Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cruise ship review: Kapitan Khlebnikov

Cruise ship review: Kapitan Khlebnikov: "Voyage beyond Arctic ice into a land of legend aboard the world’s most famous passenger-carrying icebreaker, the Kapitan Khlebnikov. Words Roderick Eime."

The Kids from Snowy River

The Kids from Snowy River: "There are many ways to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. One of the most rewarding is from the back of a horse."

All Aboard!

All Aboard!: "Every boy loves a steam train and it seems girls are pretty keen on the noisy coal-fired monsters too."

Biggles flies again

Biggles flies again

Nothing beats the sound of a huge radial engine as it bursts into life. The raw noise immediately creates an aura of excitement and anticipation.

Back to nature with ecotourism

Back to nature with ecotourism

Once upon a time, staying at a caravan park or campground was a hit-and-miss affair. Musty cabins, smelly shower blocks and grumpy caretakers are what many of us remember of caravanning in the '60s, '70s and even '80s.

Calling Super Nanny

Calling Super Nanny

Every parent has to deal with children's "tanties". Yelling, screaming and the occasional foul language are bad enough at home, but a nightmare scenario when travelling. Unruly children will spoil your own holiday and if you're travelling with a group, can have adverse effects on your companions.

Mummy, I feel sick

Mummy, I feel sick

The bane of any travelling parent has to be travel sickness. Some adults seem to be acutely susceptible to travel and motion sickness but it is especially so with children, mainly because they are unable to recognise the symptoms and do not know how to respond.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

In Pursuit of Adventure

Kapitan Khlebnikov

Adventure cruising, and its almost seamlessly interchangeable appellation, “expedition cruising”, has its roots deep in the human psyche. It stems from our innate desire to inquire, explore and expand the boundaries of our environment whilst deriving intellectual rewards from the experience. Expanding on this, one could name great navigators like Magellan, Cook, La Perouse and Pytheas as some of the best known “adventure cruisers”. Often travelling under the veil of commerce, military expansionism, geography or science, these iconic sailors were driven by a desire to expand their own personal knowledge quite apart from obligations to their respective bankrolling empires.

The 21st Century adventure cruiser is transported in vastly different vessels. Complete with state-of-the-art satellite navigation, first rate medical facilities, gourmet cuisine and comfy bunks, gone are the days of deprivation, scurvy and mythical sea monsters.

Just as cruise travel is enjoying a very healthy resurgence despite the woes of the planet, adventure cruising, as a significant sub-set of the segment, is booming. This assertion is backed up by figures and concurs with findings from studies such as the Cendant Corporation's 'The World of Travel in 2020' where their findings indicate travellers are more and more in search of "experience-driven travel".

But how do you tell an adventure or expedition cruise from the regular fun-afloat type?

That which separates adventure cruising from the regular, big ship, variety is a number of factors, namely;

  • Flexible and adjustable itineraries to take account of changing conditions and opportunities.
  • Products driven by destination and experience rather than the allure or cachet of a particular vessel.
  • Destinations often have little or no tourism infrastructure and focus on natural, cultural and ecological attractions.
  • Smaller, more manoeuvrable vessels able to navigate narrow and shallow waterways inaccessible to regular cruise ships.
  • Fewer passengers, enabling operators to better deliver a more personal and fulfilling experience. Typically less than 500, but often as few as just a dozen or so.
  • Extensive shore excursion programme, often with several disembarkations per day.
  • Cruise staff includes lecturers drawn from academia and science able to impart enriching interpretation during a voyage or shore time.
  • Premium pricing.

See: Adventure Associates

Monday, May 1, 2006

The Blue Tarp Resort

Consider the portable canvas option for your next road trip.

After Mum and Dad told me their camping stories from the ‘50s, pitching a tent somewhere in the great Aussie outback was about the last thing I ever wanted to. But on a 4WD trip to Cape York recently, I rediscovered the primal joys of sleeping under canvas miles from the nearest streetlight or flush toilet.

As you flick through the pages of your favourite travel magazine (yes, this one!) gazing longingly at the golden, palm lined beaches and the lush forest destinations, you might be thinking these exotic locations are the exclusive realm of the rich and famous. Maybe, not! Camping has long been a favourite Australian pastime and an accepted means of visiting places a long way from home without running up exorbitant hotel and resort bills.

I’ll confess that on our tour to the “tip”, we mixed and matched our digs. From the glamour of swish Bloomfield Lodge, to a humpy on the beach at Munbah we truly experienced the extremes of accommodation options. Yet, it was the camping experience that defined our journey.

Sure, camping isn’t for everyone, but you might find it makes an enriching and cost effective alternative for that dreamed-of road trip across the country. By alternating tent, cabin, motel and resort, you can spoil yourself occasionally while keeping a lid on expenses.

My mum, now well into her seventies, rediscovered the joys of camping when she and a friend spent two years exploring the far corners of the continent in a station wagon packed with camping gear.

“Well, darling,” Mum recalls, “we really enjoyed ourselves. It was a relaxing, fun holiday. But we didn’t go without our comforts.”

