Welcome Home, Bon Voyage — 2011 Schedule Update (and a little about 2012)

Hello All,

It’s been far too long since we’ve sent out a general email message, but it has been yet another crazy busy year of travel and amazing photo ops. We have decided to try out using a blog to post this message, and hopefully we’ll find the time in the future to continue to update this site with good stories, travel tips, and travel and wildlife photography information that you will find useful. It’s a big step into the 21st century, and we’re going to try out some of the neat features. There is a lot to figure out, and it would be good to hear your feedback as to if you like this format. (The address to bookmark is https://expeditiongallery.wordpress.com.)

In the past, this message has been mostly a recap of the past year and a bit of lead up to what’s to come. But we’ve had many inquiries over the past months as to where we’re heading in 2011, and also 2012, so this first installment will focus mostly on the future. For starters, you’ll find our full schedule for 2010 and 2011 under the tab above titled “Our Schedule.” We’d like to ask for a tiny bit of specific feedback for 2012 itinerary planning.

In an attempt to catch a francolin (a grouse-like bird), this leopard leaped high in the air only to miss his intended prey. This was shot at 70mm, from approximately 12 feet away! Photo: ©Rikki Swenson/ExpeditionGallery.com

In just one week, we will be departing for 47 days(!), and are now in the process of updating old presentations and preparing new ones as well. We first head to D.C. for three days of meetings at National Geographic, then on to Buenos Aires to meet the National Geographic Explorer as she makes her way south to the Falkland Islands and S. Georgia. We’re particularly excited to be stopping in Punta Valdez to see the Southern right whales (what a terrific addition to an already great itinerary). That voyage is followed by the full S. Georgia, Falklands and Antarctica voyage. We won’t be home again until Dec 1 (my longest time away ever).

As we think back on the year, we feel very honored to have again traveled to Baja, Galapagos and Africa, and to now be heading back to the Antarctic region. Our safaris in Africa were absolutely incredible. All our itinerary planning has been rewarded with amazing sightings. This was the “Year of the Leopard” as we saw 14 different leopards in 14 days on safari in Botswana, Zambia, and S. Africa (we said it was going to be a big trip for leopards, we just didn’t realize how big). This last safari culminated in one of the funniest wild animal experiences we’ve ever had. You can read the story and see those photos at the I Love My Bucky blog

Interesting possibilities in the world of LEX expedition planning. We just came out of a meeting and know that LEX is considering offering Papua New Guinea voyages on the same ship they are using for the New Zealand voyages (68 guests). They are “grappling” with the idea of doing 0, 1 or even 2 voyages in late 2012. We traveled in this region on the NG Endeavour in 2006 and it was fabulous! PNG was the most exciting area of the South Pacific region we traveled, culturally stimulating, and great for photographers and snorkelers/divers alike. As we look to add interesting new destinations for our past guests, it would be very helpful if you let us know if this is a voyage you’d be interested in doing (with us?) in that time frame. (Please do not contact LEX, as this is only just now being discussed.)

We are currently working on the details for our small group Lindblad Southern Africa safaris for 2012. Our intention is to offer both the Namibia and Botswana & S. Africa itineraries very much along the lines of what we designed for our 2010 Photo Safari guests, in the Aug/Sept time frame. In order to get the best camps, we need to plan this way in advance, so it would be helpful if you let us know if you are interested in Namibia or Botswana & S. Africa, or both. Past travelers who have done it all will tell you that is the ultimate Southern African safari experience. If you email Rikki, we will try to give you a bit of advance notice for booking as these unique, one-up departures can sell out very fast.

Our annual LEX Photo Safari to East Africa for 2011 sold-out in a relative heartbeat. I have received even more inquiries in the last couple weeks about this small group program in Kenya and Tanzania, so, we are now moving forward to offer that itinerary again for early February 2012. If you are very interested, you can put your name down early with Melissa Hordych at Micato Safaris (mhordych@micato.com, 1.800.642.2861), and that will give you first dibs when that program is announced. We are very interested in adding an itinerary that will take past guests to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda prior to the East Africa safari. Several of you have already expressed interest in this, and I am putting together a list for that. It would be helpful if you let me know if this is something you’d like to do as well. (Gorilla  trekking is considered strenuous, so you need to be in shape for it.)

If you want to be on our list for any of these programs, you can send a simple email message to Rikki@ExpeditionGallery, with the subject line being the name of the destination(s), and YES. I’ll try to give you a heads up on reservation details as they become available. My Inbox is already overflowing, and we are about to leave, so I won’t have time to respond to much before I go. (I promise, I am not in LEX marketing, and I will not share your info with LEX marketing.)

If you want to try something different, go to the poll box in the sidebar, and you can check on the destinations that fit your interest and travel schedule for 2012.

For 2011, we’re very much looking forward to being back in Baja California in April. Many of you have done these voyages with us in the past, so you already know that April in the Sea of Cortez has been unbeatable for remarkable sightings of marine mammals. We’re delighted to see that the April 9th voyage is back up on the LEX web site. Please don’t think this is a late season add on. It is a fantastic voyage for anyone who is looking for a week of brilliant sunshine, untouched desert islands, and lot’s of marine critters. We head up to Isla Rasa at a time when many elegant terns and royal terns are arriving back to the rocky shoreline, courting, offering little sardines to potential mates, and possibly they will be beginning to land at their nesting sites on the island. These have been extremely rewarding Zodiac cruises for anyone who loves to watch or photograph birds.

We are also very excited to be returning to Arctic Norway in late May and June after a six year hiatus while spending time in equatorial destinations (lot’s of time in Africa). The Daily Expedition Reports from the NG Explorer have been so fantastic in recent years that we’ve decided to stay on for two Ice Bears voyages in June, in addition to the North Cape to Svalbard voyage. We’re really missing being up in the ice. As you all know, Jack is an expert at spotting wildlife, and polar bears are a particular fascination. We’ll see if he still has the touch (we’ve heard it’s hard to keep up with the younger eyes of Richard White and Eric Guth).

On the warmer side of travel, we will be returning to Botswana and Victoria Falls to lead a “Southern Wing Safari” in August. It’s prime time to be there for excellent wildlife viewing.  It will be a “photo friendly” departure, which means that we will not be offering the extra weight allowance for camera gear, but you can always count on us to arrange a great trip for anyone with or without photo interest. Last I heard, this safari is already half full, so if you’re very interested, don’t delay too long.

We’ll hope to see you again soon. Till then, may all your travels go smoothly.

All our best,

-Rikki & Jack-

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