Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Silversea announces its new expedition ship to be named HSH Prince Albert II

Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises has announced that its new expedition ship (originally acquired as World Discoverer II) will be renamed HSH Prince Albert II, in tribute to Prince Albert of Monaco.

The name is fitting for a ship that will be dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the planet's oceans, wildlife and indigenous cultures. The Principality of Monaco, aside from being the world's capital of wealth and luxury - and home to Silversea's global headquarters - has long been recognized as a leader in marine environment research. Prince Albert I, a pioneer in oceanographic science and exploration, first explored the Arctic's Svalbard archipelago in the early part of the last century, and founded the world renowned Oceanographic Institute. In 2006, Prince Albert II plotted a similar course on part of his journey to the North Pole, in an effort to add to the scientific body of work started by his ancestor - and to draw attention to the effects of global warming on the Arctic regions. As a result, the Prince is the first incumbent head of state to have reached the northern most point on Earth.

"We are deeply honored to have our new expedition ship named after His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco," said Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea's chairman. "His passion for environmental conservation is well known and we are committed to supporting his mission by offering travelers the chance to discover and appreciate some of the world's most remote and unspoiled regions."

When Silversea's adventure ship sets sail on June 12, following a naming ceremony in Monte Carlo, it will herald the beginning of a new mode in exploration cruising - where a luxurious ambiance is just as important as the eye-opening educational experiences it will deliver.

The Lloyd's Register A1A ice-rated vessel is purpose-built for expedition cruising and is currently undergoing an extensive multimillion-dollar renovation at the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy. To ensure the ship will deliver an expedition cruise experience consistent with Silversea's award-winning luxury standards, the refurbishment will include exterior design modifications, state-of-the-art technological enhancements and a comprehensive upgrade of all guest accommodations and public spaces.

The ship is also being outfitted with a new fleet of eight, latest-model Zodiac boats with Yamaha four-stroke engines (for lowest possible emissions) that will allow guests to enjoy up-close exploration and access to some of the world's most remote landscapes.

"The interest in expedition cruising is definitely on the rise, among both affluent baby boomers and seasoned travelers wanting to further enrich their already wide knowledge of more traditional and established destinations. Silversea's HSH Prince Albert II will be the perfect option for those adventure-seekers who prefer a genuine expedition ship experience enhanced with the comforts of a true luxury product," said Amerigo Perasso, Silversea president. "Adventure travel is also about having experiences that are intellectually enriching, so every voyage will feature a carefully selected expedition team of lecturers and leading experts who will share their insights on the natural, cultural and historical highlights of some of the most pristine and secluded regions on Earth."

In a related development, the company has announced the appointment of Conrad Combrink as Silversea director of expeditions, with responsibility for developing the ship's itinerary and programs. He will also oversee the recruitment of expedition staff and lecturers. Combrink's career of over ten years in expedition cruising includes serving as expedition leader on World Discoverer I and II.


Silversea's expedition ship will set sail June 12 from London on an Inaugural Season of voyages of 10 to 21 days focusing on polar adventures. Sailing first to the Arctic Circle, Svalbard, Iceland and Greenland for the Northern summer, the ship will then reposition to South America and Antarctica. From mid-August to November 2008, HSH Prince Albert II will journey from the east coast of North America through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles before heading south to Ushuaia. Along this special repositioning route are opportunities to explore the Sea of Cortez (with an extension to Copper Canyon), Falklands and South Georgia Island. Pricing starts at US$3,867, per person, double occupancy, and includes shore excursions as well as Silversea's signature all-inclusive amenities.

After the ship's refit, the ice-class vesselwill carry just 132 guests in 66 ocean-view accommodations, many featuring private verandas. With staterooms and suites ranging from 180 to over 600 square feet, it will provide some of the largest accommodations of any expedition ship. 18 suites will each feature more than 400 square feet of luxury.

Guests will also enjoy many amenities found on larger ships, such as an elegant single-seating main dining room, library (with computers and Internet access), boutique, beauty salon, fitness center, full-service spa and two Jacuzzi pools. The ship will also feature several lounges for enjoying drinks, music and entertainment, including a cigar lounge like the Humidor on the line's other ships.

The HSH Prince Albert II will also be equipped with state-of-the-art satellite communication systems, providing bow-to-stern wireless Internet access, enabling guests with Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and PDAs to surf the Internet and check e-mails from the comfort of their suites as well as public areas. Cellular phone service will also allow guests to stay in touch using their own cell phones even when the ship is miles away from land. All suites and staterooms will feature flat screen monitors offering interactive TV and video options. In the ship's lounges, the latest audio-visual equipment, complete with high-definition video screens, will display live lectures hosted by the ship's world-class expedition and lecture staff as well as visiting destination experts.

Guests aboard Silversea's HSH Prince Albert II will be inspired by the varied and constantly adapted itineraries that will make the most of the natural opportunities created by the landscapes around them. There is so much to explore that they can sail for up to 48 days on back-to-back voyages without repeating a Zodiac landing site. This is not soft adventure; this is full scale exploring from an ultra-luxury base at sea, in true Silversea style.

Reservations are set to go on sale starting Friday, February 29, 2008. A colorful self-mailer will be available to travel agents in a few weeks.

Orion 2009 – 2010 Calendar of Sailings

Orion Expedition Cruises

Orion adds plenty of spice in 2009

Building on established expedition voyages to the Antarctic, Kimberley and Papua New Guinea, Orion Expedition Cruises' 2009 - 2010 Calendar of Sailings adds three inaugural Voyages of Discovery to the exotic islands of Asia, a visit to Norfolk Island and exciting new sub-Antarctic island wildlife expeditions.

Asia: Brand new for 2009 are Orion's Spice Islands, Gulf of Siam and Vietnam Explorer expeditions to Asia. Depending on the chosen voyage these 9, 10 and 11
night itineraries (September and October 2009) include both popular and rarely visited Asian destinations. Visit a string of beautiful Indonesian islands including Bali plus expeditions to the exotic coasts and islands of Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam (including an optional side trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia).

