Just the tonic: blending health and hedonism on the Dawn Princess

Thick and rich, the mud seems to pulsate with a life of its own, like an extra from Doctor Who. Scooping a hearty handful, it’s just begging to be slapped on your face.

Standing
in a green paddock in rural Fiji, clad only in swimmers and smothered
from ponytail to toenail in the green-grey goop that smells like cattle
dip, it’s not what I had in mind when I signed up for a seaward jaunt on
board Australia’s best-loved ship, the Dawn Princess. Don’t get me
wrong: it’s great fun, just greatly unexpected.

To read more about life on the good ship Dawn Princess, click here.

 This story was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section. 

Dolphin Island Fiji: Family experience for a chosen few

Private paradise: Dolphin Island accommodates only six people.
Private paradise: Dolphin Island accommodates only six people.

I’ll be blunt, 2014 was a crappy year for our family,
with loved ones lost and the distances separating those of us remaining
felt keenly.
I needed low-fuss nurturing, the chance to reconnect
with my private thoughts and to reconstruct a life without someone who’d
been there from the moment I was born.
The doctor prescribes
meditation and contemplation, the world-map dartboard prescribes Dolphin
Island, at the very tip of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.
When you book the island, you get the island, and selfishness is
indulged: you won’t be sharing any of your island paradise with other
guests.  
Yes, the island is exclusive, but it’s not opulent in a razzle-dazzle, show-me-the-money kinda way…
To read more about Fiji’s Dolphin Island in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper, click here

Switch to island time: Escape to the South Pacific

Balmy nights, glo-bright beaches, lush greenery, and
welcoming people: the reasons for a South Pacific island holiday are as
clear as its aquamarine waters. Just follow our South Pacific island
travel guide for travelling like a pro.

The hotspots

While Fiji and Vanuatu are permanent favourites for Australian
holidaymakers, we’re now starting to discover upcoming stars, such as
the secretive Solomon Islands and PNG, while the Cook Islands and French
influences of New Caledonia are enjoying a renaissance. No matter if
you’re a diver, beachcomber or dedicated lounge lizard, it all boils
down to the beach. Kick start your island dreams at South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

Flying there

The main airlines linking the South Pacific include Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific,) Qantas, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia. Smaller national carriers such as PNG’s Air Niugini, Air Vanuatu , New Caledonia’s Air Calin and Solomon Airlines
hook Australia up to its nearest neighbours. Keep an eye out for sales
and you might snap up a flight from east-coast Australia to Nadi, Fiji
for around $650 return, and $250 return for kids under 12. During the
low season (November to May), $600 will get you to Noumea in New
Caledonia. Put skyscanner on your must-visit list, to compare flight prices and dates.

Cruising there

The South Pacific is our most popular cruise destination, with New
Caledonia’s Isle of Pines and Vanuatu’s Champagne Beach providing the
classic postcard backdrop to a South Pacific cruise. Choose your style:
from champagne luxury to party ships or the range of exploratory small
ships that are now discovering the hidden corners of thousands of
islands. P&O Cruises
offers wallet-friendly seven-night cruises departing Australia for New
Caledonia from $899, quad share in an interior room, which is always
cheapest, compared with $1999 a person for a suite. A good jumping-off
point for cruise comparisons is cruiseabout.

Getting around

What’s your tribe? The fly-and-flop brigade, who are content to be
spoilt poolside, or do you get out amongst the locals? The Pacific
islands each have their own special mode of transport: from PNG’s banana
boats that skip between its islands to Vanuatu’s little island-hopping
planes to the many live aboard boats that let you sleep on board,
stopping to visit a local village, get the snorkel on or take a dive. A
three-night cruise through Fiji’s Yasawa islands aboard Captain Cook Cruises
live aboard MV Reef Endeavour costs from $980 a person, twin share.
Island-hopping plane transfers are usually priced into packages. If
you’re booking them yourself, get in early as the small planes fill
quickly.

Staying there

Nothing kicks off romance like a glowing sunset over calm waters.
South Pacific island holidays have more than their fair share of
super-luxe hideaways. Fiji’s top resorts can command over $1000 a night
for a slice of private paradise. For some spectacular beach island
eye-candy, check out the all-inclusive, complete island hire at Dolphin Island and Wadigi Island, or the luxe resorts at Likuliku Lagoon and Matagi Island.

