Issue 3 | March 2018
Top New Luxury Safari Camps
THE MIDDLE EAST DESTINATIONS YOU NEED TO SEE IN 2018
Adventure Ahoy The New Generation of Expedition Ships
The Road to Rural Bliss
PHOTOGRAPHER ALISON WRIGHT – THE ANCIENT SILK ROAD – LUX ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS
Welcome to the first issue of Journey Weaver for 2018. We start the year by returning to Country Holidays’ origins, with truly exotic destinations from around the globe, and perhaps few places can match the colour, the unique ambience, and heritage of the Middle East. The beautiful Islamic architecture, the vibrant bazaars, the desert oasis villages, and the timeless forts and castles all conjure up images of a mystical land. Within the region, Iran continues to be one of the favourites among our clientele, and if you’ve not visited yet, it should be at the top of your list. Oman and Morocco both offer outstanding landscapes and unique cultural settings, but these destinations also allow you to indulge in levels of luxury previously reserved for royalty. For the most stunning historical monuments, edifices like Jordan’s lost city of Petra, and the Egyptian Pyramids should be on everyone’s bucket list, and while Libya and Syria are no go destinations at the moment, the political landscapes in Turkey and Tunisia are stabilising and both countries offer truly spectacular experiences for intrepid travellers. The nations along the Silk Road are also destinations that evoke a glorious and mystical past. From Xian to Europe, the ancient Silk Road wove its way through a kaleidoscope of landscapes and cultures, and with China’s new Belt & Road initiative, there’s no better time to retrace this ancient trading route to see both how much the world has changed, and how much it remains preserved. Puglia is a newly discovered Italian gem and one that’s regularly described as ‘Tuscany before mass tourism’ and we follow our taste buds through this dramatically beautiful locale. In Fogo Island, at one of the most remote corners of Canadian Newfoundland, we discover one of the most creative, luxury boutique hotels in the region, and of course we’re unveiling exciting new products and experiences everywhere from New Zealand to the grasslands of Southern Africa. Enjoy reading and more importantly, enjoy exploring the world.
Contributors Tricia Welsh is an Australian freelance career photojournalist who has specialised in food and travel writing for more than 30 years. Her stories and photographs have been published in major Australian travel and lifestyle magazines as well as international publications. She will go to the ends of the earth for a good story - literally - such as Fogo Island, believed by the Flat Earth Society to be one of the four corners of the earth. Isabelle Liu is a passionate traveller, writer and budding photographer based in Hong Kong. Ever since doing exchanges to New York and San Francisco, she has had the travel bug and when she’s not jetting off on assignment you can find her exploring the latest restaurants and bars in her home town.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Divia Harilela has worked in the lifestyle and fashion media for over 17 years. Most recently she served as the fashion editor for The South China Morning Post, where she remains a contributing editor. She also contributes to a range of high profile publications and websites including Business of Fashion, Vogue China, Howtospendit. com and Departures among many others. She is also editor and founder of The D’Vine (www.the-dvine.com), Asia’s leading luxury and fashion website. A widely published journalist and lifestyle, golf writer who has spent most of the last decade living in Hong Kong, Louie Chan’s work has appeared in Esquire Hong Kong, CUP Magazine, Golf Digest Hong Kong and more. He is the Managing Editor of HK Golfer, the official publication of the Hong Kong Golf Association.
Publisher Chang Theng Hwee Managing Editor Nick Walton firstname.lastname@example.org Chief Sub Editor Philippa Walton Art Director Ndrew Poon email@example.com Marketing and Advertising Carmen Ng firstname.lastname@example.org Journey Weaver is owned and published by Country Holidays, 04-20/21 Tanglin Shopping Centre, 19 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247909 www.countryholidays.com.sg Find even more travel inspirations at www. journeyweavermag.com Journey Weaver is produced by boutique custom publishing agency Artemis Communications Ltd. www.artemiscomms.com All rights reserved: Copyright and distribution rights are reserved exclusively by Artemis Communications Ltd, its partners, associates and affiliates. All materials published remain the property of the production agency. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior written permission. All information contained in this publication is from a reliable source. Artemis Communications Ltd and Country Holidays do not make guarantee as to the accuracy of the information contained.
Perks & Privileges
Friends with Influence Start the new year with a host of brilliant deals and offers exclusive to Country Holidays customers.
Bonus Night in Samui
Tours & Spa Treatments with Aman
Free Nights & Discounts in Sri Lanka
Enjoy daily breakfast, a traditional rickshaw tour, and a pearl-laced reflexology spa treatment when you visit Amanemu and Aman Tokyo on the four-night Secrets of Japan itinerary. Valid until March 31, 2019.
Make the most of your visit to Sri Lanka with up to US$900 in discounts at Chena Huts including a free night at Colomboâ€™s Residence by Uga Escapes, with the Sri Lanka Best of the South itinerary, valid until April 30, 2018.
Savings & Spa Treatments with Anantara
Kids Stay & Dine Free at Six Senses Laamu
Enjoy Savings at Niyama Private Island
In a Country Holidays exclusive receive US$50 per night in resort credit as well as a complimentary 60-minute Anantara Signature spa treatment for two at the beautiful Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle, valid until October 31, 2018.
Families headed to the Maldives can enjoy great savings with kids staying and dining for free during a minimum five-night stay at Six Senses Laamu, valid until December 21, 2018.
Make your Maldives escape all the sweeter with discounted rates and a free upgrade to half board at Niyama Private Island, valid until December 18, 2018.
Stay a little longer for less with a complimentary night for every two paid nights at Panacea Koh Samui, valid until October 31, 2018.
Content MARCH 2018
Cover Image: The striking Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi
2/PERKS & PRIVILEGES Exclusive Deals from Country Holidays
The Road to Rural Bliss
Hottest New Safari Camps for 2018
New SLRs & Luxury Road Trip Essentials
/Expedition Cruising Adventure Ahoy
Events & Festivals from Around the Globe
The Latest in Luxury Travel
Travel with Kindred Spirits
14/Off the Beaten Path
Land of the Wolves
The Destinations Defining the Middle East in 2018
60/On the Road Stella Fan
Photographer Alison Wright
Iranâ€™s Ancient Zoorkhaneh Rituals
Mourning in the Moment
Journey to the West
44/Explorer Eric Larsen
62/Community Fogo Island Inn
MARCH 23 – APRIL 22, 2018
La Bohème Sydney, Australia
Flurries of snow will take the outdoor opera experience to a whole new level with a stunning new Sydney production of La Bohème, set in a wintery 1960’s Parisian streetscape, and against one of the world’s most famous harbours. The new production will feature beautiful cobblestone laneways, glowing street lamps and classically bohemian costumes under the direction of Director Andy Morton and costume designer Dan Potra. Described as one of the great outdoor opera events in the world Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour is a highlight of the Australian cultural calendar, attracting more than 250,000 attendees from around Australia and across the globe over the past six years.
Stars of the White Nights St Petersburg, Russia Celebrate the end of winter and the warmth of long summer nights with the residents of St Petersburg during the annual Stars of White Nights festival, a collection of captivating events that run from midMay to mid-July when the sun only dips briefly below the horizon. Look for the Scarlet Sails, a fleet of red-sailed tall ships that play a vital role in a sensational fireworks display; walk the riverfront amongst mimes, fire eaters and gypsy bands; and catch breathtaking ballet performances at the iconic Mariinsky Theatre.
AUGUST 3-27, 2018
Edinburgh Fringe Festival Edinburgh, Scotland
Combining the best of music, film, dance, spoken work, street performances and comedy, the internationally-acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe Festival draws thousands of revellers to the streets of this historic city each year. Developed as a cheeky alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, everything goes at this truly unique affair – there are free events taking place across the city as well as ticketed concerts, performances and productions held in venues across Edinburgh.
AUGUST 25-27, 2018
Notting Hill Carnival London, United Kingdom
Notting Hill Carnival is one of the highlights of London’s summer calendar. Held over two days every August since 1966, the chic neighbourhood of Notting Hill explodes with colour and Caribbean flare, as members of the city’s British West Indian community celebrate their rich culture with dancing, authentic food markets, intricate floats, and an eye-catching procession that has earned the event a place on the icons of England list.
JUNE 14-17, 2018
Art Basel Basel, Switzerland Combine summer in the alps with a touch of the arts at the original global art show, Art Basel. The internationally-acclaimed show brings together almost 300 of the world’s top galleries, who in turn will be showing works by over 4,000 artists. In addition to the exhibition halls, look out for glamorous side events as the show welcomes the art world’s elite.
JUNE 24, 2018
Inti Rayni Cusco, Peru
Time your next visit to South America to coincide with Peru’s colourful Inti Raymi or sun festival, a religious ceremony that dates from the Incan dynasty. Paying tribute to the sun god, the festival coincides with the winter solstice and much of the action takes place at Cusco’s city centre, with a mass at the cathedral followed by a procession to the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman where the religious ceremony is re-enacted.
To the Stars & Beyond Witnessing a rocket launch is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences available – but it’s also an increasingly difficult one to encounter. Fortunately, Country Holidays now offers a unique itinerary to Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, where Russia conducts many of its rocket launches. During this insightful six-day adventure you’ll travel to Almaty in Kazakhstan before delving into the seeminglyendless steppes bound for the cosmodrome, where you’ll watch either a manned Soyuz or unmanned Progress rocket take to the skies from a special observation platform. On your journey you’ll have time to explore Almaty’s Panfilov Park and Zenkov Cathedral; tour Baikonur’s
Museum of History of Space Travels; and visit the house where Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, once lived, before peeking behind the scenes as the astronauts and rocket scientists prepare for liftoff. There’s also a chance to extend with a visit to Mangystau in the far west of Kazakhstan, a landscape of towering mountains and bizarre geology, which you’ll explore by helicopter.
Northern Exposure Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring Northern Lights at Skywatch Lodge & Spa, a new high-end US$19 million retreat opening outside Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories this August. Designed by Yellowknife architect Simon Taylor, Skywatch will offer just 36 luxury guest suites, with each sumptuous space boasting natural fibre king-sized beds, floor-to-ceiling windows, and gas fireplaces. The lodge will be the place to watch the Northern Lights thanks to private decks and dark-sky aurora lighting. After a dip in the outdoor, heated star-lit infinity pool or trying your hand at dog sledding or ice fishing, head for a juniper-infused massage at the spa, which comprises seven opulent treatment rooms, before warming up in the cosy library, or taking a table in the signature restaurant, which will serve ‘rustic elegant cuisine’ using locally foraged ingredients.
The Wild Side of Cambodia Redefining the wilds of Cambodia with a few creature comforts, Shinta Mani Wild will be a new luxury camp experience that combines world class design, hospitality and conservation. Another new property for acclaimed designer Bill Bensley (who recently unveiled ten sumptuous villas at the Shinta Mani Angkor in Siem Reap), Shinta Mani Wild is located in a vital wildlife corridor between the Bokor and Kirirom national parks, and will protect this pristine corner of Cambodia in a ground-breaking partnership with Wildlife Alliance, Fauna & Flora International, The Royal University of Phnom Penh, and the Cambodian Government. The camp’s 16,100sqm custom-designed tents will be perched on a swift-moving river, which can be explored on the property’s Bensleydesigned luxury expedition boats. After adventures on the water or in the rainforest, make for the Landing Zone Bar, which is located on the edge of the sanctuary’s largest waterfall, or dine at the Waterfall restaurant, which will serve local dishes with ingredients foraged from the surrounding forest.
