Bushbaby Staff News
Our team of consultants continues to grow! You can be assured of personal service and in-depth knowledge as our two new members of staff also herald from the regions they specialise in! They are also Mums themeselves so truly understand the needs of families if you are looking to share your Bushbaby adventure with children.
Joining Abi, Jim and Chantal (who is based in Cape Town) is Kristi, a native Australian, is managing our Antipodean Adventures.
Tamara is developing programmes to Sri Lanka and Europe (both places she has lived) whilst Polly is leading the way with Asia and Sara in Latin America.
Where we’ve ‘Been and Seen’
We appreciate how important it is for clients to speak to someone who has’ been and seen’ the destinations and hotels they are considering booking. Further, in the main our Consultants are parents who have travelled to these locations with children, so families can rest in the knowledge that considerations regarding to younger guests will be taken in to account.
Costa Rica (November 2012)
In November, Sara waved goodbye to cold British climes and headed off to tropical Costa Rica.
Sadly the sun was largely absent during my stay, but it was gloriously warm and this amazing country offers such an abundance of natural beauty that the weather is really secondary. Over ten days, I travelled through dense, remote rainforest, woke early for fascinating nature tours in the beautiful cloud forests, sailed through mangroves to the coastal town of Tortuguero, had a memorable sunset horse-ride at the exquisite Punta Islita Hotel, visited coffee plantations, spotted crocodiles and caiman in the wetlands near Liberia, walked along pristine white beaches, zip-lined through the jungle canopy and generally tried and tested over 25 wonderful places to stay to bring you the very best of Costa Rica. Here are my personal favourites:
Top 3 places to visit
- The beautiful, mystical cloud forests north of the capital offer a true ‘back to nature’ wilderness experience, stunning scenery and awe-inspiring bird and animal life. Combined with the fantastic adventure activities on offer, this is one area I will definitely be returning to with my 5 and 6 year olds!
- The Osa Peninsula: I loved everything about this unspoilt corner of Costa Rica, from the exhilarating journey to reach the pristine Corcovado National Park (nothing like a small plane ride and speedboat trip along jungle fringed white beach coastline to feel like a true adventurer), to the stunning setting, and sense of escape from the stress of normal life as a busy working mum.
- The Nicoya Peninsula and Punta Islita: if you want to be coccooned in paradise for a few days, this is the place to come….the scenery is not as dramatic as other regions, but it has everything in one place and is blissfully relaxing, with your every need thoughtfully attended to….a place which is good for the soul.
Some of my favourite places to stay
- The Xandari- offers the very antithesis of bland, soulless hotel rooms. Warm, welcoming, serene and peaceful, only 20 minutes from the airport and a million miles away from the hectic buzz of the capital….you only have to walk out onto your balcony and you will know that you are truly on holiday as you drink in the breathtaking vistas over the Central Valley and listen to the sounds of the tropical birds all around.
- El Silencio- for me, the difference between a good hotel and an exceptional one is all in the detail. In this respect, the owners of El Silencio have literally thought of everything….hot tubs pre-heated for your after dinner glass of wine, your very own concierge, hot water bottles as part of their turndown service, divine locally produced treats in your room, lovely toiletries, boot cleaning post hike, a menu that someone has taken such care over, lovely real roaring fire in the lounge area- perfect for curling up with a book and most importantly staff who are all unerringly courteous, thoughtful and friendly…
- Punta Islita- as the sister hotel of El Silencio, I had high expectations and these were consistently exceeded at this top-end boutique hotel, in a beautiful coastal setting. I stayed in a peaceful and very comfortable deluxe room, which is rustic in feel, so not uber-luxurious, but during my stay here I felt truly pampered. I had one of the best massages I’ve ever experienced at the very professionally run spa, enjoyed the views from the lovely infinity pool, the wonderful atmosphere of evening meals (outdoor- sometimes down near the beach area, prettily lit, relaxing music, mouth-watering food, wonderful wine, discreet but friendly service) and the highlight was the activities on offer- think sunset horse-ride to a look-out point over the Pacific ocean, with waiter service wine and cheese tasting, invigorating zip lining through the jungle canopy, kayaking through mangroves….all incredibly professionally run and with great attention to safety.
Guess which country is top of our list for our next family holiday!
