This week Tucan Travel is turning 33 years old! It’s hard to believe that back in 1987, when a few eager overland travellers decided to start their own company, that we would be where we are today. 2020 hasn’t gone as we all hoped so far, but we look back on our travel memories with such gratitude during this difficult time. And while the world recovers, we want to remember how fantastic travelling is, from helping communities around the globe to educating ourselves on cultures and traditions from far and wide. We firmly believe that the travel industry is here to stay, and that after this crisis is over our world will continue to explore with even more compassion, gratitude and community spirit than ever before. In light of reaching this milestone, we wanted to look back on some of our travellers’ fondest memories from their adventures around the world with Tucan Travel. Thank you to everyone who submitted a story to us, each and every one was a pleasure to read and we can’t wait to continue making more memories in the future.
In no order, we have compiled our top ten stories below from Tucan Travellers.
Lorraine from the Philippines travelled to South America:
September 2013 was when I hopped on my first ever solo travel outside Asia – on the Tango & Samba Tour. I was offered free round-trip air tickets to Brazil after the airline in one of my business trips had to bump me off my seat due to overbooking. Amidst my parents and seniors advice not to go – I was young and a woman, and everyone feared I would get in trouble flying so far from home, I went with it. Not that I wasn’t scared, but my eagerness to face my fear and excitement to explore the world were just overwhelming, no one could stop me. I was so lucky that in the tour were five other solo travellers like me, from different parts of the world – two British, a Swiss, a Lebanese, and a Malaysian. Guided by a young and fun Peruvian lady, the seven of us just had a crazy and unforgettable 2 weeks in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. The thing with solo travellers, individually, you travel with fears in your heart – fear that the trip might go wrong, and fear that you may not make new friends – but since all of us carried the same fear, we ended up ensuring we will take care of each other. We had drinks under the Parati night sky after a surreal beach getaway wondering which cottage did Bella and Edward of Twilight have their honeymoon. We got speechless at the magnificence of Iguazu Falls then got wet on a boat ride thereafter. We had a quiet afternoon spa in Salto then splurged on some leather in Montevideo. We were stuffed with meat and lots of food we couldn’t even pronounce their names throughout the trip. It was such a memorable two weeks that by the end of it, we cried as we said our goodbyes, knowing that it could be our last seeing each other.
But it wasn’t. Two of the five fellow travellers are now my very good friends. I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship in the UK a year later, which gave me and one of the British travellers, Mark, an opportunity to reconnect. He showed me his homeland and even joined me during my graduation celebration with my family. The Swiss lady, Nadine, who was my closest back then (we were often roommates whilst in South America), is a special one. We continued to meet across the world – I visited her in Zurich, she popped in Durham, we met in Riga, and a year ago, she and Mark were some of my special guests at my wedding in the Philippines. And right now, Nadine and I are planning on meeting again in Spain (cross-fingers the plans will not be ruined by the corona virus hiccups).
Who would have thought that me, once a young and fragile Filipina, amidst all the fears and doubts, is now at the forefront of promoting travelling amongst her peers – to be brave and be open. Who would have thought that by simply saying yes to be bumped off my seat could bring me beyond my original destination.. Who would have thought that despite the world being massive, one could find good friends, despite the distance, despite the time. Who would have thought these little things, although little, can change my life.
Francine from Canada travelled to Africa:
I’d been planning my gorilla trek for years and finally I was going. But then, an illness dashed my dream. Six months later, I was back better but in need of reconditioning. Determined to live my dream of visiting the silverback and his band, I began a rigorous training program to regain my strength. Exercise classes, physiotherapy and 5km walks. Once on tour, I realised I wasn’t quite ready yet for the trek and didn’t want to hold back the group. I went to tell Arthur, our Tucan tour guide but he was adamant that I couldn’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity. And that’s when the jungle helicopter came up. What you ask? It’s a sturdy sedan chair carried by four porters, to ferry clients with disabilities up into the jungle. Hurray, I was going to live my dream, and did I ever, and more. My porters did a fantastic job of ferrying me through the forest behind the guides who cleared the trail with machetes. The porters stopped, my guide said he had a surprise for me; I was within a few meters of the band of gorillas, within moments of living my dream. The guide took my hand and led me silently towards the silverback; the rush, the excitement of being there & watching the juveniles playing on the reclined silverback, the curious babies clutched to their mothers. Moments indelibly etched to memory, initial disappointment turned to delight.
