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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Safari glamping comes to the Barossa



Roderick Eime

You've seen them in the high-end African safari camps and the remote Australian eco-outposts, but now you can enjoy a 'safari' glamping experience right in the middle of South Australia's Barossa Valley – albeit without the megafauna.

Discovery Parks – Barossa have just launched their own mini safari camp in a secluded section of their Tanunda park. The private enclave within the park contains 12 eco-friendly safari tents set 'outback style' among mature native redgums. These are no 'pole and peg' tents either. Steel framed and wrapped in galeproof tarpaulin, they are permanent, sturdy structures.

The central firepit is a natural meeting point in the common 'hub', adjacent a resort-style lap pool and undercover picnic and BBQ area with dedicated equipment.



When Vacations visited, we were quite likely the first guests in our tent, already pre-warmed with reverse cycle air conditioning against the brisk mid-winter weather. Inside there is a couch, occasional table and narrow sideboard. Meals are best enjoyed on the covered patio where there are folding director chairs and a sturdy wooden table.

There's a full hotel-style bathroom with quality amenities and a decent galley kitchen to prepare your own meals complete with microwave, fridge and all the utensils. At the moment the tents are without TVs (and may well stay that way) and are best suited to singles, twin share or couples. The expansive park has numerous quality accommodation options for families and those seeking more modest digs.

So while you're daydreaming about your African safari experience, whet your appetite at this authentic 'glampsite' just a short walk from Tanunda's main street.

For more information and to book visit www.discoveryparks.com.au or call 1800 356 801.

What’s for lunch?



Even in the Barossa Valley, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better lunch spot than Elli Beer’s new ‘the eatery’ located in her mum’s ‘The Farm’ on Pheasant Farm Road at Nuriootpa.

Opened last October, Elli has teamed with and renowned chef Tim Bourke, formerly of Kangaroo Island’s Southern Ocean Lodge, to create a bright new dining experience in what was the function centre.

Tim’s daily menu derives from his favoured charcoal grill and is open for lunchtimes only, 7 days a week. There’s a wood-fired oven on the decking turning out super pizzas too. Plus you can book a private dining experience for up to 24 guests with an ever-changing ‘Feed Me’ menu.

Get stuck in!

Pheasant Farm Road Nuriootpa 5355
Monday - Sunday: 12 pm - 3 pm
tel:+61885621902

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Brief history of Seattle


SEATTLE HISTORY:

FROM TALL TIMBER TO HIGH TECH

What might have happened if Seattle had retained the original name bestowed by its first pioneers, "New York - Alki?" Would we now be nicknamed "The Little Apple" instead of the "Emerald City?"

The little party of pioneers from Illinois who landed on Alki Point on a cold and rainy November 13, 1851 had thought to bestow lofty ambitions on their tiny community of log cabins when they named it after New York. They soon changed the name to Seattle, after the local Indian Chief Sealth, and moved it to its present location on the deep waters of Elliott Bay.

British Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver had explored Puget Sound more than a half-century earlier when he sailed to its farthest reaches aboard the sloop H.M.S. Discovery. Giving just about everything in sight an English name (Mt. Rainier, for example), Vancouver honored many of his friends and paid many a political debt.

During the last half of the 19th century, the soggy little city on Puget Sound gradually grew beyond its tide flats waterfront and its mud streets to become a major port of call for ships plying the Pacific Coast. The surrounding hills and islands furnished thousands of shiploads of lumber for a growing San Francisco and the California gold mines. The term "skid road," meaning an unsavory part of town, originated in Seattle from the route (Yesler Way) down which logs were skidded from the hills to the waterfront.

Looking west on Mill Street (Yesler Way) from Second Ave.
The Occidental Hotel is on the right and beyond it, Yesler’s Mill with the smokestack.


South of the road, brothels and saloons thrived; the respectable part of town began north of the road. The Northern Pacific Railroad was completed to Tacoma in 1887, connecting Puget Sound to the East. The competing Great Northern Railroad arrived in Seattle five years later.

