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Monday, August 15, 2016

Africa's The Great Migration - your questions answered

The Great Migration is undoubtedly one of Nature’s most unforgettable spectacles: 1.5 million wildebeest accompanied by 200,000 or so zebras are 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 and Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve.

After working as a naturalist for many years, Abdul Karim joined award-winning Sanctuary Olonana Camp eleven years ago where he now leads a team of six dedicated Sanctuary Retreats guides in the Masai Mara. One of Kenya’s most experienced guides, he answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the Great Migration to help you on your way.

Where is the best location in the Masai Mara to experience the Migration?

“There are five river crossing points that we regularly visit near Sanctuary Olonana Camp, which amongst the best places to experience the drama of the great Migration. Crocodiles and other predators such as lions, leopards and cheetahs also know where to wait and so usually see a kill at the crossings. The nearest crossing is at Kichwa Tembo airstrip, which is only a short drive from our lodge. “

Do the wildebeest cross the river once or multiple times?

“The wildebeest are excellent at knowing where to find food. They can, quite literally, smell the rain from quite a distance, and know that where there’s rain, there is going to be grass for them to eat. In the Masai Mara it’s such a large area that it usually rains in one part and not in another, so the wildebeest often have to cross the treacherous Mara River multiple times during the migration to get to the pastures. Great for predators and spectators – not so great for the wildebeest!"

How is the weather during the Migration?

“We had the long rains this year from March to June, and now we are in what we call the ‘Kenyan winter’ – which basically means fresh and chilly mornings and evenings. It’s also quite cloudy, and showers aren’t uncommon. On the plus side, that means there is lots of food for wildebeest and zebra, which is why they are here in such huge numbers right now. However, it’s an El NiƱo year and this has meant the weather has been fairly unpredictable, and the long rains came in quite late.”

When is the best time of day to photograph the Migration?

“From long experience, I think the best time is either in the morning before 9am or in the afternoon after about 4pm. We usually go to the first crossing point quite early and, if it’s quiet, we’ll move on to the next one until we find one with the most activity. Of course it’s certainly possible to take good photographs in the middle of the day, but you need to be more of an expert photographer to get the best shots. If you are an amateur photographer like most of us, the light is much better in the morning and evenings – meaning better photos, which is what we all want.”

When is the Migration in the Masai Mara?

“This year, we first saw the Migration in the Masai Mara on 14 June, which is when we started to see wildebeest crossing the border from Tanzania and the Serengeti National Park. The crossing point into Kenya is about a half-day from Sanctuary Olonana Camp. Normally the wildebeest head back in late October, but can sometimes stay here until November or even December depending on how strong the season is.”

What do guests like best about the Migration?

“One of the most popular activities with Sanctuary Olonana guests is a bush dinner held on site close to one of the river crossings. There is something quite surreal about indulging in some gourmet fine dining against a background of wildebeest gurgling and grunting nearby. Guests also enjoy picnicking close to a crossing where they can relax and sit back and enjoy the what are quite literally, front row seat to the Great Migration. And of course, a traditional ‘sundowner’ or two at about 6:30pm is everyone’s favourite time on safari, especially during the Migration!”

What have you noticed about the Migration, having experienced it for many years?

“Well I always think it’s extraordinary that there are a couple of established bridges which cross the Mara River, and the wildebeest never use them! They always choose to take their chances with the crocodiles and the predators, and cross through the waters. I guess it’s just nature – and the survival of the fittest, at work. I’ve also noticed that 2016 seems to be an especially big year for the Migration, with all the guides saying they have never seen so many wildebeest in the Masai Mara.”

What other wildlife do you see in the migration?

“Apart from wildebeest, zebra also get swept up in all the excitement, as do topi antelope, and they all make the river crossings together. It’s quite predictable where the animals will cross and crocodiles know where to wait so that they can make their kills. Usually, they scare the wildebeest by attacking them as they cross, and then the wildebeest back off and rest for a while, before starting up again in the hope that the crocodiles have moved on. But of course, they are still patiently waiting for their next meal! And we always see many lions, leopards and cheetahs at this time of year as well.”

Monday, August 1, 2016

Shopaholic's bliss - Malaysia's end of year sale

Malaysia's fabulous 1Malaysia Year-End Sale is back – bigger and better, with events and happenings in hundreds of shopping outlets all over the country.

Malaysia's biggest annual retail event kicks off on 1 November and runs for two months, finishing on 31 December. From malls brimming with some of the world's favourite brands to open-air markets selling traditional crafts and souvenirs, the country offers up some of the best shopping and leisure experiences in South East Asia.