Riding British Rails True trainophiles will love the new 14-day Best of Britain Steam Tour offered by Golden Eagle Luxury Trains. This October adventure is a 3,500-kilometre itinerary timed for the 10th anniversary of the Tornado, the first steam locomotive in over 50 years to break the 100mph (160km/h) point on British tracks. The locomotive will pull a complement of 10 carriages from the luxurious Belmond Royal Scotsman, accommodating just 38 guests on an extraordinary adventure that begins in Edinburgh before delving into the Scottish Highlands for a black-tie dinner at 14th century Cawdor Castle, and a private whisky tasting at J&G Grant’s Glenfarclas Distillery. In Wales the train will skirt the Cambrian coast before venturing back into England with visits to Bath, Devon and Cornwall, with world-class dining at historic castles and country estates along the way. Visit Salisbury, Oxford and York en route back to Edinburgh where a farewell dinner will be held at the National Railway Museum. From US$40,000 per person, departing October 14, 2018.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
There’s nothing like slipping behind the wheel of a luxury supercar, especially when there’s world-class fare down the road. Country Holidays’ new Italian Rendezvous in Super Cars itinerary offers motorheads the chance to take to the roads of Italy at the helm of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, concluding with an unforgettable half-day track racing experience. The June 15-22 itinerary starts in Rome, with a tour of the eternal city at night by luxury vintage car. The next morning you’ll drive into the Tuscan countryside at the wheel of your chosen marque, with lunch at Hotel Il Pellicano and a stop at the historic town of Pitigliano. In Siena you’ll tour the city with an English-speaking guide, and between gourmet meals enjoy a spa treatment to ensure you stay limber for the drive through the Monena countryside and a visit to the Pagani Supercar Factory and Museum. After passing through the soaring Dolomites, with lunch at acclaimed Cortina d’Ampezzo, you’ll tackle the Passo dello Stelvio, one of Europe’s highest mountain roads, home to majestic glaciers and towering peaks. Finally, test your skills driving both the Ferrari 458 Challenge and the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo at the Autodromo di Franciacorta racetrack, which will be open exclusively for Rendezvous guests.
A Remote Retreat The first luxury eco resort to open in Myanmar’s pristine but remote Mergui Archipelago, Wa Ale is a breathtaking new retreat for city-weary travellers looking for the ultimate escape. Comprising 11 luxury tented beach villas and three eye-catching treetop villas, the boutique resort, which opens in March, is nestled on one of the region’s 800 tropical islands, which have until recently only been accessible by yacht. This Robinson Crusoe-esque escape has been constructed using reclaimed and locally-sourced materials to ensure it blends with its natural environment. Set on a blissful stretch of dazzlingly white sand beach, flanked by rocky cliffs and backed by lush evergreen jungle, the island is part of the vast Lampi Marine National Park, an ASEAN Marine Heritage site, the crystal clear, turquoise waters of which teem with wildlife, including whale sharks, dolphins, dugongs, turtles and manta rays. Guest can soak up the sun on their private patio, dine on locally-grown produce at the resort restaurant, and even visit local Moken fishing villages, with 20 percent of the resort’s profits going to the Lampi Foundation, a conservation initiative helping local communities.
Canadian Circumnavigation Celebrate Canadian expedition company OneOcean’s 10th anniversary with a truly epic adventure that captures the diversity and beauty of Canada to perfection. The Circumnavigation of Canada journey allows intrepid travelers to explore Canada’s most iconic locations by sea, air and rail, over the course of 57 spectacular days. In addition to venturing from the Atlantic to the Arctic and Pacific Oceans on board the expedition cruise vessel Akademik loffe, you’ll travel through Canada’s majestic landscapes on board Via Rail’s popular train, with time to explore the vibrant cities of Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal en route. Cruise the Northwest Passage, gaze up at the towering fjords of Baffin Island, dine on world-class cuisine in Vancouver, and race through the Canadian Rockies en route to Jasper, where you’ll stay at the quintessential Canadian Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, one of several luxury retreats on the itinerary. Priced from US55,000 per person.
Sleep Soundly at 40,000ft In an effort to ensure the best night’s sleep on its long-haul flights, American Airlines has teamed up with sleep product gurus Casper to introduce new amenities to the airline’s long-haul routes. Passengers travelling in American Airlines’ First, Business or newly-launched Premium Economy cabins on trans-continental or trans-Pacific routes will enjoy new mattress pads, duvets, pillows, day blankets, lumbar pillows, pajamas and slippers from Casper’s award-winning engineering team, who studied the travel environment of long-haul flights for months to better understand the challenges of inflight sleep. More than a dozen versions of the onboard pillow were tested with a variety of fibers to find the perfect balance, while the new signature duvet, available exclusively on AA, is inspired by performance outerwear and features sewn through seams that create small, rectangular chambers for a consistent fill. The Casper products will be available on all long-haul international routes as well as several trans-continental routes.
It’s Not Who You Know, But Who You Travel With Travel with like-minded souls to some of the world’s most exotic, historic and thrilling destinations with Country Holidays’ curated collection of small-group Signature Departures.
8 Days / August 12-19, 2018
Mongolia Travel deep in the heartland of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and grasslands on a unique nine-day itinerary that marries the country’s awe-inspiring landscapes with the rich traditions of its nomadic people. Travelling by luxury jeep in order to tackle whatever the road throws at you, you’ll journey from Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, south, to venture into the Gobi Desert, a vast sandy desert that occupied 30 percent of this massive country, for a breathtaking glamping experience. Commune with nature during picnics served in acclaimed Gorkhi-Terelj National Park; visit the homes of local nomads for a drop of Ariag, locally-fermented horse milk; enjoy private Kuumei and Morin Khuur performances, where you’ll ride Mongolian horses through some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery; and even enjoy a taste of Mongolia’s Nadaam festival without having to battle the crowds.
8 Days / October 4-13, 2018
Slovenia & Istria
Credit: Louen Tang, Country Holidays
Combining a chance to follow trails through some of Eastern Europe’s most striking landscapes with the opportunity to follow your taste buds on a truly unique culinary encounter, the nine-day Slovenia & Istria Truffle itinerary, timed to coincide with the white truffle season, captures the great outdoors and the great kitchens of the country to perfection. The gateway to the alps, as well as karstic lakes, extensive cave systems, and a Venetian-style coastline, Slovenia is a paradise of travellers who like to conclude a good meal with a little exercise. In addition to dining at World’s Best Female Chef 2017 Ana Roš’ Hiša Franko restaurant at Kobarid in Slovenia, you’ll visit Istria, an epicurean hotspot and one of only two areas in Europe producing rare white truffles, as well as world-class wines, olive oils and organic honey, which you’ll learn more about during special white truffle and olive oil lunches. You’ll also enjoy a feast for the senses set against ancient, pastel-coloured seaside towns, picturesque vineyards, olive groves, dense forests and a pristine coastline dotted with beautifully-preserved Roman ruins.
11 Days / October 26 – November 6, 2018
Egypt Ancient Egypt comes to life during a very special 11-day Majestic Egypt itinerary that delves into the rich mythology of the Pharaohs. In Cairo you’ll have unprecedented access to some of antiquities most prized treasures during an exclusive visit to the Giza Plateau with a private lecture with Egyptologist Dr Zahi Hawass, and learn more about this vital site during a lecture from Dr Mark Lehner, who’ll map out the plateau and its many secrets. There will also be time to encounter the newly discovered tombs of the pyramid builders, and to shop in one of the largest bazaars in the world. From Giza take to the great Nile aboard a luxury cruise vessel for a chance to visit some of the less-visited temples and river islands. You’ll visit the famed Valley of the Kings, the Luxor Temples, and Abu Simbel, with time to meet the people of today’s Egypt with lunch at a local Nubian home in Aswan.
Jordan & Israel
9 Days / November 5-14, 2018
Journey to the Holy Land and follow in the footsteps of Moses, Hadrian, and Lawrence of Arabia, all of whom passed through the Kingdom of Jordan, a fascinating landscape of ancient sites that tell the many stories of great civilizations past. While the ancient city of Petra, one of the seven new wonders of the world, will be the backdrop for an intimate and exclusive chef ’s table dinner, it is just one of several unique sites that echo ancient history, including the
Madaba Desert, and Mt Nebo. From Jordan you’ll continue into Israel, arriving in Jerusalem, where you’ll tour the Old City, the epicenter of three of the world’s greatest religions. Visit the Wailing Wall, explore the tunnel systems below, follow the Stations of Christ, in the footsteps of condemned Jesus, and spend time with an Israeli conflict resolution specialist, who will give content on the ancient conflicts that have defined the city. For the truly passionate, extend your visit to Israel’s North.
The Silk Road A fascinating and enthralling route through a kaleidoscope of cultures, traditions and history, the ancient Silk Road is enjoying a renaissance as the countries along its route embrace new fortunes. Country Holidays has you covered along the length of this once vital trading route, with the Silk Road broken into bite sized encounters that can be sewn together to create an unforgettable journey (read more about Country Holidays’ Silk Road itineraries on page 38.)
Start in China’s Gansu region, where many merchants began their journey, with visits to Xian, a chance to explore spectacular monasteries and temples, and an opportunity to see the starting point of the Ming dynasty’s Great Wall. In Dunhuang, you’ll tour the ancient Mogao cave system, closed to the public, with a local archeologist; and explore the oasis town of Turpan, crossing the treacherous Taklamakan Desert in time to visit the markets of Kasgar.
Continue to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to explore the trading cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, encountering inspiring architecture in Ashgabat, ancient horse traditions in Akhal-Teke, and artisanal wine at the Khovrenko Winery. From here you’ll cross the border to start your ten-day Classic Iran – The Heart of Persia itinerary, which delves into
one of the world’s oldest civilizations, with visits to romantic Shiraz, stunning Esfahan, and vibrant Tehran (read more about Iran on page 28).
Armenia reveals its secrets during the Western Iran & Armenia itinerary in October, during which travelers will visit the rarely encountered north of Iran, cross the mountains of Southern Armenia, and explore the rich culinary traditions of Yerevan.
Finally, during the ten-day Treasures of Armenia & Georgia journey, you’ll pass from the ruggedly-beautiful mountains to the lush, fertile valleys of Georgia, once the fruit bowl of the Soviet Union, with time to visit ancient churches, cave cities, and an eclectic capital, Tbilisi, a growing wine destination.
11 Days Gansu / Sep 8 - 18, 2018 12 Days Xinjiang / Sep 15 - 27, 2018 12 Days Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan / Sep 26 - Oct 8, 2018 10 Days Classic Iran / Oct 10 - 21, 2018 12 Days Western Iran & Armenia / Oct 21 - Nov 2, 2018 10 Days Armenia & Georgia / Oct 29 - Nov 9, 2018
Off the Beaten Path
cultural heart, with stunning contemporary architecture set against the timeless backdrop of the mountaintop fortress of Narikala, which overlooks the city and its meandering Kura River.
In contrast, life takes a decidedly slower pace outside the capital. Make your way to Signagi, the pint-sized capital of Georgia’s ancient wine belt, famed for its red-roofed buildings and the stunning views across the valleys below. Georgia is the cradle of viticulture and exploring its verdant landscapes and leafy, quaint villages is the best way to discover some of the region’s best wineries, including the stunning Chateau Zegaani, which was built in 1820 by Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, founder of Georgia’s contemporary wine industry.
The Land of
Wolves The year ahead is the perfect opportunity to step back in time with a visit to Georgia, famed for its pristine landscapes, beautifully-preserved churches, and passion for slow travel. One of the fastest emerging destinations of Central Asia, Georgia has left years of conflict in its past and forged ahead, offering travellers a breathtaking fusion of past and present. A burgeoning economy and greater air access from Asia thanks to Kazakhstan’s national carrier Air Astana have helped put this remarkable nation on the radar for travellers with a passion for culture, history, and of course, a few glasses of wine.
Start in the country’s dynamic capital and largest city, Tbilisi. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt 29 times, showing the fortitude of its residents, and today offers visitors a contemporary metropolitan experience punctuated with odes to its rich heritage that has drawn comparisons to Berlin. Edgy yet welcoming, Tiblisi is the nation’s
Spirituality is also a vital component of this unique destination. You can experience the deep held faith of the Georgians at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Living Pillar. Located in the historic town of Mtskheta, northwest of Tbilisi, the UNESCOrecognised church is regarded as the burial place of Christ’s mantle and is among the most venerated shrines in a country punctuated by churches and cathedrals.