For flight-hotel packages from glam to fam, check out Creative Holidays
Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Cook Islands packages: you can pay
around $2000 a person for a week’s stay in the glam Raratonga Beach
Resort & Spa, with international flights, kids’ crèche and clubs,
daily cocktail parties and activities. Sleepy Samoa, as yet undeveloped
by the big international chains, offers good value, while going local in
a PNG village stay costs from $60 a night. Bookings.com and skyscanner.com yield unusual finds for those who prefer to wing it.

Hip pocket talk

As a rule of thumb, flight-and-hotel packages in the South Pacific
offer the best value, thanks to the big travel companies’ muscular
buying power. Check the fine print for meal packages, pay-seven,
stay-five deals and other bonuses. Kids under 12 can usually stay and
eat free when sharing with their parents, and many of the airlines offer
very reasonable kids’ air fares. Bargain hunters can slip into the
fringe of the wet, windy season to score a deal. Traditionally, the
South Pacific’s hot, rainy season runs from November to April, while May
to October is peak season, thanks to clear skies and lower humidity,
however climate change does throw a few curve balls.

Prices correct at time of publishing.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published on Art of Money blog by GE Money.

Things to do in Nadi, Fiji: One day three ways

The Sri Siva Subramaniya Hindu temple in Nadi.  Photo: Alamy

PENNY PINCH

Breakfast with the locals and grab a hot chicken curry roti from the
smiling sellers outside Nadi’s covered market ($1.25) then dive inside
for papaya, bananas and mangos and kava drinking etiquette tips from the
kava traders (free). Nadi is a Fijian-Indian town, so pop into a
hairdresser to have your brows threaded or hands henna’d ($6.30). Lunch
is at the little vegetarian restaurant in the wildly ornate Sri Siva
Subramaniya temple. Dress modestly (no bare thighs) or borrow a sarong
at the gate (entrance $3.75, lunch $3.15-6.30). Cool off with a dip at
Wailoaloa Beach then head to Ed’s Bar, in the Martintar district, for a
cold, pre-dinner Fiji Lager ($3.15, 51 Queens Road). Nearby, Tu’s Place
is a staple for traditional Fijian food. Don’t expect lavish decor, do
order the kokoda and rourou ($14, 37 Queens Road, tusplace.webs.com)
and then bunker down in Nadi Downtown Hotel, the only hotel on Main
Street. The hotel is clean, with its own restaurant and bar and is a
good source of budget travel advice ($45 a double, fijidowntownhotel.com).
TOTAL $76.60

EASY DOES IT

Kick off with quality coffee, house-made brioche and honey from the farm of Bulaccino Cafe (Queen’s Road, $5.80, bulaccino.com).
If it’s Sunday, pop in to one of the town’s many churches for the
service and some spectacular singing (free). Flower admirers and small,
jumpy children should head to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, 15
minutes from Nadi. The late Raymond Burr (aka Perry Mason) retired here
to collect orchids, there are now more than2000 varieties ($10 adults/$5
children/$25families). Afterwards, lunch and people-watch at Port
Denarau: grab a wrap and a Lulu Mix juice (beetroot, ginger and carrot,
$14.80) from Lulu’s Cafe, beside the pier, then take a spin around
Denarau on the hop-on, hop-off Bula Bus ($5 all-day, kids under 10 free,
bulabuses.com.fj).
Pick up your souvenirs on Nadi’s Main Street, check the handicraft
market and cruise Jack’s, Tappoo or Prouds for glossy coloured
freshwater pearl earrings (about $22)and a bag of Bula Coffee beans,
grown in the highlands and roasted in Sigatoka ($16.30 for 200 grams).
Kick back on an evening barbeque cruise around Nadi Bay ($82/adults,
$56/kids, captaincook.com.fj) then bed down in a beachfront spa villa at First Landing ($140 a double with breakfast, firstlandingresort.com).
TOTAL $290.90

