Holidays & Travel

Want to see the world but don't have a travel buddy?

Two's a Crowd is just the ticket

For many Australians who live alone, travel dreams can take a back seat if you don’t have someone to go with. But that’s where solo travel company Two's a Crowd comes in. They develop small group tours and even charter whole river cruise ships just for solo travellers. Tours are fully guided and escorted by a Two’s a Crowd Tour Host from Australia. And clients have their own room or cabin – no sharing. So, while you’re seeing the world with new friends, you still have your own space to relax after a busy day.

Two’s a Crowd was founded by Ken Morgan in 2012 and has developed a strong following. “We’ve welcomed nearly 5000 clients “on-board” since inception. Recently one client completed his ninth tour with us. Our exclusive river cruise charters have been very popular, and our clients love the fact that its only our solos on board – no couples and no tables for one! So many friendships are made on our tours. We love that.”

 

Two’s a Crowd tours operate to all corners of the world. Vietnam is one of their most popular tours and a favourite for those starting their solo travel adventures. Russia, Egypt and South Africa are also in demand. According to Ken Morgan, 2020 bookings are already strong. “Our 2019 tours were fully sold and 2020 is shaping up to be another busy one for us” he said. “We always encourage clients to book early and avoid disappointment.”

 

Customer service is a key priority for Two’s a Crowd too. Many clients can be anxious about travelling, so Ken and the team in Melbourne are ready to answer any questions prospective travellers may have. “Booking travel can be daunting so we aim to make it easy. We can take care of booking airfares and even pre or post tour accommodation. We’re a one stop shop really. Even travel insurance is included on most tours.”

 

Sounds like solo travellers will be well looked after at Two’s a Crowd.

 

Contact details: Phone 1300 55 45 01 or visit www.twosacrowd.com.au

Solo's river cruising - a world first

River cruising especially through Europe has been popular with couples and families for many years. But for solo travellers’ high single supplements and feeling like a fifth wheel on a cruise full of couples have been big barriers. Two's a Crowd decided to do something about it and in 2017 operated the world's first solos only river cruise from Vienna to Strasbourg.

 

Eighty solos from all over Australia and New Zealand (everyone had their own cabin of course) shared 14 days exploring wonderful sights, eating fantastic food and drinking some very nice wines. Not to mention meeting new friends. 

Since that first charter, Two's a Crowd again operated river cruises in 2018 and 2019. According to Two's a Crowd MD Ken Morgan the cruises are very popular. "The river cruise charters always sell out quickly and the feedback is fantastic. We partner with Amadeus River cruises who operate a wonderful fleet of 5-star vessels. We include all shore excursions, meals, drinks with lunch and dinner and WIFI. Our clients love that."

With Two's a Crowd river cruises, solo travellers can now discover the benefits of travelling by river.  You unpack once and your hotel goes with you. Most travel is overnight, so you wake up in a new place after a good night's sleep...no long bus rides. All meals and drinks with lunch and dinner are included so your credit card takes a rest as well. You can also do as much or as little as you want. While daily shore excursions are included, they are not mandatory. It's your holiday and your decision. Want to stay on board for the day and relax? Go for it! Finally, river cruises are great value as they include pretty much everything at a fantastic price. 

 

Two's a Crowd continues to operate the world's only solos river cruise with 2020 already selling fast. This year they’re cruising the Danube, Main and Rhine from Budapest to Amsterdam in August 2020 on board the 5-star, 2018-built Amadeus Queen. It promises to sell out fast especially with prices starting from a low $7990 plus air. The cruise includes all meals, shore excursions, drinks with lunch and dinner and free WIFI.  

 

Contact the team at Two’s a Crowd on  1300 55 45 01  to reserve your cabin. Find out more at www.twosacrowd.com.au

Which destination is number one for first time solo travellers?

For many aspiring solo travellers, the thought of stepping out into a new world of discovery can be daunting. But one destination is proving a perfect starting point for intrepid first timers…Vietnam. And for several great reasons.

 

Firstly, it close to home. In fact, with a flying time of just over 8 hours you can be in another world in next to no time. Secondly, it is literally another world. You’ll experience an amazing culture complete with great food, incredible history, wonderful architecture and one of the friendliest populations on the planet. Thirdly, Vietnam is great value for money. Whether you have clothes tailor- made in Hoi An or sit down for a feast in Hanoi, your wallet will also get a holiday. And finally, travellers report how safe they feel when travelling in Vietnam.

 

So, all in all, Vietnam is a hit with solos. Two’s a Crowd has operated tours to Vietnam since 2012 and in 2020 their April departure is already sold out. Don’t despair though as an October 2020 departure has now been released. At just over $4,000 plus air for 15 days, its awesome value. Plus, group sizes are limited to 15 so you won’t feel like you’re part of some military travel operation. Call the team on 1300 55 45 01 to find out more or visit www.twosacrowd.com.au

Hosting a solos tour sounds like all fun but it’s a serious business.

Solo travel specialist Two’s a Crowd operates around forty tours a year and every departure is escorted by a Tour Host. Cruise charters have two hosts. But what does a Tour Host do? We check in with hosts, Elise and Diane to find out what it’s all about.

 

“Our role has many facets,” according to Diane who has been a Two’s a Crowd Tour Host for three years. “I am with the group to make sure the day to day operation of the tour runs smoothly. I work closely with the local guide and operator to iron out any little wrinkles which may occur along the way. But I’m also a social director. I make sure that everyone feels included with the group and enjoys the tour.”

Elise who has also been hosting for three years agrees. “Making sure that everyone has a great time is so important. Some clients are quieter or more reserved and I make sure they are never at a loose end when, for example, we have free time.”

 

Tour hosts are always planning for those free nights and will have a local restaurant or market in mind for those who want to tag along for a feed and a wander after a busy day of exploring.

 

Elise summed it up. “It’s about giving our clients options when there is free time. But also making sure that anything that is worrying them can be quickly dealt with. We’re here for our clients. When they smile, we’re happy.”

