Sent by Rob Turner
Based in East Sussex
Hello and welcome! I’m Fiona, a mum of two and an avid traveller. My favourite holidays are those where I can be fully immersed in a totally different culture, where I can learn and grow from being there as well as relaxing with the family, having fun in a forest, on a road trip or building sand castles on a beach.
I’m originally from East Yorkshire, grew up in South Africa and landed back in the UK in 2011. I’ve worked in hospitality and travel for 20 years and there is nothing I love better than making sure travellers have the best possible authentic experience of a destination.
I encourage travellers to travel both responsibly and sustainably – this means choosing to have the least carbon impact as possible while also making sure that itineraries and activities have a positive impact on both wildlife, the environment and local communities.
We choose to support green leaf hotels – that is to say, those that have proven to be maximising social and economic benefits for the local community, enhancing cultural heritage, reducing negative impacts on the environment, and have effective sustainability planning.
For each booking made I contribute towards a tree being planted and can now offer my clients the option to plant their own trees to offset their carbon impact from their travels.
Now, you might be wondering where in the world my travel experience lies? Having travelled far and wide and with local travel partners across the globe, I’m happy to say that I can design itineraries for pretty much anywhere. Some of my favourite destinations include: Japan, China, Vietnam, Borneo, Jordan, Morocco, Iceland, South Africa, Namibia, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Bolivia, to name just a few!
With the power and knowledge of the Travel Counsellor community behind every booking and our independent Financial Protection and ATOL licence, you can rest assured that an itinerary will be designed just for you with the best advice and protection that you can get. My hours are flexible too, so why not get in touch, we’ll soon have your bags packed and you ready to set off on your adventures – whether those take you to Scotland or New Zealand – the world is your oyster!
With independent access to thousands of travel suppliers around the world, I've got an eye for added value. Take a look through my latest selections below. But even if nothing particularly catches your eye - don't worry! Let's chat and I'll take the hassle away from tailoring a perfectly personalised holiday just for you.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
02 November 2021
It's been an incredibly difficult couple of years for so many reasons for absolutely everyone. Now that we're starting to unfurl from this COVID Cocoon, it's time to start thinking about where we're ready to explore. Whether you're keen to explore overseas once more or perhaps you want to stay closer to home, there are so many options open to us now for 2022. Here are just a handful of the experiences you could be looking forward to in the first half of next year. • January: The Beautiful Cape January is one of my favourite months to visit Cape Town. It's quieter after the festive season and the summer temperatures are ideal for thawing out during the winter months of the northern hemisphere. The wine route truly comes into its own in their summer and you'll often find that there a so many different events to attend, you'll have a hard time choosing which to go to. Grab a Cape Town city pass to experience all that the city has to offer, and from just under £20 a day makes it a must have for any visitor. You'll get to experience Table Mountain, Hop on Hop off bus tours, gin tasting and wine tasting experience, entrance to the Cape Wheel and so much more. You don't need an excuse to head to Cape Town because it has something for everyone: couples, honeymooners, friends, families, special interest groups. • February: Adventures in Iceland One of my most popular destinations in the last couple of years has been Iceland. It's a destination that I've been fascinated by myself for years and there's a great opportunity to join me out there next year. In February 2022, I'll be heading out, with my friend and colleague Lesley, to Iceland with a small group of travellers keen to experience all the main highlights on offer. Not only will we be heading out in search of the dancing Northern Lights, we will explore the famous Golden Circle by super jeep, snowmobiling on the Langjökull glacier and we'll have a day dedicated to the typical Icelandic pass time of relaxing in a geothermal spa. We will have a day dedicated to relaxing and soaking up the minerals of the iconic Blue Lagoon. The tour in Iceland starts from £990 per adult sharing, it's an adults only tour and flights can be added on to create a whole package for you, just pop me an email for more details. • March: So Sri Lanka A destination that packs a big punch in a relatively small package. It's a good all rounder encompassing history, culture, natural beauty, wildlife, stunning beaches and the tastiest of food. If you're going there then you have to be sure to make the most of your time and March is an excellent month for usually getting the right temperatures and climate island wide. Exploring this gem of an island means taking in the highlights of the cultural triangle, visiting at least one or two of the national parks, taking an unforgettable train ride through the tea plantations and at some point during your trip enjoying some down time at one of the many coastal destinations, each with their own features and reasons for choosing the location. • April: The Magic of Cuba Cuba is a truly unique destination and what an experience it is to tour Havana in a classic car, delight in rum-cocktails, head out into the Jungles and countryside and even better to soak up the relaxation of a truly heavenly beach. April is part of the dry season where temperatures are hot but not too humid and there is less rain expected at this time of year. This makes hiking in the mountains and horse riding in Las Terrazas more safe and then of course there’s all the water sports. Cuba has become a popular destination for travellers to the Caribbean, so my top tip for those who want to soak up the sun but want to experience the less touristy side of Cuba then head east to Baracoa with its black sand beach. For the bird and nature lovers, you should plan to explore Zapata, get to experience the tobacco fields of Vinales and for cultural attractions make sure you explore old Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos. • May: Oh Canada! Springtime is my favourite time of year and in Canada you’re going to love it too! Temperatures are mild so layers are key – especially if you head to destinations such as Banff. It’s shoulder season too, so prices tend to be easier on the wallet. If you’re more of a city loved then perhaps consider exploring Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto in the east before heading west to Vancouver and Victoria. If you’re keen to get into the great the outdoors then Canada is definitely your destination – with Banff and Jasper National Parks as the jewels in the country’s crown, you’ll find adventure around every corner. One of the more popular ways to traverse the Rockies is by train and you don’t get more special than an experience on the Rocky Mountaineer. With fascinating wildlife, pristine scenery, historical sites, mouth-watering seafood and so much more – Canada should definitely be on your go to holiday adventure list. • June: Andean Trails, Lakes and Jungles Peru, one destination best enjoyed during its winter time. With sunny, drier and cooler winters, it’s a time of year when the Inca trail is open and whether you’re walking it or taking the train up to Machu Picchu, it’s an experience better enjoyed with the sun out. Try a pisco sour and ceviche in Lima, admire the colonial architecture of Arequipa, see the condors soaring high over the Colca Canyon, visit the world’s highest navigable lake in Puno, take the Andean explorer to the heart of the Incan Empire in Cusco and head into the Amazon Jungle for a wildlife experience you’ll not soon forget. For me, it’s a one-in-a-million destination, full of culture, fascinating history, natural beauty and plenty of adventure. Whether you’ve still got all of these destinations on your bucket list, or perhaps just one of them is left – it’s time to get planning and experience it all. Make sure to get in touch and we’ll soon have your ideal adventure planned and booked up for you to look forward to.
