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June 30, 2009

Seacology Offers Unique India Cruise Options

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

Kerala coast, IndiaIn a destination as magical and complex as India, a little access can go a long way. The non-profit environmental group, Seacology, is poised to reveal as much on a NEW custom journey to the world’s largest democracy. There, travelers will enjoy rare access to a Seacology-sponsored conservation project within the Lakshadweep Archipelago while also exploring many of the country’s most extraordinary attractions. Created with adventure tour operator Geographic Expeditions, the exclusive, 15-day expedition, India: From the Remote Islands of the Arabian Sea to Elephant Back Safaris and the Taj Mahal, promises immersion in the natural and cultural beauty of India, as well as in Seacology’s mission to protect island biodiversity around the world.

Though Seacology has long offered guided tours of its island conservation projects to patrons and the interested public, the new India tour is a step beyond its usual travel fare. By partnering with Geographic Expeditions, Seacology is assuring a rich exploration of one of the most difficult countries to navigate. Geographic Expeditions brings attention to detail, safety and authenticity to the table, with trip leaders as lively, informed and attentive as they come.

Seacology is the key to unlocking the rarely visited islands of the Lakshadweep Archipelago. Located in the Laccadive Sea more than 100 miles off India’s southwest Kerala coast, the archipelago is home to three reefs, a dozen atolls and three-dozen islands. Travelers will start their journey in a grand, three-story house on the private estate of two friends of Seacology before moving on to comfortable accommodations on a barely populated, 128-acre island.

Along the way, they’ll spend five days experiencing the beauty of Kerala’s backwaters, scuba diving and snorkeling amid beautiful reefs, and taking in a Seacology project on Minicoy Island, which is usually off limits to visitors. There, Seacology is funding the construction of a heritage museum and two marine reserve guard posts in exchange for establishment of a 2,471-acre marine and mangrove-protected area. It’s a fine example of Seacology’s “win-win” approach to island conservation – and travelers arriving on Minicoy via helicopter will be treated to a warm welcome ceremony.

The most enticing natural and cultural sites in India wait back on the mainland, of course. In Delhi, travelers will experience the pulsating capital city, including Old Delhi, the Red Fort and the bustling Chandni Chowk bazaar. A train trip to Agra will be an experience in itself, ending at the Agra Fort, where Shah Jahan was imprisoned overlooking the architectural masterpiece that is his legacy, the Taj Mahal. A sunset visit to that most famous Mughal monument will proceed through inner chambers and over marble paths with plenty of opportunity to marvel at the brilliance of one of the world’s wonders.

Then it’s onto Bandhavgarah National Park for two full days of exploration, with ample opportunity to view beautiful ruins and India’s diverse and endangered animal life from barking deer to four-horned antelope, sloth bear to leopard, and stunning Bengal tiger. Not all the game viewing will be via minivan: An elephant-back tiger safari will be waiting for travelers, too.

Through such intimate and rewarding travel experiences, Seacology has been able to garner great interest from its dedicated donor base. Indeed, most of the organization’s trips are sellouts, which is why Seacology gives priority to potential patrons in order to further its mission and assure sensitivity to the exotic cultures they’ll encounter. Regardless of your motivation to travel, there has never been a better time to join Seacology’s mission to protect the world’s islands or to experience the results of its dedication:

-184 island-based projects launched
-1,813,324 acres of marine ecosystems saved
-166,478 acres of precious terrestrial habitat saved
-85 facilities such as schools, community centers, solar-energy systems and other critically needed structures built
-30 programs providing scholarships, vital medical services and supplies for island communities established

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