What’s New in Africa

Phinda Photograph

andBeyond Phinda Rock Lodge Game Reserve by dusk

These days, people are looking for a vacation with meaning. They’re also looking to depart from the standard locations of typical sun and sand for something truly memorable. So, with that in mind, we wanted to share with our readers what’s new in Africa from andBeyond and Belmond Mount Nelson to properties in Marrakech and trips to Dakar!

andBeyond Phinda Rock Lodge reopened its redesigned suites and guest areas in May 2017. Dramatically set into a cliff face overlooking a deep valley, the lodge has restyled its areas with a combination of woven linens, hand-embroidered cotton, and oriental carpets. New French doors open to extended outdoor verandas and a rooftop terrace provides the ideal venue for dining beneath the stars.

Royal Mansour

Royal Mansour, Marrakech

With all eyes on Marrakech this year as the new YSL Museum opens in October, Royal Mansour recently completed a major property expansion that included an additional two acres of manicured gardens. Aptly named Le Jardin, the expanded grounds were designed using a number of traditional Moroccan reference points such as the grid of olive trees that stand at the center of the garden (a nod to the UNESCO World Heritage Agdal Gardens and palm trees).

Ahead of the upcoming release of Nelson Mandela’s new memoir “Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years” in October, Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel also recently launched its first artist-in-residence program with Cyril Coetzee, Nelson Mandela’s portraitist. Guests can sit for Cyril, or leave a photograph behind to be transformed into an oil painting on canvas. For guests looking to hone their art skills, Coetzee is also available for group classes and private lessons.

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Belmond Mount Nelson’s famous pink facade 

Beginning in November, andBeyond Bateleur Camp will undergo a total refurbishment to be complete by 2018. The new look for this camp on the Maasai Mara will include new private verandas, deep bathtubs, al fresco showers, and fire pits, as well as the addition of two new swimming pools, a fitness center, a massage sala, and a coffee bar.

Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge will be closed for a complete refurbishment starting November 2017. Before its closure, Alexander McCall Smith, author of the popular “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” book series, returns to Botswana to host his second-annual Belmond safari. The six-night safari from September 20-26, 2017 is split evenly between Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge and Belmond Eagle Island Lodge. Alexander will regale guests with stories about his personal connections to Botswana and give an inside look to his newest books for the year ahead.

Ponant is offering a new itinerary from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain to Dakar, Africa, November 8-17, 2018. The ship ventures through the rugged, volcanic Canary Islands off Africa’s western coast and to Praia, Santiago, the largest island in the Cape Verde archipelago. Le Champlain, set to launch in 2018 and one of the new four PONANT EXPLORER ships, will also be equipped with a world’s first: an underwater multi-sensory lounge, called Blue Eye.

BLUE EYE 2 EXPLORERS (c) PONANT - JACQUES ROUGERIE ARCHITECTE 2

Pennant’s Explorer Impressive Interiors by Jacques Rougerie

Shop Like a Local

andBeyond’s Kenya lodges, Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp and Bateleur Camp neighbor a local Maasai village where guests can speak with locals and buy handmade jewelry and crafts, with all proceeds given back to the community.

Guests of Royal Mansour can enjoy guided shopping trips into the souk, including a culinary-themed trip featuring some of Chef Yannick Alleno’s favorite places. Some of his favorites items include lemon confits from Bab Ftouh, olive oil sourced from the middle and high Atlas in the surrounding valleys, and dried apricots from the Mellah, the popular Jewish quarter known for its hectic atmosphere at the Spice Market.

Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel is a short stroll from nearby Long Street, dotted with boutiques selling South African clothes and home goods. Guests can stop in Greenmarket Square to pick up some locally made crafts, such as malachite bowls, paintings of the Cape, or bone salad tongs.

Look to the stars

andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge has an unobstructed and unpolluted view of the night sky in Namibia’s first Dark Sky Reserve. Resident astronomer is on hand to point out planets and constellations, and over-bed skylights provide the perfect locale for spotting shooting stars.

