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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

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Norway – The Perfect Summer Holiday Destination

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norway tours

Norway is absolutely unspoiled and one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, indeed the world.  Shaped by ice and wind it is famous for its dramatic, rugged landscape, high craggy mountains, deep valleys, large waterfalls and the famed western fjords.  The astonishing northern lights regularly shimmer from above bathing the land with their ethereal glow.  The climate in Norway is influenced by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, making the summers really pleasant.

Norway is also home to some of the world’s largest and longest glaciers with many of them winding down valleys, miles from their breeding grounds in the ice fields.  It is also populated by steep rocky islands standing like sentinels.  The mountains rise up like the fortress towers of mythical Asgard.

Then there is the harsh yet magnificent Arctic region of Norway inhabited by the ancient indigenous Sami people living in their picturesque wooden villages.  The Sami still live in close harmony with the fascinating wildlife such as the polar bears, musk oxen and a whole host of other creatures.  Reindeer are still central to their existence and traditional way of life.  The creatures provide meat, fur and transportation.

Much of the country is unpopulated, which has been designated national parks.  This has led to Norway becoming one of the most exciting and diverse adventure-tourism destinations in the world.  There are whole lot of things you could do on a trip to Norway.

The fascinating diversity of geography of Norway means there are great opportunities for diving, glacier walking, reindeer sledding, kiting, snow scooter safaris, hang gliding, parachuting, kayaking, sledging, fishing, rafting and skiing.

tours norway

In addition to its beautiful natural aspects Norway has built some of the world’s most beautiful cities that are crammed with wonderful architectural gems – past and modern.  Seeing the towns and cities of Norway you are constantly reminded that the people here have an innate eye for beauty and flair for design.

One of the best places to see the intrinsic co-existence of natural beauty and man-made structures is in Oslo.  The medieval Akershus Fortress, the modernistic Oslo Opera House, the Maritime and Fram Museums are some of the buildings that exemplify this harmonious blend of the old and the new styles.  Another attractive place in the city is the Vigeland Sculpture Park and The Monolith.  This is a 14 metre tall column with sculpted human forms entwined from the top to the bottom.

The Oslo Fjörd is in itself a place of great beauty with picturesque summer houses on the numerous islands dotting the fjord.  Sightseeing cruises by day or evening or an Oslo City Hop-On Hop-off Bus Tour are some of the best ways to see this marvelous city.

Oslo Hop on Hop off Tour

Your Norway travels should take you to Tromsø regarded as “the Paris of the North” and Trondheim, Norway’s technology capital.  It is also the location of Scandinavia’s largest wooden palace.  Norway’s fourth largest city, Stavanger, dates back to the Middle Ages and mixes the new and old in a thousand different ways without contradiction.

Norway offers never-to-be-forgotten experiences.  It is a wonderful country to visit – especially in summer.

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Snorkel and Swim with Dolphins in Australia!

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The waters around Australia are remarkable for the fact that they are home to most of the 33 species of dolphins in the world, of which one or two are unique.  Some of them are permanent residents while others migrate to and from their Antarctic feeding grounds.  The most common and adaptable is the Bottlenose Dolphin, which lives in a variety of climates.  These adorable creatures can be found from Perth in the west, all the way round Australia to the Great Barrier Reef in the far north.

Swim with Dolphins in Australia Swim With Dolphins in Australia

 

Swimming with dolphins or even being in the same space as them is one of life’s most exhilarating experiences.  These deeply appealing, attractive, playful and highly intelligent creatures like interacting with humans.  Just the sight of their sleek silvery grey dorsal fins attached to shining torpedo shaped bodies leaping 15 to 18 feet out of the water is a fabulous experience that lasts a lifetime.

Depending on their own natural inclinations, moods and feeding cycles you may see mothers nursing calves; riding on the back of stingrays to hunt and catch their dinner; chasing octopus, squid, local species of bait fish; tossing catfish through the air or watch the males showing off for the females.  You may see a sea lion joining in the fun.  It’s the ultimate wildlife encounter!

The wonderful part to swimming with Dolphins in Australia is that the creatures are totally wild and not trained or domesticated in any manner.  So when they do approach you (and they will come incredibly close) it is because of their natural social and affable nature.  The tour operators function under strict environmental rules to minimize disturbance to both the dolphins and the marine environment.

Though the dolphins often come within hand’s reach it is not advisable to touch them lest we transmit disease of damage their skin layers.  Another strict ‘no-no’ is feeding these lovable creatures. In the first instance it would ruin the very real friendship based on curiosity and enjoyment rather than of temptation and inducement.  Therefore your pleasure at interacting with these fascinating animals in their natural environment will be of mutual respect and interest.

Dolphins are air-breathing, warm-blooded marine mammals that live close to the surface of the sea, which means that you get plenty of opportunity to enjoy their company without having to put on specialized gear or get expert training.  You don’t have to be a strong or Olympic swimmer or experienced snorkeler. The guide drives an aqua battery scooter that thrusts through the water and keeps to the surface most of the time.  All you have to do is to hang on to the belt of the person (or guide) in front and get towed.

Note: Swimming or snorkeling with wild dolphins is not suitable or recommended for children of 6 years or younger.

 

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EASTER: Around the World

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Church services, religious fervor, colorful street processions, bunnies, painted eggs and a festive family meal. These are some of the traditional things one expects at Easter.  However, each city or region around the world has its own Easter traditions, celebrations and events that are either unique or a little different from others.

Let’s look at some destinations around the world and their Easter styles.

