• Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton
    Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton

Iceland Self Drive Tour

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Posted by:

Kirsty Saunders

 

This Iceland self drive tour takes you on a voyage from the West Side of Iceland through the Golden Circle area followed by a few days on the South Coast. Get familiar with Iceland’s history at the Settlement Center in Borgarnes village, visit waterfalls and hot spring areas as well as three National Parks and fishing villages.

Summary

Iceland Self Drive Tour

This 7 day self drive tour will take you through some incredible landscapes and natural wonders. Visit Deildartunguhver hot spring, Hraunfossar waterfalls, The Snæfellsnes peninsula, The Golden Circle with Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir, Reynisfjara Black Beach, Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss waterfall, Sólheimajökull Glacier and  Reykjanes peninsula.

Other places of interest on enroute include Reykjavík, The Settlement Center, Shark Museum and the Skógar folk museum. There are numerous activities to consider such as Horse Riding, a Glacier hike, Snowmobiling, Lava tube caving and Whale Watching. If you visit between September and April see the amazing Northern Lights as they illuminate the sky.

Day 1: Arrival – Reykjavik

Day 2: Reykjavík & Borgarfjörður valley

Day 3: Snæfellsnes peninsula

Day 4: National Park Þingvellir, Geysir & Gullfoss waterfall

Day 5:  Waterfalls, Glacier & Reynisfjara black sand beach

Day 6: Lava landscape & hot springs of Reykjanes peninsula

Day 7: Reykjanes peninsula – Departure

Description

Description

This 7 day self drive tour will take you through some incredible landscapes and natural wonders. Visit Deildartunguhver hot spring, Hraunfossar waterfalls, The Snæfellsnes peninsula, The Golden Circle with Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir, Reynisfjara Black Beach, Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss waterfall, Sólheimajökull Glacier and  Reykjanes peninsula.

Other places of interest on enroute include Reykjavík, The Settlement Center, Shark Museum and the Skógar folk museum. There are numerous activities to consider such as Horse Riding, a Glacier hike, Snowmobiling, Lava tube caving and Whale Watching. If you visit between September and April see the amazing Northern Lights as they illuminate the sky.

 

Day 1: Arrival

Upon arrival at Keflavík International Airport, you will pick up your pre-booked rental car. If you arrive in the morning or afternoon, you might want to stop by at the Blue Lagoon on your way into the city of Reykjavík. If arriving late, you can stay for the first night closer to the airport.

 

Day 2: Reykjavík & Borgarfjörður valley

Take a walk around the most northerly located capital of the world Reykjavík. A must see are the Reykjavik city hall at lake Tjörnin, the old harbour area, Harpa concert hall and the city centre with its colourful buildings.

Head on to Borgarnes and perhaps visit the Settlement Centre before you drive upcountry. Deildartunguhver hot spring is the most active hot spring in Iceland, and the picturesque waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are not far away. Guided tours of the lava cave Víðgelmir or the man made ice cave Inside the Langjökull Glacier are available all year round.

2 nights –  Borgarfjörður valley 

Photo credit: Gonorth

 

Day 3: Snæfellsnes peninsula

Make time to stop at Bjarnarhöfn farm for tasting the famous “Hákarl”, the Greenland shark. Passing by the peculiar shaped mountain Kirkjufell you´ll reach the National Park around the glacier covered volcano Snæfellsjökull.

Enjoy a walk to the black pebble beach Djúpalónssandur, the stunning rock formations of Hellnar cove and the Cliffs at Arnarstapi fishing hamlet. The lava cave “Vatnshellir” offers guided tours daily.

On the sand beaches of Búðir and Ytri-Tunga, seals can be spotted whilst resting on the rocky coast. Visit the basalt columns in Gerðuberg, or hike to the crater of Eldborg, the “fire castle”, to round up the visit to the peninsula.

1 night – Snæfellsnes peninsula

The seals at Hvitanes, in the Isafjardardjup region

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4: National Park Þingvellir, Geysir & Gullfoss waterfall

Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park Þingvellir while walking through the Almannagjá rift, passing the first parliament site, the Althing, to the waterfall Öxaráfoss.

Your journey takes you to the geysers, where the hot spring Strokkur erupts every five minutes or so. At the majestic waterfall Gullfoss a footpath leads to the edge of the falls where you can feel the spray on your face.

Treat yourself with tomato ice cream at the greenhouses at Friðheimar, or relax in the Secret Lagoon geothermal pool.

2 nights – Hella

Photo credit: Gonorth 

 

 

Day 5:  Waterfalls, Glacier & Reynisfjara black sand beach

Today perhaps start with an unforgettable walk behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall or take the stairs to the brim of waterfall Skógafoss. Also The local folk- and transport museum Skógasafn is well worth a visit. The exhibits include an original turf farm, the first vehicles to drive onto a glacier, and an uncountable collection of items depicting daily working life of days gone by.

You can join a Glacier hike or Snowmobile tour at the Sólheimajökull Glacier, before heading on to the bird cliffs of Dyrhólaey. See the rock arch and the grand view from the lighthouse over the endless seeming coastline. Also the fascinating black beach at Reynisfjara with its basalt columns is only a short drive away.

1 night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6: Lava landscape & hot springs of Reykjanes peninsula

Today allow time for activities such as visiting the lava cave Raufarholshellir, a horse riding tour, the exhibition of the geothermal power station Hellisheiðarvirkjun or the ghost museum in Stokkseyir.

