• Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton

MEXICO – Yucatan Peninsula & Riviera Maya

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Posted by:

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!

 

Wildlife of New Zealand

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Posted by:

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

 

Cities of the Far East

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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

Spend some time in Nairobi, Kenya

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Most people that travel to Kenya arrive early in the morning and shoot off on safari or perhaps take a night to recover from their flight before heading out. But it is well worth stopping a few days to explore what this city has to offer.

Nairobi National Park

Even if your visit to Kenya is limited to Nairobi you can still enjoy the country’s spectacular wildlife with a visit to this swath of wilderness just 15 minutes outside the city centre.

The 117 km square of protected space is home to lions, leopard, rhinos, cheetahs, zebras, hippos, gazelle, and a healthy collection of other species including over 400 different types of birds. The park can be easily navigated with a tour where you can explore the savannah and forests too.

At the Athi River hippo pool on the south western edge of the park you can stretch your legs and take a walk accompanied by an armed ranger who will not only protect you from feisty critters but can tell you a bit about what you’re seeing.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Animal Orphanage

Located at the entrance to Nairobi National Park, the orphanage is home to those animals that have been abandoned, confiscated from illegal traffickers or injured and unable to survive in the wild. It is a great place to learn about the different species.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Langata Giraffe Centre
The Langata Giraffe Centre, run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, is a sanctuary for the rare Rothschilds giraffe. Here you can observe, hand-feed or even kiss the giraffes from a raised circular wooden structure, and it is quite an experience. It’s a good place to get the close-up photographs.

For those of an adventurous nature, you could even stay at the Giraffe Manor for the night and have these wonderful animals as very close neighbours.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenya’s National Museum and Snake Park

If you want to see the stuffed remains of the Man-eaters of Tsavo, or learn about this diverse and fascinating country’s history and geography, then the Museum is a must. You will easily loose half a day here.

In the grounds of the National Museum, there’s a recreated Kikuyu homestead and a Snake Park, where you can see black mambas, snakes of all types, some sad-looking crocodiles and giant dudus (creepy crawlies).

All in all, Nairobi should not be rushed – there is much to see and do here.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Australia’s Great Railway Journey’s – BBC 2

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Picture courtesy of Great Southern Rail

 

If you would like to find out more of what Australia’s railways have to offer then make sure you tune in to BBC 2 at 20:00 on Saturday 26 October to watch Michael Portillo’s Great Australian Railway Journeys.

There will be six episodes starting with The Ghan – Port Augusta to Darwin in episode one.  The other episode we recommend not to miss is episode three The Indian Pacific, but all are great journeys.

These are a couple of our favourite railway journeys in Australia and a fantastic way to see the country.  If you like what you see and would like to know how to corporate a railway journey into your bespoke tailor-made holiday to Australia then please contact us.

 

Picture courtesy of Great Southern Rail

Picture courtesy of Great Southern Rail

 

Picture courtesy of Great Southern Rail

Picture courtesy of Great Southern Rail

Picture courtesy of Great Southern Rail

The Pearl of Africa

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Posted by:

Kirsty Saunders

 

Uganda – The Pearl of Africa

It has been brought to our attention that the Ugandan Tourist Board are currently changing their tourism focus. This is an effort to highlight the diversity of their beautiful country, and we thought we’d give them a hand.  Many of you will know Uganda as home to some extraordinary primates, however there is an array of other tourist attractions across the country that definitely deserve a mention. To quote Winston Churchill “The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale. … For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life – bird, insect, reptile, beast – for vast scale — Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa.”

Wildlife certainly is a big draw for many visitors, and along with primates, Uganda is home to 1061 bird species including the Crested Crane, the Turaco, and the elusive Shoebill.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

This prehistoric looking bird stands five feet tall with its huge distinctive bill.

Along with Africa’s ‘big five’ there is a host of other wildlife, some of which are endemic to Uganda, so a safari is a must!

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

Another opportunity for a animal encounter of a different kind would be to help herd, feed and even milk Uganda’s Ankole Cattle.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

And if you are partial to ‘having a go’ take time to visit the fair-trade tea and coffee plantations and experience the production process first hand.

