Learning tops adventure travel experience

An adrenaline rush is not the number one reason people choose an adventure vacation.In fact it ranks dead last, according to a study done by Michigan State University for the Adventure Travel Trade Association.

Learning/Education was the most important benefit people sought in an adventure trip, followed by Achievement/Stimulation and Introspection. An element of “Risk” attracts a mere 0.8% of participants.

For travelers seeking both action and accomplishment, the just-released Fall/Winter 2006 issue of Specialty Travel Index (STI) features unusual explorations from tour operators spanning 1,000 destinations around the globe. STI can also be accessed online at www.specialtytravel.com.

“As the Baby Boomers grow older, they’re driving the trend towards soft adventures,” says C. Steen Hansen, co-publisher of Specialty Travel Index. “They still want to visit exotic locales, but now they crave creature comforts around their campfires, some swank in their safaris: a chilled Chardonnay, gourmet dinners, a hot shower at the end of the day.”

Here’s a round-up of trips featured in STI that enhance both learning and lifestyle. The percentages reflect how many people cited each attribute as the reason they choose an adventure vacation.

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Learning/Education (53.8%): For Art’s Sake in Prague. Creativity blossoms on these six-day arts-immersion programs in Prague. In the morning, travelers experience hands-on workshops with local artists, then spend the afternoon enjoying gallery visits and wine tastings. In the evening, participants head off for the opera, symphony, and ballet, then linger in the city’s renowned jazz clubs. Ample free time encourages sauntering through Prague’s museums and medieval streets. [artbreak; www.artbreak.org]

Achievement/Stimulation (39.5%): Taking to the Tango in Argentina. Buenos Aires is birthplace of the tango, known for its risqué lyrics and sensuous, provocative movements. Travelers discover the mystique and magnetism of the dance at typical tanguer’as where top dancers and singers perform. In addition, they learn all the right moves themselves with tango lessons. A gaucho party at a traditional estancia (Pampean ranch) and savoring a delicious asado (barbecue) round out the program. [Alta Tours; www.altatours.com]

Introspection (15.5%): A Yoga Retreat in India. In Sanskrit, swa swara means “inner vibrations.” Tucked on 30 acres by secluded Om beach south of Goa, this Yoga retreat provides a sanctuary for the self. Practices guided by qualified teachers include Yoga postures, Pranayama (breath exercises), and meditations in a blue-tiled dome that forms a mandala (cosmic sphere ) of harmony. Villa accommodations are styled after a typical Konkan settlement, updated with air conditioning and modern plumbing. [SwaSwara; www.cghearth.com]

Enjoying Nature (10.8%): The Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda. The mist-shrouded reaches atop the Virunga Volcanoes of Rwanda provided habitat for critically endangered Mountain Gorillas—the closest relatives to man. On this ecotour, participants take not one, but two treks to see the gorillas. Participants enjoy up-close encounters, since a maximum of eight people may visit any gorilla group each day. The itinerary also visits the grave of researcher Dian Fossey, reached by a spectacular hike through bamboo forest and afro-montane habitats. [Terra Incognita Ecotours, Inc.; www.ecotours.com]

Health/Physical Fitness (8.7%): Tanzania—Surf to Summit. This may be the ultimate cross-training expedition! A two-week bike-cum-climb itinerary, the explorations start with bicycling in Zanzibar—“The Spice Island”—on the Indian Ocean. The route then continues from Tanzania’s tropical coast into the interior, passing through the Usambara Mountains and Mkomazi plains, rich with Bantu and Maasai culture. Topping off the adventure—climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. [Ibike Tours; www.ibike.org/ibike]

Escaping Personal Pressure (9.3%): Getting Away—REALLY Away—to Brazil’s Pantanal. Spread sheets and weekly staff meetings got you down? Spend some time with ocelots, anteaters, and blue hyacinth macaws in the Pantanal, the largest contiguous wetland on earth and a World Heritage Site. The Araras Eco Lodge offers comfort in the wilderness with air-conditioned rooms and private baths. Activities include jungle treks, horseback rides through open grasslands, and canoe expeditions. And your adversaries at the office will look tame compared with the catch du jour on the rivers—piranhas. [Araras Eco Lodge; www.araraslodge.com.br]

Relationship Building: A Family Reunion at Sea (4.8%). You want a family getaway—but you want to get away from the ordinary. How about a cruise through French Polynesia and other isles of the South Pacific? The 650-passenger MV Discovery follows the route of the HMS Bounty, calling at cosmopolitan Papeete, Bora Bora with its iridescent blue lagoon, and Rangiroa, the second-largest coral atoll in the world. At Pitcairn Island, descendants of the Bounty mutineers come aboard to greet passengers and sell local handicrafts. The itinerary also includes Easter Island, where sculpted monoliths guard the landscape. [Discovery World Cruises; www.discoveryworldcruises.com]

STI is easy to use, indexing tours by both activity (African heritage, cigar tours) and destination (Ghana, Cuba). Subscriptions cost $10 per year (Canada $15; other foreign $25) for two issues: August (Fall/Winter) and February (Spring/Summer). Send orders to: [email protected] or order online at www.specialtytravel.com.
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