I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 



Great trails, pub grub and shooting on safari : Takeoff travel news

Port Campbell National Park. Photo: Mark Watson

TECH: Talk the walk

Hit the road on foot or by bike
throughout Victoria with a new website that shows 15 great walking,
cycling and mountain-bike routes, ranging from the iconic (Great Ocean
Road or Wilson’s Promontory) to the obscure (Gippsland Plains Rail Trail
or the Goldfields Track). The new website provides GPS data,
interactive mapping, beauty spots, trail descriptions and degrees of
difficulty. You can also click for accommodation, gear hire and, of
course, great restaurants, because trail mix doesn’t always cut it. See greattrailsvictoria.com.au.

FOOD: Best grub for pub lovers

Fight back against the demise of the
great English public house by settling in for lunch at Britain’s oldest
pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, in the Hertfordshire city of St Albans.
The pub’s kitchen is now headed up by chef Ian Baulsh, a St Albans local
recently returned from two years in Australia working with Melbourne
celeb chef Ian Curley.
Founded in the eighth century, the
pub’s signature dishes are freerange, house-made pork sausages and beef
burgers sourced by a master butcher, and a British cheeseboard, all
using local produce. Baulsh has added a summery touch,

with chicken liver pate, pan-roasted
monkfish and chargrilled tuna nicoise. St Alban was Britain’s first
Christian martyr, Oliver Cromwell sank pints in the pub, and it’s been
called home by Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Hawking.
The city is 25 minutes by train from London’s St Pancras station on the Thameslink line. See

AIRLINE: Planes, gains and automobiles

Passengers flying Qantas can now
earn as well as redeem points on car hire with Budget and Avis in
Australia and New Zealand. And in a move that will have points
collectors smiling, travellers also will earn frequent flyer points even
when they are paying with points. ‘‘Members will still continue to earn
points for that booking at the same rate as they would if they were
paying with cash,’’ says the airline. Its rival, Virgin Australia, lets
you earn points with Hertz, Europcar and Thrifty car rentals through its
Velocity Frequent Flyer program, but allows you to use points to book a
car only with Europcar; see
. In other news, Qantas is ramping up flights to Hamilton Island,
including a new, twice-weekly Melbourne-Hamilton Island service from
June 27. See

SAFARI: Ready, set, shoot

Photographers of all abilities will
know the frustration of snapping a safari through sticky windows or
around a badly placed safety pole.
The new safari jeep at South
Africa’s Sabi Sabi private reserve has been customised for photography
tours, with tiered seating and swivel chairs, fixed camera mounts for
additional stability and cut-out side panels. The tours are guided by professional photographers and include tuition on shutter speeds and action shots, held over sundowners

back at the lodge. Would-be lion
paparazzi can also hire additional equipment including the big guns –
such as a 200-400-millimetre lens – to pap the Big Five as they roam the
fence-free range on the edge of the Kruger National Park.
Photography safaris at Sabi Sabi run on

demand, all year round and cost from
$1800, two days, includes photographer and vehicle for up to four
people. Stays at Sabi Sabi’s Bush lodge cost from $1030 a person,
sharing. See sabisabi.com.

AIRPORTS: Flying, beautifully

Life spent in airports is quite
possibly life wasted. Instead, use that time when your flight’s delayed
to become beautiful (within reason) at AMUSE Beauty Studio, which has
opened recently at Sydney Airport. The new store stocks some of the most
desirable names in the industry, including Tom Ford, Jo Malone and
Amouage. It also offers

free beauty quickies for brows and nails, and an express make-up service for that emergency smoky eye.
As well, it’s home to Australia’s first Hermes concept shop-within-a-store, stocking its homewares range, which has

never been available outside its
branded stores. The beauty store, run by the parents of the Newslink
chain, is now open in Sydney Airport’s domestic terminals, T2 and T3,
and comes to Melbourne in August.

BOOK: Propaganda paradise

So North Korea’s on your bucket
list? Get a taste for its altered reality with Anna Broinowski’s witty
book, The Director is the Commander. The filmmaker wanted to make a
movie that would stop the creation of a coalseam gas mine near her home,
in Sydney Park, so she

turned to the master of propaganda,
Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea and author of the
manifesto The Cinema and Directing. 

The only Western filmmaker in the
world to gain total access to North Korea’s film industry, Broinowski
worked with local directors, actors and crews to create Aim High in
Creation! The Director is the Commander, $32.99,
penguin.com.au. NSW-based Guidepost Tours books
tours of North Korea with British-based Koryo Tours. A five-day tour
(including visa processing) costs from $2000 a person, departing from
See guideposttours.com.au.

Famous Flyer: Deborah Hutton

Hutton rates driving through Provence as her best holiday experience.

An African safari and the Maldives are on Deborah Hutton’s wish list.

a car in Paris and driving to St Tropez over four days. I stayed at
little inns and ate at great restaurants through Provence, really
getting a feel for the country. It ended with the madness of St Tropez,
which is FUN in capital letters.

