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TOURS & CRUISES

A Rain Forest Expedition With Bolivian Villagers

February 25, 2001|KARIN ESTERHAMMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Join the naturalists of Green Tracks May 11 for a 10-day expedition into the remote rain forest of Bolivia's Madidi National Park.

Explorers will get an Amazon experience: thick jungle forest, savannas, winding tropical rivers, numerous birds and mammals, and the seldom-seen indigenous people of the tropical rain forest.

The journey begins with a one-hour flight from La Paz over the Andes to the frontier town of Rurrenabaque. From there the group will travel upriver in motorized canoes for about five hours on the Beni and Tuichi rivers, into the heart of Madidi National Park. A half-hour hike from the Tuichi River ends at a small lodge adjacent to a jungle lake. This 14-person lodge is owned and operated by the natives of a nearby village. These Quechua-Tacana people have the experience and knowledge of the region to guide the group safely along the rain forest trails viewing birds, mammals and reptiles. The expedition is open to anyone in reasonably good health.

Cost: $2,175 per person, including meals, lodging and guides. Air fare is extra. An extension from May 20 to 24 to the Andean Highlands and Lake Titicaca is available for $870.

Contact: Green Tracks; telephone (800) 966-6539, Internet http://www.greentracks.com.

Russia: Cruise

Historian Robert Feldman, retired director of Russian studies at Cal State Fullerton, will lead two tours to Russia from Aug. 1 to 16 and Aug. 19 to Sept. 2. Feldman, who has escorted groups to Russia for 22 years, will offer lectures and discussions during the tour. Guests will visit Moscow for four days to see Red Square, the Kremlin, the Kremlin Armory Museum, KGB Museum and Tretyakov Art Gallery. They will spend six days cruising the Volga River through the old Russian heartland, stopping daily at towns dating to the 11th century.

Arriving in St. Petersburg, the group will disembark for five days of tours of the Hermitage Museum, Peter the Great's summer palace at Petrodvorets, Catherine's Palace at Pushkin, St. Isaac's Cathedral and Yusupov Palace. Also included are performances of ballet and folk dancing and the Moscow Circus. The tour ends with an overnight visit to Helsinki, Finland.

Cost: $4,090 per person, including air fare from Los Angeles, ground transportation, accommodations, meals, excursion fees, theater and music performances, porterage and taxes. Contact: East-West International Tours, 925 Acapulco St., Laguna Beach, CA 92661; tel. (800) 359-6719, http://www.eastwest-tours.com.

China and Tibet

Travel Design in Torrance, a company that specializes in trips to China, is offering a tour to China and the Tibet region. The tour departs Aug. 15 from Los Angeles for 10 days. Guests will spend three nights in Beijing visiting sights such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. They will continue on to Chengdu in Sichuan Province to visit the Giant Panda Research Center and visit Lhasa for three nights. Sights will include the Potala Palace, the new palace of Norba Lingka and the former summer palace of the Dalai Lama.

Participants will attend special festivities and opera performances during the Xue Dun Festival.

Cost: $2,199 per person, double occupancy, including air fare from Los Angeles, deluxe hotel accommodations, all meals, U.S. airport taxes and China visa fee.

Contact: Roxanne Roth at Travel Design in Torrance; tel. (310) 371-3228, Ext. 126, or (888) 371-3228, Ext. 126, http://www.traveldesignusa.com.

Japan: Country's Core

Esprit Travel's "Along the Tokaido Road" tour of Japan is a two-week journey that follows the Tokaido Road in the footsteps of the 16th century samurai who established it during the shogun era. The tour begins in Tokyo before guests take the train to Mt. Fuji National Park. Guests can soak in the traditional baths at the classic Fujiya Hotel, cruise a high mountain lake, ride cable cars for views of Mt. Fuji and tour the area's museums. A ride on a bullet train takes the group down the Ise Peninsula, with lodging at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). From Ise the group will travel by train to Kyoto, Japan's old capital, to see shrines and gardens, attend a tea ceremony and visit a Zen temple.

Cost: $4,950 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare, hotels, most meals and guides.

Contact: Steve Beimel, Esprit Travel Walking Tours of Japan, 2101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403; tel. (800) 377-7481, http://www.esprittravel.com.

Canada: Kayaking

Sea Kayak Adventures is offering wilderness lodge-based kayak trips designed for those who wish to experience Canada's Inside Passage without having to camp. Six-day trips depart every Monday from June 18 through July 23 from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.

The lodge is on a remote island in the heart of God's Pocket Provincial Park near northern Vancouver Island. From Port Hardy, a boat takes the group on a ride past rugged mountains, forested islands and the orca waters of Queen Charlotte Strait.

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