The Explorateur’s Exclusive Getaways

Friends, families, freewheelin’ babes and badasses… our swanky friends at The Explorateur – an insider travel concierge of sorts – wanted me to share some sweet news about a few very exclusive trips they’ve added to their repertoire for the Fall. Tell them our Editor-in-Chief, Layla Revis, sent you if you sign up to their newsletter. That way, they’ll treat you extra nice 😉

Just Chillin in Tanzania

A bit about The Explorateur. We heard about them when we were working with Small Luxury Hotels of the World and their Founder came highly regarded. We needed some tips on Croatia and we were told that he was the guy who made an art of arranging yacht trips around the Croatian coast. So what is The Explorateur? A unique forum filled with fabulous insider information (sorta like us). They also arrange exclusive offers at the world’s most unique and interesting hotels, shops, and restaurants around the world much like the travel agent you *wish* you had. Their ever-globetrotting editorial team blends their collective decades of experience in the travel industry with savvy insider knowledge of the world’s most eclectic finds. Stylish, yet unpretentious, they help guide travelers with a hint of wanderlust.  The team has the scoop on anything and everything a traveler needs to know. And, if they don’t know, like us, they’ll travel to find out.

TANZANIA-  6 Days, Stunning Explorations- starting at US $1500 per person, double occupancy

Itinerary includes:  Begin at Kilimanjaro for an overnight at Kia Lodge and option to explore the mountain, followed by  a drive the next day for a visit to Lake Manyara, game drive for phenomenal animal viewing + 1 night at Migunga Tented Camp including all meals, transfer to Serengeti for an early morning game drive and visit to Olduvai Gorge + 2 nights at Ikoma Tented Camp including all meals, transfer to Ngorongoro Crater for a gorgeous crater exporation tour and overnight at Crater Forest Lodge, all  meals, followed by early morning transfer back to Arusha.

My Chateau or Yours?

FRANCE – Spectacular New Years Experience at Chateau de la Barre- 1295 Euro per person, based on 12 sharing.

Mingle with royalty and get treated as such when you round up 12 friends to share the chateau as guests of Comte and Comtesse de Vanssay in their Loire Valley chateau.

30 Dec- Get treated to a champagne reception and visit of the chateau followed by cheese and vintage wine tasting supper in the billiard room in front o fthe monumental XIVth century fireplace- enjoy chocolate and port wine in your room.

31 Dec- Explore the remarkably restored old city of Le Mans, stage set to many films followed by festive New Year’s Eve dinner in the XVIIth centrury grand dinign room of the chateau with all the family silver and crystal- usher in the new year at midnignt with champagne in the Grand Drawing Room underneath the ancestral portraits

01 Jan- Renaissance day- visit famous Chenonceau castle with a new year’s day lunch feast at Leonardo da Vinci’s home served as if you were in 1530- or a private lunch in XVIIth century Chateau Chene de Coeur hosted by the owners

02 Jan- Depart with a special present from Chateau de la Barre

PLUS- Daily English breakfast and afternoon tea, fresh flowers in room, wine tasting at nearby winery built into a Xth century limestone cave

Kda-oo naH, pray-uhH 'euy (Translation: "Oh God, It's Hot")

CAMBODIA –  Hotel de la Paix – Siem Riep’s most stylish hotel set against some of the world’s most spectacular ancient sights

Explore this incredible land in the comfort of this stunning art deco hotel starting at US $275 per night- and receive the following lovely treats to enrich your stay:

– Welcome drink and cold towel on arrival
– Daily gourmet hot breakfast buffet
– Wireless Internet access in all guestrooms
– Daily turn-down service with treats
– Pre-loaded iPod with music and narratives on Cambodia, which may be taken on outside excursions
– Access to undercover Khmer inspired swimming pool
– Access to award winning Spa Indochine

So take a jaunt, check out The Explorateur, and let us know what you think (just don’t make us too jealous when you go on and on about that trip to Chateau de la Barre or Tanzania!

