Best new adventure trips of 2009

Anyone who's ever read Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book can tell you that Africa isn't the only place in world where you can go on safari to see big game animals. Home to rare species such as Bengal tigers, Indian rhinos, red pandas, and clouded leopards, India is a top destination for wildlife lovers. And now, seeing these sometimes elusive species just got a whole lot easier thanks to a new India itinerary launched by Wild Planet Adventures (WPA), a wildlife specialist known for going to extraordinary lengths to give its clients the best and most unique wildlife viewing experiences possible.

"[In India] we don't just visit one or even two national parks, but rather five separate parks and wildlife areas," says Company Director Josh Cohen. "We've chosen these areas because they are either the single best place in India to see certain animals or, when put together, they allow the traveler to be exposed to a wider variety of ecosystems than other tours, and therefore a wider variety of wildlife."

The first stop on this cross-country adventure is Siana in northwest India, where you'll ride in jeeps and on camel back to spot leopards, striped hyenas, and other predators. In the desert oasis of Bharatpur near Delhi, you can see 400 bird species and mammals like golden jackals, jungle cats, and wild boars. Heading south to Kanha National Park, the setting for The Jungle Book, elephants will carry you through forest and grasslands to catch a glimpse of Bengal tigers, sloth bears, and, if you're lucky, the chausingha, an elusive four-horned antelope. To get to the last two parks you'll fly east to the remote state of Assam. Here WPA is the only tour company to offer a raft safari in Nameri National Park, which provides great views of animals that gather at the water's edge to drink, including black bears, elephants, and Indian bison. The trip is capped off with a rhino safari in Kaziranga National Park, where you can watch water buffalo, Gangetic dolphins, and, of course, rhinos.

Trip planning: Departure dates include December 20, 2008, and January 19, February 16, March 16, April 6, November 2, and December 21, 2009. Rates cover all accommodations, meals, activities, guides, and domestic flights and ground transportation. Airfare is extra. Round-trip April airfare from Los Angeles to Delhi starts at $1,372, including taxes, on American.

Explore the Ancient Balkans in AlbaniaProvider: Mountain Travel Sobek Length: 12 days Price: $3,595

One of the best ways to feel like an explorer on vacation is to tag along with a real one. In celebration of its 40th anniversary, longtime pioneer of new adventure destinations Mountain Travel Sobek asked its top guides to create new trips exploring destinations they found intriguing. For his trip, company cofounder and trip leader John Yost chose the newly emerging Balkan destination of Albania."Tourism in this remote corner of the Mediterranean is in its infancy," says Yost. "It will inevitably grow and transform this raw gemstone into a finely polished jewel. I want to be there before that happens, to be on the cutting edge of adventure travel …."

Those willing to join Yost will discover little-known ancient ruins, ornate mosques and Orthodox churches, villages where day-to-day life has remained almost unchanged for centuries, and isolated mountains ripe for adventure.

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