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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Top 3 Tips for Fresh Holidays with a Conscience

If you're anything like me, you go on holiday to have a good time, not to save the world. But, be honest, wouldn't you like to know your break could be about giving, not just taking? 
Here's my top tips on what's new for holidaying with a tinge of conscience...

1. Tanzania


Situated on the relatively undiscovered southern Tanzania coastline, just 35km south of Dar es Salaam, Ras Kutani is a unique boutique beach retreat, which sits within 100 acres of lush tropical, coastal forest. As much of Tanzania’s coastline has suffered from heavy deforestation, this truly is a hidden gem which offers a rare opportunity to explore one of the most bio-diverse indigenous coastal forests in East Africa. 

Thanks to owner and keen conservationist, Charles Dobie, this idyllic forest has been saved, cultivated and is now continuously patrolled in order to protect it and retain its natural beauty.  The forest boasts 132 different species of trees, including mango trees (famous for their spectacular fruit) and the Marula tree (prized for its rich bounty of fruit, and the oil from the kernel, which is used to make moisturizer).  Guests can enjoy watching the antics of four species of monkey, including the spectacular black-and-white colobus, as well as many species of birds, baboons, wild pigs, the elusive Civet Cats and other wildlife.

Africa Odyssey  is offering a seven-night break during the turtle’s hatching season from £1,907 ($3005) per person - a saving of £183 ($288 ) Valid for selected dates throughout February, the price includes return flights from Dublin (via Heathrow), internal transfers, accommodation at Ras Kutani on a full-board basis, taxes and surcharges. Complimentary snorkelling equipment, kayaks and boogie boards are available for those that wish to venture from their hammock or beach bed.

2. Grand Canyon, USA

Grand Canyon Tour and Travel have launched a new range of tours they’re calling VIP Spirit. At the heart of VIP Spirit concept are their top of the line Mercedes Benz Sprinter Vehicles. As the company’s Mike Rancilio told me, 

“we chose the Mercedes Benz Sprinter for reliability and comfort but, most of all their BlueTEC Clean Diesel technology. BlueTEC is one of the cleanest automotive options on Earth. It is at the forefront of minimizing emissions and creating a smaller environmental footprint and, operating as we do, primarily in our world famous National Parks, that is critical to how we want to be working in the future”

The luxurious version of the BlueTEC Mercedes Benz Sprinter features tandem wheel suspension adding to both safety and a smoother ride. Even more obvious to the customer are the company’s upgrades including extra large picture windows, flat screen TVs, surround sound, upgraded seating, limousine lighting and the indulgence of sharing the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam experience in the intimacy of a vehicle with as few as twelve seats.

3. Germany

Environmental charity BTCV is running a conservation holiday in the enchanted Harz National Park in Germany this summer. Holidaymakers will be carrying out practical work to conserve the forest’s wild beauty.

Based in foothills near Bad Harzburg, the conservation teams will be working within the park and will have the opportunity to really get a real feel for the majesty and beauty of the place. The Harz National Park stretches from the low mountain range near Herzberg in the southern part of the mountains, across the Harz massif to its northern slopes near Bad Harzburg and Ilsenburg. It offers the entire range of characteristic ecological systems, variations in height, slopes and rocks.

Much of the practical work carried out in the park relates to either restoration of natural habitats and maintenance of traditionally managed habitats, or ‘visitor management’ to ensure people can enjoy appreciate and learn from nature whilst having the minimum negative impact on it. During the eight day break visitors will learn meadow mowing,
hay-making how to repair footpaths, bridges and signs.

Accommodation is at the Jugendwaldheim Brunnenbachsmühle – a huge and comfortable outdoor centre near Braunlage at the northern end of the park.

A continental breakfast and packed lunch will be prepared for guests, with dinner self-catered as a group. The holiday takes place July 14 to 22 and costs £390 ($615) excluding travel.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Since science these days is cool in school, I'm inspired by Explorers Astronomy Tours’ brand new selection of family-focused galactic getaways.

Right up my street, the tour company want to encourage families to see and do something spectacular on their travels. It's a welcome break from the standard fly and flop fortnight at another predictable resort.

Their holidays take in both the northern lights and desert stargazing. All tours are accompanied by Explorers’ resident Galactic Rangers who provide their expert insight into the celestial activity.

As well as increasing the number of departures for its sell-out tour to the sought-after aurora borealis, Explorers has introduced a 5-day family-only Northern Lights holiday, departing February.

David Phillips, Operations & Planning Manager at Explorers, told me:
“With northern light forecasts continuing to suggest that the next couple of years will provide prime viewing conditions, it’s wonderful to see how this natural phenomenon has captured the nations’ imagination... the sky’s the limit’ perfectly sums up the potential for incorporating astronomy into year-round adventure holidays all across the world. Whilst this November’s Total Solar Eclipse in Australia is sure to prove another ‘must-see’ experience, we’ve also introduced new 2012 stargazing trips that take advantage of the wonderful desert skies of destinations such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco.”

Here's a preview of what's on offer...

