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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Byron Bay community spirit


by Roderick Eime in Byron Bay

Every Wednesday at 7.45am, guests at The Byron at Byron [www.thebyronatbyron.com.au] gather for executive chef, Gavin Hughes' farmers' market tour.

As a testament to their creativity and social acumen, Hughes involves in-house guests in his own weekly shop for fresh local produce at the popular local market thronged by regional producers and growers.

"It's our little way of giving back to the community who have supported us in the seven years since we opened," says Hughes introducing the group personally to the vendors, "just why all regional properties don't do something like this I don't know."

Hughes says The Byron sources over 80 per cent of produce from the local area and about 20 per cent from the market itself. Greens, fruit, nuts, sauces, mushrooms and vegetables are just some of the items he buys every week from the stands.

"This guy here asks me nearly every week 'what can I grow for you?'," he says introducing me to Alistair whose stall is awash with bright green organic buck choy and citrus, "here's a bag of zucchini flowers he produces especially for us. We deep fry them in our tempura batter."

Further along, past an interesting gent singing carols in bow tie and bare feet, we meet Donna Harper. When she's not working at the local ABC radio station as a journalist, Donna turns out some of the best mushrooms around. The two are obviously well acquainted and a cheeky banter is quickly struck up. Hughes is a fortnightly guest on her popular talkback show, swapping recipes and talking about the latest produce coming into season.

But the market is not just a commercial outlet for local, low volume producers, it's a statement about the quirky little town's ferocious independence. Only recently, carefully screened "guest growers" have been permitted to offer their goods alongside local farmers. Today it's white cherries from Orange.

"Let me introduce you to Martin and Pam,' says Hughes gently ushering me across to a relaxed couple quietly enjoying a sample of the out-of-town cherries, "Martin grows the best macadamia nuts around."

Martin and Pam turn out to be the owners of Brook Farm, a boutique producer who have found fame outside the mass market, supermarket melee that has damaged so many others. Yes, you'll find Brook Farm macadamia yoghurt muesli on your first class and business breakfast trays in Qantas aircraft as well as the lounges.

"We resisted going to the big two supermarkets because there is inevitably a compromise in quality one has to make to meet the prices imposed by these guys," says Martin, casually pulling a cherry stalk through his teeth. "Word-of-mouth (excuse the pun) has really been our best marketing tool."

As Hughes directs his team from a roughly scrawled 'battle plan', the produce is packed back into the van along with the guests and the whole operation is wrapped up in about an hour.

"It really gives me a good feeling," says Hughes, who has been with The Byron since day one in 2004, "my kids go to school here and we live and work in the community on a daily basis. It's a simple, pro-active thing to do and generates heaps of goodwill. Hey, and it's fun too!"

..............................................

Image: Local produce features at Byron Bay Farmers Market

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A VIETNAM TOUR FOR EVERYONE


FROM bustling energetic cities, to river villages and hillside treks to seaside towns, Wendy Wu Tours will have a holiday in Vietnam to suit your every need.

There are more than 12 group itineraries to Vietnam,  ranging from 9 to 27 days, including specialities such as cooking, junk boat cruises, homestays in the Mekong Delta, bike rides through the hillsides and beachside resorts all while taking in the multicultural influences of the French, Japanese and Americans that make up the wonderful Vietnamese culture.

The comprehensive 18-day Vietnam Highlights tour travels from Saigon to Hanoi including all the major highlights as well as visiting Sapa, an old French retreat hill station inhabited by hilltribe minorities. There are 16 departures for 2012 and priced from $3736 per person twin share from Sydney and Melbourne and $3936 from Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra, with Perth costing from $3852.

For food fanatics there is the 12-day Flavours of Vietnam itinerary which concentrates on the country's exotic cuisine and learn-to-cook sessions with local chefs. It is priced from $4252 per person twin share departing Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Combine countries on your travels with the Vietnam and Laos Discovery tour, 15-days to see the highlights of both fascinating cultures. Priced from $4198 per person twin share departing Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

All Wendy Wu group tours to Vietnam include return international economy airfares from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, Australian and Vietnamese departure taxes, accommodation, all meals, local transportation in Vietnam, daily tours and entrance fees, an English-speaking National Tour Escort and/or local guides and visa fees for Australian passport holders. It also includes airline fuel surcharge and tipping, which are subject to change.

For more details contact Wendy Wu Tours on 1300-727-998, visit www.wendywutours.com.au or contact your local AFTA Travel Agent.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Victoria's Secret set to be a secret no longer for Sydneysiders



International travellers have been enjoying Australia’s first Victoria’s Secret store, which opened in the newly refurbished Sydney International (T1) Terminal in 201, now domestic travellers and Sydney-siders will be able to take part in the glamour when the first Australian domestic Beauty & Accessories store opens its doors in T2, tomorrow (Saturday 10 December).

