The Ultimate Jungle Escape: GAIA Riverlodge in Belize‏

April 18, 2014 on 8:40 am | In Adventure Travel, Beachbooker, Belize, Central America, Sailing, Scuba Diving | Comments Off

Located in the lush Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and surrounded by the sparkling Five Sisters waterfalls, GAÏA Riverlodge is one of Belize’s most celebrated ecotourist destinations.


Escape to your private cabana, perched on the edge of a valley overlooking the Five Sisters waterfalls.
GAÏA Riverlodge offers 15 private cabanas featuring Belizean hardwoods, traditional bay leaf thatched roofs and richly varnished mahogany interiors. With panoramic windows or a private veranda with hammock, ceiling fans, a bathroom decorated with hand-painted Mexican tiles, beds with pillow top mattresses, and Matouk and Frette linens, your stay has all the comforts you desire.


Seek adventure with exciting activities such as cave tubing, zip-lining, mountain biking, and bird-watching among the trees. Or, take a day trip to the Mayan ruins at Caracol to experience Belize’s ancient wonders.


Soak up expansive views from the wrap-around terrace at GAÏA Riverlodge’s restaurant and lounge, magically located directly above the falls. You’ll enjoy globally inspired cuisine prepared with locally sourced fruits and vegetables, and fresh seafood from the Carribean Sea.


Experience sumptous treatments and blissful relaxation at the newly opened Spa on-site. Natural ingredients from the Belizean jungle are infused in each treatment, such as the Banana Papaya facial, Sunset Aromatherapy Massage and Eco-calm facial.

For further information, visit

About Belize

The only English-speaking country in Central America, Belize is situated on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America. This unique country includes lush tropical rainforests, the mysteries of the Ancient Maya, glorious white sand beaches and a spectacular 174 mile-long barrier reef. With direct flights to Belize City from Miami, Dallas, Houston, Charlotte and Atlanta, Belize is your perfect destination for a short weekend getaway or long Caribbean adventure. Discover GAÏA Riverlodge’s sister property in Belize, Matachica Resort & Spa at

Dive in to Dubai!

April 6, 2014 on 11:19 am | In Adventure Travel, Beachbooker, Dubai, Middle East, Scuba Diving | Comments Off

Jumeirah Beach Hotel offers In-house guests FREE Discover Scuba Diving sessions!

We are pleased to announce that The Pavilion Dive Centre is now offering Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s in-house guests complimentary Discover Scuba Diving sessions in the pool as part of their benefits when staying in the Dubai hotel. This is applicable to all guests as per the maximum room occupancy including children from 10 years old and above, subject to availability.

This 5-star luxury Dubai hotel has a private beach and features over 16 dining options, five pools and a climbing wall with guests staying at the Hotel able to enjoy free unlimited access to Wild Wadi Waterpark. Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s rooms are spacious and have floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Arabian Gulf. Each features a cable LCD TV, evening turndown service and free Wi-Fi access. Jumeirah Beach offers a wide variety of international cuisine including Lebanese, Argentinean and Italian. Refreshments are offered at the rooftop Lounge 360 and the hotel’s swim-up bar Ocean Blue. Facilities offered at the hotel’s Pavilion Marina & Talise include tennis courts, a state-of-the-art gym, aerobics classes and a full-service spa. Sinbad’s Kids Club has a daily activity programme for children.

Adventures and Attractions Highlight What’s New in the Florida Keys & Key West for Spring 2014‏

March 30, 2014 on 8:29 am | In Adventure Travel, Beachbooker, Florida, Miami, Sailing, Scuba Diving, The Keys | Comments Off

FLORIDA KEYS — The Florida Keys & Key West offer a variety of new and enhanced attractions, underwater adventures, museum exhibits, flavorful diversions and other activities to tempt visitors ranging from dive and snorkel enthusiasts to art lovers.

Explore the highlights here.

Keys Heritage

A century-old Florida Keys icon is to be saved for future generations. Keys government and Florida Department of Transportation officials recently ratified a 30-year, $77 million agreement that will fund a restoration and maintenance program to ensure the preservation of a portion of the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge.

Connecting the Middle Keys’ Marathon with Pigeon Key, the span currently is utilized by more than 100,000 people every year for walking and biking.

The bridge was built more than a century ago as the centerpiece of Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. Completed in 1912, the railroad stretched more than 100 miles out over open water, connecting the Keys with each other and mainland Florida for the first time.

In 1938 the bridge was converted for automobiles and in 1982 the Federal government built a new span paralleling the historic one. “Old 7″ was retired and became a fishing pier and walking area, but the harsh marine environment has taken its toll.

Today, Pigeon Key, the miniscule island beneath the old bridge that once housed about 400 railroad workers, is a historical and education center. Visitors are transported there via a ferry because the old bridge, Pigeon Key’s only physical connection to Marathon, has been deemed unsafe for motorized vehicles.

