5 of the best places to visit in 2018


In 2018, some countries will celebrate big milestones in style. Elsewhere, certain regions are opening up to visitors with an array of new tours and experiences. And, due to recent political developments, there’s a decidedly optimistic mood surrounding other countries, making them more accessible and more appealing than ever before.

The Taranaki region, New Zealand

It’s been dubbed the greatest day walk in the world, but the North Island’s crater-strewn Tongariro Alpine Crossing has a rival. The Pouakai Crossing is a vigorous yet rewarding eight-hour tramp around another venerable volcano, the dormant Mount Taranaki. He (yes, ‘he — Taranaki is sentient for the Maori) sits in haughty isolation by the Tasman Sea on the North Island’s little-trodden west coast.

Mount Taranaki

The hike may not have the sulphurous fumaroles or Martian terrain of Tongariro, but volcanic drama is still in evidence in the long-cooled layers of lava streams splurging down Taranki’s cone. Then there’s church-organ-like cliff formations, a ‘Goblin Forest’ spongy with mosses and liverworts, and tussocky wetlands rich in rare native birds. And — unlike the Tongariro Crossing — you won’t see many fellow trampers: 30 people here constitutes a crowd.

Long overlooked, the Taranaki region as a whole is opening up to foreign visitors. Stay in New Plymouth, the region’s hub town, which is an endearing mix of surf beaches, contemporary art galleries, Maori heritage museums, flower-festooned parks, and intimate, independent restaurants. Then, in the nearby Egmont National Park surrounding Mount Taranaki, you’ll find walking and cycling tracks to suit every family member’s ability.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio isn’t exactly a wallflower. This coastal megacity is, after all, the kind of place where bodybuilders flock to work out in public on the outdoor gyms lining the beaches. Minuscule bikinis are the norm on Copacabana and Ipanema. In the samba clubs of the Lapa District, you can easily spot out-of-towners: they’re the ones dancing a little less gregariously. All this fizzing confidence seems to reach fever pitch at Carnaval, the two-week-long celebration of Mardi Gras that goes under the modest alias of ‘the biggest party on the planet.’

Graffiti walking tour, Rio

But there’s a subtler, more cultural side to the city, too, and there are more options for exploring this side of Rio’s personality than ever before.

For example, it’s possible to slip behind the scenes of Rio’s carnival through guided visits to a samba school’s warehouse. Available all year round, these private tours allow you a glimpse into the work that goes into creating the fantastical floats and exuberant costumes — real passion projects for those involved. Depending on the timing of your visit, you might see sketches of potential costume ideas, or last year’s floats being stripped back down to their undercarriages — and possibly meet technicians and artists at work.

You can also take graffiti-themed tours of the city, which introduce you to its visual language. Guides are part of Rio’s street art community, and they’ll explain about the complex political nuances and interplay of meanings behind many of the murals you’ll see. Look out, for example, for depictions of angels and rats — symbols, respectively, for favela residents and the ‘ruling class.’

Bunaken Marine Park, Indonesia

Bali tends to be Indonesia’s posterchild thanks to its beachside resorts, modish bars and hillside temples — but that’s just one facet of the country. Covering an area larger than Europe, the archipelago has thousands more islands, but only a handful of visitors set foot on them each year. It’s best to explore them now, before Indonesia’s burgeoning travel industry begins to pull in larger crowds.

Bunaken Marine Park

Indonesia sits in the middle of the coral triangle, an ecoregion that stretches from Malaysia to the Solomon Islands. It’s the world’s nexus for marine biodiversity — so much so that it’s nicknamed the ‘Amazon of the Seas’ by scientists. You can snorkel and dive from most islands but for some of the best experiences, head to the Bunaken Marine Park, a cluster of five islands off the northeast coast of Sulawesi.

There are more than 50 dive sites around the islands where you can drift-dive across crevasses, canyons and overhangs festooned with coral. Giant barrel sponges dot the seabed, their wide mouths gaping upwards, and gorgonians sway in the currents like miniature trees. You might see reef sharks, barracuda or turtles, and closer to the sea floor, the kaleidoscopic peacock mantis shrimp or an otherworldly nudibranch.

There’s little choice over where to stay, but luckily at the Siladen Resort & Spa you couldn’t want for more. On Siladen Island, 22 wooden villas are dotted among tropical gardens, some built right on the beach. It’s not top-class luxury but there’s a five-star PADI school, spa and pool that leads straight onto a flaxen-sand beach. Across the water is Manado Tua, a volcanic island right on the horizon — at dusk you can watch the sun set behind its perfect cone.

Zimbabwe

With the recent changes in its political landscape, Zimbabwe is expected to become increasingly popular over the next few years. 2018 is a good time to plan a safari to the country before its parks and reserves, which have remained under-the-radar compared to many other safari destinations, get busy.

Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park — just a three-hour drive from Victoria Falls — is the largest, oldest and best-known of Zimbabwe’s wildlife areas. You can explore its wide-open grasslands on game drives in search of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant). You may also encounter cheetah, spotted hyena, and wild dog, which all prowl the plains on the hunt for grazing herds of Burchell’s zebra and antelope.

