Join Friends on trip to Ecuador, Galapagos Islands _lowres

Photo provided by Classic Escapes -- A giant tortoise offers the perfect photo opp for a visitor to the Galapagos Islands.

Giant tortoises, marine iguanas, colorful frigate birds — they’ll be as near as the end of a camera lens for those on the Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo’s latest adventure.

The group is sponsoring a 10-day trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands on May 22-31. There’s still space available on the Classic Escapes trip, but the deadline to register is March 21.

Leaving from Baton Rouge, the group flies to Quito, Ecuador. The following day will be spent touring the colonial city. The third day includes a visit to the Otavalo Market, South America’s most famous Indian fair.

On day four, the group flies on to the Galapagos, where they’ll board the 90-passenger M/V Santa Cruz II for a four-night cruise of the islands. Island hopping is by an open panga (fishing boat).

Stops will include Isabela Island’s Vicente Roca Point, where a snorkeling outing will be scheduled, if weather permits; Punta Espinoza, Fernandina, where a huge colony of iguanas can be seen basking in the sun along the shoreline; Urbina Bay, a shell collector’s and birder’s paradise; and Tagus Cove, with stunning views of Darwin and Wolf volcanoes. The next day, they’ll visit the Charles Darwin Research Station.

And there’s still more to see and do on this cultural and wildlife expedition.

San Winslow, the zoo’s assitant director/general curator will escort the group of about 20.

Prices start at $6,395 for land and cruise only, double occupancy, plus an estimated airfare cost of $2,190 round-trip.

For more details or reservations, call Lori Charles, (800) 627-1244 or email loric@classicescapes.com/.

Unveiling rescheduled

Due to inclement weather on Wednesday, the unveiling of the Bunk Johnson Historical Kiosk has been moved to noon Monday, March 21.

The event will take place next to the Sliman Theater for the Performing Arts, 129 E. Main St. in New Iberia.

The kiosk honors the legacy of jazz musician William G. “Bunk” Johnson and his impact on Iberia Parish. Born in New Orleans, Johnson lived and is buried in New Iberia. He is credited for teaching Louis Armstrong and other jazz legends.

To learn more about Johnson and the annual Bunk Fest, which celebrates his musical legacy, visit BunkJohnson.com.

For more information about the kiosk, contact Fran Thibodeaux, (337) 365-1540 or fran@iberiatravel.com.

News from Audubon

The Audubon Zoo’s Cool Zoo and Gator Run, a lazy river, will open Saturday, March 19.

This season, the Cool Zoo will feature new lockers, new inner tubes with bottoms and a private area for nursing mothers.

Admission to Cool Zoo, including Gator Run, is $10 for Audubon Nature Institute members and $12 for non-members, plus Audubon Zoo admission.

The water attractions will be open daily through April 3 before switching to a weekends-only schedule April 4-May 15, then back to a daily schedule through Aug. 14. Weekends-only hours will run Aug. 15- Oct. 2 when the water park will close for the season.

The zoo’s World of Primates recently added two mandrills.

Mapema, a 17-year-old male from the Bronx Zoo, and Jinx, a 13-year-old female from Lowry Park Zoo in Florida, have taken up residence in the exhibit directly across from zoo’s gorilla habitat.

The monkeys’ new home formerly housed the zoo’s orangutan collection, which has relocated to the nearby Asian Domain.

Known for distinctive markings on their faces and rumps, mandrills are considered among the world’s most exotic creatures.

The zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium and Entergy Giant Screen Theater, all located in New Orleans, have begun their spring and summer season. The seven-day-a-week schedule continues through Sept. 5. Audubon attractions are also open on select holiday Mondays throughout the year.

For details, visit AudubonNatureInstitute.org.

Louisiana Travels is a column about travel destinations and events in Louisiana. Email items for Louisiana Travels to travel@theadvocate.com or jbergeron@theadvocate.com.