Departing late October 2009 is a 10 night cruise between Bali and Cairns. This Forgotten Islands expedition will feature the island of Komodo, famous for its dragons, Maluku, Yamdena Island and Thursday Island in the Torres Strait before arriving in Cairns.

Sub-Antarctic Islands: Orion's expeditions to the Antarctic have sold out each year with adventurers appreciating the departures from Hobart and Bluff to Commonwealth Bay and the Ross Sea regions and the chance to visit the historic explorer's bases of Scott, Shackleton and Mawson.

The Sub-Antarctic Islands component of these voyages is so popular that in 2009 dedicated Sub-Antarctic Wildlife Adventure expeditions are planned focussing on the extraordinary wildlife found on the wilderness islands of World Heritage Macquarie, Campbell, Auckland and Snares Islands and spectacular New Zealand fjordlands. Spectacular scenery combined with abundant bird and marine life creates island adventures in a photographer's paradise for those not wishing to journey to Orion's Antarctica.

The Kimberley voyages: 10 voyages between May and September 2009 feature the dramatic highlights of the iconic Kimberley coast including the ever-popular Opera Under The Stars voyage (a one-off voyage on the 21st August 2009 that includes a night at the Opera in Broome as a guest of Orion) and a Guide to the Southern Skies voyage. This 11 night voyage from Darwin to Broome will have a special astronomical focus when Professors Fred

Watson, astronomer in charge of the Anglo Australian observatory at Coonabarabran, and David Malin, astronomical photographer, writer and lecturer, reveal the ancient legends and modern science of the universe to Orion's guests.

Arnhem Land: Orion's expeditions in 2006 and 2007 really sparked interest in the indigenous art world and so a further 7 night Art of Arnhem Land voyage, departing Thursday Island for Darwin, will be undertaken in April 2009 exploring the isolated art communities of Arnhem Land. Hosted by pre-eminent authorities on indigenous art this is the perfect voyage for art collectors and enthusiasts alike

Norfolk Island and Melanesia: In February 2009 Orion will undertake a 19 night Norfolk and Melanesian Islands Discovery voyage through the South Pacific, between Auckland, New Zealand and Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. This meandering cruise will include the Bay of Islands before heading for a 2 day stay at historic Norfolk Island.

Other expedition highlights include the picturesque Isles of Pines, Anatom - in the middle of no where - and the cargo cult island of Tanna with its still-active Mt Yasur volcano. Capturing the romance of Melanesia, Orion will also visit Malakula, Nggella (Florida Islands) and Marovo Lagoon before arriving in the flooded volcanic caldera of Simpson Harbour, Rabaul.

Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait: For time-restricted adventurers seeking a shorter voyage near home, Orion has a tempting 5 night North Queensland Tropical Reefs and Culture voyage in April 2009 cruising from Cairns via Lizard Island, Stanley Island (with its outstanding indigenous rock art), Orion Reef (perfect snorkelling) and the Torres Strait island of Poruma (Coconut Island) before concluding at Thursday Island.

Or slip away for an early summer holiday in November 2009 and join Orion's one-off 6 night Great Barrier Reef voyage that includes Hardy Reef, Hayman Island and Percy Island; then enjoy a few leisurely days at sea before disembarking in Newcastle.

Tasmania remains a favourite for Orion's sell-out Food and Wine themed voyages. Cruising between Sydney and Hobart, enroute visiting picturesque Eden, Flinders Island, famous Wineglass Bay, Coles Bay and the Southwest Wilderness region of Tasmania, guests will enjoy 5 nights of food and wine tastings to balance the expeditionary activities onshore.

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises 2009 – 2010 Calendar of Sailings can be obtained by visiting the website www.orioncruises.com.au

Thursday, February 21, 2008


david ellis

AN AMAZING twenty-six million people a year wend their way along
Brisbane's half-kilometre Queen Street Mall, taking a break from the
office, daydreaming, cuddling-up, taking lunch, or simply doing some
serious shopping.

But few realise that a store they pass, or drop into for some of that
retail therapy, is on the site of what was once the home of
Brisbane's most macabre colonial murderer.

And not far away, guests cavorting in the palatial pool or dining
indulgently at one of Brisbane's finest hotels, little realise that
they too are doing so on another site once owned by that same
gruesome killer... nor that conversely the University of Queensland's
picturesque riverfront campus at St Lucia is there purely because of
this self same murderer.

Irishman Patrick Mayne arrived in Brisbane in 1844, getting himself
indentured as a slaughterman at Campbell's Boiling Down Works on the
fledgling colony's Kangaroo Point.

Mayne learned butchering skills to supplement his slaughterman's
wages, and soon after marrying Mary McIntosh in 1849, to the surprise
of friends invested sudden and unexplained wealth in a prime block on
Brisbane's very smart Queen Street.

Here, on what is now the Brisbane Arcade, he built a butcher's shop
with adjoining coach-house and upstairs residence, worked his way
onto the Municipal Council, and started buying-up some 400ha (1000
acres) of prime real estate, including at what was the-then remote
but now-fashionable Wickham Terrace.

But Patrick Mayne was also showing first signs of madness, attacking
perceived-enemies with a riding-crop or stock-whip, and abusing
others in fits of alcohol-fueled rage. Despite their affluence the
Mayne's were increasingly shunned by Brisbane's more polite society.

And extraordinarily in 1865 on his deathbed above his Queen Street
butcher's shop, Patrick Mayne blurted out that seventeen years
earlier in 1848, he'd murdered a man and that someone else had
already hanged for the crime.

Subsequent investigations revealed that on March 27 1848, Mayne and
two others had gone to the primitive Bush Inn at Kangaroo Point near
the Boiling Down Works, after learning that a drunken timber gatherer
named Robert Cox was boasting how much he'd earned from a big find of
precious cedar.

The three men ambushed the befuddled Cox after closing time, and next
morning a man rowing on the Brisbane River came upon human legs and
part of a torso in the water. An hour later police found the remains
of the body on the shore, and a head severed and propped-up in a
partly-built shed to further shock discoverers.

