Monthly Archives: June 2014

diving in kelp forests in California:A scuba diver amongst the kelp stalks. Photo by, tcm friends.com

Scuba diving in kelp forests in California

Most people think of open water, oceans and colourful coral when they think of scuba diving, but kelp forests are becoming increasingly popular as diving destinations purely because they’re so unique.

What to know about diving in kelp forests in California

diving in kelp forests in California: The giant kelp forest offshore of California. Photo by, brettseymourphotography.blogspot.com

The giant kelp forest offshore of California. Photo by brettseymourphotography.blogspot.com

Kelp is large green and brown coloured algae that grows tall, hanging like giant canopies over your head as you dive, giving the most surreal feeling. The kelp provides shelter and food for thousands of different species so there’s always a chance of seeing something quite spectacular that regular scuba diving doesn’t offer.

Most kelp forests are protected because they grow in nutrient rich waters, and attract the likes of whales, sea otters, gulls, seals and sea lions; along with thousands of different types of fish and small underwater invertebrates.

There are many kelp forests located on the coast of Southern California, from San Diego to Santa Cruz. This is not the only location of kelp forests– there are many throughout Alaska, but the water there is a lot colder and not as great for diving.

The locations of the kelp are at Sandhill Bluff, MacAbee, Jalama, Hopkins, Purisima, Anacapa and Pelican Bay. When you’re travelling around sunny CA make sure to give a quick visit to one of these locations.

MORE: 6 OF THE BEST CENOTES IN MEXICO FOR SWIMMING

What to bring with you when diving here

diving in kelp forests in California:A sea lion in its natural habitat. Photo by nationalgeographic.com

A sea lion in it’s natural habitat. Photo by National Geographic

A wetsuit is usually a good place to start as the water of kelp forests is always quite cold. It’s best to avoid having anything hanging off of you or your snorkel as it can grab and pull onto kelp so remove anything from your suit that could get you tangled.

Bring a full pony bottle, the kelp will be overhead and you will be fully submerged. If you’ve never dived with secondary air supply before, please look into doing diving lessons as it can be quite complex. Also, many divers take knives and weight belts to prevent from getting wrapped around the kelp – it can happen!

Tips that will help you while diving in kelp forests

diving in kelp forests in California:A scuba diver amongst the kelp stalks. Photo by, tcm friends.com

A scuba diver amongst the kelp stalks. Photo by tcm friends.com

Diving in kelp forests is very different to open water diving. You have to be precise when you enter to prevent you from becoming tangled.

When descending, don’t step straight off the boat; you must look for an opening and always look down before you descend. Kelp doesn’t always grow to the water’s surface, so openings can often be deceiving.

Attempt to descend vertically as it will prevent you from getting snagged and always look around once you have entered the water. From there you can decide on a clear path so that you don’t get stuck anywhere.

Use your hands out in front of you, palms outward to spread gaps in the kelp for you to swim through. Always try not turn too much as you swirl water around and give kelp the chance to move and become tangled. Remember you’re swimming in an underwater jungle and so getting tangled is really life or death. There have been reports of divers drowning because of being tangled in kelp so ensure you have a buddy. Keep an eye out for one another.

When ascending, look for an opening and swim vertically. If you find that you have ascended up into the canopy of the kelp, descend and reascend horizontally.

Keep in mind when you’re diving that the sun is the number one source of energy that helps kelp grow, so it’s naturally thicker closer to the top. If you dive towards the bottom, the kelp will hang overhead rather than all around you and it will be easier to swim.

Guided dives and diving schools

diving in kelp forests in California:Observation area in Monterey Bay. Photo by Tourism  Review

Observation area in Monterey Bay. Photo by Tourism Review

Going on a guided dive or practicing through a diving school is highly recommended when diving in kelp forests. In open water, you are prepared to dive where there are clearings and you’re taught to ascend slowly, but in kelp there are a lot more rules.

There are a few schools you can book through, especially in California as there are so many kelp diving locations.

One to consider is the Ocean Adventures Diving Co, as they offer a range of options and have price listings dependant on the number of divers. More information on their diving options here.

visit the Bahamas: A boat resting in the blue waters of the Bahamas. Photo by NormLanier, flickr

7 good reasons to visit the Bahamas right now

There’s no secret that the Bahamas are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world; visited by travellers of all kinds. The Bahamas are particularly popular with celebrities, who visit the area at all different times of the year in search for sun and solitude. Located in the North Atlantic Sea, the Bahamas consist of over 700 islands, not including atolls or cays, most of which are uninhabited.

Here we give you seven reasons why you should visit the Bahamas:

The beaches

The Bahamas consist of hundreds of islands, offering many stunning beaches for you to choose from. The water is warm almost all year around, and it’s always clear, clean and pristine which is great for both swimming and diving. All of the beaches have squeaky white sand! The beaches of the Bahamas are like something out of a movie.

While you’re in the Bahamas, make sure to visit Gold Rock Beach; it’s one of the most popular beaches in the island area and for all the right reasons – it’s basically heaven on earth.

MORE: THE MAYAN TEMPLE – THE COOLEST WATER SLIDE IN THE BAHAMAS

Junkanoo

Easily the biggest event in The Bahamas is Junkanoo; a festival held on Boxing Day (26th December) and New Year’s Day (1st January). The festival is a street parade, where groups of people dress up and rush through the streets wearing costumes and capes made of coloured crepe paper. The festival includes distinctive loud music which makes for a great dancing in the street. Imagine costumes, music and colour; it all sounds like a good time!

Nature

The Bahamas are home to a distinct group of tropical flora and fauna and they’re definitely a highlight to any trip to the area. In the water, you can see all different kinds of aquatic life including turtles, starfish, sharks, dolphins, manatees and various breeds of tropical fish. On land, there are raccoons, frogs, crabs, wild horses and a vast array of colourful parrots.

Make sure to take a visit to the Lucayan National Park which showcases all of the beautiful wildlife in a protected zone. A lot of the areas in the Bahamas are eco-friendly, and most monitor the wildlife so please think twice before moving shells or small animals.

Diving

The Bahamas offer some of the best diving spots in the world, as the water is almost always warm and clear. There have been a few sunken ships along the coastline of New Providence Island which divers find fascinating.

The Lucayan National Park has a six-mile underground freshwater cave which is the longest in the world, offering a freshwater diving experience where you can see eels, shrimp and a species of crustacean which has been found nowhere else in the world.

Grand Bahama Island is littered with fantastic reef systems which are colourful and interesting, as they are also home to the Caves where another ship wreck exists, called Theo’s Wreck. Popular diving spots are called Treasure Reef, Spit City and Rose Garden and tours go daily to each of these locations.

Paradise Island

This is a place that certainly lives up to its name and a trip to the Bahamas wouldn’t quite be complete if you didn’t visit Paradise Island. It’s the place to be for all sorts of entertainment; casinos, night clubs, bars, restaurants, shopping, and it’s also home to the world-famous Atlantis Paradise Island Resort.

This is the place to be if you want to spot sunbathing celebrities, or if you feel up for splurging on five-star accommodation, enjoying fine dining and expensive champagne. It’s your holiday, why not go a little crazy?

Water sports

Water sports are easily the most popular activity in the Bahamas, because there’s so many things to choose from. All of the beaches are open to jet skis, wakeboarding, surfing, windsurfing, parasailing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, kiteboarding and so much more. You have the option to so many different exciting things that will be sure to get your heart racing and your blood pumping.

The weather

The Bahamas are great all year round. There’s an obvious peak season, but don’t let that fool you because the area is equally as beautiful (and not too cold) in the cooler months. You can expect long days of sun and warm temperatures almost all year around and that’s what makes the Bahamas such a great holiday location.

life-changing adventures: Kalymnos is a rock climbers paradise. Photo by alfatango.org

15 life-changing adventures that will make you want to quit your job

Seen the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Colosseum? Many of us have. But these aren’t adventures, these are destinations. An adventure is the combination of a destination and an activity. From swimming with sharks to exploring the Sahara Desert, these life-changing adventures will not only inspire you to start planning your very own journey, but will probably make you want to quit your job and book the next flight out.

