• Mashatu Botswana  - credit Bethan Evans

Whale Watching in South Africa

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There are several locations around the world where one can enjoy whale watching, but few can compare to South Africa. In June, the Southern Right whales leave their sub-antarctic feeding grounds and migrate north to mate and calve in the warmer waters of the protected rocky bays and inlets that occur along the South African coastline. From Cape Town, along to Hermanus, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth, these magnificent mammals can be seen from the shore, their antics providing hours of entertainment for travellers intent on playing witness as literally tonnes of aquatic beast breach and tail-slap as if to order.

Hermanus

Hermanus provides the perfect base, with elevated views of the bay from the rugged cliff-top paths. The ‘Whale Crier’ patrols the streets blowing a kelp horn to inform passers-by of the best sightings of the day. From July through to October, good sightings can be almost guaranteed – and although Hermanus is well known for this, don’t discount sightings at other seaside towns.

De Hoop

For a more laid back place to stay and see the whales, the De Hoop will fit the bill. This place used to be the retreat of Presidents of South Africa up to the end of apartheid and subsequently is set in a beautiful bay and the land around is now a reserve for wildlife. Imagine standing on a sandy dune  watching whales in front of you while not far behind you are zebra browsing on the fynbos. This is a great place to relax, bike around and swim in the sea while being aware of the history of the place.

A tour of the Cape Peninsular, a stroll on the beach at Knysna or Plettenberg Bay, or a stay at Jeffrey’s Bay will also prove rewarding, and all can be combined in a self-drive route along this southern coast – please see “South African Highlights”.

Photographs by kind permission South Africa Tourism

SAT Hermanus          SAT Humpback whale

Victoria

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Explore the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians National Park in this itinerary.

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Victoria

Each Australian state has its own highlights and Victoria is no exception

Day 1: Melbourne
Day 4: Yarra Valley
Day 5: Walhalla
Day 7: Mornington Peninsula
Day 9: Apollo Bay
Day 10: Warrnambool
Day 11: Port Fairy
Day 12 : Hall’s Gap
Day 14: Ballarat
Day 15: Mebourne

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Description

Each Australian state has its own highlights and Victoria is no exception, from cosmopolitan Melbourne to the beauty of the rugged coast, from the wines of the Yarra Valley to the walking trails of the Grampians.  This idea concentrates only on the state of Victoria, but could easily link in part of full to a wider Australian itinerary.

Day 1: Melbourne
Arrive into the city, where we recommend at least a 3 night stay. Hop on board the free City Circle Tram to visit the main city sights and attractions. Sports fans will enjoy a tour of Melbourne Cricket Ground. Explore Melbourne from the water on a cruise along the Yarra River past Melbourne’s parks and gardens and Herring Island. Explore historic Williamstown.
Melbourne 3 nights

Day 4: Yarra Valley
Collect a hire car this morning and drive out to Yarra Valley. Take an authentic historic steam train through the scenic Dandenong Ranges or perhaps take a hot air balloon ride for spectacular views of the valley and surrounding areas.
Yarra Valley 1 night

Day 5: Walhalla
Drive to the remote town of Walhalla, once a thriving gold mining town – visit the restored Goldfields Railway, or Long Tunnel Mine. The valley is a rain forest area with some lovely walks; the more adventurous may consider an extended overnight walk.
Walhalla 2 nights

Day 7: Mornington Peninsula
Back to the coast and the Mornington Peninsula to begin your journey along the Great Ocean Road. On Philip Island enjoy spectacular coastal scenery and an abundance of wildlife.
Mornington Peninsula 2 nights

Day 9: Apollo Bay
This morning take the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliffe. Drive to Apollo Bay for an overnight stay. Keen hikers may extend their time here to include one of the excellent guided or self-guided walks along the coastal path.
Apollo Bay 1 night

Day 10: Warrnambool
Continue along the Great Ocean Drive, stopping at the Twelve Apostles visitor centre where you can take a dramatic helicopter flight. Continue on to Warrnambool where you overnight stop could include dinner and the sound and light show at Flagstaff Hill.
Warrnambool 1 night

Day 11: Port Fairy
Begin your day with a second daylight visit to Flagstaff Hill followed by a tour of Tower Hill, an extinct volcano. Continue on to Port Fairy; keen golfers may consider a round here
Port Fairy 1 night

Day 12 : Hall’s Gap
Inland to The Grampians where a 2 night stay gives you a full day to explore the area – keen walkers may want to extend this.
Halls Gap 2 nights

Day 14: Ballarat
Head east with an overnight stop at Ballarat, Victoria’s largest inland city. Visit the former gold mining site of Sovereign Hill and the opportunity to pan for real gold
Ballarat 1 night

Day 15: Mebourne
Return to Melbourne for your return home or to continue your Australia exploration…

Photographs Tourism Australia Copyright

Great Ocean Road      Vic - Melbourne      Vic - Twelve Apostles

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Little Gems

A helicopter ride over the Twelve Apostles will settle the conundrum of exactly how many ‘apostles’ there are once and for all.  You may like to buy a DVD of your trip to remind you of a great day out – and don’t forget to take your own camera too.