Some of the safari companies here, such as Imvelo, also run projects supporting the local communities and conservation. These range from anti-poaching movements to digging bore holes for remote villages, building new schools, and improving health care. You can visit some of their projects to learn more about their work.

The remote Mana Pools National Park is fed by the Zambezi River. Four oxbow lakes left behind by the Zambezi hold water even in the dry season, attracting bull elephant, hippo and buffalo, as well as birdlife such as purple-banded sunbirds and racket-tailed rollers.

Walking safaris are Mana Pools’ main draw. These bring out the passion and knowledge of Zimbabwe’s guides, which are some of the most qualified and experienced in Africa. As you follow your guide though the bush, they’ll pick up on bird calls, animal tracks, and explain the subtleties of the local ecosystem.

Mauritius

On the night of 12th March, 2018, the beaches will glow with the light of a thousand barbecues, the tempo of sega beats quickening throughout the evening as Mauritians celebrate 50 years of independence. This golden anniversary has brought into focus the island’s history, which is a complex clashing of colonial powers — the island passed between the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British before gaining independence in 1968.

The Oberoi Mauritius

If you’re not there to join the celebrations in March, further events are due to be announced throughout 2018. It’s the ideal time to look away from the beaches and explore the island’s cultural legacy.

You could visit Eureka, a 19th-century Creole mansion. This time capsule for the island’s plantation history wouldn’t look out of place in America’s Deep South. Château de Labourdonnais, a grand neoclassical edifice of white pillars and polished wood, offers rum tastings and tours of its traditional distillery.

Mauritius is roughly the size of London, so you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice much beach time in order to explore — you can be back with your toes in the sand by the end of the day. Some visitors linger along the coast in one of the luxurious properties that sprawl its shoreline. The Oberoi Mauritius, for example, has an in-house astronomer, while at the Shanti Maurice you can try more than 180 types of rum in their beach shack.

Craig Burkinshaw is Founder of Audley Travel. Audley Travel is a tour operator offering tailor-made trips around the world.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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Top 5 self-drive holidays – A Luxury Travel Blog : A Luxury Travel Blog


One of the best ways to get under the skin of a country is to get behind the wheel. Whether it’s a 4×4 with all the bells and whistles or a classic that’s older than you, cars are still one of the best ways to see the sights. Here are our top five self-drive trips on four wheels.

The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

The Cabot Trail is a 185 mile scenic loop around the coastline of Cape Breton Island, taking in some of Nova Scotia’s most spectacular sights. Running across the top of the island and almost teetering off the eastern and western coastlines, it’s best to travel in a clockwise direction (the inside lane) unless you have a head for heights! Look out for moose as you twist through the mountains, being sure to stop off at Pleasant Bay for some whale watching. With so many great hiking trails en route, break up the journey and walk about to get a taste of the great outdoors, spotting the incredible ‘fall foliage’ as it blankets the region in colour. One of the best hikes is the 9km Skyline Trail: as its name suggests you’ll feel as though you are walking in the clouds as you walk out onto the peninsular where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the ocean, forests and the winding road of the Cabot Trail.

Patagonia, Chile & Argentina

Patagonia is home to some of the most incredible landscapes on Earth: rugged terrain, rolling pampas, grinding ice fields, momentous glaciers, vast open spaces and long open roads. Being in control of your own agenda enables you to explore at your own pace. Visit Torres del Paine National Park and see the cave paintings of Laguna Amarga, or enjoy some fly fishing at Serrano River. Drive through the golden pampas and view soaring condors, foxes and guanacos ñandus (Patagonia’s version of the ostrich). Cross the border into Argentina and Los Glaciares National Park and check out the Perito Moreno Glacier, a spectacular ninety-seven square mile ice formation. If you are feeling adventurous try your hand at ice-trekking on the glacier, or take to the water to see the glacial wall up close.

The Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Considered one of the world’s greatest drives, the Great Ocean Road showcases the best of Victoria’s coastline. Whilst the Twelve Apostles – a series of huge, craggy limestone stacks rising out of the ocean – are often considered to be the main attraction, there’s far more to this drive than these impressive rocks. The coastal scenery is breathtaking – rugged cliffs, crashing waves, and untouched beaches – but somewhat contrary to the name, the drive also navigates inland through the Great Otway National Park, with its historic lighthouse, waterfalls, gorges and forests. As the popularity of this road has increased, so too has the stature of the destinations enroute. What were historically small logging and fishing communities are now thriving holiday towns and second home havens. At just 250km, it can be done as a day trip, but is far better enjoyed at a much more leisurely pace with time to stop off and take in the sights along the way.

