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Sunday, July 30, 2017

President's secret New York rail tunnel keeps us guessing



LURE OF A NEW YORK BEST-KEPT SECRET

David Ellis

IT was once a New York City well-kept secret, a long-abandoned rail station deep below the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at which American presidents, giants of industry and matrons from highest society, would be dropped from their very own private trains and whisked by elevator to dine or overnight in the 5-star Waldorf hotel above.

And if they wished, have their limousines that they had brought with them aboard those personally-owned trains, off-loaded by their chauffeurs and taken by separate elevators to the hotel's carpark, instantly ready for further travels and appointments around the city.

Today, the old subterranean station that was first used in 1938 and then most-heavily through the 1940s, is known simply as Track 61 and largely gathers dust between occasional filming usages and some off-beat product launches. And it's acquired something of a "holy grail" status amongst so-called urban explorers, those engaged in a constant battle of wits with its owners, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel above, as they leave personal marks proving their success in breaking into this dark, dank and supposedly impenetrable cavern.

And to also boarding an historic rail car still down there to leave further marks alluding to their visit, a rail car which once would have been hooked-up to the train of President Franklin D Roosevelt – with his various luxury and first-ever armour-plated presidential limousines, that would have been carried aboard and be hauled by elevator to the street above while the President dined in the Waldorf.

Like President Roosevelt's personal passenger carriage (which is now in Miami's Gold Coast Rail Museum,) the rail car that carried his limos has 15mm thick steel armour-plating, 76mm thick glass windows, and two escape hatches.

President Roosevelt used the private train extensively as he suffered from polio, and rail gave him a more comfortable means of travel with his wheelchair and other aids as he criss-crossed America, addressing vast crowds from the observation platform of the train's last carriage.

FOOTNOTE: To this day, whenever a President of the United States stays at the Waldorf-Astoria, a diesel train with a team of FBI and Presidential guards waits below at the Track 61 platform with motors running, in case urgent escape is needed in the event of an attack on the President.


PHOTO CAPTIONS:


[] THIS rail car, parked permanently on Track 61 under the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City today, was part of the personal train of President Franklin D Roosevelt, carrying his various luxury and armour-plated limousines with him on his rail travels around America. (Waldorf-Astoria Hotel)

[] PRESIDENT Franklin D Roosevelt surrounded by security guards – within his car, on foot on the roadway, and in the car behind. The limo is a 1939 Lincoln K-series dubbed "The Sunshine Special" because of its retractable roof, and one of the first American Presidential cars to be armour-plated and to have bullet-proof windows – yet not have a bullet-proof roof. (Miami Gold Coast Rail Museum)

[] TRAVELLING by rail allowed President Franklin D Roosevelt to address vast crowds from the observation platform of the last carriage of his train, despite him being handicapped with polio. (Miami Gold Coast Rail Museum)




Friday, July 21, 2017

Beautiful Sanya, Romantic Paradise


#China #Sanya Celebration Focus on International #Tourism




The 2017 Sanya Celebration ("Celebration"), an international tourism promotional event organized by the Municipal Government of Sanya, officially kicks off in July. From July to September, themed "A romantic invitation to the beautiful Sanya city," the event will be hosted in the following countries in four groups: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia; the United Kingdom, Germany; Russia, Kazakhstan; Singapore and India to introduce the city's unique charms.

"Beautiful Sanya, Romantic Paradise" Sanya City Promotes "Sanya Celebration"
Located on Hainan Island in south China, Sanya is a renowned tropical coastal paradise for vacation and a key international gateway of the island. Sanya Tourism Commission statistics show that with a steady rebound of international tourists in recent years, especially in 2017, Sanya has attracted near 280,000 inbound tourists from January to May, increasing over 70 percent compared to the same period last year.

Tianya Haijiao, a popular visitor attraction in Sanya City
At the events, Sanya will introduce its latest city information, the classic coastal resort products, folk customs tours of local Li and Miao ethnic minorities, ecological forest tour, countryside tours and traditional Chinese medicine therapy tours.

The Celebration will present the city's advantages in terms of tourism resources, economy and cultural heritages to promote inbound tourism of Sanya City as well as Hainan island. The city is targeting to receive 1 million international visitors in 2018, building it into the biggest international tourism in South China area.

Following the Belt and Road Initiative (B&R) development strategy, Sanya is actively expanding in the markets of Asia and Europe as well as Commonwealth of Independent States to build a transportation hub and destination along the Maritime Silk Road within 4-, 8- and 24-hour reach.

About Sanya

Located in the southernmost point of China's Hainan island, Sanya is an international coastal destination. The city has been praised by global visitors as the only Chinese seaside vacation destination for its stunning coastline and profound cultural heritage.

For more information about Sanya please visit: http://english.sanya.gov.cn/publicfiles//business/htmlfiles/englishsite/tourism/index.html

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Visiting South Australia’s Flinders Ranges

#southaustralia

South Australia’s Flinders Ranges is representative of the magnificent outback landscapes that typify Australia as a wondrous natural and cultural destination.

South Australia's Flinders Ranges are ideally explored by 4WD or SUV (South Australian Tourism Commission)

The Flinders Ranges can be considered the southernmost region of the “outback” and at just 200 kilometres by road from the state capital of Adelaide, are easily accessible for self-drive travellers and escorted tourists alike. They stretch from Crystal Brook near Port Pirie in the south to Arkaroola in the north, a distance of more than 400 km

The ‘birth’ of the ranges occurred around 540 million years ago during the Cambrian Period when the region was subjected to severe faulting. Over the subsequent millions of years, erosion created the unique and dramatic red and ochre landscape formations we see today and sets them apart from the many other ancient landforms in the outback.

Human history is equally significant and the stories and beliefs relating to its creation are central to the way of life of the region’s Adnyamathanha people. Their Yura Muda stories provide an intriguing standpoint from which to view the land and its stunning physical features. It is possible to hear evocative spiritual accounts of the formation of the ancient ranges from the descendants of the original inhabitants.

European settlement in South Australia began in 1836 with the establishment of Adelaide. Drovers and cattlemen quickly ventured north in search of pasture and early encounters with the Adnyamathanha were marred by conflict.

The Aboriginal Dreaming Trail runs to the Nepabunna community where visitors can meet some of the locals and get a feel for their contemporary way of life. Visit the Tunnel of Time exhibition at the Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta and learn about the local traditions and impacts of early settlement.

Flinders Ranges Seasonal Events Program offers a range of additional cultural activities including Adnyamathanha cultural tours.

Camping at Rawnsley Park Station  (South Australian Tourism Commission)

Wilpena Pound, an enormous natural amphitheatre, is considered the centre of the Flinders Ranges National Park. After the failure of agriculture in the early 20th Century, the emphasis switched to tourism and the sprawling cattle stations converted to tourist resorts. Rawnsley Park Station is named after Rawnsley Bluff, the southern tip of Wilpena Pound. The property is 29,000 acres including part of the neighbouring Arkapena and Prelinna Stations added in 2009.

The plants of the region sustained the small indigenous communities for thousands of years, providing food, tools, shelter, medicines, ornaments and ceremonial objects. At least 85 plant species in the park are of national, state or regional conservation significance.