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Tropical North Queensland

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Explore Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest in this itinerary. ‘Beautiful one day – perfect the next’ more than adequately describes Tropical North Queensland 

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Tropical North Queensland

‘Beautiful one day – perfect the next’ more than adequately describes Tropical North Queensland and although travellers can and do visit year round, do beware that the months of December through to March are the wet season – you may get wet! 

Day 1: Cairns
Day 2: Cape Tribulation
Day 3: Palm Cove
Day 7: Return to Cairns

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Day 1: Cairns
Arrive in Cairns and collect hire car before heading north; the Captain Cook Highway soon reduces to a single carriageway, hugging the coast as it wends its way to Port Douglas. Spend two nights in Port Douglas, a pretty little town with an attractive marina, good shopping and home to the famous Iron Bar on Macrossan Street.
Port Douglas 2 nights

Day 2: Cape Tribulation
Take a full day drive north to the Daintree National Park and on to Cape Tribulation. See the perfect white sandy beaches as Captain Cook saw them many years before. Stop at the one of the many excellent boardwalk trails into the Rain Forest, or climb the observation tower giving you fabulous views over the canopy.
Cape Tribulation 1 night

Day 3: Palm Cove
Return south to Palm Cove for a further 3 nights. We suggest that on one of the days here you take a full day trip out on the Great Barrier Reef; your boat will take you to the pontoon for the opportunity to dive, snorkel or view this amazing living garden from underwater observation decks. See exotic fish of all colours and sizes. On the other full day take a trip on the Kuranda Skyrail, a gondola journey skimming you over the top of the rain forest canopy to Kuranda. You will see the Barron Falls and may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the railway on the other side of the valley.
Palm Cove 3 nights

Day 7
Return to Cairns for your journey home or onward journey.

Photographs Copyright Australia Tourism

Cape Tribulation      Fitzroy Island Great Barrier Reef      Great Barrier Reef

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Little Gems

Hotels come and hotels go or change ownership, but the The Reef House in Palm Cove has remained one of our favourites for many years.  Simple colonial elegance probably describes it best and the honesty bar is still as good as ever it was – we love it!

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Client Feedback

The end of the rainy season and the box jellyfish season in Tropical Queensland was not an issue. Virtually no rain and as we are not avid sea-bathers the ‘stingers’ (as they call them) didn’t bother us so we didn’t bother them, although we did notice some areas of beaches had an anti-stinger (and anti-shark) boom around them. We would have no hesitation in recommending all of the aspects of the itinerary and no hesitation in recommending you and your company. Thanks for a wonderful holiday.

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Winter in Quebec

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The Province of Québec has to be the most understated of all Canadian Provinces and yet one of the friendliest, varied and attractive. The Québecois know how to celebrate winter and do so with the charm and sophistication of this delightful people.

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Winter in Quebec

Day 1: Montréal
Day 3: St Alexis-des-Monts
Day 6: Hotel De Glace – Quebec City
Day 7: Quebec City
Day 9: Depart Quebec City

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 A winter holiday is not exclusively for the downhill skier and if you talk to many Canadians, they will tell you that there is a lot more to a winter holiday that simply dusting off your ski’s or snow board.  A winter holiday in Canada and Quebec in particular is about all sorts of winter adventure.  Montreal is a relatively quick hop across the Atlantic and opens up the entire province of Quebec and all that it has to offer for a winter wonderland holiday.

