3713
Mexico
Birding the Mayan Ruins of the Yucatan from the Caribbean to Palenque
Come explore the Mayan Ruins of the Yucatan and learn about important sites such as Chichén Itzá and Uxmal while joining experts to spot many of the region’s over 500 species of birds!
Program No. 3713RJ
Length
13 days
Starts at
2,994
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13 days
12 nights
35 meals
12 B 11 L 12 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program, Arrive Cancun, Orientation
Cancun
D
Courtyard Marriott Cancun

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: After arriving at the hotel, check in and get your room, then take some time to unpack, freshen up, and relax. Orientation: At 6:00 pm. The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. During the program, our Group Leader will lead field trips to archeological sites and main activities. Our birding field trips will be led by a local birding expert. All transportation will be provided via motorcoach unless specified otherwise. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, engaging in available activities on your own, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may be changed due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the hotel restaurant, we’ll order from a select menu, a non-alcoholic beverage included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
2
Chichen Itzá - Birding at Punta Laguna Nature Reserve
Chichen Itza
B,L,D
Hotel Mayaland - Chichen Itza

Activity note: Note: Early morning, pre-breakfast birding. The drive from Cancun to Punta Laguna Nature Reserve is about 75 miles, approximately, 2 hours. The drive to Chichen Itza is about 86 miles, approximately 1 hour. Walking approximately 1/2 mile, 2.5 hours; uneven, muddy, rocky jungle trails.

Breakfast: At the hotel, choose what you like from the breakfast buffet; juice, coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: We’ll rise early for a pre-breakfast birding field trip around the hotel gardens here on the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula. After breakfast, we’ll check out of the hotel and transfer to Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, also known as Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh, for birding on forest trails. Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh — meaning House of the Spider Monkey and Puma — is the crowning achievement of Punta Laguna’s community-based efforts to protect and preserve the forest and archaeological sites in the area. The reserve, a designated RAMSAR site, covers an area of 5,367 hectares that encompasses sub-evergreen forest, flooded forest, lagoons, archaeological sites, and cenotes. Although the nature sanctuary is best known for protecting hundreds of black-handed spider monkeys and a lesser number of howler monkeys, it also provides a safe haven for all nature of native wildlife and flora. Bird species found at this site include Keel-billed Toucans, Collared Aracaris, White-fronted Amazons, Yellow-lored Parrot (endemic), Black-and-white Owls (rare), Ocellated Turkeys (endemic), Great Curassows, Thicket Tinamou, Collared Forest Falcon, Ruddy Crake, Spotted Rail, Turquoise-browed Motmots, and Northern Royal Flycatcher. Migrants common to the area include American Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, Hooded Warblers, and Black-and-white Warblers. At the conclusion of the field trip, we’ll depart for Chichen Itza.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a lunch buffet.

Afternoon: Arriving at the hotel, we’ll check in and have some time to freshen up and relax, then join our Group Leader for birding around the hotel garden and trails. We’ll then gather for a presentation by a local expert on Mayan Civilization. While Europe was experiencing the depths of the Dark Ages, the Mayan Empire was at its most powerful through much of Central America and southern Mexico. They Maya are known for their richly decorated stepped temples that rise out of the jungle; their elaborate, 365-day calendar; and advancements in math and astronomy.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with choice of entrée; beverages choices included coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Birding Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve & Salt Flats
Chichen Itza
B,L,D
Hotel Mayaland - Chichen Itza

Activity note: Note: Early morning, pre-breakfast birding. Boat ride on Rio Lagartos is about 6 miles, approximately 2 hours.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, we’ll order from a select menu with a variety of hot food choices, vegetarian choices, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll begin our day before breakfast by further exploring the hotel grounds and trails with our Group Leader in search of birds of the Yucatan. After breakfast, we’ll take a field trip us to the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. There, we’ll board a boat to ride across the reserve’s wetlands in search of species such as American Flamingos, Muscovy Ducks, Wood Storks, and Peregrine Falcons, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Lesser Roadrunner, and the endemic Yucatan Wren. This important RAMSAR site is located approximately 167 miles from Merida. There is great diversity of plant and animal life in the area that includes 523 registered plant species; 335 bird species (179 are resident, 142 are migratory, and 14 are resident migrants); 95 reptile and amphibian species; 71 registered fish species; and 58 mammal species listed as endangered. The reserve's most famous resident is the colorful American Flamingo tghat can be seen nesting in the El Cuyo basin. Other bird families commonly spotted in the reserve include herons, storks, kingfishers, cormorants, coots, rails, and gallinules.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll order from a select menu with a choice of entrée beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll continue birding on the salt flats at Rio Lagartos. After returning to the hotel, we’ll have time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
4
Chichén Itzá, Swim Cenote Yokdzonot, Transfer To Uxmal
Uxmal
B,L,D
Uxmal Resort Maya