 

Day 7: Departure

Head back to the airport today for your onward flight. You will need to return your rental car before departure. For later departures you may have time to explore more of the Reykjanes peninsula before you go.

The village Hveragerði was built around natural hotsprings, heating the greenhouses where mainly flowers are grown today. Enjoy a detour to the picturesque fishing villages of Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri before heading on to Reykjanes peninsula with its raw lava landscape. Make your way to the fumaroles and mud hot springs at Krisuvik and Kleifarvatn Lake. The milky blue geothermal water of the Blue Lagoon are known for the therapeutic benefits, and unique relaxation.

You will now be at the end of the 7 day Iceland self-drive tour, so your accommodation for the night will be located close to the airport.

1 night

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Three Interesting US Cities in One Trip

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Posted by:

Kirsty Saunders

 

This 11-night suggested itinerary combines three interesting US cities into one trip on the East Coast. See iconic buildings, explore world renowned visitor attractions, shop until you drop and experience unique culinary delights.  With excellent rail links it is easy to travel between the three cities, either in the following order or in reverse.

Summary

Three Interesting US Cities in One Trip

Washington, New York and BostonThis 11-night suggested itinerary combines three interesting US cities into one trip on the East Coast. See iconic buildings, explore world renowned visitor attractions, shop until you drop and experience unique culinary delights.  With excellent rail links it is easy to travel between the three cities, either in the following order or in reverse.

Day 1 : Washington DC

Day 5 : New York City

Day 9 :Boston

Day 12 : Depart

Description

Description

Washington, New York and BostonThis 11-night suggested itinerary combines three interesting US cities into one trip on the East Coast. See iconic buildings, explore world renowned visitor attractions, shop until you drop and experience unique culinary delights.  With excellent rail links it is easy to travel between the three cities, either in the following order or in reverse.

 

Day 1 Washington DC: Arrive in Washington DC; the Nation’s capital and the hub of the USA administration.  From its celebrated symbols of patriotism to its undiscovered neighbourhoods, the sights and sounds of the nation’s capital inspire millions of visitors every year. Packed with famous sights, free attractions, and an endless calendar of special events, Washington DC offers year-round inspiring experiences. Beyond Washington DC’s most familiar vistas, the capital city unwinds into a lively urban centre.  Casual cafes and upscale bistros line the trendy streets of Georgetown, while the downtown district sizzles with a host of new restaurants. Spontaneous Jazz notes tumble out the windows of U Street’s nightclubs, while world-class performers take the stage at the highly acclaimed Kennedy Center. Kayakers tackle the Potomac River as it winds past the elegant marble tributes to America’s great leaders.

4 nights in Washington

White House

 

Photo courtesy of Angie Watson

Day 5 New York City: Travel by Amtrak train to New York City. Of all the cities ever featured anywhere in any travel publication, surely New York must be the one that needs no introduction!  The ‘Big Apple’ sets the adrenalin pumping at the merest mention of the name, and add to this images of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden, the Rockefeller Centre and so many more, and suddenly you need to be there, experiencing the buzz of this vibrant city.  The very ground you walk on is throbbing with activity and excitement.  Take a loop tour to acquaint yourself with the different areas of Manhattan, and then lose yourself in trendy Greenwich Village and Soho.  Visit the iconic stores of Macy’s and Bloomingdales or wander through Central Park.

4 nights in New York

 

Day 9 Boston: Travel by Amtrak train to Boston.  The home of the famous Boston Tea Party and gateway to New England. Boston is an intriguing mix of the historic (by American standards) and the modern, with high-rise modern buildings giving way to the quaint side streets of a former time.  The Freedom Trail, the red line in the pavement, takes the visitor on a walking trail around the main attractions of the city – or jump on one of the city tours to get your bearings.

3 nights in Boston

Photo courtesy of Harry Lipson III

 

Day 12: Depart Boston for your onward or homeward journey.

 

Optional extra: Philadelphia

Turn three cities into four by slotting in a stay in Philadelphia between Washington DC and New York. Philadelphia is Perhaps not at the top of everyone’s list, but none-the-less an interesting city, and well worth a visit.  Most famously known as the birthplace of American democracy, a visit to Philadelphia should include a trip the Liberty Bell Centre and Independence Hall – a quick call at the Visitor Centre will set you on your way.  If retail therapy is for you, then Philadelphia is a must as there is no sales tax on clothing and shoes.  For those visitors not in the first bloom of youth, you may remember Sylvester Stallone’s epic climb of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts in the first Rocky movie way back in the 70’s!

 

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Consider going for cocktails or dinner at New York’s only revolving restaurant which overlooks Times Square.

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Wildlife of New Zealand

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

With over 20 percent of the country covered in 14 National Parks, New Zealand offers pristine wilderness and the perfect habitat for its native flora and fauna. As always, sightings of wildlife can never be guaranteed, but if you plan to be in the right place at the right time of year, you’ll maximise your chances. And that’s where we come in – we can discuss with you when and where to go, and build a tailor made holiday to New Zealand to incorporate wildlife viewing along the way.

 There is an abundance and great variety of birdlife to be found in New Zealand. Before humans settled the country, there were no natural predators for some birds, and as such several native species evolved to become flightless. The most famous of these is the nocturnal kiwi – New Zealand’s national symbol. Other native birds include the kea – one of the most intelligent birds in the world, the vibrant takahe, the weka and the tui with its beautiful birdsong. One of the best places in New Zealand to admire the birdlife is on Stewart Island and nearby Ulva Island – these are two of the few places it is still possible to see the kiwi in the wild, along with Kapiti Island.

