Category Archives: Africa

African Safari: Samburu Game Reserve & Elephant Bedroom Camp

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WIT Founders Christina and John Cooper are currently in Africa leading a Safari Expedition through Kenya with Origins Safaris. So today we’re holding a very special “Close Look” on Kenya, particularly Samburu Game Reserve and the Elephant Bedroom Camp.

Just a short 2-3-hour drive from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the semi-arid Samburu Game Reserve is probably Christina’s favorite spot in all of East Africa for scenery and large herds of elephants.

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About Samburu Game Reserve

Samburu National Reserve is a rugged, semi-desert park in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. The area is approximately 65 square miles (104 sq km), and though smaller than its neighboring cousins Tsavo or Masai Mara, it’s relative remoteness makes for a naturally serene ambiance. Notable landmarks include the Ewaso Nyiro River, doum palm groves, riverine forests, acacia trees, and open savannah.

It’s famous for its plentiful wildlife, including cheetahs, warthogs, lions, elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, baboons and hippos, as well as the rarer long-necked gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and Beisa onyx. Lucky safari troopers may even spot the Kenya leopard. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to 350 different species of birds including vultures, kingfishers, battlers, guinea fowl, marabous and Somali ostriches.

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In 2015, Christina and John saw a wild dog in Samburu—the first time they’ve been spotted in the region in 25 years! “Our guides were more excited than [even] we were,” Christina recalls. “It was almost dusk and we had to be back in camp but managed to watch them for about an hour. Next morning we got up very early went back to the area where we had sighted them, took about an hour to track them, but sighted them again, even saw a kill. Wild dog have an incredible range…as I know they have been sighted in the Serengeti.”

An African Safari Adventure is a lifetime experience like no other. Call Willamette Intl Travel to learn how we can arrange an Africa expedition that you’ll remember for years to come. Phone 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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About Elephant Bedroom Camp

Elephant Bedroom Camp is one of our favorite lodgings in Africa. Nestled in the shade of doum palms beside the Ewaso Nyiro River, it accommodates 12 spacious, rustic tents with private plunge pool, hot and cold running water and electricity. The camp also has a spacious lounge and dining tent with large veranda, 240V charging facilities, lectures on Samburu culture by resident naturalist, and entertainment by local Samburu warriors. Breakfast and lunch are served ‘al fresco’ on the banks of the river and dinner in the dining area. But we think the video says it best:

Tune in next Monday to see where Christina and John are headed next on their Safari Expedition!

Origins Safaris will be joining us at the 40th Birthday Bash in December! Hope to see you there!

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Filed under Africa, Kenya

Conscientious Traveler: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Lewa Safari Camp

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Today we’re featuring a very special Conscientious Traveler, due to WIT Founders Christina and John Cooper being in Africa on their annual (often twice annual) Safari Expedition!

Together with Origins Safaris Christina and John are escorting a group of enthusiastic and safari-loving clients to Nairobi, Kenya. They’ll fly up over the shoulder of Mount Kenya to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Africa’s most progressive nature conservancy, where they’ll have a full day of game viewing, with chances to see the Black Rhino and Grevy’s Zebra.

(All photos are from Christina’s emails we’re receiving in real-time!)

 

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About the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

The Conservancy is an award-winning model for community conservation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Green List of successful protected areas. Lewa is home to 13% of Kenya’s rhino population and is a key habitat for more than 6,500 migrating elephants in northern Kenya. It’s the most successful private conservancy in the world.

The conservancy also supports local communities by sponsoring healthcare, school programs, women’s micro-credit loans, water improvement, and conservation education.

Lewa Safari Camp has open game-drive vehicles that are specially fitted, 4×4 Toyota Landcruises. The vehicles are enhanced specially for comfort and photography, open-sided with 3 rows of seats, photographic equipment stands and charging sockets.
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About the Lewa Safari Camp

The Lewa Safari Camp based in this 62,000-acre wildlife conservancy features incredible managers and staff. Most of their fantastic guides are all from neighboring communities and have been trained directly from the Conservancy to the “Lewa Standard.” The camp is owned by the conservancy, and the profits generated from tourism go back into its major programs, to protect the animals and aid the local communities.

Accommodation includes 12 ensuite safari tents–fitted out as doubles or twins. Each thatch-covered tent consists of a main bedroom, en-suite bathroom and spacious verandah.

