• Mashatu Botswana  - credit Bethan Evans
    Mashatu Botswana - credit Bethan Evans

Namibia Deserts

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A bespoke itinerary providing the opportunity to explore four totally different deserts in one country.

Summary

Namibia Deserts

 

An itinerary providing the opportunity to explore four totally different deserts in one country.

Day 1: Kalahari
Day 3: Nama Karoo
Day 6: Succulent Karoo
Day 8: Namib Desert
Day 11: Windhoek

Description

Description

 

Day 1: Kalahari
From Windhoek, collect a hire car and head south. You will soon start to see the wildlife of Namibia with warthog, baboon and possibly kudu near the road. You will notice how well maintained the roads are and how empty they are in comparison to what we are used to. Some 250 kms from Windhoek will bring you to the Kalahari, your first desert. Here the dunes are in wave formation and some stretch 250 kms. The tops are bare red sand with the sides and troughs having grass and trees growing up them. Between the dunes, grassland supports a wide variety of wildlife and birds. Stay here for two nights at least to give you time to recover from your flight and to explore the surrounding desert. An evening sundowner drive is a must.
Two nights Kalahari

Day 3: Nama Karoo
The next part of the journey is a drive of 4 to 5 hours; you may find that the first half is a little monotonous but the bird life along the roadside is interesting. The scenery becomes more and more dramatic the nearer you get to the Fish River Canyon, with boulder strewn mountains and vast vistas. A stop to see the Quiver tree Forest and the Giants Playground is a rewarding detour and an ideal place for lunch. You may expect to see zebra, springbok and oryx.  The Canyon looks at its best in the morning sunlight. We would suggest two to three nights in this area; available activities include horse riding, sundowner drives, walking trails and scenic flights.

For the intrepid there is the chance to join a trek in the canyons leading to the Fish River Canyon and time down in the main Canyon. Camp out for 2 nights with your guide cooking you meals and mules to carry the heavy stuff. Truly getting away from modern life.
Three nights Fish River Canyon area

Day 6: Succulent Karoo
The next desert on this itinerary is one of the top 20 most important biomes in the world. The flora is rare and worth having an expert along to explain how it all interacts. With a backdrop of massive granite mountains and sweeping desert plains this is a land of far horizons. Added to the usual desert wildlife there are also the Namib Desert Horses to be sought out. Their ancestors made their break for freedom from the armies of the First World War and they have flourished ever since.
Two nights in Succulent Karoo

Day 8: Namib Desert
The fourth and final desert is famous for its red dunes and it is not long before you will see the first of these in your drive north. This is a wonderful scenic drive, which will tempt you to stop and take photos along the way.  There is plenty to do and see here; Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, Sesriem Canyon – this is a photographer’s paradise, with the early morning being the best time to visit. Almost all the Lodges offer game drives and sundowners and you could see decent size herds of springbok and if really lucky, cheetah. Balloon over the dunes, quad bike or just simply relax.
Three nights Namib Desert

Day 11: Begin your return to Windhoek or onward
Head back towards Windhoek and your flight home (we would suggest a night or two as you wend your way back) or explore the Namib Desert even further by making your way to Swakopmund and the sea.

Fish River Canyon      Africa, Namibia. © 2004 Jan Jepsen / NTB

 

Peter - our Namibia expert      star dunes namib desert

Little Gems

Little Gems

Early morning in the Namib desert is a very special time.  The park gates open at dawn and you need to be the first in to get those all important sunrise shots of Dune 45 and of course to enjoy sunrise with your breakfast picnic. Pick up your entrance ticket the night before.

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The Cuba Experience with Peter Ellis

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Vicki Tester

 

Cuba is a destination that is hugely popular at the moment, the increase partly due to changed relations with the US, and this in turn spurring on potential visitors to explore the island before it changes beyond recognition. Peter and his wife Julie visited for a holiday last month, and loved it! Below is their report.

With direct scheduled flights from Gatwick to Havana, and charters from both Gatwick and Manchester to Holguin, Cuba is easily accessible and well worth considering for your next Experience Holiday.

Havana
We stayed in B&B accommodation for almost the entire trip and they are recommended – better presented and family run. However there are good 5 star hotels with more on the way should this be your preference. The B&B’s are good value and often well located – ours was very central making everything very walkable for the Old Town.

You should consider a 4 night stay here particularly if the plane gets in late. There is so much to see and do and it is very worthwhile having a guided (themed) tour as many of the best sites are not obvious or easy to find. Added to which you will be shown the less touristy side of the city. Every kind of method of getting around from donkey carts to old Russian trucks squeeze through these streets so keep your eyes peeled. Certainly try getting around on a biki taxi, a coconut taxi and for sure book at least a 3 hour tour of the city and Hemingway Finca in a Classic convertible also taking in the fortress (the biggest in the New World).

