The Amazon Basin is where the majority of people will say would be the best place to view the wildlife. Actually, you’re more likely to encounter these same animals in the Pantanal.

What is the Pantanal?
Considered the world’s largest freshwater wetlands, the Pantanal is a mosaic of rivers, lakes, swamps, and mudflats.

Where is the Pantanal located?
Although mostly in Brazil, the wetlands creep across the border into neighboring Paraguay and Bolivia — a total area nearly as large as the island of Great Britain or the state of Utah.

What animals are most often seen in The Pantanal?
Hands down, the Pantanal is the single best place on the planet for viewing jaguars in the wild. Among the region’s other intriguing species are giant anteaters, blue-and-gold hyacinth macaws, capybaras and tapirs, giant river otters, the rare and endangered maned wolf, massive anacondas and the ubiquitous caiman. A South American cousin of the crocodile, caiman are found in astounding numbers — an estimated 10 million.

Who are the cowboys of the Pantanal?
The pantaneiro — Cowboys that carry on a lifestyle that originated in the 1700s, when the Pantanal was settled by ranchers moving up from the Brazilian coast. Riding horses that have evolved adaptations for long hours of working in water, the pantaneiro manage herds of gray, humpbacked Brahmin cattle that often number into the thousands.

What are some local dishes I should try?
Two of the area’s cowboy culinary favorites are arroz de carreteiro or “oxcart rice” (a mixture of rice and beef jerky) and sopa paraguaya (a cake-like mixture of corn, cheese, onions and water similar to cornbread).

Do I need a visa to visit?
Yes, you will need both a travel visa and valid passport for this trip. Talk to us, we can help you with both!


China is a great destination for both business and tourism. If you’re taking the kids along, here’s a collection of tips to keep the traveling smooth.

1 – Make sure everyone’s passport is current
All family members need passports to travel to China. We can issue and renew passports for you. If you need your passport within 24 hours, we can handle that too.

2 – You’re going to need travel visas
No matter what type of travel you’re engaging in China, every member of your family will need a travel visa to enter the country. We can expedite your China visa and save you a trip to the embassy.

3- Timing is everything
Make sure that you’re planning your trip to China during a school break or other long break for your kids. Consequently, know when venues in China will be crowded because of Chinese holidays. School summer holidays (July and August), Labor Day (May 1–7), and National Day (October 1–7). Most famous attractions will be over-crowded with Chinese tourists during these holidays.

4- Plan kid-friendly activities
In Beijing, you can visit the Forbidden City, enjoy a rickshaw ride, or explore the Great Wall. Xi’an has the amazing terracotta army. Do a little research and you can find numerous things to do to keep the kids learning about China without a single boring moment.

5-Don’t drink the tap water
Avoid the tap water. If your kids have tummies that get upset easily, it’s a good idea to avoid the food from street vendors.

6-Keep an eye on your kids
Don’t let your kids go off alone, especially at tourist attractions. Some parents give their kids a note written in Chinese with their hotel information and mobile numbers just in case the kids get separated.

7- Souvenirs
Let your kids pick out souvenirs. It’s fun to shop for mementos and keepsakes to remember your family trip to China.

Love sunny beaches? Beautiful ocean views, and puppies? You can have all three if you visit Potcake Place on the island of Providenciales, in Turks and Caicos. Visitors are welcome to not only play with the puppies, they can adopt a puppy free of charge. Donations are accepted to keep Potcake Place running.

There are anywhere from 50 to 70 rescues on the beach at a time, and the rescue adopts out around 500 dogs per year.


The dogs on the island are a mix of Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, and English Fox Terriers, and they grow to be about 45-50 pounds. The mix is called a “PotCake” explained on their site as, “Potcake is the name given to the dogs of the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands. It came about because the locals fed the caked remains of the cooking pot to the dogs. As generations have passed, Potcakes have evolved into a breed which is extremely smart, loyal and loving.”

The Potcake Place site recommends you read about adopting and be ready to make a 10-15 year commitment to your new family member.

If you want to bring home the most unique souvenir ever from a vacation, this should be a destination for you.

If this sounds like a trip you’d love to take, talk to us about making sure your U.S. passport is ready to go.


Drone photography has become very popular, particularly for candid wildlife viewing. For every responsible drone operator, there suddenly appeared one that was irresponsible as heck. From breathtaking videos that didn’t disturb a herd of elephants quietly eating leaves turned into a frightened herd of wildebeest stopping their yearly migratory river crossing and abandoning calves at a riverbank with irresponsible drone operators buzzing their cameras over animals heads and frightening them.

Several countries in Africa have banned drones and imposed large fines on anyone using one, especially in national parks which are now considered no-fly zones.

Botswana and Kenya allow drones but only if you apply for a permit and your drone must not disturb the animals in any way or you may face fines and equipment seizure.

Many private reserves allow drones but you normally need to hire your own vehicle and you may not disturb the animals on the reserve or other guests. Most reserves require that if your drone crashes, you may not retrieve it.

Texas Tower processes U.S. passports and can obtain visas for African countries you may want to fly a drone in. Call us today to get started 713-874-1420.