 

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They also have two new Family Tents that are specially designed for families with children. Each spacious tent comprises of an en-suite master bedroom and ensuite twin room, which are joined together by a private verandah with stunning views of Lewa plains. Family of Five? No problem, they’ll set up an extra bed for your third child under 16 years.

Fresh ingredients are brought in from the mountain highlands and prepared by a team of skilled cooks. You can choose to eat separately or join other guests. Lewa is happy to cater for special diets like vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc., just notify your WIT agent in advance.

 

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The Kenya one has a lot of diversity –   Samburu you will get to see the large herds of elephant. Lewa you are guaranteed to see Rhino (not true in Tanzania) scenery always very diverse – Samburu is probably for scenery my favorite spot in all of  East Africa, truly amazing.  Lewa is just a 3 hour drive from Samburu good paved roads, is higher up so weather patterns so different.  As they are both in the Northern part of Kenya you will see different species of Giraffe, zebra, gazelles, birds, ostrich, we even saw wild dog in 2015 in Samburu first time they have been spotted in 25 years. Our guides were more excited than we were!

– WIT Founder Christina

Tune in Wednesday to see where Christina and John are headed next on their Safari Expedition!

 

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Filed under Africa, Conscientious Traveler, Kenya, Kenya

Responsible Tourism: Tips for a Responsible Traveler

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Over-Tourism has been getting a lot of attention in the news lately, with recent developments in Barcelona and Italy designed to curb the impact of tourism on the local economy and geography.

So what is Responsible Tourism?

A responsible tourist is simply someone aware of local customs, laws and behavior. Travelers are essentially guests in another country. By treating the host country with respect, you can have a more authentic, culturally immersive, and ultimately ethical trip.

Read More: Last-Chance Tourism

Responsible tourism doesn’t have to be as drastic as never flying a jumbo jet because of carbon emissions. While admirable, that’s just not realistic for most travelers. It can be as simple as staying mindful of another country’s culture and society before you arrive.

Here are some tips from us on how to be a Responsible Traveler:

Travel Tips

Educate yourself

Before you even book your trip, educate yourself. Read all about the country’s particular customs, so you can avoid a faux pas. Book your trip with an environmentally or socially conscientious tour organization. Willamette Intl Travel runs a monthly blog called the Conscientious Traveler where we highlight ethical tour organizations whom we work with. Responsible tour operators support humanitarian and/or environment work in the countries they arrange trips in, and sometimes even involve the traveler in these endeavors. 

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Keep it Local

As a traveler, where you spend your money can have a huge impact on the local economy. Eat at a local restaurant instead of a national or international chain, stay in a family-run guesthouse instead of a multinational hotel, and purchase a little handmade item from a street vendor, not something mass-produced from those nickel-and-dime souvenir shops. If you hire a socially conscious tour operator, they will, in turn, hire local guides and staff, use local transportation and accommodation, and recommend local eateries.

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Wildlife Activities

Wildlife tourism is big business, and exploitation that leads to a lifetime of distress is depressingly widespread. We often book clients for one-of-a-kind activities in Africa or Asia, where travelers encounter wild, incredible and exotic animals—and we work with responsible and sustainable tour operators who treat the animals fairly and kindly.

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Respect the local culture

You’re right – that’s not how they do it at home. But as a responsible traveler, you’re there to learn and experience—not to pass judgment. Know what’s polite and what’s rude—be mindful of your clothes and your behavior. Take the time to learn a bit of the language, even if it’s just “hello” and “thank you.” Ask before you take a photograph of a person or their belongings—not only is it common courtesy, you might just make a deeper connection. 

Find out more about customs for individual countries in the Culture Crossing Guide.

Have questions about Travel? You’ve come to the right place! Call our travel agency in Portland to learn more: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Conscientious Traveler, Europe

Conscientious Traveler: Origins Safari

It’s time for our favorite episode on responsible travel, Conscientious Traveler! CT is our monthly series in which we showcase a fantastic travel organization that supports humanitarian and/or environmental work. 

The month of August is all about Origins Safari!

Origins Safari organizes unforgettable trips to East and Central Africa. We’ve partnered up with them for years, providing invaluable experiences to travelers with a passion for wildlife and safari adventures. Most of their programs run in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, though they also touch on natural conservation areas in the South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, and Benin.

Many of the trips that WIT Founders Christina and John escort on their annual African trip are courtesy of Origins.

