"what is my one favorite place in the world?." But I always come back to the same response - "it depends on my mood!" Today, I'm in the mood for India.
Zoom Vacations is constantly fine tuning trips to make them better and better each time. Some changes and additions are subtle but significant. Here is a list of current and upcoming changes to our roster of award winning trips:
Zoom China - Upgraded hotel location on the iconic riverside Bund. Great shopping area and great river and skyline views of the Bund from our new hotel in Shanghai.
Zoom Argentina - Added an insider tour of the Teatro Colon to the itinerary. If you have even been to the Paris Opera House, you won't want to miss this. The welcome dinner is now at one of the top restaurants in South America, which was likened by one guest to Alinea in Chicago, considered the world's best restaurant.
Zoom Rio Carnaval - Now this trip includes Samdadrome tickets for the main Carnaval parade.
Zoom New Years - A Zoom Lounge will be available on Ipanema Beach with beverages and snacks while you sun tan and watch the hot Cariocas enjoy the beach. Also, a private Corcovado tour has been added to the itinerary.
Zoom Southern Africa August - Cape Town upgraded hotel and confirmed dinner reservations at the hard to get in Test Kitchen.
Zoom Peru - Confirmed dinner reservations at some of the best restaurants in town such as Central and Astrid & Gaston.
Read about our tour to China this May
We had a question come into the office the other day that I thought I would answer for other readers as well.
I live in San Diego and we have an awesome zoo here. Why do you recommend doing a safari in Africa?
That is a great question! This is like saying that you have a subscription to a gourmet food magazine, so why would you eat. Traveling to Africa and seeing the Big Five up close and in their natural habitat is something everyone should experience at least once in their life. It is sheer magic. Every moment is unpredictable, just like nature. You never know if you will see a lion and lioness mating, a leopard taking down an impala, a pair of zebra frolicking, or a baby rhino curiously approaching your vehicle.
But it's not just about the animals. The landscape plays just as much a role in the magic. On June 22, UNESCO declared the Okavango Delta its 1000 World Heritage site. One of the unique characteristics of the Delta is that the annual flooding from the river Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods. It is an exceptional example of the interaction between climatic, hydrological and biological processes.
The Okavango Delta is home to some of the world's most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion. I am headed back to southern Africa with a group in literally just days to experience South Africa, Zambia and Botswana again, and I just cannot wait! Let the magic begin!
Creating the most amazing trips in the world for a discerning group of gays, their family and friends, is no small feat. Our travelers are well travelled and are always wanting the latest, best, trendiest and most sought after destination.
As LGBT travelers we are used to being pioneers. With that in mind Zoom scours the world not only for the most up and coming destinations but for how to take Zoomers there in comfort, style and safety. In the last years Zoom has flown to far away places like Japan, South Africa, Nicaragua, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil (usually at the invitation of governments ready to welcome the gay traveller) just to name a few, to meet with hotels, and local guides, to taste the local cuisine and find just the right place for our Signature Zoom Events.
Every Zoom destination is well researched personally by me and or Bryan Herb, Zoom's co-owners. No detail is a mere coincidence. No Zoom trip will be offered without our seal of approval.
It was a busy year for me and the Zoom team. I traveled a total of 161,014 miles, the equivalent of over 6 times around the world, on 69 flights and a mega yacht to 31 countries.
In addition to the scheduled tours we offered all year, 2013 had a few highlights that made it particularly special.
A couple on Zoom Peru got engaged on Machu Picchu (read about them in our Featured Travelers section).
We celebrated many birthday celebrations, honeymoons and long term relationships in exotic locations around the world on Zoom Southern Africa and our Zoom cruise. And for the first time, broke the Zoom record for longest lunch (6 hours) of eating, laughing and imbibing on Zoom Argentina.
Zoom's Marie-Noelle Marechal was invited to attend a travel convention in China to get new ideas for upcoming Zoom China tours.
I received a very exclusive invitation to attend the International Luxury Travel Market Americas in Mexico, where I met one-to-one with the best travel luxury hotels and suppliers and industry leaders from around the world with whom we will partner to continue developing the bespoke experiences you have come to expect from Zoom Vacations. I then continued my research to Mexico City and the West Coast of Mexico on a most luxurious Four Season educational trip where they pulled all the stops. They know that our clients only want the best, so they gave me a big taste of it.
Zoom's Bryan Herb and I researched the Orient Express Luxury train, the Royal Scotsman, through Scotland, and made great connections with London hoteliers for future trips.
Bryan attended the largest tourism convention in Africa as the guest of the South African government, and continued on to Botswana and South Africa to research upcoming group and private tours in some of the world's top lodges.
Zoom Vacations acquired its adorable new mascot, Ms. Buddha-Licious, a rescue puppy who reminds us every day what it means to give and accept unconditional love.
Bryan led a lively educational panel discussion on travel to Asia at the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Convention in Chicago with guests from all over the world attending.
Team Zoom raised over $7,000 for the American Cancer Society, by participating in the Chicago Marathon.
I am writing this from my hotel room in Buenos Aires, full of thoughts about how this city has changed since we offered our first tour here nine years ago.
It has certainly become more gay friendly and accepting, both in the mentality of the locals and as evidenced by anti-discrimination laws that have been enacted.
The gay scene in Buenos Aires is better than ever, and you can go out every night of the week and find something happening.
Also the exchange rate has become very favorable for foreigners. Currently there is a double economy. The official exchange rate of 6 Argentinian Pesos to the US Dollar that you get at banks and ATMs, and the unofficial exchange rate of 10 Argentinian Pesos to the US Dollar that you can get at unofficial exchange
houses. So, your spending money while in the country will go further if you pay with cash.
I always get a kick out of the sentence, "why would you want to go there", as there are few places on Earth I wouldn't want to see for myself.
Arguably, almost every country has enough sites of interest and things to do to make a vacation. Granted, of course I understand avoiding a country embroiled in a natural disaster or human-made conflict, or countries that are antigay. However, I have noticed that some people hold ill-perceived ideas about some places, originating from the past.
For instance, myself and a lot of my peers grew up during the Beirut War, and a lot of us can't get past that. It's a shame, because Beirut is often called the Paris of the Middle East, and visitors to the city now can see that it is gaining back its former glory. Plus, there is so much to see and do outside of Beirut, throughout Lebanon, such as ancient ruins and natural wonders.
The other place about which many people have a misperceived idea is Vietnam. Before going, you may link Vietnam with war. After a vacation to this stunning country, you'll instead associate Vietnam with impeccable cuisine, natural beauty, gorgeous hotels, and a fascinating, beautiful culture.
One of my favorite activities that our travelers enjoy on Zoom Argentina is learning to dance the Tango from local professional dancers.
Tango is sexy and sensual without being overtly sexual. Before you see two men dance the Tango, you may assume that one dancer will appear feminine, and the other masculine, but this isn't the case. Instead, the dance lends itself to an uncanny juxtaposition of individuality and communion.
In fact, Tango is so popular that Argentinian doctors have been prescribing it for heart attack patients, saying that it can generate the same beneficial effects for coronary arteries and for the heart as walking and jogging. Plus, it's so fun that patients have better odds of keeping up the exercise.
After our class, that evening we see the masters of the dance in action at the best Tango show in Buenos Aires. It's truly sensational, and something that I wish everyone could see in their lifetime.