Worldwide Wild

Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, India, Japan, Laos

King of the coral: An Indonesian lion fish     Photo: Corel

Kyrgyzstan
Trekking with Mountain Nomads
[2004 Winner]
If the fact that rural Kyrgyzstan contains more horses than cars isn't evidence enough that you're in equine country, a day of watching acrobatics at the national horse games near Cholpon-Ata should erase all doubt. During the 16 days leading up to the festival, you'll trek and ride along the edelweiss- and iris-covered alpine meadows of the 24,000-foot Tian Shan mountains, passing nomadic herders grazing livestock and joining them for tea on hand-pressed felt carpets in their yurts. Next up: trekking for three days in the Moldo Too Range, where centuries-old trails climb passes at elevations exceeding 12,000 feet. Nights are spent camping in tents beside lakes and pastures, in guest houses, or at home stays in villages where the traditional art of storytelling is kept alive with oral folklore competitions that stretch into the early-morning hours.
High Point: Soaking in the hot springs at the Altyn-Arashan caravansary after trekking for four hours from an 11,000-foot mountain pass.
Low Point: Choking down Kyrgyz moonshine, made from fermented mare's milk—think rice wine infused with buttermilk.
Travel Advisory: Watch for pickpockets in the city of Bishkek, an unfortunate exception in an otherwise hospitable country.
Outfitter: KarmaQuest (650-560-0101, www.karmaquests.com)
When to Go: July
Price: From $2,950
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Indonesia
Diving the Raja Ampat Islands
During your weeklong stay in a camp on a remote western Papuan island, expect four daily dives in waters that Nature Conservancy scientists recently deemed "the world's bull's-eye for coral biodiversity." Notable resident critters include one-foot epaulette sharks, giant clams, and one-inch pygmy sea horses.
Outfitter: Symbiosis Travel (011-44-845-123-2844, www.symbiosis-travel.com)
When to Go: March to December
Price: $1,055
Difficulty: Moderate

India
Photographing Arunachal Pradesh
(New Trip)
In the tribal villages of northeast India's Arunachal Pradesh, colorful folk festivals and rare orchids will fill frame after frame. For decades, this thickly forested region, bordered by Bhutan and Myanmar, has restricted access by outsiders. For three weeks you'll travel from village to village with photographer Efrain Padr— and a local guide, staying at camps and lodges, and snapping each moment as it unfolds.
Outfitter: Leslie Scott Photography (888-381-0854, www.lesliescottphotography.com)
When to Go: March and October
Price: $3,295
Difficulty: Easy

Japan
Cycling Hidden Honshu
From Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to samurai castles and feudal gardens, pedal 20 to 45 van-supported miles a day along the west coast of Japan's main island. Starting in Kyoto, you'll spend six days riding through valleys of rice paddies to the quiet bays and fishing villages of the Noto Peninsula, bedding down at traditional Japanese inns.
Outfitter: Backroads (800-462-2848, www.backroads.com)
When to Go: April, May, September, October
Price: $3,998
Difficulty: Moderate

Laos
Exploratory River Trip
(New Trip)
On this 17-day expedition, kayak the lazy Hinboun River as it meanders through a Laotian highlands jungle dotted with deserted Buddhist temples, camping in tents or sleeping in hammocks (under mosquito netting) in village longhouses. Then head south to raft a livelier Class II stretch of the Mekong, where freshwater dolphins will lead the way.
Outfitter: Explorers' Corner (510-559-8099, www.explorerscorner.com)
When to Go: November
Price: $4,265
Difficulty: Strenuous

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