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PRESIDENTIAL SUITE

U LT R AT R AV E L S U I T E E X C L U S I V E Book a suite and you’ll enjoy complimentary: • Bespoke Wine Tasting experience for two • In-suite check-in and check-out • In Room Bar (selected drinks) • In-house movies and more.

F O R F U R T H E R I N F O R M AT I O N A N D R E S E R VAT I O N S : e: reservations.verdura@roccofortehotels.com t: +39 0925 998001 w: roccofortehotels.com

A ROCCO FORTE HOTEL

Valid for May travel. Minimum length of stay 4 nights. Email reservations for Terms & Conditions.


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CAYMAN BRAC LITTLE CAYMAN GRAND CAYMAN

You never know when you will bump into one of the locals.

3 of lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s little luxuries

ca ymanislands.co.uk


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h, what a friend we have in cheeses.â&#x20AC;? I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t remember who said it or where I saw the quote â&#x20AC;&#x201C; on a greetings card or a tank top? â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but right now the words are suspended in a thought bubble above my husbandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re standing in HĂ´tel Crillon le Braveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mind-blowing 17th-century wine cellar, halfway through a marathon cheese-and-wine tasting, and nobody is saying a word. My husband, Piers, Franceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leading maĂŽtre fromager, Roland BarthĂŠlemy, and the hotelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sommelier, Benoit Liebus, are locking eyes across an upturned barrel laden with stinking gems in what appears to be a non-hostile cheese-off. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Do you know, I think Le Secret de Ginette is superior both to the Picodon Fermier and the 18-week-old Picodon MĂŠthode Dieulefit?â&#x20AC;? Piers eventually announces. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Give me a slab of that and a glass of Château La Nerthe and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m happy. I mean, what else could a man possibly want in life?â&#x20AC;? Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a nervous clearing of throats from the French. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Oh, her?â&#x20AC;? my husband chuckles, raising an eyebrow in my direction. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t worry: she knows her place in the pecking order.â&#x20AC;? That I do. Which is why, from the moment we pull up outside the Vaucluse hotel set on a hilltop overlooking olive groves east of Avignon, I decide not to view cheese as a rival but rather a cursory acquaintance that I was finally going to get the chance to know a lot better. Because although the hotel is a favourite with walkers, cyclists (who like to have a go at the â&#x20AC;&#x153;GĂŠant de Provenceâ&#x20AC;? nearby) and antiquarians (itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a short and very pretty drive to Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which holds

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a giant antiques and flea market every Sunday), thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s scarcely any need to step outside the cobble-stoned confines of this self-contained village with its three very different restaurants. Alberghi diffusi â&#x20AC;&#x201C; historical villages turned into hotels â&#x20AC;&#x201C; have been springing up across Italy for decades, but aside from the famous Moulin de lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Abbaye in BrantĂ´me, Crillon le Brave is the most notable in France. A more ambitious project than the Moulin (which is made up of only three buildings), the hotel is made up of eight grand 17th- and 18thcentury homes, many bearing the names of former inhabitants. Although not as old as the medieval Castelvetere in Campania, or as sprawling as Tuscanyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Borgo Giusto, Crillon has much of the same appeal, feeling more like a discreet community than a hotel. Our suite â&#x20AC;&#x201C; situated opposite the beautiful church of Saint Romain â&#x20AC;&#x201C; feels so like a cosy and unpretentious rented Provençal cottage that weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re happy to spend the (admittedly short) spells in between eating, digesting and planning our next meal there. In a traditional hotel, no matter how luxurious, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something suffocating and demeaning about the reminders from above, below and next door (the TV and plumbing noises and fiddling with keycards) that you are one of many visitors, probably engaged in not dissimilar things. Whereas, scattered in a village, you feel as if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re among only a handful of people staying. Granted, this is probably because we are the only ones who have checked in with the sole intention of laying down fat reserves. Certainly, the only ones who

choose to forego day trips to Gordes or the LubĂŠron, Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Vaison la Romaine to see the Roman antiquities, in favour of sitting on the terrace, looking out at the vineyards and breathing in the scent of lavender. While my husband wades, knee-deep, through a series of semi-liquid cheeses, I accompany my daughter down a few steps to see her first real castle, the privately-owned Château de Crillon, before planning my next meal. The problem, and the beauty, of such sumptuous alberghi diffusi is that youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re disinclined to explore some of the real functioning villages around (the ones without room service and five-star spas). We do once manage a quick trip to the truffle market in nearby Carpentras (where Piers also buys up most of cheesemeister BarthĂŠlemyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s famous fromagerie, Vigier). But every other pleasure and indulgence is available at the hotel: our daily game of boules by the pool, our massage at the Spa des Ecuries, housed in 18th-century stables. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Do you think we should have been more adventurous?â&#x20AC;? I wonder aloud on the final day. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I mean, there basically isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t a dud town within 100 miles â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and we didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even manage to drive 10 minutes to the quarries in Bedoin.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;If adventure is what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re after,â&#x20AC;? my husband retorts, looking up for a second from the menu, â&#x20AC;&#x153;we could always nip back to the cheese shop and get a few more of those Petit Chèvres de Provence. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll mean weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have to check our bags in on the way back, though,â&#x20AC;? he warns. One eye on his abdomen, it occurs to me that the excess baggage Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m most concerned about wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be going in the hold.


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32 ultratravel

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. y r a u t c n a s A private . t r a e h e h t r o f e A hom Closeness is the joy of being together. An unspoken bond, delighting in each other. Nature invites with her breathtaking beauty, promising endless happiness every day in paradise. Life as it is meant to be. Moments Enriched at The Residence.

tunis | mauritius | zanzibar | maldives

cenizaro.com


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or guests who want not just all the luxuries of a five-star hotel, but total privacy in a tropical paradise, Cheval Blanc Randheli resort in the remote Noonu Atoll last year devised the perfect solution: a four-bedroom villa on its own two-acre island. Accessible only by dhoni, and five minutesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; boat ride from the main resort, the new Ownerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Villa has a first-class pedigree, managed by the luxury-goods giant MoĂŤt Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) and designed by one of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leading hotel architects, Jean-Michel Gathy. Freed from the need to conform to the normal hotel footprint, Gathy has created a spacially extravagant modernist villa that is more palace than beach pad. Framed by a pair of canary-yellow pots, the villaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s simple entrance leads into a cathedral-like interior, with a three-storey-high thatched roof and three capacious living areas linked by glass walls that can be completely removed to bring in the wide open spaces of the surrounding Indian Ocean. The architect â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the king of theatrical swimming pools â&#x20AC;&#x201C; has managed to trump even his own achievements with an 82ft pool, complete with a proscenium arch and stage-sized brise-soleil. But then the scale of the villa throughout is impressive â&#x20AC;&#x201C; in one reception room a grand piano looks like an ornament in a dollâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s house. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Heavenly, heavenly, heavenly,â&#x20AC;? chants my companion, as she wafts through a palette of greys, taupe and yellows, and out into the greens of the tropical gardens. Situated on a soccer-pitch-sized island, with beaches front and back, the villa has a personal overwater spa, a detached villa for friends, a private jetty and several outside dining areas. Days drift by as guests are attended to by a dedicated team of valets and butlers who arrive discreetly by boat. The pinnacle of private treats? Having fresh Maldivian lobster and seafood delivered to a moonlit beach by our own chef and enough culinary staff to service a sizeable restaurant, and who magically disappear after coffee and cognac. Even on the most perfect islands, though, there are downsides. The villaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vast upper floor is furnished in metropolitan-loft style, which is more Miami than Maldives â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and is double the height of most buildings in the Maldives. And while the views from the master suite are sensational, it becomes apparent just how close the island is to the main resortâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spa. Staff assure me that absolute privacy is guaranteed as long as guests use the side of the island facing away from Randheliâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spa. Wild parties restricted to the south beach, thenâ&#x20AC;Ś It isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t a place for snorkelling, either â&#x20AC;&#x201C; in order to build this artificial island a lot of the local coral has been disturbed. Hopefully, this will be repaired, with time. Judging by the footnote in the manual which states â&#x20AC;&#x153;the shape of the island may fluctuate based on currentsâ&#x20AC;?, and the look of the surrounding shifting beaches, Nature is already having its say. +OHNNY.ORRIS Price on application; randheli.chevalblanc.com

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36 ultratravel


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o shoes. No news.â&#x20AC;? Gili Lankanfushiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s barefoot luxury mantra is nothing new but it still works. No sooner had we been welcomed aboard our launch with fresh ginger and lemon-grass cocktails for the short boat journey to Gili than our shoes were removed, placed in a bag and not seen again until our departure. When we arrived at our destination, our private villa was just what the ultimate Maldivian retreat should be: overwater but not over-the-top, in tune with its surroundings and built to show off the real star of the show: its Indian Ocean setting. Situated some 1,000ft from the nearest villa, The Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi offers privacy on a scale unequalled in the Maldives. A recent refurbishment (enlarging it to 15,000sq ft) has seen the addition of a new suite, glass infinity pool and split-level bathing deck. A small boat is yours to come and go to the main resort as you please â&#x20AC;&#x201C; though most people come here and never go. The pick of the three double-bedroom suites comes with a 100sq ft bathroom partly open to the heavens, with a glass shower, a plunge pool and an oversized bath over coral gardens. The huge open-plan living area has its own library, dining room, cinema and bar, with spa, sauna, steam room and gym dotted around. Sections of glass flooring remind you that you are in an over-water villa â&#x20AC;&#x201C; easy to forget in a property of this size. Day beds, sunbeds and breakout areas offer any number of options to siesta, sunbathe or curl up with a book, but the twin over-water hammocks were our favourities - happiness is surely being suspended over the ocean, warm water lapping gently at your feet, fish flitting below and no sound but the roar of the reef. Those looking for a more immersive introduction to the ocean can slip from upstairs sofa to sea in seconds on a slide specially designed for the purpose. Cheesy? Perhaps. Smile-inducing? Every time. The reserve comes with its own Man Friday, who is based at the rear of the property. Our man, Dahaa, proved to be everything youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d want from a butler: discreet and thoughtful, whether he was organising a film on the beach, with popcorn and chocolate fondue, or offering a touching parting gift of a photo of us on our jetty. On one of our few forays ashore we explored the islandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s verdant interior on bamboo bikes and wandered through the islandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s garden with the chef, Hari, who showed off his produce like a proud father, before we tasted the fruits of his labours at a unique treetop table. We also took our boat out to the reef to snorkel with the resident marine biologist, and encountered a kaleidoscope of colour among the coral. Then we sipped champagne on a sunset dhow cruise before dining on melt-in-themouth line-caught tuna at the restaurant, where we chatted with a couple who were staying at the resort for the 39th time. But it never took long on terra firma before we were hankering for our retreat. The roll call of guests who have sampled this slice of paradise is a list of serial over-achievers. Branson, Ronaldo, Djokovic... But the first man to stay here? Buzz Aldrin. Apt, as this really is out of this world. $HARLES4TARMER4MITH Steppes Travel (0843 778 9926; steppestravel.com) offers seven nightsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; b&b at Gili Lankanfushi Private Reserve from ÂŁ69,160, based on two sharing, including flights and transfers.