Victoria’s Secret ‘Supermodel Essentials’
now available at Sydney Airport
The store, which is accessible to both travellers and visitors to the airport alike, will offer the ultimate collection of fragrance, makeup, bodycare products and a gorgeous collection of Victoria’s Secret accessories, and is sure to be a favourite with travellers.

Victoria’s Secret’s unique range of accessories are exclusive to their international stores and are perfect for those looking for travel sized gifts. For that supermodel-on-the go, expect to find a wide range of bags, luggage, passport covers and travel wallets in both nylon and leather to cosmetic & toiletry bags, sunglasses, watches, bangles, bracelets and key rings.

The new store will showcase Victoria’s Secret ‘Supermodel Essentials’ range of apparel as well as the ever popular VS Fantasies body care line of botanically based skin-loving formulas to soften, smooth and pamper the skin from head to toe in an array of scents.

Victoria’s Secret stores are a must go destination in the United States and we are thrilled to introduce the first domestic Victoria’s Secret Beauty & Accessories store to Sydney. The store presents a novel way for domestic travellers to enjoy their time ahead of their journey, discovering Victoria’s Secret extensive range of pamper products, and the beauty of this store is that you don’t need to be a traveller to shop’, explains Andrew Gardiner, General Manager Retail, Sydney Airport Corporation Limited.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

MEMOIRS OF THE CARAVELLE

The Caravelle Hotel today

The names of very few hotels evoke such fond, romantic images, and indeed such anticipation, as The Caravelle. Its breezy sound recalls its inspiration: the Iberian caravelas, or as the French called them, caravelles fast, light 15th-century sailing ships that explored the world in search of foreign trade, adventure and new horizons.

And perhaps it’s no coincidence that Air France, which held a stake in the original building, and had its offices here since its opening, had also recently begun operating a fancy new jet airliner of the same name.

The Caravelle Hotel was officially opened to the public on Christmas Eve 1959, in a festive free-for-all of silver trayed canapes, vintage Champagne and bonhomie. The building itself had actually opened seven months earlier, when a local newspaper excitedly reported the use of Italian marble and bullet-proof glass. Also duly noted by a clearly wide-eyed reporter were the installation of a “state-of-the-art air-conditioning system and a Berliet private generator.”

Postcard c.1960

The hotel’s modern design - the work of two architects, one French, one Vietnamese - and contemporary facilities soon had foreign embassies, news organisations and businesses moving in en masse. During the 1960s The Caravelle was home to the Australian Embassy, the New Zealand Embassy, and the Saigon bureaus of, NBC, ABC and CBS, to name but a few.

For the most part, the ambience at The Caravelle was one of relaxed conviviality. The rooftop bar was the centre of operations - both professional and social - for the international media. From their tenth-floor perch, cold beers in hand, journalists could, by the war’s closing days, see the front line from their bar stools. If things got lively enough, they would ride the elevator down to the lobby, take one of the hotel's swanky American limousines out into the field and be back in time for cocktails and note comparing.

By the end of the war journalists claimed that they could cover the action without even leaving their bar stools. The one event that did rather sour the Caravelle’s otherwise languorous, laid back atmosphere came on the morning of August 25, 1964. At around 11:30 am a bomb exploded in room 514, on a floor occupied mostly by foreign journalists, who fortunately were all out on assignment. Nine rooms were damaged, windows were blown out of several cars parked in the street, and a number of people were injured. Luckily no-one was killed.

Following the Liberation of Saigon in 1975, the hotel was taken over and operated by the government and renamed the Doc Lap (Independence) Hotel. And so it remained until 1998, when the Caravelle name was relaunched, and what has once again become widely regarded as the city’s finest hotel was reopened - still, as before, intimate, welcoming and mercifully free of pretence.

The original ten-storey building is now adjoined to a smart 24-storey tower that forms the bulk of the new property. Developers with less foresight might have been tempted to tear down the original and start from scratch. But somehow it seems unthinkable that those strikingly curved, balconied corners that have for almost half a century occupied one side of the city’s most picturesque squares, should be lost. The immediate views from that rooftop institution so beloved by foreign correspondents, and now called Saigon Saigon Bar, have changed little since 1959.

