Articles

  • Exploring New Zealand’s South Island

    While Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island may be best known for the devastating earthquakes it has suffered in recent years, this city is certainly worth the visit – especially for its breathtaking surrounds. After spending an afternoon exploring the downtown, we had one day to try and see just what Canterbury was all about before hopping on the TranzAlpine to the West Coast.

    South Island | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    South Island | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    Flying over Christchurch | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    Flying over Christchurch | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    Exploring Christchurch

    The day began with a brief drive through downtown Christchurch, before ascending the hills on the way to Akaroa. Stops were made to view the incredible scenery. We also stopped for tea down by the water before heading into town. Once in Akaroa, we meandered through some local shops before heading to Black Cat Cruises for our adventure.

    After receiving a safety briefing and getting fitted for wet suits, it was time to hit the water. A short 20-minute cruise to the edge of the harbour was all it took to spot the first Hectors Dolphins. We were advised to never reach out and try to touch one of the dolphins. We were to respect their rights as wild animals. After assessing the wild dolphins, the brave jumped right into the freezing ocean for a closer view. After treading water and seeing dolphins in the distance, it was time to move locations for a better view.

    Dolphin Jumping | Photo Credit: Black Cat Cruises

    Dolphin Jumping | Photo Credit: Black Cat Cruises

    For the next hour or so we were hopping in and out of the boat, cruising through the harbour and swimming alongside of the dolphins. It was an incredible experience, and one that I’ll never forget. Once back on dry land, it was time for a hot shower and some fish and chips for lunch before heading back to Christchurch.

    TranzAlpine

    The TranzAlpine Train is the preferred method of travel from the East to the West side of the South Island. This five-hour train ride seemed more like five minutes. You pass through breathtaking scenery of rolling hills and planes, gorges, and snow-capped mountains. We were just a few weeks early for wild flower season, but the colors of the countryside did not disappoint. Each traveler on the train has assigned seats, and there is a full café on-board. The highlight of the train is the open viewing carriage. There are no seats, and the windows are wide open with no glass to obstruct the view.

    TranzAlpine Train | Photo Credit: Canterbury Tourism

    TranzAlpine Train | Photo Credit: Canterbury Tourism

    After taking the TranzAlpine and driving a few hours down the coast, Franz Josef is the perfect place to spend a few nights. Its remote location is emphasized by a few restaurants and handful of shops, but the beauty of the West Coast is stunning. The biggest feature of Franz Josef is its proximity to the glaciers, most notably Franz Josef Glacier.

    Flying Over Franz Josef

    We lucked out with the weather, and were able to take the only trip they were running the entire week. After safety briefings and handing out gear, the excitement begins with a five-minute helicopter flight from town to the glacier. Due to recession, the only access to the glacier is by helicopter – and you don’t hear anyone complaining about that! After getting a bird’s eye view, we touched down on the glacier and were instructed on how to properly put on our crampons. Then we were off! We weaved our way in and out of ice tunnels and across the face of a gigantic slab of ice. After what seemed like no time at all, it was time to head back to the helicopter and back to reality. I think most of us would have camped up there if given the chance!

    View Over Lake | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    View Over Lake | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    December 21, 2017 • Articles, New Zealand, Sarah Herman, Travels • Views: 8703

  • Celebrate Diwali and Holi in India

    Celebrating Diwali

    October through March is the best time to travel to India, but I simply love to be in India when there is a festival. Growing up in Bombay (now Mumbai), we would wait for our Diwali holidays from school. Mom would make delicious sweets and we would decorate our home with lanterns, diyas (clay lamps), marigold garlands, and Rangoli. We always got new clothes for the festival, and my brother and I would celebrate by lighting sparklers. Diwali is the Hindu New Year and festival of lights signifying victory of good over evil. It falls between October and November.  The exact dates change each year based on the Hindu lunar calendar, but traveling during that time in India showcases beautiful celebrations, gorgeous decorations and people in festive moods. Diwali is a 5-day celebration.

