Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Our Top Trips in 2016 - Darren in Kenya, November


Throughout December we're having a look back at some of our favourite trips from 2016 - just last month Darren visited Kenya and was blown away by the wildlife of this magical destination. But he found a lot more besides, with beautiful landscapes, fabulous beaches along the coast, superb places to stay and he even managed a lively night out in vibrant Nairobi!  

On Safari in Kenya

Over the last few weeks I've been completely enthralled by David Attenborough's 'Planet Earth II' series, and while I wouldn't class myself as a wildlife buff I get very excited on safari. In November I spent four nights on safari and four nights on the beach, which is the ideal mix for part-time Attenborough's like me!

On this trip I flew by light aircraft from Nairobi to the Masai Mara - I've been to Kenya a few times before and on my last visit I had a 4x4 vehicle to take in three different areas of the country, starting in Samburu in the north of Kenya before heading to the Great Rift Valley and finally the Masai Mara. Travelling by light aircraft takes out the longer drives (although I do really enjoy seeing the local towns & villages and the beautiful scenery from ground level), so I was on the Masai Mara by lunchtime on my first day. The wildlife sightings had started even before I'd hit the ground, with zebra and wildebeest visible from the plane as we came in to our airstrip - this was a sign of things to come, as over the next few days I saw more wildlife (with some superb up-close sightings) than I could have hoped for!



On the way from the airstrip to my camp I counted a total of 11 lions, mainly snoozing in the heat of the day and looking well-fed - my driver explained that the migration which usually takes vast numbers of zebra, wildebeest and other animals from the Mara to the Serengeti in September and October had actually crossed back in to Kenya recently, so animal numbers had been boosted - and the lions were taking full advantage! Personally I adore big cats, so you can never have too many lions, but I've not had much success with leopard over the years as they're a lot more elusive. This trip was different, though - our superb driver spoilt us with not one but TWO fantastic leopard sightings, one hiding in the long grass before crossing a small river, and next morning our second leopard was snoozing in a tree before climbing down backwards and moving to the shade beneath the tree. Both leopards were within 30 yards of us!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS DESTINATION


The Masai Mara

For me when I hear the word 'safari' I instantly think 'Masai Mara' - there's nowhere else quite like it! On this trip I spent two nights at each end of the Masai Mara, starting towards the eastern end at the beautiful Sarova Mara Game Camp - this is a great introduction to the Mara, and ideal if you want the experience of a tented camp but with the reassurance of a larger property. Tents here have solid roofs so feel nicely sturdy while still being a tent - mine even had a small family of mongoose just outside!



I then moved across the plains of the Masai Mara (which was an experience in itself with huge herds of elephants) to the western area, on the banks of the Mara River. Although it's not a big distance geographically the areas are very different, both in terms of the wildlife and also the landscapes - even the climate is different! The eastern areas felt more open and were home to herds of zebras, large numbers of giraffe and also one of the best rhino sightings I've ever had. The western areas have more rivers and forests so attract different wildlife, and I saw a fabulous cheetah teaching her cubs how to stalk prey - although they seemed more interested in playing with each other! My home here was the Ashnil Mara Camp, with some of the largest tents I've come across on the Masai Mara - my tent overlooked the river itself, and the noise of the hippos in the bend of the river below the tent was amazing!



The absolute highlight of my time on the Masai Mara was when I was able to see a crossing of the Mara River by 10,000 or so migrating wildebeest and zebra - this is the kind of stuff you only see on programmes such as 'Planet Earth II', but our excellent driver could tell that the animals were preparing to cross, and he knew where to head to. After around an hour of huge herds congregating on the banks of the river, they set off together, taking around 15 minutes for all of them to cross successfully. I was able to capture some of the stampede on video - check it out here!

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Beaches of Mombasa

After a few days on safari I was ready to hit the beach - Kenya's Indian Ocean coastline is lined with stunning beaches, and I headed for the North Coast of Mombasa, a fairly short transfer from the airport. I stayed at the fabulous Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa and spent a few day chilling out and doing very little indeed! The resort is perfect for me - quiet areas for chilling out but a livelier atmosphere in other areas too, so the best of both. Their beach bar is amazing, and just down the beach is another great option for a few sundowner Tusker beers, Yul's beach bar.



If you prefer more chill and less party then head to the South Coast of Mombasa - Diani Beach is amongst the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to anywhere - ever - with the whitest, softest sand. The atmosphere along this stretch of coast is just perfect for relaxation, and there are some great hotel options here too. My favourite for total relaxation is the low-key Indian Ocean Beach Resort, set on a fabulous section of Diani Beach and with whitewashed traditional buildings giving it a local feel - spot-on!

On the way back to the UK I had a night in Nairobi, which isn't somewhere that's high on many people's itineraries but there's lots to see and do here, and with the city in the middle of a boom it's a surprisingly vibrant place - I stayed at the Sankara Hotel in the Westlands area of the city, and had a great night out in some of the local bars. I can highly recommend Brew Bistro with its rooftop bar and microbrewery - working my way through their beer menu during Happy Hour seemed like a great idea at the time, but the hangover on the flight home wasn't ideal!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS DESTINATION

I've been lucky enough to visit East Africa a number of times over the years, but each time is always different. Kenya is a truly magical destination, and on this trip I had the best wildlife experiences I've ever had (I never thought I'd be lucky enough to see a migration of wildebeest) - which is why it was my Top Trip of 2016!






Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Our Top Trips in 2016 - Karen in Malaysia & Bali, September

We're having a look back on some of our favourite trips from 2016 - it's been a busy year at Escape Worldwide and the team have been criss-crossing the globe from Sydney to Havana, Tokyo to Nairobi. Karen visited Malaysia and Bali in September, taking in vibrant Kuala Lumpur, Bali's various beach resorts including Nusa Dua, Seminyak, Legian and Sanur, and the relaxed mountain hideaway of Ubud. Here's a quick look at her highlights . . .

Kuala Lumpur is one of my favourite Far East cities - it has such a buzz, there's loads to see and do, great quality hotels and some of the best food in Asia! I stayed at the Hotel Istana which is in a perfect location closed to the lively Bukit Bintang area of the city (think Oxford Street), and with one of my favourite streets a close walk away - Jalan Alor, which is packed with dozens of stalls each selling a local delicacy - delicious!



I spent a day exploring the city using the local hop-on hop-off bus, which is a great way to get around, especially to areas slightly further out. I found the National Mosque to be totally fascinating, and spent quite a lot of time around the colonial districts of the city, taking in the architecture of the Old Railway Station and the Central Market. Afternoon tea at the Majestic Hotel fitted in perfectly!

On my last night in KL I did some shopping in the renowned Petaling Street market (the best quality knock-offs anywhere!) followed by an amazing Chinese meal nearby, and finished off with drinks in one of the bars in Bukit Bintang before flying to Bali next day!


One of the best things to my mind about Bali is how all of the beach resort areas are so different, in such a small area - there are places such as Kuta that are perfect for a lively party stay, or quieter areas such as Jimbaran if you want to chill out. I started in Nusa Dua, which has a great range of quality hotels, a few local restaurants and shops, and some great beaches - if you want upmarket and peaceful but not dead then it's ideal. I stayed at the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, which I couldn't fault - great rooms, full of character, and the food was superb!

From here I headed to the other coast at Seminyak, which has a stylish, trendy feel, super-cool beach clubs and funky bars, and a good selection of hotels. Most hotels are a little further from the beach than in other resort areas, but there's such a great range of places to eat and drink outside of the hotels, I found myself spending less time in the hotel and more time out & about. My particular favourite here was the Anantara Seminyak, an uber-stylish hotel right on the beach, with beanbags on the sand for sunset cocktails!



Last stop for me was Sanur, which balances local restaurants, bars and shops with a relaxed feel - it's not party-central, but you're not stuck to your hotel either, which I really like. I stayed at the Puri Santrian, which I just adored - beachfront, full of Balinese character, and handy for local facilities.



If you head away from the beaches then Bali becomes a completely different destination, with beautiful scenery, incredible temples and a rich, intricate culture - even if you just base yourself on the beach I'd really recommend a day trip inland to Ubud and some of the other villages, but if you have time then spend a few nights up here. 



It's around an hour from most of the beach areas so it's easy to include, but you'll see a very different side of the island - I explored the famous Monkey Forest, went to various temples and saw traditional dance in the village. My home here was the gorgeous Alila Ubud, located in a valley just outside Ubud itself, with the most incredible swimming pool hanging out over the valley - a real 'takes your breath away'!


I'm a huge fan of the Far East and have been lucky enough to visit both Malaysia and Bali before, but this trip took me to some new places, some fabulous hotels and a whole load of new experiences - which is why it was my Top Trip of 2016!








Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Migration crossing the Mara River in Kenya




Kenya is such an amazing destination and the migration is simply breathe taking!

Darren was on safari in Kenya recently and was lucky enough to experience the simply amazing migration crossing the Mara River.

We have some great safari options to Kenya - http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/safari/kenya_holidays.html

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Backwaters of Kerala in India





View from a houseboat Mark was on on a recent trip to Kerala in India. Mark spent  the night on a stunning houseboat, cruising around the backwaters of Kerala.


Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Bartering in Mombasa, Kenya

Mark is a great fan of Mombasa in Kenya and on his recent visit he did a bit of shopping:

Whenever I travel overseas I always bring back a few knickknack souvenirs, despite the fact I have a house full of the stuff anyway – wooden carvings, paintings, spice boxes and the like. When I go to Mombasa, though, I buy stuff more for fun of the bartering than the goods themselves. On this trip I’d set myself a mission – I wanted a small plate to use as a spoon tray in the kitchen at home, and under no circumstances was I to buy any form of wooden carving – and definitely not an animal of any nature.



Bartering for souvenirs on the beaches of Mombasa can be quite an intimidating process if you’re not expecting it – lots of sellers shouting random prices to you faster than you can work out the Sterling equivalent. On past trips I’d also been asked for pens and socks as these items are harder to get hold of in Kenya, so on this occasion I’d come prepared.

