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Latest News * Caribbean * Australia Wildlife Experiences * The Ashdown Team Team Trips: Equador,Thailand & British Virgin Islands


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LAT E ST N EW S

Welcome to our latest newsletter! I do hope you have all had a wonderful festive period and we would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy & prosperous 2016. At Ashdown Travel we have a very experienced and well-travelled team and you will read a little about where each of the staff has travelled to and in particular the areas that they specialise in. We appreciate that everyone’s holiday time is precious and therefore we don’t use a one size fits all policy. We take time to properly understand your needs and between us all we have covered virtually the whole globe so if you really want to talk to someone that can give you good honest personal advice, then we would love the opportunity to help you put your dream trip together. With these cold winter nights upon us we wanted to give you some sunshine ideas and have included some suggestions for some of our favourite Caribbean islands. The Caribbean is a huge selling destination for Ashdown Travel and an area we know very well. We have excellent relationships with many hotels and always notify our contacts to ensure that our clients receive the best service and rooms.The best time to visit is generally December through to May, however many islands have good weather June, July and August when hotel rates are significantly cheaper than high season. Australia remains another huge selling destination for us and we are fortunate to be awarded Premier Aussie Specialist status. This special recognition from the tourist board is only awarded to a few agents who display true passion and knowledge for this amazing country. David Attenborough’s new documentary ‘Great

Barrier Reef ’ started on the 30th December and brings to life one of the incredible natural wonders of the world. You will read about this, alongside some other exciting destinations and properties that we can put together for your dream trip ‘Down Under’. Wildlife holidays are always popular and what a great exhilarating experience to be able to get up close and personal with nature. Wildlife holidays are not just all about safari in Africa although these remain extremely popular but as you will read, there are animal experiences in Asia, Sri Lanka and South America.These are just an example and we have also arranged Antarctica and Arctic experiences where birds and penguins are abundant. Some experiences are cruise based and some are land based so if you love wildlife then please do come and talk to us. We like to keep our clients up to date with the latest news and offers so please do visit our website where you can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.You will also be able to see all of our privileged hotel partner connections, where we are fortunate to have preferred partner status with a number of leading hotel chains. This means that when you book these hotels with us you will receive exclusive benefits and extras which will hopefully make your stay even more memorable. I do hope that you enjoy the newsletter, myself and the team look forward to being of service to you in 2016.

Dubai is a very popular destination for autumn and winter sunshine and in October 2016 LEGOLAND Dubai will be opening its doors adding to the already amazing array of hotels and activities on offer. Emirates Airlines are now flying 2 of their 3 daily Gatwick services on the state of the art Airbus A380. WI-FI is available throughout the whole aircraft and with Private Suites and Shower Spa’s in First Class and flat-bed seats in Business Class through to extra room and custom lighting in economy class, this really is the way to travel to Dubai from the comfort of your local airport. British Airways has announced new routes for 2016 which includes from 1st May a long overdue return of a Gatwick / New York (JFK) service. Also very exciting are 2 new routes to Lima in Peru flying from Gatwick three times a week from 4th May and San Jose in Costa Rica twice a week from 27th April. These new routes make travelling to South and Central America so much easier. We can assist with flight only options or use these flights as part of a lovely tailor-made itinerary.

The British and Irish Lions travel every four years to a Southern Hemisphere Rugby country and in 2017 they will be visiting the home of the world champions New Zealand. With stopover options in the Far East and Pacific Ocean we will be delighted to assist you in putting together a bespoke tailor made and truly memorable trip. The tour schedule has now been released so please register your interest with us now.

Kind regards, Nick Samuels, Director nick@ashdowntravel.co.uk

A S H D O W N T R A V E L 24-26 Station Road East, Oxted

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OUR TEAM

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Nick Samuels – Director Having started my travel career in a small travel agency in Worthing, I got the opportunity to go and fulfil a dream of working in a ski resort which I did for two seasons. I have skied from a very early age virtually throughout the whole of Europe but also in California as well and still manage to get a long weekend in every year. Returning to the UK I re-joined the retail industry working for a large agency eventually running many different shops in the Sussex area before I joined Ashdown Travel in 1997. With the exception of a short break where I ran a prestigious London travel agent in Chelsea I have remained here and am now a shareholder and director. The industry has allowed me to travel most of the world and I have extensive knowledge of the Caribbean and Indian Ocean as well as having travelled to Australia on numerous occasions.Throughout my time in the industry I have made many valuable contacts that ensure our clients receive the best available rooms and added extras. Naming my favourite hotel is difficult but some of the following have a special allure, Royal Palm in Mauritius, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa in the Maldives, Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island in Australia, Spice Island Resort in Grenada and to satisfy my skiing passions the newly opened L’Apogee in Courchevel 1850 is truly outstanding!