SPLASH OUT

Book out the whole day on the 64-foot catamaran Catatac for a
schmoozy island-hop around the Mamanuca. Wet a line, catch a wave,
snorkel the reefs and find the perfect beach: lunch and
cocktail-drinking included ($2260 a couple, charterboatsfiji.com).
If you’re staying on land and taking a bed at the Fiji Beach Resort
& Spa by Hilton, take their hobie cats out for a peaceful (ie,
non-motorised) glide over the calm waters (free to hotel guests), then
frock up for the Sofitel, a favourite with visiting royalty. Its
shopping gallery includes a Pure Fiji boutique: stock up on orange
blossom coconut sugar rub. It’s organic and won’t leave you smelling
like tinned fruit salad ($25, purefiji.com), then lunch poolside on grilled reef fish at its much lauded Salt restaurant ($31.40, sofitel.com).
While away the afternoon with a four-hand ayurvedic massage in Spa
Maya, at Denarau Marina ($122). Hungry? Dinner and sunset are at Peter
Kuruvita’s Flying Fish Fiji, in the Sheraton Fiji Resort. Go the
five-course degustation ($110, peterkuruvita.com) then soak up the silence of the tropical night at the Hilton’s one-bed beachfront terraces (from $255 , fijibeachresortbyhilton.com).
TOTAL $2260 or  $543.40

The writer was a guest of Nadi Downtown hotel.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.

FIJI: Suva’s white lady sees in a new century

The Grand Pacific Hotel Photo: Belinda Jackson

In search of Suva’s old colonial soul, Belinda Jackson
pays homage to the centenarian Grand Pacific Hotel, now celebrating a
makeover that’s 22 years late.

She was dubbed “The Raffles of the South Pacific”, and her title, the
Grand Pacific Hotel, is suitably eminent. But to the locals, Suva’s
distinguished colonial hotel is simply the GPH. The GPH has always been
here, as far as living memory goes back. It’s the dictionary definition
of colonial style: deep verandas, nattily dressed doormen and a starring
role in the history of a nation. 

When the hotel first opened, on
May 23, 1914, Fiji had been a British colony for 40 years, an official
cannibal-free zone for 38 years and Suva its capital for just 32 years.
The hotel’s original layout included an array of extremely specific
rooms; for dining, smoking, playing billiards, writing and drinking.
There were electric lights and fans, and “the first-floor bedrooms have
bathrooms with both hot and cold salt and fresh water baths,” early
advertisements boasted.

Unfortunately, just a few months after
its opening, World War I broke out, stymieing its position as the
eminent Pacific hotel during the grand era of steamer-ship travel. But
the hotel regrouped and capitalised on its location on the edge of Suva
Harbour, the country’s premier port.

Queen Elizabeth II has
dropped in not once, but three times. The first time, in 1953, she was a
dewy-eyed girl, fresh to the demands of the crown, and locals sailed
traditional canoes (camakau) into Suva Harbour to meet the royal yacht,
Britannia. The Queen stayed in what is now known – unsurprisingly – as
the Queen Elizabeth suite. If she was expecting grand ocean views, she’d
have been disappointed. Her suite faces Victoria Parade, with a
massive, private balcony that juts out over the entrance, just the spot
where a beautiful, young queen could wave to her rapturous audience,
who, in return, would sing their sweet farewell song, Isa Lei, back to her.

Yes,
there is a photo wall where the hotel displays its list of visiting
celebrities, who include actor Burt Lancaster and author Somerset
Maugham and our own Dame Nellie Melba, who swanned in during World War
I. In 1928, aviator Charles Kingsford Smith popped in on his way across
the Pacific, flying 36 hours from Hawaii and forcing the locals to cut
two rows of trees in Albert Park, adjacent to the hotel, to accommodate
his landing. And yes, there’s the current prime minister, Frank
Bainimarama, in between them all.

GPH personifies the era of
travelling with trunks, of Grand Tours and afternoons at leisure. Most
of the early managers were retired steamer stewards and its 35 rooms
were never enough to satisfy demand. The American author James A
Michener wrote in his 1992 memoir that “the barefoot Indians who served
the meals had a grace that few hotels in the world could offer and none
surpass”. Michener had stayed in the hotel as a US soldier during WWII,
when it was turned over to the army, and returned after the war.

