Entries in ‘Galapagos Islands’ Journal

Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the Galapagos Islands and Oregon’s Rogue River – What a Trip

Friday August 29, 2008 at 7:07 PM | 3 Comments

Samantha, Zanna and Cassie Zulch Visit Italy's Amalfi Coast

Posted by Nancy D. Brown

My recent article for the Contra Costa Times began on the streets of Italy's Amalfi coast, ventured to Quito, Equador and the Galapagos Islands, where a high school biology teacher introduced her student's to a living classroom and ended with the author jet boating up Oregon's wild Rogue River. 

The Tourist's Have Landed

With roller bags bumping along the cobblestone streets of Amalfi in the Campania region of Italy, Orinda’s Zulch family of five had American tourist stamped across their foreheads.

“The first couple of days we didn’t know what to do with ourselves,” reflects Zanna. “Eventually, we found the one woman in town who baked the bread and discovered where the locals shopped. We loved the farmer’s market with its beautiful fruit, fat plums and lemons for making Limoncello.”

The family traveled by water ferry to picturesque Positano and hired a boat to explore the caves and grottos. Known for its Italian pottery, the quiet town of Ravello was a highlight for dinner and drinks away from the crowds. The Zulches took a ferry to the Isle of Capri to ogle at the designer stores and high-end jewelry. “We had a nice lunch at Gemma’s with a great view of the island and water,” remembers Zanna. Her advice tip: “give yourself way more time at the airport. Everything is overbooked so you could loose your seat home!”

High School Students Learn  Environmental Science in Quito, Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands

Campolindo High School Students Visit Ecuador


Students and parents from Campolindo High School found their way home from Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with teachers Amanda and Tom Renno and Holly Thompson.

Biology Teacher Amanda Renno noted that her favorite place was Isla Floreana. “There were only about 60 people who lived on the island, yet they had a school,” remarked Renno. “The main road was dirt, yet they had streetlights.”

The group was also able to visit a pirate cove, see penguins and tortoises, and snorkel with sea lions.

“We were able to observe different ecosystems in a very small land area,” noted Renno.

The 45 minute drive from the airport to the town covered at least seven ecosystems. They even saw a cactus growing in the middle of a rain forest! Renno added that it was amazing to see students who wouldn't normally interact, do so willingly.

The group selected EF Tours, which came recommended by teachers from Acalanes who have traveled with the company for a decade.

“I think travel for students is invaluable," affirms Renno. “The practical skills they gained, as well as the science content, were something they would never get in the classroom. I hope that I sparked a traveling bug in each and every student!”

Travel Bug Takes Me To Coastal Oregon

Oregon's Tu Tu Tun Lodge on the scenic Rogue River

The travel bug brought me to Tu Tu Tun Lodge, located on Oregon’s scenic Rogue River outside of Gold Beach. Its name is taken from the area's first inhabitants, the Tu Tu’ Tunne Rogue Indians.

“This place has a soul of its own,” shares Owner Laurie Van Zante. “We get that it’s all about relationships.” Indeed, during dinner prepared by Chef Justin Wills, Van Zante showed each guest to their chair, thoughtfully matching dining companions.

There is a certain elegance, yet laid-back comfort at this family-owned lodge. Priced on the high-end, each of 16 rooms offers a river view, some with fireplace and outdoor soaking tubs. Family reunions, corporate retreats or girl/guy getaways are welcome in two suites or two guest houses. Full dining is offered May through October, while discerning travelers might consider a winter visit. Off-season, the lodge room rates are a good deal and feature winemaker dinners and cooking classes.

If you bring the kids along, a ride on Jerry’s Rogue Jets, is in order. A nature-based adventure trip, the boats run from May until mid-October and are suitable for multiple generations.

Lafayette’s Bonnie and Marty Sivesind took their grandkids to Grant’s Pass, Oregon where they boarded the Hellgate Jet boat  for a two hour scenic trip on the Rogue. They also visited Wildlife Images Rehabilitation & Education Center, an animal refuge park.