08 October 2020
Delve into the other-worldly attractions of this magnificent northern territory Iceland: The land of fire and ice is home to glaciers, geysers and volcanoes existing side by side. Did you know, it’s the only country in the world where you can actually go inside a volcano? It’s a popular destination for both short winter breaks and more extensive summer holidays and whenever you go there is plenty to see and do. Here is my guide to Iceland’s hottest attractions: 1. The Golden Circle This is Iceland’s top attraction and is pretty much on everyone’s must-do list when planning a holiday in Iceland. This one experience includes 3 major sites: Þingvellir National Park (tectonic plates), erupting geysers in Haukadalur and the Gullfoss waterfall. My top tip, if you can, is to give your Golden Circle experience a comfort upgrade opting to travel by Super Jeep. If you’ve got a taste for adventure, you can add on a snowmobile excursion on the Langjökull Glacier. 2. Geothermal Pools You can’t visit Iceland and not see one of its geothermal pools - man-made centres of leisure and relaxation in Icelandic culture. One of the best known is called the Blue Lagoon with its milky blue waters and silica mud which are thought to have healing properties. If you’re looking for a more natural, less pricey and less crowded experience, my top tip would be to head to the clear waters of the Secret Lagoon. The whole experience at the Secret Lagoon has a more natural feel to it, it doesn’t attract coach-loads of tourists yet and the whole experience feels more authentic. 3. Þríhnúkagígur Volcano This dormant volcano is the only one in the world that you can go inside and explore. Being a massive geography nerd myself, this is an experience not to be missed. The volcano hasn’t erupted for thousands of years now and on this tour of its magma chamber you’re welcomed into a completely new world of colour and texture. This trip is one for the summer months only, so May-October. You need to be a good walker as it’s just under an hour to hike each way before descending 120 metres to the crater floor. While on the tour you get to know all about the workings of this volcano and will be served with a traditional Icelandic meat soup (vegetarian option is also available). My top tip for this tour is to go prepared for the cold. It’s usually around 3 degrees Celsius inside the crater so pack your warm, rainproof clothing. It will be chilly! 4. Snorkel & Dive in Silfra This is your opportunity to see where two continents actually meet underwater! The Silfra fissure is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and actually cut through Iceland. The fissure is filled with clear glacial water that has been filtered by the earth through hardened, porous volcanic rock. Underwater you’re surrounded by the most colourful and mesmerising world that you would never get to see above water. This is something you can plan into your trip all year round as the water temperature is always pretty cold, so the appropriate gear would be included in your trip. 5. The Northern Lights Now, you can’t talk about Iceland and not include this natural phenomenon known as the Aurora Borealis. The lights are there all year round, but the best chance of seeing them is in the winter months when the nights are much longer (Late September – March is the traditional peak period). Top tip: To have a better experience of the lights dancing in the dark skies above, get away from the city. I recommend heading on a Northern Lights Cruise to see them from the water as the light pollution will be minimal and while on board you get to enjoy cosy drinks to keep you warm. The cruises will also offer you a free second tour if you don’t get to see the lights first time around. Bonus! 6. Ice Caves Iceland is dotted with seasonal ice caves, but there are those that exist all year round. This off the beaten track experience will take you to a quieter, more authentic side of Iceland. Found at the base of a volcano and within a glacier, this should be an experience on every adventurer’s must-do list when in Iceland. Inside you will see where the black ash has fallen from centuries of eruptions from the volcano above. The tour to the ice caves also takes in the spectacular landscape, a private black sand beach and waterfalls in the area. Definitely a tour for adventurous nature lovers. 7. SUPping in a hidden fjord This has to be the ultimate way to experience Iceland’s breath-taking scenery while being sure that you’re leaving as light a footprint on your surroundings as possible. Get 360 degree views as you paddle down the fjord on a stand up paddleboard. This is a chance to truly escape the noise, quieten the mind, breathe in the fresh air and just appreciate the serenity of your surroundings. Top tip: If you’ve never done this before and are worried about your fitness levels, the tours can be tailored to you, so don’t allow yourself to miss out on this experience. You’ll only be richer for gaining the experience. Iceland has so much to see and do, a short weekend trip will never allow you to take it all in. This is why I would always recommend visiting this island nation at least twice - once in the winter months and once in the summer months to really say that you’ve experienced it. I’d love to hear from you if you’re looking to create a truly personalised experience of Iceland, designed specifically for you. We’ll pick out the perfect excursions that could include these I’ve mentioned or many other truly Icelandic experiences.
