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Thursday, December 15, 2016

How to Pack for Any Trip



Lonely Planet’s How to Pack for Any Trip



Where are you going?

The Poles: Antarctic

You’re going outside… you may be some time. But, in fact, as most Antarctic trips are cruises, much of your southern exposure is likely to occur in the comfort of a very well-equipped ship, with short excursions by motorboat and on foot. As such, Antarctic forays don’t require huge amounts of specialist gear, just a few carefully chosen items to keep you warm and dry. It’s worth investing in a decent pair of insulated waterproof boots, though. Ensure they’re at least knee height for wet landings and ideally have soles with a good grip for scrambling over rocks and ice, and picking your way around colonies of chinstrap penguins.

Packing essentials

• Parka life: most Antarctic ships provide a take-home parka jacket to each passenger (you’d hope so, given the astronomical fares associated with such voyages), so leave that hulking great down-filled puffer jacket at home.

• Chill out: Antarctic cruising is generally casual, so you don’t need that ball gown. Each operator has different dress codes and supplied kit, however, so read up before you travel. Once you’re south of the departure ports, you’ll find plenty of elephant seals but not many boutiques.

• Best bins: pack the highest-spec pair of binoculars you can afford, and a camera with a good zoom, unless you want to see nothing but the occasional finned blob.

Pack for pong

If you’ve got a sensitive nose or stomach, be aware that penguin colonies are stinky places to visit, especially in February when chicks begin their moult. A judiciously placed scarf can help ease the olfactory offensive, and will be a welcome extra layer when back on board a ship that’s being buffeted around in rough seas.

Case study: Antarctica

Pack a sense of wilderness wonder. This grand icy continent, accessible only from November to March, has no towns, no villages, no nothing, apart from the occasional research station. Embrace the elements, but also protect yourself against them. Contact lenses dry out in harsh wind, so pack glasses. Even without sunshine, reflected glare from the elements can burn, so bring creams. And pack a back-up camera or spare battery; the latter drain in cold weather and shutters become temperamental.

Antarctic cruise departure hub Ushuaia is a good base from which to explore the lakes, valleys and forests of the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. If you choose to do so, pack smart: hiking boots and quick-drying trekking trousers are invaluable.

Reproduced with permission from How to Pack for Any Trip © 2016 Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com)

Which Christmas destinations sparkle the brightest this year?




Wego explores some incredibly festive cities and discovers why there's now so many bargain airfares at this time of year

Wego.com, the leading travel search site in the Asia Pacific and Middle East is getting into the Christmas spirit, inspired by some of the world's most festively decorated cities.

"Some cities go to extraordinary lengths to sparkle the brightest at Christmas. Many travellers actually select their destinations at this time of year based on the special celebrations taking place," said Dean Wicks, Chief Flights Officer at Wego.

"If you wanted to add some extra sparkle to your Christmas, it's not too late," Wicks added. "Airline competition is hotter than ever. This was once a period when fares dramatically hiked upwards but with the introduction of long haul aircraft used by budget airlines, it's no longer the case. Airlines are competing to sell seats during what is one of the busiest travel seasons of the year and there's loads of bargains to be found."

"There's some surprisingly good deals around if you take a moment and do a comparison," he continued. "For instance from Singapore, AirAsia has a promotional fare to Kuala Lumpur for only SGD$40 or how about Bangkok on Scoot for only SGD$61 or go even further with Jetstar, a ridiculously low fare of SGD$102 one-way from Singapore to Darwin, and there's lots more!"

"From Kochi to Muscat, Jet Airways is offering fares for INR 5,487, or treat yourself to a business class upgrade (subject to space) available at the airport on all flights out of the UAE for AED 450 with Air India," said Wicks. "Air India is also offering flights from New Delhi to San Francisco for Christmas and New Year for INR 78,141."

"And from uae.wego.com we see that Etihad is offering fares from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok for AED 1660, and Qatar is even offering specials in First Class," he continued. "So don't let the festive season put you off fearing expensive airfares, there's loads of bargains still to be had!"


Friday, December 2, 2016

Is this really Australia's best beach?



Australia’s best beach… that you’ve never heard of

Cossies Beach, located on the Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean, has been named Australia’s best beach by beach expert and Tourism Australia Aquatic and Coastal Ambassador, Brad Farmer.

Cossies Beach on Direction Island offers visitors an experience like no other with white sand, turquoise water, spectacular sea life, ferry rides often accompanied by dolphins and a wifi hotspot so you can share your experience with the world.

“We are one of Australia’s best-kept secrets – paradise defined: safe swimming, crystal clear warm water, abundant marine life, friendly locals, picture postcard scenery everywhere you turn,” Cocos Keeling Islands Tourism Association Marketing Manager, Rik Soderlund, said.

“We would go so far as to say Cossies Beach is not just the best in Australia, but the world!” Mr Soderlund said. “We have limited visitor capacity, so you’ll never be crowded like on Bondi Beach and you can enjoy a really unique experience whether you’re relaxing or taking part in one of the huge range of activities we offer.”

Mr Farmer and his colleague, Professor Andy Short, published their benchmark guide to Australia’s best beaches in 2012 and have spent the past five months compiling the latest Australia’s Best Beaches 2017.

Prior to Mr Farmer’s visit, the beach did not have a name and was referred to as Direction Island, or DI to the locals. Mr Farmer named the small strip of pristine coast after Australia’s 26th Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, who like Mr Farmer was taken with the area’s spectacular beauty on a visit to commemorate the centenary of the Sydney-Emden naval battle in 2014.

