Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 23, 2017
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Bargain adventures

Substract a little comfort and that African safari or Egyptian camel trek just got surprisingly affordable

Ever dreamed of climbing Kilimanjaro or sailing down the Nile? You're not the only one. Adventure vacations are increasingly popular and have become much more accessible in recent years. Even people who aren't very athletic can find dozens of trips that are exciting but can still suit their fitness level.

Trouble is, a trek through Thailand or an African safari can cost thousands of dollars — and that's without the plane ticket. So why are so many adventure tours expensive? Well, above-average meals, higher-end accommodation, flawless organization and, in some cases, the cachet of the tour operator's name.

Of course, you can go the really budget route by catching a discount flight to the closest travel hub and making your way by bus, boat or third-class train and then bunking down in hostels — but that isn't usually the most pleasant or safest option.

Fortunately, there is a happy medium. Several reputable tour companies offer low-cost, guided trips to some of the world's most amazing places. And many have special agreements with airlines to get you the best possible airfare. If you're willing to sacrifice some comfort and rough it a bit, you'll find the reward is an incredible — and affordable — vacation.

Where: Thailand
Who: Intrepid Travel (tel: 011-61-39-473-2626; www.intrepidtravel.com)
What: Treasures of the North is an eight-day journey that begins in Bangkok. The first stop is Sukhothai — which dates from the 14th century and is Thailand's first capital city — to visit a ceramics factory and explore the ruins of Old Sukhothai. If you've ever wanted to know what an elephant bathing session looks like, wonder no more. You'll witness it firsthand during a visit to the Elephant Conservation Centre near Lampang. The day in Chiang Mai leaves plenty of free time to see Buddhist temples and investigate outdoor markets.
How much: The cost is $570 per person, which includes seven nights' accommodation, one breakfast, two lunches and one dinner, transportation, and guides. The local payment is 4250 Baht (approximately $120). There are also several optional excursions available at an extra cost, including a Thai cooking class ($US14) and bamboo rafting in Chiang Mai ($US7).

Where: Botswana and Zambia
Who: GAP Adventures (tel: 800-708-7761; www.gapadventures.com)
What: The Delta and Falls Experience is a nine-day safari that takes you from the Kalahari Desert to Victoria Falls. Get a few survival tips from a San bushman before heading to the Okavango Delta for game walks, swimming and wildlife viewing. It should be good preparation for the next destination: Chobe National Park. The area is home to around 55,000 elephants and the park is known for its lion population. The last leg of the trip is a visit to the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia, where adrenaline junkies can go bungee jumping or whitewater rafting.
How much: $675 per person, plus a $US200 local payment. The price includes eight nights' accommodation (camping), most meals, ground transportation and guides.

 

Where: Egypt
Who: Adventure Center (tel: 510-654-1879; www.adventurecenter.com)
What: The eight-day South Sinai Safari begins in Cairo and moves east towards the Suez Canal and the Sinai desert. You'll get to hike Coloured Canyon and explore both the Forest of Pillars and the Temple of Hathor at Serabit, which was an important mining area for thousands of years. A Bedouin crew will lead you and your camel to a Bronze Age settlement at Nawamis. It's worth the trip for the sunsets alone.
How much: Prices start at $US710 per person, which covers seven nights' accommodation, most meals, local guide, Bedouin crew, ground transportation, and sightseeing and entrance fees.

Where: New Zealand
Who: Hiking New Zealand (tel: 011-64-274-360-268; www.hikingnewzea land.com)
What: The 10-day Volcanoes and Rainforest camping tour takes you on a hike through a Jurassic rainforest to Rotorua's thermal waters and Maori ruins. The itinerary also includes the volcanic craters and lava valleys in Tongariro National Park, the Waitomo Caves and Mount Egmont National Park.
How much: Price is $NZ1120 (approximately $886) per person, which includes guides, tents, sleeping mats, safety and cooking equipment and transportation. Each participant also pays a $NZ20 (approximately $16) per day to cover the meals for the trip.

Where: Tanzania
Who: Good Earth Tours (tel: 877-265-9003; www.goodearthtours.com)
What: Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest peak, and while there are several routes you can take, the 34-kilometre-long Marangu is the most popular and appropriate for beginners. The seven-day Kilimanjaro Climb (Marangu Route) takes you to the summit through an incredible variety of climates and ecosystems — moorland, lush rainforest, alpine meadows and desert. You'll also get a chance to see volcanic craters and may even catch a glimpse of leopards, antelopes and black and white colobus monkeys. At night, you'll bunk down in huts along the trek route.
How much: $US910 per person, which covers most meals, six nights' accommodation, transfers, park fees, transportation and guides.

Where: China
Who: Intrepid Travel (tel: 011-61-39-473-2626; www.intrepidtravel.com)
What: It's impossible to see all of China in one trip, but the 15-day Back Roads to Kunming tour covers quite a bit of ground. The tour starts in Beijing, with a full day spent exploring the less-touristed Great Wall at Simatai. Ride down the Yellow River on sheepskin rafts, go on an overnight camel safari in Inner Mongolia, check out the Great Mosque in Xi'an and visit the Giant Panda Reserve. Chengdu offers traditional teahouses and a chance to sample a Sichuan hot pot. We suggest signing up for the optional excursion to see the 2000-year-old, life-size Terracotta Warriors.
How much: $1160 per person plus a $US200 local payment, which includes two breakfasts, lunches and dinners, 14 nights' accommodation, ground transportation, and guides.

 

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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