Tag Archives: mexico

Conscientious Traveler: Bruce Mate (& Uncruise Adventures)

Baja (142)Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler–our monthly series in which we showcase a fantastic travel organization that supports the environment and wildlife. This month is all about Bruce Mate!

Call to all Potential Sailors: Join Bruce Mate — February 24, 2018!

Every year, Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute Director Bruce Mate and his wife Mary Lou lead a natural history trip down to Baja California. In 2018, he’s sailing back down to this area with UnCruise Adventures, joined by a team of interested individuals (such as yourself? read on!). Bruce has conducted marine mammal research since 1967, including determining the migration routes of sea lions along the west coast of the United States. He started in the Baja region with whale tagging work way back in 1979, and knows the area and its wildlife intimately. 

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So what makes 2018 so special?

YOU TOO can join Bruce Mate, whale expert, on that year’s annual sail down to Baja. Learn all about gray whales and whale sharks from one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading experts, all in the comfort and accessibility of a small cruise ship. We have fourteen open spaces left–can you fill one of them? Bring a friend or loved one, and fill two spaces! 

We already have 34 passengers confirmed to join him–but we still have 14 open spaces left! That’s in a ship that carries a total of 84 passengers. Call us up to join this rare, once in a lifetime cruise! 503-224-1080 or email info@wittravel.com for the details. Check out the on sailing on UnCruise Adventure’s website

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Need to Hear a Firsthand Experience?

WIT Agents Barbara and Racheal are now cruising with Uncruise Adventures down in Baja. We’re super excited for them and happy to hear all about it when they get back!

Missed our previous post about it? Click here.

Starting next week—when Barb and Racheal are back, you’ll be able to hear all about the cruise from a firsthand perspective!

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Filed under Conscientious Traveler, Cruises, Europe, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise

Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

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Baja Caramba!

This week, WIT Agents Racheal & Barbara are going on an Uncruise Adventure to Baja. They’re joining UnCruise alumni for a week down to the Baja Peninsula to swim with the whale sharks and go island-hopping. The boat sails down to Mexico, cruising the Sea of Cortés UNESCO World Heritage Site. When they return, they’ll have to share their firsthand knowledge with you, our lovely clients, and give you pointers on what to expect on a cruise with reputable line UnCruise. We can’t wait to hear their stories!

The Sea of Cortés is a veritable natural aquarium. With bountiful marine life, from scores of dolphins and mobula rays, to sea lion pups and playful pelicans. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the august humpback whale. Dive into the thrill of exploration or relax on a warm beach. The coastline of Baja is bountiful with bird colonies, schools of dolphin and colorful reef fishes. Depending on the season you go, you’ll have the chance to see whale sharks in Bahía de La Paz (Nov to mid-Jan, Mar) or spot gray whales at Bahía Magdalena (mid-Jan to early-Mar).

Call your Willamette Intl Travel agent to find out more about UnCruise Adventures, what they offer and when. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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What is UnCruise?

UnCruise Adventures is a small ship experience devoted to sharing untraditional, intimate itineraries that really delve deep into the heart of a destination. Their cruises are a great opportunity for travelers who want to explore well-known places like Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska in a different and new perspective. Read more about Uncruise Adventures, their history-packed Oregon cruise, and our Alaska trip report.  Also be sure to check out the photos from our Clients’ the Dents, who sailed with UnCruise to Alaska

PLUS! There are themed departures available on certain dates.

  • Birding: Renowned bird experts – on March 25.
  • Chairman’s Cruise: Sail with the leaders and owners of the UnCruise Adventures! – on Jan 7.
  • Marine Biology: Learn all about the amazing aquatic world beneath the waves on excursions and onboard lectures. – Jan 21, Feb 18, Mar 18.
  • Photography: Join NatGeo travel photographer Christopher Baker to capture perfect shots on the boat and in the field – on January 28.

We love UnCruise Adventures! Let us tell you why. Call us up for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise

Mexico Feature: Pyramids and Ruins

Many tourists to Mexico visit the popular resort destinations of Cancun and Riviera Maya. Only some, however, venture away from their vacation sites to explore the Mexican inland—with its wild jungles, gorgeous cenotes and, most remarkable of all, its towering pyramids.

