Tag - Vacation

Cruising with Children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities

NCL Epic

NCL Epic

Going on a cruise can be an ideal way to travel together as a family because parents and kids can spend quality time together – and apart. Thanks to children’s programs on cruise ships, kids can be somewhere safe doing fun activities targeted specifically to their age group, while the parents have their own fun, and then everybody can come back together for dinner or other family events. Families traveling with a child with developmental disabilities or autism may have concerns about their children’s needs being meet and having them participate in such programs, but they will find that the cruise lines want all passengers to participate and are willing to work with parents to make sure everybody has a great cruise.

Disability attorney Dale H. Boam notes that cruise ships are required to comply with various laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act if the ship docks in the United States. “Obviously, the easiest rules to think about are access rules,” he says with regard to regulations that relate to things like mobility impairments and wheelchairs. However, when it comes to developmental disabilities or autism, “the needs become very specific.”

To that end, parents should “be ready to fully disclose what their child’s concerns are,” says Richard Ambrose, Vice-President of Entertainment for Norwegian Cruise Lines. (To listen to radio interviews with both NCL and Mr. Boam, click here.) The cruise line and its staff are willing to meet your child’s needs, but they first have to know what they are.

Boam suggests that calling the cruise line’s access or disabilities desk prior to the cruise  “as a starting place for discussion.” Ambrose says that at NCL, when such a call is made, it starts a process where the access desk notifies the fleet youth supervisor at the main offices and the youth managers working on the ship. With parental input, “We can work and develop a program for that child so that they are included in all the activities.” Ambrose also advises that once a family arrives on the ship, the first thing parents should do is go to the youth program and meet the manager to “discuss their child’s needs and issues.”

What should be part of that discussion? What should parents bring up? Boam says, “The easiest thing to do is to think about what accommodations, what services, does your child need on their IEP (Individualized Education Program) in their school setting?” What the child needs help with at school, is often what they need assistance with in a cruise program, because the ship activities often “sort of mimic school programs.”

One accommodation to think about that wouldn’t come up in a school setting is having the child be placed in a younger group. For example, a 14-year-old with cognitive disabilities might not be safe in a teen program that allows lots of latitude in coming and going, and may therefore do better in a program for 11-12 year olds.

Keep in mind that the overriding goal for staff and parents is for the kids to have a great time. “We believe everybody should have a fantastic vacation,” Ambrose says. Or as Boam puts it, “It’s much better to have a great vacation than a great lawsuit.”

Summer Wildlife in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park

Summer Wildlife in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park

Summer Wildlife in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park

Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park are excellent places to view wildlife at any time of the year, but during the summer there are even more ways to see get out in the good weather and view the elk, bison, bears and other animals found in this beautiful area of Wyoming. Traveling to the Teton area, you can view animals from a boat, bike or specialized vehicle designed to take you into the back country.

The biologists on staff at the non-profit Teton Science Schools conduct wildlife expeditions in vehicles that have been customized to allow guests to go off the main road while still maintaining a level of comfort inside the vehicle. The biologist-guides who conduct the tours are regularly out in the field around the area, so they have expert knowledge of where animals might be, (You can hear a radio interview with one of the biologist-guides here) . The guides also have a lot of information they can pass on, and always conduct the observations in ways that don’t disturb the animals. Binoculars and spotting scopes are provided as well as snacks and beverages.

Summer Wildlife in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park

Summer Wildlife in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park

For those who enjoy biking, or simply getting out in the open air, Teton Mountain Bike Tours is an excellent option. There are a variety of guided tours available, but you can also just stop by and rent a mountain bike, comfortable beach-cruiser style bikes with gears, or racing style bikes, depending on what type of experience you want to have. One nice thing about renting from this outfit is that the location at the edge of town on North Cache Street means you can park, rent a bike, and then hop straight onto the trails right from the shop without having to transfer the bike anywhere. There are mountain bike, dirt path and paved paths that can be picked up just across the street from the store. For those who are not hardcore bikers, a good option is the paved path that goes up through the National Elk Refuge, into Grand Teton National Park and up to Jenny Lake.

Another option for wildlife viewing is a float trip from the water while going down the Snake River with Mad River Boat Trips. This is particularly a great way to see a variety of birds, including bald eagles. For those who want a relaxing ride while just taking in the scenery, the float trip is a good choice. The trip is a 13 mile float and includes a hot breakfast.

The area surrounding Jackson Hole contains an amazing number and variety of wildlife and there are plenty of different outdoor options to view them while also having a fun time.

Teton Science Schools


700 Coyote Canyon Road  Jackson,WY

Teton Mountain Bike Tours


545, North Cache St.,  Jackson,WY

Mad River Boat Trips


1255 South US Highway 89,  Jackson,WY

Absinthe in Las Vegas, the Hottest Show on the Strip

    Absinthe - The Gazillionaire Credit Tom Donoghue

Absinthe – The Gazillionaire Credit Tom Donoghue

While visiting Las Vegas, make sure you make time for the hottest ticket in town Absinthe.

It’s amazing circus acts, it’s irreverent comics, it’s burlesque numbers, and it’s all under one tent. In an era of ever bigger, more extravagant Las Vegas shows, Absinthe has become the hot show on The Strip by going for stripped-down, small and intimate. The show takes place in a small tent right on the grounds at Caesars Palace.

Once inside, you’re just a few yards away from a stage that isn’t much bigger than the typical living room. Suddenly, acrobats are doing amazing stunts seemingly right above you, to jaw-dropping effect. However, your jaw will find its way back up between acts to burst into laughter as “The Gazillionaire,” the character who not only funded the show but hosts it, and his faithful assistant “Penny Pibbits” engage the audience in ribald and politically incorrect humor. Check out this radio interview with Gaz and Penny from Absinthe to get an idea of their style of humor and find out more about the show. The style of humor during the performance definitely gets members of the audience involved to hilarious effect, just one more benefit of Absinthe’s small setting.

