Best Photos of 2015 Best Photos of 2015:

Our Epic Year in Review

 

Visiting five of our international dream destinations, four conference speaking/teaching gigs, taking three U.S. road trips and getting two National Geographic assignments made this one seriously epic year. Here are our very best photos of 2015, and a look back on our weird, wild, wonderful adventures.

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Organic Coffee in Guatemala photo by by Emma Gallagher

La Roya:

Central American Coffee’s State of Emergency


Last summer I was working at a green summer camp near the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, which– aside from being one of Central America’s tourism hotspots– is world- famous for producing some of the best coffee in the world.

 

In Antigua, the temperature is just right all the time, the altitude is spot-on and those rich volcanic soils from all sides blend together to make a knock-out cup of java. That’s why Guatemala, particularly Antigua, has become a buzzword in coffeehouses ranging from Seattle to Hong Kong and Moscow to New York.

 

To my coffee-loving delight, the Green Camp at which I was working was located on the grounds of a freshly opened school inside of one of Antigua’s most well-known coffee fincas: Azotea. In fact, the little plot of land that the camp was given to build a garden demonstrating permaculture principles was surrounded by coffee trees.

 

Everything seemed peachy keen. But, in reality, Central American coffee farmers are suffering greatly of late, all due to a fungal disease called “la roya” (the rust). Unfortunately, some 50% of the harvest is being lost each year, which equates to millions of bags of coffee.

 

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Treme New Orleans Street artTreme, New Orleans:

The Birthplace of American Culture

 

Congo Square is quiet now. Traffic forms a dull drone in the distance. A lone percussionist taps out ancient tribal rhythms on a two-headed hand drum. An air compressor used in Rampart Street road construction provides perfectly syncopated whooshes of accompaniment.

 

Shaded park benches are surrounded by blooming azaleas, magnolia trees and massive live oaks that stretch to provide welcome relief from the blazing midday sun. It’s an oasis of relative solitude located directly across the street from the French Quarter.

 

Treme New Orleans: Congo Square, the Birthplace of American Culture

Congo Square, the Birthplace of American Culture

 

Congo Square is quiet now, but in the 18th and 19th centuries this “Place des Nègres” would teem every Sunday with slaves (given the day off under France’s Code Noir) and free people of color. Over 500 people would gather here in fur, fringe, shells and bells to celebrate their African and Creole cultural heritage, playing music, singing and dancing, buying and selling goods in the market.

 

This area– now part of Tremé, New Orleans‘ oldest African-American neighborhood– was the only place in America where African and Afro-Caribbean people were allowed to preserve their cultural traditions for over a century. When these traditions were blended with those of the European colonialists, it gave birth to a distinctly American fusion that continues to define our nation today.

 

Congo Square is quiet now. But it’s here that the seeds of American culture as we know it were sown more than 200 years ago. And the scents, sounds and sights that originated here have never been more vital to New Orleans than they are now, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

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Northwest Fisheries Science Center vessel Noctiluca in close proximity

Endangered Species Spotlight:

Southern Resident Killer Whales

 

SPECIES: Southern Resident Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)

CURRENT RANGE: Pacific North East, around Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Southern Georgia Strait

CURRENT THREATS: Decreased prey availability, boat interactions, environmental contamination

CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered

WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Washington and British Columbia

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30 Best Gifts for Travelers

Best Gifts for Travelers

We’re big believers in the old adage that experiences are far more valuable than material things. Bu the Best Gifts for Travelers can help make our adventures much more pleasurable.

 

This year alone we’ve sampled over 100 different pieces of travel gear, ranging in price from under $50 to well over $500. From luggage and clothing to tech products and camera gear, there’s something here for every travel style and budget.

 

What follows is our unbiased (i.e. unpaid) reviews of the 30 Best Gifts for Travelers for the 2015 Holiday season, broken down into sections that appeal to different budgets.

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Destinations We’ve Covered:

• AFRICA
Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Madagascar- Ring-tailed Lemurs at Anja Reserve
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

 
• ANTARCTICA
How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
 
• ASIA
Borneo- Sabah Ecotourism Attractions
India- Ranthambhore National Park
India- Tibetan Culture In Ladakh
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
 
• AUSTRALIA/OCEANIA
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
Australia-Maria Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities

 

• NORTH AMERICA
CANADA
Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

UNITED STATES
America’s Best Volcanoes
AL- Fishing Mobile Bay
AL- Mobile Carnival Museum
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
FL- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Lafayette Cajun Food Tour
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
LA- Voodoo Museum
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Asheville's Top Ecotourism Attractions
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
TX- Sea Turtle Rescue, South Padre Island
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

MEXICO
Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba
 
• CARIBBEAN