In early October Tamara set off for Sri Lanka on a fact-finding mission! Since the end of the civil unrest in 2009, the island has undergone a great deal of development and she wanted to see for herself how it had changed since she’d lived there in the 1990s.
I arrived at Colombo airport and was met by my delightful driver with an air-conditioned car and he was to stay with me for the duration of my trip – a guide, driver and fount of endless knowledge about this lovely island! I first visited the Horathapola Estate, a lovely hotel in the middle of an organic coconut estate, a peaceful retreat yet only 45 minutes from the airport – the perfect place to start or end a holiday with freshwater swimming pool, bullock cart rides and acres of land for the children to let off steam! Then we headed into the centre of the island, staying at Vil Uyana a fantastic eco-lodge in the middle of the cultural triangle, surrounded by ancient ruins and jungle – fabulous! We then headed over to the east to Trincomalee where the Jungle Beach is a newly opened hotel – a much needed luxury property in an area that saw some of the worst fighting for over 2 decades. The road infrastructure is still not in place but I think that by the end of next year, this will be a lovely alternative to the south coast and perfect for the long summer holidays as the driest season on the east coast is May to September!
We then headed off to Kandy and stayed high in the hills, only an hour or so from the best white water rafting on the island on the River Kelani – the hotels in Kandy range from the luxurious Kandy House to the lovely colonial Earl’s Regency hotel. Then up into the glorious tea estates where old planters’ bungalows such as Tea Trails and The Langdale have been sympathetically restored to offer the comfort and luxury we all crave with the grace and hospitality of Sri Lanka. A tour of one of the many tea factories is an absolute must for all ages, even if you’re not a tea drinker!
We made our way down to Yala National Park where leopards and elephants are daily sightings and stayed at the lovely Chaaya Wild where the lodges and food are excellent. The new government ruling means that safari camps can no longer operate within the national parks, so Chaaya is an excellent alternative.
Then onto some of the most beautiful beaches in the world! The southern coast of Sri Lanka, which had been badly hit by the tsunami, has recovered and been restored to its former glory. Old Dutch and Portuguese colonial manor houses such as The Last House and Era Beach have been transformed into lovely boutique hotels, set right on the beach, with open-air bathrooms and wide verandahs where you just have to sip that sundowner! 5* luxury abounds with the Amanwella and the Fortress, all wonderfully suited to families with children of all ages, whilst the newly opened Number One Mirissa, is a fabulous 4* alternative, right next to one of best surfing spots on the island – perfect for older children.
Our final stop was in Galle where the hotels are a mixture of the quirky, Galle Fort Hotel and Fort Printers, to the utter luxury of the Amangalla, an absolutely beautiful restoration of a very old historic hotel. Galle is an absolute must on the tourist trail, with fantastic architecture and great souvenir shopping, this is one of the loveliest towns on the island.
And then over to Colombo and back to Negomobo, an area that has been transformed over the last decade to offer a wide variety of hotels in a thriving fishing village. Jetwing Beach, spacious and luxurious has a vast pool, and with plans for a kids club and new villas overlooking the lagoon – this will very soon become one of the best hotels in Negombo.
With BA operating direct flights from April onwards and fares starting at £600/person Sri Lanka is an island that is waiting to be discovered by all ages. Weather-wise, the driest time in the south is November to April when the seas are calm enough for snorkelling, the rain fall is at its lowest, whilst the East coast is best during our summer.
Kruger National Park
Chantal, September 2012
On arriving at Kruger Airport, we made our 2.5-3 hour journey to Timbavati Game Reserve! It was evening at the time, which is not advised, as the road through the reserve was filled with loads of game…even a Hippo! Our first lodge was Ngala which is an &Beyond lodge. Although the accommodation was fairly standard, you have a strong sense of ‘wildlife’ as the warthog and springbok roamed freely around the lodge. Our journey into the bushveld, was somewhat interesting as our ranger and guide, were determined to find a pride of lion by Foot! The bush is dense and desert-like, so tracking them was definitely an experience!
Continuing our journey to Savannah Game Reserve in the Sabi, was quite exciting! Freestanding Luxury Tents with your own private splash pool, with their resident buffalo passing by… we couldn’t ask for more! Staff were so obliging, rooms were immaculate, and their cuisine was mouth-watering manifique! We saw baby hyena and a herd buffalo (at least a hundred!) which is quite unique. Was lovely to meet a guest who visited the lodge for the last 15 years, EVERY year for her birthday…After leaving Savannah, I understood why!