New York

New Yorkers love nothing better than a party and a parade – the bigger the better!  And Easter has been always been a good reason for New York to put on a show.  Easter Sunday sees many thousands of people come out on to the streets to watch or participate in the Easter Parade and the Easter Bonnet Festival.  Participants dress up as bunnies, others in completely wacky hats and bonnets while others don outlandish costumes.  The music, the colour and the confetti turn the famous Fifth Avenue into one big carnival.  A host of other activities such as egg rolling take place.

Easter is also a good time to visit Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo and the other iconic and world famous landmarks.  Other tourist must-sees are the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and Rockefeller Centre.

happy easter

You should also check out the several popular cultural tours that take you around to the locations where famous film and TV serials were shot.

The Greek Islands

Greece observes the Orthodox brand of Christianity, which follows the Julian calendar.  Easter here occurs later than that of the other churches.  Colorful processions wind through the streets during the Holy Week culminating in the churches packed with people attending midnight service on Holy Saturday.  Easter Sunday is a day of feasting on traditional mayeritsa (soup) and koukouretsi (a lamb dish).  Special lavishly decorated candles (labatha) are gifted to children.  Other essentials are decorated eggs, sweets, Easter bread and a variety of meats cooked in an oven or on an open spit.  Ouzo, local wines and other drinks flow freely.

The Greek mainland and its surrounding isles are the probably the oldest tourist destinations in the world.  Its astounding beauty is apparent from the moment you set eyes on the place.  Thousands of islands fringed by gorgeous white sandy beaches; pristine blue waters; rugged majestic mountains; dazzling white painted houses with many-hued rooftops; olive groves; idyllic villages and their bougainvillea lined streets sprawling across hillsides and spilling down to the sea will capture your heart and never let go.

Legendary names like Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Lesbos, Mykonos and Athens speak of a magnificent past and promise a wonderful present.  Reminders like the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus are still evident everywhere you go.

Alghero, Sardinia

Alghero’s Catalan influences come to the fore during Easter.  The prayers and devotional songs are in Catalan.  Red is the predominant color of this period.  Red cloths drape the street lights and also the farols carried by the faithful and religious brotherhoods.  The wonderful town centre is the main location for the Holy Week ceremonies as is the Cathedral.  An interesting feature is the observance of silence during the processions.  The rituals hark back to the 1600s when Spain ruled the island.

Sardinia is the second largest Mediterranean island and the beautiful town of Alghero its prime jewel.  Ruled by the Spanish for over 300 years, a Catalan dialect is still predominantly spoken here.  The old quarter is called Little Barcelona (Barcelonetta).  A number of lovely white sandy beaches, like the San Giovanni Beach, spread themselves out just below the city walls.  Alghero is a town of many winding alleys and narrow streets.  It also has some excellent Gothic architectural attractions in the form of the Alghero Cathedral and the Palazzo d’Albis.  Close by are Capo Caccia and its fabulous limestone cliffs and underwater caves containing beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.  The foremost cave is Nereo’s Grotto.

Seville, Spain

Easter in Seville is also known as Semana Santa.  Hundreds of yellow-cloaked and pointed hooded ‘Nazarenos’ (penitents) slowly tread the streets in solemn processions.  Elaborately decorated floats with wooden statues of Jesus and Mary, dating back hundreds of years, accompanied by loud, noisy brass bands and faithful carrying aromatic and smoky candles are all part of a colourful and raucous pageantry you will never see elsewhere.  This time also marks the beginning of spring, so celebrations take place in the bars, cafes and farms all across the region.

Seville is a prime showpiece encapsulating Spain at its very best.  Seville is famous for its colour, flair and vibrancy.  Located on the banks of the pretty Guadalquivir River, the city was where Christopher Columbus launched his voyages.  The Romans, Moors/Arabs and Christians have left wonderful vestiges of their legacy.  Seville has merged them all into a magnificent uniqueness that can be seen in The Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, Santa Cruz, El Arenal and the Basalica de la Macarena.

Jerusalem, Israel

During the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday, Jerusalem is packed with thousands of local and foreign Christians.  Pilgrims retrace the steps Christ took on the way to his crucifixion.  Known as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) it winds through narrow passageways from Lion’s Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The solemn yet joyous services at the Holy Sepulchre on Easter Sunday are especially important as Christians believe that this is the place where Jesus was buried and later resurrected.  The faithful also gather for an Easter sunrise service at the Garden Tomb.

The Old City of Jerusalem is only 0.9 square kilometres in size but it attracts all the tourist attention.  Much of human history, culture, religion and conflicts have their roots in this tiny area.  The Old City is demarcated by the walls that Suleiman the Magnificent built in 1538.  Since 1981 the Old City is a World Heritage Site and is also on the World Heritage in Danger list.  Old Jerusalem is literally divided into four quarters – Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

Rome, Italy

The spiritual and administrative centre of the Roman Catholic Church, Rome hosts a number of traditional and religious events.  For two weeks there are processions and church services (some candlelit/torch lit) to mark the most important event in the Christian calendar.  The Good Friday processions are particularly poignant as actors enact the Passion of Christ leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.

The Pope is involved in many of the services.  On Easter morning he celebrates open air mass in St Peter’s Square.  After the mass he delivers the blessing known as the “Urbi et Orbi – to the City and to the World” from the balcony on the façade of Saint Peter’s.

The Eternal City or Rome is literally bursting at the seams with artistic and historic attractions.  As befitting the capital of an empire that was the largest and most powerful in the ancient world it is also one of the world’s most historic cities.  Landmarks from its ancient era are the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Castel St Angelo and Baths of Caracalla.  Other remarkable architectural sites are the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps. The Vatican attractions are St Peter’s Basilica and the fabulous artistic treasures in the Vatican Museums.  Among its many gardens the Villa Borghese and Villa Pamphili are outstanding.