 

 

Kiwi -= New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Tourism New Zealand

New Zealand

Ulva Island-Stewart Island- Picture courtesy of Miles Holden and 100% Pure New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Otago Peninsula, see the royal albatross – the largest seabird in the world, and at Cape Kidnappers near Napier, join a tour to see the resident gannet colony. On the west coast of the South Island in the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve, take a tour to see the rare white heron – sacred to the Maori and believed to bring good fortune if seen.

New Zealand is also home to diverse marine life. Find the blue penguin and rare yellow eyed penguin in the Catlins and on the Otago Peninsula. Also in this region see New Zealand fur seals and sea lions. See the fjordland crested penguin near Lake Moeraki or Milford Sound.

 

New Zealand

Yellow Eyed Penguin – Picture courtesy of 100% Pure New Zealand

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Chris Stephenson and 100% Pure New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only found in New Zealand’s waters, hector’s dolphins are regularly seen off the Banks Peninsula and are one of the smallest marine dolphins in the world. Board a sightseeing cruise and if you’re lucky take the opportunity to swim with these beautiful creatures in the wild.

 Kaikoura is widely known as the whale watching capital of New Zealand, and is one of the few places in the world where sperm whales can be seen year round and close to shore. Humpback whales are frequently found during the winter months (June, July & August), blue whales and southern right whales can sometimes be seen here too. Dusky and hector’s dolphins are found in this region, and sea birds here include six species of shearwater, along with petrels and albatross.

The Bay of Islands on the North Island is another region known for its dolphins – bottlenose and common dolphins are most often seen here, along with baleen whales, orca and seals.

Any and all of the above regions can be included in a bespoke holiday to New Zealand – just give us a call and we can discuss your plans and preferences before putting together a tailored itinerary.

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Jim Bell

 

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Matt Winter and 100% Pure New Zealand

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Jim Bell

New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Jim Bell

Otago Peninsula New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

 

Japan in 14 Days

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Posted by:

Kirsty Saunders

 

Japan in 14 days. This trip will introduce you to all the highlights Japan has to offer starting from Tokyo and finishing in Osaka. Travel by rail using the Japan Rail Pass, and experience Japan’s famous Bullet train. Stay in Japan’s major cities and experience a traditional Ryokan stay along the way.

A country with fascinating history, an intriguing culture, stunning scenery and delicious cuisine, Japan is a country that offers a diverse mix of attractions. There truly is something for everyone here! The following itinerary will certainly give you a taste of what Japan has to offer.

Summary

Japan in 14 Days 

This 14-day trip will introduce you to all the highlights Japan has to offer starting from Tokyo and finishing in Osaka. Travel by rail using the Japan Rail Pass, and experience Japan’s famous Bullet train. Stay in Japan’s major cities and experience a traditional Ryokan stay along the way.

Day 1: Arrive Tokyo

Day 4: Hakone

Day 5: Takayama

Day 6: Kanazawa

Day 8: Kyoto

Day 11: Hyroshima

Day 13: Osaka

Day 14: Depart Osaka

Description

Description

 

Day 1: Tokyo

Arrive in Tokyo. Japan’s bustling capital mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers and anime shops to cherry trees and temples. The opulent Meiji Shinto Shrine is known for its towering gate and surrounding forests and The Imperial Palace sits amid sprawling public gardens. The city is famed for its vibrant food scene, and its Shibuya and Harajuku districts are the heart of its trendy teen fashion scene.

Tokyo 3 nights

 

Days 2&3: Tokyo

For the next two days explore Tokyo at your leisure. At over 12 million people in the official metropolitan area alone, Tokyo is the core of the most populated urban areas in the world, (Greater Tokyo has a population of 35 million people). This huge, wealthy and fascinating metropolis brings high-tech visions of the future along side with glimpses of old Japan. There is something here for everyone.

photo courtesy of JTB Japan Specialists

 

Day 4: Hakone

Check out of your accommodation and make your way to Odawara Station, using your JR Pass. From here, use your Hakone Free Pass to explore the area at your leisure before making your way to your accommodation. Stay for a night in a traditional ryokan with hot spring baths. Here Futon mattresses will be prepared on the tatami mat floor and a Japanese ‘kaiseki’ cuisine will be served.

Hakone is located in the mountainous far west of Kanagawa Prefecture, on the eastern side of Hakone Pass about 1hr 15 mins from Tokyo. Most of the town is within the borders of the volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and centred around Lake Ashi.  Hakone is famous for hot springs, outdoor activities, and natural beauty with the view of nearby Mt. Fuji.  Besides being the home of Japan’s oldest and most famous spa, the town has an interesting history, beautiful surroundings and a cool climate all year round. This makes it one of the most popular destinations among Japanese and international tourists looking for a break from Tokyo.

photo courtesy of JTB Japan Specialists

Hakone 1 night

 

Day 5: Takayama

This morning make your way to Takayama using your JR Pass (approx. 5 hours in total). On arrival you will be free to explore for the rest of the day.

Hida-Takayama known locally as just Takayama – is a city near the Northern Japan Alps of Gifu prefecture in the Chubu region. Takayama has retained a traditional atmosphere like few other Japanese towns, especially in its beautifully preserved old town. The city is famous for its well-preserved quarter with Edo-style streets, only rivalled by those of Kanazawa. It gained importance as a source of high-quality timber and highly skilled carpenters in feudal times. The Takayama Festival, held in spring and autumn, is considered one of Japan’s best festivals.

photo courtesy of JTB Japan Specialist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takayama 1 night

 

 

 

Day 6: Kanazawa

Today you will make your way to Kanazawa on the Japanese rail system. Another option would be to take the bus from Takayama to Kanazawa, stopping at Shirawago village on the way*. The area is a UNESCO world heritage site, famous for its distinctive thatched farmhouses.