James Metcalf Business Travel Manager After graduating from school in Japan, where I spent my childhood, I trained with British Airways in 1985 in the travel sector. I went on to join an independent corporate travel agency in London. In 2002 I joined the friendly and committed team at AshdownTravel working in the corporate, and meetings department. We have a variety of UK wide travel accounts, including some of my previous clients in the medical profession. Having a wealth of first-hand knowledge of products and destinations has been an invaluable asset in my career. Also what I have found invaluable is times like the Ash Cloud in 2010. Though incredibly demanding at the time, this helped solidify relationships with our clients, as we endeavoured to get our clients back home or to their final destination, by any means. What I find especially rewarding is being able to piece together a complex multi sector itinerary to fit the parameters of our clients’ schedule. Being able to come up with alternative solutions can make the difference to making a meeting or having to cancel or re-arrange. Drawn from my Japanese background I have a real love for the diverse variety of cultural sights you experience in Far East Asia, and China. Recently I was able to travel to the mountainous region of Yunnan in China and experience life in a Lisu tribal village, nestled 2,000 meters up in the clouds.

Abigail MacGowan Sales Consultant

Anne Knight Sales Consultant

I have worked at Ashdown Travel for over 8 years and in the travel industry for 17 years! My main passion is Australia and New Zealand. As many of you know, I am married to an Aussie and lived in the sunny city of Perth for a number of years and it still has a special place in my heart. I have recently returned from my latest trip Down Under to a trade show in Sydney and used the opportunity to meet luxury hoteliers from the region and update my product knowledge and contacts as well as exploring sites around Sydney itself, the Blue Mountains, Brisbane and the stunning Whitsunday Islands off the Queensland Coast. I also retain a love for the Far East and India, places I spent a lot of time in a previous job, specialising in holidays to South East Asia. My favourite places are still Cambodia for its cultural sights; Bali for its colour and vibrancy; and Vietnam for its sheer variety of sights, culture, food, and people. Since working at Ashdown I have been fortunate to explore much of the Caribbean and I particularly enjoyed the Mexican Riviera Maya, and island hopping around the British Virgin Islands. The Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Maldives are also favourites of mine for their glorious beaches and incredible service.

I have worked for over 25 years in the industry – everything from Campsite Courier to Passenger Service Agent at Gatwick to Reservations Manager for a villa specialist. But the attraction of being able to tailor bespoke holidays worldwide for clients, led me in 1998 to the world of independent retail, and I’ve never looked back. I joined the team here at Ashdown in 2005 and happily, I still get great pleasure in creating the ideal itinerary for a client. Travelling to new places has always been a fascination for me, and ever since I can remember, whenever time and budget permits, I go! In particular I love islands! From small Caribbean hideaways like Anguilla and St Barth’s to the simplicity of the Greek Ionian Islands; the colonial charms of Bermuda; mighty Australia and the diverse Indian Ocean Islands of the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Mauritius, they all have their own unique appeal. In recent years, Orlando has been great fun for family holidays, and I do consider myself to be an expert on the thrills that this part of Florida can offer! But South Africa and Canada remain two of my favourite destinations simply because of their diversity. From stunning scenery and outstanding wildlife encounters to cosmopolitan cities and fabulous dining, you can have a multitude of experiences in just one trip.


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Linda Shotter Sales Consultant

Jo Wolfe Sales Consultant

After starting my travel career in the Houses of Parliament and Harrods, I knew it would be a job for life! I spent over 25 years working for one of the larger travel companies before deciding to ‘jump ship’ and look for something more varied and rewarding which you would only find in an independent travel agency. During my first 10 years working at Ashdown Travel I worked in the corporate department overseeing our business travel clients and also operating the Bales Travel Club before returning in the last 4 years to the retail side. Having been in travel for quite a few years now, I have been lucky enough to visit some amazing travel destinations around the world. Some of my favourites have been the Great Wall of China,Vietnam, Brazil and Ecuador including the Amazon, the Seychelles, and the beautiful coastline of South Africa. I have explored India by train, travelled to Venice on the Orient Express, and sailed the Mediterranean on a Star Clipper ship. More recently, I have spent time travelling in Australia and the South Island of New Zealand - from the Great Barrier Reef to Milford Sound. I’m hoping on my next trip I will be able to complete my visit and fly to the North Island. My ambition in life – to keep on travelling!!

I have been lucky enough to have travelled to some amazing places during my time in the travel industry. Over the years I have been to Australia, St Lucia, The Grenadines, Barbados, Oman, Mauritius, Bangkok to Singapore on the Eastern Orient Express, plus many short haul destinations such as Spain and Italy including Rome,Venice, Florence, Siena, Sicily and Puglia. My most recent trips have been to the beautiful island of Ischia and Halkidiki in Greece. My favourite short haul destination probably has to be Italy, but Sicily in particular, as it holds a special place for me after spending many summers there with my wonderful Sicilian friends. The scenery is amazing, the food is fantastic and of course, the Sicilian men!!! I also love the Caribbean for its spectacular sandy beaches, great weather and the relaxed way of life which it offers. I went to Palm Island in the Grenadines for my honeymoon. An allinclusive island where you can bask in the sun, enjoy spa treatments, take boat trips out to various neighbouring islands, snorkel with the turtles or just relax and do nothing!! I started my career at British Airways Holidays where I stayed for 2 years working in telephone sales, after which I joined Ashdown Travel where I have been for the past 20 years and I am sure many more to come!!!