Indonesia

The Holy Week and Easter is carried out literally by many Christians in parts of Indonesia.  Young men take great pride and honour in the imitating the agony and passion of Christ.  They allow themselves to be tied to a cross and haul it while enacting the Stations of the Cross.  During this period they carry statues through the streets of Larantuka on the lovely island of Flores and even other places.

The normally placid Larantuka comes alive as thousands of tourists from Indonesia and around the world arrive to view or participate in ‘Semana Santa’ celebrations. These customs were brought here by the Portugese missionaries in the 16th century.  Centuries old statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are presented to worshippers after which they carefully stored away for the rest of the year.

Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world, is made up 13,466 tropical islands.  Most of them are ringed by amazing white sand beaches.  It is as wide as the US and populated by more than 200 ethnic groups.  Its best known islands are Sumatra, Java, Bali, Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi and the Spice Islands.

It has an incredible variety of landscapes ranging from rainforests and savannah grasslands to the snow peaks of West Papua.  The fauna and birds reflect this diversity with such creatures as the giant Komodo Lizard, the Orang Utan, the Java Rhino, the Sulawesi Anoa (dwarf buffalos), the colourful and talkative cockatoos, the bird of paradise and much more.  The waters around the islands are richly populated by an amazing variety of brilliantly coloured tropical fish and coral.

The UK and London

Easter celebrations in the UK are subdued and generally confined to family gatherings.  Chocolates eggs are hidden for kids to hunt and find.  In Preston, Lancashire an ancient traditional game of rolling real eggs down a hill is still played.  Traditional folk dancers – Morris dancers – perform in village squares adding colour and music to the quaint charm of the English village.  Churches are generally bedecked with flowers and other decorations for Easter Sunday celebrations.   Hot cross buns, Simnel cakes and marzipans are hot ticket items during the Easter period.  Trafalgar Square in London goes mad with live music and other entertainment items, which thousands attend.

The UK is one of the most visited countries in the world with millions of visitors turning up every year to experience its many historical locations and cultural offerings.  It is a country rich in tradition, iconic and world famous buildings, pretty picture postcard villages, charming towns, ancient mysterious Stonehenge and massive castles. It has great variety of natural beauty ranging from rugged coastlines, green patchwork fields, rolling hills, moors, ancient woodlands, fairy-tale rivers and canals.

Australia

Easter in the Land Down Under is a very laid back affair.  The festival comes when it is autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and starting to cool down.  It is a great time for the kids as there are Easter egg hunts, chocolate bilbies, fireworks and holidays. Sydney has the Royal Easter Show where the best farm and agricultural produce vie for attention with parades.  The Show is fueled by plenty of beer and wine.  Byron Bay has a music show, the Bluesfest, while Freemantle puts on the Freemantle Street Arts Festival featuring some of the best street art, music and outdoor theatre in the world.  If none of this does it for you there is always the beach.

Australia is one of the world’s greatest holiday destinations. It’s a country that can turn your vacation into an everyday adventure.  From the outback to the great cities; from tropical forests to the Great Barrier Reef; from picturesque green rolling hills to snow capped mountains – Australia has it all.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House will compete with drives down the Great Ocean Road and into Yarra Valley for your attention and time.  Hot air ballooning or trekking up to Ayers Rock/Uluru or a heart-stopping ride in a boat down the Tully River are experiences you will treasure forever.

Dubai

This might come as some surprise but Dubai has an Easter tradition – of sorts.  The city of malls utilizes them to organize Easter displays.  Hotels too, join in on the act.  Giant Easter egg hunts and egg decorating, fake indoor snow slopes decked out with Easter decorations are staple activities.  Elaborate lunch buffets are put on for Easter by five star hotels.

Dubai is an ultra-modern, glitzy, city soaring up into the sky.  It is a designer city purpose built to cater to the needs and pleasures of a fast-moving, modern world.  Gleaming spires like the Burj Khalifa dedicated to commerce gaze down upon sedate dhows and narrow picturesque streets of the old Bastakiya district and its tall wind-towers, souks, minarets and the timelessness Creek.  Dubai offers only the best in entertainment, career opportunities, accommodation, food, business and shopping.

Now that we have given our list of the top 10 Easter travel destinations, start planning that much needed and well deserved break you have been dreaming of. The only question that remains is which travel destination you prefer? A religious and traditional European Easter experience or a relaxed beach paradise with a festival!

 

isango! wishes all the readers Happy Easter!

 

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Around Melbourne – Day Tours

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Melbourne is a really wonderful city. It is the cultural hub, sports capital and artistic centre of Australia.  Its population diversity ensures that you get plenty of great food from all over the world.  Melbourne and its surroundings are packed with things – natural and human created – that delight the senses.  It is an exhilarating city with live music, exciting sporting events and other things happening all the time.

The place has so much to offer whether you are a resident of this architecturally appealing city or a visitor from another country.  There are plenty of great things to do in Melbourne and places to see within easy reach of Melbourne City Centre.  Once experienced, Melbourne never quite leaves you.

Ride the skies in a Hot Air Balloon

Melbourne at dawn is a marvellous picture with the morning sun lighting up the skyscrapers and putting a soft golden glow on the cityscape.  Melbourne is only one of a handful of cities in the world that permit Hot Air Ballooning over the city limits.  However, you could choose to go the other way and float over the gorgeous Yarra Valley.  The beautiful rolling hills and green vineyards below and the blue skies above make for an entirely breath-taking spectacle.