For the active, Georgia also offers exceptional hiking opportunities, whether its climbing to the protected Vardzia cave monastery, a series of shrines recessed into the rock wreathing a 12th century church; or something a little more challenging, like hiking the spectacular Mouth Kazbek, which offers captivating views from the Holy Trinity Church set on its flanks. Country Holidays has itineraries which capture the beauty and heritage of Georgia to perfection. Ask your Travel Specialist for more details.
the Ancient Warrior Iran’s ancient Zoorkhaneh rituals allow visitors the chance to step back in time, and step into the arena of the warriors of old. Rhythmic, precise, timeless, Iran’s Varzesh- e Zoorkhaneh rituals are among the most fascinating of the country’s cultural legacies. A traditional training regime for Persian warriors that combines martial arts, calisthenics, strength training and music, Zoorkhaneh dates back to 550BC and the Achaemenid Empire. Fusing elements of pre-Islamic culture with both a strong physical and ethical ethos, and detailed in Persian writer Ferdowsi’s classic tome Shahnameh or The Book of Kings, the UNESCO-recognised Zoorkhaneh rituals have been preserved as a gem in Iran’s rich cultural tapestry.
Varzesh- e Zoorkhaneh continues to be performed across Iran, almost always in a traditional domed arena called a Zoorkhane. Considered a sacred space, and translating literally as ‘a place of strength’, these unique venues allow antiquity and modernity to co-exist – watch your head as you enter, as many Zoorkhanes maintain the traditional low-slung entrance
ways, a way to teach the pahlevan or ‘wrestlers’ modesty and respect as they bow as they enter. Within the Zoorkhane lies the Gowd, a recessed octagonal space where men follow choreographed movements to the haunting melody of traditional Persian music, played by a Morshed, who plays a drum-like tonbak and recites ancient verses from the Shahnameh, in which the mythological character Rustam practises koshti, or traditional wrestling.
In the movements of Zoorkhaneh, you’ll find elements of koshti (which is said to have contributed to Iran’s success in the Olympic wrestling ring), as well as strength exercises using weights in the shape of clubs, shields and bows. However, at the heart of this ancient practice is honour, compassion, community and wisdom rather than aggression, making it as much a national sport and a fascinating tradition to watch as it is a philosophy.
Experience the captivating movements of Zoorkhaneh as part of Country Holidays’ fascinating Iran itineraries.
Mourning in the Moment Photographer: William Lai Destination: Abyaneh, a village in Iran I took this image in October, during a visit to the ancient village of Abyaneh, in Iran’s central Esfanhan province. It captures the rituals and ceremony of the Ashura festival, a traditional Day of Remembrance. Celebrated on the tenth day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, the festival is part of the The Mourning of Muharram, a set of rituals associated with both Shia and Sunni Islam that mark the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala and the death of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad. After arriving in Abyaneh we were welcomed by residents clothed in colourful costumes. The men of the village carried a Nakhl, a wooden structure used as a symbolic representation of the Imam’s coffin. Offerings of flour, tea leaves, and sugar were gathered and passed on to the village’s underprivileged as part of the rites. It was a moving and profound moment captured in the life of a fascinating country with a rich and ancient heritage. The next Global Exposures Photography Workshops with Bobby Lee will visit Russia’s Lake Baikal in March and The Caucasus in May, 2018.
The Road to Rural Bliss
Nick Walton encounters four very different takes on the New Zealand lodge during a luxury road trip of the North Island.
Getting to Treetops Lodge & Estate, one of New Zealand’s original luxury lodges, takes some serious faith in one’s GPS. After a three-hour drive from Auckland, I follow the purple line on the screen intently as the route descends deeper and deeper into rural bliss, leaving the highway for a gravel track that bobs and weaves between undulating hills. Eventually, just when I think I’ve come the wrong way, I’m greeted by a sign and a treelined laneway that beckons me just a little further. This is the experience many visitors to New Zealand are looking for; to be removed from the rat race, to a place that’s as serene as it is bucolic; remote, but without sacrificing the creature comforts. Located on its own expansive working farm outside Rotorua, in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island, Treetops Lodge & Estate ticks all those boxes and more. It’s also the first stop on my New Zealand road trip as I sample four leading New Zealand lodges, each distinct from the next. Treetops is the story of the traditional New Zealand lodge; created by passionate naturalist John Sax, and built initially as a big stag hunting lodge, today many Treetops guests would rather pick up a knife and fork than a rifle. While the property still seduces hunters from across the globe with its diverse game and stunning setting, it’s also become a culinary destination in its own right, with an innovative Chilean chef; access to world-class produce, including estate venison, quail, rabbit, wild pig and trout; and a series of unique foodie adventures that range from Estateto-Plate safaris to Maori Food Trails. I’m no hunter I confess, but that doesn’t stop me on my first night at the lodge, from enjoying the sika (one of six deer species on the estate) loins with raspberries and indigenous kawakawa, a basil-like herb foraged from the forest, served by Chef Philippe and matched with Hawkes Bay wines by Dutch manager Pieter on my first night.
Accommodation at Treetops is rustic yet inviting. A pioneer of environmentally-managed design, the lodge offers a variety of accommodation styles, including the recentlyadded Lodge Wing, a four-room enclave housed in the main lodge building that’s ideally suited for families and friends travelling together; and a clutch of secluded cottage-style villas that each boast two suites. My suite boasts custom furniture; fireplaces that keep the evening chill at bay; a king-sized bed dressed in high thread count linens; a voluminous bathroom with jacuzzi bath; and dramatic native forest views. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the roar of resident red stags as dawn breaks.
(Clockwise from top left); Serenity found at Treetops; the elegant lounge at the Kinloch Club; the golf course beyond is one of New Zealand’s newest; seasonal fare is par for the course at the country’s top lodges; deer at Treetops; the lodge pioneered the estate-to-plate movement in New Zealand.
From Treetops it’s an easy hour’s drive south through mist-wreathed farmland to the banks of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest. I trace my way around the lake, world-renowned for its trout fishing, until I reach the sleepy settlement of Kinloch and one of the country’s newest lodge sensations, The Lodge at the Kinloch Club. Another creation of John Sax, The Lodge at the Kinloch Club marries luxury accommodation and sublime dining with a coveted new golf course by Jack Nicklaus. Modern, imposing and ambitious, The Kinloch Club straddles a low range of mountains and offers a contemporary take on the New Zealand lodge experience for golfers and non-golfers like. New arrivals weave their way through manicured fairways as they ascend to the main lodge building; built from local schist stone and inspired by Kinloch Castle in Scotland (albeit with a very contemporary take on that timeless icon) the lodge was designed by New Zealand architect Andrew Patterson and boasts sun-kissed internal courtyards, elegantly-appointed lounges and dining rooms, and panoramic lake and links views.
I’m able to drive my hire car right to the door of my one-bedroom villa, which, dressed in polished oak floors, handmade rugs, Egyptian linens and floor-to-ceiling French doors, has a distinctly residential feel about it. The refined, modern space features a full kitchen, lavish furnishings, and a patio overlooking an inviting par three.
I emerge from these comfy confines, first to tackle the golf course, which follows the sometimes-challenging terrain of a former sheep farm, before joining other guests for cocktail hour in the main lodge’s Great Room, where manager Ken McTague offers aperitifs beside a roaring fireplace. The luxurious, eclectic and tactile interiors of lodge guru Virginia Fisher are unmistakable here, and include plush banquettes, cowhide, goat skins and burnt wood floorings. Beyond, the dining room is an airy, elegant space dedicated, where possible, to organic estate-to-plate cuisine prepared by executive chef Jean-Michel that ranges from grilled Karitani crayfish with Beluga lentils and star anise jus; to wild venison dusted in endemic harore and horopito.
From the mirror-like waters of Taupo I fly north to Whangarei, gateway to one of New Zealand’s most spectacular regions, Northland, to continue my road trip. Again, I’m forced to rely on my GPS as I leave the highway in my wake and descend the narrow, winding Russell Road east, towards the Pacific. So elusive is New Zealand’s newest ‘super lodge’ that I drive straight past its gates before backtracking and announcing myself to the ranks of security cameras which guard the entrance. 21
Understated and yet determinably luxurious, Helena Bay, which opened in late 2016 after eight years of development and with a price tag of US$35 million, is the creation of a media-shy Russian steel billionaire, who selected the lodge’s namesake bay as his own little slice of kiwi heaven. Located on three kilometers of pristine coastline, complete with private beaches, forested walking paths, and its own 215-hectare working farm, Helena Bay accommodates a maximum of ten guests at a time, making it the latest in a series of new properties that cater to travellers looking to book out entire estates.
Each of the lodge’s ocean-facing suites feature double-height ceilings, cavernous, mosaic-lined bathrooms, Christian Fischbacher robes, Hefel of Austria linens, and private patios. The main lodge building wreaths a 25-metre infinity pool, and boasts a gym and intimate spa, lounges and libraries, and an extensive modern art collection.
private pavilion, and diving on the acclaimed Poor Knights Islands. There’s also a tennis court, secluded beaches on which to wander, and orchards and gardens to tour with executive chef Michele Martino, who has brought the Michelin-starred cuisine of chef Ernesto Iaccarino’s acclaimed southern Italy restaurant Don Alfonso 1890 to New Zealand. (Clockwise from left); Dusk overlooking Helena Bay, New Zealand’s newest super lodge; local artisans play an important role in Helena Bay’s culinary offering; views of the lodge’s namesake bay from the sunken fire pit.
As the only guest in residence I get the star treatment. Happy hour starts when a young kiwi waitress, who has returned home from working aboard superyachts to take up a role at the lodge, arrives, resplendent in a tuxedo, and presents a perfectly made martini before inviting me to dine in an intimate book-lined snug, complete with roaring fire. Service is refined but also intuitive – I can’t see staff until I need them, which gives Helena Bay the residential feel its owner envisioned.
Of course, there’s plenty to keep you occupied between lavish meals, from farm tours with estate manager John and his trusty blue heeler, to helicopter flights, kayaking, beach picnics at the newly-opened
From Helena Bay I place my faith in Lady GPS once again and forge north, for one of my personal favourite lodges in the country, Kauri Cliffs. One of three lodges created by Tiger Fund founder Julian Robertson (the other two being Hawke’s Bay’s Cape Kidnappers and Queenstown’s Matakauri), Kauri Cliffs, his first, redefined New Zealand’s lodge scene; wreathing a golf course by David Harman that’s listed #39 in the world and which hugs dramatic sea cliffs, the lodge crowns a 6,500-acre working sheep station in the Bay of Islands, certainly one of New Zealand’s most breathtakingly beautiful locales.
Despite being almost two decades old, the lodge at Kauri Cliffs seems timeless and infinitely graceful. Arriving guests are greeted by captivating sea views as they wind their way across the estate to reach The Lodge which features just 22 guest suites, each of which boasts sublime interiors my Virginia Fisher, spacious bathrooms, and eastfacing balconies, and which is in turn sequestered in native forest.
I managed to hit the links as the sun begins to descend towards the Pacific, pausing on the 15th hole to soak in the panorama of rural bliss, infinite ocean, crashing waves and manicured greens. The colours of this spectacular landscape burst to life as day comes to an end, and I greet the inky night over pre-dinner drinks on the lodge’s deep-set terrace. Unlike some of the lodges, Kauri Cliffs maintains a sense of formality (so don’t forget a sports coat) which pairs perfectly with crisp, intelligent service from a United Nations staff, and the delectable cuisine of executive chef Barry Frith, which champions food miles and local producers.
For those post-round aches, Kauri Cliffs is also home to an intimate spa nestled on the cusp of an ancient Totara forest that features four
treatment rooms and a range of bespoke rituals. Alternatively, take to the skies for an exhilarating coastal helicopter flight (many guests also combine a tour with helicopter transfers from Whangarei or Auckland) or a picnic at the estate’s best kept secret, Pink Beach, a heavenly strip of white sand under a canopy of red flowering pohutukawa trees.
For the last stop on my luxury road trip of New Zealand’s North Island I scoot south to Whangarei Heads, another corner of the region that’s rarely visited by tourist throngs. My route left cosmopolitan Whangarei behind and traces its way around the city’s harbour before climbing over the towering headlands that shelter the port from the Pacific Ocean.