An extensive design process is planned to shore up the existing structure as well as replace the bridge’s decking, substructure, superstructure and hand railings to make it safer for pedestrians.

Gus Pego of the Florida Department of Transportation said he hopes construction efforts will begin in about two years and added that some $30 million of the budget will be spent on initial preservation efforts. For information about Pigeon Key, visit

For decades, Key West visitors have explored the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum to view the Western Hemisphere’s richest single collection of 17th-century maritime and shipwreck antiquities. Now, for the first time, they also can take behind-the-scenes tours of the museum’s laboratory where the priceless artifacts are studied and conserved by experts.

Located at 200 Greene St., the museum is an internationally recognized center for excavation, preservation, research and exhibition of New World maritime artifacts.

The core of its collections are the gold, silver, emeralds, weapons, rare navigational instruments and other objects from the Spanish galleons Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita, which sank off the Florida Keys in 1622. As well as viewing the shipwrecks’ precious cargo, recovered in the 1970s and ’80s by pioneering shipwreck salvor and museum founder Mel Fisher, visitors to the lab can discover the stories behind it.

Guided by archeologists and conservators, lab visitors learn about the painstaking work of recovering and preserving objects from these and other excavations. They also view pieces undergoing conservation, ranging from massive 17th-century cannons to ships’ fittings, period tools and small silver coins. A question-and-answer session also is included in the tour.

Museum admission is $12.50 per adult or $22.50 including the guided lab tour. The museum is open daily and lab tours are offered Monday through Friday. Visit for tour times.

Keys Water Sports Adventures

Captain Spencer Slate recently replaced his popular Atlantis Dive Center with Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures, offering expanded services and diving options in a new location. Slate has moved his complete operation from its previous Key Largo headquarters to mile marker (MM) 90.7 oceanside in Tavernier in the Casa Mar Village shopping enclave.

Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures offers dives to new locations including Davis Reef, Pleasure Reef and Crocker Wall off Islamorada; Key Largo’s Snapper Ledge and Molasses Reef as well as Middle Keys sites. Popular excursions to the Spiegel Grove, Duane and Eagle shipwrecks also are available, as are packages for disabled divers.

The dive shop has two 40-foot boats that can accommodate up to 25 divers or 36 snorkelers. Both are equipped with walkthrough transoms, six-foot-wide boarding ladders, showers and built-in tank racks. The fleet also includes a 30-foot, 26-knot boat that carries smaller groups.

Since 1978, Slate has offered dive, snorkel, underwater wedding and glass-bottom boat packages in Florida Keys waters. At its new location, the dive shop also is a certified dive outfitter for Islamorada’s Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost.

In addition, the shop continues to provide certification courses at all levels from beginning to professional, as well as dive instructor courses and an extensive variety of specialty offerings.

Slate is known for staging dive events such as the annual Underwater Easter Egg Hunt, and for his signature “Creature Feature” dives that are to continue from his new location. The “Creature Feature” package enables diving aficionados a safe opportunity to “meet” marine life including Goliath groupers, moray eels and other underwater species while a professional videographer shoots the whole dive. For information, visit

Scuba divers and snorkelers can enjoy the Florida Keys’ underwater world and take home a tangible memory with the newly launched “Become a Reef Explorer” program, which spotlights Keys coral reefs in a specially created souvenir journal. The Florida Keys are home to the continental United States’ only living coral reef.

First-timers, families and fun-loving groups of all experience levels can explore the destination’s reefs and be awarded for logging reef dives or snorkels between Key Largo and Key West.

Interested divers and snorkelers can request a free Reef Explorer journal when they book a reef charter during their Florida Keys visit. Participants then collect validation stamps from professional dive or snorkel operators indicating they have visited one or all of the reefs highlighted in the journal.

After they collect five stamps, one in each region of the Keys, participants can email to receive an access code to download, personalize and print a Florida Keys Reef Explorer poster ready for framing. Details can be found at

Bluwave Adventure Dive Center recently opened at 46 Garden Cove Drive oceanside in Key Largo. Owned by underwater photographer and diver Tom Dailey, the center offers charters and scuba certification classes. Dive services and training for disabled individuals also are available with Handicapped Scuba Association–trained staff who are ready to meet the needs of disabled divers.

The dive center provides course offerings from entry-level sessions to open water classes, as well as rescue dive courses and deep and night dives. For advanced divers, Nitrox-based dives are available for select programs.

Bluwave Adventure Dive Center operates a 30-foot boat that carries no more than six guests per dive. The vessel features a hydraulic platform with three feet of travel to deploy or recover divers and heavy equipment. Vessel amenities include onboard fresh-water showers, dive benches designed for easy equipment handling and a cooler for complimentary soft drinks and snacks.