Mr Farmer and Professor Short assessed a raft of independent and scientific criteria to describe Cossies “as near to perfect as a beach can be”. It also happens to be Australia’s most remote beach.

The Cocos Keeling Islands are made up of two atolls and 27 coral islands, of which only two are populated. Of these, West Island and Home Island, are inhabited with a population around 600. You can reach the destination via a four-and-a-half-hour flight from Perth.

Visitors to the Cocos Keeling Islands can participate in a wide range of activities including kite surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, fishing and birdwatching. Or, of course, just relaxing on Australia’s best beach.

“We have so much to offer and many people don’t know that we exist or that we are even part of Australia. Now the secret’s out, we’re looking forward to sharing paradise with new visitors,” Mr Soderlund said.



ABOUT COCOS KEELING ISLANDS

Offering spectacular snorkeling, world-class diving, excellent fishing and the adrenalin-rush of kitesurfing, the Cocos Keeling Islands are also a deeply tranquil holiday location. Relax on empty beaches, visit uninhabited islands by canoe, watch spectacular birdlife or catch the ferry to Home Island and discover the culture and traditions of the Cocos Malay people.

http://www.cocoskeelingislands.com.au

Monday, November 7, 2016

Harry Potter fans can tour the studio and experience his magical world of 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'



The time has come for a new era of magic to begin with the upcoming theatrical release of the Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Based on JK Rowling's 2001 book and first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, this story purports to be a copy of Harry Potter's textbook. Unlike the rest of the Harry Potter series, the action takes place around the secret community of witches and wizards in 1926 New York City.

To celebrate the release of this new magical world and to encourage enchanted exploring of your own, Booking.com, the global leader in connecting travellers with the widest choice of incredible places to stay, is presenting a list of five fantastic themed properties and where to find them.

The Grove, Chandeler's Cross, UK

All of the films in the Harry Potter series, including the most recent film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, have been filmed at Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire, England. The studio now hosts The Making of Harry Potter studio tour which offers guests the opportunity to relive the magic through the eyes of the filmmakers who brought the Harry Potter franchise to life. After uncovering the magic of the studio tour, fans can stay at The Grove, a 5-star hotel only a philosopher's stone's throw away from the Harry Potter studio tour. Guests can enjoy its elegant and spacious rooms, 300-acres of magical parkland, luxurious spa, 18-hole golf course and two swimming pools.



Another major filming location for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was Liverpool, England, where the city was transformed into 1920s New York City. Embrace the magic this location has to offer by staying at the BridgetStreet Apartments at Liverpool ONE. It offers impressive views of the Liverpool city center and modern interiors from a fully furnished kitchen to elegant bathrooms. Not to mention, it's only a 5-mintue walk to the center of Liverpool, including the infamous St. George's Hall, so apparition spells and other methods of magical transportation can be left at home. 


For muggles and No-Majs who have ever wondered what it would be like to sleep like a wizard, the Wizard Chamber at the Georgian House Hotel in the centre of London can transport guests to a world full of magic and marvel. Concealed behind a bookcase door, curious guests will enjoy venturing to the Wizard Chamber of this 19th century hotel. Created to conjure a mysterious and gothic feel, each room features faux castle details such as stained glass windows, stone walls, archways, trunks, cauldrons, four-poster beds hung with velvet curtains and an abundance of other curious artefacts. Wood burning stoves, cauldrons in fireplaces and tapestries complete the look.

The St. Regis, New York City, New York, USA

Filming for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them may not have taken place in New York City, but the movie still captures the charm and hustle of America during the 1920s. The St. Regis is one of the most distinctive 1920s building in the heart of New York City which also captures that very same charm and hustle, but with modern amenities. Guest rooms provide flat-screen TVs, seating areas with sofas and desks with minibars and refrigerators. The ideally situated 5-star hotel only a short walk from other classic New York City landmarks including the Museum of Modern Art, Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building.

The Chatwal, New York City, New York, USA

Guests won't find any fantastic beasts at this sophisticated New York City landmark that evokes the glamorous 1920s. But they will find that their every demand is met with luxurious rooms, each serviced with personal butler service, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi and 400-thread-count linens and down duvets - no magic wands necessary! Guests of The Chatwal are also invited to step back in time at the bar that serves classic cocktails of the roaring 20s. Who knows, maybe magizoologist Newt Scamander himself will join for a bee's knees cocktail while taking a break from his quest to research and rescue magical creatures.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Now is a great time to visit Egypt



7 REASONS WHY NOW IS A GREAT TIME TO VISIT EGYPT

A land of ancient monuments, mysterious legends and a charisma that never fails to excite visitors, Egypt has long been a stalwart of many travellers’ bucket lists. In recent years, however, political upheaval and potential customer concerns have seen a marked decline in the numbers of people travelling to the country.

Travel professional, Michael McCall, says there are at least seven good reasons why he believes that now is the perfect time to visit Egypt.

The Weather

While Egypt enjoys the sun pretty much year-round, according to Michael it’s from September onwards that the stifling heat of summer begins to give way to more comfortable temperatures. “With the sun still shining and just 1 – 5mm of rain per month, visitors to Egypt can pretty much guarantee blue skies and perfect sailing conditions, making it a great option for a Xmas getaway.”

The Crowds

“Or should we say lack thereof,” says Michael. “Visitors to Egypt can currently enjoy all of the major landmarks almost completely free of tourists. In fact, some previously restricted archaeological areas have been opened to sightseers in the hope of heightening their appeal.”