Each of the Belmond Safari lodges – Belmond Khwai River Lodge, Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge, and Belmond Eagle Island Lodge – allows guests the opportunity to experience the vast dome of Botswana’s uninterrupted night sky. Guests will learn how the local tribes used the stars to direct them.

Guests at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve can spend a magical night under the stars. After a leisurely afternoon game drive, guests arrive at a romantic setting in the middle of the bush – complete with comfortable beds with duvets and warm blankets draped with billowing mosquito nets, inviting chairs surrounding a blazing campfire, and twinkling lanterns hanging from the trees. (Secure in the knowledge that an armed guard will patrol the site throughout the night.)

At the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, guests of Royal Mansour can enjoy a starry night away from the busy lights of Marrakech. Following a private tour on 4×4 vehicles, guests can indulge in sunset cocktails and a gourmet dinner in their own private camp, served with just the glow of candles, torches, and a blanket of stars above.

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Unique Island Escapes

And now… for Small Luxury Hotels unique island escapes!

Fiji Best Hotels

Kokomo Island: Kadavu Islands, Fiji

Kokomo Island: Kadavu Islands, Fiji

Combining luxury, sustainably and unspoilt beauty, Kokomo Island is Fiji’s newest and most exclusive private island resort, situated on the edge of the celestial Kadavu Island group. Kokomo Island opened in March 2017 and is the first SLH hotel in Fiji. The boutique property is encircled by the untouched Great Astrolabe Reef so ideal for diving enthusiasts (the hotel has its own Dive Centre for guests). The 21 villas, owner’s beachfront residence and five hilltop residences are designed for privacy and comfort, featuring sustainable design and traditional Fijian touches, all alive with character. Guests can enjoy fresh, sustainably-sourced produce at the resort’s three restaurants, as well as a number of dining experiences including a chef BBQ and private island picnic. The Kokomo Island spa blends world-class Sodashi products with rejuvenating indigenous Fijian beauty rituals to create signature treatments. The hotel is a personal passion project for Australian billionaire property developer, Lang Walker, who, together with his family, has brought his vision for an island paradise like no other to life.

SLH Insider Tip:  Visit the nearby manta ray cleaning station, where manta rays come to get freshened up by wrasse fish, and take the opportunity to swim with the rays.

Rates: $1,795/night

www.slh.com/kokomo

Greek villas

Naxian Collection Luxury Villas and Suites: Naxos, Greece

Naxian Collection Luxury Villas and Suites: Naxos, Greece

Rates: $288/night

www.slh.com/naxian

Situated on the lesser known Greek island of Naxos, Naxian Collection is a chic hill-top retreat with ten sugar cube white villas and suites providing a serene sanctuary. The cave-like rooms are decked out with minimalist interiors, cream walls, bamboo screens and giant bathtubs. Each room offers stunning views over landscaped gardens, lagoons and nearby Naxos town, which is just two miles away. Pretty Agios Prokopios beach is just a ten minute walk from the property and there are plenty of walking or horse-riding trails to keep outdoorsy guests busy. The hotel’s kitchen boasts plenty of local organic ingredients and traditional Naxian recipes from the property’s own organic field, free-range chicken coop, nearby olive groves and the family vineyards. It also has its own wine cellar which is home to a formidable selection of local wine.

SLH Insider Tip: Try and time your stay with a classical music concert or violin recital at the Venetian Museum of Naxos in the Kastro which offers live entertainment year round.