. Call the team on 1300 55 45 01 to find out more or visit www.twosacrowd.com.au

Kununurra

- Oasis of the Kimberley

The East Kimberley is a diverse area of Western Australia more than twice the size of Victoria. The region is some of the oldest country in the world and indigenous peoples arrived around 41,000 years ago. The East Kimberley is bordered to the south by the red sand dunes of the Great Sandy Desert, to the east by the Northern Territory and to the north west by the Kimberley Plateau and the Timor Sea.

Kununurra is the Gateway to the East Kimberley and is the largest town in Western Australia north of Broome, with a stable population of over 5000. However with residents on outlying farms, itinerant workers and tourists the population can double.

The lovely town of Kununurra is quite young, as it was established in 1961 by the Western Australian and Federal Governments, as the main administrative and support centre for the developing Ord River Irrigation scheme (ORI). It has an abundance of water due to the creation of beautiful lake Argyle and the Ord Diversion Dam. Today the town is your perfect base from which to explore the many amazing adventures, unforgettable experiences and breathtakingly beautiful sights of the East Kimberley.

The area was settled by the Pioneering Durack family in1882. Patrick Durack immigrated from Ireland to Queensland and in 1879 he and his Brother Michael set out on a two and a half year cattle drive, overlanding 7250 head of cattle and 200 horses from Cooper Creek in Western Queensland to the Ord Valley in the East Kimberley. The 4,700 kilometre journey is the longest of its type ever recorded.

The Durack’s established Argyle Downs and Ivanhoe station and created a family dynasty in the region. They exported cattle through the Port of Wyndham to markets as far away as Africa and North America. Wyndham is only 100 kilometres north of Kununurra and was established by John Forrest in 1886 as the main trading station for the East Kimberley, after finds of Gold in Halls Creek the previous year. Thousands of miners disembarked from the ships at Cambridge Gulf heading for the goldfields. During the second world war the frontier town was attacked by Japanese aircraft as was Exmouth on the coast further south. From nearby Five Rivers Lookout visitors can enjoy spectacular views over the Ord, Forrest, King, Durack and Pentacost Rivers where they join and enter the Cambridge Gulf.

Another short drive from Kununurra through the Carr Boyd Ranges takes you up to the relocated, now famous Durack Homestead. The Homestead was constructed at Argyle Downs in the Ord Valley in 1895 and became a popular place to socialise in the East Kimberley. The homestead was made of crushed termite mounds and limestone blocks. In the 1970’s the Ord River was flooded to create beautiful lake Argyle, Australia’s second largest reservoir with a surface area of 700 square kilometres.

 

Be sure to call at the Durack / Argyle homestead which was dismantled block by block and reassembled on high ground near Lake Argyle and is now the Argyle Museum. You can also board a fascinating cruise from below the massive wall of Lake Argyle taking you fifty five kilometres downstream on the Ord River to Lake Kununurra. Only a few kilometres out of Kununurra is Mirima National Park also known as the Hidden Valley. The sandstone formations here resemble the domes of the famous Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park) which is why they are often referred to as the mini Bungle Bungles. The actual Purnululu National park and the Majestic Domes known as the Bungle Bungles can be easily accessed via a sightseeing, fixed wing or helicopter scenic flight from Kununurra airport. One can enjoy views over the pack saddle irrigation area, Kununurra, Lake Argyle and the ancient geological wonders of the National Park and the Bungle Bungles.

Travelling across the rich, fertile black soil plain known as “Kununurra Clay” you will be surrounded by irrigation crops which include mango, citrus, watermelon, rockmelon, pumpkin, chickpea, chia and sandalwood. Learn all about the worlds most prized fragrant timber with a visit to the Sandalwood Museum.

Another natural attraction in the area is the abundance of birdlife. Get on board the unique sunset Wetlands Cruise where you are likely to see Osprey, Brolgas, Cormorants, Ibis, Egrets, Corellas, Herons, Whistling Ducks, Magpie Geese , Sea Eagles, Darters and more. Ad an amazing sunset, some nibbles and a glass of Sparkling wine, and you have the perfect end to another magical East Kimberley day.

 

The Argyle diamond mine near Kununurra is the world’s largest producer of diamonds and produces 20 million carats of diamonds annually. It’s the world’s largest producer of cognac and natural champagne diamonds and famous for precious, rare and valuable pink diamonds. Don’t miss a tour of this amazing facility with a chance purchase your dream sparkly jewel.

 

The best time to visit the East Kimberley is in the middle of the year when the days are cooler and the humidity is low. Getting there is now easier than ever before, on the Kununurra Express! Virgin Airlines now has a limited number of direct flights from Melbourne to Kununurra and return for 2020. So get on board and discover another jewel in Western Australia’s crown.

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5 Breathtaking Sights of Myanmar

Myanmar is a beautiful country, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a sight that isn’t breathtaking while you’re there. It’s also a country of contrasts, with a new democratic government elected in 2015 inducing a range of modernisation across big cities and towns, but leaving the traditional, monastic life enjoyed by many untouched. Yes, you can get multi-city flights, but you can also saunter along on old steamer boats. Yes, there are bustling cities, but there are also carefree, passionate locals who will welcome you with a smile. With us, you’ll be sure to experience everything Myanmar has to offer.

Chaukhtagyi Buddha Temple

Buddishm is the most practiced religion in Myanmar - by over 90% of its inhabitants. It’s not surprising then, that much of the countries great artistic output is dominated by Buddhist thought. That includes this 65 meter Reclining Buddha statue, one of the first destinations on our itinerary. Completed in 1907, it lay at a paltry 60 meters for about as many years, until it grew by 5 meters during renovations. Pay special attention to the soles of the feet, which contain 108 red and gold segments and represent the 108 characteristics of the Buddha. In Buddhism, it’s important to know the day of the week you were born, and there are multiple shrines at the foot of this statue, split by days of the week - it’s worth finding your own shrine! Where else could you realistically describe a giant pair of feet as breathtaking? We’re not sure there’s anywhere.