Hiking Island Peak

life-changing adventures: Hikers tackle the steep climb of Imja Tse. Photo by asiaexplorationtreks.com

Hikers tackle the steep climb of Imja Tse. Photo by asiaexplorationtreks.com

For the thrill of hiking in the Himalayas without the frostbite, head to eastern Nepal where you’ll find Island Peak, also known as Imja Tse. The Island Peak trail is one of Nepal’s most accessible routes, and is often used as a training exercise in preparation for Mount Everest. Unlike Mount Everest however, the trip can be attempted by most people, and although exhausting, it’s an amazing experience.

Seeing Petra at Night

life-changing adventures: Hundreds of candles illuminate Petra's Treasury. Photo by travelmatters.co.uk

Hundreds of candles illuminate Petra’s Treasury. Photo by travelmatters.co.uk

Once you’ve taken a few days out to explore the many winding canyons, hidden caves, tombs, and monasteries of Petra, it’s time to let the sun set and be amazed. The enormous façade of the Treasury is lit with hundreds of candles, bringing the ancient city to life and creating a truly unforgettable experience.

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

life-changing adventures: A diver swims alongside a gentle giant. Photo by cancunwhaleshark.com

A diver swims alongside a gentle giant. Photo by cancunwhaleshark.com

Swimming with sharks is something that should be on any bucket list, and what better way to check it off than to go swimming with whale sharks in Mexico. Although whale sharks are classified as fish, they are the biggest fish in the ocean, reaching 12 metres in length, or the size of a bus. Isla Mujeres has become a popular spot for these incredible creatures, as hundreds of them gather between June and September when the weather warms up.

The Inca Trail

life-changing adventures: You'll be able to behold Machu Pichu along the Inca Trail. Photo by trepidcat

You’ll be able to behold Machu Pichu along the Inca Trail. Photo by trepidcat

One of the most famous trails in the world, and featured on many bucket lists, is the Inca Trail. Only for the adventurous, this trail takes visitors on a 4 day trek from Cusco through exotic jungles, over rivers, and across high passes before arriving at the legendary city in the clouds, Machu Picchu. This trek however, can be something of a challenge, as the high altitude can cause difficulties.

Ballooning over Bagan

life-changing adventures: Hot air balloons give a bird's eye view of the ancient landscape. Photo by worldoftravel.com

Hot air balloons give a bird’s eye view of the ancient landscape. Photo by worldoftravel.com

The ancient city of Bagan is home to over 2,000 incredible pagodas and temples. With such a huge area to cover, hot air ballooning is the perfect way to see it all. Guided by gentle winds, passengers will experience a serene and peaceful bird’s eye view of the ancient temples shrouded in mist. Due to the warm climate in Myanmar, these balloon rides can be experienced all year round, without the interruption of a rainy season.

Safari in Maasai Mara

life-changing adventures: A safari tour getting to know the locals. Photo by duststormsafaris.com

A safari tour getting to know the locals. Photo by duststormsafaris.com

For the ultimate African safari experience, look no further than Kenya’s Maasai Mara. The Serengeti is home to Africa’s famous ‘Big 5’, meaning you’ll get up close and personal encounters with lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffaloes. The area is also famous for the Great Migration of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest every year from July to October.

Island Hopping in Guna Yala

life-changing adventures: One of the many small islands that make up Guna Yala. Photo by Wikimedia.org

One of the many small islands that make up Guna Yala. Photo by Wikimedia.org

Island hopping is the perfect way to spend a summer, and while islands such as those in the Caribbean are beautiful, they don’t offer the same experience as those in Guna Yala. Here you will find stunning beaches and crystal clear waters to explore. More importantly however, you will find over 300 incredible uninhabited islands. So pull a boat up to an island of your choosing and enjoy your very own private beach.

Hiking the Perito Moreno Glacier

life-changing adventures: The jagged blue expanses of Perito Moreno Glacier dominate the landscape. Photo by marksmao.com

The jagged blue expanses of Perito Moreno Glacier dominate the landscape. Photo by marksmao.com

To behold the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina is breathtaking in itself. But to actually hike it, is like no other experience. The glacier looms 60 metres above the milky green water, and moves 2 metres a day. You may also get a shock when huge chunks of ice break away and hurtle into the lake. The iconic peaks look like jagged shark teeth from afar, but the beautiful whites and blues will soon lure you in.

Driving the Great Ocean Road

life-changing adventures: The 12 Apostles are a prominent attraction of the Great Ocean Road. Photo by Wikimedia.org

The 12 Apostles are a prominent attraction of the Great Ocean Road. Photo by Wikimedia.org

On the south east coast of Australia is the world’s most scenic drive. The 240 kilometre drive showcases some of Australia’s most beautiful spots, including beaches, tropical rainforests, and the world famous 12 Apostles. You’ll also find a number of museums, outdoor activities, water sports, and many other activities along the way, so be sure to take a least a week exploring it.

Rock Climbing in Kalymnos

life-changing adventures: Kalymnos is a rock climbers paradise. Photo by alfatango.org

Kalymnos is a rock climber’s paradise. Photo by alfatango.org

The Greek Islands probably brings you visions of crystal clear waters and leaves you daydreaming about island hopping, partying, and immersing yourself in the culture. The island of Kalymnos however, allows you to take in the beautiful surroundings while enjoying the thrill of rock climbing the Aegean’s most impressive cliffs and rock formations. But if you think this is just for the experts, think again. The island caters to every level and will leave you wanting more.

Sailing Ha Long Bay

life-changing adventures: Natural rock formations line Ha Long Bay. Photo by vietnammuslimtours.vn

Natural rock formations line Ha Long Bay. Photo by vietnammuslimtours.vn

This UNESCO listed site includes over 1600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited and therefore unaffected by humans. The Vietnamese bay is full of hidden caves and other secrets to discover. To make the most of this adventure, spend the night in a cabin on a junk boat and float under the stars.

Route 66 Road Trip

life-changing adventures: Prime American countryside along Route 66. Photo by Wikipedia

Prime American countryside along Route 66. Photo by Wikipedia

Covering a massive 3,940 kilometres, Route 66 is considered the great American road trip. The incredibly scenic route takes visitors through some amazing landscapes, especially those between Texas and California. Explore the history of the American west and take in the amazing natural wonders that the United States has to offer.

Exploring the Indus River Valley

life-changing adventures: Ancient rope bridge crossing the Indus River. Photo by Wikipedia

Ancient rope bridge crossing the Indus River. Photo by Wikipedia

Around 5,000 years ago, an important civilisation developed on the Indus River floodplain, and a number of settlements in the surrounding areas were built. Today, that area combines rugged natural beauty with rich culture. Explore the mountain passes, roaring rivers, and incredible Buddhist monasteries in northern India’s hidden gem.

Route of the Kasbahs

life-changing adventures: Moroccon Kasbahs hugging the side of a mountain. Photo by zastavki.com

Moroccon Kasbahs hugging the side of a mountain. Photo by zastavki.com

The Kasbahs of Morocco are relatively unknown to many, but this ancient world is full of history and adventure. The city forts are found between the High Atlas and the Sahara. There you will find high mountains, deep canyons, sandy dunes, and innumerable Kasbahs. After a day of exploring, enjoy the local culture and friendly smiles of the Berber locals.

Exploring the Sahara by Camel

life-changing adventure: A caravan of camels traverse the sand dunes. Photo by ergmorocco.com

A caravan of camels traverse the sand dunes. Photo by ergmorocco.com

Another adventure not to be missed, and also located in Morocco, is exploring the Sahara by camel. Watching the sun rise over the endless stretch of desert and dunes in southern Morocco is an experience you will be telling your friends about for years. Camp in a Berber tent, travel by camel during the day, and experience desert life like you never thought possible.

Interesting places in Uruguay: La Paloma lighthouse at sunset. Photo by Setesete77, flickr

5 interesting places in Uruguay that you may not know

A quaint fruit stand in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Photo by Vince Alongi, flickr

A quaint fruit stand in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Photo by Vince Alongi, flickr

Uruguay often gets overlooked by tourists. Today, however, it remains a quaint destination, rich in culture and history. The capital Montevideo is loaded with history, and has many interesting landmarks and picturesque coloured buildings. There’s so much to see when you’re travelling through Uruguay.