    Celebrating Diwali | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Celebrating Diwali | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Diwali Celebrations | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Diwali Celebrations | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Holi Festival

    Another festival that I celebrated growing up with my family and friends was Holi– a festival of color. It is a spring festival that celebrates life with color that falls in March! Holi celebrations start on the night before with a huge bonfire and prayers so that evil can be destroyed the way it did in the Hindu legend, by burning a demoness named Holika. Young and old, rich and poor, family and friends, all celebrate this festival by smearing color. The festival also marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season.

    Powder Colors for Holi | Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Powder Colors for Holi | Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Holi Festival in Nepal | Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Holi Festival in Nepal | Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    If you want to travel during the festivals, plan your India journey around the following dates:

    • Diwali Festival in 2018 begins November 7th
    • Holi Festival in 2018 begins on March 1st with a bonfire and followed by a smearing color day on March 2nd
    • Diwali Festival in 2019 begins October 27th
    • Holi Festival in 2019 begins on March 20th with a bonfire and followed by a smearing color day on March 21st

    November 29, 2017 • Articles, Bela Banker, Destinations, India, Travels • Views: 4375

  • Barangaroo – The New Sydney Suburb

    Barangaroo is the newest suburb of Sydney. This area is receiving much attention because of the beauty of the location and the diversity of experiences found there. Barangaroo was a wife of Bennelong, an aboriginal. He was instrumental in helping the British colonists of Sydney during the early days of settlement. As a result, the area is rich in aboriginal and maritime history.

    Aerial View of Barangaroo | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Aerial View of Barangaroo | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Exploring the New Suburb

    The two main areas of Barangaroo are the Barangaroo Reserve in the north and the Dining and Retail precinct in the south.  There is easy access from the city which makes a visit to this inviting waterfront precinct a great addition to any exploration of Sydney. Because it’s close, visitors can drive, bike, walk or take a ferry.  There are fully accessible walking paths from Circular Quay and from the train station at Wynard. The Wynard Walk is an easy way to reach the Reserve. Or a ferry can take you right to Wulugul Walk, the heart of the restaurant and retail complex.

    South Barangaroo | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    South Barangaroo | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    The Reserve features a re-created Sydney Harbour headland, with the foreshores built from local sandstone as they would have looked in the earliest days of Australia’s history. The Cutaway is a unique cultural venue underneath the Reserve. It has hosted many special art exhibits and Fashion Week.  There are extensive gardens with native Australian plants, ideal for walking and biking. You can also enjoy the lovely views with a picnic or observing the public art throughout the area. Fishing and hunting were an important aspect for the Aboriginal people, who were the first inhabitants of this land; therefore an Aboriginal guided tour to learn of the significance of Sydney Harbour is a must.  Through artworks and special events, the Aboriginal culture is celebrated in Barangaroo.

    Street in South Barangaroo | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Street in South Barangaroo | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    What To Do

    The southern precinct is a foodies delight! There is a wide range of restaurants to appeal to different palates and budgets. Options range from fine dining to more casual places, coffee shops, artisan bakeries and hip bars.  This is a fun waterfront area with world class dining.  There are impressive shopping options here as well, with boutiques offering both international and local designers. David Jones, the major Australian department store has opened a world-first concept store in Barangaroo.

    Cuisine from Anason Restaurant | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Cuisine from Anason Restaurant | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Anason Restaurant | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Anason Restaurant | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    There is definitely something for every visitor to enjoy in this new dynamic location!

    November 13, 2017 • Anne Pace, Articles, Australia, Destinations, Travels • Views: 14293

  • Under the Radar: Tasmania

    Tasmania is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten state”; it’s typically not on the radar for first time visitors to Australia. Many of my Aussie mates haven’t even visited! However, Tasmania is full of adventures and surprises for the fortunate traveler. It’s compact size allows you to experience a variety of landscapes and activities in a long weekend. Stroll on empty coastlines, walk through eucalyptus-clad forests, and climb rugged mountains. Spot land and sea life, savor the gourmet food and superb wines, witness the flourishing creative arts scene and embrace the local lifestyle.