38 ultratravel

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e can do anything here provided it’s legal.” It’s a line I’ve heard from many a hotelier, but when it is delivered by a former member of the Royal Household on the jetty of a private island, you are more inclined to believe it. Paul Brown, who served the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, before running the household of the high-flying US television producer Aaron Spelling, knows a thing or two about high demands. He certainly has had a few out here in the Indian Ocean. Thanks to the reef that surrounds Coco Privé, the 13,000sq ft exclusive-use private island cannot be seen by paparazzi, making it a favourite with European and Middle Eastern royalty, Hollywood stars and a steady stream of high-flying billionaires (Paul, of course, is too discreet to mention any names). Designed by Guz Wilkinson in partnership with Coco Collection resorts, the four-villa layout has a touch of the James Bond about it. The split-level main residence offers a spacious dining room, library bar and gym, all wrapped around by a 196ft pool and gardens coloured with hibiscus and bouganvillaea. A natural colour

scheme upstairs in the master suite enhances a feeling of light and space that is replicated in the other villas. Intricate wooden carvings and a super-king bed combine with the latest in-room gadgetry, and everything from the temperature to the Bose music systems is controlled by iPads (even the shower has a dozen different settings). The biggest surprise is the perspective you get, thanks to the combination of the suite’s elevation (rare in this vertically challenged country), its floor-to-ceiling windows, and the fact the sun loungers are sunk into the middle of your infinity pool. While, from the villa, there’s a great feeling of height, the island is small; joggers will need to be content with the treadmill. But, with the reef a few strokes from shore, you feel anything but trapped. There are a few other surprises, too: a wrought-iron chess set, dolphins carved from driftwood, a giant wicker nest hanging from a palm (in which one guest slept so she could have the ultimate overwater experience) and even films in your own jungle cinema. Unlike most private residences in the Maldives, which usually borrow staff from the resort, Coco Privé plays it the other way around. The 14 staff are permanent, which guarantees high and


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consistent levels of service. There are no menus, no wine lists, no reception (although calls are answered within three rings, day and night). Every preference is carefully noted in advance, and your dining choices simply involve a conversation with the chef, even if Paul keeps the location of your meal a mystery. For us he chose a boardwalk-and-beach combination. As we settled back to watch the sunset, a stream of cocktails arrived, concocted by the resident mixologist, accompanied by CafĂŠ del Mar-style beats and, as darkness fell, a brazier was lit and a semicircle of coloured lights in small pits appeared out of nowhere. Beyond, a feast was laid out on linen-covered banquet tables: tuna, snapper, lobster, steak, calamari all waiting to be barbecued, with condiments from every continent. We took our seats on the beach, toes curling in the sand, with glasses of crisp chablis. If I had one meal left on Earth, this might just be the place... $HARLES4TARMER4MITH Steppes Travel (0843 778 9926; steppestravel.com) offers seven nights at Coco PrivĂŠ Kuda Hithi Island from ÂŁ80,115, based on two sharing with exclusive use, all-inclusive, and including flights and transfers.

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THEHIGHLIFEINALLITSGUISES FROMFINEDININGANDSALTFLATSTOFLAMINGOS ultratravel 43


INTRODUCING

SILVER MUSE

SM

2017 VOYAGES NOW OPEN FOR RESERVATIONS

We are pleased to invite you to reserve your suite aboard our stunning new fagship Silver Muse. Be among the frst to sail aboard the most exciting new small ship in ultra-luxury cruising. Experience her exquisite decor and sumptuous suites, sample all eight restaurants and relax in an expansive choice of new, exclusive venues. During 2017, Silver Muse will sail throughout Europe, Canada, North and South America as well as the Caribbean, taking in over 130 destinations in 34 countries. Celebrate with us as our newest leading lady makes her debut to the ultra-luxury cruise market, offering the highest expression of elegance and comfort. Make your reservations now and experience small ship sailing at its most divine.

To discover more about Silver Museâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exciting inaugural itineraries or to book your ocean view suite, call 0844 251 0841, visit Silvermuse.info or contact your travel agent. All renderings are intended as a general reference. Features, materials, fnishes and layout may be different than shown.


1_ 5)&)&*()540'1-&"463& $LOCKWISEFROMTOPLEFT4ALTA$ATHEDRAL SMILINGSTAFFAT5HE7INESOF.ENDOZAIN THE6CO7ALLEYALFRESCODININGINA VINEYARDAT5HE7INESINDIVIDUALWINE BARRELSATTHESAMEHOTEL

ichard Saperstein bowled in to the hacienda followed by a man holding a saxophone. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My friend is going to play to my vines!â&#x20AC;? he said, eyes sparkling. A gecko on the handhewn dry-stone wall eyed us suspiciously. We were in the bar of The Vines, a stupendous hotel and winery in the Uco Valley, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Mendoza, the largest city in western Argentina. The Vinesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; core business is ownership, which means customers like Saperstein purchase a few acres of vineyard, learn to be winemakers, and, hey, bring friends to play music to their very own grapes. Mendoza province produces 70 per cent of Argentinian wine, mostly in its eastern sector, which enjoys a more benign climate. A decade ago the domestic market absorbed almost all of it. Recently, however, a handful of top winemakers, including Pablo Martorell at The Vines, saw potential in the higher, western Uco Valley on the TunuyĂĄn river. New techniques of drip irrigation have already made the endeavour viable, and the vineyardownership project has allowed it to expand exponentially. Lying in the shadow of the Andes, the undeveloped Uco Valley is creepingly popular with American bankers in search of a â&#x20AC;&#x153;winter houseâ&#x20AC;?. For Vines â&#x20AC;&#x153;ownersâ&#x20AC;?, currently numbering 150, the investment is emotional as well as financial. One evening, at the swanky bar, a glamorous Californian marketing entrepreneur showed me photographs, taken that day, of her biking through her vines. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an incredibly high-touch experience,â&#x20AC;? said a woman from Missouri, â&#x20AC;&#x153;though The Vines does the heavy lifting.â&#x20AC;? Forty per cent of owners sell their wine â&#x20AC;&#x201C; some own restaurants â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and others trade grapes back to The Vines and other wineries. The designing of personal labels is a popular topic of conversation, and owners look forward to â&#x20AC;&#x153;wine campâ&#x20AC;?, in which they get involved in every aspect of the harvest, in March and April.

Argentina is the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fifth-largest wine-producer, and to understand the complexities of high-altitude growing you have to travel to Salta province, 764 miles north of Mendoza. It is a drier, blanched landscape with a character of its own. Commercially, Salta is like Mendoza was a decade ago â&#x20AC;&#x201C; entering a period of intense development as young winemakers bring in new ideas, particularly around the dusty town of Cafayate. The pioneering Grace estancia and 100-hectare vineyard already offers opportunities to purchase land and participate in the wine harvest. Its guests can attend blending and tasting sessions of young red wines. Each person leaves with their own bottle. Cafayate is a glorious relic of an Argentina long gone in the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s western regions â&#x20AC;&#x201C; modest colonial architecture painted in the pastel colours of the High Andes and old shops and bars clinging on despite the march of more sophisticated development elsewhere. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s worth visiting Cafayate and taking a turn around the main square at the hour of the evening promenade â&#x20AC;&#x201C; about 7pm â&#x20AC;&#x201C; for a taste of Borgesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Argentina. One hears a tango playing faintly in the distance. At the Ultima PulperĂ­a, a decaying general store, my nose itched with fragments of rica-rica spice mixture floating up from its wooden barrel, and in a dark corner an old man sliced hard cheese for his supper. Cruising around these old buildings, especially the salmon-pink Catedral de Nuestra SeĂąora del Rosario, which dominates the heart of the small town, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s impossible not to think of the layers of history that make up pre- and post-Columbian Argentina â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and then you look up and see the Andes, and you realise history is but the blink of an eye. The Grace, rather marvellously, offers a luxurious oasis right next to these simple SalteĂąo pleasures. I could have wandered in the Cafayate lanes all day â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and did â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but it was jolly civilised to know that my driver from the hotel would soon whisk me back to Jonathan Cartwrightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Muse restaurant, with its heartbreakingly good tamales â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and perhaps a slice or two of roasted llama. ultratravel 45