Kanazawa 2 nights

 

Day 7: Kanazawa

Today you will be free to explore Kanazawa.

Kanazawa sits on the Sea of Japan’s coast, bordered by the Northern Alps, Hakusan National Park and Noto Peninsula National Park. During the Edo Period, Kanazawa served as the seat of the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa. Kanazawa then grew to become a town of great cultural achievements, rivalling Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). Kanazawa is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Crafts and Folk Art.

photo courtesy of JTB Japan Specialist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8: Kyoto

This morning you will make your way to Kyoto using your JR Pass. You could opt to take the Thunderbird Limited Express directly to Kyoto (approx. 2 hours). Upon arrival, please make your way to your accommodation where you can check in at your earliest convenience. The rest of the day is then free at your leisure.

Kyoto 3 nights

 

Days 9&10: Kyoto

Explore Kyoto for the next 2 days. This city is in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.

Kyoto is considered to be the centre of Japan’s cultural life. Here cherished traditional art forms are maintained, making it a rich experience for the visitor. With more than 1,600 Buddhist temples and 270 Shinto shrines, the city is one of the world’s greatest cultural treasures and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite functioning as a modern city today, in many ways it stands in contrast to the metropolis of Tokyo.

photo courtesy of JTB Japan Specialists

 

Day 11: Hiroshima

This morning the bulk of your luggage will be transported to your accommodation in Osaka. You will make your way to Hiroshima by rail, with an overnight bag. This journey will take approx. 2 hours by bullet train. The rest of the day is then free at your leisure.

Hiroshima 2 nights

 

 Day 12: Hiroshima

Today you are free to explore Hiroshima and the island of Miyajima (or shrine island). Hear you can visit one of the crown jewels of the country: Itsukushima floating shrine. (Please note that the floating shrine is undergoing renovation until June 2021.)

The principal city of the Chugoku Region and home to over a million inhabitants, Hiroshima is an industrial city of wide boulevards and criss-crossing rivers, located along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea. Although many only know it for that horrific split-second on August 6, 1945 when it became the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack, it is now a modern, cosmopolitan city with great restaurants and nightlife.

photo courtesy of JTB Japan Specialists

 

Day 13: Osaka

Today travel to Osaka, by rail where you will be free to explore for the rest of the day. With a population of 2.5 million, Osaka is Japan’s third largest and second most important city. It has been the economic powerhouse of the Kansai region for many centuries. It is the central metropolis of the Kansai region and the largest of the Osaka-Kobe–Kyoto trio. The historic cities of Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji and Nara are nearby and easily accessible by train.

photo courtesy of JTB Japan Specialists

Osaka 1 night

 

Day 14: Osaka 

Depart Osaka for the onward journey.

 

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North Tanzania During the Short Rains

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Kirsty Saunders

 

This must be one of the best wildlife destinations in Africa with the wildebeest/zebra migration in the Serengeti being one of the star attractions. Visiting North Tanzania during the short rains around November means you can experience all this amazing region has to offer without having to share it with a crowd of other people. This can only enhance the experience. The trick here is selecting a camp site that is remote, wild, still very Africa but with all the amenities that you need with excellent service and guiding as standard.

If you are willing to take the chance of going during the short rainy season, then you will improve the quality of your safari. Yes, you may experience an African thunderstorm (dramatic, noisy and spectacular but usually over within the hour) but the experience has benefits. Seeing the plains and trees turn green, then having all the wild flowers coming out and seeing the baby topi’s and impala add something in the way of a big extra.

We also know a company that will ensure that your campsite is exclusive, in a special location and far from the other travellers you may have seen during the day. Their aim is to give you such a good experience that you will start planning your return before too long. They will look after you from the moment you land to the time you depart – in style.

Summary

North Tanzania During the Short Rains

This must be one of the best wildlife destinations in Africa with the wildebeest/zebra migration in the Serengeti being one of the star attractions. Visiting North Tanzania during the short rains around November means you can experience all this amazing region has to offer without having to share it with a crowd of other people. This can only enhance the experience. The trick here is selecting a camp site that is remote, wild, still very Africa but with all the amenities that you need with excellent service and guiding as standard.

If you are willing to take the chance of going during the short rainy season, then you will improve the quality of your safari. Yes, you may experience an African thunderstorm (dramatic, noisy and spectacular but usually over within the hour) but the experience has benefits. Seeing the plains and trees turn green, then having all the wild flowers coming out and seeing the baby topi’s and impala add something in the way of a big extra.

We also know a company that will ensure that your campsite is exclusive, in a special location and far from the other travellers you may have seen during the day. Their aim is to give you such a good experience that you will start planning your return before too long. They will look after you from the moment you land to the time you depart – in style.

The following is a suggested itinerary for your safari in the short rainy season to Northern Tanzania:

 

Day 1: Arusha/ Kilimanjaro Airport

Day 2: Tarangire

Day 6: Central Serengeti

Day 9: North Serengeti

Day 13: Return to Arusha – depart

Description

Description

 

Day 1 – Arusha/ Kilimanjaro Airport

Currently there are no direct flights to Kilimanjaro Airport but there are plenty of choices for indirect flights at very reasonable prices. Depending on the time that you arrive you could head for your first camp or stay overnight in or around Arusha. There is plenty of choice for the overnight from 5 star luxury to staying on a coffee farm.