Here are five other interesting places in Uruguay we suggest you visit when passing through this interesting little country:

Punta del Diablo is a pretty seaside village with so much to offer. Photo by Vince Alongi, flickr

Punta del Diablo is a pretty seaside village with so much to offer. Photo by Vince Alongi, flickr

Punta del Diablo

Punta del Diablo is a small seaside village of around 850 residents, but what makes it so fascinating are the quirky brightly coloured seaside buildings. It looks like a charming village found in a fairytale. The beaches of Uruguay often get overlooked but give them a try. They’re just as beautiful as the beaches in Brazil and not as crowded.

What to do and see

It can get quite cold during winter, so renting a beachside villa with a fireplace is a good idea. Many travellers have passed the time with a bottle of red wine and some local sundried tomatoes, olives and tasty cheeses. It’s not too fast paced, so it’s a great place to go to getaway from the standard travel routes in South America.

There’s only one ATM and it sometimes isn’t working, so bring enough cash to cover your spending. A lot of the hotels in the area will accept American dollars.

Where to stay

The Pueblo Rivero is a great place to stay when in Punta del Diablo. All of the facilities have been given high ratings and the cabins are sleek, modern wooden designs which are great for summertime. Pueblo Rivero offer cabins that house up to six guests so it’s a great place for families. Prices for a 2 person cabin start at roughly $100 USD per night.

MORE: HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF CARNIVAL IN BRAZIL

Historical monuments in Salto. Photo by, lenzoi.blogspot.com

Historical monuments in Salto. Photo by, lenzoi.blogspot.com

Salto

One of the larger cities, Salto is located on the border of Uruguay and Argentina and reflects the history and culture from both places. In Salto, you can enjoy true South American culture such as dancing, live music, drinking and eating. It’s fairly common to see both locals and tourists travelling from Salto into Argentina on day trips for shopping, nightlife and dining.

What to do and see

Salto is great for small museums and galleries so make sure to visit the Museo del Hombre y la Tecnologia. It’s an interesting museum that offers insight into local cultural development and technological advancements. There are a few historical landmarks and monuments throughout the city and downtown.

Where to stay

Opt for the Salto Hotel Y Casino – it has great location, central location with great facilities including a casino, gym, pool and spa.

City architecture in Salto. Photo by Maria Jose, Pinterest

City architecture in Salto. Photo by Maria Jose, Pinterest

Tacuarembo

Tacuarembo is a destination that displays the historical and cultural heritage of Uruguay. It is said that it is the centre for the original Gaucho culture – the South American equivalent to cowboys. It is also said that Tacuarembo is the birthing place of Carlos Gardel who was a tango legend, so prepare to put on your cowboy boots and do a little tango on your visit here.

What to do and see

This tiny town reflects so much of their culture, so it’s best to see all of the interesting monuments and eat traditional food. There is a museum in the city centre dedicated to tango-man Carlos Gardel, so you can educate yourself on just how good he was at doing the tango and why it’s so important. The Gruta de Los Helechos nature park is also a great spot to visit for those who want to see a bit of nature on their trip. There are some small streams and waterfalls, as well as a few hiking trails throughout the park but they aren’t always open so make sure to plan ahead.

Where to stay

Stay in the quaint Hotel Plaza. It’s a simple hotel, but it offers all that you need to have a comfortable stay including breakfast and is ideally located close to the city centre. It costs roughly $60 USD per night for a double. If you are after something more upmarket, check out the Hotel Carlos Gardel, this guy really is a legend, because it’s a boutique motel with larger, more luxurious rooms.

The Monument to the 33 Orientales. Photo by, ciudadtreintaytres.blogspot.com

The Monument to the 33 Orientales. Photo by, ciudadtreintaytres.blogspot.com

Treinta Y Tres

The name Treinta Y Tres translates to “33″ and refers to the 19th century heroes who established independence in Uruguay. They were called the 33 Orientales, and were 33 men exiled from Argentina. Today, there stands a marble monument in the town square which has each of their names on it to commemorate them. Not only is Treinta Y Tres full of history, it’s also very pretty and picturesque, there are quaint coloured buildings, parks and a beautiful river snaking through the town.

What to do and see

Visit the 33 Orientales monument in the city centre and have a look into some of the most important historical events that took place in Uruguay. Spend some time enjoying the local stores, and then relax at the municipal park which is located on the shore of the Olimar River. Here you can swim, fish or go kayaking.

Where to stay

The Treinta Y Tres Hotel offers simplistic accommodation with great traditional cuisine at the local restaurant. At the hotel you have full access to a gym, internet and daily breakfast included in the cost of your room. A single standard room starts at $45 USD per night, while a 3 person luxury room sits at $140 USD per night.

La Paloma beach-side. Photo by surfrider.org

La Paloma beach-side. Photo by surfrider.org

La Paloma

La Paloma is a small seaside city with the stunning rural backdrop of Rocha surrounding it. La Paloma is the place to visit stunning beaches, similar to those in the neighbouring countries but are not busy tourist filled beaches. It’s a great little surfing spot too and there are often free concerts and events held on the beaches.

What to do and see

Swim, surf, and sunbathe. Enjoy the warm, exotic sand and surf, and then visit the El Faro del Cabo Santa Maria lighthouse. Afterwards, spend some time at the Laguna de Rocha; it is a protected ecological reserve known for its lagoons of shrimp, crab, fish and molluscs which attract many migratory birds feeding on the abundant food supply.

Where to stay

The UY Proa Sur Hotel offers panoramic sea views, and great facilities whilst still being affordable for couples and families. From roughly $66USD per night for a single standard room but this also includes entry to the sauna, pool, buffet breakfast, and comes with wifi and cable television.

An aerial view of the Olimar River. Photo by, panoramio.com

An aerial view of the Olimar River. Photo by, panoramio.com

The best time to travel to Uruguay

Because of its location, there’s not really ever a time where Uruguay gets too cold. There are times when the temperature drops, but it is very rarely unbearable and travel never stops due to weather conditions. There is, however, an obvious peak season which is when most tourists arrive. Many tourists come from Argentina, Brazil and North America for the summer: December to February. Temperatures are normally in the high 30s C or 80s F. A lot of cafés, restaurants and hotels are only open during summer, especially in La Paloma and Punta del Diablo, so book and plan accordingly.

The spa at Jumeirah Resort, Maldives. Photo by jumeirah.com

Staying at the Jumeirah Resort in the Maldives

Over-water bungalows at Jumeirah Resort, Maldives. Photo by viluxur.com

Over-water bungalows at Jumeirah Resort, Maldives. Photo by viluxur.com

Imagine making your way over the sparkling blue waters of the Indian Ocean to arrive at your destination – a luxury resort atop of white sandy beaches, scattered with over-water bungalows so beautifully isolated that you need a boat to reach them. The Jumeirah Resort in the Maldives has the ability to turn the most luxurious dreams into reality, and here’s why.

The Maldives is home to some of the world’s most beautiful resort destinations, with Jumeirah Vittaveli being among the best. The resort includes a collection of 91 suites and villas, all featuring amenities such as their own private massage room, direct beach access, and private pools.

Those who wish to splurge spectacularly can spend a night in the resort’s presidential suite, which is about three times the size of a tennis court and features an outdoor shower, a spa, and two private swimming pools. This luxury experience doesn’t come cheap though, expect to spend anywhere between $1,200 USD and $10,000 USD per night at this resort, but who can put a price on luxury, right?

How to get there

The ocean suites. Photo by jumeirah.com

The ocean suites. Photo by jumeirah.com

Located on the South Male Atoll, one of only 200 populated islands in the Maldives, Jumeirah Vittaveli is a resort that combines accessibility with luxury and privacy. From the capital of Male, you can reach the resort by a short 20-minute boat ride from the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

MORE: 5 THINGS TO DO WHILE STAYING IN THE MALDIVES

What to do

Have a romantic dinner for two on the beach at Jumeirah Resort. Photo by jumeirah.com

Have a romantic dinner for two on the beach at Jumeirah Resort. Photo by jumeirah.com

Whether you are seeking a romantic getaway or an exotic destination for your family, enjoy an experience worthy of the idyllic island the Jumeirah Resort calls home. Lounge on white sandy beaches, re-energise in the signature spa, feast on decadent dishes, or simply relax in the intimate space of your own Maldivian hideaway.

The resort is a hub of activity, but the focus here is on relaxation. You can spend hours on the sea-facing trails, or seek adventure on the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean by snorkeling, canoeing, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing, or diving. For a change of pace, stretch out by the poolside, or indulge in a pampering treatment from the world-class Talise signature spa.