Green Africa

Origins Safari is dedicated to promoting responsible tourism and cultural heritage. They are members of several sustainable organizations, including:

AMREF Flying Doctors: In 1956, three doctors established groundbreaking medical efforts in remote and rural regions of East Africa. Their vision has spread all over the continent, treating the combined effects of poverty, tropical disease and minimal health services and facilities in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, South Sudan and South Africa. http://amnew.amref.org/

Ecotourism Kenya: This non-profit promotes responsible tourism practices, working with local communities and managing waste, maintaining the natural environment and livelihood of the local people. http://www.ecotourismkenya.org/

The East African Wild Life Society: A membership-based public benefit organization that seeks to promote conservation and the use of natural resources in East Africa. https://www.eawildlife.org/index.php

We Are Africa Travel: An organization dedicated to rethinking old tropes and stereotypes of Africans, and enhance a more modern image of the continent. http://www.weareafricatravel.com/

Just Imagine…

Imagine yourself trekking through Subsaharan Africa with certified guides and drivers, who have grown up in the region and are intimately familiar with the game and people who live there.

  • Spend a day mingling with the tribes of the Omo Delta
  • Photograph Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes
  • Chase the migration herds from the crow’s viewpoint in a helicopter
  • Rest up from a day’s safari in your private tented camp

Steve Turner of Origins Safaris, ground operator with whom we’ve worked closely for over 30 years, is our go-to guy and an expert on migration.

Wherever your spirit of wild adventure leads you, Origins can help you get there!

When to Go?

Steve recommends November to March as primary game viewing in Tanzania. Rain tends to the cusp months, so perfect timing is January and February, with an added bonus of birthing seas in the crater in February. From August to October, head to Kenya as the migration should be thick on the Mara.

Two Sample Itineraries

Click on the Tanzania itinerary below for a larger, legible picture: 

Origins comes to Portland in December

Origins Safari will join us on our 40th birthday celebration this December! One of our favorite guides, Stanley, will return to share with you all about Africa and the programs with Origins Safari. He’ll be our official “storyteller”—stories that will have you in stitches before long!

The date is Sunday, December 3 — see our newsletter for more details.

Call Willamette Intl Travel for more ideas and opportunities to travel in Africa! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Kenya, tanzania

What it’s Like Using a Travel Agent

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Willamette Intl Travel is a travel agency based in Portland, Oregon.
Thought about using a Travel Agent to book your next trip, but not sure what that might entail? According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), 85% of all cruises and 70% of all tours are finalized through travel agencies. Agents are invaluable resources who work tirelessly to provide you with excellent service before, during and after your trip.
 
But what does working with a travel agent entail, exactly? Particularly one of our awesome travel agents at Willamette Intl Travel? Let’s take a look!
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HAVE A CHAT

The first step involves sitting down with one of our qualified travel agents and discussing the potential trip. Sometimes clients have an exact itinerary already in mind, sometimes they have just a general idea. Your travel agent, with their years of experience and information, can help you narrow down your ideal trip.
This is the time to get a sense of your travel style, your needs, preferences, and budget, in order to plan the perfect package for you and your family. Your travel needs are the most important factor to us. We don’t try to upsell you or push an itinerary or destination when it obviously doesn’t work for you. We’ll find one that fits you best.
 
Agents typically ask for passport names and ages at this point, which will be necessary down the line to hold space on airlines, hotels or cruises.
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ENCYCLOPEDIC RESOURCES

Swimming through the endless volume of options on the internet can be a headache–that’s where the agent comes in. Travel agents do all the legwork for you, and draw from their vast, firsthand experiences in the industry. They know which tour guides to recommend and which cruise ship best fits your style and budget.
If you want a romantic week away, maybe a resort on Maui. More the adventurous type? We’ll recommend Costa Rica over, say, the Bahamas. If you want something new and luxurious—why not try river-cruising in Myanmar? We keep in mind travel trends and plan accordingly.
 
At this point, we communicate with you mostly by email and phone. Some clients prefer to return to the office to discuss the details of the trip further but it’s not absolutely necessary.
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DISCOUNTS AND PERKS

Next, we look into discounts and perks. We have access to offers and special packages that are sometimes exclusive to travel agents, or even to our particular agency. We might know which travel guide might be a perfect fit for you, and other times we supply a couple options to choose from. The industry is constantly changing, and as travel agents, we keep abreast of all changes.
 
This on-the-feet, out-of-the-box thinking especially comes in handy for a tailored or unusual trip, such as a cruise to Svalbard, vacation to Hokkaido, hike through the Dolomites, or safari in Namibia or Indonesia. We know how much a relief it is to speak to someone face-to-face who knows so much about the destination and has probably been there.
 