Consider adding a day here to explore the little visited but a jewel of a National Park – Mount Meru National Park with its perfect caldera offering a sanctuary to its wildlife on the floor of the volcano and beautiful rain forests throughout the Park.

 

Day 2 to 5 – Tarangire

After breakfast you head towards Tarangire National Park along good tarmac roads before turning off to a private concession that exists along the border of the Park. Tarangire is famed for its giant Baobab trees and big herds of buffalo and elephant. You camp is located along the dry riverbed and is just 10 tents in all. The waterhole right in front of the pool and dining room is very popular with the local wildlife, particularly elephant. You could be sipping your G&T by the pool watching the eli’s jostling for their drink.

We suggest 2 or 3 nights here to explore the Park and see the wildlife that lives in the Concession. The swamp in the Tarangire is a mecca for birders and huge herds of buffalo and elephant. Being on a Concession allows you to take a walking safari of a night drive. Then snuggle up in your warm bed to the sound of lion and/or hyena calling.

 

 

Day 6 – 9 – Central Serengeti

If you have time you could add in a couple of nights staying in a camp or lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and having a full day down in the crater. This is a world of its own and has all the big 5 here to see as well as flamingo on the lake at certain times of the year.

You have the option of driving to the Serengeti perhaps stopping at the Olduvai Gorge to learn about our very earliest ancestors or catching a 45 minutes flight to Seronera Airstrip where your next guide will pick you up. You are in the centre of this huge National Park (30,000 square kilometres or a quarter of the size of England) and well placed to follow the ever going migration of wildebeest and zebra. This migration is one of the largest in the world and is governed by the rain fall and water availability in the Serengeti and Masai Mara in Kenya.

Your game drive starts immediately you leave the airstrip and if the migration is in the central area (very likely at this time of year) you will see huge herds of zebra, wildebeest and the other plains animals. Along with them come the predators – lion, cheetah, hyena, leopard and all the attendant birds such as vultures and scavengers like jackal. Where we recommend staying is in a hidden valley with no passing traffic, apart from the animals, and peace and quiet for the perfect sundowner, delightful meals and sleep only interrupted by lion roars and hyena calls. It really is worth planning this part of your trip carefully. Having passing vehicles in front of your campsite takes a lot away from the experience.

Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis

While here, plan a balloon trip at dawn for an experience of a lifetime. The captains of the balloons are very experienced and will give you varying height chances to photo the plains, kopjes and animals. Finish with a champagne breakfast under an acacia tree on the plains that you have just flown over. Exhilarating and unforgettable.

 

Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

Day 9 – 12 – North Serengeti

Have a game drive to the northern part of the Park and notice the change between savanna and lightly forested hills. Here the Grumeti and Mara rivers dissect the Serengeti here and at the right time of the year you could witness the famous river crossings by the migrating herds. The rivers are full of hippo and crocs and you can see why the animals hesitate to be the first to jump into the murky water. This region has everything to offer with leopard often seen resting on the rocks, waiting for darkness.

Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis

Your camp site here is tucked into the rocks of one of the kopjes that dot the plains here and give stunning views across the plains and acacia forests. The service, meals and ambience are second to none. A great place to end your safari.

 

 

 

Day 13

This morning you will fly back to Arusha and make your connection for the return flight home.

 

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Sitting quietly on the Serengeti Plains watching a cheetah, sitting on an anthill, surveying the herds close by and deciding whether to hunt or not. Just the sounds of the wildlife and birds as your backdrop to a scene that is eons old.

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Have you considered Western Australia?

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Posted by:

Kirsty Saunders

 

With 12,500 km’s of stunning coastline, 550 species of birds, 12,000 species of wildflowers, and just a little short of 2 million people, Western Australia is a destination in its own right, and without a doubt, Australia’s best kept secret.  With the Indian Ocean lapping the western shores, and the Southern Ocean to the South, the state of Western Australia quite literally smothers the western end of the vast country of Australia.  Perth is the gateway, the major city, and home to a large number of the total population of WA (1.4 million actually which doesn’t leave many for the rest of the State!).

View of the city from Kings Park. Photo courtesy of Nick Walker

Perth has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. It is the sunniest capital city in Australia! Perth is a modern city with a good choice of internationally recognised hotels and apartments. The shopping is good, the city is clean and friendly, and the surrounding wine regions stunning. It boasts the scenic Swan river with its famous black swans, nearby hectares of natural bushland in Kings Park, beautiful beaches, whales, dolphins and the little Quokka on Rottnest Island (a protected nature reserve). It is not too difficult to see why Perth is a popular lifestyle city.

Rottnest Island – photo courtesy of Nick Walker

Quokka – Photo courtesy of Tourism Australia

Perth is the hub, the starting point to explore the rest of Western Australia, and whilst it is possible to visit several places of interest outside Perth on a day trip – for some of these places the distances are huge, with day excursions leaving early in the morning and returning late in the evening.

As far as day trips are concerned once you have cruised along the Swan river to Fremantle and spent a day or two at Rottnest Island, you could consider a trip to Rockingham. Here you can swim with the wild dolphins with or visit as a spectator to see these beautiful animals in their natural environment. They are not fed or made to perform, they simply come because they enjoy human interaction.