The spa at Jumeirah Resort, Maldives. Photo by jumeirah.com

The spa at Jumeirah Resort, Maldives. Photo by jumeirah.com

The spa at Jumeirah Vittaveli Resort offers signature treatments delivered by experienced spa therapists in rooms on land and over water. Treatments at Talise Vittaveli are inspired by the elements of light and space, connecting with the purity of their ingredients which are hand-harvested by local communities using traditional farming methods. Romantic spaces for couples are available, and the spa menu offers an abundance of individual treatments.

Where to eat

Private dinner for two, anyone? Photo by jumeirah.com

Private dinner for two, anyone? Photo by jumeirah.com

Whether you’re in the mood for cocktails at sunset or lunch by the water, you can enjoy a dining experience fit for the beauty of the Maldives by choosing one of the three restaurants at Jumeirah, as well as a beach-side cocktail bar.

Romantic getaways

The bath in the beach suite. Photo by jumeirah.com

The bath in the beach suite. Photo by jumeirah.com

When it comes to special occasions, the clear waters and white sandy beaches of the Maldives are hard to beat. The island’s natural beauty is the perfect backdrop to any special occasion, and the team of wedding coordinators and event planners at the Jumeirah Resort can take care of everything, meaning there’s more time to soak up the paradise around you and celebrate life’s most special moments.

The Jumeirah honeymoon package ties the best of the resort together. Enjoy a Champagne breakfast, signature couple’s massage, and a four course dinner on the beach. Visit http://www.jumeirah.com/ for more information.

most secretive islands: Blue waters of the southern islands of Japan - Yaeyama. Photo by Ippei & Janice Naoi, flickr

Where to find the most secretive islands around the world

Each year, thousands of tourists flock to the seas in search of the best Islands – we want pristine sand, crystal clear water, luxury resorts rolled all into the peace and tranquility offered by island lifestyle. While the islands of Fiji, New Caledonia and the Maldives are all popular holiday destinations, they don’t quite hold the same sort of exclusivity to them; they’re too popular, not that it’s a bad thing – but here we list some islands that are not visited so often and thus have all the more space for you to embrace the serenity of isolation. Put your phones away; don’t pack your laptop or that iPad because you’re heading to paradise on these most secretive islands.

The most secretive islands around the world: The Torres Strait Islands

most secretive islands: Sunset on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Photo by ailanpair, flickr

Sunset on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Photo by ailanpair, flickr

The Torres Strait Islands is made up of approximately 274 small islands, located north of the Cape York Peninsula coast in Australia, and south of eastern Papua New Guinea. The location of the islands ensures that the surrounds are going to be absolutely stunning – the water is clear and clean and the reef makes for fantastic diving. However, the islands are often overlooked in favour of travelling to Cairns for a dive in the Great Barrier Reef; but keep in mind that the reef system spreads to the Torres Strait!

Thursday Island is the tourist hub and commercial centre of the Torres Strait. The resorts are often the largest, and it’s here that you should visit if you want to take a glimpse into the rich culture and history of Australia’s indigenous people. There’s a considerable amount of local art, many markets and colonial architecture which dates back to when Australia was first settled.

What to do: Go fishing, swimming, diving and kayaking. Just keep in mind that there are some areas which aren’t safe for swimming because there are sharks and crocodiles residing in the area. The locals know the best swimming spots, so always ask first. Also, make sure to visit the markets on Thursday Island to get a glimpse of the amazing artworks and culture of Indigenous Australians.

most secretive islands: Swimming at Thursday Island. Photo by ailanpair, flickr

Swimming at Thursday Island. Photo by ailanpair, flickr

How to get there: You can take daily flights directly to the islands in the Torres Strait, particularly to Horn Island. From there you can get water taxis and ferries to smaller islands. Please keep in mind that some islands are protected so there won’t be ferries travelling to them.

Where to stay: There are loads of hotels, lodges and bed & breakfasts’ to choose from around the islands of the Torres Strait. If you do decide to stay on Thursday Island, opt for staying at the Island Villas. The Island Villas are a four-star boutique style self catered accommodation in the form of quaint villas, located with stunning views of the beach. Each of the villas caters to double occupancy, and the starting rate is $280 per night (for two nights), but if you book for five nights or more, you pay only $240 per night so plan accordingly.

MORE: 10 POPULAR ISLANDS TO VISIT IN SOUTH EAST ASIA

Yaeyama Islands

most secretive islands: Blue waters of the southern islands of Japan - Yaeyama. Photo by Ippei & Janice Naoi, flickr

Blue waters of the southern islands of Japan – Yaeyama. Photo by Ippei & Janice Naoi, flickr

Located south-west of Japan are the Yaeyama Islands, a group of islands residing in the deep of the East China Sea. The islands are geographically located closer to Taiwan but are considered to be part of Japan and are Japan’s most remote and most southern islands. There are approximately twelve islands that make up Yaeyama, each of which with different dialect. The most common language is Yaeyama, and Japanese is spoken as a second language.

The Islands are most renowned for their mangrove forests, textile manufacturing, pineapples and sugarcane farms. Not to mention their spectacular beaches! Each island has something different to offer – Iromote is the largest island, and it boasts mangrove swamps, mountains and great hiking with plenty of opportunity to see the native wild cat. Ishigaki has the highest mountain and also a famous bay which offers great swimming. Taketomi is partly reserved due to indigenous villages but has amazing clear water beaches that would make any other island jealous. Each to their own, but why not visit them all?

What to do: Firstly pick up a translation book. Don’t be frightened to try out some new words. Speak to the locals, try their food, drink their beer and then see the very best that each island has to offer. Go hiking in the forests in Iromote and go swimming in Taketomi. Keep in mind; some places have jellyfish which have a bad sting, so steer clear of swimming there. The beaches will be signposted! Yonaguni is also home to some pretty mysterious underwater stone structures, so go for a dive and have a look.

How to get there: The main airport is located on Ishigaki Island, and you can fly there from mainland Japan. Flights are fairly sporadic, however, so book in advance and make sure you don’t miss your flight. Once you get there, you can travel around the islands by boat, which come regularly and directly take you to each island.

most secretive islands: Enjoying the view at the beaches of Yaeyama. Photo by gruwashi999, flickr

Enjoying the view at the beaches of Yaeyama. Photo by gruwashi999, flickr

Where to stay: Each island offers different sorts of accommodation, but there’s nothing really stopping you from staying on one island and doing day trips to the others. Most resorts and hotels are located on Ishigaki, because that’s where the airport is. When staying in Ishigaki, you should try staying at the Ishigaki Seaside Hotel – which is situated right in front of Sukuji beach. Guests have a choice between a western family room, and garden villas. You can choose to swim at the beach, sunbathe on a sunbed, enjoy the pool or gardens or simply sip on a drink and relax at the hotel bar. Prices for the Ishigaki Seaside Hotel start around $230 per night.

If you would prefer to stay on a smaller island, the Hoshino Resort Risonare Kohamajima on Kohama Island offers great commercialised service without the airport bustle that exists in Ishigaki. The island isn’t small – but it’s location is great and the resort offers complimentary ferry terminal shuttles so travelling is made as easy as possible. Plus, it’s located on the beach and there are spa baths in every room, so what’s not to like?

Îles du Salut

most secretive islands: Iles Du Salut, otherwise known as Devils Island. Photo by Antonio Hubert, flickr

Iles Du Salut, otherwise known as Devils Island. Photo by Antonio Hubert, flickr

Known in English as the Salvation Islands, Iles du Salut is a group of three small islands which once were home to a group of political prisoners. During the years 1852 to 1947, Iles du Salut was an island prison, run by the French Government. It’s estimated that some 80,000 prisoners died from inhumane conditions on the island. However, since then, the islands have been transformed into a private getaway, packed with outstanding history, rich in restored prison buildings, forts and picturesque white-sand beaches.

The island is located off of the east coast of French Guiana in South America, so the area is rich in different kinds of culture and the beaches are stunning.

How to get there: You can travel by sailboat to the island from ports in Cayenne or Kourou. You must book your boat in advance, and be prepared to be sailing for up to an hour and a half. It’s best to stay on mainland as it’s easier to travel to and from.