The Little Things

With fewer visitors filling the streets and waterways of Egypt, Michael notes that guests are much freer to experience local life in far more intimate detail. “From fishermen practicing their trade, to market traders selling their exotic goods, there is a huge amount to see, and even more to learn.”

The People

Egyptians are well known for their first-class hospitality, but Michael notes that today visitors are likely to be greeted with praise and thanks like never before. “Expect to be treated like a pop star wherever you go and to leave with a new-found love of warmth and character of modern Egypt.”

The Tourist Sites are secure

“The Egyptian government has taken significant steps to up security around tourism hotspots in recent months,” says Michael. “This means that there is a reassuring security presence at Luxor, Aswan and other areas of interest, alleviating any fears travellers may have.”

Helping the Economy

Something often forgotten in any discussion about Egypt is the fact that its economy was long been built on the success of a once thriving tourist industry. For Michael, a great ancillary benefit for those who dares to take the plunge and visit the country is a much-needed opportunity chance to help reduce unemployment and inject life to local businesses.

It's Accessible.

With affordable flights from Australia daily with a range of airlines including Emirates and Qantas, Egypt is an easily accessible holiday destination for Australians.

Sanctuary Retreats’ Nile River Cruises offer the chance to explore Egypt’s ancient past in the utmost luxury. Cruising between Aswan and Luxor, guests visit all the major sites including the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, the Temple of Karnak and the Island of Agilika.

With a choice of four vessels on offer – Sanctuary Sun Boat III, Sanctuary Sun Boat IV, the Sanctuary Nile Adventurer and bespoke dahabiya, Sanctuary Zein Nile Chateau, prices start from US$870 per person twin share for a 3-night cruise aboard the Sanctuary Sun Boat IV.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What's New in Helsinki: Hotels, Bars, Restaurants, more

#VisitHelsinki #MyHelsinki



The new breed of food actors really deserves a round of applause. Helsinki has several Michelin starred restaurants and many local chefs, baristas, food producers and café owners have become recognized celebrities. Check out our food brochure Food Helsinki? HEL YEAH! and the newest top restaurants in town listed below.

. Baskeri & Basso’s ingredient driven cuisine is daring in its outrageous simplicity.
. Bystro’s hot blini pans have steamed the windows, and the incredible tastes of Slavic kitchen to-
gether with an edgy vodka bar welcome you to Russia in the middle of Helsinki city centre.
. Finnjävel uses Finnish cooking methods from the years gone by and freshest ingredients. They have
delved into the past in order to create the future of Finnish cuisine.
. Grön is a new restaurant that wants to show respect to creativity, nature and to all of us by offering excellent food made of locally produced ingredients.
. Holiday Bar, kitchen & terrace by your holiday guides Richard McCormick & Ville Relander.
. KOM, a renewed theatre restaurant opened in September by Antto Melasniemi and Heikki Purho-
nen. Antto is also making a gin with Klaus Haapaniemi, the designer, called Tenu.
. Roster is the latest restaurant of Kari Aihinen specielicied in roasting.
. Shelter located in an old warehouse at Katajanokka harbor gives shelter to friends of good food and
drink. The owners believe in crafting, genuine customer service and working together.
. Vinkkeli is founded by three passionate experts, sharing more than ten years’ history at Helsinki’s
legendary restaurants.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Seven Tasmanian spots best accessed (or only accessed) by boat/cruise


Tasmania is an explorers’ paradise with nearly 37% of the island designated as reserves, National Parks, and World Heritage Sites, and with a total coastline length 4,882kms many of Tasmania’s top spots are to be found nestled on the coastline and best (or only!) accessed by boat.

There is no better way than to explore the Tassie coastline than on a small, nifty and comfortable cruise ship, like the Coral Expeditions 1, complete with an excursion vessel. This allows you to dart in and explore magical coves when no one is around, take in the many panoramic rock formations, get up close and personal with marine life and get unique vantage points at iconic locations.

With Coral Expeditions you can also enjoy an Open Bridge policy so you can get a captain eye’s view of the island as well as on aboard Marine biologist to help you get to know the marine life better.

Wineglass Bay

Freycinet National Park, on the East Coast, is home to the iconic Wineglass Bay, which is a haven of white sand, turquoise waters and dramatic bushland. Wineglass Bay is accessible by foot but arriving by boat means you skip the parking circus, often busy trails and see this stunning location from a different vista. You can also get this paradise to yourself as the Coral Expeditions 1 will arrive at the bay when no one else is around. You will also be given an opportunity to do a morning hike up to the lookout and take some ‘people free’ snaps.

Maria Island


Maria Island on the South East coast, offers historic ruins, sweeping bays, rugged cliffs and mountains and incredible wildlife. It is only accessed by boat but instead of taking the ferry and exploring the island by foot, take in the full effect of the dramatic coastline, stop off at the more remote bays and enjoy a unique panorama of the famed fossil cliffs on-board your cruise ship. The Coral Expeditions 1 will also take you to shore on so can walk the convict trail and spot the elusive Tasmania devil. You won’t be restricted by ferry times so can enjoy the island at your own pace.

Bruny Island

Bruny Island, the land of cheese and oysters, is situated to the south of Hobart and is only accessible by boat. Bruny Island is blessed with marine life and is home to a large population of Australian fur seals which are best viewed from the ocean in a ‘who’s watching who’ scenario. A trip to Bruny island is not complete without some food and wine but with Coral Expeditions you can work it off with a swim and kayak in Adventure Bay before you cruise back to the sip, where you will be treated to a Tasmania sunset as you anchor for the night.