Chianti region, Tuscany

Your first decision is whether to opt for a super cool convertible Ferrari 430 Spider, or go Italian Job in a Mini. Your second decision is whether to hit the road in spring when the flowers are in bloom, or in September, to experience the truffle hunting and grape harvest. Once decided, just sit back and enjoy la dolce vita. Cruise into the heart of the Chianti region, visiting charming hilltop towns, such as Greve and Castellina, stopping for delicious leisurely lunches of traditional treats such as schiacciata con olio – foccacia-like bread with oil and finocchionam, salami with fennel seeds. Put the roof down and sunglasses on, and get lost in a valley of chestnuts and oaks before experiencing the charm of Val d’Orcia Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just to the south of Siena.

Off-road safari, Namibia

Namibia is Africa with bells on, a million facets in one country ranging from the extremes of Sossusvlei’s strangely beautiful dunes to the lush, leafy bush of Etosha National Park. And where more strikingly beautiful to really get to grips with off-road driving than its wild, unrelenting landscape? It’s the adventure capital of Africa: where else can you scale a 350m tall sand dune, go off-road driving in scenic game reserves and take a balloon flight over the desert before spotting whales on a marine safari out in the crashing Atlantic? And if the views don’t do it for you, what about sand boarding, off roading, quad biking, and of course game drives? You’ll drive through Etosha National Park and the Ongava Reserve, witnessing the awe-inspiring wildlife from a new perspective.

Claire Powell is Digital Marketing Manager at Abercrombie & Kent.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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Top 6 romantic luxury properties in Africa


With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, many may have romance on their mind – and how better to enjoy time with a loved one than exploring the vast plains of Africa or relaxing on an Indian Ocean island? Here are Africa’s Top 6 most romantic properties, for 14th February as well as any other time of the year!

Singita Sweni Lodge, South Africa

Singita Sweni Lodge sits amongst hundreds of trees on the edge of the Sweni River in the Kruger National Park. With such close proximity to the water, you can enjoy unforgettable sightings of free-roaming African wildlife. Recently refurbished, the luxurious rooms have game-viewing decks, indoor/outdoor showers, and complimentary mini-bar. Feel at one with nature, and enjoy an adventurous camp-out on a star-bed whilst listening to birds and mammals settling down for the night and rising with you come dawn.

North Island, Seychelles

North Island provides a super-exclusive and private tropical hideaway. Featuring eleven spacious villas constructed with local materials, the island property has been built with romance in mind. Besides the glorious scenery of the Indian Ocean, the highlight of North Island has to be the five-star service. Guests can request their preferred dishes, including fish freshly caught from the sea! After a day in the sunshine, pamper yourselves with a spa treatment especially created to relax body, mind, and soul.

&Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania

A number of travellers visit Africa solely to stay at this fabulous property on the rim of the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater. Crater Lodge has wonderful views of wildlife across the crater floor. The property is split into three camps, each with a butler to attend to your every need. Enjoy an evening by the log fire or a private candlelit dinner, surrounded by lavish furnishings described as ‘Maasai meets Versailles’!

Zarafa Camp, Botswana

This beautiful four-room tented camp is situated in the private Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana and renowned for its incredible sightings such as wild dog, cheetah, lion, leopard, and herds of elephant. The guest accommodation is authentic yet luxurious, featuring decks leading out to a private plunge pool. Here you can relax by the soothing waters of the nearby lagoon, which attracts plentiful wildlife. This classic property is one of the most romantic and exclusive camps in the country – a real ‘eco’-gem offering superb service.

Bisate Lodge, Rwanda

Bisate is the newest and most luxurious eco-lodge to open next to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Designed in traditional Rwandan style, the buildings are domed with draping thatch roofs. This is the perfect high-end base from which to track the park’s famous mountain gorillas. Guests can also go on treks to see golden monkey, enjoy village visits, and even participate in some of the lodge’s local conservation efforts. Though the volcanoes themselves are dormant, this is the perfect location to set your love ablaze!

&Beyond Mnemba Island, Zanzibar

Located a short boat-ride off the north-eastern tip of Zanzibar, Mnemba Island is an unspoiled private hideout. Surrounded by clear blue waters and gorgeous coral reefs, the property offers a wide range of activities from snorkelling and kayaking to spa treatments and the simple pleasure of discovering the island barefoot on unspoiled white sands. Guest accommodation consists of ten stunning private suites, each designed to reflect island life and complete with your own stretch of beach!

Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris. Yellow Zebra Safaris is an award-winning luxury and adventure travel company specialising in ‘Safari Africa’.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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Top 5 island escapes – A Luxury Travel Blog : A Luxury Travel Blog


Getting away from it all is harder than ever thanks to Wi-Fi, constant connectivity and more iDevices than you can shake a charger at. Still, we’ve managed to pick our top five island escapes where you can adopt a ‘no shoes, no news’ ethos from the moment you arrive.

