Egypt, The Great Sand Sea

EGYPT
The Great Sand Sea and Northern Lakes

A Unique Adventure

In my ongoing quest to find exciting travel experiences, I am joining with Mercury Himalayan Explorations to creat a Unique Explorations division for them.

This is the first of our many offerings which I hope you will feel compelled to sample.

After careful research, ensuring the experts are in place and much happy planning, we are pleased to share our first international off-road adventure into the romance of the Egyptian Sahara. We have decided that the perfect way to bring in this new venture would be over the New Year, so join us to discover the panoramas and mysteries of this ancient land on a self drive expedition through it’s heartland.

The best off road team in Egypt will guide us through the desolation of the Great Sand Sea. Our trip will start with a brief tour of Cairo and the Pyramids, maybe the Museum or a cruise on the Nile if time allows. We visit the ancient library at Alexandria, the most significant library of the ancient world, it was destroyed by Ceasar in 48 BC and has been restored to great magnificence in 2002. Carry on to visit the World War II Memorial at El Alamein; the Oasis of Siwa, one of Egypt’s most isolated settlements, home to a tribe of Berbers, and the ancient oracle of Amon that led Alexander to Greatness.

We will have specially modified 4×4 vehicles, which we will drive under the guidance of experts.

The outdoor cooks will stir up lavish Mediterranean cuisines. This trip will run as an explotatory one and there may be some changes to add variety or excitement along the way.

ROUTE: Cairo – Alexandria – El Alamein – Marsa Matrouh – Siwa – Shiata Lake – Sitra – Nawamesa – Oasis of Baharia – Valley of Whales – Wadi al Rayan – Lake Qaroun – Cairo

Sketch Itinerary

Day 1: 26th Dec: Arrive at Cairo – Pyramid visit – Egyptian Museum We will be met at the Cairo airport and escorted to the hotel. Wash and head into town for a lovely local lunch in a traditional garden restaurant. We will have time to visit the Pyramids of Giza and gaze at the enigmatic Sphinx. Before returning for dinner and a good nights sleep at the hotel.

Day 2: 27th Dec: Cairo to Marsa Matrouh via Alexandria and Al Alamein, (525 Kms) After an early breakfast we will board our coach and drive North 220 Kms to Alexandria. Founded in 331 BC, Alexandria is today the second largest city of Egypt. In Alexandria we will take a brief walk along the sea front, visit the library which houses the largest collection of books in the world and have a great Mediterranean sea-food lunch in a local restaurant. From Alexandria drive another 100 Kms to the World War II battle ground of El Alamein. It was here that the Allies scored two crucial victories over the Axis forces. The cemeteries here are have thousands of graves of soldiers from both forces that died defending their lines. It is said that the outcome of World War II was decided in El Alamein. The museum brings alive every Commando comic you ever read. Drive on to the coastal town of Marsa Matrouh. The desert meets the deep blue Mediterranean and makes an amazing sight. Marsa Matrouh provides an ideal break from the long journey West. Hopefully we will have some time to enjoy the beach either in the evening or early morning before we continue our journey. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 3: 28th Dec: Marsa Matrouh to Siwa Oasis (300 Kms) We now head south to the remote settlement of Siwa. Located between the Qattara Depression and the Egyptian Sand Sea, Siwa is one of the western most settlements in Egypt. It is the home of the Oracle of Amon that Alexander came a great distance to consult. There are also cenotaphs of ancient pharaohs and an oasis that time has bypassed. We visit Cleopatra’s bath, maybe do some cycling and definitely take a donkey cab. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 4: 29th Dec: The Shiata lake drive Now we start driving!! We get our specially modified 4×4 SUVs. After a short briefing and do’s and don’t’s, we will take a 120 Kms round trip through the Siwa dunes to the Shiata salt lake. An outdoor lunch by the lake and a chance to sit floating in the dense waters of the oasis. We can Return to Siwa followed by dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Days 5 & 6: 30th & 31st Dec: Drive to the Great Sand Sea and camp overnight in the dessert. After an early breakfast we will load up our cars and leave on our self contained drive South East into the northern part of the Great Sand Sea, an unbroken mass of dunes that roll over the barren frontiers of Libya and Egypt. Parallel dune ridges run north-south for hundreds of miles! Until the 1930s, this hyper-arid region had barely been explored, but during WWII, clandestine German and British desert patrols, including Count Almasy, aka The English Patient, probed this remote area, spying on each other’s movements. Today, the area remains largely unvisited and remote. During these 2 days in the Great Sand Sea we will visit the lakes and settlements of Sitra, Nawamesa and Bahrian till we arrive to the Baharia Oasis. The Baharia Oasis provides an ideal backdrop to bring in the New Year. All meals are prepared by our outdoor caterers and we camp overnight for these mid desert days and nights.