The native animals of the Flinders Ranges are well adapted to the climatic extremes. Permanent waterholes for stock and the removal of dingoes have allowed native animals to return including kangaroos and echidnas. Birdlife is also rich and varied, with more than 100 native bird recorded species making bushwalking or cycling a rare experience.

The proximity of the famous Barossa Valley wine region makes it simple to include an enriching wine and food tour through some of the countries acclaimed vineyards like Wolf Blass, Seppelts and Kaiser Stuhl as well as the many small boutique vintners.

Did You Know? Aboriginal legend says that Arkaroo, a mythical monster, drank Lake Frome dry and crawled up into the mountains. He urinated to create the many waterholes of the area then squirmed across the land to create Arkaroola Creek.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A tropical holiday in Berlin. True.



BERLIN'S SURPRISING TROPICAL RETREAT

David Ellis

BERLIN hardly springs to mind when talk turns to tropical escapes, but pleasure-seekers in their thousands flock daily  to the Tropical Islands Resort that's 60km south of the city to revel on its sands, swim its waters, bask in 26 degrees warmth, and walk its dense rainforest.

And they do so even in winter, when around them there's snow as far as the eye can see…

For this amazing Resort has been created inside one of the largest buildings on earth, a monstrous 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and 107 metres high, and originally built seventeen years ago to house the huge CL160 CargoLifter airship. But CargoLifter went bankrupt before a single airship saw its interior, and the hangar was abandoned.

Then in 2003 Malaysian entrepreneur Colin Au bought the hangar for Euro17.5m (AU$26m,) and inside created a "tropical sea" covering 4,400 sq metres and a "Bali lagoon" of 1,200 sq metres for swimming, with vast sandy beaches alongside both, several other swimming pools, plus fountains, whirlpools and waterslides.

He also added the world's biggest indoor rainforest with 50,000 trees and plants, a novelty golf course, and a stage for evening entertainment, and let loose flamingos, quail, pheasants and other birds to stride and fly the resort, and turtles and fish to live in its waters.

And finally a dozen bars and restaurants offering Asian, European and American fare, accommodation blocks for overnight stays or longer, shops and boutiques, and Europe's largest tropical sauna and spa complex, many housed in structures replicating the architectures of Thailand, Borneo, Bali and Samoa.

Tropical Islands Resort is open 24/7 and can cater for up to 6,000 visitors a day. For details including entry fees, additional optional costs inside, and overnight accommodation, go to www.tropical-islands.de
 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:


[] TROPICAL Islands Resort has beaches and bars, spas and shops, a rainforest and guest accommodation, all housed in this vast hangar from a failed one-time airship venture near Berlin. (Pic: Tropical Islands Resort)    

[] WHILE guests frolic in the "tropics" inside, it could be snowing outside. The vehicles outside give an idea of just how vast is this building. (Pic: Tropical Islands Resort)

 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pie time is high time in NSW Southern Highlands


David Ellis

COULD New South Wales be on the verge of having a new geographical region – the Southern Pie-lands, after the stunning success in June of Australia's first-ever month-long celebration of the great Aussie pie in the Southern Highlands between Sydney and Canberra?

Dubbed Pie Time, it saw a mind-blowing 100,000-plus pies wolfed down during the month by locals and visitors alike in cafés, pubs, restaurants, take-away shops and home dining rooms, and had chefs working 24-hours straight at times to keep ovens catering for demand… or having to shut up shop early after simply running out of supplies.

And pie aficionados happily told of driving from Victoria, the ACT, Queensland and from across New South Wales to experience as many as they could of the diversity of pies they'd heard were on offer, pies both hot and cold, and sweet and savoury.

With thirty direct-outlet pie bakeries, the Southern Highlands have more per square kilometre than anywhere else in Australia, and as well as offering-up the products of these, organisers of Pie Time oversaw pie tastings, pie and beer matchings and pie talks.

And all said they were absolutely blown-away with the interest in Pie Time and demand for their products, which far exceeded all expectations.

Plus there was a pie judging, with the title of Grand Champion Pie going to a beer-braised pork neck in short pastry dubbed The Bernie,  that was created jointly by owner/pie maker at Southern Rise Pies at Moss Vale, Matt Fitzgerald and owner/chef of Bernies Diner in Moss Vale, Ionnas Benardos.

And as pie aficionados are already saying, June 2018 can't come quickly enough in the Southern Pie-lands.

(If you want to know more about the Southern Highlands and what to enjoy there year-round, go to https://www.southern-highlands.com.au/)


PHOTO:

[] OWNER of Gumnut Patisserie in Bowral, Tracy Nikl rolls out another cart-load of pies for Southern Highlands Pie Time that saw locals and visitors wolf down a guestimated 100,000 pies during June's first-ever month-long Pie Time. (supplied)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Five Reasons to Visit Kangaroo Island in South Australia



Last month QantasLink announced a new flight route to Kangaroo Island (KI) – direct flights to Kingscote Airport from Melbourne and Adelaide.

The new flight route reflects the increasing demand and popularity of KI and provides a massive boost for tourism in South Australia and will be available from December 2017.

With the exceptional tourism products, sweeping landscapes and unique accommodation options KI has on offer, it's not hard to see why it's one of the hottest destinations for travellers to visit.

 Here are five reasons to travel to Kangaroo Island:

1. Beautiful Accommodation
Accommodation on KI is luxurious and will not disappoint - especially the likes of Southern Ocean Lodge, Lifetime Private Retreats, Kangaroo Island Beach Lodge, Villas on the Bay and Sea Dragon Lodge to name a few.

2. Natural Beauty
From soaring cliffs, dense bushland, Little Sahara Sand Dunes, wetlands, miles of white beaches and azure water, to the new Wilderness Trail stretching across 61 kilometres of rugged, remote coastline - KI's natural beauty will astound.

3. Wildlife encounters
With over 24 protected areas, 19 National and Conservation Parks including Seal Bay and five Wilderness Protection Areas - KI is a sanctuary for wildlife. Experience up-close encounters with Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari, including the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins, or take a tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours to experience KI's abundant wildlife.

4. Fresh produce
KI is a foodie's delight – with fresh and delicious produce at every corner. Include a visit to Island Pure Dairy to taste their range of sheep yoghurt and premium cheeses, stop in for lunch at Andermel Marron farm, sample Ligurian honey at Clifford's honey farm or end the day with a gourmet meal overlooking the Southern Ocean at Sunset Food and Wine.

5. Unique Tours 
Tour operators like Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours, Odyssey Tours and KI Wilderness Tours are ready to showcase the very best KI has to offer while Hannaford and Satch's bespoke and intimate dining options will leave a lasting impression. Whether you're looking for sun, surf and sand, high end luxury or rugged adventure – KI has you covered.

For more information regarding South Australia and its regions, visit http://southaustralia.com/.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Learn how Experts Camp in Winter - and Have Fun!



From elevating the humble Winter beanie to debunking myths about how to stay warm in a sleeping bag; more than 60 managers from 36 holiday parks from coastal and country NSW have pulled together their collective knowledge to ensure families have a fun Winter caravanning or camping adventure.

The tips, which range from sensible clothing advice to fun ways to keep warm like snuggling your loved ones around a camp fire come from the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT) Group which manages 36 holiday parks across NSW and encompass North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP), South Coast Holiday Parks (SCHP) and Inland Waters Holiday Parks (IWHP).

