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Special Events

Imagine discussing wildlife conservation issues with world-renowned researchers in Africa’s game reserves, joining the world’s leading archaeologists for special access to the world of the Maya, traveling with award-winning writers in Alaska, or watching an eclipse in a remote corner of the planet with top astronomers—these are some of the unique experiences offered by our Special Events program. These symposiums and specially themed journeys, each featuring a team of eminent guest experts, are our unique way of bringing you an insider’s view, and you can only find it with Wilderness Travel. Our list of past luminaries is long and has included Jane Goodall, Sir Edmund Hillary, Mary Leakey, wildlife biologist George Schaller, author Barry Lopez, astronomer Alex Filippenko, mountaineers Reinhold Messner and Conrad Anker, and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. Read about our upcoming Special Events below, and scroll down for a look at some of our past programs!

Climbing and Conservation in Patagonia

November 26-29, 2018

A Symposium and Tour Program with Guest Speakers Kris Tompkins, Rick Ridgeway, Conrad Anker, and Alex Honnold

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Patagonia! This realm of sculpted rock towers at the “uttermost ends of the earth” has drawn the greatest climbers in the world, who have pioneered breathtaking routes and daring traverses of its sheer walls and needle-like peaks. In 1968, the legendary “Fun Hogs” (Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins, Lito Tejada Flores, and Dick Dorworth) made their epic six-month journey to Patagonia by van in search of its holy grail—Mount Fitz Roy, an 11,000-foot rock tower in Argentina, where they made the first ascent of the now-classic California Route. That trip set the course for two of the men—Tompkins and Chouinard—as they would become Patagonia’s fiercest defenders, dedicating their lives to conservation and the environment.

Patagonia is stunningly beautiful, but it is also fragile. Our thrilling Special Event, Climbing & Conservation in Patagonia, held in the splendor of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, will bring together world-renowned climbers who have accomplished extraordinary feats here and the environmental visionaries who are preserving this incredible land. With presentations, films, hiking excursions, and time among captivating people who dream beyond what is believed to be possible, this Special Event, in its breathtaking setting, will be inspirational.

Our celebration of Patagonia benefits the pioneering work of Tompkins Conservation and is limited to just 75 guests, promising extraordinary access to these Guest Speakers, and is followed by five magnificent hiking and natural history journeys that bring you deeper into the wonders of Argentina and Chile.

The Guest Speakers

Tompkins Kris
Kris Tompkins is a passionate conservationist and the former CEO of Patagonia, Inc. Kris and her husband, the late Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face, left the corporate world to fulfill their vision for conservation that has become one of the most extraordinary models in the world. Finding critical ecosystems in South America, they have purchased and are restoring these lands, then donating them back to the governments of Chile and Argentina as national parks.
Anker conrad
Conrad Anker, a renowned expeditionary mountaineer, has scaled the three towers of Patagonia’s famed Cerro Torre group, ascending new routes on both Torre Egger and Cerro Standhardt. In the high Himalaya, Conrad has summited Everest three times, located the body of George Leigh Mallory on Everest’s North Face, and summited the Shark’s Fin, as documented in the acclaimed film Meru.
Alex Honnold
Alex Honnold is renowned for his free-solo ascents of the most challenging rock routes in the world, including his astonishing record-setting free solo of Yosemite’s El Capitan in under four hours. With Tommy Caldwell, Alex made the first successful traverse of Patagonia’s Fitz Roy Massif, and with Colin Haley, set a speed record for the north-to-south traverse of the sheer granite spires of Patagonia’s Cerro Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger, and Cerro Torre.
Ridgeway Rick
Rick Ridgeway is one of the world’s most renowned mountaineers, having climbed new routes and explored little-known regions on six continents. He is a deeply committed environmentalist, author, and filmmaker, and was honored by National Geographic with the “Lifetime Achievement in Adventure” award. As Vice President of Environmental Affairs at Patagonia, Inc., Rick coordinates the company’s innovative sustainability initiatives. He is the author of six books on climbing and adventure.