Sue Mercer Sales Consultant

Katie Horton Sales Consultant

My passion for Travel started over 40 years ago with a Midland based European tour operator, following this I moved into retail travel, where I managed a large retail store for well over 20 years. Having joined Ashdown Travel in 2010, I have been able to use my extended experience in cruising and weddings abroad, I am now the cruising specialist in the shop and have organised weddings in Thailand, Umbria, Italy and on the Greek Island of Mykonos. My European love is definitely Italy, having spent many years driving down to Italy and touring around. It is such a beautiful country offering lakes, mountains, fabulous countryside, wonderful beaches and indulging myself in the fantastic food and wine! Other visits include many of the Caribbean Islands, Cuba, Mauritius, the Seychelles, India, Dubai and Thailand. I have also enjoyed holidays in most of Europe including city breaks together with my family, both in hotels and villas and can recommend an area suitable for a family or a couple. My passion lies in the Caribbean, I travel to Jamaica every year, I do love the edgy vibe that Jamaica offers with fantastic music and beautiful beaches. St Lucia, Antigua, Barbados and Grenada all hold special places in my heart for different reasons and I would return at any time.

Born and raised in South Africa, I have a deep routed passion for South Africa as a destination and Africa as a whole. At the age of seventeen I relocated to the UK with my family, where I then completed my A levels and began working within the hotel industry. Since then I returned back home to South Africa and worked on a few private game reserves. Upon my return to the UK last year, my passion for travel in general drew me to the travel sales industry, where I have recently found a home at Ashdown Travel. During my short time here at Ashdown Travel, I have had the opportunity to travel further to European destinations, such as Greece and Turkey with Mark Warner to visit their breathtakingly beautiful resorts! I travelled to Rome in September and absolutely fell in love with it! I also had the thrilling experience of island hopping around Croatia’s Dalmatian islands and mainland Croatia with Contiki! What a different experience that was, and I would highly recommend travelling with Contiki as a group or as a sole traveller to any young people wanting to experience night life and get their fix of travel at the same time! There are many places still on my list to travel, but in the meantime organising travel arrangements for others is just as exciting! There’s something very special about having arranged a holiday for someone which has provided them with the most incredible experience and memories to last a lifetime.


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CA R I B B E A N

CA R I B B E A N : S T L U C I A

Grenada

Barbados

Grenada, the Isle of Spice with its unspoilt landscapes, has the perfect balance, appealing to the interest of adventure lovers, beach dwellers, or couples looking for a romantic destination. It is a small picturesque island, where you can go for a swim in the crystal clear waters of Grand Anse Beach or trek through the rainforest of Seven Sisters Waterfalls, all within a day. For divers the underwater sculpture park is outstanding or spend your time visiting historical forts or sampling the spices, the options available to you are endless. Grenada along with neighbouring islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique boast a variety of festivals year round making this a great fun destination for everyone. Our favourite hotels are Spice Island Beach Resort and Calabash which is home to a Gary Rhodes restaurant.

Barbados is sophisticated and casual, warm and friendly, and distinctively charming. From luxury to intimate, expensive to affordable, there is something for every taste and budget here. As a tropical island Barbados is home to many beautiful beaches including one that has been voted one of the ten best beaches in the world! The restaurant scene on the island is vibrant with world famous offerings like The Cliff and Cin Cin through to rum shacks serving locally caught shrimp washed down with Banks Beer. Ashdown Travel clients get a list of our favourites dining options along with their tickets. We love the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Colony Club and for a real world-class experience Sandy Lane.

Saint Lucia appeals to all the senses with some of the most uplifting attractions in the Caribbean. The island is just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, and lined with beautiful palm-fringed beaches. But the beaches are just an introduction to the immense beauty Saint Lucia has to offer. It’s a spectacular setting for adventure. The magical Piton Mountains rise majestically from the Caribbean Sea and have UNESCO World Heritage Status. There are many rewarding ways to experience the island close-up. From mountain biking through the rainforest, zip-lining, climbing a Piton or visiting cocoa, sugar and banana plantations, there is even a

drive-in volcano. Ocean experiences are just as varied with an abundance of water sports complimented by excursions to see dolphins and whales, and visits to neighbouring islands. There’s a world-class choice of accommodation too. You have everything from candy-coloured cottages on plantations to high-end hotels like the magnificent Jade Mountain resort featuring threewalled sanctuaries most with their own private infinity pool. British Airways and Virgin fly regularly to the island directly from Gatwick making this amazing country easily accesible.

