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

The Best of Madagascar….

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Madagascar is the Earth’s fourth largest island, geographically isolated for some 80 million years. It is known to Westerners today as one of the most species-rich places on the planet, it is also one of the world’s most humanly impoverished countries. Madagascar holidays are best spent exploring the island, visiting the attractions, shopping and trying the many activities available here such as snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, bird watching and so much more…..

Some of the must do’s are………………

 

 

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Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

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Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whale Watching
Every year between July and September, Baie d’Antongil, just south of Maroantsetra, is the site of the migration of hundreds of humpback whales. The whales make their way from the Antarctic northward to the warmer waters around Baie d’Antongil, where they spend the winter months breeding and birthing before the long journey back to Antarctica.

Underwater Beauty
Diving in Madagascar is a real treat; the warm Indian Ocean is attractive to both people and marine life. In these turquoise waters diver can see up to 30m ahead. And what a sight awaits you! A dazzling variety of pristine coral reef, as well its many colourful inhabitants like tropical fish and the rare turtles are a definate highlight. The best times are between December and April. For snorkelling, Nosy Tanikely is great and for diving Tulear, Nosy Be and Sainte Marie are ideal! Either way snorkelling or diving in Madagascar is something that shold not be missed.

Exploring on Foot
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore any area, and in Madagascar it’s probably one of the best ways to experience the magic of this often overlooked holiday destination. The Andringitra Mountains, located in the South East of Madagascar, are a breathtaking feast for the eyes. When hiking you can expect to see many natural wonders. The Andringitra National Park boasts an impressive assortment of wildlife. Over 100 species of birds, 54 species of mammals including lemurs and bats, as well as many reptile species call this area home. The higher lying areas of the park are blanketed by tropical rainforest. The lower lying areas are home to some local settlements. Hiking is the only way to reach the more remote areas of the Andringitra national park. Few hikers attempt to summit the impressive 2600m peak, but the surrounding area is so beautiful its well worth a try!

 

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Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

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Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glimpsing the flying beauty

Madagascar’s uniqueness is legendary and this is well reflected in its birds. Of the 280 species known from the island, an incredible 100 plus are entirely endemic to Madagascar and a further 20 or so are shared only with neighbouring South West Indian Ocean islands. Some of the best spots to observe the water birds are along the remote areas of the western and south western coast such as Lake Tsimanampetsotsa. For anyone who loves bird watching then this is an amazing getaway and a truly fantastic destination.

So if Madagascar sounds like that place for you or you would like to build your own bespoke, tailor made holiday with any of the above included, please contact us on 01323 446550 or email info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Holidays Closer to Home

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Vicki Tester

 

Did you know we also offer holidays closer to home?

Whether it is a short break to a classic European city or a week in the Mediterranean sunshine we can help you create your perfect holiday.

We work with a variety of well established companies giving us the ability to offer our clients a wide choice of destinations including the Channel Islands, Croatia, Greece, Iceland and Spain, to name but a few. If a journey on the Orient Express or a cruise along the Norwegian Fjords on an expedition ship is more your cup of tea we can help you plan all of these amazing trips.

Our expert staff can create the perfect holiday tailored to your own personal requirements, arranging travel by any combination of air, rail, car or ferry. So, if you are considering a holiday nearer to home this year please do get in touch so we can start planning your next trip.

Contact us here

Picture courtesy of Sue Riggs

Picture courtesy of Sue Riggs

Picture courtesy of Sue Riggs

Picture courtesy of Sue Riggs

 

Hawaii – Island Hopping

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Vicki Tester

 

This independent itinerary covers three of Hawaii’s Islands, full of beautiful beaches, Lush forests, active volcanoes and wonderful scenery.   With typically small variations in temperature between the seasons of summer and winter, this is a year round destination and is sure to have something to offer everyone.

Summary

Hawaii Island Hopping

 

Day 1: Oahu

Day 4: Big Island

Day 8: Maui

Description

Description

 

Hop between three islands by plane on this independent trip.  Relax on stunning beaches, explore the history of Pearl Harbor, drive the stunning sights along the Hana Highway and learn about the active volcano, Kilauea at Volcanoe’s National Park.