 The Explorateur 

Last Minute Fall Getaways

Rajasthan, India

Looking for some last minute fall getaways? Who isn’t? If you’re anything like me, you’re a workaholic often being told by your colleagues to just ‘get some rest already!’ So, as it’s just around the corner, fall is the ideal time to discover the world, with many destinations around the globe featuring cooler temperatures, colorful panoramas, abundant wildlife and a kaleidoscope of festivals. India, already a vibrant country, explodes in a riot of colors in the fall, when many festivals take place, including Diwali and Pushkar Fair.

Budapest by Night

Budapest, Vienna and Prague are also beautiful during the Fall, along with Berlin, China, and Tanzania.  So, when Abercrombie & Kent sent us a list of their special fall journeys (with added discounts and deals), we wanted to spread the word so that you, too, could experience your dream destination at its best. Solo travellers take note: you can also save up to 96% on the single supplement on: Treasures of Northern India from Oct 7 and Nov 11 and Essence of India from Oct 13 and Nov 17. Remember, Abercrombie & Kent is high-end so you won’t be skimping. This is 5 star all the way with guides that are some of the best in the world. We’re talking life changing travels, baby, and you could use a shift in your continuum, right?

Right.

Though I tend to be more of a fly by the seat of my pants kinda traveller, as I get older and wiser I find that sometimes it’s just easier to have someone in the know do all the legwork for you. At Abercrombie & Kent, the nice thing is that you can also search for tour options like the following:

August through November departures are filling fast so click the link below to see last-minute destinations for fall travel, and reserve a fall getaway now!

Abercrombie & Kent Last Minute Fall Getaways

A Chic Affordable African Safari?!

Meerkats in the Bush

I just can’t get enough of safari trips. I guess I just ought to live in the bush for awhile. It may be the only thing that quenches my African thirst. To that end, when I came across Lion World Tours’ nine-day itinerary “Madikwe In Style”, I wanted to pick up the package to spend four nights experiencing the beauty and opulence of The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa while exploring Cape Town and two nights basking in the tranquility of the African bush while staying at the luxurious Madikwe Safari Lodge and viewing the wildlife.

This nine-day package, which includes international airfare from New York (JFK) or Washington DC (Dulles) on South African Airways, domestic flights within South Africa, fuel surcharges, as well as luxury accommodation in Cape Town and the Madikwe Game Reserve, also includes most meals, transfers, and more – all for just USD $3,199* per person.

This price is valid for departures on August 24th, August 28th, and September 1st, 2011, as well as various dates in October and November of 2011. An unbelievable value for money.

The luxurious Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa lies where earth, sea and sky meet poised above Atlantic rollers and flanked by the majestic Table Mountain and her Twelve Apostles mountain range in glorious Cape Town. This intimate five-star Hotel fully lives up to its stunning location, with exceptional standards of service and relaxed Cape hospitality, providing the perfect counterpoint to its dramatic backdrop.  Enjoy deluxe guest rooms, two breathtaking pool gardens magically perched above the ocean, the glorious Azure restaurant and its exquisite cuisine, wonderful friendly service and endlessly seductive sea views.

A Cub Chewing on a Stick

Madikwe Safari Lodge is situated in the heart of the malaria-free and richly diverse Madikwe Game Reserve. The Lodge offers exclusive accommodation in luxury suites and boasts French doors that open up onto wooden decking. From the deck, you can take a refreshing dip in a sparkling plunge pool. The bedrooms are fitted with circular fireplaces, a dressing area, and both indoor and outdoor showers. Each suite features an elegant interior inspired by traditional African designs and nature.

To make a booking or for questions, call Lion World Tours at 1-800-387-2706 from the USA or 1-800-668-9968 from Canada, or visithttp://lionworldtravel.com/ to view the full itinerary.