We work daily with global software platforms, which gives us backend access to air, hotel, car or other travel services worldwide, and compare prices and routes, to get you the most value for your price point.
 
We also assist with groups, such as wedding parties to Cancun, multigenerational trips to Disneyland, or educational programs to Lagos. We know it’s a headache to coordinate everyone’s plane, hotel, cars–and it’s our pleasure to do it for you.
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PROPOSALS

Once we come up with a plan, or even a few plans to choose from, we send our proposals your way. What’s more, we’ll advise you of any foreign travel requirements to your destination: travel advisories, required documents, weather conditions. We’ll answer any questions you might have. We always include any special terms and conditions, and notify you if something is nonrefundable.

RESERVATIONS

Once you give approval, depending on the trip, we may put a deposit or full payment down at this point. We never make deposits without checking with you first. Many tour guides or cruises require a deposit, with gradual payments or full payment required closer to departure. In some cases, tour guides require full payment upfront. If this is the case, we advise you accordingly.
Once first deposit is made, we recommend a travel insurance plan that is right for you. (Read more reasons why we love travel insurance.)

PERKS

Where it’s possible, we call in all the connections we’ve solidified over decades in the business. We contact the Sales Rep at the hotel or resort, and plan a special something at your hotel. Whether it’s a room upgrade, fee waiver, or popular but unattainable tour reservations–we’ll do our best to draw in all the perks. 
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DURING YOUR TRIP

Once you depart, our live phone service is available 24/7 for booked clients, to reach in case of emergency. If your flight is delayed and you miss your airport pickup, we’ll make the call. We work as a team, keeping extensive files on all of our clients, so if the agent with whom you booked is not available for some reason, another agent can fully assist you in an emergency. This type of personalized attention just simply isn’t available when you book through an online travel site. If some mishap happens, if your room is unacceptable or your ferry is delayed, you can call your travel agent and we’ll do our best to serve. 

AFTER YOUR TRIP

Welcome back! We’re thrilled that you booked with us. If there are any loose ends with any of your arrangements that we can help out with, we’ll happily address them.

willamette intl travel: expert trip curators and counselors

Are you in the Portland area? Give us a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, North America, South America

The Garden Route: A Brief Guide

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No, the Garden Route is not a gallery of gently manicured bushes or sculpted sprigs or wrought-iron greenhouses.

South Africa’s Garden Route is a huge stretch of land, rich in natural vegetation, that extends over 200km along the Western Cape.

Within this scenic playground, you might find everything from lagoons, gorges, fragrant plantations, pine plantations, or sandy coves.

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But it’s the local culture that draws the curious traveler to explore the hidden nooks and wild crannies along this remarkable coastline.

For years, chefs, artists, fishermen, and carpenters have been carving out their niches in this area. Explorers are rewarded with curious craft galleries, colorful inns, and woodcutter workshops tucked away in sleepy inlets. Driving along the harbors, you’ll want to stop at the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn, or the green port town of Calitzdorp, or marvel at the aquamarine bays of Knysna.

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Nature-inclined adventurers can hike through ancient forests of Tsitsikamma National Park, or climb onto sea cliffs for faint glimpses of humpback whales or bottlenose dolphins. You can stay next in family bungalows at Wilderness National Park for easy access to the park’s wetlands and lagoons. For a more civilized road trip, Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay are the towns to hit for beachside resorts and package tours.

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How to Get There: The best way to tour the Garden Route is by car. Drive on the N2 main highway, which connects Cape Town with Port Elizabeth.

Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel to book an unforgettable trip to South Africa. Nancy and Christina have both visited recently and would love to share their perspectives of this fascinating region. Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, South Africa, South Africa

Travel News of the Week: The Country that Ranks #1 in Safety

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Finland ranked as safest country in the world for travel

The World Economic Forum releases the Travel & Tour Tourism Competitiveness Index, which is an in-depth analysis of tourism in countries around the world. One of its most important rankings is the safety of the countries, and Finland has topped the list this year. “[Finland] remains the safest destination globally, despite rising concerns in most [of] Europe, including Finland, regarding terrorism,” the report reads. The report collected data from a total of 136 countries.