Scattered across the diverse lands of Mexico are hundreds of these impressive pyramids, masterfully fashioned exhibits of pre-Columbian, Meso-American architecture. These structures have lasted through weather and war and time, relics of old Mesoamerican empires. The largest pyramid in the world by volume is the Great Pyramid of Cholula—and it still stands today in the Mexican state of Puebla. Let’s take a quick look at some of these extraordinary edifices:

photo by Hector Garcia

Teotihuacan

The archaeological site of Teotihuacan is located just about thirty miles from Mexico City. The largest pre-Colombian city in the Americans, it lasted around 800 centuries or so, and housed nearly 150,000 people at its peak. One of the most impressive sites of Aztecs, you can climb the pyramids, and visit the Temples of the Moon, the Sun, and the Temple of Quetzacoatl with its serpent heads. Look for the magnificent colorful murals and the Avenue of the Dead. Visits to the site can be arranged as a day or half-day trip from the capital. We also offer hot-air balloon adventures that give you unique, aerial views of the pyramids.

photo by Gervasio Varela

Chichen Itza

Just a short ride from Cancun resorts (2 hours), Chichen Itza was once the capital of the Mayan Empire and now a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the 7th century to the 13th, it underwent several architectural renovations, and this is evident in the multitudes of styles and decorations. Explore the beautiful and ancient castle, observatory, cenotes, and temples with a personal guide. We can arrange a day trip from your Cancun hotel, with an optional buffet lunch and folk dance. There are also resorts available onsite, complete with bungalow suites and secluded swimming pools.

Tulum and Xel-Ha

Another fascinating wonder of old Mexican landscape not far from Cancun, the abandoned city of Tulum is situated on the gorgeous backdrop of the Caribbean Sea. Snorkel in the gorgeous waters of the Takbelum cenote, a pool of freshwater in an underground cave. Zipline through the jungle treetops of Yucatan or pedal across the treetops on a Skycycle, a cable bike suspended from the trees. Admire some of the peninsula’s amazing wildlife. Take a brief drive to Xel-Ha, a natural aquatic theme park that houses a variety of colorful fish, underground rivers, lagoons, and cenotes. Enjoy kayaking, biking and cliff diving. We can arrange this day trip from any Cancun resort.

photo by tslane888

Coba

A worthwhile excursion from Cancun or the Riviera Maya to the tallest pyramid (140 feet or 42 meters) in the Yucatan peninsula. Climb to the top of Nohoch Mul or bike around the ruins and the historical Mayan village. Enjoy lunch at an authentic restaurant and then a finish up with a swim in a freshwater sinkhole. Combine this tour with a biological and cultural tour of the Mayan traditions, wildlife, and history.

Uxmal

The unforgettable Uxmal archaeological site is home the Magician’s Pyramid, the Nun’s Quadrangle, the Palace of the Governor, and the impressive Great Pyramid. Just 62 km south of Merida, the buildings are famed for their ornate design—with decorative friezes, trapezoidal shapes, entwined snakes, and divine masks. This is a spectacular day trip from either Cancun or Riviera Maya.

Interested in adding more to your trip to Mexico? Want to book a vacation or destination wedding? Most of our agents at Willamette Intl Travel have had on the ground experience in Mexico, and we book clients there regularly. Call for more information 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com

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Vendor of the Month: Avanti

Willamette Intl Travel uses Avanti Destinations as one of our main tour operators in Central and Latin America. They are world-renowned, members of the United States Tour Operators Association, and have been in the business for over thirty years. Best of all, they are based in Portland, Ore., right around the corner from Willamette Intl Travel!