Soho in London – I love the position and it has the most divine suites –
and the tiny, tiny Eichardt’s Private Hotel in Queenstown. The
interiors are by Virginia Fisher, who does all the Huka Retreats. It’s
right in the centre of Queenstown with a great little bar downstairs.
You go in for five minutes and the next day, they’re like, “Hello
Deborah, that was a pinot, wasn’t it?’ They really get you.

same as everyone else – my iPad, my earplugs, and eye mask. I do have a
little baby travel pillow I always squeeze into an air suction bag, so I
have the consistency of a good pillow.

has to be a great golf course – that’s generally what I look for first.
It’s also got to be warm, with a beach (though I can do pool), with
good friends and good restaurants.

always photocopy my passport and credit cards, and I always split my
credit cards up, leaving one in the hotel safe and one in my wallet.
It’s gotten me out of trouble before, when I had my bag stolen in Ibiza
(surprise, surprise!).

pals booked a “divine design hotel” in Koh Samui. The pool’s filtration
system was broken, and it was green. And there was no restaurant, you
ate in bures on the beach. And then the weather turned. No pool, rain
and sitting cross-legged on the beach, eating bad Thai? I booked a
flight back to Bangkok and checked into The Peninsula hotel.

it too late to pack, because I then pack too much. You just hate
yourself on long-haul trips every time you have to repack.

the top of my list is an African safari and the Maldives. I would stay
at one of the Evason resorts in the Maldives. They’re just heaven on a
stick. I see photos of the beautiful water and think, “That’s just me”.
And I want a cocktail and I want one with an umbrella. To me, that
screams “holiday!”

Deborah Hutton is an ambassador for NRMA’s Living Well Navigator, livingwellnavigator.com.au.

Interview by Belinda Jackson

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

Summer reading: a not-very-definitive list

My first (and last) English Christmas was a shock to many senses: there was snow (albeit very light, very dirty), there were Brussels sprouts (surely only the English consider them a celebratory food) and there was television.

As our Australian marketing machines constantly tell us, our Christmases are all about the beach, cricket and low-level sunburn. So to be huddled in front of the telly watching soap omnibuses seemed a curious way to spend the festive season.

It’s not quite television, and the weather here in Melbourne has been exemplary this year: not too hot, not too cold, but I’ve come over all Northern hemisphere and am catching up on a small mountain of unread fiction, with a travel bent, of course.

Here’s a little list of recent releases from Australian authors that have made a welcome appearance on the bedside table.

The most recent of the list is by prolific South Australian author Fiona McIntosh, who I have long admired for her adult fantasy series (think Lord of the Rings fantasy, not the other type, smutsters). She has turned out a fast-paced romance set in WWI Cairo, Gallipoli and post-war London. Nightingale ticks all the boxes, with handsome men, golden women and love found and lost in traumatic times. Does the girl get her man? It’s over to you… (Penguin Books, $29.99)

Action seekers know Matthew Reilly is the man to turn to when you want to be left breathless from reading (to give you a suggestion of his pace, the Sydney writer drives DeLorean DMC-12 – the car from Back to the Future). His latest book, The Great Zoo of China is, as the title indicates, set in China and has an absolute cracker of a premise, which I just can’t tell you about. His heroine, CJ Cameron, is a tad too tough, tenacious and intelligent for wimpy me to relate to, but I could not put this book down. That was a week of lost sleep (Pan Macmillan, $39.99)

And finally (not in the picture, as it’s already been nabbed by my mum), Stateless is the second in the Heritage trilogy about the evolution of the State of Israel. Written by Alan Gold and Mike Jones, it caused a ruckus in our house with the highly controversial throw-away line that the Egyptian army is known to be cowardly. Eeep! Otherwise, Stateless races along with plenty of secret plots and dastardly tyrants from Roman-occupied Jerusalem to post-WWII Russia. The first in the trilogy is called Bloodline, I’ll be seeking it out. (Simon & Schuster Australia, $29.99)

The next on the list is Tony Park‘s The Hunter (‘A missing woman, a serial killer at large… man is the most dangerous predator of all’). I’m not that into murder as entertainment, but this book moves from South Africa to Zimbabwe and the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, which I love. And in the appendices, Park also shares travel tips from his extensive experience of travelling in Africa (Pan Macmillan, $29.99)

I hope you’re all enjoying a great summer read, or if you’re further north and not nose-in-book, the plotlines in the soaps have improved.

See you all in 2015!


Traveller: Takeoff travel news August 10, 2014

Zafara tented camp, Botswana


Delta’s new dawn
Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a chain of lagoons and
floodplains in the Kalahari Desert, has been named UNESCO’s 1000th
World Heritage Site. From June to August, the delta trebles in size as it
floods, attracting Africa’s great wildlife. Explore on foot, game
drive, helicopter, on horseback or by dugout canoe. Best visited in the cooler
months from April to October, check out the new Dhow suites in the Zarafa tented
camp (1300 237 422, benchinternational.com.au) or the newly renovated ecological Sandibe
Okavango Safari Lodge (andBeyond.com). The
lodge reopens on September 1.
Snuffle a truffle
Australian truffles are no flash in the pan – they’re
muscling their way onto the world’s tables, with a legion of fans including
many-Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal. Wander through the trees of Oak Valley truffle farm in Western Australia’s
Manjimup district, hunting with hounds for French black truffles. The new tour
aims to demystify the pricey fungus while you snack on freshly roasted
hazelnuts and trail a truffle dog. ‘‘People are fascinated by truffles,
particularly their rarity and expense,’’ says guide Peter Norris. Catering for up to seven guests, the tour ends  with a truffle lunch at
Watershed Premium Wines in Margaret River. The full-day tour costs $240 a
person, including lunch and wine. Phone 0411 186 430, see goinstyle.com.au.