Peter Island Resort & Spa, British Virgin Islands

Mountainous and jungle-cloaked with secluded coves and idyllic beaches, Peter Island has played host to an impressive array of visitors including explorer Christopher Columbus, Hollywood heavyweight Robert De Niro and footballer Rio Ferdinand. Reached only by boat or helicopter, the island began life as a resort in the 1960s and has always maintained a wonderfully laid-back and romantic atmosphere. With world-class diving, delicious private picnics, cooking lessons, horticultural tours and a blissful spa, there are plenty of ways to enjoy island life. We recommend heading to The Loop to watch the sunset whilst tucking into a fruit and cheese platter – delivered to you alongside your tipple of choice

Tierra Chiloé, Chile

Recently built onto a culturally rich landscape deep within the Archipelago of Chiloé, Tierra Chiloé is a warm, inviting hotel, with great attention to detail and extremely high service standards. The hotel has been built using native wood and is full of wool weavings and basketry, all of which were crafted by local artisans. The construction mimics the natural environment, becoming a part of the landscape without altering it, and evoking the culture of the islands. The hotel has a team of guides offering tailored half-day and full day outings for guests including cultural trips to UNESCO-listed Jesuit churches, boating, horse riding, biking, trekking and spectacular bird watching. Tierra Chiloé even has its own vessel named Williche for use during maritime outings on the archipelago’s channels and fjords.

Fogo Island Inn, Canada

A contemporary interpretation of a rural retreat, Fogo Island Inn is an island off an island, off the radar and seemingly on the edge of the Earth. Its dramatic location provides the ultimate departure from the everyday: the only views for miles and miles are the pounding waves, rocky outcrops and endless stretches of the swirling navy ocean as it blends into the horizon. The island itself is a collection of 11 communities, each quirky in its own unique way. One of the best ways to while away a day is gently hiking between the villages, exploring the fishing, shipbuilding and native arts industries that have thrived here since the 18th century. Take to the seas in a traditional wooden punt and uncover hidden bays and coves you’ll likely have all to yourself or try to land your own catch of the day. The inn itself, which is a social enterprise, has a host of guides who can take you on everything from intensive multi-day hikes to educational rambles. Thanks to the artistic influences here there are also various art experiences on offer, led by artists and curators.

Capella Lodge, New South Wales

Just two hours from Sydney, Lord Howe Island is one of Australia’s best kept secrets. Subtropical, untouched and brimming with rare birds, flora and fauna, the island is a collage of soaring volcanic peaks, turquoise lagoons, lush vegetation and spectacular coral reefs. A real adventure playground, activities include birdwatching, surfing, guided hikes, snorkelling and diving, to name just a few. At the southern end of the island, the nine-suite Capella Lodge provides a luxurious base with beach-house chic interiors, a relaxed vibe and top notch contemporary Pacific cuisine. After an action-packed day, book yourself in for the three hour Dreaming package at the Capella Spa – guaranteed to leave you feeling balanced and renewed.

Denis Island, Seychelles

With no televisions in the rooms and no mobile phone signal to be found, here you can truly switch off and enjoy the tranquil rhythm of island life. This private 150-hectare coral island, protected by vibrant reefs amid vivid crystalline waters, shelters 25 eco-conscious castaway cottages sitting between casuarina plants and coconut trees bordering the beach. The estate operates its own farm, rearing poultry for meat and eggs and cattle for milk. These along with fruits, vegetables and herbs, freshly caught seafood cooked on the open-grill and an excellent wine cellar, make dining here a real treat. Days on Denis can be spent sea-fishing or diving, as the professional PADI-affiliated dive centre offer courses for novice and advanced divers, playing tennis, canoeing, snorkelling or taking part in fantastic nature tours. Make sure you find time to explore the island which is home to a 100-year-old lighthouse, Toby the tortoise and a tiny chapel.

Claire Powell is Digital Marketing Manager at Abercrombie & Kent.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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5 amazing activities in Botswana


If you’re looking for heaven on earth, we’ve already found it! Eden is in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. This magnificent swathe of jade green land and rivers is home to some of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa, and also to the continent’s very best safari lodges. The Delta’s lush landscape contrasts starkly with that of the Kalahari Desert, but combining these two unique ecosystems makes for an unforgettable African adventure.

Botswana is a year-round safari destination: there’s something thrilling to see every month of the year. We’ve selected just a few of our favourite sights and experiences to give you a taste of the wonders in store.

Fly-in safari

Botswana prides itself on low-volume, high-quality tourism experiences, and part of this is privacy for guests. The lodges and camps tend to be small and intimate, set on remote private reserves and conservancies. It’s often impossible to reach them by road, so guests fly in by light aircraft and land on the camp’s own airstrips. This is an absolutely thrilling way to travel. Not only will you feel like a celebrity in your private plane, but have a bird’s eye view of the majestic scenery and elephant herds, and not waste any time travelling by road.

Rhino tracking

Botswana takes the protection of its wildlife exceptionally seriously, and Rhinos Without Borders has relocated some 150 black rhino here to protect them from poachers. These critically endangered creatures are absolutely phenomenal to see in the wild, and here they look completely content, unharassed by human presence. Recently guests at Rra Dinare had a half-hour rhino viewing session during a game drive at Gomoti Plains, and spotted a mother and calf. The guides and rangers keep track of where the rhino will be, and ensure you’ll be able to watch them from very close by indeed.