Armed with my previous experience and a specific target, I took to the beach at the Voyager Beach Resort, on Mombasa’s North Coast. There were two or three sellers when I made my move – but about a dozen by the time I’d descended the few steps to the beach! I aimed for the plates – a good selection and I saw the one I wanted almost straight away. “A thousand Shillings” was the starting price – that’s about £9, which was far too much for a small plate, I was hoping for nearer £2 “unless you have any socks” he said – an interesting trade, and just what I was hoping for! “What colour socks?” I asked, which got his interest immediately.

After 10 minutes of light-hearted bartering, interspersed with talk of the forthcoming football match, I’d got my chosen plate for my target price of £2, and given away a pack of M&S socks and three biros – and even got a wooden elephant thrown in. So much for no carvings!



Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Chengdu, China, it’s not all about the pandas

OK, the Pandas are a must see and there’s no better place than Chengdu, however Darren found Chengdu to have so much more to offer.

I loved Chengdu and like most cities in China it’s busy and bustling with so much going on, however I found the place to have a whole charm of it’s own.

The people are fun and friends and of a night the place becomes alive. A must visit is the Chinese Opera. The Shu Feng Ya Yun Sichuan Opera is an amazing mix of the old and the new. Wonderful traditional Sichuan Opera costumes, stories, mask changing which was pretty mesmerising, fire breathing and puppetry are mixed with laser and multimedia effects.



It’s easy to prebook, or book locally with your tour guide or at the hotel and with tickets starting from around £20 per person its great value for money.



After the show head to the beautiful Anshun Lang Bridge (just by the Shangri La Hotel) which is beautifully lit creating a mystical reflection on the river.



Just across the Jin River there are a number of lovely, low key bars offering cheap beer and a real local feel, great place to drink well into the night.


If you are after more of a glitzy option then head to Lan Kwai Fong, like its Hong Kong namesake this area is home to an array of fine restaurants, great bars and nightclubs, though it can be a pricey area so keep an eye on your Yuan!

So yep visit Chengdu for the pandas but also have a wander round and soak up the fun atmosphere of this vibrant city!


Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Hua Hin Multicentre Holiday


Bangkok, Siem Reap and Hua Hin 

A superb three-centre itinerary combining cities, history and relaxation, taking in vibrant Bangkok, the incredible Temples of Angkor in Cambodia, and relaxing Hua Hin to finish.

This is one of our favourite holidays at Escape Worldwide. Mark has been to all three destinations to feel free to give him a call!





ITINERARY

Day 1 - UK to Bangkok
Fly from Heathrow to Bangkok, arriving the following day. Departures from other UK airports are also available, please ask for details.

Day 2 - Bangkok
On arrival, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel, the handily located Park Plaza Bangkok Soi 18 for a three night stay. Our holidays to Thailand are extremely flexible so if you’d prefer a shorter or longer stay just ask!

Days 3-4 - Bangkok
Spend the next few days exploring chaotic Bangkok. Check out the temples, markets, restaurants and nightlife of this wonderful city.

Day 5 - Bangkok to Siem Reap
Transfer back to Bangkok airport for your onward flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. On arrival you’ll be met and transferred to the Tara Angkor Hotel for a three night stay. Different durations and a range of hotels are available.

Day 6-7 - Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the home of the ancient city of Angkor and the magnificent ruins of Angkor Wat, one of the world’s greatest sites. Explore the ruins over the next few days, taking in the key sites of Angkor Wat itself, the Bayon and Ta Phrom, plus some of the outlying temples too. We’d recommend pre-booking Angkor Sightseeing before departing the UK.

Day 8 - Siem Reap to Hua Hin
Transfer back to Siem Reap airport for your return flight to Bangkok, where you’ll be met at the airport and transferred by road to Hua Hin. On arrival check in to the Novotel Hua Hin Cha Am Beach Resort for a seven night stay. A wide range of hotels is available and durations are flexible, so you can stay for as long as you wish.

Days 9-14 - Hua Hin
Spend the rest of your week at your beach hotel, relaxing on the beach, exploring Hua Hin and soaking up the atmosphere.

Day 15  - Hua Hin to UK
Return transfer to Bangkok airport for your return flight to the UK.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo by Train

Mark, one of our Japan rail fans, gives his suggestions of how to spend his time on a trip to Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo – feel free to speak to Mark to discuss your own travel plans.

“With two nights in Osaka, three nights in Kyoto and three nights in Tokyo and a rail pass included, this is how I’d spend my time in Japan!

Day 1 – UK to Osaka
Fly from Heathrow to Osaka Kansai Airport, arriving next day. Departures from Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and other UK airports are also available.

Day 2 – Osaka
On arrival in to Kansai airport, I would head straight for the Japan Railways (JR) Ticket Office, located just outside the main terminal building, in the station complex. Here, you can collect your JR Pass for your week’s train travel around Japan – don’t actually activate the Pass today, the helpful staff will arrange this to happen on day 4 as you will make the most of the 7 days this way (there’s no need to extend to a 14 day pass!) You’ll also be able to make seat reservations for your onward journeys throughout your time in Japan. Then buy a ticket separately and hop on a train to Osaka (approx. 60 minutes) and make your way to your hotel.