The
Fifties did nothing good for the GPH: it turned an ignoble shade of
pink, following the lead of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach,
also built in in the 1920s and dubbed “the Pink Palace of the Pacific”.
The period is captured in highly coloured postcards, an aquamarine pool
surrounded by groovers and beach umbrellas, male waiters serving in
sulus, the Fijian sarong and official uniform.  And the Eighties were
even worse: by 1992, the GPH was abandoned even by the army, left to the
mercy of scrap metal dealers and a corrosive tropical climate. Having a
volatile parliament house didn’t help, either.

But, like the
Queen, the GPH is a stayer, this year celebrating her centenary. A
three-year, $90 million redevelopment has bulldozed any signs of the
GPH’s ageing, funded by a consortium of superannuation funds from PNG,
New Zealand and Fiji.

Once again the gracious hostess, this
Friday night, GPH is the place to be seen in Suva. The massive new
ballroom is hosting Fiji Fashion Week, and the island’s most influential
women are trooping through the doors in an array of glamorous gowns.

But
it’s really all happening on the terrace, where a local band has set
the pace, with a racy sprint through the early evening set before
slowing down to flip into Lovesongs-and-Memories mode. Did you know that
Lionel Richie has actually been reborn as a Fijian crooner? And the
crowd loves it.
It all starts with a bang – well, the ringing of a
large bell – at 6pm, when the first of the night’s two happy hours
kicks off. The first happy hour runs for two hours, then the drinkers
and bar staff have a break until the second happy hour kicks the night
along from 10pm.

Fashionistas, local movers and shakers, a few
tourists and plenty of expats lounge on white cane chairs ordering long,
frosty glasses of Fiji Bitter. The general manager, Swiss-born Eugene
Diethelm, now on his 16th hotel opening, estimates the crowd at between
500 and 600 people each Friday night.

There’s formal dining inside
in the air-con, filling bar snacks out by the pool. This being Fiji,
where imported wine and red meat come at a premium, the best buy on the
menu is excellent local fish, that is wahoo, walu or mahimahi. However,
if you came over all traditional, you could call for a saddle of venison
with red cabbage and brussels sprouts, or go nouveau-riche with a cut
of beef from exclusive Wakaya Island, off Suva’s coast. The view from
the terrace is of the long infinity pool, lit royal blue against the
darkening sky, and swathes of perfect lawn with the backdrop of Laucala
Bay. And because this is family-friendly Fiji, that perfect lawn is
dotted, without irony, with a set of plastic swings and slides.

The
original building has 10 suites, and the pick of the bunch is
undoubtedly No. 1, the largest Royal Suite and the only one with ocean
views. All the other original suites overlook the gardens and Suva’s
low-slung skyline, best seen from a rattan chair on the wide, private
verandah, cool drink in hand.

The rest of the accommodation is one
side in two new wings. There are 103 new rooms ranging from the most
economical, the Grand Pacific Deluxe Room rooms in its Kingsford Smith
garden wing, up to the Royal Club Rooms, in the New Wing. Yes, all the
rooms in the New Wing have views over the pool or ocean, with lush Pure
Fiji toiletries, a fruit platter, complimentary neck massage in the
little spa and a sweet present from the sparkling new Swiss bakery.
However, architecturally, this is the hotel’s downfall. From the
exterior, the new wing could be any airport hotel in any part of the
world. And while the interior is comfortable, it’s just not channelling
heritage chic.

If your budget can stretch to it – and from $720 a
night, it is a stretch – the suites capture the essence of the hotel.
If it’s an ocean view and modern luxury you’re after, you can save a
couple hundred dollars and opt for the vast Royal Club rooms, with
uninterrupted ocean views.

On a quick drive down Victoria
Parade, it’s easy to spot the GPH’s contemporaries. The Law Court,
Government  Buildings and the city’s Carnegie Library all show the same
hallmarks of the architectural era: once-white facades, gracious arches
and date stamps over the entrances.
Many of the city’s Grade A
heritage buildings are also being renovated, perhaps spiked by the
interest in GPH. Already the bridal market has thrown its bouquet into
the ring to declare it best the place for a chic, city wedding, which
comes with a night in the Queen Elizabeth suite.