We have a list of “Paladars” which are privately owned/run restaurants which are excellent but often fill quickly – so book some of them for the trip. Rum cocktails abound, especially mojitos which it is claimed were invented here.

Havana is a very safe, walkable place with huge contrasts in architecture and levels of renovation – from ruins next to renovated.

 

Guama, Bay of Pigs to Cienfuego
We took the long way down to Cienfuegos to take in the wilder Zapatas Peninsula which is a RAMSAR site and a big National Park. We stopped at a crocodile breeding centre (for the endangered Cuban croc) which was interesting and also the place to catch your boat to Villas Horizintes Guama. This is a good eco lodge deep in the Park and worth a night or two.

Bay of Pigs is the site of an abortive invasion of Cuba in 1960 but there is little to see here. It is also where you find “sink holes” connected to sea which are full of colourful sea fish. Take your swim suit so you can take a dip in one or to snorkel off shore. A good diving spot as well.

Cienfuegos is worth a one night stop as it has plenty of history, is very clean and some interesting architecture – Palacio de Valle is perfectly placed for outstanding views of the Bay and city. Cruise ships come in regularly, so get your sightseeing in early. The casa particular that we stayed in was eclectic and fun and had good food.

 

Trinidad and the drive there
Not too far to go from Cienfuegos but we detoured in to the mountains, Sierra del Escambray so that we could undertake a 3 hour hike through the mountains. There are caves, waterfalls, plenty of bird life and a chance to cool down in any of the cool clean pools you find along the trail. Well worth doing on the way to Trinidad.

Trinidad is a must see destination – a really well preserved Spanish/Cuban city which is very easy to wander around. Plenty to see and do, including dancing lessons and every evening dancing on the steps of the Casa de Musica. Live music is everywhere in Cuba and most of it is good. While here take the train to the sugar growing Valle Los Ingenios – slow but fun with a bar on board if you are missing your mojitos. Here visit the eighteen century mansions of the sugar barons and their slave quarters and learn about the sugar trade and those that worked for it.

On the Beach – Varadero
Finish a trip to Cuba on the beach. We went to Varadero which is well developed with large hotels and nothing like the rest of Cuba. The beach here is beautiful white sand, kept very clean and the water crystal clear. A great place to unwind and relax. Most hotels are all inclusive. All have entertainment and there are places away from the hotel to eat out at (one is Al Capone’s old home).

There are a number of other beach destinations which have their own appeal depending on your interests and preferences.

For more information on Cuba, give us a call or send us an email – we’d be more than happy to chat through ideas and possibilities with you.

Suggested itinerary link – Cuba Itinerary

   

All pictures courtesy of Peter Ellis.

Region: Rocky Mountain States

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Yvonne Dann

 

The area encompassing the beautiful US Rocky Mountain States of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and into Colorado has its own unique cultural history, combining both the heroic and tragic aspects of the opening up of the American West – from the epic movement of pioneers from east to west to the displacement of a native population. From the Black Hills of South Dakota to Hell’s Canyon in Idaho, from Montana’s breathtaking Glacier National Park to the awesome expanses of Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, the area is blessed with an unspoiled and natural scenic beauty.

The Real America

The Wild West

Wild West Story

Yellowstone in Winter

Favourite Road Trips

Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks

Indochina

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With iconic historical attractions such as Angkor Wat, stunning coastal areas such as Halong Bay, and the vital lifeline of the Mekong River, Indochina offers diverse experiences along with a chance to learn about the culture, traditions, and way of life of the people

Summary

Indochina

Indochina is comprised of three countries in the Far East – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Their geographical location, shared histories and fascinating culture make these three countries the perfect combination for a holiday in the Far East. With iconic historical attractions such as Angkor Wat, stunning coastal areas such as Halong Bay, and the vital lifeline of the Mekong River, this region offers diverse experiences along with a chance to learn about the culture, traditions, and way of life of the people.

Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh
Day 3: Siem Reap
Day 6: Luang Prabang
Day 8: Elephant Explorer
Day 9: Hoi An
Day 11: Hue
Day 13: Hanoi
Day 15: Halong Bay
Day 16: Hanoi

Description

Description

 

Indochina is comprised of three countries in the Far East – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Their geographical location, shared histories and fascinating culture make these three countries the perfect combination for a holiday in the Far East. With iconic historical attractions such as Angkor Wat, stunning coastal areas such as Halong Bay, and the vital lifeline of the Mekong River, this region offers diverse experiences along with a chance to learn about the culture, traditions, and way of life of the people.