World of the Maya: New Discoveries in the New Millennium

December 28, 2017-January 8, 2018

Exploring Recent Discoveries that have Changed our Understanding of Maya Culture

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The new millennium has brought many exciting discoveries to light in northern Guatemala that have significantly altered our understanding of the Maya. The size and sophistication of El Mirador, at its height during 300-150 BC, make it one of the largest and earliest of the Maya cities; mural paintings at San Bartolo, carbon dated to 100 BC, make them the oldest known Mayan paintings; and La Corona is now proven to be the long-sought “Site Q,” solving one of the great mysteries of Mayan archaeology. Our symposium is a wonderful opportunity to discuss these finds in the company of distinguished experts who will greatly enhance our understanding of this remarkable civilization, whose secrets are still being revealed.

The Guest Speakers

Dr. Richard D. Hansen, an archaeologist specializing in the early Maya, is Director of the Mirador Basin Project and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah. He has written extensively on his work and been featured in many documentaries on the Maya.

Dr. Marcello Canuto is Director of Tulane University’s Middle American Research Institute and an Associate Professor of Anthropology. He is co-director of the La Corona Regional Archaeological Project, a multi-disciplinary study of the heart of lowland Maya civilization. He has received a series of grants from the National Geographic Society to continue his research at La Corona.

Dr. Simon Martin, a British epigrapher, is known for his epigraphic study of Maya dynastic and political history, recounted in his important book, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering The Dynasties of the Ancient Maya. He is a senior research specialist in Maya epigraphy at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, working with the Calakmul Epigraphic Research Project.

Dr. Francisco Estrada-Belli directs a multi-disciplinary archaeological project at Holmul, Guatemala, and teaches archaeology and geographic information systems at Tulane University. A National Geographic Explorer, he is the author of  The First Maya Civilization: Ritual and Power Before the Classic Period, on the origins of Maya civilization.

Dr. Tomás Barrientos has conducted archaeological research throughout Guatemala for the last 25 years. He is the Chair of the Department of Archaeology at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala and co-director of the La Corona Regional Project. He has also worked at the Maya site of Cancuen, and completed his PhD at Vanderbilt University.

Wildlife and Community in Namibia

April 2019

A Symposium and Safari Program

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The spectacular desert country of Namibia is an arid Eden—and an inspiring model of wildlife conservation. Over 40% of this young nation’s land is protected, much of it in partnership with local communities. Our symposium brings together Garth Owen-Smith, who created this innovative strategy, and leading conservationists whose dedicated work with leopard, cheetah, giraffe, desert-adapted rhino, and the world’s only population of desert lion give hope for the survival of some of Africa’s most iconic species. Our symposium takes place in Okonjima, home of the revered Africat Foundation, and in Etosha National Park, with its phenomenal wildlife. We’ll have daily site excursions for gamewatching and to learn about conservation projects, as well as fascinating talks by our experts as we explore the creative integration of wildlife and community in Namibia. A unique program of safaris will be offered both pre- and post-symposium.

Symposium Safaris

  • Namibia Expedition
  • In the Realm of the Desert Lion
  • Giraffe Conservation Safari
  • Botswana Wildlife Safari
  • Southern Africa Wildlife Safari
  • Botswana San Tribes Safari
  • Wild Zimbabwe
  • Zambia: Walking and Wildlife Safari

Total Solar Eclipse of 2019: The Isles of Polynesia

June 26-July 10, 2019

Eclipse and Cruise Program aboard the Paul Gauguin
featuring Dr. Alex Filippenko, Dr. Rick Fienberg, and Mark Eddowes

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A total solar eclipse is one of nature’s most dramatic phenomena, when the sun, moon, and earth are perfectly aligned and darkness falls over the earth during daylight hours. We invite you to experience this awesome event aboard the luxurious Paul Gauguin on the turquoise seas of the South Pacific. Our ship gives us the maximum flexibility to maneuver to the ideal viewing position on Eclipse Day and offers every comfort as we journey among Polynesia’s magnificent isles and coral lagoons. Astronomer Alex Filippenko, PhD, one of UC Berkeley’s most popular professors, Rick Fienberg, PhD, the American Astronomical Society's Press Officer and Director of Communications, and Polynesian cultural anthropologist Mark Eddowes will accompany us to share their expert knowledge. This will be Dr. Filippenko's 12th eclipse program with us!