The north-west is a long way from the capital, and even further from the tourist and skiing regions of Patagonia and Bariloche, and to get a handle on it you have to travel to its heartland, the Puna. It is one of the remotest environments on the planet (puna is a Quechua word meaning â&#x20AC;&#x153;a cold and remote place difficult to live inâ&#x20AC;?), made up of an interconnected system of volcanic cones and giant lava outcrops, with the elevation of the Andes, all sliced through like hard-boiled eggs by quebradas (a particular type of Andean gorge) and Las Vegas wetlands (unlikely though it seems), the latter appearing in startling bursts of teal-green stripes between bleached hills. Over three days, I passed nine vehicles. Three hours from Salta city, at Susques, the last substantial village before the Chilean border, I turned on to the fabled Ruta 40, a 3,106-mile epic all of its own, which shadows the mountains from the top of Argentina to the bottom. The chain of volcanoes north of Susques are the highest peaks in the world beyond the Himalayas. Twisters â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a kind of desert tornado â&#x20AC;&#x201C; spun on the dry

glow of the rising sun appeared in the east, dissolving shadows on the Andes. There was something incontinently human about those clumsily positioned bricks. Besides vicuĂąa (small, wild relatives of the llama), bulky black-and-white Andean geese harvested the wetlands and chased off flocks of Puna teal. One day a group of 15 Darwinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rhea (an ostrich-like bird) halumphed away from my car, a pair of chicks struggling to keep up. That was close to the highest point of my trip, a 15,400ft pass â&#x20AC;&#x201C; similar in height to Mont Blanc, but with no snow. Elephant cactus, thickets of tussock grass and woody stands of high-altitude quinoa crosshatched the volcanic soil below. Antofagasta de la Sierra, a large-ish village in the province of Catamarca, was preparing for its annual llama show, the Crufts of the camelid world. A road sign revealed that we were 600km (373 miles) from the capital of the province, which gives you an idea of regional scale, and that was not even from one side to the other. I saw my first Puna flamingos there, teetering in the middle of a small, salt-circled lake. Then it was on to the Pumice Stone Field, a 16-mile-long desert created by the Blanco Volcano during a Plinian eruption (one of the most violent types). A harsh Puna wind freighted with grit scoured pitted pumice walls that resembled the rookeries of medieval cities. It is a bleak environment. I felt my heart beating faster at those altitudes and although, mostly, my iPhone kept beeping loyally throughout the night, I was off-grid for some of time. You know youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in the right place when the sat nav goes blank. Few travellers to Argentina make it as far as the Puna. The idea that one might capitalise on visitors is therefore similarly absent. In the only shop in the village of Tolar Grande, I tried to buy one of two footballs hanging from the ceiling for one of my sons. The shopkeeper got into a tizz, and eventually said he could not sell me the item since the balls had been there so long he could not recall the price.

'"#3*;*0()*-"3%*40$0.1"53"7&- 4"$"#3&4 50-"3563*4.0%& $"5"."3$"

(R_GQ_MLC_MD_RFC_PCKMRCQR_CLTGPMLKCLRQ _ 2MKC_Q?JR_DJ?RQ_CVRCLB_DMP_KGJCQ _@PMICL_ @W_?L_MAA?QGML?J_NMMJ_MD_'MAILCW_@JSC white horizon between them. Salt flats and dry salt lakes (salinas and salars in Spanish) pop up all over the Puna. Polygonal rills of salt-like sand characterise the flats, and when you kick a piece of crust it tinkles like glass, a curiously disruptive sound in the mineral silence of the Puna. It is the silence, in part, that makes this blanched wilderness moving. Some salt flats extend for miles, with salt 1,900ft deep broken by an occasional pool of Hockney-blue water. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a magical landscape in which mirages wobble (an optical effect of salt reflecting sky), and diamond dust skitters through the dry air, scoured from ancient clay formations sparkling with chalk crystals on the much younger Puna plateau. At night, as the temperature crashed, the sky faded upwards into weak violet heights. The figure of Pachamama â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a pagan Mother Earth kind of deity dear to Andinos and which, after the conquest by Spain, was grafted on to Christianity â&#x20AC;&#x201C; still flourishes up in the north-west. At a gaudy shrine to her on a Puna ridge, the familiar ornate Catholic aesthetic blended with indigenous primitivism next to the obligatory ziggurat of empty bottles. Nuns had removed the statue of Pachamama from inside the shrine, replacing it with that of a big-eyed saint. I was there as the annunciatory

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Cazenove+loyd (020 7384 2332; cazloyd.com) can organise a similar 14-day trip to Argentina, including return British Airways flights to Buenos Aires and Aerolineas Argentinas domestic flights, private transfers and private guiding, from ÂŁ4,500 per person based on two sharing. The accommodation includes, among other hotels, two nightsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; b&b at Hub PorteĂąo in Buenos Aires, three nightsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; b&b at The Vines in Mendoza, and two nightsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; b&b at the Grace Cafayate in Mendoza. Susques Tolar Grande

CHILE

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48 ultratravel


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shouts Gena from Las Vegas as our rooster-red helicopter touches down in the meadow grass next to Siwash Lake. The big blades come to a standstill and aproned staff rush to greet us with cooling drinks, which are followed by home-cured charcuterie and artisan goat’s cheese served on the sundeck of our log-cabin lodge. We are in cowboy country at the foot of the Cariboo Mountains on the Fraser Plateau, the sweet spot halfway between the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Ocean. As hummingbirds dart by and chilled Okanagan Valley pinot noir is poured, it is difficult to imagine the harsh conditions that the first European settlers — gold prospectors and cattle hands mostly — endured in this remote part of the Canadian wilderness. It all feels very swish now at Siwash, as we watch the ranch’s array of solar panels fine-tune their position to get the best of the late-afternoon sunlight and fellow guests gather in the golden glow to hear news of the helicopter flight. We had just had a magnificent ride with pilot Scott Taylor over 80,000 acres of wilderness, a trip that revealed something of the scale and pristine grandeur of British Columbia. Scott had swooped into the Fraser Canyon and hovered close to the rarely visited Sacred Spires hoodoos, thousands of oddly eroded sandstone towers that cascade down a canyon wall. He had also highlighted a giant rock formation in the shape of a tribal chief’s face and landed on the banks of the mighty Fraser River to point out petroglyphs created by First Nation hunters. We had flown over bighorn rams, white-tailed deer, a pair of bald eagles, one unconfirmed moose and a carpet of alpine flowers on a dramatic 6,000ft limestone plateau. But, back at the ranch, what everyone really wanted to hear about was the outcome of “the proposal”. Gena Samanc had arranged the heli-tour as a surprise for her partner, Brian Allison, and planned to pop the question on it. By the time we took off it was a secret shared by everyone at Siwash – except Brian. To the relief of Gena, during a stroll along the plateau, he said yes, and, after a champagne picnic prepared by our multi-tasking pilot, we flew back to the ranch. The next day involved a ride of a different kind. “Ah, you’re on Gus, that’s great – he’s like riding a sofa,” shouted Derek Bendig, the chef, as I set off from the stables the following morning in borrowed fedora and cowboy boots. From the 30 or so horses at the ranch, head wrangler Miranda Urquhart had selected the steed best suited to a city slicker like myself: Gus, a cross-bred Belgian dray built like a barn and steady as a statue. Miranda led the ride and Chris Gray-Wheeler, a young cowboy from Calgary, brought up the rear. Together we made our way through wild Cariboo meadows, trembling aspen woods, willow brush and a sun-warmed pine forest that smelt like Christmas. As Chris pointed out the grizzly claw-slashes in the aspen trunks, it was reassuring to be riding high on The Sofa. Our route, the Ponderosa Trail, led us down to a birch-shaded spot by the Bonaparte River. After a few hours in the saddle in 36C heat, a prolonged

50 ultratravel

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session of wild swimming â&#x20AC;&#x201C; followed by pastrami sandwiches and Canuck beers â&#x20AC;&#x201C; felt like luxury defined. No cars, no crowds, no shops, no mobile phones, no computers; just nature, summer heat and the sweet smell of horses cooling in the shade. My accommodation back at the ranch was a â&#x20AC;&#x153;tentâ&#x20AC;? in a forest of Douglas fir. It sounded basic, but in truth it was a spacious, airy canvas cabin with an outdoor shower, underfloor heating and a large hardwood deck overlooking our freshwater swimming pool, Siwash Lake. Best of all was the oversized bed. Getting into it with my stiff riding legs was like saddling up on Gus, but once I was up, outstretched and comfortable, the idea of dismounting drifted away with my cowboy dreams. On my last night at Siwash a trail of tiny lights led me through the trees, past the lake and the canoes by the boardwalk and up to the main house. Marie Viel, a French-Canadian ranch-hand, strummed her guitar and sang to a campfire gathering. â&#x20AC;&#x153;You and me going fishing in the dark/Lying on our backs and counting the stars.â&#x20AC;? Among the small circle of guests and ranchers singing along I spotted the guides who had taught me during my stay: Michael, the fly-fishing guru who helped me land a rainbow trout on my first day; Kent, the backwoodsman who introduced me to archery on a forest trail of life-sized replica target animals; and Marshall, who had taken me for a swim in a waterfall overlooking Crater Lake â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a dramatic volcanic cauldron â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and taught me the finer points of competitive axethrowing (darts for lumberjacks). At the edge of the group, patting the ranchâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bluetick Coonhound, was Allyson Rogers, owner, manager and

_-._,.!(+$2 _-._".,/43$12_)423_- 341$_ -#_24,,$1_'$ 3 ultratravel 51


founder of the property, who built the ranch from scratch after buying the land in the early Nineties. Her lesson for me was Siwash itself. With perseverance and a respect for nature, she provided a masterclass in sustainable luxury living in the wilds way out West.

.