The Dandenong Mountains and Puffing Billy

Go east out of Melbourne and you will find yourself in the majestic Dandenong mountain range.  It is lovely area to spend the day, have a great meal and stroll through charming, picture postcard little villages. Besides their beauty, the Dandenongs are where you will find huge and soaring Mountain Ash trees.  It is a fabulous place of nature lovers.

The Dandenong Mountains is also the route of Puffing Billy, the famous narrow gauge railway train.  A ride from Belgrave Station to Gembrook is an experience both you and the kids will enjoy as you steam past breathtaking forest scenery.  You can also opt to have a meal on the train.

Drive The Great Ocean Road

This is one road trip every visitor to Melbourne should take.  This 250 km or so stretch of road is one of the most scenic in Australia, indeed in the world.  Starting around Torquay south west of the city, The Great Ocean Road provides spectacular views and scenery. The sunsets and the iconic Twelve Apostles rocks being the most stunning.  So terrific is the experience that it is often voted as being among Australia’s Top 10 Destinations.

Phillip Island

Phillip Island is just under two hours away from Melbourne.  It offers a wonderful mix and variety of options for the day tripper.  It has an impressive coastline and a famous blowhole where incoming waves rush into a sea cave below erupting in spectacular spout.  There is the Koala Conservation Centre, where you can see the cuddly little fellows up close and personal. Then there are the Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest seal colony.  The coast is also populated by numerous sea bird gardens and nests.

There are plenty of lunch options on the island.  You should hang around till sunset when the best treat of Phillip Island has to offer, occurs.  It is the Penguin Parade when thousands of Little Penguins make their way to shore every night at the home of the world’s largest Little Penguin colony.

Mornington Peninsula and Hot Springs

About two hours from Melbourne’s city centre is Mornington Peninsula and the Fingal Hot Springs.  This is a place to relax.  You can melt away the pressures and stress of modern life by wallowing in a number of outdoor pools and thermal springs.  You could spend half the day soaking in a Turkish steam bath and then have a relaxed lunch in scenic surroundings.  Not far away are the Red Hill Markets and its host of excellent craft shops.

The Many Charms of Melbourne City

Melbourne is a city of mixed attractions – modern, forward-looking and a futuristic world city.  It also possesses many charming alleys, streets and Victorian era buildings and markets.  Its numerous delightful side streets are filled with art galleries, shopping arcades, indie theatres, little eateries and bakeries.

You could take a walking or bike tour, guided by a passionate local and discover the arty and cultural side of the city and its fascinating architecture and parks.  Or simply take a Melbourne tour coach, sit back and enjoy its many splendors.

Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo or Healesville Sanctuary

Melbourne offers more than any other major city of the world in terms of wildlife attractions.  You could choose to visit Melbourne Zoo (4 kms north of the city centre), Healesville Sanctuary (an hour away) or Werribee Open Range Zoo (half an hour away).  All three have a large number of wildlife attractions native to Australia and from other parts of the world.

Melbourne zoo has gorillas, elephants, lions, meerkats and orang-utans. It also offers close up experiences with elephants and other animals.

Healesville Sanctuary is a bush setting filled with Australia’s recognisable and not so familiar wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, emus and dingoes.

Werribee Open Range Zoo is set in 225 hectares of open savannah.  Among other indigenous creatures it has some spectacular African wildlife. 

Yarra Valley Wine Tours

This is a more laid back activity that offers wonderful pleasures to the visual senses and the palette. A trip to Melbourne should include this activity.  Just an hour from Melbourne is the wine-producing region of the Yarra Valley.  The entire area is pristine, characterised by gorgeous views and stunning mountains.  It has a richly deserved reputation as one of the world’s great wine regions producing excellent Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.

The Macedon Range

The Macedon Mountains are a spectacularly beautiful range formed by volcanic activity many millions of years ago.  It houses the unique and amazing Hanging Rock, which is an attraction by itself.  You could spend the whole day happily exploring and playing in its caves and crevices.  The area offers wonderful spots for picnics or you could visit the many wineries in the region.

 

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Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai and Cape Town, South Africa

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Adrenaline Attack!  There is no other expression one can think of to describe the feelings and emotions that surge through you.  Suddenly that cage around you seems so fragile and the bars too far apart!  It is the only thing between you and one of the most fearsome carnivorous killers on the planet.  It’s a Great White Shark, you are in his habitat and he is hungry!

Shark cage diving is the closest thing to ‘near death’ that one voluntarily chooses to experience.  And there is no better place to get that particular buzz than in Gansbaai, South Africa.  With one of the densest populations, Gansbaai is inarguably the ‘great white shark capital of the world.’ Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai and Cape Town, South Africa is a MUST!

Great White Shark Cage Diving, south africa

Just 5 miles (8km) from the shore sits Dyer Island and the smaller Geyser Rock.  The shallow channel that these two form is known, around the world, as “Shark Alley.”  It is here that shark cage diving takes place.  The best times are from May to October.  During this period the water is warmer and also the time when the sharks hunt for seals.  Of course the Great Whites can be seen throughout the year.

One of the other reasons for the high population and presence of Great White Sharks in this area is the Cape Fur Seals, which occupy Dyer Island.  They are the prime source of food for the sharks.  Great Whites are surface feeders, so much of their feeding and other activity happens close to the surface, making for plenty of sightings.

Great Shark Cage Diving, south africa

To go shark cage diving is simple.  You don’t need any diving certificates just the desire and a stout heart.  The average dive takes 15 to 20 minutes.  You are almost certain to get a close up of one these awesome denizens of the sea.  An encounter will provide some of the most terrifically satisfying experiences you will ever have.