What to do: Go on tours of the restored prison buildings. Their construction dates back hundreds of years and the buildings served different purposes over the years. Take some time to explore the jungle and the beaches that surround the island.

most secretive islands: Explore the jungle in Iles du Salut. Photo by panoramio

Explore the jungle in Iles du Salut. Photo by panoramio

Where to stay: Kourou is a great place to stay as most boats that go to the island dock from the port here. There are loads of hotels to stay in in Kourou, but opt for a comfortable stay in the Hotel Mercure. Otherwise, you can stay on the island in the Auberge Des Iles Du Salut, which once housed prisoners, so if you’re all for the authentic experience, stay here! If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can choose to camp or stay on the island but be prepared with insect repellent and rain gear.

San Blás Archipelago

most secretive islands: Washed up boat at Panema, San Blas. Photo by zo_ya, flickr

Washed up boat at Panema, San Blas. Photo by zo_ya, flickr

In the North of Panama, facing the Caribbean Sea is the archipelago San Blas. In this area, there are approximately 378 islands, most of which have no inhabitants. However, the two most populated islands, which are also the larger are populated by a blend of native people and tourists. San Blas is one of the most beautiful and popular tourism spots in Central America, but don’t let that throw you off. Yes, tourism is the largest contributor to the economy and is the largest industry in the area, but the tourism isn’t over-commercialised, nor is it unbearable.

Most of the islands have only coconuts and palm trees on them, not a person in sight, so feel free to relax on one of the quieter areas of the archipelago.

most secretive islands: Palm trees and a hut on the islands at San Blas. Photo by jollytempting, flickr

Palm trees and a hut on the islands at San Blas. Photo by jollytempting, flickr

How to get there: The most common method of travelling in Panama, to Sans Blas is by sailboat. However, keep in mind that sailing in the area will cost you roughly $US100, and you must go through customs and have a passport. The waters around Panama are monitored. If you prefer to travel with a company, you can fly directly into Panama City, where you can be transferred by land via 4X4 or taxi, and then water taxi or ferry to the larger islands of San Blas.

What to do: The best thing to do in San Blas is to relax. The area is a great place to soak up the sun, enjoy a book, go swimming and catch up on that much-needed break away from the hustle and bustle. The native people also have great little marketplaces which showcase some really cool artwork and relics, just be careful purchasing products as customs may not allow it back into your home country.

Where to stay: The Dad Ibe Lodge is a great option for accommodation in San Blas. The facilities are fairly basic, but the accommodation provided is comfortable and there’s a beautiful jetty that hangs over the water and gives a spectacular view of the sun over the horizon. Because the rooms are fairly basic, it’s recommended that you bring yourself a towel and a torch is always handy when reading or when travelling from the room at night as it gets very dark. Electricity in San Blas is a luxury!

Most powerful volcanoes in the world. The Fimmvorduhals volcano in Iceland erupts under the Northern lights. Photo by James Appleton

8 of the most powerful volcanic eruptions that will astound you

The most powerful volcanic eruptions have happened all over the world. While it is scary to see the damage they have left, they have also provided some beautiful locations for us travellers to swoon over.

Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo and the surrounding volcanoes which are part of the Tengger Caldera, Java Indonesia. Photo by Michael Day, flickr

Mount Bromo and the surrounding volcanoes which are part of the Tengger Caldera, Java Indonesia. Photo by Michael Day, flickr

Mount Bromo is an active volcano located in East Java, Indonesia. It stands at over 2,300 metres tall, and is one of the most visited tourist sites in Indonesia. The most recent eruption occurred in 2011, and Bromo still exists at an active status. Mount Bromo is the smaller section of the Tengger Caldera, which is a basin crater full of sand, which exists because of collapse of a 4500m high strato-volcano.

It’s suggested that travellers head to the viewpoint for Mount Bromo early in the morning to see the sunrise over the Tengger Caldera as the sight is truly magnificent.

Augustine Volcano

The Augustine eruption of 2006, located at Cook Inlet, Alaska. Photo by U.S Geological Survey, flickr

The Augustine eruption of 2006, located at Cook Inlet, Alaska. Photo by U.S Geological Survey, flickr

Located at the Cook Inlet in southern Alaska is the Augustine Volcano, a lava dome that erupts, leaving the island mainly made up of scattered debris. In total the island of Augustine has a land area of just under 84 km. The volcano has been active for thousands of years – some of the rock is to 40,000 years old.

The last eruption occurred in 2006 and it’s not uncommon for eruption and activity to cause large avalanches in the area.

Puyehue

Puyehue and Cordon Caulle are two volcanoes that exist within one another, creating a mountain in the Andes Mountain region of Chile. The volcanoes are located on the intersection of a traverse belt, meaning there is always a considerable activity in the area.

The most recent eruption was between 2011 and 2012. To this day, there are over ten recorded eruptions – these records don’t include small eruptions or the let off of sulphur. The area is fairly popular for hiking, due to the interesting craters and other volcanic landforms that have developed over the years.

MORE: 20 OF THE COOLEST WATERFALLS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Fimmvorduhals

The Fimmvorduhals volcano in Iceland erupts under the Northern lights. Photo by James Appleton

The Fimmvorduhals volcano in Iceland erupts under the Northern lights. Photo by James Appleton

The Fimmvorduhals is a popular walking track in Iceland, as there are many mountains and beautiful waterfalls to view along the walk. However, the tracks are only open during the summer months of June and August, so keep that in mind if you decide to visit the volcano.

The most recent eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano was in 2010, and it created a number of craters in the area, as well as a fissure vent which sparked more eruptions weeks later. The eruptions were caused by small earthquakes which occurred underneath the surface at the Eyjafjallajokull glacier. Overall, the area is still prone to eruptions, which are small in size but can often cause avalanches due to heavy snowfall in the area. That doesn’t stop people from hiking around the stunning surrounds.

Mount Yasur

The eruption of Mount Yasur in Vanuatu. Photo by U.S Geological Survey, flickr

The eruption of Mount Yasur in Vanuatu. Photo by U.S Geological Survey, flickr

An active volcano located on Tanna Island in Vanuatu, Mount Yasur is 361m above sea level. The last recorded eruption in 2006 but eruptions are sporadic, and so the volcano is fairly accessible to tourists. The government monitors the level of tourism, offering different restrictions depending on how active the volcano is.

If you decide to visit Vanuatu, make a day trip to Mt Yasur where you can go hiking on the mountains and around the craters of the area.

Sakurajima

An electric eruption of the Sakurajima in Japan. Photo by Martin Rietze, via coolstuffdirectory

An electric eruption of the Sakurajima in Japan. Photo by Martin Rietze, via coolstuffdirectory

Sakurajima is an active volcano located in Kyushu, Japan. The volcano is currently being held at a Level Three Orange alert, which means that the volcano is considered active and should not be approached.

The volcano can be viewed from a distance on the water. The most recent eruption was in 2010, and there have been a number of eruptions before this time – each of which has been destructive to the towns surrounding the area. Volcanic activity following the 2010 eruption ran up until late 2013, which is why the volcano is on watch.

Mount Etna

Lava eruption at Mount Etna in Siciliy, Italy. Photo by AP, via smh

Lava eruption at Mount Etna in Siciliy, Italy. Photo by AP, via smh

The tallest active volcano on the continent of Europe is Mount Etna, located on the east coast of Sicily in Italy. It is still active, with the most recent eruption occurring from late 2013 and ongoing into 2014. The volcano is on an active watch, and tourists are discouraged from attempting to hike or travel in the area.

The rock of Mount Etna dates back 500,000 years old and has been erupting constantly for a number of years.

Kalapana

Kilauea lava flow

A powerful eruption at Kalapana in Hawaii. Photo by EPA Bruce Omori via theguardian

Kalapana once was a town, but has since been partially destroyed by lava eruptions and so now exists as a volcano viewing site to active volcano, Kilauea. Kalapana is a great place not only view the volcano, but to also examine the way in which an eruption can shape and change the formation of land – and the type of rock that form after an eruption.
Kalapana is also a great place to go to visit some of Hawaii’s most famous black sand beaches.