Vietnam Airlines now offers a direct flight to Ho Chi Minh City from London Gatwick, making the region more easily accessible. Alternatively, there are plenty of flight options via other Far Eastern gateways – Bangkok being one of the most popular.

The region can be explored independently by the more adventurous traveller, or one can join a small-group tour if preferred. The below independent itinerary provides an example of a comprehensive holiday to the region, but is by no means the only option – there are almost endless possibilities to consider.

Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh
Arrive into Phnom Penh for a two-night stay. Take time to explore the Royal Palace, the majestic Silver Pagoda, and gain an insight into Khmer history at the National Museum. Visit Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields, and learn about the Khmer Rouge regime and the legacy this has left.

Day 3: Siem Reap
This morning, depart for Siem Reap by road. Siem Reap is the base for exploring the temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire. Over 100 temples are spread over a vast area and the site easily lives up to its status as one of the seven wonders of the forgotten world. Witness sunrise at Angkor Wat and explore some of the many other temples, including the ruins of the tree-covered Ta Prohm. Take a river cruise on Tonle Sap Lake – the second largest freshwater lake in the world and home to the famous floating village, where you’ll see floating houses, a school and even a floating hospital.

Day 6: Luang Prabang
Fly to Luang Prabang for a two-night stay. Luang Prabang is often referred to as the ‘Jewel of Indochina’, and is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site. The ancient royal city is surrounded by mountains and is situated at a junction of the Mekong and Khan rivers. Watch the ancient ritual of local monks collecting alms, take a boat trip to Pak Ou Caves, or visit stunning Kuang Si Falls. In the evening, visit the vibrant night market.

Day 8: Elephant Explorer
Today, begin a two-day adventure by elephant, providing the opportunity to explore the region and learn about these magnificent creatures.

Take an elephant ride through forests and over hills to the hidden valley of Huay Sae Valley. See the secluded waterfalls and swim in the natural pools. Continue by foot across bamboo bridges, passing waterfalls and dense jungle. Raft down the Nam Khan River, floating slowly downstream passing local farmers and fishermen going about traditional village life, and stopping en route at the Tad Sae waterfall. Stay overnight in a luxury tent

Day 9: Hoi An
Get up early with the magical sunrise atmosphere and trek to the jungle to collect the elephants from their forest home. Together with the Mahouts, the traditional elephant drivers, walk back down to the river for their daily morning bath. Ride bareback on the elephant’s neck, wash it, scrub it and guide it through the river to the camp – an unforgettable experience of a lifetime. Return to Luang Prabang, fly to Danang and transfer to the charming town of Hoi An. Explore traditional houses and temples and see the Japanese Bridge. Relax on the beach, or take a boat trip through ‘Water Coconut Palm Canal’ – a tranquil area little visited by tourists, and learn about the likes of the local fishermen.

Day 11: Hue
Today, your destination is Hue but en route visit the Marble Mountains; an important religious site with a number of imressive caves, temples and viewpoints. Drive the short distance to China Beach with a chance to enjoy a refreshing swim in the South China Sea. Continue on to Danang City to visit the Cham Museum. The Cham people occupied this area of Vietnam from the 2nd to the 17th century and the museum houses the best examples of Cham sculpture anywhere in the world. Complete the drive over the spectacular Hai Van Pass to Hue. Here, relax on the beach or take time to explore the old Citadel.

Day 13: Hanoi
Fly to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital for a two-night stay. Explore the vibrant Old Quarter and visit the ancient Temple of Literature. Watch a water puppet show or visit the Hanoi Hilton prison.

Day 15: Halong Bay
This morning transfer to Hon Gai, the gateway to Halong Bay. Considered Vietnam’s greatest natural wonder, Halong Bay boasts over 3,000 limestone islands that rise out of the sea to provide a spectacular natural environment. Take an overnight cruise on a wooden junk ship on the bay, exploring fishing villages, islets, and caves and with a chance to swim.

Day 16: Hanoi
Return to Hanoi today for the onward or homeward flight.

More time? Consider adding a cruise along the Mekong River – a great way to see small riverside villages and learn about the local’s traditional way of life. Explore Ho Chi Minh City, see the Cu Chi Tunnels, discover Vientiane – the capital of Laos, or add a beach stay in Thailand.

Photographs courtesy of Travel Indochina and Elephant Village Camp, Laos

Angkor Travel Indochina      elephant explorer camp experience ws      Halong Bay fishing boats ws

Halong Bay junk ws      Phnom Penh Royal Palace ws

 

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Country: Kenya

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Despite recent troubles, Kenya has an unique experience to offer everyone. Yes it is the most popular country for first time “Africa” visitors but it is also a favoured destination for the seasoned safari hand. It lends itself to the “Bush and Beach” holiday and is very popular with honeymooners.