And behind the Bush Inn in a water-well that was also used to cool
milk, butter and cheese, they found Cox's entrails. A semi-literate
cook at the Inn was hanged for the murder, despite professing
innocence until the moment the trapdoors of the gallows dropped
beneath him…

Then to the surprise of most, not long afterwards Patrick Mayne
bought the land in Queen Street and built his butcher's shop, and
later two other shops nearby that he rented to a draper and a grocer.

Mayne had paid the equivalent in cash of nearly five years'
slaughterman's wages for all three properties, which coincidentally
was roughly the exact amount the murdered Robert Cox had been
carrying the night he was butchered.

After Mayne's death in 1865 and Mary's in 1889, their five children
consolidated their parents' land holdings and became generous
benefactors to numerous churches and charities.

Amongst prime sites sold off was one on which Accor's luxury Terraces
on Wickham Hotel now overlooks the spectacular Roma Street Parklands,
its 170 grand guest rooms and salivating dining a far cry from the
rustic Bush Inn at which Patrick Mayne orchestrated Queensland's
bloodiest murder 160-years ago.

In 1924 the surviving Mayne children, none of whom had married due to
their father's madness and the insanity of a brother, tore-down their
parents' butcher-shop home and built the elaborate Edwardian-style
Brisbane Arcade on the site.

Three years later they bought land at St Lucia and donated this to
the fledgling University of Queensland, with all profits from the
trust they established to run the Brisbane Arcade, also going to
support the University.

When next you're visiting Queen Street, pause at the Colorado
Clothing Store in the Brisbane Arcade – it's on the historic site of
the original Mayne butchery, home and coachhouse.


PHOTO CAPTIONS: Macabre history – Brisbane's Queen Street Mall

ACCOR Hotels & Resorts' luxury
Terraces on Wickham

- Patrick Mayne once owned vast tracts of land here

on the now-prestigious Wickham Terrace.

(photos: Yves Lafon and Accor
Hotels & Resorts)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fantasy Yachts

Cast your eye around any of the modern marinas and you’ll inevitably find your gaze drawn to the growing number of glamorous and eye-catching superyachts stretching the capacity of their moorings.

Once the domain of the ultra-rich elite, the accessibility of these premium vessels is increasing as our economy shines, the baby-boomers boom and our entrepreneurs excel.

In the news recently was Reg Grundy’s 70m Boadicea (pic, right). Bought for a reputed $30 million ten years ago, the retired media baron is looking for a cool $120 million. This ocean-going ship is one of the world’s largest private superyachts and it’s clear that even if Mr Grundy has to haggle, there will still be a considerable capital gain. Or you can rent it for 500 large per week.

Greg Norman’s Fremantle-built Aussie Rules was another boat that turned heads and turned out wallets. The sleek 69.5m cruiser with palatial fit-out is reported to have cost some $70m and was sold to Wayne H. Huizinga of Florida in 2004.

Fitting out these vessels is an art in itself and often a great challenge to designers who strive to accommodate the owners’ whimsical excesses. Mere toys such as zodiac tenders, Jet-Skis and flat screen TVs are passé. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's $200 million private yacht, Octopus, has two helicopter landing pads. Arch-rival, Larry Ellison of Oracle won’t be outdone. His 138m Rising Sun (pic, left) has 82 rooms over five decks and 86,000 square feet of living space, equal to a small department store. Add a standard gym, basketball court and private cinema, Rising Sun boasts crystal chandeliers, onyx counter tops, leading chefs and a wine cellar. Under guard in Nice since 2003, is the late Saddam Hussein’s 82m Ocean Breeze. Its toy locker includes a miniature submarine and surface-to-air missiles.

Closer to home, you’ll find Aussie Home Loans’ John Simon enjoying his Sunseeker 90 Yacht on the harbour, probably waving to Nicole Kidman in her similar 74. Both yachts would be valued at around $10 million.

Gold Coast Sunseeker dealer, Rick Rodwell, says these high value vessels are attractive to similarly valued individuals.

“For many high worth people, travel and leisure time is extremely valuable and international travel, for all sorts of reasons, is a hassle. Celebrities, corporate high-flyers and media identities are buying these vessels almost as floating real estate. It’s somewhere for them to enjoy quality relaxation with family and friends with all the luxury trappings they are used to – and without the inconveniences of airports and security.”

Apart from the UK-built Sunseeker yachts, more and more brands are making their presence felt. Locally constructed Warren and Maritimo yachts are gaining a strong following as well as imports such as Sanlorenzo, Pershing and Foretti.

Sunseeker’s newest flagship, the 37m Trideck Yacht is everything an aspirational cruiser should be. Flipping open the brochure, we are confronted with the following description:

"… four decks of unsurpassed luxury, setting a new standard in an extremely discerning market. An unprecedented achievement in respect of design, performance and refinement, she has enormous scope to be customised throughout to individual taste. Unparalleled levels of space, accommodation for ten guests and quarters for eight crew make this an excellent yacht." I’m sure.

The 37m Trideck Yacht is POA, but once delivered and optioned, don’t expect much change from $30 million.

Rodwell also believes the recent buoyant economy coupled with the “seachange” movement is fuelling many purchases.

“These people, many just hard-working regular folks, have opted to stay near home and enjoy themselves.”

But obviously not everyone is shelling out $10 million for their personal dream boat.

Peter Duke, a professional skipper with 20 years experience, is seeing a change in the owner demographic.

“Put simply, there are more boats, more owners and more money! Once it was just the big end of town, now it seems almost everyone is enjoying a luxury vessel. Clearly there are plenty of people in the construction, banking and finance industries doing very well at the moment.”

For those hankering for the high life, Sunseeker’s 47 Portofino (pic, left) is a great way to start. Priced around $1.3 million and comes with radar, autopilot and enough comfort to accommodate and impress four people in two cabins. It could well be your stepping stone to superyacht stardom.