n his first sighting of the island that would later carry his name, Captain George Vancouver declared in his 1792 journal: â&#x20AC;&#x153;I cannot believe that any uncultivated country had ever been discovered exhibiting so rich a picture.â&#x20AC;? As I travelled from Siwash Ranch to Vancouver Island â&#x20AC;&#x201C; on what Canadians consider â&#x20AC;&#x153;a short hopâ&#x20AC;? in a 1961 de Havilland Beaver seaplane â&#x20AC;&#x201C; I concurred with the captain. From the air the view was among the most dramatic Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d ever seen, and the journey one of the most exhilarating (and scary) of my life. The pilot, Dale Douglas, handled the tiny plane as though he were driving a classic British motorbike. Rattling along at 10,000ft we passed the ski resort of Whistler to the south, giant glaciers to the north and the rocky ramparts of the Canadian Cordillera below. All the while Dale calmly consulted his flapping paper map (yes, paper) and made a phone call to check the weather on Vancouver Island. As we descended into Tofino, having crossed Vancouver Island, mountains and lakes, I could finally breathe out again. Tofino lies at the gateway to Clayoquot Sound, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, where rocky headlands and expansive beaches are paired with wolfhaunted islands and salmon-rich inlets. I was staying at the Wickaninnish Inn, a hotel known, among other things, as a storm-watching destination. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Wickâ&#x20AC;? is the perfect retreat for soft-shelled adventurers like myself. Its concierge service connects guests with the best local specialists for whale watching, sea kayaking and biking expeditions, but also arranges massages, fine food from a restaurant with 240-degree Pacific views and single malts and tall tales from its well-stocked bar. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a haven for â&#x20AC;&#x153;lumbersexualsâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the local nickname for city dwellers who love the outdoors but appreciate the benefits of good grooming. The hotel sits on Canadaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rocky western flank with nothing between it and Japan 5,000 miles to the west. Form follows function on its exterior, with angular grey cedar and concrete built to withstand the notorious storms that batter this coast. But inside it is all cosy comfort and local tradition, with First Nation carvings, artisan blankets and open fires. The 75 bedrooms have warm cedar walls and copper fittings, lit with large windows that look out on to the expanses of Chesterman Beach. Surveying the ocean from the warmth of my bath it was hard to imagine a more agreeable way to view the edge of a continent. During my travels through British Columbia, something else I began to appreciate was the Canadiansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; understated modesty and self-deprecating humour. When the lodge had signed me up for â&#x20AC;&#x153;a nice boat trip to the hot springsâ&#x20AC;?, I had not expected to be bouncing full throttle for four hours in an open-topped 28ft Boston Whaler, wearing a one-piece survival suit. Thankfully, I was in the safe hands of John Forde, a fortysomething skipper who is able to spot sea otters among the kelp, and who knows where all the local bald eagles live. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bloody yakkers,â&#x20AC;? he muttered, after he had firmly ordered a pair of kayakers to back away from a family of grey whales we were observing. If the fog rolled in on Clayoquot Sound (as it inevitably does), John would be the man you would want to steer you back to harbour. When you were there, the cocktail youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d want to warm you after a day of boating and a three-hour hike would be a Cedar Sour. The combination of cedar-infused rye, lemon, thyme and egg white was so aromatic and warming that, had I not been so thirsty from the sea salt, I would have gladly used it as a balm for my tired legs. I sampled it on the first-floor deck of Tofinoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s freshest and most exciting seafood restaurant, Wolf in the Fog (wolfinthefog.com), lined with warm wood and copper, and offering menus featuring local ingredients foraged by chef Nick Nutting to a hungry surfer crowd. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It started as a bit of joke for Canada Day,â&#x20AC;? says the chef about my feast of wild Tofino salmon with summer berries and chanterelles. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We thought we would try to get as many Canadian ingredients into one dish and just hoped for the best.â&#x20AC;? But he wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t fooling me with his surfer style, mellow modesty and stark, simple menu. Sitting on the deck looking out over the Pacific Rim, I mused that, like Nickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s food, British Columbiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s surprising scenery is many times more magnificent than the Canadians are letting on. Perhaps they should shout a little more about their stupendous mountains, forests and brilliant beaches. Yee-haw indeed.

52 ultratravel

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+(9 1#_(2+ -# t dusk, with the wind easing and the sun sinking towards the dark-blue horizon of the Coral Sea, Chinamanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ridge, a granite outcrop on Lizard Island, is busy. Most evenings, guests at the islandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only resort stroll up between cocktails and dinner to enjoy the fiery Australian sunset. The walk is only 15 minutes up the hill from the main lodge, and at the end of it, you feel like you can see all the way to Asia. But then, this island is one of Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most northerly, 149 miles north-east of Cairns and an hourâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s flight over impossibly turquoise seas and white sandbanks. Forty years ago it was a spot to which keen fishermen, such as Hollywood star Lee Marvin, would come to hook black marlin. Today, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one of the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most glamorous spots from which to see them, using snorkels and masks. Thankfully, in spite of the resortâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s starry guestlist, ostentatious glamour has not found its way here; it has retained its simple beach-chic style throughout its 40 airy villas, suites and lodge: all whites, sands and cool blues. It has taken some work to make the island that way. Two cyclones, in 2014 and 2015, hit it so hard that even the ultratravel 55


IMMERSE YOURSELF 14-day luxury great barrier reef PORT DOUGLAS, DAINTREE & LIZARD ISLAND from £4,525 pp (based on twin share and subject to availability) Including international economy fights with Singapore Airlines, transfers, car hire, 10 nights luxury accommodation, selected meals & touring. Valid for travel from 01 Apr–14 Jun 2016. Visit wexas.com for details and booking conditions or call our team of Australia specialists on 020 7590 0602.

Fly in style with Singapore Airlines to Australia and enjoy modern cabins and impeccable onboard service. Singapore Airlines’ Economy Class cabin ofers an innovative seat design, providing more legroom and greater comfort. Choose from fve daily departures from the uk to Singapore, with seamless onward connections to Australia via the award-winning Changi Airport.


(L_RFC_,?PJGL_!?P _R?JI_GQ_MD_UFMQC_W?AFR_GQ_GL_6?RQML`Q_!?W _UFGAF_ JGQRCPQ_ ?PC_QR?WGLE_GL_RFC_TGJJ? _MP_UFM`Q_SN_DMP_?_U?JJCR @SQRGLE_@MRRJC_MD_QFGP?X trees were stripped of their bark. But, walking to the hilltop, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never know. En route, I pass smart, newly built sea-facing villas, with their cushioned banquettes and hammocks. I stop at the new Marlin Bar, where the talk among elegant guests is of whose yacht is in nearby Watsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bay, which A-listers are in the impressive Pavilion suite and villa, or who is up for a wallet-busting bottle of Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz or a few nips of Louis XIII de RĂŠmy Martin cognac (which are popular,

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says the genial American general manager Joe Bann, even at ÂŁ125 a shot). And I pass Salt Water, the open, fan-cooled restaurant overlooking Anchor Bay, and one of the 24 white-sand beaches, beyond which are pretty seagrass meadows, clam gardens and, further out, Cod Hole, home to the famous local giant potato cod. When I finally reach my destination, atop Chinamanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ridge, the resort looks like the sparkling charms on a necklace as it curves around the edge of a small halfmoon beach, its lights winking in the soft marine light. Out to sea bobs the gleaming 51ft Riviera used for private charters and night diving. On rocky outcrops, guests sit, soaking in the scene. And in the soft light in front of two beachfront cabanas honeymooners lounge, cocktails in hand. Later, over cognac in the Driftwood Bar, the gossip is that the sloop a quarter of a mile offshore is Rupert Murdochâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. Who knows - perhaps he and Jerry are surveying honeymoon spots? 3ALPH#ESTIC Lizard Island (0061 7 4043 1999; lizardisland.com.au; double rooms from AU$1,699/ÂŁ828 per night, including all meals and selected alcoholic drinks). ultratravel 57


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2 3$++(3$_(2+ -# hile travelling around Tasmania, the name Satellite Island would be whispered to me frequently, as if it were some mythical place from old seafaring times. Once, the wild and ragged island had been home to a reclusive writer, painter and poet, Ian Alstergren. But when Will, his nephew, inherited it, he wanted to give other people the opportunity to share this unspoilt wilderness, teeming with vivid sealife and an abundance of native birds. For the past couple of years, a handful of visitors have been allowed to stay, too, and fall under its hypnotic spell.

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The 84-acre whale-shaped island sits in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, off Bruny Island in Tasmania, and feels thrillingly remote. From the moment the family workboat comes to collect you off the shores of Bruny, you can feel the weight of anticipation in the salty sea air. Life here, though, isn’t about adrenalin. It’s about chilling out and getting back to nature. Endless days are spent walking the rock shelf and getting back to basics, watching the tides beat against cliffs and the winds rustling through the trees. Activities, naturally, revolve around the seasons. The on-call-round-the-clock manager, Richard Roe, can help you shuck fresh oysters straight off the rocks, fill buckets of mussels which ring the island, and even dive for crayfish. Picnics can be arranged in the wild grasses on top of the island peak and bonfires can be lit on sunset, as you watch the herd of deer spring and dart across the plains. If you don’t fancy self-catering, or barbecuing salmon caught on Satellite’s own fish-farm, there’s a little boat to take you to Bruny, and its famed restaurants and gourmet treats. When the weather turns blustery, there is a choice of shelter: the waterside two-bedroom Boathouse or the

weatherboard-clad, three-bed Summer House, 54 steps uphill to the north of the island. Once a ramshackle old farmhouse, the latter is now a stylish, light and understated contemporary beach-style home, created by Will Alstergren and his wife Kate, who, with their three teenage sons, split their time between the island and Melbourne. Kate has cleverly brought into the décor the colour palettes of the outdoors, echoing the natural textures and colours: the greys of the rock shelf, the blues of the smooth pebbles on the beach and the pale hues of the sun-bleached driftwood. Personal touches – shells, antlers, feathers and maps – scattered around help tell the story of the location, alongside family heirlooms such as a 19thcentury Scandinavian dresser, and pretty local pottery. While the interiors are charming, it is the natural world that is the real attraction. Mussel beds encase wavewashed rocks, flocks of seabirds ride the coastal winds and crayfish clamber over ancient underwater shelves. The island brims with life. The real luxury is having the time, space and privacy to enjoy it. ,ARA3OSENLUND Satellite Island (0061 400 336444; satelliteisland.com.au; from £2,940 a night for 12; The Boathouse, £970, for two). ultratravel 59


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On Robâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 106-acre hillside plot cocooned by swathes of old gum trees, four spacious tents on wooden platforms provide the bedrooms, each with king-size beds. You could call it â&#x20AC;&#x153;glampingâ&#x20AC;?, but that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really capture the experience, with Rob rustling up delectable fare: succulent Tasmanian lamb, Nick Haddowâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cheeses, Spring Bay mussels in a white wine and saffron cream, panna cotta anointed with herby Leatherwood honey. The chef makes a tongue-in-cheek claim to a calorieneutral break, incorporating hearty strolls to counter the indulgence. So next morning we ventured into South Bruny National Park to walk the circular Labillardiere Trail,

(R`Q_LMR_?_BGCR DPGCLBJW_ BCQRGL?RGML _@SR_RFC_ CNGACLRPC_MD_3?QK?LG?`Q_ EMSPKCR_PCL?GQQ?LAC a perambulating natural-history class. Beautiful bronzestriped skinks basked by the track, alongside earth grubbed up by ant-mining echidnas, while yellow-tailed black cockatoos daintily de-seeded banksia pods above our heads. The real treat, though, was the near-complete solitude. Bruny boasts glorious beaches with sand so fine it sings under your feet and Swarovski-clear waters off Butlers Beach, where we watched an eagle ray glide beneath us, before returning to the shore for a gastronomic picnic. More wallaby carpaccio, anyone? You should, though, never meet your meat â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a lesson learnt next day when, having transferred to nearby Inala

