Wildebeest migration one of the natural wonders of the world

Every year during this season, millions of wildebeest migrate northwards from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. It’s part of their annual cycle of looking for green pastures and plentiful waters. Zebras, antelopes, and other animals come along too, with predators like lions and cheetahs hanging on the edges of the herds hoping to catch the slow or the weak.

The Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park are the two most popular places to see the migration, and the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reports hotels are already full, with even the Kenyan tourism minister saying he couldn’t find a room.

The annual migration is like a dream safari intensified, with the plains blackened by the herds. This National Geographic video shows just how big this mass movement of animals is. So if you want to see what ABC News has dubbed one of the new wonders of the world, you better book early for next year so you don’t get caught out. Sadly, there’s another reason to act soon. Observer Science Editor Robin McKie includes the migration in his list of ten natural wonders we can no longer take for granted due to global warming. McKie points out that if current trends continue, the plains will dry up and there won’t be enough pasture for the herds.

Image courtesy user Haplochromis via Wikimedia Commons.

Explore the Arctic with Hurtigruten Tours

Spitsbergen is the “last stop before the North Pole,” a cold, remote landscape of snow, ice, and arctic wildlife. And you can explore it with Hurtigruten, an adventure tour company.

While some of their longer tours may be prohibitively expensive for a lot of travelers (9-day tours cost around $5000 per person). they do offer a much more affordable 6-day Polar Encounters cruise starting at just over $1300 per person, plus airfare.

Passengers on the cruise will go ashore twice per day with an experienced guide, looking for glaciers, fjords, seals, whales, walruses, and polar bears. Stops include the towns of Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Ny-Alesund, which vary in size for two thousand to less than two dozen residents.

Hurtigruten also offers cruises around Norway, Greenland, Antartica, the Baltics, and Western Europe.

[via Camels and Chocolate]

Chicago backpacker gets lost (again) in Alaska

When Into the Wild, the story of Christopher McCandless’ epic adventure in the Alaskan wilderness, was published, the idea of setting off into the wild with nothing but a few pounds of rice and your wits to survive seemed terribly romantic….well, except that McCandless died because he was unprepared for the harsh conditions. Despite (or I guess, because of) that minor point, hundreds of people have followed suit to gawk at the ruins of the bus that McCandless lived, and died, in.

Over the years, several people who’ve set out for the bus have had to be rescued, costing the state around $2000 each. Understandably, many locals have have come to dislike the tourists who arrive, unprepared and ill-equipped, and put themselves in unnecessary danger. So they probably hate Don Carroll.

The Chicago-area 19-year old went looking for the bus with a friend, found it, and then got lost in the woods for three days with no food or water. The two ate berries and drank river water before being rescued by helicopter on Monday. But this isn’t Carroll’s first time being lost in the Alaskan wilderness. Back in June, Carroll, a seasonal resort employee, was hiking alone in Denali National Park and lost his way. Wearing just jeans and a hoodie, he suffered hypothermia, but managed to lead rangers to his location through text messages. He was rescued by helicopter then as well.

Caroll will head back to civilization in mid-September. Until then, hopefully he’ll stay out of the woods. It doesn’t sound like he is welcome there anyway. “If police see me in the woods, they’re going to arrest me,” he said in a phone interview. “The chief ranger said he’s not going to come looking for me anymore.”

[via Daily Herald]

Put your “Paws Up” and relax in Montana

The Resort at Paws Up is among the most unique in the country, occupying 60 square miles along the Blackfoot River in Montana. The property boasts 10 villas of more than 3,000 square feet, not to mention smaller houses and canvas suites (i.e., luxury tents). This unusual destination, which offers a variety of outdoor experiences, is offering a few deals to the fall … as if you needed even more reasons to go.

Book a three-night stay by August 31, 2009, and you will receive three meals a day for two people and a $250 credit per room-night toward your choice of wilderness adventure (does not include spa services and some fishing programs). ATV touring, fly fishing, horseback riding and clay shooting are among the activities in which you can participate while enjoying Paws Up, and a stop at the spa, even though it’s not included in the package, isn’t a bad idea.