If getting scared to death is not your idea of a great time, then you can choose to stay on the boat.  Plenty of other shark varieties, besides the Great White, will put in an appearance.

You can choose to go out early in the morning between 6 am and 7 am for the best viewing as sharks are very active at this time.  The other option is to take the later trip (around 9 am to 10 am).

Gansbaai is also a great location for whale-watching.  Other wildlife species such as Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, Jackass Penguins, Southern Right Whales and dolphins are also likely to be sighted.

Shark cage diving is a once in a lifetime and unique experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

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Take the plunge – Bungee Jumping at Kawarau Bridge, New Zealand

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New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. From the top of North Island to the tip of South Island, and places in between, it offers unparalleled natural splendor.  The country has everything a nature-loving visitor could desire.  Blessed with snow-capped mountains, picturesque beaches, clear blue seas, rolling plains, sparkling rivers, scenic forests and steaming hot-springs, New Zealand is the complete package.

Bungy Jumping in Queenstown, New Zealand

Then there is Queenstown!  This, the adventure capital of the world beguiles you with its fabulous scenery and serene blue lake but plenty of heart-stopping action happens around this lovely town.  Bungee jumping in Queenstown is the most popular adventure activity, which attracts thousands of jumpers every year.

The most famous jump is located at the Kawarau Bridge, the acknowledged home of the original bungy jump.  At 43 metres (141 feet) it is also reckoned as being the highest bunjee jump in the world.  When you visit New Zealand you just have to allow yourself to be tied to a giant rubber chord and take off from the bridge. In the travel industry the expression ‘must-do’ is over used but this intensely exhilarating five second experience is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

When you are on the platform, flanked by the sheer rock cliffs of the gorge, with the Kawarau River rushing below, you can choose your manner of going.  You can decide how you want to do it – backwards, forwards, head first; topple over, with a friend or by yourself.  The staff guys who operate the bungy cords are so experienced and practiced, they can ensure that you end up bobbing just over the water, only up to your waist or totally dunked in the river.

Bungy Jumping in New Zealand

Another amazing thing about bungee jumping at the Kawarau Bridge is that it is actually very gentle on your body.  The jumper will not be harmed or stretched so little children and old folks alike can do it without fear.  After all, it’s only in your head.

This awesome experience can also be photographed or videoed so you can have a record of your feat to show your friends and family back home.

Do keep in mind that the operational hours of the jumps will vary, depending upon the season so call ahead to confirm the hours at the time of your visit.

 

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10 ways Travelling can Change your Life

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There are so many metaphors to describe travel that one could get lost just trying to choose.  You could think of it as a long dusty highway; a faint, fuzzy distant and uncertain yet inviting horizon; a magical mystery forest; a rainbow begging for you to find its pot of gold; the roar of an unseen lion in the bush, which has your blood pounding.  All of which may have you scared yet strangely excited.

travel

Whatever word picture best describes your own personal experience there is one sure thing that travel does.  It changes you – for better or worse; whether you like it or not; whether you are conscious of it or not.  You change!!  As was once said, ‘change is the only constant.’  You cannot avoid it.

1)   Getting out of your PJs and your comfort zone

Your comfort zone is probably the first barrier you have to climb over when you set out to travel.  There are literally thousands of little things you do or wouldn’t do, which you will be pushed to do when you are far away out there.  You will have to shed those warm, comfy PJs of home and its security.  Everything is new; everything is different.  Everyday things suddenly seem scary and strange.  There is no escape so you will have to force yourself out of those secure places in your mind. In a short while you will be doing ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ things in far-off places and treat them as routine.  It is amazing how quickly we shed our old skins.

2)   Decision-making comes easier

There is no one to turn to – no good friend or mom or dad to help when you have to make an unplanned change of course or when an unexpected glitch pops up in your schedule.  You start to figure out alternatives based on scant information.  You learn to process the options based on your own experiences and needs without the pressure of another person’s biases.  You will discover, you have a mind of your own and it is a pretty good and clear one too!

3)   You stretch, become flexible

You learn to bend with the wind and sway with it like a palm tree. The rigidity of earlier life-long routines suddenly seems unnecessary.  You will quickly throw off the shackles of ‘this is how I do things.’  Sometimes the new routines may last only a couple of days and you have to change them again.  But that’s all right ‘cause you are now on your toes and the daily drudgery of routines are why left home to travel, didn’t you?  You find that locals do things differently and you learn to appreciate the merit in that. You will appreciate and understand the basis for their customs and enjoy it.  You may find yourself adopting their cultural practices and making them your own.    Like a good yoga work out, the changes will do you good.

4)    You adapt; ride the tide

Your precious lifestyle abruptly goes out the window.  The facilities and comforts you grew up with and took for granted are not available anymore.  You are out there free-falling and unsure of anything.  No matter how much you read up and googled you will still be unprepared for the experiences that await you.  The colours, smells, sights and sounds will overwhelm you.  Right will be left and vice versa.  Your fears will rise right up and you will want to get back on the flight you just got off.

Stick it out and you will find that different is terrific.  Embrace it and enjoy it.  You learn to ride the tide and cope with slow, uncomfortable buses.  Hotel rooms will often not be not quite as advertised and situations seem to change every time you look.  Delays can lead to missed connections and leave you seemingly stranded in the midst of nowhere or late at night in a town that has gone to sleep. No worries you will find a way to move on and find a place to lay your head and sort out the situation.