Mokoro safari

As so much of the Okavango Delta is rivers and floodplains, it makes sense to explore it from the water. With no engine noise, or the noise of footsteps, the mokoro (a traditional canoe) is the ideal form of transport: the wildlife does not hear you approach, and there’s nothing to disturb your peace. Mokoro guides must have a special license to paddle you, so you know you’re in safe hands. Expect to see plenty of birdlife, buffalo, and aquatic antelope, as well as the Okavango’s flora.

Sleep out

Botswana is sparsely populated and has few cities, so there’s absolutely no light pollution at all. This makes it an incredible destination for stargazing, and you can sleep out all night on the Skybed at Sable Alley. The Skybed is a three-storey platform, with the bed on the top floor and no roof. Animals might well wander beneath you as you sleep! Guides can help you spot the constellations, or you can ask for total privacy and enjoy this incredibly romantic experience with the one you love.

Desert adventure

The dunes of the Kalahari Desert are a strikingly different ecosystem from the Delta region. Why not see the sites with the wind in your hair on a quad bike safari? This is an exhilarating way to travel, and to cross large areas of the wilderness. You’ll also see herds of desert-adapted animals, including the Kalahari’s elephant. Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans is a stunning place to stay, balancing luxurious surroundings with the feeling that you’re on a real expedition.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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Where to go on a South African golfing safari


Imagine playing a game of golf on a world-class golf course, teeing up for your next ball while looking out over a Big 5 game reserve. There’s a herd of giraffes in the distance, and earlier you spotted elephants drinking from a waterhole. This is what you can expect on a typical golf safari in South Africa. The combination of both a safari and golfing is any golfers dream. While the country is home to many five-star courses, I’ve selected some of the best on offer. Pack your gear and get ready to come to South Africa on an unforgettable golfing getaway!

Leopard Creek, Kruger National Park

The Leopard Creek golf course borders the renowned Kruger National Park, and hippo, antelope, buffalo and elephant are frequently spotted on the course. The best hole on the course is the 13th hole, situated on the river with views over Kruger National Park. After a round of golf, you can retreat to the clubhouse, where you can enjoy a cocktail from the bar or a delicious meal from the kitchen. The facilities include a Pro Shop, changing rooms, individual lockers, and covered parking for golf carts. You can stay at a number of luxury lodges in Kruger and the surrounding area.

Legend Golf and Safari Resort

World-class accommodation and golf courses await you at Legend Golf and Safari Resort. The resort boasts an 18-hole Signature Golf Course, a 10-hole Tribute Course, and the renowned Extreme 19th – a hole set in the Hanglip Mountain, accessible only by helicopter! While it’s a paradise for golfers, it is also a magnificent destination for a safari getaway or a business trip. You’ll enjoy luxury accommodation during your stay and activities like game drives and hot air balloon safaris. At the end of each day, you can retire to the Signature Clubhouse, where you’ll find a health gym, changing rooms, pro shop, splash pool and sky bar.

Skukuza Golf Course

Situated in Kruger National Park and bordering Skukuza Rest Camp is where you’ll find Skukuza Golf Course. The golf course is surrounded by a wildlife sanctuary where the Big 5 roam, and where exquisite birds and animals can be seen. The 9-hole course is unfenced, which means you’ll see an abundance of animals on the green, including hippo, impala, warthog and baboons. The Skukuza Golf Club has everything you need, including caddies, motorised golf carts and pull carts. After a successful game of golf, you can enjoy a refreshing drink from the club’s bar.

Hans Merensky Hotel and Spa

The Hans Merensky Hotel is a four-star resort and a haven for golfers. The resort’s award-winning 18-hole, par 72 Championship golf course was designed by well-known golf architect, Bob Grimsdell. Located near Kruger National Park’s Phalaborwa Gate, the course is home to a plethora of wild animals; elephant, buffalo, hyena, lion, hippos, warthogs, monkeys, giraffe and antelope regularly visit the golf course. The golfing experience at Hans Merensky Hotel includes luxury accommodation, comprised of hotel rooms and self-catering units. After a day of golf, you can quench your thirst and satisfy your appetite at the Leadwood restaurant, which features an a la carte menu and a buffet.

Kruger Park Lodge Golf Course

Set on the banks of the Sabie River, Kruger Park Lodge boasts a pristine Gary Player-designed golf course. With nine holes and 18 tees, the golf course is an African paradise home to an abundance of wildlife and beautiful water features. If you’re looking for an easy-going game of golf with beautiful views, Kruger Park Lodge Golf Course is the perfect destination. Your golfing experience comprises accommodation in luxury chalets, and activities like nature walks or a dip in one of the three swimming pools. The lodge has everything you need for a relaxing holiday, on and off the green.

Colin Dilland is Owner and Managing Director of East Cape Tours and Safaris. East Cape Tours is a South African based travel company offering bespoke tailor-made trips across Southern Africa.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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5 luxury escapes near Cape Town


Although the Mother City has a dazzling array of luxury accommodation offerings, and continues to collect a string of international awards, the coastal towns, winelands and mountains that surround her also have some wondrous hidden gems. Here are my top five luxe stays, all within a 90-minute drive of the city.

