Anticipation was high as we awoke on the third day of the South American leg of our annual Expat Research Destination Vacation. Planning only a single day of sightseeing in Quito, we left the jackets and long sleeve shirts behind and headed for a totally different climatic zone. Realizing Ecuador’s boundaries include a large chunk of untouched Amazonian jungle, we jumped at the chance to experience our third different rainforest adventure. Freshly embedded memories of Borneo’s jungle excursion remained strong and having already visited Costa Rica in 2002, that leaves Madagascar as the only rainforest we have yet to explore. Probably too far and expensive for early retirees in Malaysia, we’ll settle for orangutans over lemurs.
Sunset at Sacha Lodge
Understanding human encroachment remains the biggest threat to the world’s rainforests, there’s a handful of lodges that personify sustainable ecotourism at its best. Not to be missed, Sacha Lodge, in Ecuador’s Napo Valley Region fits the bill. Located on a pristine piece of privately owned land and bordering Yasuni National Park, one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions, the lodge is accessible only by navigating the Napo River for 50 miles, hiking inland on an often muddy boardwalk and crossing a scenic lake. Beginning the journey in Quito, Diane and I boarded a 25 minute flight over snow-covered peaks to the small town of Coca where guides met us for the start of a 4 day, 3 night adventure that exceeded our expectations.
Encountering a heavy bout of turbulence, Diane and I fastened our seat belts and sat peacefully as we watched other passengers meandering about the cabin. After 13 years in a post 9/11 world, all Americans understand that full compliance with any instructions by flight attendants and crew members is mandatory, not optional. Oddly enough, not only did nobody listen, several passengers seated in first class wandered back and started conversations with friends seated elsewhere. Realizing Ecuadorians are not Asians, we found it a bit unnerving that an American based airline would allow total disregard for Federal safety rules once out of U.S, airspace.
Nazca Boobies on Genovesa Island in The Galapagos chain
Travelling in November, a relatively empty season for tourism, Diane and I were adventuring to Qutio for the South American leg of our annual Expat Destination Research vacation. Having already gained positive impressions from two trips to Southeast Asia where we engaged in excellent adventures like trekking to a village of Hill people and spending quality time with orangutans, we decided to investigate the reasons behind the hoopla of the hottest expat destination according to Forbes and International Living. Although the mostly local passengers on the plane provided an interesting first impression, all negativity quickly faded after landing. Blessed with mountains, rain forest, beautiful beaches and The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is one of only a few expat havens with so much to offer in one small country. Continue reading →
The Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah province, Malaysian Borneo
Needing some R&R after trekking through the jungle, we needed a little pampering and a couple of good night’s sleep before continuing to Singapore. Normally we’re prudent travelers but early retirement still seemed distant since I had no vision of being laid off, so we investigated a more luxurious option and discovered even the world’s best hotel chains have an undiscovered hidden gem. Along with the beauty ofThe Rasa Ria Resort Resort,one last adventure with orangutans on the resort’s private reserve solidified the entire experience.
We made our first friend in Malaysia. No, not the monkey.
The expat destination research vacation of 2011 continued after our amazing adventure at Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Still a current Facebook friend, our guide at The Bilit Adventure Lodge in the Kinebatangen River Valley enhanced our adventure with a personalized style not found in a tour guide manual. Unlike the college educated and company trained professional staff we’d met at the luxurious lodge, Loy is a local resident from the village that just happens to work for the lodge. Sharing local knowledge, a few rounds of guitar and some cold beer it was more like hanging out at a friend’s house. Continue reading →
Honestly, we had no idea we’d ever step foot again in Malaysia, even if was the Peninsular Mainland. The expat destination research vacation of 2011 was actually intended to fulfill our insatiable desire for a close encounter with Malaysia’s best endemic animal in the wild: the orangutan. The Borneo Rainforest Lodge met and exceeded our every expectation and then some. Continue reading →