5)   You become stronger

Whoever said, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ must have been talking about travel.  Things happen when you are on a trip that just doesn’t happen when you are at home.  That warm, sheltered cocoon called home is out of reach.  You find yourself on the wrong bus or train; you get sick and no doctor around; you get robbed and left with no money and no friendly soul to help; you lose your passport and have to travel a huge distance to get to the embassy to replace it thus throwing your whole schedule and bookings out of gear.  The list can be endless and most incidents minor and bad luck seems to dog your every step.  Bad enough for you to want to just pack it all in and head back home.

However, you stick it out and find you have survived the hassles and horrid things that happened to you.  You discover a well of resilience you never knew you had.  You start to chalk it down to lessons learned, experiences to be treasured and even laughed at in retrospect.  Minor things stop bothering you; problems are there to be solved, not bury you. You very quickly lose your fear of the unexpected and frustration is no longer a part of your make up while calmness and composure does.  You exert more control over your life and if you don’t have control you don’t panic or even worry.  Anxiety attacks become a thing of the past.  You develop the strength to do your own thing and the courage to avoid being pressured into following the ‘group.’  You grow steel in your spine making you strong in a quiet, non-aggressive way.

6)   You get comfortable with yourself

Loneliness is one of the biggest concerns when leaving home to travel the world. Believe me, it is not a problem at all – you will love the time alone.  You have no encumbrances; not have to answer to anyone; do what you want when you want.  You are truly liberated because it is just you and the experiences you set out to find or unexpected joys that pop up.  Being alone is a marvellous tool.  Your mind and your soul expand because there is much in the world that will open your eyes.  Read books (or invest in a kindle) take long walks, day dream, listen to music.  You will discover independence and the strength it brings; you will function well on your own.  You will define yourself without the crutch of relationships. You are living your dream.  You will get comfortable in your skin.  It’s a good kind of lonely.

7)  Confidence, assurance or self-belief

Call it what you will but you acquire poise and coolness under pressure.  Trying to get directions in a language you don’t know; talking to a stranger; taking risks (not stupid ones though) and managing them; learning to trust your instinct and intuition; honing your perception to the point where you confidently make a call on whom to trust and not to.  Hey!  You have navigated strange cities and the Australian Great Barrier Reef with the same aplomb.  You can do anything, even climb Mt Everest.  It’s all cool.

8)   You lose your ego-centrism while perceptions change

When you pack your bag for a journey you better leave behind your old mindset. You are going to find, for a start, that people think and see things differently in the rest of the world.  They do things a whole lot differently too that are not necessarily bad or inferior. It works for them and who are you to criticise.  You could say there are other worlds outside your own.  You make friends on the road with people whose opinions may clash with yours but that’s OK.  You become more understanding and tolerant of people, places and things.  You will also acquire one major virtue – patience. Buses are either late or simply do not show up; food can be awful or mediocre; people struggle to understand you; lines will be long and the weather will be bad; the list is endless.  There is nothing you can do about it so you learn to close your eyes and play back that gorgeous sunset you watched the previous day.  Beats any TV show you’ve seen.  The kaleidoscope of your world vision changes.  You find people are basically the same all over the world yet wonderfully different.

9)   Fear of Food

Something as basic as food, in a foreign country, becomes a huge challenge for many people. In many cases it either throws them off travelling or they only go where ‘the water is safe.’  However, eating the local food is just as important as seeing the sights.  You won’t fully appreciate the culture of the country until you have dipped your fingers into a bowl of spicy Indian curry; fumbled clumsily with chopsticks in a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant; have your eyes water from biting down on a hot chilli.  Oh the magic when you do start to enjoy the amazing flavours that coconut, ginger, garlic, onions and hundreds of other spices bring to a dish.  You will never go with ‘bland’ again.  The taste of calamari or the aroma of a fresh mackerel fried in red chilli, onion and garlic paste on a Goa beach will never quite leave you.  Long after you return from your travels you will find that it is the memory of a dish that will prod you to relive your travel experiences.  The taste buds never forget for they will have changed and adapted as much as you.

10) Your horizons get wider and higher

Your changed world view will come from a wide variety of influences and an infinite number of directions.  Many of these experiences will be small and seemingly inconsequential but they will stay with you.  It could be gazing at a sunset on a beach in Bali or a long conversation with a total stranger as you both cup hands around steaming mugs of tea under a bamboo shelter somewhere in Laos.  You will lose the fear of moving to a strange city; you will embrace the challenge of starting anew; you have trekked the world; got out of uncomfortable and difficult situations; been a stranger in every place yet come away with friends.  Travel will give you skills, experiences, knowledge and the ability to navigate life better.  It truly transforms you, makes you more compassionate, and opens your eyes and soul to the universe.  The future is no more an uncertain thing; rather it is exciting place of endless possibilities.

You’ve travelled far and have come a long way.

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If you’re a movie buff head to Morocco!

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Morocco is a country of rugged beauty and magical cities.  You sometimes get the impression that it is an eclectic collection of movies sets.   Oh wait!  It’s actually the other way round.  Many an action-packed blockbuster and romantic film has been shot in a variety of locations here.  So popular is the country for filmmakers that as a movie-goer it seems familiar when you actually visit.

Morocco Tours

There are many things to do in Morocco, which is also every tourist’s dream. It is exotic, exciting and unpredictable.  Vast stretches of desert sands compete with the fabulous beaches on the Atlantic and Mediterranean, deep wooded valleys and orchards.  The tall craggy Atlas Mountains contrast beautifully with the green and flower bedecked Rif Mountains.  Morocco is also blessed with weather that is wide and varied.

It is a land of outstanding beauty attracting adventure enthusiasts, seekers of the unusual, foodies and the regular ‘been there, seen it’ types.  It is also the Mecca for movie buffs.  Now let’s move on to the main feature – the places you should visit in Morocco that have featured in the movies.

