Monday, December 25, 2017

The avoidable tourist traps costing overseas travellers over $440 a year

  • Dining at overpriced tourist hotspots is the nation’s top travel money waster, costing Aussie travellers close to $1 billion in the past year
  • Dismal exchange rates and paying for medical treatment overseas among costliest holiday money wasters

Australian travellers are losing an average of $448 a year while holidaying abroad on avoidable money drainers including dining out at pricey tourist hotspots, poor exchange rates, mobile phone roaming charges and overseas medical treatment expenses, according to

Research by the financial comparison site found that the costliest holiday money trap is dining in overpriced cafes and restaurants situated around the main tourist attractions. 1 in 4 Aussie travellers admitted to paying a premium for drinks and meals at tourist hotspots, adding around $380 to their annual holiday bill.

Eat like a local (

“Overpaying for a meal or putting up with poor exchange rates can seem fairly minor at the time but the reality is these money leaks can add up over the course of a holiday. We found the average overseas traveller has blown over $440 on avoidable spending in the last year – this equates to a staggering $4.4 billion as a nation!” says Lamont.

“Our penchant for dining out at tourist hotspots has cost us close to a billion dollars in the last year. While on holidays, it’s easy to treat yourself to little luxuries like breakfast at a café overlooking the Seine, but a lot of the time you’re paying exorbitant mark-ups simply for location – not quality of food. Often travellers can get more authentic foodie experiences for less by simply asking locals where they eat or consulting blogs for hidden gems.”

The most expensive holiday money wasters


With the Australian dollar floundering in some parts of the world, poor exchange rates came in as the second most expensive holiday money leak, with those affected losing an average of $250 in the last year.

“Travellers exchanging currency before they leave can minimise the pang of dismal exchange rates by comparing exchange rates from different currency exchange specialists. While abroad travellers should avoid exchanging currency at the airport, or risk exorbitant fees and margins eating into their holiday spending money.”

Despite medical treatment expenses affecting just 7% of travellers in the past year, it was found to be the third most expensive travel money leak, with those hit with medical bills paying a whopping $916 on average.

However, Mozo’s research found that many Australians are on the front foot when it comes to plugging this money leak with more than half of international travellers researching travel insurance before their holiday.

“When it comes to cutting down on travel costs, researching your destination and investing in crucial travel insurance is going to save you money in the long run. While no one likes to think about accidents and injuries abroad, medical bills have the potential to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in countries like the United States,” says Lamont.

Overseas ATM charges were found to be the most common holiday money leak with 40% of overseas jetsetters being slugged with a pricey overseas ATM fee in the past year. One third of international holidaymakers say they lost money from poor exchange rates, while fees for using a credit card abroad rounded out the top three most common holiday money wasters, affecting just over a quarter of travellers.

More than three quarters of travellers say they don’t research their card provider’s charges for withdrawing cash from an ATM before their trip, yet are twice as likely to research their carrier’s luggage allowance rules. Around 55% of travellers are neglecting to research local exchange rates.

“Mozo’s research found a large chunk of Australian travellers are losing money on completely avoidable travel charges. In fact, travellers can avoid two of the three most common money wasters simply by doing their research beforehand and taking out a travel friendly card that doesn’t charge fees for ATM use or transaction fees on overseas purchases.”

“Travellers might spend hours combing sites for the best deals on hotels or which airline has the most generous luggage allowance and at the same time lose money every time they whip out their card to make a purchase.”

When asked what kind of traveller best describes them, just over a third of Australian travellers say they have every detail of their trip planned out months in advance of their departure date, while 6 in 10 travellers say they plan elements of their trip like flights and accommodation while being spontaneous with other elements.

“Just 6% of travellers admit to planning their trip at the last minute and leaving a lot of the elements of their trip to chance which can come at significant financial loss. Our advice to travellers this peak season is to do your due diligence and research all aspects of the trip from what the best travel money option is for you to where the cheap eats are.”

Mozo’s tips for a money smart holiday:

  • Eat like a local: Avoid the tourist tax in restaurants and cafes in the main tourist districts by asking for recommendations from locals or consulting food blogs. Hit up the grocery store for snacks in between meals and don’t forget to take advantage of complimentary hotel breakfasts and happy hour.
  • Shop around: Compare exchange rates from different providers to ensure you’re getting the cheapest deal possible. Steer clear of foreign exchange booths at airports, as high commission rates will eat into your cash balance
  • Find the right plastic: Look out for prepaid travel and debit card options that don’t have a purchase fee and allow free overseas ATM withdrawals, like NAB’s Traveller Card or Citibank’s Plus transaction Account.
  • Get a travel friendly credit card: Credit cards can be an effective way to spread the cost of a holiday but most banks charge about 2-3% on overseas card payments. You can avoid these extra charges by packing a travel friendly credit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees on purchases like 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard.