    Absinthe - Penny Pibbets Credit-Tom-Donoghue
Absinthe – Penny Pibbets Credit-Tom-Donoghue

“There’s other shows that put a lot of money into the sets and everything. We wanted to kind of flip that over and do the most ridiculously simple, intimate, little thing we could do,” says the The Gazillionaire. “In this day and age, you know, you can compete with ‘Avengers’ on the 3D IMAX screen, or you go the other way and just put a bunch of crap really close to everyone and you feel a part of it.”

Absinthe calls itself an “acro-cabaret,” with the cabaret portion coming from a couple of numbers from burlesque-style performer Melody Sweets as “The Green Fairy.”

The tent is located in the Roman Plaza at Caesars Palace with shows running every night but Monday. There are 8 and 10 p.m. shows on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with 8 p.m.-only shows on Wednesday and Sunday.

For more information on tickets call 800-745-3000.


Overnight at a Hotel that Melts

Quebec City’s Ice Hotel

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quebec City is the only fortified city in Canada. It has all the atmosphere of an ancient French town, with small houses huddled together and horse-drawn carriages to take visitors on romantic tours through the narrow streets of the old “ville”.

Ice hotel Quebec Canada, Credit:sheknows.ca

Ice hotel Quebec Canada, Credit: sheknows.ca

 It also has an ice hotel, the only one in North America. And on March 19th, 2012 it had to close because warm temperatures made melting an issue for guests staying overnight. And over 5000 guests did stay overnight in 2012.  But I was definitely not one of them.

Rebuilt Every Year

Every year huge blocks of ice are used to build the ice hotel, the most accessible ice hotel in the world. It is just seven minutes from downtown Quebec City and well worth a visit if you plan a holiday between Christmas and sometime in the spring. It all depends on the weather.

Cold Weather Attire

As a native Montrealer, I know how cold Quebec winters can be. When I was at the ice hotel a few years ago, I wore my tattered fox fur coat. Fox fur is one of the warmest furs there is because of the long guard hairs. My tall leather boots were lined with shearling and I also wore wool slacks, a woolen sweater with matching cardigan, an angora beret that could be pulled down over my ears, a wool scarf and fur-lined mittens.

One Hour Was Enough

My gear proved to be warm enough for about an hour. We were actually in a giant igloo. Most igloos, however, don’t have a wedding chapel, art gallery, or ice bar where vodka in “glasses” made  entirely of ice is offered. They all have one thing in common and that is they melt.

Ice Disco

Igloos don’t have discos either but we had a chance to dance and enjoy music in the adjoining disco, also made of ice. By then, however, I was starting to get cold. Because I was on a press tour, I had the chance to stay overnight in the ice hotel. Of course, I declined. To my surprise, I was told that some Japanese guests are so enthusiastic they book for two nights. Management tells them that one night will probably be enough. I totally agree.

Brave Guests Heed Warning

Anyone brave enough – and there were around 5000 last season – would be wise to heed the warnings: you will sleep on ice, protected by a mattress and thick fur pelts and you will use a sleeping bag provided by the hotel. Clothing is supposed to be stuffed into the bottom of the bag so that it will not be frozen in the morning. Last but not least, guests are advised to visit the heated bathroom before retiring because getting there during the night is rather unpleasant.

How To Book

Guests may take a tour of the ice hotel or stay overnight, with back-up at the nearby Auberge Duchesnay. Rates vary and both breakfast and dinner at the Auberge Duchesnay, which is very pleasant, can be included. To learn more, call 877-505-0423 from the U.S. or Canada.

Zermatt Resort Near Park City Provides a Luxury Swiss Alps Experience in Utah

Zermatt Resort  Credit: Kathleen Curry

Zermatt Resort Credit: Kathleen Curry

The town of Midway, Utah, was settled by Swiss immigrants who thought the mountains looked like the Alps. The Swiss tradition continues at Zermatt Resort and Spa.

The arrival area for this luxury hotel gives the feeling of being in the town square of a authentic European village in the Swiss Alps. The main feature is a Swiss Chalet-style, five-story tall, luxury hotel, complete with 226 rooms. There are a variety of room sizes including five penthouse suites. The Swiss theme continues in the rooms, with tapestries and carved wood furniture. The hotel, which opened a few years ago, is just one feature of the 18-acre grounds which includes a spa, carousel, state-of-the-art facilities for holding business meetings, a Euro themed restaurant and a bakery.

Zermatt is located in Midway, which is part of what is known as the Heber Valley, an area that has taken advantage of its proximity to Park City to undergo incredible growth during the past 10 years, and now offers an interesting variety of restaurants and other lifestyle amenities.

Skiing, Golf and Outdoor and Water based Recreation in Heber Valley

Midway is just a 15-minute drive from Park City and its world-famous ski resorts, including Deer Valley. Zermatt offers shuttle service to the resorts for skiers and snowboarders. Beyond the slopes, visitors to Zermatt can also easily access Park City’s other attractions, notably its clubs and night-life, particularly during the Sundance Film Festival.

For those who visit in the summer, the Heber Valley offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, and all of them can be easily booked with assistance of the hotel, activities such as horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, boating and water activities, hot-air ballooning and learning to fly-fish on the Provo River, which meanders through the Heber Valley.

If one would prefer lacing up golf shoes to hiking boots, Zermatt sits in Wasatch County, which has five golf courses, and an online program that lets visitors book tee times up to 60 days in advance.

Relax at The Spa at Zermatt

Part of the Zermatt complex includes a 17,000 square-foot Spa stretched out over three-floors within the hotel. There are 11 treatment rooms to go along with a 13-head Swiss Shower, Aromatherapy Steam Grotto and Ruheraum Relaxation Room. The variety of treatments, some of which are geared specifically towards men, including house specials such as the Monte Rosa Full Body Rejuvenation and the Caviar and Pearls Anti-Aging Facial.

Zermatt Resort and Spa

784 W. Resort Drive, Midway, Utah 84049


Whether one wants to visit for the skiing, the outdoor recreation, the golf or the spa, the Heber Valley is a great place to be, and the Zermatt Resort is a good place to stay to be convenient to everything.