Avanti offers fully customizable tours in a range of destinations—from jungles and mountains to deserts and islands. Their established, creative itineraries are designed to make the most of your cultural jaunt abroad—and can even be tailored to the minute details to your interests and needs. They even offer theme journeys, focusing on ecology, adventure, food and wine, romance, etc.

photo by Steve Jurvetson

Avanti’s services extend to transfers, tours, lodgings, day trips and more. They keep a range of hand-picked accommodation on list—from lodges, villas, and condos—and every property has been inspected by an employee. These visits ensure the lodgings are of the highest quality, while maintaining a range sensitive of varying budgets. Avanti can arrange shared and private transfers to and from the airport/each destination. In some major ports, they can even arrange pre- or post-cruise itineraries for comprehensive land tour. Day tours are booked with local tour operators, keeping you always on schedule, and with local guides who have grown up in and around the region.

photo by Grace Flynutaa

On a recent itinerary to Costa Rica, we booked some of our clients on an adventurous tour through cloud forests and volcanoes. They spent a week traversing treetop walkways, river-boating, swimming in hot springs, and horse-riding on the beaches of Guanacaste. To quote one client, “This was the best vacation of my life!”

photo by Frank am Main

Travelers on an Avanti booking have:
– Taken a bus through the Andes to Puerto Natales
– Cruised the channels of Tierra del Fuego from Ushuaia
– Caught glimpses of the leopard and craines in the forests, lowlands and wetlands of the Pantanal
– Spent a night overlooking the Iguassu Falls
– Wandered the cobblestoned streets of the colonial city of Paraty
– Explored the boutiques and glitzy restaurants of Buzios on the charming Costa Verde
– Savored wine in the valleys around Santiago and the port town of Valparaiso
– Hiked Chile’s spectacular Torres del Paine National Park and the Atacama Desert with its salt flats and dramatic volcanoes
– Zip-lined in the butterfly-rampant Cloud Forest of Monteverde
– Visited the Uros-Iruitos floating reed islands and the quaint village of Copacabana
– Traced the cultural journeys of the pre-Inca Chimu and Moche civilizations, climbed the pyramids of Tucume, and visited the tomb of the Lord of Sipan in Huaca Rajada

Ask us more about Avanti or call us to find more about destinations. We can be reached at 800.821.0401 or info@wittravel.com.

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Top Ten Destinations for Diving

photo by Paul Toogood

Did you know that today is World Oceans Day? Officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network have celebrated by promoting ecological awareness, community involvement, sustainable seafood events, and other ways to honor the world’s oceans.

Here at WIT, we are celebrating by taking a look at some of the best places to scuba dive around the world!

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, Paradise Reef, a series of interconnecting reefs full of shellfish, crustaceans, and colorful fish. It is also the site of “The Abyss,” a 3000-foot vertical drop that descends into darkness. Lucky divers can catch a sight of the Splendid Toad Fish, endemic to the region.

When to Go: September to May

What to See: orange ball anemones, file-fish, sea turtles, octopi, French angel, shipwrecks, file fish, trunkfish, stonefish, moray eels

Cayman Islands

The three Cayman Islands are great locales to dive around—there’s great visibility, very little runoff from the land, and ample amounts of Caribbean fish and invertebrates. Scuba diving is fantastic all year long on the leeward side of the Grand Cayman, where the waters are protected from wind and waves.

When to Go: All year round, water temperatures range from 80F in winter to 86F in summer.

What to See: Stingray City (a series of shallow sandbars with dozens of rays), Kittiwake Wreck, shallow reefs.

Tahiti

With temperatures between 79F and 84F in summer and visibility down to 120 feet, Tahiti is a great diving destination for the novice and seasoned expert alike. The island is known for its large marine life: from manta rays with meter-long wing spans, to Napoleon fish reaching over 35 kg. There are also several excellent training facilities to get your CMAS and PADI certifications.

When to Go: Year round.

What to See: gray shark, reef shark, sleeper shark, barracudas, dolphins, turtles, humpback whales (July-October), shipwrecks.

Galapagos, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands boast a marine life as diverse and wondrous as the one on land. The waters are rich in phytoplankton, casting them a deep green shade. But do make sure you are with experienced divers—those currents are not to be trifled with!

When to Go: February to April

What to See: whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, fur seals, creole wrasse, seahorses, batfish, frogfish—and out of the water, marine iguanas and penguins!

Fiji

The Fiji archipelago is encircled by a huge reef, making shallow lagoons and a plethora of amazing scuba sites. Diving is a major attraction here, with a visibility of 130 feet deep, and warm waters from 77F in winter and 86F in summer.

