Sky Islands Nature Adventures

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At RAVENS-WAY WILD JOURNEYS we offer a unique opportunity to explore truly remote, secluded, and pristine natural areas in southeastern Arizona. Our 30 years of experience exploring the Sky Islands is reflected in the intimate knowledge of local wilderness areas and natural habitats that we possess. Our popular Nature Treks & Naturalist Saunters offer the possibility to cover longer or shorter distances, respectively, while learning about the unique biodiversity of the Sky Islands.

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We offer an exciting array of Group Events listed in our seasonal calendars. Additionally, and by popular demand, we also offer a wide range of private, custom-made Nature Treks & Naturalist Saunters during Couple’s retreats, honeymoons, and for groups that prefer to enjoy the experience privately. Please click to visit our dedicated section: PRIVATE PROGRAMS

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If you are joining a public event you have a great opportunity to disconnect from technology, gadgets, and daily obligations, while discovering the amazing natural beauty that pervades our region. Grab your binoculars, backpack, walking poles, and camera, and join us to learn about our renowned Sky Islands biodiversity.  Explore a wide variety of amazing wild areas, including pristine, secluded, remote, and diverse destinations that will surprise even the most seasoned explorer!

A plethora of Sky Islands habitats within a relatively short distance from Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary present varied and exciting exploration opportunities. Amazing biodiversity, breathtaking vistas, and a unique outdoor experiences await those who venture into this unique area.

NATURE TREKS

Nature TreksOur popular Nature Treks offer the possibility to cover longer distances while learning about the unique biodiversity of the Sky Islands.  Traveling further, you have an opportunity to discover remote and seldom-visited natural areas that abound in Sky Islands flora and fauna.  Your trek can include walking on established paths, as well as exploring other-worldly off-trail destinations.

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Nature Treks are possible any time of the year and within all of our southwestern environments – Sonoran Desert, Chihuahuan Desert, Grasslands, Cienagas, Mesquite Woodland, Chaparral, Madrean Evergreen Woodland, Riparian Forests, Mountain Forests, Canyons, or a combination of them.

Nature TrekOur varied and beautiful Sky Island seasons allow intriguing explorations all year long. Regardless of the season, you’ll have countless possibilities for Nature Treks that reveal the biodiversity and beauty of our region.

dsc08168During your Nature Trek you may choose to focus on a number of different topics which include:

  • Sky Islands Geology
  • Birdwatching
  • General Wildlife viewing
  • Wildlife Tracks & Signs
  • Sky Island Invertebrates
  • Herpetology – Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Botany – plant identification
  • Ethnobotany – uses of native plants
  • General Ecology & Natural History
  • Wilderness Survival Skills

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Enjoy memorable explorations of one of North America’s last wild areas by joining us for a Nature Trek!

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As a guest our unique Safari Tented Camp you simply have to Trek from Jaguar or Ocelot Camp to be surrounded as far as your eyes can see by 9000 acres of pristine and remote wilderness. Every season offers different fauna and flora possibilities amidst the vastness of this spectacular wilderness area.

NATURALIST SAUNTERS

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Our highly popular Naturalist Saunters focus on learning about Sky Islands biodiversity – its flora, fauna, and fungi. Via a slow and thoughtful walking pace you’ll enjoy frequent stops, while learning about a variety of natural history topics. For those desiring to go beyond mere sightseeing and exercise during a walk in the wild, you have many possibilities to choose from.  Seasonal variations, as well as a diversity of habitats present an impressive array of Naturalist Saunter choices.

dsc_8815These slow-paced rambles are designed to accommodate most walking abilities.  Whether you are highly fit or rarely walk outside, we have many memorable destinations that you’ll greatly enjoy. Given the uniqueness of each mountain range, valley, canyon, stream, and river the variety of Naturalist Saunters possible in our Sky Islands is essentially limitless!

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Here is your opportunity to immerse in the natural world and to revel in the fascinating native species that collectively make Arizona’s Sky Islands the most ecologically diverse place in the U.S. While enjoying unique Sky Islands flora and fauna you can also scale a majestic peak to enjoy the breathtaking vistas, cool off under a refreshing waterfall, experience an unforgettable sunset, or simply kick back, relax, and enjoy a day spent outdoors breathing fresh air!

