Scouting Report 2007

By Kate Appleton, David LaHuta, Laura MacNeil, Sean O'Neill, Erik Torkells, and Brad Tuttle
August 9, 2007
We asked 10 people who explore for a living to reveal the places they've recently "discovered"--in other words, the best places you've never heard of (and, frankly, neither had we). Go now, before the rest of the world catches up.

Vanessa Berlowitz: A producer of the series Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel (, now working on its sequel

Vanessa Berlowitz, a wildlife film producer who worked on the BBC's series Planet Earth (which aired in the United States on the Discovery Channel), is constantly on the move. "My travel is focused around trying to find the correct animal doing the right thing at the right time," she explains. In the past year, she's been to South Georgia, a small island near Antarctica; Svalbard, in the Norwegian Arctic; and twice to Pakistan. When researching the migration of demoiselle cranes for Planet Earth, Berlowitz discovered that Jomsom, Nepal, was an ideal spot to watch the birds in flight.

At an elevation of 9,000 feet, the Himalayan town has spectacular views of the Nilgiri and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges and is a popular departure point for treks. During the first two weeks of October, however, there's no need to venture far to get prime wildlife viewing: "From the center of town, you can see and hear large groups of demoiselle cranes flying overhead," says Berlowitz. "If you walk for about an hour and a half up the valley on a very easy trekking path, cross a bridge to the other side of the gorge, and wait for the thermal winds to pick up, you'll see golden eagles dive-bombing the cranes as they take off."

The Hotel Om's Home guesthouse in Jomsom has clean, simply furnished rooms and good food. "There are great Nepalese curries with lots of organic vegetables," says Berlowitz, "and Tibetan-style dishes like yak-meat ravioli-type dumplings that are delicious."

How to get there: Round-trip flights from Kathmandu to Jomsom (via Pokhara), $290; Hotel Om's Home, 011-977/69-44-00-42, rooms from $26 and meals from $6; runs two-week naturalist-guided migration tours with lodging, all local transportation, and meals from $1,199.

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Scouting Report 2007

JURA REGION, FRANCEMo Frechette: Founder of Zingerman's Mail Order, which sells artisanal food from all around the globe ( As the founder of the Zingerman's mail-order catalogue and website--entities within the Ann Arbor-based gourmet- food juggernaut--Mo Frechette is constantly on the lookout for artisanal food. Frechette combines visits to international trade shows with pilgrimages to farms in the surrounding countryside. "My trips usually involve long drives and a lot of getting lost," Frechette admits. One of his favorite revelations was on a cheese mission in the oft-overlooked Jura region in eastern France, about an hour's drive from Geneva. "It's sort of like Wisconsin crossed with Switzerland," Frechette says. "There are almost 200 different creameries making the main cheese of the region, Comté. And not many tourists." Frechette stayed in the town of Jougne ("in the middle of things, cheese-wise"), stopped by the cheese and wine shops in nearby villages like Les Hôpitaux-Vieux, and visited local cheese makers. The Fromagerie Marcel Petite at Fort de St.-Antoine particularly impressed him: "It's a giant underground fort built in the 1800s, now used to store some 60,000 wheels of Comté--there's almost nothing I've ever seen like it. Plus, the cheese is fantastic." How to get there: Hôtel La Couronne, 6 rue de l'Église, Jougne, 011-33/3-81-49-10-50, from $81; Fruitière des Hôpitaux-Vieux, 2 place de la Mairie, Les Hôpitaux-Vieux, 011-33/3-81-49-12-44; Fromagerie Marcel Petite, Fort de St.-Antoine,, tours on Thursday $7.50, reserve with the tourism office at the Vallée des Deux Lacs, 011-33/3-81-69-31-21.  

Scouting Report 2007

PUERTO ÁNGEL, MEXICOClaus Sendlinger: President and CEO of Berlin-based Design Hotels, a collective of 154 hotels worldwide ( As president and CEO of Design Hotels, Claus Sendlinger travels about every other week--in other words, half the year. When asked the last four places he had been, he had to take a minute to try and remember (he recalled, in no particular order, St. Petersburg, Budapest, Vienna, and Rome). One place that Sendlinger won't soon forget was on the Pacific Coast of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. "For Christmas, my wife and I went to Mexico for three weeks--the longest vacation I've taken since I left school!" says Sendlinger. After exploring the inland part of Oaxaca, they headed to the beach. "We did an area that's east of Puerto Escondido and west of Huatulco," he says. "It's right in between, where the mountains come down and reach the ocean. There are four little beaches, some with little hippie villages named after them: Mazunte, Zipolite, San Agustinillo, and La Boquilla." They stayed at Hotel Bahía de la Luna, just outside the town of Puerto Ángel. It has 11 bungalows right on the white-sand beach of La Boquilla. His friends Carlos Couturier Gaya and Moisés Micha, who own the Habita and Condesa DF hotels in Mexico City and the Básico in Playa del Carmen, had tipped him off about Bahía de la Luna. "They know Mexico so well, so I explained what I was looking for and they told us to rent a car in Puerto Escondido and drive." Sendlinger found it to be an incredibly relaxed (and relaxing) place--not just the hotel, but the entire coastal region--and he spent most of his time reading on the beach. "Early in the trip," he says, "I accidentally left my flip-flops at a bar, and I never even bothered to replace them." How to get there: Hotel Bahía de la Luna, 011-52/958-589-5020,, from $60.

Scouting Report 2007

YIRGALEM, ETHIOPIAGeoff Watts: Co-owner of and coffee buyer for Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, a Chicago coffee-roasting company ( Geoff Watts was fresh out of college when he began working as a barista for Intelligentsia in 1995, the same year the socially conscious coffee-roasting company launched in Chicago. In his current role as green-coffee buyer, Watts spends up to nine months a year sourcing coffee beans in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. "We want to change the culture from being a farmer to being an artisan," he says. Of the 18 countries where Watts works, Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, intrigues him most. "That's the same area where the human race originated. I guess it's a natural pairing," he quips. Small coffee farms and towns like Yirgacheffe, which lends its name to the coffee varietal grown in the region, dot a river valley about a six-hour drive south of Addis Ababa. "It's just beautifully wet, and the soil's really rich," says Watts. "You can tell the coffee enjoys being there." It's also ideal for hiking, horseback riding, cycling, and taking a dip in the hot and cold springs. Watts recommends Yirgalem as a regional base; travelers can stay at the Aregash Lodge, where the 10 round, thatched-roof tukuls (bungalows) are decorated with woven baskets and handcrafts typical of the local Sidama people. They have a strong tradition of consuming coffee and perform elaborate ceremonies when preparing and drinking it, especially in the presence of visitors. "The culture is fascinating, and the people are so friendly and gentle," says Watts. How to get there: Aregash Lodge, 011-251/46-225-1136,, from $34; car with driver from $130 a day,