Go on an Elephant Safari
Your next favourite holiday destination: Sri Lanka
Tempo Holidays loves travel, that's why they have created your next favourite holiday destination; Sri Lanka. That’s why these destination specialists have been creating amazing holidays for over 25 years, offering all forms of travel, from cruise to coach to rail, and catering to a range of budgets.   They can even tailor-make any holiday you like to your dream destination. Travel is all about being in the moment and, no matter how much you have travelled, there is always something new to discover and explore. Need to know Tempo Holidays’ top tip to make the most of 2019 is talk to their destination experts: “We are here to ensure your journey is just right for you and your requirements. Our biggest tip is that you make the most of your transport options. Take a train through the countryside or get up close to local sights – nothing compares to the feeling of discovering a new city, so be sure to stop and absorb the local cultures around you.”   Tempo Holidays’ favourite destination right now is Sri Lanka, which has just been named as Lonely Planet’s #1 country in the world for 2019.   Be welcomed by friendly locals, see natural wonders and glorious beaches as Tempo Holidays takes you to places like Yala National Park, one of the largest wildlife reserves in Sri Lanka and the closest safari destination to Australians. Yala is known for its dense population of leopards,  but you also have the chance to see sloth bears, elephants, deer, crocodiles and an incredible array of birdlife.   Take a look at Tempo Holidays’ many tours that cater to all types of travellers and highlight everything Sri Lanka has to offer.   Call 1300 362 844, email res@tempoholidays.com, visit tempoholidays.com or see your local travel agent.
How to spend 48 hours in Canggu, Bali
Bali’s thriving Canggu neighbourhood is a paradise of beach clubs, temples, rice paddies, yoga and boho chic, as Linda Botting discovers. Day One 7am Start the day early with a sunrise yoga class at Desa Seni Village Resort. The bamboo open-air studio is set against lush, green tropical plants with cheeky wildlife wandering past. Not only can you practise lizard pose, but you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one slowly ambling across the grass. 8.40am After a delicious poolside breakfast, your personal driver will take you to Kuda P Stables, a 20-minute drive to Pererenan black-sand beach. The stables are Australian-owned with 50 years’ horse handling experience. A one-and-a-half- hour ride will take you through rural beachside countryside of lush green rice paddies where farmers busily tend to their crops. 10.45am Time to jump back in the car and take a short drive to Echo Beach. It is known locally as Pantai Batu Mejan and is one of Canggu’s popular surfing beaches. You don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy the 180-degree views as you slowly meander along soft, yet grainy, grey sand. 12pm Having worked up an appetite, there’s no shortage of restaurants to choose from in the vicinity, all set high upon the cliff above Echo Beach with amazing views of the reef breaks below. These restaurants are family and pet friendly and you can often see locals lunching with their dogs. 1.15pm It’s time to learn about silversmithing from an Indonesian expert at the House of Alaia; the three-hour jewellery-making class explains the techniques and secrets of working with the precious metal. All that’s needed is imagination and creativity in order to make a custom-designed piece of jewellery, a totally unique souvenir to take home. 4pm Back at the resort, try a traditional Balinese or hot stone massage as you relax after a busy day of activity. When you’re done, head to the cool of the pool for a leisurely soak before heading out again. 7pm Finns Beach Club is located at the popular Berawa surf break. The 30-metre infinity pool here affords perfect views of the sunset from all angles and is even equipped with underwater speakers; it’s impossible to resist a quick swim while enjoying the resident DJ’s tunes vibrating through the water. Settle in at one of the poolside lounges with a margarita in hand and take in the scene. 8.30pm The sun gone and pre-dinner drinks downed, head into the restaurant for a relaxed dinner. Take a seat in the casual yet stylish open-air bamboo dining area and sample delicious, fresh local dishes; the Finns Beach Club mantra is ‘good food done well’. Day Two 7am Head for a leisurely breakfast at Deus Cafe Canggu, with its unique motorcycle-inspired decor. Choose from a menu of Indonesian, Asian and Italian dishes or opt for something that hints at its Aussie origins.   All diets are catered for, from meat through to vegetarian and vegan. Sit back in one of the overstuffed sofas and sip Deus’s signature coffee, which some call the best in Bali. 8:30am Work off breakfast with a 13-minute walk to Hotel Tugu Bali for a cooking class with East Javanese chef Iboe Soelastri, learning about local spices on a trip to a traditional market, and sampling juicy rambutan or mangosteen along the way.   Once you return to the open-air wooden kitchen – sans modern electrical products, where all cooking is done in traditional terracotta rice steamers and wood-fire earthen pits – you’ll first choose five recipes from a list of traditional Javanese and Balinese dishes, including chicken curry and fried tempe, before rolling up your sleeves and cooking up a storm. 12pm It’s time for the fun part, sitting down with your fellow chefs to sample the mouth-watering dishes created during the class. You’ll leave with a copy of the recipes you chose to cook so that you can replicate them at home. 2 pm After a light lunch back at the resort, head to an afternoon Yin restorative yoga class in the open-air studio at Desa Seni.   The gentle flowing movements won’t stretch the endurance of yoga novices, and the soft sea breeze and calming music will set you up perfectly for heading out for an afternoon of shopping. 3pm Ask your driver to cruise along Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong, Canggu’s burgeoning shopping strip where stores to rival Seminyak’s chic offerings are steadily growing in number; many refer to Canggu as the new Seminyak.   The Love Anchor bazaar sells traditional and quirky items, and you should definitely stop in at Beyond Borders and Bungalow Living for luxe yet affordable homewares that allow you to take a bit of the island-chic vibe home with you. 6pm Canggu is the gateway to Tanah Lot and a trip to Bali is not complete without a visit to the evocative sea temple.   The Balinese believe the banded sea snake, guardian of the temple, lives in the nearby waters. Be sure to keep a look out as you cross the plain as the tide rolls in. A short walk along the pathway will take you to Pura Batu Bolong for the best sunset views, especially just after a shower of warm tropical rain. 8pm Book a table at La Laguna, where the owners, Gonzalo and Sandra Assiego, were inspired by their love of Spanish heritage to design a bohemian-chic beach club with a global gypsy vibe.   Enter along a cobbled path lined with vintage wooden caravans before taking your seat in the alfresco dining area. Start with a cocktail, perhaps a cool cosmopolitan, and settle in for a delicious selection of Balinese and European dishes.