1. The Marine Hotel

Understated elegance and old school hospitality welcome you with open arms to the coastal town of Hermanus. It’s perfectly poised along the clifftops in this prime holiday village, offering the most impressive and expansive ocean vistas.

The town is most-known for its exceptional whale viewing – one of the best spots in the world! My top three hotel experiences were enjoying the culinary creativity of their Origins restaurant, afternoon champagne sessions in the hotels’ lounge, and lastly simply continuing the whale spotting from the luxurious comfort of my bed.

2. The Villa Exner

Often bypassed by visitors, the mountainous hamlet of Elgin has a few surprises in store, and one of these is the Villa Exner. Driving up to the double story pillared homestead, feels like you’re in a scene from an American movie, set in the deep South, only with the cotton fields replaced by Cape Fold mountains.

The converted homestead offers a handful of rooms, all spacious with subtly African-inspired décor, and all a few steps from Eats11, the in-house restaurant. Be sure to visit the Cape Canopy Tour for a zip-line experience, or a local winery for some excellent cool climate wines.

3. Pearl Valley Hotel

A newbie on the block, the Pearl Valley Hotel is set on the magnificently manicured greens of the luxury estate Val De Vie. Sports fanatics will revel at the opportunity to get active, with a golf course, equestrian facilities, squash and tennis courts, and much more. The combination of French Provençal and Cape Vernacular styles inspire the estate, and the hotel’s lavish looks.

A 20 minute drive in either direction will take you to the picturesque and historical winelands’ towns of Paarl, and Franschhoek. A perfect family destination, as the estate has kilometers of ground for kids to safely explore.

4. The Robertson Small Hotel

While Robertson is the larger of the villages you’ll drive through on the scenic Route 62 out of Cape Town, in one of its suburbs hides something small but oh so significant. The Robertson Small is a five-star hotel that lives up to its name with only 12 rooms, and an exceptional dedication to the ‘small details’. Most of the rooms open directly onto one of the pools, with private verandas to relax away the afternoon.

From the hotel produced Small Guide to the town, to menus arriving in envelopes, you’re held in luxury with surprisingly delightful small touches at every turn. Easily one of top 3 hotels I’ve ever visited, and within a 10 minute drive of some of my favourite wine farms, it’s a winner.

5. Le Franschhoek Hotel

Driving into Franschhoek (the French-quarter), and then along the length of its picturesque main road it’s as if you’re transported into a European hamlet, cradled by mountains on both sides. As if that wasn’t enough, as you leave the town and continue deeper into the valley, you eventually arrive at Le Franschhoek Hotel.

The tranquil garden setting, and exceptional service makes for the perfect luxe winelands escape. As much as there are countless wine farms to explore within a minute’s drive, you’d be equally happy to languor away the day at the pool or the tempting in-house Heavenly Spa. Who wouldn’t want to rest in the shadow of the majestic mountains, all the while dazzled by such tasteful French flair?



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Top 5 yacht charter honeymoon destinations


For those looking for an unrivaled honeymoon experience, a yacht charter offers it all. With a dedicated Captain, crew and chef, all of your requirements will be catered for down to the most intricate of details and you can enjoy cruising in some of the world’s most stunning locations.

Whether you are looking to dine al fresco, swim or dive in a secluded bay or party in some of the world’s hotspots, a yacht charter offers infinite possibilities.Here are out top three yacht charter honeymoon destinations:

Maldives

Nestled within the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a tropical nation of 26 atolls made up of over 1,190 coral islands and inlets. Offering some of the best sailing in the World, you will experience a journey of discovery that incorporates powdery beaches, secluded anchorages and a laid-back pace of life.

Whether you wish to island hop and visit some of the Maldives’ five star hotels or spend your full honeymoon aboard in complete privacy, a yacht charter provides the ultimate way to experience this stunning destination.

Seychelles

Located just off the east coast of Africa, the Seychelles is a group of islands renowned for their beaches, palm trees and beautiful landscapes.

This archipelago is made up of 115 islands, comprising some of the oldest granite islands in the world, and low-lying coral atolls and reef islands. This diversity of the Seychelles is a fantastic advantage when sailing, as each island is just a short trip away, providing a range of options depending on how you would like to spend each day.

British Virgin Islands  

For those that truly want to get away from it all, the British Virgin Islands, located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico, provide the ultimate destination. Particularly challenging to get to without a yacht, a honeymoon here will position you in 0ne of the World’s most unspoilt of locations.

Made up of more than 60 islands and islets , you will experience white sand beaches at every turn. Beach bars are located on many popular bays, whereas there are also many unexplored and inhabited locations for those moments when you’re looking for ultimate privacy.

Eastern Mediterranean

For those looking for something a little more adventurous, a yacht charter in the Eastern Mediterranean could provide the perfect solution.

