Travel briefs

Travel to South Africa and Kenya without raiding your retirement fund on low-cost, 10-night safaris now through July.

“The tour is very comfortable but not too expensive,” said Blacky Komani of South African Airways Holidays. “And the people of South Africa are very friendly.”

The tours depart weekly for Cape Town and travel to several game preserves in Kenya.

Participants tour Cape Town for two days, visiting the Parliament Buildings, the Victoria &Albert Waterfront, Greenmarket Square flea market and museums.

In Kenya, the tour stays two nights in Nairobi, and visits Samburu Game Reserve, about 200 miles north of Nairobi; Aberdare National Park; Lake Nakuru National Park and Masai Mara Game Reserve.

There are abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing, including a guided bird walk in Samburu, a visit to a salt lick that attracts elephants and rhinos in Aberdare and game drives in Masai Mara. Kenya is among countries the U.S. State Department cites as having “continuing terrorist threats,” warning Americans to “evaluate their personal security situation.” Travelers are advised to register with the U.S. Embassy.

Cost: $2,473 to $2,643 per person, double occupancy ($263 to $493 single surcharge), including round-trip airfare from Washington or New York to Cape Town, South Africa (returning from Johannesburg), lodging, most meals, internal transportation, game drives and excursions.

Airfare to Washington or New York is not included.

Contact: South African Airways Holidays, Miami; 888-777-1138, www.saaholidays.net.

Rare North Korea tour

Been everywhere? Join one of the first American tour companies allowed to visit North Korea in 50 years.

Travelers on this 11-day Geographic Expeditions tour, which begins Sept. 2, will be are led by British guides who know the country well. The group will spend three days in capital city Pyongyang, sightseeing and attending the 2006 Mass Games, where gymnasts perform in front of synchronized hand-held cards.

Participants will visit the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, separating North and South Korea, and spend the night with families in the Mount Chilbo area.

The itinerary also includes a flight to Mount Paektu, an extinct volcano crowned by Lake Chon, a pilgrimage site.

Cost: $5,190 per person, double occupancy ($820 single surcharge), including lodging, internal flights, meals, ground transportation and entrance fees. Airfare to Beijing, China, is not included.

Contact: Geographic Expeditions, San Francisco; 800-777-8183, www.geoex.com.

Out to the ballgames

Hit the road on a tour that includes the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and games at four ballparks.

The six-day trip begins Aug. 9 in Toronto with a game at Rodgers Center between the Baltimore Orioles and the hometown Blue Jays.

In Cooperstown, N.Y., participants will tour the Baseball Hall of Fame.

They also get a behind-the-scenes tour of Yankee Stadium before a game between the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Yankees.

Other ballpark stops are PNC Park in Pittsburgh for a St. Louis Cardinals-Pirates game, and Jacobs Field in Cleveland for a Kansas City Royals-Indians game.

Cost: $1,295 per person, double occupancy ($400 single surcharge), including hotels, ground transportation, tickets and entrance fees. Airfare to Toronto and meals are not included.

Contact: Roadtrips, Winnipeg, Manitoba; 800-465-1765; www.roadtrips.com.

Best beaches list

Fleming Beach Park, a mile-long crescent white sand beach on Maui’s western shore featuring spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged shores of Molokai Island, was named America’s best beach in an annual list that also included two Florida beaches.

International beach expert Stephen Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” lauded Fleming for its year-round sunny weather, scenic views, pristine waters, and amenities such as showers, grills for barbecuing, snack bar, picnic facilities and ample parking.

Fleming, in the posh resort town of Kapalua, was one of three Hawaii beaches to make the Top 10 list compiled by Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research.

Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin, Fla., was the runner-up to Fleming, followed by Ocracoke Island in North Carolina; Coopers Beach in the Hamptons on Long Island, in New York; Kauai’s Hanalei Beach; Main Beach in the Hamptons; Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod, Mass.; Coronado Beach in California; Maui’s Hamoa Beach; and Barefoot Beach Park in Bonita Springs, Fla.

Mom, Bobby’s touching me!

What do most people argue about in the car during a road trip?

Where to sit and when to stop.

That’s according to a survey of 4,000 people in all 50 states conducted for Rand McNally, the map publishing company.

The survey, commissioned to mark Rand McNally’s 150th anniversary, found that “personal space/seating arrangements” was the No. 1 reason for a disagreement on a road trip, cited by 54 percent of those polled, while 27 percent said “when to stop for breaks” was the biggest cause of discord.

Ninety-six percent of those surveyed said they’d taken at least one road trip in their lifetime, and 76 percent of respondents still take road trips for their vacations now.