Featured Guest Experts

Alex Filippenko, PhD, professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, is a leading authority on supernovae, black holes, galaxies, and cosmology, and is actively working with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck telescopes. His team’s discovery of “antigravity” was named “Top Science Breakthrough of 1998” by Science magazine. He has coauthored nearly 560 publications and an award-winning textbook, and has produced video courses with The Teaching Company. Dr. Filippenko has been voted “Best Professor” by the UC Berkeley student body an extraordinary nine times.

Rick Fienberg, PhD, is the American Astronomical Society’s Press Officer and Director of Communications. He previously spent 22 years at Sky & Telescope magazine, the last eight as Editor in Chief. He’s a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Astronomical Union has named asteroid 9983 Rickfienberg in his honor. Rick has done research on the aurora borealis, asteroids, planetary nebulas, active galaxies, and the center of the Milky Way. An inveterate traveler and eclipse-chaser, he has visited all seven continents and the North and South Poles. Eclipse 2019 will be his 14th voyage to totality.

Mark Eddowes is an acknowledged authority and researcher in the field of Polynesian anthropology, and in 2006 was honored with the title of National Geographic Expert in the archaeology of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. He came to Tahiti in 1988 as a graduate student in anthropology, and spent the following years studying the prehistory of Polynesia, and prospecting, mapping, and excavating sites in the archipelago. Mark also began the first systematic studies of marae, or Polynesian temple architecture, which he has carried on to this day, currently working with UNESCO on the marae of the Cook Islands.

Past Special Events

Alaskan Dreams • July 2017

Location: Alaska’s Inside Passage, from Sitka to Juneau

Featuring: Barry Lopez and Richard Nelson

Legendary Explorers • November 2016

Location: The Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica

Featuring: Conrad Anker, Tim Jarvis, Carl Safina, and Frans Lanting

Alaskan Passage • May 2015

Location: Alaska’s Inside Passage, from Ketchikan to Juneau

Featuring: Barry Lopez and Richard Nelson

The Arc of the Sacred • January 2015

Location: Angkor, Cambodia, with Tours in Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, India & Nepal

Featuring: Helen Ibbitson Jessup, Vasudha Narayanan, Todd Lewis, Damian Evans, and John Sanday

Perspectives on East Africa • June 2014

Location: Laikipia, Kenya, with Safaris in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania

Featuring: Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Louise Leakey, Richard Estes, Laurence Frank, and Frans Lanting

World of the Maya: Cycles of Time • December 2012

Location: Uxmal, Mexico, with Tours in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras

Featuring: Anthony Aveni, Susan Milbrath, Harvey Bricker, Victoria Bricker, Karl Taube, Alfonso Morales

Ancient Kingdoms of Peru • July 2011

Location: Northern Peru, with Treks and Tours Throughout Peru

Featuring: Richard Burger, Michael Moseley, Walter Alva, Joanne Pillsbury, Luis Jaime Castillo

Wonders of Ancient Egypt • January 2011

Location: Cairo, Abu Simbel, Aswan, Nile Cruise, Luxor, and Alexandria, Egypt

Featuring: Zahi Hawass, Mark Lehner, Kent Weeks, Jean-Yves Empereur, Raymond Johnson

World of the Maya: New Discoveries at Ancient Copán • December 2009

Location: Copán, Honduras, with Tours in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize

Featuring: Robert Sharer, Ricardo Agurcia, Marc Zender, Ellen Bell, Francisco Estrada-Belli, Loa Traxler

Perspectives on Southern Africa • August 2007

Location: Chobe National Park, Botswana, with Safaris in Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia

Featuring: Mark Vandewalle, Anthony Hall-Martin, Laurie Marker, John McNutt, Dereck & Beverly Joubert, Mike Main

The Alps: Perspectives on a Climber’s World • June 2007

Location: Bolzano, Italy, with Hiking Tours in Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia

Featuring: Reinhold Messner, David Breashears, John Cleare, Peter Hansen, Angelika Fleckinger, Eduard Egarter-Vigl

Arctic Odyssey • September 2006

Location: Svalbard, Greenland, and Iceland

Featuring: Will Steger and Frans Lanting

Antarctica: In the Wake of the Great Explorers • February 2006

Location: The Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica

Featuring: Reinhold Messner, Conrad Anker, Caroline Alexander, Frans Lanting, Jerry Kooyman

A Greek Odyssey • May 2005

Location: Athens, Delos, Syros, Amorgos, Santorini, Crete, and the Southern Peloponnese, Greece

Featuring: Andrew Szegedy-Maszak and Albert Leonard, Jr.

World of the Maya: Palenque • December 2004

Location: Palenque, Mexico, with Tours in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras

Featuring: Merle Green Robertson, Bill Fash, Anthony Aveni, Marc Zender, Alfonso Morales, Julie Miller

Wonders of Ancient Egypt • January 2004

Location: Cairo, Abu Simbel, Aswan, Nile Cruise, and Luxor, Egypt

Featuring: Zahi Hawass, Mark Lehner, Kent Weeks, Lanny Bell

Dubrovnik to Venice • September 2003

Location: Croatia, Montenegro, and Italy

Featuring: Larry Wolff and Ida Sinkevič

Whales and Wildlife of the Sea of Cortez • March 2003

Location: The Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Featuring: Reinhold Messner and Joe Kane

Circling the Bering Sea • July 2002

Location: Alaska, Kamchatka & Chukchi Peninsula, Russia

Featuring: Galen Rowell, Frans Lanting, Orcutt Frost, Aldona Jonaitis, Mark Brazil, Angela Kepler, Tony Huntley, and Bob Rubin

Perspectives on the Himalayas • April 2002

Location: Kathmandu, Nepal, with Treks and Tours in Nepal, Bhutan, and India

Featuring: Sir Edmund Hillary, George Schaller, Conrad Anker, Galen Rowell, John Sanday, Chokyi Nima Rimpoche, Thomas Schrom, and Lee Birch

An Antarctic Odyssey • February 2002

Location: The Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica

Featuring: Will Steger, Barry Lopez, and Galen Rowell

Crossroads of History in the Mediterranean • September 2001

Location: Spain, Tunisia, Sicily, and Greece

Featuring: Kathryn Miller and Carolina Lo Nero

World of the Maya: The Millennium at Tikal • December 1999

Location: Tikal, Guatemala, with Tours in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and Honduras

Featuring: Clemency Coggins, Federico Fahsen, Christopher Jones, Robert Sharer, and “Chip” Morris

Perspectives on East Africa • March 1999

Location: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, with Safaris in Tanzania and Kenya

Featuring: Jane Goodall, Cynthia Moss, David Bygott, Richard Estes, Esmond Bradley Martin, Sarah Cleaveland, and Sarah Durant

Empires of the Sun: Tiwanaku to Cusco • July 1998

Location: Bolivia and Peru, with Tours and Treks Throughout Peru

Featuring: Michael Moseley, John Hemming, Charles Stannish, Johan Reinhard, Joseph Bastien, Brian Bauer, Andrea Heckman, and John Janusek

World of the Maya: Copan • December 1997

Location: Copán, Honduras, with Tours in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize

Featuring: Pat Culbert, Bill Fash, Anthony Aveni, David Stuart, Ricardo Agurcia, and Barbara Fash