Sugar Beach,AViceroy Resort St Lucia Sugar Beach is located in one of most breathtaking locations in the Caribbean. This world class resort was once an 18th Century sugar mill estate set within the beautiful Piton Mountains and now features stunning natural surroundings, luxurious accommodation, amazing restaurants and a fantastic spa, the hotel is truly outstanding. The hotel has a Marine National Park just off shore, so the snorkelling and diving is sensational.

There are plenty of choice of restaurants to pick from. Breakfast is served at the Terrace Restaurant. The Great Room offers a fine dining option in the evenings and the open air Palm Court Lounge serves traditional afternoon tea and evening cocktails. This hotel is a perfect choice for a luxury escape and spa lovers, foodies and families will love it!

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AU S T R A L I A : S Y D N E Y

AU S T R A L I A : B L U E M O U N TA I N S

As one of the great cities of the world, with such iconic landmarks as the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, Sydney is an absolute ‘must’ on any trip to Australia. It hugs the harbour on both sides with the main CBD on the south side, spreading out from the historic Rocks and Circular Quay areas. The Royal Botanic Gardens are an oasis from the main buzz, and from there head out east to the surf beaches of Bondi and Coogee. Our favourites beaches however are on the northern shore: at the ocean facing Manly, and some of the inner harbour beaches such as Balmoral. Darling Harbour is the hub for restaurants, cafes and bars and the casino if you fancy your luck. There is a massive redevelopment process ongoing scheduled for completion at the end of 2016 so we look forward to seeing its completion. For shopping head to Pitt Street Mall, Westfield and the historic Queen Victoria Building where you can find high fashion alongside high street labels, jewellery, and souvenirs.

No trip to Sydney is complete without a harbour boat trip, be it by commuter ferry or a cruise company such as Captain Cook there is an option for everyone to enjoy. There is something captivating about being on the water, seeing glimpses of luxurious waterside houses, the bustling life of people using the harbour as a highway to get from A to B, and inevitably the view turns to the distinctive steel arch of the bridge or the light reflecting off one of the ‘shells’ of one of the most recognisable opera houses in the world. We love the hotels close to Circular Quay area for ease of access to all the sights. The ShangriLa Hotel is very central and the views from the Blu Bar on 36 are breathtaking! The Four Seasons Hotel is right on George Street and its outside pool is a welcome place to relax after a busy day of sightseeing and the views from the Harbour View rooms are incredible. The Park Hyatt is right on the Quay and is one the most exclusive of Sydney’s hotel offerings.

Just 90 minutes from Sydney is the Blue Mountains National Park, a perfect place to escape the city for a day or an overnight stop. The main towns of Leura and Katoomba are the place to head to first. In Katoomba all eyes fall on the Three Sisters, a distinctive rock formation viewed from an extensive platform at Echo Point and close by are the Katoomba Falls. There are hundreds of kilometres of walking trails to explore, or take it easier using the Scenic Cableway or the Scenic Railway to the rainforest floor. Slightly further afield in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area, and at the edge of the Wollemi National Park, is our favourite hotel in this region, the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley. The resort stands on a tiny part of an enormous 7,000 acre reserve home to kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, kookaburras, cockatoos ... this list goes on. Guests are given the opportunity to explore themselves by mountain bike, parked up outside every villa; horseback; by 4WD safari style vehicles at sundown; or by foot on a nature trail with your field guide pointing out the flora and fauna of the area. There is an original 1832 heritage homestead and kitchen garden but guests are kept in the lap of luxury in individual villas each with their own

pool, double-sided fireplace and large verandah – the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine with the kangaroos hopping past and stunning views in the background. The food is excellent, based on seasonal produce, mostly local and organic and all extremely tasty. Guests can choose to dine in the casual Country Kitchen or the more formal Wolgan Dining Room. The wine cellar standards match the quality of the food with over 150 labels in their cellar. The spa is the ultimate place to relax and unwind after a day on horseback or bike, with a range of treatments incorporating local Sodashi skin care products that are all completely natural. You wont want to leave!


A S H D OW N AU S T R A L I A : T H E W H I T S U N DAY S The Whitsundays are made up of 74 islands off the tropical coast of Queensland in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, just brought to life by David Attenborough in his new series that started on 30th Dec. We are often asked to include the Reef in an itinerary and the Whitsundays are one of the easiest points to get to with an airport located on the main gateway of Hamilton Island, just 2.5hrs flight from Sydney. It is also one of the most southerly points of the Reef and therefore least subject to the tropical cyclones experienced further north. And with a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and tastes there is something for everyone. At the top end of the market and especially good for families is the One&Only Hayman Island Resort, newly refurbished, rebranded and ready to go. It is reached by luxury launch, about an hour from Hamilton Island. Guests are accommodated in either the Pool Wing, the Hayman Wing or one of their Beach Villas. There are plenty of dining options with 6 restaurants open for dinner including Asian, Italian and modern Australian. There are a multitude of activities to enjoy