Sikelia Pantelleria, Italy

Sikelia: Pantelleria, Italy

Sikelia: Pantelleria, Italy

Known as the ‘Black pearl of the Mediterranean’, Pantelleria is a perfect escape for adventurous travellers willing to voyage a little further to be rewarded by natural volcanic hot springs, a rugged coastline, spectacular caves surrounded by the bluest of seas and warm volcanic waters to swim in. The enigmatic owner, Giulia Pazienz, ensures all the service is personal, friendly and sincere. Built out of an ancient dammuso, designed by the island’s most famous resident architect – Gabriella Guintoli, the wild beauty of the island is reflected in the hotel itself. Ancient pottery, glazed painted tiles and predominantly dark shades throughout lend an air of drama to the property. The 20 rooms are unique yet share a stylish design with meticulous attention to the finer details, with Frette linens and Hermés products in every bathroom. At the hotel’s restaurant, Themá, the chef combines fresh fish and shellfish with vegetables grown in Sikelia’s own garden, serving bold flavours from Arabia, Africa and Southern Italy. This is all served with intense, aromatic wine from the owner’s estate, made from the Zibibbo grape, indigenous of the island.

SLH Insider Tip: For a more informal dining experience, guests can head to the owner’s Coste Ghirlanda Wine Laboratory which is flooded with candles and offers a rustic cosy vibe where guests eat under the stars on communal kitchen tables.

Rates: $360/night

www.slh.com/sikelia

To make a booking visit www.slh.com or call 1-877-234-7033

LuxeFIT: Get Fit While You Travel

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Founder, Loren Ann Mayo

Two young businesswomen have found a way to combine their passion for travel and healthy lifestyles through a brand-new venture, luxeFIT. The company offers week-long luxury fitness retreats to exotic destinations, arranging workout sessions and activities, nutritious cuisine prepared by a private chef and opportunities for socializing and fun – all in a luxurious private beachfront estate setting.

LuxeFIT blends fitness, nutrition, adventure and the opportunity to explore new and exciting destinations worldwide. Our fitness adventure experts coordinate all-inclusive, week-long luxury fitness retreats to exotic destinations, offering workout sessions and activities, healthy food prepared by a private chef and opportunities for socializing and fun – all in luxurious villa settings.

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Co-Founder, Holly Morris

LuxeFIT blends fitness, adventure and nutrition with the opportunity to explore new and exciting destinations worldwide. The first retreat is slated for April 30 – May 6, in Barbados.

Activities will include yoga, paddleboarding, snorkeling, surfing and water-skiing, with numerous social opportunities — as well as free time — throughout. Excursions will be available to explore Harrison’s Caves, tour Mt. Gay Rum Distillery, shop in Holetown and more. It’s a great group for people who want to sweat it out every day and meet like-minded people and have fun in some of the most beautiful places on earth!” luxeFIT co-founder Loren Mayo says, “Retreats aim to be a place where guests feast on delicious, healthy cuisine, exercise in spirited and challenging sessions with top trainers, experience the sights and sounds of the area and, ultimately, return home looking and feeling better than when they left.”

Just as food typically plays a central role in any travel experience, healthy eating is at the core of a luxeFIT adventure. One of the founding principles of luxeFIT is to provide wholesome, delectable, locally produced meals for guests to enjoy. The accommodations feature a private chef, who will offer meals that meet guests’ nutritional needs, while taking great care to develop menus reflecting the culture of the destination. 

The two launched luxeFIT in November 2016, engaging Mia Duval, an Orangetheory fitness instructor in Sarasota, FL, as head trainer for the venture. Beyond the Barbados retreat, the duo is exploring additional options in the Caribbean and Mexico.

“From invigorating workouts to gourmet fare, this program is designed to nourish and energize our guests on every level, offering the perfect blend of cardio, rest and relaxation,” said Morris. “It’s paradise with a purpose — a better, more balanced you, in less than a week!”