Chances are the
GPH will become a destination hotel, though it certainly doesn’t come
cheap. But Suva seems to come without the hard-edged hustle of its
western rival, Nadi. Well, at least on the days there’s not a cruise
ship in town. What is undeniable is the local pride in Suva’s gleaming
white hotel, which, after a generation of neglect, has made the
transition from eyesore to elegance.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION fiji.travel.
GETTING THERE Fiji Airways flies direct to Nadi from Sydney and Melbourne daily, and flies Sydney to Suva twice a week. fijiairways.com
STAYING THERE Rooms cost from $390/deluxe room (garden views) to $500/Royal Club
room for (ocean-facing). Heritage suites cost from $720 to $1000 a
night. See grandpacifichotel.com.fj. 
THINGS TO SEE & DO Five minutes’ walk will take you to the Museum of Fiji and the
Presidential Palace. Other Suva highlights include the local markets,
selling tropical flowers and the Pure Fiji natural cosmetics and spa.
The hotel also has a small, exclusive collection of shops selling Fijian
pearls and fashion. 

The writer was a guest of Fiji Airways

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.

KNOW IT ALL: Five things to consider before you go to…Fiji

Dolphin Island, Fiji

A quick hitlist for those few Australians who haven’t tasted the delights of Fiji. I know you’re out there.


1. The roads are seriously slow. The maximum speed in Fiji is 80km/hour,
and 50km/hour through villages (of which there are many). Ignore Google, Nadi
to Suva, 190km, takes a full three hours.
And yes, Fiji now has speed cameras.
2. If staying in resorts, consider buying a meal package
(instead of just B&B) if your resort isn’t in a town. A la carte meals are
surprisingly expensive.
3. Stock up on mangos, pawpaw and other seasonal fruits from
the roadside stalls. They’re always super fresh, cheap and come with a friendly
chat.
4. Flight and hotel packages are usually far more
competitive than buying them separately. During school holidays, book super
early or just stay away – Fiji really is
that family friendly.
5. Get off the main island’s well-worn east coast. There are
333 islands in Fiji: find yours.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Sand-sational: Traveller writers divulge their favourite beaches

Sunset over Vomo Island, Fiji Photo: Getty Images.

Happy New Year, everyone!  The sun is hot, the beach is calling. While I’ve been unashamedly Instagramming sunsets from the beaches of my childhood, on the Mornington Peninsula (click here for a peek), I recently contributed my Pacific finds to a hitlist of the best strips of sand, from city-slick to rustic romance.

PERFECT PACIFIC ISLAND BEACH
Vomo Island, Mamanuca Islands, Fiji 
WHY I
LOVE IT
Maybe
it’s the memory of skimming the waves on a little Hobie Cat or maybe it’s the
“Say it, it will happen” attitude of the private island resort, but
the beach on Vomo Island holds a special place in my heart. Most of Fiji’s best
beaches are found in the Mamanuca Islands and further north, in the Yasawa
Islands group, north-west of Nadi. After all, this is where The Blue Lagoon, the
movie that started it all, was filmed in 1980. Roll out of your beachside bure
and it’s hello, tranquil turquoise water! And prepare for your heart to melt
when you see Vomo’s baby-turtle breeding program.
WHAT TO
DO
Be sun
smart and pack a rash vest. The snorkelling is excellent, but no-one likes
burnt backs and calves. And don’t spend all day in the water or in your
hammock. The sundowners at Vomo’s Rocks Sunset Bar are a must. The dry season
is from May to October, and the rainy season from November to April.  
DON’T
MISS
If tiny
Vomo still isn’t private enough for you (it has just 30 bures and villas), get
schmoozy on uninhabited Vomo Lailai (or Little Vomo), a few minutes away.
Here’s the recipe for a perfect day: a picnic hamper, bottle of something that
sparkles and favourite person. First in gets exclusive use of the island.
NEED TO
KNOW
Vomo
Island is about 90 minutes with South Sea Cruises from Denarau Marina, or go
the luxe option, with a 15-minute flight by helicopter. Bures cost from about
$1136 a night, full board. vomofiji.com.