NSWCHPT CEO Steve Edmonds said park teams and the collective knowledge of the Group represented decades of camping experience in all kinds of weather so families could rest assured that the best advice was on hand to help families and campers have a great holiday.

"The biggest myth of all is that people won't have a good time if they go camping in the colder months when in fact this time of year is one of the best times for outdoor activities at our parks like fishing, surfing and hiking," Mr Edmonds said.

Top Winter camping thoughts include:
  • The humble beanie is a good move as it prevents lots of heat loss.
  • The Ugg Boot, (or equivalent), should be on any serious Glamper's winter check list!
  • Thermals are also an option if you're too far away from a warm house!
  • Select a good quality sleeping bag. There are some very good ones on the market now.
  • Why not prepare some yummy stews, soups and hearty foods prior to arriving; they will certainly keep you fuelled with warmth and energised to play!
  • Make sure you air your tent daily to prevent condensation build up which makes the inside damp and uncomfortable.
  • When the ground is cold; use foam floor tiles on the tent floor to give an extra layer of insulation.
  • Don't camp in a valley or watercourse and position your tent to take full advantage of the warming morning sun.
  • Wear a beanie to bed and keep your head out of your sleeping bag as a night of breathing may cause your sleeping bag to become damp.
  • Put glow sticks in water bottles for a game of night time bowling or place them around a tent's guy ropes to prevent trip hazards.

Mr Edmonds said each park also shared their top tips on keeping warm in a tent this Winter, with the consensus being to make sure plenty of thermals and woollen socks were packed, water bottles were not forgotten and hot thermoses of hot chocolate were on hand.  

"My best tip is to prepare and plan ahead for the expected weather and don't forget to have fun", Mr Edmonds said.

"Many of our parks also have communal camp kitchens which are perfect for those wet days and allow guests to enjoy flat screen TVs and electric cooking facilities like bbqs toasters, jugs, microwaves and fridges.

"I am also a big fan of sitting around a camp fire and enjoying the amazing locations our parks are situated in; just don't forget to check which parks allow fires beforehand."

Mr Edmonds said there was still plenty of availability across the parks for the Winter School Holidays, and encouraged anyone thinking of a last-minute trip to book now before sites disappear.

For more information about the coastal and inland holiday parks managed by the Trust and to plan your next caravanning and camping adventure visit www.northcoastholidayparks.com.au, www.southcoastparks.com.au or www.inlandwaters.com.au.



                                                            

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mudgee Historic Railway Station


The station building, when opened, was rated as one of the select group of significant railway structures, surpassed only by regional stations in Newcastle, Albury and Hay.

Currently (2017)

The original Station building was categorised as one of approximately twenty 'first class' stations built between 1870 and 1890 (Late Victorian period) and reflects the John Whitton principles of railway operation.

Mudgee Station was classified by the National Trust (NSW) in 1977 and listed on the Register of the National Estate in 1978.

This station building in its original state, was acclaimed most impressive - and rated amongst the most significant railway stations of its day. However it required some considerable alterations in the 1900's to meet the needs of rail travellers, as lines were extended to new growing towns to the north.

Brief history – (with fascinating related activities).

*24th July 1879 State Parliament sanctioned the extension of the Rail line from Wallerawang to Mudgee. (This approval was piloted through Parliament by Mudgee's member Sir John Robertson. The news of the approval reached Mudgee at midnight of the same day. At this late hour the town 'bandsmen' were assembled who then played appropriate music until daylight).

*First 'Train' to arrive Mudgee:¬Wednesday morning, 10`" September 1884.
It was a mixed 'goods and mail train.

The towns people had everything ready for two days celebrations – town was gaily decorated – a banquet was prepared for the evening of the 10th -in the Engine Shed).

*11th September 1884 six trains arrived Mudgee: One train carrying the official party - Mr. Edmund Barton (Barrister, NSW MP, First Prime Minister after Federation in 1901), Railway Commissioner Mr. Goodchap, and two local Parliamentarians, Sir John Robertson and Mr. A.G. Taylor.
This marked the official opening of the Railway to Mudgee.

(These trains, ex Sydney, each pulled by two engines, collecting passengers en route, arrived Mudgee filled to capacity.

A tremendous feast had been prepared in 'Market Square' (now Robertson Park) for the celebrating townspeople and visitors. A roast bullock, five to six hundred loaves of bread and many ten gallon casks of beer were consumed – one large loaf of bread weighed 150lbs!

That evening a public Ball was held in the Engine Shed to commemorate the opening of the 'Rail Line'. And it rained – no one cared – feasting, dancing and revelry were the order of the day and night.)

* 14th April 1909, extension of 'Line' to Gulgong opened.

*In Nov. 1910, line Gulgong to Dunedoo was opened. In later years the 'Line' was extended to Binnaway, Coonabarabran, Baradine and Gwabegar (end of 'Line').

*With 'Lines' opening northwards - 'Mudgee Refreshment Room' (and kitchen) opened 5th Dec. 1911 to cater for travellers' needs. (These 'rooms' now encompassed what had been the 'Parcels Office, 'out of room' and western end 'open yard' space.

This development brought about a replacement Parcels Office' and 'out of room' being built upon 'open yard space' between eastern end of main building and men's toilet block).

There were numerous building additions/alterations over ensuing years:- 1917, 'Bar' facilities to the 'Refreshment Room'.

1920, verandah (Inglis St. side - near entrance 'Refreshment Room') enclosed to house a Telegraph Office; to provide communications with the departments of 'Station', e.g. 'Goods Shed' etc. Also alterations to main facade, and the alteration of some windows into door -ways.

1927, a 'furnace' to heat 'foot warmers' (a steel canister filled with reactive salts) was built. The 'furnace' with sheltering roof and 'coal bays', is still evident at western end of platform.

*Last 'Rail passenger services' (Dedicated 'Mail Train' ex Sydney to Mudgee & return ceased early 1970's. In lieu thereof a rail 'two car diesel' service (twice daily Monday to Saturday and one return service Sunday), connected with electric Rail service Lithgow. This subsequently ceased): Sunday Is` December 1985. (These 'services' replaced on the following Monday [2nd December '85.] by road Coaches - arriving/departing 'Station'.)

Dec 1991: One of the last trains to Mudgee carefully crosses
the viaduct north of Mudgee bound for Gulgong (David Johnson)

*Last Freight Train': 1992.

*'Line' Kandos to Gulgong closed 1992.

*'Line' Kandos to Gulgong re-opened September 2000; as an alternative route for some 'Freight Trains' during the 2000 Olympic Games.

Reopening Mudgee Station 2000 (Mudgee History)
Following maintenance (considerable 're-sleepering' and viaduct strengthening) 'Tourist' trains subsequently passed through/stayed in Mudgee [some overnight] on an irregular basis for some time afterwards.

        Related story: Rylstone line to re-open for show train (2016)

*'Line' Kandos to Gulgong finally closed again in latter half of 2007.
(On Saturday June 2007 a 'Rally' to protest against the coming 'closure of Line' was held.

The 'Rally' was arranged to raise awareness of the plight of country rail services [to/from Mudgee in particular]. Approx. 500 people attended; the central activity was conducted from an empty flattop rail wagon [the 'wagon' being one unit of a visiting 'Tourist Train'] positioned adjacent to Station platform awning. As part of the 'Protest' attraction Troy Cassar-Daly presented a number of musical items. Pertinent politicians and Railway officials were invited; only attending political/Rail representative was Orange Federal member.