The Paris Cat, Melbourne


Drink up,

Let go of your Sydney sensibilities and walk down the
darkest alley in Melbourne – then go down the stairs. Basement bars are where
it’s all at in this town at the moment, from hip jazz cafes to boutique wine
bars. Half the fun is finding them (signs are for tourists), and the latest
edition of Melbourne’s Bars and Pubs is now free and spells out the dress code,
the average price of a meal, happy hours and even the average age of punters. This
is not a directory – expect a curated list that’s written and developed by
Melburnians. It’ll hook you up with the cool bar nearest you, with GPS, maps
and photos, weekly gigs and lets you check in via facebook or foursquare,
for extra bragability. Available on iPhone and Android, free. melbournesbarsandpubs.com.au.


Tall tales from
small travellers
Young kids have a different perspective on the world, and
not just because they’re usually a foot shorter than you. Let local kids lead yours
around their home town, from Brisbane to Fiji or Glasgow, on the Bound Round
travel app for iPhone and iPad. In each location, kids aged eight to 12 years share
tips about great parks and sights to fun activities and food, with videos,
photos and games. Currently, there are travel guides and experiences for 20
locations worldwide, with the Pacific Islands, Darwin, Adelaide and Perth going
live by the year’s end. Next year, there’s a focus on the US and the UK, but
even if you’re not jetting off anywhere soon, it’s ideal to crack the conundrum
of what to do in school holidays in Sydney or Melbourne. Founded by Sydneysider
Janeece Keller, all content is vetted by a board of kids and the iPhone app has
also just gone live, free. See boundround.com.
The Travel Wallet by Bellroy


Slim pickings
Pack your passport in your
pocket without ruining the line on your skinny jeans with the Travel Wallet
from Victorian designers Bellroy, who are evangelical about reinventing the
slimline wallet. The wallet is a favourite with bag aficionados and stockists
Rushfaster, who recommend it for the micro pen – essential when all the airport
pens at customs are dead.
It’s carefully designed not to crumple boarding passes. Costs $119.95. Phone (02) 8594 1100, see rushfaster.com.au.
On The Ghan

Rock on over

Get right off the beaten track with the Ghan’s new
four-day journey into the heart of Australia. One of a new series of train journeys,
it departs Darwin and takes four days to reach Adelaide, stopping for a starlit
dinner in the MacDonnell Ranges and a day underground in the opal-rich town of
Coober Pedy. For an additional charge, you can even fly in to Uluru and still
have time to rejoin the train. The four-day, three-night Ghan
journey runs from May 23-August 22, 2015 and is one of the new offerings in the
2015/16 timetable.
Costs from $3199 a person, Gold twin share. Phone 1800 725 993, see greatsouthernrail.com.au.
Creepy capers
Scaring the kids has never been so right: BIG4 Holiday
Parks is pulling out the cobwebs and pumpkins for its annual Halloween
camp-out to raise money for children’s cancer charity Camp Quality. Campsites
cost $20 in the 85 participating Big4 parks across Australia, with many
parks running additional activities such as BBQs, face painting and creepy
capers. Camp and sCare runs Friday 31 across Australia, and Friday October 24
in Victoria. Book online at BIG4.com.au.

Travel deals: Shizuka Ryokan

The Peninsula Paris, now open.

Go Japanese in Victoria or channel Peninsula style in Paris: the world is your oyster, so add garnish and drink it up in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.

Save on an airfare to a Japanese spa and instead stay at
Shizuka Ryokan in Hepburn Springs, 75 minutes from Melbourne: expect
green tea, tatami and spa cuisine. Book and pay in full by July 31 and
get $50 credit. From $179 a room a night, three-night stay. See shizuka.com.au.


Do India in five-star style and save $1165 a person for
travel until September 30. Begin in Delhi and travel by private car to
Agra, the pink city of Jaipur and the city of palaces, Udaipur, staying
in Oberoi hotels. From $2785 a person, twin share. See abercrombiekent.com.au.

Set in Brisbane’s CBD, the new Mantra on the Quay opens with a
bang – and a discount until August 31. The one, two and three-bed
self-contained apartments all have balconies, and facilities include an
outdoor heated pool and tennis courts. From $189 a night, one-bed
apartment. See mantra.com.au.

Save over $2600 a couple on an eight-day stay in six camps in
Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. Travel includes walking safaris
and game drives. Departs Lusuka, travel by October 31. From $5487 a
person. Phone 1300 363 302, see africanwildlifesafaris.com.au.