    Views of Tasmania | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Views of Tasmania | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Hobart | Photo Credit: Tourism Tasmania

    Hobart | Photo Credit: Tourism Tasmania

    The main gateway to Tasmania is Hobart Airport, servicing flights predominantly to and from Melbourne and Sydney. You will need to connect through either city if you are flying in from another country, or from another Australian destination. I recommend renting a car directly upon arrival as self-driving is the best way to explore Tasmania.

    Yes, you will have to drive on the left side of the road, but it just takes a few minutes to adjust!

    Discovering Hobart

    Hobart is a quaint port city with a strong colonial heritage. Sandstone Georgian warehouses contrast with modern offices, and old pubs remain alongside trendy craft breweries and whiskey distilleries. Former port buildings now house contemporary restaurants and funky art galleries.

    On Saturdays, locals fill Salamanca Place selling and purchasing all types of goodies, including freshly picked produce, cheeses, homegrown honey, antiques, and second-hand goods. It’s an unmatched cultural experience that allows you to mix with Tasmanian’s of all ages, and is a true foodies’ dream. I tasted a wide variety of eats from savory salmon jerky and sausage, to sweet blueberry crumb cake and juicy strawberries with cream. Finally, I grabbed a loaf of sourdough bread and multicolored apples to fuel our adventures ahead.

    Salamanca Place | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Salamanca Place | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Fresh Berries | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Fresh Berries | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Arts & Culture

    Up the Derwent River on the Berriedale Peninsula lies MONA. The Museum of Old and New Art was built underground on a picturesque winery, and has been described as a “subversive adult Disneyland.” The best way to get there is via the fast ferry from the heart of Hobart. Before or after your journey through the cavernous gallery, enjoy a tasting at Moorila Winery or Moo Brew Brewery onsite.

    Museum of Old and New Art | Photo Credit: MONA

    Museum of Old and New Art | Photo Credit: MONA

    The non-labeled artwork is controversial and thought-provoking. The exhibits broaden your perspective, and make you appreciate the eccentricity of Tasmania. After emerging from the intriguing museum, I witnessed a double rainbow and wild peacocks roaming around the land. Tasmania is truly magical.

    Exploring Nature

    Countless nature-based experiences are accessible from Hobart. Dominating the skyline, Mt. Wellington stretches 4,000 feet above the city. If you do not have the time or energy to hike up the mountain, a 20-minute drive from the city center will lead you to its peak. The Pinnacle has expansive views of Hobart and beyond … if you’re lucky and the dense clouds clear.

    Waterfall in Tasmania | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Waterfall in Tasmania | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Northwest of the city, Tasmania’s first national park, Mt Field, is the perfect place to get your nature fix, especially if you’re time poor. The national park has trails for all types of hikers. One particularly easy, yet scenic walk is to Russell Falls, the most photographed waterfall in Tasmania. You will stroll past moss-covered rocks and draping fern trees, and spot the world’s tallest flowering plant, the swamp gum. It’s likely that you’ll encounter native Australian animals, such as wallabies and echidnas. If you do not, stop at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. You’ll be able to get up-close to all sorts of Australian wildlife, including the infamous Tasmanian devil.

    Tasmanian Coast | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Tasmanian Coast | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Tasmanian Devil | Photo Credit: Tourism Tasmania & John J Kamma

    Tasmanian Devil | Photo Credit: Tourism Tasmania & John J Kamma

    Venturing Out of Hobart

    If your schedule allows you to venture farther from Hobart, a journey up the East Coast is a must. First, stop in Bicheno to visit the blowhole, which erupts every few minutes. Be on the lookout for roadside stalls, where you can enjoy fresh seafood, dairy products, berries, and fruits direct from the local growers and fisherman. I purchased a ½ dozen oysters the size of my hand for $5 total. The quality of the food is unbelievable, until you have the pleasure of tasting it yourself! The fresh flavors are ingrained in my memory forever.

    Choose an accommodation that’s half way up the East Coast, near Freycinet National Park. It’s one of Tasmania’s principal draws, and for a good reason. One of my personal favorite hikes within Freycinet is the Wineglass Bay Track. You’ll wind through the eucalyptus-filled bush, which will lead you to pure white beaches and turquoise waters. The pink granite rocks speckled with orange lichen, contrasting against the azure sea, is a sight not to be missed. Lastly, if you prefer to visit the national park by water, cruise the crescent shaped Wineglass Bay with a local catamaran operator.