This text from a leaflet prepared by members of

'ART and CRAFTS MUDGEE'

A delightful gallery full of' the finest locally made 'Art & Crafts'

Open 7 days 9am, – 4pm
At the historic Railway Station
Corner Church & Inglis Streets,
MUDGEE NSW 2850
Ph: 02 6372 2822

www.artandcraftsmudgee.com
Facebook.com/artandcraftsmudgee

The content has been researched/confirmed from old documents (or copies thereof), Mudgee Guardian papers and local knowledge, and to our belief is correct in events and dates. Thankyou also to the Colonial Inn Museum


Discover timeless treasures in New York State



You’ll love what New York State has to offer for those who enjoy antiquing. Venture through the Hudson Valley’s 70 antique shops or find your treasures in the Finger Lakes. There are plenty of antiquing hotspots around the state and I have listed a few below.

HUDSON VALLEY

Hudson Antiques

70 antique shops fill five historic walking blocks on and around Warren Street, Hudson Valley. An amazing array and range of merchandise spanning all continents and centuries can be found in Hudson’s Antique Shops. From Country to European, you never know what little or big treasures you’ll find.

• CM Cherry
CM Cherry features a specially curated selection of rare and unique objects of glass, crystal, lighting and furniture collected by store owner Claude M. Cherry. From hand-blown glass candles to antique English and American estate furnishings, CM Cherry is quite the collection you don’t want to miss. For more information visit http://www.cmcherry.com/ or call 518-697-9508

• Carousel Antique Center
Carousel Antique Center is owned and operated by Karen Squire and Dan Barton and is a large multi-dealer shop offering a wide range of merchandise reflecting different personalities and price ranges. Come by for your own treasure hunt. For more information call 518-828-9127

For more information on Hudson Antiques stores please visit http://www.hudsonantiques.net/shop/retail.html.

The Belvedere Mansion
This mansion offers posh accommodations with million-dollar views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. The 17-room Greek revival mansion is lavishly restored and whimsically decorated by the owners, who were antiques dealers before owning an inn. Many of the main rooms have complete suites of matching French Empire furniture. The property includes six other units, each decorated in unique motifs, including Asian. An outdoor pool, tennis courts, health club and gourmet dining add to an idyllic scene. For more information please visit www.belvederemansion.com or call 845-889-8000.

CAPITAL-SARATOGA

Mark Lawson Antiques
Mark Lawson Antiques is the Capital Region's premier resource for selling your estate jewelry, coins, paintings, fine antique decorative arts, and rare collectibles. As the proud supporter of PBS affiliates WMHT TV-17, televising Antiques Roadshow, they have helped thousands of satisfied clients in New York’s Capital Region since 1990. For more information visit http://www.marklawsonantiques.com/ or call 1-877-902-8787.



Batcheller Mansion Inn
This American architectural masterpiece is an elegant mixture of small hotel and living history museum with the intimate feel of a bed and breakfast. Entering through the doors of this high Victorian Fantasy, you are greeted with old world elegance. Intricately carved European woodwork, hand carved marble fireplaces, family items on loan from museums, original 1800's Batcheller family furnishings, and spellbinding grandeur make this one of a kind Saratoga Inn and living history museum a stately retreat. For more information visit http://www.batchellermansioninn.com/ or call 518-584-7012.

FINGER LAKES

Gaffer District
Located in the Finger Lakes area, Coming’s Gaffer District is rich in antique shops and glass studios. In their historic downtown district, walk on the river, shop their shops, and experience some of the most amazing dining of the Finger Lakes. Each day you’ll find exciting events and fun experiences for the whole family. The Gaffer District offers an array of antiques shops including:

• Stained Glass Works & Antiques
Stop in this interesting store to shop for some antiques, sign up for a class, or check out some students art work. The shop is opened Wednesday through Sunday. For more information please visit http://www.sgwcorning.com/ or call 607-936-3772.

For more information on Coming’s Gaffer District stores visit http://www.gafferdistrict.com/ or call 607-937-6292.

THE ADIRONDACKS

The Lake Placid Lodge
. The Lake Placid Lodge, built by hand in the Arts and Crafts tradition, furnishes the entire property with Adirondack rustic furniture and Adirondack antiques There are thirteen sumptuous rooms and seventeen luxurious cabins at the water’s edge. The woods and water enfold the Lodge; the sun warms its wide stone porches. Above all, there is comfort and welcome, wherever you go. The lodge furnishes the entire property with Adirondack rustic furniture and Adirondack antiques, and many are offered for sale. For more information please visit http://www.lakeplacidlodge.com/ or call 518-523-2700

THE CATSKILLS

Emerson
The Lodge at the Emerson is concealed among tall pines and shading maples. Its log-built exterior blends naturally with its historic Hudson Valley surrounding and the legendary Catskill Mountains. The 27 rooms of The Lodge range from standard to multi-room suites and can sleep from 2-6 people. The Lodge is ideal for families, groups and outdoor enthusiasts. And its pet friendly.

The Inn at the Emerson provides romance, tranquility and comfort in 25 adults-only suites. Oversized windows gaze upon the natural beauty of Mt. Tremper and the Esopus Creek, providing peace and privacy to connect with a loved one, nature, or your spirit. Other amenities include fully enclosed access to the Spa, Fitness Center, The Phoenix restaurant, the Country Store and the Conference Rooms.

For more information visit www.emersonresort.com or call 877-688-2828.

Mohonk Mountain House
This national historic landmark dating to 1869 is a 264 room Victorian Castle nestled beside a mountaintop lake. It is still owned and operated by the family that opened it more than 100 years ago. The hotel is furnished with many pieces that date back to its opening. For more information please visit www.mohonk.com or call 800-772-6646.


For more information on New York State, please visit http://www.iloveny.com/.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Best whale watching in New South Wales



From May to November the waters along the NSW coastline become a living, moving spectacle as thousands of humpback, southern right, fin and other whale species make their way north. The NSW coastline becomes the world's best place for whale spotting and encounters, or to join the Saltwater Indigenous people celebrate this annual migration through Whale Dreaming ceremonies, festivals and experiences.

Destination NSW Chief Executive Officer Sandra Chipchase said, "Each year thousands of whales migrate north along the waters off the NSW coast, providing locals and visitors alike with the chance to see these majestic creatures up close and in their natural environment. It's exciting for young and old to spot a whale tail slapping or breaching its full body from the water".

"NSW has plenty of great whale watching experiences including fast boat cruises, lookouts and vantage points from stunning coastal walks, whale festivals and Whale Dreaming tours. With whale numbers increasing, it's not surprising that the State is often known as New South W(h)ales," she said.

The long association between Aboriginal people and whales is reflected along the NSW coast where rock art sites document the powerful relationship with these creatures. In fact, the whale is an important totem for numerous Aboriginal groups.

South Coast Indigenous Tourism Operator, Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness, runs Whale Dreaming Tours to explain the importance and significance of whales. Operator Dwayne Bannon-Harrison, a descendant of the Yuin people said, "The connection to saltwater and sea creatures is of utmost importance to many coastal First Nation's people. In our creation stories the whales are elders of the sea that once walked from the land into the ocean. Whale Dreaming Ceremonies sing the safe passage of the whale migration, and ensures the connection and respect continues on. We perform these ceremonies in May and October."

