Times Staff Writer


To the Biosphere and beyond

DISCOVER hidden Honduras on an eco-tour of the country sometimes called the "Amazon of Central America."

The nine-night trip, which begins March 23, tours the ancient Maya ruins of Copan and explores the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, Pico Bonito National Park and the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, near La Ceiba.

"You see an amazing variety of habitats," said Mark Willuhn of Emerald Planet Tours. "It is for people who have interests in birds, orchids and the cultural aspects; it's a wonderful introduction to Mayan culture."

The group navigates the waterways of the bio-diverse Rio Platano Reserve, visiting indigenous self-sustaining communities within the 2-million-acre site. In Las Marias, local people act as guides.

After five days of roughing it in the reserve, the group spends two nights in a lodge bordering the tropical forest of Pico Bonito National Park. Among the birds found there are white hawks, white-crowned parrots and purple-crowned fairies.

Participants spend a day in the estuaries and mangrove forests of Cuero y Salado looking for wildlife, including monkeys, iguanas and dozens of bird species.

Cost: $3,250 per person, double occupancy ($750 single surcharge), including accommodations, meals, internal airfare and ground transportation, guides, airport transfers and a study packet. International airfare from Los Angeles to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, is not included.

Contact: Emerald Planet Tours, Fort Collins, Colo.; (888) 883-0736,


See Rome as Rockwell did

WALK in the footsteps of Norman Rockwell, one of America's quintessential artists, on a tour of Italy.

The seven-night tour, which begins April 22, visits sites in Italy and Sicily that were important to the artist. Among the stops will be Palermo, Monreale, Segesta, Agrigento and Catania in Sicily; and Rome.

"He was a world traveler," said tour representative Robert Roy, who organized the trip for the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. "There are a lot of things included in the program that he specifically liked to do."

In Rome, the group will join sculptor Peter Rockwell, son of Norman Rockwell, for a tour of his studio in the city.

In the 1950s, Norman Rockwell was hired by Pan American World Airways to illustrate its international clipper service and so traveled extensively.

Cost: $3,780 per person, double occupancy ($845 single surcharge), including hotels, internal airfare, most meals, airport transfers and gratuities. Airfare from Los Angeles is not included.

Contact: Lynda Mulvey, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass., (413) 298-4100, Ext. 235; or Siemer & Hand Travel, San Francisco, (800) 451-4321, Ext. 308,


By train west from Toronto

RIDE the rails across a swath of Canada, then visit the Canadian Rockies on a six-day spring tour.

Participants on the trip, which begins May 23, board the Canadian in Toronto for a two-night train trip to Jasper, Alberta. They travel through Manitoba and Saskatchewan, with a stop in Edmonton, Alberta, before climbing the Canadian Rockies to Jasper for an overnight stay.

The tour continues by bus through the Columbia Ice Fields to Banff, Chateau Lake Louise and Calgary.

Cost: $2,495 per person, double occupancy ($300 single surcharge), including accommodations, most meals and transportation. Airfare from Los Angeles to Toronto, returning from Calgary, is also included.

Contact: Great Western Tours, Pasadena; (800) 344-7090.


French artist's fanciful forms

OBSERVE the works of French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, without leaving California, on a trip organized by Pierce College.

The bus trip will visit an Escondido sculpture garden created by the late French artist. The day trip, scheduled March 17, leaves the Woodland Hills college at 7 a.m. to see Queen Califa's Magical Circle in Escondido.

The tour includes a visit to the Mingei International Museum in Escondido. Preregistration is required.

Cost: $68 per person, including registration fee, transportation from Woodland Hills and tour guide. Meals are not included.

Contact: Pierce College Extension, Woodland Hills; (818) 719-6425,


Down Under, tee by tee

IMPROVE your golf game on a tour to some of Australia's best courses.

The two-week tour, which begins Feb. 21, will be led by sportscaster Lynn Shackelford and will travel to courses including Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney and Barnbougle Dunes in Bridport, Tasmania.

Most of the courses are designs by Alister MacKenzie, one of the world's best-known golf course architects, Shackelford said. Golfers can compare notes while on a cruise in Sydney Harbor or sipping wine in the Barossa Valley.

Participants should have some golfing expertise and be able to walk. Electric carts are rare.

Cost: $7,600 per person, single occupancy, including accommodations, transportation in Australia, greens fees and most meals. Airfare from Los Angeles to Sydney is not included.

Contact: Lynn Shackelford, Moorpark, (805) 529-6147; or Golf Travel International, Toronto, (888) 904-2626,

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