Fresh Tracks

The buzz on the adventure circuit

Eco-Cop on the Beat

Stacy Bodow, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has an enviable—and righteous—gig. Bodow visits eco-lodges around the world for Manaca Inc., a Washington, D.C. based travel retailer, to determine whether or not they are, in fact, 'eco'.

"'Ecotourism' has become a way overused and abused term," says Bodow, 30. "For some, 'Eco-lodge' simply means they are located near something ecological." (Put in a birdbath, install a topiary, et voilà, you're an eco-lodge!) Manaca aims to help protect fragile environmental locales by attracting foreign tourists (and their cash) to resorts in these areas—but only if the resorts meet the agency's rigorous criteria for conservation, sustainability, and community activism.

On location (in Costa Rica, Peru, and Belize, to date), Inspector Bodow uses a detailed chart called the Manaca Eco-Lodge Matrix to evaluate each resort: What materials were used in construction? How do they dispose of waste? Are they involved in local projects that benefit the community? Unlike an incognito restaurant critic, Bodow shares her findings right then and there with the innkeeper.

Bodow is reluctant to name a favorite eco-lodge, but she does gush about Selva Bananito, a mom-and-pop operation in 2,000 acres of rainforest near Limón, Costa Rica. For more on Selva Bananito, check out Manaca's Web site, which officially launches this month, or call the lodge directly at 011-506-253-8118.
Elephants, Giraffes, and Charging Rhinoplasty

We thought we'd heard it all, but talk about life-changing trips: The Surgeon and Safari package ($8,000-$15,000), from London-based Orient-Express Hotels, includes plastic surgery (with choices from lip enhancement to liposuction) at a Johannesburg clinic; a week or so of recovery at a nearby luxury hotel, with daily massages and a chauffeur on call; and—a little adventure to go with that vanity—a four-day wildlife safari in Botswana's Okavango Delta, Moremi Wildlife Reserve, or Chobe National Park. The air-conditioned tents come with full-length mirrors. Watch out: Those bloodthirsty lions may have their own plans for reducing your body fat.
California's Kern River

Kick off the U.S. paddling season with unbeatable early-season deals and some of the best whitewater around.

Why Now? South-central California's Wild and Scenic Kern River, flowing 150 miles through redwood forests, boulder fields, and granite canyons from Sequoia National Park to Bakersfield, is among the first U.S. rivers to run each spring. Kayakers and rafters kick off the paddling season in April, when the Upper Kern is high with snow melt from Mount Whitney—flowing at up to 6,000 cubic feet per second—and area outfitters offer the only discounts of the year.

Playgrounds: Forks of the Kern, 17 miles, Class IV-V+; Upper Kern, 21 miles, Class III-V; Lower Kern, 22 miles, Class III-IV. Permits (required) are free; contact the U.S. Forest Service, 760-376-3781.

Shelter: The Kern River Inn Bed and Breakfast in Kernville (800-986-4382) has double rooms for $109 a night; stay two nights for the price of one with a Stash Tea discount lodging coupon (details at Tent sites at the Rivernook Campground (760-376-2705), on the river just north of Kernville, are $17 a night.

Coordinates: Kernville, a small town on Lake Isabella, is three hours by car from Los Angeles and about one hour from Bakersfield.

Forecast: Highs in the seventies and lows in the forties, with water temperatures in the fifties.

Beta: The waters of the Kern are notoriously dangerous. Knowing up-to-date river conditions is essential, and all Class IV-V rapids should be scouted from shore. For equipment, instruction, guides, and news about the latest hazards, contact Kernville-based Sierra South Paddle Sports (800- 457-2082;

Real Deals: Ask for the early-bird discount at Whitewater Voyages (800-488-7238; www and save 10 percent on all outfitted raft trips in April (regularly $20 for a one-hour romp, $112-$145 for a full-day excursion). Sierra South offers two- and three-day kayaking classes for $255 to $355—a 10 percent discount—in April and May.

Read Up: The Best Whitewater in California (Watershed Books, $20).

Don't Miss: The Kern River Festival and whitewater rodeo, April 20-22 (800-457-2082). —Eric Hansen

Filed To: Nature / Costa Rica
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