Day 1: Montréal
Fly to the cosmopolitan city of Montréal. Two nights here, and an opportunity to explore this vibrant city. Take a half day city tour visiting the quaint streets and buildings of Old Montreal, the intricate wrought iron balustrades of the residential district and the Olympic Stadium of the 1976 Summer games. Take in a little retail therapy in the shops of the underground city and try your hand at the tables of the Casino.
Two nights Montréal

Day 3: St Alexis-des-Monts
Moving east today, to the foothills of the Laurentians at St Alexis-des-Monts. Three nights here staying in log built accommodation in a fairytale setting of lakeshore accommodation. From here, take part in snowmobiling, cross country skiing and sightseeing flights over this winter wonderland. The province of Quebec offers a vast network of snow mobile tracks – great fun, and second nature to native Quebecois.
Three nights St Alexis

Day 6: Hotel De Glace – Quebec City
We’ve all heard tell of the Ice Hotel – but who is brave enough to spend the night in this unique environment! The Hotel De Glace, located a short distance from Quebec City is built a-fresh each winter, offering an extraordinary combination of ice-carving, and artist design.
Hotel De Glace 1 night

Day 7: Quebec City
Head into the romantic city of Quebec, dominated by the fairytale towers of the Chateau Frontenac and the imposing city wall of the old city
Quebec City 2 nights

Day 9: Depart Quebec City
Return to Montreal today for your overnight flight home to London – or perhaps squeezing one or two more nights to round off your winter holiday with a romantic stay in the Eastern Townships

More time? – then you may consider extending your stay and adding in a few nights in one of the ski areas such as Le Massif or Tremblant – skiing , snow-shoeing and ice-skating are just some of the winter activities on offer – contact us for more details

All photographs © Ministère du Tourisme du Québec

Ice Hotel - pls credit OTCQ      Piscine hiver      5.0.2

 

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Little Gems

The cosy log fire at the Hotel Sacacomie welcomes visitors as soon as you step in from the cold, stamp the snow off your boots and accept a very welcome cup of hot chocolate.  This log built hotel sits on the shores of a frozen lake of the same name – a flat plateau that provides a winter playground in itself – to land a light aircraft, cut a hole for a little ice fishing or take to the ice on dog sled or snow mobile.   This hotel is a firm favourite!

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Region: Western Australia

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Western Australia, in our experience is a second-timers destination, and if you’ve enjoyed other parts of Australia already, just wait until you’ve seen what WA has to offer.  From the Kimberley, Broome and the Bungle Bungles in the north, through the pristine, untouched and relatively undiscovered Ningaloo Reef, to the extraordinary ecology of Shark Bay, the wild flowers in the spring, Perth and the award winning wines of the south-west – and we haven’t even started on the Nullabor, the Indian Pacific rail journey, the gold fields of Kalgoolie and the whales!

Hamelin's Pool Stromatolites Western Australia          Pinnacles Western Australia          Western Australia - KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 

MEXICO – Yucatan Peninsula & Riviera Maya

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Kirsty Saunders

 

Our colleague at SASPO recently shared her experience along with her photos of her family trip to Mexico. If you are inspired from this blog then please contact us to start your own Mexican adventure.

 

When planning our family holiday destination, this year the compass pointed us to the multi-coloured country of Mexico.  With a 9 year old boy, we concentrated our 2 week trip on the Mayan Riviera and the Yucatan Peninsula, flying in and out of Cancun International Airport with convenient direct flights from the UK and Europe.

With Tulum as our base on the Riviera Maya, we explored ancient Mayan cities and swam in secluded cenotes before venturing inland to the Yucatan Peninsula to Chichen Itza (one of the New Seven Wonders of the World) and to the beautiful colonial city of Merida, ending with beach time on laid back Holbox Island.

As a family trip, Mexico has lots to offer and I wish to share with you my experience and personal input on suggested do’s and don’ts…

Cancun

Flights from Europe generally arrive late afternoon/early evening so I would recommend an overnight stay in Cancun.  We stayed at Beachscape Kin Ha Hotel which is a mid-range hotel just 25 minutes’ transfer from the airport and situated on the best beach in Cancun, facing the turquoise, tranquil Caribbean Sea.

The hotel is low key and offers great value.  Rooms are arranged in blocks set within a tropical garden.  There is a pool-side restaurant and a beach-front restaurant as well as nice communal areas with books and board games to borrow, a pool table and air hockey.  For longer stays there is even a self-service laundry room, ideal when travelling with children.
From the hotel, you can stroll along the beach passing the neighbouring hotels or it’s an easy 10-minute walk to various nearby shopping malls with restaurants, fast food outlets and supermarkets.

Do: take an early morning walk to have the beach to yourself and enjoy the sunrise.

Don’t: change money at your hotel as there are exchange bureaux within a 5 minute walk of your hotel offering a better exchange rate.

Tulum

There is a great range of hotels in Cancun and along the Riviera Maya’s Caribbean coastline to suit every budget – from “unlimited luxury” resorts to small eco boutique hotels.  We stayed in Tulum, 130 km south of Cancun, with a transfer time of around 1½ hours. Tulum and the beaches south of Cancun are suffering at the moment from unsightly sargassum seaweed which gets washed ashore onto the previously pristine shores.   So why stay here and not in Cancun?  Eco-friendly and laid-back, you are much closer to nature and can get away from the crowds.  The archaeological site of Tulum is literally on your doorstep.  Built on a cliff above the sea in honour of the sun, Tulum is the only walled Mayan city to be discovered.