Monday, February 18, 2008

For Sale: Reef Endeavour

The biggest ship to ever be built in Fiji will be put up for sale on Friday, due to its owner Captain Cook Cruises promising not to compete with new partners Coral Princess Cruises, says The Fiji Times.

Captain Cook Cruises recently entered into a marketing partnership with Cairns-based Coral Princess Cruises, and a promise was made between the two not to compete against each other said Captain Cook’s Joint-MD Jackie Haworth-Charlton.

This will see the Reef Endeavour being put up for sale and retired from Captain Cook’s Fiji itineraries.

Delivered to Australia in 1996, the 3,000 tonne ship which carries some 150 overnight passengers also has recently struggled with fuel efficiency, as well as operational efficiency as its all-Australian crew was more expensive than other crews in the region.

At the same time, the high Aussie dollar has seen the number of passengers drop from the market.

“It is a very sad time for us presently but I have to say she was very successful,” Trevor Haworth, Captain Cook Cruises Executive Chairman.

Reef Endeavour was launched to replace the Reef Escape which retired from the market in 1996.

Cunard Maintains a Royal Tradition

No matter how many grand and opulent cruise liners grace the world’s oceans, none can compare with Cunard’s royal family. The mighty matriarchs of the seas will always hold a premium allure among true lovers of ocean travel.

Cunard’s illustrious heritage can be traced back to 1838 when Canadian Samuel Cunard’s British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company successfully bid for the transatlantic mail contract. Their first vessel, the 648 gross ton coastal paddle steamer SS Unicorn, made the crossing in 14 days at an average speed of 8 knots. Today, the relatively leisurely crossing is six days, although in the late 1930s, Cunard’s original Queen Mary could cross in either direction in less than four at a staggering 30 knots.

It is this transatlantic passage that defines a true ocean liner. Built specifically to complete this demanding passage in all conditions, a true ocean liner must meet many rigid design requirements not asked of mere cruise vessels. RMS (Royal Mail Ship) liners are in a league of their own.

Currently the Queen Mary 2, which entered service in 2004, and the Queen Elizabeth 2, which entered service in 1969, are the only true ocean liners currently operating in the world. The new Queen Victoria however, is a cruise ship and will not carry the RMS prefix like her siblings. Built at the famous Fincantieri Marghera shipyard in Italy, she was launched in December 2007 after a nineteen month build.

Arguably the most famous ocean liner of all time, the QE2 will soon be retired from service after a stalwart career spanning forty years. Instead of an ignominious end at the hands of Asian scrappers, she will live out her days as a floating museum in Dubai, just like the Queen Mary in Long Beach, USA.

Australians turned out in massive numbers to farewell this mighty monarch when she made her final departure from Sydney on February 25. This event was made all the more significant as it coincided with the arrival of her precocious new sibling, the Queen Victoria on her inaugural visit.

Since 1998, the Cunard name has been owned by the huge US-owned Carnival Corporation. Known for their lavish cruise liners, Carnival has ordered a second Vista Class cruise ship to partner the Queen Victoria. To be named MS Queen Elizabeth, she will be slightly larger than her sister at 92,000 gross tons and be the second largest Cunarder ever built next to the 148,000 GRT ocean liner, QM2. She will enter service in 2010.

Travelling aboard these very special vessels is an experience in itself. While retaining much of the glamour and elegance of the 20th Century queens, the new generation of cruise and ocean liners have unprecedented passenger space, facilities and entertainment options.

Regular Cunard Inner Circle award winning agency, www.ecruising.travel, consistently offers the best value packages for any of the famous and soon-to-be-famous queens. This time next year, Queen Mary 2 returns to Sydney as part of her World Tour and this time presents the best opportunity to sample her many charms at affordable prices. Right now, ecruising.travel is offering an unprecedented 50 per cent off the Sydney to Singapore sector with staterooms beginning at just $4999.00. Almost unbelievably, this package includes 16 luxurious nights aboard QM2 as she sails the romantic Orient. To complete the scene, the price includes one night at the iconic Raffles Hotel and airfare home. Other sectors are available too. Imagine a 25-night Pacific Ocean crossing from Santiago to Sydney or a 49-night Southampton to Sydney via the Panama Canal. These magnificent voyages are no longer a thing of fantasy. Contact ecruising.travel on 1300 369 848 or visit www.ecruising.travel for all the details on any Cunard Queen voyage.

Seduced by princesses - Western Australia - Australia - Travel - smh.com.au

Seduced by princesses - Western Australia - Australia - Travel - smh.com.au

Thousands of east-coast Australians are being lured west by ship, writes Mike Heard.

Mining companies aren't the only ones making big money in Western Australia. The state is turning into a goldmine for cruise lines as well.

Ignoring cheap air fares and all kinds of discount offers by coach tour promoters, thousands of east-coast Australians will head to the west by ship in the next 12 months, paying up to $11,000 each for a voyage of two to three weeks

Sunday, February 17, 2008




david ellis

SHE was a redhead who had a private meeting with Prince Philip, met
Prince Edward, sashayed with Elizabeth Taylor and Bo Derek, and had
the press at her feet when she breakfasted with Bjorn Borg.

And she had the American media positively groveling when she went
swimming in the pool of Singapore's Raffles Hotel with Michael Jackson
– in the process ruffling the star's travelling companion, his pet

And while her appointment book resembled a Who's Who of politics,
business, the Media, Hollywood and the world of entertainment, in a
career spanning nearly 40 years she never once boasted of her
encounters – nor betrayed a whispered confidence.

Sadly that glorious career came to an end earlier this month: she
nodded off into a sleep from which she simply never awoke.

Ah Meng – the world's best-known orangutan and a tourism icon in
Singapore since the early 1970s – was 48, or a venerable 95 in our own
human terms.

Hundreds of thousands of people claim friendship with Ah Meng by
having shared breakfast with her at Singapore Zoo over more than
twenty years, and millions more can remember her endearing antics from
their own visits to the Zoo's Sumatran Orangutan Habitat – or from
attending her highly-publicised birthday extravaganzas.