Everything you need to know about Yala National Park
Prior to its inauguration as a national park in 1938, Sri Lanka’s Yala wilderness was a shooting gallery for the ruling British elite, who sought trophies of its plentiful leopards and elephants. Sitting in the south of the tear-drop-shaped island and abutting the Indian Ocean, today Yala’s wildlife is shot by thousands of photographers a year instead; it’s by far the country’s most popular national park, and for good reason: it’s the best place on the planet to spot leopards, with the highest concentration of the cat in the world.   But there’s so much more to the 1268 square kilometres of protected space, including important archaeological sites and temples, families of Asian elephants, an endless stream of birdlife and simply a vast and varied landscape of forests, scrub and dramatic mesas rising from the jungle. [caption id="attachment_45184" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Yala combines a strict nature reserve with a national park[/caption] So if you’re holidaying on one of the country’s golden beaches – tear yourself away for a couple of days and witness the best of Sri Lanka’s rich and varied natural wonders.   Yala is divided into five blocks plus a Strict Nature Reserve to maintain a pristine area in the face of tourism and other activity. Blocks 1 and 5 are set aside for the public to visit, with Block 1 by far the busiest (see below). Blocks 2, 3 and 4 are more rugged and remote and far less visited requiring permits to enter. Must-see sights Don’t make the mistake of simply going on a safari to spot the park’s big animals, there’s so much more to Yala if you have a few days to explore, from ancient temples to its vast beach lining the Indian Ocean. [caption id="attachment_45185" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Pre-book your safari with a trusted source., this can save you whole lot of time and trouble[/caption] Kumbuk River The park is bordered in the north by the Kumbuk River, and you can stay at KumbukRiver Eco-Extraordinaire lodge situated on its banks to see an entirely different corner of Yala, the lowland forest giving way to dense jungle. There are a range of accommodation options available, some with views of the roaring Kumbuk a stone’s throw away.   Plus try river rafting, guided bird-watching and walks into the wilds of Yala’s buffer zone. Beach time Turn your time in Yala National Park into an unashamed beach holiday. A long stretch of golden sand marks its border with the Indian Ocean and there are ample beach huts, and beachside villas to choose from to use as your base for your expeditions into the park.   The luxury Wild Coast Tented Lodge would be a good choice, its arched fabric structures set among the dunes and designed to channel the shape of a leopard’s paw. Elephant Rock At times in Yala National Park you could be on the set of a King Kong film, dense forest stretching off into the horizon only to be abruptly stopped by an enormous lone-standing mountain.   [caption id="attachment_45187" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Driving off into the sunset[/caption] Elephant Rock (pictured main) is the most photogenic of these, the huge mesas looking like an old bull elephant marching across a plain. Sithulpawwa Buddhism has been prevalent in Sri Lanka since the third century BC and Yala happens to have a great example of an early cave temple (pictured above) dating back to the second century BC; rare paintings on the temple walls from this time still remain.   Sithulpawwa’s caves sit below a white stupa and once housed thousands of arhats – monks thought to have achieved enlightenment. A conservation effort Tourism can be a strong force for good, bringing money to the local economy which helps monetise a natural asset, an incentive to keep it in tip-top shape so people will want to come in the first place.   But too many visitors can adversely affect the environment. Since the country’s civil war came to an end in 2009, tourists have flocked back to Sri Lanka and Yala: 43,368 visited the park in 2008 compared to 658,277 in 2016.   It’s meant a problematic number of safari jeeps entering the park, something the Sri Lankan government is looking to address, and should have remedied earlier if it hadn’t become such a political football. [caption id="attachment_45186" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Elephants roam their natural habitat[/caption] However, an action plan has been drawn up to be implemented before 2020. Its various measures include improving safari-jeep-driver discipline; reducing the numbers of tourists concentrated in the busy Block 1 of the park (see map) by opening up other blocks; and zoning Block 1 itself to disperse jeeps throughout in an orderly fashion. Animal Spotting Yala is a haven for big mammals, a rare sight in Asia outside of national parks big enough to accommodate them. Thankfully this is one of them. Sri Lankan flying snake With yellow and black bands, and red spots, you’ll be lucky to catch this striking snake gliding between trees.   It expands its ribs to flatten its body to soar across the canopy looking for small lizards to dine on; the stuff of nightmares for some, for others a rare photo opportunity. Sloth bear The Sri Lankan sloth bear is a dishevelled-looking shaggy character sporting a yellow crest on its chest, a lot like the sun bears found on the continent. Strong climbers, they dine on insects and fruit, and they’re very shy, emerging at dusk.   Yala represents one of the best places to spot them. Leopard The star of the show, it’s said there are around 30 leopards roaming around the most popular section of the park, meaning you have an increased chance of laying eyes on this reclusive big cat.   [caption id="attachment_45189" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Including Sri Lankan leopards, 44 species of mammals are resident in Yala National Park[/caption] The leopards are actually a subspecies endemic to Sri Lanka, so you’ll be ticking off an extremely rare animal indeed. Asian elephant It’s a life-affirming experience to see families of Sri Lankan elephants, a subspecies of Asian elephant, roaming the expanse of Yala, with over 300 calling the park home.   Sri Lanka is thought to have the world’s highest density of Asian elephants, which are under massive pressure from habitat loss in other parts of Asia.
