Travels

  • 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: 497

  • 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.

    "Marina

    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

    "<yoastmark

    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.

    "<yoastmark

    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.

    "Aerial

    April 22, 2019 • Asia, Jacqui McDonald, Travels • Views: 892

  • 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: 1208

  • Christmas in Vietnam and Cambodia

    Vietnam

    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).

    Cambodia

    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: 1702

  • InterContinental Circuit: Bora Bora

    Bora Bora Le Moana

    Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    The only way to reach the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana from the small airport is via sea boat. This only added to the mystique of the hotel. The moment I arrived on the dock there was a palpable electricity in the air. Surrounded by crystal clear water, eager guests and more friendly faces, the Maruuru phrase rang clear throughout and my arrival felt like an event unto itself. They provided us with cold towels as a respite from the heat coupled with an indigenous mocktail. A friendly staff member gave a thorough walk through of my room and explained the resort’s layout and facilities.

    Le Moana Bungalow | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Le Moana Bungalow | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    The next morning, I ordered breakfast and a staff member rowed it out to my private patio in a canoe. I ate breakfast in my bathrobe while watching stingrays swim in clear waters and considered the rest of my day. Snorkeling or canoeing? A dinner set to live music while the sun set in the background? That was what every day was like here.

    Bora Bora Thalasso

    Bora Bora Thalasso | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Bora Bora Thalasso | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    A 20-minute boat ride is all that separates Le Moana from InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso. It is definitely worth the trip. Set in the shape of a horseshoe, the over-water bungalows at Thalasso are different shapes and sizes. The layout allowed me ample privacy, quiet and never-ending views of open water. Certainly, views like these are why this island means “The Pearl of the Pacific.”

    Over Water Bungalow | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Over Water Bungalow | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    The bungalow itself was spacious and modern. I removed the glass top of my dining room table to get a better look at the fish swimming beneath the bungalow. For years a family of sting rays has made the journey to the shore of the property every afternoon at 2:00pm. As a result, guests always gathered to watch the creatures. Then, I joined an expert stingray master who taught guests about the feeding process. Moments like that made it easy to get lost in the beauty, colors and spirit of the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso.

    Thalasso| Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Thalasso| Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    January 24, 2019 • Jacqui McDonald, Property Highlights, South Pacific Islands, Travels • Views: 1122

  • InterContinental Circuit – Tahiti & Moorea

    Tahiti

    I stepped out of the plane to the sound of live music and an unmistakable feeling of warmth. The Tahitians greeted me with “Maruuru,” a phrase that means hello, thank you and welcome to Tahiti. I accepted a flowered lei as a gift and then rode to the InterContinental Tahiti. Once there, the heartfelt welcome continued in an open-air lobby. The breathtaking views of the neighboring islands and the hospitable staff led me to believe that the property was special. I was not wrong.

    Aerial View of Tahiti | Photo Credit: Tourism Tahiti

    Aerial View of Tahiti | Photo Credit: Tourism Tahiti

    The InterContinental stretched out over the edge of the island. Spanning the property was a main hotel corridor, a private section for over-water bungalows and multiple swimming pools. They also had water sport cabins and a snorkeling pond. As versatile as it is beautiful, the resort can accommodate all travelers. Trips to the neighboring town are an event. Its streets serve as an open-air market featuring vendors with local food, handmade clothing, and jewelry. But perhaps most memorable about my visit to Tahiti were the sunsets. Every night pastel colors of orange, yellow and red shot through clouds and glazed across the tops of mountains on the islands. Everyone gathered together to watch the sun set into the water and soak in the beauty of the moment.

    Island of Tahiti | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Island of Tahiti | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Moorea

    A 25-minute flight and 45-minute car ride brought me from Tahiti to the island of Moorea. The drive itself was special. The one lane highway tracked along the coast of the island with the South Pacific Ocean ever-present. Upon arrival at the InterContinental Moorea, I noted the layout of the hotel. The property was spacious and spread out, placing the guest’s privacy at a premium.

    Over Water Bungalow | Photo Credit: Intercontinental Moorea

    Over Water Bungalow | Photo Credit: InterContinental Moorea

    Dinners serve as a communal event at the resort. Every night I watched a team of fire dancers put on a show as I dined on fresh, local seafood. The unquestioned highlight of the InterContinental Moorea, though, is the rehabilitation center for dolphins and sea turtles located at the edge of the resort. The resort invited me to swim with dolphins that they cared for and also allowed me the opportunity to learn more about the rehabilitation process.

    Turtle Clinic | Photo Credit: Intercontinental Moorea

    Turtle Clinic | Photo Credit: InterContinental Moorea

    Dolphin Center | Photo Credit: Intercontinental Moorea

    Dolphin Center | Photo Credit: InterContinental Moorea

    Also offered is a variety of land activities. Guided ATV tours teach riders about the history of the island. Visits to pineapple plantations are also popular. This, coupled with Moorea’s land activities, ensure that memorable experiences came in bunches on the island.

    January 17, 2019 • Jacqui McDonald, South Pacific Islands, Travels • Views: 971