10:46 AMصباحكم ومسائكم عسل والله يسعدكم يا رب
سبحان الله وبحمده عدد خلقه ورضا نفسه وزنة عرشه ومداد كلماته
PHOTO OF THE MONTH
by Oded Wagenstein from the 2011 National
Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
Young Monk, Laos (A young monk is pictured at a small monastery in the town of Luang Prabang.)
MAY 17, 2011
Surfing Wamberal, New South Wales, Australia
Photograph by Nathan Smith, Red Bull Illume
Category: Close Up
About the Sho
forget about everything except what’s right in front of me.”
—Photographer Vincent Perraud
Photograph by John Stanmeyer, National Geographic
Dive the Yucatán’s Cenotes
Beyond its white-sand beaches and beneath its lush forests, the Yucatán Peninsula resembles Swiss cheese. That’s good news for divers: The area’s cave-pocked limestone, filled with fresh blue water, offers a world of subterranean diving. And because the cenotes around Playa del Carmen are warm, wide, and relatively shallow, certified divers without specialized training can explore them, making the area one of the world’s foremost cave-diving locales.
Here, popular holes like Dos Ojos offer a window into the Earth’s belly: stalactites formed over millennia hang from the ceiling, fossils hide in the corners, and holes in the rock bring in a laser show of electric blue and green light. Delving deeper into the caves–past the signs with death warnings, skulls, and crossbones–requires an advanced cave diver certification, but no matter. Even within a few hundred feet of the surface, the cenotes offer a glimpse into what the Maya believed were the sacred passageways to the underworld.
Dive Cenotes, based in Playa del Carmen, offers guided two-tank dive tours of cenotes for certified divers ($100; ). Divers need special cave diving certification to leave the external cavern to explore the caves.
Photograph by Wes Skiles, National Geographic
Dive the Blue Holes
When vacationing divers dip into the upper levels of Bahamas’ blue holes–flooded inland caves formed originally from limestone–to take a look around, they are unwittingly close to some of the world’s most dangerous diving. Farther below lies a kingdom of passageways that holds fossils and ancient formations. The very few who pass through the layer of toxic gas to reach these lower levels find pinhole passageways where a technical failure or wrong turn could spell doom and one errant fin could obliterate 10,000-year-old rock structures. But those who do venture into the watery veins of the Earth discover whole ballrooms full of tightly packed stalactites, prehistoric human remains, and fossils of now extinct crocodiles and tortoises. These caves are, quite literally, another world.
Photograph by Harry Kikstra
Bike the Baja Peninsula
Stretching about a thousand miles south from San Diego like a delicate thumb, the Baja California peninsula has long beckoned bikers with its pleasant weather, minimal traffic, and remote, undeveloped coastline. Here, long stretches of wild desert are punctuated only by views of the coast, cactus forests, and lanky boojum trees sprouting out of the Earth like Dr. Seuss creations. Every so often, a surf shack, stuck-in-time fishing village, or sleepy artist community crops up.
The route, which largely follows Mexico’s Highway 1, is not without its challenges: Seemingly suicidal truckers scream down the highways, dust storms kick up in the winter, and if you’re heading anywhere but south, headwinds can cause heartbreak. But the thrill of discovery and the utmost feeling of freedom in this still wild land generally outshine the difficulties. And often, it’s what lies beyond the bike that is most rewarding, like catching a glimpse of migrating whales right from shore, finding the perfect beach campsite, or enjoying fish tacos and a Cerveza Pacífico next to the crashing sea.
Cyclists wishing to bike the length of Baja are best advised to read reports from others who have followed the route recently; these can be found on . Baja California’s website () and Baja California Sur’s website () offer information for tourists. For those with less time, Backroads, a biking outfitter, offers five-day hiking and biking trips along Baja’s Sea of Cortez and Pacific coasts for $1,998 per person ().