 

Culture Tour Spotlight- Ghana (1)Instead of hitting the night spots, restaurants, and tourist traps around Accra and other Ghana cities, consider making at least one day a historical or cultural tour. Learning the history of a country is a great way to get to know the people and traditions.

Independence Square, Accra, Ghana photo credit: Rjruiziii
Independence Square, Accra, Ghana photo credit: Rjruiziii

One historical site to see in Accra is found at Independence Square (also known as Black Star Square), home of Independence Arch and the Flame of African Liberation where Dr. Nkrumah declared the independence of Ghana. Located nearby is the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial, the mausoleum of Ghana’s ͅfirst President. See items donated by the estate of Dr. Nkrumah as well as books he authored.

Okomfo Anokye's Sword
Okomfo Anokye’s Sword

Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom of Gold is another must-see. First, check out Manhiya Palace. The palace was built by the British in 1925 to receive Asantehene (ruler of the Ashanti people) Prempeh I when he returned from exile in the Seychelles to resume residence in Kumasi. This palace was actively used by Ashanti kings until 1974. It is now a museum of the Ashanti Kingdom. Nearby is a sword of legend, the Okomfo Anokye Sword. This sword marks the spot the Golden Stool descended from the sky and has been in place for three centuries. The legend says if the sword is removed, the Ashanti Kingdom will collapse.

Door of No Return
Door of No Return

Ghana was part of the journey for many captured Africans who were sold into the slave trade. Only now are they being honored. At Assin Manso, a burial site for two former slaves who died in the U.S. and Jamaica but were re-interred in August 1998 during Ghana’s first Emancipation Day Celebration. Also nearby is “Slave River” where captured Africans were washed before being confined in the Slave Castles to away shipment to the Caribbean and Americas.
One of these holding areas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, named Cape Coast Castle. You can see a slave castle that is still standing and this particular castle has the door nicknamed “Door of No Return” where slaves left but no one came back.

Kakum Canopy Walkway
Kakum Canopy Walkway

Take in a walking tour at Kakum National Park where you can learn how our ancestors lived in this area. Kakum has Africa’s only aerial walkway trough a tree canopy. The walkway is 1000 feet in length and has a 7-bridge walkway with viewing platforms that are 150-feet above the forest floor. See birds, butter͆ies, and see some of the 40 different species of mammals that reside in this forest, including the shy forest elephant.

What is your favorite destination in Ghana? Let us know on Facebook. 

TT-impossible (2)Having some of the best national parks and game reserves, as well as the tallest mountain in Africa are just a few of the reasons Tanzania is a popular destination for tourists. Once you have your passport ready and your travel visa in hand, you’re ready to go! If you’re curious about what there is to do during your visit, here’s a rough and ready list of 5 fun things to do in Tanzania.

image credit : commons.wikimedia.org
image credit : commons.wikimedia.org

Explore Mount Kilimanjaro
The mountain is a definite item to check off your bucket list. Standing 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level, this dormant volcano attracts a steady stream of climbers from all over the world to the three peaks: Shira, Kibo, and Mawnezi. For the most extreme climbers, the Uhuru peak on the Kibo crater rim is the highest point to conquer. There are hiking tours available around the lower levels of Kilimanjaro. If you have travelers in your group that aren’t
feeling the climb, the natural park that surrounds Kilimanjaro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will have more than a day’s worth of interesting sights to see.

image credit: Serengeti Hot Air Balloon Ride - Serengeti National Park - Tanzania, Africa | by David
image credit: Serengeti Hot Air Balloon Ride – Serengeti National Park – Tanzania, Africa | by David

See the Serengeti When You Safari from Above
Speaking of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this one is made up of 1.5 hectares of savannah and has a host of diverse wildlife to view. This is the oldest and most popular national park within Tanzania. View Thomson’s gazelle, wildebeest, and zebra in huge numbers. Around these herds you will usually find big cats hiding around the edges of the grasslands. All of this seen not by noisy airplane which disturbs the wildlife, but in a quiet hot-air balloon floating over the savannah. These balloons have a carry capacity of 16 people and they often start the safari with a champagne breakfast in the bush.

image credit: commons.wikimedia.org
image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Check out the Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area sees humans living along side wildlife in this area. The crater was formed when a volcano explored before collapsing inward on itself forming the caldera you see today. Over 25,000 animals call this area home including rhinos, buffalo, lions, and wildebeests.

image credit: commons.wikimedia.org
image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Hit the Beach in Zanzibar
The island of Zanzibar is a great place to spend time winding down after the excitement of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or enjoying a safari on land or the air. The east coast has beautiful white sand beaches. If you’re looking for all-day swimming fun, check out the northwest coat where the non-tidal beaches are found between Nungwoi and Kendwai. The northwest island of Mnemba has a reputation for being one of the best beaches found in Zanzibar.

image credit : commons.wikimedia.org
Stone Town waterfront image credit : commons.wikimedia.org

Dive into History in Zanzibar
When you’re enjoying the beaches, remember to schedule time to see Stone Town. This is a Swahili trading town. Many historical sites from a time when it was a major hub for explorers, spice traders and Sultans all converging on the area.

Those are just five great places to enjoy when you visit Tanzania. What is your favorite place to see there?