If you hire a car, not too far outside the city you can visit Yanchep National Park, where you can enjoy nature-based activities, you will find caves, the Koala boardwalk (home to a colony of Koalas), and a tree adventure park for the kids, with ziplines and rope walks. You are also likely to see wild black cockatoos as well as other parrots and possibly kangaroos too!

A venture out to the famous Cottesloe beach is another day trip to consider. This pretty beach looking out across the Indian ocean boasts beautiful white sand and numerous cafes and bars. In the evening enjoy beautiful sunsets and watch the Rainbow Lorikeets as they come in their hundreds to roost in the pine trees.

Another suggestion is a trip out to the Pinnacles. This will be a long day but worth it. The Pinnacles are limestone formations found within an otherworldly desert landscape in Nambung National Park. An extraordinary site and a great photographic opportunity! You could make this a stop en route if you were driving along the west coast.

The Pinnacles – photo courtesy of Tourism Australia

South of Perth will take you into the Margaret River wine regions of the south west, well worth exploring. There are day trips available if you are using Perth as your base, or you could stop by for a few days. A must see for any visitor to the Margaret River region is Busselton with its heritage listed Jetty. The longest wooden-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere it extends over Geographe Bay for 1.8 kilometres. You can take a leisurely train ride down the jetty to the underwater observatory at the end, where you can experience one of Australia’s greatest artificial reefs. Bunbury is also a great place to stop with its basalt rock formations and where bottlenose dolphins visit close to the shore.

Busselton Jetty – photo courtesy of Tourism Australia

If you continue around the south western tip of Australia, the point where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean,  you would discover the beautiful rugged coastline of Albany and its natural wonders ‘The Gap’ and the ‘Natural Bridge’. The first European settlement in Western Australia, see Albany’s colonial architecture and the historic whaling station – now a museum.

The Natural Bridge – photo courtesy of Nick Walker

Albany – photo courtesy of Nick Walker

Whilst you are in this region visit Denmark with its wineries, and the remarkable Treetop Walk  ‘valley of the giants’  in Walpole -Nornalup National Park. The Ariel walkway is 40 metres above the ground amongst the canopy of huge Red Tingle and Karri trees, which are unique to this area.

Tree Top Walk – photo courtesy of Nick Walker

Whilst you are in this neck of the woods we can recommend another wonderful way to spend your day, which is to take an Eco cruise boat trip around the secluded inlets of Walpole and Nornulup. This wilderness is a very special place, a naturalist’s paradise and a real hidden gem.

Continuing along the southern coast of WA, you will reach Esperance. Here you will find beaches amongst the finest and whitest anywhere in the world. Offshore, Fur Seals and Sealions shelter on the islands of the Recherche Archipelago. You can take a scenic flight to see the surreal ‘pink’ lake Hillier on Middle Island.

Esperance – photo courtesy of Tourism Australia

Heading inland from Perth, head to the Outback town of Kalgoorlie. Originally founded during the gold rush of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, this little town has thrived and continues to mine the precious ore from the Super Pit.  Make sure you take the drive up to the viewing platform for views of one of the biggest holes you will ever see!!

Wave Rock – photo courtesy of Tourism Australia

Or by taking a different route inland discover the little town of Hyden, famous for the Wave Rock!  You could combine the two if you made it part of a self-drive route.

If you drive North from Perth, along this remote coast, you will eventually reach Kalbarri (which would take over 6 hours). You can drive through the Kalbarri National Park and see the spectacular Murchison Gorges and take the opportunity to go on a river cruise on the Murchison River. Kalbarri is a delightfully unpretentious fishing village at the mouth of the River, with several simple but wholesome restaurants. As with each community on this route, the locals are genuine, friendly, welcoming and very typically Australian – proud of their country and their heritage without any brashness. Drive to Shark Bay from here and the dolphins at Monkey Mia.  Shark Bay is another gem; pristine coastline, dolphins and dugongs by the dozen and a delightful lack of tourists.

Monkey Mia – photo courtesy of Tourism Australia

It’s another 5 hours drive from here to Ningaloo Reef via Coral Bay.  Coral Bay is a remote and secluded treasure, and second only to the Great Barrier Reef itself. This area is not inundated with tourists and it does not have a huge choice of international resorts and accommodation and but there are some excellent fish restaurants!

Ningaloo Reef – photo courtesy of Tourism Australia

The bay itself is contained within the Ningaloo Reef which offers it perfect protection from the ocean outside.  Here, glass bottomed boats take you to view the coral, whilst longer expeditions will take you further afield, skilfully negotiating the narrow channels through the reef. The Ningaloo Reef is little brother to the Great Barrier Reef.  Closer into the shore, it is easily accessible to all. 500 species of fish are to be found here, plus sharks, enormous manta rays, turtles and dugongs – there is always something to see:

March to May – Coral spawning

March to June – Whale Sharks

June to November – Manta Ray

June/July to October/November – Humpback Whales

November to March – Turtle nesting and hatching.

However long you plan to stay here will probably not be long enough. You could fly to Exmouth in order to visit Coral Bay and Ningaloo Reef if you weren’t planning on driving.

Finally, another destination that you must consider is The Kimberleys, three times the size of England straddling the states of Western Australia and Northern Territories, The Kimberleys offer a perfect location for ‘getting away from it all’ – literally!!  Broome is the major gateway to this region of canyons and gorges and freshwater swimming holes.  Plan the timing of your visit carefully, avoiding the cyclone season when many roads are impassable due to flooding.  Out of the cyclone season, the adventurous traveller will find gorges and rock formations to rival those anywhere in the world. Consider a small group escorted tour here, using 4WD vehicles and a mixture of camping and motel accommodation – this area will leave an indelible mark on your memory. A visit to this region would certainly involve an internal flight, either directly from Perth or from another location during your travels around Western Australia.