How to see a side of Japan that tourists are yet to discover
Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima – the Japanese golden route. It’s a trail many have completed, and one many aim to complete during their lifetime. And while there is definitely room for exploring Japan’s epicentre (a 450 per cent increase over the past five years doesn’t lie), a recent journey through the country’s more authentic side highlights just how much more there is to discover.   Despite the staggering rise in foreign tourists, relatively little has been done so far to make travellers aware of alternative destinations, with a continued fixation on commercialised travel spots.   Tokyo-based startup tour operator Heartland JAPAN is leading the way in the exploration of sustainable travel destinations, positioning itself as the oh-so-necessary provider for inbound visitors wishing to journey off the beaten track.   Not only will opening up these regions reignite local economies, but it will also assist in reversing the effects of depopulation and urbanisation, with the hopeful result of revitalising these communities.   If you’re like me, and you get your travel kicks from discovering vast and varied natural, historical and cultural alternatives that aren’t plagued with tourists, there are two Heartland JAPAN tours you need to discover ASAP. Allow me to take you through them. TOUR 1: Mt Aso, Kumamoto At the heart of Japan’s most southwesterly island of Kyushu sits the Kumamoto Prefecture.   If you haven’t heard of it, fear not, neither had I. And the Japanese are quick to forgive you, eager to open their arms wide for foreigners keen to discover just how incredible their little untouched pocket of the world is. Kumamoto City Your tour begins in Kumamoto.   Whilst Kyushu’s modern day capital is Fukuoka, situated in the north, historically Kyushu was governed from Kumamoto city.   [caption id="attachment_45084" align="alignleft" width="600"] A traditional seafood dinner in Kumamoto city.[/caption] For those who haven’t dusted up on their samurai history prior to the tour, Futaenotouge Pass is a portion of the Bungo Circuit, a historic trail used by the feudal lords of the Kumamoto Domain to travel to Tokyo, in a practice known as sankin-kotai.   Following this exploration (and plenty of time to stop and marvel at the landscape’s rolling hills) you’ll make the 90-minute private car journey to the main event: Aso. Mt Aso For me, there are a number of things that draw me to any country. The people, food, culture – but one of the most significant is the chance to marvel in a natural beauty that is unlike anywhere else I have seen. And for me, Mt Aso is high on the list of my favourites.   [caption id="attachment_45080" align="alignleft" width="600"] The craters of Mt Aso resemble a space-like texture.[/caption]   Mt Aso is the largest active volcano in Japan, and is among the largest in the world. And among it lives five peaks: Mt Neko, Mt Taka, Mt Naka (also called Nakadake or Naka-Dake), Mt Eboshi, and Mt Kishima.   Nakadake hosts a spectacular crater, stretching 24 kilometres from north to south and 18 kilometres from east to west. Within it lives an active volcano that emits smoke at all hours of the day.   [caption id="attachment_45081" align="alignleft" width="600"] Nakadake hosts a spectacular crater which stretching 24 kilometres from north to south.[/caption] In fact, it emits so much toxic smoke that many tourists find themselves turned away from visiting, depending on the ever-changing wind directions. We were lucky, I hope you are too. Waita Onsen Village If you take one thing from this article, I hope it’s that the Kumamoto Prefecture offers many things that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Among them is the Waita Onsen Village, located in Oguni.   With its collection of six hot springs located at the base of the 1500-metre-tall Mt Waita, the village overlooks Kumamoto and Oita prefectures.   Looking around, you wouldn’t be wrong to think you were on the set of a blockbuster Hollywood movie, complete with million-dollar smoke machines as far as the eye can see.   What you would be witnessing (and smelling), however, is a natural phenomenon whereby gushing steam from the surrounding volcano punctures the ground and fills the skies.   [caption id="attachment_45082" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Waita Onsen village is one of the steamiest places in all of Japan.[/caption] Walking around the sleepy rural town, it’s hard to see a square metre of land untouched by steam. And the locals, they make use of it. On the tour, you will be invited inside one of the villagers’ homes, where you can view, and participate in, a unique hot spring cooking experience.   