In 1972, Northeast Florida outdoors writer Robert Cloaninger eagerly accepted an invitation from a U.S. magazine editor to investigate reports of a high-mountain lake in Central Honduras, which locals claimed had the potential to yield the next world record largemouth bass. Cloaninger’s vivid stories of ascending high into the volcanic fields forming Lake Yojoa to fish among ancient ruins would soon stir the imaginations of anglers nationwide.
“Here is perhaps the only place in the world where you can catch a largemouth bass that is utilizing crumbling blocks from a Mayan temple as protective structure,” wrote Cloaninger. “Perhaps these waters contain some ancient Mayan mojo, as Yojoa bass average a greater size than those of other, more prominent Central American lakes. There is always the chance of catching a fish over 15 pounds, and perhaps some day a world record.”
Traveling around Honduras, Cloaninger discovered the southern part of the country was home to a massive population of white-winged dove. His descriptions of hunting beneath clouds of doves darkening the Honduran skies, interwoven with tales of cultural adventure, soon piqued the imaginations of American shooters seeking to upgrade their hunting game from the typical 10-20 birds per day experience.
While Cloaninger’s incredible stories detailed monster largemouth bass and intense, high-volume wingshooting action, the real headline of these adventures was written with the formation of Trek International Safaris in 1973. In the summer of that year, Cloaninger, a larger-than-life lover of the outdoors and a monumental taker of risks, placed his life’s biggest wager on a vision to deliver epic international adventures to U.S. anglers and hunters.
Owing to the unwavering support of Cloaninger’s wife Shirley and a second mortgage on the family home, Trek was born during a time when our first clients were eager to escape the realities of Watergate and the bitter aftertaste of the Vietnam War. Trek was launched with meticulously planned fishing and hunting adventures to Honduras, with the Cloaningers providing white-glove attention to detail in every phase of each experience, from arranging charter flights and transfers, to setting up camps and training guides. Spoiler alert: Trek still provides this same level of concierge service to our clients today, and at no added cost over booking direct with an outfitter.
While adventure travel is commonplace today, with a seemingly endless array of exciting experiences as close as the click of the mouse, Cloaninger’s vision for Trek in 1973 delivered our early clients opportunities that had previously seemed impossible or far out of reach. The early days of Trek saw hunting and angling program expansion into virtually every continent on the globe, and our company was among the very first to establish dove hunting programs in Argentina, high-volume duck hunting in Nicaragua, and Peacock Bass fishing adventures in Colombia and Brazil’s Amazon River. Additionally, Shirley Cloaninger was instrumental in leading the company’s expansion into adventure tours, to serve clients seeking new cultural experiences.
The Cloaningers realized early on that long-term success for Trek would require perpetually pushing the envelope for clients seeking the next great adventure. They also understood that relationships were essential to the long-term success of Trek.
In the early years of the company, Trek established and operated our own lodges and provided backing for our partners (some of whom started with us as fishing and hunting guides) to establish their own programs. This institutional understanding of outfitter operations and long-standing relationships with our lodge partners are foundational to Trek’s ability to consistently deliver the absolute best travel experience to you.
The main reason Trek exited the lodging business years ago is that planning international adventures and operating lodges are two nearly diametrically opposed endeavors requiring two very different sets of capabilities and expertise. In short, if you run a lodge in South America, your time and resources are best utilized focusing on the guest experience at the lodge and on the field and water. Meanwhile, there are so many variables involved in planning an international adventure and supporting the client every step of the way. Few local outfitters can do both well.
Outfitters are rightfully focused on filling the inventory at their properties, regardless of the current realities of the hunting and fishing conditions. At Trek, our sole focus is on ensuring you have a superior travel experience, from the time you walk out your front door, to when you return home with memories for a lifetime.Trek’s business model is not to take your money to fill a boat, lodge or line of hunters; it is to work as your agent to make your next great adventure perfect. And because of our long-standing global relationships and reputation in the industry, we are able to accomplish our mission without adding a single dollar of cost to your adventure.
The More Things Change, the More You Need a Company That Puts You First
The travel industry has changed quite a bit since 1973. We don’t really need a Bob Cloaninger to find the adventure of our dreams, right?
Our client satisfaction surveys tell a different story. Nearly every one of our clients who report having previously self-booked an international fishing, hunting or safari trip online tell us they either had a superior experience with Trek, indicated they would not book direct again, or both.
Some 3,500 people travel with us each year, including a few legendary folks who have been with us since the very early days. We think they actually tell the story better than we do.
“We have known the Trek organization for over four decades and they are truly considered part of our family, says Paula L. “They continually update their travel destinations to ensure the best experiences for their clients. The attention to detail and local knowledge that they provide ensures a great vacation for all.”
“We have gone on over 50 trips with Trek, and we’ve never had an issue they could not handle on the fly,” adds Steve G.
The Trek Community
Throughout the better part of the last five decades, Trek has hosted more than 100,000 clients, developing long-term relationships with thousands of folks along the way. When you travel with Trek, you belong to this community of passionate adventurers, and you benefit greatly from the institutional experience and expertise this
network delivers to you.
Yes, it is easier than ever to book a trip online. But what you can’t book is the peace of mind knowing that as a member of the Trek community, we have your back.
Today, Bob and Shirley Cloaninger’s daughter and son-in-law, Cara and Milton Hanburry lead a company that is fueled by the same spirit the founders poured into Trek from those early days in Honduras.
“Bob Cloaninger always said that a measure of a company’s success is in how it handles adversity,” says Milton Hanburry. “Traveling to third-world countries generally brings special circumstances. Trek is here to navigate the adversities so you don’t have to.
“Some of the experiences collected during Trek’s early years of pioneering international hunting and fishing adventures simply can’t be told,” added Hanburry. “We have turned planes around because we learned in-flight that a country would not allow our sporting guns in (and we gave the clients their money back). And before we pulled our operations out of one country, we negotiated a standoff between a group of our hunters and a military regiment by sharing coctails a pile of our doves with the commanding officer.”
While today’s adventures are thankfully far more streamlined than in those early days, there are still a great many variables that can cost you time in the field or on the water.
“We take our fiduciary responsibility to protect your travel investment very seriously.” Hanburry says. “We make every effort to protect both the time and financial components of that investment.
“Want to get a favorite gun in a country? Trek can make it happen. Flight delayed? We will make sure a representative is there to greet you. Unrest in a location? We will do everything possible to move your adventure to another destination.”
So, why Travel with Trek? People, people and people. Trek is the industry’s leader due to our team of adventure travel experts and the hundreds of excellent outfitters we proudly call our partners.