Ah Meng adapted to the human world from an early age. Soon after being
born in Sumatra she was smuggled to Singapore where she was sold
illegally to become a family pet.

When discovered by a vet in 1971 she was eleven years of age, and was
removed to a more appropriate home in Singapore Zoo. Within a few
years she was on almost "human terms" with her handlers, prompting the
Zoo in 1982 to introduce the famous "Breakfast with an Orangutan"
program that would allow her to interact even more with human beings,
and to raise funds for orangutan research and preservation.

And not only did ordinary visitors queue-up to join her for breakfast
and to have their photos taken with her, so too did countless
dignitaries, with everyone from royalty to pollies and film-stars
insisting that their official Singapore programs include an audience
with Ah Meng.

She soon became the Zoo's poster girl, was "interviewed" by over 300
international journalists, starred in more than 30 travel films, and
commanded fees of around $2500 an hour for a photo shoot.

She was also made a "Special Singapore Tourism Ambassador" in 1992,
the only-ever non-human recipient of the honour. The government gave
her a certificate and a bunch of bananas to mark the occasion.

Along the way Ah Meng had several partners including Rodney who died
in 1987, Pusung who is now in Adelaide Zoo, and Charlie with whom she
raised her five children and six grandchildren.

But she could also throw a tantie: once on a filming assignment
outside the Zoo she tired of being told over and again what to do,
climbed the tallest tree she could find and sulked there for three

When finally coaxed down she slipped and crashed the last 10-metres,
breaking her arm.

And on another occasion when a young French university student was
attached to the Zoo as part of her thesis on orangutans, Ah Meng
became incensed at the amount of attention her caretaker, Alagappasamy
Chellaiyah was giving the student.

So in true miffed-redhead form she wandered almost nonchalantly across
to the student, and gave her a monumental back-hander that laid her on
her back.

In recent years Ah Meng made fewer and fewer breakfast and promotional
appearances, Zoo officials fearing they could stress the aging gran.

And when news broke of Ah Meng's death on February 8th Singapore went
into collective mourning, while messages of condolence poured-in from
around the world.

Her body was displayed in a white coffin and four thousand people
attended her memorial service; after numerous eulogies, her long-time
caretaker, Alagappasamy swept aside tears to give her a final farewell
kiss on the forehead.

Some other mourners collapsed in grief.

Ah Meng's grave in a Zoo garden will be marked with a Durian tree –
her favourite treat – and a 1.5 tonne bronze statue of her.

And the Zoo's already decided that the next Sumatran Orangutan born
there will be named Ah Meng Junior in her memory.


Photo Captions: AH MENG – redhead who had the press going ape.

BIRTHDAY Girl: Ah Meng celebrates her birthday with

one of her daughters.

ENTRY to Singapore Zoo's Orangutan Habitat, with

a bronze statue of Ah Meng.

Photos: Singapore Zoo

Saturday, February 16, 2008


14 February 2008


Savings of up to fifteen per cent are available through Cruiseco on a nineteen day cruise-and-stay package that combines Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords in January of next year, with prices now starting from just $6795pp twin-share.

The 700-passenger luxury adventure cruiser Discovery will sail from Ushuaia and spend four full days visiting Antarctica's Deception and King George Islands, Antarctic Sound, Hope Bay, Gerlache Strait, Paradise Harbour, the Lemaire Channel and Half Moon Island.

Other highlights will include two-nights in Buenos Aires pre-cruise, cruising the Drake Passage, Cape Horn and the Beagle Channel, Punta Arenas, Puerto Mont, the Chilean Fjords and alpine Lake District, Valparaiso, and two nights in Santiago.

The tour begins in Buenos Aires on January 11 and can be taken in the reverse direction and at the same price on January 25 (although this cruise does not visit King George Island;) air travel is extra.

For full details phone 1800 225 656 for the name of your nearest Cruiseco cruise-specialist agency Australia-wide, or visit www.cruising.com.au

ADDITIONAL SHIP INFORMATION: The 20,000 tonne Discovery has two restaurants plus on-deck alfresco dining, ten bars and lounges, a nightclub, a lecture theatre and cinema, library, casino, card room, and internet centre.

There are two pools, two Jacuzzis, a gymnasium, health centre and beauty salon.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Adventure a la carte - Cruising - Activities & Interests - Travel - smh.com.au

Adventure a la carte - Cruising - Activities & Interests - Travel - smh.com.au

We are in the Patagonia wilderness. That's middle-of-nowhere, no one-to-turn-to country. Inhospitable, impenetrable country, where even if you could force your way into the bush, you would lose your bearings within 10 metres.

Carlos is a tall, burly, powerful man with a scruffy beard. He wears a black military-style beret pulled low over his left eye. If you were casting for a movie, he certainly wouldn't be the good guy.

He stares me straight in the eye, a steely glare. "Strip," he orders. With his Spanish accent, it comes out as "Streeep" .

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Save on Aurora PNG

Aurora Expeditions

Step back in time and discover one of the final frontiers of adventure travel. In search of the authentic Papua New Guinea, each of our voyages aim to capture the best of this fascinating country's cultural heritage and natural history.

Aurora's relaxed style is the best way to witness colourful sing sings in the Trobriand Islands or explore the lower reaches of the mythical Sepik River. Stroll deserted tropical beaches, snorkel crystal clear waters or bushwalk through pristine lowland rainforest, teeming with exotic birds. For the more adventurous, our kayaking option offers a unique perspective of this captivating land.

CabineNews $ You Save
Quad, SharedAU$3,815


Triple, SharedAU$4,070


Twin, SharedAU$5,090


Twin, PrivateAU$5,940


Mini SuiteAU$6,365




* Discounts are only available on new
direct cruise bookings, as of 11/2/2008
and are not valid with any other offers.

For more information on both of our PNG voyages:

Voyage 1 ~ Rabaul to Alotau
Voyage 2 ~ Alotau to Rabaul

Click here to view our PNG photo gallery.

Travel is aboard Marina Svetaeva, and limited to only 100 passengers. These 11-day expeditions depart on the 18th and 28th of April, 2008.