20 August 2020
The last year has been full of ups and downs and just outright unfair situations, affecting us globally. But one positive I think we have gained is a sense of collective responsibility. If we all play our part, we can change outcomes. The same way it has worked for the health of ourselves, it can work for the health of our planet. For years I’ve worked with teams and organisations who at their core have total respect for the communities and environments they take travellers to. So, I wanted to share some of my top tips in travelling sustainably. 1. EXPLORE AT HOME At the moment many of us are forced to stick to local retreats, but I hope this will become an option that becomes an annual choice for travellers. There is so much to explore, right here in the UK. Staycations will always be the greenest travel option of all, especially if you opt for a car-free holiday. 2. TRAVEL IN LOW SEASON It’s not always possible, but if you can, choose to travel in low or shoulder seasons. Attractive places are always on the travel bucket list, but while the weather may be better, travelling at high season is not necessarily the best way to look after those areas. Overcrowding is one of the main causes of damage to areas of natural beauty and of historical significance. Travelling in low or shoulder seasons can be easier on the budget, help you avoid crowds and ensure the location remains in tact for future generations. It’s a win-win. 3. TRY ALTERNATIVE TRAVEL If it’s possible to choose an alternative to flying, then definitely try it. Travelling by train, bus or ship to your destination will leave a much smaller carbon footprint. And while you’re exploring on location you can choose to travel by local transport options such as coaches and trains, or even explore on foot or by bike. 4. PACK SUSTAINABLY As best you can, try to avoid plastic – especially the single-use kind. As part of your packing why not consider taking your water bottle with you to refill as you go. I use the Refill app to help me find where I’m able to refill my water bottle both at home and abroad. 5. BUY ECO-FRIENDLY TRAVEL PRODUCTS There are some destinations where you’ll definitely need bug repellent, and on most holidays, you’ll need some sort of sun protection. What we don’t always realise is the damage these sprays and sunscreens can do to the jungles we explore and reefs we snorkel over. The eco-friendly products aren’t necessarily budget friendly, but if budget isn’t too much of a concern then it’s good to support the environments you’re exploring by choosing the products that won’t cause damage. 6. RESPECT COMMUNITIES When many think about responsible and sustainable travel, the main focus is usually on the environment and the majestic wildlife. But equally as important is to travel with respect for the local communities and their customs. It’s worth remembering that we are the strangers in those distant lands and the local communities are not there for our amusement. Ask permission before taking someone’s photograph, take the time to engage by learning a few phrases from the local language, respect their dress codes and their way of doing life. I guarantee that you will get so much more from the holiday by putting these small gestures into practice. 7. STAY IN LOCALLY-RUN ABODES Be smart about where you choose to stay. If possible, book into guest houses, hotels and lodges that are respectful of the local community, help to build up the community and protect the environment in which the accommodation is built. Small, locally-run guest houses are always my favourite as you know that you’re going to get the most authentic experience and your holiday will go a small way towards supporting a local business and family. 8. AVOID ANIMAL TOURISM Whether it’s a tiger, an elephant or a monkey, wild animals are exactly that: wild. Many are put on show and photos are offered as a marketing tool or way of bringing in money for a zoo or wildlife park. Many of these animals have to be drugged for it to be a safe experience for the visitor and even then, there are no guarantees that the animals won’t be in a bad mood and not feel like being cuddled. If there is no demand for such experiences, the hope is that the practice in general will stop and animals can be left to be wild in nature reserves where they have the space and freedom to just be. 9. SHOP AND EAT INDEPENDENTLY Throughout my travels both near and far, the most fabulous shopping and eating experiences have been where a local guide has shown me around all the best local spots or where I’ve chosen to get away from the touristy areas and explore where the local communities live, shop and eat. There is no better recommendation for food than a restaurant that isn’t overrun with tourists! 10. LEAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT We can do more than just tidying up after ourselves, by leaving positive footprints. A good example of this could be picking up the litter we find on the beach. Whether you’re down at your local beach or lapping up the sun in a distant land, there is an opportunity for you to make a positive impact. This one is especially good when you have members of the younger generation with you: Grab a recyclable bag and pick up that litter. I remember visiting the BriBri tribe in Costa Rica and Panama where plastic bottles found in the river had been cleared out and used to build recycling receptacles. Ask at your accommodation whether there are any local projects that are seeking to protect their oceans, beaches, forests, rivers and local wildlife. Try and get involved for the day, and why not stay involved long after you return home? Travel shouldn’t be difficult - after all, holidays are meant to be relaxing, right? But planning and implementing one of these ideas during your holiday takes little effort and can make a difference. If everyone committed to just one change each holiday then there is a massive impact that can be made. More respect for one another, greater openness and acceptance and perhaps a healthier planet on which viruses like the Coronavirus will struggle to thrive.