We stayed at the El Pez Colibri boutique hotel where the service was second-to-none.  From the turndown service with tea and chocolates.. to the tray of morning coffee (and hot chocolate for our son) delivered to our room.. to the concierge’s call to our room at 10 pm on our first night to let us know that there was a sea turtle laying her eggs on the sand if we wanted to quietly come and watch.

Close to Tulum, there are gorgeous and easily accessible “cenotes”, natural freshwater pools in the rock – the water is deep and refreshingly cool after the heat of the beaches.  Bring a mask and snorkel (or rent them along with buoyancy vests) and see the fish and turtles swimming in the crystal clear water.  My personal highlight was a visit to the little-visited Muyil archaeological ruins and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a sprawling protected area and home to tons of wildlife, particularly birds and flamingos.  Here you can take a boat ride through a freshwater lagoon and float down Mayan-built canals through the Yucatan jungle.

Along the Riviera Maya, there are also various eco-parks that make ideal day excursions for families with children.  Xcaret is an eco-archaeological park with its own beach and natural pools as well as a coral reef aquarium, aviary and various shows.  Xel-Ha is another eco-park with a collection of cenotes, lagoons, caves and zip-lines – ideal for families looking for adventure and adrenaline-pumping activities!

Do: visit the Tulum ruins in the evening (between 5-7 pm when the day-trippers have gone home) for picture-perfect views and gorgeous sunsets.

Chichen Itza

A 2-hour drive from Tulum, Chichen Itza is in the heart of the Yucatan. We stayed at the Lodge at Chichen Itza, part of the Mayaland Hotel, set in extensive tropical gardens with towering Royal palm trees.  Within the gardens, there is a planetarium (with various shows each day), a spa and several swimming pools.  In the tropical jungle heat, I recommend an afternoon by the swimming pool where you can spot different birds and huge lizards!

With a private entrance to the ruins from Mayaland Hotel, Chichen Itza can be visited in the early morning before the day visitors arrive and before the heat rises.  A truly magical experience to see the sun rise over the pyramid of “El Castillo”.

Do: take a sunrise tour of the ruins and beat the crowds!

Don’t: try to do too much – it’s hot and humid so take time and relax.

From Chichen Itza,  it’s a two-hour transfer to Mérida and I would recommend a stop at Izamal, a small traditional town with a pretty main square with market and its impressive yellow-painted Convento.  The journey takes you along straight roads passing by small pueblos and Mayan communities and tropical forest.

Mérida is a charming city of wide tree-lined boulevards and historic mansions.  We visited on a Saturday evening which is Noche Mexicana when Paseo de Montejo is closed to traffic and there was a lovely atmosphere with families strolling by and riding bicycles and musical and dance performances.  Paseo de Montejo leads to the pretty downtown area with squares, churches, palm trees and good restaurants and pavement cafés.  Both the Mayan ruins of Uxmal and the Celestún Biosphere Reserve with flocks of flamingos and birdlife are within easy reach for day excursions from Mérida .
We stayed at Hacienda Misne, a beautiful oasis 20 minutes’ drive outside Mérida (one-way taxi to downtown Mérida cost around US$5).  The hacienda is situated in a rather plain suburb but once you step into the walled garden, you’re in another world with tall old trees, hammocks, an outside football table, small gym, two swimming pools with excellent waiter service and a superb restaurant.  The guest rooms are situated in separate buildings lining the perimeter of the walled garden, built in similar style to the original hacienda building with high ceilings and steep roof.

Do: take a walking tour of the city to best appreciate its colonial architecture and fine churches.

Don’t: miss the opportunity to visit the ruins of Uxmal – one of the great showpieces of Mayan architecture.

Holbox

It’s a pleasingly easy journey to the island of Holbox, situated just off the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula.  From Mérida, it’s a 3½ hour drive along straight roads through the tropical forest to the port of Chiquila.  En route, you can stop at the charming town of Valladolid with its lovely main square and interesting shops.
Valladolid would also make an ideal overnight stop for those who want to stay a little off the beaten track with a lovely colonial style hotel overlooking the square.  From Chiquila, the ferry departs every 30  minutes and takes 20 minutes to cross the water to reach Holbox – all very straightforward with luggage loaded and unloaded quickly and efficiently.  On arrival on Holbox, you are met by the “taxi rank” of golf buggies ready to take you along the sand road to your hotel as very few cars are permitted on the island.