PNG 2008 Brochure download and request

Our all-inclusive PNG flight packages have been put together by our expert reservations team and include international airfares (ex-Brisbane), domestic PNG airfares, pre and post voyage accommodation, airport transfers and land based tours.

To reserve your berth or for further details, contact us on +61-2-9252-1033 (1800-637-688 within Australia) or email Aurora at auroraex@auroraexpeditions.com.au

Sea lions massacred in Galapagos Islands

Ecuadoran authorities are investigating the massacre of 53 sea lions that were found with crushed skulls in the Galapagos Islands.

The dead animals were in an advanced stage of decomposition when they were discovered on the island of Pinta, scattered in a one-kilometre radius, said Galapagos National Park official Victor Carrion.

"The sea lions, including 13 pups, died because of a strong blow from someone. It was a massacre whose motives the prosecutor's office must clarify," Mr Carrion said.

The animals' remains did not appear to have been mutilated, and no cuts were found on their skins or limbs, he said.

The authorities found no other killed animals but they have stepped up patrols of the islands.

The Galapagos islands are 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific ocean.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) placed the islands on its list of endangered world heritage sites last year, saying they were threatened by invasive species, growing tourism and immigration.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Angling for a Capricorn escape

Angling for a Capricorn escape

Hang up your gone fishin' sign and head to Queensland's Capricorn
region where fresh water fishing is booming.

Thanks to recent rainfall the river systems in Central Queensland have
been flushed out and are now teaming with even more fish than usual.

The free Freshwater Fishing in Capricorn Queensland brochure is a must
have for anyone planning a holiday to region, highlighting more than
20 different fishing hot spots and offering useful tips for getting
your perfect catch. The free brochure can be ordered from

Lake Maraboon/Fairbairn Dam near Emerald is the most popular site for
freshwater fishing in the Capricorn region and is more than three
times the size of Sydney Harbour. Home to barramundi, murray cod and
golden perch, it's also famous for the easy to catch, and tasty,
redclaw crayfish.

The Fitzroy River in the heart of Rockhampton is also a popular
fishing spot for 'barra' enthusiasts who are regularly seen casting
their lures from the banks at dawn and dusk.

Another fantastic fishing spot thriving thanks to the recent rains is
Bedford Weir on the Mackenzie River north of Blackwater. It's ideal
for yellowbelly in winter - golden and spangled perch can be caught on
bait lures when the waters are fairly still - and in summer expect a
great range of catches including saratoga, sleepy cod, jew and eels.

The Capricorn region offers easy access to the natural gems of Great
Keppel Island, stunning national parks and incredible outback

Accommodation in the region ranges from luxury hotels to beautiful
B&Bs, outback farmstays, self-contained apartments and camping

To plan your fishing holiday in the Capricorn region visit


Drive –Brisbane to Rockhampton is seven hours www.driveqld.com.au

Fly - Qantaslink, Virgin Blue, Tiger Airways and Jetstar all offer
direct flights from Brisbane to Rockhampton daily with connections
from all major Australian cities.





Train or Bus - Take the Tilt Train to Rockhampton or catch a Greyhound
Australia coach.





david ellis

Forty something years ago she was the best known teen in the western
world, the inspiration for a new-rage bossa nova-beat song that
overnight swept the charts from Lima to London, Chicago to Sydney…

Yet despite millions singing along to the lyrics played over and again
on radio and jukebox, few if any had any idea of who she was – or even
if she existed at all.

To them she was the anonymous

Tall and tan

and young and lovely

the girl from Ipanema…

Remarkably, too, although the hit tune about her won a Grammy for Song
of the Year in 1964 and is still the fifth most-played record in
history, the real Girl From Ipanema – the actual muse about whom it
was written – earned not a cent from it.

And forty-four years later this dream girl, now a mother, grandmother
and highly successful businesswoman of still extraordinary beauty and
vivacious personality who

Swings so cool

and sways so gently

still turns heads on the beach, on the street, just doing her shopping, so that

when she passes

each one she passes

goes Ahhhh….

The story of the Girl From Ipanema began in the early 1960s in the
somewhat ordinary little open-air Bar Veloso in the south of Rio de
Janeiro, a place frequented by arty types who would argue politics,
philosophy and their own crafts over beer and rib-sticking black
coffee, and through the haze of cigarette smoke wolf-whistle pretty
young things on their way to nearby Ipanema beach.

Amongst them was a musician named Antonio Carlos Jobim who had
something of the hots for a particularly statuesque 17-year old teen,
Heloisa Pinto who would pass the Bar Veloso daily for her afternoon

One day Jobim convinced his drinking mate, the lyricist Vinicius de
Moraes after a glass or seven that they should write a song about this
girl, whom de Moraes once summed-up as "a golden mixture of flowers
and mermaids, full of light and grace….."

So at their kerbside table that day in 1962 de Moreas started
scribbling on a cotton napkin

Tall and tan

and young and lovely…

handing the napkin across to Jobim who in turn squiggled a bossa
nova-like score around the words as they flowed…

After a year of fits and starts The Girl From Ipanema launched in 1964
to instant success.

Today a visit to the Bar Veloso is a must-do for thousands of visitors
to Rio, and while still on its original site on Rua Montenegro it's
been reborn and renamed Garota de Ipanema (The Girl From Ipanema.)

Replicas of de Moraes and Jobim's original napkin adorn the walls
alongside photos of the Girl, and patrons can snap-up T-shirts
emblazoned with the napkin's words and score.

And despite his ardour Jobim never got his girl: Heloisa, who long
refused to believe she was the inspiration for the song, married
long-time sweetheart Fernando Pinheiro and, knocking back lucrative
offers from Hollywood to adorn the silver screen (her mother said
going to America would lead to drugs and worse,) settled into being
the perfect Brazilian housewife and mother.

Her world, however, was turned topsy-turvy twelve years later when
Fernando's iron and steel business collapsed with cuts in import
tariffs; Helo (as she now called herself) decided it was time to
cash-in on her earlier fame.