If you need to put the stress of the city behind you for a bit, Paws Up is the place to do it.

Gadling goes camping (win free Coleman stuff!)

Every once in awhile, when the writers over at Gadling get tired of the same old motorcycle rides across Asia and space flights, we just want to travel “simple.” And that’s when a camping trip can be great. Most of us, no matter how large or small the city we live in, are within a few hours’ drive of some great unspoiled wilderness where we can pitch a tent, get a nice fire going and spend the night gazing up at the stars.

With that instinct in mind I set out on a camping trip of my own last month to the great New England state of Vermont. But it also goes without saying that I am not really the camping type – leave me alone in the woods for a day or so and I would probably end up squatting in a ditch with nothing but a few strategically-placed leaves to wear as underwear. It soon became clear that I would need some good camping gear for my trip. But how does one pick appropriate gear for camping? If you work for a travel site, you just make a few calls. Soon I was chatting with Dawn at Coleman, who generously provided me with a few products to test out during my trip.

How did these products hold up in the wilderness of Vermont? Would my camping trip end with me trapped up to my neck in a sleeping back unable to get out? Read on to see what happened…Coleman Propane Grill Stove
Don’t get me wrong, sitting around a roaring campfire represents the quintessential camping experience. But when it comes to cooking, camping novices are not going to want to waste their time with anything more than hot dogs or s’mores on a big open flame. The fire either burns everything to a crisp or doesn’t cook it well enough.

That’s where a portable stove like Coleman’s unit came in handy on my trip. Combining an open stove-top burner with a grilltop, it’s just what you need to make yourself a halfway decent meal out in the open. I was quite pleased with the stove’s open burner, which quickly boiled water and made short work of sautéing some vegetables. But the grilling side? Forget it. It barely ever got hot enough to burn my hand. It’s best to keep to simple easily cooked items – so leave the soufflés at home.

Coleman Dynamo Lantern
I live in New York City, so the concept of total darkness is quite foreign to me. Out in the woods though, when the sun goes down, forget trying to find your way around by the light of the moon. You’re going to need a flashlight or a lantern. The nice thing about the lantern I brought was it was powered by hand-crank – you just pull out the handle and crank it around a few times to give it a charge. That’s both a positive and a negative – any time I needed it, I would crank my lantern for a good minute or so and be reward with a small match-size flickering beam. It’s enough to find your way back to your tent but don’t count on it to read Call of the Wild.

Interestingly enough, Coleman’s lantern has another feature – it apparently charges cell phones. My problem with this? Neither me nor any of my friends was able to find a compatible phone among the 5 of us. Best check your phone model before counting on this baby to give your handset some juice.

Coleman Cool Zephyr Ceiling Fan with Light
Perhaps I’m just naïve when it comes to camping (the answer is yes) but this little unit was a godsend. Clipping easily to the roof of my tent with a magnet, this hanging unit not only provides a powerful light beam to illuminate your tent interior – it also has a built in fan to keep things cool. Trust me, when the sun hits your tent at 7am, and the huge down sleeping bag and nylon tent you’re inside turn you into a human baked potato in a convection oven, you’re going to want some ventilation. This unit is fairly small, inconspicuous but still highly useful.

Wrap-Up (and a contest!)
So did I discover any truths about the universe while I was out communing with nature and my new camping gear? Not really, unless you count the 20-30 mosquito bites I got as some sort of perverse, itchy knowledge.

What I did learn however, is that we like to give things away here at Gadling. Want to do some camping of your own? How about a portable stove, hand-crank lantern or light/fan unit to get your trip started right? Just leave an entry telling us about your favorite camping experience in the comments below and we’ll draw a lucky winner by Friday, August 29th.

Now get out there and commune with nature!

  • To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us about your favorite camping experience.
  • The comment must be left before Friday, August 29th, 2008 at 5PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Three winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Three Grand Prize Winners will be randomly selected to receive one of the following: a Coleman Propane Grill Stove, Coleman Crank-Powered Lantern or a Coleman Interior Tent Light/Fan
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • Grill-Stove is valued at $79.99, Dynamo Lantern at $34.99 and Ceiling Fan with Light at $19.99.
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.