There is a good selection of hotels to choose on Holbox – most are beach-front and “barefoot chic”.  We stayed at Holbox Dreams Beachfront Hotel which is a mid-range hotel.  Guest rooms are simple but attractively decorated with nice touches.  There was no water on a couple of occasions but it came back pretty quickly and is one of the challenges of being on a small island.  The hotel has two small swimming pools which are kept very clean and were lit at night.  Walk through the gardens to reach the beautiful white sand beach with calm, shallow waters ideal for small children and a convenient beach club with restaurant, sun loungers and shade and excellent waiter service.

Holbox is easily walkable (or you can rent bicycles) with a small downtown area with good shops and restaurants.  Our highlight on Holbox was a boat trip to swim with whale sharks.  My initial nerves were swiftly allayed as these gentle giants are shy and docile and the experience of swimming alongside them is quite magical.  Very well organised with experienced and helpful crew and snorkeling equipment and buoyancy vest provided, this is a full day tour with time also to snorkel on the reef and stop for a delicious ceviche lunch on the beach.  I would recommend a 4 or 5 night stay on Holbox.  There are various island tours and if you visit when there is no moon you have the opportunity to see the “Bioluminescence” – the phenomenon where the water on the beach is illuminated by micro-organisms in the sea.
After your stay on Holbox, you can easily make the transfer (ferry + drive) directly to Cancun airport for your flight home as most of the flights back to the UK and Europe depart in the late afternoon/evening.  The transfer time to the airport is around 2 – 2 ½ hours plus the 20 minute ferry crossing.

Do: take a boat trip to swim with the whale sharks – a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Don’t: over-pack – there are some superb restaurants on Holbox but island life is low key and informal.

All our transfers were arranged with a private car and driver with the flexibility to stop for lunch or to pick up water and supplies or change money, or even with time for a quick swim in a cenote en route.
Another option would be to have a rental car and self-drive.  With straight roads passing through low forest and small towns, the peninsula is safe and easy to navigate.

Wishing you all happy planning, and remember that Mexico is not just beach.  There is much more to explore inland and to experience the warmth of the Mexican welcome – travelling with or without children!

 

Three Interesting US Cities in One Trip

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Kirsty Saunders

 

This 11-night suggested itinerary combines three interesting US cities into one trip on the East Coast. See iconic buildings, explore world renowned visitor attractions, shop until you drop and experience unique culinary delights.  With excellent rail links it is easy to travel between the three cities, either in the following order or in reverse.

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Three Interesting US Cities in One Trip

Washington, New York and BostonThis 11-night suggested itinerary combines three interesting US cities into one trip on the East Coast. See iconic buildings, explore world renowned visitor attractions, shop until you drop and experience unique culinary delights.  With excellent rail links it is easy to travel between the three cities, either in the following order or in reverse.

Day 1 : Washington DC

Day 5 : New York City

Day 9 :Boston

Day 12 : Depart

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Description

Washington, New York and BostonThis 11-night suggested itinerary combines three interesting US cities into one trip on the East Coast. See iconic buildings, explore world renowned visitor attractions, shop until you drop and experience unique culinary delights.  With excellent rail links it is easy to travel between the three cities, either in the following order or in reverse.

 

Day 1 Washington DC: Arrive in Washington DC; the Nation’s capital and the hub of the USA administration.  From its celebrated symbols of patriotism to its undiscovered neighbourhoods, the sights and sounds of the nation’s capital inspire millions of visitors every year. Packed with famous sights, free attractions, and an endless calendar of special events, Washington DC offers year-round inspiring experiences. Beyond Washington DC’s most familiar vistas, the capital city unwinds into a lively urban centre.  Casual cafes and upscale bistros line the trendy streets of Georgetown, while the downtown district sizzles with a host of new restaurants. Spontaneous Jazz notes tumble out the windows of U Street’s nightclubs, while world-class performers take the stage at the highly acclaimed Kennedy Center. Kayakers tackle the Potomac River as it winds past the elegant marble tributes to America’s great leaders.

4 nights in Washington

White House

 

Photo courtesy of Angie Watson

Day 5 New York City: Travel by Amtrak train to New York City. Of all the cities ever featured anywhere in any travel publication, surely New York must be the one that needs no introduction!  The ‘Big Apple’ sets the adrenalin pumping at the merest mention of the name, and add to this images of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden, the Rockefeller Centre and so many more, and suddenly you need to be there, experiencing the buzz of this vibrant city.  The very ground you walk on is throbbing with activity and excitement.  Take a loop tour to acquaint yourself with the different areas of Manhattan, and then lose yourself in trendy Greenwich Village and Soho.  Visit the iconic stores of Macy’s and Bloomingdales or wander through Central Park.