Marrakech

The souks and Medina has been the setting of several well known films, including Sex and the City 2, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Mama Mia.  Marrakech’s main square, Djemaa El Fna has been the star in many a shot.

Aït Ben Haddou

The crenulated walls and turrets of this ancient city has witnessed many a battle for is possession in its long history.  In modern times it has witness conflicts of the cinematic kind such as Gladiator, Babel and Lawrence Of Arabia.  Such is the magnificence and history of this 11th century city – it is listed as a UN World Heritage Site.

Erfoud

The surrounding desert and amazing sand dunes of Erg Chebbi has witnessed many a movie star do their thing.  This is the area around Erfoud, which been used as the backdrop to Sex And The City 2.  The long extinct volcano near Erfoud  was used extensively in shooting the The Mummy

Tangiers

The hugely intriguing and highly intelligent movie, Inception was shot in Tangiers.  Many of the scenes feature its landscapes and cityscapes.

 Casablanca

This lovely and evocative city was the title of the iconic 1942 movie of the same name.  However, Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergmanwas never filmed here!  It was an entirely a studio movie.

The above list are just a few of the locations used in movies beginning with the 1897 when the Lumiere brothers filmed their classics.  Orson Wells shot his Othello in Morocco way back in 1950.  Since then a host of other great movies have used the fantastic and highly distinctive landscapes of Morocco to enhance their cinematic appeal.

  • “Hidalgo”
  • “Troy”
  • “Rules of Engagement”
  • “Black Hawk Down”
  • “Kingdom of Heaven”
  • “The Hills Have Eyes”
  • “Patton”
  • “The Bourne Ultimatum”
  • “Alexander”
  • “American Sniper”
  • “Brideshead Revisited”
  • “Green Zone”

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The grand architecture of the cities, the picturesque mountain villages and dramatic sand dunes, make Morocco a highly sought after backdrop for the film industry.  If you need a desert scene in your movie, Morocco is the best place to go to film it.

Morocco Tours

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Falling In Love is Easy at these Romantic Getaways

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For some indefinable reason there is a connection between the sea and the tender side of the human spirit. Whatever that mystical bond, it seems that, the most romantic spots in the world are located in the oceans or their coastlines. From the amazing tropical paradise islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the Caribbean Sea and the azure waters off the gorgeous coasts of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Adriatic Seas.

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The following are some places we think you should spend your honeymoon; propose to your loved one or renew those romantic feelings.

Kerala, India

‘God’s own country’ has been used to describe this paradise on the south-western Malabar Coast of India. It is accurate in every sense. Dazzling, pristine, un-crowded golden beaches; lush tropical forests; vast tracts of coconut groves; mile upon mile of green paddy fields and forested hills guarantee unparalleled experiences.

A houseboat cruise through green canopied naturally formed waterways and backwaters will enchant you so much that you never want to leave this green heaven.

Kyoto, Japan

This cherry-blossom tree filled city is ideal for those looking for quiet and serenity. It is a truly amazing place surrounded by lush green hills and breath-taking mountains. Perfectly formed trees line the streets and Chinese-style gardens are all over the place. Kyoto is also famed for the intricate and delicate craftsmanship of its pagodas with the golden Kinkaku-ji temple being the showpiece. A walk through the rock garden of Ryoan-ji and the Zen temples are sure to instil some peace and tranquillity in your soul and stir up those romantic feelings.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali has been deliberately designed by nature for romance. Its amazingly picturesque scenery, stunning beaches, streams, dramatic rock formations and sparkling waterfalls topped off with spectacular sunsets seem to have been crafted for lovers.

Human touches such as beautiful temples at every nook and bend; the warm, gentle, welcoming culture and colourful traditions of its people only add to an already heart-warming setting.

Hawaii Tours

St. Barts

St Barts is a stand-out romantic island in a sea of wonderfully picturesque islands. It has everything – cool breezes, swaying palm trees lining absolutely stunning white-sand beaches with the blue waters of the Caribbean lapping its shores. All this capped by clear blue skies above. A tiny island, it has also managed to capture the chic and elegance of France, which governs it.

St. Barts is the real deal – a tropical island paradise. A place every honeymooner or romantic dreams of.

Venice, Italy

The very name conjures up star-filled skies, enchanting cafes, beautiful buildings and those captivating canals. Superlatives and adjectives such as magical seem to fall short when trying to capture the essence of this wonderful city.

The romantic power of a gondola ride through the canals of Venice can never be overstated. Add a dinner and you have the perfect potion for love and romance. “Happily ever after…” must have been invented by Venice.

The Seychelles, Africa

If it is solitude and seclusion you desire then The Seychelles is where you should disappear for your romantic getaway. Located off the east coast of southern Africa it is a balmy and truly exotic haven with guaranteed spectacular panoramic views. Empty beaches, unspoiled jungles filled with birds of every hue while sea birds soar above adding their calls to nature’s music.

Island hopping will fill you with unforgettable experiences. You will find places whose only inhabitants are giant tortoises; warm waters that you will be unable to resist. The friendly local Seychellois are a lovely mix of Indian, French, Southeast Asian ancestry, which shows up in the food, culture and buildings.

Maldives, Indian Ocean

Like some sparkling necklace the Maldives spreads it island jewels in the Indian Ocean. They exemplify the perfect island paradise. Made up of atolls, luminescent blue lagoons, coral reefs and swept by cool balmy breezes, they will have you in their thrall even as you see them from your aircraft window, for the first time,.