The fuming hot steam serves as a means of heating up just about anything. From fish to vegetables, most residents house a smoke vent for culinary purposes. [caption id="attachment_45083" align="alignleft" width="600"] Locals brewing vegetables using steam from the village.[/caption] Kagura Performances During your tour with Heartland JAPAN you will experience a private Kagura performance at a local theatre.   Kagura is thought to be among the oldest traditional performing arts in the country, with an origin tracing back to ancient mythology.   [caption id="attachment_45085" align="alignleft" width="600"] A colourful Kagura performance.[/caption] It is originally said to be performed for Shinto dieties in an attempt to welcome and entertain, performed only by Shinto priests to thank them for abundant crops.   In contemporary Japan, however, the vibrant dances and garments are widely performed to the enjoyment of the public.   Experiencing these performances firsthand is unlike anything I have ever seen. The costumes, dramatics and even stamina of these performers is really unparalleled – it’s crazy to think they’re amateurs. TOUR 2: Yamaguchi Prefecture  Due to its rich history which spans nearly 700 years, Yamaguchi is the perfect place to explore with experts.   Yamaguchi is renowned throughout Japan for its impressive 300-year history and its ties to the Meiji Revolution.   While sitting as the seat of the powerful Ouchi lords, Yamaguchi grew as a rival to the war-torn capital of Kyoto during periods of Japanese conflict. As a result, the city grew in popularity as the ‘Kyoto of the West’ and many of its smaller cities have come to resemble the eastern hotspots many travellers know and love. Exploring Tsuwano With old samurai mansions, dark red roof tiles, wooden grated windows and koi carp fish,  Tsuwano is a bustling, pleasant town at the western edge of Shimane Prefecture.   Walking through Tsuwano is a blissful experience: peaceful mountains envelop the town and its surrounds. It has an energy of ancient Japan, alongside a contemporary atmosphere that allows it to not feel dated.   The town was built around the Tsuwano Castle in the early 14th century, and while the structure does not exist anymore, several business and samurai residences still remain in their original locations. You are also able to visit the castle ruins, accessible by chairlift.   Spend your time walking down Honmachi and Tonomachi avenues, memorable for their cobblestone streets dotted with established sake breweries, folk craft shops and Japanese sweetshops. The Shinto Shrine Yamaguchi is also celebrated for housing the Taikodani Inari Shrine, one of the five most significant Inari shrines in Japan.   [caption id="attachment_45086" align="alignleft" width="600"] The shinto shrine overlooks Tsuwano.[/caption] The site was built in the mid-18th century in close proximity to Tsuwano Castle, with the aim of driving away evil spirits and bringing in good luck.   Today, vermillion-lacquered Torii gates are erected over a long series of stairs leading up to the shrine. Visitors are encouraged to make the 15-minute climb through the gates and pray for prosperity, good luck and harvest on the way to the main shrine grounds.   [caption id="attachment_45087" align="alignleft" width="600"] Visitors are encouraged to make the 15-minute climb through the gates.[/caption] Large sacred straw ropes line the front of the halls, which is a feature that occurs at other shrines in the Shimane Prefecture.   Visitors to Taikodani Inari Shrine can buy fortunes, also known as Omikuji. A bamboo aparatus allots you a number, which coresponds to a tiny slip/roll of paper on which your fortune is written.   [caption id="attachment_45089" align="alignleft" width="600"] White pieces of paper contain discarded bad fortunes.[/caption] If you draw a good fortune, keep it, take it home with you. But if it’s bad, you’re encouraged to tie it among the wall of other fortunes. The idea is to leave all bad luck at the shrine, where the divine spirit can exorcise it. Ogawa Sumikawa Sake Brewery Driving towards Susa Bay, you may start to feel an appetite for Japan’s most prized and celebrated alcohol: sake. Fear not, the team at HEARTLAND are quick to replenish, taking you to one of the country’s most celebrated breweries.   For novices, sake is a traditional Japanese rice wine, made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. At Ogawa Sumikawa Sake Brewery, the place you’ll visit, you will learn and watch the signature manufacturing process using the unique brewery rice, ‘sakemirai’.   [caption id="attachment_45090" align="alignleft" width="600"] Local markets sell traditional sake cups.[/caption] Very few breweries can brew with this rice, and the much-loved taste led to this brewery being chosen to provide sake for the 2008 G8 summit.