Luxury Boston Hotel at the Fairmont Copley Plaza

Front Entrance of Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza

Front Entrance of Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza

In 2012, the Fairmont Copley Plaza will celebrate its centennial with the completion of a $20 million dollar renovation with a complete schedule of activities and events, including hotel history tours that will lead up to the anniversary on August 19, 2012.

From the moment the guest steps out of their car or taxi in front of the hotel, the Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston staff begins to deliver superior service. One may even be greeted by Catie Copley the “Canine Ambassador” of The Fairmont. It’s a level of service that will last throughout the guest’s entire stay, no matter what the setting.

Boston Historic Hotel

The building, which opened the same year Fenway Park was built, is a 383-room symbol of Boston’s history located within walking distance of Boston Common, the Freedom Trailand Beacon Hill. Right across the street from the hotel one can find the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church and Hancock Tower.

Nearly every 20th Century American President stayed at the hotel. As part of the building’s renovation, the Fairmont has added eight themed suites which focus on Boston’s unique history and culture. The rooms are classic with modern conveniences meant to give a residential feel to the stay.

Fairmont Gold

While the service at the Fairmont Copley Plaza is excellent, visitors have the option of choosing the Fairmont Gold service, which takes the service to an even higher level. Guests have their own reception area on the fourth floor along with access to the lounge, which offers breakfast in the morning, appetizers and cocktails in the early evening, as well as coffee, tea, sodas and an honor bar throughout the day.

Fairmont Gold guests have a concierge at their disposal to provide personal service for them during their stay. If a guest mentions they have tickets to the Red Sox game, the next day they might find an information card in their room giving them information about how to get there, game start time, expected weather and the starting pitchers. The staff at the Fairmont anticipates needs and helps guest enjoy their stay.

New Dining Experience

As part of the hotel’s renovation, the hotel is developing a new restaurant set to debut in the summer of 2012. Local flavors and cuisine are sure to have a place on the menu, as they always have at Copley Plaza, but there will also be a lifestyle menu catering to healthy eating and special diets.

Catie Copley, Canine Ambassador

Perhaps the most famous member of the Fairmont Copley Plaza staff is Catie Copley, the hotel’s official canine ambassador. Catie, a black Labrador, has her own spot in the hotel lobby where guests can stop by to pet and feed her and hopefully feel more at home at the hotel. She also has a small dog house outside one of the doors where guests can greet her. Guests can even schedule an appointment to take Catie for a walk.

Catie has her own business cards and e-mail address and has even published her own children’s book. Copies of the book, complete with Catie’s footprint signature, can be purchased in the hotel’s gift shop.

The Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston

138 St. James Avenue  Boston, Massachusetts  02116

(617) 267-5300

There are many reasons to visit Boston – great food, history and catching a Red Sox game. While there, there are many reasons to enjoy a stay at the Fairmont Copley Plaza.

Thailand: Hidden Treasures of Krabi

by Olha Romaniuk,

krabi, Credit-etraveltrips.com

krabi, Credit-etraveltrips.com

Krabi Town is a sleepy little settlement, approximately forty minutes away from the Krabi International Airport, tucked far away from the hungry throngs of partying expats who avoid Krabi all together, instead, setting their sights on the usual suspects, like as Patong Beach in Phuket and Phi Phi Island.  While there is seemingly not a lot to do in Krabi, a more discerning look will quickly reveal a vibrant town filled with locals ready to share their knowledge of the nearby attractions and expats ready to make new friends and chill-out partners.

Krabi Town is an excellent place to explore on a conservative budget and boasts a vast selection of charming little hostels, some that look better than pricy hotels at Patong Beach at less than half of the price. Almost every hostel features at least one bar on its premises, so a dearth of drinking establishments is never a problem, even though the night life overall may fail to impress the discerning party-goers. Hotel rooms are also much cheaper than at the nearby tourist-infested towns and can provide much-needed reprieve time to couples or families.

For cheap drinks, a medley of delicious local food and a lively atmosphere, it is worth checking out the night market, located in the heart of Krabi Town. From mango salads, to freshly squeezed juice drinks, to pad thai, tom yum and even kebab dishes made on the spot by the many street vendors, the food never fails to impress with its quality and variety. On the central stage, amidst all of the food stalls and tents, local talents provide entertainment with singing and dancing well into the wee hours of the night. The nearby bars are friendly and open to new visitors, even though the vast majority of patronage comes from the shockingly young locals who frequent the bars several nights a week.

While Krabi is not known for its beaches with pristine white sand (actually, there are none of such in the nearby vicinity of Krabi Town), it has plenty of small Thai town charm suitable for a relaxing vacation with a loved one. With plenty of cheap Thai massage establishments (where an hour-long full body massage will cost approximately $20 USD) to quaint food joints where food prices range from $5 to $10 USD per dish, Krabi’s little luxuries are completely affordable and can fill in one’s lazy day with pampering and dining. During rainy seasons, when it is much too dreary to take a taxi or bus ride to the nearest beach, it is common for the locals and expats alike to lounge around all day at one of the many little roadside cafes and eat and drink all day for very little damage to their wallets.

If, however, Krabi visitors desire to switch up the locations and go visit the neighboring towns and explore the world-famous Thai beaches, the journey is short and cheap. For a couple of dollars each way, tourists can hop onto one of the many taxi buses that can take up to approximately twelve visitors per trip and take a ride to Au Nang beach for drinking and swimming underneath the Thailand sun.

Those seeking an additional thrill from their ride should be happy to know that they can ride a taxi bus al fresco, by standing in the back on a hanging bus step and holding on to the handle bars attached to the outside of the taxi bus. An adrenaline rush from small bumps on the road does not stop the taxi bus drivers from staying true to their routes, but the bus can be stopped at practically any picturesque location on the way to the main beaches by simply yelling “Stop!” to the driver.

For a steeper price, there is also an option of taking a long tail boat or even an occasional speedboat directly to Au Nang or to any of the nearby beaches. While a much faster option, it should be noted that such service is unreliable both in its time of departure and its pricing. Many local boat drivers will try to make the most money out of the unsuspecting tourists and, moreover, will not let their boats leave the docks until there are at least six passengers on board. It should also be noted that the taxis and the long tail boats stop services before midnight so careless tourists can get stuck in a random town without any means of getting back to their hotels or hostels in Krabi Town.