The Glasshouse is the newest addition to the Ara Roa Accommodation family and offers one lucky couple about as much privacy as they could hope for. Located at the tip of a privately-owned peninsula, The Glasshouse features staggering ocean views, a glass-encased living area and master bedroom, an expansive sun deck with wood burning fireplace, a covered al fresco dining area, and one of the most breathtaking bathrooms, I’ve seen (if you don’t mind the occasional walk in the dark when nature calls), secluded at the end of a garden trail, complete with a shower that opens to the elements.
The Glasshouse is more than just a respite – there’s everything you need to enjoy your stay, from a fully-equipped kitchen and chef on call, to an internetconnected sound system, lavish furnishings, and high speed wifi. Fly in by helicopter or park your hire car at the front door, and disappear from the face of the earth, if only for a day or two.
Of course, there is also plenty for the active to do, from fishing, hiking and swimming from the estate’s own pier, to exploring some of Northland’s most spectacular beaches. The Glasshouse can be booked as a stand alone or matched with the peninsula’s modern three-bedroom Te Whara house when travelling as a group.
(Clockwise from top left); Many guests arrive at lodges like Kauri Cliffs by helicopter; dramatic coastal views from The Glasshouse; the country’s newest luxury accommodation offers ultimate privacy; Kauri Cliff’s guest rooms have a sublime residential feel. 25
The Heavy Hitters Two new digital SLRs, each the product of a different school of thought, are set to change the way we take photos on our next adventure.
For serious shooters looking for a camera system that can keep up with the action, the Sony a9 is the company’s latest mirrorless SLR. Designed for speed, the new Sony a9 features the world’s first 24MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor and the ability to capture a whopping 20 frames a second, ensuring you never miss the most important moments of your next adventure abroad. Silent and vibration free at speeds of up to 1/32,000, the a9 boasts a 693-point focal plane phase detection AF system that tracks complex, erratic motion with higher accuracy than ever before, while the electronic viewfinder functions with absolutely no blackout, giving the user a seamless live view of their subject at all times. Dual SD card slots, an extended battery life, and ethernet port connectivity for fast image transfer make this an essential system for true photography enthusiasts. www.sony.com Who is it suited to? Perfect for travellers who want to save weight and prefer a smaller but still robust body, the a9’s highspeed shooting and precision tracking capacity makes it an essential for fast moving wildlife, from breaching whales to birds in flight
But there’s also a powerful contender from the mirrored DSLR camp in the new Nikon D850, a powerhouse boasting a staggering 45.7-megapixel sensor and an ISO range of 64-25,600, meaning great performance in all sorts of shooting situations. Capable of continuous shooting at seven frames per second (which is boosted to nine with the optional MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack, pictured), the D850 features the 153-point AF system of the D5, as well as the latest EXPEED 5 image processing engine, and Nikon’s FX-format backside illuminated CMOS sensor. In addition to still images that feature game-changing dynamic range, the D850 also shoots full-frame video in high definition and can even create 8K time lapses. www.nikon.com Who is it suited to? The Nikon D850 is a hefty camera body, especially when married with the battery grip, making it suitable for serious photographers who don’t mind weight when it’s balanced with performance. The dynamic range and massive megapixel count make it great for landscapes and wildlife, especially with the built-in DX shooting mode.
Life’s a Journey When it’s time for you to explore New Zealand’s luxury lodges, be sure to pack these road trip essentials.
Keep warm with the top down with the Dream Loop scarf from acclaimed New Zealand label Untouched World. Made using the brand’s exclusive Kapua blend of premium possum, cashmere and silk, wear the scarf long or loop it twice to wear it like a snood. As perfect for the road as it is for long-haul flights. www.untouchedworld.com
Ensure you have life’s essentials in the backseat with the new limited-edition 19 Degree Rose Gold series from Tumi. The brand’s firstever aluminum line, 19 Degree cases feature double snap closures (for carry-on cases) or triple clasps (for check in), a reinforced frame, TSA locks, and retractable top and side carry handles in premium brown leather. The limited-edition pieces come in a matte black finish with eye-catching rose gold accents. www.tumi.com
It’s always important to have a good book at hand, and in Woman in the Wilderness Miriam Lancewood tells of her life living rough in the heart of the specular Southern Alps. A story of survival, love and self-discovery, this non-fiction account follows Lancewood and her husband through six years of camping and hunting in the wilderness, through all seasons, and the drama and challenges that come with this beautifully-brutal landscape. www.allenandunwin.com
A modern take on the women’s winter coat, the new Achantus Jacket by Moncler marries an Oriental twist with the brand’s signature hi-tech fabrics. Featuring ribbed trims, a two-way zip fastening, and four front pockets, this will keep you snug no matter what the weather throws at you. www.moncler.com
Ensure your skin stays hydrated while you travel with Kiehl’s Pure Vitality Skin Renewing Cream. Combining the essence of two natural ingredients, New Zealand Manuka honey, valued for its anti-inflammatory attributes, and Korean red ginseng, which offers a rich variety of minerals and nutrients for skin revitalisation, this solution protects from harmful environmental substances while smoothing and energising your complexion. www.kiehls.com
The Destinations Defining the
Middle East in 2018
The Middle East is a paradox. Located at the cultural crossroads between east and west, the region served as one of the major cradles of human civilisation and birthplace, yet is misunderstood by many travellers. Louie Chan looks beyond the veil at the Middle East’s most exciting destinations for the year ahead.
Exploring Omanâ€™s interior is a chance to step back to the time of the ancient frankincense trade 29
IRAN Iran is truly enjoying its moment in the sun. More travellers than ever are flocking to this truly unique destination, home to breathtaking Islamic architecture and UNESCO sites that have rocketed the country to the top of ‘must-visit’ lists for 2018. On Country Holidays’ 16-day A Complete Journey of the Legendary Persia, travellers can venture from modern Iran to ancient pre-Islamic Persia, visiting countless UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the beautiful Eram Garden and Shazdeh Garden; and the Shah Nimatullah Vali Shrine; to Iran’s tallest wind tower; the acclaimed Persepolis ruins; and Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, with its most historical and pilgrimage architecture.
A visit to Iran (above) is a chance to delve into the country’s ancient carpet weaving traditions (credit: Bobby Lee, Global Exposures); the breathtaking Chehel Sotoun Palace in Isfahan (right).
Visiting the National Jewellery Museum in Tehran is a highlight of the journey, where you’ll gaze upon the largest pink diamond in the world. You can also delve into Iran’s rich local culture with a visit to a traditional zurkhaneh, where today’s Iranians perform timeless exercises first developed to train warriors. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the art of carpet weaving in Esfahan, the centre of Persian Carpets; pay a visit to the Chehel Sotoun Palace, now a museum dedicated to the art of calligraphy; and enjoy the stunning landscapes of Kandovan, the Cappadocia of Iran, a charming village famed for its timeless cliff dwellings.
The oases of Oman’s interior (above) are surprisingly verdant; catch of the day in Muscat (left).
OMAN If you’re thrilled by desert landscapes, incredible mountain ranges, historic forts and warm beaches throughout the year, then make Oman the next destination on your travel bucket list. You can begin your adventure with a visit to Old Muscat and the city’s stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, before driving southwest to the fortress town of Nizwa. Enjoy an invigorating off-road drive to Juniper Village, famed for its gnarled juniper and olive trees, as well as its incredible panoramic views of Wadi Bani Kharus. Here, the luxurious Alila Jabal Akhdar offers visitors a gateway to the area’s rich history and culture and its unique wildlife. All rooms have views across the Al Hajar mountain range and offer the perfect base from which to explore some of Oman’s most compelling tourist destinations, including Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest mountain, and Jebel Akhdar, considered the fruit bowl of the Sultanate.
In the deep south of the country is Salalah, a less travelled but increasingly popular corner of Oman famed for its orchards and exotic souk, as well as the verdant Wadi Darbat and the ruins of Sumhuram, once one of the major ports of Southern Arabia and an important conduit for the international frankincense trade network. From here you’ll delve into the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world, for the ultimate glamping experience at the Hud Hud Luxury Private Camp. Here, guests sleep in authentic, handmade Bedouin tents, complete with large beds, cotton bedding, Arabian rugs and throws, and elegant furnishings. It’s a blissful mix of an authentic Arabian caravan and an African safari, enjoyed in one of the last untouched corners of the world. If your appetite for this extraordinary country is yet to be sated, extend your trip with a visit to the seaside retreat of Six Senses Zighy Bay, which was inspired by a traditional Omani village.
The Moroccan city of Chefchaouen (above) is famed for its blue buildings; the time-weathered city of Ait Benhaddou (right).
MOROCCO A gateway between worlds, Morocco has a touch of the Mediterranean as well as the exoticism of Africa. If you’re an old Moroccan hand, how about beginning your journey at Chefchaouen, one of Morocco’s most beautiful cities, located in the foothills of the Rif Mountains? Enjoy a guided walking tour that explores the white-and-blue washed medina, the unique native handicraft markets, and the eye-catching laundry district of Rif Sebbanin.
Founded in 807, Fez is the most ancient of Morocco’s Imperial cities and is the most complete medieval city of the Arab world. It is a unique and remarkable place that stimulates all the senses. Located in the heart of the ancient city, Riad Fes provides guests with the splendour and authenticity of life as a Fassi noble, complete with sublime Spanish Moorish architecture and crisp New World service.
In Merzouga, your eight-hour drive through the desert will be rewarded with a chance to try your hand at glamping among the towering dunes of the Erg Chebbi Desert, where you’ll ride camels at sunset and listen to folklore around the communal dining table of the main tent. From the dunes journey to Skoura, one of Morocco’s
beautiful oases, which offers weary travellers a chance to explore the Atlas Mountains’ Todgha Gorge, with lunch served on the edges of the limestone canyon’s clifftops.
No trip to Morocco is complete without tackling Marrakech, which contains the modern soul of Morocco. For a chance to live like royalty, check in at the opulent Royal Mansour, built and owned by the King of Morocco. Centred on a main courtyard with flowing fountains and captivating mosaics, this truly special hotel combines timeless design with world-class service and dining.
From the city it’s an easy journey to the nearby rocky Agafay desert, which can be explored by quad bike or guided horse trek, and Imlil village, set amidst the Atlas Mountains. En-route, visit the Women’s Co-operative Argan Oil Workshop in Tahanaout, and upon arrival trek into the Toubkal National Park to discover spectacular mountain vistas. Rest your weary feet at Sir Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot, a luxurious mountain retreat enjoyed by a few luxury travellers before venturing to the village of Mzik, where you’ll enjoy a traditional tea service with a local Berber family.
JORDAN Jordan’s past is rich and captivating, with many of the sites mentioned in the Bible falling within its borders. Upon arrival in the capital Amman, get your bearings with a city tour that includes a visit to Jerash, one of the Middle East’s last remaining examples of a Roman provincial city. From the capital you’ll venture into Wadi Rum, Jordan’s wild desert landscape, which fascinated the British liaison officer Lawrence of Arabia. There are a host of activities on offer in Wadi Rum, including jeep safaris, hiking, and a chance to camp under the stars at the Full of Stars Camp.
The next morning set out for Beidha, a major Neolithic archaeological site a few kilometres north of Petra near Siq al-Barid. This ancient archaeological site is included in the more famous Petra’s UNESCO inscription, giving it the nickname ‘Little Petra’. Of course, you’ll visit Petra too, with a full day concluding with a unique night walking tour of the Nabataeans capital, which dated from 1BC and which is today listed among the new Seven Wonders of The World.
Pamper yourself with the healing and revitalising waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth (418m below sea level) over two nights, with time for visits to Madaba, famed for the mosaic floors of its St George’s Greek Orthodox Church; and Mount Nebo, where Moses viewed the holy land, between dips in the salt-rich waters.
For activity lovers, Jordan is a brilliant hiking destination; the Ajloun Soap Trail Walk, winds for two hours through woodlands filled with oaks, pistachio and oriental strawberry trees as the trail climbs to 1,100m above sea level at Eagle’s View Point, before descending to the Soap House, where local women follow the traditional process of making Orjan soap from pure olive oil. Alternatively, follow the river through the lush landscapes of Wadi Bani Hamad, or follow an ancient Nabatean path from Little Petra to the monastery of Al-Deir.