In 1889 a disastrous fire burned most of the city to the ground. Seizing the opportunity for urban renewal, city engineers raised downtown streets several feet above the high tide level, leaving intact store fronts below street level. Today's Underground Tour explores these old ruins.

The arrival of the steamer Portland in 1897 with a "ton of gold" from the Klondike signaled Seattle's metamorphosis from grubby little waterfront town to primary commercial, shipping and marketing center of the Pacific Northwest it is today. The city served as outfitter, ship builder and transshipment port for the thousands of prospectors and millions of tons of goods heading north to the gold rush.

Seattle hosted the first of several world's fairs held in the Pacific Northwest when the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition opened in 1909. Much of the present campus of the University of Washington is a legacy of that event.

During the next three decades, strikes, labor unrest and a strong union movement kept Seattle in the national news.

With the advent of World War II, Seattle boomed, as did most cities in the U.S. Puget Sound became a major naval base; tens of thousands of troops received their training at nearby Fort Lewis and shipped overseas from Seattle's waterfront. The Boeing Company, a small airplane manufacturer founded in 1910, grew to become the primary manufacturer of heavy bombers flown by the U.S. Army Air Force, the B-17 and B-29. The Museum of Flight, part of which is housed in the original Boeing factory building, traces this story.

Boeing figured prominently in the post-war era, introducing America's first passenger jet (the 707) to commercial aviation in 1959. By 1957 The Boeing Company and its suppliers accounted for nearly half of all the jobs in King County. In the 1960s the company gained its leadership as the world's leading manufacturer of commercial jet aircraft, a lead it still holds.

Famous monorail, built for the world's fair (R Eime)

The 1962 Seattle World's Fair signaled a renaissance in the Pacific Northwest that saw it emerge as a major tourist destination and one of the country's most livable cities. The economy changed as well. Forestry, fisheries and agriculture gradually declined in importance while computer software manufacturers, bio-medical industries, and aerospace came to dominate the economy. With its proximity to the Pacific Rim, extensive port facilities, high-tech and communications industries and educational institutions, Seattle has assumed the role of a primary participant in the trade and commerce with Asia that will lead the economy into the 21st century.

Supplied by Visit Seattle

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Great Migration - what you need to know



There is any number of amazing sights and attractions to see and do on an African safari, but witnessing the Great Migration is usually high on most travellers' wish lists.

And this is hardly a surprise. The Great Migration is undoubtedly one of Nature's most unforgettable spectacles: 1.5 million wildebeest accompanied by 200,000 or so zebras engaged in a never-ending journey, following the rains in a circular 1,200-mile route, through a wilderness that takes in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve.

For anyone thinking of undertaking an African safari to Tanzania or Kenya, a luxury boutique safari operator has put together a quick checklist of everything you need to know about the Great Migration to make you get the most out of your trip.

What is the Great Migration?

First of all, it's important to understand that the Great Migration is an on-going event, which doesn't ever really end. Basically, it's a circular grazing path determined by the availability of food. Literally, hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra start in Tanzania's Serengeti in January where they give birth to their young. The grass is still short in this part of the Serengeti, making it safer for the new-borns to stay protected from lurking predators. As the rains end, the herds start to move westwards, following the rivers on their way to the Masai Mara in Kenya. In summer they finally arrive, crossing crocodile-infested rivers to get there. And in the late autumn and winter, the herds move back towards the Serengeti, chasing the rainy season, and the process begins again. In essence, it's a year-long search for food, water and safety, and there are countless opportunities for safari-goers to witness all the beauty and drama along the way.

The Wildlife

The major players on the Great Migration are undoubtedly the wildebeest, almost 1.5 million of them. And if you head out on safari in the first few months of the year, you'll be guaranteed to see an awful lot of them.