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During a relaxed walk you’re much more likely to spot an animated troop of White-nosed Coatis (tropical members of the Raccoon family), get a great photo of a spectacular Elegant Trogon, or see the sublime details of colorful butterflies and wildflowers.

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We tailor each Naturalist Saunter, exploring a myriad of habitats and offering various areas of focus relevant to each Sky Island season.

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One of the best ways to enjoy a Naturalist Saunter with RWWJ is to custom-make one that suits your exact wants and desires.  YOU let us know the topic(s), time of year, pace, length, and terrain that best suits you and we’ll devise a day or multi-day experience that’s sure to satisfy!  Just e-mail us and we’ll begin the process of artfully constructing a custom-made Nature Adventure for you or your group!

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Naturalist Saunter focuses can include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Mammals
  • Herpetology – Reptiles & Amphibians
  • Wildlife Tracks & Signs
  • Butterflies and Sky Island Invertebrates
  • Aquatic Ecology
  • Geology
  • Botany – plant identification
  • Ethnobotany – uses of native plants
  • General Ecology & Natural History
  • Wilderness Survival Skills

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During a Naturalist Saunter you have the choice to do an in-depth exploration of one wild area or instead hop between several biodiversity hotspots. Scenic drives that will take your breath away and which present incredible photographic opportunities can also be incorporated into your Nature Adventure. At the conclusion of all RWWJ Nature Treks and Naturalist Saunters you will receive a PDF via email with a complete list of the wildlife you’ve encountered during your Nature Adventure.  Lists of flora can also be arranged.  Consider adding our “Sky Islands Naturalist Tour” slide show to enhance your Naturalist Saunter. To view and download a recent article, please click: PDF

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SKY ISLANDS BIRDWATCHING

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Southeast Arizona contains an incredible and fascinating diversity of birds.  Drawing species from the Sierra Madre region of Mexico, as well as from Mexican tropical Thornscrub, the Rocky Mountains, Chihuahuan Desert, Great Plains, and the Sonoran Desert, our Sky Islands will always deliver a great bird-watching experience! Birds that can be found in few or no other places in the U.S. inhabit the Sky Islands and are even quite common, depending upon the species. About half of the birds present in all of North America north of Mexico – approximately 500 – have been recorded in just the few counties containing Arizona’s Sky Islands!  Many of these species are more typical of tropical habitats, making a birding trip here akin to entering Mexico without all of the hassle inherent in international travel. To visit our dedicated Sky Islands Birding section, please click on: BIRDING

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RAVENS – WAY WILD JOURNEYS offers Sky Islands Group Birding events every season as well as Private Custom Bird guiding year-round.  Vincent Pinto has devoted the past 35 years to exploring intimately various Sky Islands Birding Hotspots as both a professional Wildlife Biologist, a Bird Guide, and a Naturalist.  Let him be your guide for an unforgettable experience in one of the premier birding destinations on the planet! All levels of birding experience from beginner to advanced are welcome.  You might also enjoy our “Sky Islands Birds” slide show as part of your birding adventure. Please visit our dedicated BIRDING section full of Birdwatching options.  To view and download the Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary Bird List please click PDF

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OWL PROWL

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In addition to daytime birding adventures we also custom-make otherworldly “Owl Prowls”, searching for some of our area’s nocturnal denizens. No prior bird-watching experience is needed, so join us as we roam the deserts, grasslands, and forests in search of these nocturnal ninjas!

Some of our local Owls and other nocturnal birds include:

  • Barn Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
  • Whiskered Screech Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Elf Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Mexican Spotted Owl
  • Long-eared Owl
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Lesser Nighthwawk
  • Common Poorwill
  • Mexican Whip-poor-will

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Over the past 30 years Vincent has been a dedicated Wildlife Researcher throughout the U.S., acquiring  tremendous knowledge of the natural history of Owls and the nocturnal wildlife.  He’ll not only guide you to various wildlife hotspots, but also teach you how best to employ your various senses at night.  During an Owl Prowl we often see other nocturnal wildlife including a variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates that add to the experience.  You can also add Astronomy to your Owl Prowl, as Vincent takes you on a tour of Arizona’s spectacular night sky!  Additionally, you may choose to enjoy our “Owls: Nocturnal Assassins” and “Creatures of the Night” slide shows. To view and download a recent Audubon Article, please click: PDF. To view and download the Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary Bird List, please click: PDF

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 ARIZONA WILDLIFE SAFARI

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Arizona is a world-class wildlife viewing destination. From diverse deserts to alpine tundra, we boast a truly astonishing variety of natural environments that harbor an equally impressive array of animals. Many of the wildlife species encountered, particularly in our southeastern corner of the state, are found in few or no other parts of the U.S.