A fair warning to first time visitors to Thailand is that Krabi Town is an acquired taste and is not everyone’s cup of tea. Those who do their research beforehand, however, will be pleasantly surprised by the authentic small town charm, unscathed by the typical tourist attractions or noise typical of any other beach town within the confines of Thailand. Those seeking a quiet getaway from the everyday hustle and bustle of cities like Hong Kong or Singapore should look no further than Krabi for a lazy weekend getaway.

A Real Thailand Adventure

You’ve saved your pennies and booked your time off, but like other seasoned travellers to South East Asia, you fancy a Thailand holiday with a difference; you want to get off the beaten track and escape the busy beaches and city masses.

Elephant trekking Chiang Mai

Elephant trekking Chiang Mai

So, if you’re after a slightly ‘alternative’ trip to Thailand but don’t know where to begin, take a look at these tops tips on how to plan a real Thailand adventure:

Trekking in Chiang Mai:

Thailand’s oldest National Park, Khao Yai is a must-see destination for those seeking wildlife on a Thailand adventure. It is also the place where you’ll find the iconic cascading waterfall which was featured in the film The Beach. Khao Yai features many hiking trails for those looking for some great walks, and is also home to a plethora of wildlife, including wild elephants, tigers, bears, porcupines, gibbons, snakes and parrots and various species of monkeys. However, you have a greater chance of spotting these creatures during the rainy season. Due to its many jungle inhabitants, Khao Yai is the ultimate place to go search of tropical wildlife during your Thailand holiday. If you’re looking for a real twist of Thailand adventure”Thailand adventure why not take a sunset trip into Khao Yai’s creepy bat caves. Here, you can watch in wonder the thousands of bats that swarm out in the glow of the sunset. This truly is a spectacular sight to behold and is sure to be an unforgettable part of your Thailand adventure.

No Thailand adventure would be complete without some time spent trekking in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern region. An area famous for its wildlife, vibrant green landscapes and hidden hill tribes, Chiang Mai is the ultimate setting for a real Thailand adventure. During your trip here you can visit places seldom visited by tourists, like the Chiang Dao Wild Animals Protection Area and Sri Lanna National Park. You can even head deep into the jungle on a hike to a nearby forestry elephant camp. Here, you’ll be given the chance to observe how these mammoth creatures live and work in the forest, not to mention experience an elephant trek through the jungle- a real highlight of any Thailand trip.

To get a real taste of Thailand tradition and culture, you could also pay a visit to one of Chiang Mai’s remote tribes, such as the Akha, the Palong, the Lahu or the Karen, where you can spend the night in an authentic wooden jungle hut. Then, why not top off your Thailand adventure by drifting downstream on a bamboo raft back towards Chiang Mai?

Khao Sok National Park:

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park

Located in the western part of Surat Thani province in Southern Thailand you’ll find one of the most popular and best kept parks in Thailand. Khao Sok is accessible only from  Surat Thani and Phuket due to its isolated location. Khao Sok retains a certain untouched allure making it a fantastic addition to your Thailand adventure besides its density thick rainforest, Khao Sok boasts breathtaking waterfalls, dramatic limestone cliff faces, pristine lakes and meandering rivers. However for many travellers, its biggest attraction has to be the wildlife as Khao Sok is home to a vast array of flora and fauna.

On a trip to Khao Sok, you can begin a true Thailand adventure; as you head deep into wildest Thailand. Here you can discover captivating rainforests and swim in natural glistening lakes. You can really soak up the jungle atmosphere on your Khao Sok trip. Take a wildlife walk past bamboo groves and beneath giant towering trees, plunge into cool lakes and spend the night in a jungle bungalow, right on the banks of the tranquil river. And in the morning, you’ll really feel like you’re on your own Thailand adventure as you wake up to the many sounds of the jungle.

Homestay in central Thailand:

Though to some it may not be considered a real ‘Thailand adventure,’ a traditional Thailand homestay is arguably an invaluable way of understanding local culture, customs and traditions in more rural areas of Thailand and would certainly provide an alternative experience during any Thailand holiday. During a Central Thailand trip, you can really escape the crowds, instead opting for an alternative Thailand experience as you discover, first-hand the hospitality and warmth of the local Thai people, and learn all about village life.

Khao Yai Bats

Khao Yai Bats

Khao Yai Bat Caves:

Khao Yai jungle trails. Island hopping to hidden paradise. Sleep in the Thai countryside and floating huts along the River Kwai. We’ll help you build your very own Thailand adventure with www. thailandtravelplan.co.uk ‘Like this? Read more travel tips and tales at www.rickshawtravel.co.uk/blog/’

Safety and Security on your South Africa Holiday



Visiting a foreign country always has an element of uncertainty and wariness involved, particularly when visiting developing countries where most of the resident population live below the poverty line. It is sad though to let these worries put you off exploring a new country or once there, it could really spoil your enjoyment of your South Africa trip. The main advice is to be vigilant, listen to local advice and not take any unnecessary risks. Having years of experience in travel to South Africa we’ve come up with some pointers to consider while you are there. This advice is mainly aimed at the larger cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria and Port Elizabeth where petty crime is more common.

What to wear and how to get around

When considering that most of the population in South Africa live well below the poverty line it’s important that one considers how to dress appropriately. It’s recommended that when walking around during the day, particularly in the larger cities, that you try not to wear flashy clothing and expensive jewellery. At night we it’s safer to drive from your accommodation to restaurants and bars for dinner and evening entertainment. If you don’t feel up to navigating the streets at night, all of the main towns and cities will have a reputable taxi firm that can be suggested to you by your guest house on yourSouth Africa trip.

Safety and Security in the car
Botswana Elephants

Botswana Elephants

There are a couple of basic things to remember when driving around on you South Africa holiday. The general rule is that if you’re driving in or through big cities you should lock all the car doors. You should always make sure that anything that is valuable is kept out of sight. When stopping at traffic lights (locally known as Robots) it’s advised to have all windows up.
At most of the big traffic light intersections in cities like Cape Town you’ll generally find people either begging or selling various assortments of wares, from coat hangers to various different types of arts and crafts. Generally it is advised not to buy anything here and if you do, make sure that your valuables, such as wallets and mobile phones, are out of sight.