Still strikingly beautiful at 32 she started modelling, opened a
modelling school, hosted her own radio program and wrote a newspaper
gossip column to keep the family afloat.

My first encounter with The Girl From Ipanema was in 1991 while in Rio
to interview fugitive British Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs
holed-up there. I found Ronnie a likeable but forgettable rogue; the
Girl haunting ever since.

Helo and Fernando moved some years go to Sao Paulo south of Rio where
she now owns a suitably bikini-sized swimwear boutique called,
naturally, Garota de Ipanema – The Girl From Ipanema.

Still as vivacious and statuesque as ever, the lady who once shocked
fellow swimmers by wearing the first-ever two-piece on Ipanema beach,
told me last week that she would just love any visiting Aussies to
drop into her shop.

It's at Rua PIO XI, 2234, Alto de Pinheiro, CEP 05468-140 SAO PAULO.

And when you meet her, I'll bet you'll just go… Ahhhhh


PHOTO CAPTIONS: THE GIRL as she is now: just as stunning at 62, Helo

Pinheiro (Ieft) with actress
friend Elaine Mickely and

Elaine's parents.

GAROTA de Ipanema (The Girl From
Ipanema Bar)

where it all began in 1962.

THE scribbled first words and
score of the song – on a

napkin; and The Girl From Ipanema
as she was all

those years ago.

David Ellis & Garota de Ipanema

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Alexandra Shackleton joins Epic Antarctica Expedition

The Hon. Alexandra Shackleton is Sir Ernest Shackleton's only granddaughter. Her father was Shackleton's younger son, Edward, who became Lord Shackleton.

Alexandra, a history graduate, is president of the James Caird Society, dedicated to preserving the memory of Sir Ernest Shackleton and honoring his leadership. She is a member of several Antarctic and Southern Ocean societies. Alexandra was a consultant on the television drama Shackleton, starring Kenneth Branagh. She has written several prefaces to books about her grandfather, and has spoken about his accomplishments around the world.

We are pleased to announce that Alexandra will be guest lecturer aboard Epic Antarctica: Semi-Circumnavigation aboard the giant icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov. She will share her insights into her grandfather's life and the drive to preserve the hut he built in the Ross Sea.

This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of this historic adventure. The 31-day expedition departs Ushuaia on 13 November ending in Lyttelton (Christchurch NZ) on 13 December 2008. Prices are from US$19,900 per person triple share.

Exalted adventurers truly captured the spirit of Antarctic exploration, with Scott and his crew perishing on that fateful return journey from the pole in 1912 and Shackleton performing his miraculous 1916 rescue - now the stuff of legend.

It is in this spirit that Adventure Associates has offered voyages to the frozen continent for nearly two decades. Thousands of expeditioners have enjoyed a true journey of a lifetime, often retracing the steps of these intrepid pioneers in the process.

[ Read More ]

Alexandra Shackleton



Sunday, February 3, 2008

From Fly-fishing in Patagonia to Luxury Amazon Cruising

Adventure Associates introduces two new ‘top-end’ products to its extensive Latin American portfolio.

The superb M.V. Atmosphere, a state-of-the-art expedition cruise vessel offers guests an unique opportunity of exploring Patagonia by air, land and water. Thanks to a first rate crew and a cutting edge air and water transport system, M.V. Atmosphere can deliver the thrill of fly-fishing, the majesty of whale-watching as well as bird-watching, nature photography and a varied selection of soft outdoor adventures in the southernmost corner of the world.
She was designed and carefully built to be the perfect means to explore the unseen Chilean Patagonia. Exclusive and intimate, she is manned by 32 crew and has a capacity limited to only 28 passengers. It carries aboard a six-passenger Bell 407 helicopter to airlift explorers to otherwise unreachable spots, six jet-boats to conquer the most recondite rivers of the Chilean Patagonia, a top-of-the-line Zodiac Hurricane boat to scout the coastline and an array of specialized watercraft such as portable zodiacs for heli-fishing operations and kayaks. Deluxe cabins for an 8-day cruise are from US$10,115 per person twin share, with complimentary transfers to and from Puerto Montt.

In tandem with this, is the new M.V.Aqua, the first luxury vessel ever to cruise the northern Amazon. She has 12 oversized guest suites, including four 180° panoramic master suites, featuring en suite sitting areas and generous outward-facing panoramic windows. The handsomely decorated, air-conditioned suites were designed by noted Peruvian architect Jordi Puig. Guests can socialise in the dining room, indoor lounge, on the observation deck and in the outdoor lounge. Gourmets, can enjoy fine dining deep in the Amazon jungle. Sound unlikely? Yet you will find it aboard the M.V. Aqua. You can gaze out at the great wilderness from the elegant comfort of the ship's dining room. Executive chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, one of Lima's culinary stars, has created a menu that draws on both Peruvian and European influence. There are 3, 4 and 7 day cruise itineraries departing from Iquitos, with transfers provided from the airport to the wharf. Seven day cruises are from US$4,550 per person twin share.

Adventure Associates offerings range from exploration tours for the first time visitor and myriad choice for return travellers. For further information intending passengers should contact Adventure Associates on 1800 222 141 or visit their website at www.adventureassociates.com

Contact Davyyd Bressington for further information on (02) 8916 3007



david ovens

If the Swiss adventurer Johann Burckhardt hadn't had a touch of conman
about him, the extraordinary archaeological secrets of the ancient
Jordanian city of Petra might still be just that – secrets.

It was in 1812 that the inquisitive Burckhardt passed through the
region in southern Jordan near the intersection of the great caravan
routes from Gaza on the Mediterranean, Damascus in neighbouring Syria,
Eilat on the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

Having heard tales of the wealth and beauty of Petra (Greek for "City
of Rock") Burckhardt posed as a trader to gain entry to the city which
is guarded by rings of rugged sandstone mountains, and at that time
accessible only via a three metre wide path that ran for just over a
kilometre between the towering 100-metre walls of a ravine.