Pool meets ocean at Hotel Kia Ora. Photo by Hotel Kia Ora Resort, flickr

Review of 10 of the best resorts in French Polynesia

A blue oasis in French Polynesia. Photo by dany13, flickr

A blue oasis in French Polynesia. Photo by dany13, flickr

There’s no denying that French Polynesia is a tourists playground. Each year, thousands of tourists travel to the Pacific in search of paradise. The problem with this is that the resorts are often over-full; to the point where the resorts that offer peace and quiet are no longer peaceful or quiet. Here we list some of the best resorts in French Polynesia which you should consider when travelling to these stunning islands:

Vahine Island Resort (Tahaa)

Overwater bungalows at the Vahine Island Resort. Photo via exotismes.fr

Overwater bungalows at the Vahine Island Resort. Photo via exotismes.fr

A small luxury hotel located in Tahaa, the Vahine Island Resort is on a private island that offers tranquility amongst a coconut grove. The resort is considered prestigious, but unlike many of the others, it isn’t a chain resort and so it is entirely unique in its layout and each villa and bungalow is made from local materials.

The resort provides guests with the choice between overwater bungalows, beach suite villas and beach bungalows with sand at your front door. On site is also a five star restaurant, and the resort provides guests with free activities including windsurfing, snorkelling, fishing equipment and beach games. You can also book yourself into the spa facilities or get a massage, and whilst you’re there, why not organise a trip to the Vanilla Plantation or Pearl Oyster Farm?

Tikehau Ninamu Resort (Tikehau)

Relax at the Tikehau Ninamu Resort. Photo via motuninamu.com

Relax at the Tikehau Ninamu Resort. Photo via motuninamu.com

This is a great resort for outdoor enthusiasts. There are facilities for diving, fishing, kiteboards, surfing and board paddling. The surrounds have stunning clear water and a great reef system which is idea for snorkelling.

Relax in a coconut leaf hut, soak up the sun and enjoy the exclusivity of this resort. It only has six bungalows, each unique in size, style and layout. The nearby beach is great for swimming and fishing and the surrounds offer excellent hiking trails located in wonderful gardens.

MORE: 5 PLACES IN POLYNESIA YOU HAVE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF

Te Tiare Beach Resort (Huahine)

Sunset over the Te Tiare Beach Resort. Photo by Ocean Air Imagery, flickr

Sunset over the Te Tiare Beach Resort. Photo by Ocean Air Imagery, flickr

A traditional Polynesian getaway, the Te Tiare is great for those who seek a quiet atmosphere. There’s no official website for this resort, so bookings are harder to make but it’s worth it because you’ll find a significant difference in the number of tourists which normally scatter in the chain resorts throughout Polynesia.

The resort has interesting handmade bungalows which reside over the famous clear blue water of French Polynesia. And guests are invited to enjoy a cocktail or two at the onsite bar and restaurant. Stay here if you’re into the idea of a tropical isolated oasis.

Opoa Beach Hotel (Uturoa)

Relax indoors happily with a view like this from your villa at the Opoa Hotel. Photo by tahiti.com

Relax indoors happily with a view like this from your villa at the Opoa Hotel. Photo by tahiti.com

Nestled amongst the trees is this tiny hotel, often overlooked for the larger resorts. However, it has all of the charming perks and facilities that you need on a stay in Polynesia without the hefty price tag that exists for many other accommodation choices. The hotel boasts quaint white villas that surround a pool.

The surrounds are something out of this world entirely – rolling green mountains, beautiful waterfalls amongst the forest and untouched beaches. The restaurant has a menu offering modern cuisine and the rooms proffer country charm and modest elegance. This is definitely one to consider!

Tahiti Homes

Visiting the reef at the Vahine Resort. Photo via exotismes.fr

Visiting the reef at the Vahine Resort. Photo via exotismes.fr

This company offers villas for hire in all different parts of French Polynesia, particularly in Tahiti and Mo’orea and the prices depend on the size of the villa and the duration of your stay. The benefit of renting a villa is that you get the resort living without the extensive prices because these villas can house up to eight people. You can all stay in the one villa and split the cost, rather than paying for several rooms in an expensive chain resort.

Most of the villas are located on beachfront for optimal swimming, diving and fishing opportunities. This option truly provides you with a home away from home.

Hotel Kia Ora Le Sauvage Island (Rangiroa)

A villa at the Kia Ora Sauvage Pension, Rangiroa. Photo via tripadvisor

A villa at the Kia Ora Sauvage Pension, Rangiroa. Photo via tripadvisor

Owned by the Hotel Kia Ora is the Le Sauvage, it is a private island located within a private island on the most southern part of Rangiroa. The resort is secluded with white sand beaches and stunning water. It’s the perfect place for romance!

There are overwater bungalows, coconut grove villas and beach bungalows for guests to choose from. There is a personal spa, gym and bike hire – and the bar is built over the water so cocktails are made even more enticing when an overwater sunset is included.

Keikahanui Nuku Hiva Pearl Lodge (Hiva Oa)

Pull up a seat and enjoy the view at Keikahanui Nuku Hiva Pearl Resort. Photo via abeltasman.ru

Pull up a seat and enjoy the view at Keikahanui Nuku Hiva Pearl Resort. Photo via abeltasman.ru

Located in a private tropical garden, overlooking the bay and village of Taiohae is the Keikahanui Nuku Lodge. What makes this lodge resort so unique is that the surrounding beaches are covered in black sand, rather than the usual coral white sand beaches that are popular around French Polynesia. It is also a boutique resort, with all of here buildings made of entirely local materials.

You can go bike riding, hiking, horse riding, and snorkelling or on jeep safari at this resort, all of which are encouraged. The jeep safari takes you out to some archeological sites where you get to view some fantastic examples of life that once was in the area.

Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge (Hiva Oa)

A pool with a view at the Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge. Photo by Rita Willaert, flickr

A pool with a view at the Hanakee Hiva Oa Pearl Lodge. Photo by Rita Willaert, flickr

This resort has been ranked as one of the best for couples, with quaint poolside villas that offer spectacular views of the mountains, bay and ocean. Its popularity is the exclusiveness; the resort only has fourteen rooms to choose from. The restaurant is quite small and offers modern French cuisine.

The benefit of this resort is that the concierge will organise all day trips and transport for their guests when asked, so they take the hassle out of planning trips.

The Brando (Tetiaroa)

Relax in secluded Polynesian style at The Brando. Photo via thebrando.com

Relax in secluded Polynesian style at The Brando. Photo via thebrando.com

A unique luxury atoll surrounded by a three-mile wide lagoon. Each villa at the resort provides a bike for guests to explore the atoll and there is a private spa and wellness centre for guests to enjoy. French cuisine is served at the restaurant; there is also a trendy little bar with amazing lagoon views. Guests can even enjoy the organic garden and library!

Room options include one, two or three bedroom villas ideally located. The benefit of this resort is its location – you need a private plane to get there and the resort has its own airport, so enjoy the views from the plane on your way there and back!

Green Lodge (Mo’orea)

Pool-front villas at the boutique Opoa Beach Hotel. Photo by exotismes.fr

Pool-front villas at the boutique Opoa Beach Hotel. Photo by exotismes.fr

A modest lodge resort in Mo’orea with a selection of different kinds of bungalows which are all locally made. Guests have access to the pool, snorkelling equipment, aquagym equipment and bikes for free. There is also a complimentary breakfast served every morning.

The lodge is surrounding buy thick luscious greenery, so make the most of your stay here and enjoy the nature that often goes overlooked.

deserts in Namibia: Massive sand dunes make for challenging hiking. Photo by Manuel ROMARIS, Flickr

Exploring the deserts in Namibia

This planet of ours is home to some truly breathtaking landscapes and chief among them are the deserts of Namibia. However the beauty of this region is not a welcoming one. It is a harsh landscape, beaten into form by the very earth and hostile to life. The region has an intoxicating allure to travellers with a taste for the wild and dramatic. Those who would venture there should best be prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.

Why explore the deserts in Namibia

deserts in Namibia: The Atlantinc Ocean clashes with the desert of Namibia. Photo by nationalparktraveler.org

The Atlantinc Ocean clashes with the desert of Namibia. Photo by nationalparktraveler.org

Namibia is made up of four primary geographic regions, each with their own flair and appeal to the adventure tourist. Chief among them is the Namib Desert that runs along the coastline. To say that this region is a spectacular sight is to put it mildly. A uniquely dramatic landscape, its form can be attributed to two forces of nature coming into conflict. The frigid ocean waters from the Antarctic meet with the arid African desert which creates large stretches of fog. Massive sand dunes, the tallest in the world, created by waves line the coast and the desert often runs right into the sea.

