Saturday, 26 July, 2014

 
Published June 21, 2014
Travel
Thrills and spills for the intrepid
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INTO THE WILDERNESS
Urbane Nomads' helicopter tours to Ethiopia allows visitors a rare peak into a salt-caravan route on camels (above). Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe by Asia to Africa Safaris reveal the grandeur of the African continent's wildlife

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WHAT to do? Where to go? Where to stay? Here are some ideas.

Helicopter flight in Ethiopia

THE African country may not be the first place that comes to mind but it looks set to be the place for high net worth travellers looking to outdo their chi-chi friends. Urbane Nomads offers a tour which includes seeing the country by helicopter, combining the underground churches of Lalibela, the incredible and other-worldly colours of the sulphur lakes in the Danakil, as well as the legendary tribes of the Omo Valley.

See Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

EMERGING from a decade-long lull in tourism, Zimbabwe is the fastest-growing long-haul tourism destination within Africa. While Victoria Falls is its most famous attraction, the country has other highlights such as Mana Pools, a Unesco World Heritage site, and the Great Zimbabwean ruins, which has some of the oldest and most impressive anthropological remains of ancient African origins.

The country also has the largest population of giraffes per square kilometre in Africa, a dense elephant population as well as rare game such as elands, roans and the sable antelopes. Safari travel consultancy firm Asia to Africa Safaris offers a variety of holidays at lodges to fit different budgets.

  • A nine-day/eight-night safari, starts from US$7,420 per person. To book, visit www.atoasafaris.com

Go gaming in Kenya

EXPECT to see hotel guests of a different kind at the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, where the titular animals are very likely to stroll right up to the dining room at breakfast time. Other attractions in this East African country include Samburu, for its dramatic semi-desert landscape, with blue hazy mountains in the distance, gently swaying Doum palm trees, and the even gentler trickling of the Ewaso Nyiro and Isiolo Rivers, making it one of Kenya's last true remaining wilderness areas. Of course, a trip to the game reserve is a must. The Maasai Mara Game Reserve, although not the largest game park in Kenya, is one of the most spectacular and most popular game reserves. Rich in game, the rolling grasslands and acacia savannah have frequently been captured on film. It is also where the movie, Out of Africa (1985), was filmed.

  • A seven-day trip is priced from S$5,110, per person, exclusive of international airfare. To book, see Quotient Travelplanner at www.travelplanner.com.sg

Balti-style polo in Ladakh

LUXURY travel agency Urbane Nomads is organising a tour to Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas where guests can not only watch a game of Balti-style polo but also take part alongside the locals. Balti-style polo is different from the more conventional polo in that one plays six-a-side and there are two 15-minute chukkas with a 10-minute break. The ponies used for the games are from Zanskar and while smaller in size, are acclimatised to the altitude and physical demands of the game. The polo tournament will be played from Sept 20 to 26.

  • The rates are US$9,300 for a six-day/five-night itinerary in Ladakh and two nights in Delhi. This rate is per person on a twin-sharing basis and includes all meals in Ladakh and domestic airfare and transfers as well as the polo game. To book, see Urbane Nomads at www.urbanenomads.com

Ice Fishing in Harbin

WHEN it comes to winter holidays in Asia, Japan and Korea top the list. But for something different, how about Harbin? The north-east Chinese city is famed for its Arctic climate which means abundant natural ice and snow. Dynasty Travel is offering a tour which includes highlights such as steamboat in an ice palace, a visit to a snow village and ice fishing on the Song Hua River.

Christmas Shopping

CHRISTMAS markets started in Germany more than 500 years ago, when people gathered on cobblestone squares to buy the special tools and ingredients they needed to make the treats of the season. They kept warm with mulled wine, music and games, while they shopped and chatted with the local tradesmen. Today, though the light comes from twinkling electric bulbs rather than torches, bonhomie and fun still prevail. Insight Vacations offers a nine-day tour that takes visitors from Germany, and then into Austria to check out its Christmas markets. Priced at US$2,099 per person. To book, visit www.insightvacations.com. For those who prefer cruising, Uniworld has an eight-day tour that takes visitors from Nuremberg to Frankfurt. The river cruise makes stops at the fabled Christmas markets of Christkindlesmarkt and Reiterlesmarkt.

Dining in a Volcano

Dining at the latest Michelin-starred restaurant is nothing when you can boast to friends about having a meal in a volcano. Iceland's Thrihnukagigur Volcano is the only place on earth where a huge volcanic magma chamber is accessible to humans. The dormant volcano last erupted over 4,000 years ago, so it is pretty safe. Guests transfer via helicopter to Thrihnukagigur Volcano while enjoying champagne on the way. Then it is a 120m descent to where the magma chamber will be open after-hours. Enjoy a private dinner with wine and a personal chef for an hour.

Spending the night in an Airstream

HEADING to California? How about spending the night in a 1957 Airstream vintage trailer that is perched on a hilltop with 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, Catalina, Santa Barbara Island and the Santa Monica Mountains. The restored trailer comes with a queen-sized bed, and a small dining area. It is charming, but the real attraction is being able to watch the sunset over Boney Mountain, after which the night sky becomes illuminated by millions of stars. You'll even catch glimpses of comets and satellites as they whizz past.

Staying in a Castle

WELL, not a real one. According to hotels.com, themed boutique hotels are getting popular with travellers who tire of the usual. Taipei's SATO Castle is a fantasy-themed hotel built like a castle with drawbridges and towers, offering 51 different rooms. Choose from the Swan Lake room or the Leaving Las Vegas room.