The ultra-luxe Peninsula Paris opens its doors on August 1
and is celebrating with an offer that saves $580 from the standard rate.
Expect 360-degree views from the rooftop restaurant, a Rolls-Royce in
the driveway and an elegant spa. From August 1-31. From $1005 a night.
See peninsula.com.
Sneak in a staycation at one of Metro Hotels and Apartments’
four Sydney properties and catch a winter special until August 31. Stay
at the Metro Hotel Sydney Central, with breakfast for two and Wi-Fi
included. From $143 a night, saving $207. See metrohotels.com.au.

Skip the hedonistic schoolies celebrations and channel that
new-found freedom into voluntouring in Cambodia. Spend five days
volunteering on community projects such as teaching English or working
in a team on a development project, overseen by an experienced
co-ordinator. Then reward yourself with some beach time in Cambodia’s
resort town, Sihanoukville, and take a guided tour of Phnom Penh and
Siem Reap’s UNESCO-listed Angkor Wat. Includes international flights,
transfers and 24-hour emergency contact. Departs November 22. From $2700
a person. 1300 559 527, travelpartners.com.au.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday. 

Get going: party on the Pacific Jewel

Explore Antarctica with Abercrombie & Kent

Hit the high seas or relaxing rivers with this week’s international and travel deals, featuring cruises from Broome to Botswana. 

Cruise the Chobe River on the African Queen and save $420 a
couple on a three-night adventure, until June 30. See water-loving
elephants and hippos and take a game drive. From $1865 a person, twin
share, $2295 singles, phone (02) 9290 2877, see benchinternational.com.au.

Time poor? Escape for a three-night sea break on the Pacific
Jewel. The ship features seven restaurants, nine bars and clubs, spa,
zip-liner and big screens galore. Depart May 30, save $150. From $339 a
person, quad share. Phone 132 494, see pocruises.com.au.

P&O’s Pacific Jewel.

Save 30 per cent on selected seven-night cruises on the
88-guest River Cloud II between April and August. Cruise the Rhine, from
Basel to Amsterdam, with all meals and a bottle of champagne to say
hello. Book by March 31. From $2195 a person, twin share. 1300 583 572, seacloud.com.

Cruise the Murray River in winter (June to August) and save
up to 25 per cent on three, four or seven-night cruises. Includes meals,
shore excursions and coach transfers from Adelaide to Mannum. From $674
a person, three nights. Phone (02) 9206 1111, see captaincook.com.au.

Save up to $3350 a person on three 2014-15 specialist
Antarctic journeys, covering climate change, photography or family
Christmas cruising. The 12-day Classic Antarctica journey costs from
$12,850 a person, twin share. Book by March 31. Phone 1300 590 317, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

Follow the historical Kunmunya Wilderness Walk, a shore tour
on three Kimberley cruises from Broome to Darwin on June 2, 13 and 23.
Book by March 31 and get a free stay and camel ride in Broome, worth
$500. From $7390 a person, 11 days. Phone 1800 637 688, see auroraexpeditions.com.au.

MV River Orchid on the Mekong River.

Mekong meander

Spend 15 days exploring Vietnam and Cambodia by land, air
and water including seven nights aboard the River Orchid on the Mekong
River. From Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, you’ll sail the delta of
southern Vietnam then head into Phnom Penh and the Tonle Sap river.
Includes flights from Siem Reap to Hanoi. Book by November 30 for
travel until December 23. From $5814 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 939 414, see flightcentre.com.au.


Alaskan adventures

Multi-generational travel – a fancy name for holidays with
the grandchildren and grandparents – is so hot right now. “Take the
grandkids to Alaska” is the call for families of four to join the
Disney Wonder in Vancouver and cruise up to Ketchikan, Alaska.

The nine-night tour includes two nights in Vancouver, all
meals, kids, teen and adult clubs, first-run movies and Broadway-style
Disney musicals. From $1899 adults, $1299 kids two-11 years, quad
share. Phone 1300 886 940, see worldwidecruisecentres.com.au.

Belinda Jackson‘s Get Going column is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Step into the Famous Spiegeltent or on board a private jet for an African safari: travel deals April 7, 2013

Intercontinental Sydney
Private jets are back, people. You mean you didn’t know they were out of style, and had been hanging onto yours in a hangar out the back? Let someone else do the flying while you skim the continent of Africa. Or try Knight School in Sydney or glamp on the Great Barrier Reef in this week’s international and domestic travel deals. 
Want to know what’s happening in Sydney? The InterContinental Sydney’s chief concierge and Les Clef d’Or member David Patt suggests Cirque de las Symphony (April 18-20) or perhaps Knight School for kids during the school holidays. Sydney’s also is in the midst of its autumn thoroughbred racing season, with the Sydney Cup Day on April 27, and there are more thoroughbreds on display at the Art Gallery of NSW, at the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize winners’ annual exhibition.  Stay two nights at InterContinental Sydney before April 30 and get 20 per cent off your room as well as a free breakfast buffet for two. Costs from $250 a night. 1800 781 066, sydney.intercontinental.com.
Hobart’s iconic Wrest Point, on the banks of the Derwent River, has hit plenty of benchmarks: Australia’s first legal casino, Hobart’s first five-star rooms, and now it’s celebrating 40 years in the business with a Ruby Anniversary package. Stay in a premier suite and get room service breakfast, a box of Tasmanian red fruit, a Huon pine cheese platter and knife with Ashgrove Rubicon Red cheese, a bottle of House of Arras vintage Rose 2004 and, to finish, a commemorative ruby necklace by goldsmith Gavin MacSporran. Costs from $950 for two, saving $216. Valid until February 10, 2014. 1800 703 006, wrestpoint.com.au.