Other Whale Dreaming tours and events taking place along the NSW coast include: Unkya's Gurruuja Juun (Whale Tail) Tour, Five Lands Walk on the Central Coast on 24 June 2017, and Whale Dreamers Festival at Norah Head on the 2 July 2017.

In addition to the importance of Whale Dreaming during whale season, NSW is home to some top notch whale watching spots and experiences. Here are just a selection of some of the great whale experiences available in New South W(h)ales:

·         Whale Count Days – This year visitors are invited to take part in the annual ORRCA whale count, which takes place on Sunday 25 June at Cape Byron Lighthouse, Tacking Point Lighthouse near Port Macquarie, Crackneck Lookout on the Central Coast and North Head in Sydney Harbour National Park near Manly.

·         Ballina – On the North Coast, Ballina Head Lookout, located between Shelly and Lighthouse beaches, offers panoramic views over the sparkling blue water out to the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy the whale spotting from this headland or stroll down onto the surf patrolled beach and watch the whales go by as you swim or as you enjoy breakfast or lunch at the café above the surf club at Lighthouse Beach. Another great spot in Ballina is the Black Heading viewing platform, which is easily accessible on a short walk through an old growth littoral rainforest.

·         Iluka and Wolli – Iluka Bluff is a dedicated whale-watching platform that offers 360 degree views along the coast. While local tour operator Wooli Deep Sea Tours runs whale watching tours that includes cruising in the beautiful Solitary Island Marine Park, home to a rich diversity and abundance of sea life including dolphins and turtles.

·         Port Macquarie – Home to the second most easterly point in NSW, whale watching in Port Macquarie ensures close-up encounters just metres off the coast and tours that provide less travel time out to open ocean to find the whales. The 9km Coastal Walk from Town Beach to Lighthouse Beach hugs the coastline and offers stunning vantage points and a number of seats at different headlands along the way for whale watching encounters. For those looking for some adrenalin filled whale watching, Port Jet's Wave Rider can reach speeds of up to 100km/hr, making it one of the fastest commercial boats offering whale watching cruises.

·         Port Stephens - For land based whale watching, set out with your binoculars to locations like Tomaree Headland, Barry Park at Fingal Bay, Fishermans Bay, Birubi Point and Stockton Beach, but one of the favourite spots that offers great whale sightings is the Boat Harbour headland, off Noamunga Street. Look for a 'V' shaped puff of spray as the whale surfaces. Humpbacks are the most surface active of all the whales, so you might even see tail slaps, pectoral fin waves, body rolls and the mighty 'breach.'

·         Newcastle – Book at tour with NOVA Cruises, departing from Newcastle Harbour which is only a short trip out the heads and into open water to find the whales. For land based spotting in Newcastle try Shepherds Hill Lookout, a popular spot with the locals.

·         Lake Macquarie - With spectacular ocean views for most of the way, Caves Beach Walk is just the spot for whale watching, this picturesque coastal bushwalk traverses the cliff tops south from Caves Beach to secluded Pinny Beach in the Wallarah National Park. Also not to miss are the views from Redhead Bluff, a red rocky headland that offers views that stretch across the ocean and south over Nine Mile Beach towards Blacksmiths and Swansea. A prime whale watching location!

·         Central Coast – The whale is the totem of the local Darkinjung people of the Central Coast, which plays host to a series of Whale Talks at Crackneck Point over a number of weekends and is run by National Parks and Wildlife Service, to find out details call the local National Parks and Wildlife Service office on the Central Coast.

·         Jervis Bay - Jervis Bay marks the half way point for the 4000km whale migration, so it is no wonder many use the bay's waters as a resting point and a place for the newborn calves to learn, play and rest. Jervis Bay Wild provides whale watching tours that get you up close to these majestic animals as they enjoy the calm still waters of Jervis Bay. For land based viewing you can't go past Penguin Head at Culburra and the viewing platform in Booderee National Park, located at Cape St George Lighthouse.  Whales have also been spotted from Caves Beach in Booderee National Park, a popular camping spot.

·         Montague Island and Narooma – Narooma Charters runs regular whale watching tours to the stunning Montague Island which sits off the coast of Narooma. In recent years Southern Right Whales, Fin Whales, Brydes Whales, Sei Whales and Blue Whales have also all been seen off Narooma , as well as several sightings of the extremely rare albino humpbacks known as Migaloo and Mini Migaloo. In 2011 Mini Migaloo was photographed off the coast near Montague Island by Daryl Stuart of Narooma Charters, in a stunning lunging pose. The angle of this cheeky pose has been of great help to scientists in identifying the sex of Mini Migaloo. We believe in 2017, Mini Migaloo will be seven years old - not so mini anymore.

·         Broulee & Moruya Head – A top spot on the South Coast is Broulee Island at Broulee, which is joined to the mainland by a sandbar so is always accessible. Whales in season and dolphins all year round may be sighted from any side of the island which takes about an hour to walk around. Also not to miss is Toragy Point at Moruya Heads, this lookout offers whale watching views north along the coast and interpretive signage about whales and marine life.

·         Eden – Renowned as one of Australia's best spots for whale watching, Eden's calm Twofold Bay offers respite for the young calves before making their final leg of the journey south and is one of the few places in the world that Humpback Whales feed on their southern migration in Spring. The Eden Whale Festival, 3-5 November, is the perfect time to celebrate all things cetacean. The festival is the chance to get out on the water with Cat Balou or Freedom Charters for a sea based whale experience, join a land based whale spotting tour, visit the historic Davidson Whaling Station to hear about the strong history of Eden and its whales, as well as feast on local produce and enjoy entertainment, music and film.

To find out where the whales have been recently spotted and tips for great vantage points along the coast download the Wild About Whales app. Even better, you can even share and log your own sighting.

Share your favourite NSW whale watching experience with us on social media by using the hashtag #NewSouthWales and #ILoveNSW. For more information visit www.sydney.com and www.visitnsw.com

Pic: Port Macquarie Port Jet whales double breaching. CREDIT: Port Jet, Port Macquarie.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

70th Anniversary of first ski lodge built at Falls Creek Alpine Resort


One of the more interesting aspects of how Falls Creek was created is the construction of the alpine resort’s first ski lodge 70 years ago.

It was a humble beginning to what is now a vibrant European-style ski village that attracts thousands of snow enthusiasts of all abilities each winter season.

An intrepid number of like-minded State Electricity Commission (SEC) staff including Ray Meyer, the chief surveyor of the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme, had a common interest that revolved around the skiing potential of the snow-covered high plains that included what is now the 450-hectare resort of Falls Creek.


The six SEC employees Toni St Elmo, Ray Meyer, Jack Minogue, Lloyd Dunn, Adrian Ruffenacht and Dave Gibson (together with their families) banded together to secretly build a 'hut' that was the first ski lodge at Falls Creek.

Using a road built in 1930's to gain access to Falls Creek the hut project was quite a bold move and was carried out in secret owing to earlier efforts by other skiers being stymied by HHC Williams - the engineer in charge of the Hydro Scheme.