Eight meaningful travel resolutions for 2018 - or any year

A new year means new opportunities for personal betterment, so as January 1 fast approaches, many people are creating their New Year’s resolutions. In that spirit, global luxury travel network Virtuoso® offers eight ways travel can lead to a more meaningful life in 2018.

Travel more. Travellers report that the very act of visiting somewhere new makes them happier, healthier, more creative, more relaxed and more successful at work. But many people leave some of their hard-earned vacation time on the table. To escape the office, pick a slow time of year and book in advance to commit. If time and money are issues, even weekend getaways will scratch the wanderlust itch. 

Volunteer. Voluntourism is rising in popularity as people welcome the chance to do good, learn and travel at the same time. In a year plagued by natural disasters, opportunities exist to help popular travel destinations. Grace Bay Club in the Turks and Caicos Islands can arrange for guests to help with local recovery efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Learn a new skill. Master Italian cooking in Tuscany (2018 Virtuoso Luxe Report cites food and wine travel as a top trend). Whether dusting off high-school French in Paris or honing photography talents while capturing memories of the trip, travel comes with a built-in education and the ability to learn at every turn.

Be kind to the environment. Discover how to make a difference as a sustainable traveler and put your knowledge into practice. El Silencio Lodge & Spa, an eco-luxury hotel in Costa Rica, offers 500 private acres of carbon-offsetting cloud forest, hidden waterfalls, and organic cuisine. Each suite sits on above-ground pillars to respect the forest’s natural topography and features bamboo ceiling tiles, energy-efficient lighting, and an energy-saving electric heater.

Conquer a fear. The beauty of travel is that it can push travellers beyond their comfort zones. From the more adventurous, such as swimming with sharks in Mexico or skydiving in New Zealand, to something less extreme like traveling solo or voyaging to an off-the-beaten path destination, the options are endless for broadening horizons.

Deepen a friendship. Travel brings people together and strengthens relationships through shared experiences. Consider those beyond immediate family – a college roommate or favourite cousin makes the perfect travel companion. Spending quality time together deepens existing bonds and creates a lifetime of memories.

Get in travel shape. Combine travel with the ever-popular improved fitness resolution. If your style is yoga, meditation and massages in a Zen-like setting, visit a wellness resort for relaxation and rejuvenation. If you prefer a high level of activity, plan an adventure to help you shape up or burn calories. That could be anything from skiing in Switzerland to kayaking in Canada.

Become a global citizen. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation reports that more than one billion tourists cross international borders each year. Travel fosters greater appreciation of other countries and cultures, and makes one realise they are part of a larger global community.

Virtuoso is offering you additional help to stick to your 2018 travel resolutions. One of its expert travel advisors can partner with you to create unforgettable experiences that bring one or more of your pledges to life. If you don’t have a Virtuoso travel advisor, resolve to find one in 2018 by visiting

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What's Hot for 2018? The travel destinations for next year

World traveller Len Rutledge offer his predictions

The travel and tourism industry is booming as more and more people take advantage of low airfares and increased opportunities to see new places. While there has been some resistance to increased visitor numbers in some European destinations, much of the world is still welcoming visitors with open arms.

The following destinations are sure to please if you visit in 2018.

The Philippines

Brilliant green rice fields, teeming cities, colourful jeepneys, stunning beaches, and smiling, happy-go-lucky people are all part of the Philippines scene. With more than 7000 tropical islands to choose from, you can find what you are looking for. Divers have long known about the country's underwater attractions while Northern Palawan is perfect for sea kayakers, and Boracay is a world-class kiteboarding and beach destination.

The Philippines was colonised for 400 years and vestiges of the Spanish era can be seen in exuberant town festivals and centuries-old stone churches while huge shopping malls, fast-food chains and widespread spoken English come from the influence of the Americans.

Manila, the capital, is a pulsating hub that blends the quaint with the modern, the mundane with the extraordinary. Cebu is a choice tourist destination with balmy weather, pristine beaches, crystalline waters, and luxurious resorts. Banaue is a place for nature adventures and cultural immersion and the rice terraces are quite extraordinary. Palawan has thick green forest, white-sand beaches, sparkling water and magnificently sculpted jade islands.

Philippines Airlines flies from Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney to Manila

South Africa

Go almost anywhere in South Africa and you can experience a combination of nature, wildlife, culture, adventure, heritage and style. During these tough economic times, it's good to find a bargain destination where you can even afford luxury and have spending money left over. There is natural beauty in mountains, forests, coasts and deserts and world-class facilities.

It is not possible to talk about South Africa without mentioning wildlife. Everyone wants to see the Big Five, but there are also whales, penguins, meerkats, wild dogs, birds and much more. If you are looking to experience wildlife viewing in luxury, Tintswalo Safari Lodge (, in the pristine private Manyeleti Game Reserve could be the answer. It shares an unfenced boundary with the renowned Kruger National Park and suites are decorated to reflect colonial times.