not least nature walks, watersports, yoga, spa treatments but the main draw is the diving and snorkeling, with both outer and inner reef dives, suitable for beginners and certified divers; and the seaplane and helicopter experiences of which the highlight is seeing Bait, Hardy and the incredible Heart Reef. Back at the main gateway of Hamilton Island there are multiple accommodation choices to suit most budgets.There are 3* Palm Bungalows as a starting point, the 4* Reef View Hotel suitable for families, and the 5* Beach Club, right on Catseye Beach, ideal for couples. For ultra-exclusivity we LOVE qualia, more of that opposite! For families wanting more space and privacy we can offer holiday homes of 2 and 3 bedrooms and for the larger groups, there are the 4-bedroom Yacht Club Villas. The island has a village clustered around the marina where the boat trips depart. We recommend the sunset sail, tours to Hill Inlet and Whitehaven, and the snorkeling and dive options with Explore. There are a small number of boutiques and a general store; plus there are a number of restaurants and bars to choose from. Everything you could need for an island escape!

At the northern tip of Hamilton Island, accessed through private gates, is the secluded bliss of qualia. A warm welcome eases you into paradise with a refreshing drink and a quick lesson in your golf buggy before being taken to your room. Choose from the spacious Leeward Pavilions or enormous Windward Pavilions complete with your own pool. Light filters in through floor to ceiling windows so you don’t miss a single inch of the incredible view out to the Whitsunday Islands. The resort oozes a calm and sophisticated ambience. Staff give warm smiles and in typically Aussie fashion address you by your first name. The layout of the villas and the public areas nestled into the hillside with abundant tropical bushland, means you never feel crowded however full the

occupancy of the resort. The Long Pavilion is the airy and spacious setting for the fine dining restaurant, along with guest services and the library with its own games room, chess and Hermes cards. Pebble Beach has more informal dining, a lovely large infinity pool and the water-sports centre for snorkelling and sea-kayaks. The spa completes the resort with the ultimate in relaxation including a hot stone massage using 300 million year old stones! Golf can be arranged, as can all number of sailing and boating trips from scenic catamaran trips to snorkelling and diving experiences. Abigail loved the trip to the endless white silica sands of Whitehaven and was even lucky enough to see some migrating whales on a sunset sail.


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W I L D L I F E : E Q UA D O R & G A L A PA G O S

WILDLIFE: SRI LANKA

If you’re looking for wildlife locations in South America, then why not try stopping off in Ecuador’s Amazon region. Here you can find the most amazing array of tropical birds; herons, kingfishers, spoonbills and ospreys to name a few. Walk along raised boardwalks through the dense flooded palm forest and very often you’ll get to see various species of monkeys showing off their dare devil jumping skills! Take a dugout canoe across the lakes and along the canals that stretch out all around the lodges where you will find all sorts of insects and spiders, and lazy lizards watching you, as you slowly paddle by.

When your rainforest visit comes to an end then what would be better than an onward trip to the Galapagos Islands. Perhaps a 7 night cruise where you won’t have to keep packing or unpacking and you can completely relax and enjoy the wildlife. The yachts travel at night so you have plenty of time to visit the numerous islands during the day. Look out for the basking marine iguanas, the waved albatrosses, giant tortoises, the Galapagos penguins and so much more. Take time out to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the conservation efforts of this unique environment.

A S H D O W N T R A V E L 24-26 Station Road East, Oxted

National Parks, sanctuaries and nature reserves abound on this compact little island nation. Each offers a plethora of landscapes and a stunning variety of both endemic and migratory favourites in the wild. Sri Lanka has a vast range of bird species, numerous amphibians and an immense variety of resident reptiles. Something can be found to suit every wildlife enthusiast’s palate here, and since Sri Lanka is a small island, you will find that you can squeeze in a multitude of activities in just one single holiday. The Yala National Park and Wilpattu are the best known of the national parks for leopard. Yala is also one of the most visited national parks in Sri Lanka, due to the population density in Yala which is as high as one leopard per square kilometre in some parts of the park. The Udawalawe National Park is famed for its resident elephant population and is one of the oldest national parks in Sri Lanka. It is also instrumental in the establishment of the Elephant Transit Home which is an important

project that is geared towards the conservation of elephants in Sri Lanka. More spectacular than possibly any other wildlife event in Sri Lanka is what is known as the ‘The Gathering’. During the dry season (July to September) more and more animals congregate around the Minneriya reservoir where grasses are rich and fertile. For several months of this drought season different herds of wild elephants gather at the reservoir. They come from the areas beyond Minneriya, and at any one time it is possible to witness up to 300-400 elephants. They are not migrating, they simply ‘gather’, to socialize, bathe, feed and possibly mate. Whatever your preference, the accommodation options are varied to suit all budgets. From basic to luxury tented camps to the newly opened Chena Huts in Yala, the island has many lodges and hotels located near the national parks. No matter what time of year the opportunities to enjoy sighting will not disappoint wildlife enthusiasts.

