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Antarctica wildlife highlights: penguins, whales, seals…

Antarctica wildlife highlights: penguins, whales, seals…

Prepare to be charmed by endearing Adélie penguins, wowed by muscular orcas and won over by enigmatic leopard seals. Antarctica isn’t just the coldest, driest and emptiest continent, it’s also home to the most pristine and untouched ecosystem on the planet. You’ll be amazed by the sheer abundance and diversity of life down South. Read on to find out more about the a few of the standouts… Penguins Gentoo, Adélie and Chinstrap penguins are the three remaining members of the Pygoscelis genus and you will likely encounter them all on your cruise. Gentoos are the largest and most numerous of the three, and they’re also the fastest swimmers of all penguins…Attaining speeds of 22mph puts them in the same echelon as Usain Bolt! They’re distinguished by their white ‘bonnets’ and red beaks. Adélies are the most penguin-like of all penguins, so much so that they are almost caricatures of themselves. Named after the wife of French explorer Dumont D’Urville, these small penguins are purely black …
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Climbing Huayna Picchu (the mountain in THAT photo)

Climbing Huayna Picchu (the mountain in THAT photo)

This short, sharp ascent on narrow paths and stairs is both hair-raising and exhausting. But this is all forgotten when you stand at the top and look down on the wonder that is Machu Picchu. What is Huayna Picchu? Day visitors to Machu Picchu can choose between a regular entry ticket or a ticket that includes hiking to either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. Huayna Picchu is the dramatic cone-shaped peak which towers above Machu Picchu in all the photos…you know the one. Machu Picchu means ‘old mountain’ in Quechua and Huayna Picchu means ‘young mountain’. At 8,920ft, it’s the second highest point in the ruins precinct (Machu Picchu Mountain is higher) but it still enjoys great views. This could be you... (Photo credit: Jipe7 on Flickr) Huayna Picchu versus Machu Picchu Mountain If your legs allow it, hiking up one of these two peaks is highly recommended. But which one will it be? Huayna Picchu is much more popular among visitors, and despite the fact that only 400 visitors …
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VIDEO: The jawdropping beauty of Uyuni in the rainy season

VIDEO: The jawdropping beauty of Uyuni in the rainy season

The Salar de Uyuni in Southern Bolivia is the world's largest salt pan. In the rainy season it is transformed into an enormous natural mirror which is every photographer's dream. Watch and enjoy... It's been a while since we blogged about one of our newest and most exciting itineraries, but when this incredible video of Uyuni in the rainy season popped up, we knew we had to break the silence. Spanning a total area of more than 10,000km², the Salar de Uyuni near Potosi is one of the trippiest places you'll ever go, and this is ramped up a couple of notches between December and March, when the region receives most of its rain (January is usually the wettest month). In addition to showcasing the natural marvel which is the salt flats in the rainy season, the video is also gives a really good visual summary of all the other aspects of a classic Uyuni itinerary. The only thing it doesn't show are the epic Airstream camper vans that most SA Expeditions guests choose to stay in. Big up to …
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All you need to know about Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos

All you need to know about Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos

The enigmatic Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands) in Argentine Patagonia is one of the finest examples of ancient rock art on the planet. Read on to find out more... What is it? The Cueva de Las Manos Pintadas (Cave of the Painted Hands) is not so much a single cave as a series of rock overhangs at the base of a cliff-face in the remote and spectacular Cañón de Río Pinturas in Patagonia. The site is most famous for its breathtaking collage of more than 800 black, white, red and ochre handprints, painted over 9,000 years ago, but there are also excellent depictions of guanacos (a relative of the llama and the artists’ main source of food), rheas (a large flightless bird that still roams the Patagonian plains), puma prints and human beings. In addition to living creatures there are also representations of geometric shapes, zigzag patterns, red dots, the sun, and hunting scenes. Photo credit: David Of the 829 handprints most are male, one has six fingers and only 31 are of right …
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Mi Teleférico: La Paz’s brilliant urban cable car network

Mi Teleférico: La Paz’s brilliant urban cable car network

The world’s highest and longest urban gondola system has transformed the way people commute in Bolivia’s capital. At 11,913 feet, La Paz is the world’s highest capital city. Clinging to the sides of a natural depression in the Andean escarpment, it really is one of the most incredible cities on earth. Endless shanties and skyscrapers hang from ochre cliffs and canyons, with snow-capped Illimani an ever-present backdrop. Open image in new tab to view full-size version. But its dramatic location, coupled with decades of poor urban planning, mean that it’s also a commuter’s nightmare. When I lived there I took hour-long walks in the thin altiplano air to avoid having to use city’s the overcrowded and sluggish buses, minibuses and trufis (more about the these some other time!). That’s all changed with the introduction of Mi Teleférico, a network of fast, silent cable cars that criss-crosses the city and connects La Paz with El Alto – a massive satellite city that’s more than 1,500 feet …
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Vilcashuamán: An Inca experience like no other

Vilcashuamán: An Inca experience like no other

“Vilcashuamán is now a small village, remote on its hill-top, perched on the ruins of the great Inca city whose temples have been pillaged for building blocks.” – so said the Canadian explorer, anthropologist and academic John Hemming. In five short centuries Vilcashuamán has gone from being a thriving Inca city located at a vital strategic crossroads to a geographically isolated rural backwater… Albeit one replete with incredible archaeological and historical treasures. Vilcashuamán was founded by the Inca Pachacutec after Inca forces defeated the Chanka in a bloody battle which is re-enacted annually in Vilcas Raymi – a colorful festival in the last week of July. Check out this link for a video of the festival. The current plaza pales into insignificance when compared to the Inca square which could hold 20,000 people. (Photo credit: Eduzam) Then and now In its heyday Vilcashuamán enjoyed an incredibly strategic location on the Qhapaq Ñan at the point where the main North-South …
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Lodge to lodge treks near Machu Picchu