When to Go: Year Round.

What to See: Astrolabe Reef, Bega Lagoon, Rainbow Reef

photo by Paul Toogood

Bali, South Pacific

The incredible diving in Bali is due to the island’s currents and its rich marine life—with a list of over 600 coral species and 3000 reef fish species. The Indonesian Throughflow is a flow of water that exits from the Indonesian archipelago into the Indian Ocean, carrying organic nutrients, plankton, and larvae that provide a healthy diet for the area’s fish and mollusks.

When to Go: April to November

What to See: Big Bumphead parrotfish, ghost pipefish, cometfish, anemonefish, morays, ribbon eels, octopi, mola-mola, or the ocean sunfish. Tulamben Wall—its purple gorgonian sea fan that stretches over 2 meters in diameter.

Cocos and Malpelo Islands, Costa Rica and Colombia

The Caribbean is home to some incredible samples of sealife. Nowhere else in the world can divers swim with such a plethora of sharks and large fish. Cocos Island has around 20 dive sites, with both shallow to steep options available. Malpelo Island’s main attraction is the scalloped hammerhead shark, which can swim in schools of up to 300 sharks.

When to Go: September to March

What to See: hammerheads, silk sharks, Galapagos shark, whale shark

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

At 2,600 km, this gigantic coral reef system is the largest in the world. It runs along the Queensland coast of Australia, and is composed of around 2,900 reefs and 900 islands. Due to its size, it offers scuba challenges for both amateurs and professionals, and is home to a great diversity of sealife—sharks, dolphins, or a saltwater crocodile if you’re really fortunate!

When to Go: August to January

What to See: tiger sharks, whale sharks, pufferfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, hawkfish, 360 species of hard corals, sea snakes, 6 types of sea turtles, giant groupers, Caribbeam reef shark, nurse shark, saltwater crocodile (rare), humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs.

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jacques Cousteau called this sea “The World’s Great Aquarium” due to its biodiversity. This is a great destination for North Americans due to its proximity and size. Also known as the Gulf of California, this strip of water separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland, and shares a coastline of around 2,500 miles.

When to Go: June to November

What to See: marlin, dorado, sea lions, whales, hammerhead sharks, barracudas, shipwrecks, devil rays, cow-nose ray, mola-molas, amber jacks, goatfish, turtles, moray eels, pufferfish, porcupine fish, flute fish, scorpionfish, lobsters, seahorses.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu in the South Pacific is a diver’s paradise—with a vast collection of caves, lava towers, coral mazes, grottoes and wrecks. A chain of 83 tropical islands, it’s a great spot to witness some great underwater sights—including the must-see SS “President Coolidge,” at 22,000 tons, the largest wreck dive in the world.

When to Go: April to October

What to See: SS “President Coolidge,” swordfish, marlins, barracuda, dolphins, unique starfish, dugongs, and Million Dollar Point (a stockpile of equipment dumped by the U.S. military).

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How to be a responsible, eco-friendly diver

  1. Maintain proper buoyancy: greater weight increases drag on your body, increasing the risk of damaging the reef or disturbing the floor
  2. Never touch a creature: touching can remove protective layers of oil or skin and possibly damage the animal. Watch out for the more delicate living coral.
  3. Be aware of your dimensions: Pay attention to what is around you and where you are going—divers operate in terms of front and back, sideways, and up and down. Make sure you keep aware of your surroundings.
  4. Secure your gear: firmly attaching your gear keeps it from banging around or potentially falling.
  5. Leave no trace: don’t leave anything, don’t take anything. Minimize your carbon diver’s footprint, and keep the reef intact.

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Willamette International Travel has worked with a variety of diving companies who tailor their services around your needs. We have sent clients on day excursions, shoretrips and multiday LiveAboard experiences alike in destinations such as Australia, Bahamas, Fiji, Christmas Island, Mexico, Hawaii, Egypt, and more!

Thinking about incorporating diving into your trip abroad? Ask us about some great scuba opportunities! Email our in-house certified diver at pamd@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Wednesday Video: Club Med at Ixtapa

Check out Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, in Mexico:

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