There are many options for exploring WA and if you want to see it all, a combination of driving and air would be best.

Contact us to help you put together your tailor-made Western Australia itinerary.

 

 

 

 

 

Relocating New RV’s in the USA and Canada

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Every year Cruise America and Cruise Canada offer one way trips in their brand new RV’s and at reduced prices to clients. This allows them to move their new stock to the locations that they are needed in for the summer while allowing clients a chance to cross these two countries at a fair price. It is early in the year – typically April and May and the weather cannot be guaranteed.

However it is a great way to travel and at a quiet time of the year! Peter has done this 3 times over the past years and would recommend taking advantage of the offer. However, there are limited numbers of vehicles and they go on a first come first booked basis.

Please contact us if you like the idea of freewheeling across either country and would like more information.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis
Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Time to start thinking of your next summer holiday…

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

USA and Canada

Everyone’s situation is different as to what they need to think about when booking a holiday. Do you have children at school, are you in a job that restricts you from taking time off when you like?

Early planning is a must to avoid disappointment in these situations. Booking early also means you can take advantage any early booking discounts, which can save significantly sums for your holiday.

We are here to assist you make those plans and to help take the stress out of organising your trip. Once booked you can simply sit back and look forward to a wonderful holiday!

We are experts in the USA and Canada priding ourselves on the fact we have stayed in and visited many of the places we send our clients, helping you to make the best choices. The USA and Canada are well worth booking early in high season and they both offer something for everyone, from big city glamour to small town charm but can have limited availability.

 

USA – first thoughts

For the USA ‘big city glamour’ try the city of Chicago in Midwestern USA, a metropolitan hub for dining, shopping and entertainment. The Magnificent Mile is one of Chicago’s most famous shopping districts, and you’ll find flagship stores — from high street favourites to high fashion stores — along the stretch of shops. Nearby, wander along State Street, where you can visit the original Marshall Field’s, now Macy’s. For boutique shopping, head to Chicago’s 77 neighbourhood, where you’ll find unique, one-of-a-kind items you simply won’t want to leave without.

Chicago is bursting at the seams with theatrical talent. Broadway in Chicago and many Tony Award winning companies bring in big names and blockbuster shows, while more than 200 storefront, experimental and neighbourhood theatres bring you pioneering contemporary performances. Chicago is also a city that loves to laugh —after all Chicago invented improvisation comedy. See where Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell performed at world-famous ‘The Second City’. If stand-up comedy is your thing, grab your tickets for The Laugh Factory or Zanies. It is also a hub for all kinds of music and well worth experiencing.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For small town charm, we would recommend Jackson in Wyoming USA, sitting 15 miles from the Idaho border and approximately 12 miles from the entrance of Grand Teton National Park and 60 miles from the famous Yellowstone National Park. Offering you an adventure holiday exploring the wildlife and immersing in the local culture. You can explore on skis (in winter), mountain bikes, rafts, horse drawn stagecoaches. Add in exquisite cuisine, world-renowned art, and unique shopping to make a holiday to remember.

 

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Canada some places to consider

For ‘big city glamour’ consider a visit to the vibrant city of Vancouver, British Columbia with its skyline of glass buildings and the surrounding ocean and coastal mountains. Here you can swim from the beach and then go off to explore a mountain all in one day.  This is such a versatile city with so much to do. The city is the largest in British Columba, but manages to hold on to its rustic charm and natural beauty nonetheless. Visitors can enjoy bike riding, shopping, visiting a local museum or just relaxing in Stanley Park. Take the free shuttle service out to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Originally built in 1889, Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River. Cliffwalk is the park’s newest attraction – a cantilevered walkway clinging to the granite cliff high above Capilano Canyon. Treetops Adventure, seven suspension bridges through the evergreens taking you up to 100 feet (30m) above the forest floor, offers a unique squirrel’s eye perspective of the forest. See the jaw-dropping majestic nature of British Columbia unfold as you ascend via aerial tram to the summit of Grouse Mountain. Rising 4,100 feet (1,250 metres) above Vancouver and just 15 minutes from the city’s downtown.

You can dine at a world class restaurant or join a Vancouver foodie tour which allows you to visit a wide variety of highly recommended restaurants trying varied cuisine and enjoying the nightlife. A visit to Granville Island is a must for true foodies looking to sample the best of this coastal city. This gastronomic-focused district offers everything from elegant waterfront restaurants to small ethnic eateries. The Granville Island Public Market is a must see, an indoor market featuring a fascinating assortment of food and produce, displaying handcrafted products and unique gifts.

 

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For small town charm in Canada, we suggest Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – an attractive town with an underground network of bootlegging tunnels connecting buildings. The tunnels were created in 1908 for a steam system that never happened, but it is rumoured that Al Capone gambled and made deals in them. You can get around this historic town on trolley buses and guided tours, stopping to visit one of the many attractions and museums, or you can simply relax in one of the many spas around the town. Summer in Moose Jaw is always bustling with activities such as Sidewalk Days, Park Art, the Motif Multicultural Festival, Farmers’ Markets, events in Crescent Park and much more.

 

Picture courtesy of Tourism Saskatchewan Greg Huszar Photography

Picture courtesy of Tourism Saskatchewan Greg Huszar Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information and help with organising and booking your holiday please contact us.

