used for future vacations as well. If you already have camping gear, then your trip becomes even cheaper. Several campsites feature shower and toilet facilities. Some of them even provide cable TV and wireless access. However, camping is meant to separate yourself from the daily routine, and enjoy life in the wilderness. Avoid anything that keeps your mind preoccupied with work, etc. RV camping is also popular as recreational vehicle parks feature hiking trails, playground facilities, lakes for swimming, boating, and other water sports.

Road Trips
Shifting the focus from the destination to the journey, can make a simple road trip fun and exciting. Load your car with yummy homemade goodies, and head on for a road trip. Stop at fun places such as museums, factories, historical buildings, or any other scenic spot you come across during the journey. If your children are young and love role plays, then, you all could pretend to be explorers. Provide the children with binoculars and cheap cameras. The best part about road trips is that you never know what’s in store for you. You will be surprised how simple trips like these can turn out into wonderful memories.

Horse Riding
Colorado Rockies’ King Mountain Ranch is a wonderful option for budget vacations. This resort is embedded with all sorts of activities for children and adults. There are facilities where the entire family can mount horses and ride through the Arapaho National Forest. Programs on horsemanship skills and safety measures are conducted for children. The aim of this resort is to train children to ride horses around the ranch or mountain trails. Besides horse riding, this place provides a number of other activities like trout fishing, bowling, volleyball, video library, etc. So there’s no way you and your family will not have a great time.

Skiing
For families passionate about skiing, small, old-fashioned resorts are a good option. The Mount Abram Family Resort, in Greenwood, Maine, is suited for budget vacations. This resort comprises gentle trails suited for family skiing. The atmosphere is friendly, however, the trails are short, and expert skiers in the family might be disappointed. Nevertheless, this place is the best choice for parents with small children.

Experiencing Farm Life
It’s good to experience farm life as well. Moving away from the hustle and bustle of the city, to the peace and quiet of a farm is good for a change. The Second Time Around Mini Farm in Washington, Georgia, is a fun spot for children. This mini farm features over a dozen English baby doll sheep, rabbits, goats, donkeys, two pot-bellied pigs, and llamas. Besides animals, this place is adorned with a large number of gardens and ponds to explore.

When you’re on a budget vacation, it’s best to plan well in advance. Booking airline tickets in advance will enable you to reach the same destination at a cheaper rate. Since rates during weekends are high, plan going for a vacation sometime during the week. Be on the look out for peak seasons and plan your vacation during the off season. Planning ahead and during the off season is the key to affordable family vacations.

Shopping for a Fishing Trip

Let me start off by saying I travel and fish…a lot. And although it is my job, I have to admit that often it doesn’t feel like work. I am a blessed man to have an occupation that is also my passion and I don’t take it for granted.

Of all the places I travel to fish, the little thumb of land that juts into the Caribbean on the East side of Mexico is perhaps my favorite. This peninsula is home to the three Mexican states of Yucatan, Campeche, and Quintana-Roo and the country of Belize. I really love the Yucatan. I love the hot weather. I love the people, the culture, the food, the margaritas…and yes – the flyfishing. I really love the flyfishing. But at the risk of offending flyfishing purists – I also ALWAYS bring a spinning rod. There is nothing like spending an hour catching snapper with a 3/8 oz. jig after a day on the flats chasing bonefish, permit, and hunting the mangroves for tarpon. And the guides love it when they get to keep a fresh fish or two for the family.

I have spent the equivalent of five months of my life in the Yucatan over the past twenty years. I go there almost every year and this year I’ll host two weeks for the third time in six years. This much fishing in one area has given me a wealth of experience that I am thrilled to be able to provide to you. There are at least seven distinct areas that I know intimately. And in these areas are at least 20 quality operators of fishing adventures. Some are small and do only day trips around Cancun, Cozumel, and Puerto Aventuras. Others are large lodges that hold up to twenty or more guests per week. Almost all claim to have the best of something and the most of something else…but they have marked differences in price, accommodation, and fishing.

How does a person choose?
First things first – what do you want to catch? There is no one place that has the best fishing for all the species most of us think of when we think Yucatan. These are tarpon, permit, bonefish, and snook. Let’s look at each species –

TARPON
In my opinion, the best big tarpon fishing is in Belize. By big, I mean fish that are 40-150 pounds. These silver kings are a great trophy and the waters of Belize are home to thousands of them. Some are resident fish and many are migratory fish that come through Belize from May through August each year. Remember that July through October is traditionally what the world calls hurricane season for the Caribbean, so travel insurance is a good idea. But anglers willing to live on the edge a little will find the conditions in late summer and fall the absolute best time to catch big tarpon.

Nursery sized tarpon – or baby tarpon are without a doubt my favorite saltwater species.There is some evidence that suggests these smaller tarpon may in fact be a separate sub-species…but that is fodder for another blog. One of the reasons I love the smaller tarpon is that I have lower back issues. If I catch one big tarpon a day, I need a lot of ice – some for my back, and a lot more for my margaritas to wash down my Ibuprofen. With “baby tarpon” (fish that are 5-35 pounds) I can catch them all day and don’t need nearly as much medication! But the other more important reason, is that I can actually catch 10 or more (best day was 28 for our boat) of these little supercharged fish in a single day. They are aggressive to a host of fly types. They often feed all day and and seem to be less sensitive to moon phases, tides, and temperatures. The best place I have found on the Yucatan is Campeche. Isla Holbox is a close second, and Isla Holbox also has a good number of larger tarpon as well about a half mile offshore of this charming isle at the northernmost tip of the peninsula.