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W I L D L I F E : T H A I L A N D by Sue

WILDLIFE: SOUTH AFRICA

I was fortunate enough to visit Thailand this year and experience a very special stay at Elephant Hills, the Elephant Camp situated in Khao Sok National Park. Not only did I have the opportunity to view the elephants in their natural habitat we were also able to wash and feed them. Being up close and able to touch and talk to them was a very moving experience. The Sok river is a perfect place to spot wildlife whilst paddling a canoe or on a jungle trek, most commonly seen are kingfishers and herons, snakes, sugar bats, tree frogs, monitor lizards and wild monkeys. Of course the National Park is home to many species of animals. The Spectacled Langur, one of the most common species of monkey found in the park is very distinctive with very long tails and the white colour around their eyes looks like eyeglasses, hence the name. They can be seen on treetops in

the early morning or late afternoon feasting on fresh leaves and fruit, mainly when staying or kayaking on Cheow Larn Lake. The silence of early morning on the lake is broken by the calls of the endangered Lar Gibbons, their call is to warn family members of approaching predators and together with the monkeys chatter whilst they play is a fantastic wake up call. The Gibbons live high on the canopy of the rainforest, they have no tails but very long arms enabling them to swing between tree branches.They are very hard to see as they can swing as fast as 35 mph and travel as far as 30 feet in one swing. There are wild elephants living in the National Park, however, other than the footprints on the banks of the lake they are not often seen, canoeing on the lake gives a rare opportunity to sight the clouded leopard and smooth coated otters and macaques. In the late afternoon, the sounds of the cicadas, similar to the volume of an aircraft taking off, ensure your jungle rainforest sounds experience is unique!

A S H D O W N T R A V E L 24-26 Station Road East, Oxted

Very often South Africa’s wealth is recognised for its mining industry of gold and diamonds, however nature lovers know that its utmost riches lie in an experience uniquely its own, a diverse wildlife experience. Game reserves such as, Kruger National Park, Madikwe, Pilanesberg, Sabi Sand and other reserves peppered across the country protect an astonishing variety of wildlife, many of which are recovering from threats to their survival. South Africa’s wildlife is renowned and includes the well-known “Big Five”, which consists of lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino. Originally named the “Big Five” they were recognised as the most dangerous to hunt. Now, these beautiful creatures are the targets of photographers from all over the world. Having said that, South Africa is still facing a daily battle against poaching which threatens the very core of these protected reserves. Kruger’s approximately 5 million acres provides a sanctuary for the Big Five, as well as all key safari animals. Overall Kruger delivers first hand a classic African safari experience. Adjacent to Kruger, the Sabi Sand Reserve is the oldest private wildlife reserve in South Africa. Established in the late 1920’s, this reserve’s vast wilderness offers Africa’s most frequent encounters with the elusive leopard, the cheetah, zebra, giraffe, an extensive variety of antelope and over 500 bird species. Sabi Sand is also home to some

of the most luxurious safari lodges in Africa. An alternative to the typically big safari experience, would be to experience the smaller, private game reserves, still providing you with sightings of the Big Five and many other game. These reserves are usually based in areas such as the Eastern and Western Cape, which are Malaria-free, therefore making it an ideal destination for families! Game reserves such as Amakhala, Shamwari and Pumba Game Reserve located just outside of Port Elizabeth are just a few of these highly sought after, smaller luxurious private reserves. So when is the best time to go on a safari in South Africa? Well generally speaking, the wildlife is most active and easier to spot in the winter months, May through to September. This is South Africa’s dry season. There is less vegetation, little or no rain, less mosquitos and the parks are not overcrowded. The best time for birdwatching and migratory bird sightings is in the wet season, October through to April. However, the game viewing can be slow as the vegetation is thicker and it gets very hot in December up until late February. The parks also tend to get overcrowded as it is the main school holidays in December. In conclusion, no matter what time of year you do decide to go, one thing is for sure, you will go home more enriched than when you first arrived.

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01883 714312


Imagine a country hotel, nestled in the heart of the ... Mediterranean, the South China Sea, the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean.

Oceania Cruises operates 6 ships from 684 to 1250 guests. Exciting and exotic worldwide itineraries are enhanced by extensive shore excursion choices and expert onboard lecturers. Fine dining – acclaimed as the “Finest at Sea” – is served in a choice of open-seating restaurants including speciality dining at no extra charge. Living areas are sumptuous, with almost all accommodations having a private veranda and butler service in all suites. Cuisine, comfort, service and outstanding value are the pillars that define Oceania Cruises’ Five-Star product and have positioned us as the cruise company of choice for travellers seeking a truly refined and casually elegant travel experience.