If prehistoric plants are of interest, Mpanga Gorge in the west is believed to be the largest Cycad colony in the world.  This palm like plant species is believed to have existed before prehistoric times, remaining largely unchanged for 200-300 million years!

We must next draw your attention to Uganda’s water orientated attractions. Uganda is home to ‘Lake Victoria’ the World’s second largest lake, and the source of the magnificent river Nile!  Here there are many activities to embark on such as kayaking, white – water rafting, fishing or take a boat trip.

Finally an interesting fact: Did you know that Uganda provides the opportunity to have one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere? Visit the landmark showing where the equator passes through the country. You will be fascinated to watch a demonstration of how the water drains in opposite directions, depending on which side of the equator you stand!

In order to incorporate all of your preferred activities, you would certainly benefit from a tailor made itinerary. This is where we come in. Africa is one of our specialist countries and our team of experts with first-hand experience can guide you every step of the way.

Contact Us

Explore the Transforming Wildlife Conservation Story of Malawi with Robin Pope

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Malawi’s wildlife suffered from decades of lawlessness and poaching to the point that rhino, cheetah and lion had disappeared from the country. The outlook for the remaining, dwindling wildlife was bleak.

Everything started to change when African Parks took over the running of Majete National Park. In conjunction with Malawi’s National Parks and organisations such as Robin Pope Safaris robust conservation policies were introduced and maintained – to the benefit of the local population, the wildlife and tourists. The return of black rhino, lion and cheetah indicate the healthy state of this Park and the others that African Parks undertook in Malawi – Liwonde and NKhotakota.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

The success in the earlier Parks allowed them to restock Nkotakota with a transfer of 500 elephant and other herbivore species in 2016 and 2017 – the largest translocation of elephants anywhere.

If you would like to see this remarkable transformation get in touch and ask about joining Robin Pope’s Conservation Malawi Safari. This takes you to the three most important and impressive Parks in Malawi and with a minimum of three nights at each you have a wonderful chance to see the revival for yourselves. Please Contact us for more information.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

Some ideas of places you can still visit this year.

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Costa Rica

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

December is a great time to visit Costa Rica. Here you will find one of South America’s largest cloud forests, Monteverde, with its evergreen canopies, exotic birds, butterflies and a host of other wildlife. There are numerous national parks and wildlife spotting opportunities, waterfalls, rain forests and volcanoes!

There really is so much to see and do here: visit Arenal Volcano, hike through the lava fields, go birdwatching, bathe in the hot springs, zip-lining and trekking through the rainforest.  This is an ideal place for a family holiday, and when you are feeling less adventurous you could spend time on the many beautiful beaches such as the golden sands of Manuel Antonio National Park.  Click here for your Costa Rica Adventure.

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

Hawaii, USA

For some winter sun, Hawaii has it all. With its golden sands, turquoise waters and a tropical feel, you could have a very different Christmas this year, spent on the beach!

Take a trip out to see the whales and dolphins. Snorkelling is a popular activity here and a great place for this is the partially submerged volcanic creator off Maui’s southwest coast. Here there is a thriving coral reef with an array of marine life to spot.

On land you could hike Kauai’s forest trails to the hidden waterfalls, or go island hopping on a small plane for more adventure in the glorious winter sunshine.

Picture courtesy of Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) Kirk Lee Aeder

Picture courtesy of Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) Larry Marshall

 

 

Whistler, Canada

Picture courtesy of Destination BC – Blake Jorgenson

This very popular ski resort is definitely one for the ski lovers bucket list.  The snow is in abundance throughout the winter months, making the chalets look picturesque, with tree lined streets  and twinkling lights.

There are no end of activities to take part in such as, dog sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and hiking the trails up Blackcomb Mountain stopping off for a fondue dinner at the top.  Or on a Sunday night you can watch skiers and snowboarders pulling tricks with fire for a bit of live entertainment.