Shwedagon Pagoda.

Later that day, you’ll head to the Shwedagon Pagoda - while 2 breathtaking views in one day might seem like overkill, hopefully you’ll be get used to it. You’ll have to. There’s no letting up! Standing for over 2500 from humble beginnings at barely 10 meters tall, the Pagoda now stands close to 110 meters tall and is considered the world’s oldest Pagoda. Top of the Stupa (the dome shaped building) is encrusted with 4531 diamonds, and for good reason - this Pagoda holds sacred hair follicles from the most recent Buddha! This isn’t, however, just a pretty face. It’s a focal point for the local community, holding meditation, buddhist rituals and flower giving. You’re likely to hear singing in shrines, and can stay until the sun sets and the candles are lit - it will still be bustling at this hour. It’s customary to visit without any shoes and is a living, breathing monument to Myanmar’s passionate Buddhist tradition.

Mandalay Hill View

Next up, we’re stopping off at Mandalay Hill. Most hills are climbed for the view at the top, and while it’s breathtaking at the top of Mandalay Hill, that’s no different to the entire way up. Littered with pagodas and monasteries, it’s a major site of pilgrimage for local Buddhists where it’s considered both rewarding and a religious deed. Although even if the hill was barren, the view at the top would make the gentle journey completely worthwhile. Walking up you’re likely to meet some of the monks which come to the top at afternoon to practice their English. We recommend you make time to chat with them, as they’re often extremely open about the country, culture and religion and extremely keen to learn about yours! With an entire 360 view of Mandalay, spanning the entire old city walls and Mandalay plain with added bonus points for a sunset, we certainly recommend charging your camera. If only burning calories were always this beautiful. If only.

Inle Lake

Inle Lake is beautiful, and a gateway region to many iconic landmarks. It’s a vast lake, which functions as a life-source for many of the locals who live upon it’s shores, but the real beauty of the place lies within the traditional ways of life on the lake, particularly the style of fishing. Everything’s done a little differently here - gardens, houses and walkways float precariously and the leg paddling technique has to be seen to be believed. The area is populated by the Intha people or “Sons of the Lake” in their dialect. Most of these people live self-sufficient, Buddhist lives, living in simple houses of woven bamboo and wood. On the north shores of the lake, you’ll stop off at the Jumping Cat Monastery, and no prizes for guessing what that’s renowned for. Yes, trained cats which jump through hoops. Rumour has it this newer generation (millennial) cats are more lazy, and less likely to jump around…hopefully you’ll meet some of the hardworking older generation!

Indein Village

A short canal ride from Inle lake, and a microcosm of modern Myanmar, Indein blends both the old and new masterfully. The old quarter of Indein is home to numerous Stupas, which have been neglected in the most beautiful way imaginable - allowed to grow and intwine with nature. This gives the entire area a mythological aura, where every footstep feels like a journey into the past. Not just that, but it feels like Indiana Jones could pop up at any moment. In stark contrast to this is the newer side of the village, which has a market sourcing local food with everything from meat, fish, vegetables and spices. It’s a fantastic place to absorb some local culture, and get talking to villagers who like always, are gentle, passionate, engaging and funny. Indein, like Myanmar is a place of beautiful diversity where the natural world and spirituality are held in high regard. You can’t help but be changed by visiting Myanmar, and everything beautiful that it holds.

Bird Watching in Sri Lanka 

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It must have been dawn. When I opened my weary eyes, darkness of the night had been eased with a soft glow, but my jet-lagged consciousness couldn’t tell me what time it was nor where I was. It was the chirping of the birds, coming along with a gentle breeze, that brought me back to my senses.

The unmistakable whistles and tunes tell me that I am at that beautiful place, once I called home, in the suburbs of Colombo.  Lazily letting my eyes close again, I try to identify who the early risers are. The calls of the Oriental Magpie-robin, Yellow billed Babbler, White browed Bulbul, Black headed Oriole, Common Tailor Bird, Red vented Bulbul, Brown headed Barbet, Common Coucal and White bellied Drongo were most of the time overlapping.Being close to Sinhala and Tamil New Year period, Asian Koel too adds its melodious notes to the morning symphony.

"Sri Lanka is a birders’ paradise. Though it is a small tropical island, approximately of the size of Tasmania, it hosts around 450 species of birds, of which around 240 are resident"

I am sure many of them would be around the birdbath in the garden to greet me when I go for my morning tea. The symphony of calls will be complemented by the rainbow colours of the feathers. In Sri Lanka, a typical home garden would host around 20 to 30 bird species.

Yes, Sri Lanka is a birders’ paradise. Though it is a small tropical island, approximately of the size of Tasmania, it hosts around 450 species of birds, of which around 240 are resident. As hunting or harming birds is culturally discouraged, it is quite possible to see many birds at close quarters. Different species are spread around the country, depending on the climate zone they love to live in, therefore we can loosely categorise them as home garden birds, wet zone birds, dry zone birds, rainforest birds, cloud forest birds etc..

 

During the period from August to April, many migratory birds also add variety and colour to the already fascinating bird world here. But my heart beats faster for exclusively Sri Lankan specialities. Despite being separated from Indian sub-continent by the narrow Polk strait, Sri Lanka has been ecologically isolated from the mainland India for quite a long period, resulting in many endemic flora and fauna, including 33 endemic bird species. 

Being a compact place with a central mountainous area surrounded by larger plains fed by many waterways, any three-hour drive in Sri Lanka takes you to a different ecosystem. Horton plains is a good bet for encountering cloud forest and range restricted birds. Nuwara-Eliya and Hakgala too are good birding sites for such species.