If you look across the Opera House and the Hotel Continental and up along Dong Khoi Street, you can still see the twin spires of Notre Dame Cathedral. Along this thoroughfare - once called the rue Catinat - in 1975, a Vietnamese tank rolled down to the Place Garnier, now Lam Son Square. Pulling up opposite the Caravelle it is said to have turned turret and taken aim at the hotel’s facade. Why it didn’t fire is anyone’s guess, but rooftop tipplers with an appreciative eye for the heritage of this atmospheric corner of the city might consider raising a glass or two to whoever was giving the orders on that historic April afternoon.

19 Lam Son Square, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: (84-8) 3823 4999 Fax: (84-8) 3824 3999
Email: hotel@caravellehotel.vnn.vn Website: www.caravellehotel.com

Saturday, October 15, 2011

THE BYRON AT BYRON

WITHIN THREE HOURS OF THE CITY



Be inspired by nature at The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa. Set within a stunning 45 acre rainforest this resort is only a 5 minute drive into Byron Bay town and only moments from beautiful Tallow beach and the Byron Bay championship Golf Club. This is a place to indulge with nurturing spa treatments, daily complimentary yoga classes, endless walks on the timber boardwalks through the rainforest, a 25m infinity pool, gym, tennis court and poolside sauna. The main building is the heart of the resort with verandas that overlook the spectacular rainforest canopy.

The restaurant at The Byron sets high standards in contemporary alfresco dining with a focus on fresh local produce and imaginative dishes. All well appointed one bedroom suites feature a kitchen, separate lounge and dining area, spacious bathroom with freestanding bath tubs as well as 2 fully enclosed verandahs. Relax and enjoy the warm Australian welcome and exceptional service, offering all the special touches you would expect.

Number of Rooms: 92 suites

On-site Facilities: Indulgent Spa and Wellness Centre, restaurant with a focus on fresh local cuisine, 25m infinity pool (heated in winter) and poolside sauna, tennis court, fully equipped gymnasium, bicycle hire, wireless internet , resort lobby shop, endless boardwalks throughout the stunning 45 acre rainforest, complimentary guest activities: daily yoga at 8am, weekly guided rainforest walks, weekly guided trip to the Byron Bay Farmers markets, shuttle bus into Byron Bay township three times daily at 11am, 3pm and 6pm (4.5km distance to town centre).

On-site Dining Options: The Restaurant at Byron Bay.

Website: www.thebyronatbyron.com.au

Friday, September 9, 2011

$1.5M Birdsville Airport upgrade

Birdsville Airport (BVI) showing upgraded strip (Stuart Edwards)
Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk today opened the $1.5 million upgrade of Birdsville Airport, improving passenger safety and comfort.

Ms Palaszczuk said the work included a new airport terminal, resealing the pavement, installing new runway edge lighting and extending the apron area.

She said the upgrades were jointly funded by the Diamantina Shire Council, and the State Government through its Regional Airports Development Scheme (RADS) and the Department of Local Government and Planning.

“The safety upgrades mean the airport can meet increases in traffic using Birdsville as a staging point for people flying over Lake Eyre as well as the Skytrans passenger service,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“To ensure the airport is able to meet the growing needs of the community, we’ve resurfaced the full length of the runway using a bitumen chip seal.

“The apron has been extended to create more aircraft parking space, and the taxiway and the manoeuvring area extended because Birdsville is enjoying a massive spike in aviation-related tourism.”

Member for Mount Isa, Betty Kiernan said Birdsville was becoming more and more of a destination for aviation tourism, and this upgrade would enable growth to continue.

“It’s a great base for operators to come and bring tourists who can experience the Birdsville community and then fly around the Channel Country, including Lake Eyre,” Mrs Kiernan said.

“It is growing as a tourist destination and the aircraft traffic is rapidly increasing.

“The resurfacing of the runway and bigger parking and taxiing area was essential for this growth in demand, and with the support of the Queensland Government the project has been completed.”

Mrs Kiernan said the State Government had a strong record of investing in airport infrastructure for far west Queensland rural and remote airstrips through the Regional Airport Development Scheme.

Diamantina Shire Mayor Robbie Dare said the Diamantina Shire Council saw the airport as critical infrastructure, and support for air services, especially during the wet months, was vital.

“Birdsville has been isolated from road access for more than six months in the past three years due to flooding,” Cr Dare said.

“The airport is also essential to support health in the region, the Royal Flying Doctor Service being our only access to doctors.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FIJI: DIVE THE GREAT SEA REEF, NUKUBATI PRIVATE ISLAND RESORT


Nukubati is a private island resort, a natural extension of a gracious and simple style of South Pacific living. It is environmentally conscious, powered by solar energy and it’s organic garden combined with freshly caught seafood creates a unique cuisine giving it an eco-chic feel. Catering for a limited number of guests, Nukubati is locally owned, preserving its incomparable Fijian style in an atmosphere of total seclusion.