Another significant event in the erection of the first ski lodge at Falls Creek was a trip to the Lands Office in Melbourne by Ray Meyer in 1946 (the same year the name of the resort was officially changed from Horseshoe Creek to Falls Creek). It proved to be a masterstroke, he came away with a 99-year lease on three acres that was ideally suited for a hut designed by Lloyd Dunn.

Adrian Ruffenacht (Design Engineer for the KHS) had suggested where the group should build owing to easy access to a spring for water and much of the building material required was scavenged from derelict huts on the high plains.

Owing to the need for the work on the lodge be kept as secret as possible, because H.H.C Williams was not particularly supportive, they toiled away in the evenings and weekends knowing very few SEC staff would be about.



Another significant aspect of this remarkable feat was the decision to rename the hut. During the building period the group had met at Echidna Rock (now known as Eagle Rock) where Skippy St Elmo announced "This is my favorite "Skyline".

Adrian Ruffenacht, agreed, saying it would be an appropriate name for our club. Toni St Elmo suggested it was a time when the name Hut should be dropped and replaced with Lodge.” Hence it became 'Skyline Ski Club Lodge' the first ski lodge at Falls Creek.

All images: Fred Griffith Collection

Website: www.fallscreekmuseum.com.au

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Explore the Okavango Delta.




Named by Lonely Planet as one of the 'Hot Destinations for 2016', Botswana's star is definitely on the rise. So what makes it 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.

Gazetted as UNESCO's thousandth World Heritage Site in 2014, the Okavango Delta, with its vast and diverse wildlife species, is one of Africa's premier safari destinations, providing a truly unique wilderness experience. Forming part of the Kalahari Basin, situated at the southern periphery of the Great Rift Valley, it covers a staggering 22,000 square kilometres. And while the periphery is semi-arid, the Delta itself is a patchwork of cool clear streams, lagoons, floodplains and forested islands. The result is one of the world's most diverse wildlife habitats, home to over 200,000 large mammals, 400 bird species and 70 species of fish, most spectacularly on display in the dry winter season as vast numbers of wildlife flock to where the floodwaters infiltrate the surrounding plains.

At the heart of the Okavango Delta lies the world-renowned Moremi Game Reserve, providing a peaceful haven where animals have been protected for decades. Known as the 'predator capital of Africa', the Moremi is famed for its big cat and bird populations, and also for large herds of elephant and buffalo, giraffe and other plains game – and occasionally Africa's rare wild dogs, that roam the savannah.

But no visit to the Okavango Delta is complete without a mokoro ride. One of the most iconic symbols of the Delta, the mokoro was originally the only form of transport for fishing or transporting people and goods around its channels. Still used by the 'river bushmen' or BaYei people, these canoe-like vessels offer up a unique way to explore the Delta's waterways.

For much of each year the Okavango Delta is a labyrinth of lagoons and streams where hippos fight for bathing rights and crocodiles wait for unwary antelope to linger too long over a drink. Poling through the byways created by the floodwaters is an unforgettable, serene experience that allows passengers to get breathtakingly close to big game and to see the world from a totally different angle. It's a chance to sit back and relax as you glide through lily ponds, seeing eye-to-eye with a buffalo as it laps water from the river, watching crocodiles sunbathe on the banks or cruising past a pod of hippos as they lie in a pool.

Specialist safari operates three unique luxury boutique properties in exclusive private concessions in the Okavango Delta – Sanctuary Baines Camp, Sanctuary Stanley's Camp and flagship property, Sanctuary Chief's Camp. All three offer mokoro rides seasonally based on the water levels of the Delta.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Take a trek through British Columbia’s wilderness with Google Maps and BC Journeys



British Columbia Canada is getting put on the map, literally. Through a partnership with Google, stunning imagery from British Columbia’s wild places has been added to Google Maps, complemented with interviews with BC locals, imagery, drone footage, immersive 360° video, and featured businesses on the new BC Journeys platform www.bcexplorer.com/journeys.

Using Google Street View, people from around the globe can now virtually hike in some of the province’s vast wilderness and be inspired by the powerful nature they see around them. 

British Columbia joins a select group of bucket-list Google Street View Trekker destinations such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Grand Canyon and the Galapagos Islands.

There are currently 176 new British Columbia Google Street View Treks now featured on Google Maps, with 14 more to be uploaded by Google. Here is a sample of the Treks:

Sunshine Coast Trail
Kettle Valley Trail (Myra Canyon)
Blackcomb Mountain (Decker Loop)
Lake Magog (Assiniboine Lodge)
108 Lake Accessible Trail
Anthony Island, Gwaii Haanas
Bridge Glacier
Pacific Rim (Schooner Cove Trail)
Windfall Lake (near Tumbler Ridge)

Find treks in British Columbia by reviewing the BC Explorer platform http://www.bcexplorer.com/journeys or through Google Maps, by searching for BC’s Google Street View Treks.

Quotes:

Marsha Walden, CEO, Destination BC
“There are over one billion monthly users of Google Maps. Through these Treks and our new interactive platform, BC Journeys, we can give people a window into our wilderness like never before – creating a connection before people even leave their homes. Combining this powerful, immersive video footage with compelling, authentic stories creates an augmented reality experience that is a pretty potent recipe for driving visitation.”

Nicole Bell, Google Street View Trekker Expert
“We’re incredibly proud to partner with Destination British Columbia in this Trekker project. We’ve worked together for years to bring the world to British Columbia and bring British Columbia to the world. These new Street View images, especially some of the more remote locations in BC, are an important part of Google’s goal to create the world’s most comprehensive, accurate and usable map. More than one billion people around the world use Google Maps every month, and we are thrilled to share some of British Columbia's iconic landscapes.”

Here’s how you can see BC’s Street View Treks:
  • Search for a place in Google Maps. Drag the yellow ‘Pegman’ to a place on the map.
  • The blue areas on the map show where Google has collected ‘Street View’ content.
  • To move around, hover your cursor in the direction you want to go. Your cursor becomes an arrow that shows which direction you're moving. To see where you might go next, look for the “X”; click once to travel to the “X”. To look around, click and drag your mouse. You can also use the arrows to the left and right of the compass. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Winchester Mystery House - a strange obsession



Located in the beautiful Santa Clara Valley in San Jose on Winchester Blvd. and I-280 near the intersection of I-880, this beautiful but bizarre 160-room Victorian mansion was built by Sarah L. Winchester, widow of the famed Winchester rifle manufacturer’s son. Crushed by the untimely deaths of her husband and infant daughter, Mrs. Winchester designed and supervised the construction of this strange $5,500,000 mansion by keeping carpenters busy 24 hours a day for 38 continuous years until her death in 1922, all in the hope of perpetuating her life and consoling (or confusing) the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle. Rambling over 4.5 acres with 40 bedrooms, 40 staircases, 13 bathrooms, 47 fireplaces, 2,000 doors, & 10,000 windows, the house is so complex that even Mrs. Winchester and her servants required maps to find their way around.





Brent Miller, caretaker of the Winchester Mystery House from 1973 to 1981, entered one particular room, and “in the unearthly silence of such a vast, empty place, heard someone breathing. There was no one there.”

On another occasion, Brent heard footsteps and followed the sounds to the room in which Mrs. Winchester died. Again, no one was there.