 

Many dry zone birds could be easily seen in lowland national parks such as Udawalawa, Yala, and Wilpattu along with many other famous wildlife in Sri Lanka. Bundala, Kumana, Mannar and Ruhunu National Parks are ideal for observing wetland and shore birds. Kitulgala, Kandy and Haputale areas are famous for mid elevation birds of which some are endemics. The favourite place for wet zone birds is the Sinharaja Rainforest in the south western part of Sri Lanka. With an annual rainfall ranging between 3,000 - 6,000 mm, Sinharaja, the last tract of Gondwanan rainforest in the country, presents a high degree of endemism in both flora and fauna. Therefore, if you are new to birding in Sri Lanka, you are guaranteed of seeing a few lifers over there.

"It was fascinating to hear how birds of twelve to twenty five species comprising of 25 to 125 individuals on average forming one flock and moving from one place to the other foraging"

During our last visit to Sri Lanka, my hubby wanted to see the mixed species foraging flock at Sinharaja, or the ‘Bird Wave’ in tourism parlance, after hearing a talk delivered by one of our colleagues, Rahula Perera. In fact, the research on mixed species flocks in Sinharaja rainforest is one of the longest running research projects of its kind.  It has started in early 1980s. Rahula, a veteran birder, ecologist and a nature photographer, had been part of the research team back in the day and still in touch with many of its activities.

It was fascinating to hear how birds of twelve to twenty five species comprising of 25 to 125 individuals on average forming one flock and moving from one place to the other foraging.  They vary from ground dwelling ones to the canopy birds and are distributed both vertically and horizontally. How they form the group in the morning, minimize inter and intra species competition and how some species take up the role of sentinels was fascinating to listen to.

 

But believe me, seeing one such flock on ground was enthralling. First, we heard the cacophony. Then a large number of birds came foraging together through the woods and crossed the path in front of us. There were many wet-zone endemic birds including the Red-faced Malkoha. All the babblers in the rainforest were in the flock. With an expert at hand it was just a day excursion for us, whereas some groups take 2-3 days to locate and see the ‘Bird Wave’.

It cannot be over-emphasised the importance of having an experienced, knowledgeable guide at hand all the time, when travelling in a place like Sri Lanka.  The country is brimmed with biodiversity, natural beauty and cultural heritage but lacks good interpretation centres or related material. Without local knowledge, many important places, species, stories may go unnoticed.  Especially in birding, a guide knowledgeable in bird distribution, skilled in spotting and identification is an invaluable resource. Interestingly, after being immersed in the industry, I came to know that guides are trained to let guests have the thrill of spotting birds, therefore, they just indicate the general area where the birds are. In a foreign environment, guide’s knowledge would come in handy for identification. Carrying and skimming through thick, unfamiliar field guides, is certainly not fun while chasing a living thing that is haphazardly moving around.  

Birding is an acquired skill. My then teenage son, who loves exceptional natural capital in the country of his birth said birds are lovely, but it was not fun to watch them as most of the time you would not be able to see and identify them properly. But the day he watched them through a pair of binoculars with an expert to guide him, a new world dawned. He started to notice and explain details of their beak and feet and patterns in their plumage.

 

A proper environment, proper equipment and a knowledgeable guide could open up an entirely different world for you too. With expert birders in its top management, Aarunya Vacations specialises in bird watching tours. However, as a responsible, conservation oriented company, we respect the fact that we are watching birds in their natural habitat. Therefore, our guests understand and appreciate that we do not do anything to disturb the birds from their normal routine for their viewing pleasure. We have experts to show our guests a good number of birds, but we do not do any tape luring etc., just to add up numbers and tick lists. 

At the forefront of the company is a team of well experienced, knowledgeable and caring guides. They are the people who deliver the value we create for our valuable guests. Therefore, the company provides them with continuous training and knowledge upgrades. Through the guest feedback, we are seeing they put that to best use. Two senior ladies, veteran bird watchers from South Carolina, USA once said they 

 “saw close to 200 birds, many of them life birds …all this is in an atmosphere of kindness, safety and care. No detail was left undone. The best planning, the best guides, the best care we’ve ever had…anywhere….and that’s a lot of wheres!”. 

The careful blend of subject knowledge, excellent interpretation skills and caring service is the unique value proposition Aarunya Vacations is offering.

 

Aarunya meaning ‘dawn’ in Sanskrit, dawns a new dimension in touring Sri Lanka, providing tailor-made, small group tours to knowledge seeking guests interested in nature, culture, wildlife, birdwatching and photography.

 

All the itineraries are developed after a careful consideration of and matching with the interests and expectations of the guests in consultation with them. Sometimes it takes several iterations but we love doing it.

Now it is the time for morning tea. It is heartening to see my feathery friends around the birdbath, singing at their best. These sights make my visits to Sri Lanka something to look forward to. I know the official purpose is to meet up with my Sri Lankan colleagues at least once a year to ensure top notch service and seek continuous improvements for our guests.

 

My life is kind of easy as all ground services for all our tours are managed by our own sister company in Sri Lanka. It is run by the same core team. Therefore, you are assured of a seamless service, as there is no third-party. We maintain service levels to the highest standards and always strive to emulate international best practices. That is why one of our directors has now got his Australian Eco Guide certification. 

 

Happy Birding in Sri Lanka!

By Ramani Nissanka

Ramani is a director of the Aarunya Vacations Pty Ltd. based in Canberra and its sister company, Aarunya Vacations (Pvt) Ltd. in Sri Lanka

For more information, please email to, ramani@aarunyavacations.com 

 

www.aarunyavacations.com

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Five stylish self catering apartments suited to couples looking for privacy and comfort in a tranquil northerly aspect on beautiful World Heritage Lord Howe Island.

Close to popular Neds Beach where you can hand feed the colourful fish and view the coral straight from the shore.

 

Julie and Emma will meet you on arrival at the airport and give you an introduction to the World Heritage Island and its many wonders.

 

Transfers to and from evening restaurants and assistance with activity bookings are just some of the ways your friendly hosts will make your visit easy and memorable.