Hyatt Regency Bali
Treat yourself (and the whole family) at this dreamy Balinese resort
Your ultimate blissful Bali getaway, with newly renovated rooms, a quiet beach, kids’ club, and beachfront eatery! Whether you want to spend your entire time chilling out by the pool or catching up with friends in one of the bars, the classic Balinese resort that is Hyatt Regency Bali has plenty of space and opportunities for you to completely recharge; it’s the perfect tropical escape. Originally built on a coconut plantation, the resort is blessed with the widest beachfront in the region and has the largest garden on the island. Families will enjoy the laid-back Sanur vibe, while couples will revel in its romantic, old-school charm. With 363 newly renovated rooms and facilities, the resort is eminently comfortable while at the same time retaining an authentic Balinese feel. [caption id="attachment_44994" align="alignnone" width="600"] Welcome to relaxation[/caption] Need to know Location The Hyatt Regency Bali is right on the main street of Sanur with 500 metres of beachfront and Bali’s top destinations close by: Seminyak is 45 minutes away and Ubud just an hour. Eat: The hotel has two restaurants: Omang Omang with its all-day dining, and Pizzaria by the beach. Outside the hotel you can enjoy hundreds of cafes, restaurants and bars. Play: Though most people come to Sanur to relax, there are plenty of options for turning your mild a little bit wilder. Beach clubs are within 10 minutes of the hotel, and bars with live music or sports are a quick walk away – plus you’ll find chilled-out yoga studios as well as hip boutiques and salons. Within the hotel, guests can swim in one of three pools, mingle at the Beach Bar or get pampered in the lavish spa. Top Tips The hotel’s renowned, established garden makes a fabulous backdrop for family or romantic portraits. Book a photo session with a local photographer and snap some of your best Insta shots ever. The garden is home to about 500 species of flora and fauna, and trees from the old garden of Bali Hyatt have been restored and given a new home. Head to the spa to try a watsu (water shiatsu) treatment – essentially a massage on water! Sindhu market offers a glimpse of local life. A wet market by day and food market by night, Sindhu is Sanur’s unofficial melting pot. Located 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel, the market opens from 6am to 10am and 6pm to 10pm.   The resort is accepting bookings from 20 December 2018. Find out more at hyattregencybali.com
Bali grass
The ultimate five-day Lombok itinerary
What to do and where to explore on Bali’s neighbouring island Bali has long been a much-loved holiday destination for Australians – it’s practically a rite of passage. And while record numbers of Aussies are still basking in Bali’s warm waters, an increasing amount of visitors are now travelling to Bali’s less-visited sister, the stunning island of Lombok. Like the rest of Bali, Lombok offers lush landscapes, tasty culinary dishes, unique cultural experiences and its fair share of adventure, but this beautiful island also boasts almost-deserted beaches, epic surfing breaks and hidden waterfalls as well. It goes without saying that to really explore Lombok you need two to three weeks, but if you’ve only got the best part of one week, here’s one of the best ways to spend it: Day 1 Once you fly into Lombok from Bali, head to the beautiful coastal area of Mandalika Beach, just 30 minutes to the south. Once a hidden mecca for surfers, now this pristine coastal paradise that is only six minutes from popular Kuta Beach (not to be confused with Bali’s Kuta Beach) is home to watersports of all kinds, modern hotels and hip cafes serving up local treats. It’s the perfect place to start your holiday (cocktail in hand). After checking into your hotel, take the afternoon to hike to the top of nearby Merese Hill above Batu Payung beach to see an impressive panorama of Lombok as well as a beautiful sunset. The walk itself will take roughly about an hour from Mandalika or you can hop on a moped and then it’s just a quick 15- to 20-minute walk from the car park to the top. [caption id="attachment_44790" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll never want to leave after seeing these jaw-dropping sunsets[/caption] Day 2 Today is beach day! Mandalika Beach is perfectly located near some of Lombok’s most beautiful beaches, so hiring a moped or catching a taxi to each one makes for a stunning day by the sea. If you love surfing and fishing, head to Gerupuk Beach or if you’re after peace and quiet, try relaxing at Serenting Beach. For lunch, make your way to beautiful Tanjung Aan Beach for freshly made Nasi Goreng and a swim on a near-deserted beach, before heading back to Mandalika Beach for dinner. Day 3 Say goodbye to Lombok’s south coast and travel a couple of hours up to Lombok’s main tourist area of Senggigi. On the way, take a short detour to the spectacular Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu waterfalls, centred around swimming holes below. The 20-metre-high waterfalls cascade through rugged rocky outcrops covered in moss creating a cool retreat from Lombok’s beaches. When you’ve cooled down with a swim, head to your hotel in Senggigi, around 90 minutes’ drive away. Situated on wide open beaches and backed by jungle-covered mountains, Senggigi is a great place to enjoy a day of shopping, before watching the sunset over the water as you eat dinner and head out to a bar. [caption id="attachment_44791" align="alignnone" width="600"] So many activities to keep even the most adventurous traveller occupied[/caption] Day 4 After an early breakfast and a swim, take a local day trip north to the famous Gili Islands just off the coast of Lombok. Known for incredibly rich tropical marine biodiversity, the three islands of the Gilis each have a no-car policy and white sandy postcard-worthy beaches. For scuba divers, dive in and explore the sunken ship at Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach on Gili Trawangan. Or you could meet the local turtles and even swim with them. Or you could just snorkel right off the beach (why not?). You’ll find that the pace of life on the Gili Islands is slow… and that’s just how the locals like it. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing day in the sun. Overnight in Senggigi. Day 5 Get up bright and early to hop on a half-day trip cycling through some of Lombok’s beautiful terraced rice fields – most of which date back to the time of Balinese colonisation. As you explore the beautiful rice fields on two wheels, you’ll visit small villages along the way and learn about local customs and culture. You might even try homemade local delicacies. Spend the afternoon back in Senggigi relaxing on the beach, before watching the sunset and listening to late-night live music in the local bars: an ideal way to end your holiday. [caption id="attachment_44789" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience a few nights staying in a beach hut[/caption] Where to stay: Lombok has a range of accommodation including five-star resorts and hotels as well as affordable surf huts and beach hostels to choose from. How to get there: There are regular daily flights between Australia and Denpasar, Indonesia, and there are daily flights between Denpasar and Lombok International Airport (LOP). Local airlines that fly to Lombok from Bali include Garuda, Lion Air, SilkAir and Trans Nusa.   Planning a holiday to Indonesia? For further info on Lombok and the surrounding areas, check out www.indonesia.travel
Review: what it’s like to actually have breakfast at Tiffany’s
What is it like to have breakfast at Tiffany’s? We find out if dining at the iconic store is worth the hype. If you’ve ever wanted to channel your inner Audrey Hepburn and recreate Breakfast at Tiffany’s, now you can, with the recent launch of Tiffany & Co’s Blue Box Cafe at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in midtown Manhattan.   But don’t be like Holly Golightly, on the outside looking in. To score a reservation at the uber popular 40-seat cafe you’ll need to book online via Resy 30 days in advance, and be poised to book once the booking window opens up 9am New York time; tables are snatched up within minutes. If you miss out, you can request to be notified when a table becomes available, but you’ll need to monitor your email notifications like a hawk to secure a booking.   So with a little pre-planning you’re in! But is it worth the hype?   Arriving at the iconic store, you’re whisked up to the fourth floor by the most charming elevator operators. It feels like a throwback to a bygone era, like when the movie made its debut in 1961, and adds to the sense of grandeur.   [caption id="attachment_44752" align="alignleft" width="600"] If you've always dreamed of living like Audrey Hepburn, you're in luck[/caption] Weave your way through the tempting selection of Tiffany’s new luxury home and accessories collection and arrive at Tiffany’s first ever dining concept – the Blue Box Cafe. It occupies just one small corner of the floor, making it an exclusive event.   The cafe is a sea of Tiffany’s signature blue: from the walls, chairs, banquette seating to the bone china and elegant salt and pepper shakers, and it’s heavenly for any Tiffany & Co. fan.   We’ve scored a table for the first sitting of the day, 10.15am – just after the store opens. We’re delighted to learn that despite the strict allocated arrival time when booking, there is no rush to leave; instead you can savour the experience at your leisure.   [caption id="attachment_44751" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Blue Box Cafe is a jewel of a restaurant with a beautiful view of Central Park[/caption] Better still, you can decide on the day whether you’d like to choose from the breakfast, lunch or high tea menu. The prix fixe menu starts at $44 for a two-course breakfast including your choice of tea or coffee. Two-course lunch is $58 and Tiffany Tea is $71.   Opting for the breakfast menu, the first course arrives featuring seasonal berries and croissants served with whipped honey butter, sour cherry-cranberry jam and classic Nutella. It’s the perfect start and is a nostalgic nod to Holly Golightly nibbling her croissant at Tiffany’s all those years ago.   Our second course is an American favourite reimagined by Tiffany: smoked salmon and bagel stack with cream cheese smear, beefsteak tomato, red onion and capers. The bagel is sliced as wafer-thin crisps making for an elegant rather than filling breakfast. Other breakfast options included coddled eggs, avocado toast or buttermilk waffles.   [caption id="attachment_44753" align="alignleft" width="600"] Marble walls are a welcome addition[/caption] If you’ve left room for a sweet treat, order the Blue Box Celebration Cake, a recreation of the iconic Tiffany box in chocolate and Grand Marnier and smothered in Tiffany Blue fondant. There’s a further selection of desserts, plus a range of teas, wine and bubbles on the menu.   Service exudes quality and sophistication and staff seemingly glide around the room – all helping to create a relaxed and unhurried dining experience.   Believe the hype, breakfast at Tiffany’s is a quintessential New York experience and should be added to your must-do list when travelling to the Big Apple.
The best castle and manor house hotels in Ireland
Sample some of the best castle and manor house hotels in Ireland to help you find just the right retreat for an indulgent stay. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it! The old joke that you don’t travel to Ireland for the weather is entirely true. Ireland is not the kind of place that a ‘sun-worshipping, cocktails-by-the-pool-from-11am-till-late’ wife like mine would naturally seek out. So to convince her to spend a valuable week of her European travel time on the Atlantic Ocean’s eastern break wall required a compelling itinerary.   Hence my ‘Great Castle and Manor Hotel Stays of Ireland’ itinerary, featuring a series of properties that stretch from the approachable and affordable to those of the more wallet-busting once-in-a-lifetime variety. But no matter how stately or opulent, they all reveal the heart and history of Ireland and its people. Ballyfin, County Laois 105 kilometres; a 90-minute drive south-west of Dublin Talk about a sense of arrival: two butlers wait on the steps of this magnificent Georgian manor house as we edge the car gently over the driveway that divides it from the lawn, the helipad and the man-made lake.   After soaking in the vista, we enter the foyer. Underfoot is an ancient Roman mosaic, purchased in 1822 by the home’s then owner, Sir Charles Coote. His family’s unofficial motto ‘cost what it may’ explains a lot about Ballyfin’s grandeur.   With a glass of Billecart in hand we pass under two enormous Irish elk antlers as we enter the reception room; each antler is perhaps two metres from tip to tip. Some 10,000 years old, having been petrified in an Irish bog, the antlers were bought by Ballyfin’s current owners.   