    Freycinet National Park | Photo Credit: Pure Tasmania

    Freycinet National Park | Photo Credit: Pure Tasmania

    Wineglass Bay | Photo Credit: Sail Walk

    Wineglass Bay | Photo Credit: Sail Walk

    Isolated from mainland Australia, Tasmania has a quirky, laid-back culture that feels different from the rest of the country. Although there’s so much more to explore, my suggestions are a solid start for an authentic Tasmanian experience. The clean air, fresh food, and pristine wilderness will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.

    Where to Stay:

    Hobart – Islington HotelHenry Jones Art Hotel, or MACq 01 Hotel

    East Coast – SaffireEdge of the Bay Resort, or Freycinet Lodge

    When to Go:

    Tasmania is a year-round destination, but November to April boast sunnier skies & warmer days.

     

    October 27, 2017 • Articles, Australia, Destinations, Kathryn Fischer, Travels • Views: 3537

  • A Look Into Our Africa Office

    We sat down with Deidre, the operations manager for our inbound Africa office, to ask a few questions about our Africa office. Deidre has worked in the travel industry for some time now and has gained invaluable knowledge and experience customizing itineraries for clients visiting Southern Africa. Deidre has traveled around South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe while experiencing amazing wildlife, culture and food. We’ve asked Deidre a few questions so you can get to know our Africa team better.

    What is your background?

    “I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, where I currently reside. I have been in the travel industry for 13 years. I’ve worked with Swain Destinations for 2.5 years.”

    Cape Town, South Africa | Photo Credit: The Silo

    Cape Town, South Africa | Photo Credit: The Silo

    What is your most memorable time meeting with clients?

    “My most memorable time meeting with a client was when I met her on arrival at Cape Town International Airport with roses. This trip was to celebrate her milestone birthday and it happened to be her birthday when she arrived in Cape Town. I wanted to do something special for her. The client was pleasantly surprised by the gesture and appreciated it greatly.”

    What is your favorite restaurant in Cape Town?

    “First, most clients would like to dine at The Test Kitchen, although my favorite would have to be Kloof Street House. Something I have done recently with my family was an informal “farm-to-picnic basket” lunch at Boschendal Wine Estate. We got to relax with picnic baskets, hammocks and beanbags with spectacular views of the mountain range.”

    Kloof Street House | Photo Credit: Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel

    Kloof Street House | Photo Credit: Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel

    Mountain Picnic | Photo Credit: Savanna Private Game Reserve

    Mountain Picnic | Photo Credit: Savanna Private Game Reserve

    What are some insider tips when traveling to South Africa?

    “Explore Cape Town by Sidecars – this is a phenomenal way to see the beautiful city and breathtaking views as you meander on Chapmans Peak Drive towards Simontown. Enjoy some local fish and chips for lunch, then make your way back to the city. On the way back, be sure to stop at the Constantia Wine Estate and enjoy a wine tasting before returning to your hotel.”

    Constantia Wine Estate | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Constantia Wine Estate | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Vineyard | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Vineyard | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Constantia Grounds | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Constantia Grounds | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    What is your favorite thing about working for Swain Destinations?

    “I thoroughly enjoy working for Swain Destinations, as they have a purpose – a mission – that everyone understands. With that, every employee can tell you the role that he or she plays in achieving that purpose. That purpose is to tailor once-in-a-lifetime trips for clients and make the journey as memorable as possible.”

    Segway Tour | Photo Credit: Swain Destinations

    Segway Tour | Photo Credit: Swain Destinations

     

    October 16, 2017 • Africa, Articles, Destinations, Interviews • Views: 2674

  • Center of Sydney – Four Seasons Hotel

    Four Seasons Hotel Sydney is a luxury hotel in the center of Sydney. The hotel is resides between the cobblestone laneways of The Rocks, the ferry wharves of Circular Quay and the bustling business district. Because of its views over Sydney Harbour and iconic landmarks, the hotel is the perfect place to stay for your next luxury trip to Sydney.