FIVE MORE GREAT PACIFIC ISLAND BEACHES 

TAPUAETAI (ONE FOOT ISLAND), AITUTAKI, COOK ISLANDS It’s uninhabited,
yet one of the most touristy beaches in the Cook Islands, so you may see
another boat, and the (unstaffed) post office, which sends your postcards off
with a foot stamped on them.
CHAMPAGNE BEACH, VANUATU It doesn’t get all that attention by being
ugly. White sands, swaying palms and turquoise waters make it a living
postcard. Nearby Lonnoc Beach provides more of the same with fewer people.
LONG BEACH, KADAVU ISLAND, FIJI Sensibly named, this beach is on
Fiji’s fourth-largest and little explored island. The big lure is the Great
Astrolabe Reef, with its spectacular drop-offs, but snorkelling straight off
the beach is no hardship either.
MAROVO LAGOON, NEW GEORGIA ISLANDS, SOLOMON ISLANDS This one is on my
2015 hit list, because it’s the longest saltwater lagoon on the planet, it’s
heritage listed, it’s fringed by ancient volcanos and the rainforest stops
where the sand begins.
MONU ISLAND AND MONURIKI ISLAND, FIJI They are highlights of the
Mamanuca Islands. Deserted, sandy beaches lead down to wildly colourful coral
gardens and marine life, offering sensational snorkelling. Trivia hit: Cast
Away
, starring Tom Hanks, was filmed on Monuriki.

This feature was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper. Click here to read the full story.

Cruising Norway and sustainable Melbourne: ASTW 2014 awards for excellence

I’m super-chuffed to announce that I’ve won two awards at the Australian Society of Travel Writers’ 2014 awards, which were presented at the annual conference, this year in Fiji.

The awards were for best responsible tourism story, sponsored byTreadRight Foundation, under The Travel Corporation. This story, published in Honda magazine, is about travelling with a light eco-footprint in my hometown, Melbourne.

And the best cruise story, sponsored by TravMedia. This piece, published in the Sun-Herald newspaper, was about the journey of the Hurtigruten, down the Norwegian coastline. I reckon I deserved the award purely for hauling a 2 1/2  year old through Norway in mid-winter!

A massive thanks to the sponsors and the judges! I will post up the stories tomorrow.

Thanks also for all your messages of support and congratulations: it was my first ASTW AGM, and a great success all round.

Here’s a list of all the winners of each 2014 Journalism Awards for Excellence:

  • Travel Writer of the Year Award, sponsored by Tourism Fiji:

Ben Groundwater for Night Visions After Dark, The type of town that makes travelling great and Gone Native, no Bula

  • PR Communicator or Communications Team of the Year Award, sponsored by TravMedia:

Kim McKay, Klick Communications

Cameron Cope for Fist and Magic – Senegal Wrestlers

Cameron Cope for Myths and mountains

Kerry van der Jagt for Saltwater Dreaming

Daniel Scott for Bar/fly Wimbeldon Common

Robert McFarland for Working on the chain gang

Roderick Eime for Spirit of Africa

  •  Best Responsible Tourism Story Award, sponsored by The Travel Corporation’s TreadRight Foundation:

Belinda Jackson for Sustainable Melbourne

  • Outstanding Tourism Organisation or Travel Product Award, sponsored by PPR:

World Expeditions for the Larapinta Trail

Christine Retschlag for Rough road from prison gate to plate

  • Best Cruise Travel Story, with a prize provided by TravMedia:

Belinda Jackson for Search for the glow

Louise Southerden for Wildly indulgent

  • Best use of Digital – Writer, with a prize provided by Wotif:

Christina Pfeiffer for TRAVELTHERENEXT

  • Best Travel Book, with a prize provided by TravMedia:

Danielle Lancaster for 4WD Treks Close to Brisbane

Tiana Templeman for Racing road trains in a campervan

  • Best PR Campaign Award, with a prize provided by Sidekicker:

PPR for South African Tourism Australia

Travel news: Freewheeling across the world

Cycling in the German Alps. Photo: Bruce Robertson
Freewheeling
Have bicycle, will travel. But if you’re not sure where
to ride, click on to this serious collection of bike tours from around the
world. At last count, the website listed 7000 tours in 123 countries for all
levels of fitness, for road bikes, mountain bikes and even electronic bikes. Website
founder and keen cyclist Bruce Robertson is currently infatuated with Korea,
where he’s going with friends for a 350km ride from Seoul to Andong. “Korea’s
cycle paths and infrastructure are incredible,” he says. “The paths follow the
rivers, not the roads.” The site also loves a best-of list, including the best
off-road tours and city tours, packing tips and a guide to choosing the best bicycle
tour. To lycra or not to lycra? That’s your call. See cycletoursglobal.com.

