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£100 off flights to Adelaide

October 22nd, 2011
South Australian outback

Outback adventures await when you fly into Adelaide, South Australia

Getting to the other side of the planet isn’t cheap these days. In fact since they abolished those subsidised £10 steamship tickets back in the day, getting there has been a bit of a luxury for ‘the Poms’.

This week, STA Travel are coming to the rescue by making the trip Down Under that little bit cheaper.

The offer, running until Thursday, focuses on Adelaide, and applies only to flights from Heathrow to Adelaide with Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific flies to all major Australian cities from London Heathrow, via Hong Kong. Anyone booking a Cathay Pacific flight to Adelaide with STA Travel this week is eligible for £100 discount. Prices start from £805 return.

Alternatively, you can fly with whatever airline you want, and instead save £100 on tours from Adelaide, which gives you a great incentive to see what the Outback has to offer.

You can opt to drive three days east along  the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne (fr £158); take a 10-day Wildlife Safari west across the vast Nullarbor Plain to Perth (fr £583); or head north on a two-week expedition through the Red Centre to tropical Darwin (£938), taking in spectacular landscapes and having an unforgettable adventure – at a tidy discount.

So check out Australia’s southern treasures, get off the beaten path and spend the spare dosh on South Australia’s amazing food and wine, adrenaline activities and cultural adventures.

• Visit www.statravel.co.uk for more information, then call 0800 819 9339 to book – this is a ‘phone bookings only’ offer, which closes 27 October.

 

 

Baby white whale visits Sydney

October 16th, 2011
Albino whale

Mini Migaloo with mum, off Bondi Beach

A very rare (and very cute) white humpback whale calf has turned up off the Sydney coast, delighting onlookers with splashes, leaps and all manner of cetacean high-jinks.

Last weekend, as the spring weather warmed towards a beach-friendly 23 degrees, hundreds of very lucky beachgoers gathered to watch the alabaster youngster frolicking just off the beach with its mother.

Australia’s most famous white whale is a male albino humpback, Migaloo (from an Aboriginal word for ‘white fella’), who has been spotted up and down the East coast for many years.

This diminutive version, nicknamed Mini Migaloo, is ‘highly likely’ to be one of his offspring, though this can’t be confirmed without apprehending the youngster for DNA testing. The albino gene doesn’t usually pass to the next generation, so the calf is a very rare find.

The baby is estimated at between two and five months old and is lively, healthy and playful. He (or she) has been attracting delighted onlookers since first being spotted up on the Great Barrier Reef a few weeks ago and has been heading south ever since. But he’s yet to catch up with Dad, who was recently spotted swimming south past Eden near the Victoria border, about a week ahead of the little ‘un. All Australia’s humpbacks are currently en route to their Antarctic feeding grounds for the Antipodean summer.

So if you’re anywhere on the coast south of Sydney at the moment, keep an eye out for a flash of white and a splash – and say hello to Mini Migaloo for us.

• Whale watching trips are currently operating around Jervis Bay and the NSW south coast . The whale migration continues until November and then they’ll start to return around April next year, giving you another chance to see how Migaloo and the bub are both doing.

Perth to serve sausages to the Queen

October 13th, 2011
Perth by night

The new, improved, cooler-than-ever Perth welcomes the royals this month

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are off to Perth at the end of this month on a royal visit to Australia’s most up-and-coming city.

Their official task is to open the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (28-30 October), in which 54 world leaders will descend on the Western Australian capital to discuss important international matters.

But they’ll also be kicking back at the Big Aussie Barbecue on Saturday 29 October, to which everyone’s invited to join the celebrations along the foreshore.

There’ll be stalls and sausage sizzles all along the Swan River’s foreshore serving proper Aussie tucker in exhange for a donation, with all proceeds going to local charities, and the city’s public transport will be free all day.

It’s a good time to be in town. Perth is currently an epicentre of Australian economic growth, and the investment is going towards revitalising and redeveloping the city – from revamping heritage buildings to reducing traffic, opening up alfresco dining areas and redeveloping the waterfront.

The groovification doesn’t end there. A recent change in Perth’s licensing laws has seen dozens of new underground bars and cafes springing up in the backstreets, bringing the city’s social scene to life.

The art world is also investing in Perth, with both the British Museum and New York’s Museum of Modern Art hosting exhibitions of their collections – the latter including works by Picasso, Matisse and Andy Warhol from June next year.

Along with Perth’s staples (the beaches, the boats, the nearby Margaret River wineries and the sunshine), these days there are even more reasons to get to know the city, or even move there.

Who knows, time your visit right and you could even catch a glimpse of the Queen snaffling a snag off the barbie and hanging with the Perth posse.