Tasman National Park

Tasman National Park, off the East Coast and adjacent to Port Arthur, is known for its monumental rock formations and rugged cliffs which are best seen by boat, where the crashing waves and abundant sea life add an extra dimension to your experience. The park is teeming with marine life which include penguins, dolphins, migrating whales and seals which you can track and learn about with the Coral Expeditions resident marine biologist. The ship will give you the ability to follow these magnificent animals wherever they go so you can be assured of some incredible sightings.

Recherche Bay

Recherche Bay is located on the extreme south-eastern corner of Tasmania and has gained notoriety in recent years as the first meeting place between Bruni D’Entrecasteaux and the original habitants – the Lylequonny. What better way to reach Recherche Bay than by the same way Bruni did, following in his footsteps right until you set foot on the beach at Cockle Creek. Cruising this coastline on the Coral Expeditions 1 also means you get to enjoy the many inlets, islands and natural beauty of this picturesque section of the South Coast.

Port Davey

The wilderness surrounding Port Davey is thought to be one of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet and is known to have the cleanest air on earth. It is only accessible by boat, plane or 7-day trek but this pristine tapestry of gorges, waterfalls, rivers and mountains is best explored by water. With wild weather to match, cruising on the Coral Expeditions 1 is the way to go so you can acclimatise to the temperamental conditions in comfort and jump on the excursion vessel to dart into little bays or take a sea kayak when the sun is on your side.

Fortescue Bay & Canoe Bay

Tucked away in the Tasman National Park and only accessible by foot or boat is Canoe Bay, home to the shipwreck of a Dutch Trading Vessel called Andre Reboncas. Cruising into the bay gives you the chance to see the shipwreck up close and means you can nip over to the nearby picturesque Canoe Bay. You will also be able to enjoy panoramic views of Waterfall Bay and the pods of dolphins that often populate this area.

Sydney Hobart on Sydney to race

Cruising Tasmania is all about exploring a pristine and secluded wilderness but during the Sydney to Hobart race this isolated island becomes a haven of white sails as the yachts race to Hobart. However, if you’re on board a cruise ship such as the Coral Expeditions 1, this man made phenomenon is a sight to behold and lends itself best to aquatic arm chair viewing.


Coral Expeditions runs a 7-night cruise from Hobart annually throughout November to February. To find out more information about this active adventure, on board the Coral Expeditions 1, which showcases the wild beauty and remarkable heritage of Tasmania please visit: www.coralexpeditions.com

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ancient Voices, Modern Travels: Aboriginal Tourism in BC



From the Haida and Tsimshian of the North Coast to the Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island and the Stó:lō, Secwepemc, Okanagan and Ktunaxa people inland, British Columbia is home to Canada’s most diverse composition of First Nations bands, languages and societies.

British Columbia also boasts some of the longest inhabited regions in the world. The area around Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, for example, has revealed evidence of 12,000 years of human settlement.

Each of BC’s First Nations has its own language, traditions and history, and most are currently experiencing a cultural renaissance. At the same time, BC's many Aboriginal cultures are increasingly accessible to visitors, with growth in everything from Aboriginal-owned art galleries and cultural centres, to First Nations-operated wilderness treks, wildlife viewing tours and cultural experiences. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Botswana Rising

Remote, yes. Home to the fictional Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency, yes. And thanks to a low volume tourism policy, Botswana remains blissfully unspoiled.

And yet, it is a country whose star is clearly on the ascendancy. Anointed by Lonely Planet as one of the ‘Hot Destinations for 2016’, its popularity as a safari destination continues to grow. This month also marks its 50th year of independence, with the landlocked African nation hitting the big screen with the launch of high-profile film, A United Kingdom, starring Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Tom Felton and Laura Carmichael, which tells the story of Botswanan prince Seretse Khama, who later became Botswana’s first democratically elected president.

So what makes Botswana so special? Well for start, it’s hard to go past beautiful landscapes and the quality and abundance of wildlife. Then there’s its rare combination of desert and delta. The Kalahari Desert makes up more than 80% of this landlocked country, and the vast sponge into which the swollen Okavango River disappears each year creates the largest inland delta in the world – the Okavango Delta. And in the northwest of Botswana, lies Chobe National Park, home to the largest population of elephants in the world.

Over 17% of the country is dedicated to national parks, and in 2014 the Okavango Delta became UNESCO's 1,000th World Heritage Site. That means a Botswana safari offers up varied safari holiday across a broad expanse of savanna, desert, saltpan and wetland in one of the most pristine wildlife destinations in Africa.

In what is also one of the most sparsely populated countries in southern Africa, a safari here is an intimate experience where close-up game viewing is the norm and boutique safari camps the ultimate home-away-from-home. There is a multitude of ways to acquaint yourself with the wildlife - on a gently poled mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe) trip through the waterways, by open 4WD vehicle, from the air and on foot – you won’t be disappointed.

Ten great reasons to visit Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula this summer



Located an easy hours’ drive from Melbourne, Geelong and its neighbouring peninsula - The Bellarine, are the ideal destinations for a day trip, weekend getaway or extended summer holiday. Here are 10 reasons to add this beautiful part of Victoria to your must-visit list this summer.

Destination dining – Geelong and its surrounding areas are home to some of the best regional dining you will find in Australia. A must visit location in Geelong is Aaron Turner’s IGNI, which has won numerous accolades since opening earlier in the year. On the Bellarine, you will find Jack Rabbit Restaurant, Oakdene Vineyards Restaurant, The Shed Restaurant at Terindah Estate and the Vue Grand Hotel. To the north of Geelong, Matt Dempsey’s Gladioli has well and truly put Inverleigh on the gourmet trail, while his second restaurant in Geelong, Tulip, continues to impress guests from near and far.