 

There’s usually fresh fish available to go on the BBQ along with the fruit and veg from the garden

 

Muttonbird Drive, Lord Howe Island NSW 2898  

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Explore South Africa’s

Diverse Reserves

It’s not only Kenya that lures those seeking big game and bigger memories. More than 4,000 miles away, South Africa offers up its own rich rewards for nature lovers, and Kruger National Park might just be the most epic of them all.

Sprawling across more than 7,000 square miles, the park alone is larger than the entire state of Connecticut, and—quite unlike the New England state—this landscape is chock full of wildlife: 147 mammal species, more than 500 bird species, and a combined 150 varieties of amphibians and reptiles. And that’s just the fauna. The flora is stunning as well, with 336 different types of trees. Whether you’re spying leopards in the bushveld or sipping sundowners by a water hole as night falls, finding the next scene of wonder is as simple as keeping your eyes open.

Less famous but no less memorable is

the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi

Game Reserve.

The oldest nature reserve in Africa, it is home to the world’s largest population of white rhino, thanks to years of efforts by conservationists. 

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi boasts the complete “Big Five”: elephant, Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino. The same can be said of the privateMabula Game Reserve, where the Big Five are joined in the rolling hills and plains by red hartebeests and elegant blesbok.

A completely different sort of wildlife experience awaits at St. Lucia Estuary. With Lake Lucia to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east, the estuary is home to hippopotamus, sea turtles, Nile crocodiles, and even sharks. In 1999, its precious marine environment earned it a designation as UNESCO’s first South African World Heritage Site, part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. No matter where you’re exploring, from big-name game parks to small less-known reserves, you’ll be quick to agree with Rudyard Kipling’s assertion that “One cannot resist the lure of Africa.”

Feel the Inspiration of Africa with Gate 1 Travel

Experience Africa with Gate 1 Travel, and you’ll not only experience one of the most soul-stirring adventures on Earth; you’ll revel in quality accommodations, expert Tour Managers, and personal attention worth writing home about. And no matter which journey you choose, you’re sure to discover as Pliny the Elder did nearly 2,000 years ago, “There is always something new out of Africa…”

For more info visit: https://www.gate1travel.com.au

On Safari in Africa – Tips for a once in a lifetime experience

While on safari, it is very important that you follow all directions provided by your guide in order to ensure the safety of the group. Prior to the first safari, your driver/guide will review “safari etiquette” addressing, amongst other issues, off-road driving and hazards, and interaction with animals. Wildlife listed in the itinerary are based upon optimal conditions and therefore subject to change. While on tour you will be reminded by your guide of local safety and ecologic procedures to ensure your safety and the protection of the wildlife.

 

Normal precautions include remaining in close proximity to your driver/guide and vehicle, avoiding tall grass and keeping noise to a minimum to not attract extra attention. Your driver/guide will advise you not to turn over rocks or dead wood and to stay clear of ground holes and caves, where scorpions, snakes and other potentially dangerous animal life may be hidden. Refrain from littering, feeding any animals or leaving food waste behind in the parks as this can upset their natural diets and lead to a dependence upon people. In addition, please do not purchase, collect, or remove any animal products, rocks, seeds, plants, or nests from the wild

Roadways to the game viewing sites are for the most part unpaved and will therefore be rough and dusty. Gate 1 safari vehicles are fitted with large roof hatches or open sides to allow for easy viewing of wildlife from all angles. Safari vehicles cannot be

air-conditioned and you will be provided bottled water while traveling. Vehicles are equipped with seatbelts which should be worn on public roads.

 

While safari vehicles typically move slowly, drivers warn passengers of bumps or potholes and many passengers may choose not to wear a seatbelt, it is still recommended to do so. However, it remains at 

each individual passenger’s discretion to wear their seatbelt or not.

 

Inside the National Parks and reserves there are designated picnic sites. Due to frequent use wildlife tends to avoid these areas with the exception of primates, reptiles, birds and small mammals. However, since picnic sites are open it is possible that a larger animal, such as an elephant, may wander through. Outside of the parks, it may be necessary to make more frequent shopping stops as these stores provide the only acceptable facilities while touring due to the lack of public rest stops.

For more info visit: https://www.gate1travel.com.au

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See More of The World For Less

Gate 1 Travel has made it possible for you to explore the world in first class comfort, but pay much less for your escorted tour or river cruise. Since 1981, they’ve been famous for delivering excellent value for money, while offering high standards of accommodation and extra inclusions.

“It’s the attention to detail that makes Gate 1 stand out from other tour operators” says Kim Erksine, General Manager Australia. “The company’s founder and President was originally a tour guide and is passionate about the customer experience, so he considers every tour from a traveller’s perspective and reads all the feedback. We stay in hotels carefully chosen for their location and service, daily breakfast is included as well as a selection of other meals, you don’t have to worry about lugging around your bags and all the hassle is taken out of travel so that you can concentrate on enjoying the new destinations,” explains Kim.

Gate 1 offer holidays in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa or North America. Exclusively for Retirement Australia Living you can save $200 per person* on any Gate 1 escorted tour or river cruise so that you can see more of the world for less!

*Discount is valid on any escorted tour or river cruise. Excludes independent packages & sea cruises. Quote promotion code RAL200A. New bookings only. Not combinable with other offers. Expires 31 December 2018.

The 4 Biggest Myths about Escorted Tours

Considering an escorted tour, but still have a few concerns? We asked Gate 1 travellers what they think are the biggest misconceptions about escorted tours.

  1. Escorted tours are expensive

Tour companies are often able to negotiate special rates and their industry experience means that escorted tours are crafted to maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness. “The price of an escorted tour may look higher than other trips, but in reality it is a perfectly pre-packaged holiday designed to take the planning out, so all you have to do it show up,” says Jill Ginsberg, 12 Day Classic Thailand.