Picture courtesy of Destination BC – Blake Jorgenson

Picture courtesy of Destination BC – Blake Jorgenson

 

Vietnam

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Our winter is a popular time to visit South East Asia as there is very little rain and the days are sunny.  Stay at one of Vietnams beach resorts, surrounded by tropical rainforest and fishing boats hauled up on the beach, for a bit of relaxation.

See the water lilies and flower fields begin to bloom, which are then picked to decorate the temples and shrines.  Any cultural seeker would love Vietnam. It has a thousand-year-old civilisation and a fascinating history. Wander through the streets of the Hanoi Old Quarter or Hoi An Old Town to get a glimpse of the French architecture mixing with the ancient and modern temples. See one of our Vietnam bespoke itineraries.

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Zambezi Queen and Chobe Princess Collection

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

If you’re thinking of planning an African adventure then why not add in a few days on a luxury houseboat, where you can experience the park and the animals from a different vantage point. Here you will be able to observe hippos, crocodiles and a mind-boggling array of water birds in their natural environment, from the safety of the boat in a more relaxing way of viewing.

The Zambezi Queen offers luxury accommodation with 14 luxury suites, 10 standard suites and 4 spacious master suites. All have outside decking so you can enjoy the uninterrupted views of the Chobe River and landscape which is in Northern Botswana, alongside the Caprivi Strip and Chobe National Park.

Picture courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection.

Picture courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection.

Picture courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or you can choose the smaller luxury houseboat, Chobe princess with much fewer cabin suites and an upstairs deck for viewing and relaxing. The Chobe Princess fleet has recently refurbished, so if your thinking of booking during the month of October 2019 you could take advantage of their last-minute special offer with discounted rates.

Picture courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection.

Picture courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection.

Picture courtesy of Zambezi Queen Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would rather travel between November 2019 and March 2020 you could get a free night added to your 3 – 4 night itinerary on any of the Zambezi Collection.

For more information in planning your bespoke, tailor made holiday to Africa, please contact us.

What to do in Stone Town, Zanzibar – Tanzania, East Africa

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

For those of you that are looking to add some beach after your safari and have decided to head for Zanzibar, then I would recommend that you should consider some time in the fascinating capital of the Island – Stone Town.

With history that relates to Zanzibar is reflected in the architecture and historic artefacts to be found in the museums and hotels. With the Sultans of Oman having Zanzibar as one of their main trading posts in East Africa for several centuries, indeed it was the capital of their empire for a while; there is a strong Arab influence on the island. Of course there is a huge Swahili feel along with the British and Portuguese buildings to be found, particularly in Stone Town.

I would certainly recommend that you should stay a couple of nights to allow you time to explore and immerse yourselves in the vibrant colours and culture. There are a good number of hotels to choose from, from backpackers to boutique to 5 star hotels – so plenty of choice.

 

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

One of the best ways of getting to know the town is to take a guided walk through the maze of narrow streets, designed to be wide enough for 2 donkeys and very anti car. The buildings are in all states of repair with the Omani influence very much in evidence but the real stars to keep you reaching for the camera are the ornate doors. Here are carvings of scripts, both religious and secular, flowers and animals of all kinds and beautiful brass studs and nails. 

The walk takes you to the Sultans Palace (now a museum), the House of Wonder and the very moving museum of slavery and its statue of commemoration. Then the walk takes you in to the vibrant and hugely colourful fruit, vegetable and general market. Add in the colour of the Zanzibari women’s clothes and you have a feast for your eyes.

Alternatively catch a dhow out to one of the sandbars that emerge as the tide drops and spend a happy couple of hour’s snorkelling while your crew cook you a fresh from the sea lunch.

Everyone recommends that you watch the sun set and the received wisdom is that Africa House is the place to do this. This is a very buzzy place with all sort of travellers gathered to toast the setting sun. For those wanting a quieter location, and with the same view, then the bar at the Zanzibar Serena Hotel is just as good and has an excellent restaurant which is right on the waterfront.

Book your place to explore the doors, museums, markets, meet the friendly people and drink your sundowner watching the dhows beating their way to the harbour by contacting us at Experience Holidays.

For fuller details, please ask for Peter Ellis.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

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