|During a holiday of three months we visited Peru, Bolivia and the Southern part of Brazil. We started of in Lima from where we travelled slowly south-eastwards to Bolivia. Peru is a fantastic country, both in culture and nature. It has a very rich past (Inca and Pre-Inca cultures) which is evident from ruins and artifact filled museums all over the country. And of course, Macchu Piccu, is the finest and most well known example. Peruvians are generally friendly, but sometimes a bit reserved. Although many are officially catholic, local religion and traditions are still being practiced. The people speak Spanish or a local language (mainly Quechua or Aymara), but either way English is rarely spoken unless you're in the really touristy areas like Cuzco. For Nature lovers Peru is an absulolute must. Nearly all habitats are present in Peru: coast, swamps, mangroves, deserts, mountain and lowland Rainforest and of course Andes mountain vegatation. Not surprisingly, Flora and Fauna is exceptionally rich: for example Peru is home to 1800 bird species of which 118 are endemic. To make a long story short: Peru has it all!|
|Brazil is an enormous country of which we only saw the tip of the iceberg. But is was definately a nice tip. We entered Brazil from Bolivia, straight into the biggest swamp in the world, the Pantanal. The first thing we noticed is that Brazilians, in contrast to people from the Andes, are much more open and friendly. This is what we experienced all over Brazil. The Pantanal is supposed to be the best place in South America to spot big mammals and so we did. Also birdlife is very prolific and we can recommend it to anyone. At the border with argentina the Iguazu Falls are situated. This overwelming natural spectacle should be part of any trip to Brazil. Lastly, we visited Rio de Janeiro. As the saying goes; God definately created this city on the seventh day. One year later I visited Salvador for a conference meeting. As most Bahians are descendents from African slaves, you feel like you're in Africa but then with Samba rythms. The people are very laid back and friendly and are always in for a party.|
|After travelling through Peru we entered Bolivia. We stayed in Bolivia for about 5 weeks and it was actually too short. Like its neighbour Peru it has more than its share in cultural and natural beauty. Although the Incas are mainly known from Peru, part of current Bolivia was also part of their empire. In addition, Bolivia was home to longest surviving empires of the world: The pre-Inca Tihuanacu culture, that dominated Bolivia from 500BC untill 1300AD. They too left some great cultural heritage behind. In terms of Natural beauty, Bolivia can easily compete with Peru. Bolivia does not have a coast but it does have an inner Sea. However, during the dry season this dries up and all that's left is an enormous saltflat. The white plains with the contrasting dark blue sky are of an unparallelled beauty. Furthermore, cities like Sucre and Potosí are also totally worth a visit.|
|Rianne's dad, Dick, and Annemarie moved to Curaçao in 2006 to work and live there for at least 4 years. And of course we were more than happy to pay Dick and Annemarie a visit in february 2007 and more recently in 2009. Curaçao is one of the six islands in the Caribbean that are part of the Netherlands Kingdom. It is located just off the coast of Venezuala and has both very fine beaches and a rich colonial history. Willemstad is by far the biggest city on the island and is well known for the its very pittoresque city center, which is a Unesco world heritage site. The island vegetation is characterized by dry shrubs and many tall cactuses. Part of this is protected by the Christoffel National Park which protects the north-western part of the Island and also harbours the highest point of Curaçao (375m). The main tourist draws, however, are the fine beaches and the well preserved uinderwater world that provide ample oppurtunity for great snorkelling and scuba diving. We did an open water diving course in 2007 and our advanced course in 2009, which were absoluty fantastic experiences!|
|When we visited Riannes dad on Curacao in the spring of 2009 for two weeks, we thought it would be a nice idea to hop over for a week to Venezuela, since it's so close. Except for Isla Margarita, Venezuela hasn't really found its way into the tourist circuit yet. To our opinion there are no reasons why it shouldn't be: beautiful nature and very friendly and open people. Unfortunately, Chavez with all his nationalizing campains is giving a hard time to people that run their own business including in tourism. And then there is the crime issue, which apperently is a big problem in Caracas.|
Nonetheless, Venezuela has a lot to offer; if you want you can relax on beaches, while you can just as easily do some serious trekking in the Andes or the Amazon. And of course, Venezuela is home to the highest waterfall in the world: the Angels Falls. We only visited two places: the Llanos (as vast swampy/savannah like area great for wildlife watching) and the Henri Pittier National Park (rainforest mountain range along the coast particulaly well known for its birds). As our 'base camp', we stayed at the highly recommendable 'Posada El Limon', a neat hotel located on the southern outskirts of the Henri Pittier park. The knowledgable, friendly and by coincidence Dutch owner arranged very efficiently all our transport (we did it the decadent way this time), which allowed to get the most out of this only brief visit.
|In December 2009 we visited Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands for a 4 weeks holiday. Ecuador is a beautiful country with colorful people and beautiful nature. The country is split in two by the Andes mountain range, which results in a big variety of landscapes, from snowcapped volcanos to humind rainforests in the Eastern parts. We made a roundtrip, visiting Quito, Cuenca and Otavalo to get a flavour of the culture of Ecuadoreans and cloudforests on both eastern and western slopes of the Andes as well as the rainforest in search for birds and other wildlife. A visit to Ecuador is of course only truly complete when it includes a trip to the Galapagos Islands. It was an absolute unforgettable experience.|
|In October 2012 we visited Trinidad and Tobago as a belated Honeymoon. We stayed four days on Trinidad and four days on Tobago. We decided to goT&T because it would allow us to combine some birdwatching with some relaxing on the beach. Among birders T&T is well a well known destination as this small country harbours more than 400 bird species. Although it's considered part of the Caribbean, the flora and fauna is more related to South America since not so ong ago it was connected to the mainland. Furthermore, it has a rich colonial history, a very interesting cuisine (a mix of Creole, south American and Indian) and some great beaches. It was a very relaxing holiday for us and we can definitely recommend it to anyone.|