    Lounge | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Lounge | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Center of Sydney

    Situated in the heart of Sydney, the Fours Seasons Hotel’s interior matches the vibrancy of the city itself. The hotel offers 531 rooms and suites decorated in a luxurious contemporary style. Due to the hotel’s location, you can look out your window and see the sunrise over the Royal Botanic Gardens or the Sydney Opera House. There are 5 different types of rooms, but each offers a level of extravagance that surpasses expectations.

    Also within the hotel, you will find a gym and a spa offering complimentary workout gear, water and a sauna room. Among the 6 treatment rooms the spa offers, you are able to enjoy a range of all-Australian treatments. The hotel offers Sydney’s largest heated outdoor pool in a triangular shape!

    Lobby | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Lobby | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Living Space | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Living Space | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Bathroom | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Bathroom | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Bedroom | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Bedroom | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    Around Sydney

    Although there is much to do within the hotel’s walls, Sydney offers endless opportunities to experience the famous city. Venture to the markets in the center of the Pacific Rim to explore the world’s third largest fish market. Then, discover numerous places to enjoy food, fashion and fun at The Rocks Markets.

    If you’re more of an adventure seeker, sign up to scale new heights on the BridgeClimb where you will climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge! Just a short walk from the hotel, you can time your climb to take place during the day or at night, twilight or dawn. You could also hang ten at Australia’s famous Bondi Beach. For the more relaxed traveler, experience a night at the famed Sydney Opera House. Not an opera fan? Not a problem! The Sydney Opera House is also home to the Australian Ballet and Sydney’s Dance and Theatre companies. Can’t find a show that peaks your interest? Just take a tour of the opera house then lounge at “the best beer garden in the world” known as the waterfront Opera Kitchen and Opera Bar.

    Sydney Harbour Bridge | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Sydney Harbour Bridge | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Bondi Beach | Photo Credit: Destination Tourism Australia

    Bondi Beach | Photo Credit: Destination Tourism Australia

    Sydney Opera House | Photo Credit: Destination Tourism Australia

    Sydney Opera House | Photo Credit: Destination Tourism Australia

    Sydney’s Foodie Scene

    Since Sydney is located on the harbour, waterfront dining is a beloved activity around Sydney. If you love seafood, take a quick flight to Palm Beach and grab a bite at Doyles on Watsons Bay. This spot is one of Australia’s oldest seafood restaurants. Alternatively, you could stay local and enjoy a quick bite and a drink at the Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney’s bar GRAIN. GRAIN celebrates the fine craft of drinking with a neighborhood bar atmosphere.

    GRAIN | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    GRAIN | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Image Gallery

    New to the Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney is Mode Kitchen & Bar. This latest addition to the Sydney dining scene is a celebration of seasonal cooking, classic cocktails and polished service in a welcoming 1920s-inspired setting. The menu focuses on flavor and technique, using seasonal ingredients sourced from only the best producers. Also, there is an extensive wine menu focuses on Australian wines alongside the best from the rest of the world. Mode Kitchen & Bar is the perfect place for the foodie traveler to experience fine dining in Sydney.

    Entrance | Photo Credit: Mode Kitchen & Bar

    Entrance | Photo Credit: Mode Kitchen & Bar

    Cuisine | Photo Credit: Mode Kitchen & Bar

    Cuisine | Photo Credit: Mode Kitchen & Bar

    Explore Australia’s oldest wine region located just 2 hours outside of Sydney. The Hunter Valley offers door-to-door tours beginning in the early morning and ending around dinner. These tours include lunch, private visits to several wineries, cheese tasting and a chance to gift shop. A relaxed wine tour is perfect for a food fanatic.