The same company has beach-side Tintswalo Atlantic, a 5 star, award-winning boutique lodge nestled at the base of Table Mountain National Park near Cape Town. This is one of the city's hidden gems. The views of a wild sea crashing below contrasting with a roaring fire and fabulous welcome drinks will set the tone for a memorable stay.

For a city location, the all-suites Michelangelo Towers ( in Sandton, Johannesburg appeals because it is directly connected to the Michelangelo Towers Mall and the Sandton Convention Centre, and is located directly opposite Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square in the in heart of South Africa's  Richest Square Mile.


Situated at France's southeastern corner near the Italian border, occupying an area of just 2.8 sq. km, Monaco might be the second smallest country in the world (after the Vatican), but what it lacks in size it sure makes up for in attitude and variety.

There is an ornate opera house, Michelin-starred restaurants and casinos, palaces, cathedrals, supercars, mega yachts, deluxe hotels and designer boutiques. There are also museums and galleries, festivals, nightclubs, and gardens with exotic plants and sea views.

The country is one of the most surprising and rewarding destinations in Europe. It is just 30 minutes by car, bus or taxi from Nice Airport through hairpin bends and along rocky cliffs. Monaco enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year and a temperate climate.

Los Angeles

Many readers will have been to Los Angeles, USA but most will not be aware of the wide range of museums, art galleries and concert halls that are spread throughout the city. In the downtown area, the futuristic Walt Disney Theatre is an architectural masterpiece and is right next door to the city's newest cultural and design showpiece, The Broad. L.A.Live is another vibrant entertainment complex offering restaurants and live music venues.

The Westside perhaps has even more attractions. There is the Getty Center located atop the Santa Monica Mountains then on Museum Row there is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pettersen Automotive Museum, the Craft and Folk Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. In Century City you will find the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Hollywood, known as the entertainment capital of the world, is an essential part of the L.A. experience. Film enthusiasts will love the renovated TCL Chinese Theatre and you can tour the Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscars. Not far away is Universal Studios Hollywood with its rides, shows and tours.

If you consider L.A. nothing more than a gateway to the USA, you had better re-think. It is one of the top picks for places to visit in 2018.

Words: Len Rutledge

Images: As supplied

Feature supplied by:


1.     Boracay - The Philippines
2.     Tintswalo – Atlantic Coast South Africa
3.     Monaco
4.     Downtown LA – Walt Disney Concert Hall. Matt Marriott


Sunday, November 12, 2017

An unforgettable safari experience at Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater

Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands together form one of Africa's most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the most fertile and richest grazing grounds in Africa. The most famous of these without question, is Ngorongoro, the world's largest intact volcanic caldera, and home to the highest density of big game in Africa.

Ngorongoro forms the centerpiece of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located 180 km west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. Formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, the crater is 610m deep with a floor covering almost 260 square kilometres, and home to a huge diversity of animals.  

Boasting an extraordinary population of predators, it is also one of the best places in Tanzania to see 'The Big Five'. A healthy population of black rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today are prize sights, but the crater is also home to good populations of lion, leopard and hyena, along with healthy herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra. Other wildlife here includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant's and Thompson's gazelle, flamingo and bat-eared foxes, as well as approximately 400 species of bird.


Since the wildlife mainly stays in the crater all year round, there is really bad time to visit. However, given that the crater floor does get busy with vehicles, it can be more pleasant to visit during low season, when higher water levels in Lake Magadi (in the centre of the Crater) also result in higher concentrations of flamingos. But whenever you visit to Ngorongoro, you are guaranteed excellent safari action.

Image: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania by Steve Campbell

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

European Train Travel Hacks

One of the winners of people's choice prize in The 2018 Drone Photo Contest captures a breathtaking shot of a train passing through mountains in Landwasserviadukt in Switzerland. © SkyPixel

Rail Europe has released eight train travel hacks that aim to help travellers with their European holiday plans and budget.

Commercial Director Ingrid Kocijan says while many travellers are aware of the benefits of rail travel in Europe, many may not be aware of the different ways they can and should take advantage of rail passes to maximize their time and money's worth.

Here are her top hacks:

1. Consider Multiple Day Trips
Passes such as the Eurail Select ones, which include one, two, three and four countries as well as the Eurail Global Pass, allow travellers unlimited travel each given "day" on the pass within the 24 hours from midnight to midnight. Depending on the places of interest, travellers can often visit two or three small towns in one day without having to rush around.

2. Use the SaverPass
Groups of up to five people travelling together and on the same itinerary (i.e. making the same stops) qualify for the SaverPass, which is a discounted Eurail Pass. Booking the passes together as a group
translates to significant savings.