En-route to Chitwa-Chitwa, we paid a visit to Leopard Hills game reserve, for a quick visit! You are literally on a hill, joined by the Leopards which constantly pass through. There are height issues, which is why children under 12 aren’t allowed. Perfect for special celebrations!
Arriving at Chitwa, we were embrased by a Zen Garden, swallowed by water, in the midst of bushveld! Nothing is spared in terms of luxury, the rooms are well sized and the resident Hippo are in constant communication with each other, so you’re always reminded of the strong sense of wildlife! Leopard sitings were amazing!
Onto Nottens Bush Camp…with emphasis on *Bush*… We were greeted by their welcoming staff and guide! A lovely lush garden setting, in minimalistic spacious accommodation! We were surprised about not having any electricity, so the evenings did become suspenseful with the hyena’s calling each other so close by. The pool was a good size and their food was delicious. We didn’t get to see any game..but we are aware that you can never be guaranteed of this! Their bush walks come highly recommended by guests!
Our last stop was Jabulani Camps in Kapama Private Game Reserve. Known for the Elephant back safari’s and outstanding luxury, we were in awe with their hospitality, views across their private waterhole and amazing rooms with splash pool. It is easy to see why they qualify to be a ‘relais & chateau’ property! Looking into the reserve from Elephant back was my highlight! A rescued Elephant name Jabulani, leads the troop along a bush route and delivers you into the hands of the staff in the middle of reserve for a delightful sunset & sundowner treats! The elephants are ordered to stand on their hind legs, waving goodbye, before entering back into reality once again!
Abi and family have been exploring the Caribbean with interest in 2012, to get a feel of how this compares to an Indian Ocean Experience.
We braved cyclone season and headed off in August firstly to visit the Mayan Riviera, South of Canun, now accessed by direct flights on BA and Virgin. We were truly impressed by the area, not only the fantastic people and culture, but also the standard of hotels (especially the stunning Rosewood Mayakoba) and also the fantastic activities out and about. We visited parks where we snorkelled in underground rivers and zip wired through the jungle as well as visiting the Mayan ruins at Tulum, now home to a host of iguanas!
In Saint Lucia we fell in love with the recently refurbished Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort (formerly Jalousie) as the location between the famous ‘Pitons’ is simply breathtaking and the resort is stunning now work has been completed.
Meanwhile in Antigua, Carlisle Bay is an excellent option for families, especially those travelling with pre-school children wishing to step out directly on to soft sands from their Beach Terrace Suites. Children from 6 months are welcome in the Kids Club (fee payable from 6 months to 6 years) and touches like the complimentary children’s tea by the pool are welcomed. Jumby Bay, another Rosewood Resort is great for those seeking a private island experience, with hundreds of acres of space for active children to cycle around and some stunning villas and residences in addition to resort rooms. The food and service was impeccable and the family offering will be expanding over the next few years with an upgraded Kids Club in development and plans for new family suites and pool.
All in all, price wise the Caribbean is similar to the Maldives / Seychelles, but Mauritius still wins on value. The flight of approx 8 hours however, will suit those seeking shorter travelling time, although you cannot fly overnight in both directions as with Mauritius. Weatherwise this can also be a good option for December – March when Mauritian rainfall can be greater although this period is also ideal in the Maldives.
Kristi visited the iconic Park Hyatt, just reopened with every aspect of the hotel dramatically transformed, setting a new benchmark in contemporary luxury. It has the most ideal location on Sydney’s harbour front, and caters for families as well as couples with a new Spa with rooftop heated pool, dining experiences and activities.
Taronga Zoo is now offering Roar and Snore – Sydney’s Ultimate Sleepover!
The Zoo offers wonderful close-up experiences with Australia’s unique wildlife. Roar and Snore is a fully hosted experience that includes architecturally designed tents, a sumptuous roast feast, drinks in the main tent and up-close animal encounters. It offers a unique opportunity to camp with the views of Sydney Harbour on one side and lions, Snow Leopards and Meerkats on the other.
The tents are furnished with fully dressed double and single beds, with 2-4 people in each tent. Roar and Snore takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening throughout the year.