Private Reserve, I came face to white-eyelashed face with one of Brunyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s famed white wallabies. Inala means â&#x20AC;&#x153;a peaceful placeâ&#x20AC;? in the Aboriginal dialect: aptly named. Again, the luxury here comes not in the form of butlers and pillow menus, but full-immersion nature therapy, with guides revealing the treasures of Inalaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 1,500 diverse acres. I was fortunate its founder, Dr Tonia Cochran, was on hand to introduce its wild inhabitants. No sooner had she arrived at my cabin than a mob of wallabies appeared to wheedle a snack of kangaroo pellets. There were Casey and Daisy, Oscar, Annie and Violet, and the unnamed white wallaby with her russetgrey joey. The guilt was overwhelming, so I was happy when Tonia led me away into the surrounding forest. There may be no spa, but delving into the trees was as soothing as the most fragrant aromatherapy: wafts of tea tree and boronia blended with sinus-clearing eucalyptus aromas. Birds love these woods, too, which are home to two-thirds of Tasmanian species, which we spotted the next afternoon with Tonia during an island tour. We roamed soft-sand beaches, spying seabirds; at dusk we watched little fairy penguins waddle up to their burrows, then on a night safari spotted wallabies and pademelons, brush-tailed possums and gorgeous eastern quolls. The final act was quintessential Bruny. Toniaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s excited â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ahhhâ&#x20AC;? announced a foot-high furball with twitching snout. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A long-nosed potoroo!â&#x20AC;? Tonia exclaimed. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It spends each night snuffling for truffles.â&#x20AC;? Welcome to Bruny, where even the animals are epicureans. 1AUL#LOOMĹśELD Tasmanian Odyssey (01534 735449; tasmanianodyssey.com) offers a seven-night trip from ÂŁ2,770, including two nights on the Bruny Island Long Weekend and three nights at Inala Bruny, both full-board. Etihad (0345 608 1225; etihad.com) offers return fares to Hobart from ÂŁ1,164.

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60 ultratravel

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he dawn chorus on Bruny Island has an especially punchy rhythm section. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thump, thump-thump swish,â&#x20AC;? rolled the beats, filtering through my tentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s netting. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thump, swish thump-thump.â&#x20AC;? Gradually, the rest of the house band introduced themselves. Green rosellas parped out the brass parts, a brush bronzewing pigeon set a tenor drone and a grey shrike-thrush trilled a lilting piccolo solo. As wake-up calls go, it was hard to top. It took a more primal urge to lure me from my king-size nest, though: the aroma of coffee brewing and sausages sizzling. Peeling back crisp cotton sheets, I strolled across the clearing to a cabin where the first of the dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feasts was being conjured by my host, Rob Knight. Another morning, another inch on the waistline. Bruny is not a diet-friendly destination. Though a mere 60 miles long and with just 620 residents, this Siamese twin of an island â&#x20AC;&#x201C; North and South Bruny conjoined by a narrow spit â&#x20AC;&#x201C; is the epicentre of Tasmaniaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gourmet renaissance. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s where the first apple trees and vines were planted by Captain Bligh in 1788, and today is the site of Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s southernmost winery, produces acclaimed Black Devil cherries, berries, oysters and salmon, and is home to Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best-known TV foodies, cheesemaker Nick Haddow and pork maestro Ross Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Meara. Yet relatively few tourists explore the island â&#x20AC;&#x201C; something Tasmanian entrepreneur Rob is addressing with his Bruny Island Long Weekend. Over three days of walking, talking, eating and drinking, he introduces discerning visitors to the islandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s varied delights. The weekend began with a private cruise from Hobart, exploring the Tasmanian coastline en route to Bruny. An afternoonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stroll to Cape Queen Elizabeth was followed by a beginnersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s guide to oyster husbandry at Ford Bay, before traversing south via a peculiarly Australian pastoral idyll of weatherboard farmhouses, passing as many grazing wallabies as sheep.


With a nickname like ‘The Sunshine State’, you know you’re in for an incredible holiday when you visit Queensland. Nestled in Australia’s north-east corner, this iconic state – the second biggest Down Under – is famed for its glittering waters, tropical rainforests, charming towns and laid-back locals. It knows no bounds when adventure is involved. Beloved spots like Cape Tribulation, Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands are the shining stars, but there’s one landmark that really gives it the edge: the Great Barrier Reef. Spanning over 133,000 square miles and home to over 1,625 species of fsh and 1,400 species of coral, it’s easy to see why nature legend Sir David Attenborough loves it so. In fact, it was even the star of his most recent – and fnal – BBC series. Not a bad note to end on, right? Flight Centre is all about seeing the world’s largest aquarium at its best, and in a number of different ways. Embarking on regular cruises and helicopter fights from Reef gateways like Port Douglas, Cairns and the Whitsundays, you’ll visit some of the structure’s most far-fung corals, not to mention the ‘Great 8’ – clownfsh, sharks, manta rays, Maori wrasse, potato cods, giant clams, turtles and whales – Queensland’s answer to the Big Five.

Australia Great Barrier Reef in Depth

£2465pp 16 day tailor-made holiday including fights & unique experiences

Local knowledge 24/7 Support Travel Butler

However you want to discover it, make sure you do it with the people who know Australia, Queensland and the reef best.

Talk to a Flight Centre Travel Expert today about our tailor-made holidays to Australia and how you can experience the Great Barrier Reef.

WE’RE HERE

FOR EVERYTHING THERE

You can take your pick of how to see it all too: spend the night sleeping on a reef pontoon; snorkel; scuba dive; gaze through

the windows of glass-bottom boats and underwater observatories, or see it from above on a helicopter or seaplane ride. Those seeking something a bit different can even walk underwater, with only a glass helmet separating you from the technicolour fsh safari beneath the waves.

0800 082 1680


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t is the second dive on the second day aboard the Shore Thing that does it for me. A small group of us are snorkelling along Ningaloo Reef when we spot an enormous manta ray circling beneath us. Led by the catamaranâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s manta â&#x20AC;&#x153;mermaidâ&#x20AC;?, Hayley Mitchelmore, we dive 33ft and float alongside this beautiful creature. The manta is not only aware of our presence, but also seems to become curious, circling us several times. It is an extraordinary moment, the first time I have had a powerful sense of connection with a fish. Mantas are, I later learn from Mitchelmore, most intelligent creatures, with the largest brain-to-body ratio of any marine fish; by comparison the 30ft-long, nine-ton whale shark, the largest extant fish species, has a brain the size of a golf ball. The substantial population of mantas in these waters off Coral Bay are habituated to people and apparently seek out human interaction, which is something this one certainly does. We spend 45 minutes floating, diving and swimming alongside it before it surges onward to a distant coral garden. This manta dive was the first of a number of memorable excursions off Shore Thing, a shallow-draft 51ft catamaran

that operates from Coral Bay and offers bespoke scuba and snorkelling trips along Ningaloo Reef in three-, five- and nine-night packages. The boat has four double cabins and can take a maximum of 10 guests, so it is often chartered by extended families and groups of friends. Its owner, Luke Riley, a former investment banker who fled the big cities for this remote edge of Western Australia, calls the trips â&#x20AC;&#x153;marine safaris, because when you put your head in the water you really are entering another wildernessâ&#x20AC;?. Over my three-day trip I was able to explore that other wilderness forensically, swimming regularly with turtles and snorkelling through coral gardens that looked as if they had been created by alien species working with psychedelic colour palettes. Floating with the current on drift dives, I passed clownfish, raccoon butterflyfish, blue-spotted ribbontail rays, spangled emperors, lionfish, blue fusiliersâ&#x20AC;Ś The interaction between species was as fascinating as their dramatic visual beauty and at a so-called shark-cleaning station beside a reef known as Ashoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gap we hovered for a good 20 minutes above a procession of blacktip reef sharks that came to be â&#x20AC;&#x153;groomedâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201C; having ultratravel 63


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irritating parasites cleaned from their teeth and gills by swarms of cleaner wrasse. Once serviced, they moved on and made way for the others. It was a bit like a city car wash on a busy Saturday. As Riley pointed out, the 186-mile-long Ningaloo coral reef is among the best in the world and, because it is here that the cool ocean current from the south meets a warmer current from the north, the reef is able to support a unique mix of tropical and subtropical species. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I fell in love with the place as soon as I arrived,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;What is also unique is that the reef is just off the shore, so easy for beginners and inexperienced snorkellers, but also rewarding for those whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve dived a lot.â&#x20AC;? As one would expect, since Ningaloo Marine Park was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2011 there has been an increase in tourism here. However, the numbers are not enormous and this vast, remote part of Western Australia is unlikely ever to be blighted by mass tourism. With the exception of the Namib Desert, I have never been anywhere that has made me as aware of a vastness of landscape and the insignificance of Homo sapiens. It is this existence at the fringes of modern society that has drawn people such as Luke Riley to the region. There are two flights a day to Learmonth Airport from Perth, and after that it is a one-and-a-half-hour drive from the airport to Sal Salis, the luxury tented camp on the beach in the northern part of Ningaloo that was my first stop, and then a three-hour drive south to Coral Bay harbour. The small town of Exmouth (population 2,200) lies in between, but along those endless two-lane blacktops the only living creatures one encounters are stray kangaroos. It is the very definition of The Big Empty. The northern end of Ningaloo Reef lies off the shore of the Cape Range National Park, an ecosystem containing an extensive cave network that hosts various stygofauna. However, the main draw here is the fringing reef. From your tent at Sal Salis, located on dunes within the park, you merely have to cross the pristine white beach and fall into the aquamarine waters with your flippers and goggles on. The coral and the marine wildlife are right there. Beyond the reefs are the megafauna that are among the regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s great draws. You can swim with whale sharks during the season (April to July), and from this year for the first time (August to October) swimming with humpback whales is also offered. These activities are carefully controlled, with a handful of licensed operators taking parties of 20 out on reconfigured crayfishing boats and, with the help of spotter planes and spotter swimmers