Old becomes new – as Geelong moves further away from its industrial past, old manufacturing spaces are being taken over and converted into hip new cafes, bars, restaurants, accommodation and attractions. The new Devlin Apartments, which opened in April this year, boasts 37 luxury self-contained short stay apartments and rooms and is located in the heritage listed former Gordon Junior Technical School. Nearby, Little Creatures Brewery and White Rabbit Brewery & Barrel Hall have firmly imprinted themselves at the site of the old woollen mills. The Old Paper Mills at Fyansford, established in the 1870s and located along the Barwon River, has quickly established itself as an arts and culture precinct with an onsite gallery and an onsite winery and function centre set to open soon. Back in town, Boom Gallery located just off Pakington Street, is a vibrant contemporary art and design gallery housed in an historic woollen mill.

Cool urban precincts – Geelong boasts two inner city precincts where visitors will find cool cafes, wine bars, restaurants and designer shops. In the heart of the city, along Little Malop Street, you will find some of the best coffee in town at Coffee Cartel, an impressive selection of local wines at Geelong Cellar Door, Nashville-style chicken at Aaron Turner’s Hot Chicken Project and decadent late night desserts at Armageddon Cake. Just outside the city centre, Pakington Street is home to many of the most popular venues in town, including King of the Castle, Zigfrids Dining Hall &Bar and Geelong Fresh Foods, just to name a few.

Amazing beaches – All summer long, visitors flock to The Bellarine to enjoy the region’s beautiful beaches. Avid surfers head to popular surf spots such as 13th Beach or Raffs Beach in Barwon Heads, while beginner surfers can enjoy a surf lesson at Ocean Grove beach with Go Ride a Wave or Sea Earth Adventures. Families can take advantage of the pristine sand and gentle waves at the Ocean Grove main beach, considered one of the safest in Victoria. Whereas the mouth of the Barwon River in Barwon Heads is the ideal location for paddling in the shallow water, exploring rock pools or gliding over the smooth water on a stand up paddle board. Other must-visit beachside locations include exploring the rock pools at Point Lonsdale and the sheltered and family friendly bay at Portarlington.


Bountiful local produce – The Bellarine is home to an impressive collection of boutique wineries, farm gates, provedores and establishments serving up dishes featuring local produce. The best way to discover them all is by picking up a Bellarine Taste Trail map, which will take you on a delicious journey through the region. Or check out the detailed website, which includes all the information you need to plan your gastronomic journey in advance.

Untapped wine region – the Moorabool Valley, to the north of Geelong is home to quaint villages, rolling hills, beautiful scenery and award-winning wineries. The region has a history stretching back to 1842, when Swiss immigrants planted the first vines. It is now considered one of Australia’s finest cool-climate wine growing areas, which can easily be explored on a leisurely weekend away. Top wineries to add to your must-visit list include Clyde Park Vineyard and Bistro, Lethbridge Wines, Moorabool Ridge Vineyard and Austins & Co.

A water lover’s paradise – with a spectacular coastline hugging the region from Geelong right through to Barwon Heads and beyond, it’s no surprise that you will find plenty of water based activities to choose from. You can discover the region’s rich maritime past and get up close to nature on a tour with South Bay Eco Adventures, swim with the dolphins with See All Dolphins Swims or cruise between the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsula’s aboard Searoad Ferries. For underwater adventures, Dive Victoria offers diving trips to explore the ex HMAS Canberra which was sunk into Port Phillip Bay in 2009. Tours depart from Queenscliff Harbour.

Outstanding public golf courses – The Bellarine is a golfer’s paradise, boasting four outstanding public courses which are consistently rated as some of the best in Australia. Take your pick from Curlewis Golf Club, Barwon Heads Golf Club, or one of the two courses at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links. Add golf courses at Queenscliff (sitting on the scenic Swan Island), Portarlington and Point Lonsdale to the impressive list of courses on offer and you will see golfers truly are spoilt for choice in this part of the world.

Two wheeled adventures – whether you prefer loose shorts or lycra, the Geelong Bellarine region is home to various cycling trails suitable for all abilities. The You Yangs are the go-to place for mountain biking, boasting two designated mountain bike areas with 50 kilometres of track. The Bellarine Rail Trail is a scenic 35 kilometre trail that winds from South Geelong to Queenscliff. This mostly flat trail provides easy access to many of the regions attractions and villages. Meanwhile, thousands of visitors flock to Geelong in January every year for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Cyclists can join Cadel himself in the People’s Ride which starts and finishes in Geelong.

Endless family fun – in both Geelong and The Bellarine you will find ample activities to keep the family entertained. In Geelong, the stunning waterfront truly comes alive during summer, the youngest members of the family love discovering the old world charm of the beautifully restored Geelong Carousel, while the older kids will love the diving boards at the historic early century beach promenade at Eastern Beach. All members of the family will enjoy exploring the colourful Geelong Waterfront Bollard Trail, comprising 104 bollards, each representing a different character from Geelong's history. Out of town, you will find the hugely popular Adventure Park, which houses a diverse array of water and land-based rides that cater for the whole family. The wider region also boasts a large number of award-winning, family friendly holiday and caravan holiday parks, providing the ideal place to base yourself for a few days, a week or longer.

For further information go to www.visitgeelongbellarine.com.au.