Its Lodges and hotels vary widely in size and there is the added offer of staying on ranches – many of which have reverted to acting as wildlife sanctuaries. A chance to see and get close to wildlife from the back of a horse or on foot makes for an adrenalin making experience second to none.

Kenya is blessed with stunning backdrops – Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, The Rift Valley and the wide plains of the Masai Mara. Add in a huge variety of wildlife from the semi deserts of the northern frontier to the lush highlands and down to the tropical coast. Nowhere else can you see a million flamingos feeding in the Lake (Nakuru), herds of red dusted elephants (Tsavo), clouds of butterflies in the forest Parks (Aberdares) and the tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra (Masai Mara).

Finish your holiday on the Kenyan beaches, which are rightly famous for their silver sand, great snorkelling, diving and a wonderful place to unwind after the excitement of your safari.

The people are welcoming and appreciate their need for tourism and the benefits it can bring. With over 50 tribes, diversity is a given.

This is an ideal destination for the first time in sub Saharan Africa or for those discerning adventurers willing to seek out what the country has to offer beyond the usual.

All photographs by kind permission of Kenya Tourist Board

Beachbikedow      Hot Air Balloon      Wildebeast Crossing River

 

The Lighthouse Route of Nova Scotia, Canada

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Vicki Tester

 

Region: Atlantic Canada

 

Come and celebrate the timeless romance of the sea, in the stunning scenery of Atlantic Canada. The Lighthouse Route journeys through an unforgettable landscape of coastal beauty and historic charm that has captured the hearts and minds of travellers for generations. Imagine the landscape as it was when Champlain and de Monts first arrived here four centuries ago. Follow shoreline roads past rugged, wave-carved headlands and tranquil, island-studded bays. Discover historic towns and weathered fishing villages where legends of the sea come alive and the rhythm of life moves in harmony with the tides.

The Lighthouse Route follows Nova Scotia’s South Shore, where the past is a part of everyday life. You’ll find it along quiet country roads where ox teams still haul lumber, and coastal villages where fishermen still row wooden dories out to sea. Explore towns like Liverpool, with its privateer legends, and Lunenburg, where a working blacksmith still plies his trade amidst the beautifully preserved buildings of the old town district. And yes, they do have lighthouses, over twenty of them, from the dramatic beauty of the famous lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove to Yarmouth’s towering Cape Forchu light.

This is a wonderful self drive destination, with B&B and small hotels along the way to make your journey special. The owners of these places will be more than happy to suggest places to visit locally and where to enjoy the local produce. Summer is the key time to go but late spring and early autumn are also well worth considering.

Call or email us for more information on tailor made holidays to Canada: Tel: 01323 446550 or Email: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Shelburne on Nova Scotia's Lighthouse Route

Picture courtesy of Nova Scotia Tourism Culture and Heritage

Lunenburg waterfront on Nova Scotia's Lighthouse Route

Picture courtesy of Nova Scotia Tourism Culture and Heritage

New South Wales (NSW)

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This itinerary combines Sydney with beautiful countryside and a popular wine region.

Summary

New South Wales

The chequered past of this state has evolved into the cosmopolitan city of Sydney and state of New South Wales that we know today.  Thankfully most accommodation these days has an en-suite bathroom and the bars on the windows have been removed!

Day 1: Sydney

Day 4: Port Stephens

Day 6: Hunter Valley

Day 8: Blue Mountains

Day 10: Sydney

 

 

Description

Description

The states of Australia are often combined into one itinerary, but here we explore a few ideas for New South Wales alone.  You might be surprised at just how much there is outside Sydney.

Day 1: Sydney
Welcome to Sydney where we suggest at least 3 nights in a central hotel. Start off with a harbour cruise; this will give you your bearings whilst enjoying your morning coffee or cocktail. Agility permitting, the Bridge Climb is highly recommended.

Sydney 3 nights

Day 4: Port Stephens
Collect a hire car and head for 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.

Port Stephens 2 nights

Day 6: Hunter Valley
Just under an hour away and nestled amongst the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges in the heart of the Hunter vineyards is Hunter Valley Gardens, one of Australia’s premier tourist destinations. Whether you’re a lover of wine and great food, an enthusiast of natural beauty and wildlife, or a keen golfer, the Hunter Valley has it all.

