Canadian Writer Donna Carter Explains why Miami is the Perfect Meeting Destination

A central part of Dragonfly Expeditions’ target audience is made up of corporate groups; companies of all sizes use Miami as both a destination for corporate events and incentive travel. Donna Carter is a Cobourg, Ontario-based freelance writer who had the opportunity to visit Miami as part of one of these groups.

In the following article, Carter presents Dragonfly Expeditions and shares her opinion about what in particular makes Miami one of the most popular US destinations for corporate gatherings. Her work was published by MeetingsCanada.com, which helps meeting planners in learning about and contacting potential partners for events and promotions. Carter’s article was published in the company’s magazine Meetings+Incentive Travel. In addition to focusing on the world’s most popular destinations for meetings and incentive travel, the magazine also features articles on topics such as hotels, venues, convention centers, marketing and finance, health and safety, business trends and research, and daily news.

Read more to discover why Miami is one of the best locations for corporate events and incentive travel and how Dragonfly Expeditions brings out this destination’s real sense of place. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Guide Justin

Justin Law is a true Florida Cracker, having lived in Central and South Florida all his life. Certainly this has made him in touch with a state in which most of its inhabitants have moved in from other places. Justin is anything but tired of the Sunshine State. Although he admits that he probably takes some things for granted due to his lifelong residence in Florida, he says that his favorite thing about living here “isn’t the cities, but the natural beauty that Florida has to offer.” He says that he “likes to explore the Everglades, canoe in local lakes or in Biscayne Bay, and fish offshore in a motorboat.” Continue reading

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A Thought on the Season from Dragonfly Expeditions

When I want to conjure up an ideal vision of what the Christmas spirit is all about, I think of a small triumphant claim by one of the charitable organizations that I admire most. The Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project claims to have been so successful in securing American homes for the older orphans from a remote orphanage in the far reaches of Russia that the institution was no longer needed and closed its doors. In my mind’s eye, I see a faraway land in which those once forgotten and heart-broken children are embraced by loving parents and, in a miracle of all miracles, brought home. This is the part that reminds me most of the Christmas spirit – that these children were…brought home. Continue reading

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Meet the Team: April Loves to Run!

We are happy to announce that as of November 26th, 2012 April Kuhlman has joined the Dragonfly Expeditions team full-time after completing a six-month internship with our company. Due to her superb writing skills, she had been and continues to be entrusted with the management of our blog and the On the ‘fly newsletter as well as a variety of other tasks. Going forward into the high season, April will be involved in operating our tours and programs in addition to her work concerning guide training, research, tour development and script writing. Continue reading

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Cookie & Peaches

As the Dragonfly Expeditions team sits around the table during our weekly meeting on Monday mornings, it’s not uncommon for us to feel something small brush past our ankles. It’s not a mouse. It’s the tail of a Chihuahua; or to be more specific – two Chihuahuas. We are proud to introduce the most recent additions to the Dragonfly Expeditions family: Cookie and Peaches. Our two newest friends wasted no time in making themselves at home in the Biltmore Hotel. When Stephanie, intern for our sister company Windjammer Sailing Adventures (located in the office next door), moved to Miami from Germany, she didn’t come alone. She arrived in the US with two little and loveable dogs in tow. It took some getting used to, but now we can’t imagine the workday without Cookie and Peaches frolicking between our two offices. Read more to find out which dog is a mother of five and which dog weighs less than six pounds! Continue reading

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Freelance Journalist Maeve Hosea Shares her Perspective on Miami and the ‘Glades

The dry winter season is the best time to experience the Florida Everglades, so we thought it would be fitting to share a first-hand account of this one-of-a-kind ecosystem.

Maeve Hosea (click here to visit her on Twitter) is one of many to whom Dragonfly Expeditions has had the pleasure of introducing South Florida’s wild side. This freelance journalist from London had the opportunity to wade through the swamp with us on our Everglades Backwater Tour. Hosea’s article appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine and touches on all of Dragonfly Expeditions’ passions; it provides a refreshing break from the publications typically expelled by the Magic City (you know what I mean – the ones that focus on glamorous celebrities and the rumors that follow them). Hosea shares her swamp walk experience by writing about culture and ecology. In addition, her article goes into detail about several projects Miami has undertaken to promote a more sustainable lifestyle for the city’s visitors and inhabitants. Read below to learn why she calls Miami a “collision of the natural and manmade world” and what made her appreciate the effort required to transform a huge swamp into a tourist’s paradise.