Mauritius & The Seychelles
Fortunately the snowfall at Heathrow wasn’t too disruptive to Abi & Jim’s trip to the Indian Ocean with their children then age 2, 6 and 9 in February 2012!
On swapping Winter for Summer, we first re-visited Lux* Belle Mare, previously known as Beau Rivage, to discover more about the recent re-branding. Kelly Hoppen has designed some stunning rooms for the Resort and we really liked the new touches such as the coffee bar (beans roasted on site) which formed a nice focus, the red telephone box where you could call home for free and on our second night we discovered the secret bar (the location of this honesty bar changes daily). Looking like a prop from the set for the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the ornate cupboard stood in a grove of palm trees surrounded by comfy beanbags! The Resort is good choice for all ages, but with the zero entry pool and gentle gradients leading to an excellent beach, we particular recommend the resort for those families travelling with young children.
Our next stop was the new Long Beach. It brings a fresh concept to Mauritius in terms of a modern design combined with a fantastic stretch of beach, as it has been built on the site of the old Coco Beach Resort. We loved the interesting and huge heated swimming pool and the sports facilities were extensive to keep older children happy including football pitches and a climbing wall. Due to a lot of height issues and the family rooms being located at the back of the resort (not on the beach), in our view this option is best considered by those travelling with school age children.
We then visited One&Only Le Saint Geran, so popular with many of our clients who return year after year. The location and beach are stunning and service excellent with the suites well equipped but obviously not as modern as the recently designed rooms at Lux or newly built Long Beach. The new steak restaurant is proving popular and the Spa with its wonderful pool area is a truly excellent retreat.
Our short flight then took us to the Seychelles and a night at the new Four Seasons on Mahe. This property is simply stunning and the suite one of the very best, if not the best I have seen across the world. The views were incredible and we had an amazing swim in the private swimming pool (good size!) with the fruit bats flying overhead. The resort is new, so has some teething issues with service, but will be a great option for couples or those with young children (low fencing can be arranged to protect against height and water issues in the suites). As much of the resort is on a hillside, open space is lacking for particularly active older children although there are plans to heading vertical with a new climbing wall!.
We then took an internal flight over to Desroches, a place I had long been interested in visiting so we could compare offerings with the Maldivian islands. It struck us as very special as soon as we arrived and enjoyed an excellent lunch on the beach in the shade of a beautiful tree (the dining was superb, a pleasant surprise and no mean feat considering the remote location). We loved Desroches as it is larger than your typical island elsewhere which can be navigated on foot in 30 minutes – you could spend an hour cycling through the jungle to the lighthouse at the far end of the island, with crabs scuttling across your path and some rather large tropical spiders overhead. We visited the giant tortoise breeding project and the boys really enjoyed their fishing experience (one even catching a reef shark!) but the highlight had to be discovering a nest of baby turtles and helping what must have been over a hundred make their way over rocks and in to the sea. Whilst the Resort does have spacious villas as well as the traditional hotel rooms, bedrooms didn’t connect so we particularly recommend Desroches for those with older children who can get involved with all the great activities and whom you would be happy having in a room adjacent.
Our final stay was on the new Constance Ephelia back on Mahe. This large resort has several beaches, one ideal for snorkelling and a whole host of facilities – being flat it also lends itself to whizzing around by bicycle! Restaurants were numerous and quality good and we were impressed by the service considering this is a 4 star property. There are a number of smaller pools rather than a large central pool area for those preferring not to swim in the sea, all-in-all a good base from which to explore the Seychelles, perhaps in combination with a stay on Desroches or Praslin.
Garden Route & Eastern Cape
Chantal found, after seeing this region several times, experiencing it the Bushbaby way in March 2012 added a special dynamic!
Having travelled for 6 hours, we were pleasantly surprised on how comfortable and scenic the Garden Route is. Even as a South African, I still marvel at the beauty! We were warmly welcomed by Hunters Country House just out Plettenberg, and just LOVED the lush surroundings! We were cradled in Nature’s magnificence. Travelling with my husband and teenage daughter, we found the hotel catered well for our family! They had several lounges, beautiful nature paths and a lovely pool area. Much of our time was spent in ‘Teenzone’, playing snooker & watching projector DVD’s to keep my daughter happy.