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Here is a genuine chance to experience many species first-hand in the wild, including (** = occurs at Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary):

  • Pronghorns
  • Coues Whitetail Deer**
  • Mule Deer**
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Collared Peccary or “Javelinas”**
  • Mountain Lion**
  • Bobcat**
  • Coyote**
  • Grey Fox**
  • White-nosed Coati**
  • Ringtail**
  • American Badger**
  • 4 species of Skunk**
  • Antelope Jackrabbit**
  • Black-tailed Prairie Dog
  • Arizona Gray Squirrel
  • A huge diversity of Birds – many more typical of Mexico**
  • Gila Monsters and other fascinating Lizards**
  • ~350 species of Butterflies (for all of Arizona)
  • A stunning diversity of other Invertebrates

During your Wildlife Safari we will search for tracks and signs of many species, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Finally, we can attempt to call in some species using vocal imitations and several other natural calling devices for the purpose of photography and viewing. We never use any modern gadgets when communicating to wildlife, as they are an artificial disturbance to them and their habitat.  We can also live-trap a variety of small mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates if you would like to see these often reclusive species up close.  We immediately release these animals unharmed exactly where we caught them, providing an intriguing glimpse into many species that often go unnoticed.

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Wildlife Safaris can be tailor made to suit your interests with choices among the following topics:

  • General Wildlife focus, from the largest Mammal to smallest Invertebrate – you want to “see it all”!
  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Herpetology – Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Aquatic Arizona – Fish, Amphibians, and Aquatic Invertebrates
  • Butterflies
  • General Invertebrate focus

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During your Wildlife Safari you’ll have ample opportunity to photograph various species, as you desire. Vincent will illuminate the natural history of each species encountered and teach you how best to find, get close to, and safely enjoy them.  Not only will you have an incredible day(s) of seeking and enjoying wildlife, you’ll also take away a new array of wildlife-finding skills and countless fascinating wildlife facts to boot!  You may also enjoy our “Sky Islands Biodiversity” slide show as a complement to your Wildlife Safari.

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NIGHT WALK

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Experience the magic of Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary at night! Let us guide you on a unique sensory experience to uncover unusual nocturnal creatures and their habitats. Here is great opportunity to see Owls, Mammals, Bats, Toads, Insects, night-blooming Plants, and other wonders of this hidden, and often-ignored world. You’ll learn fascinating facts about many creatures of the night, while rediscovering the magic of the dark!  You may also choose to pair your nocturnal ramblings with an Astronomy tour while on the move.  Combining Astronomy with a Night Walk ensures that there is always something fascinating to learn about and marvel at during your nocturnal adventure.  You may also enjoy our “Creatures of the Night” slide show as a part of your  Night Walk.

 MONSOON SAFARI

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Southeast Arizona experiences a spectacular Summer rainy season that generally occurs between July and September. Approximately 70% of our precipitation on average falls during this timespan, bringing forth a profusion of life that has to be seen to be believed. Suddenly we go from desiccated to deluged and and from sere to sylvan! Join us to discover the wildlife, plants, fungi, and watery displays that burst forth in profusion during our Sky Island Monsoon season.  Rain – when it comes – is most often short-lived, cooling, and rarely influences Nature explorations – except positively!

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Wildflowers, colorful breeding birds, insects and other invertebrates extraordinaire, and fascinating “herps” (reptiles and amphibians) are just some of the species you’ll meet while exploring the incredible monsoonal biodiversity of southeast Arizona. Whether you are a visitor or a resident of our area during this abundant time of the year, this adventure is sure to inform, delight, and surprise!  You can also enjoy an indoor slide show highlighting the flora and fauna of Monsoon season – “Monsoon Madness!”.

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ETHNOBOTANY

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Ethnobotany – the study of how people use native plants – is a vital foundation for becoming a well-rounded Naturalist.  Here you can explore the plant world in this catch-all class that covers the many uses we humans have for our local, native plants.  Vincent Pinto has a Master’s Degree in Ethnobotany over 35 years of experience using native plants across North America and the globe for a variety of purposes.