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A Chance to Visit Miami-Dade’s Most Famous, Private Historic Homes

The Villagers, a Miami-based not-for-profit historic preservation organization and a long-time partner of Dragonfly Expeditions, is hosting an event in December that we wanted to bring to your attention: Their annual Historic House Tour takes place on Saturday, December 1st from 10:30am to 3:00pm. During this tour, participants get the chance to visit six elegant houses including Adrienne Arsht’s Villa Serena (famous for previous owner William Jennings Bryan) and Arva Moore Parks’ mansion. The day’s agenda includes sites in Coconut Grove, South Miami, and Brickell Avenue. The Historic House Tour is a well-established event that is respected for its selection of extraordinary homes; each location provides outstanding architectural or historic value. Tickets are available through a $30 donation to The Villagers and the money will go towards local preservation work. This is a great chance to grab a few friends and see those places that you’ve “always wanted to visit but never found the time!” Continue reading

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A Florida Thanksgiving

At this time of year, millions of American families organize their activities around a large and wily, wild bird; the turkey.  Images of Thanksgiving aren’t complete without the extended family gathered around this cooked and stuffed creature, carving knives poised and preferences for white or dark meat already proclaimed.  Our national tradition elevates this distinctive holiday, centered on gratitude, to the highest level. For this reason, I thought it would be interesting to discuss how Florida has its very own sub-species of this famous holiday bird.  It is called meleagris gallopavo Osceola or the Osceola Turkey for short.

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Margaritaville Travel AdventuresTM – the Inaugural Trip

Just last month, Margaritaville Travel AdventuresTM successfully ran its first excursion, the Lost Shaker of Salt AdventureTM. The week-long trip began with a bang in South Beach and took a group of Jimmy Buffett fans all the way south to Duval Street in Key West. This diverse and enthusiastic collection of Parrot Heads had the opportunity to live the iconic island lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett while exploring hidden corners of the Florida Keys, kayaking, participating in a scavenger hunt, making new friends, and of course, relaxing! Participant feedback included quotes like “Unless you’ve already found paradise – this is the next best thing – trying to find it with a great bunch of people!” “It was an adventure, not a tour, yet we experienced very interesting sites and also had a blast with the other members of the group. Group size was perfect and a great mix of personalities!” and “Parrot heads forever! The staff was incredible! Locations fun and funky and the group was the perfect blend of friendliness and crazy off-beat humor and fun!” But the journey wasn’t just enjoyable for the guests. Mo Fries, the Tour Director, had the experience of a lifetime; read more to find out why.

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Still-Speaking Shipwrecks

The year is 1966 and it’s about 4:00am on New Year’s morning. A magnificent schooner cuts through the waves off the coast of Florida, the moonlight reflecting off her polished teak deck and illuminating the name Mandalay painted in script on her side. Twenty-some passengers are on their way back from a luxurious cruise to the Bahamas – but everything was not shipshape on this ship. The sleeping passengers wouldn’t have guessed that someone’s miscalculation from the night before had put them more than 15 miles off course and on New Year’s Day 1966, the cruisers were rudely awakened as a violent shudder ran through the ship’s timbers. As the Mandalay ground to a halt and began to tilt precariously, pajama-clad passengers rushed out of their cabins to see what was happening. Continue reading

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Miami’s Wynwood Art District – Reflections of a Travel Writer

Richard Varr is an author and member of the SATW (Society of American Travel Writers). He participated in an architectural tour with us earlier this year during which we introduced him to several Miami neighborhoods, including the Miami Modern (MiMo) and Wynwood Art Districts. With more galleries opening, distinguished artists appearing, and more unique and striking graffiti appearing day by day, the Wynwood Art District is garnering an increasing popularity throughout the state, the country, and the art scene in general. Continue reading

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Introducing Windjammer Sailing Adventures – our Sister Company

Captain Mike Burke established Windjammer Barefoot Cruises over 60 years ago. For landlubbers everywhere, he offered a world of rekindled childhood, the spirit of carefree pirates, and the experience of sailing on a tall ship. The world of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises consisted of rescued schooners, salt spray, turquoise Caribbean seas, pristine anchorages, far-flung ports, and of course bare feet. But dreams are fragile things, and in September 2007, this Captain’s dream was on its way to Davy Jones’ locker. Windjammer Barefoot Cruises went bankrupt, its remaining assets were auctioned off, and all who were a part of that world mourned. But the unique world of Windjammer never really died. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Guide Elizabeth

Like many before her, the snow and cold of the Midwest pushed Elizabeth Wedlake south to Florida. This Chicago native moved to Miami and spent several years visiting the Caribbean island of Saba to help her late husband with his orchid research. During her stint in the Caribbean, she not only learned about Saba’s culture and wildlife, but also became acquainted with the Sea and Learn program.