Retreats are all-inclusive — all but airfare is included. Guests will enjoy six-nights in either a 5-Star villa or luxury condo, freshly prepared meals with an emphasis on local cuisine, fitness and yoga sessions, the ability to work out with a first-rate fitness instructor and round-trip transportation to group activities.

luxefit.co

Spring Ski Buffs… Get to Breckenridge

The Residence Inn Marriott Breckenridge Lobby

I’m usually curious where I can ski late in the season for one reason only… I’m a fly by my seat sort of traveler and I also like to wait until the big Christmas crowds are gone. Nothing is worse than a crowded slope, in my opinion. So, at least now we know… ski buffs who live for the thrill of just one more run down the powdery slopes can take on the Breckenridge, Colorado ski scene well into Spring. Warmer weather, fewer crowds, softer snow and falling prices make for the perfect opportunity to also pack up the entire family for a Spring Break ski escape.

The brand new Residence Inn Breckenridge is a natural launch pad to explore the appeals of the Rockies this spring. Boasting all-suite accommodations, this spot is  ideal for families where they can make themselves at home in expansive suites with full kitchens and sofa beds. Complimentary hot American breakfast will fuel the fam before hitting the slopes of famed Breckenridge Ski Resort, where Peak 9 offers chair lifts and terrain that appeal to both beginners and experts, just two-minutes from the hotel. The transition to the slopes is eased by the hotel’s complimentary on-site ski storage.

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A hot tub perfect for mom & dad too…

Après–ski, guests can easily explore the charming restaurants and shops with the hotel’s choice location in downtown Breckenridge. The Lobby’s Hearth Room and Base Camp Lounge are another great gathering point with a sophisticated mountain lodge vibe, creative cocktails, and menu of small bites. A year-round outdoor pool and hot tub with sweeping views of Quandary Peak is also a huge win win, complemented by the hotel’s fitness center.

So, ski buffs take note… you and your family can hit the slopes without the headache well into April!

Spring rates start at $255/nt which includes breakfast for every guest, parking, wifi in the room and… there is no resort fee!

www.breckenridgeresidenceinn.com

Costa Rica: When an All-Inclusive is Awesome

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Westin Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

By Josh Levin

As a seasoned traveler, I do not – repeat – do not, do all inclusives. Ever. I want to be free to explore. I don’t want watered-down, bottom shelf drinks. I don’t want to be surrounded by the rabble. But this year, on the advice of a friend, I booked a trip for my wife and I to the Westin Playa Conchal, located on the shores of the Conchal Reserve in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. It forever changed my view of what an all-inclusive vacation can and ought to be.

Wanting something outside the “standard” Caribbean winter getaway and intrigued by Costa Rica, I booked a five night stay at the Westin. It was my wife’s 40th birthday and our first wedding anniversary so hope abounded that everything would be perfect.

westin-entrance

And perfect it was. The Westin Playa Conchal is part of a (relatively) new breed of deluxe, high end, all-inclusive resorts. The resort features 11 restaurants. We ate at all of them, and none disappointed, including:

Bamboo: Asian Fusion

Catalinas: French Fine Dining

Magla: Mediterranean

Faisanela: Italian

Mitra: International Buffet

Spirula: Pizza and Pasta Bar

Caracola: Poolside Snacks

Las Candelas: Latin American

Cauri: Lobby Bar & Bistro

La Sabana: Churascuria

El Ranchito: Latin American Grill and BBQ

We stayed at the Westin’s Royal Beach Club, which was a designated, secluded spot for adults, offering top shelf alcohol and a private buffet for breakfast and lunch. The rooms in the Royal Beach Club come with private check in and a private concierge who was on call 24/7 to help us make dinner reservations, and plan daily excursions. The Westin also has a Family Club, which offers similar services for families.

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Bathtub with a view…

Every night at the resort has featured entertainment, which were – and I say this as a complete cynic – amazing. Fire performers armed with poi, magic shows (we saw Costa Rica’s equivalent of David Blaine), and comedians (who were actually funny).

