By Everett Potter
One of my primary reasons for attending the yearly Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) is to meet adventure tour operators that I’ve never heard of, people who run great companies in different corners of the world. This year’s ATWS2013 in Swakopmund, Namibia was no different. In this small coastal resort city that’s faces the chilly South Atlantic and is otherwise surrounded by thousands of square mile of desert, about 700 people – the adventure tribe, in conference parlance – came together to meet, exchange ideas and ideally leave inspired. As expected, I met some estimable people who run small companies and can offer you a great trip, local knowledge and a price that’s usually pretty fair. Here are three adventure travel companies that I discovered this year, companies that may well take you on the adventure vacation of your dreams in the coming year.
Self-guided cycling tours in France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland are what Cyclomundo offers. Run by Bruno Toutain, an avid cyclist who lives near Geneva, Cyclomundo offer trips like a six-day tour in the Loire Valley priced from 640 Euros ($865) per person. That includes five nights of accommodations in 3-star properties, daily breakfast, luggage transfers, marked maps, assistance if necessary and all tax and service charges. Bike rental is extra (hybrid bikes are 100 Europe or $135). They can also arrange custom tours. That’s $1,000 total, leaving meals and drinks up to you, a fraction of what major travel companies charge for fully guided trips. Visit http://www.cyclomundo.com/
This Glasgow-based company is also in the business of self-guided trips, offering both biking and walking tours in the UK, and throughout Europe and even Asia. One specialty are Camino tours, which follow the most famous pilgrimage route in Europe. You can walk the entire route, starting at St. Jean Pied de Port on the French border to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the most popular Camino route and the pilgrimage which most people think of when they refer to “the camino.” Take note, however, that this is about a 40 day endeavor. Or depending upon your time and fitness, you can choose to walk an individual stage or a couple of stages. The final stage, from Ribadeo to Santiago, is an 11-day trip through the mountains of Galicia. Priced from 570 pounds ($918), it includes accommodation in small rural hotels and hostels with en-suite bathrooms, daily breakfast, detailed information including route notes, maps, and local information and emergency support from their local and UK offices in the event of a problem. Baggage transfer is extra. www.macsadventure.com/us/
Chameleon Holidays & Travel
This Namibia-based company runs wonderful tours throughout the dramatic desert landscape of this country. They brought me to the extraordinary Zebra River Lodge, in the Tsaris Mountains, where we hiked in the late afternoon, viewed the owner’s collection of stone age tools found on site and watched zebras approach a watering hole at night as we dined.They also run trips in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, East Africa and South Africa. They can take you or arrange self-guided travel, offer safaris of every stripe (fly in, family, etc) and bring you to such fabled locales in Namibia as Etosha National Park or south to see extraordinary desert landscapes. A seven-day Southern Swing Camping Safari takes in some of the country’s most dramatic sites, including Fish River Canyon and the dunes at Sossusvlei. Prices start at R9,000 ($890) per person and include transportation, guides, tent and most meals. www.chamelonholidays.com