One night shortly after being hired as caretaker, Brent was awakened by the sounds of someone unscrewing a screw and it hitting the floor and bouncing up onto the carpet runner. When he went to check, he found nothing there.

A friend of Brent’s, Gary Parks, was invited over one New Year’s Eve and was taking pictures with a new camera he had received for Christmas. After developing the film, he found one picture with strange moving lights “and a ghostly figure of what appears to be a man in coveralls in the middle of the room.” The strange images occur only in one negative while the rest of the roll is normal.



Victorian Gardens

A visit to the Winchester Mystery House™ is not complete until you have strolled through the beautiful Victorian gardens that surround it. Great care has been taken to restore the grounds to that time when Sarah Winchester had a full-time staff of eight gardeners, and imported trees, shrubs, and flowers from all parts of the world. Nearly 14,000 miniature boxwood hedges, large flowering Carolina cherry laurels, plants, and flowers have been replanted to provide beautiful color year-round. Numerous handcrafted lead statues and elaborate fountains have been restored.

You will see the original mythological statues including Mother Nature, Cupid, a cherub, hippocampus, American Indian, deer, egret, frogs, and swans. You can help make a wish come true for those in need by tossing a coin in one of the five fountains on the estate; 100% of the proceeds are donated to a local charity each year.

Wheelchaired guests are invited to tour the Gardens and Historic Firearms Museum as our guests at no charge (unfortunately the Mansion and the Behind- the- Scenes Tours are NOT accessible to wheel chairs or infant strollers).

The Winchester Firearms Museum

The “Gun that Won the West” is the main attraction in the Firearms Museum, one of the largest Winchester Rifle collections on the West Coast. See the collection of guns that preceded the famous Winchester Rifle, including B. Tyler Henry’s 1860 repeating rifle that Oliver Winchester adapted and improved upon to produce his first repeating rifle, the Winchester Model 1866. Learn about the Model 1873 which came to be called the “Gun that Won the West.” See a collection of the Limited Edition Winchester Commemorative Rifles including the Centennial ’66, the Theodore Roosevelt, and the renowned John Wayne.

The home became Registered California Historical Landmark #868 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Tours of the mansion interior are given daily from 9am (closed only Christmas Day). Last tour departure varies with the seasons. Included in the admission are the self-guided Garden Tour, Historic Firearms Museum, and the Specialty Gifts and Products Museum.




Winchester Mystery House, LLC
25 S. Winchester Blvd. San Jose CA 95128
T-(408) 247-2000/F-(408) 247-2090
winchestermysteryhouse.com

Friday, March 31, 2017

Phuket Hotels: The Amatara Wellness Resort, Cape Panwa


by Roderick Eime with material supplied by World Hotels


If you've been considering catching up with the increasing trend for cruises in Southeast Asia, you will have noticed Phuket in Thailand appearing more frequently in the itineraries of cruise lines operating in this territory.

The island of Phuket, a short flight south from the capital, Bangkok, is renown for a boisterous night life in the downtown district, but also for a wide range of ultra-luxurious resorts and spa properties catering to those more inclined to a peaceful stay in this attractive destination. Visitors can enjoy any number of seaside resorts offered by all the major brands in international hospitality ranging from secluded private villas to expansive, integrated resorts catering to more than 1000 guests.

The port of Phuket is located at the southern extreme of the island only a few miles from the bustling city, but also near the idyllic Cape Panwa precinct where several high-end resorts enjoy expansive views over the sea while retaining the convenience of proximity to the port.

I recently joined a Silversea cruise from Phuket and was delighted to stay at the recently rebranded Amatara Wellness Resort which enjoys a breezy location overlooking the port where you can keep an eye out for your cruise ship as well as enjoy superior amenities.

Below is a summary of facilities offered at Amatara Wellness Resort

Rooms:

There are 105 pavilions, suites and pool villas, all featuring scenic and expansive views of the Andaman Sea. Rooms start at a spacious 60sqm for pavilions, up to a generous 150sqm for pool villas. All are equipped with at-call butler service, extended sundeck areas and a private balcony.

Wellness and cuisine:

Eight private treatment rooms, all overlooking the seascape, feature the signature Amatara Spa treatments. All Cuisine is specially prepared by Executive Chef Justin Baziuk with each dish made from 100 per cent organic ingredients and is carefully prepared with the aid of a nutritionist to fit each of Amatara's treatment programmes. The all-inclusive programme integrates accommodation, nutritious and organic food, along with personalised leisure and wellness pursuits.

Dining

Recognised as one of Thailand's top restaurants,"The Grill" offers fresh seafood and prime cuts, and serves up an informal fine dining experience. At the "The Restaurant" guests can enjoy international specialities and local cuisine that is incorporated with authentic Asian influences.

Amatara Wellness Resort
84 Moo 8
Sakdidej Road, Vichit
Cape Panwa, PHUKET 83000
Thailand

Website: www.amataraphuket.com

For reservations or information, visit worldhotels.com where toll-free numbers can be found for all the world.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Where to see Africa’s big five


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

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

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

But where are the best places to see them? Well, while animal viewing possibilities abound, the reality is there's no guarantee you'll see each one while on safari. Knowing animals' habits – as well as where to stay and what to do while on safari – will greatly increase your chance of success. 

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

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

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

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

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

With two rainy seasons – the long rains fall in April and May (into early June) and the short rains fall in October and November, the best times to visit are December, January, February or late June through to early October. And one of the very best places to catch all the action is Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater Camp. Located right in the heart of the Park on the crater rim, and offering spectacular views of the crater and surrounds, it's also home to one of the largest populations of animals in the Park including zebra, buffalo, warthog, wildebeest, hippo and elephants – not to mention an amazing assortment of predators – lions, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs and the even elusive leopard.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

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

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

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

Masai Mara, Kenya

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

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

www.sanctuaryretreats.com

Where to see Africa’s big five


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

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

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

But where are the best places to see them? Well, while animal viewing possibilities abound, the reality is there's no guarantee you'll see each one while on safari. Knowing animals' habits – as well as where to stay and what to do while on safari – will greatly increase your chance of success. 

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

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

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

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

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

With two rainy seasons – the long rains fall in April and May (into early June) and the short rains fall in October and November, the best times to visit are December, January, February or late June through to early October. And one of the very best places to catch all the action is Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater Camp. Located right in the heart of the Park on the crater rim, and offering spectacular views of the crater and surrounds, it's also home to one of the largest populations of animals in the Park including zebra, buffalo, warthog, wildebeest, hippo and elephants – not to mention an amazing assortment of predators – lions, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs and the even elusive leopard.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

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

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

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

Masai Mara, Kenya

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

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

www.sanctuaryretreats.com

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Best of Malaysia Holidays


One of South East Asia's favourite holiday destinations, Malaysia is a country where 'something for everyone' is more of a daily itinerary than a promise.

Packed with attractions, experiences and activities to meet every traveller's needs, it is truly the ideal holiday destination. From its postcard white sandy beaches, UNESCO World Heritage sites, national parks, eclectic cities, adventure activities and rainforests abundant with nature, it is a bubbling melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and religions. Throw friendly and welcoming people into the mix, along with some of the best cuisine on the planet, and you'll truly be spoiled for choice!

Choose from popular destinations including Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Langkawi. Still not sure which is the right one is for you?