Travelling alongside the wildebeest are hundreds of thousands of zebra. And it turns out there's a very good reason for this: zebra eat the longer grasses leaving wildebeest the shorter grasses, which they prefer. Zebra are also helpful in remembering the course of the Migration, and keep a look out for hungry river predators. Wildebeest return the favour by employing their incredible sense of smell to locate water sources almost every day of the Migration. But of course, there's plenty other game to see as well including gazelles, elephants, lions, leopards and cheetah – all part of the migratory entourage.

So, if you go on safari during the Great Migration, as well as witnessing this incredible natural wonder, expect to see all of the animals typical to the African savannah.

The best way to see the Great Migration

One commonly held misconception is that all the wildebeests and zebras migrate together at the same time. Clearly given the huge numbers of creatures involved, the reality is quite different.

One of the best ways to see the Great Migration is from the safety of a safari vehicle. And depending on the time of year, expect to stop and watch as hundreds, if not thousands, of animals run across the road, spurred by a primal need to move and eat. But to fully appreciate the immense scale of the Migration it's hard to beat a hot air balloon ride at dawn across the Serengeti, with endless herds of migratory wildebeest and zebra spread out below as far as the eye can see.

Lodges and Camps

Another important element that can really elevate any safari experience is where you spend the night. So much more than just a place to lay your head, tented camps and lodges are an integral part of any safari. Stay at one of the remarkable properties located in some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Tanzania and Kenya, which make an ideal base from which to explore the local wildlife and to observe the Great Migration at close range. One of these, Sanctuary Kichakani Migration Camp, is a special mobile-tented camp devoted entirely to the Great Migration, which moves as the herds move, transitioning from the Western to the Northern and finally the Southern part of the Serengeti throughout the year. This means that you won't miss anything, no matter what time of year you choose to travel.


Main pic: Shripal Daphtary @shripald 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Grab a mini-break in tropical Port Douglas





Don’t want to burn all your annual leave in one go? Head to tropical Port Douglas for a short refresher. It’s a breeze.

Words: Sonia Lal
Images: as supplied


The inflatable yellow raft bobs excitedly in the water beside me while my hand firmly grips the rope handle on the front, ensuring it won’t slip away and escape down the rapids. Just an hour ago I was stepping out of an airliner onto the hot Cairns tarmac. Now I am in a full body wetsuit knee-deep in the Mossman River of Port Douglas.

Our group of six are embarking on a river-drift snorkelling adventure in the Mossman River, situated beneath the Mossman Gorge. The freshwater river is so pure, our guides Glen and Will inform us, is so pure it can be drunk. In fact, they encourage it.

Mossman River drift snorkel

Zig-zagging down rapids and snorkelling when the water is calmer is how we spend the next three hours. Translucent fish the size of my thumb swim in large schools beneath the surface and large rocks cover the river bed.

When the water is tranquil our rafts transform into makeshift lounges and we sit atop them, our legs dangling over the edge as we let the current lead us down the river.

During these serene moments, Glen and Will relate the history of the vegetation surrounding the river. The trees, ferns, and other plant species, we’re told, date back to Gondwanaland and are believed to be around 300 million years old. With the pride in their voices and the knowledge they possess about the ecosystem, it’s clear no two other people could love the Mossman River as much as they do.

It’s as if we are floating through prehistoric times.

To the Outer Reef


Aqua Quest on the outer reef

The AquaQuest lurches in the swell as it makes its way towards the outer perimeter of the Great Barrier Reef. Many of us are sitting outside on the upper deck in the hope of warding off seasickness and the fresh air proves helpful for some..

The rocky two and a half hour journey across the Coral Sea comes to an end at the first dive site - St. Crispin’s - and any thoughts of seasickness are quickly forgotten as excitement fills us.

“All divers to the bottom deck please!”

That’s our call and all introductory divers, including me, make our way down to the bottom deck. The much-anticipated descent to the Great Barrier Reef is about to begin.

Our instructor, Kai, gives us an in-depth safety briefing and talks us through the use of our scuba equipment. Sundresses and board shorts are quickly swapped out for wetsuits, weight belts and tanks. I find my tank a bit heavier than expected, but what did I expect? This is my first scuba dive and we all wobble comically, laughing nervously as we attempt to get to our feet.