4 nights in New York

 

Day 9 Boston: Travel by Amtrak train to Boston.  The home of the famous Boston Tea Party and gateway to New England. Boston is an intriguing mix of the historic (by American standards) and the modern, with high-rise modern buildings giving way to the quaint side streets of a former time.  The Freedom Trail, the red line in the pavement, takes the visitor on a walking trail around the main attractions of the city – or jump on one of the city tours to get your bearings.

3 nights in Boston

Photo courtesy of Harry Lipson III

 

Day 12: Depart Boston for your onward or homeward journey.

 

Optional extra: Philadelphia

Turn three cities into four by slotting in a stay in Philadelphia between Washington DC and New York. Philadelphia is Perhaps not at the top of everyone’s list, but none-the-less an interesting city, and well worth a visit.  Most famously known as the birthplace of American democracy, a visit to Philadelphia should include a trip the Liberty Bell Centre and Independence Hall – a quick call at the Visitor Centre will set you on your way.  If retail therapy is for you, then Philadelphia is a must as there is no sales tax on clothing and shoes.  For those visitors not in the first bloom of youth, you may remember Sylvester Stallone’s epic climb of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts in the first Rocky movie way back in the 70’s!

 

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Little Gems

Consider going for cocktails or dinner at New York’s only revolving restaurant which overlooks Times Square.

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Wildlife of New Zealand

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Vicki Tester

 

With over 20 percent of the country covered in 14 National Parks, New Zealand offers pristine wilderness and the perfect habitat for its native flora and fauna. As always, sightings of wildlife can never be guaranteed, but if you plan to be in the right place at the right time of year, you’ll maximise your chances. And that’s where we come in – we can discuss with you when and where to go, and build a tailor made holiday to New Zealand to incorporate wildlife viewing along the way.

 There is an abundance and great variety of birdlife to be found in New Zealand. Before humans settled the country, there were no natural predators for some birds, and as such several native species evolved to become flightless. The most famous of these is the nocturnal kiwi – New Zealand’s national symbol. Other native birds include the kea – one of the most intelligent birds in the world, the vibrant takahe, the weka and the tui with its beautiful birdsong. One of the best places in New Zealand to admire the birdlife is on Stewart Island and nearby Ulva Island – these are two of the few places it is still possible to see the kiwi in the wild, along with Kapiti Island.

 

 

Kiwi -= New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Tourism New Zealand

New Zealand

Ulva Island-Stewart Island- Picture courtesy of Miles Holden and 100% Pure New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Otago Peninsula, see the royal albatross – the largest seabird in the world, and at Cape Kidnappers near Napier, join a tour to see the resident gannet colony. On the west coast of the South Island in the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve, take a tour to see the rare white heron – sacred to the Maori and believed to bring good fortune if seen.

New Zealand is also home to diverse marine life. Find the blue penguin and rare yellow eyed penguin in the Catlins and on the Otago Peninsula. Also in this region see New Zealand fur seals and sea lions. See the fjordland crested penguin near Lake Moeraki or Milford Sound.

 

New Zealand

Yellow Eyed Penguin – Picture courtesy of 100% Pure New Zealand

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Chris Stephenson and 100% Pure New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only found in New Zealand’s waters, hector’s dolphins are regularly seen off the Banks Peninsula and are one of the smallest marine dolphins in the world. Board a sightseeing cruise and if you’re lucky take the opportunity to swim with these beautiful creatures in the wild.

 Kaikoura is widely known as the whale watching capital of New Zealand, and is one of the few places in the world where sperm whales can be seen year round and close to shore. Humpback whales are frequently found during the winter months (June, July & August), blue whales and southern right whales can sometimes be seen here too. Dusky and hector’s dolphins are found in this region, and sea birds here include six species of shearwater, along with petrels and albatross.

The Bay of Islands on the North Island is another region known for its dolphins – bottlenose and common dolphins are most often seen here, along with baleen whales, orca and seals.

Any and all of the above regions can be included in a bespoke holiday to New Zealand – just give us a call and we can discuss your plans and preferences before putting together a tailored itinerary.

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Jim Bell

 

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Matt Winter and 100% Pure New Zealand

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Jim Bell

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Jim Bell

Otago Peninsula New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

 

North Tanzania During the Short Rains

Posted on:
Posted by:

Kirsty Saunders

 

This must be one of the best wildlife destinations in Africa with the wildebeest/zebra migration in the Serengeti being one of the star attractions. Visiting North Tanzania during the short rains around November means you can experience all this amazing region has to offer without having to share it with a crowd of other people. This can only enhance the experience. The trick here is selecting a camp site that is remote, wild, still very Africa but with all the amenities that you need with excellent service and guiding as standard.