When leaving your car parked anywhere it’s important to make sure that you take all valuables along with you. Anything you don’t want to take along, for example a pair of shoes or a jacket, you should only leave them behind in a covered boot.

Keeping important Documents safe and secure

It’s advisable to make copies of all important documents such as passports and drivers licenses. Photocopies ought to be left with relatives at home and copies should be taken with you and perhaps left in different pieces of luggage at your guest house. Most hotels and guesthouses in larger towns will also have either a safe in the bedrooms or at the reception desk.

Keeping your belongings safe and secure while exploring

While you are sightseeing in South Africa during the day it is important to think about what you will carry your belongings around in. Handbags are not advised as are generally easy to snatch off the shoulder, or pickpocket. Although useful, rucksack pockets are easily accessible and make for easy targets. Decent sized side-satchels are generally the better bag to have with you as they’re not so easy to get into without you noticing. It’s a good idea to make sure that you can see your bag or have across your shoulders while sat in public areas. It is always advisable to leave your valuables in a secure place at your guesthouse (most will provide a safe), and only take as much cash out with you as you will need on the day.

Lastly, do not let fears about safety stop you from planning a trip to South Africa, follow these simple tips and have a great time!

Oil lanterns in Kruger. Garden Route adventure trails. Sleep in beehive huts and bush chalets. We’ll help you build your very own South Africa adventure with South Africa Travel Plan.   ‘Like this? Read more travel tips and tales at www.rickshawtravel.co.uk/blog/’

National Parks in Morocco

Mount Toubkal, Cr-wikipedia

Mount Toubkal, Cr-wikipedia

Due to a significant loss of habitat, plant and animal species started to disappear so the Moroccan government created their first national park. In 1942, Toubkal, in the Atlas Mountains became the first of Morocco’s national parks. Souss-Massa National Park, created in 1991, is Morocco’s most recent addition.

Creating these National Parks in Morocco has worked well in protecting the native plant and wildlife species and has prevented the extinction of the Bald Ibis, Barbary macaque, African marsh owl and the Spanish festoon butterfly. Only 0.01% of Morocco’s land is currently protected territory at the moment. However, there are plans to establish other national parks in the Moroccan Sahara desert and Atlas Mountains in the next few years.

Mount Toubkal-There’s more to Morocco than Marrakesh

Toubkal National Park is 70km (43 miles) away from Marrakesh and it is a must-visit destination for any wildlife enthusiasts on their Morocco holiday. The park is in the High Atlas Mountain range and it covers an area of 380km (939 acres). Jbel Toubkal is the highest peak of the park at 4,167 metres (13,671 feet).

The park is an ideal place for nature lovers, hikers and a families and is one of the most visited tourist attractions near Marrakesh. The park is easily accessible from any part of Marrakesh as you can rent a car or get a local driver to take you there.

Inside the national park, there are some of the most spectacular sights and you can also go on one of the adventurous treks offered. If you have the kids with you, make sure beforehand the hike won’t be too arduous for them. If you have some time, take the opportunity to visit the biggest village in the region, Imlil. There are quite a few villages of varying sizes in the valley of Ait Mizane, where the national park is located.

If you would like to gain some insight into Morocco’s rural life,then a walk to the villages will offer you the chance to do just that.

Imlil is the starting point of the long trekking route to the villages. Imlil has modern facilities and there is also a car park in the village centre. You’ll find the basic necessities in the region’s villages– eating outlets, cafes and other shops. Imlil is the centre of mountain tourism in Morocco due to its unique position. From here, 90% of visitors head up to Toubkal, the highest mountain in Morocco. Imlil,  the end of a tarmac road, is a good place to hire mountain guides and mules for the onward trek. Imlil was created to cater for the large numbers of tourists pouring through, en route to Toubkal.

The best time to visit the Toubkal National Park is during the spring. Many visitors come to the national park during this season due in part to the cooler weather and to view the blossoming trees, making it the perfect  setting for photos and scenic walks to the highest point. The Toubkal National Park should be avoided in the summer months as it can be very hot. The park is inaccessible in the winter as the roads are covered in snow. However, May onwards, the ascent to Mount Toubkal is relatively easy but be cautious to avoid altitude sickness. If climbing up Mount Toubkal, bring sturdy, broken in hiking boots and wind resistant clothing. Trekking poles can also be useful when climbing the summit. It is possible to climb the mountain in two or three days first stopping at the refuge of Toubkal, then on the second day reaching the summit and then going back down to Imlil.

Souss-Massa National Park

The Souss-Massa National Park is located near Agadir. There are many national parks in Morocco but the Souss-Massa has the most spectacular variety of bird species found in Morocco. The Moroccan authorities are taking various steps to protect the habitat and the wildlife of the park.

The Souss Massa National Park is extremely beautiful and is a great destination while travelling in Morocco. It has a diverse terrain that ranges from rocky cliffs and fields to dense forests and endless beaches. The park is well known for its extensive range of migrating birds and bird species. Avid bird watchers flock here. Visitors to the park can look forward to seeing Booted Eagles, Spoonbills, Great Spotted Cuckoos, Purple Herons, Swallows, Bee-eaters, Barbary Falcons, Marbled Ducks, Hoopoes and Ruddy Shelducks just to name a few of the 275 species of birds known to inhabit the park.

The birds share their stunning surrounding with other animals including the African Wild Cat, Leopard Lizards, Weasels, Red Fox, the Jackal, the Algerian Hedgehog and also a wide range of rare amphibians and reptiles.