Oceania Cruises combines the sophisticated elegance of a private hotel with the flexibility and adventure of sea travel. Exciting and exotic worldwide itineraries with extensive shore excursion choices and expert on board lecturers, fine dining in a wide choice of open-seating restaurants including speciality restaurants all at no additional charge, a private veranda in the majority of accommodations and butler service in suite accommodations blend to create an ambiance that is fast becoming the choice of the more discerning traveller. With a fleet of six mid-sized vessels, Oceania Cruises offers the chance to visit many of the world’s most exciting destinations whilst retaining a consistent on board environment of unstructured comfort and relaxation – likened by many clients to being akin to a ‘home away from home’

ITINERARY:

SYDNEY TO AUCKLAND From £4049pp Outrageous Outback : 14-Day Voyage : 9 - 23 April 2017

Apr 9 Sun Apr 10 Mon Apr 11 Tue Apr 12 Wed Apr 13 Thu Apr 14 & 15 Apr 16 Sun Apr 17 Mon Apr 18 Tue Apr 19 Wed Apr 20 Thu Apr 21 Fri Apr 22 Sat Apr 23 Sun

Sydney, Australia Eden, Australia Melbourne, Australia Melbourne, Australia Burnie (Tasmania), Australia Cruising the Tasman Sea Cruising the Fjords of Milford Sound Dunedin, New Zealand Akaroa, New Zealand Nelson, New Zealand Wellington, New Zealand Napier, New Zealand Rotorua (Tauranga), New Zealand Auckland, New Zealand

Embark 1 PM Arrive 8 AM Arrive 1 PM Arrive 8 AM Arrive 10 AM Arrive 8 AM Arrive 10 AM Arrive 8 AM Arrive 8 AM Arrive 10 AM

VALUE WITHOUT COMPROMISE

Depart Depart

5 PM 3 PM

Depart Depart

6 PM 6 PM

Depart 7 PM Depart 4 PM Depart 8 PM Depart 5 PM Depart 4 PM Depart 7 PM Disembark 8 AM

FREE AIRFARE* FREE Internet* FREE dining at all specialty restaurants FREE and unlimited soft drinks, bottled water, cappuccino, espresso, teas & juices FREE shuttle service from ship to city center in many ports of call – a daily value of up to $30 per guest FREE and unlimited access to Canyon Ranch SpaClub® private Spa Terrace+ FREE room service dining 24 hours a day FREE Artist Loft enrichment center++ ------------------------------------------------+Concierge Level Staterooms & Suites only ++Available on board Marina, Riviera & Insignia *View T & Cs on the Oceania website


A S H D OW N

A S H D OW N

TEAM TRIP

TEAM TRIP

Thailand by Sue Boarding the flight from Heathrow to Bangkok, I was really excited about the trip I was about to experience. Our overnight flight with Eva Air direct into Bangkok in premium economy was very impressive with plenty of leg room. We had one night in Bangkok, certainly an eye opener and an incredibly busy city! The best hotels are located on the river which is alive with activity all night! After a hairy Tuk Tuk ride to the ShangriLa Hotel for a hosted dinner we returned to the Royal Orchid Sheraton for our overnight stay. An early start took us back to Bangkok Airport for our flight to Surat Thani, for the next few days at Elephant Hills. We were met at the airport by our appointed guide and taken straight to the Elephant Camp. Situated close to the jungle of the Khao Sok National Park, the experience gave us a real opportunity to interact with the endangered Asian Elephant, a very moving experience. Our first night was at the Main Camp, luxury tents with hardwood floors, all with electricity, en suite bathrooms with hot showers and coffee and tea making facilities. Meals are taken together, where everyone shares their day which could include a jungle trek or a canoe safari down the Sok River. Following a very interesting night’s sleep with the sounds and calls of the wild we moved on to the Cheow Larn Lake, a short road transfer to the pier

and then a traditional long tail boat across to the Rainforest Camp. As we approached the camp we could see the floating tents, each one having its own canoe to explore the surrounding scenery. We took the opportunity to relax on the deck in front of the tent and watch the sun set over the jungle, to swim in the emerald waters of the lake and listen to the sounds of the cicadas. The lake in the morning was like glass, completely still, reflecting the surrounding limestone mountains, the sounds of the gibbons and monkeys as they wake and play was amazing. I must say I was a little apprehensive about staying in a tent in the middle of the jungle and even more so about spending the night in a floating tent on the lake in the middle of nowhere, but I absolutely loved it, such a fantastic couple of days which I will not forget. After a road and boat transfer we arrived at the Pimalai, a five star hillside resort in Ko Lanta. Most of the accommodation is built into the hillside, including villas great for families, all easily accessible by the resort’s golf carts, with incredible sea views. Situated on a beautiful white sandy beach, a gentle stroll along the beach takes you to a small village, popular for live music. The small boutique property Tubkaak, recognised as the most romantic resort in Krabi was home for our last two nights, set in wonderful gardens which back onto the wide beach. On our last day we enjoyed all that the Tubkaak has to offer including their famous banana roti, an authentic Thai massage, and time to relax in the refreshing pool. In the evening we enjoyed dinner at the luxurious Rayavadee situated at the heart of the Phranang Peninsula on the edge of the Krabi Marine National Park, only accessible by sea. Our last Thai sunset was framed by the breath-taking limestone rock formations rising out of the water. Inspired by Asia are specialists in the Far East and I thank them for giving me this wonderful and unforgettable experience.