Diving underwater for the first time can be frightening and some our group get a bit panicky the second our heads go beneath the surface. After several practice goes, we’ve overcome the instinct to rush back to the surface and breathing underwater becomes slightly less terrifying. Kai assesses us individually and gives us the thumbs up (down actually, which means, ‘let’s dive’).


Diving on the outer reef with Divers Den

Initially, the water is murky, thanks to recent storms, and not much can be seen. However, at three metres and below visibility improves and we begin to see coral in pastel hues of green, yellow and purple. The coral isn’t as bright as you see in the brochures, but Kai says that this is actually a good sign because when coral is stressed it releases algae, which causes it to become brighter in colour. So, the slightly subdued colours we see indicate a healthy reef.

Tiny bright blue damselfish skirt past us while clownfish weave in and out of the coral and rock hollows. A large cod glides inches above the ocean floor and not far behind it is a wrasse, distinguishable by its trademark thick lips. Schools of zebra-striped surgeon fish flit by and disappear further down along the reef. The marine life of the Great Barrier Reef is on full display.

Once back in the boat we remove the heavy diving gear and Kai starts to tell the story of how this dive site got the nickname Gone Again. It is a homage to the American couple who went missing in 1998 in the very same waters we’d just emerged from. We turned to each, mouths agape, glad he hadn’t mentioned this before.

To market, to market

Port Douglas Markets License (Flickr user variationblogr)

On our third day in Port Douglas the sun had definitely come out to play and the temperature nudged 30 degrees. After a magnificent tropical breakfast at the Sheraton Mirage Hotel, it was time to visit the Port Douglas Markets.

These markets are renown for their wide variety of fresh produce and that is exactly what immediately greets us. Colourful stalls are filled with bargain-priced fresh fruits and vegetables like avocados at just $4 a bag as well as more exotic foods like flavoured coconut chips, vanilla bean and cacao ice-cream, and pomegranate teas - all there for anyone with slightly more adventurous taste buds.

Food, however, isn’t the only feature of the markets. Stalls displaying all sorts of peculiar trinkets and salves like ‘magic’ crystals, crocodile facial oil, handmade ukuleles, pom-pom earrings, conical rainbow candles and silver turtle rings are there to tempt eclectic tastes.

When the adventure is done, spending some relaxing time at the markets is the perfect way to wind down a wondrous and thrill-packed weekend in Port Douglas. Easy does it.


FACT BOX

All these activities and more can be booked at:
www.visitportdouglasdaintree.com
or phone 07 4099 4588

Shortlink: https://rodei.me/TPDD

TAGS: Great Barrier Reef Drive #GBRDrive | Tropical North Queensland @tropicalnorthqueensland
#exploreTNQ | Queensland @visitqueensland #thisisqueensland | Australia @Australia
#seeaustralia

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Shennongjia Natural Reserve – China’s spectacular wilderness




As the world's most populous country, you may be forgiven for thinking that truly wild China no longer exists. However, you'd be wrong.

Just north of the Yangtze River lays the Shennongjia Natural Reserve – one of China's most spectacular and dramatic wilderness areas, which has inspired myths and legends for centuries.

Mingled in amongst the primeval forest that makes up much of Shennongjia are dense swathes of bamboo, creeping vines, and an assortment of shrubs, flowers and fruits. This thick covering of vegetation has made some areas completely inaccessible, and it is this inaccessibility that has protected the area from significant human development and destruction. It has also helped the region retain an element of mystery – especially surrounding China's 'Wild Man'.

Known locally as Yeren, various sightings of China's answer to Bigfoot have been recorded for over 2,000 years, and still continue today. This red-haired ape-man is said to stand well over six feet tall, living in the caves that scatter Shennongjia's rocky landscape, and coming down from the mountains only to feast on local villagers' dogs and chickens.

Despite numerous expeditions to the region, China's Wild Man has yet to be found. And the question of whether he really exists is one which has captivated the hearts and minds of adventurous Chinese travellers for generations.