Travelling a further 4 hours, we reached Kwandwe Game Reserve, which had me in anticipation from the get-go! We were immediately assigned our personal chef & ranger which made settling just that little bit easier. They were eager to please!! Staying at Ecca Lodge, I found our experience simply faultless. We were the first guests to ever witness lion cubs in their reserve, as they’d just been born! Wow! Departing Kwandwe, we then made our way back to Plettenberg bay, but stopping en-route first at Lalibela Game Reserve, Mark’s Camp. Rooms were comfortable in size, cuisine was really good, and they even threw in some True African entertainment, performed by the staff members on guest request.
A really impressive safari option we saw en-route, which caters for ALL ages of children on game drives, is Riverbend Lodge located in the Addo Elephant Park! The ambience is modern chic combined with home-away-from-home comfort. The landscape was uninterrupted allowing guests to enjoy passing game, really close from anywhere in the hotel!
Continuing to Plettenberg Bay, we arrived at our next stop – Hog Hollow Country Estate. What surprised me most is that we were just outside the bustling town of Plettenberg, and yet, you felt tucked away in a forest in the middle of nowhere?! The serenity & lush surroundings was breathtaking! The views across the valley helped the acoustics to enhance the soothing sounds of nature (It was a reminder that you were only an hours walk away, through the forest, to Monkeyland & Birds of Eden!)
After our night’s stay we then headed 5 minutes away to Kurland Country Estate. Words simply cannot describe this experience as it won’t do it justice… What I can say is that we loved the children’s play rooms fitted with all the fancy fittings, and the quadbike trip through their polo fields. The cuisine at both Kurland restaurant & Katarina’s was simply out of this world!. The staff were amazing, and the rose garden was manicured to perfection…Wow!
Leaving Kurland with much remorse, we headed into the town of Plettenberg Bay, to Periwinkle Guest Lodge. The views across the Bay, the staff, the well sized rooms and complimentary afternoon tea made our stay Perfect! Recently refurbished and now including a small splash pool, your stay here is promised to make you yearn to return! You are also a few minutes from the town centre, so exploration is easy and really fun! Look out for the market on Main street which had us intrigued!
Departing Plettenberg, we then made our way to Swellendam for our last night away. Here we stayed at Jan Harmsgat Hotel, which set in a fruit farm! The staff took us through their Olive plantation and gave us a quick history lesson on the area, which was insightful. The rooms were spacious, and cozy, with your typical farmhouse layout. The cuisine was certainly the highlight for us! Most of what you eat comes directly from their garden, so fresh, delicious & wholesome meals are the order of the day!
Madikwe Game Reserve
Chantal and family set off for Madikwe, a stunning malaria-free Game Reserve, home to the Big Five, north of Johannesburg. Here she explains what she found unique and special about the different Lodges she visited, to help you decide which is best for you!
Jaci’s Safari Lodge
A lovely, lush, child-friendly setting
- Vibrant colors & trendy décor fill both Safari & Tree Lodges
- Safari Lodge rooms have their own personal deck which overlooks a frequently visited waterhole.
- Nare Suite is GREAT for families! It is a Duplex Suite with your own private plunge pool on the deck.
- The games room next the swimming pool was quite a treat during time at leisure
- Between Safari & Tree Lodge a waterhole/river viewing point has been created for guests to privately relax and be entertained by herds of elephants (This was work-in-progress!)
- The game rangers were involved with us from day 1, and made sure to show us as much as possible, with such enthusiasm & passion.
- I loved the under floor heating, especially after a chilly night on Safari!
- The canvas interior within our rooms at Safari Lodge added another dynamic which was rather exciting.
Madikwe Safari Lodge
Because of the size, you constantly felt that you were the only guests!
- I simply loved the boma dinner which was coupled with a star gazing lesson.
- Food in abundance and very good quality too!
- A definite visit for Bird lovers as they have 250 species which visit you often during meal times!
- Rooms are up, close and personal in relation to the wildlife & lush nature surrounding you.
- All have private plunge pools on the decks.
Tuningi Game Reserve
The size of the family rooms left me gasping! They were more like a luxurious villa.
- Herds of elephants visit their waterhole, which is at arm’s length away, leaving you captivated for hours.
- Luxurious large rooms provide a home away from home feel, with beautiful views into the bushveld.
- Little Tuningi is very private with its own private plunge pool (which is sometimes used as the Ellie’s waterhole!)
