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Posts Tagged ‘Judy Poliva’

What it’s like to go on safari in South Africa

Today I want to share a blog post from my friend and our Product Development Manager at Friendly Planet, Judy Poliva. Judy grew up in South Africa, the destination at the center of our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes. I asked her to fill us in on what makes South Africa so special and she delivered, so read on. After you’re finished, be sure to enter to win a free trip for two to South Africa on our Facebook page (now closed)!


When we were children growing up in the Johannesburg area, we didn’t realize how lucky we were. We lived within driving distance of the Kruger National Park!

Almost every year during our winter school holidays (July), my parents would pack up the car with supplies, and we would head off on a self-drive safari, for a week or sometimes two. As we got closer to the park, my sisters and I would start practicing game-spotting by looking at the herds of cattle.

But once we entered the park, the competition started in earnest: who could spot the first animal (this was usually an impala), the first giraffe, or a lion! This was a daily, all-day competition, and we never tired of it. On our journey home, we missed being on the constant look out, and the cattle didn’t seem so interesting anymore.

We would be ready at dawn to start out on our game drive as soon as the gate opened. At every rest stop, we listened carefully as travelers shared their stories of what they had seen, so that we could head off there as well. We also had to remember to close all the windows so that the vervet monkeys or baboons didn’t try to steal our things.

If we saw some cars in the distance, we headed in that direction. Or we drove around, hoping to get lucky. At night, we would watch wildlife films in the open-air theatre at the camp or listen to a lecture by a game ranger. We would fall asleep listening to the sounds of roaring lions not too far away, and wake to the gentle coos of the bush doves.

One of the most memorable of my childhood experiences was in the northern region of the Kruger National Park, a more remote area that had only one-lane dirt roads. There was no other car in sight. We came around a corner, and the road dipped down a sharp incline to a dry river bed and then up an equally sharp incline. As we neared the bottom of the dip, an elephant walking along the dry river bed started crossing the road. Then, another and another and another, a seemingly endless stream of these huge, majestic creatures. There must have been more than 10 elephants of all ages.

Suddenly, one of the larger elephants looked in our direction and raised its trunk, flapped its ears, and took a few steps in our direction. My father put the car in reverse and we slowly went back up the hill. My sisters and I were shrieking with a mixture of excitement and fear. The elephants eventually decided we weren’t so interesting after all. They continued their journey, and disappeared into the bush once more. Once again, we were alone on the road.

Costa Rica calling! Friendly Planet Travel introduces its first tours to Costa Rica

I’m living up to my promise of adding new destinations to Friendly Planet Travel’s tour offerings in 2010. I’m excited to take travelers to a country that is ranked as one of the happiest places on Earth. No, not Disneyland. I’m talking about Costa Rica!

Friendly Planet Travel’s new seven-day Captivating Costa Rica tour and nine-day Costa Rica Pura Vida tour shows travelers why this country is known as a tropical paradise. Its biodiversity, ranging from jungles, cloud forests, and active volcanoes, to exotic wildlife, rivers, and Caribbean and Pacific coasts, is what lures millions of travelers every year.

Judy Poliva, Product Development Manager for Friendly Planet Travel, went to Costa Rica a few weeks ago with her camcorder in hand. She captured what it was like to a ride a zip line over the rainforest’s canopy and do a Tarzan-swing. She kindly agreed to share her videos, and you’ll get to watch them a little further down.

Both tours begin in San José, the capital and largest city in Costa Rica, which is nestled in a green valley, surrounded by mountains. If you choose the Captivating Costa Rica tour, you will travel to the Arenal region next. It is home to the one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Watch the smoke rise from the cone and lava flow down the hills. If seeing an active volcano isn’t adventurous enough for you, try a Tarzan swing over the canopy. Hit play on Judy’s video below to see what it’s like.

If you opt for the Costa Rica Pura Vida tour, you spend two extra days exploring the Caribbean coastal area and Tortuguero before you head to Arenal. Small boats take you for a tour through the canals of the Tortuguero National Park where you can see rainforest vegetation and wildlife, including Capuchin, Howler and Spider monkeys, crocodiles, and more. You might also see some green turtles, one of several varieties of endangered turtles that lay their eggs on Tortuguero’s shores.

Both tours then continue on to Monteverde. Settle into your air-conditioned mini-van that transports you to the Monteverde Reserve where over 300 species of birds and mammals and many varieties of orchids can be found. Get a better view of its Cloud Forest Reserve on the suspension bridges that span from one mountaintop to another.

Or opt for a canopy tour that includes zip lines. (This is also available in the Arenal region.) Judy handed her camcorder over to the zip line instructor to give you a birds-eye view of the canopy. You see Judy as the instructor comes in for his landing.

Lastly, you’ll drive back to San José to see two of its famous landmarks, the National Theater and Edificio Correos buildings. If you’re not ready to leave Costa Rica, take advantage of the already included airfare and continue on a three-night extension in Manuel Antonio.

If this sounds like a stunning tour to you, it’s not as stunning as the price. Book the seven-day Captivating Costa Rica tour for $799 or the nine-day Costa Rica Pura Vida tour for $999 by Oct. 28.

