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Truly Exotic Locales

A common question that How-to Travel Gurus are often asked is, "What's the most exotic place you've ever visited?" Here, I have to blush, because although I've been to some pretty remote places, I can't come close to the travels of my friend Wolfgang Kaehler a travel photographer who literally has been everywhere.

A typical conversation with Wolfgang goes like this: "Do you want to have a barbeque next month?" "No, I'm going to photograph the gorillas in Botswana, and then we'll be in Belize for a few days before I head to Antarctica after I swing through South Georgia Island to shoot the penguins." Wolfgang has more penguin pictures than any man alive.

But I've been to tiny islands in Micronesia where people still lived for the most part on fishing and coconuts and breadfruit. I've dived with the sharks of Rangiroa in the largest atoll in the world, and in Palau, which has magnificent diving and snorkeling, I played basketball in the jungle with a bunch of guys in sandals who chewed bright-red betelnut as we played. The game went like this: Pass, dribble, spit, shoot, rebound, spit. On one visit to a Micronesian island group, there was a big sign stretched across the main road from the airport: "Let's wipe out leprosy by the year 2000!" I don't think the Tourism Bureau hoisted the sign.

Tahiti is every bit as gorgeous as advertised. I'm particularly fond of the off-islands of Huahine and Raiatea, because they're less traveled than Tahiti itself and have fascinating Polynesian archaeological sites to go with the gorgeous landscape and people and French-influenced culture. I've been to Siberia and am not especially eager to return. The hottest day I've ever spent was a sweltering summer day in Khabarovsk with intense humidity and people lined up to drink water from a tin cup attached to the side of a vending machine.

Of course, Hawaii is geographically the most remote place on Earth, and I've been to the Alakai Swamps on Kauai and Waipio Valley on the Big Island, which may well be the most remote places on the islands. The latter in particular stands out as a Shangri-la of lush tropical plants, a black sand beach, and a thrilling waterfall at the back of a deep, remote valley.

The other question that everyone asks How-to Travel Gurus is where is my favorite place. That's easy: It's the next place I'm going. In this case, Alberta, Canada later this month for some golf and great Rocky Mountain scenery.

And what about you: Where are your most exotic getaways? And where in the world is Wolfgang Kaehler?

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