Monday, August 3, 2009

The Field Program/SAS Excursions

One of the most important aspects of the Semester At Sea program is the Field Program - or the in port excursions. Some of them are directly connected to a class, some are not. In any form, all the classes incorporate the experiences students have in each port. Two weeks ago students, staff and faculty registered for the over night trips. We will sign up for the single day trips along the journey once aboard. With over 500 students, 40 Life Long Learners and 70 some faculty and staff I didn't think that I would get all the trips that I requested. Obviously there are limitations on trips so if numbers exceed the capacity then a lottery will be done for all positions. I am very fortunate that I got ALL the big trips I wanted. Once on board the dean will decide what staff members will be a trip leader thus receiving half of the price covered by SAS - I am hoping to be a leader on at least one of my trips.

I'll do my best not to over load you but here is some info from the guide book about the amazing trips that I will be experiencing.

Located on an oasis at the base of the High Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is the gateway city to the Sahara. The cultural, natural and historical attractions of this traditional Berber capital, seat to nearly all of Morocco’s dynasties over the last thousand years, make Marrakech the top tourism destination in North Africa.

Ouarzazate lies on the confluence of three important oasis valley systems: the Ouarzazate, Dadès and Drâa. As one travels southeast from Ouarzazate to Zagora, the contrast of bare sun-baked rock with the lush green of the palm groves forms some beautiful scenery. A labyrinth of irrigation channels feeds the fertile, palm-shaded terraces of farmland in the Drâa valley. Dates are the primary commercial crop, and the best eating dates are found in Zagora. The Drâa Valley has always been strongly influenced and interlinked with the destiny of the surrounding nomadic tribes. It has served as a stepping-stone for Saharan explorations since the 10thcentury. Your experience in the Sahara will include an overnight in a nomad camp and a camel trek into the desert.

Day 1: Depart by minibus to Marrakech. Upon arrival, you will have free time to explore the city. This evening enjoy a Moroccan dinner with folklore show and horse fantasia at Chez Ali. Day 2: Travel to Zagora in the magnificent Drâa Valley. A lunch stop will be made in Ouarzazate where you will have a tremendous view of the Saharan world including its dunes, oases and small mud villages. Later enjoy dinner in a nomad tent before settling into camp for the night.
Day 3: This morning you will venture into the Sahara Desert on an early morning mehari (camel trek) with nomads. Enjoy a last mint tea in the desert before returning to Marrakech. The late afternoon and evening are free to explore the famous Jemaa el Fna Square and other sites.
Day 4: Enjoy Marrakech on your own until you depart for your return by minibus to Casablanca.

Day 1: In the early morning depart for a scenic drive through the coastal savanna of the Accra plains. Once at Afadjato Mountain, climb to the highest point of Ghana, without the need for climbing gear. After reaching the summit, depart for an eventful drive to Wli Waterfalls. Hike through the lush greenery of the Agumatsa Forest Reserve where you will cross the same river eleven times to reach the breathtaking falls. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the base of the falls. The water falls from a height of about 1,600 feet into a plunge pool where swimming is permitted. You may swim in the plunge pool at the base of the tallest
waterfall in Ghana.
Day 2: After breakfast, drive to Tafi Atome, a village that has practiced conservation as a culture by keeping their monkeys sacred. Witness these endangered animals in large numbers as they live in the wild. The monkeys are the mona species and are considered sacred by the people who live with them.

Kruger National Park is one of the world’s most popular sanctuaries for nature and wildlife and home to innumerable species. There is an ideal opportunity in the park to observe Africa’s Big Five up close – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros – in addition to no less than 336 types of trees, 49 species of fish, 114 types of reptiles and 507 bird species, as well as endless elegant giraffe, baboons, zebra and buck.

Day 1: Transfer from the ship to Cape Town International Airport for your two-hour flight to Kruger. On arrival, transfer to the Sabi River Sun Resort. After check-in, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. In the late afternoon, the game ranger takes you on a game drive in open 4x4 vehicles. At dusk, enjoy sundowners deep in the bush. Return to the lodge to freshen up before dinner. This evening, dinner is served in the boma. This African tradition is typically dinner around the campfire in an outdoor setting.
Day 2: In the early morning, awaken for a full-day game drive. Experience how nature comes to life with the rise of the sun. Breakfast packs are available for the drive. Later, enjoy a picnic lunch in the bush. Afterwards, continue the game drive in search of more sightings of the Big Five. Return to the lodge in the afternoon and relax before dinner.
Day 3: In the early morning, awaken for a morning game drive. Breakfast packs are available for the drive. Continue to the airport for your return flight to Cape Town.