APARTMENTS
Sleep easy with
the locals
Dublin city, the heart of Istanbul and the jewel of the
Greek islands, Santorini, are the latest destinations in Tempo Holidays’ 2015 Apartments
& Catering Worldwide brochure. Stay in an Italian condo on Lake Como, a maison
in the Cote des Maures in France or
a villa on the Portuguese Algarve. All properties are researched by Tempo
Holidays, which is owned by the world’s longest established
travel company, Cox & Kings. Many apartments and villas include
hotel facilities such as daily or weekly servicing, but with the freedom of
your own space and 24-hour help. Great for larger families or groups, they are
priced per night, but with discounts for extended stays. Phone 1300 558 987, see tempoholidays.com.
FOOD
Of souks and spices in Morocco
Discover the soul of Morocco on a 10-day gastronomic tour
of the country with TV chef and self-described ‘gastronaut’ Geoff Jansz. The
journey starts in gritty Casablanca and travels through the ancient, regal
cities of Fes, Meknes and Rabat, finishing up in Marrakesh. You’ll taste and
learn about Morocco’s culinary traditions with local experts, shop for spices
in magnificent souks (markets), drink Berber tea in the Atlas Mountains and eat
in restaurants selected by Jansz. There’s also a visit to Roman ruins of
Volubilis, Andalusian gardens and the craziness of Marrakesh’s central square,
Djamma el Fna. The tour will accommodate 24 guests, from November 1-10, 2015.
Costs $6895 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 590 317, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

AIRLINES
Best Fiji cuisine
Taste Fiji before you even get hit the happy isles with Fiji
Airways’ new signature dish for business-class passengers. The airline offers a
charred beef fillet with masala chai tea rub, herb buttered prawns and Fijian
organic vegetables, or seared wild fish with coriander and pineapple rice pilaf
and
red papaya curry sauce. The dishes are designed by Fiji Airways’
Culinary Ambassador chef Lance Seeto, who says the menu is influenced not just
the native iTaukei cuisine but Indian, Chinese and colonial British as well.
Seeto, who is based on Fiji’s Castaway Island resort, says it’s part of a
culinary renaissance taking place across the country. Other business-class menu
additions include a Fijian rum cocktail and mocktail, and the Yadra Vinaka
(good morning) sleeper service. Phone 1800 230
150, see fijiairways.com.

KIDS
Come to mamma
Whoever thought having kids meant giving up seriously
good food and wine? The new La Dolce Vita Wine & Food Festival welcomes
kids with all of its Italian heart. Held at eight wineries in Victoria’s King
Valley, there will be jumping castles and giant sandpits, playgrounds and
circus training, and every winery will offer a kids’ menu. Meanwhile, parents
(and non-parents) can test-drive Prosecco cocktails, turn their hand at gnocchi
making, cruise the market stalls or join a Long Lunch. The festival takes place
on November 15-16. Phone 1800 801 065, see
winesofthekingvalley.com.au
 
GEAR
Clean hands, clear
conscience
If the phrase ‘life-changing hand sanitiser’ sounds a
little far-fetched, log the tracking number on the back of this antibacterial
hand sanitiser and you may find you’ve just helped provide clean water for a
village in Myanmar. These body care products are from Thankyou, a social enterprise
that channels its profits directly into health and hygiene training in
developing nations. The hand sanitiser is a trusty travel companion that comes
in a tasty grapefruit or eucalyptus mint fragrance, and at 50ml, it’s well
under the airlines’ carry-on liquids limit. Other products include hand cream
and soap, all Australian made, all without harsh chemicals and all are
ethically sourced. Available at major supermarkets. See thankyou.co.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Takeoff travel news: August 31