• For a perfectly-timed, Perth package to follow the royals Down Under in a few weeks time, try Austravel’s 10-day Perth & South West deal,  from £1849 pp including return flights from London to Perth, gorgeous accommodation and a self-drive trip down the coast.

New resort on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast

October 6th, 2011
Mercure Yeppoon

The lagoon pool at Accor's new Mercure Capricorn Resort Yeppoon

The modest coastal town of Yeppoon has long appeared on travel itineraries as the   hop-off point for accessing Great Keppel Island, an idyllic tropical island fringed by jewelled coral reefs, white sand and turquoise waters, where weary visitors head to relax and explore the coral reefs.

Now, however, mainland Yeppoon has a jewel in its own crown that could see it becoming a destination rather than a hop-off stopover. International hotel chain Accor has invested in this unsung resort. This month, Accor throws open the doors of its 281-room Mercure Capricorn Resort Yeppoon on a secluded stretch of coral coastline overlooking the Great Barrier Reef. It’s accessible by land, and boasts four eateries, eight conference spaces, two golf courses, a spa and a great big outdoor lagoon pool.

Yeppoon is handy not just for Great Keppel, a 30-minute boat ride offshore, but is handy for the Whistunday Islands, and the reef’s watersports and boating activities.

To take advantage of the resort’s special launch rates from just A$105 per night, visit accorhotels.com

Gold Coast opens new Skyclimb

October 3rd, 2011

Can you handle your heights? The Gold Coast view is worth the effort

Australia has always been a magnet for thrillseekers; it seems there’s no better place to learn to surf or scuba dive, throw yourself off a bridge or out of a plane and generally give yourself the heebie jeebies.

Following on from the phenomenal popularity of experiences like the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, the Gold Coast has just launched the Skypoint Climb, which gives steely-nerved souls the chance to climb to the top of the 270m Q1 resort building. It’s Australia’s highest external building walkway – and a great way to tackle a fear of heights.

This building looms over all of the other glittering skyscrapers that jostle for space in Surfers Paradise, Queensland’s famous stretch of endless beaches and relentless nightlife. Built in 2002, it’s the 25th highest building in the world, and has one of the fastest elevators.

Not content with standing on the solid roof, the staircase swoops up into thin air above the building, thanks to the tower’s distinctive glass crown.

It’s not as mad as it seems; Australia boasts an excellent safety record in this sort of thing. Climbers will wear a full body suit and safety harness and be clipped to a handrail, before they leave the comfort of the Observation Deck on level 77 and step out into the open air. An informed guide will guide climbers up the glass crown, pointing out local sights (which from this height are extensive) from the famed golden coastline to the emerald-cloaked hinterland.

The glass crown, with its handrail and 240 steps to the summit, is the secure option – there’s an even more daring route that edges around the top of the building above a sheer 260m drop.

The first bookings are being taken from November, to find out all you need to know go to www.skypointclimb.com

Surprise baby born at backpacker hostel

September 30th, 2011

Lena and surprise baby Bethany in hospital. Photo: Craig Greenhill

Reports are circulating in the Australian press of a surprise birth yesterday at a Sydney backpackers’ hostel, to a globetrotter who had no idea she was pregnant.

The woman is named only as Lena, 37, and although her nationality has not been disclosed, it’s reported she had only been in Australia for a few weeks when she found herself giving birth in the bathroom of an unnamed backpacker hostel.

Lena says she had been told years ago by doctors that she was unlikely to conceive due to early menopause, and had shown no other signs of pregnancy except for a small pot belly that she’d put down to an unhealthy backpacking diet rich in fried noodles.

Two French men who had been sharing her dorm for over a week also had no idea she was pregnant – until she staggered into the room in the dark, cradling a newborn and calling for help.

She had started suffering from excruciating abdominal pains late in the evening, and spent most of the night alone on the toilet, thinking she had come down with gastroenteritis.

“I thought I had a gastro bug,” she said. “I remember sitting on the toilet thinking I was going to die, it was terrible. Then all of a sudden, I pushed and she just came out.”

The baby girl, named Bethany, was born a small but healthy 5lb 5oz. Lena caught her and staggered back into the dorm, waking her roommates by begging for help. One of them, hearing the newborn’s cries, turned the light from his laptop screen towards her and spotted the baby. Shaken, they sat her down and called an ambulance.

Both mother and baby were transferred to the maternity ward at Sydney’s Manly Hospital, where they are reportedly doing well. “I have had absolutely no preparation, none at all,” Lena is quoted as saying, “but it’s OK, we will make it work.”

We look forward to bringing you any more details that emerge.