The JR Rail Passes are brilliant – they allow you to travel on the entire JR network, which covers a huge amount of Japan. Almost all trains are covered, including many of the Shinkansen ‘bullet’ trains, which are really comfortable and punctual. I’ve also used the JR Pass on local lines around Kyoto and Tokyo, plus they can also be used on many local JR buses, the Tokyo monorail and even the ferry to Miyajima!

This evening, head to the bright lights of Osaka’s Dotonbori District, and there’s no doubting you’ve arrived in Japan!

Day 3 - Osaka
I’d start off my sightseeing in Osaka at the wacky Umeda Sky Building, one of Japan’s landmark buildings and a fascinating piece of architecture - the viewing platform is accessed by a rather hairy escalator! Then head to Shinsaibashi and Amerika-Mura, two adjacent neighbourhoods but with different feels.

This evening I would return to Dotonbori for food, drinks and the atmosphere. Just on the south side of the canal across Mido Suji is a great little Yakitori serving grilled meats and fish with cold beer at low prices (unfortunately I don’t know the name, but look for the red & black sign, and the owner who looks like Shirley Bassey!)

Day 4 – Osaka to Kyoto
Use your JR Pass to hop on a train to Kyoto - it’s only a half hour ride, but the two cities are a world apart. I would start my sightseeing in Kyoto at the station itself, and at the Kyoto Tower, which gives you great views across the city. Close by is the Higashi Honganji Temple, which is definitely worth a look. Then head to your hotel, before finishing off the day by heading to one of the bars in Ponto Cho (Japanese beers are very good, but I’ve never got in to Sake!)

Day 5 – Kyoto
Today would be a full day sightseeing in Kyoto, and I would kick off at the incredible Fushimi Inari Taisha, a magical Shinto temple where thousands of wooden gates dot the hillside – this has to be one of my favourite places in the whole of Japan. From here, I would head to the Southern Higashiyama district, home to dozens of temples, shrines, gardens and streets that will leave you mesmerised – my favourites include the temple of Kiyomizu-Dera (keep an eye out for the entrance to Tainai Meguri, which is one of the oddest experiences in Kyoto!) and the traditional streets of the Sannen Zaka district – really pretty.

Day 6 – Kyoto
Continue exploring Kyoto’s amazing sights today – I’d head out to Arashiyama for the incredible bamboo groves and the beautiful gardens at the Tenryu Ji temple – as you come out of the station turn right and follow the path until you start to see bamboo! Don’t forget that your JR Pass can be used on all JR lines in the area, so I would then hop back on the train and head to central Kyoto. If you still have the energy return to your hotel via Nijo-jo Castle and Nishiki Market – I have no idea what half the foods for sale here are, but it looks fascinating! For me a stay in Kyoto is completed by taking in a traditional Geisha show – and probably a few more beers! Certain attractions require an entrance fee to be paid locally.



Day 7 – Kyoto to Tokyo
Make your way to Kyoto JR station for your Shinkansen ‘bullet’ train to Tokyo, a journey of around 2 hours 45 minutes – hopefully with great views of Mount Fuji, so when I’m making my seat reservations I would ask for a seat on the left hand side of the train. The station sells a huge range of bento boxes, so you won’t go hungry on board.

One option I would consider is to split my train ride to Tokyo in to two – I would catch a fairly early train to Nagoya, one of Japan’s economic powerhouses and with quite a lot to see close to the station. Main Japanese stations are like small cities so you’ll find lockers to leave your luggage in while exploring, along with shops, restaurants and helpful staff. Just outside Nagoya station is the Midland Square Building with its observation deck, and a little further away is Nagoya Castle, so there’s plenty to see here.

On arrival in to Tokyo JR station make your way to your hotel – don’t forget that your JR Pass includes free travel on all of Tokyo’s JR lines (not the subway), including the very handy (but very busy) Chuo and Yamanote lines, and the Tokyo Monorail. Where possible I avoid travelling during rush hours in main Japanese cities, although you’ll always get on a train as there’s a queueing system in place. This evening I would head out to experience Tokyo’s zany nightlife in districts such as Shinjuku and Shibuya – there’s a real buzz in these areas once the masses of neon lights up, and personally I prefer Shinjuku with plenty of places to eat, drink and be entertained.

Day 8 – Tokyo
On my first full day in Tokyo I would head straight to the Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest structure in Japan and with great views across the city – the queues can be a little long so try to avoid it at the weekend, or look out for the fast lane! From here it’s a short walk to the Asahi Beer Headquarters (there’s a great bar on the 22nd floor – definitely recommended!) and the more cultural Senso Ji Temple. From here I would head to the lively Akihabara district, with its colourful billboards and even more colourful characters – sensory overload! Continue to Shibuya to see the crazy Shibuya Crossing, where thousands of people cross at every change of the lights – as the evening starts the lights come on, and you can only be in Tokyo! Don’t forget that your JR Pass can be used on all JR lines in Tokyo, cutting the cost of getting around. Certain attractions require an entrance fee to be paid locally.