Those who shoot underwater photography and videos can rent a Hasselblad high-resolution digital camera and underwater housing. Underwater photography classes also are available. For details and booking information, visit

Key Largo tour operator Largo Looker recently opened at 13 Seagate Blvd. at the Pilot House Marina. The company offers glass-bottom tours in its high-speed hydrofoil-design vessel that rides on the ocean surface.

The ultramodern Largo Looker vessel features six-by-10-foot viewing glass so guests can enjoy the only living coral reef in the continental United States, which parallels the Keys. Passengers have plenty of room to view the area’s tropical fish, coral formations and marine life up close and in comfort.

Morning and afternoon tours are offered and each lasts approximately two hours. Tickets are $65 per person plus tax. For details and booking information, visit

Keys Kudos

The beach area at Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Florida Keys recently was named among the United States’ top 25 beaches for 2014 by TripAdvisor, acclaimed as the world’s largest travel website.

TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Beaches Award winners were announced in mid-March, with rankings based on the quality and quantity of TripAdvisor traveler reviews and ratings for beaches over a 12-month period.

Listed at number 17, Bahia Honda’s pristine sandy expanse is part of a 524-acre state park located on Bahia Honda Key between mile markers 36 and 37. One of the Florida Keys’ most popular camping and recreation areas, Bahia Honda offers deep near-shore waters for swimming and snorkeling as well as camping, picnicking, watersports, nature trails, the Sand and Sea Nature Center, a marina and rental cabins. For information about the park, visit

Keys Libations

Fans of fine beers and ales can enjoy made-in-Key-West creations at Bone Island Brewing, 1111 Eaton St. The Key West enterprise is the latest creation by brewmaster Jim Brady and island city merchant Richard Tallmadge.

The nanobrewery serves different styles of craft beer from pale ales to Irish stouts — sold only on site. Visitors can enjoy tours of the operation and beer tastings.

Bone Island Brewing is located inside Tallmadge’s Restaurant Store, a landmark Key West emporium also home to Cole’s Peace Artisan Bakery. Learn more at

Keys Culture

Artwork from the Florida Highwaymen and Key Largo’s hermit artist Harry Sonntag is on display at Islamorada’s Keys History & Discovery Center April 3 through June 1. The center is located at the Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost at mile marker 82, and the collection is in collaboration with Lisa Stone Arts.

Paintings feature the work of Florida’s best-known African-American landscape artists, including the talented group’s only woman, Mary Ann Carroll.

In the 1950s, an era marked by racism and poverty, the Florida Highwaymen were a group of largely self-taught, determined artists who painted iconic Florida landscapes as an alternative to physically demanding labor and sold them to tourists — often before the paint had fully dried. They created a body of work that today is referred to as a contemporary art tradition and visual legacy of modern Florida.

Also on display are several watercolors by their contemporary, the reclusive Harry Sonntag. Sonntag operated a small gallery in the Rock Harbor area, one of Key Largo’s early settlements.

The Keys History & Discovery Center is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 per adult, $10 for seniors and $6 for guests of the Islander Resort. Children age 13 and under are admitted free. For information, visit

Florida Keys visitor information:  or 1-800-FLA-KEYS (1-800-352-5397)
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New Dive Program Offered at Allegro Cozumel Resort‏

March 26, 2014 on 9:55 am | In Adventure Travel, Beachbooker, Cancun Cozumel Yucatan, Mexico, Scuba Diving | Comments Off

All-Inclusive Resort in Mexico Introduces Package for Dive Enthusiasts to Enjoy and Explore the Palancar Reef, One of the Top Five Dive Destinations in the World

Miami, FL (March 25, 2014) – Occidental Hotels & Resorts is pleased to announce the new Ultimate Dive Experience package at the Allegro Cozumel Resort. Located on the beautiful San Francisco Beach by the Palancar Reef, one of the top five dive destinations in the world, Allegro Cozumel’s guests can relax and rejuvenate on land, or enjoy and explore vibrant underwater life. The Ultimate Dive Experience offers ample scuba diving amenities and deluxe guest accommodations facilitating a superior experience for dive enthusiasts visiting from all over the globe.

Ideal for all diving levels, this exclusive package features a variety of complimentary inclusions, such as: accommodations in a Superior Premium Ultimate Dive Experience Room, a daily Dive tank, access to an in-room special wetsuit drying rack, exclusive check-in and check-out service, a private lounge to socialize and hangout, as well as equipment storage, care and discounts at the Dive Shop. A brief five to ten minute boat ride carries guests from the resort to Cozumel’s best dive destinations including the Palancar Reef, which is part of The Meso-American Barrier Reef – one of the largest reefs in the world. With four boats departing daily from the Allegro Cozumel Resort at 8am, 10am, 1pm and 3pm, divers can choose when they would like to be transported to their tropical adventure under the sea.