Scuba is Nukubati's premier activity. Just a half hour boat ride takes you to The Great Sea Reef, the third longest barrier reef in the world stretching over 300km across northern Fiji. The Great Sea Reef has 74% of the known coral species and 80% of the known coral reef fishes recorded in Fiji, including many species found only in Fiji – a unique natural wonder.

Nukubati
is the only resort in Fiji with access to this vast underwater treasure. Remote, pristine and untouched, this enormous reef with miles of hard and soft corals is being explored by guests of Nukubati Island. Manta rays, turtles, dolphins and whales parade among uncountable numbers of fish life, with a myriad of Nudibranchs, gastropods and crustaceans displaying around the corals.

Nukubati offers a range of dive types designed to suit your diving abilities and desires. Dives along sweeping walls where you drift through the colourful array of underwater life are balanced by shallow aquarium dives where you explore the wonderful macro-dive world below. All you need is your Open Water certification and the Nukubati dive team will introduce you to the delights that the Great Sea Reef has to offer.


All our resident divemasters are locals, born and bred in the surrounding fishing villages with traditional relationships with the ocean and the reefs. Their knowledge of the Great Sea Reef is instinctive and so is their skill to guide you for whatever your dive needs may be.


THE GREAT SEA REEF, FIJI


Fiji’s marine scientists have, for the first time, surveyed and documented the marine ecosystem of Fiji’s Great Sea Reef (GSR), the 3rd longest continuous barrier reef system in the world, and which is said to stretch a distance of some 150 kilometres along the Northern tip of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island.
Out of 35 priority conservation areas in Fiji, 5 areas were ranked to be globally important due to their uniqueness, endemism and high level of diversity, 15 areas were considered to be national importance and 15 of sub-regional importance.
Of the 5 areas of global importance, the Great Sea Reef is on the top of the list, being the 3rd longest barrier reef in the world. It has an exceptional level of endemism and intact systems of lagoons, channels, mangroves and seagrass habitats.

The report was administered by the WWF Fiji Country programme.

According to WWF’s Fiji office, a recent survey of the Great Sea Reef showed that it is home to:-

• 55% of all known coral reef fish species in Fiji
• 74% of all known coral species in Fiji
• 44% of the known marine flora in Fiji
• 44% of Fiji’s endemic reef fish species.

Fact File:

Among the rare, endangered and newly recorded species discovered were:-

• Populations of 12 species listed on the 2004 IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of threatened Species, including 10 species of fish, the IUCN threatened green turtle and the spinner dolphin;
• Populations of the locally extirpated and nationally endangered species of Bumphead Parrotfish (kalia)
• 3 species of fish considered to endemic to Fiji including one new species (Pommacentrus sp.) and one possible new record (Chromis opecularis) previously known only within the range of the Indian Ocean
• Within the hard corals, 43% new records were documented for Fiji. Of these, 2 were new genera, and 3 are believed to be geographic range extensions
• 16 species were found to be new additions to the flora of the Fiji archipelago. 2 possible new species were also recorded
• Unusual distant offshore mangrove island fringing reef habitats were found to be of surprisingly high diversity and productivity. These highly dynamic, tidally influenced systems are considered to be “keystone habitats” of crucial importance to maintaining the ecological integrity of the entire coastline

Battle of the sexes rages on at 30,000 feet



Expedia.com.au survey reveals how Aussie men and women pass the time in the air

Sydney, 24 May 2011 – With many international flights lasting more than 20 hours, the dilemma for Aussie travellers is how to pass the time in the air. New research* conducted by online travel company Expedia.com.au has found the age-old saying that ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’ holds true in mid-air, with each favouring a different way to pass the time.

Thanks to sophisticated in-flight entertainment systems, which now offer hundreds of movies, TV shows and videogames, unsurprisingly, Aussie men can’t wait to test it out, with over two thirds (67%) opting to use technology to make the hours fly by. Conversely, Aussie women are shunning in-flight technology with over half (55%) preferring to immerse themselves in a good book.

In spite of these differences, Aussie men and women are in agreement that being stuck in a confined space for a long time was the number one air travel gripe, with the lack of seat comfort coming in second. Turbulence and passing time in airports were also high on the list of top air travel dislikes.

To make the flight as comfortable as possible, travellers should use travel tools such as Expedia.com.au’s SeatGuru®, which enables travellers to view and select the best seats via colour-coded aircraft seat maps on certain international flights. Travellers are then able to request specific seats as part of their booking on Expedia.com.au, thereby ensuring that travellers fly more comfortably.