Day 9 – Tokyo
Today continue exploring Tokyo – I would start in the city centre, where you can catch a glimpse of the Imperial Palace (for me the best view is at the corner of Harumidori and Uchiboridori) and take in the upmarket Ginza district – if you get off the train at Tokyo’s main station to the west side all of this can be done on foot. Then head to Harajuka, where the beautiful Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine contrasts with the surrounding streets incredibly – the district is popular with Japan’s youth culture, so you’ll find lots of zaniness here. It’s then a short hop on the Yamanote line – included with your JR Pass – to Shinjuku, home to the world’s busiest station and Tokyo’s bright lights & buzzing nightlife. I’d take in a show at the renowned Robot Restaurant – it’s like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else, ever!



Day 10 – Tokyo to UK
Make your way to Tokyo’s Narita airport for your flight back to the UK – your JR Pass will cover selected trains to the airport (approx. 1 hour), so it couldn’t be easier. Depart Narita for your return journey to the UK.


All in all, this would combine the modern and ancient sides of this region of Japan – this is how I would spend 9 days in Japan!”




Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Escape Worldwide... our year of travel so far......


It’s been a crazy year of travel already this year for the Escape Worldwide team. The team has been far and wide looking at hotels, resorts, cities, checking out the beaches and of course testing the local beers! So far this year we have been to:

·         Sydney and most of New South Wales



·         Jamaica



·         Japan (Osaka, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto by bullet train)



·         Cuba (Havana, Vinales Valley, Santa Clara, Trinidad, Ceinfuegos, Remedios and Varadero)


·         Abu Dhabi
·         Ras Al Khaimah
·         Dubai
·         Orlando

All this before June, so what’s next for the rest of the year, well the team have lined up:

·         Kuala Lumpur
·         Bali
·         India (Agra, Delhi, Jaipur, Cohin, Kovalam and the backwaters)
·         Kenya (Masai Mara Safari and Mombasa)

As you can see we are pretty well travelled so if you are planning your next long-haul holiday then why not give us a bell or drop us an email and let us help you plan your next dream holiday.

Happy Travelling


Darren
Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

South Africa.... a great destination


South Africa is an amazing destination offering everything from wildlife, stunning scenery and amazing food and fine wines! We can offer plenty of holiday options and one of our favourite is combining vibrant Cape Town with the sheer beauty of the Garden Route and the thrill of safari in the Eastern Cape - one of the most popular South Africa fly-drive itineraries, taking in the best of the Rainbow Nation.

SUGGESTED ITINERARY

Day 1 - UK to Cape Town
Fly from London to Cape Town, arriving next day.

Days 2-4 - Cape Town
On arrival you'll be transferred to to your chosen hotel, for a three night stay - we have a range to choose from, and your length of stay in Cape Town is flexible. Spend the next few days exploring Cape Town. Perhaps pre-book a Discover Cape Town City Tour (from £23 per person) - a great introduction to this spectacular city, the Cape Town City Tour provides the perfect opportunity to sample some of its attractions and get your bearings.

Cape Town Fly Drive

We generally don’t suggest you have a car in Cape Town as the traffic can get a little busy, parking can be tricky and most things are easy to get to. If you’d prefer to collect a car when you arrive and have it for your full duration, however, just let us know and we can arrange this for you!

Day 5 -  Cape Town to the Winelands
Collect your car from the Cape Town depot - costs include a Toyota Corolla or similar, although there’s a good selection of options available. Leave Cape Town behind and drive to Stellenbosch - the direct drive can be done in an hour but we’d really recommend travelling via the beautiful Cape Peninsula, taking in Hout Bay, the Cape of Good Hope and the penguins at Boulder Beach - this should take around 3 hours, plus stops. On arrival, check in to your chosen hotel for a two night stay - this is flexible, of course!

Driving is fairly straightforward in South Africa, with well maintained roads which are generally fairly quiet outside of the main towns. Driving is on the left and most laws and customs are familiar to UK drivers. Do bear in mind that all drivers will need a valid drivers licence plus the DVLA online code and printout, along with a credit card in the name of the main driver for deposit purposes. Other T&C’s apply - just ask for details!

Day 6 - Winelands
Spend the day exploring the beautiful Winelands area. Explore the three towns of the Winelands area - Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl - or park up and try some of the world-renowned wine at one of the many wineries that are open for visitors.

South Africa Winelands

Day 7 -  Winelands to Knysna
It;s a fairly long drive today from the Winelands to Knysna (approx 5 hours), with plenty to see on the way - perhaps stop in Wilderness to see if you can spot any dolphins in the sea. Alternatively, start by heading inland via Montagu and the spectacular Cogman’s Kloof Gorge (approx 5.5 hours) for a more diverse route. On arrival, check in to your hotel for a three night stay.

Days 8-9 - Knysna
Consider taking a day off driving today and perhaps head to the water - Knysna Lagoon is a beautiful area and boat trips are popular here. Alternatively, sample some of Knysna’s renowned food in one of the numerous restaurants. Next day spend a little longer exploring the Garden Route around Knysna - perhaps drive up to Oudtshoorn, (approx 1.5 hours) the ostrich capital of the world!