“Madikwe In Style” at USD $3,199* per person is a nine-day trip which includes:

  • Round trip international Economy Class airfare from New York (JFK) or Washington, DC (Dulles) to Cape Town, South Africa, on South African Airways
  • Domestic flights within South Africa in accordance with the itinerary
  • Four nights accommodation at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa
  • Two nights accommodation at Madikwe Safari Lodge
  • Six Breakfasts/two Lunches/three Dinners
  • Transfers as specified in the itinerary
  • Lion World Tours representative Meet and Greet upon arrival

Lion World Tours specializes in group and individual tours to Southern and East Africa, and is a member of The Travel Corporation, which also includes Trafalgar, Contiki, Brendan Vacations, Red Carnation Boutique Hotel Collection, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Insight Vacations. In its fifth decade, clients continue to benefit from Lion World Tours’ destination knowledge, expertise, and emphasis on customer service. With their safari specialists all having first-hand knowledge of Africa, Lion World Tours can confidently assist clients in creating an African adventure that fits their specific interests as well as their budget. Affordable luxury and value for money are what keep clients coming back to Lion World Tours.

http://www.lionworldtours.com/

* Prices are in US Dollars and are per person based on double occupancy accommodation and include fuel surcharges. Government taxes, departure fees and September 11th Security Fee of $190 are additional and payable prior to departure. Low add-on fares from 26 cities in the USA are available. This package is valid at this price for departures in 2011 on August 24, 28, September 1, October 17, 21, 25, 29, and November 2, 12, 16, 20, 24.

Rwanda’s Hidden Travel Gem

Rwanda's Nyungwe Forest Lodge

This week, our travel radar has picked up a gem of a deal in an exotic, interesting locale.  We’re all about Rwanda, a country that suffered unspeakable tragedy or to become reborn like a Phoenix as one of the safest travel destinations in Africa.

We love the country and her people for so many reasons – namely because they made a conscious effort to remember their past and heal their wounds by coming to terms with it. They also outlawed the evil plastic bag. Rwanda… here’s to you!

So check out the Nyungwe Forest Lodge in Nyungwe, Rwanda, a 5 star property in the heart of Africa.   How sexy is this spot?

Nestled within a tea plantation in Rwanda’s mountainous southwest, the Nyungwe Spa draws on its natural surroundings to create spa treatments that relax and reenergize guests.  Embarking on a holistic journey ripe with sounds of the rain forest and views of Nyungwe National Park, you can enjoy a variety of treatments using Ancient African techniques and local ingredients.  Think healing earth face treatments such as Marula and Rose Hydrate, Jasmin and Baobab Nourish, and Neroli and Rose Balance.  There is also the anti-oxidant and highly-mineralized African Ginger Firming body treatment, a Mongongo Detox that helps eliminate toxin build up in the body, and a Coffee Cinnamon and Orange Cellu that improves circulation and the breakdown of cellulite. For those who are overstressed, the African Potato Repair is the ultimate relaxation treatment, followed by a Footprint Pedicure during which feet are immersed in an energizing salt and tea leaf soak, scrubbed and smoothed, and then moisturized with rich African butter.

And that’s just the spa part!

Did we also mention… you can spot cute little monkeys and unearth the Nubian Goddess in all of us?

www.mantiscollection.com

Mozambique is Romantique

Marlin Lodge Deck - Mozambique

We have a thing about diving. You see, when we were just seventeen years old, we had the chance to dive the Great Barrier Reef and we never looked back.

So, when we heard that Marlin Lodge in Mozambique was named a five-star dive resort by PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, we had to let our readers know.

The earth is warming and the reefs around the world are under threat so next time you consider a vacation, consider one that helps preserve the natural beauty of the seas (pretty please). One of our picks is Marlin Lodge because the waters around Marlin Lodge offer a range of diving sites and depths for all levels of experience. These include:

2 Mile Reef: Provides a variety of dive locations with abundant hard and soft corals, reef fish, turtle, reef shark, moray eel, grouper, stingray and devil ray. Seasonal whale sharks and manta rays can also be seen.

The Wreck: Manmade reef including a sunken yacht and tractor.

Aquarium (Low tide only): Pool within 2 Mile Reef.

5 Mile Reef: Provides divers with the opportunity to sight pelagic fish and nurse sharks.

Magaruque Express (Drift Dive): Located off the Island of Magaruque, where a strong current provides a brisk drift dive.

Cabo San Sebastio: Ideal for advanced divers, this reef is known for sightings of the seasonal whale shark and manta ray.

