Gayle Christopher

These trips let you make memories, make a difference, or even make a boat.

1. Coral Reef Survey, San Salvador Island, Bahamas
Help save coral reefs simply by snorkeling. Well, you do haveto measure and map as you splash along. Three U.S. researchers havebeen studying the reefs for years with help from the EarthwatchInstitute, a nonprofit organization that gives ordinary people achance to assist in scientific projects. A session in the Bahamas(June 29-July 9 or November 19-26), including food and lodging,costs $1,830; 800/776-0188 or earthwatch.org.

2. Whale Watching/Photography, Petersburg, Alaska
Choose Jodi Shepherd-led safaris, which offer plenty ofgeneral nature-photography tips, or Jim Nahmens' "Blubber Lovers"adventures, which focus more intently on humpback whales,especially their feeding behaviors. Either way, Alaska SeaAdventures' small-ship (only eight passengers) cruises followethical viewing guidelines for all wildlife. Inside Passage sceneryalone makes this a photographer's dream vacation. Trips arescheduled for June and July; 888/772-8588 or yachtalaska.com.

3. Boatbuilding, Brooklin, Maine
At WoodenBoat School, you can create your own boat in aweek―and maybe even take it home with you. Or, if that seemsa bit ambitious, you could warm up by building a pond yacht (aworking model sailboat). Other course topics include decorativecarving, watercolor painting, and diesel-engine repair. Theschedule runs May through September; 207/359-4651 or thewoodenboatschool.com.

4. Canoeing the Everglades, Ten Thousand Islands, Florida
Less than an hour south of chic Naples on Florida's GulfCoast, the world gets wild. In this edge-of-the-Evergladesecosystem, land and sea mix as they do nowhere else in the country.Thousands of tiny islands create a lacework of bays and channels.Mysterious streams under tunnels of arching mangroves lead toflocks of herons, egrets, and roseate spoonbills. WildernessInquiry leads a canoe/camping trip through this ecosystem, heedingits mission to make the outdoors accessible toeveryone―including people with disabilities. Next dates arein February and March 2006; 800/728-0719 or wildernessinquiry.org.

5. Weed Removal, Point Reyes, California
This Sierra Club outing involves yanking out non-nativeplants that have invaded Point Reyes National Seashore, thestunningly scenic Northern California preserve. You'll learn aboutthe area's abundant wildlife and see evidence of the 1906earthquake that devastated San Francisco, 35 miles south. May'strip is booked, but September 11-17 is available; 415/977-5522 or sierraclub.org/outings.

6. Cooking Classes, The Waring House, Picton, Ontario,Canada
Choose from all manner of classes covering everything fromknife-sharpening to French bistro cuisine. Classes, workshops, andspecial education/accommodations packages carry on year-round. The17-room Waring House inn and restaurant sits in the middle of acharming Lake Ontario town; 800/621-4956 or waringhouse.com.

7. Ecosystem Preservation, Kauai, Hawaii
Global Volunteers, founded in 1984, sends adventurers onservice-oriented visits to rural communities around the world, withfull immersion into the local culture. This project, on Hawaii's"Garden Island," seeks to preserve native Hawaiian plants. Youmight uproot non-native species, repair historic buildings in astate park, or even help put on a festival; 800/487-1074 or globalvolunteers.org.

8. Historical Cruise, Chesapeake Bay
Smithsonian Journeys, affiliated with Washington'sSmithsonian Institution, has put together a nine-day educationalexpedition through places that shaped the earliest history of theUnited States. The trip aboard the cozy, 49-passenger AmericanEagle starts and ends in Baltimore. Stops include thearchaeological site of St. Mary's City, Maryland's now-vanishedfirst capital, and lovely St. Michaels, Maryland, a wonderful townfor history, seafood, and antiques; 877/338-8687 or smithsonianjourneys.org/cruises_us/042005chesapeake.asp.

9. Delta Exploration, Skagit River, Washington
The North Cascades Institute, headquartered just north ofSeattle, aims to "inspire close relationships with nature throughdirect experience in the natural world." In other words, you gettaken to beautiful places and find out what makes them so amazing.In August and again in January 2006, biologists will guide weekendtrips through the huge variety of plants and animals in the SkagitRiver delta. They'll also point out successful conservationprojects by local landowners; 360/856-5700, ext. 209, or ncascades.org.

10. Sea Turtle Conservation, Wassaw Island, Georgia
Throughout the summer, the Caretta Research Project bringseveryone from schoolchildren to senior citizens to an uninhabitedbarrier island southeast of Savannah. There you help protectnesting sea turtles, their eggs, and their hatchlings. (Caretta caretta is the scientific name for the loggerheadturtle.) You'll stay in primitive cabins and assist withhousekeeping and cooking. Expect an extremely rustic but intenselyrewarding experience; 912/447-8655 or carettaresearchproject.org.

For other learning vacations, check oceanic-society.organd shawguides.com.

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