Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

Don’t Stop Belize-in

Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Apr
09
2012

I recently ventured to the Central American country of Belize. Known for its barrier reef – the second largest in the world, along with its impressive collection of Mayan ruins, Belize marries the two ideals for a fulfilling getaway: ultimate beach with high adventure.

Cave Tubing - just one of the unforgettable interior adventures

Cave Tubing – just one of the unforgettable interior adventures

With direct flights from NYC, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta and London during high season (Nov-April), the English-speaking country (though most of the locals speak Spanish given their location) is easily reached. Furthermore, various properties on the island have quickly adapted to travelers interest in a combination trip – a few days lapping up the crystalline waters followed by a few of jungle adventure among the ruins, caves, farms and rivers inland and now offer shared stays. One such property is the year-old Ka’ana in the farm-like landscape of San Tramadol Ignacio, Belize.

kaana_belize_luxury_resort_checkin

Nestled off the main road, just ten minutes from town and within a few hour of various caving experiences, Ka’ana is well situated for an adventure-laden visit to the island. Furthermore, it’s run by two of the nicest guys you’ll find in the boutique hotel business. As a result, the hotel is a wonderful, little hideaway with kind service (drinks by the pool? No problem) and a jovial atmosphere with fireside dinners laid out at night. There’s also a concierge on site, which makes the organization or oftentimes, the re-organization of daily excursions far easier.

Don’t just take my word for it (well, do) but while I was there, the guys were also hosting a videographer and photographer to help promote the site. Their video gives a great impression of all the fun to be had at Ka’ana.

Check it out here.

Posted in: Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Monday, April 9, 2012 No Comments

February 25, 2011

Substation Curacao

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Hands down one of the coolest things to do on Curacao, and clearly, in the under- sea-world, is a trip in the Curasub at Substation Curacao. One of only three submarine’s of its kind in the world – yes, the world (and it’s in Curacao!) – Curasub is a fascinating and safe (!) way to go lengthy depths (we went 300 feet!), or shall I say leagues, beneath the sea. Or as they like to call it, visiting “Planet Ocean”.

The sub as its getting ready to be loaded

The sub as its getting ready to be loaded in the Sea

As someone who is slightly freaked out by scuba-diving, I found a 45-minute trip in the Curasub to be just perfect. I now have satisfied that fledgling desire to see what lies beneath, but without challenging my inane fear of contacting “The Bends”. Alas, I read some book back when I was a pre-teen (a Christopher Pike book for those who may have been a fan) that first introduced the Scuba Diver’s nitrogen affliction and forever imprinted on my nubile mind an intense trepidation towards Scuba. Anyway, back to the sub..

Rather nifty, huh

Rather nifty, huh

As the substation’s promo language advertises, “Substation Curaçao passengers have an unparalleled opportunity to view Curaçao’s incredible undersea life at depths beyond the usual shallow tourist sub or even deep technical scuba divers. We will take you into the exhilarating depths of the uncharted Caribbean ocean, much deeper than SCUBA divers have ever been…..up to 1,000 feet! It’s like an underwater elevator to adventure …….a once in a lifetime experience!”

loaded her in

Although, I don’t make a habit of copying other people’s marketing spiel in favor of my own words, I must say, it’s fairly accurate particularly the comparison to an elevator. Albeit, Curasub is a cramped one. Luckily we were just 3 people (the max is 6) plus the driver and I was allowed to lie down on the front bench with my face and camera pressed against that nexus pheromone cologne bubble window the entire time. I confess, I shudder to think what it would have been like with three more bodies squeezed in there. For any claustrophobics, I strongly recommend you steer clear of this adventure.

Designed and built by a Canadian company, Nuytco Research Ltd. of Canada, a world leader in the development and operation of undersea technology, Substation Curacao is utilized by Scientists and tourists alike. A totally unique vessel, pressurized up to 1000 feet depths, the opportunity to be inside exactly what the marine scientists from institutions like the Smithsonian are using to study life at these depths is pretty impressive and distinct.

The interior and our friendly pilot

The tight quarters and our friendly, native Curacao pilot

As you can see the space is rather limited. To explain the photo above: that’s one journalist in the back, the pilot in the middle with his nifty, joystick controller, another journalist in the yellow lying down on the bench aside mine and a bit of my leg on the right. None of us had to wear masks or feel any discomfort due to the pressure change. There was one simple ‘burp’ as they call it, when you being to resurface and then a pop when the cabin door is opened from above.