Activity note: Note: Early morning, pre-breakfast birding. The drive about 9 miles from hotel to the cenote is about 9 miles; to Uxmal is about 133 miles, approximately 3 hours. Bring a bathing suit and quick drying travel towel for swimming at Yokdzonot.

Breakfast: Hotel plated meal.

Morning: Set out for an early morning birding field trip in and around the hotel’s gardens. From the hotel, we’ll join our Group Leader on a walking field trip of the Chichén Itzá archaeological complex and site lecture. The forests in and around the impressive archaeological complex are home to a variety of wildlife. Target species include the, Rose-throated Becard, Masked Tityra, Black-crowned Tityra, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Boat-billed flycatcher, Cave Swallow, Scrub Euphonia, Yellow-throated Euphonia, and Social Flycatcher. Endemic bird species include the Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Woodpecker and the Yellow-lored Parrot. This is also a good area to spot migrant songbirds that winter in the region. Chichén Itzá is considered the greatest Mayan site on the Yucatán peninsula and is certainly the most popular stop along today’s Ruta Maya. The archaeological site centers upon two unusually large cenotes, one that provided water for the city and the other a famous sacred cenote. Its history is the Yucatán’s “Trojan War,” as the ruler of Chichén Itzá stole the bride of one of the lords of Izamal who then took vengeance and sacked Chichén. The consolidation of Chichén Itzá as a political center meant the creation of a complicated political structure. This leadership allowed it to achieve magnificent architectural and sculptural splendor and made it one of the largest cities in the Maya area. Check out of the hotel and continue to Cenote Yokdzonot for a chance to swim and an on-site lecture exploring cenotes and the spiritual life of the Maya. Cenotes are water-filled limestone sinkholes found in the Yucatán and some Caribbean sites. Cenotes were an important source of freshwater for the Maya living in the Yucatán Peninsula. While here, take the opportunity to look for White-fronted Parrots, Cave Swallows, Grey-breasted Martins, and Masked Tityras--species known to frequent the woodlands and fields surrounding Yokdzonot.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Cenote Yokdzonot Park, we’ll have a buffet lunch with a soft drink or water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll have some time for independent exploration or relaxing at Cenote Yokdzonot. We’ll then transfer to our next base of explorations, Uxmal. It lies amid a vast expanse of tropical deciduous forest. Uxmal flourished at a slightly earlier period than Chichén, probably from 800 to 1000 C.E. Upon arrival at the hotel, we’ll check in then gather for an introduction to birding in the Yucatan with our Group Leader.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a plated meal ordered from a select menu with a choice of entrée and coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to attend the Uxmal Light and Sound Show (admission fee) at the Uxmal ruins where the walls of the monuments are illuminated in different colors with narration.