Day 7: 1st Jan: Drive to Wadi Al Hitan (Valley of Whales) Breakfast at camp, drive from El Bahria Oasis east, on asphalt for about 250km and then go off-road heading south into a completely different type of landscape. We will head to Wadi Al Hitan, the Valley of the Whales. The site reveals evidence for the explanation of one of the greatest mysteries of the evolution of whales: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. No other place in the world yields the number, concentration and quality of such fossils, nor their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will set up camp for the night in the valley.

Day 8: 2nd Jan: Drive to Wadi El-Rayan Our last day of desert driving takes us to Wadi El Rayan – stretching about 65 km southwest of Fayoum city and 80 km west of the Nile River. The Wadi offers great sand dunes, sulphur springs and some of the largest waterfalls in Egypt. After visiting Wadi El-Rayan we drive up north from a point at the western tip of Lake Qaroun to meet with the asphalt road back to Cairo. Check into your hotel. We will meet for a farewell dinner.

Day 9: 3rd Jan: Pick up from hotel to airport for departure. The morning is free to go around the city. Lunch is on your own. Great options are a visit to the Cairo museum that houses more than 120,000 antiquities including the famous burial treasures recovered from King Tutankhamun’s tomb and or a cruise on the Nile. In the evening we will all transfer to the airport to board our flights back home.

 

SUGGESTED FLIGHT:

Emirates

DATES DELHI DUBAI CAIRO  
    Arr Dep Arr  
26 Dec 2012 0415 hrs 0630 hrs 0840 hrs 1055 hrs EK 513/ 927
           
  CAIRO DUBAI   DELHI  
    Arr Dep    
03 Jan 2013 1900 hrs 0030 hrs 0440 hrs 0915 hrs EK 924/ 510

COSTS:

Rs.1,66,000.00 per person
Two to a car supplement cost: Rs. 15,000 per person (extra)
Single room supplement: Rs. 10,500 per person (extra)

Final payments may vary marginally because they will depend on the rate of exchange when we make the final transfers.

Package cost Includes: • 4 in Car Self-Drive cars. Option for 2 in a car also available. • Transfer from airport to hotel and back by air-conditioned buses. • Sightseeing Giza Pyramids & Sphinx, Cairo Museum, Old Cairo with Guides and in Air-Conditioned Busses. • 2 Nights in a 3-stars Hotels in Cairo, 01 nights in 3 star hotel in Marsa Matrouh, 02 Nights in Siwa Hotel. (all occupancy on twin sharing basis) • All desert safari permits. • Three supporting cars, one pilot car, and 2 cars with technicians, cook, Medic First Aid specialist and supplies of Diesel Fuel, Water, Food and drinks. • Full Board package and beverages for 4 days in the desert. • Guiding and guiding Equipment “GPS, UHF radios and Satellite Phones”• Single Tent and one mattress per person. • Currently applicable Govt Service tax

Package cost Excludes: • All tickets for the tourist areas and museums. • Tickets for entry of king Cheops pyramids and the Sun Boat and for Cameras inside museums. • Sleeping Bags. • Any Damage to the cars due to misuse will be covered by the guest. • Visa issuance fees. • Flights Tickets

Payment Terms:

To book an immediate payment of:Rs.41,500 per person

By 10th November: Rs. 83,000 per person

By 30th November: Rs. 41,500 per person

By 10th December: Balance payment for all extra service costs.

Cancellation Policy:

If cancelled till 15th November: 20% cancellation fee on total cost

If cancelled between 16th November- 05th December: 60% cancellation fee on total cost

If cancelled between 06th December – 15th December: 75% cancellation fee on total cost

If cancelled after 15th December: 100% cancelation fee on total cost

Comprehensive Damage Waiver: As a driver you are liable to pay any damages to the vehicle up to a maximum of Rs. 55,000. This amount is per car and can be shared with all 4 or 2 people in the car. This damage will include any body damage, under body damage, and damage to suspensions and axles caused by negligent driving. Guests will be required to settle this on the spot before departure from Egypt.

Gear list: • Light cotton clothes • One warm jacket for the mornings and nights. • One warm woollen cap. • Sleeping bag. • Sun block lotion • Sun Hat • Sport shoes for walking and river sandals • Dark glasses • Camera • Personal toiletries, soap, towel and medication

CONTACT: pavane@mhe.co.in /akash@mhe.co.in

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Costa Rica Itinerary

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
International or Domestic Flights
Meals and drinks other than those mentioned
Tips or personal expenses
Travel insurance
Any items not mentioned

Day One
Arrive San José. You will be picked up the airport and taken to your hotel in the nation’s capital. Tonight the group meets up for a welcome toast by your trip leader and then you have the option to go out on the town for dinner. We’ll stay overnight at the four-star Hotel Indigo(cost of dinner, not included).