What to do in the desert

Sossusvlei Experience

deserts in Namibia: Massive sand dunes make for challenging hiking. Photo by Manuel ROMARIS, Flickr

Massive sand dunes make for challenging hiking. Photo by Manuel ROMARIS, Flickr

The best way to experience the drama of the Namib Desert is to get out and feel the wind and sand blast your face. This three day tour departs from the city of Windhoek to trek the dunes. You’ll be pitching tents and camping with fellow travellers but the experience is well worth the effort. The circuit will take you through the desert and the Naukft mountain range. For more info, visit World Expeditions.com.

MORE: CHOOSING THE BEST SAFARI IN KENYA

Fish River Canyon

deserts in Namibia: Treking up the side of a dune. Photo by pichost.me

Treking up the side of a dune. Photo by pichost.me

Possibly even more hardcore than the previous tour, hiking through Fish River Canyon is a full on but rewarding trek. The hike itself stretches out to 85kms in total and takes days to complete with 7 or 8 hours of hiking a day. The trail is only available from May to Mid-September, during the dry season. To book a spot, contact Namibia Wildlife Resorts.

Paragliding

Deserts in Nambia: Paragliding over the Namib Desert. Photo by, Business Insider

Paragliding over the Namib Desert. Photo by Business Insider

The massive dunes of the Namib Desert make for a spectacular sight from the air, and they are also a rather soft landing spot. Tours usually run from September to the end of March.

Sandboarding

deserts in Namibia: Picking up some serious speed sandboarding. Photo by Klaus Brandstaetter

Picking up some serious speed sandboarding. Photo by Klaus Brandstaetter

Another desert activity, the sand dunes don’t seem as exhausting an obstacle while you’re zooming down them at speed. This is an intense and adrenaline pumping activity with varying levels of difficulty. Experienced dare devils can even try tackling the terrible twin dunes, Lizzie and Dizzie, where speeds of 80kph can be reached. Just watch out for falls, or you’re in for one nasty case of gravel rash.

Where to stay in Namibia

Belvedere Boutique Hotel

deserts in Namibia: Belvedere Boutique Hotel. Photo by TripAdvisor

Belvedere Boutique Hotel. Photo by TripAdvisor

You’ll need a place to stay for your trek into the desert and the Belvedere is one of the best sources of accommodation in Windhoek.

Canyon Lodge

deserts in Namibia: The Canyon Lodge Hotel. Photo by gondwana collection.com

The Canyon Lodge Hotel. Photo by gondwana collection.com

Located in Gondwana Canyon Park this site is the perfect base to recover from any activities through Fish River Canyon. The luxurious facilities offer a contrast from the harshness of the canyon and all of the huts have a unique and interesting design to them.

Bahnhof Hotel Aus

deserts in Namibia: The Bahnhof Hotel Aus. Photo by, wildafricatravel.com

The Bahnhof Hotel Aus. Photo by wildafricatravel.com

Originally built in 1906, the Aus was recently refurbished in 2005 and offers modest accommodation for the weary traveller. Located 123km from the coastal city of Luederitz, it makes a good base for exploring the coast or further inland.

what to do in Croatia: Dubrovnik is an ideal romantic getaway destination. Photo by, wcpcg.org

Short guide on what to do in Croatia

Kayaking tours allow you to explore Croatia's nearby islands. Photo by Allesandro Loss, flickr

Kayaking tours allow you to explore Croatia’s nearby islands. Photo by Allesandro Loss, flickr

There was a time when the thought of holidaying in Eastern Europe would have been considered the height of folly. Nowadays however, our attitudes have changed and we are beginning to appreciate the appeal of the region. Croatia in particular is turning out to be the overlooked flower of the Mediterranean, with increasing numbers of tourists appreciating its natural gifts. Read on to discover what to do in Croatia.

Places to visit

Dubrovnik is an ideal romantic getaway destination. Photo by wcpcg.org

Dubrovnik is an ideal romantic getaway destination. Photo by wcpcg.org

One of the most striking features that have made Croatia a popular destination recently is its coastline. Traditionally, the Greek Islands have always been thought of as the ideal destination for a waterside Mediterranean holiday but Croatia’s coast has proven to be a worthy alternative. The best time of year to visit is around late summer/early spring. That way you can avoid the throngs of tourists during the peak of the season, but also still take advantage of the warmer climate.

Dubrovnik

It has been named one of the most romantic cities in the world and is also known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. The walled city looks like it has been plucked right out of time, which is in truth an apt description. This medieval Mediterranean fortress city was once a maritime power rivalling that of Venice.

Hvar

Both an island and a city located just off the shore of Split; Hvar boasts some of the richest examples of Mediterranean culture in the world. Due to its picturesque natural bays it is a popular place for yachting.

MORE: 10 LESSER KNOWN VILLAGES TO EXPLORE IN GREECE

Pula Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre in Pula is a relic from Roman times. Photo by Snuffy, flickr

The amphitheatre in Pula is a relic from Roman times. Photo by Snuffy, flickr

Home to one of the largest and most intact Roman arenas surviving in the world, the city of Pula is a must see destination for those interested in the Ancient Greek and Roman influences on the region. The arena itself is a popular tourist destination and is host for a variety of events throughout the year.

Plitvice Lakes

Thought of as one of the most stunning natural landscapes in Europe, the Plitvice Lakes are renowned for the unique colour patterns that the landscape produces. It is the largest and oldest national park in Croatia and said to be breathtaking to behold in autumn.

What to do in Croatia

Buza cliff bar in Dubrovnik. Photo by Intiaz Rahim, flickr

Buza cliff bar in Dubrovnik. Photo by Intiaz Rahim, flickr

Cliff bars

Dubrovnik is home to two unique drinking establishments. The cliff bars are exactly what their name implies; clinging to small crevices between the sheer face of the city’s walls and the ocean below. While they are pricey, they give unparalleled views of the Adriatic and are a unique experience.

To the sea

Hvar is known for its agriculture. Amazing olive-groves and vineyards dot the island. If you’re feeling a tad more adventurous there are also sea kayaking tours where you can head out to the Adriatic and explore the surrounding Pakleni Islands. Hvar Adventures provides these tours and more.

The Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb

Perhaps an attraction for the more solitary traveller, this museum is quite the oddity. The exhibitions showcase personal mementos, remnants of romantic misadventures turned sour. You’re urged to bring a donation along and add to the museum’s collection yourself in order to “overcome an emotional collapse through creation”.

Where to stay

7.-An-evening-shot-of-the-Royal-Princess-Hotel-in-Dubrovnik.-Photo-by-croatia-travel.co_.uk_

Royal Princess Hotel, Dubrovnik

The splendour of a city like Dubrovnik requires accommodation as luxurious as the surroundings. The Royal Princess hotel will provide just that.

Hotel Jägerhorn, Zagreb

While touring Croatia’s capital city, it would only seem to fitting to sit yourself in accommodation that reflects the rich history of the area. Jägerhorn is the oldest hotel in the city, dating back to the 19th century. It has recently been refurbished but still retains that historic feel, and all for a modest price.

Villa Rosmarinus in Hvar. Photo by villa-rosmarinus.com

Villa Rosmarinus in Hvar. Photo by villa-rosmarinus.com

Villa Rosmarinus, Hvar

One of the best ways to take in the authentic Mediterranean atmosphere on Hvar Island is to stay in one of the small villas around the island. The romantic surroundings and cosy feel of the villa make it an ideal getaway for couples.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands: The rugged natual beauty of the Galapagos. Photo by, impressivemagazine.com

A short guide on visiting the Galapagos islands

The Galapagos Islands are nestled in the Pacific. Photo by gru.edu

The Galapagos Islands are nestled in the Pacific. Photo by gru.edu

Made famous by Charles Darwin and his revolutionary theory of evolution, the Galapagos islands is the kind of destination that can completely change the way you view the world. Situated some 1000km west of its parent country, Ecuador, in the vast expanse that is the Pacific Ocean, the absolute isolation of these islands has resulted in unique and fearless wildlife that draws travellers from all around the world.

Nowhere else can you come face-to-face with giant tortoises, sea lions or iguanas that treat humans as mere parts of the background. Many of the species here can be seen, approached and photographed without fear of disturbing the creature or putting yourself in harm’s way. Both above and below sea level, the creatures look and act differently to anywhere else on the planet.

