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Natural Habitat Adventures By Wendy Worrall Redal


“There, look closely: do you see them?”


We paused on the trail winding through the dank understory of the rainforest, observing the forest floor cloaked in shadows. Amid the layers of moldering leaves, motion caught my eye. It was a long chain of tiny creatures, moving forward like a single filament of fluttering thread. Looking more closely, I could see that each carried a bright green scrap, like so many minuscule puzzle pieces. They were leaf- cutter ants, marching as one from the heights of an adjacent tree down the trunk and across the layers of decaying vegetation on the ground. The line of ants, each toting a tiny leaf fragment, stretched at least 50 feet from the base of the tree. They were as remarkable as any larger creatures I’ve ever seen. And I would likely have walked right over them, had it not been for our extraordinary guide.


Without our guide’s trained eye, we might well have missed this amazing phenomenon amid the multitude of wonders within Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. An outstanding naturalist, intimately familiar with an environment, can see things a casual observer cannot, like a trampled nest recently vacated by a troop of mountain gorillas, or a thick blanket of sleeping monarch butterflies coating an oyamel tree trunk like textured bark, or a lion’s tawny coat camouflaged in savanna grass.


Such superb Expedition Leaders are a hallmark of every Natural Habitat Adventures trip. Integral to the adventure travel company’s global slate of more than 70 nature and wildlife tours, NHA’s naturalist guides are the most experienced and knowledgeable in the business. On a Natural Habitat adventure, travelers get close to nature in a way that more conventional tours never allow. A key element is the exceptionally small group size – many trips have just 6 to 8 persons, and few have more than 14. In order to view wildlife unobtrusively, small groups are imperative.


Fewer people also means the ability to enjoy unique accommodations, such as remote mobile safari camps in Africa or small jungle ecolodges in Costa Rica, or exclusive private yachts for exploring the Galapagos Islands. Distinctive nature adventures that celebrate and respect the planet have been the focal point of the Boulder, Colorado-based tour operator since its founding 27 years ago, when company director Ben Bressler led a small group to Quebec to see baby harp seals on the ice floes.


Bressler hoped that by taking wildlife lovers to see the heartwarming “white coats,” it would infuse tourism dollars into the local economy and discourage hunters from harpooning the babies for their pristine fur.


The concept caught on. Bressler discovered that there was a contingent of travelers who were more interested in an authentic and intimate guided exploration of the natural world than in motor-coach tours and packaged resorts. For these travelers, watching the antics of chimpanzees in the African rainforest or a chance to swim with playful young sea lions in the Galapagos were far more gratifying than the contrived entertainment of a theme park or a big-ship cruise.


Little more than a quarter-century later, Natural Habitat Adventures now offers nature and wildlife expeditions around the planet. From polar bears on Hudson Bay to penguins in Antarctica, from Brazil’s vast Pantanal swamp to Namibia’s towering dunes, an astounding array of creatures and ecosystems are included in NHA’s array of tours. The company is also the exclusive conservation travel provider for World Wildlife Fund.


A curious young polar bear peers into the window of a Polar Rover vehicle! The Galapagos giant tortoise, enjoying a meal of grass, is the islands' namesake!


© Natural Habitat Adventures / Wendy Rendal


TRAVEL


Travel in the Natural World


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