To pick the year’s top travel company, we did on-the-ground reporting, conducted hours of interviews, and pored over surveys submitted by hundreds of outfitters. Competition was fierce, as this response from a New Zealand company indicates: “Our guides are a cross between Bear Grylls, David Attenborough, and a Four Seasons concierge.”
Natural Habitat Adventures rose above the rest. For the past 28 years, the Boulder, Colorado, company’s goal has been to immerse clients in wilderness and employ naturalists to show them the world’s most charismatic megafauna in 40 countries, from polar bears in Manitoba to tigers in India. Much of the world’s wildlife is going the way of the brontosaurus, and NHA is making valiant efforts to do something about it: it’s the official travel partner of the World Wildlife Fund, and since 2003 it has donated more than $1.4 million to the non-profit. In 2006, NHA started paying to offset its trips’ carbon emissions.
For 2013, to beef up its expedition offerings, NHA recruited Olaf Malver, founder of the adventure company Explorers’ Corner, to create Natural Habitat Expeditions, which will offer even more ambitious itineraries. The best trip this year: a 28-day South Pole expedition. Guests sail from Ushuaia to Antarctica in a 55-foot expedition boat, then camp among penguins and seals. Sign up now for the December departure. From $16,900.