18 June 2020
I write this at a time where we're advised not to travel abroad, to not hug our friends and extended family and definitely not to stay overnight anywhere. 2020 has brought with it many frustrations and much turmoil that none of us expected, but there is a hope at the end of this tunnel that will get brighter and brighter. We just need to hold on to some wonderful hopes and dreams to look forward to. For me, it's all about the adventure of a holiday - somewhere that I can completely escape my day to day routine. In the UK, it's likely that we'll be seeing the local hospitality industry opening up to us first so I thought I'd write about some of my all time favourite places that I love to go back to as well as some UK destinations that I'm yet to explore. A favourite place to visit for myself and my family is Whitby and the North Yorkshire Moors. This seaside town is famous for many things, its Abbey, its Kippers, Whitby Rock, Captain James Cook and for its bi-annual Goth festival which is fascinating to be a part of. It’s a celebration of all things Goth and alternative lifestyles. The town becomes a sea of people dressed up in fabulous outfits! There are plenty of options in and around Whitby for accommodation ranging from lodges to guest houses to hotels – something for everyone. It can be tricky to park in Whitby so my recommendation would be to stop in Pickering and take the North Yorkshire Moor railway into Whitby. That way you can indulge delicious fishy food and enjoy a pint or two as well. The steam train also affords you fabulous views over the countryside and you don’t need to concentrate on the road – a winner all round in my book! By road though you can explore further afield, enjoy a stop off at Robin Hood’s Bay of stretch your legs on the moors. The Norfolk Broads was a special part of a multi-stop holiday for myself and my family, many moons ago now. My parents and I spent the day stopping in at various villages and watering holes that my dad had great memories of as a young man living on his house boat back in the day. It was great to hear his stories and memories but even without those I think I would still have been enchanted by the area with its quaint villages and church spires that you can climb up and get panoramic views over the broads. Again, there are a multitude of accommodation options in forest lodges, comfy hotels and cosy cottages. What is really special though is to be able to rent a houseboat on the broads to navigate the area on the water. Next up are the Isles of Scilly. This unique part of the UK makes for the perfect retreat if you just need to get away from it all. Life runs at a slower pace here and you can choose whether your stay is going to be a peaceful retreat or a full on adventure. There are 5 islands that are inhabited with a further 140 islands in the archipelago that are purely home to wildlife and birds. You can take day trips out to these islands, plan daily walks, experience a low tide festival (when they return), explore the rugged coastline by kayak, Stand Up Paddleboarding, kite surfing or by boat. With the numerous artisans on the islands there is plenty of retail therapy to enjoy or, if you’re looking for a bit of a retreat, you can simply hide away with a book in a private nook or in a local cafe. Another fantastic place to escape to in the UK has to be Wales and my experience of what I know is a beautiful country has been 2 rugby games in Cardiff. Shocking, I know! I am looking forward to returning to Cardiff to enjoy the city beyond the stadium. Outside of the city, the Brecon Beacons National Park is a fantastic area to strap your walking boots on, spot wildlife or if you’re looking for a book you’re bound to find a copy in Hay-on-Wye with its many bookshops. You can rent a canoe on the river Wye, take a Whiskey tour at the Penderyn Distillery, visit the Chartist’s cave or enjoy a spot of stargazing at the ruins of Llantony Priory. There is so much to do in this part of Wales, it’s definitely worth a good week or more to experience as much as possible. The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides with 50 miles of rugged coastline to explore. The island is a fantastic place to spot wildlife, delve into the history of clan warfare and the Jacobite rebellion or enjoy one of the many walks in the area. Scotland is a part of our island that is truly steeped in folklore and one of the must-see places on Skye are the fairy pools. These crystal-clear pools at the bottom of the Black Cuillins are ideal for swimming in, just make sure you have a wet suit on as it won’t be warm! I've been watching a lot of Springwatch over this lock-down, and I think exploring home is something that I will be doing a lot more of, alongside those international holidays. We have a lot of beautiful spaces here in the UK, interesting towns and villages that are so worth exploring. From the Hebridean Islands to the Channel Islands, from Norfolk to Northern Ireland. The depth of history, culture and natural beauty we have right here at home is something we shouldn't be escaping from, but rather embracing and shouting about with pride. If you're thinking of a staycation this summer, why not let me plan it all for you and be safe in the confidence that your holiday is not only financially protected but also in the hands of a professional traveller who just wants you to have the most amazing time. I'll look forward to chatting with you soon!