 

Day 1: Oahu                                                               

Your holiday starts with the chance of some rest and relaxation on the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu.  Home to the famous Waikiki Beach and historic Honolulu, the island has verdant forests, breathtaking valleys and beautiful beaches.  The events at Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 brought the USA into World War II and the Pacific conflict and now memorials remain.  The North Shore offers crashing waves and beaches perfect for surfing, Waimea Valley and Kualoa, Hawaii’s Private Nature Reserve.

Three nights Oahu

 

Day 4: Big Island

Today fly on to Hawaii Island, and pick up your hire car.  The island of Hawaii is often called the Big Island so as not to confuse the name with the whole state, and at almost twice the size of all of the other islands combined the name does seem appropriate.  The island has much to see, from sandy beaches to snow capped mountains, and waterfalls to the active volcano, Kilauea.

 

On the western sunny side of the island are the areas of Kona and Kohala with their excellent beaches. On the east coast lies the island capital Hilo, with quaint downtown wooden storefronts, thriving art scene and local history.  ‘Akaka Falls state park is home to two of the most gorgeous waterfalls on all of the islands, ʻAkaka is the state’s tallest “sheer drop” waterfall, more than 2.5 times taller than Niagara Falls and sits just north of Hilo.  To the south east you will find Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – the islands premier attraction, Kīlauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Four nights Hawaii Island – We suggest two nights to the west and two nights to the east

 

Day 8: Maui

Take a flight between islands today, once again a hire car will give you the freedom to explore independently.  The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui, offers well planned tourist facilities with raw natural beauty.  Once a thriving whaling port in the mid 1800’s, the town of Lahaina is today a colourful town and hub for dining entertainment and water sports.  December to April is ideal for whale watching – the waters around Hawaii are the winter breeding and calving grounds of humpback whales. Drive the hairpin turns of the Hana highway. Starting in Kahului and snaking along 54 miles of coastline past lush vegetation and waterfalls – with 600 curves and 54 bridges, this is one of the world’s most scenic drives.  Surrounding the volcanic crater of Haleakala, Haleakala National Park dominates the south eastern side of Maui.

Four nights Maui – We suggest two nights to the west and two nights to the south east of the island.

                                                                                   

Day 12: Depart Maui

Leave Maui today for the onward or homeward journey.

Consider adding to your trip, perhaps another island, plus stays in Los Angeles or San Francisco depending on your international flights.

Hawaii

Picture courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority Tor Johnson

Hawaii

Picture courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority

Hawaii

Picture courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority

Hawaii

Picture courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) Tor Johnson

Little Gems

Little Gems

Travel the Hana Highway.  The Road to Hana is more than just a great drive through a beautiful area of Maui. You travel through tropical rainforests, see beautiful water falls and get to experience breathtaking scenery on your 52 mile journey.  Its quite an experience.

What our client says

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Country: Japan

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Vicki Tester

 

Japan is a true mix of the ancient timeless past alongside the very modern. With a history that goes back beyond our own, this island nation has much to offer in the way of temples, castles, amazing scenery and a unique way of life. With direct flights, a visit to a different culture and customs is very much on the agenda.

Once there you have a choice of activities that should suit most people. It has excellent skiing, trekking (popular are pilgrimage routes), amazing wildlife and diving (particularly around Okinawa). Climbing Mount Fuji is a popular pastime for foreigners and Japanese alike. Because of this, aim to make your climb before the start of the school holidays in the early summer or the first week in September.

Being here to witness the fabulous cherry blossom is also a popular time to visit. The Japanese publish a calendar showing where and when the blossom should be out so its easy to check that you will be in the right place at the right time.

It is also a self drive destination with the best places to do this being Okinawa (deep south) and Hokkaido Island (high north). Ensure you have a car with English sat nav as all signs are in Japanese BUT the good news is that they drive on the left. The other popular form of travel is on the bullet trains – an experience not to be missed.