Included in the prices are round-trip flights from Miami; all transfers via air-conditioned, chauffeur-driven minivans; superior hotel accommodations; daily breakfast; all meals in Tortuguero; comprehensive sightseeing with a naturalist, bilingual guide in Tortuguero; entrance fee to Tortuguero National Park; and more.

With these debut tours priced so low, I wouldn’t wait to book your trip to Costa Rica. So if you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary for both tours. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

For your suitcase to Greece: Judy Poliva’s advice on island hopping

A lot of ground (and sea) was covered in Melissa’s podcast with Judy Poliva on the Aegean and Cyclades Greek Island Hopper tours. If you want to catch their conversation on paper, the transcript is below. Even better, if you plan to book one of the tours, print it out so you can take it with you. Trust me, the advice inside will come in handy.

Judy Poliva’s advice for hopping around the Greek Islands

As promised in my last post, here’s Melissa’s podcast with Judy Poliva about the Aegean Greek Island Hopper with Athens, Paros, Mykonos, and Santorini and the Cyclades Greek Island Hopper with Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete. Judy gives you a first-hand look into two of our newest tours.

They start off talking about Athens, Greece. Then they drill into each island: Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, and Crete. Judy explains how she packed a lot of value into a small price, why she included Paros on the itinerary (it’s one of the lesser known Greek Islands), what travelers should see and do on each island, what clothes to pack, how smooth it is to hop from island to island on a ferry, and more.

If you want to hear about a specific island, here are the timestamps when Judy and Melissa start talking about them:

  • Mykonos 3:20
  • Santorini 6:25
  • Paros 10:18
  • Crete 11:15

Finished listening? Want to book the Aegean or Cyclades Greek Island Hopper? Then hop to it! (Sorry I couldn’t help myself).

Why the Greek Islands are a hop, skip, and a jump away

Island hopping over the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Lounging on the white-sand beaches. Staying in cliff-side hotels with idyllic views, and sipping ouzo while the sun sets. How amazing does that sound? It’s something I would love to do, but for now I’m going to live vicariously through Judy Poliva who has done it all.

Cyclades Greek Island Hopper itineraryJudy is a Product Development Manager for Friendly Planet and is our resident expert on the Greek Islands. So naturally, I turned to her to help develop our two new Greek Island Hopper tours: the Aegean Greek Island Hopper with Athens, Paros, Mykonos, and Santorini and the Cyclades Greek Island Hopper with Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete. Unlike our cruises, you hop from island to island on a ferry.

Judy knows the ins and outs of all the islands. She handpicked the itineraries for both of these tours. But what’s more important is that she found beautiful four- and five-star hotels that really show off the individual character and majesty of every Greek Island in both tours.

Aegean Greek Island Hopper itineraryI couldn’t capture her love of the islands in a single blog post if I tried, so I’m not going to ;-) . I’ll let Judy do the talking. One of our bloggers, Melissa, chatted with her yesterday about the Greek Islands and I will be sharing their interview with you shortly on the blog.

But let me tell you about these two amazing packages we put together first. On both tours, travelers fly to Athens, Greece and spend a day exploring the city that is known as the birthplace of western civilization.

On the Aegean Greek Island Hopper, travelers set off to Paros first. It’s not as widely known to tourists as the other islands, but is famous for its glowing, white marble that was used by Praxiteles in sculptures such as the Venus de Milo. Travelers spend three nights at the gorgeous Paros Agnanti Hotel, a wonderful base for exploration of the island.

Then it’s on to Mykonos and Santorini, which Judy considers MUSTS for travelers to experience on both tours. In Mykonos, spend three nights at the five-star Myconian Ambassador Hotel and Thalasso Spa Center. It’s on the beach, but close enough to the town so that you can wander the labyrinth of winding alleyways and whitewashed buildings.

Hop over to Santorini, probably the most celebrated of all the Greek Islands. Settle in at the lovely Belvedere Hotel where you can catch the spectacular views of the sunken caldera and still-active volcano off the coast. Then, enjoy the fabulous shopping, relaxing atmosphere, gorgeous views, and so much more.

On the Cyclades Greek Island Hopper, like the Aegean tour, you’ll visit both Mykonos and Santorini. But your final stop on this tour is the island of Crete. It’s the largest of the Greek Islands and home to the ruins of Knossos, the palace with an intricate collection of over 1,000 interlocking rooms.

The ruins have been extensively excavated and much of them colorfully painted and restored. After a day of touring ruins and open-air markets, rest up at the Aquila Atlantis Hotel in Heraklion. Lastly, on both the Cyclades and Aegean tours, you head back to Athens for your final day in Greece.

I’ve told you where you’ll go and what you’ll see, so here’s what’s included in the price: round-trip flights from New York (other gateways available upon request and low through fares), 11 nights in superior hotels on the islands and in Athens, daily buffet breakfast, all transfers and ferries between the islands, a flight from Crete to Athens on the Cyclades tour, and more.

With departure dates for both tours starting in September and going through late October, they are sure to sell out quickly. It’s the prime time to visit Greece without the large crowds that August draws. So book the 13-day Aegean Greek Island Hopper for $2,399 or the 13-day Cyclades Greek Island Hopper for $2,599 by July 30.

There’s a lot more information and some personal insights from Judy in the podcast I’ll post a little later on, so listen to that as well. If you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary for both tours. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team, who are waiting to help you with any questions or requests.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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