30 December 2019
Travelling with a baby, where do I even start! Having become parents a little over a year ago Alex and I have stacked up the miles with our little one and so I wanted to share some top tips of things we have learned the hard way. I would like to start by admitting that Amelia is a seriously easy child and I fully acknowledge that no baby is the same. I hope these will be helpful hints for those of you who are new to the game. The passport - I write this in 2019 and currently getting a first UK passport for your little one is just ridiculously easy. If you’re a confident photographer and have everything you need to take a professional photo yourself you can literally get everything done and ordered through the UK’s government website within an hour - and it’s the photo shoot that will take up most of that time. Get it done and ordered at least 2-3 months in advance of travel and you’ll be sure to have your baby’s travel documents sorted in good time for check-in. It’s never too early to plan your baby packing - start making a list of items you’ll need 4-6 weeks in advance and this list will differ depending on where you are going: travel cot, pushchair, baby seat, blankets, baby food, nappies, toys, onesies and back up onesies. Every stage of a baby’s life is so different from the last – you’ll know what you need but just make sure that you have it all in advance to avoid the night before panic. There are shops where you’re going…unless you’re off to the moon. Do not stress if you have forgotten something (I am awful for this and it’s usually a hairbrush) – you’re parents and it’s okay that you’re forgetful. I promise, most countries in the world that you could possibly be taking your little one to will have shops. It might not always be Boots, M&S or Tesco but, as I constantly remind myself, there are families in that country too who have brought up their children successfully for many centuries…I am sure we will survive! The dreaded in-flight nappy change. Eeek! A bit of genius from a fellow TC helped us on our way...Create a nappy pack! Instead of taking the entire changing bag with me to the (lets face it) less than roomy toilet facilities on our Easyjet flight, we took just one small bag. For every journey I now pre-prepare 3-4 nappy bags (you will need more for longer trips) each with a couple of wipes and a nappy. Once you're through security, slip a mini Sudacrem into your jeans/jacket/shorts/skirt pocket. You'll be in an out of the bathroom quickly without the weight of a changing bag on our shoulders. Have distractions easily accessible that are friendly to those around you. Amelia loves watching videos of herself (#vainbaby) and she is a massive fan of Peppa Pig, even without volume. Myself, Alex and Grandma always make sure that we have Amelia videos easily accessible on our phones. Before our recent flight we also downloaded a good few episodes of Peppa Pig onto a tablet and had that in our hand luggage ready to have to hand particularly for take off and landing. The best part is that neither of these activities disturbed those around us. Get a feed in well before the journey. We had to learn this lesson at least 3 times before it has sunk in. An icky baby is the last thing you need to complicate an already stressful situation. Thankfully for us it has only ever happened really in the car but once was on the way to Dubrovnik airport so it does sort of count. If your child has ever shown signs of travel sickness, whatever you do, don’t fill their tummies with milk just before a journey. It could happen at any time though, so do make sure you have a change of clothing for your little one and at least a change of top for yourself. The last time this happened to me it was in a restaurant and Amelia was fine with a whole new outfit to wear. I wasn’t so thoughtful to myself and I regretted it! Toys and snacks for the journey and for the holiday. When your baby is interested in something you rejoice and think you’ve cracked it…and then 30 seconds later they’ve thrown it on the floor and suddenly need entertaining again. It’s imperative to have an activity plan of sorts so that you’re not stuck on the M25, on a plane or on a train without something for them to do. Amelia loves books, songs, toys that make noises and she loves snacking so we make sure she has all of these things for any journey. For settling Amelia at night in a strange room/cot I find that having her favourite toy is crucial – I am considering of getting a few more Iggle Piggles just in case the very worst happens! Baby carriers - Having a carrier or sling is so useful for taking a little one onto a flight. You can get the pram/stroller stowed easily by the airline from the boarding gate and still have your hands free carry the nappy bag and had over your boarding card/passport when asked for it. We love our baby carrier as it means Amelia is safe, she can see everything around her and if she needs a sleep she can do so easily. We now tend to drop the buggy at baggage drop and just carry her around the airport terminal very easily. Popping ears - If your little one isn’t a thumb sucker like ours is, then having a dummy or something they like to suck on will, hopefully, be your saving grace at take-off and landing. Hotel facilities - Prior to being a mum, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought too much about laundry facilities. On our family trip to Croatia I was so thankful for having an apartment with kitchen and washing machine. Access to a fridge for Amelia’s food to stay fresh, a microwave to heat up meals quickly for a hungry little lady and a washing machine to ensure we had as little laundry as possible to do on our return just made a whole world of difference. It was home from home and made for an easy first-time family holiday outside of the UK. We didn’t have a baby monitor with us but there are more and more resorts these days that have these available should you need them. Chargers and batteries at the ready - Lastly and most importantly, you’re going on holiday to make memories with your family. Make sure your selfie sticks, phone charging cables, camera batteries (and charger) are all packed. There will be plenty of moments to capture that you won’t want to forget. For us, it was Amelia’s very first attempt at walking independently caught on video. It’s one we’ll keep to embarrass her on her 21st birthday and a video Alex and I will be watching for many years to come.