Sharron from Canada travelled to the Balkans:
I don’t have much of a story… I have many! I have done countless trips with Tucan, they are my go to travel group of choice. I have been on overland trips to Central America, South America and my latest trip with them was the Balkans…all of the trips have been amazing in all different ways. On one trip we sipped cocktails from the penthouse bar in Sao Paulo, I caught a piranha in the amazon river and then ate it… not good tucks, but I caught a piranha! That is nearly how good it gets.. but my last trip to the Balkans – Dubrovnik to Dubrovnik was a travelling life highlight.. the scenery was amazing.. food was ok.. the towns were nearly all ancient with a story behind every one.. I have met strange people that are now my friends from afar. My greatest memory from my last tour was meeting new people as we boarded a train to somewhere gorgeous, one of the ladies didn’t drink, however I had secured a mini flask of plum liquor, on the train she drank a bit and was drunk…we let her enjoy her ride as we watched the gorgeous scenery flashed in front of us. I would recommend Tucan to any traveller wanting to get closer to the skin of a place.. it does and I will pretty much only travel again with Tucan.. always, on my terms.. but with Tucan Travel.
Nicholas from Canada travelled to Europe and the Middle East :
Me and a few tour members decided to take a bus to an impromptu trip to a remote Greek village in Turkey. On our way there a guy boarded the bus with his chicken. The landscape was stunning and we were the only tourists around. This wonderful first experience gave me confidence I needed to go off the beaten path. On my way to the top of Mount Nemrut in Turkey a group of locals gathered to dance and play local music for us to introduce us to their local culture. It was totally impromptu and our tour leader was just as marvelled as we were. A few miles from the border between Turkey and Syria we stopped at a gas station. While I was sitting on a wall looking at almond trees a few kids came towards me with their mom to show me how to crack the green shell with a rock. The flavor of fresh almonds was awesome. I then travelled to Syria (before the war). I got lost in old Damascus and a shop owner closed his store for about an hour to help me find my hotel. I was embarrassed for causing him such an inconvenience and I offered him a tip but he kindly refused saying that instead he would like me to tell the world about his country because he would like to see more tourists. In Amman, a girl on the tour had a local friend and he drove us around the city to show us a new mosque. While he was parking his car we heard several explosions… There were cannons to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan. In Petra two boys offered to guide us around the site but although we declined politely we still enjoyed a conversation with them around a fire camp and they offered us some mint tea. After that they offered to introduce us to other relatives. We had a unique experience for the whole day with them and when I offered to give them some money at the end of the day they declined in the name of friendship. In Egypt I had a discussion with a shop keeper but we could only use hand gestures to communicate because of the language barrier. Later that day as he was closing his shop he saw me walking across the street and he invited me to have dinner at his table for a banquet on a long table they dressed in the street. I was their special guest for that night. So much kindness and great food. Later we boarded a traditional boat for a cruise down the Nile river. We stopped on the river bank for lunch and a swim. A few local boys were playing with a ball and we drew lines on the sand to organise an impromptu soccer match. A dog approached us and started playing soccer with us too.After that tour I realised how much I love to travel not only to see the world but also to experience genuine experiences with the locals.
(Update: Winning Entry!) Jennifer from Canada travelled to Sri Lanka:
I have travelled several times with Tucan Travel and enjoyed all the trips but this was a special one!
“You don’t have to dream it all — just live a day.” ~ Save a Prayer
Travel and music inspire each other, and that was the case for me back in 1982. This was a time when music videos became art, almost mini-movies, telling a story, and the ones which left the greatest impression on me were filmed by Duran Duran in Sri Lanka. Duran Duran chose Sri Lanka after one of their managers, Paul Berrow, vacationed there and loved it. Russell Mulcahy was hired to direct. All three videos are beautiful! Many scenes in the “Save A Prayer” video are shot on the beach near Galle, and they visit an elephant orphanage. Also, the band is seen at a number of temples and statues. I found out these were filmed in Polonnaruwa. However, what was most impressive is a helicopter shot of them standing atop a giant rock with some ruins. It was Sigiriya, the remains of a royal palace built in the 5th century. I was completely blown away by the views, and the obvious special-ness of this place! Could I ever go there? It was so far from my home country of Canada, how could it be possible? I was 15 years old and I promised myself that one day I would! Over the years, I have been to many countries, but Sri Lanka was always burning in my mind. I kept imagining how wonderful it would be.
