Friday, November 30, 2012

Parque de las Leyendas, Lima's Zoo: the Coast, Jungles, and Mountains

Today's guest post and photos are from Andrew Kolasinski.

At Parque de las Leyendas (Park of Legends) in Lima you can visit all of Peru’s ecological zones and their wildlife in a single afternoon. It is Lima’s largest and most established zoo.

 Animals to see: The zoo is divided into three sections; three of them re-create Peru’s distinct environmental zones. There is a marine (Costa) park, a Jungle area, and uplands or Sierra zone, which includes the high Andes. In addition there is an International Zone with animals from around the world including hippopotami, tigers, and lions.

 The zoo has 73 species of mammals, 28 species of reptile, 20 species of fish as well as amphibians, arachnids, and a butterfly exhibit. Among the stars of the animal kingdom are: pumas, jaguars, crocodiles, spider monkeys, and sloths. You will rarely have such an opportunity to glimpse the Speckled Bear, giant Anaconda, or Black Jaguar. The zoo also features thousands of species of Peruvian plants.

 Of course, one animal you will see plenty of at Parque de las Layendas is human children. The zoo is a hit with family and school groups, and at times it is difficult to get a good vantage point to observe some of the more popular animals.

Inside the Amazonia section the temperature and humidity may seem uncomfortably realistic. Luckily there were no free flying mosquitoes and other jungle pests. Paths connecting the different zones pass though ancient adobe ruins. With the sun blazing down, the arid coastal desert is a great contrast to the Amazon’s shade and humidity, and the marine park’s cool tanks and pools.

The zoo is constantly making efforts to provide the animals with more natural elements in their surroundings, but regardless of esthetics, the animals are housed in sustaining environments. Although the Andean Condors hardly have room to spread their wings in their enclosure, these condors contribute to the zoo’s research and are part of a captive breeding program.

Learn culture and archaeology of Peru: The zoo is tucked among the remains of adobe pyramids and temples. It was a ceremonial center for the Lima Culture beginning in m the first century AD until the sixth century. Successive cultures including the Curacazgo, the Ychsma, the Wari, and the Incas all left their marks here. Some structures date back 2,000 years.

The ancient city sat on four kilometers surrounding the surviving archeological site. Maranga was the name of the community when the Spanish arrived. The Lima people and their culture were conquered by the Wari, and finally the Inca. Each successive culture modified the buildings to suit their own needs.

There are 53 temples and a small archeological museum with artifacts (including mummies) excavated from the area as well as interpretive displays and re-creations of the living ancient community. The remains of the city’s great defensive wall run through the zoo. In addition to Maranga Archeological displays, the Parque de la Layendas also has a small museum about Peru’s petroleum industry.

Parque de las Leyendas is in the San Miguel neighborhood, a twenty minute taxi ride from Plaza de Armas. The zoo is located at Avendida Las Leyendas 580 – 586, San Miguel, Lima. Open Monday to Sunday 9 a, to 6 pm, admission is $8.50 adults, $4.00 children

If you’re planning a trip to Lima, consider contacting Aracari Peru Travel, a leading travel agent in Peru and specialist in custom-designed, unique cultural and travel experiences.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Affordable Kauai

Waimea Canyon on Kauai, Hawaii
Known for its lush, green gardens and contrasting jagged mountain coastline, Kauai is often called the Island of Discovery. So it's a good thing that discovering nature on the Garden Isle can be free or almost so. Its beauty is available for everyone to enjoy--and visitors, whether first time or repeat--continue to discover fascinating and affordable ways to love and appreciate Kauai.
Here are some of the highlights that I’ve learned about from two visits to this beautiful island:

View on Kalulua Trail on Hawaii's North Shore
Marvel at the Grand Canyon of the PacificWaimea Canyon is a sightseer’s paradise—a mile wide, 10 miles long, and more than 3,500 feet deep. Of course, you can admire the brilliant colors from established walks and trails. Take a picnic lunch to enjoy at the uppermost point overlooking the valley in Koke’e State Park. Kalalau Lookout and other points provide stunning views of the once-cultivated valley that extends to the Pacific Ocean. More adventurous folks might choose to hike into the crater—letting the sumptuous plant life and multi-colored rock formation envelope you.
Hike in rainforests or lush valleys—Trails immerse visitors in Kauai’s verdant wilderness on comfortable walks or challenging treks. Serious hikers will want to tackle at least part of the 11-miles-long Kalalua Trail along the majestic Napali Coast (we’ve done a short portion of the trail two times). Because of frequent rainfalls, the often-narrow trail is damp and slippery, so good hiking shoes are a must. Views are simply spectacular, but hold on to your hat as the winds can be ferocious.
Kayakeers leave their watercraft when hiking to
Surprise Falls
Kayak on the Wailua River—The only navigable rivers in Hawaii are found on Kauai. Rent a kayak and paddle along Wailua River, beside lush, tropical foliage, to the famous amphitheater called Fern Grotto, and on to Surprise Falls. Once a sacred place reserved for kings and high chiefs of Hawaii, now you can have a wonderful, soothing adventure here, either on your own or with a guide. (A riverboat journeys up the river for non-kayakers).
OpaeKa'a Falls is a joy to behold
View spectacular waterfalls—In Lihu’e you can drive right up to 80-foot Wailue Falls, seen in the opening credits of the 1970s television show Fantasy Island. In scenic Wailua, Opaeka’a Falls on the island's east side is it's most accessible, a majestic sight as it cascades into a pool hidden beneath lush vegetation. A walkway allows you to see the waterfall from several angles,  a tempting scenario for the insatiable photographer in many of us.
Hit the beach—Kauai has more than 50 miles of gorgeous beaches.  Forty-three white sand beaches range from popular touristy Poipu to lesser-known swatches of sand. All invite visitors to lounge in the sun or snorkel for views of undersea coral and fish. If you prefer to escape the crowds, check out numerous secluded coves on the island.
Overlooking a beach on the North Shore
Shop for locally-made items--Visit artists’ galleries at tiny Hanapepe. The quaint old-fashioned town is filled with beautiful works of art including exquisite pieces of furniture, wood carvings, paintings, ceramics, and hand-crafted jewelry. Spend an hour or two browsing, and you’re sure to find the perfect gifts for folks back home—or something special for yourself.
For more information contact Kauai Visitors Bureau, 800-262-1400, or go to

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Save on holiday cruises in the South Pacific with Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, the m/s Paul Gauguin, offers two 7-night Tahiti & the Society Islands voyages on 5+ star ship. It’s the perfect way to celebrate December holidays—even better now because both sailings feature savings of 50% off standard cruise fares plus included airfare from Los Angeles.

Celebrate onboard. On The Gauguin’s December 22, 2012, voyage, guests can enjoy a “White Christmas” on French Polynesia’s white-sand beaches. Or ring in the New Year on the South Seas in style during the December 29, 2012, sailing.

Both Tahiti & the Society Islands holiday voyages cruise roundtrip from Papeete, Tahiti, visiting Raiatea and Taha’a, and overnighting in Bora Bora and Moorea. A highlight of each voyage is a visit to Paul Gauguin Cruises’ private islet, Motu Mahana, off the coast of Taha’a, to enjoy an expansive barbecue with full-service bar, snorkeling, watersports, and activities such as learning the art of cracking a coconut.  Paul Gauguin Cruises also offers the opportunity to relax at its exclusive, private white-sand beach in Bora Bora, with bar service, volleyball, swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.  

Make it a family affair. Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program is available on both sailings and introduces travelers ages 9 to 17 to the extraordinary natural wonders of French Polynesia.  The program provides hands-on, interactive experiences with marine and island ecosystems with participants exploring coral reefs, hiking rainforest trails, and visiting marae (ancient Polynesian temples) as well as learning how black pearls and vanilla are cultivated and how volcanic islands become coral atolls. The program is available for a fee of $299 per child, and parents have an option to join their children on eco-excursions and other activities aboard and ashore.

La Veranda
It doesn’t get better than this. The Paul Gauguin can accommodate 332 guests with a staff of 217. It is one of the top Exclusive Charter and Incentive Group venues in the industry and has completed more than 570 South Pacific cruises since its inaugural sail in 1998. The Gauguin has undergone more than $25 million in enhancements, with an additional $7 million completed in January 2012. The Gauguin received second place for small- ship cruise lines in Travel + Leisure’s “2012 World’s Best Awards” and was recognized as one of the “Top 20 Small Cruise Ships” by readers of Condé Nast Traveler in 2012.

Cruise fares for both holiday voyages start at $4,697 per person and include airfare from Los Angeles, while the third person in a stateroom sails free (airfare not included). For rates and reservations, contact a travel professional, call 800-848-6172, or visit

Information and photos courtesy of Vanessa Bloy, Director of Public Relations, Paul Gaugin Cruises