19 August 2019
Back in 2007 I was living in Cape Town and was half-way through my final year at college, where I was training in all things travel and tourism. The opportunity came up to travel to Namibia with my family so instead of sitting in an exam room I headed out with my parents and aunt on a 3 week self-drive holiday that will remain in my memory forever. Actually, my memory is all I really have to rely on as there aren’t loads of photos left from that holiday but there are few to give you a taster of what you could experience. Firstly, some fab facts about Namibia. 1. It’s the safest country in Africa – comparable to the safety levels in Europe – so it’s super family friendly. 2. It’s one of only two countries in the world where you can see desert elephants. 3. The iconic Sossusvlei sand dunes are some of the highest in the world. 4. The largest population of free-roaming cheetahs make their home in Namibia. 5. It is also home to the largest population of free-roaming black rhinos. Deciding on where to go to in Nambia will depend very much on your main interests and how much time you have to spend there. For just under two weeks travel you would be able to do either a northern circular route or a southern circular route. To the north, your travel will be very much focused on landscapes and wildlife with visits to the Okonjima Nature Reserve, Palmwag and Etosha a must for the best of the best safari. Although Namibia’s population is relatively small, they still have 13 different ethnic groups. In Damaraland you can get to know more about the Damara tribe at the Damara Living Museum. More for those that are on a second visit to Nambia or those who just aren’t wildlife superfans - The south is all about spectacular landscapes. You should visit Fish River Canyon (the world’s second largest canyon), the swirling red sand dunes of Sossusvlei and the other worldly town of Swakopmund – a town with a very German touch to it nestles between the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the sandy dunes of the Namib. If, like my family, you have 3 weeks to spare then you could plan to see all of it! For weather and safari, the best time of year to go would be during our summer and Namibia’s winter. It’s drier and cooler so some layers for those early morning and night time safaris are a necessity. It is also possible to go over our winter months, January’s average rainfall is roughly 88mm and daytime temperatures on average can reach 35°C. The downpours are usually in the afternoon and it’s a very dry heat in Namibia so far more bearable than perhaps other destiantions. For me there are three of highlights that really stand from my Namibian holiday. Getting to see the Namib Desert Horses. During their winter months the climate and when we saw them it was evident that local farmers had helped them out with hay and water. No one is absolutely sure where these horses come from, they are the only known wild herd on the continent. Some think that they are descendants from riding and cavalry horses from the German settlers. While we were in Sossuvlei we got to stay just outside the park where we stayed in a luxury tented camp. As we enjoyed our BBQ you could hear the calls of the wild animals all around you. This might sound slightly scary but you’ll have to take it from me, it was truly magical. Then to get to head into the park the next day and experience the stark contrast of red rising dunes tower over white clay pans with the remains of long-dead trees jutting out almost in defiance of their fate. My final and most memorable experience has to be in Etosha. When we got to the park we found that our accommodations in the national park were being renovated, which meant we were blessed with a cheeky upgrade (don’t we all love those!) Our rondavel was a double storey building which meant that my aunt and I got to share the room with the view while we were there. On our first night we were both woken by the distinct grunting sound of a lion. We waited patiently on our balcony and low and behold a male lion sidled up to the watering hole in front of us. I think it’s the fact that you can hear and see and almost feel that the wildlife is all around you that made this trip so exciting for me. Namibia is also accessible to pretty much anyone who wants to adventure through this incredible country. You can join in groups, ramp up the adventure and self-drive through or perhaps you’re keen on seeing an aerial view of the country with a Fly Safari. There are many different facets to the country and ways of seeing it. If you’ve never been, it’s one country in the world you should definitely put on your holiday bucket list.
11 July 2019
Costa Rica has been a firm favourite for families, honeymooners, adventurers, for yoga retreats and even the fly and flop holidays for a good few years now. It’s no wonder since this stunning country has such a lot to offer. Pristine beaches, dense jungles, adrenaline pumping activities, fascinating wildlife and some of the most stunning hotels and lodges to relax in after a day of exploration. Here are some of my favourite parts of Costa Rica and why you should consider including these highlights in your travels there... Wildlife Costa Rica’s wildlife might not be lions, elephants and tigers, but it is still impressive wildlife. From Blue-Jean frogs to sloths to sea-turtles to colourful quetzals, there is so much to see and admire while on holiday in Costa Rica. Be sure to plan your holiday at the right time of year though as there will be better months to travel if there are specific birds, wildlife or sea life you’re keen to get a glimpse of. One of my favourite animals during my own travels must be the sloth, they have such gorgeous, loveable faces! Nature The landscapes of Costa Rica alone make this country an easy choice for a holiday. With towering volcanoes and dense jungles, sparkling sandy beaches and mystical cloud forests, there is something truly different everywhere you go in Costa Rica. I loved the jungles where everything from the tiniest frog to the largest crocodile to the loudest Howler monkey came together to offer an incredible experience. One of my favourite places on my own travels there was the Tortuguero Rainforest. Culture Holidays in Costa Rica are not particularly well known for their cultural aspect, but if you are keen to experience all sides of Costa Rica then spending time on the Caribbean Coast is just as important as soaking up the sunshine on the beaches of the Pacific. While in Costa Rica, I visited one of the few locally led initiatives creating sustainable opportunities within one of the minority tribes near the Caribbean coast. The project is led by the ladies of the community with the aim of creating jobs locally within the forest so that the children growing up don’t feel that they must leave to find a job. They also aim to educate visitors about their culture, looking after the forest environment and how they have used rubbish that they have found in the village, forest and river as craft materials. Food Costa Rica has such a wide variety of food and drink. If I was to be asked what foods remind me of the country, I’d probably have to say Gallo Pinto (regional chicken and rice dish), Tilapia (local fish), Chocolate and Coffee. That aside, if travelling with your family and needing to have access to food your children are more used to, then not to worry. You’ll find Japanese fusion food, Argentinian steak houses, Italian restaurants and much, much more. My favourite meal while on my travels in Costa Rica was in Santa Elena, Monteverde where my guide for the day took me to a small local cafe off the tourist track. I don't speak much Spanish, but with my guide's help I was able to enjoy a simple meal of tilapia and rice, which was absolutely delicious. Accommodation The variety of accommodation available in Costa Rica is vast, from simple traditional jungle huts to stunning tree top hideaways and much, much more. There is incredible diversity in the accommodation options that there really is something for everyone. What does join most of the properties in Costa Rica together, is their love for the environment and their people. Of any destination I have been to, Costa Rica is one that is on a positive path when it comes to both sustainable and responsible travel.