When the timing worked out, I looked for a tour which would visit all of the places I had seen, and Tucan had the best itinerary. Our guide was amazing and we learned a lot from him. Besides the history, culture, archaeological sites and temples, there was even more to experience with UNESCO sites, several incredible hikes and views, and even being lucky enough spotting a leopard in Yala National Park! Every day had a fantastic highlight to enjoy!
My goal was to see this beautiful country, but ultimately, get to the highest point on Sigiriya. I was thrilled to climb to the top…the inspiration which had begun the journey.
36 years later, in February 2018, I had finally, finally made it thanks to Tucan!
My dream came true. I lived the day!
Vicki from Australia travelled to Central Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa!:
We first travelled with Tucan in 2010 as part of a longer trip to western China and central Asia. To fill out the independent bits of our proposed three month trip I googled trips to Mongolia and up popped Tucan Travel. We had never travelled with Tucan before but we’re so glad we did. We spent 15 days travelling the Mongolian countryside in a Russian van with just one other guest over what was essentially dirt tracks (no asphalted roads there at that time) and what an amazing adventure we had! We stayed in traditional gers with local nomadic families with long drop toilets and no water to bathe. Rough, yes, but what an experience. Sadly, Tucan no longer offers trips through Mongolia except for the Trans Siberian journey (such a shame), but what an introduction to the world of small group trips with Tucan. On the same trip we were also looking for travel in Japan. With the inducement of a 5% discount on a second trip we also booked a 15 day trip to Japan. We were fortunate enough to get a Japanese speaking British born tour leader who made the trip very seamless. Five minutes to transfer between trains with 20kg backpacks, no problem. We travelled from Tokyo to Takayama, Kyoto, Nagasaki, Yufuin, Hiroshima and Mt Fuji area before heading back to Tokyo on the shinkansens. We achieved in two weeks what would have taken us four weeks (on our own) because we did not suffer with the lack of local language. Such a stunning destination and one we would like to return to.
In 2012, we decided to do a trip to Eastern Europe and with some trepidation decided on what was called the Eastern European Adventure. We were a bit unsure about spending 56 days in a small group starting in Moscow, travelling through the Baltics, Central Europe and a month doing the Balkan loop to Budapest before heading to Romania and eventually finishing in Istanbul. Much to our delight the group kept changing every 14 days or so and the trip was so enjoyable. We started on 1 March and the snow was still thick on the ground in Moscow and the Baltics but it was so spectacular. The upside to the cool start was also that there were fewer tourists around. The public bus trips and train travel between cities was a definite highlight. It was wonderful watching the countryside roll by even on the particularly long stretches of travel between Bucharest and Istanbul. The countryside was ever-changing. We loved the Balkans particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Serbia. In Lake Ohrid, we made an unforgettable day long optional boat trip with an indomitable Macedonian sailor who plied us with raki at 8.30 in the morning. He was such a character, an old salt with missing front teeth, all wild hair and no English but intent on creating a memorable day on that beautiful lake. His boat was a simple wooden one, with a very small motor that pottered up the 30 miles or so of the lake, with no life vests provided. Of the 5-6 guests on board, one was from the Tucan office, checking on the standard of the local operations. WHS concerns were expressed and I’m sure life vests would have been provided for future optionals!