Pipe Reef (House Reef): Popular for night dives. The rare Spanish dancer nudibranch and frogfish can be seen here.

Marlin Lodge Suite

Situated on a private island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, off the coast of Mozambique, Marlin Lodge has 14 Luxury Beach Suites and three Executive Beach Suites, each one just steps away from the turquoise waters of Flamingo Bay. Each chalet is also built from natural Mozambican hardwood, reed-clad brick walls and thatched ‘jecca’ roofs and the cuisine at the Lodge is carefully crafted by a team of world-class chefs. Traditionally Mozambique, that means an abundance of seafood infused with Asian and Portuguese flavors.

Aside from diving, you can also snorkel, windsurf, do some hobycat sailing, and kayak. Guests can also horseback ride across the white sand beach and into the water, or enjoy a cruise on a Mozambique Dhow cruise. We think that all sounds pretty romantique.

Rates are $580 for Luxury Beach Suites and $742 for Executive Beach Suites (per person per night, based on double occupancy and includes all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, house wines, local beers, selected spirits, a daily sunset cocktail, fully stocked mini bar, and all non-motorized water sports).

www.marlinlodge.co.za

Email: reservations@marlinlodge.co.za

Phone: +27 (0) 12 460 9410.

Take Me to Tanzania!

Take me to Tanzania!

The Serengeti’s newest luxury resort, Bilila Lodge Kempinski, is offering a special summer package for Tanzania visitors. Guests will enjoy two nights in one of the Lodge’s exclusive guestrooms or suites, all of which overlook the plains of the Serengeti, allowing wild game observation from the private sun desks.

The “Summer Adventure Retreat” is priced from $1,345 and includes:

*One half-day game drive

*One daily massage or body treatment from a selection of nine signature Anantara Spa treatments

*Round-trip airport transfers

*Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a welcome drink upon arrival

Because two nights is not enough time to experience all that Tanzania has to offer, two nearby Kempinskis are offering discounted summer promotions, as well. Zamani Zanzibar Kempinski’s “Summer Escape in Paradise ” is priced from $699 and includes:

*One half-day Spice Tour on one of the nearby Spice Farms

*Round-trip airport transfers

*Daily breakfast and dinner, as well as a welcome drink and fruit platter upon arrival

Based in the bustling city and commercial capital, Dar es Salaam , Kilimanjaro Hotel Kempinski’s “Summer City Promotion” is priced from $635 and includes:

*One dinner in The Palm restaurant with a bottle of sparkling wine

*Daily breakfast, as well as a fresh fruit platter upon arrival

*Roundtrip airport transfers

All rates quoted above are based on single occupancy and include two nights accommodations, inclusive of taxes and service charges. Offers are valid through September 30, 2010 so… for the third time… your honey is calling out: “Take me to Tanzania!” We can hear them all the way from here.

For more information or booking, visit the resorts’ respective websites: www.kempinski.com/en/serengeti, www.kempinski.com/zanzibar, www.kempinski.com/en/daressalaam

Essaouira, Morocco: Organic Beauty for Women, One Nut at a Time

Goats Climbing An Argan Tree, Morocco

Argan… doesn’t the name remind you of a dark roguish beard from Lord of the Rings? In reality, it’s a tree that only grows in Southwestern Morocco, an equally tempting image (for a botanist). So what makes the argan tree so special? They say, “It’s nuts.” No, really. It’s nuts… and the oil extracted from them. Deemed ‘liquid gold’ by locals and international beauty addicts, it’s organic, naturally rich in vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants said to help heal skin conditions including wrinkles, acne, and dry skin. Women of Morocco have used it for generations to combat the dry desert air and reduce the signs of aging. Now, in the West, it’s slowly developing a very devoted following due to the extraordinary results it delivers.

By law, the Berber women are the only ones permitted to extract the argan oil, a labor intensive process that can take up to a day to produce a single liter of oil. In 1999, Morocco’s argan forest was designated a Unesco International Biosphere Reserve, but the argan trees still disappeared in large numbers, often used for fire wood, despite preservation. As a result, the women’s argan cooperatives were developed by the government to provide economic opportunity for the Berber women. These cooperatives now offer one of the only roads to financial and social independence.