The Famous Spiegeltent is in town and Robyn Nevin is
treading the boards at the Southbank Theatre. Kick up your heels on a Friday
night at Melbourne’s coolest hotels, the Art Series, which comprises the
Cullen, Blackman and Olsen. Their Weekend Retreat deals include $25 to spend
inhouse – think food, movies or bike hire – and they’ll work in a room upgrade
as well. Valid for Friday – Monday nights until August 31. Worth around $280, costs
from $209 a night. 1800 278 468, artserieshotels.com.au.
Get shipwrecked in style on tiny Wilson Island, which can accommodate just 12 guests in six luxury tents on the beach, with hammocks, housekeepers and chefs as befits the ‘glamping’ (glamour camping) tag. The rate includes all meals and non-alcoholic drinks and return boat transfers from Gladstone. Booking the whole island saves over $300 on the individual rate: book by June 30 for stays now until May 4, from June 30 2013 – January 27, 2014 and March 1-31, 2014. Costs from $6499, two nights. 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au.

Indijup Spa Retreat, WA
Very private, very fabulous, the Indijup Spa Retreat in
Yallingup is three hours south of Perth, overlooking the Indian Ocean and is
said to lure the likes of Our Kylie. Each of the 10 villas has pools and
panoramas on tap and the spa products are by another WA success story, Sodashi.
Stay seven nights and save up to 39 percent at the five-star retreat on stays
until September 10.  Costs from $2765 a
villa, seven nights. travel.com.au.
Skiers, carve up a snow bargain in Queenstown at Oaks Shores and Oaks Club Resort, on the glacial Lake Wakatipu. Rooms start at $109 a night until June 27, rising to $134 a night between July 15 – August 31, with a minimum three-night stay. Book until April 21. Costs from $327 a room, three nights, or $717 for a two-bedroom lakeview apartment, three nights. oakshotelsresorts.com/oaks-club-resortoakshotelsresorts.com/oaks-shores.
Holiday Inn Express Phuket Patong Beach Central
Phuket’s newest hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Phuket
Patong Beach Central, has just opened and is offering a lovely, long opening
special until October 2013. The deal includes breakfast and high-speed wi-fi.
There are 277 rooms with private balconies, just a few meters from the beach
and within walking distance of Patong’s shopping and dining strips. Costs from
$65++ a night. 1800 007 697, holidayinnexpress.com.
Mneba Island, Tanzania
A tiny dot in the Indian Ocean off the coastline of
Zanzibar, Mneba Island hosts just 20 guests at one time. Stay three nights at Mnemba
Island Lodge and get a free one-way flight from Zanzibar. The private island is
famed for its white-sand beaches, coral reefs and dive sites, and the rate
includes all meals, drinks and water sports, including two dives a day and
sunset dhow cruises. Book by December 31. Costs from $755 a person, twin share.
From fair Dublin to bustling Belfast, the 12-day Country
Roads of Ireland tour crosses borders, the Burren, Giant’s Causeway and the
Cliffs of Moher, for a broad-ranging exploration of an island whose influence
is disproportionate to its size. Save 5 per cent, up to $124, on bookings paid
in fully by April 30 on departure from April to October 2013. Costs from $2301
a person, twin share.  1300 237 886, insightvacations.com.
Train it to Machu Picchu then sail through the Amazon. Is
there any more to life? This 13-day small-group tour sees you climb to the top
of Machu Picchu on the luxury Hiram Bingram train, visit the Sacred Valley of
the Incas and the home of their empire, Cuzco then dive into the Amazon on the
M/V Aria and local skiffs. Book by 21 April and they’ll include free travel
insurance, worth up to $660. Costs $11,695 a person, twin share. 1800 252 053,
The private jet is back: luxury tour operator Abercrombie
& Kent takes to the skies once again in a remodelled Boeing 737, with just 40
guests going on African safari by air. The journey traverses the continent, visiting
seven countries in 19 days, from the rock-cut churches of Ethiopia to the Cape.
A&K founder Geoffrey Kent will lead a three-day Serengeti safari, and the
group has exclusive use of luxury camps in Uganda’s jungle, treehouses in
Zambia, and there are private helicopter rides over Victoria Falls and feast in
the Namibian desert. The keywords are luxury, experience and exclusivity. The
adventure departs from Rome on March 2, 2014. Costs from $76,497 a person, twin
share. 1300 851 800,

Cruising on all continents: travel deals March 17 2013

Silver Spirit in Santorini, Greece.

Cruise, baby, cruise. Get in quick to snap up a travel deal on the high seas. 