The Dead Sea’s dramatic coastline (above); time stands still in Petra (credit: Tourism Jordan)
ISRAEL Begin an insightful journey through the Promised Land, which is often combined with a visit to Jordan, with an in-depth walking tour of Jerusalem. Start at the Citadel, known as the “Tower of David”, and its museum, which beautifully brings to life Jerusalem’s rich and often turbulent history. To follow the story of Jesus, start from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, where you’ll see the famous Wailing Wall and the iconic Dome of the Rock before discovering the Western Wall Tunnel beneath. Continue to the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, and the adjacent Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, most famous as the place where Jesus prayed, and his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion. Walk along the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) that marks the 14 stations of the Cross on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, a route which ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site of the execution. There will also be time to visit Mount Zion, the Tomb of King David, and The Room of the Last Supper.
Country Holidays’ itineraries in Jerusalem explore the Old City; the Western Wall (below) remains a popular historical site.
From Jerusalem you can make an excursion to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, where you’ll visit the Church of Nativity, before returning to Jerusalem and spending the afternoon at the Israeli Museum, or explore the Mahane Yehuda Market, one of the most famous traditional market places in the Middle East. Country Holidays’ itinerary also covers the biblical Sea of Galilee, the Hellenistic, Roman and Crusader’s Mediterranean Coast, and ends in what is perhaps the Middle East’s hippest city, Tel Aviv.
EGYPT The River Nile is the cradle of Egyptian civilisation and should be the first stop on any visit to this ancient land. After exploring the towering pyramids and Sphinx of Giza at sunset, cruise this famous waterway to admire the many wonderful sites of Egyptian antiquity, including the east bank’s Karnak and Luxor temples, and the west bank’s Colossi of Memnon, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and the countless tombs of the Valley of the Kings.
Beyond the river’s ancient sites, explore the untouched oasis villages of Qaroun Lake and the Qatrani Mountains before camping under the stars in Wadi Hitan. Delve among the ancient fossils of Wadi El-Hitan, the Valley of the Whales before tracing your way around the lakes of Wadi El-Rayyan, a stunning conservation area where the blue waters of the lakes juxtapose the golden sands of the desert.
A traditional dahabiyya on the River Nile
Back to Cairo you’ll enjoy VIP access at the soon-to-open Grand Egyptian Museum, which houses the world’s most extensive collection of pharaonic antiquities, before diving into the vibrant Khan-el-Khalili, the capital’s oldest bazaar and the perfect place for souvenir hunting.
For something rather unique, hop on a 45 minutes flight to Kharga Oasis and the lodge at the Dakhla Oasis, one of the seven oases of Egypt’s Western Desert. Along the way you’ll drop in at the Islamic village of Balat, built during the Mamaluke and Turkish eras; and Al-Qasr village, which sits at the foot of towering limestone cliffs and is little changed from medieval times. As the sun hangs low in the sky, join your Bedouin guide to explore the dunes wreathing the oasis by camel.
Two other hotspots in the Middle East will appeal to regular visitors to the region.
This is North Africa wrapped up in one bite-sized package, with vast Sahara dunes, mammoth ancient ruins, and exotic cities that are home to a sprawling tangle of eclectic and fascinating souks. Tunisia was Rome’s breadbasket, and the cultural riches the empire left behind are more than enough reason to visit. In addition, the history of Arab occupiers has left a mesmerising legacy of Islamic architecture. You do not have to search far to unearth Tunisia’s trademark - a plethora of historical sites dating back almost 3,000 years dotting the landscape of this tiny nation. Kairouan, the former capital of Ifriqiya, which flourished in the 9th century, is the holiest Islamic city after Mecca and Medina.
Despite recent tumultuous times, Turkey’s allure is not lost, especially to travellers intent on experiencing one of the most fascinating and beautiful destinations on earth. This is a huge country scattered with stunning ancient sites and populated by some of the friendliest people on earth. Experience Istanbul’s blend of East and West, from Istanbul’s colourful Grand Bazaar and elegant Topkapi Palace, with its gilded harem, to the wind-swept beauty of Cappadocia, the regal ruins at Ephesus, and the postcard perfect coastal resort of Bodrum.
Acclaimed author and photographer Alison Wright took a near-death experience and turned it into a drive for hope.
What inspires you as a photographer? Insatiable curiosity, meeting new people and their cultures, gorgeous light, the hope of helping to make the planet a better place to live for my fellow humanity in some small way. I’ve spent a career travelling the globe documenting indigenous cultures and issues concerning the human condition.
You had a life-changing accident in Laos. What affect did that event have on your outlook on life and also on your work as a photographer? I was in a horrific bus accident on a remote jungle road in Laos. I was sitting right at the point of impact, pinned by the giant logging truck that had sheared our bus in half. Of those who survived I suffered the most extensive injuries; multiple broken bones including my back, pelvis and all my left ribs. Most alarming were my multiple lifethreatening internal injuries, including collapsed lungs and a herniated heart.
The locals brought me to their village and sewed my damaged body together as best they could. There was no hospital, no phones, and no painkillers. The villagers continued to worry and care for me as darkness fell. Ten hours passed. When it became clear that I was not going to make it through the night I wrote a note to my family, telling them how and where I had died. It felt important to assure them that I didn’t die alone and afraid. And as I closed my eyes and surrendered, an amazing thing happened: I let go of all fear. I have spent a lifetime trying to capture the enduring universal human spirit through my photographs and in that moment, I felt how connected we truly are.
This experience didn’t convince me to change my life so much as confirm that I was on the right path. I discovered a physical and spiritual strength within myself that I didn’t know I had, but more importantly it has inspired me to recognise the resiliency and tenacity of others, something I strive to capture in my imagery. My brush with death has become a touchstone. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember, with gratitude, that I am alive because of the kindness of strangers. It took me nearly two years and more than thirty surgeries to learn how to walk again. This experience has brought a whole new empathy and compassion to my work.
What was the inspiration behind creating your foundation Faces of Hope? I wrote a memoir about my accident called, Learning to Breathe, One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival that inspired me to start my foundation, Faces of Hope. By connecting photography and philanthropy I strive to create global awareness. I hope to give back in some small way to the women and children in the communities that I photograph through education and healthcare. The first thing I did was reach out to the people in that little village in Laos that saved my life. I brought over five American doctors and $10,000 worth of medical supplies to help support a small clinic.
Does being a photographer give you a different perspective on the hardships women face around the world? Being a photographer has given me a different perspective on the hardships of everyone in the world: men, women and children. My latest book, Human Tribe, is a monograph of colour global portraits celebrating the diversity and connectivity of our beautiful and unique visual human tapestry.
At what stage did you decide to evolve from passive spectator to active advocate? I’ve always gotten more involved than I probably should have but starting the Faces of Hope fund made it more structured with more concrete results.
What are the most important things travellers should keep in mind when interacting with cultures and communities vastly different from their own? We are ambassadors of our countries, so we need to put on our best example. These people may never get to visit our countries, so we may be the only impression they get. Leave them with a good one. Respect the culture, follow their customs and wear what is expected.
Do you have a Faces of Hope project that you’re especially passionate about? I lived in Nepal for many years so the earthquake in Nepal personally hit me especially hard. I was able to raise thousands of dollars for tents for Nepal as well as Haiti. I’ve also helped a woman’s shelter in the Congo, where every minute a woman is raped; send girls to school in Africa and India; and help support Rohingya and Burmese refugees. It all feels like such a drop in the bucket but at least I feel like I’m doing something. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Unfortunately, there is no end to crisis issues in the world.
To learn more about Faces of Hope go to www.FacesofHope.org. 37
JOURNEY TO THE WEST Itinerary
The Silk Road offers as much insight and fascination today as it did when explorers and merchants first forged routes between east and west. Country Holidaysâ€™ Silk Road itineraries capture the timeless beauty and preserved antiquity of the ancient Silk Road, from central China across to the shores of the Black Sea.
PART 2 XINJIANG
EXTENSION TO AZERBAIJAN
PART 6 ARMENIA & GEORGIA
PART 3 CENTRAL ASIA
PART 1 GANSU
Yerevan Tabriz PART 5 WESTERN IRAN
PART 4 CLASSIC IRAN
*Silk Road Cities
Gansu Xian to Dunhuang Tracing the origins of the Silk Road, the 11-day Gansu – Silk Road Part 1 itinerary explores the spectacular grottoes, monasteries and temples of Gansu, visiting Zhangye’s Danxia Geo Park, Jiayuguan, the starting point of the Ming dynasty’s Great Wall, and Lanzhou, on the banks of the Yellow River. There’s time to dine with a local Tibetan family, visit the 492 temples of the Mogao Caves, and peak behind the scenes at the ancient rock art of the Yulin Grottoes. Join our Signature Departures: 11 Days / 8 to 18 September, 2018 Gansu – Silk Road Less Trodden
Xinjiang Dunhuang to Urumqi Ideally suited for intrepid travellers, this unique journey crosses the treacherous Taklamakan desert, visiting the 2,500-year-old Jiaohe Ruins, where travellers dine among the towers of this historic fortress; and Turpan’s Flaming Mountain, made famous by the classic Journey to the West. Trace a route through the picturesque Tianshan Mountain range, stopping in at remote oases like Dunhuang, where you’ll dine among the desert dunes, before reaching the ancient trading city of Urumqi.
Join our Signature Departures: 12 Days / 15 to 27 September, 2018 Charms of Rustic Xinjiang
Central Asia Tashkent to Ashgabat Leave the trodden path behind as you delve into the heart of Central Asia, with visits to exotic Silk Road cities like Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva en route to Ashgabat, the antediluvian capital of Turkmenistan, one of the region’s least known countries. Delve into the local culture with private wine tasting at Central Asia’s oldest winery, Khovrenko; make traditional puppets; and encounter the Akhal-Teke horses, one of the world’s oldest breeds and the national emblem of Turkmenistan. Join our Signature Departures: 12 Days / 26 September to 8 October, 2018 Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan 39
Iran Shiraz to Tehran
Credit: Louen Tang, Country Holidays
Join our Signature Departures: 10 Days / 10 to 21 October, 2018 Classic Iran
Western Iran & Armenia Tehran to Yerevan
One of the Middle East’s most captivating destinations (read more on page 28), Iran continues to seduce intrepid travellers with its rich history and inherent hospitality. Here, Country Holidays’ comprehensive Classic Iran: The Heart of Persia itinerary follows the route once used by merchants transporting Chinese raw silk, jewels, opium and spices from the Far East. Start your journey with visits to the ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae, former capitals of the Achaemenid Empire located outside the modern-day city of Shiraz and just two of Iran’s 22 UNESCO heritage sites. You’ll learn about the ancient Zoroastrian faith in Yazd and be spell-bound by the centuriesold architecture of Esfahan. There’s also time to experience Iran’s timeless Zookhaneh rituals (read more on page 61); try your hand at traditional carpet weaving; and take a Tehran art tour with a local calligrapher.
Join our Signature Departures: 12 Days / 21 October to 2 November, 2018 Western Iran & Armenia
A unique opportunity for travellers who have already visited Iran, this unique journey delves into the country’s rarely visited northwest en route to southern Armenia. In Iran you’ll visit the longest roofed bazaar in the world, at Tabriz; witness the fascinating Zoorkhaneh rituals, which were once used to train Persian warriors; walk among the volcanic rock houses of Kandovan; and explore the ancient ruins outside Palangan, where photographers will be welcomed with the spectacle of traditional Sufi twirling. As you progress north you’ll visit Lake Urmia’s Salt Men Museum, dedicated to the remains of 1,700-year-old salt miners discovered here; and be serenaded by a special choir recital at Armenia’s UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery, which was founded in the 4th century.