“We are proud to offer the Ultimate Dive Experience as we have one of the world’s best diving reefs in our backyard,” said Jose Maria Figuereo, General Manger of Allegro Cozumel Resort. “We want our guests to have easy access to diving resources and incredible accommodations providing an unforgettable vacation.”

Ultimate Dive Experience accommodations feature 36 rooms conveniently situated in close proximity to the beach and a private pool, ensuring that divers are just steps from the water at all times. Diving guests are also granted special admittance to a secluded lounge where they can unwind while taking in the beautiful sea views. Guests who book the Ultimate Dive Experience must be PADI scuba certified, or equivalent. The starting rate for the Ultimate Dive Experience is $107 per person, per night for a single room.

Allegro Cozumel is positioned within a National Marine Park of more than 11 thousand hectares of beaches and waters between the Paradise Reef and Punta Chiqueros. With water temperatures between 78 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, an average visibility of 100+ feet and currents of one to two knots, this region is a treasured dive site. The Palancar Reef serves as home to more than 4,000 species of fish and 700 species of coral and sponges. Divers enjoy exploring the reef’s breathtaking drop-offs, towering coral pinnacles, and underwater caves and tunnels, while observing various types of crustaceans, octopus, squids, rays, parrotfish, angelfish and more.

Allegro Cozumel Resort is one of the top all-inclusive destinations for couples and families alike. With its prime location overlooking the Mexican Caribbean Sea, unlimited meals and snacks at numerous restaurants and bars, refreshing pools, fitness facilities, nightly entertainment, and countless land and water sport activities, there are plenty of options for guests to explore. As a family-friendly destination, children can play at the Kids Club and pirate themed water park, while parents take advantage of the relaxing boutique spa. Conveniently situated just 20 minutes from the international airport, and a 45 minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, Mexico, this tropical paradise is easily accessible for travelers.

Occidental Hotels & Resorts

One of the world’s leading hotel companies and one of the largest all-inclusive resort chains in the Americas, Occidental Hotels & Resorts has more than 20 properties in key destinations under the Allegro, Occidental Grand and Royal Hideaway brands, each perfectly suited to address the leisure travel needs of its market segment, from Allegro’s fun-filled packages, to the luxurious Occidental Grand and Royal Hideaway. An even more exclusive component of all Occidental Grand properties, the “Royal Club” offers boutique-style services within the resorts such as a private concierge, separate check-in and check-out services.

Dive in with Olympian & Sport Relief Mentor Greg Whyte at Skiathos Princess Hotel‏

March 25, 2014 on 11:08 am | In Beachbooker, Greece, Scuba Diving | Comments Off

Family friendly fitness meets laid-back luxury on the stunning island of Skiathos

As part of an on-going mission to offer some of the best health and fitness offerings to parents and their children, Skiathos Princess Hotel and luxury family holiday specialists Tots Too is pleased to announce a brand new collaboration with former Olympic pentathlete, Greg Whyte OBE, later this year.

Following an extension of the hugely successful YOGAqua at Skiathos Princess Hotel, an upcoming collaboration with boutique fitness specialist Sandy Feet and a dramatic €1.5million refurbishment, 2014 is set to be a bumper year for the Skiathos Princess Hotel. Promising to offer more for families and their children than ever before the hotel’s next venture will see Greg Whyte offering a variety of complimentary swimming classes for adults and children on Sunday 31st August & Monday 1st September.

A former modern pentathlete, Greg Whyte competed in two Olympic Games and has won European bronze and World Championship silver medals. Now known for his extensive involvement in Comic Relief & Sport Relief, Greg has motivated and successfully coached David Walliams in his swim across the English Channel and along the River Thames – and more recently supported TV presenter Davina McCall in her epic triathlon from Edinburgh to London.

Outstanding sporting credentials aside, Greg is a true family man with three small children of his own. Understanding what parents want for their children, Greg has undertaken a number of educational swimming programmes for children of all ages – most notably his work with Turtle Tots, which introduces new-borns to swimming through classes beginning at the pre-birth phase.

“Dedicated to training and educating both children and adults, Greg is the perfect partner for Skiathos Princess Hotel which prides itself on offering an unparalleled experience to guests of all ages. We are huge advocates of health and fitness for all, and working with the likes of Greg helps guests make the most of their stay with us should activity be integral to their holiday experience” commented Katerina Santikou, Business Development Manager at Skiathos Princess Hotel.

The class on Sunday 31st August will be aimed at young children and beginners, with two classes being held on Monday 1st September for competent older children and adults allowing the programme to benefit the whole cross-section of guests:

Sunday 31st August – Pool Swim Session for Tiny Tots & Kids

This early morning (9am) 45-minute swimming session will be aimed at tiny tots (parents will need to accompany!) or slightly older children up to the age of six in the family pool. Greg will tailor-make and personally host a group session for up to 15 children. The session will be fun and interactive using play for those children that can’t swim independently. It will also be a great work out for parents!