Hunter Valley 2 nights

Day 8: Blue Mountains
Today your destination is the Blue Mountains; the characteristic blue haze that envelopes the sandstone cliffs and valleys of this beautiful area is said to come from the oil suspended in the atmosphere from the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees. The Blue Mountains are indeed blue, at least when seen from a distance. The overall effect with the warm sandstone cliffs and the dull green eucalyptus is uniquely Australian, and the subject of many an artist’s work. The extraordinary vertical cliffs, innumerable waterfalls, suspended lookouts and quaint walking tracks make it an ideal destination for bushwalkers and hikers, as well as the more adrenalin-addicted who like to go canyoning or rock climbing.

Blue Mountains 2 nights

Day 10: Sydney
Return to Sydney to continue your Australia trip. Here are 3 suggestions…

  • Fly from Sydney airport to another region
  • Drive one of the Sydney – Melbourne Touring Routes down to Melbourne, via the Coastal Drive or inland (including Canberra) on the Heritage Route
  • Spend a few days in luxury on Lord Howe Island, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful and unspoilt Pacific Islands

Photographs Copyright Australia Tourism

Blue Mountains Jamieson Valley      5.0.2

 

NSW      Sydney; Aerial

Little Gems

Little Gems

Use the ferries to explore Sydney Harbour – they are cheap, accessible and regular.  Not only will you meet Aussies going about their daily business, but you’ll also get the best views of the city skyline, the Opera House and the Bridge, to name but a few.

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‘Everyone should visit Sydney once in their life and New Years Eve in Sydney is like no other that I have every experienced’

Upcoming series on BBC about the Galapagos Islands

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Vicki Tester

 

BBC1 Thurs 3rd April – 9PM

If you ever thought about travelling to the World famous Galapagos Island, then make sure you watch the 3 part documentary starting on the BBC1 this Thursday at 9pm. Headed up as “The Cauldron of Life” it should wet your appetite for bringing forward your plans to make that promised trip to Galapagos.

While talking about programmes coming up, The BBC series on the amazing hotels is featuring Mashpi Lodge in the Andean Cloud Forest in Ecuador, one that we use for those travellers wanting to explore Ecuador further. This is going out on the 03 April and will give you a real taste of what to expect in this unique environment.

To make your own holiday to these amazing Ecuador and Galapagos Islands happen, just give us a call (01323 446550) or email us on info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Lizard in Galapagos

Picture courtesy of Mr & Mrs Brisland

Giant Tortoise in Galapagos

Picture courtesy of Mr & Mrs Brisland

 

 

 

Baby Croc in Galapagos

Picture courtesy of Mr & Mrs Brisland

Blue Footed Booby in Galapagos

Picture courtesy of Mr & Mrs Brisland

Country: New Zealand

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Self Drive Holidays in New Zealand

A country of wild mountains, rugged glaciers, deserted beaches, stunning lakes, boiling mud pools and rolling farmland, New Zealand is a photographer’s dream with fantastic scenery around almost every corner. Couple this with friendly people, a laid back way of life, and a fascinating culture and you have the key ingredients to a fantastic tailor made or bespoke holiday.

Comprised of two main islands – aptly named North Island and South Island, as well as a number of smaller islands, the most famous of these being Stewart Island, New Zealand is roughly the size of Britain, but with a population of only 4.5 million – meaning plenty of space away from crowds, and plenty of unspoilt beautiful highlights.

Whether you have a keen interest in tramping, kayaking, mountain biking, wildlife, wine tasting or simply enjoy driving the open road, New Zealand has so much to offer. ‘Aotearoa’, is the traditional Maori name for New Zealand, and a vital element of any visit to the country is to learn of the Maori culture – perhaps best known for the ‘Haka’ but with so much more to learn than this alone.

Angie's pic

Photo courtesy of Angie Watson

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Angie Watson

Angie's pic

Photo courtesy of Angie Watson

Country: Australia

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Australia – Tailor made holidays and adventure travel

Variety, variety, variety… in terrain, weather and experiences – that is Australia and here a destination that truly offers something for everyone. Cosmopolitan cities with world-class culture, shopping, cuisine and wines, Outback adventure, Tropical Rain Forests, Unesco World Heritage sites, Coral Reef’s … the list goes on and on.

Sit back and enjoy a coach tour, or experience one of the world’s great train journeys – the legendary Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin, or the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney across the Nullabor Desert.

Self-drive by car or camper/motorhome giving you complete flexibility and freedom or venture off the beaten track with a 4WD. Whether this is your first exploration, or a return visit, Australia has so much to offer. Explore with us each State in turn. Fit a bit of each into your itinerary, or given the time, see each region properly – click into each for further guidance.

Angie's pic

Photo courtesy of Angie Watson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydney

Credit Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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