    Wine Spread | Photo Credit: Mount'N Beach Safaris

    Wine Spread | Photo Credit: Mount’N Beach Safaris

    The Hunter Valley | Photo Credit: Mount'N Beach Safaris

    The Hunter Valley | Photo Credit: Mount’N Beach Safaris

    Accommodation Features:

    • 531 rooms and suites elegantly decorated in a contemporary style
    • Views of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney Harbour and Sydney Opera House
    • Two-line telephones, data port/modern hookup, high-speed Internet access and a large safe
    • Fitness facilities with complimentary water, use of workout gear and locker rooms
    • Sydney’s largest outdoor heated pool with Cabana restaurant
    • Spa with 6 treatment rooms offering a range of all-Australian treatments

    October 2, 2017 • Australia, Property Highlights, Travels • Views: 4484

  • Sydney’s Gem – The Strand Arcade

    One of my favorite places to return to when I am back in Sydney is The Strand Arcade. I recommend this beautiful old, Victorian-style building reminiscent of similar arcades in London to any overseas visitors as well. The Strand was built in 1891 and joins two busy Sydney streets, George and Pitt in the central shopping district. The arcade is an easy walk from the harbour where many of the leading Sydney hotels are located.

    Entrance | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Entrance | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    The Strand Arcade | Photo Credit: Anne Pace

    The Strand Arcade | Photo Credit: Anne Pace

    Shopping at The Strand

    There are a number of unique Australian shops here, which makes it fun to visit if you are looking for a local gift. Dinosaur Designs has brilliantly colored resin homewares and jewelry. Also within The Strand is Aesop Skin care line where all of the items are made from naturally sourced ingredients. A must-visit is Haighs, Australia’s oldest family-owned chocolate maker for delicious samples or a gift. On the higher floors, you’ll find top local Australian fashion and jewelry designers, which make The Strand a great place to browse as well as shop.

    Shopping | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Shopping | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    View of the Shops | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    View of the Shops | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    If you get hungry…

    While shopping, stop for some lunch at La Rosa wine bar on Level Two; their pizza is amazing! Enjoy a coffee in one of the coffee shops on the lower level for a flat white or just to people watch. Visiting The Strand is a special experience. It’s so different from the modern shopping malls which we are all familiar with, yet you’ll find a variety of stores here. The Strand has everything from bespoke services offering made-to-measure shirts, custom gowns, and antiques or contemporary jewelry to more practical offerings such as a shoe repair establishment and The Nut Shop. The Nut Shop has been a Sydney icon since 1940!

    Outside View | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Outside View | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Make sure to include time to wander The Strand Arcade when you are in Sydney, New South Wales.

    September 25, 2017 • Anne Pace, Australia, Travels • Views: 3614

  • Kenya Changes You

    “Africa changes you…”

    You’ll hear it over and over. After my recent trip to Kenya, I’ll be the first to add the phrase to my discussions when I’m talking about any future bucket list. Put Africa on your list, pack up and go! I’m in the travel business and I even had my doubts. There’s vaccinations, the distance, my family asking if it was safe, etc. However, you step off the plane to elephants staring at you. Then the village folk in the most beautiful flowing outfits greet you. Finally, you experience your first sunset with a Baobab tree in the distance and all the worry washes away. The effort will seem insignificant compared to what awaits.

    Plane | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Plane | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Stepping Off the Plane

    My plane landed along a dirt runway in the middle of Kenya bordering the Samburu region and national park. My first safari experience was spent at Sasaab Lodge. This accommodation was amazing. There was nothing but open air, a small plunge pool to cool off after a day of exploring, and an ice chest with plenty of beverages. These beautiful villas had no electricity so it was just you and nature – with a view of the river where elephants would drop by at sunset for their evening drink just as you were pouring yours. It was a toast to Kenya.

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Sasaab Camp

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Sasaab Camp

    Elephants | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Elephants | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Discovering Kenya

    When you think Africa, you imagine sweeping vistas with a lion perched on a rock overlooking his lands or maybe you picture elephants and giraffes in the distance. We had all of these experiences and it gave me chills as I turned each corner in the safari vehicle. Although the wildlife is stunning, what really affects you are the unexpected, special moments that happen while traveling through this beautiful country. It feels as though you’ve been given a gift, an experience to cherish. You develop a newfound appreciation for the simplicity that life can have and the wonder of nature.