(_F?TC_LCTCP_@CCL_QM_?U?PC_ MD_?_T?QRLCQQ_MD_J?LBQA?NC_ ?LB_RFC_GLQGELGnA?LAC_ MD_'MKM_Q?NGCLQ (the whale-shark spotters known as the â&#x20AC;&#x153;mermaidsâ&#x20AC;?), 10 snorkellers at a time are dropped into the path of individual whale sharks. Most of the people living up here have been, or are still, involved in the marine world. The young women working at the Novotel Ningaloo Resort in Exmouth, for example, first came here to dive and explore the reefs; the waitresses at Whalers Restaurant have all been whale-shark mermaids, and even the ownerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wife used to be the skipper of a whale-shark boat. A word about Whalers, which in my opinion is the best rural seafood restaurant in the country. Owner-chef Paul Minniear trained in New Orleans, was head chef at Mikeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s on the Avenue at the Lafayette Hotel, and has thus brought his Southern Creole gastronomic skills to

the fresh seafood that is ubiquitous here. It was the culinary surprise of my trip. If the three days of bespoke snorkelling on board the Shore Thing were the highlight of my week in Ningaloo, my stays at Sal Salis and in Exmouth and the days spent driving across this great open landscape were what made this an unusually fascinating trip. Many of the inhabitants of Exmouth, Coral Bay and the resorts are from foreign countries â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Paul Minniear says that the only Australian working at Whalers is the dishwasher. They are drawn here by the extraordinary marine landscape, the ocean wildlife and by the remoteness of the North West Cape. Ironically, just as my circadian rhythms had finally adjusted to the slow pulse of this weird and wonderful place, it was time to return to 21st-century urban life. So I left wanting more. Sail Ningaloo (0061 458 822 895; sailningaloo.com.au), charges from AU$1,700/ÂŁ840 for a three-night, four-day excursion on Shore Thing and from ÂŁ2,225 for a nine-night, 10-day excursion. Included in the price are all meals, snorkelling equipment and trips. Sal Salis (0061 8 9949 1776; salsalis.com.au) charges ÂŁ370 per person per night and this year will expand the camp from nine to 16 tents. Day-long whale-shark cruises from camp cost ÂŁ200.

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taste fresh flavours with friendly locals

D I S C OV E R K A N G A R O O I S L A N D, S O U T H AU S T R A L I A AT AU S T R A L I A .C O M


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dive into one of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s natural wonders

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FIVE AUSTRALIAN STATES IN 20 DAYS ‘Discover Australia’ is a complete escorted tour like no other. With over 85 years of expert touring experience, APT will show you the very best of the land Down Under. Pristine beaches, glittering cityscapes, lush rainforest and scorched red desert, absorb Australia’s most iconic sights and experience all the must-do attractions in one exciting itinerary.

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Outer Reef Port Douglas 2 Cruise 2 a NORTHERN Re t Cairns ef G re r ri e Bar

Upon arrival spend three nights exploring Perth, the sun-blessed capital of Western Australia and take a leisurely cruise along the picturesque Swan River. Be enchanted by the architectural masterpiece that is Sydney Opera House and cruise around one of the most famous harbours in the world. Encounter tropical marine animals and feel the magic of the magnificent Great Barrier Reef. Watch the spectacular sunrise over Uluru (Ayers Rock) and dine in the desert Outback under a star-studded night sky. You’ll also learn about the country’s ancient Indigenous culture and meet native wildlife along the way.

Coach Cruise Flight (included) No. of Nights Stay National Park

TERRITORY

Uluru (Ayers Rock) 1

Alice Springs 2

QUEENSLAND

WESTERN AUSTRALIA NEW SOUTH WALES

Perth Fremantle 3

4 Sydney VICTORIA

Melbourne 3

APT DISCOVER AUSTRALIA 19 nights from £4,795pp Save up to £400 per couple Includes: Feature meals whilst on the tour, internal flights and return international flights Selected tours Nov 2016.

Call our expert Travel Designers on FREEPHONE 0808 163 6337 † or visit austravel.com We don’t just go there, we know there Offer is subject to change and availability and maybe be withdrawn at any time. Normal booking T&C’s apply, see austravel.com for full details. †Calls are free, mobile and other provider’s charges may apply. ATOL protected 3355.

$%7$1R:


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rnhem Land, at the â&#x20AC;&#x153;top endâ&#x20AC;? of Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Northern Territory, is one of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s last great wildernesses. It has been on my bucket list for years, and last September my dream came true. I took off one morning on a scheduled Airnorth flight from Darwin to Nhulunbuy, the main town in Arnhem Land, 500 miles east of Darwin on the edge of the Gove Peninsula. For the next hour I sat, nose glued to the window, as we skirted the northern edge of Kakadu National Park, then followed the coast. From the air, I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see many signs of human habitation, but this is Yolngu country. The Yolngu people, the sole owners of Arnhem Land, have lived here for thousands of years. A young Yolngu man met me at Gove Airport. His name, Djambatj, means â&#x20AC;&#x153;good hunter or spotterâ&#x20AC;?, but he insisted that I call him â&#x20AC;&#x153;Arianâ&#x20AC;?. In his late twenties, he works for Lirrwi Tourism, an enterprise owned and operated by the Yolngu. His colleague, and our driver, Terry, or Waka to give him his Yolngu name, handled our Toyota Land Cruiser with consummate skill. We headed for Bawaka, 30 miles south of Nhulunbuy. After about six miles, we turned off the metalled road on to a dirt track, which rapidly disintegrated into soft sand as we skirted beaches and coastal bays. There was a shout. Randy, the third of the trio who greeted me, was riding on the roof and had seen something in the water. He leapt down and ran along the sand, spear in hand. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seen a stingray,â&#x20AC;? Arian explained. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When rays move, they churn the sand; that discolours the water.â&#x20AC;? We watched as Randy stalked his prey, hurled his spear â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and missed. We were moving when he climbed back on. After a couple of hours we reached the campsite at Bawaka. Actually, it is more than a campsite. Two permanent huts with corrugated-iron roofs have been built on the beach. One for the staff; one for the guests. â&#x20AC;&#x153;You can sleep outside on the decking,â&#x20AC;? Arian said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;but you might prefer to be inside. We have our own friendly crocodile here. He likes to come up on the beach.â&#x20AC;? Terry kept an eye out while I had a pre-lunch swim. I have to admit I stuck close to the shore. That afternoon, back in the Land Cruiser, we headed for a nearby lagoon. It was low tide, with the water around 3ft deep. Arian and Randy had some serious fishing ahead; otherwise, we would be going without supper. Aboriginal spear fishers have an uncanny mathematical ability. They seem able to calculate precisely the angle of refraction as the spear hits the water, estimate the speed and direction of the target and adjust their aim accordingly.

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That night, as the moon came up, we had a feast by the campfire. Our Aboriginal friends moulded the stingray flesh into fishcakes and cooked them over the embers. I spent my last two days in East Arnhem Land at the Banubanu Wilderness Retreat on Bremer Island, off the Gove Peninsula. You can land a helicopter by the camp or take a light aircraft from Gove to Bremer Island Airstrip. Once there, you can walk in the bush, watch turtles on the beaches, or sit with a glass of fine Australian wine while the sun sets and a pair of sea eagles circles overhead. The third and final stop on my brief but enthralling visit was at Davidsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Arnhemland Safarisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; lodge at Mount Borradaile, in the heart of West Arnhem Land. The boat was waiting at the head of the billabong. Bridget â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a competent, cheerful young Australian ranger â&#x20AC;&#x201C; took the tiller. We headed off as the sun began to drop. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got 700sq km [270sq miles] here under lease,â&#x20AC;? said Bridget. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is a place which has seen 50,000 years of Aboriginal occupation. It has everything: billabongs, wetlands, monsoon rainforest, wildlife and ancient escarpments.â&#x20AC;? First, we concentrated on the wildlife. I noted three types of egrets, several jabirus (a stork-like bird), whistling ducks, corellas, three brolgas and another pair of white-bellied sea eagles. And crocodiles. Lots of them. Up close. In the Seventies the Northern Territory crocodile population had fallen to 10,000 as a result of uncontrolled hunting. Today, protected by law, there are 200,000. Whenever we got out, Bridget took care that there were no crocs in the vicinity. On my last day at Davidsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lodge we hiked to a complex of caves, many of which had been occupied over thousands of years. Inside one, Bridget pointed at a splendid rendering of the mythological Rainbow Serpent: â&#x20AC;&#x153;The more recent phase of Aboriginal rock art was developed in the last 3,000 years.â&#x20AC;? I raised my camera. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Please be careful,â&#x20AC;? Bridget warned. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t photograph the bones.â&#x20AC;? She indicated several skulls and what looked like thigh bones stacked in a high recess. It was cool in the cave. Time for a breather. As we sat on the floor, Bridget explained, â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is still a sacred site for the Australia â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;first peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. They still come here. And theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be coming here long after weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve gone.â&#x20AC;? Bridge&Wickers (020 3642 8551; bridgeandwickers.co.uk) offers a two-week, all-inclusive stay from ÂŁ5,757, inclusive of three nights at both Davidsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Arnhemland Safaris and Banubanu Wilderness Retreat, guiding, transfers and flights. ultratravel 75


For the Australia of secluded beaches, unique wildlife, peaceful countryside and quality wines; it’s got to be South Australia. Located in the southern land, the state has an unassuming air about it and a reputation for the fner things in life; wine, food, festivals and some of the best wildlife sightings in the country. All within easy reach of the state’s capital, Adelaide. Wildlife is of course South Australia’s other draw-card and the region offers wildlife encounters at almost every corner: swim with dolphins in Glenelg; play with sea lions in the Eyre Peninsula; watch out for whales in Victor Harbour and keep your eyes peeled for yellow footed rock wallabies and emus within Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.

Then head to Kangaroo Island, the best place to visit to see Australia’s truly wild side, which can be found just a short fights from the city of Adelaide and is accessible by car ferry from Cape Jervis. As a virtual zoo without fences, a third of Kangaroo Island is designated national park, complete with native bushland and a healthy population of wildlife.

The best way to combine all of these aspects into a holiday is via a self-drive itinerary of the region. Flight Centre can tailor-make an itinerary for you, but for inspiration we recommend starting in Adelaide and driving up to the wonderful wine region of the Barossa Valley where you can spend the day sipping on some of the world’s best Shiraz.

