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Costas Christ on farther frontiers

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The New Explorers: Adventure Traveling 2008

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The New Explorers: Adventure Traveling 2008

Costas Christ on farther frontiers

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Alison Stewart will explore the world of adventure travel to the planet's final frontiers with Costas Christ, contributor to National Geographic Adventure Magazine.

ALISON STEWART, host:

As we reported in the newscast, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest back in 1953, died in New Zealand yesterday. Now, the spirit of adventure that led him to the top of the world's highest mountain still drives even amateur explorers today. The extreme adventure travelers who set their sights in the few peaks, valleys and plains, still ripe for discovery - there is a race to get to these places before someone else claims them or nature reclaims them.

More than 8,000 tour companies in the U.S. deal exclusively with itineraries for these kind of adventure travelers. National Geographic Adventure Magazine tracks the latest hot spots for modern-day adventure.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: I love that theme. A man…

WOLFE: That theme makes me feel adventurous the way like looking at a fitness magazine makes me feel in shape.

STEWART: Exactly. A man, who has been to more than 120 countries across six continents, including some of the world's most remote wilderness areas, is Nat Geo's adventure global traveler editor and columnist, Costas Christ.

Hi. How are you?

Mr. COSTAS CHRIST (Contributor, National Geographic Adventure Magazine): Hi. I'm fine. Good morning.

STEWART: Good morning. So, who are these travel adventurers? Is there a demographic for these people?

Mr. CHRIST: Well, I think that the surge in adventure and nature travel over the last two decades, and particularly, the last decade, is being driven by, in many respects, the baby boomer generation. You know, these were the folks who, in the '60s, they set out on a Marrakesh Express. They went over land to Afghanistan and India and they remembered those trips, and they want to reconnect with some of that sense of adventure and exploration.

STEWART: Is there one place right now that all of these adventure travelers are trying to get to?

Mr. CHRIST: There's not one place. You know, that - I mean, it may sound kind of funny, in a way. But I mean, that one place has become planet Earth. And the reason I say that is because we're living, really, in a new age of adventure where technology and travel and access has - is enabling more people to get to more far-flung corners of the planet than ever before in history. So in that sense, far from kind of missing the age of exploration, we really are in a new age of exploration.

STEWART: You - in the magazine, the 2008 World Best Adventure Travel Tips, a piece for Nat Geo, you put - chose some destinations. Alaska was one of the choices you described. You described it as one of Earth's most endangered landscapes. Now, help me out with this. If it's an endangered place, should we be going there or is it a place that we should wave people away from?

Mr. CHRIST: Well, you ask a really good question. And, you know, endangered places - Alaska, Galapagos, Serengeti, you know, and the list goes on from there; fragile environments, the last stronghold for, you know, rare and endangered wildlife. And my answer to your question is yes, because counter-intuitively, you know, we might think that the last thing we want to do is go to these places but the truth is that tourism, when it's done well - and by that, I mean, responsible and sustainable tourism - can be the catalyst for insuring that these places are protected for generations to come.

If people were to stop traveling to the Serengeti tomorrow, we would actually face an environmental crisis because this area would be encroached with human settlements and cattle. Tourism and the revenue that it can bring, when it's done responsibly, can make the difference between protecting these last fragile habitats and their disappearance.

STEWART: Let's talk about travel and the danger of travel. I'm curious if this is part of the equation because you mention Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor as one of the wildest landscapes on the planet and there are treks that you can on that follow Marco Polo's route. Is it safe to travel there at this point or is the danger part of what makes it adventure travel?

Mr. CHRIST: Well, you know, that's where the issue of who takes you…

STEWART: Ah.

Mr. CHRIST: …you know, comes into the picture. And, you know, if unless you're an extremely savvy traveler with a lot of experience and are ready to set out on your own and to go into some of these areas, you want to go with an operator that's, you know, tried and true. And the trip that you just mentioned, which is led by a group called Geographic Expeditions, you know, specializes in going to places that not too many other people go to. For example, they're taking people into North Korea this year as well. And in the issue of National Geographic Adventure, which was our best outfitters on Earth, one of the factors that we use to evaluate a tour operator was their safety record along with things such as their record of sustainability, how they're giving back to the planet.

So you really want to, you know, get some thought about who are you traveling with, take a look into them. How long have they've been in business. You know, in the case of this trip to Afghanistan, they have a 24/7 on-call emergency phone number should anything happen, and they have a very good track record, and nothing's happened and that's good.

STEWART: Costas Christ is the Nat Geo adventure global travel editor and a columnist for the magazine. We're running out of time, but I'm going to have one of my producers ask you a question off air because we're curious about the parts of the world that are now available because of global warming. Little pieces that are popping up. So can you stay on the line?

Mr. CHRIST: Sure.

STEWART: Great. So we'll post that on our blog in a little bit, Costas' answer to that, about global warming affecting adventure travel.

WOLFF: I'm afraid of adventure.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: But Costas made me want to go.

STEWART: Well, here's the article. Take a look. We'll plan a trip.

That's been THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. I'm Alison Stewart, along with Bill Wolff. And I think I just talked my husband into vacation.

WOLFF: No, you didn't.

STEWART: Keban, Africa, please?

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