    Giraffes | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Giraffes | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    One of my favorite moments was visiting a local village near the lodge. A close friend suggested I take one of the retro-Polaroid cameras. The ones where you press the shutter and a little whirring sound happens before spitting out a photo beginning to develop. After giving it a few shakes, you have your picture! Imagine humbly sharing the technology with locals in a third world village. It was amazing.

    Photo of Locals | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Photo of Locals | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    I wanted to share this with the beautiful, happy people of this small village. After gathering them around for a group picture, I handed them the actual photo so they could keep it. Tears welled up in their eyes as they saw themselves in full color for the first time. Another photo was taken of a mother holding her small child and the reaction was so beautiful. This is where I knew the saying was true, “Africa changes you.”

    Locals Witnessing a Photo | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Locals Witnessing a Photo | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Mother and Son | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Mother and Son | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Visit to a Local School

    We visited a local school next. It was a bit out of the way because they don’t like too many travelers passing through, but we didn’t mind the journey. We visited a local third grade class and their principal had them ask us questions. It’s not every day strangers come to visit.

    Third Grade Class | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Third Grade Class | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Their questions ranged from our favorite soccer players and different foods to what children like to do in our country. Then, one little girl raised her hand and quietly asked, “Can we sing for you?” Sure enough, the entire class started belting out the African version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in unison! It was a humbling experience and one I still fondly carry with me.

    Final Words

    This was just a taste of my time in Africa. We then ventured to the Maasai Mara region where you’ll find indigenous tribes and plenty of animals. But that story is for another time. The people and places are magical. The wildlife is magnificent and everywhere! From the majestic elephants pushing through huge bushes to the cats that are either laying around or on the prowl for their next dinner.  So, I must repeat, “Africa truly does change you.”

    Leopard | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Leopard | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Sunset | Photo Credit: Kenya Tourism Board

    Sunset | Photo Credit: Kenya Tourism Board

    September 18, 2017 • Africa, Cory Payton, Travels • Views: 3162

  • BridgeClimb Sydney

    It’s been said that Sydney Harbour is the most beautiful natural harbour in the world, and it’s hard to disagree. From scenic walks to ferry trips, there are many ways to enjoy it, but you won’t get a better view than from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

    Sydney Harbour | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Sydney Harbour | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    This engineering masterpiece spans the sparkling harbour and dominates the city skyline. With uninterrupted 360 degree views, there is no better way to see Sydney from a new perspective than climbing to the summit of the bridge.

    So, which climb should you do? What’s the best time of day to do it? We asked BridgeClimb to answer some of these questions so that planning your climb is fun.

    What’s the best time of day to enjoy Sydney Harbour?

    Whether you choose dawn, day, twilight or night, you will experience 360 degrees of unforgettable scenery on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

    At dawn, you depart under a blanket of darkness. These climbs begin before the city has even started to stir. As you reach the summit, you’ll be in a position to take in the dawning of the new day. The day climb provides the classic view that has won hearts all around the world! From the daily hum and buzz of Sydneysiders going about their day to cruise ships passing below, or local birdlife stopping by to beat you to the summit – there’s plenty to experience when you climb during the day. Twilight climbs need no introduction – experiencing the day transition to night is a really special time to be 134 meters high above the harbour. Sydney really sparkles at night as the city illuminates after dark. Your climb leader will guide you along the great steel arches as you witness the city of Sydney wind down for the day.

    Dawn | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Dawn | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Day | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Day | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Twilight | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Twilight | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    What’s the best climb type to see the best views of Sydney?

    BridgeClimb

    Absorb panoramic views of Sydney as you journey to the summit on the original climb experience. Like an exposed spine, the outer rim delivers you to the peak, as the sky remains just beyond your outstretched fingertips.

    BridgeClimb Express

    Accelerate your ascent to the summit. This energetic experience is the fastest trip to the top of the bridge. Ascend through the heart of the bridge, a cathedral of steel, and burst through to the summit from below.

    Sampler

    Get a taste of the world famous BridgeClimb! In just one and a half hours, ascend the inner arch of the iconic bridge to a spectacular vantage point halfway to the top. Ideal for you if you have height concerns and don’t want to go all the way up!