Cruise China’s Yangtze River on the
14-day Yangtze Splendour Deluxe tour that starts in Beijing and ends in
Shanghai, with six days on the Victoria
. The cruise itinerary explores ghost cities, gorges and the ancient
capital of Nanjing. The tour departs April 9 and includes return economy air
fares from Australia, six nights in five-star hotels, bias fees and
English-speaking tour guides. Save up to $600, costs from $5390 a person, twin
share. 1300 727 998, www.wendywutours.com.au.
Take a spring cruise through the Netherlands and Belgium,
with all the classic images of windmills, tulips and canals, with stops in
historic Antwerp  and gorgeous Ghent. Save
up to $1500 a couple and solo travellers have the single supplement waived when
booked by March 30, on selected departures on the eight-day Tulip Time Cruise.
Costs from $3543 for solo passengers on departures April 21, 28, and May 12,
2013 and from $2843 a person, twin share, on departures April 28 and May 12,
2013. avalonwaterways.com.au, 1300
230 234.
Discover New Caledonia in a 10-day cruise on the Carnival Spirit. The round-trip tour departs
Sydney and visits the islands of Mare, Lifou and the Isle of Pines as well as
the capital, Noumea.  Book by March 31
for travel May 19 and get $100 credit to spend on board. Costs from $749 a
person (quad share, inside cabin) or $915 (twin share, inside cabin). 1300 450
133, cruiseabout.com.au.
Swim with turtles and sea lions off the coastline of one
of the world’s star eco-tourism destinations, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The
luxury Galapagos Odyssey takes just
16 passengers on its five-day cruises that let you get up close and personal
with the islands’ famed giant tortoises and bird life. Book a five, six, 10 or
11-day cruise before March 30 for travel until September 30 and get a free stay
at a hot springs resort, city stay or a hacienda within the Cotopaxi National
Park, worth $445. Costs from $2819 a person. 1300 320 795, adventureworld.com.au.
Sail the Danube, from Romania to Austria, via
Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia, on a 16-night tour. During July and
August, children under 18 staying in their own cabin pay half price, which
includes all excursions. Save up to $1900 on the August 8 departure
on cruise-only fares. Costs from $4228 a person, twin share, includes all
meals and drinks. 1300 583 572, www.seacloud.com.
Trek the wilds of Patagonia,
then cruise ice landscape of Antarctica in a spectacular 20- or 21-day
adventure with Aurora Expeditions.  The tour begins at El Calafate, Argentina, staying in lodges iat the Torres del Paine National Park, before heading south
on the Polar Pioneer. Save 25 per cent on
departures on December 1 and December 10. Costs from $8,939 a person, triple share. (02) 9252 1033, auroraexpeditions.com.au.
Cruise the Chobe River on the Zambezi Queen in a small group tour, departing Cape Town and finishing in Johannesburg. The itinerary includes a two-day cruise on the 14-suite river boat, as well as game drives
and luxury camping. A $500 air credit on return
flights from Australia with South African Airways is available. Costs from $10,195 a person, twin share. 1300 278 278, aptouring.com.au.
The Pacific Jewel departs from Sydney and visits Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Cairns and Port Douglas, with a stop on the Reef. Book by April 1, 2013, for departure June 2, 2014 and get $100 onboard
credit per cabin. Costs from $1649 a person, twin share (inside cabin). 1300 450 133, cruiseabout.com.au.
A 21-night journey, departing on August 31, includes two days on Canada’s Rocky
Mountaineer train, a spin at the casinos in Vegas seven nights on the Star Princess from Seattle to Glacier Bay.  There’s also a stop in Las Vegas. Price includes economy return airfares with V Australia. A free
cabin upgrade may be available. Costs from $6,879 a person.  1300 369 848, ecruising.travel.
The nine-day ‘Nile in Style’ tour, cruising between Luxor to Aswan on the luxury boat Sanctuary Sun Boat IV, includes the services of a private Egyptologist in Cairo,
visiting the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Save 25 per cent on departures between
April 5 – May 1. Costs from $3169 a person, twin share, or $4508 solo
traveller. 1300 851 800, abercrombiekent.com.au.
Silversea Cruises is offering special fares on its three Mediterranean
departures on the flagship craft, Silver
. Book by March 31 and check in to one of Silversea’s Silver Suites,
featuring marble bathrooms, espresso machines, a large veranda and separate
dining and living areas. There’s also the butler and personalised bar, the Relais & Châteaux meals and the
Champagne on tap, to ensure smooth sailing. The three sailings include
16 days from Venice to Barcelona, departing October 24 cruising the Adriatic,
Ionian and Mediterranean seas, visiting Monte Carlo and the French Riviera. Costs
from $12,739 a person. 1300 306 872, silversea.com.
Celebrate the beauty and diversity of Australia with the
circumnavigation of Australia on the Queen
Mary 2
, the grand dame of the Cunard line. The journey starts and ends in
Sydney, departing February 19, 2014, and takes 23 nights, stopping in Brisbane,
the Whitsunday Islands, Darwin, Bali, Fremantle, Adelaide and Melbourne.  Go the healthy option with yoga, gym and spa
treatments, or learn to make cocktails, go line dancing and hit the 15
restaurants and bars. Australians love the ocean liner’s heritage, and fares
are in hot demand. Costs from $5641 a person (inside stateroom). 132 441,

Find the romance of Persia or follow the Great Migration: travel deals 10 March 2013

Ancient cities, warm hospitality, wild landscapes: the romance of Persia is calling. Closer to home, get fabulous in northern NSW or Thailand, or follow the Great Migration across the Serengeti and Masai Mara.