Costa Rican hospitality, I could only liken to Mexico and my experiences there. The staff and the locals are fiercely proud of their country and want you to experience all it has to offer. The Westin’s staff could not have done enough for us, throughout the entirety of our stay, and expected no tips at all…

The resort is also an hour away from all of the adventure activities one could imagine. There are guided ATV tours through the jungle; abseiling down massive waterfalls; and incredible, zip line courses which traverse the canopies of the rain forest.

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The lush grounds

 

Travel to the Westin is pretty easy. There are direct flights to Liberia Airport (LIR) from most US metropolitan areas. From there, it takes about 45 minutes to get to the resort. Depending on when you decide to travel, rooms start at about:

$495 (US)/night

A note on the weather. Costa Rica only really has two seasons: dry and rainy. The rainy season occurs during the US Summer, and while it doesn’t get cold, I’m told that most afternoons have down pours.

So there you have it. An all-inclusive resort vacation in Costa Rica. Ditch the DR and check out the CR! I will definitely be going back again.

____________________________

Josh Levin is a recovering PR consultant turned tech entrepreneur and travel writer. A globe-trotter since the age of 13, he has lived in Sydney, Shanghai, and Jerusalem and now calls New York home.

josh-levin

Josh Levin, Jaunt Magazine Contributor

 

Bali: Your Trip to Paradise

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Pura Batu Bolong Temple – Nusa Dua, Bali

When it’s time to think about a warm winter getaway, time to think Bali. The popular tour company, World Spree, is offering an 11-day Exotic Bali package for only $1,899 from New York or San Francisco ($200 more from Los Angeles) that includes round-trip air on China Airlines, taxes, fuel surcharges, fabulous hotels, daily breakfast, five other meals, all ground transportation, sightseeing tours and a professional English-speaking guide.  And $1,899 is probably less than you’d spend to go to the  same old Caribbean or Hawaii.

Why Bali?

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Borobudur by Night

Bali is a chance to experience a totally different culture, while also enjoying a sun-splashed beach vacation. The trip starts with five nights in Bali’s cultural capital, the picturesque hill town of Ubud, full of color and chaos, artists’ studios, handicrafts shops and garden restaurants. Here, you’ll stay in the stylish boutique resort Alaya Ubud, which is surrounded by emerald green rice paddies but within walking distance of downtown. Its elegant Balinese-style rooms are complemented by a spa, swimming pool and restaurant.

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Bat Cave (Goa Lawah)

Balinese Hinduism, the predominant religion, shapes much of the island’s life and culture.  There are thousands of temples and shrines and colorful religious ceremonies can be seen regularly.  You’ll visit a temple fed by local springs and have the chance to take part in a traditional purification ceremony, and visit a Monkey Forest that’s home to three holy monkey temples. Just remember, they’re wild monkeys and not afraid of humans, so keep an eye out as they can get frisky! Other excursions include a famous coffee plantation,  the Mother Temple , lunch on the edge of a volcano caldera with a breathtaking view of Lake Batur, and a  special day in a village where you will be warmly welcomed by the locals.

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Beach Nusa Dua

Then comes the totally relaxing part of the vacation: four nights at  the luxurious Melia Bali Resort in Nusa Dua, famous for its glorious white sandy beaches lapped by warm shallow waters and surrounded by lush green foliage.  There are tons of possibilities here (a safari, ocean rafting, a catamaran cruise, shopping in Kuta, a traditional fire dance) or just soaking up the sun and enjoying the serenity of this exotic  beachfront resort that overlooks a reef-fringed lagoon , exhuberant tropical gardens and a swimming pool that winds through the grounds.

