Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Tahiti, largest island of the Îles du Vent (Windward Islands) of the Society Islands, French Polynesia, in the central South Pacific Ocean. Its nearest neighbor is Moorea, 12 miles (20 km) to the northwest. The island of Tahiti consists of two ancient eroded volcanic cones, Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti (the Taiarapu Peninsula), connected by the narrow Isthmus of Taravao. The island, with an area 403 square miles (1,043 square km), accounts for almost one-third of the total land area of French Polynesia. Papeete, on Tahiti’s northwestern coast, is the capital and administrative centre of French Polynesia.
Official Language: French
Population: 277,679 (2018)
Easter Island (Chile)
A remote Polynesian island in the pacific, Rapa Nui, or Easter Island as it is largely known, contains a unique volcanic landscape and a wealth of archaeological wonders. Many voyagers will pay a visit to Rapa Nui National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to many relics of the Rapa Nui culture. Here voyagers can gaze upon the iconic stone statues (Moai) at Ahu Tongariki, explore the ceremonial village of Orongo showcasing pre-historic dwellings and rock carvings, as well as Rano Raraku, the ancient quarry from which the stones for the moai found all over the island emerged. Aside from its abundant archaeological sites, outdoor adventurers can snorkel the crystal seas around the southern island of Moto Nui, or hike on one of the island's many trails to popular sites such as Península Poike or Maunga Terevaka, the highest point on the island.
Ecuador is a patchwork of indigenous communities, including people of colonial Spanish origins and the descendants of Africans who were enslaved. Its capital, Quito, once a part of the Inca empire, has some of the best-preserved early colonial architecture on the continent. For a small country, Ecuador has many faces. They include Andean peaks, tropical rainforests and - 1,000 km (600 miles) off the coast - the volcanic Galapagos Islands, home to the animals and birds whose evolutionary adaptations shaped Charles Darwin's theories. Traditionally a farming country, Ecuador's economy was transformed after the 1960s by the growth of industry and the discovery of oil. Ecuador is a member of the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Sources: U.S. Department of State, BBC News
Panama Canal Transit
Panama Canal Transit
Enjoy a day at sea as you transit through the Panama Canal. Completed in 1914, the 52 mile-long canal is one of the world’s greatest feats in engineering, providing passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Get an up-close look at the gargantuan locks as you coast through the canal that recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary and is undergoing a massive expansion project.
Sandwiched between two coasts, Colombia’s central mountains and lower Amazon region provide access to explore its famed coffee industry, of which the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Voyagers not afraid of more rugged adventures can delve into Colombia’s status as the second-most biodiverse country in the world with a visit to the Amazon rainforest. In and around the port city of Cartagena, voyagers will traverse the attractive lanes of old town or explore the imposing fortress of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.
Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy.
Trinidad and Tobago
Port of Spain
Just off the coast of Venezuela lies the country of Trinidad and Tobago, which is comprised of two distinct islands. Archbishop Desmond Tutu called Trinidad & Tobago a “rainbow country” because of the many different races and traditions that make up the national character and society, harmoniously blending influences from Chinese, Indian, Spanish, English, African and native peoples. The country’s music, food, drink, dance, literature and folk traditions all reflect this rich cultural diversity. This is most vividly experienced during the annual Carnival activities. A leading exporter of oil, natural gas and pitch, Trinidad & Tobago is not only rich culturally, but also economically. Visitors may be surprised by the lack of beaches, but they will not be disappointed. Just adjust your expectations and be prepared to engage with the biodiversity of the rainforest, local university students and volunteers, and the warm, hospitable people for an amazing encounter in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Don’t leave without getting your own steel pan to bring home.
With its 190 million inhabitants, Brazil has the largest population in Latin America and ranks fifth in the world. The majority of people live in the south-central area, which includes the industrial cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte. Brazil has undergone rapid urban growth; by 2005, 81% of the total population was living in urban areas. This growth aids economic development but also creates serious social, security, environmental, and political problems for major cities. The Brazilian economy’s solid performance during the 2008 financial crisis and its strong and early recovery, including 2010 growth of 7.5%, have contributed to the country’s transition from a regional to a global power. Expected to grow 3.5% in 2011 and 4.0% in 2012, the economy is the world’s seventh-largest and is expected to rise to fifth within the next several years. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas.
Sources: U.S. State Department
The Kingdom of Morocco is an immensely rich cultural center point of north-western Africa that exudes influences of all of the proximal regions, including Spain and the Mediterranean, Egypt, the Sahara Desert, and the Atlas Mountains. The port of Casablanca, established in the 20th century, is a busy metropolis and home to the Hassan II Mosque, the second largest in the world after Mecca. This enormous structure, resting at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, was built by 30,000 workers over a period of five years, officially opening in 1993. The old medina of Casablanca encompasses an extensive surface area of the city and offers locals and visitors the famous crafts of the region at a very reasonable fare compared to the bazaars and kasbahs of Rabat and Marrakech. From sun up to sun down, with the exception of religious holidays and celebrations including Ramadan, local artisans display their goods made of wood, leather, wool, textiles, and pottery, and engage passers-by both dramatically and effectively, offering dialogue and the opportunity to learn about the city from the local perspective.
Source: CIA Factbook
Celtic tribes arrived on the island between 600 and 150 B.C. Norman invasions began in the 12th century and set off more than seven centuries of Anglo-Irish struggle marked by fierce rebellions and harsh repressions. The modern Irish state traces its origins to the failed 1916 Easter Monday Uprising that touched off several years of guerrilla warfare resulting in independence from the UK in 1921 for 26 southern counties; six northern (Ulster) counties remained part of the UK.
Location: Western Europe, occupying five-sixths of the island of Ireland in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain
Size: 70,273 sq km
Population: 4,892,305 (July 2015 est.)
Language(s): English, Irish