• Japan: A Journey Through Time

    Past and present mingle in Japan, producing a culture that is vibrant and eclectic.

    Bullet Train Through Japan

    In Japan, I found that there is no better representation of the country than the bullet train. Clean, orderly, and prompt—the bullet train is a marvel. The three-and-half-hour journey from Tokyo to Fukuyama was smooth as silk. Before entering or exiting the train car, an attendant would bow, a sign of respect and thanks for joining them on this journey. Needless to say, that my first impression of the country was one of humble respect. Tattoos are covered and shoes are removed before entering rooms. It is a country that prizes its culture and history-both of which I was able to experience firsthand.

    Guntu Cruise

    What the bullet trains are to contemporary Japanese culture, the Guntu Cruise is to the country’s storied past. Guntu is named after the blue crabs that inhabit the waters around the Seto Inland Sea. This luxury floating Ryokan houses 16 beautiful cabins. All meals were included as well as a seating at the sushi bar which itself was a two-hour raw fish journey. And the view through the window behind the bar displays the gorgeous natural setting of the Inland Sea. Clad in a kimono, I also participated in a traditional tea ceremony before returning to my room—a Terrace Suite complete with my own personal balcony. The next day I took an excursion into the town of Miyajima with its shrine and Torii Gate.

    The cruise concluded the next day and I was back on a bullet train aimed toward Tokyo. It was clear that while Guntu and the bullet train were from different eras, they were both imbued with tradition that came from the Japanese people themselves. Tradition is glue that binds culture and history together to form the rich collage that is a country. In Japan that collage is humble, respectful, and majestic.
    Cory on the Guntu | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Cory on the Guntu | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Want to experience Japan for yourself? Check out our Japan itineraries!

    July 3, 2019 • Asia, Cory Payton, Cruises, Travels • Views: 222

  • A Travel Insider’s Tasmania Adventure

    Where does someone who has been everywhere want to go? That is a question that Damian McCabe, founder and CEO of McCabe World Travel, faced when attempting to craft a personal trip for her family. In a life that has seen her travel to all seven continents and experience far flung corners of the globe, Damian settled on Tasmania. She articulates her reasons below.

    What drew you to Tasmania as a destination to visit?

    “Tasmania has always been on my bucket list. It seems so remote and I’d seen pictures of the windswept beauty of the island. Plus I really wanted to see those Tasmanian Devils!”

    What were your initial expectations of Tasmania, without having been there before?

    “Tasmania was really much as I expected, except perhaps for the city of Hobart. It was much smaller and more quaint than I expected. Great museums! I think the roads were much less busy than I thought they would be. We rented a car on the island and self-drive was quite easy.”

    What what was your favorite place you visited in Tasmania?

    “Saffire Freycinet, a luxury lodge in the Freycinet National Park was by far my most favorite place. Gorgeous views, beautiful accommodations and wonderful food. The only thing wrong with it is that it’s only 20 rooms!”

    What would you think travelers would find most surprising about Tasmania?

    “Travelers like to be surprised and delighted, and Tasmania really delivers. From beautiful hikes overlooking Wineglass Bay, home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, to superb oysters, to finding an extraordinary Aboriginal Art Gallery in the capital town of Hobart, there are so many things to do and learn about that would be new to most travelers. Tasmania has a long seafaring history, too, for museum buffs. All in all, Tassie is a great addition to any trip down under.”

    What activity did you do that should be on everyone’s bucket list?

    “A visit to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, just outside Hobart, should be on everyone’s bucket list when visiting Tassie. It is home to all the Australian species who might need special care – the ones we’ve heard of like kangaroos, wallabys and koalas, but they also care for Tasmanian Devils and lots of indigenous species most North Americans have never heard of like wombats, eastern quolls, sugar gliders and echidna!”

    What was your most memorable moment from your trip?

    “Our most memorable moment was holding a 10 week old wombat at Bonorong. I’m a huge animal lover and this little baby was darling.”

    What was something special Swain Destinations provided to you, before, during or after your trip?