PERMIT
The best permit fishing – that is a tough one. Permit are so hard to catch. So as usual, catching and fishing can be two very different activities. I have seen many permit in Ascencion Bay, but the fishing pressure there makes them tough to photograph up close. I would have to give the honor of “best permit catching” to Belize again. There is a little place in Southern Belize off the coast of Placencia called Tarpon Alley. I have only spent one week there (week two is likely this spring) but I saw more feeding permit there then anyplace on the peninsula. And I caught my biggest permit to date on my last day. Patience is a good thing.

BONEFISH
The best bonefishing I have seen is probably in Xcalak for numbers and overall size…however Ascencion Bay and Belize also have hundreds of quality flats with thousands of bonefish on all of them. The truth is that bonefish are easy to find and pretty easy to catch. The really big ones can make the last statement patently false, but they are certainly easier than Permit, tarpon, and snook.

SNOOK
Snook are delicious at the table. For this reason, many of the snook populations (yes, even in the nationally protected areas) have been decimated by illegal harvesting. The biggest ones I have seen caught are in Ascencion Bay in some hard to reach areas. I’ve also caught literally hundreds of smaller snook on my Campeche adventures. Many anglers consider the snook an “accessory” item on a fishing trip, but the big ones are true trophies.

Once you have figured out your targets, you can more easily choose your region. Now comes the hard part. How much money do you want to spend? Cost is directly determined by a combination of quality of accommodation, logistics, supply, and demand. Like any free market, the destinations are trying to earn enough to cover their costs and make a living for the people involved in putting the adventures together. There are small intimate lodges that are very remote. There are nice hotels in larger cities with great fishing just minutes away. Do you want a private charter flight to the lodge or is a four-hour drive ok? Ia A/C a must? Or will you be able to handle ceiling fans and ocean breezes to cool you off? Your budget will definitely help dictate your choice, but keep this in mind – you only live once, you can’t take it with you, and you will never regret the memories you will share with good friends on a fishing trip!

Holiday Budget Tips for You

Come holidays and it seems like all you’re doing is spending. The cash just doesn’t seem to last and you really don’t know what to do. At times like these, it is quite natural for some to have their holidays turned into a dreaded feeling. So how do we turn this thing around and enjoy the holidays in the way that they are meant to be? We try some holiday budget tips. The biggest money crunches can be solved with a little planning and budgeting and that is exactly what we need to concentrate on. In the following sections, we will be giving you key tips on drawing up a holiday budget and how to go about getting the best of both worlds with simple budgeting.

Overall Budgeting
It is extremely important that you have an overall budget in place or there are chances that you’ll end up spending much more than what you want, and on things that you don’t need. Here are some tips to keep in mind when learning how to make a budget for your next holiday:

  • Make a list of the things that you need to be spending on. Having a complete list ready helps to plan better than being faced with last minute expenditure.
  • Calculate the money you have that can be spent and then put in a bulk sum against each item that you need to spend on. Try and stick to this sum.
  • Keep a small amount as a safety net for any sudden or unexpected expenditures.
  • It’s not really possible to suddenly come up with a bulk of money at the start of a holiday for spending. The trick is to save up for it throughout the year so that you do not feel a crunch all at once. Try and open a saving account a year or several months in advance and dedicate it merely to the holiday budget. In that way you’ll have quite a sum to work with at your disposal.

Shopping
Shopping is one of the most expensive things that you end up doing in the holiday season. Maybe it can’t be cut out completely, but you can definitely control how much you spend on shopping. Here are some shopping tips.

  • Make a list of all the people you need to buy things for. Then write in the amount that you want to spend for each of them. Stick to it.
  • Look for discounts and schemes. Sales are also a great way to save some money.
  • Do not let your emotions come in the way of shopping, or your budget is as good as useless.
  • Shop online so that you’re not tempted by the grand displays and countless other tempting offers that are running.
  • Don’t wait for the last minute to do your shopping. The more you wait the more expensive it becomes. Try to get your shopping done months in advance.
  • Try and pay with cash so that you are aware of what you’re spending and can thus keep a check on the same. Also, it’ll help prevent impulse buying.

Vacation Planning
There are many who take vacations around the time of holidays and want to know about vacation budget tips. The following are some of those:

  • Plan a holiday in advance. Last minute traveling, booking, and accommodation costs much more. You can easily avoid this by doing the right budget travel.
  • Consider starting an account to further the holiday fund as well.
  • Look for discounts on hotels, flights and other aspects. There are a lot of these schemes available during the holiday season. Be informed and you could save yourself a lot of money.
  • Find out about the days that are the most expensive to travel on and see if you can maybe go a day or two before or after that day. This will help save a lot of expenses.
  • Consider other modes of transport that are probably not as expensive as airfare.
  • Try and cut out on certain elements of a holiday like saving on accommodation by putting up with relatives and friends, or at a hostel.

With these holiday budget tips, it should’ve become easier for you to plan and budget this holiday season. Think about it this way, if you plan now, you can have a stress-free holiday later. And isn’t that the point of it all?