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Home Guides & Staff Staff Bios Don Martinson

Don Martinson

Born and raised in Utah, Don was fortunate to have the best “natural playground” imaginable, with mountains, deserts and canyons in his backyard. He caught the travel bug while studying and working in Europe in the 1980s, where he was a student at the University of Copenhagen and a resort restaurant worker in Murren, Switzerland. After college, Don was hired by United Airlines in 1986 – when the airlines were fun! Based in Chicago, Washington, San Francisco and Denver during his airline career, Don visited a great portion of the world – challenge him to name all the world capitals! 

In 1995, Don joined Natural Habitat Adventures. Originally hired as the private group coordinator, he worked mainly with museums, zoos, alumni associations and other non-profit groups. He also served as a “city guide” in Halifax for NHA’s Harp Seal Watch program and in Winnipeg for Polar Bear Watch, and was also the company's Uganda destination manager. After a hiatus from NHA, Don returned in 2007 as director of travel industry relations. In July 2008, he was elected a member of the VAST (Virtuoso Active & Specialty Travel) committee for a 3-year term.

With his Utah roots and more than 20 years living in Colorado, it's not surprising that Don loves to ski, hike and mountain bike. He also enjoys playing soccer with several NHA staffers, but traveling to wildest places on the planet is Don’s favorite pastime. 

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Churchill, Canada. This small town on Hudson Bay is home to many arctic cultures and smack-dab in the middle of the polar bears’ migration to the ice floes every October & November.My Daughter, Grace, behind the wheel of a Polar Rover.Our polar bear Adventures bring us out on the frozen tundra in heated, comfy rovers, allowing us to get close to the bears safely. This curious female wanted to join the fun inside!Seeing sparring males is always a highlight. They’re hungry, cranky and eager to be on the ice again. This “King of the Arctic” on the banks of the Hudson is just waiting for the ice to form so he can do what this marine mammal was made to do – hunt seals and feed on their blubber. Guess where this is? Believe it or not, I’m in the highlands of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos. I stayed in the night in this cozy tree-house, one of the highlights of my Galapagos small ship cruise.On my way to breakfast the next morning, I spotted a dozen or so of these giant tortoises. Many of them are well over 100 years old!Another highlight was body surfing with playful sea lions on Espanola. Earlier on this trip while snorkeling, I saw a penguin, a sea turtle, sea lions and colorful tropical fish. Bio-diversity at its best.In 2009 I spent two weeks trekking the Caucasus Mountains in the Republic of Georgia on an Explorers’ Corner adventure. These are the “mountains of poetry” and reminded me of both the Alps and Himalayas.Our trek was supported by pack horses as we skirted the southern border of Russia. We encountered only one other group of hikers the entire time we hiked. Can you say remote?Our guide Eka showing her horse skills – barefoot and bareback riding while waiting for dinner.The small hamlet of Shenako. Most of the remote villages we visited have changed little over the years and the focal point is typically a Georgian Orthodox church.This Georgian monk sits in contemplation outside his monastery in Telavi. My 2012 Southern Africa safari was epic! We spotted this lovely lady in the Linyanti region of Botswana.Nothing was more exhilarating than encountering a massive bull while on foot!Our visit to Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park near Victoria Falls, gave us the chance to see white rhinos.The Cape buffalo is menacing - in and out of the water.And the lions we saw almost every day, rounded out the Big 5 for our group.Another highlight was seeing a pack of African wild dogs on the hunt.A visit to the Okavango Delta is incomplete without a sunset outing in a traditional mokoro being poled by the region’s river bushmen (our poler was Isaac, whose voice was deeper than Barry White’s)The Delta is also one of the best birding places on earth. We were lucky to spot a pearl spotted owlet...... the saddle billed stork...... and loads of my favorite – the lilac-breasted roller!My 13 days in Botswana was followed by a few days in Namibia, the highlight of which were red dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert.At Little Kulala Lodge in Sossusvlei, the staff made up a “star bed” on the roof of my lodge. The stars were brilliant….... and the moon never seemed closer!In 2013, I hiked the Loita Hills of Southern Kenya – a very sacred place to the local Maasai.NHA premier Expedition Leader, Joe Charleson, and Maasai elders guided us through rolling hills of lush vegetation – it looked more like Costa Rica than Africa!Our tents, cots, bedding, food and - most importantly - Tusker lager and gin & tonics were packed in ahead of us by Maasai tribesmen and a team of sure-footed donkeys.We had extraordinary views from the ridge tops.And we were rewarded by a refreshing waterfall-fed pool (no crocs or hippos here) at the end of a long hike.And after well-deserved sundowners and a fine meal, our ever-smiling Maasai hosts treated us to great song and dance amidst a crackling fire.

Don's Adventures

2016 Wildlife Webinars

Every 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month.

See the Full Schedule Here

Voted Best of Travel 2015

Our Base Camp Greenland trip is named Best Splurge by Outside magazine!

In the News

CNN recently joined Natural Habitat’s Polar Bear Photo Tour! Click here to watch.
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