    “I loved everything Swain Destinations did for my daughter and me in Tasmania; it was a great trip, but I think arranging for a private night tour at Bonorong was the highlight. So many Aussie animals are nocturnal, and to have the place all to ourselves was magic!”

    What was your favorite aspect about staying at Saffire?

    “Saffire offered amazing activities.  Loved the oyster farming morning. We put on waders at the oyster farm and walked out to see the nursery beds in the shallows. Then of course we foraged for our own full-grown oysters and enjoyed them with champagne right there in the water.”

    Damian McCabe - Why Tasmania?

    June 20, 2019 • Australia, Destinations, Interviews, Travels • Views: 706

  • Singapore: The Lion City

    Singapore offers night life, innovative cuisine, impeccable cleanliness and iconic Marina Bay Sands. I quickly realized there was so much more this country had to offer with hidden secrets nestled throughout.


    Singapore Airlines

    I began my solo traveling experience by flying with one of the world’s most luxurious leading carriers, Singapore Airlines. All the flight attendants and cabin crew treated the passengers with grace, ease and white glove service. If this was to be my first introduction to this region, I was more than excited to have this long-haul flight set such a positive tone. Twenty-three hours and a connection later, I arrived. The cleanliness and the hospitable nature of the people were immediately evident.

    Touring the City


    After settling in, I couldn’t wait to explore. The top of the observation wheel known as the Singapore Flyer offers 360-degree views of the city. To enhance the experience, I was able to indulge in a delicious dinner from a private premium sky dining cart. On a one-hour trip around the Flyer, I was able to capture the breathtaking views. The Botanic Gardens were next on my list as these are the first and only tropical botanic gardens on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. I was able to weave around incredible floral displays, a forest environment and even healing gardens before I realized I had spent hours in awe of the beauty.


    Singapore Sling

    Of course, no stop would be complete without indulging in a Singapore Sling drink! This beautiful pink gin-mixed beverage is famous all throughout the city and comes highly recommended. The drink is yet another way that Singapore distinguishes itself from other countries with its eclectic culture and hospitable people.


    April 22, 2019 • Asia, Jacqui McDonald, Travels • Views: 1044

  • The Ultimate Safari Guide

    Safari Gear | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Safari Gear | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Figuring out what to wear on safari may seem daunting. Many travelers assume that technical gear is required, but your favorite baseball cap, broken-in boots and comfy tees are perfectly sufficient. Absolutely browse your closet before splurging on a new wardrobe. Though if you decide that you need some updates, invest in everyday basics that you’ll wear again.

    Layers are key. Most game drives start before the sun is up, so you’ll want a jacket and pants for the brisk mornings. By midday, you’ll be comfortable lounging around camp in a t-shirt and shorts. As dusk approaches, the temperature begins to drop again.

    Start off with a tank top or t-shirt, add a second layer such as a lightweight sweater or linen long sleeve shirt and top it off with a jacket or vest. Long pants are the best option. A scarf is handy to protect you from the wind and dust. It also adds an extra layer of warmth for those chilly mornings and evenings. Luxury camps even offer blankets and hot water bottles to keep you cozy.

    On Safari | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    On Safari | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    The Essentials

    Aim for minimalist, versatile pieces. Dark colors attract heat so it’s best to stick with neutrals. Plus, it makes it even easier to mix and match. Tan, cream, gray, pastel and green fabrics are best.

    Basics for Layering

    • Tank tops & t-shirts – lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics are ideal
    • Long sleeve shirts – linen shirts, button downs, light sweaters, athletic quarter zip shirts, etc.
    • Jacket – you won’t want to take your eyes off the landscape, so you’ll want certain items to be within reach. A jacket with pockets for necessities such as lip balm, tissues and your cell phone is helpful
    • Vest – a vest that you can stow in your backpack is a great investment
    • Breathable pants – linen trousers, synthetic joggers, light sweatpants, convertible pants, etc. A little stretch in the fabric is always nice
    • Loose shorts – wear them while lounging at camp during the day
    Elephant Encounter | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Elephant Encounter | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Handy Accessories

    • Comfortable boots or sneakers – it’s nice to have your ankles covered if they’re susceptible to  bug bites, so boots or high-top sneakers are useful
    • Hat – bring a wide brim safari style hat or a fitted baseball cap. You’ll want a hat that’s tight enough that it won’t fly off your head during the game drives
    • Scarf – a pashmina scarf is perfect to wrap around your shoulders for added warmth and protection
    • Backpack – pack sunglasses, sunscreen, extra water, binoculars, camera gear, chargers, bug spray and wet wipes
    Swain Destinations Safari | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Swain Destinations Safari | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Ultimately, wear what you are most comfortable in!