Mexico rapidly rising in list of world’s top tourism destinations

A recent report released by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) revealed that Mexico has surpassed Turkey as the eighth most popular tourist destination in the world. According to MexicoNewsDaily.com, Mexico welcomed 35 million visitors last year, including a nine percent increase in foreign tourists arriving in the country. Due to political unrest and security concerns, Turkey only boasted 28.3 million visitors last year. Mexico had dropped in the UNWTO rankings to 15th in 2013 but had climbed all the way back to ninth during 2015 thanks to improved security and a steadily recovering tourism industry. While the country finished eighth for last year, it boasted only 600,000 fewer visitors than the seventh-place United Kingdom. Tourism officials in Mexico believe the country will enter the top five in the UNWTO rankings soon due to the 50 percent increase in visitor numbers since 2012. 

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Tanzania was born 53 years ago yesterday Thursday

Britain and Germany had long been the colonial powers in eastern Africa, and the nation of Tanganyika was no exception. But when British rule came to an end in 1961, Tanganyika peacefully moved into independence with Julius Nyerere as its President. Just offshore on the small island nation of Zanzibar, however, a long-standing Arab dynasty remained in place even after the British gave the country its independence in 1963. Only a month later, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution was underway, and thousands of Arabs and people of Indian descent were either killed or expelled. On April 26th, 1964, the two nations merged to form Tanzania, of which Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region.

New light show at Disney World

Summer visitors to Orlando’s Disney World will be in for an extra treat this year: a new and improved evening light show at the Magic Kingdom Park, unveiled this week and set for a May 12 debut, just in time for Mother’s Day. “The show will take guests on an emotional journey as favorite Disney characters set out to pursue their dreams, encounter obstacles (and villains!) to ultimately prevail and find their ‘happily ever afters,'” Disney explained. But the most intriguing part of the new show – titled, aptly, “Happily Ever After” – is the advanced use of projection mapping technology, in which the Disney designers craft elaborate lighting schemes projected onto the famous castle’s exterior surfaces, effectively transforming the whole castle’s architecture into a dynamic, multidimensional screen.

Disney World has large gondola system planned

A gondola lift system is in the works for Disney World, with six stations and three lines. The lines will link Hollywood Studios, Epcot, the Caribbean Beach Resort and a lakeside area between the Pop Century and Art of Animation resorts. The system is being developed by a European company, with gondola cabs to hold 10 passengers. This will be an improved version of the Disney Skyway ride that closed in 1999 after an employee was killed in an accident involving a gondola. Disney is releasing very little information about the new operation as yet.

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Dale Chihuly exhibit at NYC Botanical Garden through late October 2017

For those of you who love the works of Dale Chihuly, see

Dale Chihuly exhibit at NY Botanical Garden

Windstar Cruises and James Beard Foundation ‘special chef’ cruises

As part of their partnership, Windstar Cruises and the James Beard Foundation will offer eight sailings this year featuring award-winning chefs from around the country. The announcement was made at a lunch at New York’s Beard House, the Foundation’s headquarters. Windstar’s new corporate executive chef Graeme Cockburn came up with the menu, which included foie gras croquettes, marinated cucumber and burrata and goat cheese truffle lollipops. Serving a meal at the famed Beard House is a milestone for a chef. Each of the sailings in the James Beard Culinary Cruise Collection will feature a demonstration of a signature recipe. There will also be special menu items, culinary shore excursions and market tours. “Other cruise lines have one celebrity chef, but thanks to our partnership with the James Beard Foundation, we have an array of incredible culinary superstars in our ranks,” said John Delaney, president of Windstar Cruises.

Important TSA information regarding transgender passengers

For transgender passengers, this TSA link will take you to important information. www.tsa.gov/transgender-passengers 

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Big new eco theme park in the works for Costa Rica

Discovery Communications, the parent of the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, will be loaning its name to a new eco theme park in Costa Rica. The park, which is anticipated to open in 2020 in the province of Guanacaste near Liberia will be owned by Sun Latin America and will license the Discovery name. It is expected to cost $1 billion to develop. Although the park may feature such attractions as Shark Week: The 4D Adventure and Myth Busters: The Hall of Mirrors, according to the Costa Rican Times, the park will focus on biodiversity and conservation and include such activities as scuba diving and rock climbing. Additionally, it will offer a water park, Discovery-branded hotels and a number of eateries. Although details have not yet been released by Discovery Communications, Costa Rica president Luis Guillermo Solis confirmed through his Facebook page that this will be one of Costa Rica’s “largest investments in the last 10 years.”

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Filed under Africa, Disney, Disney World, Europe, Finland, Mexico