Elizabeth’s occupational history spans many industries, including luxury transportation, management, naturalist studies, and freelance event planning. Continue reading

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Observations from the International Coastal Cleanup

In mid-September, several members of our team participated in a great community event that we wanted to share with you. Each year, on the third Saturday of September, the Ocean Conservancy sponsors an International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Volunteers in over 100 countries spend their morning out on the beach removing debris that not only clogs waterways, but also threatens the safety of boaters and wildlife. Early in the morning, Megan and I joined local volunteers just off the Rickenbacker Causeway. Continue reading

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Green Heron Gifts – Authentic Florida Treasures

Dragonfly Expeditions is always looking for new ways to support the local economy and convey the spirit and beauty of Florida to visitors. These sentiments were the genesis for the launch of our sister company, Green Heron Gifts. Established in 2009, Green Heron Gifts strives to represent the real Florida by offering volume quantities of unique, local products. By ensuring that each item for sale is original and made using a sustainable process, the company limits waste and presents gifts that will be meaningful to both buyer and recipient.

After watching craft industries and local offerings get wiped out by cheap, generic imports, we decided to launch Green Heron Gifts with the philosophy: “Achieving prosperity and sustainability through merchandising products that preserve an authentic sense of place.” All items that the company sells are eco-friendly reflections of Florida’s art, culture, and history. The ideal client is one who has a desire to make a difference in the world through his/her group spending choices.

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Meet the Team – Guide Yeraldine

Yeraldine (pronounced like “Geraldine”) Ordonez first started working with Dragonfly Expeditions when a mutual friend of Megan Fries suggested that she check out the company. Constantly a victim of wanderlust, Yeraldine had just returned from a backpacking trip in South America when she was informed that Dragonfly Expeditions was looking for guides. Her diverse travel background made her a fitting leader for the company and she thought it a “wonderful surprise to find a welcomed match between my passions and their job description.”

She is always looking for her next adventure. Her never-ending energy and enthusiasm make Yeraldine a great guide who always tries to impart a true sense of place to the individuals journeying with her. Add the desires to travel, discover new places, and create cultural connections – and she is a perfect fit for Dragonfly Expeditions and our own vision and mission.

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A First-Hand Account of the Cuban Heritage Tour

The following article was written by Jerry Luciani, a staff writer for TravelGuys who experienced the Cuban Heritage Tour led by Charles Kropke. We wanted to share Jerry’s article with you because it provides a different and very detailed perspective on one of Dragonfly Expeditions’ most popular tours.

 Read the full article here:

“A look at the real Miami, from Miami Beach to Little Havana”

Miami, it’s the place where the rich and famous go to play. The place where fancy cars and beautiful people are outdone only by the glorious buildings done up in soft pastels and glowing neon. But there’s more to this city in the sun than Ferraris and fashion. A short drive from the beach will take you to another world: Little Havana, epicenter of the Cuban culture that has become as much a part of the city’s character as the art deco hotels lining Ocean Drive.

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Thoughts on Developing a Tour: Streamside Biking along the Loxahatchee

In our continuous effort to craft tours that explore the hidden corners of Florida and create unique experiences, we developed Streamside Biking along the Loxahatchee. This bike journey combines ecology, history, and exercise – and even lets us explore the river without getting our feet wet!

Back in 1985, this slow-moving stream became Florida’s first of two federally designated “Wild and Scenic” rivers and remains one of the most wild-looking places in South Florida today. Dragonfly Expeditions already utilizes the Loxahatchee River for kayak outings, but we wanted to come up with another way for our guests to experience this one-of-a-kind region. Our new bike trip alongside this winding tributary gives guests the opportunity to acquire an entirely different perspective of the river and its surrounding landscape. Continue reading

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Strategic Planning Days and Teambuilding

Dragonfly Expeditions and ActionCoach Business Coaching have come together in an exciting joint venture to offer the perfect strategic planning day for small or large companies and organizations or institutions – either locally or from out of town.  Any organization that wants to achieve its goals in 2013 and be best prepared for the opportunities that lie ahead will benefit from a strategic planning day moderated by a certified business coach. Results are being locked in with an engaging teambuilding activity facilitated by Dragonfly Expeditions. If desired, we can even arrange an inspiring and unique meeting location.