And one of the best places to secure yourself some fabulous bargains is the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpur. Voted by CNN as the world's fourth best shopping city after New York, London and Toyko for the last couple of years, KL is home to over 120 malls throughout the city, plus a diverse and eclectic mix of shopping precincts selling everything from luxury brands through to local handicrafts and batik. Add to this duty-free shopping and competitive prices, and the city has clearly emerged as South East Asia's new retail nirvana.

While the shopping is great at any time of the year, the 1Malaysia Year-End Sale is the perfect time to experience some of Malaysia's best shopping and dining, including year-end promotions and school holiday specials for the entire family – and some amazing Christmas and New Year sales.

And there is no doubt that shopping is big business for a country keen to attract tourists. The End of Year Sale is now one of the three major sale campaigns in Malaysia, alongside the Mega Sales in March and June, all of which have significantly boosted tourist numbers to the country, with shopping now the second biggest share of tourist expenditure after accommodation, constituting over 30% of annual total tourist expenditure.

Some of Kuala Lumpur's best retail bargains are to be had at the Pavilion and Suria KLCC shopping centres. Two of the city's biggest malls, both offer privilege cards for tourists that provide great discounts at many of the retail outlets located in each one.  Work up an appetite at the Pavilion (168, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur) before refueling across the road at Lot 10 Hutong ( LG Floor, Lot 10 Shopping Centre, 50 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur), which houses over 30 of KL's best hawker stalls under one roof. Then take a pleasant 10-minute stroll along the undercover walkway to the Suria KLCC located at the base of the iconic Petronas Towers. And when you have satisfied your retail fix, head up to Marini's on 57 on the 57th floor of Petronas Tower 3 for a restorative cocktail while gazing upon KL's iconic Petronas Towers.

And for some well-deserved rest and relaxation after all that shopping, head to the exclusive Ritz-Carlton! Located at 168, Jalan Imbi, Pudu, in the heart of the Golden Triangle district, you can indulge in soothing spa treatments, award-winning cuisine or simply relax in the exceptional comfort of their rooms and take in the best that KL has to offer!

So, get the jump on your Xmas present list or simply treat yourself to an early festive treat, and head to KL now for some great retail therapy. What have you got to lose!

- Erin Sing for MY Tourism

Monday, July 25, 2016

Lake Macquarie: A perfect winter lakeside getaway

With an inspiring array of outdoor activities, winter is the ideal time to enjoy the natural beauty of Lake Macquarie – and take advantage of smaller crowds. Make the most of sunny winter days with brisk hikes, brilliant birdwatching, fabulous fishing and coastal cycling, then retire to cosy accommodation to enjoy regional wines and local cuisine on a wonderful wintry break by the lake.

Breathtaking Bushwalks

Crisp winter days are made for exploring on foot and Lake Macquarie is bursting with bushwalks ideal for every ability, from strolling through to heavy-duty hiking. Enjoy diverse scenery including lush rainforests, rugged headlands, pristine beaches and the lovely lakefront with these top picks:

Caves Beach Coastal Walk

Running from the iconic sea caves through the Wallarah National Park, this 6km bushland trek boasts viewing platforms and high cliff lookouts making is the perfect pick for those hoping to catch a glimpse of migrating whales as they slap, breach and blow along the coastline below.

Gap Creek Falls, Watagan Mountains

Gap Creek Falls Trail, Watagan Mountains

Nestled deep within the Watagan Mountains, this lush 1.7km trail features red cedars and strangler figs as it winds its way to one of the Hunter region's most spectacular waterfalls.

Belmont Lagoon Walk

Set between ocean and lake this 5-kilomtre return trail teems with wildlife, especially during winter mornings and late afternoons when birdlife is at its most active. Scout for black swans, spoon bills and – if you're lucky – the migratory Bar Tailed Godwit, as well as a range of swamp and marine life.

Scenic Cycling

For those who prefer two wheels to two feet, you'll find cycling paths galore. Taking in winding coastal roads, pretty villages, stunning lakeside scenery, dense forests and heaps of heritage, there's a cycling adventure suitable for everyone. And the best part? You don't even need your own bike! Lake Mac Kayak and Bike Hire and Boomerang Bikes deliver bicycles direct to your door – or your chosen path. Local favourites include:

Warners Bay Foreshore

The ideal path for beginners, this track follows the lake via the elevated Redbluff Boardwalk. Commencing at Warners Bay, this track is perfectly located by an automatic Boomerang bike hire station, so you can ride for as little, or as long, as you please.