Day Two
After an early morning departure from San José, we will travel east, driving through Braulio Carrillo National Park and enjoy breakfast at the Río Danta. We travel through banana plantations towards the Atlantic lowlands until we reach our starting point in the Tortuguero National Park Station on the Tortuguero River. Tortuguero is a lush tropical paradise with a series of navigable waterways for exploration. There are no roads in the park making it a true wilderness experience. This tropical sanctuary is home to over 300 species of birds and many animals. While most visitors to the park travel by motorized launch, we will explore the waterways by sea kayak – a much more active and fun way to quietly experience the flora and fauna. We will pull over for a delicious lunch and then continue meandering through the lush forest till late afternoon.

Upon our arrival at Mawamba Lodge, we will be welcomed with a cocktail and dinner soon thereafter. We stay overnight at Mawamba Lodge for two nights, enjoying its pristine location on a Caribbean beach. It also is complete with swimming pool, restaurant and bar, hammocks, Jacuzzi and breath taking views! (B + L + D)

Day Three
We’ll paddle through the Tortuguero sanctuary area by sea kayak. After a great breakfast we will be shuttled by boat about 25 miles towards the Colorado River, passing through the Penitencia Canal until we arrive at Samay Laguna. Here we will board our kayaks for a three to four hour exploration of this area. The “magical” entrance to Laguna Nueve and a visit to the pristine beach will be one of today’s highlights. Wonderful clean water and total solitude will be part of the experience. Return for Lunch to the lodge. Option of a walk into Tortuguera town. Then a late afternoon return back to Mawamba Lodge. (B + L + D)

Day Four
We transfer out from Mawamba and get ready for an action packed day! We start with a morning paddle or boat ride. We say goodbye to this beautiful part of Costa Rica and drive to the Rio Pacuare stopping for lunch along the way. We arrive in the early afternoon to the put in for the Rio Pacuare. The Pacuare is one of Costa Rica’s more famous and glorious rivers. It is known through out the world for its fun whitewater and amazing jungle scenery! We will paddle a couple hours through some very fun class 3 rapids to the spectacular Rios Tropicales Jungle Lodge. This is a true paradise, complete with zip lines over the river, jungle walks, rainforest canopy tours, waterfalls and time to just relax in this amazing river canyon. Overnight at the Jungle Lodge. (B + L + D)

Day Five
A full day in Paradise Enjoy a full day at Rios Tropicales Lodge! Take an optional early morning bird-watching hike with your guides to see toucans and many other species. Upon return, breakfast will be served and then after a little rest, a full day of adventures; like enjoying a 4-platform canopy tour thru the forest of our Private Reserve or visiting the lodge conservation project “Plant for the Planet” where you will plant a native tree and receive a certificate that indicates that you participated in the program which is part of the United Nations Environmental Program “Billion Tree Campaign” or hike to “wake up” waterfall and a experience the new canyoing tour.

Day Six
This morning we continue our tryst with the Pacuare river, entering the lush, magical gorge of the Pacuare. The rapids become more powerful and technical in nature, and we’ll power through “Bobo,” “Huacas Arriba,” “Huacas Abajo,” “Cimarrones,” and “Dos Montañas” rapids. Gorgeous waterfalls tumble into the river, and we might even be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of some of the exotic birds and animals inhabiting the jungle area. We take out near the town of Siquirres and drive 2½ hours to the beautiful Arenal volcano area. Late in the afternoon, Ecotermales hot springs awaits—relax and enjoy the hot, mineral pools with temperatures that go from 90-150°F. Dinner will be served at the hot springs restaurant. We stay at the Mountain Paradise hotel

Day Seven
Arenal and the Peñas Blancas River Morning hike near Arenal Volcano, with the rest of the morning and early afternoon free to relax. Late afternoon Twilight River Safari to experience the transition of the jungle from dusk to darkness, followed by a traditional Costa Rican dinner at the home of a local family.

Day Eight
Arenal Morning kayak paddle on the lake’s calm waters, with the beautiful volcano as a backdrop. Afternoon drive back to San José. Farewell dinner in the evening.

Day Nine
Depart for Cancun or home.
Hotels
Mountain Paradise Lodge, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park

The Mountain Paradise Lodge sits at the base of Volcan Arenal, and features spectacular views. If you’re lucky, you may even get a glimpse of lava in the evening! This hotel’s lovely setting, pool, and jacuzzi allow guests to truly enjoy the relaxed pace of the Arenal region.
Mawamba Lodge, Tortuguero

Nestled in the lush rainforest, this is the ideal hideaway for nature lovers and the perfect place to discover the wonders of the Tortuguero National Park. The lodge features lush gardens and rustic accommodations, along with regular visits from brightly colored exotic birds.
Rios Tropicales Lodge

Let the sound of the Pacuare River lull you to sleep at this sustainable eco-lodge. This evening’s lodge offers a haven for relaxation and immersion in tropical sights and sounds. The lodge features open air gathering pavilions with thatched roofs and comfortable hammocks swinging in a gentle breeze. Guests enjoy ample viewing decks for watching the toucans fly overhead and the roaring river below.