10
May

Take Your Best Shot: National Geographic’s Ultimate Photo Contest

by Alan Rider
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In an era where any schmo with a cell phone can snap a blurry image and post it online for all the world to see, having one of your photographs published in the pages of National Geographic magazine still remains the gold standard for serious photographers everywhere.  If you agree, stop what you’re doing, dust off your camera gear, and take your best shot at the Energizer Ultimate Photo Contest.
This third annual version of the competition, which ends June 30th, offers talented amateur photographers the chance to enter photos in six categories, including Animals/Wildlife, Nature, Travel, People/Cultures, Weather, and Action/Energy.  If you need a little inspiration, you can check out [...]

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07
May

Schlep No More: Ship Your Bags And Travel Like A Jetsetter

by Alan Rider
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If you fly as much as I do, you’ve probably gotten pretty good at traveling light (if not, check out this great packing resource before your next trip).  The fact is, however, that even after you’ve pared your packing list down to the bare essentials you’re still going to end up schlepping a couple of good-sized bags through security checkpoints, aircraft cabins, and rental car shuttles.
Which is where these two travel services come in.  A number of luggage shipping services will pick up your bag (some also handle oversize pieces like golf clubs and skis) at your home or office and deliver it directly to your hotel, allowing you [...]

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05
May

Tooth Or Dare? Where To Swim With Crocodiles

by Alan Rider
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Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to get into the water with some pretty amazing wild creatures, from playful manatees to spouting beluga whales. Now, however, there’s a new interspecies encounter I’m eager to add to my list of extraordinary experiences—swimming with giant saltwater crocodiles!
Much like shark diving, participants are separated from these toothy 20-foot-long beasts by protective enclosures. While these devices add a margin of safety, being submerged in either the clear acrylic “Cage Of Death” at Darwin, Australia’s Crocosaurus Cove or the metal basket used in the Croc Cage Diving Encounter at Oudtshoom, South Africa’s Cango Wildlife Ranch is still bound to get your heart [...]

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03
May

Hot Wine & Cold Sauna: 2 Extraordinary Spa Treatments

by Alan Rider
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In my 20-plus years as a travel writer, I’ve been to a fair number of fancy-schmancy spas (I know, tough job but somebody’s gotta do it). And, invariably, I come away convinced that most of the exotic spa treatments they offer—especially the ones using downright bizarre ingredients—are mainly designed to separate well-heeled visitors from their money.
That said, I just heard about two unique spa treatments that I think qualify as truly extraordinary experiences. Not that I actually believe they have any real therapeutic benefit mind you but, hey, these people certainly get points for originality.
The first, offered at Japan’s Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Spa Resort, offers a chance to [...]

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29
Apr

Take A Walk On The Wacky Side: Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade

by Alan Rider
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Here’s a sad side effect of the time I spent living in New Orleans: Once you’ve been to Mardi Gras, most other parades seem downright dull by comparison. The one notable exception, of course, is Pasadena’s annual Doo Dah Parade.
This year’s event—the “34th Occasional” version of this terrifically tongue-in-cheek sendup of the city’s stuffy Rose Parade—rolls down a new route along Colorado Boulevard in East Pasadena this Saturday morning at 11. What thankfully hasn’t changed is the full-on wackiness of the festivities.
Just how oddball can a parade actually be, you ask? Well, part of what makes the Doo Dah Parade so much fun is that you never know [...]

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27
Apr

Birdwatching Bonanza: How To Add 800 Species To Your Life List In One Trip

by Alan Rider
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If you’re one of the millions of serious birders in North America, sooner or later you’ll find yourself running out of new indigenous species to add to your life list. When you reach that point, you’ll want to check out the mind-boggling array of global birdwatching expeditions put on by the nice folks at Birdquest.
This 30-year-old British operation offers tours to just about any exotic birdwatching destination you can imagine, and a few you probably can’t (seriously, how many people do you know who’ve been birding in Djibouti?). They bill their outings as “The Ultimate In Bird Tours” and, with regularly scheduled expeditions to all seven continents, it’s [...]

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23
Apr

Extraordinary Event: RoboGames Gives You The Chance To Say “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto”

by Alan Rider
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For those of us who grew up on sci-fi movies and television shows like Forbidden Planet and Lost In Space, the idea of a world full of robots seems like some far-off fantasy. Which is precisely why this weekend’s RoboGames—a three-day event certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s largest open robotics competition—seems like such an extraordinary experience.
This six-year-old San Francisco-area geek-fest features the highly imaginative creations of individuals and teams from more than 20 countries, competing in dozens of events ranging from soccer to sumo. The stars of the show, of course, are the battling bots that come in sizes from 5.3 [...]

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