With check-in completed, we are presented with a bewildering array of civilised leisure activities to indulge in. The sun is shining so boating on the lake may be just the trick; or perhaps a horse and cart tour of the grounds? The walk to the castle ruins at the top of the hill, with views to seven different counties seems a little too strenuous so we can opt to take the golf cart instead. Clay pigeon shooting might be too noisy, while a tour of the vegetable garden requires more energy than everything else put together thanks to the endless rows of pampered veggies.   Instead we opt for a dozy read, but yet again we are faced with options. The Gold Room is remarkable, but the shimmer from Napoleon’s sister’s chandelier (no kidding) is a little distracting. The fireplace in the Saloon is comfy but there are no windows to take in views of the grounds. We settle for the Library with its outlook to the fountain. Tea and home-made biscuits are served.   This remarkable grand home, set on over 248 hectares, is a refined sanctuary indeed. It survives today as a 20-room hotel thanks to a meticulous eight-year restoration by its new American owners. Or perhaps patrons would be a more accurate description.   The effort that went into not only rescuing the house from abandonment and decay, but also into elevating it to its original glory is breathtaking. It’s hardly surprising that it took out Condé Nast Traveler’s best hotel in the world in 2016. But it’s not the rare artefacts, four-poster beds or fine linens that make a hotel of this calibre, it’s the sense of place in landscape and in time. Everything is true to the property’s heritage; the owners even found, purchased and reinstalled many of the original family’s portraits.   A great example of this craftsmanship and devotion can be found in the Conservatory. Over a traditional Irish lunch of smoked salmon potato salad and gammon, I crane my neck to admire the 3000-plus unique panes of glass painstakingly measured and cut to fit each slightly different frame.   Staying at Ballyfin is a privilege; nowhere else in the world has so much been done to preserve an experience, place and style. Cost what it may indeed. Ashford Castle, County Mayo 241 kilometres; a 2.5-hour drive west of Dublin Ashford is probably the most famous of the castle hotels in Ireland. Once the home of the mighty Guinness family, the estate has been operating as a hotel since 1939.   Now part of Red Carnation Hotels, the castle is more a Disneyland of posh adventures than mere accommodation, where you can live the life of the landed gentry, if only for a day.   Visitors and guests alike come to enjoy the myriad experiences: the castle, the lodge, golf course, a tea boutique, a falconry school, equestrian centre, clay pigeon shooting, fishing centre, spa, zip line, a tree-climb park. The estate sits between the shoreline of the country’s largest lake, Lough Corrib, and the beguiling village of Cong.   The castle itself is a maze of rooms filled with porcelain and silver collections. It’s the kind of place where finding a billiards room complete with a cigar terrace is par for the course. The walls are decorated with images of the countless celebrities who have either visited, stayed or been married here, from presidents (Ronald Reagan) to rock stars (John Lennon).   There are three restaurants that cater to guests and the public, who mostly come to admire the magical gardens and the castle itself.   We sleep and dine in the castle’s more ‘approachable’ (read: affordable) accommodation, Ashmore Lodge, as the castle is booked out; it’s a tough ask to get a room in the middle of summer. The lodge is more modern-American than Irish-heritage. Our suite has a fireplace and is homelier than the much more ornate rooms of the castle.   At Wilde’s, the lodge’s restaurant, the food is fabulous with quirky touches: the dough for our bread is smoked, adding an extra five hours to the baking time; the duck arrives in the pan in which it has been cooked with sprigs of pine needles and orange in an aniseed jus.   [caption id="attachment_44593" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Junior Suites[/caption] Ashford Castle is faultless, but with 60 per cent of its guests coming from America, it sometime presents like a little slice of the US in Ireland. Gregans Castle Hotel, County Clare 238 kilometres; a three-hour drive west of Dublin More country home than castle, Gregans is a cosy hotel in one of my favourite regions of Ireland, the Burren (pronounced the ‘burn’). A geological marvel in County Clare, the Burren is a stark landscape of grey limestone pavement that looks beaten by the Atlantic gales; it was in fact carved by glaciers 60 million years ago. Gregans sits at the very bottom of the test-tube-shaped Ballyvaughan valley, with views across Galway Bay to the city itself.   The hotel, compact in size with a bar, library and dining room, is a refined and calming experience of luscious interiors and beautiful food operated by the second generation of owners, husband and wife Simon Haden and Frederieke McMurray.   Locally, the restaurant is famous for being one of the best in the Burren. We feast on local smoked salmon with crème fraîche and chocolate mousse while lounging in the bar. An elegant meal, it betrays the deep quality of everything at Gregans; the food, wine list, service and interiors are all sumptuous.   Our room has views down the valley to the bay. A subtle green and white colour palette is understated and muted (Frederieke’s career as a textile designer shows in the beautiful textures and exquisite fabrics that cover all the surfaces), resulting in a soothing aesthetic. Simon’s cats can often be found sleeping on the lounges and chairs throughout the hotel.   In fact, Gregans is so intimate and seductive that it’s hard to tear yourself away to explore the Burren. Ballynahinch, County Galway 275 kilometres; just over three hours’ drive west of Dublin Ballynahinch is a snug and refined castle hotel set on the Salmon River below the Twelve Bens mountain range in what is a gorgeous slice of Ireland, Connemara. A castle has been standing on the grounds here since 1546, when the husband of Grace O’Malley, Ireland’s Pirate Queen, built a defence-orientated abode.   