Walking is the new cycling, which is of course the new golf, and one of the best walking destinations in the country is Tassie. The new Three Capes walk hugs the sea cliffs of the Tasman peninsula and out to Cape Raoul. This three-day tour also includes a visit to Port Arthur and a jet boat wilderness cruise (yes, you read that right). Normally $1095, book before March 23 and save 15 per cent on the April 24 departure.  Costs $930 a person, three days. 1300 666 856, tasmanianexpeditions.com.au.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Canberra.


Travelling to Canberra to see the best of Toulouse Lautrec is a whole lot cheaper than hauling off to Paris. Stay at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra during the boho Paris exhibition and you’ll get overnight accommodation in a Park Room as well as two tickets to the Toulouse Lautrec exhibition, breakfast and free parking. The offer runs until April 2, quote code ‘TOUL’. Costs from $345 per room. 131 234, canberra.park.hyatt.com.

Golf aficionados head far west for a putt in the sun, and non-golfing spouses will enjoy the diversion of staying a houseboat on the Murray River. Stay four nights on a deluxe houseboat and play Mildura’s two 18-hole courses, including buggy hire and get full breakfast provisions, dinner at the Gol Gol hotel and a gourmet barbeque. Normally from $900 a person, save $350. Costs from $550. 1800 800 842, willandrahouseboats.com.au.

It’s billed as the ultimate fishing safari, and when you spot the barramundi lurking in the shadows of the waters around the Kimberley Coastal Camp, you’ll have to agree. The remote camp is on the Kimberley’s Admiralty Gulf, and is offering half-price fishing safaris from March 19-22 or March 22-25. Includes air transfers from Kununurra, a scenic flight over the magnificent Mitchell Falls, all meals, accommodation and fishing tackle use. Costs from $3382 a person. 0417 902 006,  kimberleycoastalcamp.com.au.


Cabarita Ocean Spa, NSW

You’re a healthier you, on the NSW far north coast.  Book a health retreat at Cabarita Ocean Spa with a friend and save 25 per cent on all stays until March 23, and singles get 15 per cent off. Expect surfing and stand-up paddling, as befits an ocean retreat that’s moments from the coastline, as well as lashings of organic, locally sourced food and Sodashi in the spa. Costs from $1650 a person, twin share, three nights. (02) 6674 3111, cabaritaoceanretreat.com.au.

Canny backpackers have long known that an overnight train journey saves on the cost of accommodation. Do it in style and save, as Rail Europe celebrates its 18th birthday with up to 65 per cent off City Night Line trains, which operate in eight countries including Germany, Denmark and the Czech Republic. Book by April 2, travel by June 30. Costs from $59 in couchette, $70 in double sleeper economy. raileurope.com.au.
Bali bargain hunters alert. Fly with Virgin Australia from Sydney to Denpasar and stay seven nights for the price of five in a deluxe pool view room at the Kuta Lagoon Resort, on Jalan Legian. The offer includes breakfast, airport transfers and regular shuttle buses to the surf and bangle sellers at Kuta Beach. Book until 3pm June 7 for travel from April 28 to June 14. Costs from $1,079 a person, twin share. 1300 130 485, travel.com.au.
It’s time to get your skates on, literally, to catch an earlybird ski bargain. Club Med’s Early Bird Ski Booking deals knock up to 30 per cent off all bookings made by July 1, including five nights in Yabuli, China as well as Europe and Japan. Packages include ski passes, lessons, all meals, open bar and snacks as well as travel insurance. Valid for travel from December 1 to April 7, 2014. Costs from $1033 for adults, $584 for children, five nights. 1800 258 263, clubmed.com.au.
Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary, Koh Samui, Thailand

Heal thyself: at a discount price, at Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary on Koh Samui’s south coast. First-time guests can stay four nights, pay for three until April 30. Repeat guests are not forgotten, with a stay five, pay four deal until May 31. Includes airport transfers, all meals and treatments in your wellness program as well as an initial wellness consultation and holistic activities. Costs from $3500 for seven nights on a wellness program, or accommodation only from $224 a night.  +66 (0) 77 429 800, kamalaya.com
Follow the migration paths of wilderbeest and zebras across Tanzania and Kenya, across the Masai Mara and the Serengeti. This package includes eight nights’ accommodation in luxury tented camps and a treehouse, as well as game drives and a visit to the Ngorongoro crater. Book until March 31 for travel until March 24, then May 1 – May 24 and save $1840 a person. Costs from $6629 a person. 1300 320 795, www.adventureworld.com.au.
Wind towers, Iran.