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Dragonfly Expeditions is proud to introduce Margaritaville Travel

Several years of diligent planning are culminating in the very first departure for Margaritaville Travel Adventures.  The first itinerary, ‘The Lost Shaker of Salt Adventure,’ launches in Miami on October 7th, 2012 and will explore a route from Miami Beach, through the mid Florida Keys to Key West and back.  It was a lot of fun putting it all together and you can think of it as an explorer’s smorgasbord.

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The Story of an Abandoned Cuban Raft

During a recent Great Discoveries on the Bay kayak tour, my group paddled by what looked like an inflatable dinghy.  At first glance it appeared to be moored just outside the swimming area off the Rickenbacker Causeway’s south side.  Yeraldine, the other guide, mentioned that it looked like a raft used by balseros, or those who had escaped and floated over from Cuba.  Our group paddled over to investigate.  Although we didn’t find any passengers, we did find items such as water bottles, canned food, and lotion.  After maneuvering our kayaks around the watercraft to inspect it from every angle, we continued on with the tour.  As we kayaked through the waves and the wind, we discussed the ecology of Biscayne Bay and the cultural history of Miami, focusing on Villa Vizcaya, multiple bay front mansions, La Ermita de Caridad and the general history of the area.

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The Perfect Blend of Teambuilding and Sustainable Tourism

Following is an excerpt of an article from Meeting NewsFlorida Green Guide: Recreation and Teambuilding.  Author Heidi Waldrop Bay describes how corporate responsibility, team building and sustainable tourism can come together in Florida’s natural areas.  She illustrates through the testimonial of a meeting planner how even for a well-traveled audience, a familiar destination can offer something different.

“Eco Tourism: Everybody’s Doing It
Florida-bound groups are jumping at the opportunity to get back to nature

(…) Protecting Florida’s natural bounty is not just the responsibility of the tour operator.  Planners can do simple things that make a big difference in the experience for the group and also help the environment.  “We encourage people to turn off their cell phones, because sounds like that amplify and it is hard for people to enjoy the wilderness,” said Charles Kropke, owner of Dragonfly Expeditions, in Coral Gables, FL.  Also, planners should designate a group leader to carry a simple trash bag and pick up things the participants don’t.  “You don’t have to make a big deal of it,” emphasized Kropke, “but it demonstrates to everyone how seamless caring for the environment can be.” (…)

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How Domestic Experiential Tours Add Value for Incentive Groups

Even though the following article on “Experiential Awards” went online on IncentiveMag.com awhile ago, we wanted to share it with you because it is still relevant for our destination management partners and corporate group clients.  Incentive is the only publication devoted exclusively to motivation and performance improvement through the use of incentive programs and consumer promotions.  The article summarizes how domestic experiential tours like our Miccosukee Indian Heritage Tour are a great value as an incentive reward for top producing employees without the cost of going abroad.  To that extent, all of our tours stay true to the word “expeditions,” which can be found in our company name. It is our goal to provide clients with the type of experience they would have abroad – but without leaving the U.S.

Read the full article here.

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Thoughts on Developing a Tour: Habana Nights

Dragonfly Expeditions strives to provide experiences that give guests a true sense of place.  “Habana Nights” – taking place in and around Miami’s “Little Havana” – not only gives guests a sense of place, but also a sense of time.  That time just so happens to be in the past: “Habana Nights” is a journey to 1950s Havana, Cuba.  Although the island of present-day Cuba continues to struggle beneath the heavy weight of political oppression, there was a time not so long ago when it was a paradise for many. These days were the 1950s; days when Americans would travel to Cuba for a romp through an island playground.  And nowhere was the spirit and lifestyle better represented than in its capital: Havana.  The purpose of this unique evening tour is to allow participants to take a step back in time and immerse them in the exotic sights, smells, and sounds of that time.

