Today, the island and the other 1,760 islets that make up the Philippines' Palawan archipelago are seen as a promised land for naturalists. All are part of the Coral Triangle, the most biologically diverse marine habitat on earth. Next spring, adventure outfitter Wilderness Travel will run two-week kayaking and snorkeling tours of islands, putting travelers in close contact with many of region's most exciting marine animals. Marine biologist Lee Goldman leads the trips, providing tour goers with scientific insight into the ecosystems they visit.
In the Bay of Donsol, you'll spend two days tracking and swimming with whale sharks, the world's largest fish. "The coastal fishing village of Donsol is known to have the largest numbers of recorded sightings of whale sharks in the world. Our departures are timed to coincide with the highest concentrations that occur in spring," says Molly Casey of Wilderness Travel. Later you'll kayak among the towering karst-limestone islands of the El Nido Marine Reserve, snorkel inside caves, explore coral reefs home to more than 800 species of fish, and paddle along white sand beaches lined coconut palms. The wildlife experience culminates with a snorkeling trip around Dimakya Island, where you have the chance to swim with dugongs (sea cows), a marine mammal similar to a manatee that spends its days grazing on sea grass.
Trip planning: 2009 departures include March 14, April 4, and May 4. The package price includes accommodations, airport transfers, all land and sea transportation, entrance fees, kayaking equipment, all meals plus beer and wine at campsites, and guides. Accommodations range from eco-resorts, including the award-winning Lagen Island Resort, to deluxe beach camping. You must bring your own snorkeling equipment. Airfare is also extra. Round-trip March airfare from Los Angeles to Manila, starts at $933, including taxes, on Asiana Airlines. Internal flights within the Philippines can be purchased through Wilderness Travel for $495.
Discover ColombiaProvider: Big Five Tours & Expeditions Length: Six days Price: $1,880
Colombia has long had a reputation as one of the world's most dangerous destinations, and has been avoided by most travelers for decades. In the past five years, however, the country has quietly been getting its act together, putting in place stronger security measures and creating tourism programs to help it emerge onto the world travel scene. A few foreign tour companies are beginning to run trips to Colombia for intrepid travelers eager to be among the first wave to experience what the country has to offer: beautiful colonial cities, a vibrant culture, undeveloped Pacific and Caribbean beaches, and green hills where some of the world's best coffee grows.
Next year, the custom luxury adventure company Big Five Tours & Expeditions, based in Stuart, Florida, will begin offering a six-day program in Colombia with a special emphasis on culture and coffee. The journey starts in Bogota with a guided tour of the city's historic heart. Here you'll see historic sites like the Casa de Narino, the president's palace; the richly adorned Iglesia De San Ignacio, which was constructed in 1635; and the Plaza de Bolivar, Old Bogota's central square. You'll also take the cable car up Mount Monserrate, which offers expansive views of the city.