Articles

  • 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: 2587

  • 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: 4358

  • 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.

    Anne Pace, born and raised in Australia has traveled extensively throughout the world. She returns frequently to her favorite destination, her hometown of Sydney.

    September 25, 2017 • Anne Pace, Australia, Travels • Views: 3496

  • 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

    I grew up on a farm in the Central Valley of California which is fondly known as the raisin capital of the world, yes my dad harvested for Sun Maid. Finishing college I spent leisure time working at a ski resort and soon leading tours with Contiki Holidays where the travel bug really hit. Moving into sales of my favorite countries like Australia, New Zealand and Africa, Swain Destinations was a perfect fit and I’ve enjoyed being a part of this family owned company for 12 years. As I always say, ‘the journey is the reward’.

    September 18, 2017 • Africa, Cory Payton, Travels • Views: 3078

  • 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: 2817

  • 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.

    I’m am East Coast native (Philadelphia) who relocated to sunny Southern California. Growing up I was lucky enough to visit all over the United States with my family going on snowboarding trips along with excursions to some America’s best beaches. After a trip to Costa Rica I was hooked on international travel and have since visited ten additional countries including New Zealand and the Cook Islands and I can’t wait to add many more. I’ve worked in the travel industry for six years now, starting with Home Exchange before moving to become the Marketing and Sales Manager for the Cook Islands Tourism Board’s North American Office. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Swain Destinations Team as the Relationships Manager for American Express Travel.

    September 5, 2017 • Jayson Repko, New Zealand, Property Highlights, Travels • Views: 4204