DAY
5
Birding at Uxmal, Birding San Simon Road
Uxmal
B,L,D
Uxmal Resort Maya

Activity note: Early morning, pre-breakfast birding. Walking about 3 miles, approximately 1.5 hours; flat, dirt road.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, we’ll order from a select menu with a variety of hot food choices, vegetarian choices, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll rise early for a pre-breakfast birding field trip. After breakfast, we’ll go on a field trip to Uxmal, in the Puuc region of Yucatan. This was one of the largest Mayan cities in the Classic Period from 600 to 1000 C.E. During this period, it was the capital of a vast territory on the peninsula. Uxmal's architecture was executed in the Puuc style, with elaborate and finely hewn stone mosaics that can be seen gracing many of the buildings. Notable buildings include the famous Pyramid of the Wizard, the Quandrangle of Nuns, and the House of the Turtles. Since water is scarce in the area, the Mayas designed a series of limestone-lined reservoirs and cisterns to catch water during the dry season. Images of the rain god Chac feature prominently at Uxmal. We will look for species such as the Yucatan Flycatcher (endemic), White-browed Wren, Ridgway’s Rough-winged Swallow, and the colorful Grey-throated Chat.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll drive to San Simon, where we will continue birding. Walking along the roadside, we will look species such as for the Yucatan Flycatcher, Lesser Roadrunner, Crane Hawk, and both Turquoise-browed and Blue-crowned Motmots. We’ll return to the hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll hve a plated meal with choice of entrée and coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We will return to San Simon road in search of owls and other nocturnal species such as the Vermiculated Screech Owl, Northern Potoo, Yucatan Nightjar (endemic) and Yucatan Poorwill (endemic). Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Birding the Hochob Ruins
Xpujil
B,L,D
Chicanna Ecovillage Resort

Activity note: The drive to Xpujil is about 143 miles, approximately 8 hours throughout the day including stops. Walking about 1 mile; flat, dirt roads.

Breakfast: At the hotel, choose what you like from the breakfast buffet plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Checking out of the hotel, we’ll depart for Xpujil, with a stop en route for a birding field trip at the Hochob ruins. Hochob is a small yet interesting Mayan archaeological site that is an excellent example of the Chenes architectural style that flourished from about 100 to 1000 C.E. Mayan structures featuring the masked façade are a regional architectural style found in southern Campeche. Resting high on a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys, the principle structure is fronted by a stylized mask, whose doorway represents the open mouth of Itzámná, the creator god, and above it the eyes bulge and fangs are bared on either side of the base. These sites in general do not contain large, mountainous structures like Chichen Itzá or Tikal. Chenes sites have smaller courtyards and ceremonial platforms that are encased in intense geometric relief carvings. Among the different species of birds that have been found at Hocho are Balcón-crowned Tityra, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Squirrel Cucko, Gray-croe de Yellowthroat, Ladde-backed Woodpecker & Orange Oriole.

Lunch: In Hochob, we’ll have a boxed lunch with sandwich, granola bar, fresh fruit, fruit juice.

Afternoon: We’ll continue on our way Xpujil and check in to our hotel. We’ll have some time for birding as a group on the hotel grounds before dinner. Keep your eyes open for Cresten Guans and Great Curassows. The name Xpujil means "Place of the Cattails" in the language of the Mayas. The site was officially discovered in 1938 by members of the fourth Carnegie Expedition to Campeche. The expedition's success was accomplished with the help of a local scout who gathered information about different archaeological sites in the area by talking to chicle farmers. This interesting site is just a few miles west of the town of Xpujil, and is part of a larger group of ruins in an area called Rio Bec. Xpujil is unusual in that it has three towers instead of the usual two found in the Rio Bec area and it resembles the tall structures found in the Peten area of Guatemala. The highly ornamented towers have roof combs and false stairways with carved jaguar heads.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll order from a select meny with a choice of entrée and coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Birding Calakmul Bioshphere Reserve
Xpujil
B,L,D
Chicanna Ecovillage Resort

Activity note: The drive to Calakmul is about 62 miles, approximately 2 hours. Walking and standing 3 hours on flat, dirt areas; climbing pyramid ruins.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, we’ll order from a select menu with a variety of hot food choices, vegetarian choices, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll head out on a field trip to Calakmul for birding in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and an onsite presentation on the architecture of the ruins. The Biosphere Reserve is home to many endangered mammals and an impressive 350 species of birds. It is part of the largest extension of tropical forest outside the Amazon basin. The top of the great pyramid in the archaeological complex offers a good vantage point to look for soaring raptors such as Hook-billed and Gray-headed Kites, Hawk-Eagles and the magnificent King Vulture, the symbol of Calakmul. Other possibilities are endemic species such as the Ocellated Turkey and Rose-throated Tanager, as well as rare and endangered birds such as Great Curassow and Crested Guan.

Lunch: At Calakmul, we’ll have boxed lunches with vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices, snacks, granola bars, juices, coffee, water.