Day 1: Transfer to the airport for your 2 1⁄2-hour flight to New Delhi. Upon arrival, enjoy a city orientation of Old Delhi. Drive along Rajpath, the ceremonial avenue, past the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace) the Raj Ghat (Gandhi Memorial) and the Red Fort. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, depart on a three-hour train ride for Agra. Once in Agra, proceed to the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 2: View the Taj Mahal at dawn, then return to the hotel for breakfast. Visit the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri with its well-preserved sandstone palaces. Return to the hotel for lunch. The afternoon will include visits to Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. After viewing the Taj Mahal at sunset, board the express train (two hours) for New Delhi. Dinner will be served on the train. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
Day 3: After breakfast at the hotel, enjoy a city tour of New Delhi. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before transferring to the airport for your return flight to Chennai.

Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, was once considered the loveliest of the French-built cities of Indochina. Its charm is still evident despite the violence and destruction during and immediately following the Viet Nam War. When the Viet Nam War spread to Cambodia, the city's population swelled with refugees, reaching about two million in early 1975.

Angkor is an incomparable temple complex built between 7 and 11 centuries ago at the height of the Khmer civilization. Angkor’s 100 or so temples constitute the sacred skeleton of a spectacular administrative and religious center covering 200-square kilometer. The ruins represent successive capitals constructed by a dozen Khmer kings, which included massive stone temples, majestic causeways and imposing towers. You will visit the most famous temple complex, Angkor Wat. With its soaring towers and extraordinary bas-reliefs, many consider Angkor Wat to be one of the most inspired and spectacular monuments ever conceived by the human mind.

Day 1: Depart for the airport for your one-hour flight to Phnom Penh. Upon arrival, obtain a Cambodia visa. Visit the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. In the afternoon, visit the Palm Tree Orphanage, supported by SAS alumni Terry Kellogg and Marvel Harrison, founders of Cambodia’s Hope. Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Mekong River followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 2: In the morning, visit the Tuol Sleng Museum, the Killing Fields and the Russian Market. Transfer for your flight to Siem Reap. Upon arrival, view and explore Angkor Wat until sunset. Check into the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 3: Early risers may enjoy an optional sunrise tour of Angkor Wat. After breakfast at the hotel, spend the day exploring the area’s massive and elaborate temple ruins and restoration projects, including Angkor Wat. Late afternoon, transfer to the airport for your return flight to Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 1: Depart Hong Kong for your flight to Beijing and take transfer to Simatai. Watch the sunset over the Great Wall and then enjoy an evening under the stars. Dinner at the lodge.
Day 2: Breakfast is at leisure in the lodge. Today take a 4-5 hour (8km) hike from Simatai Great Wall and the Jinshanling Section. The Simatai – Jinshanling is a four-hour hike along the unreconstructed part of the Wall. The Simatai Great Wall is celebrated for its steepness and intactness. The main attractions include the Stairway to Heaven, the Fairy Tower, the Heaven
Bridge and the Wangjinglou Tower. The hike will continue until you reach Jinshanling, the best preserved part of the Great Wall with many original features. Overnight will be at a local inn.
Day 3: Breakfast is at leisure in hotel. Today hike 5-6 hours (12km) from Jinshanling to Gubeikou Great Wall. In this section of the Wall, there are 14 beacon towers, 143 watchtowers, 16 strategic pass, three citadels and many other military constructions. This will be a fairly smooth, easy hike. En route, pass a military area where you can walk along a scenic country road before rejoining the Wall. The hike will finish at the General Tower in the Gubeikou section. In the late afternoon drive to downtown Beijing. Enjoy at Roast Duck dinner in Beijing.
Day 4: Today visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. In the afternoon transfer to Beijing Airport for
your return flight to Shanghai.

So, that is a look at the big trips that I'll be taking! Hopefully I'll get some great photos to share with you.

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