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Adventures by Disney Introduces Tasmanian Devils…and Ghosts

posted on October 31st, 2011 by Bruce Austin, Trip Operations Manager for Adventures by Disney


I went to Tasmania for the first time earlier this year with the idea of grafting a whole new element to Adventures by Disney’s remarkable Australia trip. The itinerary was already comprised of wonderful activities and sights such as the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback at Uluru, and vibrant, cosmopolitan Sydney with its stunning harbor. With such a grand itinerary already established, why add Tasmania?

Adventures by Disney Introduces Tasmanian Devils…and Ghosts

Well, the first intriguing thing we heard about the island state was of its reputation as one of the last wildernesses left unspoiled. The Tasmanian Tourism Bureau touts the island as having one of the most pristine environments on the planet because of its remote location − off the southern coast of Australia, surrounded by oceans for thousands of miles. “Freshest air you’ll ever breathe anywhere on the planet, mate” the locals like to say, proudly filling their lungs as they do so. About 38% of the island is protected in wildlife reserves, national parks and World Heritage sites. You’ll hear mention of the great indigenous forests that still cover many parts of the island, the indomitable cliffs that plunge into the sea, the zany wildlife – Tasmanian Devils anyone? – the wonderful seafood, organic produce, well-marbled beef, handcrafted cheeses and boutique wineries that make your mouth water at the very mention.

The Island’s early settlers were convicts and their guards, unfortunate souls sent away from the British Isles to the Empire’s most remote colony. Those who survived the perilous sea journey faced a hard life in penal colonies in a spectacular setting, the earliest of which was called Port Arthur. Port Arthur’s setting is outwardly idyllic, set on a small scenic bay with rolling, forested hillsides cascading off in various directions. On Discovery Down Under, Guests get to explore the grounds and museum of this historic former prison by day but, as the sun disappears, the 19th century ruins of Port Arthur can seem an entirely different place; the air fills with mystery, of silence and what once was. After sunset is when the “ghost walking” begins. It was on my first Ghost Tour, in search of spirits, that I really got a feel for Port Arthur. Wandering through the deserted structures led by the flicking glow of lantern light, intrigue and stories of long ago, the past crept up and those “long gone” felt close. Restless. Are those who were detained still imprisoned? Is it myth or truth? How far away is long ago? Are there ghosts?

Adventures by Disney Introduces Tasmanian Devils…and Ghosts

Goosebumps.

Happy Halloween!

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Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt, Part 2

posted on October 5th, 2011 by Bruce Austin, Trip Operations Manager for Adventures by Disney


I eventually learned from the Egyptologists who escorted my tours of the monuments that many ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses took the forms of animals. Hippopotamuses, hawks, cobras, jackals, crocodiles, vultures and even the lowly scarab (also known as a dung beetle) took on deep religious significance, and within the temples and tombs their images can be seen everywhere. The images weren’t confined to just the walls and ceilings. There are also magnificent sculptures. Here’s one of my favorites, the god Horus who takes on the form of a falcon or hawk, and who is known as the All Seeing Eye as well as the God of the Sky, the God of War and the God of Protection:

Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt

I have a number of other animal-related stories but none of them “tops” the experience I had in Upper Egypt near Aswan, a beautiful city on the Nile River. This region of southern Egypt is home to the Nubians, a people who in ancient times were known for their vast wealth, military prowess and advanced civilization. I visited one of their villages and was invited into a café to get out of the deadly heat and enjoy a glass of refreshing mint tea. This is what the café looked like from the outside:

Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt

And here’s a view of the inside where it was remarkably cool and just as brightly colored as the outside:

Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt

I noticed a low-walled cement basin in the middle of the room – half filled with water and holding two small Nile crocodiles. I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty cool!” The owner of the café was a friendly guy who decided to join my Egyptian companion and me at our little table. When he noticed my interest in the crocodiles he became animated and picked one of them up. A few minutes of discussion in Arabic followed with my companion and it was translated to me that the Nubians want to protect the endangered crocs, so they raise them as youngsters in their homes up to a certain age before releasing them into Lake Nasser, the vast body of water that was formed when the nearby Aswan High Dam was built in the early 1960s. As this story was being shared with me the owner placed the crocodile on my head and motioned to my camera – I quickly understood that he wanted to take my picture. Here’s the moment, as it was captured. It’s one of my all-time favorite pictures:

Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt

The next day, visiting one of the ancient temples near Aswan, I was astonished to be introduced to another Egyptian god known as Sobek – characterized as a powerful man with a crocodile head. In thinking about my “croc encounter” on the previous day I had a very odd sensation of feeling like I knew exactly how the ancients had come up with their vision for Sobek:

Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt

Thanks for reading my Disney Parks Blog posts. I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of my travels in Egypt and that you’ve gotten a sense of the amazing things to be discovered there. Please visit us at www.AdventuresbyDisney.com to learn more about our trip to Egypt and consider joining us for this phenomenal experience.

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Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt, Part 1

posted on October 4th, 2011 by Bruce Austin, Trip Operations Manager for Adventures by Disney


As a Trip Operations Manager for Adventures by Disney, I was part of the team that put together our new Pyramids, Pharaohs and Ancient Treasures trip. This was a dream come true because from an early age I had long sought to travel to this fabled land of vast deserts and ancient monuments. When I arrived in Cairo to begin exploring how we could put an amazing adventure together, I fully expected to be wowed by the monuments of antiquity – the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, the elaborately decorated tombs and fascinating temples clustered along the banks of the Nile River that I had seen in books that first captured my imagination as a child. Everything I saw was just as extraordinary as I had ever imagined. I experienced any number of “pinch me, I can’t believe how truly awesome this is” moments as I found myself walking among the splendors of what many say are the world’s most iconic ancient treasures. Words like Tutankhamen, Luxor, Aswan, Giza and Cairo took on new meanings as I saw for myself what so many had discovered before me in this fabled land where tourists have been coming for centuries.

Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt, Part 1

One thing I had not anticipated during my initial site inspections around Egypt was experiences that involved interactions with animals. Animals are everywhere in Egypt, certainly much more so than I’m used to seeing in my daily life in Los Angeles. Perhaps the first awareness I gleaned were all the donkey carts weaving through the impossibly jammed streets of Cairo, most of them heaped with fresh vegetables brought daily into the city from the fertile fields lining the Nile.

Next came the famous pyramids at Giza, where I discovered that camel rides and horse-drawn carriages are big business. With one of the most famous backdrops in the world – well, it’s impossible to resist having one of the best all-time souvenir photos ever (and by the way, my camel’s name was Mickey Mouse!):

Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt, Part 1

Soon after touring the pyramids I visited several ancient tombs located in the desert outside Cairo that are dated to 4,200 years ago. The walls of the temples were covered from floor to ceiling with extraordinary carvings and hieroglyphics. Many of the scenes represented the daily life of Egyptians, and there were animals galore, domesticated and wild. Here’s a sample panel from one of the rooms in the tomb of Mereruka who was Chief Justice and Vizier for the Pharaoh Teti. It appears to show a variety of Nile waterfowl and a hunter grasping the tail of a river otter:

Adventures by Disney Travels to Egypt, Part 1

Please check back tomorrow for my second-half look into of our Pyramids, Pharaohs and Ancient Treasures adventure. In the meantime, head to www.AdventuresbyDisney.com to find out more about this and many of our other fabulous destinations.

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