02 July 2019
They say opposites complement one another and that marriage is about give and take. Well, the first test for my husband and I was our honeymoon. Alex has grown up in the UK and has done a lot of travelling in Europe whereas I've been travelling here, there and everywhere since I was 18 months old. Alex's idea of a holiday is relaxing in one place for a week and mine is to do as much as possible with one, maybe two days at a push, at a beach with nothing to do except sit in a hammock with a book to demolish. Having decided on experiencing Borneo for this very special trip, our challenge was where to go and what to do. Since marriage is all about compromise, or so I'm told, our solution was to create a relaxation-adventure sandwich, which began with pristine turtle beaches and swinging Orangutans in Sandakan. Our trip began with pure relaxation on one of the islands just offshore from Sandakan where we ate as much seafood as possible, enjoyed a spot of snorkelling and released baby turtles to the sea...it was pure heaven, and much needed after that long flight. Sadly, these islands are off limits due to piracy in the area at the moment and do hope that one day the restrictions on them will be relaxed, but for now there are gorgeous escapes like Gaya island to experience that island life. With properties like Gaya Island Resort and Bunga Raya Island Resort and Spa, you are more than guaranteed a relaxing experience. I will admit that on this first beach stop I really needed the downtime and was very happy to relax (so unlike me). Any trip to Sandakan should always include a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation centre where the fun-filled, wise-faced "men of the forest" have found a sanctuary in a world that has carelessly destroyed their habitat. Their work here has been so successful with Orangutans now released back into the wild who we got to see with their babies on the next part of our trip - the Kinabatangan River. We zoomed up river on our boat with our fantastic guide to our rustic forest accommodation, the journey took a couple of hours and included a stop for lunch along the river bank (we enjoyed lots of Malaysian curries on this trip) and we were incredibly blessed to see a pigmy elephant and her baby! Over the next 2 days we saw 7 wild Orangutan, crocodiles, Proboscis monkeys, lots of different types of hornbill and all from the comfort of our boat. We were even serenaded by the staff over dinner and presented with a delicious chocolate cake to celebrate our honeymoon! I loved the rustic lodges and the fact that we could hear nature - Alex on the other hand had to sleep with earplugs as he was convinced that those sounds were pythons trying to get into our room! So, top tip...if you're venturing into the jungle and you like peace and quiet at night, make sure to pack your ear plugs. Our next adventure was to head even deeper into nature at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve which is where we found ourselves hiking to a vast mud volcano, swimming beneath waterfalls and getting to admire yet more incredible bird and wildlife. At the reserve we stayed in simple accommodation surrounded by the forest with a sparkling river and gentle waterfall flowing just below our cabin. The hikes we did here were definitely for those who do walking regularly, and we definitely needed plenty of insect repellent! During our time here we got to see another 5 Orangutan during our walks and game drives, most of which had come from the Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. Although he really didn't like the bugs, Alex's favourite animals, especially of the flying variety, were found in abundance here...Flying Squirrels. We sat and marvelled at the flying rodents gliding over our heads on a couple of occasions and I think that just about made up for the bugs. For me, I most loved watching a family of Gibbons play in the trees in the morning light with their haunting calls - it was a truly noisy yet magical moment. After four days of simple accommodation and aching limbs from the trekking, we then winged our way back to the coast, this time to Kota Kinabalu (or KK as it’s known locally). Here we stayed at a Resort located north of the main town. The hotel is surrounded by stunning beach and its own nature reserve! For this final leg of the trip we split our stay into relaxation and exploration. I always do a cooking class when I’m away somewhere new, so we headed off with our guide into KK’s local markets to buy spices and fish for our cooking class, which took place at a local family-run restaurant. We cooked up such a storm with lots of Malaysian veggies, chicken and prawns and got to sit and chat to the whole family, which was fascinating to hear more about daily life in Borneo. For the rest of our stay in KK we did just relax and unwind…Alex slept a lot beside the pool while I went for runs on the vast expanse of beach. The Rasa Ria is perfect for golfers, couples, honeymooners and it's definitely fantastic for families. Their calming treatment rooms were a perfect way to soothe the weary muscles and the cocktail bar was my little piece of colourful heaven. For Families they run a fantastic kids club and the children will even have their own pool with slides for the best fun while on holiday. Golfers will find an 18-hole championship golf course on site which welcomes both the seasoned player and the amateur. Borneo, a completely different world and one that, as we have seen on Judi Dench’s recent adventures, is so worth protecting and supporting for everyone’s sakes.