Afternoon: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll order from a select menu with choice of entrée and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
To Palenque, Birding in the Becan Ruins
Palenque
B,L,D
Hotel Villas Kin-Ha

Activity note: The drive to Becan is about 5 miles, approximately 2 hours; from Becan to Palenque about 162 miles, approximately 5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea and water.

Morning: We’ll check out and begin our drive towards Becan for a birding field trip in the Becan ruins with an onsite presentation. Becan was once the political, economic, and religious center of the area known today as Rio Bec. The ruins are situated about 4 miles west of the town of Xpuhil. One distinguishing characteristic of Becan is the presence of moats and protective walls around the city; a feature not commonly found in Mayan cities. The pyramids and temples in Becan were built in clusters around three main plazas, and also include a small but well preserved ball court. Some buildings still have remnants of the detailed facades that once graced their walls, giving us insight into what the city must have looked like in its heyday. Among the types of birds that have been found at Becan are the Yellow-throated & Scrub Euphonia, Yucatán Parrot, Keel-billed Toucan, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Collared forest Falcon, Red-throated Anttanager, Spotted-breasted Wren, Bright-rumped Attila, and Great-crested Flycatcher.

Lunch: At a restaurant en route, we’ll order from a select menu with choice of entrée and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Afternoon: Arriving at the hotel in Palenque, we’ll check in with some time to relax and freshen up. We’ll gather before dinner for a presentation by a local expert and archaeologist on Pacal’s Tomb.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll order from a select menu with choice of entrée and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
9
Birding, Palenque Ruins, Misol-Há Waterfalls
Palenque
B,L,D
Hotel Villas Kin-Ha

Activity note: Early morning, pre-breakfast birding. Walking up to 1.5 hours at Palenque ruins over generally flat, paths of rock and dirt. At Misol Ha Waterfall, flat, rocky, and sometimes narrow and wet paths.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea and water.

Morning: We’ll rise early for a pre-breakfast birding field trip around the hotel gardens. After breakfast, we’ll take a field trip to Palenque with our Group Leader. Vast, mysterious and enchanting, the ruined city of Palenque is considered one of the loveliest archaeological sites in the world. It is nestled amidst steep and thickly forested hills, and frequently shrouded in lacy mist. Though much of the surrounding area has been cleared over the centuries for farming, Palenque still offers excellent birding opportunities with a host of additional species not to be found in the drier forests of Calakmul. Here we will search for Keel-billed Toucans, Bat Falcons, Green Honeycreepers, Red-lored Parrots, Montezuma Oropendolas, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Masked Tityras, Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, Lineated Woodpeckers, Pale-billed Woodpeckers, and Barred Falcons. We’ll continue our transfer to Misol-Há.

Lunch: At a hotel nearby the Palenque Site, we’ll order from a select men with choice of entrée and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Afternoon: We’ll spend the afternoon birding around the Misol-Há waterfall. The beautiful waterfall of Misol-Há is located south of Palenque. Steady streams of water cascade from the cliff’s edge and spill into a deep pool 98 feet below. The craggy rock face, rushing water, and tropical vegetation help to conceal a deep cave that leads to a subterranean pool. We’ll be on the lookout for types of birds seen at Misol Ha such as Collared, Black-headed, Gartered Trogons, Green Honeycreeper, Keel-billed Toucan, Blue-crowned Motmot, White-bellied Emerald, Montezuma Oropendola, and American Redstart. We’ll return to the hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll order from a select menu with choice of entrée and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
Birding the Bonampak Ruins
Bonampak
B,L,D
Cabañas Valle Escondido

Activity note: Early morning, pre-breakfast birding. The drive to Bonampak is about 90 miles, approximately 3.5 hours; from Bonampak to Valle Escondidio takes approximately 45 minutes. Walking approximately 2 hours in Bonampak on even, grassy terrain; climbing pyramid ruins.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea and water.