 

  2. You’ll have no time to explore on your own

Leisure time is scheduled in each overnight stop or city visit on most tours. “Sure, escorted tours have itineraries with action-packed days because we don’t want to miss out on things, but you can often do as much or as little as you’d like,” points out Shirley Stevens. She travelled on 16 Day Classic European River Cruise and recommends taking advantage of your guide’s expert local knowledge to make the most of your free time.

 

  3. You’re stuck on a cramped bus all day

Gate 1’s tours use a variety of transportation, including modern coaches, trains, ferries, flights and even rickshaws through the old towns of Delhi or Beijing! Martin Burgess can attest that on his trip to Peru, “Time spent on the bus is very minimal in comparison to the rest of the trip and we had plenty of interesting stops.”

 

  4. Tours are only for retirees

Gate 1 travellers range in age from children on our family-friendly tours to adults from 18-80. Like many of our travellers, Martin Carlton cited his tour group as a highlight of the trip: “Chances are you will have a melting pot of people of different ages and from all walks of life. We had travellers in their early twenties through to senior group members in their seventies who had done up to 10 Gate 1 trips. One of the favourite parts of my escorted tour in Peru was having the chance to get to know so many different people who shared the same curiosity about the world as I did.”

For more information on Gate 1 Travel you can call 1300 653 618 or visit www.gate1travel.com.au. Plus Retirement Australia Living readers get an exclusive $200 discount* on your next Gate 1 escorted tour or river cruise when you quote promotion code RAL200A! *Conditions apply.

China: From Monumental Sites to Pandas & Astounding Citie Tours

When it comes to sheer size, China tips the scales. Just think of it: in all the world, it boasts the longest

man-made structure, the greatest concentration of skyscrapers, the largest hydroelectric dam, the vastest public square. To say nothing of a palace complex of 9,000 rooms!

China is one of the most captivating and compelling places on Earth. Gate 1 Travel helps you get to the heart of its history, its traditions and its people – and, yes, its epic architectural achievements.

When it comes to sheer size, China tips the scales. Just think of it: in all the world, it boasts the longest man-made structure, the greatest concentration of skyscrapers, the largest hydroelectric dam, the vastest public square. To say nothing of a palace complex of 9,000 rooms!

China is one of the most captivating and compelling places on Earth. Gate 1 Travel helps you get to the heart of its history, its traditions and its people – and, yes, its epic architectural achievements.

You’ll stroll the quiet lanes of Beijing’s ancient hutong neighbourhoods. Walk Shanghai’s historic Bund, with colonial edifices to one side and the futuristic skyline of the Pudong on the other. Sail the magnificent Yangtze River through its three famously scenic gorges. Gaze in awe at the forest of skyscrapers that is Hong Kong. And so much more. All with Gate 1’s expert guides who know the nation they call home like no one else.

Dazzling Mega Cities

To gain an understanding of how China’s past, present and future are interwoven, a good place to begin - or three good places - would be its dominant cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, each of which has its own character and story to tell.

Beijing is monumental, literally. The city is home to 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among them some of the world’s greatest treasures. The Forbidden City is no longer forbidden to anyone: after 500 years of turning guests away from the world’s largest palace complex, China now invites all to see the wonders of the stunning 178-acre complex encircled by two miles of fortified wall. Over time, 24 emperors lived in these 90 palaces, composed of 980 buildings and almost 9,000 rooms. As if that weren’t enough to boggle the mind, it rests on the largest public square in the world, Tiananmen, a massive acreage that salutes the grandiosity of China’s past and present.

The little sibling to that royal complex is the Summer Palace, built for the hottest months when the Forbidden City complex felt too stifling. A small pond and reservoir were joined, widened and dredged, yielding a sparkling 540-acre lake big enough for royal navy vessels to run drills upon. The dredged soil from the lake was used to make the adjacent Longevity Hill, a 200-foot slope crowned with palaces, pavilions, temples and gardens. To this day, it remains, as intended, one of Beijing’s loveliest locales, a brilliant collaboration of man, nature and time.

Just a short drive outside the city, the Great Wall undulates over sloping hills like a serpent. It is the longest man-made structure in the world and, though claims that it can be seen from space are debatable, its imposing ramparts will surely impress you as much as the ancient marauders it was intended to keep out.

Whereas Beijing calls to mind the glories of the past, Shanghai is decidedly a snapshot of the future. While the city is certainly known for its gems that date back to previous eras – such as the verdant Yuyuan Garden from the Ming Dynasty and the elegant colonial architecture of the Bund – it is Shanghai’s jaw-dropping new skyline that may leave you speechless.

Viewed across the Huangpu River, the Pudong neighbourhood boasts a dizzying array of striking, colourful towers. Shanghai Tower, the biggest of the lot, is the second tallest skyscraper on earth. But height is only one way that this metropolis dazzles: The Orient Pearl looks like a stacking toy of ever-smaller glass beads, while the sinuous Financial Centre is a modernist masterwork; even the low-slung Ocean Aquarium impresses passers-by with its flamboyant shark-fin wings.

Hong Kong knows a thing or two about showing off its skyline too: more buildings scrape the sky here than in any other city on earth, with more than 270 rising 500 feet or more. Within those glittering towers are some of the world’s most highly acclaimed restaurants, 64 of which have Michelin stars, and bespoke tailors fitting the fashionistas of Asia and beyond. But it is not all city here. Hong Kong means 'fragrant harbour', a reminder that nature - not metropolitan life - still holds the upper hand. More than 70% of Hong Kong is comprised of islands, mountains, parks and caves. No matter where you are in the city proper, you’re just a tram ride away from a daylong hike in a green parkland with ocean views.

Inland Treasures and a Spellbinding River

Xian was the final stop on the Silk Road and China's capital for 12 dynasties, including the Ming era, which gave the city its still-standing fortified walls. But the single most powerful draw for visitors is its immobilised army of 8,000 Terra Cotta soldiers and horses. Crafted by hand, this vast military consort attended the final resting place of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Arrayed in neat rows, these enigmatic soldiers remained underground from the 3rd century until their excavation in 1974. Remarkably, each one was carved with a distinct expression, hairstyle, armour and footwear. They have captured the global imagination, eclipsing the fame of the ruler they were meant to honour.