04 January 2020
I remember distinctly a feeling of both excitement and fear rising within me as I sat on an airplane somewhere between England and Asia, thinking…what am I doing! I had travelled many times before and on my own, but those trips had been to destinations and cultures I was familiar with. I had never been to Asia before and if I am very honest with myself, fear was just a little bit ahead of excitement for most of that flight to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Having read all about Vietnam, I had decided that I wanted to pack as much in as possible into the three weeks that I had there. I started in the north and had, weeks beforehand, decided that I was going to love the city for its street stalls, food and chaotic atmosphere. I was not disappointed! My adventures began in Hanoi’s French Quarter with my hotel close to the well-known Hoan Kiem Lake. I remembered the advice of all the travel guides I had read, and tips passed down from friends. I stepped out into a stupidly busy road and just kept walking. It happened like everyone said it would – ever single scooter, car, bus and lorry miraculously avoided me, and so it went for the rest of the holiday. In and around Hanoi there is so much to do and see. On my travels outside of the capital, I visited the beautiful mountains in SaPa, cycled through the villages, temples and paddy fields of Ninh Binh and sailed on a traditional junk boat in Halong Bay. In Hanoi itself I most loved walking around the old quarter sampling street food, chatting with local traders, walking around the peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake in the mornings and delighting at the works of master puppeteers at the Water Puppet Theatre. I spent 10 days in the north packing in as much as I possibly could before meandering south on an overnight local sleeper train to Danang. I made sure to enjoy a delicious meal before the journey and made sure my breakfast snacks were ready to hand for the next morning. I absolutely loved the 15 hour train ride south, more than I thought I would! It was just brilliant getting to chat with other travellers on the train, relax in my bunk to read my book and I got to sleep easily as the movement of the train lulled me to sleep. The Hai Van Pass was just as beautiful as it was on the Top Gear Special and even better as I got to stare out the window and marvel at the spectacular coastline and feat of engineering. Once in Danang I still had a short journey on to Hoi An, which lies south of the city. This magical ancient town is so worth a visit and can even be accessed directly from major hubs like Hong Kong and Singapore if you wanted a multi-destination holiday. With my ancient town ticket in hand at all times (I didn’t want to be caught without it) I headed out and explored this fabulous riverside town with its glowing lanterns at night, laid-back cafes, the ruins at My Son and I even went to cooking school for the day! The beach isn’t too shabby either and is a short distance to catch a taxi to if you’re staying in the town. The beach resorts here are gorgeous though, so if you have the budget I would highly recommend a stay here! On my next part of the trip I flew on to Ho Chi Minh city, formerly Saigon, from where I caught up with a group of like minded travellers up for an adventure on the Mekong Delta! It was a fantastic journey along the main water way, weaving in and out of small island clusters in canoes and cycling through paddy fields getting to meet local villagers and immersing ourselves, even just for a day in local culture. After an overnight on the Delta, I said goodbye to folks either heading on into Cambodia or heading back to the city. Myself and a few others continued west to Rach Gia where we hopped onto a hovercraft that flew us over the water to the island of Phu Quoc, and what a way to end my travels! This gorgeous island has so much to explore from waterfalls to markets in the local town. My initial fears really do seem ridiculous now, having travelled many times since within Asia. Those 3 weeks in Vietnam were the best weeks of my travel life possible. I learned that to get anywhere in life you need to step through fear. The adventure beyond is worth it!
20 January 2020
I might be somewhat biased when it comes to South Africa, having moved there at the tender age of 6 and lived there for over 20 years. It simply is one of those destinations that you just have to go to, at least once in your life. Here are my 5 reasons why I think you should go: 1. The wildlife! A safari is always on the bucket list for any visitor – even though we can see these gracious creatures at zoos dotted around the world, nothing compares to seeing them all gathered around a water hole taking in a cooling drink. Watching a giraffe clumsily get its head down for a drink and then back up again is one of the funniest things you’ll get to watch. Hearing the call of a lion at dusk or the laugh of hyenas are sounds you’ll never forget. It’s just pure magic! 2. Iconic landmarks. There are so many to choose from in this vast country you’ll find it difficult to choose. The best thing to do is to decide what interest you the most: archaeology, natural beauty or the country’s history. For the Archaeologist a trip to Mapungubwe is a must, for the history buff make sure to take in the battlefields of KwaZulu Natal and for the natural beauty you’ll find an insta-moment around pretty much every corner. 3. Food and wine! My two favourite things about South Africa – I have fond memories of taking rides out to the Cape Winelands with friends and doing cheese and wine tastings. Yum! On one of my last holidays to South Africa I picked a full day food and wine tasting experience where we got to pair different oils with chocolate and olive oil – again, truly delicious! The cuisine in South Africa, with many different cultures clashing together in one country, is somewhat of a melting pot. One of my favourite dishes is Bobotie which is a Cape Malay dish that has the perfect balance of sweet and savoury together on one plate. It’s not to everyone’s taste but I love it. The traditional braai is something that most folks will have heard about by now, it's the South African term for a barbecue and is pretty much the best way to cook your meat and veggies. Koeksusters are another treat that I miss, so sticky and sweet. Just writing this is making me want to plan a trip back “home” to South Africa and I can feel the calories piling on already! 4. Beaches. You’re going to be spoiled for choice with it comes to beaches and I have so many fabulous memories of holidays at the coast. One of my lasting memories actually combines beach and food – In a little town called Langebaan on the western coast you can eat your fill of seafood dishes and freshly baked bread at the local beach restaurant. I remember playing on the sandy beach, climbing rocks and paddling in the very cold Atlantic waters in between courses. Truly magical for a child who loved everything fishy! Cape Town, the Garden Route and KwaZulu Natal all have fantastic beaches to relax on – some can be very busy and some can be wild, unpredictable and best of all quiet. 5. Accommodating all budgets and experiences. South Africa has a fantastic range of accommodation, transport options and excursions coming out of your ears. From high end luxury hotels to boutique guest houses to comfortable B&B's and self-catering apartments – you’ll always get something for your budget. You’ll also have your pick of experiences – whether it’s taking a flip in a helicopter, relaxing on a luxury yacht for the day cruising the Cape Peninsula or perhaps you’re keen to get your hands dirty and spend the day on an Eco-Farm learning more about local way of life – I promise, there is literally something for every taste in this gorgeous country. With over 12 years in the travel industry, both here in the UK and in South Africa, and over 20 years of actually living in the country, I’m in the best position to make sure that every aspect of your holiday is perfectly curated for you. When you’re ready, I’ll look forward to hearing from you and helping you plan that ideal South African journey that’s going to be just right for you.