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During an Ethnobotany workshop you will learn how to locate, identify, and use a wide variety of Sky Islands Plants for:

  • Food
  • Medicine
  • Fire-making – without matches!
  • First Aid
  • Hygiene
  • Shelter
  • Tools
  • Navigation
  • Dyes
  • Musical Instruments
  • Art
  • Glues and Adhesives
  • …. and much more!

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Several Stone-age take-home crafts can serve as a reminder of your new incredible wealth of plant wisdom, if you would like this to be a hands-on class.  Truly there is no better way of learning about Nature than actually participating in it!  Not only will you discover fascinating information about plants during your Ethnobotany Adventure, but you’ll also explore how ancient people survived and thrived in the southwest during bygone days.  Further, many of the plant uses learned in southeast Arizona are applicable across various regions of the U.S. and beyond.  You can also choose to enjoy an indoor “Ethnobotany: Useful Plants of the Sky Islands” slide show, showcasing the uses of our native plants.

VISIT OUR RAVENS-WAY BLOG

RAVEN’S-NEST PLANT LIST

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THORNS, STINGERS, & FANGS  – WELCOME TO ARIZONA!

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The American Southwest has a reputation as an area replete with daunting wildlife and plants.  During this in-depth look into this topic, you’ll learn about a plethora of potentially dangerous flora and fauna, including:

  • Rattlesnakes
  • Sonora Coral Snake
  • Gila Monsters
  • Poisonous Amphibians
  • Predatory Mammals
  • Venomous Mammals
  • Africanized Bees
  • Ants, Bees, and Wasps
  • Kissing Bugs
  • Desert Centipedes
  • Spiders
  • Scorpions
  • Cacti and other succulents
  • Stinging plants
  • Poison Ivy
  • …and more!

Learn how to enjoy the wilds with these sometimes scary species as neighbors.  In this class you learn to tell the difference between truly dangerous animals and plants versus those that we unjustly fear.  We’ll separate fact from fiction and truth from tall tales, as you learn the etiquette required to safely negotiate the wilds of the Southwest and beyond.

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Further, we’ll delve deeply into the identification, natural history, and first aid involved with each fascinating species covered.  Not only will you increase your knowledge and safety with each species, you may also discover that you’ve made a few unconventional friends along the way – just give them a wide berth at times!  This program is best taken as an indoor slide show combined with an outdoor Nature Walk.

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THE ART & SCIENCE OF TRACKING

It has been said that observing Nature while ignoring tracks and signs is akin to only gazing at the covers of books, while never actually opening them!  You’ll soon discover this truth for yourself as we delve into the “language of the land” written by the passage of a diversity of wild creatures.  Tracking is a vital skill that lends it knowledge to many other outdoor pursuits.  Professional Wildlife Biologists, Naturalists, Wildlife Photographers, Hikers, and many others will not want to miss this opportunity to relearn the time-honored skills of our ancient ancestors.

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Using science, the art of interpretation, journaling, and various tracking exercises you’ll soon be investigating and trying to solve some of the many natural mysteries that we daily encounter.  Gazing at the clues that lie before you, you’ll discover new insights into Nature and yourself.  During your Wildlife Tracking Adventure you will search for, interpret, and learn about the tracks and signs of:

  • Mammals
  • Birds
  • Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Invertebrates
  • Plants, including ecological tracking for conservation
  • Various forces of Nature, including weather

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Many people find that while they are tracking, both the quantity and quality of wildlife sightings increase tremendously.  Moving slowly and thoughtfully, while interpreting tracks and signs, is a proven way to get close to, observe, and appreciate a broad spectrum of wildlife.  This adventure is best paired with a slide show – “Wildlife Tracking in the Sky Islands”.

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AMAZING ARIZONA ASTRONOMY – STARRY SAFARI!

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The night skies of Southeastern AZ offer some of the best celestial viewing in North America.  Year-round you can explore the mystery of the heavens, including:

  • A Constellation Tour
  • Planetary views
  • Mysterious deep sky objects
  • Ancient Sky Stories
  • Navigation by the stars, planets, and the Moon
  • Seasonal Meteor Showers

With the aid of cutting edge technology, as well as the ancient mythology, you’ll rediscover the joy of gazing at the night sky. This evening program can be combined with a dusk Wildlife Safari, Owl Prowl, or Night Walk as desired.