In 2014, we embarked on a 40+ day Central American odyssey, (on the back of a month touring the west coast USA national parks with a hire car) again with Tucan. We had an amazing guide, Linda, an expat (fluent in Spanish) Australian living in Ecuador. Travelling from Antigua, Guatemala, we looped into Belize, the Yucatan in Mexico, through Merida and Palenque before finally heading back to Antigua for the Easter parades. What amazing experiences we had there. Swimming in cenotes in the Yucatan, exploring Mayan ruins, and in Belize, two experiences there in particular: the Actun Tunichil Muknal (locally referred to as the “ATM”) Cave near San Ignacio and swimming and snorkelling with turtles, stingrays and sharks on a full day sailing experience off Caye Caulker. Loved the Caribbean experience! We then headed through Honduras to the ruins of Copan (amazing) and snorkelling off the beach in Roatan Island, Nicaragua (Leon and Granada are beautiful cities) with its dry volcanic landscape and beautiful Lake Ometepe, a Costa Rican national park and wildlife odyssey complete with very cute but alien looking sloths, before heading off to Panama. The highlights were many and varied: Mayan temples and ceremonial sites, thick jungles, lots of wildlife, snorkelling in crystal clear waters, volcanoes, chicken buses, border crossings across bridges that should have been demolished decades ago and even being awoken by an earthquake at midnight! The earth beneath us really did move that night.
In 2016 we did a four week trip to South America and again we chose Tucan. So many highlights but not limited to beautiful Bolivia, Uyuni salt flats, magical Machu Picchu and other Inca ruins, Cuzco, the Pantanal, Rio, Iguazu Falls and beautiful Buenos Aires. A highlight was the flight over Iguazu Falls, and strangely, the bird sanctuary. Ditto the underground mine tour in Potosi. And the few days spent on the Uyuni salt flats was unforgettable. I could go on…
In August 2017 we travelled with Tucan (again!) on the Mara to the Falls trip. What an adventure travelling on the yellow truck from Nairobi, through Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia. We loved the time spent in the Maasai Mara and Serengeti and our encounters with the wildlife there. While watching lions about to make a kill was enthralling the real stars of the show, to my mind, are the catwalk model giraffes and the elephants. We particularly enjoyed the rhino walking safari in Metabo – it was exciting being so up close and personal with these magnificent animals and their offspring. That also leads to the unforgettable night while we were camping on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater when an elephant decided to gate crash the camp causing a flurry of excitement and concern for personal safety at the same time!
I have made a number of friends from all over the world during these travels and still keep in touch with them via email and social media. Some have stayed with us when visiting Australia and we have similarly caught up with them when we have travelled to their part of the world. In effect we have expanded our family and friends via these experiences.
We have travelled with other small group operators but Tucan seems to offer better experiences with tour leaders, accommodation and tours with more authenticity. It also consistently offers good value. We have really enjoyed our travels with Tucan over the last 10 years.
Louise from UK travelled to Morocco:
So I was in Morocco a couple of weeks ago and we were doing a camel trek in the Sahara desert. We went out into the dunes to watch the sunset. When we were getting back on the camels to head back to camp, I had just got on my camel and it was about to stand up when the camel behind mine decided to try to mount my camel. So I had to quickly jump off the camel, in the process my pants caught on the metal bar at the front of the saddle and ripped right down the middle. So ended up being a very dramatic exit from the camel, as I had jumped forward off the saddle (the camel behind was pushing me forward, so didn’t really have a choice) and then rolled in the sand, as I didn’t really want to get squashed by a camel.
Jacki from Australia travelled to South America:
In October 2014, I’d been made redundant from a 10 year role in a finance company, and found myself free of any commitments. No job, no partner, nor pets or children to consider, NOW was my time to travel to all the countries I’d not yet been to, but always wanted to explore. So I spent 2 months mapping out & planning my solo, follow the sun, round the world adventure & 40th birthday present to myself. 🥳 This was a massive undertaking, as I also battle a chronic skin disease, and was advised by my specialists that I’d have to come off all the medications (which manage the severity of flare ups) for the duration, as I wouldn’t be able to have regular blood tests whilst travelling, which monitor whether my liver & kidneys are tolerating the drugs. I took all this into consideration, however when was I ever going to be in this position again, of having the freedom & flexibility to experience all of my bucket list destinations across 4 continents, following summer for 7 months. I began booking flights, tours, accommodation & transfers in some of the countries I was going to explore. I learned very quickly that a lot of countries won’t allow you to enter, unless you have an exit date, and flight booked to leave! My first destination was Brazil, South America, where I fell in love with the culture, people & food. Experiencing Iguazu falls from both the Argentinian & Brazilian aspects, and taking a jet boat road into & under the roaring waterfalls, was one of the most exhilarating parts of this trip! Next country to explore was Bolivia, with the Uyuni Salt Flats being the standout highlight. The amazing mirror image of the surrounding mountains and sky, reflected on the shallow water covered salt flats, stretching as far as the eye could see, simply magical, and made for many clever photo opportunities too. Sucre was a particularly cute town, but was also my first personal experience of altitude sickness!