Fernleigh Track

This intriguing 16km path follow an original restored heritage railway corridor, taking in stunning wetlands and an iconic bush landscape between Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.

Wangi Wangi Point Flora and Fauna Reserve

With rides from 500 metres to two kilometres long, the Wangi Wangi area is renowned for its bushland and gorgeous lake views. Listen for kookaburra calls, and keep an eye out for koalas as you ride…

Fantastic Fishing

Weekend warriors, seasoned anglers and novices with a line and reel will all find a happy hunting ground in the tranquil waters of massive Lake Macquarie – especially during winter when it teems with bream, mullet, tailor and garfish galore. Try your luck at some of the local's special spots:

By boat

The Drop Over, Marks Point and Pulbah Island are terrific picks for those keen to fish the deeper waters of the lake. Follow the feeding birds for schools of bream, whiting, flathead, jewfish, tailor, kingfish and prawns.

On shore

Make the most of the region's jetties, parks and reserves at Shingle Splitter's Point in Balcolyn; and Lucy's Wall at Swansea Heads where you can also access the nearby sea caves. Common catches in these parts including flathead, whiting and bream.

Family favourites

Let the kids drop a line in from Pelican Foreshore Reserve, the Swansea Channel with its nearby sea caves and picnic tables, the patrolled beach at Blacksmith's Beach, or Speers Point Park. If you're lucky you might snare some flathead, bream, whiting, jewfish, tailor or kingfish in these parts.

Cosy Keeps

There's a wide range of cosy accommodation from which to begin your Lake Macquarie getaway, from mountain hideaways to lakeside retreats and some hot holiday packages to ward off the winter chill:

The Esplanade Motel, Warners Bay

Shack up lakeside in the newly renovated Esplanade Motel, conveniently situated just a stone's throw from the boutiques and restaurants of Warners Bay, and a short stroll to the northern end of the lake. Book by the end of August and enjoy free on-demand in-room movies and wifi, a $10 discount on all nightly room rates, and complimentary continental breakfast for a two-night+ stay in a Queen Room.

Bluebell Retreat

Set on the eastern shore of the Lake, Bluebell Retreat is the ultimate relaxation retreat. Enjoy the expansive bushland setting and prime water views to watch the winter sun set at this eco-award winning house, which accommodates up to six. Prices start from $250 per night for a midweek getaway, min 2-night stay and conditions apply.

Selby Cottage

A turn of the century charming blue weatherboard, nestled on the banks of Lake Macquarie, is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Selby Cottage is a self-contained private cottage surrounded by luscious gardens with water lapping the verandah. Prices start from $125 per night for a midweek getaway, min 2-night stay.

To plan your winter escape, or discover more great accommodation, log on to: or free call 1800 802 044.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Legendary Gulf railway celebrates 125 years

Rail buffs riding the legendary 'Tin Hare' Gulflander rail motor are in for a treat today, as the Normanton to Croydon railway rings in 125 years of service.

Queensland Rail Executive General Manager Travel and Tourist, Martin Ryan, said a trip on the Normanton to Croydon Railway was on the bucket list of many rail enthusiasts and tourists to the outback.

"Built in 1891 to connect the port of Normanton with the Croydon gold fields, the railway is one of the world's most unique rail experiences and the Gulflander railmotor is a piece of living history," Mr Ryan said.

"Much of the line is still the original rail and sleepers, with the innovative sleeper design created to lessen flood damage really standing the test of time.

"The line was never connected to the state rail network and remains the only one in Queensland still measured in miles."

The Gulflander, also known as the 'Tin Hare', is a 102 horsepower Gardner diesel engine railmotor which was built at Ipswich Railway Workshops in 1950.

Officer-in-Charge Ken Fairbairn said he never tired of driving the Gulflander.

"There's a rich and diverse beauty to this country. With wetlands and grasslands through to arid Savannah, the Gulflander rattles through an area full of pioneering history," Mr Fairbairn said.

"There is the preserved Victorian architecture at Normanton Railway Station, Burke and Wills' most northerly camp just 30 kilometres south west of Normanton and Croydon's gold mining history."

A fitter and turner by trade, Mr Fairbairn's career has focused on antique machinery giving him an arsenal of skills that most of today's apprentices no longer learn.

"I teach my crew on the ground the necessary skills to maintain the Gulflander, so there is a succession plan to ensure it can continue into the future.

"Many of the original tools for the old trains are within the Normanton Railway Station museum and I've borrowed them at times to use on the Gulflander.