Monday 1st September – Pool Swim Session (older children & adults) & Open Water Session

Designed with more competent/experienced swimmers in mind, Greg will be holding two classes on the second day. One will be an early morning (9am) 60minute pool session focusing on technique for both adults and competent older children (group size, maximum 15 people). The session will focus on improving confidence in the water using and improving technique in all four strokes. Yes, that includes butterfly!

The second, a late afternoon (5pm) 60-90 minute open water technique swim session that will be available for teenagers and above (group size 10 – 15 people). This session is for competent swimmers who are experienced in open water or want to take on the challenge of open water. The session will focus on open water technique and be followed by a Q&A session on how to get the best out of your swimming.

To book a stay at the Skiathos Princess Hotel including a place on one of the above exclusive swim sessions speak to one of the Tots Too team on 020 7284 3344 or visit Tots Too offers seven nights at Skiathos Princess Hotel from £4,150 per family, based on two adults and two children under twelve years staying in a family room. Price includes return Thomas Cook flights, bed and breakfast accommodation (excluding drinks) and private transfers. Departing 27th August 2014.

Explore the ‘Other’ Barrier Reef in Belize

March 24, 2014 on 10:25 am | In Adventure Travel, Beachbooker, Belize, Central America, Scuba Diving | Comments Off

HOPKINS, Belize – There is more than one great barrier reef in the world. The Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stretches 25 miles of the Central American coastline. Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, on the coast of Belize, is the prime location from which to explore this ecological wonder. The ecotourism resort nestled into the Belizean rainforest off 30 acres of pristine tropical beach, offers diving and snorkeling trips to explore the reef. Adventurers explore the exotic underwater landscape, searching for turtles, eagle rays, dolphins, whale sharks and rainbows of tropical fish, as well as the reef’s three atolls.

The reef that is so secluded that 90 percent of it has yet to be researched. But marine biologists do know that it is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The Belize Barrier Reef is home to more than 100 species of hard and soft coral and hundreds of fish and invertebrates.

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort is a premier Belize eco-resort. Travelers can relax in one of the 13 treehouses or beachfront rooms as a jumping off point for exploring the reef or one of their many rainforest adventures.

To learn more about Hamanasi’s Adventure and Dive Resort’s tropical paradise and exhilarating excursions, visit

Gateway To Peninsular Malaysia’s Best Kept Diving Secret

March 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Adventure Travel, Asia, Beachbooker, Malaysia, Scuba Diving | Comments Off

Tanjong Jara Resort has announced the opening of its Dive Season 2014 on March 1 this year, taking advantage yet again of its unique position as a luxury resort which not only fronts the pristine South China Sea and boasts a multi award-winning Spa Village, but is also located a mere 50-minute speedboat ride away from one of the region’s best kept diving secrets, Tenggol Island.

One of Malaysia’s most beautiful and serene islands, the untouched Tenggol in Terengganu Marine Park provides access to over 20 stunning diving and snorkelling sites, perfect for beginner snorkellers or advanced divers. Less than three kilometres long and two kilometres wide, the steep and rugged cliffs of Tenggol Island form a spectacular canvas of underwater sights. Bright corals and a vast array of stunningly vibrant nudibranchs are first to catch the eye, while a variety of species such as the giant double-headed parrotfish, yellowtail fusiliers, eagle rays, black-tipped reef sharks, barracudas and majestic sea turtles play cat and mouse.

Depths of up to 30 metres guarantee sightings of some of the world’s most spectacular sea creatures such as the whale shark in its element; giant trevallies come in to feed and schools of jacks and barracudas prowl the reefs on the hunt. Whether it be ‘Moonraker’s’ remarkable coral formations, climbing 10 metres tall from the seabed, or the spectacular fish life at ‘Tokong Talang’, ‘Tanjong Api’ or ‘Tokong Timur’, the resort’s experienced dive instructors will lead guests on a journey of discovery.

Tanjong Jara Resort offers the Tenggol Divers’ Delight experience for guests looking to explore the teeming marine world in the Terengganu Marine Park. This includes two daily dive excursions at Tenggol Island over two days and rental of dive equipment, sumptuous barbecue lunches on the beach, as well as daily breakfast and dinner at the resort. Available for booking till October 28, 2014, at a minimum of three nights’, based on twin-sharing accommodation, rates for this package begin at MYR1540++ per room per night.

The resort’s five-star in-house dive centre, operated by the award-winning Quiver company, also offers snorkeling day-trips, Discovery SCUBA Diving, Fun Dives and a variety of PADI course for guests looking to venture beyond the Tenggol Divers’ Delight experience.

For further information on Dive Season 2014 at Tanjong Jara Resort, please visit or call YTL Travel Centre at +603 2783 1000. Guests may also email to book their underwater escape.

YTL Hotels owns and manages a prestigious collection of award-winning resorts, hotels, boutique experiences and Spa Villages in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, France and the UK, including Pangkor Laut Resort, voted the world’s best resort in 2003.