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Beach chairs on a perfect tropical white sand beach… sigh

Two post-trip options are offered on the way home: a 4-day Stopover in cosmopolitan Singapore, with its exciting cuisine and great shopping ($599 per person) or a 3-day Stopover in Taiwan, which has wonderful Chinese food and a world-class museum ($220 per person). All prices quoted are per person, double occupancy, and are subject to availability.  There is no additional charge for credit cards. 

www.worldspree.com

 

A Majestic Tour of the Emerald Isle

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Majestic Ireland

Her crashing coastline, sky-piercing mountains, glacial lakes, sleepy surf towns and characterful castles set the stage for your own personal Emerald Isle production with your very own tour company. Enter: Wilderness Ireland’s new collection of adventure vacations. Designed by locals and delivered by local legends, the seven trips are said to “bring travelers closer to the source of where adventure meets fantasy and where fiction comes to life.” Works for us. Oh, and get this… the rock pinnacles of the Skellig Islands will feature prominently in Rogue One, the latest Star Wars flick for those who want to geek out and get a Star Wars location scout visit. Oh, and for Game of Thrones fans, the small village along the Causeway Coastal Route is better known as the location for Game of Thrones’ Iron Island. The best part? A favorable exchange rate and countless flight options makes it the perfect time to experience Ireland’s wild landscapes and enchanting history.

Here’s our latest eco-adventuring pick for Ireland’s fair sights:

Wilderness Ireland’s new small-group tours debut in Spring 2017

  • Hiking and Island Hopping Cork and Kerry: On foot and by boat, travelers discover Kerry and Cork, exploring the wildest corners of the striking southwest where tales of pirate invasions were born and ancient Neolithic sites are scattered across the land. Amongst many highlights is the climb up the bare rock steps of the UNESCO World Heritage site Skellig Michael. The Skellig Islands were home to Christian monks until the 12th Century and are now a filming location for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VIII. Travelers might also spot whales, puffins, dolphins, seals and sharks from the coastal trails.
  • Hiking the Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal: The Causeway Coastal Route is home to rolling mountains awash with local legends and myths, the highest sea cliffs in Europe and remote lodges dishing out fresh seafood from the Atlantic. From the most northerly point of Ireland at Malin Head, hikers can look across the windswept landscapes and its ancient archaeological remains, before the ascent up Mount Errigal to Glenveagh castle. Guests traverse the Pilgrim’s Path, a route once used for Christian pilgrimage, to meet with a local tweed-maker still practicing his craft on a traditional handloom.
  • Cycling and Yoga Escape: Each day begins with a gentle yoga session to help cyclists prepare for their two-wheel journey in the peaceful north-west. From laidback surfing villages to wild mountain ranges and historic pubs overlooking the Atlantic, this bike tour has it all. Travelers cycle through the charming Irish countryside and across glaciated valleys to ancient castles.
  • Hiking the Ring of Kerry Mountains: Hikers summit some of Ireland’s highest peaks in Killarney National Park, Corrán Tuathail and Mount Brandon, and take lost pilgrimage paths along the sea cliff’s edge to white sandy beaches. Travelers uncover the legend of Cú Chulainn and the giant as they explore the stories of the Dingle Peninsula. Evenings are enjoyed in cozy inns with traditional live music and the finest local fare.

Hiking the Mountains of Connemara and Mayo: Following in the footsteps of Saint Patrick, hikers will conquer three of the highest mountains in the west of Ireland. Guests explore the spectacular mountain and bog wilderness of Connemara, home to Ireland’s only true fjord, Killary Harbour. Watching wild dolphins play in the nearby surf makes the Mayo Coastal Trek one of Ireland’s most memorable.

  • Bike Tour – Connemara and the Aran Islands: The westernmost regions of Ireland have their own distinct culture and traditions. Places such as the Aran Islands are the last bastion of the Irish Gaelic language. Back on the mainland, in The Burren National Park, ancient tombs, friendly farming communities, and cozy pubs are natural complements to the exhilaration of riding through this majestic landscape.
  • Hiking the Burren, Aran Islands and Connemara: The limestone landscape of the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher are blanketed in colourful wildflowers in summer. Travelers follow the winding paths of the Aran Islands to visit Europe’s most important prehistoric sites and enjoy outstanding views of Galway Bay, Connemara and Black Head.

WildernessIreland.com