But the turreted roof on today’s building is all for show; it was largely built in 1756 and then renovated in 1813 by ‘Humanity Dick’, AKA Richard Martin who was famous for duelling and introducing the first animal protection bill into the Irish parliament. In 1923 the estate was bought by Maharaja and cricket legend Ranjitsinhji, better known as ‘Ranji, the Prince of Cricketers’, a fishing enthusiast who would arrive each summer with five cars and then gift them to locals when he left in October.   Today Ballynahinch is everything you imagine a castle hotel should be. Our elegant cream-carpeted suite with cinnamon and grey tartan throws against salmon and white striped wallpaper has large windows that deliver exquisite views of the lawn, forest and river beyond.   The rustic Fisherman’s Pub and Ranji Room are the heart of Ballynahinch, where guests mingle on wooden tables and benches, sip Guinness and enjoy hearty Irish fare; the seafood chowder is comfort food at its best. The fine-dining option, the Owenmore, takes full advantage of the vista, with its terraces overlooking the river making it the place to be come summer.   Of course, Ballynahinch’s reputation is based on its fishing. Angling addicts flock here, but beginners like me can get their first taste of the regal art of fly-fishing under the learned tutelage of experienced guides; with the assistance of my guide Sean, I actually land a small trout. Castle Durrow, County Laois 108 kilometres; a 1.5-hour drive south-west of Dublin At the heart of Castle Durrow is a warm and unaffected Irish welcome that draws thousands from across the world. Husband and wife owners Peter and Shelly Stokes rescued the building in the 1990s, and after a three-year restoration of love, care and determination, opened it in 2002 as an approachable country escape.   Shelly’s unique aesthetic could best be described as quirky. In the bar it’s the battle of the taxidermy; animal skins compete with gleaming silver deer heads on the walls, while the bar itself is pure Art Deco, with stacked crystal lamps reminiscent of New York’s Chrysler Building. The green tea-coloured Chinese wallpaper in the waiting room, which is stuffed with lounges, contrasts brilliantly with everything else. It is all so unpretentious and whimsical.   Our room, Lady Hannah, named after one of Peter and Shelly’s daughters, comes complete with a four-poster bed and stylish en suite filled with Molton Brown’s finest.   The grounds cater to the lucrative weddings market; the walled garden, grotto and lawn are designed with wedding albums in mind. And on Sundays locals pile in for ‘the best Sunday lunch in the county’ in the bar, with the convivial atmosphere making guests feel a part of village life.   Of all the castle stays, Castle Durrow is one of my favourites for its unaffected welcome. It’s like going home for the weekend, just to a really, really big house.
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The must-see sights of Galapagos National Park
There’s a spot in the Pacific Ocean that holds a special significance to anyone with a deep appreciation for the natural world, discovers Daniel Down. If Charles Darwin hadn’t observed the unique wildlife of the Galápagos, namely its famous finches, and made deductions that helped him formulate his great theory of evolution by natural selection, we’d still be ambling around saying how incredible it is that all life was created 6000 years ago by an omnipotent being. [caption id="attachment_44555" align="alignleft" width="1000"] paradies galapagos[/caption] Besides making a scientific pilgrimage to the islands, you should go to see their otherworldly landscapes and abundant endemic wildlife.   To get there, catch a flight from the Ecuadorian capital Quito to Baltra Airport just off Santa Cruz; stay at Red Mangrove Eco Lodge in Puerto Ayora, for example, and organise a tour through the lodge, or book a cruise with transfers straight to your boat from the airport.   Incorporate just a few of the ideas into your itinerary to witness the great natural wonders of the Galápagos National Park, and indeed, the world. El Chato – Giant Tortoise Reserve You’ll need a guide to enter this part of the national park that’s been set aside for the Galápagos’ most iconic animal, the giant tortoise.   Weighing up to almost half a tonne these magnificent, ancient beasts do what they have been doing for millions of years in the wild, namely extending their long necks very slowly to nibble on grass; a captivating experience that you’ll take an unnecessary number of photos of. Snorkel León Dormido With 150-metre-high buttresses of rock rising out of the ocean, the sight of León Dormido alone is worth making the trip out to this remote spot off the coast of Isla de San Cristóbal. But you should also come to snorkel with eagle rays, hammerhead sharks and turtles. Climb Volcán Alcedo You feel like you could be on an alien planet on the slopes of Alcedo Volcano. Emerging from the heart of Isla Isabela, take a guided walk to see big groups of giant tortoises sitting in pools in a landscape of craters, ancient lava flows and fumaroles spewing hot sulphuric gases. Puerto Egas / Las Tintoreras The black igneous rock seems to come alive in another of the archipelago’s most famous sights: that of countless scaly black marine iguanas clinging to a surf-battered shoreline, warming up in the sun before swimming off to dive and graze on algae.   See this endemic lizard at Puerto Egas on Isla Santiago, or catch a boat out to Las Tintoreras (pictured above) off the coast of Puerto Villamil.   Some species of the iguana also sport red blotchy skin and the occasional dollop of turquoise. Tortuga Bay On the central island of Santa Cruz you can hike along a paved, 2.4-kilometre path through the scrub to reach the pristine crescent of white sand at Tortuga Bay.   Here, marine iguanas patrol up and down the beach like miniature dinosaurs. While the main beach is closed for swimming, you can take a dip in a nearby cove, often with reef sharks. Darwin Lake They like naming things after the bearded Victorian here, and Darwin Lake in the shadow of the mighty Darwin Volcano, is a spectacular sight reached via a two-kilometre hike from the shore of Tagus Bay on Isla Isabela.   An old volcano caldera has created this near circular saltwater lagoon, only separated from the sea by a thin sliver of land. The Charles Darwin Research Station Scientists have been using this facility, at Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, to study and conserve the islands’ unique biodiversity since 1964.   Pay a visit to get hands on with specimens and get up close to giant tortoises at the centre’s breeding program.  
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