In July 2012, the company added Gaya Island Resort, a luxurious resort on the exotic tropical island of Borneo to the fold, while December 2012 saw the unveiling of The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur, the second heritage jewel in the group’s Classic Hotel collection.

With each new experience that it unveils, the company strives to embrace and highlight the natural essence of culture, character and tradition of its surroundings. YTL Hotels is the hospitality arm of YTL Corporation Berhad.

Visit for more information. For high-resolution images, please visit For reservations and enquiries, please contact the YTL Travel Centre directly in Malaysia, call +60 3 2783 1000 or email

What’s Hot in Western Australia

March 22, 2014 on 9:05 am | In Adventure Travel, Australia, Beachbooker, Cabinweb, Cruise Boats, Dine Drink, Festivals, Golf Resorts, Hotels, Mobile Apps, Museums, Outdoors, Performing Arts, Road Trips, Sailing, Scuba Diving, Spa Resorts, Sports Travel, Surfing Resorts, Webbandstand, Western | Comments Off

WA Taste Master’s adventures on film

WA’s Taste Master Rich Keam has teamed up with expert local guides to help spread the word about Perth’s amazing food and wine. Some of Rich’s culinary journey has been captured on film and features him catching and cooking fresh Rottnest lobster with local restaurateur Kiren Mainwaring, learning the art and history of craft beer making in Fremantle with Feral Brewing Co, exploring Northbridge with Beaufort Street Festival food curator Laura Mosely, and meeting up with local food blogger Whitney Ng. Rich’s journey as Taste Master in WA has come to an end, which saw him travel more than 20,000 kilometres, and visit more than 35 towns and more than 100 restaurants, bars, cafes, wineries, breweries and cider houses.

Pop-up dining with native ingredients
Fervor, created by WA siblings Bree and Paul Iskov, is a new and unique dining concept in the form of a travelling pop-up restaurant focusing on freshly foraged ingredients. In February, Fervor will be hosting a series of pop-up dinners around the Margaret River region – in Lake, Jewel and Mammoth Caves, and the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Guests will be taken on an eight to ten course culinary journey where native ingredients such as paper bark, midjim berry and marron will be transformed into mouth-watering degustation plates. The Fervor concept was fuelled by a passion for native edibles and a deep love and respect for the diverse natural bushland throughout WA, and particularly the Margaret River region.

New hotel for Fremantle
A new hotel has opened in the port city of Fremantle, which is a 20-minute drive from Perth city. The Hougoumont Hotel officially opened in late November, and offers affordable luxury in a prime location on Bannister Street, a short walk to Fremantle’s ‘cappuccino strip’, and other attractions such as galleries, the Fremantle Markets, Fremantle Prison, gourmet dining, Bathers Beach, The Roundhouse and more. Each room combines luxurious comfort with smart TV’s, free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee making facilities, complimentary wine and Hors d’oeuvre’s for guests each weekday evening, personalised pillow menus, personal trainer on request, onsite parking and more. The hotel also has conference and meeting facilities.

Lifestyle and culture

Join the pilgrimage to Albany in November 2014
The international spotlight will be on Albany in WA’s South West in November 2014 when the historic and picturesque coastal city hosts the first in a series of commemorative and community events as the curtain raiser to the Anzac Centenary period. To honour the first ANZACs, a significant program of events is planned in Albany between October 30 and November 2, 2014. Albany played a key role in World War One as it was the final departure point for many Australian and New Zealand soldiers. A commemorative event program and community events are planned, along with the official opening of the Anzac Interpretive Centre at the Princess Royal Fortress. Albany is one hour by air from Perth or a four and a half-hour drive and boasts awe-inspiring coastline, stunning landscapes, and abundance of gourmet attractions with cosmopolitan cafes and bars, slow food, markets, wineries, olive oils, and organic produce.

New art at the Art Gallery of WA
The Art Gallery of WA, located in the Perth Cultural Centre just outside of Perth’s central business district, has opened a new exhibition of contemporary art acquisitions. IMPACT showcases a selection of the acquisitions to the State Art Collection with a focus on video works, together with sculpture, paintings and works on paper. It brings together internationally renowned filmic artists such as Jesper Just, Hale Tenger, Michael Snow and Richard Grayson with Australian artists engaging with sound and moving image aesthetics such as Gabriella and Silvana Mangano, Angelica Mesiti. It coincides with extended opening hours at the Gallery – during February, it will be open until 7pm, to coincide with the Fringe World Festival and the Perth International Arts Festival. Visitors can also take guided tours, see pop-up music performances, or visit the gallery shop and café.

