Galápagos mangroves
Kevin Van Dien

Staff Picks: Our Experts Share Their Favorite Trips—Part 2

Staff Picks: Our Experts Share Their Favorite Trips—Part 2

May 14, 2020|Where we travelHolbrook in the Field| by Holbrook Travel

In part two, our travel specialists showcase more of the trips they love and what makes each one so special. (Read Part 1 here.) We’re reminiscing about our favorite places to travel and dreaming about the day we can return.

Pure Galápagos | Perspectives by Land & Sea

“Seeing marine iguanas and giant tortoises up close and exhibiting no fear of humans was a dream come true.”
recommended by Kevin Van Dien

The Galápagos Islands are a must-visit destination for anyone interested in unique animals and geological formations. I had the opportunity to experience this last November, and it’s really hard for me to decide which part I liked best. Visiting the islands by boat and actually staying on the island both have interesting benefits. 

I’m a marine science nerd, so I think my favorite parts were in the water. Almost every day, we had the opportunity to snorkel alongside sea turtles, rays, sea lions, and tropical fishes. Snorkeling along the wall of a giant volcanic caldera at Genovesa Island was like being in an enormous aquarium, and that memory will stick with me forever. 

But then there are the reptiles, my first passion. Since I was a child, I had read about marine iguanas and giant tortoises. Seeing them up close and exhibiting no fear of humans was a dream come true. When I’m stressed out and need to go to a “happy place,” I can now imagine myself sitting in a green field among huge prehistoric-looking tortoises who are peacefully munching on wildflowers, seemingly without a care in the world.

Galápagos photos by Scalesia Lodge and Reinier Munguia

Mexico | Mystical Migration of the Monarch

“Seeing thousands of them fluttering around you leaves you in awe.”
recommended by Lisa Palmese-Graubard

This program allows you to see firsthand where the monarch migration begins in the high mountains of southern Mexico. It is the only place in the world where you can witness millions of monarchs overwintering before they start their annual migration to the US and Canada. Not often do you get a front-row seat to witness something so special. Pictures and videos do not do this natural phenomenon justice, as you find yourself in the presence of millions of butterflies. 

At first you don’t even realize you are in their presence as they are clumped, hundreds in layers, into clusters on the branches. Tens of thousands can cluster on a single tree. When the sun shines on them and they are warmed up, they take flight and it is unbelievable. Seeing thousands of them fluttering around you leaves you in awe. It was a truly magical experience I will always treasure.

Participating in this program is also an important part of monarch conservation. It’s very touching to see how sustainable tourism benefits the surrounding communities. The local people who work in the sanctuaries are very protective, and you can feel how important this yearly event is to them. Without monarch tourism, the Oyamel fir trees—which the monarchs need—would be cut down. If they weren't protected, monarch populations would be devastated, as would the surrounding communities.

Costa Rica | Birder's Paradise: Savegre, Sarapiquí, Arenal, and Carara

“The BEST birding itinerary within a manageable time frame, hands down.”
recommended by Debbie Jordan

Costa Rica is such a delightful country, in so many ways! For many birders, though, it might have become “ho-hum, been there, done that.” Not me. After 15 visits so far, I am still blown away on every trip, usually due to the unparalleled skill of our outstanding guides. During my tenure at Holbrook, I’ve curated hundreds of Costa Rica groups.

If you asked me for the BEST birding itinerary within a manageable time frame, it’s Costa Rica Birder’s Paradise, hands down. It covers four habitats where bird life is normally abundant, in 11 days at an affordable cost. A great value, a good ratio to get more birds for your buck! But who’s counting? 

There are excellent chances on this trip to see some iconic species such as Resplendent Quetzal, Great Green Macaw, and Sunbittern, if you are lucky. Hey, I’ve seen them before, but I definitely don’t mind seeing them again. There is always so much more, as on my last visit, where our group witnessed an Anhinga struggling and then gulping down a fish just a few feet from our river boat! That was just downriver from where we got great looks at two beautiful Sunbitterns and a Green Ibis. 

I think this moderately active trip is suitable for people interested in birds (and other wildlife too) – first-timers or 15th-timers!

Ultimate Uganda | Primate Quest and Classic Safari

“All of a sudden, I hear this rustle from the trees and bushes around me, and there comes the silverback.”
recommended by Pelin Karaca

This journey provides an inside look at two of the world’s most charismatic and endangered great apes—the mountain gorilla and the eastern chimpanzee. It also includes spellbinding natural landscapes with game drives to see the “Big Five” animals. In nearby villages, you connect with community members and learn about daily life. A special aspect is our association with a conservation organization called Gorilla Doctors.

The most amazing experience is seeing mountain gorillas in the wild. It is one of life’s most mesmerizing and memorable experiences. All I remember was being breathless. It was so magical. I was with a group of eight, and all of a sudden, I hear this rustle from the trees and bushes around me, and there comes the silverback. Before I knew it, I came face-to-face. Unlike a lot of trips where memories get faded, I can very vividly remember exactly what was happening and relive that moment in my mind.

There is something about them, perhaps because we are so closely related, that when you are with them, there is this recognition, this curiosity in their eyes and in their behaviors. They are extremely aware of you being there together with them. They allow you that moment. They pose for you. Their babies are extremely curious.

Trips you may like

From $10,800

Natural History

Rwanda and Uganda | Primate Quest and Classic Safari

14 days | Choose your dates