Despite Australians being a friendly nation, striking up conversations with other passengers was something to avoid with only around one in 10 Aussies willing to chat with fellow passengers. One in seven men (15%) admitted to flirting with a member of the aircrew during the flight. Love can also often blossom in the sky with 4% of flyers admitting to having a relationship with someone they met during the flight.

Joana Barros, Senior Manager Marketing of Expedia.com.au, said: “At Expedia, we believe choice is a necessity not a luxury. Things like selecting the right seat to ensure a comfortable flight are a priority for us to bring to our customers. To help travellers consider their options they should utilise Expedia’s unique SeatGuru® functionality to review and select the perfect seat when booking flights”, Ms Barros said.

“Expedia customers can also rest easy when passing time in the air in the knowledge they are getting great value for money and paying no flight booking fees”, Ms Barros said.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Laucala Island: Melinda Gregor's Favourite Oasis

My own private beach and pool

- simply the best

Laucala is simply the most amazing place I have ever visited. It has everything that I want - a perfect location, fully inclusive, close to home, exquisite food, friendly staff, amazing accommodation and a setting to die for including your very own private pool and beach.

There's even an 18-hole championship golf course designed by one of the world's leading golf course designers, David McLay Kidd. Play on your own or with golf pro, Tony Christie, who has played in three British Opens.

With only 25 luxury residences and over 350 staff on this 12sq km island nothing is ever too much trouble. Relax after your round of golf with a Thai massage in the world-class spa, go snorkelling or diving, or maybe take a horse ride along the beach at sunset. Talking of sunsets, why not take a boat out for a few cocktails? Everything is included at Laucala.

You are provided with your own golf buggy to discover the island - there's a choice of five restaurants as well as some amazing bars like the Rock Lounge perched on a cliff with amazing sunset views (my favourite place). After a few champagnes, there is always someone on hand to take you home.

The island is self-sufficient. They grow their own vegetables and herbs, they have their own cows and chickens and there's even a natural spring. They also make all their own oils, soaps and creams as well.

Laucala Island is located off the north-east coast of Fiji and is a 45-minute flight from Nadi Airport aboard Air Laucala's eight-seater aircraft. It is so close to home, less than five hours from the east coast of Australia, so if you feel you deserve a short break and truly want to be spoilt, you should try five nights. Or perhaps you have a special birthday or anniversary coming up?

I did not want to leave this amazing oasis. I have been to many unique places in the world, however Laucala is truly perfect.

Please feel free to give me a call or email melindagregor@gregorlewis.com.au if you would like further details or access to the exclusive deals we are able to offer. Bula Vinaka.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Out of This World – the Top Five Remote Island Destinations for the Eco-Traveller


Media Release: 4 April 2011

Cruise Passenger Magazine’s Adventure Cruise Guide Names the Top Five Remote Island Destinations Accessible Only by Expedition Vessel.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="220" caption="2011 Cruise Passenger Magazine Adventure Cruise Guide"]2011 Cruise Passenger Magazine Adventure Cruise Guide[/caption]

Our planet is transforming every day. The climate is changing, forests are vanishing, endangered species disappear daily and the polar ice is melting at an alarming rate.

All this could be a good reason to stay at home and lock the door, but adventure and expedition cruisers are travelling like, well, there is no tomorrow.

Small ships and expedition vessels, often with less than 100 passengers aboard, transport environmentally sensitive and ecologically aware travellers to some of the world’s most remote and fragile destinations on Earth.

“Expedition cruising is quite possibly the purest form of ecotourism,” says Roderick Eime, editor of Adventure Cruise Guide, “Adventure ships take small numbers of thoughtful people to places where there is no infrastructure and leave nothing behind.”

“Some of the world’s most remarkable destinations can only be reached aboard a small ship – and thank goodness for that.”

Here are five such destinations you can’t fly to or ever hope to visit aboard a 3000-passenger behemoth.

1. Macquarie Island, Australia (54° 37′ 0.12″ S, 158° 51′ 0″ E) *

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Young elephant seals sing up a chorus on Macquarie Island (Roderick Eime)"]Young elephant seals sing up a chorus on Macquarie Island (Roderick Eime)[/caption]

Inhabited by around 20 Australian scientists and support staff, Macquarie has only featured as a ‘tourist’ destination since adventure vessels heading to the Antarctic started looking for somewhere to break the many days at sea. Geologically attached to New Zealand, but administered by Australia, it is halfway to Antarctica from Tasmania. The first residents were seals and penguins who were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Replaced by cats, rats and rabbits, man’s influence is slowly being reversed. Apart from the wildlife, Macquarie is famous for its rocks. Geologists will know what an ophiolite is and that Macquarie is the only place to see one.

2. Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia (10°29′0″S, 138°39′0″W)

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Island of Fatu Hiva, village of Hanavave, Bay of Virgins. As seen from departing Aranui 3 (Roderick Eime) "]Island of Fatu Hiva, village of Hanavave, Bay of Virgins. As seen from departing Aranui 3 (Roderick Eime) [/caption]

The second most remote archipelago in the world (next to Hawai’i) is the Marquesas. Fatu Hiva is well known as centre for Marquesan arts and crafts, centred around the village of Omoa on the western coast and has one of the largest selections anywhere in the archipelago. Visitors can see men and women demonstrating their crafts including word carving, tapa (bark) cloth making and fabrics. Thor (and Mrs) Heyerdahl spent time in 1937 for the famous book, Fatu Hiva, Back to Nature. Part of a visit can include a challenging hike across the mountain to the delightful little village of Hanavave, possibly one of the most isolated anywhere in the Marquesas. The setting in the picturesque Bay of Virgins is a secret only shared by intrepid yachtsmen.

3. Espanola (Hood) Island, Galápagos Islands (1° 22′ 0″ S, 89° 41′ 0″ W) *

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Majestic Waved Albatross (Diomedea irrorata) soars on cliff-side updrafts on the island of Espanola in the Galapagos group. Also called the Galapagos albatross, the waved albatross is the largest bird in the Galapagos."]Majestic Waved Albatross (Diomedea irrorata) soars on cliff-side updrafts on the island of Espanola in the Galapagos group. Also called the Galapagos albatross, the waved albatross is the largest bird in the Galapagos.[/caption]

Tiny Espanola was named by the Spanish for, you guessed it, Spain. The British also named it after the famous naval man, Samuel Hood. Tucked away in the far southeast corner of the Galápagos Islands group, its isolation was also its salvation as the more northerly younger islands, were often visited by hungry seamen, pirates and whalers. Home to a wild cornucopia of birds, seals and marine iguanas, it is one of the must-do stops on any Galápagos island itinerary. Birders will go crazy for the bizarre ritual of the Blue Footed Booby as well as the majestic, but critically endangered Waved Albatross. The marine iguana, native to the group, has a brightly coloured sub-species endemic to the island. Gardner Bay is the popular landing site and great for diving, snorkelling and swimming.

4. Deception Island, Antarctica (62° 58′ 37″ S, 60° 39′ 0″ W)

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Deception Island is just off the Antarctic Peninsula and a highlight of any expedition cruise. (Roderick Eime)"]Deception Island is just off the Antarctic Peninsula and a highlight of any expedition cruise. (Roderick Eime)[/caption]

This collapsed volcanic caldera off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most talked about islands on any of the southerly itineraries. Dripping in history, wildlife and stunning scenery, the island was home to several countries’ whaling and Antarctic bases until a series of violent eruptions sent them scrambling. After your ship makes the nail-biting entry through Neptune’s Bellows, visitors can stroll around the abandoned base at Whalers Bay or visit the teeming Chinstrap Penguin colony where 200,000 birds all call at once. Sir Hubert Wilkins and pilot, Ben Eielson, set off from the narrow volcanic strip to become the first to fly over Antarctica in December 1928. Their hangar still stands. Any visit to Deception Island must be capped off with a swim in the volcanically heated waters at Pendulum Cove.

5. Beechey Island, Canadian Arctic (74°43′N 091°51′W)

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Beechey Island (Nunavut, Canada) is a highlight of Quark Expeditions' Northwest Passage. (Claudio Suter/Quark Expeditions)"]Beechey Island (Nunavut, Canada) is a highlight of Quark Expeditions Northwest Passage. Mandatory Credit: Claudio Suter/Quark Expeditions edit Delete caption[/caption]

If it weren’t for some odd blips in history, Beechey Island would still be the infinitesimal featureless, uninhabited satellite of its much larger neighbour, Devon Island in Canada’s Wellington Channel. Some time in 1845, the still lost English explorer, Sir John Franklin, stopped to winter in the shelter of Beechey Island. Three of his men remain there, a testament to greater events about to unfold. Now a "site of territorial historical significance", Beechey Island plays host to Arctic expeditioners seeking to recreate Franklin’s historic, if foolhardy, voyage of disappearance. The amazingly preserved body of 21-year-old Petty Officer John Shaw Torrington provided some of the scant clues to the untimely demise of Franklin’s folly. He has since been reburied with his former shipmates.