Blow the myths out of the water and discover one of the friendliest countries on earth: Iran. This tour departs from Shiraz, reached easily from Dubai or Abu Dhabi, where there’s no drinking wine, but plenty of beautiful gardens and the astonishing ancient city of Persepolis. Highlights include the romantic desert city of Yazd and one of the world’s largest plazas, Naksh-e Jahan Square, in bejewelled Isfahan. There are hill villages, palaces and fine museums as well as plenty of tea stops and fine Iranian cooking to be sampled. The 18-day Highlights of Persia tour departs October 1. Costs from $3850 a person, twin share. (02) 9418 7803, byroads.com.au.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

Rug up and reap the benefits: wintery holiday bargains


If you’re keen for a wintery holiday, there are bargains to be had.

New York City

In post-Christmas Manhattan, crowds drop off, hotel prices come down, sales take off and ice skates come into their own. It’s Restaurant Week, too, in January/February, during which key fine-dining places offer fixed-price menus.
The 414 Hotel in midtown Manhattan has a “stay four nights, pay for three” deal in its queen-size rooms, from January 5 to February 28. The 414 is a small hotel comprising two townhouses with a courtyard in between. West 46th Street (46th and Ninth Avenue), from $155 a night. 414hotel.com.
The Condor Hotel is in a commercial-residential Jewish neighbourhood of Brooklyn where Hasidic tradition meets hipster gentrification. The subway is about a three-block walk from the hotel, as are a string of restaurants on Myrtle Avenue. The hotel has a seven-night offer in January and February with savings of up to 20 per cent. A twin room, with kitchenette and balcony, costs from $US167.82 ($160) a night , including taxes, dropping to $US131 a night, including taxes, for the bulk of the seven-night stay. The hotel has a lounge and garden and the room rate includes breakfast. 56 Franklin Avenue. condorny.com.
Paris B&B, petiteparis.com.au


Cathay Pacific has early-bird flights to Europe via Hong Kong for those who can delay their Christmas gift to themselves until April 2013. Economy-class return flights cost from $1640 if booked by December 31 for travel between April 1 and May 31 or between September 1 and October 31. Destinations include London, Rome, Milan, Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow and Amsterdam. Early-bird premium economy return seats to Europe cost from $3112. 13 17 47, cathaypacific.com.
The “Canton route” is a new take on the classic “kangaroo route” from Australia to Europe. Canton is Guangzhou, a city of about 12 million just across the delta from Hong Kong, and an emerging stopover for travellers, courtesy of it being the home base of China Southern Airlines. Early-bird fares are available for bookings made until December 31 for travel from January 22 to June 30, 2013. Costs from $1289 for a return economy-class fare to Paris or Amsterdam; from $1439 to London. Conditions apply. 1300 889 628, csair.com.au.
Paris apartments to rent can be well-placed gems. Stays in January mean savings, too. For example, an apartment in the 17th arrondissement about 15 minutes’ walk from the Arc de Triomphe is a green oasis in the centre of the city. Originally built as a nuns’ cloister, the apartment can accommodate three people and has a kitchen. Stay in January for €140 ($173) a night, twin share.petiteparis.com.au.
Ephesus, Turkey
Austria is ski central. An eight-night Ski Plus package in Tyrol’s SkiWelt costs from $675 a person, quad share, when booked with any other winter Europe tour. Includes overnight transfers from London and breakfast daily. 1300 266 845, contiki.com.au.
Turkey encompasses cosmopolitan Istanbul, ancient Ephesus and mournful Gallipoli. An 11-night tour visits the sites, including Demre on the Mediterranean coast and the trading port of Phoenicus, now Finike. Save 15 per cent on bookings until January 15, 2013, for travel from December 19, 2012, to December 19, 2013. From $935 a person. adventureworld.com.au.


High in the wine region of Valle de Guadalupe, 20 eco-cabins meld into the environment to create Endemico, a Design Hotel in Mexico’s Baja California. Remote, yes, but also just 90 minutes from San Diego by air. Get 20 per cent off the best available rate on two-night stays, or stay three nights, pay for two, until March 17, 2013. Costs from $US280 for two nights; from $US350 for three nights.designhotels.com.


Now’s a great time to visit – without the crowds or the heat. Tempo Holidays has a two-for-the-price-of-one package on its 11-day Wonders of Egypt tour, which visits Cairo and Alexandria, El Alamein’s World War II battlefields and includes a four-night cruise on the Nile. Book by December 31, travel until September 30, 2013. Costs from $3162 for two people.


Marrakesh is the jewel of Morocco. It’s winter here, so rug up and admire the snowy peaks behind the city. Save 30 per cent on three-night stays at Angsana Riads Collection Morocco until February 18, 2013 (excludes stays between December 23 and January 6). Costs from $350 for three nights. 1800 050 019, angsana.com.

Cruise New Zealand

Save up to $930 on the price of an inside cabin on a 13-night voyage aboard the Dawn Princess from Melbourne to New Zealand departing on February 18. Sail through the stunning Fiordland National Park and visit Wellington, Napier and Auckland. The voyage costs from $1369 a person from Melbourne, or $1800 from Sydney, which includes Qantas flights and a two-night pre-cruise stay at the Crowne Promenade Melbourne. The deal also comes with a $75 shipboard credit. Book by December 31. 1300 596 345, cruise1st.com.au.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/holiday-type/budget/rug-up-and-reap-the-benefits-20121207-2azsk.html#ixzz2FByOft9L

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

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