Join our Signature Departures: 10 Days / 29 October to 9 November, 2018 Treasures of Armenia & Georgia
Armenia & Georgia Yerevan to Tbilisi The Silk Road continues west, into the Caucasus Mountains, a natural barrier between east and west, and your route passes through Armenia and on to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, a surprisingly cosmopolitan city that has embraced its trading traditions. During the ten-day Treasure of Armenia & Georgia itinerary you’ll be learning about the controversial Armenian Genocide at Yerevan’s History Museum of Armenia, before entering Georgia, where you’ll visit the Stalin
Museum in the Soviet leader’s hometown of Gori, which features Stalin’s personal train carriage and childhood home. Of course, there’s also time to sample Georgia’s archaic wine culture, with a private tasting at Chateau Mukhrany winery, before enjoying the timeless harmony of a private recital by the acclaimed Rustavi Ensemble, which maintains the traditions of Georgian folk music.
Azerbaijan True Silk Road enthusiasts might like to add on a visit to Azerbaijan and its vibrant and prosperous capital Baku. The city has developed rapidly thanks to oil revenues, with luxurious hotels and shopping malls now joining UNESCO-recognised landmarks like The Palace of the Shirvanshahs, built in the 15th century; and the Maiden Tower, a 12th century monument that now houses a museum.
Country Holidays offers a range of Silk Road itineraries from week-long adventures to month-long exploration. This can be tailored for a private holiday or you can join our Signature Departures.
Journey Weaver / Sun City Advertorial PROMOTIONAL FEATURE
SAVE THE RHINO in South Africa
In the newest conservation endeavor for The Palace at Sun City, guests can play an active role in saving one of Africa’s most endearing and endangered species. Acclaimed as one of the founding fathers of contemporary luxury in Southern Africa, Sun International’s flagship retreat at Sun City, The Palace of the Lost City, a member of the elite SunLux Collection, is situated on the edge of the game rich and malariafree Pilanesberg National Park. This protected sanctuary is home to the traditional big five - lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros - as well as the coveted cheetah and packs of African wild dogs, making the destination one of South Africa’s most sought after for wildlife enthusiasts.
Sun City offers a unique take on the African wildlife experience; just steps from one of Africa’s most breath-taking national parks, Sun City guests can view game from a hot air balloon in the morning, and pamper themselves in a world-class day spa or challenge the links on a Gary Player-designed championship golf course in the afternoon.
However, many of today’s guests are looking to play a more active role in ensuring the unique wildlife of Southern Africa is preserved for generations to come. Meeting that demand, Sun City now offers guests a unique Rhino Notching Experience, allowing travellers a chance to contribute to the efforts of the Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust and help save South Africa’s rhino population.
Africa’s rhinos are critically endangered as illegal poaching continues to decimate populations throughout the continent. During this fascinating hands-on experience, guests will work with a qualified veterinarian and park officials to collect DNA from selected rhino in the Pilanesberg National Park, notch their horns, and implant ID tags that will allow them to be closely monitored by conservation managers.
“Notching the animals and giving them an individually-based identification system is core to the gathering of vital data,” says Perry Dell of the Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust. “All data captured during the Rhino Notching Experience field expedition is recorded alongside any future observation by rhino monitoring officers, creating a biological database.”
Once the rhino is suitably sedated by the resident veterinarian, park officials can go to work – with the help of Sun City guests. After a briefing that covers threats to the rhino population, including poaching, and the veterinary procedures that will take place during this unique encounter, the vet and national park authorities will identify the particular rhino that needs attention, immobilising it before guests arrive to lend a hand.
After the work is completed there’s the chance for a once-in-alifetime photo op, before the vet reverses the anaesthesia, and together the group monitors the rhino waking up and returning to the wild. The whole experience takes between 90 minutes and three hours, with groups limited to 15 persons per rhino.
Environmental Manager, Daniel Boshoff said, “We are passionate about our environment and understand the value of sustainable practices and thus are on a drive to encourage and grow eco-tourism at Sun City. Each animal forms an important part in the ecological balance of nature. It is the conservation of this balance that we aim to achieve through our partnership with The Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust.”
“The public need to stand up for these creatures,” says Dell. “However, the costs involved in a rhino immobilisation for this vital management operation are high.” This unique take on conservation tourism affords groups like the Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust the resources it needs to do vital conservation work.
Imagine the thrill of pressing your ear against the thick, rough hide of a rhino as it breathes, and the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes from playing an active role in protecting these peaceful yet threatened and defenceless creatures.
Sun City is no stranger to working with local conservation groups to safe guard its surrounding ecosystems. Sun City and the Pilanesberg National Park have a long partnership, having opened within days of each other in 1979.
For more information about this unique wildlife encounter go to www.suninternational.com/sunlux or speak with your Travel Specialist. 43
American polar adventurer and educator Eric Larsen is the first person to have set foot at the North Pole, the South Pole, and atop Mount Everest within 365 days. He talks daily fitness regime, the popularity of tourist polar expeditions, and tips for travelling to the planet’s coldest destinations.
How did your fascination with the poles begin?
Give us some tips for preparing for a polar adventure.
It started when I was reading about historical expeditions and exploration as a kid. In the mid-1990s, I got a job as a dog musher and went on some of my first winter expeditions, which simply sparked my interest in bigger, bolder and colder expeditions.
My philosophy on preparing is to train hard and travel easy. For any big adventure, I try to determine all the potential areas for failure (gear, weather, etc) then work to solve each as best as I can. We spend a lot of time simply researching and testing gear.
How do you endure the extreme conditions of these remote locations?
You’re also a polar expedition guide; how do you see tourist expeditions to the North and South Poles evolving?
Everything about polar expeditions is work. Staying safe and warm in the most extreme environments on the planet takes constant vigilance. Therefore, I am constantly checking in with myself and the environment. Of course, I also rely on high quality gear and equipment.
What can we do to improve our fitness and flexibility before undertaking these kinds of adventures? I spend a lot of time on my bike. When it comes to prepping for a big adventure, I generally focus on strength endurance training as well - pulling heavy truck tires with a harness or hauling a heavy pack of rocks up the Colorado mountains in my backyard.
I think the awareness of polar adventures has become much greater in the past five years. Therefore, the numbers of people who are interested in one of my Last Degree expeditions or Level 1 Polar Training courses is increasing dramatically. Ultimately, the draw of this type of travel is that it hasn’t changed much at its core; it’s still pulling together everything that you need to live and survive in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.
It’s your last day on earth; would you be in the Arctic or Antarctica? Flip a coin. They’re both incredible.
What’s the most important gear you take on artic expeditions? It’s hard to take one piece of gear or equipment out of the equation and expect to be successful. Everything is important. Of course, the knowledge to use everything and be careful is paramount.
Africa’s Top New
Safari Camps With a raft of exciting new safari camps and lodges poised to open, there’s no better time to explore Africa’s diverse and mesmerising landscapes.
Wilderness Safaris’ new Bisate Lodge, situated within the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, recently opened offering travellers unprecedented access to the mountain gorillas of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. A glamorous gorilla ‘education centre’, the lodge combines insight into one of Africa’s most endangered species, amidst luxurious confines inspired by a royal residence. After hikes into the park, soak in the power of nearby Mount Bisoke from the private deck of your spacious hillside suite; each of the six Nicholas Plewman Architects-designed suites feature interiors by designer Caline WilliamsWynn and Teta Isibo, including thatched roofs, cowhide rugs and emerald green chandeliers made from recycled glass.
The new Jabali Ridge camp by Asilia Africa will open on a rocky kopje in southern Tanzania’s 150,000sqkm Ruaha National Park this September. Offering a spectacular wildlife encounter across an area the size of New Jersey but with very few visitors, guests will have access to large populations of African elephant, as well as lions, leopards, and buffalo living in close proximity to the camp. They’ll also have the chance to see rare sable and roan antelopes during both day and night game drives. When guests return from excursions, they can commune with nature in one of eight timber louvre-wrapped suites, with their staggering panoramic views, or in the camp’s infinity pool, which is surrounded by abundant vegetation and granite boulders. Families can book the stunning Jabali Ridge Private House, a three-bedroom stand-alone villa with its own swimming pool and game vehicles.
Another new camp for both southern Tanzania and Asilia Africa, Roho ya Selous offers an unforgettable take on the contemporary safari experience thanks to some of the highest numbers of African wild dogs on the continent. Located at the heart of the Selous Game Reserve, the new camp boasts just eight hilltop tented suites (including one family suite), each featuring hot water showers and flushing toilets, cool breeze systems, and wildlife sketches inspired by big-game hunter Frederick Selous. Try catch-and-release fishing, guided walking safaris, and night drives in search of resident leopards.
The recently opened Natural Selection’s Sable Alley (formerly Banoka Bush Camp) is a refined new safari camp at the heart of Botswana’s 178,000-hectare Khwai Private Reserve. The perfect wildlife enclave from which to spy herds of elephants, as well as lions, buffalo, wild dogs, leopards and of course sable antelope, Sable Alley borders on both the Moremi Game Reserve and the Chobe National Park in the country’s north. The new camp features 12 tented suites raised on expansive decks, each with king-sized or twin-single beds, flush toilets, and solar powered outdoor showers. Enjoy views of the Khwai River and watch resident hippos from bed through large mesh windows before departing on conventional 4x4 game drives or mokoro safaris using a traditional dugout canoe in search of leopard, spikey porcupines and fearless honey badgers.
Reopening in September after a fire destroyed the previous property, andBeyond Phinda Homestead in South Africa is part of a 28,555-hectare conservation that boasts several world-class game lodges, each nestled within their own unique ecosystem. With interiors by designer Fox Browne, who was tasked with restoring the acclaimed original retreat, Phinda Homestead will have the feel of a contemporary private bush home, complete with raw materials, subtly retro furnishings, and locally-sourced art, including Zulu basketwork and Nguni hides. Beyond the homestead’s four spacious, minimalist guest rooms are elegantly-appointed bathrooms featuring marble basins shaped like Zulu water pots, while the villa also boasts an intimate gym and massage room, a rim-flow swimming pool, a herb garden, and a spacious deck with island bar. The Homestead’s tariff includes twice-daily game drives, a Zulu village tour, seasonal night turtle drives, and options for black rhino tracking on foot, or scuba and ocean safaris.
Situated in Zambia’s Liuwa Plain National Park, one of Africa’s oldest game reserves, the remote King Lewanika Lodge (formerly Liuwa Plains) is a new permanent safari lodge that’s ideal for serenity-seekers. Built and operated by Norman Carr Safaris, and dubbed Zambia’s most exclusive camp, and the only permanent camp in the park, King Lewanika accommodates just 15 guests and will be especially popular with photographers looking to capture mesmerising landscapes and wildlife encounters. Search for the famous Liuwa lions on a night game drive; witness Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration; or explore the waterways by canoe for the ultimate sunset. Afterwards, sit back in one of six luxurious tented-canopy villas, including a two-bedroom family haven, take in the sweeping vistas of Munde stream, popular with the region’s 300 bird species.
Feel the magnificence of Victoria Falls at the eco-friendly Thorntree River Lodge, a new addition to Zambia’s Mosi-OaTunya National Park. With permanent African-style tented roofs, the environmentally-sustainable lodge’s eight twin rooms and two-family suites have indoor and outdoor bathrooms as well as private plunge pools to help ease the heat of the afternoon. During the cooler hours of the day, visit the mighty Victoria Falls, scout for rhinos during walking and driving safaris, or take to the Zambezi River in the lodge’s own yacht. As evening approaches, savour authentic local cuisine at the lodge’s open-air dining room, take a dip under the stars in the camp’s infinity pool, or hear African folklore over cocktails in the sunken boma lounge.
Located in the seldom-visited northwest of Botswana, with views across the mighty Kalahari, The Lodge at Feline Fields offers a raft of unique Bushman encounters for travellers who like to combine their wildlife with touches of culture. Boasting just six suites – three tented and three with private pools – each guest room features a king-sized bed, minibar, air conditioning, television, an ensuite bathroom with massage shower, and an outdoor ‘star bath’. Encounter elephants, gemsboks and rare wild dogs during guided walking safaris; alternatively, the adventurous can cycle through the Kalahari Desert or explore the ancient Gcwihaba Caves, one of Botswana’s most remote destinations.