The stars of Chengdu  are less numerous but perhaps even more beloved. The 80 pandas at the Giant Panda Research Centre  have become envoys for China, a source of pride as well as concern as the worldwide population of wild pandas has fallen to under 2,000. While visitors also absorb the fascinating architecture of Qin Dynasty-era Jinli Street and marvel at the 213-foot stone Buddha in nearby Leshan, it is these endangered ambassadors of the mountains which have become the face not only of Chengdu, but of China.

The nation’s life blood is the Yangtze River,  the world’s third-longest river. Navigating the east-flowing ribbon of water on a river cruiseis the only way to truly experience the legendary, dramatic scenery that unfolds around its banks. As you sail through the three mesmerising gorges of Xiling, Wu and Qutang, watched over by the fabled Twelve Peaks and fantastic rock formations towering above, you’ll wind past tiny villages, soaring cliffs, verdant groves and terraced hillsides. It is hard not to fall under the timeless spell of the slow-moving current and the ethereal, embracing landscapes that guide it.

The Yangtze, though a beloved symbol of China, was often prone to massive flooding. Through the ages, thousands lost their lives and their villages to a seasonal deluge. Today, the waters are tamed by the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam project, a fascinating highlight cruising this incredible river.

Resting easy in China

No one does China like Gate 1. Our knowledgeable guides use their longtime contacts to open doors to you that other travellers miss and introduce you to China’s most remarkable resource: its people. We’ve handpicked the best local accommodations for your journey to ensure your comfort. And our Yangtze River cruise unfolds aboard a five-star cruise ship purpose-built for the river, boasting roomy cabins and impeccable service. Best of all, we take care of all the details every step of the way, so you can leave the logistics to us and spend your time uncovering the compelling mysteries of this enigmatic nation.

Follow this link to our exciting  www.gate1travel.com.au/asia-pacific/china-japan. Or call to find out more, 1300 653 618. Plus Retirement Australia Living readers receive an exclusive $200 per person discount on any China tour, simply quote promotion code RAL200A when you book this year.

6 Reasons to Visit

South America

There's not much South America doesn't have to offer those who wander this vast continent. From natural beauty, wildlife experiences and historical sights, to unique food, music and diverse culture - there's something for everyone to discover in South America.

1.     It's diverse and otherwordly landscapes will leave you breathless

More than twice the size of Australia and possessing one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, South America has a nature playground for everyone. If you favour picturesque mountain peaks and mammoth glaciers then Patagonia is the spot for you. Once considered a trekkers paradise, there are now many ways to explore this region that are easier on the knees! Don't miss Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina. For those who prefer tropical climates and beaches, Brazil is unmatched. On the border of Argentina and Brazil lies the must see natural wonder of the world, Iguazu Falls. Boasting 275 waterfalls and home to the cheeky possum-like coatis, this attraction is unforgettable. Stunning Rio de Janeiro is another must visit. Relax on Ipanema beach with a caprihiana in hand admiring the view of the Two Brothers Mountain, known to locals as Morro Dois Irmaos.

2 . It is the mecca of bucketlist experiences

 

Voted in 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is high on most adventurer’s bucket lists. Although still very much a mystery, historians believe that this 15th century Inca citadel located in the Cusco Region of Urubamba was built in 1450 and abandoned a century later when the Spanish conquistadors invaded. It remained unknown to the world until it was discovered by an American historian by the name of Hiram Bingham in 1911. Now over 1.5 million tourists visit the site every year, but with Gate 1 you won’t feel like part of the crowd because you’ll be there at the best times and escorted by the best local guides to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Another South American icon which is also listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World is the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue which sits atop Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue is 30 metres tall and 29 metres wide and weighs 635 tons! While it is truly inspiring for those who visit, the attraction also provides stunning vistas of the city of Rio De Janeiro and neighbouring Sugarloaf Mountain.

4.     It has a diverse culture and rich history

South America is made up of 13 different countries, each with their own unique culture, heritage and even climate. Even countries with similar traditions and heritage have distinct differences which set them apart. For example, Peru and Bolivia both still carry on traditions from the early Incan civilisations, however their traditional dress is quite different. In Bolivia it is common for local La Paz women, also known as “cholitas”, to wear bowler hats and pleated skirts which were bought to the countries by Englishmen in the 1800s. Another example is Argentina and Chile who both share similar climates and beautifully preserved colonial cities however have distinct cuisines and Spanish dialects. One cannot visit Argentina without trying their world-famous Asado, a barbeque cooked on a grill called a parilla or on an open fire. For history buffs follow the steps of the Spanish Conquistodors and visit the cities of Cartagena in Colombia, Cuzco in Peru and Cuenca in Ecuador to gain insight into these country's legacy and the era of colonial conquest.

5.     Astounding Wildlife Experiences

Unique close encounters and wildlife experiences await nature lovers in South America. The stand out is of course the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, which is home to 14 unique species of animals and birdlife. Made famous by Charles Darwin during his development of the theory of evolution in 1859, this cluster of volcanic islands provides visitors the opportunity to get incredibly close to the wildlife due to the isolated environment and lack of predators. Among the favourites are the Galapagos Tortoise, Marine Iguana and Blue-footed Booby. Often referred to as the 'world's lungs', the Amazon basin which crosses through 9 different countries is home to more than 40,000 species of plants and more than 4,500 animal species plus an estimated 200 local tribes. Travellers can visit the dense jungle in the northern parts of Peru or the drier pampas region in Bolivia. The Pantanal wetlands in Southern Brazil is another region known for its remoteness and those who venture there may even have the opportunity to spot a jaguar!