- The game experience was very exciting as we saw Leopard! The ranger was very passionate, and you walked away well informed about the wonders & mysteries of the African bush!
- They take great pride in their cuisine, which was presented flawlessly.
- They have unique children activities
Madikwe Hills Game Reserve
Peched up on a hill, this lodge was simply perfect!
- I simply loved the location as you are elevated so you get to view game passing by… really clearly too!
-The walkway is elevated and built around boulders where dassies reside. The luxurious rooms also incorporate the natural elements, so they blend in very well with the surroundings.
- Their large, well-designed boma was a highlight for me, as you could enjoy meals under the African stars, overlooking passing game.
- They have a host of activities for children from Marshmallow braais to bug finding… and more!
USA, Summer 2011
Following on from New York and California, Abi & Jim’s six week trip took them to Las Vegas, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Florida, Washington DC, Cape Cod and Boston. Below they detail their Top Ten Tips including some of their favourite stops along the way…
Whilst the children of course loved Florida, for the family as a whole it’s hard to beat Wyoming, home to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and all their wildlife and geothermal features. The Cowboy adventures focused around Jackson Hole including a ‘shoot em up’ and an authentic Rodeo alongside an excellent range of outdoor activities including river floats and rafting, downhill biking and hiking.
Our Timber Log Home at Paws Up Ranch Resort in Montana was simply stunning whilst the Glamping options on site also combine luxury with unique style (Creekside Camp was our favourite in this category). However, our family duplex at Teton Mountain Lodge was also excellent for families, with an open plan kitchen and sitting room, balcony, bedroom and en-suite downstairs and children’s bedroom and bathroom accessed via spiral staircase.
Whilst the pool complexes at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Studios and South Seas Resort on Captiva Island, Florida, were very good, we found the facilities at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale an oasis in the desert, literally! excellent. In the Summer it is also the venue of ‘Dive in’ movies during the evening as it takes a while for the temperatures to drop.
The beaches of South West Florida around Naples, Sanibel and Captiva island in the Gulf of Mexico are delightful. Not so wide that it takes you 15 minutes to walk to the sea as often the case on the West Coast, warm (although temperature varies during the year) and a mecca for wildlife including birds (pelicans, ibis, osprey to name by a few) and great for those interested in shelling. Some areas are built up (such as Marco Island) whilst others are less so (including South Seas Resort on Captiva)
In terms of a view, it’s hard to beat the Restaurant at North Rim Lodge, Grand Canyon, perched on this world renowned precipice, or indeed grabbing a coffee and muffin and taking your place on the terrace at the Old Faithful inn in Yellowstone waiting for its namesake Geyser to erupt. However in terms of food quality this was a surprise. Once again the Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale came up trumps with some original fare cooked to perfection.
Most memorable ‘Sundowner’
It’s not always easy with a toddler in tow, but we achieved a few! Take the complimentary gondola from Teton village in Wyoming up the mountainside to an outdoor restaurant serving early evening drinks and bar snacks including delicious ‘sliders’ alongside the most incredible views. We even spotted Moose and Black bear on the descent.
The Palomar Hotel (part of the Kimpton Hotel chain) in Washington DC not only offers excellent rates considering the location and quality, but tops that by holding complimentary wine tasting in the early evening (generous helpings of good quality) along side free milk and cookies for children at bed time. Further it often runs a programme offering complimentary Continental breakfast for 2 people per room (pastries and fruit in the main). Combine this with free museums and zoo thanks to the Smithsonian Institute and this really creates a good value City break.
Best Facilities for Families
South Seas Island Resort on Captiva has some great facilities for families, we couldn’t really think of any more! Several pools including 1 with some daredevil water slides and 2 with zero entry for toddlers, an America Diner style café serving pizza, ice cream and a dazzling array of sweets, an excellent indoor Play area (Skullys) for all age ranges where parents can hang out with their kids and take part in Arts & Crafts (off site activities also organised) plus access to Sea School and a Nature Centre – no Kids Club here, children are off on supervised trips kayaking with manatees before you know it! Oh yes, you can also do trampolining or take off down a giant bouncy slide.
Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson exceeded our expectations in terms of character and friendliness of the staff. Whilst temperatures were very hot during our visit, we still enjoyed a great stay. The riding tuition (learn ‘Western style’) was excellent and the scenery dramatic, with stunning sunsets over the Saguaro cactus forests enjoyed.