Western Australia to be home to the country’s richest film prize
Western Australia will be home to Australia’s richest film prize next year with film festival CinéfestOZ offering a new $100,000 prize for an Australian feature film as part of its 2014 program. CinéfestOZ started in 2008 to celebrate the South West’s early exploration by the French and the strong film making cultures of both France and Australia. Held in the South West town of Busselton, CinéfestOZ will be held from August 20 to 24, 2014. Visitors can join filmmakers, film stars and film lovers for a five-day cultural adventure with the latest offerings from the Australian film world; a French film selection, and short films, documentaries, community screenings and more.

Degrees of Connection exhibition
Renowned West Australian artists Nadeen Lovell and Kimberley Kohan are exhibiting their Degrees of Connection works at Melbourne’s Tacit Gallery from February 26 until March 16. Degrees of Connection reflects the journeys of the two artists as they’ve experienced the world — across continents and time zones, seasons and cultures — being inspired by the windswept plains of Mongolia, the icebergs of the Antarctic and the tropical mystery of Madagascar, but mostly by the rugged majesty of WA’s North West — the Pilbara and the Kimberley.

Food and Wine

Perth food festivals in April and May
Next May will be a culinary feast in Perth, as two food and wine festivals happen across the city. The City of Perth will again host its annual month-long food and beverage celebration Eat Drink Perth from April 1 to 30, while Brand Events Australia will facilitate the inaugural Taste of Perth festival from May 1 to 5. Together, the events represent 36 days of food and wine activities

New chef at Cape Lodge
Michael Elfwing is the new Executive Chef at the multi-award winning Cape Lodge Restaurant, which is located in WA’s Margaret River Wine Region. Hailing from Sweden, Michael has worked for many years with legendary chef Cheong Liew at the celebrated Grange in Adelaide and has also done time at the world-famous Fat Duck restaurant with Heston Blumenthal, as well as at other European Michelin kitchens. Michael was handpicked by Cheong Liew to open his signature restaurant in Kuala Lumpur and has for the past five years been the creative force at Senses restaurant – recently nominated in the prestigious 2013 Pellegrino Top 50 restaurants in Asia. Michael’s culinary training is French and he enjoys molecular gastronomy, foraging and culinary interpretations of his Nordic heritage. Food and wine pairing is also a great passion for Michael who has completed his Professional Sommelier training certificate, and is a strong believer in using fresh local produce and creating seasonal menus that reflect a sense of place. As well as the restaurant, Cape Lodge also features 22 rooms and suites, a private luxury residence, tennis court and swimming pool, set among sprawling, manicured gardens.

A taphouse with a twist
Swings Taphouse & Kitchen is the latest bar and restaurant to open in Margaret River, in WA’s South West. On the town’s main street, the Taphouse & Kitchen is the latest edition to the Swings & Roundabouts family – a well-known winery in the region. Open from 10am daily, the venue serves brunch, lunch and dinner with Swings & Roundabouts wine available on tap, delivered by ‘sight glass fonts’ (a world first), and served by the glass, half carafe or carafe. There’s also a selection of ‘guest backyards’ wines, cocktails and beers, and the menu is simple and rustic, designed for sharing, and with an emphasis on fresh, local and sustainable produce.

Swan Valley food and wine festival
After the success of the inaugural event last year, the Valley and Vines festival will return in 2014. Held in the Swan Valley, WA’s oldest wine growing region and only a 25-minute drive from Perth, the festival will see wine lovers choose from four participating boutique venues (Ugly Duckling Wines, Jarrah Ridge Wines, Carilley Estate and Duckstein Brewery) with festival goers setting their own itinerary depending on their desire, tastes and interests. There will be a 90 minute ‘session’ at each location, with a 30 minute break in between each for travel. Each venue will offer its local choice of wine or beer, and have a variety of food and live entertainment on offer. The festival is on from Saturday April 5, from 11.00am to 4.30pm.

Manu Feildel and Stephanie Alexander added to Ord Valley Muster line-up
Celebrity chef and My Kitchen Rules judge Manu Feildel, and one of Australia’s great food educators, Stephanie Alexander will be heading to WA’s East Kimberley region in May as part of the Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster. Manu, together with WA chef Don Hancey and special guest Stephanie Alexander, will host the Kimberley Kitchen on the banks of Lake Kununurra on May 21. Manu will have an A to Z of local ingredients at his fingertips, sourced from the region’s massive food bowl, showing guests how he incorporates this stunning local produce into his signature dishes. He will also host the exclusive long-table Durack Homestead Dinner held under the Kimberley night stars at the historic Durack homestead. Stephanie Alexander will conduct cooking demonstrations and food conversations on Sunday May 18 at the Moon Fair, and run garden-based workshops with children during the week. The festiva runs from May 16 to 25 and will feature more than 30 spectacular events across ten exciting days, including the Airnorth Kimberley Moon Experience with Eskimo Joe, The Waifs and John Williamson.