* UNESCO World Heritage Listed

The fourth edition of Cruise Passenger Magazine’s Adventure Cruise Guide contains all the information you need to travel to any of these impossibly remote locations with a comprehensive listing of all major operators. You can also learn what to pack, who is cruising and what adventurous add-ons are available to extend your adventure.

The 2011 Adventure Cruise Guide is available in selected newsagents, by direct request and online at www.cruisepassenger.com.au (page goes live on Monday April 4)

Roderick Eime is available for interview and comment. Contact


High Res images from this article can be downloaded from here. Mandatory credits apply.

About Cruise Passenger Magazine

First published in 1996, Cruise Passenger is Australasia’s only magazine dedicated to cruising. Each quarterly issue has 128 pages of in-depth insights into cruise trends and destinations, reviews of ships and cruise lines, beautiful photographs and advice on how to choose the best cruise. For more information, see www.cruisepassenger.com.au

About Roderick Eime

A journalist, photographer and adventurer for over 30 years, Rod has developed a specialty for small ship and expedition cruising in remote locations. He has covered vessels all around the world including both polar regions and many rivers. He is also an experienced scuba diver and also enjoys telling the stories and history behind his travels. See his blogs at Expedition Cruising and Guide to Small Ship and Adventure Cruising.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cruise Port Overview: Vancouver



Clean and Green, Must be Seen

by Roderick Eime in Vancouver

September in British Columbia is just divine. While the locals keep asking “How a-boot this weather, eh?” I get the feeling glorious warm, sunny days are pretty normal around this time of year. From my window of the Fairmont Waterfront (www.fairmont.com) Hotel, I can see all across the bay to Stanley Park and beyond to the mountains where the last traces of the bumper snow season are stubbornly disappearing. A regular stream of floatplanes taxi out onto the bay taking off for parts unknown while strollers, joggers, cyclists and skaters traverse the waterfront precinct cafe-hopping and just relaxing in the afternoon glow.

It's too much to resist, and I pop down for a look myself, mingling with the dawdling traffic. Disney Wonder is pulling out of her home berth with a trademark blast of her horn playing, you guessed it, “When you wish upon a star” and it seems the perfect maritime destination. With many international air links, a slightly more relaxed customs and immigration procedure and a pally 'Commonwealth' kinship, Canada is a natural destination for vacationing Australians and the telltale Aussie twang soon becomes a familiar sound in the coffee shops, museums and hotel lobbies.

Vancouver spent the last few years at the top of the 'world's most liveable cities' list (just recently pipped by Melbourne) and it's easy to see why. There's a relaxed lifestyle with a pronounced ecologically responsible and sustainable living focus. It feels safe and the folks are welcoming and helpful with clear signage and many familiar brands and logos. For entertaining shopping, there's groovy Granville Island with artisan stores and wholesome produce led by the Edible Canada brand. Harbour cruises on the dinky Aqua-Bus service makes sightseeing and transport a fun doddle.

While there is some stiff competition with neighbouring Seattle, the financially-strapped US city is luring some vessels away with discount port fees. Disney Wonder will move there in 2012, but the Sapphire Princess will quickly fill the void, maintaining annual cruise visitors at a healthy 650-660,000. True, both green-leaning ports offer excellent visitor amenities for cruise visitors, but the Canadians will argue their city offers greater potential for pre- and post-cruise extensions and from what I've seen in my short stay, it is a persuasive argument. Imagine throwing snowballs and swimming in a cool mountain lake on the same day, I did.

I'm writing this week's piece from the observation car of the magnificent Rocky Mountaineer, a railway tour that also hubs out of Vancouver. Given the demographic overlap, it is easy to see many of my fellow passengers enjoying an Alaskan cruise as part of their Pacific Northwest summer holiday and I'm told with some authority that 40 per cent of RM guests also cruise. Seizing on this synergy, RM is partnering with HAL to launch a series of special 'First Passage' fortnight-ish itineraries in 2013 with satisfying dollops of both cruise and rail experience. Railstops at scenic towns such as Jasper, Banff and Whistler [www.tourismwhistler.com], with their own enormous range of summer activities, will make this, I predict, a hot-seller.