In addition to providing the means to earn a living, many of the argan cooperatives also offer literacy and women’s rights programs, as well as work training and life skills programs. These simple skills provide a level of independence they ordinarily wouldn’t have, not to mention as increased sense of pride and self-esteem. We love the idea of sustainability, independence, and liquid gold. So get thee to Morocco! And ride a wave while you’re at it.
Essaouira, Morocco

From Marrakesh to Essaouira, you’ll find a majority of the women’s cooperatives. Through sandy roads you’ll pass rolling yellow hills, olive groves, sheep, and the occasional donkey or two (or three), signs will announce cooperatives like the Argan Co-Op, Women’s Argan Collective, and Miracle Oil. Visitors can stop in and have a demonstration of how argan oil is made while they taste the culinary argan oil and amlou – a concoction made with argan oil and honey – served with bread. Most of these have shops onsite where people can buy locally produced argan products. There’s also some rock star lore… people like Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens came here for a good dose of Moroccan hippy-style inspiration.

These days, Euros come for the fact that Essaouira is know as one of the top spots in the world for windsurfing and kiteboarding. To reach Essaouira, all you need to do is fly into Marrakesh. Rent a car at the airport; Avis (www.avis.com) and Sixt (www.e-sixt.com) both have offices. The drive takes about two and a half hours and is well marked.

Which brings us to Kahina and Giving Beauty, the new line of argan-based skin care founded by socially conscious entrepreneur Katharine L’Heureux. Named after a Jewish Berber queen (700AD) who successfully resisted the first Arab invaders, Kahina is a heroine to the Berber women and represents empowerment for women worldwide. Sourcing key ingredients from Moroccan argan oil cooperatives, L’Heureux not only buys their ingredients, but spends valuable time with the women, donating 25% of the profits from the sales of the skincare back to the women of the argan cooperatives who work to provide the raw materials for the Giving Beauty products.
Kahina and companies like hers also help preserve the forest by creating an economic incentive for the locals to protect the forests. Formulated with organic ingredients and manufactured in an eco-friendly, carbon neutral facility with recyclable materials, Kahina’s packaging is designed with a compilation of signatures by the Berber women that Katharine has met during visits to the cooperative. Most of them are just learning to sign their own names so their signatures also hold a great deal of meaning for them. Here are just a few of their uplifting stories, told by Katherine L’Heureux.

Aarbia Amzil
Aarbia’s personality is as colorful as the clothes she is wearing–multiple layers of yellow and red. She claims to be 70, but doesn’t know her age exactly. With no children of her own, Aarbia finds comfort in the company of the women of the cooperative. When I ask her how the cooperative has changed her life, she says, “Thanks to the co-op, I have gone from having nothing to having everything.”

Fatima Achkich is a pretty woman who often appears to be containing a smile or laugh. Fatima, who has two children she is raising on her own, has worked at the cooperative for 9 years. When I ask about her life, she tells me that she is happy, and that she especially enjoys the companionship of the other women she works with. In the positive manner she shares with all the women, she says, “Thanks to my work at the cooperative, I am able to afford all I need to live.”

Essaouria’s Hotels

L’Heure Bleue

Essaouira’s first luxury hotel. It even has a heated pool!

2, rue lbn Batouta
011-212-24-78-34-34
Rates @ $400/night
http://www.heure-bleue.com

Villa Maroc
This is the oldest hotel in the city and offers spa treatments with the aforementioned liquid gold… argan oil.
10, rue Abdellah Ben Yassine
011-212-24-47-31-47
Rates from $120/night
http://www.villa-maroc.com

Essaouira Dining

Lunch
Try the fish stalls around the sea for lunch. It’s fresh and you can’t miss fresh fish.

Dinner
After Five for fusion food using local ingredients
5, rue Youssef El Fassi
011-212-24-47-33-49

To purchase Kahina, Giving Beauty’s kick-ass products made with argan oil:
Retails from $15-$72.

http://www.kahina-givingbeauty.com