Justin's Letter

Southern Explorations team on a sail boat

Hello fellow travelers! As we wrap up our 13th calendar year in operation I wanted to send a quick note to thank everyone who traveled with us, chatted with us, followed us on social media, or read our newsletters throughout the year. We love exploring, we love talking travel, we love crafting trips and we wouldn’t get to do any of that without you! So thank you!

This past year has been an exciting one for Southern Explorations. I know we could say that about every year spent exploring South America and Central America, but 2018 was particularly momentous for us because we were really able to push forward on our sustainability goals. Sustainable, responsible travel has always been central to our Southern Explorations MO and that all felt even more meaningful in 2018.

In the grander picture, it was awesome to see the Galapagos, one of our favorite but most fragile destinations, initiate a plastic ban and we look forward to our guests traveling plastic free throughout the islands next year. For ourselves, first off we launched our carbon offset program. To do that, we partnered with Sustainable Travel International – a non-profit conservation and development organization with more than a decade’s experience in carbon offsetting – so that we could provide the option for guests to offset their carbon footprint for their next adventure. Proceeds from that go to a really cool effort in Colombia where a community-based emission reduction group called The Asorpar Reforestation Projectis working to restore and reforest degraded areas in the Orinoquia and Andean regions.

We also teamed up with the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund. They were established back in 2014 as a response to the huge influx in visitors to the park. They’re instilling a nice sense of stewardship of the area and they’re addressing many of the sustainability issues the park now faces. It’s been a great way for us to help support an incredible destination, re-invest in the park and communities, and continue to spread the word on responsible travel.

Speaking of incredible destinations, we started offering a whole new country in 2018; Bolivia! If you haven’t considered Bolivia before, 2019 is the time to do so. Plus, we built on our Cuba and introduced our Luxury Cuba trip.

Some other introductions had us pretty excited this past year as well. In Ecuador, Quito’s new five-star Illa Experience Hotel made a great impression on us. The hotel has been set up in a historic house reminiscent of the early 20th century mansions of Quito and there are local artisans at work in the workshop and award-winning dishes served up at their restaurant Nuema.

The introduction of Outpost Elqui Valley Eclipse tour is one of the more unique trips we’ve seen come along in some time. From June 29 to July 3 of 2019 our local operating partners at Upscape are offering an incredible 5-day/4-night Chilean safari-tent excursion under some of the clearest skies in the world. There’s still a few spots available if you’d like to join!

Meanwhile in the Galapagos, a pair of new cruises have added considerably to our offering in the islands. The Infinity is a 161-ft luxury motor yacht specifically designed for cruising the Galapagos and the Camila is a new 16-passenger that first set sail in March and is equipped with both indoor and al fresco dining facilities, a lounge, library, bar, and a large sundeck that includes a jacuzzi. I highly recommend both.

On the topic of new hotels and cruise ships, we also have a lot to look forward to coming our way in 2019. We’ve got our eye on a number of new hotels opening up in the Galapagos that look fantastic, like the Hotel Ikala, which we’re excited to include on our land-based tours in the islands. And we’re not done expanding in Cuba! We love this country so much and there’s seemingly no end to the ways we can explore it. It’s with that in mind that we’ll be unveiling our brand new Cuba Multi-Sport trip this January, so keep your eye on our social media channels and newsletter for that one.

Then there’s the fruits of our labor after a year packed with some intense scouting trips. We’ve been featuring our Sales & Operations Manager Eric Bartanen’s trip in Patagonia across our social media channels and in our newsletter in recent weeks and we’re thrilled to be unveiling the trip we build from that experience soon. We’ll also be giving you a look at what I got up to in Costa Rica alongside our Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Borgida and we’ll be featuring travel expert Marisa Edgerton’s deep-dive scouting expedition into Colombia, all of which will pay off with a number of trip enhancements and new itineraries across all these locations in the year ahead. All that to say, much has happened and there’s much more to come for 2019!

Thanks again for traveling and engaging with us this year and we can’t wait to chat South America and Central America adventure travel with you in the year to come! So, where do you want to go in 2019?

Justin Laycob

Founder & CEO
Southern Explorations