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 Niño 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: http://www.visitlakemac.com.au 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.

 

queenslandrail.com.au

facebook.com/queenslandrail

twitter.com/queenslandrail


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.
http://www.southernlakesresort.com/

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. http://www.nimmobay.com/



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! http://bit.ly/29N4Tpe #ExploreCanada

www.keepexploring.ca

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 Booking.com* 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 Booking.com 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.




Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rosedown Plantation - National Historic Landmark in Louisiana



Text: Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism
Images: Roderick Eime


Rosedown Plantation is located in the West Feliciana Parish community of St. Francisville along one of the most historic corridors in South Louisiana. The historic presence of the River created deep soil deposits to form uplands that became, in the days of the cotton boom, extremely productive and valuable. In addition to the natural flats, creeks draining to the River created some expanses of rugged, heavily treed terrain that became profitable as timberland.

The parents of Daniel and Martha (Barrow) Turnbull achieved high social status in West Feliciana through their immense cotton operations, and Daniel Turnbull himself was known before the Civil War as one of the richest men in the nation. The land that became Rosedown Plantation, named for a play that the Turnbulls saw on their honeymoon, was assembled not by the then-usual method of Spanish Land Grants, but in a group of seven purchases made by Daniel Turnbull from the 1820s through the 1840s. At its largest, Rosedown Plantation comprised approximately 3,455 acres, the majority of which was planted in cotton.

Daniel and Martha Turnbull began construction on the main house at Rosedown in 1834, completing it by May the following year. The home was furnished with the finest pieces available, most imported from the North and from Europe. A surprising amount of the furnishings purchased by the Turnbulls remained with the house during the years after the Civil War and many original pieces are still on display at Rosedown.


The gardens were the province of Martha Turnbull throughout her life. The Turnbulls’ honeymoon in Europe included great formal gardens of France and Italy, an influence seen in Martha's activities at Rosedown. The gardens grew out from the house over a span of many decades, to cover approximately 28 acres. In the 19th century, Rosedown was one of the few privately maintained formal gardens in the United States.

The contribution of slave labor to the construction and upkeep of the plantation, as well as agricultural prosperity and wealth accrued by Daniel Turnbull, was immense. During peak years of cotton production, operation of Rosedown utilized as many as 450 slaves.

In the 1950s, Turnbull family members decided to try to sell the old plantation whole. In 1956, Catherine Fondren Underwood, herself an enthusiastic amateur horticulturalist, purchased it and began an eight-year historic restoration of the house and formal gardens.



The emphasis on restoration rather than renovation was applied to the formal gardens as well, which were reconstructed by Ralph Ellis Gunn using Martha Turnbull’s extensive garden diaries. When possible, the same species and varieties were replanted. When plants in Martha’s inventory were discovered to be no longer available, the staff of gardeners would propagate them from plant stock surviving in the gardens. Through this process, the gardens, as well as the house, were returned to their original state.

Currently, the main house, historic gardens and 13 historic buildings and 371 remaining acres of Rosedown Plantation are preserved as a state historic site by the Office of State Parks. State Parks staff and volunteers work to conserve and maintain the site, conducting tours and programs to illustrate plantation life in the 1800s. In 2005, Rosedown Plantation was place on the National Listing of Historic Landmarks.



Address:
12501 Highway 10
St. Francisville, LA 70775

Google Map

Directions:The site is located in West Feliciana Parish, in St. Francisville on La. 10. From Baton Rouge, follow US 61 north to La. 10, then turn right and head east one-quarter mile to the front gate.

Coordinates:30.798078, -91.373827.

Phone: 225-635-3332 or 1-888-376-1867

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily.
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Tours: Guided tours are offered on the hour, with the final tour beginning at 4 p.m.

Entrance Fees:
$10 for adults (age 18 from 61);
$8 for senior citizens (age 62 and over);
$4 for students (age 6 through 17).
Free for children age 5 and under.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tourism Malaysia’s guide to Langkawi


MALAYSIA'S LANGKAWI, MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE.





One of Malaysia's best-known and most popular beach destinations, Langkawi, is a stunning archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea adjacent to the Thai border. The largest of these, Langkawi, features a range of breathtaking beach side resorts, making it a popular choice for anyone who adores beautiful beaches and luxury hotels – and especially couples seeking a romantic escape.

But there is definitively more to Langkawi than a honeymooner's retreat. The island's outstanding geological landscapes have earned it the geo-park title by UNESCO – making it the only geo-park in Southeast Asia, and one of only 50 worldwide, and its best attractions make the most of the natural landscapes, expansive parks, and iconic structures that no first-time visitor should skip on their travel itinerary. Add in a rich history, amazing food, excellent diving opportunities, exciting nightlife and dirt-cheap shopping, and Langkawi is guaranteed to appeal to every traveller no matter what your tastes and budget.

Here is Tourism Malaysia's guide to Langkawi's top six 'don't miss' attractions.

Pasir Tengkorak Beach

Langkawi is rightly famous for its pristine beaches. Datai Bay, Pantai Cenang, and Tanjung Rhu are rated among the best in the world, while vast roads provide easy access to its vibrant beach towns.

But arguably the best beach on an island famed for them is Tengkorak Beach or, literally translated, 'Sands of the Skull Beach'. Pasir Tengkorak is often overlooked by tourists who settle for the famous Cenang Beach on Langkawi's southern side. However, as locals will attest, it is simply beautiful and beautifully simple, surrounded nature for 360 degrees. A standout attraction is the spectacular, Temurun waterfall nearby – an ancient 200m, three-tiered cataract, which is one of the highest beachfront waterfalls in the world.