The main reason tourists make the stop at Souss-Massa on their Morocco tour is because they are hoping to see the Northern Bald Ibis. The Souss Massa National Park is one of only two parks that are home to the endangered, Northern Bald Ibis. The number of this species has been so dramatically reduced in recent years that there are believed to be only 100 breeding pairs remaining – of which 75 are located in the Souss Massa. Ten years ago, the park was home to 33 breeding pairs but due to major conservation and breeding program put in place by the Moroccan government, the numbers have doubled. You can visit the park year round but November is a particularly good month for exploring the coastal wetland sites as the winter migrants arrive. March to May is the best time to see a wide range of migrants and residents. For more inspiration and help building your perfect trip to Morocco, visit: www.moroccotravelplan.co.uk

Author: Sophia Fadil, Morocco Travel Specialist at Morocco Travel Plan. ‘Like this? Read more travel tips and tales at http://www.rickshawtravel.co.uk/blog/

Fast Facts for Provence – France

Lavender Field in Provence

Lavender Field in Provence

All you need to know about holidaying in Provence – from its eponymous lavender fields and historic market towns, to the cultural delights of Aix-En-Provence (where Cezanne came from) and Marseille, the Western regions of Provence offer a calming retreat from the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera in the South.

Climate Provence usually enjoys hot Mediterranean summers lasting from May until August, with temperatures averaging 21°C in July and 6°C in winter. The warmest weather occurs on the coast (Marseille hits 29°C in July) and swimming in the sea can often be enjoyed as late as October. However, it becomes particularly cold in Arles, Avignon, Orange and Marseille when a strong, icy wind called Le Mistral blows down from the Alps and through the Rhône valley. This usually happens during winter and spring, resulting in strong gusts of wind and a noticeable drop in temperatures for a period of 3-9 days. Autumn sometimes sees flash floods created by sudden storms, while the high mountains usually have snow from November to March.

Currency The official currency in France is the euro (€). One euro equals 100 centime coins. At the current exchange rate: £1 = € 1.16 $1 = € 0.81

Language French

Voltage Guide: 220V, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs.

Country Dialling Code: +33

Regional Dialling Code: 04

Visa Requirements EU citizens require a valid passport for a stay of up to three months. Non-EU citizens require a visa, except USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand citizens. Tourists intending to stay in France longer than 90 days need to apply for a residence permit (Carte de séjour) at a local town hall (Mairie) or departmental Préfecture.

Vaccinations None required.

Tipping By law a service charge of 10-15% is included in all restaurant bills. In addition to this it is customary to leave a tip of 10% if you are pleased with the service. Taxi drivers expect a tip of around 10% while hotel porters, doormen, hairdressers and tour guides usually receive €1 – €2 for their service. Public Holidays 1 January: New Year’s Day 6 January: Epiphany Good Friday (varies) Easter Monday (varies) Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) 1 May: Labour Day 8 May: Victory Day 12 May: Whit Monday 14 July:
Bastille Day 15 August: Assumption Day 1 November: All Saint’s Day 11 November: Armistice Day 25 December: Christmas Day

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel. See also: Fast Facts for the Cote d’Azur.

Get To Know Borneo’s Indigenous Population

borneo, Credit- minnpost.com

borneo, Credit- minnpost.com

Exploring Malaysia’s Tribal Traditions In Sarawak’s Cultural Village

Sarawak’s Cultural village provides an excellent opportunity to learn a little about Borneo’s rich cultural diversity and many tribal traditions.Many guides describe the Cultural Village as ‘a living museum,’ a term which can seem slightly misleading at first. There are no permanent inhabitants of the village; instead, tribes-people are paid to greet guests and demonstrate cultural dances and skills in the excellent recreations of their traditional houses, purpose-built on site.

At 60 Ringgit per adult for entry, it is not one of the cheapest attractions on offer in and around Kuching; in fact, it is probably one of the most expensive. However, as it is situated several miles out of town, a shuttle bus can easily be arranged to transport tourists to and from Kuching, for a minimal extra cost. It is also the site of Sarawak’s famous annual Rainforest Music festival.

Sarawak Has a Diverse Population

Sarawak’s population is perhaps one of the most eclectic and diverse of all the Malaysian states. It may come as a surprise to learn that ethnic Malays are not the majority in this state, with the Iban making up almost one third of the state’s population and the Chinese making up another third. Other tribal or ethnic groups represented at the Cultural Village are the Bidayuh people, the nomadic Penan tribe, Orang Ulu, (or river-dwellers,) and the Melanau people, who traditionally live in ‘tall’ houses built several meters off the ground. In total, there are seven different houses to visit, all of which can be read about and recorded in the ‘passport’ supplied on entry.

An Iban Longhouse

While in Malaysian Borneo or Brunei, it is very easy to arrange a trip to see a ‘real’ longhouse, one that is actually a home for several families. However, the cultural village models allow visitors to see what a longhouse might have looked like before the advent of electricity and other modern luxuries, as well as the chance to see traditional crafts such as cooking and weaving on display. There are plenty of photo opportunities and the tribal hosts are very obliging when it comes to answering questions and explaining their customs. There are also some ‘genuine’ shrunken human heads on display inside the longhouse, not for the faint hearted!

Blowpipes, Sword-making and Cultural Dances

Many traditional crafts and practices are also on display in the Cultural Village, some of which can even be tried out by tourists as they walk around. A sword-making area is on display next to the Orang Ulu longhouse, and a Sago processing hut can be viewed behind the Melanau Tall House. Visitors to the Penan temporary shelter, (temporary due to the nomadic nature of the Penan people,) can even try their hand at using a blowpipe, traditionally used to hunt animals. An excellent way to finish the day is by visiting one of twice daily performances situated in the on-site theatre, all included in the ticket price. Some elements of this are a little on the touristy side, but on the whole, the show is great family entertainment, made even more interesting by the anecdotal explanations behind each dance noted in the village ‘passport.’

Fast Facts for the Cote d’Azur

Cote D'Azur, Cr-Cote d’Azur

Cote D’Azur, Cr-Cote d’Azur

All you need to know about holidaying in the Cote d’Azur – from Italianate Menton in the east to the glitzy bay of St Tropez, taking in Monaco, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, St Raphael and everything in between. France’s Mediterranean coastline, the Cote d’Azur is the place to see and be seen… just think flaxen beaches, idyllic farmhouses and celebrity-studded festivals.