If you are willing to take the chance of going during the short rainy season, then you will improve the quality of your safari. Yes, you may experience an African thunderstorm (dramatic, noisy and spectacular but usually over within the hour) but the experience has benefits. Seeing the plains and trees turn green, then having all the wild flowers coming out and seeing the baby topi’s and impala add something in the way of a big extra.

We also know a company that will ensure that your campsite is exclusive, in a special location and far from the other travellers you may have seen during the day. Their aim is to give you such a good experience that you will start planning your return before too long. They will look after you from the moment you land to the time you depart – in style.

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North Tanzania During the Short Rains

This must be one of the best wildlife destinations in Africa with the wildebeest/zebra migration in the Serengeti being one of the star attractions. Visiting North Tanzania during the short rains around November means you can experience all this amazing region has to offer without having to share it with a crowd of other people. This can only enhance the experience. The trick here is selecting a camp site that is remote, wild, still very Africa but with all the amenities that you need with excellent service and guiding as standard.

If you are willing to take the chance of going during the short rainy season, then you will improve the quality of your safari. Yes, you may experience an African thunderstorm (dramatic, noisy and spectacular but usually over within the hour) but the experience has benefits. Seeing the plains and trees turn green, then having all the wild flowers coming out and seeing the baby topi’s and impala add something in the way of a big extra.

We also know a company that will ensure that your campsite is exclusive, in a special location and far from the other travellers you may have seen during the day. Their aim is to give you such a good experience that you will start planning your return before too long. They will look after you from the moment you land to the time you depart – in style.

The following is a suggested itinerary for your safari in the short rainy season to Northern Tanzania:

 

Day 1: Arusha/ Kilimanjaro Airport

Day 2: Tarangire

Day 6: Central Serengeti

Day 9: North Serengeti

Day 13: Return to Arusha – depart

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Description

 

Day 1 – Arusha/ Kilimanjaro Airport

Currently there are no direct flights to Kilimanjaro Airport but there are plenty of choices for indirect flights at very reasonable prices. Depending on the time that you arrive you could head for your first camp or stay overnight in or around Arusha. There is plenty of choice for the overnight from 5 star luxury to staying on a coffee farm.

Consider adding a day here to explore the little visited but a jewel of a National Park – Mount Meru National Park with its perfect caldera offering a sanctuary to its wildlife on the floor of the volcano and beautiful rain forests throughout the Park.

 

Day 2 to 5 – Tarangire

After breakfast you head towards Tarangire National Park along good tarmac roads before turning off to a private concession that exists along the border of the Park. Tarangire is famed for its giant Baobab trees and big herds of buffalo and elephant. You camp is located along the dry riverbed and is just 10 tents in all. The waterhole right in front of the pool and dining room is very popular with the local wildlife, particularly elephant. You could be sipping your G&T by the pool watching the eli’s jostling for their drink.

We suggest 2 or 3 nights here to explore the Park and see the wildlife that lives in the Concession. The swamp in the Tarangire is a mecca for birders and huge herds of buffalo and elephant. Being on a Concession allows you to take a walking safari of a night drive. Then snuggle up in your warm bed to the sound of lion and/or hyena calling.

 

 

Day 6 – 9 – Central Serengeti

If you have time you could add in a couple of nights staying in a camp or lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and having a full day down in the crater. This is a world of its own and has all the big 5 here to see as well as flamingo on the lake at certain times of the year.

You have the option of driving to the Serengeti perhaps stopping at the Olduvai Gorge to learn about our very earliest ancestors or catching a 45 minutes flight to Seronera Airstrip where your next guide will pick you up. You are in the centre of this huge National Park (30,000 square kilometres or a quarter of the size of England) and well placed to follow the ever going migration of wildebeest and zebra. This migration is one of the largest in the world and is governed by the rain fall and water availability in the Serengeti and Masai Mara in Kenya.

Your game drive starts immediately you leave the airstrip and if the migration is in the central area (very likely at this time of year) you will see huge herds of zebra, wildebeest and the other plains animals. Along with them come the predators – lion, cheetah, hyena, leopard and all the attendant birds such as vultures and scavengers like jackal. Where we recommend staying is in a hidden valley with no passing traffic, apart from the animals, and peace and quiet for the perfect sundowner, delightful meals and sleep only interrupted by lion roars and hyena calls. It really is worth planning this part of your trip carefully. Having passing vehicles in front of your campsite takes a lot away from the experience.

Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis

While here, plan a balloon trip at dawn for an experience of a lifetime. The captains of the balloons are very experienced and will give you varying height chances to photo the plains, kopjes and animals. Finish with a champagne breakfast under an acacia tree on the plains that you have just flown over. Exhilarating and unforgettable.

 

Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

Day 9 – 12 – North Serengeti

Have a game drive to the northern part of the Park and notice the change between savanna and lightly forested hills. Here the Grumeti and Mara rivers dissect the Serengeti here and at the right time of the year you could witness the famous river crossings by the migrating herds. The rivers are full of hippo and crocs and you can see why the animals hesitate to be the first to jump into the murky water. This region has everything to offer with leopard often seen resting on the rocks, waiting for darkness.

Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis

Your camp site here is tucked into the rocks of one of the kopjes that dot the plains here and give stunning views across the plains and acacia forests. The service, meals and ambience are second to none. A great place to end your safari.

 

 

 

Day 13

This morning you will fly back to Arusha and make your connection for the return flight home.

 

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Little Gems

Sitting quietly on the Serengeti Plains watching a cheetah, sitting on an anthill, surveying the herds close by and deciding whether to hunt or not. Just the sounds of the wildlife and birds as your backdrop to a scene that is eons old.

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Cities of the Far East

Posted on:
Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Major cities within the Far East are often used by travellers simply as a gateway to the country, or perhaps as a stop en route to a further afield destination such as Australia or New Zealand. They are often major hubs for international flights, and therefore lend themselves well to this. However, they can also make for interesting and exciting destinations and often warrant a longer stay. Here we mention just a few of the popular ‘stopover cities’ in the Far East.

 

Singapore

Once a British colony and later a part of Malaysia, Singapore became an independent nation in 1965. The city is home to a melting pot of cultures and this in turn makes Singapore a vibrant and exciting place to visit. Explore Chinatown and Little India, meander the shops of Orchard Road, the bars and restaurants of Clarke Quay or take afternoon tea in the historic Raffles Hotel. A ride on the Singapore Flyer provides a unique perspective of the city, and a visit to renowned Singapore Zoo is a popular family activity. Sentosa Island provides an escape from the city itself, with beautiful sandy beaches and relaxed resort-style hotels. Many would consider Singapore to be solely a ‘city stay’ but Sentosa Island certainly offers a more relaxed alternative or addition to a visit there.

Picture courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

Picture courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong

Another Far Eastern hub with a rich and interesting history, this former British colony is so much more than just a city. Whilst its modern city skyline is world renowned, the traditions of old Hong Kong are still very much alive and can be found threaded through the backstreets, countryside and islands of this vibrant destination. Explore some of the many markets from Stanley to the Ladies Market, take a sampan ride in Aberdeen Fishing Village, use the historic Star Ferry to cross the harbour, or head to Repulse Bay to relax by the beach. A visit to Victoria Peak is a must – ideally using the historic tram – to see the skyline, but also consider visiting some of the many outlying islands – Lamma Island has a well-marked walking trail, Cheung Chau is best known for its annual bun festival in May, and Lantau Island is home to the Ngong Ping 360 cable car.

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kuala Lumpur

Located at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang Rivers, Kuala Lumpur’s name in English literally means ‘muddy confluence’. It is Malaysia’s capital and an extraordinary city with an intriguing cultural mix. Explore the shopping districts, Chinatown, Independence Square and the Sultans Palace. The Old Station in the city was built in colonial times with a roof carefully designed to withstand at least a metre of snow! Visit the botanical gardens, the central market or try one of the many excellent restaurants or street foods in Jalan Alor. The Batu Caves, located 11km from the city, are well worth a visit, and no visit to KL is complete without a visit to the iconic Petronas Towers.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok

Bangkok was founded in 1782 and with a history spanning more than two centuries, it comprises of an eclectic mixture of old and new. Thailand’s capital, it is perhaps best known for its ornate shrines and colourful tuk tuks. Take a tour of the Grand Palace, visit the floating markets on the river by longtail speedboat, or explore the Chatuchak weekend market for a spot of shopping. Wat Arun is a sight to behold, and Wat Pho is well worth exploring. A day trip from Bangkok can be taken to visit the Bridge over the River Kwai and the JEATH War Museum.

Above are just four of the popular ‘stopover’ cities in the Far East, but these are by no means the only options. For further information on these cities, or ideas for alternatives, please do get in touch.

Picture courtesy of Tourism Thailand

Picture courtesy of Tourism Thailand

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