Lodge to lodge treks near Machu Picchu

Dilemma: You’ve always wanted to do the Inca Trail but you also value the finer things in life. Get the best of both worlds by doing one of the luxurious lodge to lodge treks on offer near Cusco. You’ll get the chance to hike in one of the most spectacular corners of the Andes and you’ll visit remote villages and Inca ruins. You’ll experience a way of life that modernity has passed by and you’ll spend your last day immersed in the majesty of Machu Picchu. New perspectives on Machu Picchu (Photo credit: Philip Dixon) Lodge to lodge treks give you the chance to live out an authentic Andean trekking experience without having to sleep on hard ground or eat stodgy pasta. On both the Lares and Salkantay treks you can rest assured that the locally-inspired cuisine will be gourmet, the showers hot and the beds luxurious. If the idea of a less crowded, more luxurious and ultimately more spectacular experience appeals, read on to find out more about the various options. The Salkantay Trek …
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Video: Discover the Galapagos' underwater secrets

Video: Discover the Galapagos' underwater secrets

Charles Darwin based his Theory Of Evolution on the terrestrial observations he made in the Galapagos. This gorgeous underwater film details what he would have seen if he'd been able to witness the islands' underwater wonders. The film features incredible footage of hammerhead sharks, marine iguanas and countless birds, fish and other sea creatures, so watch and enjoy... If you're the bookish type why not read about Darwin's finches, the unlikely poster girls (and boys!) of the Theory of Evolution. If you want to see this watery wonderland for yourself you'll be glad to know that our Galapagos island hopping itinerary includes two different snorkeling excursions. If you're a seasoned SCUBA pro check out this article to find out more about the Best SCUBA sites in South America...including a few in the Galaps, of course. Full credit to filmmaker Dustin Adamson for allowing us to post Darwin's Dream on our blog.
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A closer look at Inca rope bridges

A closer look at Inca rope bridges

The vast Inca road network relied on about 200 rope bridges to traverse the steep valleys and canyons of the Andes. Only one such bridge remains… Last month this blog gave a broad overview of the incredible Qhapaq Ñan; the 25,000 mile Inca road network which held together one of the greatest empires of all time. This month we look at the incredible rope bridges which made the road network possible. Constructed from grass and other natural materials, the swaying bridges were especially suited to the Incas as they never invented wheeled transport. The bridges were maintained by the communities nearby, as part of their mit'a - the Inca taxation system. A maintenance crew with a difference. (Photo credit: Mi Peru) The Andes mountain range is a place of enormous cliffs, raging torrents and terrifying canyons. To establish a large empire in this terrain, bridges were absolutely essential. Instead of focusing all their energies on building massive stone edifices that would take decades or …
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The Cidade Maravilhosa in glorious HD

The Cidade Maravilhosa in glorious HD

Making a stop-motion film that does Rio justice is no mean feat, but these guys have done it with knobs on! Brazil is going through a difficult time at the moment. The move to impeach president Dilma Rousseff is making international headlines; the economy is suffering a prolonged slump and there's doubt as to whether some of the infrastructure required to host the Olympic Games will be ready on time. But the fact remains that on August 5 2016 the eyes of the world will turn to Rio de Janeiro, the Cidade Maravilhosa or Marvelous City. The only way to truly experience Rio is to visit for yourself. But this incredible video from Brazilian film-making collective MOOV is the next best thing. Watch, enjoy and start making travel plans... Time of Rio - Copyright MOOV Films, 2013
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WATCH: Epic drone footage of the wonders of South America

WATCH: Epic drone footage of the wonders of South America

Of late we've covered some fairly weighty topics: the Jesuits in South America; the Zika virus and the history of the Panama hat to name but a few. And that is as it should be: we take South America seriously and we know you do too. But everyone needs a spot of indulgent, schmaltzy travel-porn once in a while... Which is where this beautifully shot, edited and produced 3-minute film from Tom Montefiore and Adam Humphrey comes in. Don't be fooled by the unremarkable title ("South America by drone") this is landscape videography at its very best. If you can't travel right now, this is the next best thing. And if you can travel it'll make choosing where to go and what to see... Now that you've watched it, how many of the locations could you identify? And how many have you actually visited? Full credit to filmmakers Tom Montefiore and Adam Humphrey.
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Duo Siqueira Lima video gallery: One guitar, four hands

Duo Siqueira Lima video gallery: One guitar, four hands

In 2001 an international guitar competition was held in Caixas do Sul in Brazil. The judges could not separate two of the entrants, and they awarded them joint first place. They were the Uruguayan Cecilia Siqueira and Fernando de Lima from Brazil.  That might have been the first time they shared a stage, but it was most certainly not the last. Cecilia and Fernando  first performed together in 2002 and four years later Duo Siqueira Lima was officially formed. The Duo's performances have been described as "as as finely detailed as a Fabergé egg" by the New York Times and they have performed all over the world - to great acclaim. Their work links "the classical to Brazilian instrumental" and they are also regular performers at international jazz festivals. On their recent US tour the duo received both public and critical acclaim, winning the Brazilian International Press Awards USA 2014 in the process. They first came to my attention via a Youtube clip of their quirky yet technically …
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