    Luggage restrictions for smaller charter flights are typically around 33 pounds inclusive of hand luggage, but don’t be too concerned! The complimentary laundry service at most camps have a quick turnaround so you may rock the same outfits day after day.

    Visit the Swain Destinations Online Travel Store to find the items you may need for your upcoming adventure!

    April 4, 2019 • Africa, Kathryn Fischer, Travels • Views: 1366

  • Christmas in Vietnam and Cambodia


    My boys and I arrived in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi after a long flight from JFK. After a restful night, we awoke early and walked to the Hoan Kiem Lake, which was but a stone’s throw away from our hotel. At the lake, morning music blared while both the young and the old practiced Tai Chi. We watched the graceful art at first before attempting it with mixed results for ourselves.

    Colorful Hanoi | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Colorful Hanoi | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    The tranquil morning spent at the lake stood in stark contrast to the day spent in the Old Quarter in Hanoi. The Old Quarter has the charm and energy of a vibrant young city despite its vast number of traditional shop houses. It is also home to the Temple of Confucious — additionally known as the Temple of Literature — which was founded in the 11th century as the site of Vietnam’s first university. Next, we visited Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where we saw the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh. We then explored the Old Quarter by foot, discovering narrow alleys, with a stop at Street Food cafe and the famous Vietnamese coffee.

    Hanoi | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Hanoi | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Hanoi to Hoi An

    From Hanoi to Danang, we flew Vietnam Air before transferring to Hoi An. Our hotel was located close to the Hoi An Ancient town and Hoi An market — a charming area with night markets, lanterns and great cafes. The next day, we took a Vietnamese cooking class which provided us with one of the more memorable experiences of our trip. During the class, we rode our bicycles to the market to pick up all the ingredients and then we visited the vegetable fields where we soaked in the flavor of the local farm life before cooking a delicious meal. We spent the next few days exploring Hoi An, gorging on local food and taking in the striking views that looked out over the sea.

    Hoi An Market | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Hoi An Market | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Hoi An Lanterns | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Hoi An Lanterns | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Ho Chi Minh City

    We flew from Danang to Ho Chi Minh City — still known as Saigon to many. Upon arrival, we were struck by the energy of the city. Our guide told us that there are more than eight million motorcycles in the city of twelve million people! The constant buzz of the engines seemed to be an appropriate soundtrack for a city as fast-paced and dynamic as Ho Chi Minh City.

    Biking | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Biking | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    The next day, we drove to the outskirts of the city to Ben Tre. We rode bikes on small roads, immersing fully in the local culture of the Mekong Delta and the rustic countryside. We passed secluded areas of lush orchards, green rice paddy fields and coconut trees. Lunch was delightful at a traditional Mekong restaurant, and afterward we stopped for “Keo dua” (coconut candy).


    Siem Reap — the cultural capital of Cambodia — was the last stop on our trip. Our hotel was centrally located, allowing us an easy walk to the market, cafes and souvenir shops. We participated in a quad bike excursion that took us through the countryside backroads of Siem Reap, weaving along rice paddy fields and beautiful scenery.

    Siem Reap Biking | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Siem Reap Biking | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Bela & her sons | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Bela & her sons | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    The next day, we rose early to see the magnificent Angkor Wat at sunrise. It took almost 37 years to build this Hindu temple which later became the center of worship for Buddhism. It was stunning at sunrise to see the play of light on the stones.

    Angkor Wat | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    Angkor Wat | Photo Credit: Bela Banker

    We capped our trip by walking through Siem Reap’s local market and enjoying the local food and culture. It was a perfect trip for my boys and I for Christmas.