Two-thirds of the respondents said their top activities while in the car were looking at passing sights and playing games.

The survey was conducted online on the Rand McNally Web site and through e-ail from March to early May.

Copper King Express

All aboard the Copper King Express!

A new excursion train in Montana with a long and interesting history has begun running between Anaconda and Butte.

It’s the first time in 50 years that a regular passenger train has operated on the line.

The Copper King Express is scheduled to run narrated trips each weekend from Memorial Day to September.

The train runs on a historic line – the Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railroad, first incorporated in 1892. It was built by Marcus Daly, who owned the mines in Butte and the smelting facility in Anaconda, and who was known as “the Copper King.”

The new service has proved popular, with a number of trips already sold out, so be sure to make reservations. You can get tickets online at www.copperkingexpress.com or by calling 406-563-5458.

San Francisco schooner

An aging schooner that has withstood a shipwreck and dry rot will soon be ready for its next mission: tourist attraction in San Francisco.

The 111-year-old sailing schooner C.A. Thayer has been rebuilt from the keel up. The project, which cost between $12 million and $15 million and has taken two years, is one of the largest and most complicated restoration jobs on a wooden vessel in U.S. history.

The 219-foot Thayer will return to the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco this summer.

The Thayer is the last of roughly 200 wooden wind-powered schooners that hauled lumber on the West Coast. The Thayer carried some of the lumber that rebuilt San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

It was retired roughly a half-century ago and started to fail in the 1980s while it was being used to teach children about sailing.

Maine ferry starts

A high-speed ferry that can cruise the ocean at highway speeds has begun trips between Portland, Maine’s largest city, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The 320-foot aluminum catamaran known as The Cat is expected to bring Canada-bound passengers from southern New England, and Canadian tourists who are using The Cat to Maine, New England and beyond.

The Cat can travel at speeds up to 50 mph and make the trip across the Gulf of Maine in five-and-a-half hours.

The vessel will sail Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between Maine’s largest city and Nova Scotia through mid-October. Between Monday and Thursday, it will run between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth, a trip that takes less than three hours.

The Cat can carry up to 775 passengers, 250 cars and 14 motor homes or tour buses.

N.C. Aquarium reopens

At long last, Pungo and Neuse are holding their housewarming party.

The two playful river otters were among numerous residents on display as the aquarium on the Bogue Banks at Pine Knoll Shores, N.C., staged its long-delayed reopening on May 19.

It’s one of three state aquariums – the others are at Fort Fisher near Wilmington and on Roanoke Island near Manteo. Each has a different focus. The theme at Pine Knoll Shores is “From the mountains to the sea.”

The facility was been closed for 21/2 years, awaiting an overhaul that ultimately cost $28 million.

Attractions include a three-story mountain waterfall, and exhibits featuring water creatures of the Piedmont, coastal plain, tidal waters and ocean.

Outside the building, visitors can take a boardwalk to a marsh that links the aquarium to Bogue Sound, where they can see minnows swarming, crabs scavenging, egrets fishing and songbirds darting through the trees.

Travel classes, seminars

Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door hosts free travel classes most Saturdays at 10 a.m. at the Edmonds Theater, 415 Main St., Edmonds.

* France with Michaelanne Jerome, June 10.

* Packing light and right, noon June 10.

* Ireland with Dave Hoerlein, June 17.

* Village Italy with Heidi Sewell.

Classes are free, reservations recommended. Call 425-771-8303, ext. 298 or visit www.ricksteves.com/seattle.

The Savvy Traveler offers travel seminars at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. most Saturdays at 112 Fifth Ave. S., Edmonds.

* Packing like a savvy traveler, 10 a.m. July 8.

* Italian for travelers, 6 p.m. Thursdays, July 27 through Aug. 31.

* Packing like a savvy traveler, 10 a.m. Oct. 7.

* German for travelers, 6 p.m. Thursdays, Oct. 19 through Nov. 23.

* Explore Northern Italy, 10 a.m. Oct. 21.

* Southern Italy and Sicily, 1 p.m. Oct. 21.

* Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic, 10 a.m. Nov. 4.

* Slovenia and Croatia: Jewels of the Adriatic, 1 p.m. Nov. 4.

* France: Paris and Provence, 10 a.m. Nov. 18.

* Stunning Greece, 1 p.m. Nov. 18.

Classes are free, reservations recommended. Call 425-744-6076, 877-225-1994, or visit www.savvytraveleredmonds.com.

The Herald is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with cruise lines, travel agents or tour operators.

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