Climate The Cote d’Azur is famous for its Mediterranean-like climate and dry summers. Temperatures peak between July and August and can reach up to 40°C at midday. On average expect summer temperatures of 30°C or more and mild winters (10°C min). March-April and October-November bring heavy rainfall, though thunderstorms and showers often reach the coast in late August.

Currency The official currency in France is the euro (€). One euro equals 100 centime coins. At the current exchange rate:

£1 = € 1.15

$1 = € 0.70


Voltage Guide: 230V, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs.

Country Dialling Code: +33 (France) or +377 (Monaco)

Regional Dialling Code: +04

Visa Requirements
EU citizens require a valid passport for a stay of up to three months. Non-EU citizens require a visa, except USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand citizens. Tourists intending to stay in France longer than 90 days need to apply for a residence permit (Carte de séjour) at a local town hall (Mairie).

Vaccinations None required.

Tipping By law a service charge of 10-15% is included in all restaurant bills. In addition to this it is customary to leave an extra €2 tip on the table if you are pleased with the service. In bars and cafés it is acceptable to leave small change, while in taxis it is best to round up the bill to the nearest euro. Hotel porters, doormen, hairdressers and tour guides usually expect a customary tip of €1 – €2.

Public Holidays
1 January: New Year’s Day (Nouvel An)
Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
Ascension Day (Ascension) Thursday, 40 days after Easter
1 May: Labour Day (Fête du Travail)
8 May: Victory Day (Fête de la Libération)
14 July: Bastille Day (Quatorze Juillet)
15 August: Assumption Day (Fête de l’
1 November: All Saint’s Day (Toussaint)
11 November: Armistice Day (Fête de l’Armistice)
25 December: Christmas Day (Noël)

Useful links
French Riviera tourism

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel.

Warsaw for Children

City breaks with the kids need not be a chore. Warsaw has enough green parks, fascinating museums and activity centres to keep your little ones happy. Who knows, you may even be tempted to join in with the fun once in a while…

Dinosaurs, Puppets and Sport at the Palace of Culture and Science

Warsaw, cr-blog.solestruck.com

Warsaw, cr-blog.solestruck.com

At first glance, this imposing 1950s Stalinist monolith doesn’t look particularly child-friendly. However, don’t be deceived as Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science has plenty to keep both big and little kids entertained. Zip up to the viewing terrace on the 30th floor for dizzying views of Warsaw’s city centre. Next sate your inner Darwinist at the Museum of Evolution, where you can rejoice in the shadow of large-scale dinosaur skeletons and marvel at fossils recovered from the Gobi desert. Meanwhile, the ‘Youth Palace’ is a special treat for active kids. Its swimming pool often hosts youth sports tournaments, while the basketball courts by the entrance turn into an ice rink in the winter. Don’t miss out on checking in at the box office for information on Teatr Lalka’s repertoire, Warsaw’s most charming puppet theatre.

Animals, Boats and Rickshaws at Royal Lazienki Park

A stroll in Warsaw’s Royal Lazienki Park on a sunny day is enough to keep even the most fidgety of tots from grumbling. European red squirrels are the park’s most ubiquitous residents and both big and little kids have great fun feeding them. Peacocks show off their colourful plumes, while deer, ducks and swans also inhabit the park. When your little ones get tired of walking, you can relax with a boat ride on the lake or catch a rickshaw for a spin around the park. Don’t forget to stop by the lakeside cafe to cool off in the shade with delicious ice creams and milkshakes.

Warsaw’s Favourite Sweets and Chocolate at Wedel Cafe

Choco-holics indulge their sweet-tooth at Wedel Cafe, where Warsaw’s famous confectionary is sold. Located on Szpitalna Street, this pre-war chocolate salon caters well with a tempting selection of desserts, hot chocolates and sweets. Established in 1851, the Wedel brand is responsible for a range of child-friendly chocolate bars (or batony) such as Pierrot, Bajeczny and Pawelky – all household names in Poland. Ptasie Melczko are fluffy vanilla or chocolate mallows coated in plain chocolate and make for a unique gift to take back home.

Firetrucks, Trains and Cars at some of Warsaw’s finest museums

Rest assured, this top trio will convince your kids that museums are anything but boring. Little boys will love exploring the 150-year-old depot where the Museum of Fire Fighting stores its gleaming firetrucks, helmets and fire-fighting equipment. The Railway Museum houses a wide collection of engines, models and train sets, while the disused rail tracks outside the museum are the resting place for a number of handsome steam engines – and even an armoured train from WWII. Meanwhile, the Museum of Motor Vehicles is located in Otrebusy, just outside of Warsaw, and is the home of around 300 antique machines, including a US tractor from 1895 and several Syrenas, Warsaw’s iconic Communist-era car.

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel.

Winter In Wellington- New Zealand

 Wellington harbor

Wellington harbor

Vacationing in the middle of winter isn’t that fun. Cold weather is not the problem but gusty winds coming through the Cooks straight is the concern. There are few sunny days but it rains a lot. Some areas of Wellington get wet and muddy. The view of the ocean was spectacular and the bay area is breathtaking on the clear or sunny days.  Being told NZ has more boats than people every harbor we saw was packed with boats of every variety, a nautical dream.  The walk alone the Wellington harbor is full of energy  from the exercise enthusiasts, walkers, runners, bikers, to the young mothers and their kids enjoying the many wild birds singing to all who wish to enjoy their song. Although You don’t get to see a lot of tourists during this period, the locals are always friendly and willing to give great tips on places to eat or things to see and do.

The walk along the Harbor is always spectacular but the weather can be unpredictable you never know if you suddenly need to cover up to avoid some gusty winds but on a sunny day; it’s almost heaven on earth, a perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and take in view.