Day 10 - Knysna to the Eastern Cape Game Reserves
From Knysna it’s around a 4 hour drive to  the game reserves of the Eastern Cape, but with lots to see and do on the way. Stop for coffee in pretty Plettenberg Bay before continuing to the beautiful Tsitsikamma area, perhaps taking in some of the magnificent forest and coastal scenery on a hike. Be sure to stop briefly at Bloukrans Bridge, a spectacular crossing of a deep river valley, with perhaps a final stop of the day in Port Elizabeth before arriving at your chosen game reserve for a three night stay. Be sure to arrive in good time as there’s an afternoon game drive arranged this afternoon!

South Africa Safari Holidaus

Days 11-12 - Eastern Cape Game Reserves
Spend the next few days on safari - park up your car as you’re in the hands of the experts, with morning and afternoon game drives in the reserve to see as much wildlife as possible. Many of the game reserves are home to the ‘big 5’, so expect superb wildlife sighting and a real thrill.

Day 13 - Return
Drive back to Port Elizabeth and the airport today (approx 1.5-2 hours), where you will drop off your vehicle and check in for your flight back to the UK.

Give us a call today or email us at info@escapeworldwide.co.uk for more prices and holiday options.

Darren
Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Mombasa, Kenya a stunning beach destination


Off the radar for a while, the stunning beach destination of Mombasa, Kenya is back. The Kenya Coast has some really fantastic beaches and a good range of hotels. Historic Mombasa city is on an island, with plenty of interest while the beaches extend to the North and South of the city.

Beaches of Mombasa

The North Coast is the more developed of the two, with more facilities outside of the hotels, and more visitors - if you’re looking for activities, it’s ideal.

Beaches of Mombasa

The South Coast is less developed, and is perfect for a more relaxing holiday with Diani Beach regularly being voted the best beach in Africa - beaches here are wider and whiter, and hotels here tend to be a little more spacious.

North of Mombasa, the beaches of Watamu and Malindi are an excellent place to unwind, with coral reefs and more of a village feel.

Safari in Kenya

It’s easy to do a short safari from Mombasa and popular one is the 2 night ‘Tsavo Explorer’ excursion which includes one night in TsavoEast National Park, and one night in neighboring Tsavo West National Park, which on a clear day offers an uninterrupted view of Mount Kilimanjaro – these two parks form one of the world’s largest nature reserves, renowned for herds of elephants and lions. This is an excellent option for those who are short of time and is the perfect opportunity for a first taste of safari, with some wonderful game viewing. 

Mombasa is a great option for a honeymoon or simply just a relaxed holiday in a stunning location.


Mark has recently got back from stunning Mombasa, give him a call and he can try to tell you how stunning it is, but you can’t appreciate it until you see it for yourself. 


Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Death Valley National Park, USA

Classic USA road-trip country, Death Valley National Park is harsh and barren yet full of natural beauty and stunning vistas, with the lowest point in the US along with the highest temperatures ever recorded. Furnace Creek is at the heart of the park, with points such as Zabriskie Point and Mosaic Canyon offering spectacular scenery.

Holidays to Death Valley and Mammoth Lakes with Escape Worldwide

As you head north from Death Valley the altitude increases and the temperatures drop, heading towards the massive Sierra Nevada mountains. To the south, the Mojave National Preserve is the epitome of ‘middle of nowhere’, dotted with Joshua trees, volcanic cones and desert wildlife.

This region of the USA offers diverse landscapes and stunning scenery - beware of seriously high temperatures in the summer, but for a few days of open spaces and desert scenery, include Death Valley in to your driving itinerary.



Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Meet family and friends all over the world!


A holiday to a great way to relax and spend time with the ones you love or great friends, however, it doesn’t always follow that your loved ones and friends are in the UK!

Escape Worldwide can offer holiday packages starting from all over the globe, just the other day Christine arranged an amazing holiday to Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand, for two sisters. One sister and her family lived in the UK and the other sister and her family lived in Auckland,  New Zealand, so we arranged a holiday where they all meet up in Bangkok, then onto Phuket before going  home to their respective countries.  All flights, transfers and accommodation arranged for them.



The lady was so happy as the sisters and their families hadn’t seen each other for 10 years and Thailand was a perfect location for them to meet up.


The world is smaller than ever so feel free to give us a call, 020 8989 0970 or email us at info@escapeworldwide.co.uk if you would like us to help you arrange a ‘meet’ up holiday with your family and friends. 




Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Japan.... a fantastic destination, easy to see by rail


Mark, one of our Japan rail fans, gives his suggestions of how to spend 12 nights in Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka and Tokyo – feel free to speak to Mark to discuss your own travel plans.

“With three nights in Kyoto, two nights in Hiroshima and three nights in Tokyo with a rail pass included, this is how I’d spend my time in Japan!

Day 1 – UK to Kyoto
Fly from Heathrow to Osaka Kansai Airport, arriving next day. Departures from Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and other UK airports are also available.

Day 2 – Kyoto
On arrival in to Kansai airport, I would head straight for the Japan Railways (JR) Ticket Office, located just outside the main terminal building, in the station complex. Here, you can collect your JR Pass for your week’s train travel around Japan – don’t actually activate the Pass today, the helpful staff will arrange this to happen on day 4 as you will make the most of the 7 days this way (there’s no need to extend to a 14 day pass!) You’ll also be able to make seat reservations for your onward journeys throughout your time in Japan. Then buy a ticket separately and hop on a train to Kyoto (approx. 75 minutes) and make your way to your hotel.