3. Apply Discounts and Bonuses
When booking any rail pass, travellers should be aware that numerous travel bonuses and discounts on buses, ferries, private railways, hotels, sightseeing tours and WiFi come with the pass. These are updated each year, so it is advisable to check the items on offer before making accommodation and tour arrangements.

4. Free travel for kids
Up to two children from the ages of 4-11 years travel for free with their parents travelling with any Eurail Pass. In Switzerland, children under 16 years old travel for free when accompanied by a guardian using the Swiss Travel Pass.

5. Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Travel Pass grants the holder unlimited access to all Swiss public transportation including buses, trains and boats; allows up to 50% discount off mountain railways and cableways; and free access to 500+ museums around the country. This is unsurpassed value for money!

6. Avoid Seat Reservations Where Possible
Travellers embarking on routes serviced by both high-speed and regional trains may like to consider the latter option to save on seat reservation costs. (Note however that seat reservations are mandatory on all high-speed services and inter-country connections).

7. Travel During Off-peak and Shoulder Seasons
Travelling during the quieter months (usually spring and autumn) will also help with the savings in general. There is also the luxury of space on the trains as crowds usually tend to swell significantly during the peak seasons of summer and winter.

8. Book in Advance
Travellers who plan ahead can save up to 70% off their rail bookings. Eurail passes can be booked up to 11 months in advance, and seat reservations up to three months prior.

For more tips, deals, information and booking, head to

Thursday, October 12, 2017

British Airways' top 18 must-see destinations for 2018.

British Airways has revealed its annual travel predictions for the year ahead, selecting the top 18 must-see destinations for 2018. 
Operating a daily service from Sydney, British Airways connects customers to London Heathrow Terminal 5 where they can connect to a network of over 200 destinations worldwide.

Highly-anticipated sporting events, new routes and TV programmes all influence the top travel predictions. The latest season of Game of Thrones has put Croatia firmly on the map, and a number of far-flung destinations rank among the top picks, including Barbados and Muscat.

As one of the most desirable holiday destinations, the Seychelles is a must-see for 2018. Famed as some of the most idyllic islands on the planet, the Seychelles has something for everyone, whether you're a sun-seeker looking for serious relaxation, or a thrill-seeker wanting to scuba dive or trek through the jungle. From 24 March 2018, British Airways will be the only airline to offer direct flights from the UK.

Nicole Backo, British Airways' regional general manager, South West Pacific, said: "Savvy holiday-makers are always looking for top tips to explore the latest and coolest destinations. We've built up years of experience to offer deals to suit all travellers, from city breaks, to fly drives to multi-city tours."

Customers can use British Airways Holidays to tailor-make their itinerary; stopping off at cities around the globe, adding car hire where needed and booking accommodation from a huge choice of hotels.


Ringed by glittering azure waters, white-sand beaches fringed with palm trees and lush greenery, this genteel island makes for a truly special holiday. Those looking for action will find exhilarating water sports, whilst those looking for relaxation will love the sandy shores and gentle surf.  Soak up the history in Bridgetown, enjoy a spot of afternoon tea at a 17th-century plantation before heading to the legendary Fish Fry for dinner.  Wander the scene with a Barbadian rum whilst enjoying the energetic Calypso background music.


Budding explorers must take a visit to Scandinavia's coolest capital.  Innovation is the theme here in Denmark's capital city, which is home to a thriving design scene, new and old architecture, quirky bakeries and pop-up bars.  Perfect for a long weekend, visitors should take a stroll into Tivoli Gardens, stop by and see The Little Mermaid by the coast and relax by the harbour.


Croatia's rare blend of glamour and authenticity have made it one of Europe's hottest holiday destinations. Customers can fly British Airways to the fashionable setting of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik, to the coastal city of Pula and to the capital Zagreb.  Festival fans will be delighted to know that, with no Glastonbury happening in 2018, British Airways flies directly to Split. Situated at the heart of the Dalmatian coast, this city is bursting with energy and a charming Mediterranean vibe set against a backdrop of pine-fringed coastline and mountainous landscape, and is a convenient driving distance to Hideout festival, a leading European music festival.


A small and compact city, Inverness is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, a diverse and spectacular region of wilderness renowned for its lochs, sweeping glens, imposing mountains and rugged coastline.  Ideal for adventurous holidaymakers, the highlands offer mountaineering and climbing during the summer, and skiing at Aviemore in the winter months.  For a more relaxing day trip, Speyside is located just south of Inverness and has the largest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland.  With British Airways offering direct daily flights to Inverness from London, customers can be in Scotland in no time.


The Portuguese city of Lisbon sits on several hills rising from the northern banks of the Tagus river.  A beautiful and historic city, a mini-break to Lisbon offers traditional colourful culture and beautiful beaches alongside a modern foodie scene and busy nightlife amid picturesque, pastel coloured surroundings.