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Heroic Action by Guide Pamela Jones Morton

We at Dragonfly Expeditions have always held our guides in the highest esteem.  Their lives are full of great  accomplishments. We are proud of the enthusiasm they display for their profession as well as their passion for the causes they support.  But when someone goes above and beyond every day expectations, we feel that it deserves to be brought to the attention of a larger audience.  In December 2011, when I wrote the first blog post about Pamela Jones Morton, I had no idea that this guide would soon evolve from someone I admired into a hero.

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Meet the Team: Intern April

Hello! My name is April Kuhlman and I’m twenty-two years old.  Before you ask – yes, my birthday is in April.  Born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in the small town of Batesville, Indiana, I would consider myself a Midwestern girl proud of her Irish and German heritage.  I spent my childhood exploring the woodlands surrounding the area in which I grew up.  The two most important decisions I made as a child were becoming a musician and a competitive swimmer.  I swam competitively for about twelve years. This experience gave me discipline, motivation, and the desire to always keep my body healthy.  I learned to play the clarinet in fifth grade and later had the opportunity to play in marching bands, concert bands, a jazz band, and multiple pit orchestras; I am still a member of the Eureka Band – the oldest, continuous volunteer band in the country.  I held several part time jobs before I graduated college, but the only one worth mentioning is the job I had at CSR ranch.  During the summers of 2009 and 2011, I worked as a tour guide/animal caregiver at this privately-owned ranch.  At the ranch, I had the opportunity to work with animals such as buffalo, monkeys, wolves, iguanas, chinchillas, and black bears.  During the summer of 2011 I raised an infant tiger.  In my free time, I enjoy running, biking, reading, writing, watching science fiction movies, playing video games, hiking, and pursuing artwork as a hobby.

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Thoughts on Developing a Tour: Culture and History in Ybor City

Credit: Florida State Archives

Few big cities in America have a community as culturally and architecturally distinct as Tampa’s Ybor City.  Beginning its life as a cigar-manufacturing town made up of Cuban, Spanish, Italian, Jewish and German immigrants, the neighborhood is now a thriving entertainment district with a rich palette of late 19th century and early 20th century buildings.

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Meet the Team – Guide Emerson

Emerson Fales first met the Dragonfly Expeditions team at one of our regular exotic removal and habitat restoration events at Vizcaya in 2008 and started guiding kayaking, biking, walking tours for our company in 2009.  He has called Miami home for practically his entire life, so he felt that Dragonfly Expeditions’ vision and mission were well aligned with his personal love of South Florida.  His interest and enjoyment of natural South Florida began at an early age and has grown over the years.  Emerson’s favorite saying is: “No other city in the country has a front yard like Biscayne Bay and a backyard like the Everglades.”  Thanks to his mother, and despite the chorus of negative comments from the backseat, his family spent many hours canoeing and exploring the Everglades.  He also spent lots of unforgettable days on Biscayne Bay snorkeling, fishing, water skiing, and canoeing.  As a result of all these childhood travels, he accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge on South Florida ecology and animal life which came in handy when educating visiting friends.

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A Canoe Trip on Halfway Creek in Big Cypress National Preserve

Recently I had the pleasure of paddling on Halfway Creek guided by two local park rangers. The trip was offered free of charge  as part of the annual National Park Week from April  21st to 29th, 2012. The purpose of this event in the words of National Park Service Director  Jonathan B. Jarvis is: “America’s national parks offer something for everyone. Take a break and  experience something new, enjoy some fresh air, get some exercise, and see where history happened. And, since admission is free to all 397 parks, all week long, National Park Week is a great time to get up, get out, and explore a park.”

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Charles J. Kropke wins Historic Preservation Award

Dragonfly Expeditions is proud to announce that Managing Partner Charles J. Kropke has received the 2012 Historic Preservation Award presented by the Dade Heritage Trust during their annual meeting in the restored Pan American Seaplane Base (today Miami City Hall) on April 27th, 2012.  Charles was honored in the category of outstanding individual for the many aspects of his professional and personal life on behalf of endangered historic treasures and the general awareness of preservation.  Among the efforts mentioned were the work of Dragonfly Expeditions which educates travelers from all over the world about Miami’s architecture and neighborhoods through the art of storytelling. In addition, Charles’ book “South Beach – Stories of a Renaissance” highlights inspiring individuals whose push for historic preservation had a tremendous positive economic impact on the tourism industry of Miami Beach in particular and South Florida in general.

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