Tasmania welcomes rise in British visitors

September 20th, 2011
Tasmanian forest

Tasmania's vast primeval wilderness is a major drawcard

Despite its comparable climate and out-of-the-wayness, more Brits are taking the trouble to visit Tasmania than ever before. In the past 12 months, Australia’s own emerald isle has a 10 per cent increase in the numbers of UK visitors.

Traditionally, us rain-sodden Britons have flocked to the nice hot, sunny bits of Australia instead, in a desperate bid to escape the grey skies of home. But we’ve been missing a trick.

Tasmania is a green and pleasant land. Snow often falls there in the winter and lush green pastures spring forth from fertile soils, managed by sheep, dairy and apple farmers who live in picturesque stone farmhouses. So far, so familiar.

But there are many reasons why it’s worth the side-trip from the mainland, and is fast becoming a one-stop adventure destination in its own right.

It’s uncrowded, pristine, historic, majestic and so unspoilt that it’s possible to pretend you’re in Middle Earth, Narnia or ancient Britain. So take the chance to find out why more and more Brits are discovering this adventurer’s paradise.

Click here for FIVE excellent reasons to visit Tasmania.

British kayaker conquers the Reef

September 19th, 2011
Ben kayaks into Cooktown

Ben kayaks into Cooktown, completing his epic reef adventure. © Tourism Queensland

 

A British adventurer has completed a four-month kayak expedition along the length of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef.

Remember back in 2009, when the world’s travel media was in a frenzy over Tourism Queensland‘s search for an ‘ambassador’ for the Best Job in the World? They ran a competition to find an adventurous soul who would spend six months living on a tropical Australian island and get paid handsomely for the task of reporting his or her experiences back to the rest of us.

Needless to say we all applied quick as you like… but there could only be one winner, and it was the lucky Ben Southall from Hampshire, who went on to spend his six months in the paradise of Hamilton Island, Queensland, and had a brilliant time (apart from getting stung by a deadly Irukandji jellyfish right at the end).

Since the island gig ended, Ben’s been continuing to hang out in Queensland, and has just completed an epic 1600km kayak safari along the length of the Great Barrier Reef. On 15 September he glided into Cooktown and received a warm welcome from the assembled press, local dignitaries and the traditional owners of the land.

The paddle-powered trip took Ben a whopping four months. He set off on 21 May during the Cook Festival in the town of 1770 and went on to spend 100 days in the water, visiting 22 islands and 36 dive sites and posting more than 40 videos and 2500 photos of the experience.

He also spent time with the various guardians of the reef: the Marine Parks and Wildlife Services, eco community groups, indigenous peoples and research stations. He visited coastal communities hit by Tropical Cyclone Yasi and took journalists and filmmakers from the international media out on sections of his adventure. As an ambassador for Queensland, we’d say he did a pretty good job.

His route followed that of fellow British seafarer Captain Cook - but what with a kayak being a bit more portable than Cook’s whopping transcontinental tallship Endeavour, he got to see a lot more of the coastline than the Captain ever did.

A kayak can get you into places other vessels can’t reach: onto beaches, up creeks, through mangroves and over the shallowest parts of the reef (on which Cook eventually came a-cropper and almost sank the ship).

Cook relied on stargazing and baffling navigational instruments, and was totally incommunicado for the duration. The Captain’s relatives had no idea if he was alive or dead – but Ben’s parents followed him along the coast in a campervan so they were able to meet him at the finishing point.

Ben also had the benefit of waterproof GPS, cameras and a laptop on board his little kayak, so he could stay safe as well as tweet, post videos and photos and generally share the experience with the entire world along his journey.

So while our only records of Captain Cook’s adventures are his ship’s logs, we can all share Ben’s even more thorough reef experience via multimedia from the comfort of our armchairs.

The result is his blog, Best Expedition in the World, which includes a GPS tracker of his movements up the north Queensland coast.

Ben reports, “In my original application for the Best Job in the World I said I wanted to learn everything I could about the Great Barrier Reef, and now I can confidently say I’ve fulfilled that dream.”

“Swimming through vast coral canyons, past towering bommies, alongside fish as big as smart cars, with the whale’s song sounding in the background – these experiences are priceless.”

GREEN WITH ENVY? 

If Ben’s adventure sounds right up your creek, the Great Barrier Reef offers plenty of opportunities to kayak and camp along his route. A full day guided kayak starts at A$125pp, while a six-day expedition starts at A$1490 per adult. Visit www.saltydog.com.au for more info.

Whitsundays Hayman Resort Reopens

August 5th, 2011

Hayman Pool At Sunset

Checking out the Hayman web site the destination does look like a dream destination “Australia’s most awarded luxury resort… a private island of astonishing natural beauty, restorative peace, adventure and indulgence, Hayman offers a front row seat to the great Barrier Reef and a world of leisure and adventure”

Cyclone’s Anthony and Jari brought havoc to the resort earlier this year, leading to five months of restoration while the resort was closed.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh officially opened the resort earlier this week commenting “This paradise was battered and bruised but is now back even better than before,”

The Premier said Australia’s popular Great Barrier Reef destination had undergone a multi-million dollar repair operation since the cyclones in addition to a $66 million rejuvenation over the last year.