6.    MALTA

Discover remarkable history, glistening hidden coves and timeless villages by visiting Malta, one of the smallest counties in the world and a melting pot of Mediterranean culture.  Made up of three tiny Islands on the southern edge of Europe, a must-visit is Valetta, Malta's capital and a 2018 European Capital of Culture.  This remarkable city is small and easy to explore on foot, bursting with ancient palaces and baroque churches.


A firm favourite amongst sun seekers, Mykonos is a must-visit due to its picture perfect beauty, fascinating history, spectacular beaches, cultured old town and whitewashed villages.  By day, holidaymakers enjoy snorkelling, diving and exploring the hidden coves and beachfront bars whilst waiting for night to fall, when some of Europe's best nightclubs come to life.


A brand new route to Music City will be music to travellers' ears, as from May 2018 British Airways will be travelling directly from Europe to the home of country music and good living.  Discover Nashville through its streets, stories, and the stars on its pavements.  Must-sees include the famous Bluebird Café and The Country Music Hall of Fame, whilst must-dos include a whiskey tour of Jack Daniel's distillery followed by a huge traditional Southern meal of delicious crispy fried chicken and shrimp.


It has never been easier to get to New Orleans; the birthplace of jazz, rock 'n' roll and R&B. Famous for its Mardi Gras, customers can make the most of the city by visiting during the historical celebrations to catch the popular parades and electric atmosphere.  Plan a visit to the architecturally fascinating French Quarter, followed by an evening out on the monumental Bourbon Street.


Wake up in the city that never sleeps by treating yourself to a long weekend in New York in 2018.  With an iconic skyline, energetic nightlife, bounty of museums and endless shops, a trip to the Big Apple is guaranteed to leave you dazzled, and you'll find it easy to see why it's been voted The Best City in the World in the Conde Nast Traveller Readers Awards 2017.


Those seeking out the modern face of Arabia while still wanting to sense its ancient roots will enjoy the magic of Muscat, Oman's charming capital city.  The balance between tradition and modernity is well established, with medieval forts, palaces and bazaars sitting beside modern malls and opulent resorts.  Visit the Mutrah Souq where Muscat comes to life with in clouds of incense, glittering gold jewellery and precious Omani artefacts.


Oakland's booming tourism this year, particularly among millennial travellers, has raised its profile and helped it hit the hotlist for 2018.  The city offers museums and historical sites, a vibrant arts scene, innovative restaurants and bars, and boutique shops. Catch the train for a short journey to San Francisco, a small city which is big on food, eclectic sights and history.


From party capital Moscow to culture capital St Petersburg, Russia is a brash, exciting and fascinating place to visit blessed with so many cultural and national treasures that it would take several trips to see them all.  Take advantage of British Airways flights to Moscow and St Petersburg, which are both proud host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.


Stretching 4,300km from the driest desert in the world to massive glacial fields, few countries can boast the rich contrast of Chile. Santiago provides the perfect base, a colourful and cultural feast for the senses.  By day the sights, vineyards, coastline and mountains are all within easy reach of this city, where by night the streets are thronging with partygoers.  British Airways now offers direct flights to Chile's leafy capital from London.


The futuristic capital of South Korea, where modern skyscrapers and pop culture meet Buddhist temples and street markets, is a must-visit for 2018.  Explore the fascinating culture of Seoul in one of the most authentic ways possible – through its local cuisine.  For those who prefer an activity holiday, hiking is a popular activity in Seoul, and there are world-class golf course and ski resorts within driving distance.  Snow sport lovers should plan to visit in February to tie in with the Winter Olympic Games being held in Pyeong Chang.


A paradise for honeymooners, families and sun worshippers, the Seychelles is famous for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and colourful coral reefs.  Made up of 115 diverse individual islands, there is something on offer for holidaymakers seeking ultimate relaxation or adventure, from snorkelling and scuba diving to wandering through exotic markets or relaxing on the blissful shores of the numerous white beaches.  From March, British Airways is the online airline to fly directly to the Seychelles from the UK.


2018 will mark the 100th Birthday of the Republic of Estonia, with celebrations aplenty across the country.  These will be led by the capital, Tallinn, a vibrant city whose historic centre has a UNESCO World Heritage status.  Fusing modern and medieval with its ancient cobbled streets, glass skyscrapers, baroque palaces and trendy cafes, Tallinn is a fairy-tale city which is perfect for a weekend break.


Treat yourself with a trip to Toronto, the biggest city in Canada and a metropolis with fantastic art, culture, sightseeing, restaurants and nightlife.  Time your visit during the star-studded Toronto Film Festival, which draws global crowds and is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world attracting over 480,000 people annually. With direct flights from London to Toronto year round, find your way to a vibrant city which is perfect during sunny summer days or snowy winter evenings.