Perspectives on East Africa • August 1996

Location: Nairobi, Kenya, with Safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda

Featuring: Jane Goodall, Mary Leakey, Jeannette Hanby, Frans Lanting, Joyce Poole, and Daphne Sheldrick

The Incas • July 1996

Location: Cusco, Peru, with Treks and Tours in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile

Featuring: Brian Bauer, Jorge Flores Ochoa, Gordon McEwan, Susan Niles, Jean-Pierre Protzen, Johan Reinhard, and Gene Savoy

Photography with the Masters • May 1996

Location: Otavalo, Ecuador, with Photo Tours in the Galápagos Islands

Featuring: Galen Rowell, Frans Lanting, and Robert Holmes

Archaeology of Peru • July 1995

Location: Chiclayo, Peru, with Treks and Tours Throughout Peru and in Ecuador

Featuring: Thor Heyerdahl, Richard Burger, Gary Urton, Johan Reinhard, Vincent Lee, Walter Alva, Garth Bawden, Alan Kolata, Federico Kauffmann-Doig, David Dearborn, and Amy Rodman

Eclipse Programs

To witness a total solar eclipse is an unforgettable experience—and our unique eclipse travel programs are once-in-a-lifetime travel adventures! We have organized programs for 12 total solar eclipses in 21 different locations around the world—all successfully viewed!—and have a reputation as one of the very best eclipse travel companies in the business. Renowned astronomer Alex Filippenko, PhD, one of UC Berkeley’s most popular professors, brings his expertise and enthusiasm to most of our eclipse trips.

Total Solar Eclipse of 2016: Darwin to Kota Kinabalu • March 2016

Featuring: Rick Fienberg

Total Solar Eclipse of 2016: From Bali to Borneo • March 2016

Featuring: Alex Filippenko

Total Solar Eclipse of 2013: Morocco to Cape Verde • October 2013

Featuring: Alex Filippenko and Olga Stavrakis

Total Solar Eclipse of 2013: Spain to Sierra Leone • October 2013

Featuring: Rick Fienberg, Christine Drake, and Deborah Mack

Total Solar Eclipse of 2012: Bali to Australia • November 2012

Featuring: Alex Filippenko

Total Solar Eclipse of 2012: Fiji to New Caledonia • November 2012

Featuring: Rick Fienberg, Holly Gilbert, and Mark Eddowes

Total Solar Eclipse in Tahiti • July 2010

Featuring: Alex Filippenko, Jay Anderson

Total Solar Eclipse in Polynesia • July 2009

Featuring: Alex Filippenko, Owen Gingerich, and Rick Feinberg

Total Solar Eclipse in Mongolia • August 2008

Featuring: Alex Filippenko

Total Solar Eclipse: Egypt, Turkey, and the Mediterranean • March 2006

Featuring: Joel Weisberg, Perry Hackman, Owen Gingerich

Total Solar Eclipse in Zimbabwe • June 2001

Featuring: Alex Filippenko and Perry Hacking

Total Solar Eclipse in Turkey • August 1999

Featuring: Alex Filippenko and Joel Weisberg

Total Solar Eclipse and 20th Anniversary in the Caribbean • February 1998

Featuring: Alex Filippenko and Owen Gingerich

Total Solar Eclipse in the Galapagos Islands • February 1998

Featuring: Perry Hacking and Tom Bullock

Total Solar Eclipse in India, Thailand, and Cambodia • October 1995

Featuring: George Smoot, Donald Goldsmith, Owen Gingerich, Tom Bullock, Alex Filippenko, Perry Hacking, Robert Havlen, and Joel Weisberg

Total Solar Eclipse in Chile and Peru • October/November 1994

Featuring: George Smoot, Donald Goldsmith, Owen Gingerich, Tom Bullock, Alex Filippenko, Perry Hacking, Robert Havlen, Joel Weisberg, Mitzi Adams, and Mark Davis