Today the Reserve is becoming increasingly popular with Western visitors too. However, they come with the hope of catching a glimpse of something else entirely – the golden snub-nosed monkey. Known for their thick, golden fur and appealing bright blue faces, these unique and charming creatures are undoubtedly Shennongjia's star attractions. They are also one of China's greatest conservation stories, with the population having more than doubled in recent years.

Visitors can watch entire family troops swinging through the canopies overhead or visit the Golden Monkey Protection and Research Base to get up close and personal with these enigmatic primates.

Along with the golden snub-nosed monkeys, the area is home to an astonishing array of other protected wildlife including macaques, golden eagles, deer, and black bear. The Reserve is also famous for its unusually high percentage of albino animals, and there are even plans to relocate panda to the region.




Whether you're hoping to be the first to capture the Yeren on camera, or simply want to spend time hiking through this primeval wonderland, a trip to Shennongjia will not disappoint. This year for the first time, Sanctuary Retreats will be running three special 4-night sailings in July aboard the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer, which will include a day trip to Shennongjia Natural Reserve.

The elegant riverboat sets the standard for luxury cruising in China, with strong environmental commitments. Friendly and intimate, onboard service is a highlight with an atmosphere more private club than cruise ship.

Occupying four decks, the ship boasts the largest and best-appointed cabins on the river. Each has floor to ceiling picture windows, private balconies and ensuite bathroom. Dining is also a delight, with a team of internationally trained chefs delivering innovative à la carte menus featuring the finest of Chinese and continental cuisine.

China Tours


 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Samoa’s only island resort, in honour of a legend



Words Roderick Eime

If you look on Google Earth, you may still see the empty little island a few hundred metres from Apia’s deepwater port, just sitting there waiting for something to happen.

Well, wait no more, because that tiny oasis not much bigger than a football field, now plays host to arguably the most modern, contemporary resort in Apia, perhaps even Samoa.

Named after the legendary Polynesian beauty, Sina, the resort grew from the sand much like the famous coconut trees of the timeless folktale.

Taumeasina (Landing place of Sina) Island Resort opened in 2016 and has continued to grow in reputation and popularity and has already risen to number 3 on TripAdvisor’s list of top traveller-ranked hotels in Apia. The resort has also won the Samoa tourism excellence and best hygiene awards as bestowed by the Samoa Tourism Authority.

Close to the port and some of the waterfront nightspots, it’s still remote enough to be private and away from the downtown hubbub, just a five-minute drive away across the resort’s dedicated causeway.

With 80 hotel rooms and a mix of two and three bedroom self-contained villas on an island, Taumeasina Island Resort is the only resort of its type in Samoa and brings a new level of 4.5-star sophistication to Apia.



Beyond the swish accommodations, there is ample scope for meetings and conferences as well as weddings or private functions for up to 800 guests or delegates. There are smaller breakout rooms for board meetings and committees plus an outdoor wedding venue, delightfully located overlooking the ocean and also ideal for stunning evening events.

When it’s time to relax, swim in the waterfront pool in between cocktails, or indulge in a treatment or session at Fofo Spa & Sauna. The Spa uses both locally made Mailelani Samoa and the world's leader in professional marine cosmetics; Thalgo.

If you’re feeling a bit more energetic, or want to burn some calories, hit it out on the tennis court or the gym. There’s even an outdoor exercise circuit with gym equipment stationed around Taumeasina Island.

Dining can be either casual or formal depending on your mood or occasion. Lapita's Restaurant serves both continental and cooked breakfast, café style lunches and dinner in a casual dining atmosphere. There’s live entertainment every night and a themed buffet depending on demand. You can catch Taumeasina's famous Fia Fia night every week in this venue.

Sina’s Restaurant, on the other hand, is where Executive Chef, Bradley Martin loves to show off. Martin began as a kitchen hand 35 years ago and worked all over Australia, at numerous Hilton, Sheraton and Novotel hotels. Diners can choose either indoor or out from the seasonal menu featuring both traditional Samoan and internationally inspired cuisines.