To book and for further information please visit


Monday, October 9, 2017

Ten Reasons to Cruise in Asia this Summer

It's so close to Australia

The cruising hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong are so close to Australia, meaning it takes half the time to fly to either of these port cities than to Europe. Once you get there, sit back, relax, and leave the rest of your holiday in the hands of the experts, allowing you more time to enjoy the holiday experience, onboard and off!

You can visit places not accessible by car, train or bus

Cruising in Asia offers travellers the ability to visit hard-to-reach places that are inaccessible by car, bus or train. On cruise lines such as Azamara Club Cruises, the boutique size of ships such as Azamara Journey, means they can fit into smaller ports such as Borocay in the Philipines, Komodo Islands in Indonesia, or sailing up Thailand's Chao Phraya River to dock right next to the bright lights of Bangkok overnight. The line will also launch 30 brand new ports worldwide in 2018, allowing guests to see more of the world's hidden gems. The majority of these new ports will cater to smaller ships, such as Georgetown (Penang) in Malaysia and Hambantota in Sri Lanka – the gateway to the beautiful Bundala National Park, which teems with flocks of greater flamingos.

Forget overcrowded, overnight trains and buses!

Many travellers delight in experiencing local modes of travel, but cruising allows guests to swap Asia's famed crowded buses and trains for luxury. Forget airports, stations, transfers and check-ins! Whilst on board, guests on lines such as Azamara can indulge in health, beauty and restorative treatments at Sanctum Spa, hair styling and a mani-pedi at The Salon, a dip in one of the pools, or acupuncture. What's more, ships such as Azamara Journey cater to a maximum of 690 guests, which keeps the experience intimate and the service personal.

Watch the sunset in one country, wake up in another

What other form of travel allows you to watch the sunset over the network of rivers, streams and canals of Cochin, India, then wake up in the lush serendipity of Colombo, Sri Lanka? Asia isn't the sort of destination you can skim over or whiz through; with so many rich cultures and phenomenal sights to explore, an Asia cruise allows you time to immerse yourself within the destinations.

Go to places on the top of your bucket list, as well as those you've never considered

Countries such as Japan, Indonesia and Thailand are at the top of many Aussie bucket lists, but an Asia cruise allows you to combine these destinations with those you wouldn't have otherwise considered. Why not get a taste of Salalah, Oman, the perfume capital of Arabia, or the bright lights of Yeosu, South Korea, or the leafy streets and colonial architecture of Yangon, Myanmar?

Courtesy of Robert La Bua, Tourism Oman

It's a Balinese villa at sea… only better

Balinese-style villas are a top travel trend that fill today's social media feeds, but an Asia cruise offers guests the opportunity to experience this level of luxury on a grander scale AND immerse themselves in multiple exotic destinations at the same time. Suites onboard an Azamara voyage include ocean views, sea breezes, plush cotton robes and slippers, French bath products, fresh flowers, fine linens, private verandas, complimentary drinks, 24-hour room service, a stateroom attendant and assistant, and a butler who can assist with restaurant and spa reservations, private parties, dinners for two and more!

No stress, no language barriers, no organisation – leave to someone else!

One of the downsides about travelling – especially in a country that doesn't speak your language – is the stress of planning, travelling between destinations and organising activities. Fortunately on an Asia cruise with a line such as Azamara, guests needn't bother with this hassle as expert teams curate custom experiences for every travel style, whether it be experiencing local life behind the scenes (Cruise Global, Meet Local), food and wine (Cruise Global, Taste Local), exclusive, custom after-dinner experiences (Cruise Global, Nights Local), or cycling (Cruise Global, Bike Local). Guests also won't be bothered by large crowds, with each excursion catering to a maximum of 25 guests, to preserve the intimacy of the local experience.

The best of Asian cuisine, both onboard & on shore

The countries of the Asian continent have incredibly rich and diverse cultures, influenced by thousands of years of history, customs, rituals and languages – all of which have shaped a fantastic array of culinary experiences waiting to be discovered. A cruise in Asia allows guests to explore local cuisines both onboard and on shore, as ship chefs often visit local markets to inspire their creations, whilst on shore excursions might see cruisers sample the local speciality such as Okonomiyaki in Osaka, Japan, explore local markets and souks with the ship's chef in Dubai, or take a local cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Escape Christmas with the in-laws & enjoy a luxurious Christmas onboard, amongst the best of Asia

This year, why not ditch the hassle, chores and family chaos of the festive season, by escaping on a stress-free Asia Christmas cruise. An Azamara Asia cruise will put a twist on the traditional Aussie Christmas, making for an unforgettable holiday; everything will be taken care of onboard – from Christmas dinner and decorations to festive activities – and you get to explore spectacular, new exotic destinations every day!