Photograph by Corey Rich, Aurora
Raft the Grand Canyon
Arizona, United States
In the Grand Canyon, rafters hear rapids long before they see them. It starts as a low hum, turns into a rumble, and finally grows into a heart-stopping roar echoing off the canyon walls. The sheer ferocity of the rapids, which often hide waves nearly 20 feet (6 meters) high and hydraulics that flip boats like burgers, is just one reason why the Grand Canyon is unanimously the country’s top rafting trip. It’s also one of the longest commercially run wilderness river trips, winding 226 miles (364 kilometers) without crossing even a dirt road. And it’s one of the most spectacular, slicing through two billion years of geology, color-coded in thousand-foot cliffs.
A little known fact is that the rapids are big but forgiving–over three-quarters of rafters’ injuries occur on shore–and many experienced rowers propel themselves down the river. Private trips afford the luxury of time–up to three weeks–and choosing one’s own company and pace. But they also offer something less tangible: the transformative power of charting your own line down the West’s greatest waterway. On these long human-powered trips, rafters discover that the river’s real magic is found in the quietest of moments: the discovery of centuries-old Anasazi ruins and rare cactus blooms, the comfort of a campfire flickering off the cliffs, and, when the river calms to glass, the echo of even a whisper off the canyon walls.
It can take weeks or years to secure a permit to self-run the Grand Canyon through the Park Service’s weighted lottery permitting system. Sign up at the national park’s website () and keep trying–the system favors the persistent. In the meantime, take a whitewater rowing course such as O.A.R.S.’ seven-day clinic on the Rogue River ($1,177; ). To help plan a Grand Canyon trip, enlist a river outfitter like Moenkopi Riverworks, which rents rafts and equipment, buys and packs food, and runs shuttles (pricing varies;).
Photograph by Jake Norton
Hike to Everest Base Camp
Making it to the top of Everest requires serious fitness, willpower, good luck, and $60,000 for a guided trek to the summit. For those of us who’d like to witness the mountain but prefer to keep our cash–and our fingers and toes–there’s an appealing alternative option: hiking to Everest Base Camp. The trip is still no stroll: Over ten days, trekkers travel more than 60 miles (97 kilometers) at muscle-crippling altitudes of over 17,000 feet (5,182 meters). But walking is the only way to see the legendary backdrop behind the world’s greatest climbing feats: Himalayan villages tinkling with temple chimes and yak bells, remote shrines strung with multicolored prayer flags, and cedar and pine forests under the shadow of 20,000-foot (6,096-meter) mountains.
On a 19-day trip with National Geographic Adventures trekkers also ascend 18,100-foot (5,517-meter) Kala Pattar, which offers views of the loftiest peak on the planet illuminated by sunrise alpenglow. In spring, trekkers may also meet mountaineers at Everest Base Camp. Regardless, walking in the footsteps of such greats as Hillary, Reinhold Messner, and Ed Viesturs and personally witnessing the unmistakable hulk of the world’s tallest mountain offers an intimate and humbling understanding of its power. Locals believe, after all, that these peaks are the home of the gods. National Geographic Adventures Everest Base Camp trek starts and ends in Kathmandu and includes guides and tent/room accommodations (from $4,295, plus an estimated $240 flight from Kathmandu to Lukla;
Photograph by Hugh Gentry, United States Environment Sport/Reuters
Surf the North Shore
Hawaii, United States
Hawaiians know that riding the ocean requires the rare combination of calm, confidence, and utter respect for the power of the sea. That’s how the best surfers in the world ride down the face of waves that, every now and then, reach 40 feet (12 meters) at the mother of big-wave breaks: Waimea Bay (pictured) on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s warmer and more predictable than other breaks of its size, which makes it a favorite among pro surfers. But it also forms a perfect stadium for aspirants looking for a glimpse of some of the world’s biggest rides.
Surfing was born on these shores, and many of its biggest competitions, like the Triple Crown, still feature here, which is why Oahu is perhaps the one place where surfers of all levels pilgrimage. It has breaks of every shape and size and offshore winds that create perfectly shaped and unusually long rides. Local surfer Bryan Suratt, whose family has ridden these swells for four generations, coaches such greats as Andy Irons but also offers lessons for all levels. Suratt’s laid-back aloha vibe helps even first timers feel the high that every surfer, at one point, feels: a humble gratitude for the timeless power of the ocean.
Sunset Suratt Surf School offers surf lessons on many of Oahu’s North Shore breaks ($100 for two hours, including equipment
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