Whether you want to casually cruise the coastline, or visit some of Europe’s most stunning cities, a yacht allows you to move between destinations and return to your yacht at your leisure. Some of the best destinations to consider include Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

South of France

Offering quintessentially breathtaking backdrops that can’t fail to impress, a yacht charter in the South of France can’t fail to impress.

Destinations to visit include St Tropez, Monaco and Bonifacio and your Captain will also be able to show you some of Europe’s most idyllic locations and secret anchorages, perfect for swimming and private dining.

Prices for a week-long charter start from just £12,000 per week.

Geoff Moore is Managing Director at West Nautical. With offices in Russia, UK and France, West Nautical is a specialist in bespoke yacht charters, brokerage and management.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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Top 5 wildlife experiences in the Seychelles


The Seychelles is made up of 115 islands and is famous for its pristine white-sand beaches, turquoise ocean, and year-round sunshine. However, there is so much more to the archipelago, not least some of the world’s most unique and stunning wildlife. This exciting wildlife is everywhere, from up in the sky in the form of sensationally diverse birdlife, right down to the sea bed in a whole bustling ecosystem living amidst the protected coral reefs. Here is a summary of some of the top wildlife experiences to enjoy across this tropical paradise.

Giant tortoises on Curieuse Island

Curieuse Island is located north-west of Praslin Island, and is a protected bio-reserve and marine park. The island teems with rare flora and fauna, but what’s most impressive and attractive about it is the locals, the Aldabra giant tortoise. These animals are so charismatic and have so much personality! They absolutely love attention from humans, out-stretching their necks and standing up tall, just begging for a neck tickle. The tortoises range freely all over the island, but there are a large number of adults and tiny babies at the ranger’s station as part of a conservation effort to help increase the population size. There are very few populations of giant tortoises worldwide, let alone opportunities to touch, stroke, and even lie down in amongst them – it is a truly incredible and memorable experience.

Snorkelling with turtles

This is an absolute must when in the Seychelles. The water that surrounds the islands contains some of the finest and most thrilling marine life in the world. Exploring the waters off the beaches is a simply sensational activity, featuring giant shoals of vibrant fish and fascinating coral, all in crystal-clear turquoise waters. Some snorkelling areas provide visitors with the ultimate gift, the chance to see and sometimes to swim with turtles. Hawksbill and green turtles are found in the surrounding waters and are the most fantastic sights. It is truly mesmerising to watch these beautiful creatures. Some turtle hotspots include Anse Lazio on Praslin Island, Grande Sœur Island, and Bird Island, but the graceful reptiles are found in most of the waters within the archipelago.

Birdlife

The Seychelles is a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting a number of species found nowhere else in the world. On some islands, there is such a high biodiversity of birds that people flock from all over the world just to marvel at them. For example, the islands of Aride and Bird (clue is in the name) are world renowned for their bird populations, but even the larger and more populated islands have some brilliant birdlife, offering experiences such as the bright-red Madagascar fody eating out of your hand on the island of La Digue. One of the ultimate bird sightings is the National Bird, the Seychelles black parrot. Praslin is the only place in the world where these birds are found, so visitors should head to the island to try to spot the (actually brown) parrot hiding amongst the statuesque coco de mer trees.

Vallée de Mai

Vallée de Mai is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight of hundreds of coco de mer trees, situated on Praslin Island. The trees themselves are awe inspiring! There are only two populations in the entire world – this and a smaller one on Curieuse Island – and the huge forest population within the valley of Praslin is simply breathtaking. The enormous trees and characterful nuts are also host to a number of species found only within these forests, such as the bronze-eyed gecko, black parrot, and coco de mer snail. No binoculars or powerful zoom camera lenses are needed, however, as the animals can be sighted from the forest floor all the way to the tips of the leaves of the trees.

Diving on Praslin Island

For those wanting to dive a little deeper into the Seychelles’ extraordinary marine world below the calm surface, Octopus Dive School on Cote d’Or on Praslin Island is the place to go. This dive school caters for people of all abilities, whether you haven’t even snorkelled or are a highly experienced diver. The guides take you down to the sea floor and to the best wildlife spots, amongst armies of fish, huge rays, sharks, sea horses… the natural marine world in all its glory. The warm Indian Ocean water is some of the clearest in the world – don’t be surprised if you gain a new appreciation for nature when you get to see it this close and personal!

Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris. Yellow Zebra Safaris is an award-winning luxury and adventure travel company specialising in ‘Safari Africa’.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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10 of the most luxurious new safari properties


This year Africa has experienced a real boom in high-end safari properties, with extraordinary new lodges and camps opening across the continent. We have already checked out some of the most exciting openings so they can share their firsthand observations and opinions with you. Below you’ll find 10 of our favourites.

Sable Alley, Botswana

Built around a lagoon close to the world famous Moremi Game Reserve is an intimate safari camp with just 12 tents, two of which are large enough for families. Game wander right up to the watering hole so you’ll have a close-up view of hippo, elephant, and buffalo. Game drives take place day and night, and on the latter you are able to see shy nocturnal animals. Another attraction of Sable Alley is the mokoro safaris. Mokoro are traditional carved canoes, and paddling along the waterways you get a very different perspective on the river and the birdlife living along it.