    March 20, 2019 • Asia, Bela Banker, Travels • Views: 1850

  • From Camera Lens to Cover Page

    Each year, we take on an expansive search to find the perfect images for our annual Travel Catalogs. Our goal is to find imagery that captures each destination’s beauty and mystery, while inspiring wonder and excitement to travel!

    After searching through countless stunning images, we became captivated by these three beautiful photos from Johan Lolos’ portfolio. Johan Lolos, a native Belgian, is a self-taught photographer that travels the world capturing breathtaking moments in time.

    Just as important as the image, is the story behind it. Follow the journey below.

    Can you tell us the story behind each image?

    Africa Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    Africa Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    Africa: Namibia

    I took that photo about a year ago in Namibia. It is an interesting story. I was in Namibia for a personal project – I just wanted to go to Africa to experience a safari. I got in touch with a private reserve called Erindi and stayed for a week. Every day we would go on an early morning game drive to spot wildlife. The drives lasted all day. I took a few great images that I’m very proud of, but that specific image of the elephants, I took from the restaurant at the lodge.

    Basically, the lodge is inside the reserve and from the balcony of the restaurant you can see a part of the reserve with water ponds. The ponds draw in elephants, giraffes and other kinds of wildlife. One morning I was having breakfast with no intention of taking photos due to light that day. Then, I saw this family of elephants coming from far away. They were walking towards the water ponds, so I quickly grabbed my tele-zoom lens and started to take photos of them. I was very happy with the results. Spending a week in that reserve is one of my best memories and I would love to go back.

    South Pacific Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    South Pacific Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    South Pacific: Victoria, Australia

    This photo was taken five years ago in early 2014. At the time, I was living in Australia after graduating school in Belgium. I had bought a one-way ticket so I could spend a year there. I lived in Melbourne for a few months where I mostly worked, nothing exciting. Then January 2014, I went on my first big travel mission, not as a photographer. I wanted to do the Great Ocean Road, and my friends and I rented a car for a three-day road trip. We, of course, stopped at the Twelve Apostles where I took a few photos. It was the very first time my images went viral online when National Geographic reposted one of my photos.

    At the time, Instagram was just beginning to get popular and I figured it would be a great opportunity to make a living out of it. I saw that NatGeo, every Wednesday, would repost images from followers who used their hashtag – #NatGeoTravelPic. My goal was to be featured. Every photo I posted, I was using that hashtag and one day, they shared my photo of the Twelve Apostles. I completely freaked out and woke everyone up to show them. I went from a few hundred followers to a few thousand followers overnight. That’s how everything started for me.

    Asia Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    Asia Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    Asia and India: Myanmar

    This photo was taken in Myanmar in April 2018. The woman in the photo is my partner, Delphine. We had gone on a three-week trip and it was my first big photography trip in Asia. I had spent a week in Bali before, but nothing beyond that. I had never been in Southeast Asia before. It was a private project mostly about having fun and discovering new cultures. When we visited Bagan, my goal was to shoot one of the famous temples.

    I began looking around to try and find a more remote temple with less tourists. So many people come to watch the sunrise or sunset over the temples. My mission was to find, through Google Maps, one remote temple so Delphine and I could enjoy the sunrise. In the distance, we could see the famous balloons soaring over the temples. It was an amazing view.

    Finding a remote temple was not easy because there are so many temples in Bagan – upwards of 5,000! The biggest ones were famous so there were hundreds of tourists there every day. I wanted to not only find a remote temple, but also find a temple with a nice view. Not all of them offer the best views. However, every year, Myanmar is more restrictive with entry to the temples. In 2017, the Myanmar government shut down all access to temples. It is almost completely forbidden to climb the temples for safety and conservation reasons. Currently the Bagan temples are not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so the new rules are to increase the chances that Bagan will be included on that list. I was lucky enough to find a temple that was not fenced off which is how I was able to take the photo.

    Follow Johan Lolos on Instagram

    February 8, 2019 • Africa, Asia, Australia, Interviews • Views: 945

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