Saturday, February 05, 2005

travel: a boat away from home

By Jason Overdorf
(This article appeared in Newsweek International in February 2005)

February 14 issue--Tired of wearing yourself out resting up? There's one vacation that will force you to throttle back and relax: a houseboat holiday. Try meandering along beautiful waterways or exploring a scenic lake—then dropping anchor and bunking down. tip sheet explores some great winter getaways:

Amazonia, Brazil: Swallows and Amazons Tours offers all-inclusive boat trips down Brazil's Amazon and Rio Negro. The company's riverboats sleep eight—in hammocks—while the posher houseboats have six air-conditioned cabins that each sleep two. Enjoy bird watch-ing, fishing for piranha and swimming—but keep your eyes peeled for alligators. A cook provides home-style meals including local fish, tropical fruits and regional vegetables. (Seven nights, $1,050 per person; 11 nights, $1,450 per person;

Kerala, India: There's no better way to see the idyllic backwaters of India's southern tip—a huge network of canals, lagoons, lakes and rivers—than by houseboat. The huge, creeping barges, called kettuvalloms, that now serve as luxury houseboats once carried rice and spices. The boats have all the creature comforts of—and some advantages over—a good hotel. For one, you can angle for fish from your balcony. Casino Group, a well-known Indian hotel and tour company, offers various Spice Coast Cruises. ($275 per couple per night in peak season;

Lake Wanaka, New Zealand: Just an hour north of Queenstown, Wanaka is a beautiful lake at the base of New Zealand's snow-capped Southern Alps. You can enjoy the breathtaking scenery from the rooftop deck of the fully kitted Lady Pembroke while you grill some freshly caught trout. The houseboat sleeps 10 and comes with kitchen, bathroom with hot shower, TV, video and stereo system. Be sure to take a break from the water and explore Mount Aspiring National Park, a wilderness reserve where ancient Maori trails crisscross high mountains and river valleys. ($710 per day;

Rain Forest, Costa Rica: A cruise down the Rio Colorado, Rio San Juan or Rio Indio Rica on the luxurious Rain Goddess offers anglers the chance to catch some of the world's most exciting sport fish—including tarpon, snook and machaca—without hiking through the jungle or sleeping rough. The boat, which can accommodate 12, has two staterooms on the main deck and four on the upper deck, 24-hour air conditioning and hot showers; onboard cell phones are available for those who need to keep in touch with the office. But why would you want to? (Five days and four nights, $1,795 per person for anglers, $850 for non-anglers;