6.     Its festive culture will invigorate you

If the Amazon is the lungs of the world then Buenos Aires is the feet and Rio De Janiero its heartbeat. Music and rhythm runs through the veins of South Americans and they love nothing more than to dance, sing and get festive! Samba is the flavour in Brazil and Carnivale is its most famous celebration. More than two million people gather in the streets of Rio De Janeiro every day of the festival in February to celebrate in honour of the gods and to respect the great waters. In Argentina the locals move to the rhythm of the tango which has its cultural home in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of La Boca. Further north in Colombia the salsa is the most popular form of social dance and has its own distinct style. Get inspired by the heat of the Latin night, grab a partner and learn some new moves. No matter where you are in South America there will always be time to move those hips!

No one knows South America like Gate 1 Travel, with expert Tour Managers hailing from the very countries they’re introducing you to. Their insider knowledge and connections are invaluable in ensuring you get the most from your visit. What’s more, our 30+ years of experience in the continent lets us offer you more ways to discover its magical wonders.

Explore the very best of South America with Gate 1 Travel's 18 Day Classic Brazil, Argentina and Peru escorted tour which includes visits to Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires. Or choose from our wide selection of trips in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and more!

Retirement Australia Living readers can enjoy a special $200 per person discount on any of Gate 1 Travel’s escorted tours of South America. Simply visit our website www.gate1travel.com.au or phone up 1300 653 618 to speak to one of our travel specialists and quote the promo code RAL200A at the time of booking to receive the discount!

What’s it like on a

European River Cruise?

In the last decade we've seen a huge growth in river cruising and it's now one of the most popular ways to explore Europe. But what's the appeal? We asked Gate 1 Travel, who operate affordable river cruises on Europe’s great waterways, to shed some light on the travel craze and tell us what it's like when you're on board.

 

A Floating Hotel

Gate 1 Travel's ships have been designed with the view in mind, with large windows in the cabins, dining rooms, lounges and other public spaces – and with few exterior visual obstructions on the outside decks. Throughout, you’ll find soothing interiors, top of the line furnishings and stylish décor.

From the restaurants, you’ll enjoy full outdoor views while dining and during the day you can relax on the sun deck and watch the passing scenery. In the evenings the top deck becomes the spot for star gazers, or you can share a drink with fellow travellers in the comfortable lounge. Take time out and curl up with a book or surf the internet in our generously-sized library and you can get yourself a cuppa whenever you wish from the 24-hour tea & coffee station

But it's not entirely like a hotel - because imagine unpacking your bag once and settling in to a room with

an ever-changing view!

"What was unexpected for me about the Gate 1 Danube cruise was the standard of luxury we experienced. 

A seriously divine bed, great cabin lighting, huge TV screen, large mirrors and a bathroom that ticked all the boxes for the travelling woman. Occasionally I just lay in bed watching the amazing scenery pass by." Nicole T. from QLD, Australia, travelled on the 9 Day Danube River Cruise.

So Much To See

While it's tempting to stay on board and enjoy all the facilities, delivered right to your doorstep are exciting new experiences and wonderful places to explore.

Shore excursions are included to give you more information about the history and culture of the region. Sightseeing of different stops along the way include Vienna, with its legendary opulence and elegance, the historic Benedictine Abbey in Melk and see the beautiful churches and stone bridges of Regensburg. You can also walk in Bamberg's medieval centre and take a glass-top boat cruise through the canals of Amsterdam.

"The shore excursions I expected would be just a walk around with one of the crew sharing whatever knowledge they had, but no – certainly not, we were always met by an experienced tour guide and our earphones where great, especially for the hard-of-hearing like my husband, so they didn’t miss anything. Even with the guide, our trusty tour director Peter was always there, usually bringing up the rear making sure the tour kept a pace every one could keep up with and always with a helping hand up and down steps and of course the cry of “watch out, bike coming”.

"During those excursions we always saw the tours from other ships, so they were doing the exact same thing as us only paying more. If we weren’t close to town a coach was always laid-on and we were given plenty of time to do our own thing if we wanted." Sandra F., NSW Australia

Lounging Around & Being Entertained

There are many areas on the ships to sit, relax and escape for some quiet time if you wish. There are also comfortable places to enjoy the company of friends or mingle with your fellow travellers.

Each of the ships has a bar and lounge area, that's ideal for socialising over a few drinks and taking advantage of the great happy hours. In the evenings our in-house musician will entertain you with world-class performances and many of our staff know how to put on a fun show.

One of the features of Gate 1's ship is that they all have unobstructed viewing areas, so you can enjoy watching all the activity on the river or keep an eye out for the impressive landmarks as you cruise by.

What Others Have to Say

"The trip was great. We were very happy with every aspect of the cruise - particularly the tour directors (specially Herbert - a real champion!) who were outstanding. Peter, the Executive Chef and his team also produced superb meals and all the service and housekeeping staff were terrific - unfailingly friendly and incredibly helpful. Amelia's service and wine knowledge were impressive and Stefan's bar service (especially his Bloody Mary) was legendary. The Master and crew did a great job getting us through without falling prey to shallow and obstructed waterways. We'd happily very strongly recommend this cruise to anyone."  James H, from ACT Australia, travelled on 16 Day Classic European River Cruise.

"I must say that I had a wonderful time on my last cruise. The Gate 1 staff were wonderful, in particular Sabi our cruise coordinator. He has a lot of patience and he looked in to all the finer details that would allow us to enjoy our cruise comfortably. He's always there to help. I am impressed with the information we got prior to all events so we knew what's going to happen the next day and all the important issues that we needed to be aware of. The local tour guides were all very good and knowledgeable. I'll highly recommend Gate 1 travel to all my friends and relatives for sure whenever I have the chance!" Sim-Ha C., from NSW Australia, travelled on 14 Day Danube River Cruise with Budapest & Prague.

Want to find out more about river cruising with Gate 1 Travel? Visit www.gate1travel.com.au to see their full list of European River Cruises or call 1300 653 618 to request a brochure and speak to their travel specialists.

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