A geological fortress, Petra was the stronghold and treasure-laden
city of the Nabateans from 400BC until the Romans finally captured it
in 106AD.

It was the mountains that deterred most raiders, but Petra succumbed
to the Muslims in the 7th Century, and then the Crusaders in the 12th
Century, before falling into ruin.

Johann Burckhardt was the first Westerner to see Petra's great beauty
and magnificent man-made monuments.

But it wasn't until 1924 that the British carried out the first
archaeological excavations, and 1950 before the Jordanian Department
of Antiquities allowed full-scale excavation.

Even today archaeologists are still discovering new aspects of Petra,
and just a decade or so ago, floodwaters racing through the ravine at
the entrance to the city unearthed perfectly preserved Roman roads
several metres below the previous surface.

Petra's ancient structures were carved out of walls of solid
dark-rose-coloured stone, with the Treasury of the Pharaohs, and a
semi-circular theatre that seated around 3000 people, amongst its most
amazing architectural wonders.

Today archaeology buffs can spend days roaming Petra, but for the
average tourist a day's visit can embrace most of the major
attractions such as the Siq (ravine), the Treasury, the Theatre, and
the rock tombs on the way to the Museum.

The most intricate rock carvings remain intact, offering insights into
the skills and lifestyles of the ancient inhabitants.

For the energetic the 800-step climb to Petra's largest monument –Al
Deir (Monastery) – is rewarding, although some of we more slothful can
choose to have a donkey carry us up the winding path, pretending to be
fit by opting to walk back down to friends at ground level.

The Temple of Petra was an important early pilgrimage site, and today
worshippers and priests still follow the ancient processional route to
do it.

About 250 km south of Jordan's capital Amman, Petra is a three hour
drive along a road where the sparseness of the desert and the
durability of the people who live in it are extraordinary; in places
the barren, featureless desert is broken by the occasional Bedouin
goatherd tending a scruffy flock along the roadside.

And past a rare oasis of vineyards, olive groves and vegetables plots
comes the equally surprising view of guard towers and barbed-wire
barricades that the local guides often refer to as Suwaqai: "It is
Jordan's only five star prison," our driver tells us. "Populated
largely by thieves and drug pushers and - " he pauses for a moment.
"And politicians".

On the way back to Amman we divert from the main arterial highway to
take the Kings Road to Tafilah. The scenery is a surprise, embracing
the lush Jordan Valley that's part of the Great Rift that runs south
through Africa for thousands of kilometres.

The road then leads through the Shirat Mountains – massive rock
outcrops and plunging ravines, which vary in colour from light, honey
to deep plum – and emerges near the Dead Sea separating Jordan from

At 400-metres below sea level, the Dead Sea sustains nothing but
bacteria because of its high levels of salt that is used for making
expensive cosmetics, and the sight of the Dead Sea proves a beautiful
one after the bleakness of the inland desert.

Adventure World has seven night packages covering Amman, Petra, the
old Roman city of Jerash, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea for $1561,
including accommodation, most meals, transport and sightseeing.
Details from 1300-363-055 or see www.adventureworld.com.au


PHOTO CAPTIONS: THE spectacular Treasury building in Petra, typical of

the city that was built from
rose-coloured stone.

PETRA's secrets were guarded by
these narrow


photos: david ovens

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ice thwarts Antarctic tour - The Press - Get the latest local, national and world news from Christchurch's daily newspaper

Ice thwarts Antarctic tour - The Press - Get the latest local, national and world news from Christchurch's daily newspaper: "An ice-strengthened Antarctic tour ship attempting to re-enact Ernest Shackleton's expedition a century ago has failed to even reach the continent because of 'crazy' ice conditions blocking its path."

Affordable Arctic: Cruise North



Inuit-owned Cruise North Expeditions, the pioneer in affordable, accessible Arctic adventures, is raising the bar for authentic Arctic travel during the final summer of International Polar Year with five custom itineraries bringing together the best in Arctic wildlife, scenery and culture.

Cruise North is offering eight departures from July 3 through September 9, 2008 including Arctic Explorer, Arctic Odyssey, Baffin Adventure, High Arctic, and new for this summer, the Northwest Passage which travels deep into the polar desert reaching Ellesmere Island, the most northerly island in the Canadian Arctic archipelago.

While each of Cruise North's itineraries has a slightly different emphasis, all of them deliver an unparalleled authentic Arctic experience with abundant wildlife including polar bears, caribou, walrus, bearded seals, Bowhead and Beluga whales and muskox.

In the spirit of International Polar Year, Cruise North's experienced expedition and lecture team of naturalists, historians, geologists, ornithologists and lnuit guides brings to life the realities of life in the Arctic with direct learning about the impact of climate change.

Priced from $4,395 CDN, double occupancy including round-trip air from Montreal to the North on First Air, Cruise North's sister company, Cruise North's value is unbeatable.

Passengers travel in relaxed comfort on the 122-passsenger ice class-rated Lyubov Orlova, ideal for navigating polar regions.

Cruise North has revolutionized Arctic travel in several ways including being the first and only cruise line to make the Arctic accessible with a home port in the Arctic. By positioning the ship in Kuujjuaq, a surprisingly short two-hour 15 minute flight from Montreal, Cruise North has added ease and time savings to Arctic travel.

An even greater distinction is that Cruise North is the only Arctic cruise line where the lnuit are ambassadors in their own home. Cruise North's entire program has been carefully reviewed with the lnuit elders and community leaders to ensure that there are no unwelcome consequences for either the people or the animals who share the land.

Launched in 2005, award-winning Cruise North Expeditions has rapidly established itself as the leader in Arctic expeditions by capturing the true spirit of the North with its lnuit ownership and lnuit guiding. Conde Nast Traveler honored Cruise North with recognition on its prestigious "Green List for environmental efforts and commitment to helping preserve lnuit culture through tourism. Cruise North will undertake its fourth annual Arctic clean-up at the end of the 2008 season, open to volunteers who want to contribute in a direct way to environmental preservation.

Web: www.cruisenorthexpeditions.com

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