 

 

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Tailormade Namibia Itinerary Ideas

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Here are some of the reasons to visit Namibia with our tailormade Namibia itineraries…

  • Drive through four deserts and learn how different each one is and just how much life exists in what at first appears to be such a harsh environment.
  • Visit one of Africa’s prime National Parks in Etosha which has a string of waterholes around its massive salt pan. These are a life saver for a huge variety of animals.
  • Track desert adapted elephants and rhinos in Damaraland.
  • Visit the colourful Himba tribe who have maintained their way of life.
  • Learn to read the signs of the bush from a genuine San tracker.
  • Quad bike over some of the most colourful dunes in the world.
  • Come face to face with a seal and see the diverse sealife found in Walvis Bay.
  • Kayak with seals and dolphins for close company.
  • Watch hippo below your accommodation on the great rivers in the northern provinces.
  • Trek for three/four days with mules in the Fish River Canyon – the second largest canyon in the world.

Below is just a small sample of the varied itineraries we can offer in Namibia. Whether your interest lies in wildlife, photography, spectacular scenery, geology, history of you a planning a family adventure, let us help you plan the perfect trip.

Tailormade Namibia - Himba Girl Namibia Northern Tour
This sample itinerary tours Northern Namibia taking in some of the most well known parts of this fascinating country. Guided or self-driven…
Highlights
Okonjima (home of the Africat Foudation, world renowned Etosha National Park, Damaraland, Erongo Mountains

ITINERARY
Drive the Four Deserts of Namibia
In this self-drive itinerary idea, explore the magical, unique and enthralling southern parts of Namibia; this could be a stand alone trip or part of a bigger experience…
Highlights: Kalahari, Fish River Canyon, Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, Deadvlei

ITINERARY
Tailormade Namibia - childres Tribes and Wild Camping
In this unique itinerary you will be taken to parts of Namibia travellers rarely have the opportunity to experience. You will meet the Himba people and camp in spectacular wild and remote locations.

ITINERARY

South Namibia and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
For those that like exploring the different kinds of deserts found in Namibia then this itinerary should satisfy their interests. It is an ideal self drive trip with stunning scenery and wildlife.ITINERARY
Namibia Namibia Caprivi Strip
There is another side to Namibia which is greener, with wide rivers running through it and giant trees fringing the banks.ITINERARY

 

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.

What our clients say

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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.

Star Clippers – Discover the Hidden Wonders of Thailand

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Vicki Tester

 

Star Clippers who offer a different sailing experience with the character of traditional sailing but still with the comfort and luxury found on most modern cruises, are offering an adventurous cruise around the hidden parts of Thailand and Malaysia.

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

 

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

These sailings explore some of the most iconic and beautiful parts known as the “Pearl of the Orient” with un spoilt beaches and islands that form part of the

National Marine Park here. The people are friendly, the water beautifully clear and the marine life amazing.

 

Nor do you have to bring your own snorkel and flippers, they are provided. If you need other activities as you sale around the islands and along the coast, you can try sailing, paddle boarding and kayaking – all complimentary.

 

 

 

For 7 nights cruising, 2 nights pre cruise in the Sala Hotel in Phuket and flights the cost is from £2179 per person and always subject to availability.

Please call us for more information on 01323 446550 or email: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

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

Country: Sri Lanka

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Located in the Indian Ocean south of India, Sri Lanka offers a plethora of attractions to keep any visitor happy along with fantastic food and friendly people. Sustainability and ecotourism are important in Sri Lanka, and a number of locally owned companies such as hotel groups promote environmentally responsible travel.

Sri Lanka is an island of diverse attractions from ancient cities, fantastic wildlife, beautiful sandy beaches, lush green tea plantations and of course a fascinating culture. A holiday here can combine any number of these elements, and can be as busy or relaxing as you’d like.

Sri Lanka also offers excellent value – and a private tour tailored to your preferences provides you with the opportunity to focus on your interests and make the most of your time in this beautiful country.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Jetwing Travels

Photo courtesy of Jetwing Travels

Photo courtesy of Jetwing Travels

Photo courtesy of Jetwing Travels

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