On the island you can expect to see all sorts of animals including koalas, wallabies, sea lions, echidnas, fur seals and the native Kangaroo Island kangaroo, which is smaller and darker than those found on the mainland. Remember that iconic Australia image of the kangaroos on the beach? This is where you can see that snapshot in the fesh.

Talk to a Flight Centre Travel Expert today about our Tailormade holidays to Australia.

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From there you can then drive to the breath-taking jagged peaks of the IkaraFlinders Ranges National Park and even enjoy a 20 minute scenic fight of the region to truly take it in.For more wine tasting, en route back to Adelaide, the Clare Valley features over 40 wine estates offering several home-grown varieties of Riesling.

Prices are for specifc travel dates & are based on return fares per person & subject to availability. Prices & taxes are correct as of 26 February 2016 & the prices are subject to change at any time. All fights depart London & include prepaid taxes & fuel charges. Please call us with your preferred travel dates & regional airport & we will provide a quote for you. Seasonal surcharges may apply depending on date of travel. Airline Failure Protection & booking fees apply. For full terms & conditions, see fightcentre.co.uk. Image: Kangaroo Island, South Australia


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Deep-sea sensations Clockwise from left, go cage diving with great white sharks; enjoy encounters with dolphins; witness spectacular sunsets

The Eyre Peninsula’s big five To the west of Adelaide lies an important breeding ground for aquatic marvels. Dive in, says Max Anderson G R E AT W H I T E S H A R K S South Australia’s great whites are feared for 300 good reasons – every one razor-sharp and packed at the pointy end of an average adult. Eyre Peninsula, suitably enough, is shaped like a shark’s tooth, and 40 miles off its tip lie three small islands called the Neptunes. Here, the cold, deep, protein-rich waters host sharks that were big enough for Steven Spielberg, who needed live footage for Jaws. Today they’re still big – some more than 16ft – and attract 15,000 visitors a year for the thrill of cage diving. Three companies run shark-diving trips out of Port Lincoln, lasting one to five days. No diving licence is needed and day trips cost about A$500 (£245) to get you to the islands, into a steel cage and in the water. BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN There are dolphins all along the coast and it’s easy to see them in the shallows. Off the oyster town of Coffin Bay there’s a pod that has fascinated marine biologists since the animals were first seen sleeping. For a close encounter, head to Baird Bay. Alan and Trish Payne of Baird Bay Ocean Eco Adventures will motor you out to meet the resident pod, supplying all snorkelling gear as well as a commentary grounded in 20 years of observing the animals. Once you’re in the water, let the magic happen… SEA LIONS The Australian sea lion is as ubiquitous as the dolphin, but if you’re in Baird Bay, stay right there – because your ‘‘swim with dolphins’’ experience is always accompanied by swimming with sea lions.

The Eco Adventure boat will motor you a few hundred yards over to the colony and then you’re ushered back into the water. It’s up to the sea lions whether or not they want to interact, but they can’t resist – especially when pups are around. Sea lions are also plentiful off Eyre’s fishing capital, Port Lincoln. Half-day swimming-with-sealion experiences run all year and cost A$150 (£74). GIANT CUTTLEFISH This is a story in the making and an extraordinary one at that. Between May and August, along a tiny strip of coast off Eyre Peninsula, up to 200,000 giant cuttlefish swarm (aggregate) in the shallows to mate. It happens yards off the beaches between False Bay and Fitzgerald Bay, and visitors equipped with a snorkel, mask and wetsuit can wade out to watch

males deploying strategies to attract females, such as strobing with colours to impress a mate. It’s seen nowhere else in the world and is one of the greatest marine spectacles – so why is so little said about it? Well, in 2013-14 the aggregation all but disappeared for reasons that are not clear. Half of the number returned in 2015 and fingers are crossed for 2016. To improve your chances greatly, call into Whyalla Diving Tours in Whyalla and talk to the king of cuttlefish, Tony Bramley. He’ll also hire out wetsuits and snorkel gear at A$75 (£37) for two days. SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALES From late May to early October, southern right whales swap sub-Antarctic waters for the sheltered, warm bays along South Australia to calve. A regular haunt is Fowlers Bay. Southern rights (so-called because 19th-century whalers saw them as the “right” whale to hunt) grow up to 80 tons and reliably perform for charter boats. Fowlers Bay is a bit of a commitment, (just over 300 miles west of Port Lincoln), but the tiny community, with its bonewhite sands and turquoise waters, is magical. Closer to Eyre is the larger town of Ceduna, which runs day tours to Nullarbor to visit Marine Park Whale Sanctuary at Head of Bight. Up to 100 whales can sometimes be seen from viewing platforms on Bunda Cliffs.  Four-night Eyre Peninsula extension from £389pp, includes two nights in Adelaide, two nights in Port Lincoln and a swimming with sea lions experience. Visit flightcentre.co.uk or call 0800 188 4598.


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Located in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi resort, set across two Maldivian islands, has won several awards for its overwater Talise spa, from which there are far-reaching views over the Indian Ocean. The prize includes five nightsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; half-board for two in a spacious Beach Revive Villa, which has its own private plunge pool and covered sala, and is attended to by a 24-hour butler. The second part of the luxury prize is a three-night stay in Dubai at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray in an Imperial one-bedroom suite, with breakfast. The two winners will be flown in business class from the UK to Dubai, then the Maldives, and back, by Emirates, with transfers between MalĂŠ and Dhevanafushi (jumeirah.com).

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Chalet Pont du Cam (above) is one of the most popular ski chalets in the Firefly Collection, a hand-picked portfolio of more than 500 of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s finest luxury villas and chalets. The prize includes a weekâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stay, for up to 14, in the designer chalet, whose facilities range from a media room to a gym, hammam and hot-tub. A private chef is on hand to cook breakfast and afternoon tea every day, followed by a fourcourse gourmet dinner, with champagne and fine wines. Beyond the confines of the chalet, skiers of all levels can find a run to suit: MĂŠribel is in the heart of the Trois VallĂŠes, the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest lift-linked ski area, with 370 miles of pistes and more than 170 ski-lifts. A ski concierge and chauffeur service is included (firefly-collection.com).

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/IGEL5ISDALLHASENJOYEDHISFAIRSHAREOFCOMFORTS OVERYEARSASATRAVELWRITER#UTWOULDHISFIRST TRIPROUNDTHEWORLDBYPRIVATEJET VISITINGNINE COUNTRIESINDAYS BEANINDULGENCETOOFAR n 1522, when the Spanish carrack Victoria sailed into Seville after completing the first circumnavigation of the globe, this epic voyage of discovery had taken almost three years. Only 18 of the original 260 crew were on board, and the numerous casualties included the expeditionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leader, Ferdinand Magellan. Now we are in the oh-so-easy 21st century, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m about to whizz around the same planet in just 23 days, flying in a sublimely luxurious private jet west from Orlando to London on a fantasy trip that will take in nine countries and make stops to see a fiesta of bucket-list sights including Machu Picchu, Easter Island, the Great Barrier Reef, French Polynesia, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal and Petra. Magellan and his God-fearing sailors were seeking spices, but what are my 19 fellow passengers after? Not wealth. Mostly American, these good-natured, name-badge-wearing globetrotters can clearly afford the ÂŁ77,800 ticket per person (based on two sharing) for our all-inclusive odyssey in which everything is provided, from freely flowing Pol Roger to pillow gifts to emergency purses of local currency. Nor are they seeking glory. Around half are retired (although the rich and clever never really retire). Many quietly sing of self-made success, courteous and sociable achievers 'LATBEDSINOUR who have served their years in the #OEING WHICH NORMALLYSEATS battlefields of finance, law, health and PASSENGERS property. On this whirlwind of a trip there will be postcards sent, and Facebook postings, and Facetime with the kids back home, but no bragging. Even the natural desire to see the wonders of the world is muted by the fact that most passengers have already visited some of the destinations on our World Heritage Site-spangled itinerary. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be Petra for the third time,â&#x20AC;? sighs a seasoned traveller from Massachusetts who has kindly brought along some wine from his Napa Valley vineyard for us to share. No, in essence, everyone boarding our palatial blackand-silver Four Seasons Private Jet in Orlando has simply booked a good old-fashioned escorted group holiday. The formula is no different from the continental package tours pioneered by Thomas Cook in 1855, except that the top hats and parasols have given way to Tumi puffer jackets and backpacks by Kate Spade. On this journey of a lifetime we