A great option for casual picnics and stretching out on a towel for a few hours, this pocket-sized beach is unlikely to become overcrowded, except on weekends. It is nestled between two small headlands and the waterfall is only a few minutes by car to the west or a 15-minute trek.

Langkawi Sky Bridge




The Langkawi Sky Bridge is a 125 metre-long curved pedestrian bridge that offers an exhilarating (and sometimes terrifying) view of the verdant Gunung Mat Cincang, stunning Telaja Tujuh waterfalls, and several islets surrounding Langkawi. Set 700 metres above sea level, it is only accessible via a vertiginous 15-minute ride aboard the Langkawi Cable Car ride. The sturdy Sky Bridge can accommodate up to 250 people at a time, with two triangular platforms where you can relax and enjoy the cool breeze.

Opening Hours: Monday - Tuesday 10:00 – 19:00, Wednesday 12:00 – 19:00, Thursday 10:00 – 19:00, Friday _ Saturday 09:30 – 19:00

Prices: RM35 (adults) and RM25 (children aged two to 12 years old)

Underwater World Langkawi

Set along the vibrant Pantai Cenang beach town, Underwater World Langkawi houses more than 500 species of sea creatures including harbour seals, rock hopper penguins, seahorses, as well as flamingos and mandarin ducks. A highlight is a 15-metre walkthrough underwater tunnel, where you can enjoy close-up views of sharks, giant stingrays, and green turtles. And when you tire of the life aquatic, head next door to the Zon Shopping Paradise and Coco Valley and indulge in a great selection of duty-free goods.

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 09:30 – 18:30, Friday – Sunday 09:30 – 22:30

Prices: RM40 (adults) and RM30 (children aged 3 to 12 years old)

Gunung Raya

With an altitude of 881 metres, Gunung Raya is the highest peak in Langkawi. According to local beliefs, the mountain is the cursed form of a giant called Mat Raya, who had once dwelt on the island. The dense rainforest is home to numerous wildlife such as leaf monkeys, flying foxes, macaque monkeys, squirrels, mountain hawk eagles, white bellied sea eagles, and great hornbills, making it one of the best hiking destinations on the island.

Pulau Payar Marine Park

Just 30km south of Langkawi Island is Pulau Payar Marine Park, offer up some of Langkawi's best snorkelling and diving opportunities. Just 45 minutes away from Kuah Jetty via catamaran or a speedboat, one of Pulau Payar Marine Park's best features is its Coral Garden, a secluded section filled with colourful corals. Those eager to explore the park will have to obtain permission from the authorities (fishing is strictly prohibited) before venturing into the waters. Alternatively you can join a tour group, which is usually inclusive of snorkelling gear, lunch, and drinking water.

Telaga Tujuh Waterfall

Telaga Tujuh Waterfall is a spectacular natural Langkawi attraction, that locals claim is home to the island's faeries. Set on Langkawi's western headlands, its name means Seven Wells Waterfalls, referring to a series of seven connected natural pools fed by seven separate waterfalls in Gunung Mat Cincang. Visitors can enjoy a dip in the cool water or brave the steep long climb to the top of the waterfalls, past huge rocks and through the seven pools, where macaques, hornbills, and squirrels can be spotted along the journey.


For more information about tours of Langkawi and Malaysia, please contact:

Tourism Malaysia
Telephone: +612 9286 3055, Fax: +612 9283 8311,
Email: malaysia@malaysiatourism.com.au or visit http://www.malaysia.travel


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Africa's Great Migration: Things to know.




There are a wealth of sights and attractions that visitors traveling to Africa on safari want to see and do, but witnessing the Great Migration is high on most bucket lists.

And this is no 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.

So if you are contemplating a safari to Tanzania or Kenya, here are the top five things you need to know about the Great Migration to help you on your way.

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 yearlong 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 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 are plenty other animals to see as well including gazelles, elephants, lions, leopards and cheetah, just to name a few.

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 savanna.

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 en masse. 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 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 aspect of any great 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 safari. Boutique luxury safari operator, Sanctuary Retreats, operates a handful of remarkable properties located in some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Tanzania and Kenya. They also make the ideal base from which to explore the local wildlife and to observe the Great Migration at close range. Sanctuary Retreats also has 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 meaning you wont miss anything, no matter what time of year you choose to travel.

Safari is about more than the Great Migration

Perhaps the most important point of all is best expressed by author and self-confessed safari fan, Matt Long. "Safari is transformative for any number of reasons, but mostly because it humbles us. It demonstrates to us the raw power of nature, along with its resiliency. The Great Migration has been on-going for longer than any of us realize, and the animals that call the Serengeti home put us in our place. They teach us how fleeting our own lives are, how inconsequential our problems are when put in the larger context of the world and how slow time really moves."


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Discover Monroe-West Monroe, Louisiana



Follow the Beards

When Duck Dynasty first aired on A&E, viewers immediately fell in love with the Robertson family, who showcase their redneck antics and a life centered on “Faith, Family, & Ducks” each week on Wednesday nights.

Now, fans from around the world travel to Monroe-West Monroe looking to get a taste of the life of the Bearded Ones. With the help of the Official Duck Commander Hometown Tour, visitors can do just that as they follow in the footsteps of the stars of one of the most popular reality shows in history.