Though the wildlife is reason enough to visit these fantasy islands, the Galapagos is also well-known for its stunning natural scenery, sustainable tourism practices and wide range of adventure activities. There is no shortage of reasons to visit the Galapagos and there is no shortage of experiences that will astound you. The key is to know what to do, where to go and how to use your time on these islands to the fullest

The best time for visiting the Galapagos Islands

The rugged natual beauty of the Galapagos. Photo by impressivemagazine.com

The rugged natual beauty of the Galapagos. Photo by impressivemagazine.com

With the main attractions of the Galapagos being outdoors, it’s crucial to pick the right time of year to visit. Different types of wildlife are active at different times throughout the year so those who want to see particular species should research them individually.

The peak tourist season is in the months from December to May when both the water and air are much warmer, but this is also the rainy season and there will be periods during this time that it rains every day. Animals both on and off the land are less active and the crowds in peak season can compromise the experience of isolation that these islands offer.

From June through November the Humboldt Current brings cold water and cold weather to the Galapagos from the southern tip of South America. The winds are strong at this time of year and the seas rough, but the current also brings nutrient rich waters and plankton that stimulate the marine and over water wildlife. Whale sharks can be seen and divers claim that this is the best time of year for snorkeling and diving. The months from June to August are also the best times to see most of the island’s on-land fauna as they are more active during these mating months.

MORE: 19 INCREDIBLE PLACES TO DIVE AROUND THE WORLD

How to get to the Islands

The rugged natual beauty of the Galapagos. Photo by impressivemagazine.com

The rugged natual beauty of the Galapagos. Photo by impressivemagazine.com

The Galapagos Islands can only be accessed by plane from either Guayaquil or Quito airport on mainland Ecuador. From here you can choose one of two options. The first is to fly to Isla Baltra Airport, which is about two hours by boat from Puerto Ayora, the main settlement of the Galapagos on Santa Cruz Island. You can also fly to Isla San Cristobal Airport in the capital of the Galapagos region Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Both of these towns will surprise visitors expecting island huts with their level of development, though the wildlife within immediately set them apart from the regular coastal town.

Flights depart from Quito more frequently, though there are often cheaper options out of Guayaquil. The cost is usually between $350 and $550 USD for a round-trip ticket (one-way tickets are not permitted) depending on how close to peak season you are visiting.

Where to stay on Galapagos 

Marine Iguanas are another famous resident of the islands. Photo by blinking idiot, flickr

Marine Iguanas are another famous resident of the islands. Photo by blinking idiot, flickr

Only four of the 15 islands of the Galapagos are inhabited and of those only two of the settlements have any range of accommodation available for tourists.  The first is Puerto Ayora, which has the biggest population of any settlement in the Galapagos. The accommodation mainly caters to backpackers and those seeking cheaper options but there are a few upmarket lodges just outside town for those seeking a bit of comfort. The second is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which is less developed than Puerto Ayora and caters almost exclusively to the backpacker market.

The more common accommodation for tourists visiting the Galapagos is actually on the water, with almost all visitors jumping on a boat for at least a few nights of their trip. It’s really the only way to see and appreciate these islands and the lack of accommodation choices on-land means more and more people are taking to luxury yachts and cruisers.

What to you should do on the Galapagos Islands

The wildlife takes little notice of people. Photo by takequickbreak.com

The wildlife takes little notice of people. Photo by takequickbreak.com

The Galapagos is all about the wildlife and that is why booking a boat tour of the islands is the best possible thing to do there. You simply cannot get access to the bold and unique animals that live on them without taking a boat and strict regulation of the natural environment here means there is no point even trying. Most people book their places well in advance from their home countries for convenience. This is a good idea as boats are usually full during the high season but booking from overseas is often considerably more expensive than booking in Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

When booking your boat tour you should consider a few things before making your decision. Firstly, make sure that the trip itinerary is designed to showcase the diversity of the Galapagos by combining different islands and areas. Visits to the islands are only permitted during the hours from 6am to 6pm so you should also ensure that there is sufficient activity planned for you during these hours. If the price you are being quoted seems a lot lower than others check what is included in the price, as many tours don’t include the $100 park entry fee or use of wetsuits and kayaks. Lastly, be sure to investigate what type of boat you will be on. The quality of the boats varies widely and it may affect your comfort, travel times and safety.

The Giant Tortoise is a well known species from the islands. Photo by Susan Roehl, flickr

The Giant Tortoise is a well known species from the islands. Photo by Susan Roehl, flickr

The second thing you simply must do in this part of the world is get in the water and take a look at one of the most beautiful and colourful marine ecosystems in the world. Life under the water in the Galapagos is rich and snorkeling and diving are both very popular activities. In addition to the whale sharks that form the biggest attraction you can see manta rays, sea turtles, huge schools of tuna, sea lions and more.

Most of the islands are off-limits without a naturalist guide, but it is possible to travel by speedboat between Isla San Cristobal, Isla Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela. There are organised local day trips in the towns on these islands or you can investigate within the town limits by yourself.

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The story of Karl-Adolph Schlitt and German submarine U-1206 and how it was sunk by a Toilet

War can be a dirty job. It’s pretty much part of the job description. But the mental image one conjures up of dirt-encrusted soldiers fighting it out waist deep in the mud is usually reserved for those fighting on the ground. In the air and on the water it’s surely a different story right?

 

The soldiers in those environments aren’t stuck in some hole in the ground, having everything around them blown to muck by enemy fire.

 

Well, in the case of Karl-Adolph Schlitt, who captained a German U-Boat in WWII, he was to learn that in war, you can quickly find yourself up Schlitt creek without a paddle.

The war was raging and the end was drawing near

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Let’s set the scene a little. It’s April 1945 and the European conflict is fast approaching its end. The German Reich is disintegrating rapidly, encroached on both sides by the Soviet Union and the Western Allies. It’s Air Force and Navy are entities that exist more on paper than in reality, mere ghosts of what they were just a few years ago. More prudent individuals have already begun to realise that the war has been lost, yet caught up in destructive machinations beyond their control, the fight goes on.

Amongst all of this chaos a single German U-Boat was dispatched to covertly operate in the North Sea, near the Scottish coast. At this point in the war, there was no possible way a single spy submarine would be able to turn the tide of the impending German defeat. Yet German submarine U-1206 commenced its operations as ordered regardless. Under the command of Captain Karl-Adolph Schlitt, the sub was operating only 8-10 miles off the British coast, near Peterhead Scotland, on the 14th of April 1945.

And that’s when the trouble began.

Well, to be more accurate, you could say that the trouble began when a new toilet system was installed onto the submarine. For as long as humans have taken to the sea, the question of how to deal with waste disposal has been a rather pressing one. This got a heck of a lot more complicated with the advent of submersible technology.

What was once an annoyance became a schematic nightmare as designers had to come up with a way for submariners to safely answer the call of nature in a small metal tube surrounded on all sides by a crushing wall of water pressure. Suffice to say, it was not a simple solution.

The toilets on U-1206 implemented a complex system of high-pressure valves designed to flush even when the sub was running deep underwater. These toilets were so complicated that a specially trained operator was required to accompany anyone that used the lavatory.

This is where the shit hits fan… literally

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The details of what happened next are a bit fuzzy, but it’s generally agreed that the Captain chose to make use of the lavatory without the expert attendant. In Schlitt’s report of the incident, he claims that the system broke down; however a second, more widely reported account states that the Captain got the order of the valves wrong as he was trying to flush. This resulted in a rush of seawater, as well as the contents of the toilet, being showered all over Shlitt.

It sounds like something straight out of a Tarantino movie, a Nazi captain getting covered in sewerage, but it really happened. However, it didn’t end there as the submarine was now being flooded with large amounts of water (and other stuff) which then leaked into the submarine’s battery compartment. This caused the batteries to leak deadly chlorine gas, leaving Captain Schlitt with no other option than to surface his U-Boat.

After surfacing near Scotland, the sub was almost immediately spotted by the British, who proceeded to bomb the ever living heck out of them. Badly damaged, the sub was scuttled and the men were forced to abandon ship. Four died during the scuffle and the remaining crew-members were promptly captured.

There isn’t much more information about what became of Karl-Adolf Schlitt. Presumably, he changed his identity at the first available opportunity to avoid the embarrassment of being remembered as the sub captain that nearly drowned his crew in sewerage.