The JR Rail Passes are brilliant – they allow you to travel on the entire JR network, which covers a huge amount of Japan. Almost all trains are covered, including many of the Shinkansen ‘bullet’ trains, which are really comfortable and punctual. I’ve also used the JR Pass on local lines around Kyoto and Tokyo, plus they can also be used on many local JR buses, the Tokyo monorail and even the ferry to Miyajima!

Day 3 – Kyoto
I’d start off my sightseeing in Kyoto at the incredible Fushimi Inari Taisha, a magical Shinto temple where thousands of wooden gates dot the hillside – this has to be one of my favourite places in the whole of Japan. From here, I would head to the Southern Higashiyama district, home to dozens of temples, shrines, gardens and streets that will leave you mesmerised – my favourites include the temple of Kiyomizu-Dera (keep an eye out for the entrance to Tainai Meguri, which is one of the oddest experiences in Kyoto!) and the traditional streets of the Sannen Zaka district – really pretty. I’d finish off the day by heading to one of the bars in Ponto Cho (Japanese beers are very good, but I’ve never got in to Sake - it will help weary feet, though!)

Holidays to Kyoto with Escape Worldwide - Fushimi Inari Taisha Temple

Day 4 – Kyoto
Continue exploring Kyoto’s amazing sights today – I’d head out to Arashiyama for the incredible bamboo groves and the beautiful gardens at the Tenryu Ji temple – as you come out of the station turn right and follow the path until you start to see bamboo! Don’t forget that your JR Pass can be used on all JR lines in the area, so I would then hop back on the train and head to central Kyoto to round off my sightseeing – next door to the station is the Kyoto Tower, which gives you great views across the city, and close by is the Higashi Honganji Temple. If you still have the energy return to your hotel via Nijo-jo Castle and Nishiki Market – I have no idea what half the foods for sale here are, but it looks fascinating! For me a stay in Kyoto is completed by taking in a traditional Geisha show – and probably a few more beers! Certain attractions require an entrance fee to be paid locally.

Day 5 – Kyoto to Hiroshima
It’s around a 2 hour journey from Kyoto to Hiroshima (quick change in Shin Osaka) so I would catch a late morning train as I would want to spend the afternoon around Hiroshima’s Peace Park. Kyoto station sells a huge range of bento boxes, so you won’t go hungry on board.
One option I would consider is catching a local train from Kyoto to Kobe, and spending a few hours there before continuing to Hiroshima - main Japanese stations are like small cities so you’ll find lockers to leave your luggage in while exploring, along with shops, restaurants and helpful staff. Kobe is one of Japan’s most attractive cities, and although the Shinkansen station is a little further out, it’s all easy to explore. There’s even a Sake museum with self-guide tours!
When you arrive in to Hiroshima make your way to your hotel. I would then head to the Peace Park, which is a very moving, thought provoking memorial to the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack. The museum is excellent, but for me it’s the Atomic Bomb Dome that really brings things home - allow a little extra time just to take this area in. From here I would head straight to the nearest bar to set the world to rights - the 1923 Highball Bar on the corner of Horikawacho Naka-Ku is a good place to start!

Holidays to Hiroshima and Miyajima with Escape Worldwide - Peace Park, Hiroshima

Day 6 – Hiroshima & Miyajima
Today I would head to magical Miyajima - this beautiful temple and small island is also one of my favourite places in Japan! Take the JR line from Hiroshima to Mijayimaguchi station, then it’s a five minute walk to the ferry - if you hop on the JR ferry this is also covered by your JR Pass! Miyajima is easy to explore on foot and a half day here works well for me - the highlight is definitely the beautiful temple gate, which seems to float on the water at high tide.

Day 7 – Hiroshima to Osaka
Make your way back to Hiroshima JR station for your Shinkansen ‘bullet’ trainto Osaka. On arrival I would head to Shinsaibashi and Amerika-Mura, two adjacent neighbourhoods but with different feels. From here it’s a short walk to the bright lights of Osaka’s Dotonbori District, and nowhere screams ‘Japan’ to me more than Dotonbori!

Day 8 – Osaka
I’d continue my sightseeing in Osaka at the wacky Umeda Sky Building, one of Japan’s landmark buildings and a fascinating piece of architecture - the viewing platform is accessed by a rather hairy escalator! From here head to nearby Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine, and on to Osaka Jo Castle - modern to ancient in one go!
This evening I would return to Dotonbori for food, drinks and the atmosphere. Just on the south side of the canal across Mido Suji is a great little Yakitori serving grilled meats and fish with cold beer at low prices (unfortunately I don’t know the name, but look for the red & black sign, and the owner who looks like Shirley Bassey!)

Holidays to Osaka with Escape Worldwide - Dotonbori district

Day 9 – Osaka to Tokyo
Make your way back to Shin Osaka station for your Shinkansen ‘bullet’ train to Tokyo, a journey of around 4 hours 30 minutes  – when I’m making my seat reservations on this route I would ask for a seat on the left hand side of the train, as hopefully you’ll great views of Mount Fuji.