The self-guided tour allows visitors to live out some of the most popular scenes and episodes such as Debbie’s Snowballs and Haskell’s Donuts. The Duck Commander Hometown Tour is available in two formats, a mobile website and a printed map. You can visit the website at www.duckcommandertour.com to access photos, location details, and a map. To receive a copy of the printed map, contact the Monroe-West Monroe Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.monroe-westmonroe.org.




Aviation History Comes Alive

Located in Monroe, Louisiana, the Chennault Aviation & Military Museum of Louisiana is housed in one of the last remaining buildings from the WWII Selman Field Army-Air Force Navigation School. The school, which opened in 1942, was the largest in the US. It offered the United State's only complete navigation course during WWII. The school graduated over 15,000 navigators, over 1,500 of whom lost their lives in combat.

The museum is home to exhibits telling the story of Gen. Claire Lee Chennault and his Flying Tigers. This squadron is known for preventing the Japanese from taking over China in World War II. Delta Airlines, having gotten its start in Monroe, is also a featured exhibit. The museum expanded in 2007 and now has 10,000 square feet of exhibit area. Each wing of the armed services is featured with dedications to many local heroes.



Bibles, Coca-Cola and Majestic Gardens

The Biedenharn Museum and Gardens is one of Monroe-West Monroe’s most eclectic attractions. In one place, visitors can experience the story of an Opera Singer, her love for Bibles, music and gardens, along with the beginning of an American icon, Coca-Cola.

Joseph Biedenharn was the 1st bottler of Coca-Cola. His family home, located alongside the Ouachita River, is now home to a museum featuring the life and collections of his beloved daughter Emy-Lou, a European Opera Singer. The home is surrounded by majestic gardens filled with beautiful fountains and plays host to musical performances as well as children’s activities. From early spring to winter, there is always something in bloom. Even during winter months, the conservatory will feature poinsettia trees and flowering plants.




The Bible Museum recently reopened its doors in May 2010. The museum showcases rare and unique Bibles, including the Biedenharn's Guttenberg Leaf, and Russian icons from the Daniel Bibb collection. Emy-Lou began collecting Bibles after receiving a facsimile of the Wycliffe Bible from her father.

Your trip isn’t complete until you stop at the Coca-Cola Museum. Visitors can visit with a soda jerk at the soda fountain and view a demonstration of how Coke was originally bottled. There is also a vintage Model T Coca-Cola delivery truck, neon signs and tons of Coca-Cola memorabilia. And no trip to the Coca-Cola Museum is complete without a 5¢ glass bottle Coke from one of the vintage Coke machines .

Nature at its most natural

Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge offers visitors a chance to experience raw, untouched nature. Walking trails, a pier over the bayou and a birding blind bring you right into the natural habitats of North Louisiana wildlife such as alligators, turtles, coyotes, deer, herons, egrets and more. The Conservation Learning Center features an Aquarium Room with live exhibits of native fish, reptiles and amphibians .On-site canoe rental is available for those who want that up-close experience. The refuge is located just to the north of Monroe on Hwy. 165.


Landry Vineyards, located in the hills of West Monroe

Landry Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery located in the hills of West Monroe, Louisiana. The Landrys produce wines ranging from Dry to Semi-Sweet. Visitors can sample these wines with cheese and bread, while enjoying the picturesque views from the new tasting room. Don’t miss their concert series with live music on the beautiful grounds.

Merry “Christmas on the River”

Christmas on the River is a new Christmas celebration in the historic downtowns of Monroe and West Monroe that includes beautiful Christmas lighting displays, entertainment, extended shopping hours, and much more! The event kicks off for the public with a lighting ceremony the weekend after Thanksgiving. A festival weekend follows the first weekend in December that includes all-day entertainment, food, the Cottonland Christmas parade, and fireworks, to name a few! The celebration continues until Christmas with one weekend dedicated to an “old fashioned Christmas” and continued entertainment and festivities.

More to Discover!

Kids will have a ball at the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum. It’s so much fun they’ll never know it’s a museum! This is a super place where adults and kids can learn and grow together. Permanent exhibits include the Firehouse (a replica of a Firehouse with a pole), Health Hall (be a paramedic, listen to your heart), Toddlertown (cool, whimsical area for those under 4), Kids’ Café (be a server, cashier, chef), Bubbleworks (a giant bubble!) and The Big Mouth (walk in and explore)! Great traveling exhibits from across the U.S. are featured throughout the year, too. Party packages are available, and a gift shop is on the premises. It’s where learning is fun!

The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo is home to over 450 animals, many in naturalistic habitats, plants of all kinds, rides and more. A special Louisiana Purchase exhibit features animals indigenous to the Louisiana Purchase area like the black bear, elk, and mountain lion. It’s a must see for all families.

The Masur Museum of Art is truly a wonderful museum, set in a 1920s Tudor-style structure (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) with charming open spaces, hardwood floors and inviting year-round displays of a wide spectrum of art. The Masur Museum features a permanent collection of paintings, prints and sculpture, as well as six to eight exhibitions annually of art from museums and artists nationwide. An annual national juried exhibition is also held. Art lectures, gallery talks, special presentations, art classes and workshops are conducted year-round.

The Northeast Louisiana Delta African American Museum is a fascinating collection of African American art, culture and history! Changing art exhibits feature local and regional African American artists. An interesting array of artifacts from Northeast Louisiana includes kitchenware and furniture from old slave cabins, early cotton farming tools, even sacks used for picking cotton. Also on display are life-like models of famous African American leaders like statesman and reformer Frederick Douglass, educator Mary Bethune and first African American millionaire and businesswoman Madam C.J. Walker, as well as an archival section featuring local African American leaders, their history and contributions.
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