Wilderness Safaris will reopen its acclaimed Serra Cafema Camp in northwest Namibia in June. Undoubtedly one of the most remote camps in southern Africa, Serra Cafema overlooks the Kunene River in the Hartmann’s Valley and is being rebuilt at the same site. The new Serra Cafema Camp will be 100 percent solar powered and built with an extremely light eco-footprint to ensure minimal impact on its pristine desert location. At the same time the emphasis will still be on celebrating the local Himba culture, one of the last true nomadic peoples on the planet. The new camp will comprise just eight riverside villas, each designed to blend into the picturesque surroundings, and will offer a host of unique experiences, from rare opportunity to meet members of the Himba people, to fascinating nature drives or guided quad bike eco-excursion through the fragile dunes. Boating on the Kunene River in search of crocodiles and waterbirds will also be available, water levels permitting.
Scheduled to open in May, Natural Selections’ Hoanib Valley Camp is located in the remote and wild Kaokoland region of northwest Namibia. A joint venture between Natural Selections, local communities and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Africa’s foremost giraffe conservation organisation, the new camp, situated in the Sesfontein Community Conservancy, sits on the banks of the Obias River and overlooks the ephemeral Hoanib River, a favourite foraging area for the region’s unique desert-adapted elephants. From the camp guests can track elusive desert adapted lion, elephant and black rhino, enjoy cultural experiences, and discover more about the desert-adapted giraffe before returning to one of the camp’s six tented suites, which feature large decks, locallyproduced weave work, and ensuite
Established by conservationists and National Geographic filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert, Duba Plains has been the base for the couple’s Great Plains Conservation since its opening. Located on a 31,000-hectare private concession, the camp has now been completely rebuilt, with five suites and a two-bedroom Duba Plains Suite, each of which takes its inspiration from the safari camps of the 1920s, replete with copper bathtubs, Persian rugs, antique furniture, crystal decanters in the minibar, and four-poster beds. The region is best known for its lion prides, which were captured in the Jouberts’ documentary The Last Lions, but there’s also hippo and leopards, red lechwe and resident elephants, with each day in the bush finishing with the customary sunset cocktails. Because no one said you had to rough it.
Located in the foothills of Rawanda’s Virunga Volcano Range, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest is scheduled to open later this year, also as a haven for gorilla seekers. Featuring luxurious accommodation and sublime interiors, the property will also boast a signature restaurant and spa, which will take its cues from the local culture and landscapes.
Located 150 kilometres away from the Gorilla’s Nest, Nyungwe House has joined the One&Only family as a partner hotel and will be rebranded as a One&Only retreat after an extensive renovation in early 2018. Offering access to the 101,000-hectare Nyungwe National Park, home to black-and-white colobus monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, and more than 275 bird species, the intimate camp will feature modern resort-style suites and villas, each with private decks and fireplaces.
Wilderness Safaris will also reopen its flagship Botswana camps Mombo and Little Mombo this year after a major overhaul. Both lodges will be solar powered to preserve the pristine environment of Chief ’s Island but will be more luxurious than ever, with tented suites featuring vaulted canopies, day beds, private decks and plunge pools. The Maasai Mara’s Sanctuary Olonana camp will relaunch in June with 14 new glass-fronted suites, each boasting king-sized beds, ensuites with bathtubs, and private decks. Three suites will benefit from an additional bedroom making them perfect for families, while the main lodge will enjoy new al fresco dining areas and a boma firepit, ensuring it stays top of the list of Kenyan camps.
A new camp for Wilderness Safaris’s Classic Camp collection, Qorokwe is situated in a private 180-hectare concession that bordered the Moremi Gane Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. With its nine tented suites, including a family tent with private plunge pool, Qorokwe is completely solar powered, meaning you can feel good about the environment as you explore on day and night game drives as well as boating and mokoro experiences. The region is famous for its diversity, both in wildlife and in landscapes, with seasonal and permanently flooded plains, winding channels, and acacia woodlands, home to lions, spotted hyaena, leopards, wild dogs, cheetah, elephants and buffalo. Architect Joy Brasler and interior designer Michelle Throssell have ensured the camp blends in with this unique setting, using bleached timbers, organic lines, and natural hues. After a long day under the African sun return to the camp’s infinity pool, or dine on locally-sourced produce in the intimate dining room. 53
A series of exciting new custom-built yachts is set to revolutionise the expedition cruising landscape, discovers Nick Walton. The expeditionary cruise industry has never been as buoyant (if you’ll excuse the pun); once the realm of small, specialist companies who used existing ice breakers and ice-strengthened vessels, often leased or chartered from governments and research organisations, to reach the world’s farthest corners, expeditionary cruising offered adventure but at the cost of comfort. No longer. Today’s expeditionary cruiser is a little more discerning, leading to major cruise lines and specialists alike scrambling to build custom vessels to keep up with demand. While the lines are keeping many details under wraps until closer to launch time, here’s what to expect in the coming 24 months.
Lindblad is one of the oldest names in the expeditionary cruise industry. Founder Lars-Eric Lindblad and his son Sven Lindblad led tourists far from their comfort zones through the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s, when they created Special Expeditions to cater to an increasingly adventurous traveller, often with specialist vessels designed to battle the elements at the world’s most inhospitable reaches. So, it’s fitting that the company is the latest in a series of expeditionary cruise lines to develop new state-of-the-art vessels so that the spirit of adventure can continue. The company, today known as Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic after a ground-breaking alliance with the acclaimed natural sciences magazine, launched the National Geographic Quest last July and will follow it with the National Geographic Venture in
June this year. Both purpose-built vessels were designed and built in the US and cater to 100 guests across 50 cabins, 22 of which boast step-out balconies. Each will also boast remotely operated vehicles (ROV), hydrophones, underwater cameras, a fleet of 24 sea kayaks, and a complement of eight military-grade Mark V Zodiacs for shore excursions. Both vessels will ply the waters of Alaska and British Columbia, periodically passing through the Panama Canal to reach Costa Rica, Panama and Belize.
In addition, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic is presently developing an as-yet-named polar vessel; catering to 138 passengers, and with a price tag north of US$134 million, it’s hoped the ship will launch as soon as November 2019 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the company’s first purpose-built expedition ship, Lindblad Explorer. The sleek new vessel is being built by Norwegian firm UIstein and will feature innovative sustainability technology, cutting-edge zero speed stabilisation, an ice-rated hull, and an eyecatching X-Bow design, making it ideal for exploring the polar regions so popular with Lindblad cruisers.
Another cruise company with a rich heritage of adventure, Hurtigruten has its origins as Norway’s vital mail boat fleet. However, the company has evolved with the times, increasingly taking adventurous cruisers to Antarctica and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, home of the polar bear. The company will launch its newest purpose-built vessel, the MS Roald Amundsen, later this year. The state-of-the-art vessel will combine eco-friendly sustainability technology with reduced fuel consumption and ground-breaking hybrid propulsion. The first of two hybrid ships planned by the line, the MS Roald Amundsen will represent a 20 percent reduction in emissions on current vessels. However, the MS Roald Amundsen is more than just green credentials; dressed in natural Scandinavian materials, from naked oak and birch to fine wool and granite, the ship features spacious lounges, elegant suites, some with private jacuzzis; a fleet of specialised explorer boats for shore visits and coastal cruising; and an advanced Activity Centre, which doubles as a lecture theatre, photo lab, and interactive exhibition space. You’ll also dine well, with three onboard restaurants including Nordic fine dining eatery Lindstrøm.
A new entry to the expedition cruise scene, luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises will launch Crystal Endeavor, the ‘world’s first purpose-built polar-class megayacht’ and the first of three new vessels under its subbrand Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises, in 2019. The 25,000ton, 183-metre long megayacht will be among the first purpose-built Polar Code compliant yachts in the world, and with its PC6 Polar Class designation will offer cruises deep into the Arctic and Antarctic for just 200 guests across 100 suites, including two Owners Suites, at 290sqm a piece.
The Crystal Endeavor will also be fitted with state-of-the-art offshore dynamic positioning technology, with computer-controlled systems to automatically maintain the ship’s position with its own propellers and thrusters, enabling the megayacht to float atop coral reefs and other underwater wonders without utilising anchors. The ship will boast a complete range of ‘toys’, including two helicopters, two seven-passenger submarines, eight electric amphibious zodiacs, jet skis, wave runners, kayaks, SEABOB underwater scooters, and a fully-equipped scuba diving school. Look out for Palm Court, with its 270-degree panoramic views; the ship’s six restaurants and bars; as well as the 929sqm combined spa and conservatory space.
Another new player in the adventure cruising market is Scenic, which already plies the world’s major waterways as a river cruising specialist. Dubbed the ‘world’s first discovery yacht’, the Scenic Eclipse also follows the ultra-luxury megayacht model and will feature Ice Class 1A Super and Polar Class 6 ratings when it launches in August of this year.
Designed by Finnish marine architects Foreship and catering to 228 guests (restricted to 200 on polar cruises), Scenic Eclipse will have a cruising speed of 17 knots and a length of 165.7-metres. A marriage of sleek design and expedition credentials, the new vessel will boast spacious veranda suites (including 14 specialist wellness suites), the largest of which has an area of more than 232sqm; a mud room for easy zodiac boarding; a theatre; boutique; excursion centre; library; and a choice of restaurants, including a pan-Asian eatery and a steakhouse.
After a day exploring remote locales by ship’s helicopter, a fleet of sixseater submarines, or by zodiac, head to the 465sqm spa sanctuary, the plunge pool, or the expansive sun terrace on deck ten, or retire to your Karen Moroney-designed suite, which comes complete with floor-toceiling windows, a pillow menu, minibar, and HD television.
Also look out for… New comer, Portugal-based Mystic Cruises, has teamed up with Rolls-Royce to create its first eco-friendly, hybrid propulsion expedition cruise ship, the MS World Explorer. The ship, which will launch in October, will accommodate 200 guests and will feature a strengthened hull and propellers for traversing ice. The MS World Explorer is being built by WestSea Yard, and will be chartered by Quark Expeditions for the Antarctic season and Germany company Nicko Cruises for the remainder of each year.
Another Australian cruise line with decades of experience cruising the world’s farthest flung corners, Aurora Expeditions expects delivery of its new purpose-built expedition ship in time for the 2019/2020 Antarctic season. The as-yet-named 104-metre vessel is being developed by US marine yard SunStone Ships and will feature an Ice Class 1A hull and unprecedented levels of safety and environmental protection, meeting the latest polar code specifications.
The new Aurora vessel will feature a patented, fuel-efficient X-Bow design, allowing for increased stability during open sea journeys – including Antarctica’s dreaded Drake Passage – as well as a customdesigned platform to cater to additional numbers of kayakers and divers, and a mud room for easier preparation for climbers and skiers. A dedicated sea-level platform will be used for zodiac boarding.
Creature comforts of the new ship will include private bathroom facilities, cabin balconies, a 180-degree observation deck, wellness facilities, a fitness centre, and additional outdoor deck space.
Hapag-Lloyd are also developing two new ships for the expedition cruise market; Hanseatic Nature will be an exclusive German speaking ship, while the Hanseatic Inspiration will serve a global cruise market. With launch dates of April and October 2019 respectively, the new ships will each accommodate up to 230 passengers (or up to 199 passengers on Antarctic expeditions). Alongside the PC6 ice rating, they each boast three restaurants, extendible glass balconies, a fleet of 16 zodiacs, and an extensive wellness and fitness area.