The rebuild includes a new botanical garden with some 33,000 new plants and 327 new plant species having been introduced by respected landscape designer, horticulturalist and personality, Jamie Durie. The resort points out that “With an amazing variety of colours and perfumes emanating from the landscapes, guests will be sharing this beautiful setting with the native birds, butterflies and wildlife who have returned to their island home.”

The resorts General Manager writes “In keeping with our culinary tradition, innovative restaurant concepts are being presented in our Azure beachfront restaurant and the new Nic Graham-designed Fontaine, which is set to become Australia’s signature resort restaurant, whilst the much-loved Oriental and La Trattoria restaurants feature new-look menus and other surprises.”

“The Hayman Activities hub has been upgraded and features new floodlit tennis courts in addition to other extensive sports facilities plus a personal training room. This is also the new starting point for our re-laid Hayman walking trail.

Hayman Spa will continue to offer the amazing Ocean Massage floating on the Coral Sea waters plus many more indoor and outdoor treatments and therapies.

And there will once again be a variety of adventures by water and in flight to all parts of the Great Barrier Reef.

We also now truly unveil the new fabulous Kerry Hill-designed Beach Villas, which offer an amazing beachfront lifestyle, whilst the private ownership offering of Hayman Private Residences and Hayman Marina Residences continues to generate considerable interest.”

So if you fancy a stay visit their web site soon and take advantage of the resorts re-opening offer.

Christmas in Tasmania

August 4th, 2011

Dreaming of a white Christmas? No? If you fancy the complete opposite downunder then look no further than the adventure-of-a-lifetime with The Selous Safari Company in Tanzania.  Swap sleigh rides in the snow for 4×4 game drives in the bush, reindeer for impala and a trip to see the relatives for a boat ride among crocodiles and hippos on the Rufiji River!  What’s more, benefit from savings of up to £560, with a seven-night beach and safari experience over Christmas or New Year starting from £2,890 per person with Africa Odyssey.

With gala dinners and entertainment on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, guests at the two luxury tented camps and exclusive beach retreat will still enjoy traditional Christmas fare but with a Tanzanian twist. Children over six are especially welcome and are invited to spot Santa’s and Rudolph’s tracks in the camps on Christmas Day.  Accommodation options include:

A hidden gem in the Ruaha National Park with just eight luxury tents, a swimming pool and fabulous food, Jongomero promises a great vantage point from which to take in the sights and sounds of the African bush.  Ruaha’s  dry open landscape encourages large herds of elephant, buffalo as well as giraffe, zebra, lion and leopard.

Promising a totally different, yet equally awe-inspiring backdrop and experience, the boutique Selous Safari Camp, situated on the bank of Lake Nzerakera, is the ideal base to explore the Selous Game Reserve.  In addition to daily game drives, regular boat safaris on the Rufiji River gives a unique opportunity to get up close to crocodiles and hippos.  For large families, a section of the camp can be exclusively booked. Selous Private Camp accommodates up to 12 guests and comes with private use of safari boats, vehicles and walking guides as well as own dining and lounge area and a swimming pool.

On safari, accommodation is in luxuriously appointed en suite tents, which are built on raised platforms with thatched roofs.  Each comes with a king-size bed and a private verandah, ideal for watching the sun rise or set and for wildlife viewing.  The adventure starts here as the animal world, including giraffes, buffalo and elephant, saunters past the tent – by day or night!

Before or after game viewing, Ras Kutani, set amid a long stretch of unspoilt beach and a fresh water lagoon, is the ideal hideaway for those seeking solace, luxury and Tanzanian charm. Each of the nine en suite beach cottages boasts an eight-foot wide bed, large verandah with hammocks and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean.  For extra privacy, the four hillside suites come with a plunge pool and there’s also a family house with two connection rooms.

Packages Available Over Christmas & New Year Include:

Stay three nights at Jongomero Camp and four nights at Ras Kutani from £2,890 per adult (saving £493 per person) and £1,758 per child

Stay three nights at the Selous Safari Camp and four nights at Ras Kutani from £2,990 per person (saving £560 per person) and £1,756 per child.

Valid for selected departures late December, prices include scheduled flights from Heathrow, internal transfers, accommodation on a full board basis, game viewing drives in open sided 4×4 vehicles, concession and park entrance fees. Book with Africa Odyssey (www.africaodyssey.com / 020 7471 8780).

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