The various resorts on the islands will ensure that leaving will be a massive wrench. Thatched cottages and villas have private sundecks and steps leading straight down in the clear, shallow lagoons. Surf lapping under your cottage is the soothing lullaby that sends you off to dreamland. Sorry! You are already there.

If there is a heaven on earth, then, this is it! This is it.

Brugge (Bruges), Belgium

Chocolates are not the only good thing in Belgium. Brugge is the next best thing to fairytale land. Its quaint houses, cobblestone streets, winding canals, picturesque footbridges, ponds inhabited by majestic swans create a romantic atmosphere like no other. You will feel like a leading character in a Disney movie.

The Historic Centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is the world’s best example of a medieval town, where you can expect a horse-drawn carriage carrying a princess on her way to the ball to roll past you at any minute. Church spires and soaring towers gaze down upon picture-perfect village-like market squares.

You may never leave and who would want to leave a real-life wonderland!

Charleston, South Carolina, USA

There is no other place that matches Charleston for grace, charm and historic ambience than this picturesque Southern town. The antebellum architecture of this 300 year old city and its old world grace make it one of the most romantic places in North America.

Its magnolia lined streets and sprawling tall-pillar-fronted mansions are surrounded by manicured lawns and gardens. Leafy avenues bounded by profusely flowered parks are enough to change the way you walk, talk and interact with other folks. You will get all chivalrous and polite. The perfume of magnolias and honeysuckle fill the air and infuse you with romantic feelings. A major effect of all this magic is that couples come here just to get married at one of the charming white-painted churches.

The Italian Riviera

Medieval red-roofed villages perched on rocky hilltops; picturesque fishing villages packed with colorful boats straggling down hillsides towards the water’s edge; tiny pebbled or sandy beaches washed by the sapphire blue Mediterranean Sea. That’s what you get when you go to the Italian portion of the Riviera.

Visions of sturdy, sun-burned sailors heading out to sea to fish or discover distant lands will rise up in your mind’s eye. The possibility of brushing shoulders with princes and princesses and movie stars only add to the glamour of this whole region. There is nothing to beat the Italian Riviera for ambience, stunning views of the sea enhanced by vineyards and olive groves for good old-fashioned romanticism.

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Top 5 Summer Travel Destinations in 2015

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As winter very slowly relaxes her grip on the northern hemisphere it is time to turn one’s thoughts to finding getaways for the approaching summer.  In a world full of choices we hope our selection will inspire you.

1) Da Nang, Vietnam

This laid back and friendly city is located on Vietnam’s eastern coast halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.  The largest city in the country it was the French colonial entry point into Vietnam.  Many beautiful remnants of historic buildings and French architecture are still to be found.

Da Nang is characterized by its genuinely friendly people.  It has not acquired the hustle, bustle and hectic pace of the big city life.  It has not yet become a hotspot on the tourist trail and makes a welcome change.  Some of its attractions are beautiful beaches – the best and most well known is China (My Khe) Beach.

From Da Nang you could take several day trips to Nui Son Tra (Monkey Mountain) and the five wonderful Marble Mountains.  The city’s nightlife and fabulous food are legendary.

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2) Bodrum, Turkey

What was once a small, sleepy, picturesque fishing village on the Aegean Sea, Bodrum has transformed into a wonderful destination.  It is now an outstanding combination of the ancient, medieval and modern.  Historic buildings reached by and winding backstreets amiably rub shoulders with chic shops, boutiques, salons, elegant restaurants and cafés.

Ottoman period mosques, ancient Roman relics and the Crusader era castle have helped retain that lost-era flavor.  The pretty green-clad hills surrounding the city, numerous coves, bays and astounding blue seas make this once unknown seaside town a very attractive place.

Turkey Tours

3) Costa Rica

This summer travel to Costa Rica before the rest of the world gets there.  More than half of this tiny country is covered in thick green forests, populated by a large variety of fauna and colorful birds.  It is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world protected by 60 National Parks and Reserves. It has rainforests, temperate forests, tall mountains and lush lowlands.

If jungle adventures are not your thing or you want a more laid back experience then head for the amazing beaches.  You have the choice of the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea.  Costa Rican beaches are the equal of any other in the Caribbean and world-class surfing opportunities.  There are also several volcanoes that are safe to visit.  Costa Rica has plenty of waterfalls, misty crater lakes and deserted beaches.

You will be spoilt for the choice as to the experiences you want to have.

Costa Rica Tours

4) Namibia

Namibia is one of the most dramatically landscaped places in the whole world. A spectacularly successful pioneer in the field of conservation and animal protection, the country’s wildlife has actually increased!  It is one of Africa’s most rewarding destinations.

The country posses some the planet’s most stunning scenery in the form of the mighty Fish River Canyon, the Kalahari and Namib deserts.  The wildlife is so abundant and astonishing, especially at the Etosha National Park that it should be proclaimed a “natural wonder.”

Namibia will stay in your memory long after your aircraft’s wheels have touched down in your home city.

namibia tours

5) Croatia

Croatia is a relative newcomer to the international tourist trail.  That makes it a great place to visit before the crowds start to show up.  It has a wonderful Mediterranean climate, gifted by the astonishing blue Adriatic Sea.  Thickly forested mountains, fabulous beaches, a thousand pretty and charming islands, achingly beautiful lakes and sparkling musical streams make up this country.  The region is also home to hundreds of pretty bird species and wild animals.

Even amongst so much beauty, the southernmost county of Dubrovnik-Neretva is outstanding. It is populated by quiet picture-postcard villages, sheltered fishing hamlets; hidden coves; tiny secluded isles and some very, very beautiful and historic towns.

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It is easy to see why the ancient Greeks holidayed here.

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