Yes, dear reader, summer has ended and the kid's are back in school.  What better time to pack your bags and travel?  I'm off to Carmel for the Labor Day weekend.  Are you headed anywhere interesting or are you one of those cutting edge Staycation trendsetters?

Vacation wonderland awaits in Galapagos, Machu Picchu and Napa Valley

Friday February 1, 2008 at 8:08 PM | 0 Comments


Contra Costa Times

Article Launched: 02/01/2008 03:11:26 AM PST

            Forget Costa Rica, South America’s Galapagos Islands and Peru’s Machu Picchu seems to be this year’s hot spots for Lamorinda travelers.  Craig and Margaret Isaacs, along with Campolindo’s Maureen & Eva, spent eight days at the Eco Hotel Finch Baywith an all inclusive package.  Margaret described their trip as, “luxury day camp for adults.  Each day was led by a naturalist, with excursions, snorkeling and lunch.  After an adventurous day, you returned to the hotel for five star dining.” 


Margaret noted that although Ecuador does accept US currency, they are reluctant to take worn or torn money because their banks won’t give them full value for “damaged” dollars.  Bring crisp $1, $5 and $10 for easy transactions.  

“For being so close to Peru, Machu Picchu was a wonder of the world that we didn’t want to miss,” added Margaret.  “We flew into Cusco to tour the area before taking the train to Aquas Calientes at Machu Picchu’s base.”  The Lafayette family cautioned to allow enough time to adjust to the extreme altitude before exploring.  Their final stop was Lake Titicaca where the highlight was visiting the floating islands of Uros.


Orinda’s Michael Chinn and Mari Kay Breazeale began their trek in the Amazon rain forest and ended in the Galapagos.  They wanted to visit the rain forest prior to the end of November when the rainy season begins.  Canadian-based Tours of Exploration put together their 15 day adventure.

“We went to an ecology research lodge, Posada de Amazonas, for five days,” remembers Breazeale.  The lodge is run jointly by the local indigenous community and a Peruvian rain forest expedition company. The intent of the lodge is to keep tourism going, educate the visitor and respect the local culture.  Part of the reason for the poverty in the area is that tourism is one of the only revenues.  In order for the community to succeed, it is vital to keep the people in the rural areas employed with joint ventures like the eco-lodge on the Tambopata River.

Next, the couple flew to Cusco and visited Machu Picchu before landing in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.  There they boarded the M.S. Anahi, a 90-foot catamaran, housing eight rooms and 13 travelers. For the next five days they explored the Galapagos Islands with two zodiac equipped guides taking them to see the animals each day.

“The Galapagos wildlife is totally unafraid of humans,” marveled Breazeale.  “The snorkeling was wonderful with turtles, sharks, stingrays and lots of wonderful birds to watch.”

Unfortunately, the Galapagos is on the “World Heritage in Danger” list.  With fewer than 4% of UNESCO’s sites on this list, it could lose World Heritage designation and the accompanying tourists.  To preserve the fragile ecosystem, each tourist must be accompanied by a guide and pay $100 to enter the park. 


Campolindo Biology Teacher Amanda Renno will be leading a group of students to the Galapagos June 23 for nine days.  There are several spaces available.

Closer to home, my husband and I celebrated my birthday at Napa’s Blackbird Inn.  This was our fourth B&B adventure with the Four Sisters family of inns.  We dined at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville.  If you are looking for an affordable alternative to dinner at Keller’s French Laundry this is the place.  Call 707.944.2259 to hear the $48 nightly fix price menu. 

In other wine country news, the Healdsburg Inn on the Plaza is joining with Cyrus Restaurant to offer an epicurean indulgence package until April 30.  The $340 per couple package, offered Sunday through Thursday nights, includes a king room and five-course dinner for two.  Visit the Four Sisters Inns for more information.