AIRLINE
Greater Goode
The movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people in the Australian Constitution has just been boosted into the
skies as Qantas adopts the RECOGNISE logo on its new QantasLink Dash 8 Q400 aircraft.
Qantas Ambassador and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes says he is thrilled by
the new livery and urges Australians to sign up to the movement at
recognise.org.au. “It’s  so  important 
that  every  one 
of  us  plays 
our  part  in 
campaigning  for  this 
referendum  and  securing 
a resounding YES vote,” he says. Qantas is adding a RECOGNISE
logo to all its 31 Q400 aircraft flying within Australia and to PNG.
SHOP
Global Glamazons
Buy the world on a ‘glamcation,’ a luxe jaunt for ladies
who shop. The girls-only trips are tailored for women over 30 and include
preening beauty sessions, insider info on the best fashion boutiques and
red-carpet entrances into A-list events fashion and sporting events, from the
races in Hong Kong to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and Broadway shows. The
tours are also timed to hit the sales, including New York’s Black Friday sales and private shopping events at Hong
Kong’s Lane Crawford
.
Led by self-confessed bagaholic, perfume tragic and organisational queen
Justine Weller, the very first glamcation, Tropics Shopaholics Honolulu, gets
underway in September 7-15, $4299, followed by Fully Loaded Hong Kong (October
5-12, $3995) and Glam Apple New York (November 22-30, $4499). Excludes
airfares. Phone 0414 753 767, see glamaramagetaways.com.

KIDS

Apple of your eye
Plan a three-day active family getaway in Tassie in two
of the island’s iconic destinations, Cradle Mountain and Freycinet Peninsula.
Tasmanian Expeditions’ two new family trips are run in the school holidays, both
departing from Launceston. The Freycinet adventure includes three days’ easy
coastal walking around the officially beautiful Wineglass Bay, whereas the more
challenging Cradle Mountain journey sees you touch highs and lows, up to the
mountain’s summit and underground in Mole Creek Karst National Park. Accommodation
is in multi-share cabins, with savings for bigger families and includes
professional walking guides, park permits, packed lunches and hot dinners for
hungry hikers. Costs $1095 for adults, $895 for kids under 16. Phone 1300 666 856,
see tasmanianexpeditions.com.au.
GEAR
Carry on
Oh, the places you’ll go, with these travel accessories
from Kikki-k. Its new ‘Adventure Awaits’ range includes leather passport
holders, cosmetics bags and onboard bags that manage cables,
paperwork and tablets, all neatly packed away. Printed with the cheeky line,
‘I’m ok, carry on’ the sturdy clear plastic ziplock bags – ideal for carry-on
liquids – might even get a smile out of the Customs crew. The pink and navy
range has just hit the shelves. Canvas luggage tag, $12.95. Canvas onboard bag,
$34.95. Plastic pouches (2 pack), $9.95. Call (03) 9645 6346, see kikki-k.com.
TECH
Destination known
Squint no more for directions, Navman’s newest GPS is
easy on the eye, with a seven-inch screen and free lifetime map updates. The new
EZY GPS is Bluetooth handsfree, lists blackspots and landmarks including service stations and has logbook capabilities, helpful for tax
calculations. It also lets you search by keyword, rather than requiring an
exact address and is pre-loaded with Australian and New Zealand maps. European
maps can be bought outright or rented for 30 days from $25. The EZY270LMT GPS
costs $279. Phone 1300 628 626, see navman.com.au.
FOOD
Indian giver
Follow celebrated chef Christine Manfield through central
and west India for a cultural and epicurian feast: admire Rajisthan’s Kumbhalgarh
fort and the ruined city of Mandu in Madhya
Pradesh
, eat street food in Ahmedabad or taste a menu specially designed by
Christine and and the chefs of Mumbai’s top restaurants. The 15-day luxury journey
includes leopard spotting in Jawai and shopping textiles made by women
in charitable trusts. Manfield has had a love affair with India for more than 20 years and this is her eighth tour of India with Epicurious Travel. There are 10 places on
the tour, which runs February 2-17, 2015. Costs US$15,980 ($17,200) a person.  Phone (03) 9486 5409, see epicurioustravel.com.au.
TRACEY SPICER KIDS
Blobbing in Fiji
Blobbing out just got a whole lot more active with the
arrival of the Water Blob, a new rocket-shaped 
floater on Fiji’s Sigatoka River. Slip on a life jacket and blast into
the river, bouncing off the giant Blob. It’s the brainchild of Australian Jay
Whyte, owner of the Sigatoka River jet boat and village safari, who says the
Blob is a way to fly and play in the Fijian way. A three-hour Blob session
costs F$59 a person (over 10 years). See waterblobfiji.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.