If you like the brand’s hotels you might love Ritz-Carlton’s new ship. Part of the new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, and created in collaboration with maritime experts Douglas Prothero and Lars Clasen, the first of three luxurious cruising yachts will take to the sea in the fourth quarter of 2019. The specially designed small-capacity vessels will measure 190-metres, accommodate up to 298 passengers, and feature 149 suites, each boasting its own private balcony. Each yacht will also feature two 138 square-metre lavish duplex penthouse suites, with modern craftsmanship and interior finishes jointly designed by The Ritz-Carlton and leading cruise ship design firm Tillberg Design of Sweden. Guests will be able to enjoy world-class dining, a signature Ritz-Carlton Spa, and a Panorama Lounge and wine bar that hosts live entertainment. French cruise line Ponant has also ordered its first electric hybrid icebreaker, which will be propelled by natural gas. Featuring just 135 staterooms, the vessel will be Clean Ship-certified and will offer itineraries to truly remote locales, including the true geographic North Pole, the Weddell Sea, and Peter I Island. The new icebreaker will be built by Norwegian ship yard Vard, with consultation from icebreaker designers Aker Arctic, and will be delivered in 2021.
Puglia, which forms the heel of Italy’s boot, is one of the country’s poorest regions. However, what it lacks in the glitz and glamour of nearby Sicily, it makes up with one of the most authentic culinary experiences in the country, discovers Divia Harilela. Puglia, a region best known for its whitewashed hill towns and bucolic landscapes, stretches from the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian, covering 800km of ruggedly-beautiful coastline. Its waters teem with exotic seafood you won’t find anywhere else in the world, and its land is bountiful and devoted to agriculture, the region’s biggest industry. Puglia’s unique geography promises low humidity and incredibly rich soil, thereby guaranteeing the best produce, from vegetables to durum wheat, to beef cattle and lamb, while its ancient olive trees, known for their generous trunks and twisting branches, produce 40 per cent of the country’s olive oil.
Italian cuisine is known for its simplicity, and nowhere more so than in Puglia; the region’s cucina povera (literally “poor cuisine”), which has always appealed to Italians, who venture from afar to indulge in the region’s “slow food” dishes, is now seducing travellers from abroad. Prepared using local culinary techniques and traditions that haven’t changed over the centuries, in Puglia’s cucina povera you’ll discover the intricacy of ear-shaped Orecchiette pasta and the intimacy of Stracciatella di bufala and other artisan cheeses, which are made by hand in family-run farms.
Interestingly, each area in Puglia has its own specialty. In the small town of Torre Canne you’ll find a series of outdoor “restaurants,” that look more like shacks. Don’t let their appearance deter you, as these simple eateries are known for serving up the most exquisite ricci di mare or sea urchins, which are taken from the surrounding seas daily (take a peek behind the restaurant and you’ll probably spy a line of wetsuits hanging out to dry). It’s a no-frills experience - around eight to ten urchins are cut open and presented with fresh crusty bread, with which you soak up the urchin’s sweet yet salty juices.
The seaside towns of Monopoli and Polignano a Mare are best known for their fresh catch of the day. While tourists go to eat at the latter’s overhyped cave restaurant, locals head to Osteria di Chichibio, a local icon renowned for raw seafood that’s prepared so simply that it melts in the mouth.
But it’s not all just fishy business. Nestled in the hills above the coast are the picturesque towns of Cisternino and Locorotondo, which are known for their sweet white wines. In Altumara, the first town in Europe to receive a DOP classification (Denomination of Origin of Production) for its bread, the scent of freshly baked loaves wafts through the air from the communal wood-burning ovens, where local housewives bake bread together.
Martina Franco is not only famed for its summer opera festival, but also for its local meats, which are delivered direct from the farm to small butcher shops dotted throughout the town. Each butcher is connected to a restaurant, which is crammed with communal style wood tables and chairs. Beyond, local cooks work over open wood fires, ensuring that the meat is tender, juicy and bursting full of flavour.
At the UNESCO listed heritage town of Alberobello, finish your tour of the trulli, cone shaped houses that bring to mind The Smurfs, with a visit to a local eatery for homely and rustic dishes such as gnumerieddi (lamb intestines) and orecchiette con la rape topped with leafy green turnip tops. The pasta is made with just flour and water giving it a meatier texture - eggs were once considered a luxury and the recipe hasn’t changed in generations.
On the Road
Slow & Steady Country Holidays’ Stella Fan talks about learning to dance in Cuba, eating local, and ensuring you travel at the right pace on your next adventure. You’re not the type of traveller who ticks off attractions and sights from a bucket list; what are the “essential elements” you include when planning your travels? Indeed, I’ve never even counted how many countries I’ve been to. Travel is just a personal experience, not a mission to be accomplished. I like my personal travel to be a holiday that follows a slow pace. I always check Country Holidays’ itineraries first for suggestions and some ideas like how to avoid big crowds, then I will add a few nights along the route. Nice, charming boutique hotels wherever available are a must, as are a private guide and a nice car, with plenty of room for two people and luggage. Local cuisine is always a fascination for me, but I’ll happily pass on the Michelin starred places in lieu of places that are popular locally or are recommended. Of course, business class flights also allow you rest well and be ready for your tour.
What’s your favourite destination? It’s hard to say, as each destination has its own charm. If I had to choose, I’d say Africa; it’s a place where you can really switch off, leaving the internet and television behind and returning to nature.
What are the advantages of indulging in a slow-paced itinerary? When you pay for a good hotel, you need time to enjoy it to its maximum value. I’ve spent hours watching DVDs of Out of Africa and Born Free over a glass of champagne in a Kenyan luxury lodge; played snooker in an Australian property; learnt oil painting at a Chinese Hakka House; and sipped cocktails on a Havana hotel’s rooftop while watching the sunset. The convenience of a private guide and car means you can take your time in your favourite museums or dance the night away with new friends without worrying about finding a taxi to take you back to the hotel. Sometimes it’s these moments that form long-lasting memories, moments that can be even more impressive than seeing the sights. Of course, a slow-paced itinerary also allows for the unpredictable, like flight delays or bad weather. What’s your definition of ‘stay well eat well’? I prefer boutique hotels where staff offer personal care. Location is also important as it makes it easier to walk around safely. Thanks to my experience working for Country Holidays, I’ve had the chance to experience many beautiful properties; each has its own charm and character, from a unique location or its own art collection, to a rich history, or interesting activities like a jungle gym or wolf kissing. You get what you pay for, that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to big hotel brands.
I do not purposely look for Michelin starred restaurants – if there’s one in my hotel I will try it – but otherwise I prefer to find where local people go, and order what they’re having, and this could range from a simple salad of local organic ingredients, to harvesting your own vegetables and cooking alongside a local chef.
Tell us about some of your recent travels to Cuba, Mexico and the Caucasus. The Caucasus is all about wining and dining on local cuisine; a bit of soft hiking; rural bliss; and absorbing the breathtaking scenery. Georgia was the first country to produce wine, and it’s interesting to see how wine is still produced using large traditional pottery jars. I still remember whiling away an afternoon at the Rooms Hotel in Kazbegi, where I read a book in the cosy lounge, while watching the changing colours of the sky.
In Trinidad, Cuba I visited a small studio to learn local dances. A private class made learning the complex steps easy and I quickly felt my movements become more fluid. Music really is in the blood of all Cubans; everywhere you go, from the street to the park to the beach there is music.
In Mexico I visited a private cenote. There are public access cenotes – natural swimming holes bound by limestone rock – but private cenotes are much more enjoyable and have better facilities. We were greeted by chilled hand towels and drinks and while we swam a chef cooked chicken and pork in a traditional ground oven. After changing in the private facilities, we had a picnic in the shade. Any advice for like-minded travellers? Try to avoid travelling at peak season and consider shoulder seasons, with similar weather, and better value. Don’t be too ambitious with your itinerary and remember to leave time to relax. Also, do not read too much information before you go, try to leave yourself some surprise. Where are you headed next? Chile, Argentina and Brazil in March. Connect with Stella at email@example.com
The Inn at the End of the World Few people have heard of Fogo Island or the Fogo Island Inn and
even fewer have visited, yet what’s happening in this small, remote Canadian fishing community could well be a blueprint for minority group survival anywhere in the world. By Tricia Welsh Perched on an island off an island in far northeast Newfoundland, Fogo Island Inn has been described as the most magical and most remote hotel in the world. Designed by Newfoundland-born, Norway-based architect Todd Saunders, the contemporary accommodation of 29 suites pays homage to the wooden stilts of traditional fishing ‘stages’ or sheds that remain the signature of the island.
Measuring just 25kms long by 14kms wide, Fogo Island, along with neighbouring Change Islands, is one of Canada’s oldest communities. Located along ‘Iceberg Alley’ in the Labrador Strait, it is literally on the edge of the world – Brimstone Head, one of the island’s natural attractions, is believed by the Flat Earth Society to be one of the four corners of the earth.
Getting to this undiscovered haven is an adventure in itself: a drive of almost five hours from the provincial capital of St John’s to Farewell, is followed by a 45-minute ferry crossing, then a further 27km drive to the inn, via the charmingly named communities of Seldom, Little Seldom and neighbouring Seldom Come By. (I’m told fishing boats to the region seldom came by the small port without calling in.)
For some 500 years, the local cod fishing industry was the mainstay of Newfoundland. When mechanised trawlers were introduced in the ‘60s, the abundant breeding grounds were rapidly depleted to the point that, in 1992, the Canadian Government declared a moratorium on the Northern Cod fishery. It also significantly affected the ecological, economic and socio-cultural structure of the region and none more so than on Fogo Island. It’s population of around 5,000 dwindled to 2,500; people were leaving the island in droves.
One young girl who left the island at 16 was fisherman’s daughter Zita Cobb, who studied business at university in Ottawa and went on to make a small fortune in fibre-optics. A multimillionaire at 42,
she retired to sail her yacht around the world for several years, but at around 50 decided to return to her island home and invest her money there. She spent CA$43 million (HK$263 million) building the inn
and set up the Shorefast Foundation with her brother Anthony in 2006 to run it. All profits from the inn were re-invested in the community, to ensure an income for islanders and to ensure local culture and traditions were maintained. She also built four minimalist studios for visiting artists from around the world.
Local builders were engaged and hundreds of craftspeople on the island were commissioned to sew, knit, crochet and quilt homestyle bedspreads, cushions and throw rugs for the lounges and guest bedrooms while local studios fashioned traditional-style furniture. A dozen different patterns of wallpapers were designed depicting aspects of island life and big names such as UK-based interior designer Ilse Crawford were brought in to help bring local designs to a new level. As the inn came to fruition it breathed life into one of eastern Canada’s most remote settlements, and continues to do so with every guest arrival. 63
Today the multi-award-winning inn, with its restaurant overlooking the often-wild ocean, its welcoming fireside bar, heritage library, art gallery and 37-seat cinema, is an icon of ingenuity, and a model of community mindedness. There’s the vibe of a family beach house and it would be very easy to stay indoors, totally mesmerised by the constantly changing seascapes beyond.
However, there’s also a chance to play your part. As part of the allinclusive tariff, guests are assigned a community host whose unscripted tours are entertaining and fascinating, and can be customised to include arts and crafts, museums and, in my case, a visit to a local cemetery. The Irish cemetery in Tilting is believed to be one of the oldest in North America; here my host Clem Dwyer, a retired high school teacher, points out the tombstone of Joe Batt. “He was a crew member of Captain Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, who jumped ship when they passed by in the 1760s and settled on the island,” says Batt.
In the township of Tilting, home to just 175 souls, lilting Irish accents are as thick as loaves of soda bread. You could swear you were in Dublin. Families with surnames such as Dwyer, Foley and Bourke are now sixth and seventh generation Fogo Islanders, many descendants of Irish deck hands recruited centuries ago by fishing boats from Portugal, France or England who at the end of the fishing season in the North Atlantic decided to stay, considering life on Fogo Island preferable to repressive Ireland at the time. Early English crew members from the West Country settled in Joe Batt’s Arm.
The island has seven official seasons. As well as the universal four, there is also trap berth season, pack ice season and berry season, where some 20 different edible berries carpet the ground with vibrant colours. I’m here in berry season and forage for red partridge berries, black crowberries and burgundy-coloured marshberries, all of which join other regional delicacies on the menus of inn executive chef Timothy Charles.
A visit to Fogo Island and its amazing inn is life-enriching on so many levels, the minimum two-night stay is not nearly long enough. Memories of such a unique experience are sure to stay with you for a very long time. www.fogoislandinn.ca
Published on Mar 13, 2018