We stayed in Johnsonville, the outskirts of Wellington, 30min by train and 4h hike from downtown.  If you post an ad before you go you can almost always find a inexpensive hostel or flat in someone’s home that rents by the week, making your travel experience a bargain and with the great public transportation getting to wellington is never an inconvenience. The hike from Johnsonville to Wellington via the Northern walkway is something you need to experience, it you feel you are ready for a challenge. It takes a little over 2 hours, but winds all over, from the top of hills, to walks through towns, at points you are even hanging over the edge looking at the shore.  There are hundreds of hikes I could recommend but its worth it to stop by the visitors center where there are hundreds of free maps of the best walks in and around Wellington and the staff is always helpful on which train to take to get to each one. Just a reminder If it rains, the trails can  be muddy and slippery and many of the trails are used by cattle and sheep, they can be a little intimidating if they outnumber your group three to one. Many trails are long, and have steep stairs and not all are well maintained, always take plenty of snakes and water, you may be on a longer hike then you planned on, I remember we went on one trail that was suppose to take about three hours, we got mixed up and took the wrong trail and ended up walking almost eight hours, we have never been so happy we had taken extra food and a large thermos of coffee.

Wellington is rich in history and so much to see.  Almost everything is free, museums, botanical gardens and art galleries.  The Te Papa museum is a must see, it is the best way to get to know the history of New Zealand.  On the 3rd floor, there is a nice lounge you can enjoy fresh prepared  food or a cup of coffee looking at the harbor.

The botanical gardens are free as well but is built on a hill and has long walks that take up about the city, if you have the energy to take this long challenging climb you will be rewarded with one of the best views of the wellington harbor.  On the walk you will be rewarded with the many gardens such as the famous rose garden and the tropical flowers and plants section. Some days it rained pretty hard, making it nice to just find a quiet café to sit and enjoy. The umbrellas aren’t any help due to the strong wind. You don’t carry one in Wellington. It’s the Windy city in the southern hemisphere.

Take the ferry to the Sommes Island. Its a small island where they used to capture prisoners from the world war II.
They don’t allow anything coming to the island from anywhere because it’s a preserved island with its own echo system and its own animals and plants. So, avoid bringing any food and other stuff that might harm the inhabitants. The boat ride is very nice and it takes about 15mn to get there. It’s cold on the deck  because of the wind but if you are brave enough, you get to see a nice view.

The suburbs of wellington are far away and sometimes, not interesting. The Days bay is a must see and especially if you are an avid hiker. You would enjoy the fantastic hikes off the boat. Don’t forget to collect fantastic sea glasses on the beach. It’s one of the beaches around the world where you find great sea glasses. You might have to push the seagulls and the oyster-crackers looking for food on the beach.

If you are in town, go see the Catherine de Mansfield Birthplace, the famous author and writer who died young just for N$20. The zoo is a must visit place and you will save money just by keeping your bus ticket. Show it to the counter and you will get a discount. You will admire few animals such as Kiwi, Tui bird.

If you are looking for internet, good luck, there are few places but its  expensive and its rare to find WIFI or hotspots to connect. Few Starbucks have them but it cost us N$4 per hour. So, it might be hard to stay connected while you are in Wellington.

If you want to stay in a cool place, try the backpackers, its cheap, clean and located in the heart of downtown near the Central train station. Renting a car might cost you money but if you can drive on the left side of the road. It would be N$80 a day with insurance and I recommend taking it if you have difficulties driving on the other side.

Spotting Proboscis Monkeys In Borneo

Proboscis Monkeys, cr-adventures.com.sg

Proboscis Monkeys, cr-adventures.com.sg

Macaques, Monitor Lizards And More in The Brunei Rainforest

Spot some of this threatened species and other wildlife unique to the island of Borneo in the quiet sultanate of Brunei. Proboscis monkeys are rarely described as beautiful. Their prominent, pendulous noses distinguish them from other types of monkeys, and they are often overlooked by visitors to Borneo in favour of their more famous and more attractive relations, the orang-utan.

In fact, the country and city where there is the most chance of spotting these distinctive creatures, Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, is also often overlooked by tourists, as most visitors to Borneo hurry eastwards towards the Malaysian state of Sabah, in search of more well-known animal inhabitants of Borneo, Pygmy Elephants and Orang-utans.

Brunei – Home Of The Proboscis Monkey.

This slightly unusual looking primate is endemic to the banks of the Brunei River that snakes lazily through Brunei’s capital city, and is one of Borneo’s many wildlife treats that should not be overlooked. It is not widely known that Brunei has the world’s largest population of Proboscis monkeys and an easy and cheap way to spot these delightful creatures is by taking an early evening boat ride down the Brunei River.

Brunei is a tiny country, so it does not take more than a couple of days to check out the sights that Bandar Seri Begawan has to offer. In the centre of town, book one of the local boatmen to take the trip downriver, as this will be much cheaper than trying to organize a similar trip through a tourist agency. It is easy and quick to organize, and the trip should not come to much more than 10 Brunei dollars per person, (around 7 or 8 USD.)

Kampong Ayer – Brunei’s Water Village

Boats will usually set off from the centre of town, opposite Yayasan Shopping Centre and close to the impressive Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque that dominates Bandar Seri Begawan’s tiny city centre. The trip always includes a brief tour around Kampong Ayer, Brunei’s famous water village, and can sometimes include a look inside one of the village’s typical houses as well, upon request.

The water village itself is a maze of wooden boards and seemingly ramshackle houses, a surprising number of which boast satellite dishes attached to the outside and other evidence of all the mod-cons not usually associated with a water village. The village also has all their own amenities such as several schools, a fire station – manned of course by boats, a police station and restaurants.

Wildlife Spotting On The Brunei River

After the tour around the water village, the boat will head south in the direction of the Malaysian border, past the Sultan’s place and into the thick mangrove tree-lined river that a large number of Proboscis monkeys call their home.

The boat drivers are well trained to spot any animal movement in the trees or pick out even the smallest glimpse of scales resting on the river banks – crocodiles, monitor lizards and snakes can all be spotted easily along the river as well. The engine goes quiet, and the boat driver guides the boat silently into a nook hidden between the mangrove trees until some tell-tale rustling leaves give away a hiding place.

Although animal sighting cannot be guaranteed on most wildlife spotting tours, it is extremely likely that proboscis and macaque monkeys will be spotted along the river banks, and more often than not, a large monitor lizard will be pointed out perched ominously over the roof of the boat on a low hanging branch.

An easy and affordable way to spot some of Borneo’s wildlife away from the large tourist crowds.