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Ecuador by Linda Wow - what an experience! I was extremely fortunate to be invited on a trip to Ecuador with a 3 night stay in the Amazon. The trip started very smoothly with a flight from Heathrow with Avianca Airlines to Quito – a beautiful Andean city 2,850m above sea level and surrounded by towering volcanoes - officially making it the highest capital city of the world! Our first two nights were in the boutique Hotel Plaza Grande which was centrally situated overlooking the central plaza making it easily accessible to most of the well-deserved World Heritage sites of this colonial city. Our second day included a cable car trip to the top of the Pichincha Volcano where you could see nearly every aspect of Quito - a must to-do trip (just remember to take a warm jacket!). On our third day we headed off early morning for a short flight to the Amazon Basin where on arrival we waited for our motorised boat transfer. After a 2hr trip along the River Napo we walked along a raised boardwalk in a flooded palm forest for about 50 minutes before finally reaching our accommodation by dugout canoes across the black Pilchicocha Lake – the Sacha Lodge – our next

stop for 3 nights. This peaceful lodge is situated in the 5000-acre Ecological Reserve – a rainforest sanctuary where you can go bird-watching up the giant 100ft high Kapok tree, take dugout canoe trips around the streams, or go swimming or fishing for Piranha from the dock of the lodge (I took the fishing option over the swimming!). After three wonderful de-stressed days relaxing with the sounds of the jungle, we regretfully had to return to normality and back to Quito and this time we stayed at the Hacienda Piman – a historic retreat located in the northern Ecuadorian Andes. Our next visit was to the province of Imbabura which included the scenic Cuicocha Crater Lake for a 45 minute walk before heading off to the town of Cotacachi – famous for its leather goods, and San Antonio – known for its wood carving. The following day we visited Otavalo Market – one of the largest and most colourful Indian textile markets in Ecuador! Our final and last visit was a trip to Ibarra where we set off for the most beautiful scenic train ride to Salinas which is known for its Afro-Ecuadorian community. A trip not to be missed and Ecuador really is a beautiful and amazing country!

A S H D O W N T R AV E L

01883 714312


A S H D OW N T EA M T R I P British Virgin Islands by Abigail

After a Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Antigua, a light aircraft flight to Tortola and the last leg, a boat ride to the resort, we arrived in paradise. Our first stay was Oil Nut Bay, a brand new villa concept set on a sweep of untouched beach. The warm welcome made the long journey well worthwhile and the beach villa which was to be our home for the next couple of days was stunning. It benefitted from an open plan kitchen, living, and dining area, a beautiful infinity pool just steps from the beach, and its own gym! The resort complex has villas of varying size for rent and a couple of cliffside suites with incredible views. It also has its own restaurant, kids club, and sports facilities so plenty to keep one as busy or as relaxed as you please. Our second destination was Rosewood Little Dix Bay which was a much more established resort with a full timetable of activities, classes, water-sports, and a stunning spa.There are a variety of room categories from ocean view rooms, beachfront cottages, junior suites and suites. It had the most wonderful stretch of beach and I was lucky enough to be joined by a turtle and a ray on an early morning swim one day, just so memorable. From here you can reach The Baths, a geological landmark of volcanic boulders

toppled over one another, creating natural salt water pools and grottos to explore. The resort also offer beach drops around some of the most special spots on Virgin Gorda, they can even make up a picnic hamper for the perfect day out. Our last stay was at the gorgeous Peter Island Resort & Spa. This exclusive resort is on its own island, and has its own marina where we were met and whisked to our rooms. They have 3 exclusive villas, perfect for families or groups of friends; and a selection of ocean view rooms and beachfront junior suites. One of the hardest decisions of the day will be which of the 5 stunning beaches to choose to enjoy, and it also benefits from dive sites close by and snorkelling right from the shore. For more active people they do have tennis, yoga, water-sports, bikes and plenty of hikes around the island’s 1800 acres. Then unwind at the incredible spa with one of their unique Ayurvedic treatments. The food was fantastic and you can’t miss Jean Kelly’s famous French toast at breakfast – yum! There is the main Tradewinds Restaurant, Deadman’s Beach Bar & Grill, and private beach dining can be arranged. We loved being taken to Sunset Loop, a complimentary service to watch the sun go down over the incredible vista of the beautiful islands of the British Virgin Islands.

A S H D O W N T R A V E L w w w. a s h d o w n t r a v e l . c o . u k

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