Glaciers, Geysers & Northern Lights – Astronomy Kids 5 days from £1,099 ($1,724) adult & £1,039 ($1,630) child - For the first time, families can now explore the rugged beauty of Iceland and watch the Icelandic skies come alive at night with an astronomy expert on-hand to guide them through the light display. For children aged eight and above, the tour will take families away from pollution zones to get a good view of the phenomenon. Departures 14 February 2012 & 12 February 2013

Turkey Adventure & Astronomy 8 days from £1,429 ($2,242) pp - Taking advantage of the new moon, families will camp under the stars and watch the sky come alive as educational planetarium shows entertain and educate families with children aged 12 upwards. The clear skies of Cappadocia and its surreal scenery will allow holidaymakers to view the planets and constellations in a whole new light. Departures 21 July 2012 & 7 August 2013.

Sinai Desert & Stars 8 days from £1,069 ($1,677) pp - Incorporating a desert jeep safari, families will be whisked off on an Egyptian adventure which combines all the action of the desert with the wow factor of the stars, planets and Perseids meteor shower. During the holiday, families will be treated to two nights of stargazing hosted by resident ‘Galactic Ranger’ and acclaimed astronomer Dr John Mason. Minimum age 12. Departures 11 August 2012 & 28 July 2013.

Petra & Desert Sky at Night 7 days from £1,429 ($2,242) pp - For an experience to capture the essence of the Wadi Rum desert, families will experience life in a Bedouin Camp before sleeping under a blanket of stars. The private use of a 16-inch telescope will give children an even closer look at the constellations and the Milky Way, providing them with an unforgettable hands-on learning experience. Other highlights include exploring the lost world of Petra, floating in the Dead Sea and a 4WD desert adventure. Departures 17 August 2012 & 24 August 2013.

To find out more visit Explorers at www.astronomytours.co.uk

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Despite feeling a decided pinch, the New Year is typically a time we start making holiday plans for the year ahead.

With less money in our wallets this year, I'm keeping an eye out for the best value vacations around...

First up, Citalia, a leading Italian holiday specialist with over 80 years of experience, who just announced their widely awaited January sale. Throughout Italy, Citalia offers an unrivalled level of knowledge and expertise with a genuine passion for the country and the holidays it offers - whether it's a family holiday by the coast, an iconic city break or a multi-centre adventure.

Featuring a collection of exclusive offers - combining the very best of Italy - its biggest saving is a phenomenal $4178 (£2700) per couple in a five star hotel in the beautiful area of Puglia. Three-night breaks start from just $292 (£189) whilst other offers for the January sale include free nights, board and room upgrades, early booking discounts, free child places, savings of up to 40% as well as exclusive savings few tour operator can match.

PLUS, a guaranteed discount of $310 (£200) is on offer for all new packages booked by 31st January 2012 with a minimum stay of 11-nights. Bookings of seven-nights will be entitled to a discount of $232 (£150) per booking, whilst even three-night breaks will have a $155 (£100) discount per booking. Discounts apply to all holidays up to March 2013.

Love Culture?
A three-night package at the luxurious five star Ca’Sagredo in Venice is on offer from $440 (£285) per person with a saving of up to $573 (£370) per couple including a guaranteed room upgrade and free meal per person.

The Ca’Sagredo offers exquisite luxury in what has become a National Monument featuring artwork by some of the greatest Venetian painters. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick and bed and breakfast, based on departures 28th February 2012.

Love Lakes?
If like George Clooney it’s the picturesque backdrops, clear waters and natural spas that make Italy so appealing then the Italian Lakes are the perfect choice.
A seven-night package staying at the four star Hotel Olivi in Lake Garda is featured in the January sale with prices from $905 (£585) per person and a saving of up to $555 (£358) per couple.

Price includes seven-nights accommodation at the charming Hotel Olivi, return flights from London Gatwick and 100 Euro resort credit per booking. Based on departures 12th April 2012.

Love Coasts?
Italy’s picturesque, unspoilt coastline offers some of the most stunning scenery with areas like Portofino - that has become one of the world’s most exclusive, celebrity holiday resorts. For a luxury family holiday nestled within feet of the Puglian coastline is the five star Borgo Egnazia Golf and Spa Resort with savings of up to an enormous $4178 (£2700) per couple.

Prices start from $2675 (£1729) per person staying at the five star resort for 11-nights, including return flights and complimentary half board accommodation. Price and savings based on departures 17th July 2012.

Love Islands?
A seven-night package staying at the luxury five star Hotel San Domenico Palace in Sicily is full of charm with savings of up $1236 (£799) per couple.

Prices start from $1260 (£815) per person for a week’s long stay in the beautiful five star hotel in Taormina, including breakfast and two complimentary dinners. Price includes return flights and one free night included, based on departures 26th March 2012.

Love Exploring?
If Italy is your passion, but choice is the dilemma, Citalia features a wealth of multi-centres and flexible itineraries across Italy at great value for money.
From just $1345 (£869) per person Citalia try a ten-night package that takes in the magnificence of Rome with the charm of Sorrento. The package includes three-nights accommodation at the Hotel San Remo, Rome and seven-nights accommodation at the Imperial Hotel Tramontano, Sorrento.

The price includes return flights, transfers, bed and breakfast at both locations as well as an exclusive 20% discount offered to Citalia customers from the A La Carte menu at the Imperial Hotel Tramontano. A saving of $526 (£340) per couple is included, based on departures 25th April 2012.

For more information visit website www.citalia.com

But HURRY! Bookings must be made before 31st January 2012.