    Aerial | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Aerial | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Climb | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    Climb | Photo Credit: BridgeClimb Sydney

    The climb of my life is over, where should I go to celebrate?

    Are you still on a high after your climb? BridgeClimb is located in one of Sydney’s historic suburbs, “The Rocks.” As the strip of land where European settlers chose to step ashore in 1788, The Rocks is essentially the birthplace of modern Sydney. It is full of cobbled laneways, cozy cafes and some of the oldest pubs in the country! Perfect for a little treat after your climb.

    The Rocks | Photo Credit: Mount N Beach Safaris

    The Rocks | Photo Credit: Mount N Beach Safaris

    September 11, 2017 • Australia, Bloggers, Travels • Views: 2927

  • New Zealand’s Sub-Tropical Paradise

    For most travelers who dream of one day exploring New Zealand’s landscapes, their thoughts likely drift toward the mountain peaks, glacial rivers, blue alpine lakes, and the black sand beaches boarded by frigid seas. Many parts of both the North and South Island country do contain these wonders; however, there’s a mellower side to the land that is less visited but no less beautiful known as the Bay of Islands.

    Bay of Islands | Photo Credit: TIME Unlimited Tours

    Bay of Islands | Photo Credit: TIME Unlimited Tours

    Helena Bay

    The Bay of Islands is known to the Kiwis as the “winterless North.” This sub-tropical region found at the very top of the North Island rarely sees temperatures dip below 60 degrees, even in winter. In the summertime, highs hover between 72-80 degrees. Few places take advantage of this temperate region’s wonderful geography as well as the luxury lodge Helena Bay. I was lucky enough to visit Helena Bay in May of 2017 with a group of fellow travel professionals. To say I was wowed is a true understatement.

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Situated 40 kilometers north of the town of Whangarei, Helena Bay is located next to the sea. It is only a 45-minute helicopter flight from the capital city of Auckland.  The lodge’s five waterfront suites are the perfect location for soaking in the scenery. Also, there is access to an array of aquatic adventures including stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, and small craft boating.  During my stay, I chose the time I wanted to go paddle boarding and was then met by an employee on the beach. My board was on the sand and a paddle was pre-set to my size.  The opportunity to paddle the waters and take in the surrounding green hills from the solitude of the sea felt like New Zealand truly personified.

    Pool | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Pool | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Lounge Area | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Lounge Area | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Cattle | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Cattle | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    So Much To Do

    The opportunities for fun on land were no less abundant and our group made good work of the lodge’s many options for exploring the property’s 800 acres.  Before Helena Bay was turned into the picture of luxury for travelers, it was a sheep farm.  Today, cattle are raised on the property and the lodge keeps miniature donkeys, alpacas, and chickens as pets for the guests to enjoy.  A quick ride on the electric all-terrain vehicles delivered us among the farm life.  Later in my stay, I opted to go off-the-beaten path via a mountain bike. I had a blast climbing hills and visiting secret beaches all to myself.  Although they offer many outdoor activities, if the weather is poor, the fully equipped indoor gym, heated lap pool, sauna, and steam room should keep the active crowd satisfied.

    Paddle Boarding | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Paddle Boarding | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Kayaks | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Kayaks | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Biking | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    Biking | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    Amazing Cuisine

    Finally, I have to mention the food.  Michelin-starred Ristorante Don Alfonso of Southern Italy operates in Helena Bay. The philosophy is respecting the local food culture while incorporating the age-old traditions of the Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast.  A good deal of the produce we found on our plates for each meal is grown on-site. We had farm fresh eggs at breakfast each morning.  The staff and overall experience our group found at Helena Bay was second to none.

    Dinner | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Dinner | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    New Zealand Cuisine | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    New Zealand Cuisine | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    Dessert | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    Dessert | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    As New Zealand’s newest luxury lodge, Helena Bay is still under the radar. However, with the unrivaled Kiwi experience offered, it won’t be long before the waiting list fills up quickly.

    September 5, 2017 • Jayson Repko, New Zealand, Property Highlights, Travels • Views: 4481

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