On this leg I would consider splitingt my train ride to Tokyo in to two – I would catch a fairly early train to Nagoya, one of Japan’s economic powerhouses and with quite a lot to see close to the station. Drop your luggage at a locker in the station while exploring. Just outside Nagoya station is the Midland Square Building with its observation deck, and a little further away is Nagoya Castle, so there’s plenty to see here.

On arrival in to Tokyo JR station make your way to your hotel – don’t forget that your JR Pass includes free travel on all of Tokyo’s JR lines (not the subway), including the very handy (but very busy) Chuo and Yamanote lines, and the Tokyo Monorail. Where possible I avoid travelling during rush hours in main Japanese cities, although you’ll always get on a train as there’s a queueing system in place. This evening I would head out to experience Tokyo’s zany nightlife in districts such as Shinjuku and Shibuya – there’s a real buzz in these areas once the masses of neon lights up, and personally I prefer Shinjuku with plenty of places to eat, drink and be entertained.
On arrival in to Tokyo JR station make your way to your hotel – don’t forget that your JR Pass includes free travel on all of Tokyo’s JR lines (not the subway), including the very handy (but very busy) Chuo and Yamanote lines, and the Tokyo Monorail. Where possible I avoid travelling during rush hours in main Japanese cities, although you’ll always get on a train as there’s a queueing system in place. This evening I would head out to experience Tokyo’s zany nightlife in districts such as Shinjuku and Shibuya – there’s a real buzz in these areas once the masses of neon lights up, and personally I prefer Shinjuku with plenty of places to eat, drink and be entertained.

Day 10 – Tokyo
On my first full day in Tokyo I would head straight to the Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest structure in Japan and with great views across the city – the queues can be a little long so try to avoid it at the weekend, or look out for the fast lane! From here it’s a short walk to the Asahi Beer Headquarters (there’s a great bar on the 22nd floor – definitely recommended!) and the more cultural Senso Ji Temple. From here I would head to the lively Akihabara district, with its colourful billboards and even more colourful characters – sensory overload! Continue to Shibuya to see the crazy Shibuya Crossing, where thousands of people cross at every change of the lights – as the evening starts the lights come on, and you can only be in Tokyo! Don’t forget that your JR Pass can be used on all JR lines in Tokyo, cutting the cost of getting around. Certain attractions require an entrance fee to be paid locally.

Day 11 – Tokyo
Today continue exploring Tokyo – your 7-day JR Pass has now expired, so you’ll just need to buy subway or train tickets as you go. I would start in the city centre, where you can catch a glimpse of the Imperial Palace (for me the best view is at the corner of Harumidori and Uchiboridori) and take in the upmarket Ginza district – if you get off the train at Tokyo’s main station to the west side all of this can be done on foot. Then head to Harajuka, where the beautiful Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine contrasts with the surrounding streets incredibly – the district is popular with Japan’s youth culture, so you’ll find lots of zaniness here. It’s then a short hop to Shinjuku, home to the world’s busiest station and Tokyo’s bright lights & buzzing nightlife. I’d take in a show at the renowned Robot Restaurant – it’s like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else, ever!

Holidays to Tokyo with Escape Worldwide - Tokyo Sky Tree & the Asahi Beer Hall

Day 12 – Tokyo to UK
Buy a ticket at the station and make your way to Tokyo’s Narita airport for your flight back to the UK.


All in all, this would take in all of the key highlights of this region of Japan – this is how I would spend 12 days in Japan!”

Checkout some great holidays to Japan  - http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/far_east/japan_holidays.html


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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Tuk Tuk Tour of Bangkok in Thailand

Karen and Christine was in Thailand in 2015 and whilst in Bangkok they went on a tour with a bit of a difference:

On my recent visit to Thailand with Karen we sampled the Tuk Tuk Experience excursion in Bangkok. This was a really fun way of travelling around and as our guide was in the Tuk Tuk with us she pointed out different places of interest that we could go back to at a later date if we wanted to.
After meeting at the hotel and introducing ourselves to other people doing the excursion as well we headed off to our first destination, Wat Saket (the Golden Mount). You ascend up the outside of this and upon reaching the top the views over Bangkok are amazing. Your guide will inform you of what you are looking out at and also all the history. You then descend and get back in your Tuk Tuk to your next destination.


The next place we stopped was Wat Po. Here you will be able to see the reclining Buddha. Your guide will tell you all the history of this temple like this is the first University in Bangkok and is where the Monks taught people how to massage correctly.

We then climbed aboard our Tuk Tuks again and headed for the flower market. Here the flowers and aromas are something to be experienced.
Our next stop was the Phahurat Market, in the heart of Little India. Here you can pick up some bargains.


Our last stop was the Phra Sumereu Fortress where your guide will give you the local history and point out places of interest on the river before leaving you. Your Tuk Tuk driver will take you either back to your pick up or drop you locally.

This was a really good way to experience Bangkok and a Tuk Tuk is the only way to travel.   


We have some great holiday ideas to Thailand - http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/thailand/index.html



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