The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

Tours and cruises: Mexico, Canada, Greece, Mali and South Africa

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer


Paint and cruise

Learn how to paint classics such as "driftwood in morning light" and "water and reflections" while cruising among British Columbia's Gulf Islands. Instructor Mark Hobson will tutor passengers in watercolor techniques as the 92-foot schooner Maple Leaf meanders among the 100-plus islands and islets. Hobson, a natural-history specialist, will give pointers on painting as well as talk about plants and wildlife of the area, which may include sea lions, otters and porpoises. Accommodations aboard the schooner are semiprivate, in double or single bunks, and meals are served in the dining salon.

Info: Maple Leaf Adventures, Victoria, Canada; (888) 599-5323,

Dates: April 9 to 14

Price: $1,987; includes meals, onboard accommodations, shore excursions and use of gear on board. The price does not include round-trip airfare to Sidney, Canada.


Sailing singles

Think cruisewear and mojitos. A weekend sailing to Ensenada aboard the Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas targets single travelers in their 30s and 40s. Passengers stop at Ensenada and take part in parties, singles-only land tours and other perks for those going solo.

Info: Singles Travel International, 7491 N. Federal Highway, Suite C5328, Boca Raton, FL 33487; (877) 765-6874,

Dates: Feb. 29 to March 3

Price: Rates start at $339 per person, double occupancy (single supplement $170; the tour operator guarantees solo travelers a roommate when requested), including cruise-ship accommodations, meals, fitness center and meet-and-greet parties. Does not include shore tours and tips.


St. Paul's footsteps

See Greece from a spiritual perspective on a Catholic tour that marks the year of St. Paul -- a decree made by Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the saint's birth. Among stops on the nine-day tour are the Kavala port where Paul landed; ancient Philippi, where he was imprisoned; and the Corinth marketplace where Paul preached. There's also time to wander Pella, birthplace of Alexander the Great; Meteora; and the Acropolis, Parthenon and other ancient sites of Athens.

Info: The Catholic Tour Co., 21625 Chagrin Blvd., No. 210, Beachwood, OH 44122; (877) 627-4268,

Itinerary: Thessaloniki, Philippi, Kalambaka, Delphi, Athens.

Dates: April 1 to 9, with additional departures in June and October.

Price: $2,349 per person, double occupancy (single supplement $350), includes round-trip airfare from New York's JFK airport, accommodations, seven breakfasts and six dinners, daily Mass, transfers, tips, taxes and baggage handling and motorcoach tours. The price does not include $135 departure tax, $170 fuel surcharge or airfare from Los Angeles to New York.


Storytelling traditions

Hear the storytellers of West Africa on a tour to Mali. Participants will travel to Kela, a village known for its training of griots, those who carry on a family's or village's oral traditions. The February tour tips its hat to "Visual Griots of Mali," an exhibition on display through March 11 at UCLA's Fowler Museum. The show features slice-of-life photos by West African sixth-graders. Among other highlights of the upcoming tour, led by University of London professor Trevor Marchand: a performance of the Sanga mask dancers; dancing and music in the desert with the Taureg; the masquerade of the Bamana and Bozo people in Ségou; the Konboro Mosque in Djénné, said to be the world's largest mud structure; and ancient illuminated manuscripts in Timbuktu.

Info: Archaeological Tours, 271 Madison Ave., Suite 904, New York; (866) 740-5130,

Itinerary: Bamako, Ségou, Mopti, Dogon, Tombouctou.

Dates: Feb. 4 to 18

Price: $6,890 per person, double occupancy (single supplement $800), includes round-trip airfare from New York, accommodations, meals, tips, transfers. The price does not include airfare from Los Angeles to New York.


Volunteer with kids

Spend spring break building a playground, teaching your kids about the value of community service -- and swimming with penguins. The Global Buddies program, developed by UCLA's Global Center for Children and Families, is for those 7 to 17 and their families. Participants travel to Cape Town, where they work with the Women for Peace organization, which offers after-school programs, as well as job-training and support programs for local women. Most days are spent in the township of Mfuleni, where the adults work on projects, including the playground, a community garden and the development of a catering business. The U.S. kids and the Mfuleni kids buddy up; their program of cultural exchange includes singing, arts, storytelling, cooking and soccer. Time is also made for sightseeing. Among the stops: the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden; Boulders Beach, where participants will see a penguin colony and take a dip in False Bay; and Robben Island, site of the prison where Nelson Mandela was held.

Info: Global Center for Children and Families, 1100 Glendon Ave., Suite 850, L.A., CA 90024. Contact Cynthia Sherrill, (310) 794-6256.

Dates: March 23 to 31

Price: $1,495 per adult, $1,795 per child, includes accommodations, activities and entrance fees, ground transportation, two lunches and three dinners. Round-trip airfare to Cape Town is not included.

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