Make a beeline for your ICCA cruise specialist [www.cruising.org.au] and pester them about Vancouver cruises. For details on the 'First Passage' cruise/rail package, see www.rockymountaineer.com

Roderick Eime is visiting Vancouver [www.tourismvancouver.com] as a guest of Rocky Mountaineer [www.rockymountaineer.com] and Tourism BC [www.hellobc.com]

Friday, February 18, 2011

London: Capital of Cool

Tower Bridge
There is no other place in the world that has showcases human history like London. Its heritage is not only confined in museums, but in architecture, art, fashion and culture. Yes, through thick and thin this marvelous city has seen it all. If streets and buildings could talk, there would be so much that they would say. With its colourful history on display – from its classic palaces to ultra chic new hangouts, London is indeed the city where only the coolest survive.

For me travelling to international travel hubs like London is not only an opportunity to become immersed in another culture but to throw yourself into a lot of great shopping.

Seeing London’s Carnaby Street is like visiting the birthplace of cool with designer fashion labels and exclusive boutiques lining the streets. But if the constantly changing exchange rate gets you down, then try Oxford Circus for a taste of the great British high-street that will leave you struggling to close your suitcase. For high class luxury without having to walk too far, then the Harrods department store is a place that you must see.

Now I understand that shopping can cause lot of stress on your bank account but have no fear because London has many more activities and sites that you can visit.

For an easy overview of the city, I highly recommend going on one of the many guided boat tours that cruise along the Thames River. As you make your way down, you will surely be able to spot the iconic Tower Bridge that breaks the horizon. However, if you are looking for a more personal exploration of the city, then get your map, walking shoes, London Pass and Oyster Card ready.

One of the many tourist attractions within walking distance of each other is Buckingham Palace and Westminster. You’ll find that it’s easier to spot Big Ben from outside Buckingham Palace than it is to find Wally with a magnifying glass.
Being one of the oldest urban cities in the UK, London’s rich culture and history can be found at every turn with double decker buses, the London Tube complex, their small taxis, architectural marvels such as St Paul’s Cathedral as well as historical centres like the British Museum and the Tate Modern art gallery. London is indeed the place where the delicate mix of the classical and modern is fit for a king or queen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Queensland Flood Update And Travel Info: 18 January 2010

Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Agnes Water, 1770, Whitsundays, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns and Tropical North Queensland are accessible and tourism operations are normal.

All Queensland airports with the exception of Rockhampton, are currently open and operating normally.

The Bruce Highway, the main road link from Brisbane to Cairns, is now open. Brisbane, the Darling Downs, Southern Downs and Granite Belt and Capricorn Coast are now recovering with most tourism operations open and affected tourism operations returning to normal as quickly as possible. There are however still some local road closures in some areas. Visit http://131940.qld.gov.au/ for the latest road conditions.

Parts of Central Queensland, Queensland's Outback, Western Downs and the Lockyer Valley continue to be affected and access to these areas is restricted.

Please contact your travel agent, accommodation, attraction or tour provider directly for latest conditions or with concerns about any current or upcoming bookings you may have.

For the latest travel information visit www.queenslandholidays.com.au For the latest conditions Tourism Queensland recommends visiting the Queensland Government's official Queensland floods webpage: http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/ or visit the Bureau of Meteorology http://www.bom.gov.au/ to check weather forecasts for your holiday destination. Visit http://131940.qld.gov.au/ for the latest road conditions.

How can you help?
You can help Queensland recover by taking a holiday in Queensland - in the areas that haven't been affected by floodwaters, and in the affected areas once they are up and running again.

If you already have a Queensland holiday booked - don't cancel as most tourism regions and operations are now up and running.

If you don't have a Queensland holiday booked, book one!

Queensland's tourism industry has the welcome mat rolled out ready to receive visitors, so come see us!

People wishing to directly help flood victims can donate to the Queensland Government Flood Assistance Appeal at www.qld.gov.au/floods

What damage will the floods have on the Great Barrier Reef?

• There have been recent media reports concerning possible damage to Great Barrier Reef as a result of floodwaters transferring from the river systems into the oceans around Central Queensland.
• Tourism Queensland is not a scientific expert qualified to speak on the health of the Great Barrier Reef, however our understanding is that the effects of the flood waters on reef systems is currently unknown. However, fresh water runoffs are a natural part of the ecosystem and some plant and marine life actually thrive in these situations.
• The Great Barrier Reef is 2300km along with thousands of reefs, coral cays and islands. The vast majority of these are likely to remain unaffected.
• Currently tourism operations along the Great Barrier Reef including the Southern Great Barrier Reef,Whitsundays, Townsville and Cairns and Tropical North Queensland are operating normally, including dive operators, sailing operators and daytrip operators.
• Anyone concerned about a Great Barrier Reef booking an individual operator, should check with the accommodation provider, tour operator or attraction for the latest conditions.
• Refer to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for further information.

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