"The old blacksmith forge is still workable and I had to use it once on an engine component. I use the old copper irons for soldering the brass windows of the Gulflander."

The 125th anniversary celebrations today (Wednesday, 20 July), include breakfast with the Normanton community before the scheduled Gulflander trip, a birthday cake at the Blackbull siding during the journey and an evening community BBQ at Croydon.

The Gulflander carries just 111 passengers and on-board Savannah Guides share stories about the area and point out different flora and fauna species.

The Gulflander runs from mid-February to mid-November, with about 2,000 passengers making the famous journey every year. Visitors often stay to enjoy other tourism experiences, creating an economic flow on for the Gulf communities.

Top Ten Whale watching tours in Australia

Make the most of the whale watching season before the majestic marine animals move on. TripAdvisor®, the world’s largest travel site*, today reveals that Australia’s top whale watching tours are in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, as rated by travellers around the world according to the Popularity Index.

The top ten whale watching tours in Australia are as follows:

1. Freedom Whale Watch – Hervey Bay, QL
2. Blue Dolphin Marine Tours - Hervey Bay, QLD
3. Legend Charters Deep Sea Fishing and Whale Watching – Augusta, WA
4. Naturaliste Charters – Augusta, WA
5. Whalesong Cruises – Hervey Bay, QLD
6. Imagine Cruises – Nelson Bay, NSW
7. Coolangatta Whale Watch – Tweed Heads, NSW
8. Cat Balou Cruises – Eden, NSW
9. Whales in Paradise – Surfers Paradise, QLD
10. Tasman Venture – Hervey Bay, QLD

“Australia offers some of the best opportunities in the world to see whales up close in their natural environment during the annual migration,” said Jean Ow-Yeong, TripAdvisor spokesperson. “This whale watching season, TripAdvisor travellers have uncovered the top tours in Australia for that memorable marine wildlife experience.”

Queensland is the most renowned whale watching spot, laying claim to five of the top ten Australian tours, namely Hervey Bay’s Freedom Whale Watch, Blue Dolphin Marine Tours, Whalesong Cruises, Tasman Venture, as well asSurfers Paradise’s Whales in Paradise. Humpback Whales rest and play with their young in the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay, also known as the Humpback Whale watching capital of Australia, from mid-July to late November. As whale watching in Queensland typically peaks several months later than NSW and Victoria, it is a great option for the upcoming months.

Western Australia’s Augusta is popular for sighting both Humpback and Minke Whales as they seek shelter in the waters of Flinders Bay each year before continuing north for the breeding season. Travellers rank Legend Charters Deep Sea Fishing and Whale Watching and Naturaliste Charters as best bets for a closer look.

Featuring 3 of the top 10 Australian tours, New South Wales offers the opportunity to view a huge variety of species, from Humpback Whales to other rarer breeds such as Fin Whales, Sperm Whales, False Killer Whales and even the Blue Whale. Imagine Cruises in Nelson Bay, Coolangatta Whale Watch in Tweed Heads and Cat Balou Cruises in Eden offer just that and completes the list of top ten whale watching tours in Australia.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Five reasons Canada’s wilderness lodges are the best in the world

Australian travellers are venturing deep into Canada’s pristine wilderness, with more than 280,000 Australians visiting Canada in 2016 seeking to lose themselves in the country’s epic landscapes and jaw-dropping wildlife. It’s little wonder that when it comes to authentic wilderness lodges, Canada wrote the rule book. Here’s five of the best:

Southern Lakes Resort, Yukon Territory
Explore Yukon, one of the last true frontiers, at the newly opened Southern Lakes Resort, overlooking Tagish Lake, just one hour from the capital city of Whitehorse. Stay in luxurious log cabins on the shores of the crystal lake and learn the true meaning of serenity. Set amidst the boreal forest, fill the long summer days with hiking, kayaking, and fishing. During winter, the cosy cabins offer the perfect vantage point to view the shimmering aurora borealis.

Nimmo Bay Resort, British Columbia
The only way to reach the exclusive Nimmo Bay Resort in British Columbia is by helicopter, float plane or boat. Once there, your private heli-guide will escort you to glaciers, mountain tops, old growth forests, white sand beaches, pristine lakes, hot springs and isolated rivers. Each location in this remote wilderness sanctuary offers unique adventures, including heli-hiking, swimming, rafting, drifting, fishing, and unbelievable wildlife viewing.