INSECT & INVERTEBRATE SAFARI

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Although most people readily picture any number of large mammals, birds, and reptiles as worthy creatures to see while on a safari, you are much more likely to encounter a vast array of spectacular insects and other invertebrates during your warmer southwestern travels.  In fact, the Sky Islands region is renowned for its insect and other invertebrate (i.e. animals without internal skeletons) diversity, including many species normally associated with Mexico.  Local Invertebrate highlights include:
  • ~350 Butterfly species recorded in Arizona
  • A spectacular diversity of Moths
  • Highest Ant diversity in the U.S.
  • Highest Bee diversity possibly on Earth
  • A stunning number of Grasshopper species
  • Mexican Specialty Dragonflies & Damselflies
  • Beetles galore, including many colorful species
  • ~50 species of Scorpions
  • Countless intriguing species of Spiders
  • Giant Centipedes
  • ~65 species of Land Snails, many with extremely limited distributions
  • Mexican Specialty Insects

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Come and see for yourself how rewarding it can be to stalk a beautiful Butterfly, to follow the fantastical aerial gyrations of a Dragonfly, to learn about a myriad of Ant species, or to explore the world of a Tarantula.  These and other treasures await your curiosity and reflection.  This adventure is not only fun, but may well help you to overcome any fears you may have associated with this lilliputian world.  You can also enjoy our “Sky Islands Invertebrates” slide show as part of your experience. To view and download the Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary Butterfly List, please click: PDF

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CORPORATE RETREATS & TEAM-BUILDING

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Using a variety of Wilderness Survival and Stone-age challenges we will provide a unique forum within which your company can grow as a team. Stripped of your normal surroundings and cast into the beautiful, but unforgiving realm of Nature your employees will soon learn the value of each other’s skills and insights. New bonds, friendships, skills, and respect will emerge as everyone learns how to solve complex problems while enjoying the sublime beauty of the Earth.

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During your Corporate Team Challenge your team members will:

  • Improve your communication skills via a variety of team and small-group exercises
  • Have an opportunity to both lead and follow as part of a team
  • Deal with a wide range of mentally and physically taxing challenges that must be solved with innovative and “out-of-the-box” solutions
  • Be temporarily “handicapped” and thus forced to operate outside their normal comfort zone
  • Learn to support each other, no matter what the circumstances or challenge

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There is a reason that TV is so rife with various survival shows – placing humans in trying circumstances magnifies their best qualities and exposes their weaknesses, allowing for reinforcement of the former and reduction/elimination of the latter.  Let us work with you to custom-make a Corporate Team Challenge that best suits your company’s needs.  Give us your areas needing improvement and we’ll devise an intricate and complex series of challenges sure to catapult your team to the next level!

If you are simply seeking a relaxing and rewarding experience for your company, then consider a retreat in our Safari Camp Eco-lodge.  There you can relax together while enjoying the beauty of Nature.  Additionally, we offer a wide range of Nature Adventures if you would enjoy exploring the wilds of southeast Arizona’s Sky Islands.  We’ll custom-make your Corporate Retreat so that is matches your exact needs as both a company and individuals.

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SKY ISLANDS NATURE RETREATS

 

If you are seeking the solitude and bliss of Nature, while looking to disconnect from the constant hustle and bustle of big cities, then you’ve found the right place! We can provide both guidance and insight into where and how to have a placid and rejuvenating Nature Retreat of short or long duration.

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Both Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary (please click here to go to: RAVEN’S NEST  and Raven’s Mountain Nature Sanctuary (please click here to go to: RAVEN’S MOUNTAIN hold incredible promise for a memorable experience spent communing with the Natural World. At Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary you can relax in the comfort of our unique Safari Camp Eco-lodge, ( please click here to go to: SAFARI TENTED CAMP while we provide gourmet meals that cater to your exact needs. Additionally, we can act strictly as back-up/support team, helping you to meet your retreat goals.  Conversely,  you may decide to use our talents during a solo or group custom-made Nature Adventure. Either way you will soon find yourself discovering treasure not only in Nature, but also within yourself! We’ll work with you to come up with the perfect retreat aimed at reinvigorating  your health and your soul!