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will be clocking up 20,000 nautical miles in a customised and garlands of flowers is taken to new heights when it evolves into a terrific floorshow with tattooed and Boeing 757 with 52 flat-bed seats in Italian white leather. plumed dancers. When we take a day cruise to snorkel Now that is space (such aircraft normally carry around on the Great Barrier Reef there are just 16 of us on 239 passengers), although there are also tours where a catamaran that normally takes 90, plus a photographer the configuration is 80 reclining seats – and if you can who follows us underwater to create a complimentary cope with that, you’ll save more than £25,000 a head. DVD of images capturing this classic voyage. Surprisingly, we only spend a total of 48 hours and But is it meaningful? That’s the question on the 30 minutes in the air flying to London the long way lips of everyone we meet, as we flit hummingbird-like round, which is a pity because this level of in-flight from one world-famous bloom to the next. Bubblecomfort is quite life-ruining. Every passenger is given wrapped in luxury, there’s a suspicion it might all be Bose noise-cancelling headphones and an iPad one long, cosseted blur, that we’ll end up feeling pre-loaded with films to keep, while the 14 allas dissatisfied as a child being rushed through British crew are the quintessence of Joanna Lumley-ish loveliness with a dash of Biggles %AYSITWOULDTAKETO a toy shop. That isn’t the case. One reason is and a splash of Are You Being Served?. Not TRAVELTHEWORLDBY that we’re visiting great wonders of the world, COMMERCIALAIRLINER  which in my experience always live up to everything is absolutely top class – the COMPAREDWITH their hype. When bathrooms are basic, there’s nowhere to hang BYPRIVATEJET you walk down the a jacket, and the meals are unsensational Siq in Petra and see the (the thinking is that the gourmet thrills should Treasury carved out of pink happen on the ground). stone, even for the umpteenth Our trip has been devised by London and Seattletime, the wow factor is based TCS World Travel, purveyors of gilt-edged undeniable. Another crucial globetrotting for more than 20 years. They’ve certainly element is flexibility – if you learnt a few tricks about circling the world in style. We want to peel off and see a only fly in the daytime, and always west, so the travel specific work of art in is less tiring. At every stop we spend two or three nights a museum, they’ll happily fix in an as-good-as-it-gets hotel – often a Four Seasons – it. A third plus is the high while the behind-the-scenes preparations are worthy quality of our local guides. of a royal visit. We’re accompanied by two journey Visiting Machu Picchu (I’d managers and a doctor, with advance personnel paving been before), I’m concerned the way and abundant ground handlers offering an my new friends will only get unending supply of wipes, bottled water and “rest-room a superficial encounter – but opportunities”. “How will I ever do without you guys?” I’m wrong. Our enthusiastic wails an eightysomething adventuress from Des Moines. “What happens when I get home and need a loaf of bread?” Sometimes it gets too much, with so many lanyard-wearing staff hanging around I’m reminded of the royal court at guide, Diego Valle, does an excellent job lifting the lid on Versailles when crowds of onlookers would come “Mucho Picture”, as he quips, from telling the tale of its to watch Louis XIV having supper. discovery by Hiram Bingham to explaining the elaborate Why start in Orlando? Because it’s easy to reach stonework used to track the movement of sun and stars. and the climate is reliable, although no one seems to Finally, there’s the commendable fact that the notice how deliciously bizarre it is to jet from one organisers of this tour don’t skimp on a thing – and magic kingdom (Walt Disney’s) to the Inca equivalent boy, do they love a surprise. The itinerary might simply in Machu Picchu, Peru. We land in Lima then take say “beach dinner”, but it’ll most likely be followed a charter flight up to Cusco, and the jump to 11,152ft by some high-class fire-dancers and a seriously good has everyone short of breath and reaching for firework display that screams “No Expense Spared!” the coca tea. When you tear around the world this fast, into the warm night sky. “No can do” does not plunging in and out of places in a global version of seem to be in the company vocabulary. If you supermarket grab, you have to be up for it. want to bring seven suitcases, that’s fine Is it exhausting? No, because all the dreary /UMBEROF (I’m told the record is 13); if you need to call bits are removed. At the airport we use private CANDLESLITATTHE in your own private jet to collect your shopping terminals or just march straight through SURPRISEDINNERIN halfway through, no problem; and when our the departures hall. Our bundle-of-laughs "NGKOR8AT beloved plane hits a brief technical snag in “first lady of luggage” fills in all the landing India, three more aircraft are instantly chartered cards. Somehow, my suitcase gets beamed to ensure no one misses seeing the Taj Mahal. from my over-water bungalow in Bora Bora to my Perhaps the greatest thrill of travelling like this is that rainforest-wrapped suite in Far North Queensland it redraws all the maps. To fly by scheduled carrier from without my lifting a finger. It is like undergoing some Lima to Easter Island, our next stop and one of most ambrosial kidnapping. remote inhabited islands in the world, it would take On the ground, the level of service is regal. When almost 13 hours, going via Santiago de Chile. We do it we set off to see the Inca ruins around Cusco, there are in five while enjoying a light lunch of shrimp ceviche never more than six or eight passengers in the minibus, and passionfruit panna cotta with a chilled glass of even if it seats 18, so guests don’t feel crowded or have Puligny Montrachet 2011. to wait for the last person who’s decided to buy that For many on board, the chance to visit this mysterydivine alpaca scarf after all. In Tahiti, changing flights in rich dot in the Pacific is the deal-clincher. Our arrival Papeete, we are given exclusive use of a huge lounge, is made all the more spectacular by Captain William where the standard Polynesian welcome of live music

34

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Tupling-Prest, one of our three trusty pilots, who takes the jet down to 2,100ft then circles the island so we can enjoy exhilarating views of its volcanic craters and iconic moai (statues) â&#x20AC;&#x201C; something that would never happen on a regular flight. Only 14 miles by seven, Easter Island is the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most fascinating sculpture park, home to some 8,000 Polynesian and Chilean residents plus 4,000 mostly wild horses. We check into the excellent, eco-sensitive Explora Rapa Nui hotel (which serves some of the freshest, most inventive food I eat on the whole trip), then do the standard tour to see the islandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s strange, cartoon-like, top-knotted figures created between the 12th and 17th centuries, and visit the incredible quarry where these colossal heads, some weighing up to 82 tons, were carved. What makes our brief time here feel special, though, is the additional activities that are offered. Everywhere we go we get such optional excursions â&#x20AC;&#x201C; deep-sea fishing in Bora Bora, ballooning over Angkor, a curry-making class in Jaipur. These are at no extra cost, and it means you get to clock up a whole bundle of bonus once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

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n this case, some of us take a sunrise hike up the extinct Terevaka volcano, others go horseriding, while I opt for a bike ride along the coast to see the mighty parade of 15 moai at Ahu Tongariki. Yesterday the island was swarming with Japanese visitors from a 960-passenger cruise ship, but now we have its bewitching landscape to ourselves. We freewheel along the empty roads, drinking in the gorgeous early-morning light, and then finally cool off in natural rock pools by the sea. â&#x20AC;&#x153;So, do you think this trip is worth six cents a second?â&#x20AC;? a fellow globecircler asks me close to our halfway point. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never thought to make such a calculation, but thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s probably why heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rich and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not. After our series of life-affirming days on Easter Island, the answer can only be yes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; assuming youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got the bucks and are happy travelling in a large group. When the tattered remnants of Magellanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s great Armada de Molucca made it home, the captain declared its greatest achievement (along with a lucrative cargo of cloves) was to have â&#x20AC;&#x153;discovered and made a course around the entire rotundity of the worldâ&#x20AC;?. He received a knighthood and enough riches to support two mistresses, and the entire crew were granted commemorative coats-of-arms. We, in turn, get rewarded with a gala dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in London, complete with a bagpiper, four choices of smoked salmon, miniBakewell tarts and a Beatles tribute band, where everyone enjoys a last dance together. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an emotional finale to a dream trip that many will no doubt see as a sunlit plateau on lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long journey. As the Fab Four sang so harmoniously on Abbey Road: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Because the world is round, it turns me on.â&#x20AC;? Elegant Resorts (01244 897515; elegantresorts.co.uk) offers tailor-made holidays by private jet in association with TCS World Travel (tcsworldtravel.co.uk). A 24-day Around the World Classic Signature Expedition, visiting 10 countries with up to 80 guests, costs from ÂŁ53,000 per person; Select Escapes, with up to 50 guests, cost from ÂŁ80,200 per person, based on two sharing, all-inclusive. ultratravel 91


6 -5 3" & 6 30 1&

&UROPESMOSTWESTERLYNATIONHASALWAYSHAD GRANDHISTORICBUILDINGSANDRUGGEDCOASTLINES TOEXPLORE/OWITALSOHASMODERNWINERIES TOP CHEFSANDHOTELSFITFORAKING SAYS.ARY-USSIANA

. _

nce, Portugal was a safe bet for a hit of sunshine, sand and seafood. But in the past few years, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been a discernible wave of smart visitors travelling to the country to explore its medieval villages and hidden valleys, to sample the complexity of its wines and the depth of its heritage. In short, to sample some of the wonders of a place that was once home to Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wealthiest court. Taking note of the swell in visitor numbers, big names in the hotel world have begun to open their doors, with Six Senses choosing the Douro Valley for its maiden foray into Europe, Viceroy Hotels selecting the Algarve as the destination for its first European property and Aman creating a resort in Comporta, south of Lisbon. Other creatives have risen to the challenge, too. Architects have built innovative buildings such as the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon, opening this summer, and the ultra-contemporary Boa Nova Tea House and the Casas Na Areia hotel. Chefs such as JosĂŠ Avillez at Belcanto in Lisbon and Ricardo Costa at The Yeatman in Porto (above) have refocused on their landâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s natural bounty to create inventive cuisine. And luxury operators have taken note of the needs of those who canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t imagine travelling without a helicopter or yacht, and provided sleek vessels in which to flit. Portugal now has so many riches itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tricky to decide which to sample first. Here we select 10 of its finest.

/ + 3( + /.134& + 92 ultratravel


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ultratravel 93


Rush The Team Members of LUX* help people to celebrate life with the most simple, fresh and sensory hospitality in the world.

M AU R I T I U S R E U N I O N M A L D I V E S C H I N A U . A . E T U R K E Y | L U X R E S O R T S. C O M


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ultratravel 95


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98 ultratravel


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Istria Pula ham, o t s t irming Fligh

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"-*55-&1-"$&*,/08"/("." ."3" ,ENYA This striking new 30-tent safari camp is located in an extraordinarily beautiful spot: on the Oloololo escarpment, on the edge of the Rift Valley, nearly 1,000ft above the plains of the Maasai Mara. Its owners, Nicky and Steve Fitzgerald, who have long been involved with high-end African safaris, have corralled some of the best talents in the industry to create one of the freshest camps on the continent. Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens – the designers behind Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and North Island – were responsible for the red-brick cones and towers, vaulted ceilings and a Victoriana walled pool. The interiors of sleek, lateral-living tents, each with 36ft floor-to-ceiling glass frontage, comfortable John Vogel beds, roll-top bathtubs and bold Maasai-red motifs, were decorated by South African stylist Annemarie Meintjes. On the vast wooden decks is French Fermob furniture for what in these parts they call

“rocking chair safaris” – the views from the chairs are so fine that they often jeopardise planned game drives. Although 60 guests can be accommodated, because the property has been cleverly split into two 15-tent camps, it feels small and intimate. Meals can be taken in a variety of locations, from communal tables in the restaurant to lantern-lit spots in the forest; staff will also take a hamper, tartan blanket and Stanley flask to the spot where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford picnicked in Out of Africa. The camp is perfectly placed to catch the northern limits of the Great Migration, but it is equally beguiling – and quieter – off season. .ICHELLE+ANA$HAN Angama Mara (angama.com); from £585 per person, full-board. Audley Travel (01993 838500; audleytravel.com) can tailor-make a six-night trip to Kenya with four nights’ full-board at Angama Mara, from £4,722 per person, including flights. ultratravel 103


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