Again a pleasant surprise when we visited Boca Raton Resort just north of Miami in Florida. Guests have a choice of 5 locations including a sleek hotel right on the beach, but the original hotel was our favourite, restored to its turn of the century glory whilst incorporating clever contemporary design twists.
Abi & Jim, February 2011
This was our second visit to the Maldives, to stay on a further 4 islands to add to the 5 previously explored. On first appearance, it may be difficult to see how the Maldivian islands differ, but they all have their own distinct flavour and advantages, so we can help ascertain the best option for you with relative ease.
On this occassion we visited Diva, a new Naiade property (Naiade have a selection of properties in Mauritius including Beau Rivage and Les Pavillons). This long island offers a fantastic stretch of beach front so that even the lead-in room types have superb locations, only steps from the Ocean. No Garden View rooms here! We were also impressed by the array of facilities and number of restaurants (with a surprisingly chic and modern style) and so it works well for longer stays of 10 – 14 nights due to access to this variety as well as touches like daily feeding of the manta rays and baby reef sharks which also sets it apart. All lead-in room types interconnect, so families can be guaranteed their own little thatched cottage with 2 x en-suite rooms. The Family Water Villas work in the same manner but over the water, great for those with able swimmers, whilst the new Water Villas at the far end of the island offer stunning arrangements for couples. Priced in reasonable range of the luxurious Mauritian Hotels, this hotel is persuading many to head to the Maldives instead for an even more ‘toe in sand’ experience.
We then sped across the Atol by boat, an amazing experience with flying fish alongside, to another new resort run by an established Mauritian brand, Constance Halaveli. A wonderful oasis, with the best Water Villas we have seen, including private plunge pools for those not wishing to delve in to the Ocean on their doorstop. Their 2-Storey Villas are also ideal for families, again with pools. This is a more intimate Resort, with not such a selection of dining outlets, but ideal for those seeking a quiet location and perhaps great for those seeking a combination with Diva. Look out for some great Pay 2 Stay 3 Offers…
Finally we visited the two Four Seasons Resorts, both contrasting but equally alluring in their own ways. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru has the unique selling point of an excellent Marine Discovery Centre, staffed by Marine Biologists that also guide on client trips to enable visitors to make the most of the experience from swimming with whale sharks to snorkelling with mantas. You can also take party in their Coral Reef building project. When we visited local children were on a day trip, so their involvement in the local community is evident and commendable too. They have even built a football stadium on a nearby island in a ‘trade’ with locals to persuade them to stop eating Turtle eggs! We also loved the dense jungle on the island which was previously a Plantation and enjoying a sundowner at Blue’s on the ‘tip’, whilst watching the Hermit crab races was an unforgettable experience. All spacious villas have private pools, a definately plus in the tropical climate.
Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is located near to the mainland, so extremely convenient for those not wanting a long onward journey from Mahe. Its established gardens are delightful and full of colour. It has a lovely, intimate atmosphere and we would recommend as a great option for those travelling with under 5’s as it features an excellent Kids Club and this age eat free with their parents. Restrooms were stocked with nappies and wipes, the central pool gently shelved (and there is also a toddler pool), everything had been well thought out and babysitting was the most affordable we had come across in the Maldives.
Chantal, June 2011
After recently venturing into the Cape Winelands region on search for the best hotels in the area, I was determined to find that one that stood out from the rest! One that offered a unique experience, within an amazing location.
It wasn’t long when I found myself being pleasantly surprised. I had found the gem! Delaire Graaff Estate Lodge & Spa which is one I now regard as the “Crème de la crème” choice for a Boutique hotel!
Situated on the highest point on the Helshoogte Pass between Franschoek & Stellenbosch, the location couldn’t get better than this. Driving into the Estate through their vineyards, was breathtaking. Here the magnificents of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains and the Simonsberg Nature Reserve are viewed from your doorstep.
A few unique features that stood out was the luxury Cinema room. Each room also has it’s own sun deck with sunloungers and a heated sparkling private infinity pool. I loved the State-of-the art Butler’s kitchen in each of the rooms which is serviced daily by the hotel.
Their relaxing & informative guided walks through their Vineyards coupled with winetasting will surely leave you wanting more of this slice of Heaven!