Sydney to Brisbane

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An interesting coastal drive between two iconic cities on the east coast of Australia.

Summary

Sydney to Brisbane

Australia is a vast continent and virtually impossible to explore in one holiday.  The lengthy distances will often be linked with a flight, but do consider getting behind the wheel and linking some of Australia’s iconic cities by road.  Here is one such itinerary idea:

Day 1: Sydney
Day 4: Hunter Valley
Day 6: Port Stephens
Day 8: Port Macquarie
Day 10: Coffs Harbour
Day 12: Byron Bay
Day 14: Coolangatta
Day 16: Brisbane

Description

Description

Australia is a vast continent and virtually impossible to explore in one holiday.  The lengthy distances will often be linked with a flight, but do consider getting behind the wheel and linking some of Australia’s iconic cities by road.  Here is one such itinerary idea:

Day 1: Sydney
Arrive into Sydney for a 3 night stay. With its compact city centre and efficient public transport, Sydney is an easily accessible city with many of the main attractions close by. Enjoy a morning harbour cruise, a concert at the Opera House and blow away the cobwebs doing the Bridge Climb. Visit Bondi Beach and watch the surfers on the waves, shop in Paddington’s markets, enjoy a stroll around the Rocks and Circular Quay, or head out to glamorous Double Bay for designer shopping.

Three nights in Sydney

Day 4: Hunter Valley
Collect a hire car this morning and drive north from Sydney and into the Hunter Valley for a 2 night stay. This does take you inland slightly, but is well worth the detour. Renowned for producing award winning fine wines and gourmet dining, the Hunter Valley has developed in recent years to offer a wider range of activities such as hot air balloon flights, golf and horse riding.

Two nights in the Hunter Valley

Day 6: Port Stephens
Head back to the coast and on to Port Stephens for a 2 night stay. Port Stephens is comprised of a scattering of seaside villages with white sandy beaches and a resident population of over 140 bottlenose dolphins. Between late May and July, and between September and November, whales can be found in the area as they migrate north and return south. Explore Tomaree National Park from here.

Two nights in Port Stephens

Day 8: Port Macquarie

Continue north today through the Great Lakes region and the Manning Valley and on to Port Macquarie for a two-night stay. A vibrant town with plenty of shopping, entertainment and dining possibilities, Port Macquarie is also a great base for visiting nearby Camden Haven.

Two nights in Port Macquarie

Day 10: Coffs Harbour
Drive north to Coffs Coast, where the mountains meet the ocean. Coffs Harbour is a bustling town where you can surf the waves and just an hour later be bushwalking in the Dorrigo rainforest, where you can see a number of spectacular waterfalls.

Two nights in Coffs Harbour

Day 12: Byron Bay
Your destination today is the laidback surfer town of Byron Bay. With galleries, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, Byron Bay attracts an eclectic mix of surfers, backpackers, families and couples.

Two nights in Byron Bay

Day 14: Coolangatta
Leave New South Wales behind today as you drive north into Queensland and the border town of Coolangatta. The Gold Coast is known for stunning beaches and spectacular surf and is also home to a number of theme parks, water parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Visit Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary’s Wildnight Adventure evening for something unique.

Two nights in Coolangatta

Day 16: Brisbane
Complete the drive north to Brisbane today, dropping off the hire car on arrival. Dissected by the Brisbane River, this city is an eclectic mix of culture, shopping and the laidback lifestyle that epitomises this part of Queensland. Take a riverfront walk, enjoy a sight-seeing cruise or climb the Story Bridge – one of only three bridge climbs in the world.

En route from Coolangatta to Brisbane, you could opt to add in a stop at Lamington National Park – beautiful rainforest, with opportunities for walking, wildlife watching, zip lining and much more. For a little luxury and relaxation before arriving in Brisbane, stop at Willowvale in the Gold Coast Hinterland for a stay at a luxurious lodge.

Photographs courtesy of Australia and NSW Tourism

ATE 2011 Gold Coast      Ballooning, Hunter      Gold Coast hinterland

 

Lamington NP      Summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge

Little Gems

Little Gems

You might choose to slot in a couple of nights in the Lake Macquarie area en route to Port Stephens. This is one of the largest saltwater lakes in the southern hemisphere and consists of long stretches of unspoilt coastline and beautiful beaches.

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River Boat Cruising with a Difference

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Many people enjoy the freedom of river and/or canal cruising and the choices to do this are various and different. But for something that is of the beaten track (well for us in the U.K.) would be to consider cruising the Rideau Canal in Canada.

Picture courtesy of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

Being over 200 kms long with 49 locks, this canal is the oldest continuously in use canal in North America and is also a World heritage Site. Following the war between Britain and the USA in 1812, the canal was built to ensure that the interior of Canada had access to open water and ultimately the sea without threat from Canada’s neighbour. It was opened in 1832 and is an amazing feat of engineering with sometimes up to 8 locks to overcome the height differences between lakes.

 

John By supervised the work and made the most of the rivers and lakes that cover this amazing region. If you were in a hurry you could probably cruise from Ottawa to Kingston on Lake Ontario in 3 days but was is the rush. Why not take your time and explore the lakes and enjoy the locks – particularly as they are manned. And if you do not want to sail the whole way, that is OK as well. Cruise in your own boat or join a larger cruiser that sales the waterway and has a capacity of 45 guests.

A wonderful way to slow down a holiday to a fascinating part of Canada which would truly add to your experiences whilst here and a great way of getting back to nature.

Picture courtesy of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

Picture courtesy of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

 

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