Peru managed to step up my absolute bewilderment with the beautiful scenery, townships, culture & architecture. Machu Picchu was an exhilarating, out of this world, highlight for me, an ethereal experience never to be forgotten. Having explored only three countries in South America, it’s my absolute dream to return & Columbia is top of my wish list.
Robert from UK travelled to Vietnam:
We recently enjoyed the “Vietnam Experience” with Tucan Travel journeying from Hanoi down through Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and then finally Ho Chi Minh. It was a great experience! The trip was very varied, interesting and made even more enjoyable by the 6 other guests and our Tour Leader, Jeff. We stayed a couple of days in each place enjoying local hotel accommodation.
The day after arriving in Ho Chi Minh we departed for a 2 day-trip along the Mekong Delta including an overnight stop in a Homestay with a Vietnamese family. After a few hours minibus drive we arrived on the Mekong to be met by our local guide called “Dow”. After boarding a boat we travelled up the river enjoying the scenery and observing all the people as they went about their daily lives. Dow was an excellent tour guide; we stopped a couple of times to visit local industries and for lunch. As the end of the day grew closer, Jeff informed us that we would be soon be reaching our Homestay – he couldn’t tell us what the accommodation would be like as it varied from place to place and could be a dormitory, shared bathrooms, or an en-suite all to ourselves. We all waited expectantly to arrive and find out what laid in store.
As we drew up alongside the river bank, Dow jumped off and disappeared for a few minutes. She came back and excitedly explained that we had arrived early and could watch a musical show if we were all interested. We collectively agreed and were privileged to enjoy a male and female actor performing a musical play about 2 farm workers falling in love, accompanied by musicians playing their unique string instruments. It was a really enjoyable experience and an unexpected surprise.
The Homestay visit turned out to be even more of an unexpected and welcome surprise; we were met by the host family comprising the parents, their children, and young grand-child. The accommodation was fantastic with each having an en-suite room with four-poster bed and mosquito nets. In the evening we were all invited to a cookery class where we made local pancakes, spring rolls and fresh salad before sitting down with the family to eat them before all tucking-in to a very tasty local grilled fish. We awake in the morning to the sound of the boats travelling up the river and a beautiful sunset over the Mekong Delta. The enthusiasm of Dow, the genuine warmth of the host family, and the excellent Homestay facilities all made a perfect end to our fantastic holiday!
Tracy from the UK travelled to Sri Lanka:
My tour companions and our Tour Leader Amara set out early on a very wet morning following a couple of days of heavy rain, from our hotel to visit the Nine Arch Bridge Ella ,Sri Lanka. At the top of our road from our hotel we were joined by a stray dog. He was friendly and seemed to be directing us to where we were going. Due to the wet conditions Amara had decided to go a different route than he normally would go and the dog walked with us. The going was slow for us as it was raining and very muddy and slippery, so we were all taking things steady. The dog was much more agile and stayed with us and waited when we got too far behind him. We all joked that he was the new Tucan tour leader of the group as he seemed to know where we were going and directing us there. When we arrived at the Nine Arch Bridge with about 10 minutes to spare before the scheduled train passed through. The dog sat patiently with us and after the train passed we all crossed over the bridge to take photographs with the dog by our side all the way. He continued to follow us as we made our way back across the bridge. About half way across he stopped and jumped up near a signpost 169 3/4 where he sat while we took photographs of him. The Sign post reminded us of Harry Potter 9 3/4 and he then just slipped away never to be seen by us again on the route back. His job was done, he had taken us to see Nine Arch Bridge and was no longer required.
Thank you to everyone who submitted their travel stories to us – each and every one was a pleasure to read and reminded us why travelling is such a fantastic privilege! Tucan Travel are taking future bookings and can’t wait to continue to help our customers make some memories of a lifetime.
The winner will be announced on Friday 27th March!