Fish at 200 feet. They appear smaller than they are

Fish at 200 feet. Warning: they appear smaller than they are

Ultimately, it was really easy and safe and as I’ve said, unparalleled way to see the deep ocean without a wetsuit! I can now confidently cross-off deep water diving from my desire list. I’m sure purists will argue this is nothing compared to the feeling of being immersed in the environment with only a wetsuit between you, however, I can assure you, it more than satiated both my curiosity and sense of adventure.

A pretty sponge

A pretty sponge thought, rather phallic, wouldn't you say?

The mission of Curasub is:
“To establish the safest, most exiting, unique and adventurous tourist submersible in the World”.

Posted in: Beach

Published by Meg, Thursday, March 10, 2011 No Comments

First Day in Tanzania

Africa, Travel Tips

Sep
27
2009

TANZANIA

September 27th, 2009

It’s pretty wild that in three days time I went from Cebu in the Philippines to Amsterdam to now, the Grumetti Reserve in Tanzania. I know, I know, my life is charmed but, I must admit – I’m exhausted. Fortunately my four-poster bed at Singita’s Sasakwa Lodge beckons with fluffy promise.

Can you give me some credit for not jumping into this immediately?

Can you give me some credit for not jumping into this immediately? (Photo is courtesy of Singita website as mine was crud and this is quite accurate)

But before that, I want to at least treat you to some of what I saw today and how utterly amazing it is what you can see in one day. And moreover, how massively it can differ from what you saw yesterday. Oh travel, how I love thee.  Upon landing in Kilimanjaro airport last night, via an 8-hour flight filled with ‘trekkers’ from Amsterdam, I was met by my host, the affable Tom Lithgow of Firelight Safaris.

Tom Lithgow, G&T maker extraoridnaire
Tom Lithgow, G&T maker extraoridnaire

We set off to the local hotel to wait for one of the other guests and caught up over three, yes three, Kilimanjaro beers. Let me tell you, those things ain’t small.  Fortunately Tom is a big guy and they barely affected him while I was reduced to a wax figure. Fortunately the 30-minute drive to Arusha went by quickly (save a few near dead-dog incidents. NB. There are stray dogs darting into roads in Tanzania like crazy) and I was fast asleep in a low slung bed in the basic, Arusha Hotel in no time.

3 of these = sleepy time
3 of these = sleepy time

This morning we departed early and set off to Arusha airport to fly to the Singita camps in the Grumeti Reserves right along the border of the Serengeti. Our plane was not a charter but rather a local flight that had many stops affording us a few of the vast landscape of Tanzania and me, a chance to enjoy a pit stop behind a tree at one landing and  sit in the co-pilot seat between another.

Our fearless pilot, Julio. Being up at 12,000 feet unpressurized sure made me woozy or, as Tom liked to tell me, look "awfully pale"
Our fearless pilot, Julio. Being up at 12,000 feet unpressurized sure made me woozy or, as Tom liked to tell me, look “awfully pale”

On the plane,  I let Tom know that I was remiss we weren’t going to be spending anytime in the NGORONGORO CRATER, a world Heritage site in Tanzania and I wanted to know why not. Ever the polite host, he merely said there wasn’t time but let it slip too that he wasn’t all that fond of the location in the end. Skeptic by nature, I was disbelieving and pressed on about how I could finagle us a “pop by” sometime during the trip.  Luckily for Tom, we were joined on the plane by two people who had just left the crater and dismissed the site’s merits as being ‘rather dusty’ at the moment. Then our pilot flew us right over it affording me the bird’s eye view (sans the dust) satisfying me. For now.

Ngorongoro Crater from above. According to our plane-mates, its really quite dusty
Ngorongoro Crater from above. According to our plane-mates, its really quite dusty

Finally, after an hour and a half tour of quick stops , we arrived at Saskara, our destination. In typical Singita fashion, we were met by a land rover and smiling guide and then whisked up to the lodge.

Our pickup at the airstrip from our guide Peter from Singita's Saskara Lodge
Our pickup at the airstrip from our guide Peter from Singita’s Saskara Lodge

Instantly I was struck by the vastness of the land. The plains of Tanzania’s Grumeti Reserve are unlike any landscape I have seen in South Africa.  They are so vast and so picturesque that they look like an interactive screen – particularly from the hilltop vantage of the Lodge.

The view at Sasakwa Lodge of the reserve below
The view at Sasakwa Lodge of the reserve below
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Posted in: Africa, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Sunday, September 27, 2009 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.