Chinese New Year!

One of the most exciting times to cruise in Asia is during Chinese New Year. 2018 will see the Year of the Dog welcomed in from 16th February with celebrations continuing into early March. Visit the local New Year Markets during on shore excursions, which will usually be decorated with lanterns, and pick up New Year goods such as clothing, decorations, food and small arts, or enjoy the local New Year traditional cuisine.

Guests can discover the wonders of Borneo, Vietnam and Thailand on a 14 night round-trip cruise departing Singapore, 25 March 2018. Sailing on Azamara Journey, the cruise makes calls to Bintulu, Bandar Seri Begawan, Kota Kinabalu, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Ko Samui. Fares start from AU$3,499/NZ$3,719 per person, twin share for an Interior Stateroom.

Or, guests can explore the delights of Indonesia on a 7 night Borobudur and Bali cruise, sailing on Azamara Journey. Departing Singapore 14 January, 2018, the cruise visits Samarang, Surabaya, Celukan Bawang and finishes up in Bali. Fares start from AU$1,999/NZ$2,139 per person, twin share, for an interior stateroom.

To make a booking or for further information visit, phone 1800 754 500 or contact your local travel agent.

*Terms and conditions apply, see for full details.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Go for a walking safari in Africa

Before the modern 4WD safari became so popular – and, in fact, before arrival of cars in general – the only way to experience the African bush was on foot. The most famous African explorers of the 19th Century, the likes of Burton, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, and even Ernest Hemmingway in the early 20th Century, would all have discovered Africa on a walking safari of sorts. Expeditions were typically fraught with drama and danger in equal measure, a far cry from today's safari experience.

In the 1940s, however, the concept of the modern walking safari was pioneered by Norman Carr in Zambia's Luangwa Valley, who wanted to give people an opportunity to experience wildlife in close proximity. Today, the walking safari is considered one of the most authentic and exhilarating ways to explore Africa's national parks and reserves.

Devon Meyers has been guiding across Africa for 12 years, and is a passionate advocate of the walking safari. Here he tells us why is should be a must-try experience for every safari guest.

Why do it?

"Walking in the wild is the oldest form of safari and the aim is to enjoy nature in a natural, non-threatening way. More to the point, climbing out of a vehicle and stepping down to the same level as lions, elephants and zebra delivers an incredibly intimate insight into the intricacies of the African veldt, not to mention an opportunity to encounter some of country's most exciting wildlife from a unique – and often thrilling, perspective."

How does a walking safari differ to a traditional game drive?

"Walking safaris and game drives represent two very different types of experience, and I always advise our guests to try out both. Certainly a game drive generally allows guests to get a little more up-close-and-personal with wildlife – albeit from within the confines of a vehicle, and photographic opportunities are sometimes better from a vehicle. On the other hand, while we don't get as close to bigger wildlife on a walking safari, it's a great chance to see other lesser known species including birds and insects – and the experience is definitely a more visceral one."

What does a typical day look like on a walking safari?

"Walking safaris generally take place in the morning from 7am – 10am, or in the late afternoon from 3pm – 6pm, with a maximum of six guests per group. The distance of the walk will depend on two key factors – the fitness level of the guests, and what we find along the way. Generally, we try and tailor walks to ensure they are at a comfortable pace and distance for specific participants.

"Sanctuary Swala is the most remote camp in the Tarangire, which means that the areas our walks cover are not only teaming with wildlife, but are also pretty much devoid of vehicles, which delivers a very natural and authentic experience for our guests.

"Every walking safari is different and we're always on the lookout for whatever nature offers us on the day. Sometimes we'll encounter a great sighting within the first hour and spend quite a bit of time following and viewing what we have found. On other days, we might uncover elephant tracks and follow them to find the herd. This sometimes means we cover slightly longer distances, but it's incredibly rewarding for guests when they track down wildlife themselves."

Are Walking Safaris Safe?

"Like any interaction with wild animals, walking safaris have their risks. Before we set off, all our guests are given a comprehensive safety briefing, which covers everything they need to know, from how we'll be communicating along the way, to emergency procedures. For example, we'll often use hand signals or clicking of the fingers or tongue to communicate, as these are more natural sounds and therefore more likely to go unnoticed by the animals.

"During a walking safari, guests are accompanied by me and a TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks) Ranger. My role is to lead from the front and guide guests, while the TANAPA Ranger follows the group, and has the very important job of keeping an eye out for wildlife from the rear.

"It's also a requirement by law, and an industry standard, to carry a rifle while guiding walking safaris in any 'big game' areas. This is obviously for the protection of guests, but is there as an absolute last resort. In my career as a safari guide, having spent literally thousands of hours guiding guests on foot, I have never yet had to fire my rifle on a walking safari – and that's a record that I endeavour to keep!'

Favourite animal to track in the bush?