King Lewanika Lodge, Zambia

Zambia’s most exclusive camp has been several years in the making, and its opening is a cause for great excitement. It is the only permanent camp in the Liuwa Plains National Park, one of the oldest conservation parks in Africa, and it is no exaggeration to say it is a photographer’s dream. The camp has been designed by the same specialist architects behind North Island in the Seychelles. The furnishings are inspired by the early days of East African safaris, with leather, cotton, canvas, and other natural materials featuring prominently in the design. Liuwa Plains has the second biggest wildebeest migration in Africa, a growing cheetah population, and a famed lion pride.

Saruni Rhino, Kenya

Sighting rhino in the wild is one of the most sought-after safari experiences in Africa, but achieving it was very, very rare. Now, finally, you can stay at Saruni Rhino and track black rhino in the 350,000-hectare Sera Conservancy. There are just two bandas (open-sided cottages), so staying here is an intimate affair. Take your breakfast on the dry river bed, visit the the recently opened Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, learn the bush skills, folklore, and ancient wisdom needed to survive in one of Kenya’s richest wildlife regions, and enjoy a starlit dinner beneath the vast African skies.

One Nature Nyaruswiga, Tanzania

The plains in this stunning part of Tanzania are completely untouched by tourism. Tents open out onto the open savannah, their roofs supported by slightly fragrant African eucalyptus wood. There’s a permanent water hole by the camp which attracts the game, and you can explore the region and spot wildlife not only by 4×4 but also from the air on a balloon safari or scenic flight. Attractions include watching the Mara River migration crossing, walking on the shifting sands of the Olduvai Gorge, and marvelling at the natural wonder which is the Ngorongoro crater.

Somalisa Expeditions, Zimbabwe

It’s time to have an authentic safari experience in Hwange National Park, a place known as the “Land of the Giants” on account of its big elephant herds. Somalisa Expeditions have erected six elegantly furnished Serengeti-style tents, each with an en suite bathroom. The communal area includes a lounge and dining area on raised decking, and this overlooks a small pool where elephant come to drink. Staying here you’ll have countless up-close encounters with elephant but also see kudu, zebra, and sable antelope, gemsbok, roan antelope, buffalo, and giraffe.

Bisate Lodge, Rwanda

Bisate Lodge is our #1 choice for gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park. It lies within the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, with dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke volcanoes. The national park is home to golden monkey, side-striped jackal, buffalo, elephant, and 178 species of birds. But the stars of the show are the 12 habituated groups of mountain gorilla, which you can visit on foot with expert trackers.

Three Rivers Lodge, Zambia

Tents at the Three Rivers Lodge area spread out beneath the shade of the sausage trees, looking out at the Luangwa River or across the game-rich lagoon. Hippo saunter up onto the white beach to drink and bathe; and there are elephant, waterbuck, roan antelope, lion, and leopard, too. This area of the Luangwa Valley is one of the few places where you can see African wild dog in the wild. Spotting one is a cause for great excitement. The camp is eco-friendly — all lighting is solar-powered — and you can dine or sleep out beneath the stars.

Nimali Central Serengeti, Tanzania

For the most luxurious tented safari camp in the Serengeti, choose Nimali Central. Days start with early morning balloon rides across the plains, and Champagne breakfast in the bush. On a game drive you can expect to see elephant, giraffe, cheetah, eland, lion, and leopard, and when you return to camp you can relax with a swim in the pool or perhaps an indulgent spa treatment. Solar torches light the camp by night, creating a romantic atmosphere, so much so in fact that we anticipate Nimali Central will become one of our most popular choices for intimate destination weddings and honeymoons.

Roho Ya Selous, Tanzania

Nothing beats being a spectator at the great migration in the Selous Game Reserve. The scale of herds, and the opportunity to see the buffalo up close, will take your breath away. But there’s plenty more wildlife to see: the big five are all present, and there’s a substantial population of big cats, wild dog, and hippo. As a guest at Roho Ya Selous you sit atop a hill for optimal views of the surrounding landscape. The eight canvas tents are set far apart to maximise privacy, and have a special air cooling system so you can sleep comfortably even on the hottest of nights.

Gomoti Plains, Botswana

The Gomoti Plains is known for its large concentrations of wildlife, including its large population of African wild dog. The whole camp, which is raised on wooden decks decorated in a classic safari style, is comprised of 10 luxury safari tents, two of which are family units. Game drives take place in the morning, afternoon, and evening, and there are also possibilities for nature walks and canoeing in the shallower waters of the Okavango. Excursions to the delta’s islands are particularly fun and give you the chance to spot some of the region’s shyer creatures, as well as plenty of waterbirds.

All of the new properties we’ve discussed in this blog have very limited space due to their small size. If you want to be amongst the first guests to experience them, especially at a peak time such as Christmas or during the seasonal migration, you should start to plan your trip now!

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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