Taumeasina Island Resort
Taumeasina Island
Beach Road, Apia
Samoa

Phone: +685 61000
Email: Info@taumeasinaislandresortsamoa.com
www.taumeasinaislandresortsamoa.com

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Wildlife spotting: Africa's Big Five


Tips for the best places to see them.

African safaris are usually top of most people's bucket list when it comes to wildlife viewing. Its multitude of national parks, reserves and conservation areas number amongst some of the most beautiful places on the planet and are home to an astonishing variety of wild animals, ensuring that a wildlife safari will undoubtedly be a major highlight of your trip.

And with so many exciting wildlife experiences to be had at in different destinations and indeed, different times of the year, any visit to Africa is guaranteed to be full of close encounters of the animal kind. But for many travellers, coming face to face with Africa's 'Big Five' – lion, leopard, elephant, black rhinoceros, and African buffalo, remains the pinnacle wildlife experience.

Originally a term coined by big-game hunters to describe the five most difficult African species to track and hunt on foot, today a 'hunt' for the Big Five is typically with camera and binoculars only.

But where are the best places to see them? Well, while animal viewing possibilities abound, the reality is there's no guarantee you'll see each one while on safari. Knowing animals' habits – as well as where to stay and what to do while on safari – will greatly increase your chance of success. Expert suggestions for where visitors to Africa are most likely to tick off their Big Five wish list.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

First on the list is the inspirational Serengeti, a classic Tanzania safari destination and one of only a handful with populations of all five species.

Lying in a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands in northern Tanzania and the Masai Mara Reserve in neighboring Kenya, Serengeti National Park is considered one of the best places for safari for one very specific reason – the Great Migration. This annual event sees hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra pass through the park in search of food – and with the herds of grazers, come the predators. One of the best times to visit the park is in May when the grass becomes dry and exhausted and the wildebeest and zebra start to mass in huge armies offering a spectacular wildlife show.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Next up, is the Ngorongoro Crater, another classic Tanzania safari destination. The breath-taking Ngorongoro Crater is a geographical wonder in its own right, with the caldera's high, steep walls looming steeply over the valley below. And it's these steep walls that also lead to the incredible abundance of wildlife in the crater, as they trap a rich assortment of large and small safari animals within.

With two rainy seasons – the long rains fall in April and May (into early June) and the short rains fall in October and November, the best times to visit are December, January, February or late June through to early October.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

With a well-deserved reputation as one of the best all-round safari destinations, the Okavango Delta forms part of the Kalahari Basin, situated at the southern periphery of the Great Rift Valley, and covers a massive 22,000 square kilometres. Although the periphery is semi-arid, the Okavango Delta itself is a patchwork of cool clear streams, lagoons, floodplains and forested islands.

Covering almost a third of the entire Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve comprises a diverse habitat where the desert and delta meet, comprising forests, lagoons, floodplains, pans and woodlands. Because of its unique terrain, the area contains the full spectrum of game and birdlife including all of the Big Five, as well as cheetahs, hippos and crocodiles and plenty of bird life, and offering up superb game viewing.

Moremi is best visited during the dry season, from July to October, when seasonal pans dry up and vast numbers of wildlife flock to where the floodwaters infiltrate the Delta, providing one of the world's most spectacular sights. June to August is peak season for most safari areas within the Okavango. But September and October when temperatures really start to climb, leads to even higher concentrations of game around the few available water sources.

Masai Mara, Kenya

The final destination on Sanctuary Retreats' list is Kenya's most popular game park, the Masai Mara. The Kenyan extension of the Tanzania's famed Serengeti, the Mara is one of Africa's most famous safari destinations and also plays host to the famous Great Migration. Considered the birthplace of safari, Kenya offers up amazing game viewing experiences, not to mention plenty of opportunities to experience Africa's Big Five.

The migration is usually present in the Mara between July and October each year. During this time, dramatic river crossings are the order of the day, with crocodiles lying in wait for wildebeest and zebra.

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