Parc Adventures Cap Jaseux, Quebec
It doesn’t get more ‘wilderness’ than a treehouse. The Parc Adventures Cap Jaseux takes the concept of eco-lodge to a whole new level. Bed down in the tree canopy eight metres above the ground, in a luxurious treehouse that sleeps four. Want more? Futuristic silver domes suspended in the forest sleep two, offering panoramic birds’ eye views of the Fjord du Saguenay. By day, make the most of exhilarating zipline adventures, Via Ferrata, hiking and kayaking.

Nimmo Bay
E’Terra, Ontario
Nestled amongst the white cedar within the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve is the award-winning E’Terra eco-lodge, carefully crafted from stone and salvaged timbers for a truly elegant wilderness getaway. Spend your days exploring the trails of the Bruce Peninsula National Park, abundant with extraordinary wildlife and migrating birds, or take a boat across to Flowerpot Island.

Skoki Lodge, Alberta
High in the alpines of Banff National Park, at the end of an eleven kilometre trail from Lake Louise, Skoki Lodge is the gateway to breathtaking mountain ridges, valleys and crystal lakes. This backcountry Lodge is only accessible by hiking or skiing and has a true back-to-nature mentality. Just ask Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, who stayed at the rustic lodge in 2011. Chef, Katie Mitzel, hovers over the wood-fired creating gastronomical masterpieces from local ingredients and seasonal fare. Think seafood chowder, Alberta beef, Canmore coffee, cheese and wine.

Getting there: Air Canada flies daily from Sydney and Brisbane to Vancouver, connecting through to the eastern provinces. For great Canada travel deals and packages click HERE

Tweet: Why Canada is the best place to get lost! #ExploreCanada

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sport Travel - Where you can Experience the best Football

It is official - people will travel far and wide to enjoy the electrifying energy of a good footy match. Recent research carried out by* revealed that 65% of people who travel for sport have travelled specifically for football in the past year. It's by far the most popular sport globally to travel for, and over one in five (22%) football fans would travel 10 hours or more for their favourite team. Yet 41% of those travellers said they don't even consider themselves to be super fans.

The research also finds 98% of football fans who travelled for sport did so because they love the atmosphere, and 97% agree that it gives them memories which last a lifetime. Fans have priorities other than national identity and attending a football match is about much more than just the sport itself. Going to one is a great way of being a tourist; an ideal opportunity for travellers wanting to mingle and immerse themselves in the local culture.

So Where To Experience Football At Its Best?

Here are some recommendations to help you revel in the spirit of the game and get the most out of your travel. According to data, these cities are the most endorsed for football in their respective country.

Barcelona, Spain

The captivating Catalonian city of Barcelona pulsates with passion for football whenever a big event is going on. Whether you visit during an international tournament or when the city's team, FC Barcelona, is playing at home, you'll notice the entire city is brimming with excitement. Even if you don't have tickets to the colossal Camp Nou stadium, sitting al fresco at a Spanish bar to catch the game is an equally atmospheric experience.

Munich, Germany

Home of FC Bayern Munich, this city is known for both its football and its beer. Of course there's a lot more to it than that but since German fans appreciate being with other fans the most, Munich is ideal for mixing with locals. Allianz Arena is Munich's big stadium but its picturesque Bavarian streets are lovely to wander in between matches and boast a buzzing nightlife and cultural scene.

Milan, Italy

With the highest percentage of super fans in Europe, football is a massive part of Milan's identity. Even if you're not supporting AC Milan or Inter Milan, a visit here that takes in some football will guarantee you'll get swept up in the local fervour. And after the match, celebrate or commiserate over some mouth-watering Italian food – the Milanese do a mean buttery risotto.

Manchester, England

Colourful and culturally-rich, Manchester is a great city break destination full stop. Red brick houses and a canal system decorate the city and the vibe is lively, with a hedonistic nightlife. It also has two football teams, Manchester City and Manchester United, the latter having boasted football royalty including David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, George Best and Eric Cantona. And football is a huge part of the city's character, so expect to get a real taste of Mancunian life whether you head to the Etihad Stadium or cheer from a pub.

Lens, France

As a host city for the UEFA Euro Cup, Lens is in the travel spotlight this year. A former coal-mining town, it's heralded as a charming and multi-cultural place. With the Louvre-Lens, an outpost of the revered Paris museum, stationed here. This is beer country, so you'll find lots of tasty brews to enjoy with local French cuisine. And of course a thriving football culture.


* This data was taken from a survey of 7,921 respondents across 8 markets. Respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have travelled at least once in 2015 and be planning at least one trip for 2016. They also had to have travelled for a sport event or be interested in traveling for sport data was collected in May 2016.