In those two years, Mum covered the length and breadth of the country, ticking off favourite locations like Charters Towers, Alice Springs, Hughenden, Arkaroola and Kings Canyon.

“We only pitched the tents when we intended to stay more than a couple of nights. It’s a bit of a pest putting them up and down every day, so we’d get a cabin if we were just passing through.”

“Come on Mum,” I implored, “there must have been something you didn’t like.”

“Not really love. We were pretty well prepared and we chose our locations and weather very carefully.”

Knowing your destination and its climate is a key to enjoyable camping. Do your homework and visit locations during their most agreeable weather. For example, the Outback is gorgeous mid-year when the weather is mild and rainfall at its lowest.

Mum rattled off her list of camping must-haves and I compared it with mine.

Tent (one per person); fully-floored with insect netting. Blow-up mattresses. Doona, sheets and pillow (I took a sleeping bag and camp stretcher). Long extension cord, power board with appliances; Jug, toaster, electric skillet, hot plate (or gas primus), portable telly, fan heater. Other useful inclusions; Cut down occasional table for inside tent, hair dryer, reading lamp and/or torch.

Exterior accessories were kept to a minimum, but included folding chairs and table, kitchenware and washing up kit.

Take your pick with food. Alternate eating out at pubs and caf├ęs with cooking yourself. Fresh meat, fish and vegetables where available and tins of soup and stew for the remote spots.

“What about, you know, ones and twos?” I delicately enquired.

“Well we had that sorted too. Let’s just say we had the modern equivalent of a chamber pot when I didn’t feel like going outside.”

Around the country there are serviced campgrounds (showers, electricity, pool, cabins etc) and caravan parks or, for the more adventurous, unserviced grounds deep within National Parks and Reserves with perhaps a “long drop” and a rainwater tank.

Some parks create an instant community, complete with social nights, sausage sizzles and happy hours while others are simply quiet retreats. Or choose somewhere on your own and enjoy the solace and seclusion of a night under the stars with just the sound of a breeze in the trees and birds as your alarm clock.

“After my experiences in the ‘50s, I never thought I’d camp again, but the gear is just so much better now and the caravan parks and campgrounds are almost like resorts now with restaurants, games rooms and activities,” says Mum, “Boy, we did it rough back then!”

A road trip doesn’t mean a remake of “The Long Long Trailer”, instead travel light and lean and consider the camping option to extend your trip and keep costs down.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Ferntree Rainforest Lodge


Imagine a place where thousands of square miles of untouched tropical rainforest spread to the horizon, rising up to blanket solemn mountains capped by taffeta cloud crowns. Wildlife rustles through the undergrowth, occasionally emerging to give the casual observer a fleeting glimpse of brightly-coloured plumage and the prehistoric.

Ancient trees dip down onto deserted beaches, invitingly brushing fine white sands strewn with conch shells and palm fronds, and the opalescent gateway to the reef sparkles under the gaze of the sun just a coconuts throw away…

No, this isn’t the pitch for a Bounty commercial, but is Cape Tribulation as I found it – a destination gem that has to be the jewel in Australia’s crown.

Beneath the lush canopy and looped lianas the city hustle melts to a distant memory, and the sounds of car engines, tooting horns and shouted conversations are replaced by intermittent birdsong and bush turkeys scratching through the scrub.

Cape Trib is unique in that it is one of the few places in the world where two World Heritage listed sites – the rainforest and the reef – are found together, and a visit to the area isn’t complete without a day trip to meet some of the more colourful locals.

Everyone - but everyone - goes to the tropical north to see the Great Barrier Reef, but unlike other big tours where I’d had to scramble for ancient fins and a leaking snorkel, there were just 24 people on board the Odyssey H2O as it sped out to sea.

The commanding figure of Mount Sorrow dwindled to nothing in the distance, and when we anchored after just 45 minutes I could see nothing except cool blue water shimmering up to the horizon. With so few people sharing the open ocean, as I pulled on my mask and flippers and plunged into the vibrant world beneath the waves I really felt like I had the whole reef to myself. Sheer magic.

And enjoying such natural beauty doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice little luxuries. After backpacking for two months I would’ve been happy to find a serviceable toilet in this unfettered land-before-time, but was amazed by the opulent and affordable accommodation cocooned in the canopy. Ferntree Rainforest Lodge had all the modern comforts the discerning traveler comes to appreciate (and which until then I had sacrificed). After sleeping bags, 12 bed dorms and mad bathroom dashes along chilly corridors, the sheltered pool oasis, plump downy pillows and en suite bathrooms immersed deep in the jungle were almost too good to be true.

The only difficulty in this hedonistic haven of relaxation is trying to fit everything in – eco-tours, 4WD expeditions and beach horse rides are just some of the many activities on offer if you make it away from the beach. With so much to see and do it is impossible to fully appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Cape Trib on a day tour, and I feel sorry for anyone that tries. Eight hours just isn’t enough, and despite what Captain Cook christened this slice of paradise, the only tribulation of a trip to the Cape is having to leave.

Just go.

Last 30 Days' Most Popular Posts