Morning: We’ll rise early for a pre-breakfast birding field trip around the hotel gardens. After breakfast, we’ll check out of the hotel and begin our transfer to Bonampak, where we will explore the Bonampak Ruins and learn about the history of the pack murals. Look for Gray-headed Kites, White-wiskered Puffbirds, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatchers, and Cinnamon Becards. The ruins of Bonampak were still being used for ceremonial purposes by Lacandon Indians when archaeologists explored the site in 1946. The city was built in the Early Classic Period and has a small plaza, surrounded by groups of smaller buildings. The most remarkable feature of this site is the presence of colorful frescoes depicting war and sacrificial ceremonies. These paintings were a shock to the academic world, since until then most believed the Maya were peaceful people.

Lunch: In Bonampak, we’ll have boxed lunches with vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices, snacks, granola bars, juices, coffee, water.

Afternoon: We’ll ride on to the community of Lacanja for more birding and species such as Buff-throated Saltator, Blue Ground Dove, White Hawk, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Cinnamon Becard, Yellow-lored Parrot, Scarlet Macaw, White-wiskered Puffbird & Band-backed Wren. We expect to arrive at the hotel for check in late afternoon.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll order from a select menu with choice of entrée and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
11
Birding the Ruins of Yaxchilan
Palenque
B,L,D
Hotel Villas Kin-Ha

Activity note: Early morning, pre-breakfast birding. The drive from Valle Escondido to the port is about approximately 2.5 hours; boat ride to Yaxchilan approximately 40 minutes. Walking at Yaxchilan; even, grassy terrain; climbing pyramid ruins. The drive from Yaxchilan to Palenque is about 152 miles, approximately 3.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea and water.

Morning: We’ll rise early for a pre-breakfast birding field trip around the hotel gardens. Departing the hotel, we will ride to the port, board our vessel, and sail up the Usumacinta River to Yaxchilan. The ancient Mayan city hides in the midst of a lush rainforest on the banks of the Usumacinta River, and is only accessible by boat. Yaxchilan was once a powerful city in the region and controlled many lesser communities nearby. It is probably best known for the quality and beauty of the sculptures found throughout the city on stelae, altars, lintels and murals. A remarkable feature of many monument sculptures depicting bloodletting rituals, is the presence of women as the main figures; something virtually unheard of in Mayan monument art. Target bird species include Rufous-breasted Spinetails, Striped Cuckoos, Great Black-Hawks, White Hawks, and Double-toothed Kites.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Frontera Corozal, we’ll order from a select menu; non-alcoholic beverage included.

Afternoon: We’ll transfer back to Palenque and return to the hotel, checking in to the hotel before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
12
Aluxes Ecoparque, Usumacinta Marshes
Villahermosa
B,L,D
Hyatt Regency Villahermosa

Activity note: Drive to Villahermosa takes approximately 2 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea and water.

Morning: Early morning bird walk at Aluxes Ecoparque, a not for profit non-governmental organization dedicated to the mission of conservation and wildlife rescue projects. Aluxes Ecoparque also works with universities and researchers to develop conservation projects such as biological corridors, the restoration of ecopark forest and wetlands, and studying the area bats of Palenque. After breakfast, we’ll check out of the hotel and ride to the Usumacinta Marshes for a field trip. The Usumacinta mangroves, and the flooded areas that surround them, are considered to be some of the most important wetlands in the country. The warm and humid climate, combined with rich soil and the availability of water (especially during the rainy summer months), all help to support a variety of plant and wildlife in the area. The wetlands are home to more than 370 species of plants, 279 species of birds, 60 species of fish, 85 species of reptiles, 26 species of amphibians, and more than 130 species of mammals. Ducks, waders, raptors and shorebirds are commonly seen in the area. Birds of interest in this area include Aplomado Falcons, White-tailed Hawks, Black-collared Hawks, Jabiru, Blue-winged Teals, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

Lunch: En route to Villahermosa in Catazaja, we’ll stop at a local eatery and order from a select menu plus non-alcoholic beverage.

Afternoon: Arriving in Villahermosa, we’ll check in to the hotel. The remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a farewell meal featuring Mexican cuisine, plus an alcoholic beverage. Share your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for departure in the morning.

DAY
13
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: One group transfer to the airport is provided this morning for those with early departure times and leaves at approximately 5am. For those with later flight departure times on Road Scholar booked flights, a complimentary transfer will be provided. Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon. If you are an independent traveler (POP status), see “Ground Transportation from Last Location.”

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!