Apr 5 2003
If you truly want to escape the world’s turmoil, Andy Kammer can help by sending you far away.
What’s the logic in that? The DeForest (Dane County) native’s specialty is eco-tourism in remote locations: kayaking in Costa Rica, snorkeling in Panama, studying Mayan architecture in Belize, tracking lions in Zimbabwe, South Africa.
From stays inside of a Caribbean wildlife refuge to the African bush of Zambia, these are customized tours for two to 12 people on some of the most beautiful, idyllic parts of the planet. They are opportunities to forget, temporarily, what can happen when humans selfishly pursue their stubborn or narrow definitions of civilization.
The cost, without air transportation included, is about $1,200 to $4,000 for two weeks away. It all depends upon the destination and lavishness of accommodations.
Kammer is a trained chef and works part time at a Walgreen’s distribution center as he nurtures his travel business, Wild Hare Adventure Travel Inc. The excursions began in 1996, when he began leading wilderness canoe trips in northern Ontario, Canada.
Kammer also organized the annual Adventure Travel Expo in Madison for four years, first on his own, then through a travel agency. At its peak, up to 60 vendors from throughout the world participated; the last expo was in 2001.
Now his emphasis is on educational vacations instead of physically adventurous travel.
“Safety has always been a huge issue” to potential customers, Kammer says, so in that respect wartime is no different than when this business began.
He grew up on a farm near Pardeeville and calls Kariba, Zimbabwe, his favorite place on Earth. It is a city whose 30,000 residents have learned how to live with wildlife, inside of a national park.
“Leopards will take your dog, if you keep it out too long, and elephants will eat from your lemon trees,” Kammer explains. “It is an Eden-esque place.”
So does that kind of talk invigorate you, or make you want to stay home?
The protective bubble of a mainstream airlines’ vacation package, he says, “is very good for safety but bad for experiences, which can be magical.”
Although there may be “intense moments” – like being near a breeding herd of elephants, or getting closer to a hippo than expected – they make for indelible memories.
“We are trained guides and we are entertainers, somewhat. What we have is nature as the show,” Kammer says. “Things that are not planned often become the highlights” of a trip.
He participates in some tours and acts as the conduit between traveler and tour guide for others. He says there have been no injuries to any of his customers, whose ages have stretched from 18 to 80 years. When not on a trip that he organizes, Kammer says he stays in touch via e-mail or phone.
“I’ve never felt unsafe anywhere I’ve traveled,” he contends, acknowledging that the worst experience he had was losing $50 because of a pickpocket in Madagascar. “We have more violent crimes in the U.S.”
Kammer insists that he would never send anybody to a place he wouldn’t go to himself – or use his energy to convert the overly timid.
“If you’re worried about this kind of travel, don’t go,” he says. “I’m not here to convince you to go – and why would you feed your own anxiety?”
Itineraries, he explains, can have a lot of latitude. They can be rugged and physically challenging, or have more emphasis on comfort and learning.
What’s closest to home? Probably a walking safari to track polar bears in northern Ontario, or a trek to Canada’s sparsely inhabited Nunavut territory, to see its 750,000 caribou and other wildlife.
Is this the right time to be promoting this type of travel niche?
“I’ll find out,” Kammer says. “People have to live their lives, and I can’t NOT do this.”
For more information, call (608) 444-8784 or go to www.AdventureAndy.com. If this level of remote travel and adventure is not for you, maybe a slide show of it is.
“I’ll talk about this stuff anywhere I can,” Kammer says of this passion.
If you have booked a trip outside of the United States and want to keep apprised of traveling conditions, go to www.travel.state.gov, the U.S. State Department’s Internet site, which includes worldwide travel advisories.
Thanks go to Fran Keally of Madison, for dropping a line about how seven eighth-grade students and two teachers from Madison Country Day School presently are in Santiago, Chile, for a two-week cultural exchange. The plan is for students there to visit Madison this fall.
“All the parents felt that this experience was one they wanted their child to have,” writes Keally. “The students had looked forward to this trip for a long time; it was to be the culmination of their middle school experience and an opportunity to put their years of classroom Spanish into use.
“For my husband and me, not only did we want our daughter to have this unique learning experience, but we wanted her to learn how to live a life where one can analyze a situation and still conclude that the more adventurous path is the right one to take.”