"I really enjoy the tracking and stalking all types of game, but if I had to choose, it would probably be buffalo. In any herd, there are hundreds of eyes, ears and noses, looking, listening and smelling for what may be around them. This makes them a very tricky group of animals to stalk and view without being noticed, and I really enjoy rising to the challenge."

Most memorable sighting on a walking safari?

"I have been fortunate enough to witness plenty of interesting and memorable sights during walking safaris, including mating black rhinos and lion kills. But watching a group of seven old buffalo bulls chase a pride of lions and force them to take refuge at the top of a tree was one of the most astounding. The lions had to wait until the buffalo had lost interest in them before they were able to come down and make for cover."

When is the best time to do a walking safari?

"Walking safaris from mid July until the end of March. Outside of this period the grass is extremely tall, making walking uncomfortable and less safe due to low visibility."

Devon's walking safari essentials.

"First up, binoculars, binoculars and binoculars! These are important for spotting wildlife and getting a closer look. A decent set of binoculars will significantly enhance any safari experience, whether on foot or in a vehicle.

"Comfortable, closed shoes and neutral coloured clothing (such as dark greens, grey and khaki) are also important for comfort – and to make sure guests bend into the environment.

"Hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Water. And of course, a small camera!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda: a Guide

Uganda is best known for its concentration of primates, including its most celebrated residents – half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population.

Gorilla trekking is high on the wish list for many travellers, and Uganda is one of few countries where it is still possible to observe gorillas in the wild. But the recent move by Rwandan authorities earlier this year to implement a significant price hike for compulsory gorilla trekking permits from US$750 to US $1,500 per person for all visitors has added significantly to Uganda’s appeal, with Ugandan permits considerably more affordable at just US$600 per person.

One of the best places to see gorillas in Uganda is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country’s southwest. Bwindi is home to just over half the world’s last surviving mountain gorillas, as well as the spectacular Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Comprising just eight tents, it is one of the most remote and atmospheric camps in Africa. Frequently visited by gorilla families due to its unique location, it is the perfect base for a once in a lifetime encounter with mountain gorillas.

We asked Michael McCall, what guests staying at a Forest Camp can expect when embarking on a gorilla trekking trip.

Early Rises!

“Expect a wake up call at around 6.30am, followed by hearty breakfast, after which you will be escorted to the starting point for the gorilla trek, conveniently located just a five minute walk from Sanctuary gorilla Forest Camp.”

“This is where you will be introduced to your guides for the day and receive a safety briefing ahead of the trek. You’ll be one of just eight trekkers, and you’ll be accompanied by a Uganda Wildlife Ranger plus two armed rangers (to fend off any rogue forest elephants). There’s also a porter for each guest, who will be carrying everything you need during the trek, including water and a packed lunch.

Time to trek.

“Every trek is different, and can last between four and 10 hours, depending on the location of the gorillas. The terrain is varied and may involve climbing up and down some quite mountainous trails. Along the way, your guide will be looking (and listening!) out for clues from the surrounding forest, including scouring the foliage for droppings, left over food and knuckle fingerprints. The aim is to find out where the gorillas have spent the night, as they tend to only travel up to 1km per day and are likely to still be nearby the nest.

“Once you’ve located your chosen gorilla family, you’ll have around an hour to observe them in their natural habitat. And of course, the rangers are extremely knowledgeable and will be on hand to answer all your questions and explain gorillas’ behaviour.

“While there are certainly restrictions on how close you can get to the gorillas (10M) they can be as curious as you are, so be prepared to say hello!

Welcome home.

“Once your magical hour has come to an end, it’s time to head back to camp where your drink of choice and a much-welcomed refreshing towel will be waiting to welcome you home.

“The laundry team are also on standby to clean boots and clothes for your next adventure. And for those with stiff muscles, a visit to the masseuse in the mini spa for a well-deserved post trek massage is a must.

“After dinner it’s time to kick back, relax and share your stories around the campfire!”

Trek Essentials.

For anyone planning a gorilla trek, here is Michael’s list of essential items you should definitely not leave home – or camp, without!

· A good quality waterproof camera.

· A poncho or rain jacket as it can rain heavily, even in the dry season.

· A walking stick, which will be provided by the Camp.

· Gloves which come in useful for grabbing bushes, or sliding downhill on the seat of your pants as you never know where your trek might take you!.

· Bug repellent. DEET strength.

· A good-quality, solid – and comfy hiking boots.

· Cool, comfortable clothing in muted colours. Michael recommends long sleeves, trousers, long socks and gaiters to keep bugs out and prevent scratches.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

President's secret New York rail tunnel keeps us guessing


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.


[] 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:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Visiting South Australia’s Flinders Ranges


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.


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


[] 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


[] 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

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, or


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


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,
Ph: 02 6372 2822

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

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