Kuala Lumpur

The main arrival point to Malaysia, dynamic, cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur is the ideal place to start. This eclectic city is full of attractions and entertainment options to suit all tastes and budgets. One of the most popular attractions are the Petronas Towers which soar 88-storeys into the sky, making them the world's tallest twin structure. The towering skyscrapers present the optimal photo opportunity – and the KLCC Shopping Centre at their base and home to a fantastic mix of renowned luxury and premium brands, is the place for a retail fix.

As well as modern architecture Kuala Lumpur offers beautiful historical temples. The Batu Caves and Temple Tour provides a unique insight into Malaysia's cultural and historical diversity. Don't forget to visit the night markets. With an array of aromas filling the air, it's impossible to resist the amazing mix of Malaysian street food on offer.

Penang

Known as the ''Pearl of the Orient, Penang is a fascinating fusion of East and West. Heavily influenced by its colonial and oriental past, the Island has its feet firmly planted in the 21st century while still retaining its traditions and old world charm. Venture through lively George Town, which was granted a world heritage status by UNESCO in 2008. View colonial-era homes, private mansions, historical museums and stunning temples, embark on a heritage walking tour, engage with friendly locals and ride a Trishaw.

Feeling hungry? With a unique mix of Chinese, Malay, Portuguese and Indian cuisine, Penang is also known as the 'foodie' capital of Malaysia, offering up some of the tastiest cuisine imaginable from first-class restaurants through to hawker stall delights.

A trip to Penang isn't complete without a visit to the three most popular shopping malls – Gurney Paragon Mall, Gurney Plaza and Queensbay Mall, for everything from the latest fashion to electronics.

Kota Kinabalu

Situated on the north west coast of Sabah on the tropical island of Borneo facing the beautiful South China Sea, Kota Kinabalu is one of Malaysia's loveliest cities, famous for its long sandy beaches, paradise islands, virgin coral reefs, and tropical rain forests. Join the locals congregating along the waterfront each night to witness the fiery sunset, with the popular boardwalk also providing an idyllic backdrop for sampling eateries, restaurants and night markets.

Plenty of wild life adventures are close by and Malaysia's first UNESCO Heritage site, the mighty Mount Kinabalu, is only 90 minutes away. The pristine marine water also makes Kota Kinabalu one of the most perfect destinations in the world for snorkeling and diving trips, with Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park just a short speedboat ride away. And adrenalin junkies can try their luck on the world's longest island-to-island zip-line – the Coral Flyer, at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

Langkawi

Anyone who adores beautiful beaches, luxury hotels and resorts, and duty-free shopping will love Langkawi. Surrounded by turquoise sea, Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea. Officially known as the 'Jewel of Kedah', the largest of these, features a range of breathtaking beachside resorts. The island's outstanding geological landscapes have also earned it the geopark title by UNESCO – making it the only geopark in Southeast Asia and one of only 50 worldwide.

With its traditional villages, sandy white beaches and sedated lifestyle, Langkawi offers up an idyllic setting for couples seeking a romantic escape. But thrill-seekers won't be disappointed. Check out Langkawi Wildlife Park, Underwater World Langkawi for a deep-sea experience and the Cable Car in Pantai Kok for a mountain high adventure.

Flights, accommodation and featured package. Sale ends 26 March 2017.

For more information visit: www.expedia.com.au.

Website: www.malaysia.travel

Best of Malaysia Holidays


One of South East Asia's favourite holiday destinations, Malaysia is a country where 'something for everyone' is more of a daily itinerary than a promise.

Packed with attractions, experiences and activities to meet every traveller's needs, it is truly the ideal holiday destination. From its postcard white sandy beaches, UNESCO World Heritage sites, national parks, eclectic cities, adventure activities and rainforests abundant with nature, it is a bubbling melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and religions. Throw friendly and welcoming people into the mix, along with some of the best cuisine on the planet, and you'll truly be spoiled for choice!

Choose from popular destinations including Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Langkawi. Still not sure which is the right one is for you?

Kuala Lumpur

The main arrival point to Malaysia, dynamic, cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur is the ideal place to start. This eclectic city is full of attractions and entertainment options to suit all tastes and budgets. One of the most popular attractions are the Petronas Towers which soar 88-storeys into the sky, making them the world's tallest twin structure. The towering skyscrapers present the optimal photo opportunity – and the KLCC Shopping Centre at their base and home to a fantastic mix of renowned luxury and premium brands, is the place for a retail fix.

As well as modern architecture Kuala Lumpur offers beautiful historical temples. The Batu Caves and Temple Tour provides a unique insight into Malaysia's cultural and historical diversity. Don't forget to visit the night markets. With an array of aromas filling the air, it's impossible to resist the amazing mix of Malaysian street food on offer.

Penang

Known as the ''Pearl of the Orient, Penang is a fascinating fusion of East and West. Heavily influenced by its colonial and oriental past, the Island has its feet firmly planted in the 21st century while still retaining its traditions and old world charm. Venture through lively George Town, which was granted a world heritage status by UNESCO in 2008. View colonial-era homes, private mansions, historical museums and stunning temples, embark on a heritage walking tour, engage with friendly locals and ride a Trishaw.

Feeling hungry? With a unique mix of Chinese, Malay, Portuguese and Indian cuisine, Penang is also known as the 'foodie' capital of Malaysia, offering up some of the tastiest cuisine imaginable from first-class restaurants through to hawker stall delights.

A trip to Penang isn't complete without a visit to the three most popular shopping malls – Gurney Paragon Mall, Gurney Plaza and Queensbay Mall, for everything from the latest fashion to electronics.

Kota Kinabalu

Situated on the north west coast of Sabah on the tropical island of Borneo facing the beautiful South China Sea, Kota Kinabalu is one of Malaysia's loveliest cities, famous for its long sandy beaches, paradise islands, virgin coral reefs, and tropical rain forests. Join the locals congregating along the waterfront each night to witness the fiery sunset, with the popular boardwalk also providing an idyllic backdrop for sampling eateries, restaurants and night markets.

Plenty of wild life adventures are close by and Malaysia's first UNESCO Heritage site, the mighty Mount Kinabalu, is only 90 minutes away. The pristine marine water also makes Kota Kinabalu one of the most perfect destinations in the world for snorkeling and diving trips, with Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park just a short speedboat ride away. And adrenalin junkies can try their luck on the world's longest island-to-island zip-line – the Coral Flyer, at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

Langkawi

Anyone who adores beautiful beaches, luxury hotels and resorts, and duty-free shopping will love Langkawi. Surrounded by turquoise sea, Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea. Officially known as the 'Jewel of Kedah', the largest of these, features a range of breathtaking beachside resorts. The island's outstanding geological landscapes have also earned it the geopark title by UNESCO – making it the only geopark in Southeast Asia and one of only 50 worldwide.

With its traditional villages, sandy white beaches and sedated lifestyle, Langkawi offers up an idyllic setting for couples seeking a romantic escape. But thrill-seekers won't be disappointed. Check out Langkawi Wildlife Park, Underwater World Langkawi for a deep-sea experience and the Cable Car in Pantai Kok for a mountain high adventure.

Flights, accommodation and featured package. Sale ends 26 March 2017.

For more information visit: www.expedia.com.au.

Website: www.malaysia.travel

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