Tours, attractions and accommodation

Nature-based tourism boosted in Margaret River
Eco-tourism in the Margaret River region has been boosted with the opening of the redeveloped Wharncliffe Mill Bush Retreat in Bramley National Park. The upgraded retreat now includes four new lodge rooms, three new forest cottages and 44 bush caravan/camping sites. Wharncliffe Mill also offers a nature-play space and an Aboriginal-themed meeting place, with cultural learning experiences presented by Aboriginal guides. The $1.2 million redevelopment is part of the Naturebank program, which is a joint initiative between the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Tourism WA. Read the media release.

Travel package to experience the Margaret River Pro
As part of the 2014 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, Bookshop Travel has created a travel package which will showcase the highlights of the event, along with the region’s food and wine experiences. The package is a 12-day tour, and includes surf lessons with some of Australia’s finest surfing instructors, VIP access to the event, and a series of exclusive behind-the-scenes food and wine experiences. The tour will be led by Carli Ratcliff, a keen surfer and food writer who is well acquainted with the region, and Carol Crenna – a bespoke travel specialist. The Drug Aware Margaret River Pro will be held at Margaret River’s Surfer’s Point from April 2 to 13 and is now part of the ASP World Championship Tour.

Ascott opens Citadines-Branded Residence in Perth
The Ascott Limited (Ascott) has launched its second Citadines Apart’hotel in Australia. The new Citadines St Georges Terrace Perth has opened following a $5.1 million and five-month refurbishment of the former Somerset St Georges Terrace Perth. Located in the heart of Perth’s central business district, the property has 85 studio and one-bedroom apartments, with fully equipped kitchen/kitchenette, living area’s and modern amenities such as complimentary WiFi, home entertainment system and flat screen TV. Contemporary art pieces by local artists Nick Stratham and Kyle Hughes are featured throughout the hotel.

Hot deal at Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort
Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort has some all-inclusive ‘hot deals’ currently on offer. The deals are for travel between now and March 31; then April 28 to June 30. A minimum three-night package includes accommodation in a beach side dolphin unit or garden villa, daily breakfast, lunch (one course with drinks), dinner (two courses with drinks), and drinks during ‘happy hour’. Rates are from $499 for adults, $249 for children (six to 12 years) and $125 for infants/toddlers (one to five). Located at Dolphin Beach in the heart of the World Heritage listed Shark Bay, Monkey Mia has attracted schools of dolphins to its tranquil shores daily for more than 40 years, with the area famous for its kilometres of secluded crystal blue waters and pristine beaches.

Faraway Bay opens season with one-off special
Remote wilderness retreat Faraway Bay, in WA’s Kimberley region, has been on the receiving end of a spectacular amount of rainfall, leading to an exclusive ‘end of wet season’ package deal. It’s believed the rains will produce incredible waterfalls, and potentially superb Barramundi fishing. New attractions at Faraway Bay in 2014 include a rustic handcrafted wood-fired pizza oven, roasts and fresh breads, plus a fully-inclusive scenic flight over King George Falls on journeys to and from Faraway Bay. The twin King George Falls is WA’s highest waterfall, which every guest of Faraway Bay experiences up close by boat, and now also by air. The package deal offers a 20 per cent discount on standard rates, plus complimentary resort accommodation overnight in either Kununurra or Darwin. It’s valid for bookings made before February 28 for visits taken before April 30, 2014 and packages start from $3,464 per person for three nights, fully inclusive of return air transfers ex-Kununurra, all gourmet meals and beverages, and all tours and activities. Faraway Bay is a unique wilderness retreat nestled on a rocky hilltop overlooking the Timor Sea
in the remote north Kimberley region, some 280 kilometres north-west of Kununurra.

Experience the waterfalls of the Kimberley
The Berkeley River Lodge in WA’s North West has released its ‘waterfall package’ for March and April. The lodge is the region’s newest remote luxury lodge, and the package includes four-night’s accommodation in a luxury villa, return scenic sea plane transfers from Kununurra, all gourmet meals and beverages, and tours such as waterfall river cruises, guided bush hikes, fishing adventures and beach/bush four-wheel-drive tours. The Kimberley was recently named as the number two destination to visit in 2014 in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014.

New eco accommodation in Margaret River
St Allard Eco Resort is a new resort located just ten minutes’ drive out of Margaret River in WA’s South West. Set against natural forest, St Allard Eco Resort offers six chalets and a lakeside restaurant, golf course, tennis court, paddle boats and peaceful nature walks.

Feature – The Perth Hills – a great day-trip destination

Scattered throughout the wide fertile ranges of the Darling Scarp and only 45 minutes east of Perth city centre, you’ll find the stunning scenery, meandering drives and vibrant villages that make up the Perth Hills. While the Hills are part of the city, visitors will find the region and its character townships exude a country charm and views that are simply astounding.

The world famous Bibbulmun Track starts in the hills stretching 1,000 kilometres from Kalamunda to Albany. The tree-lined village of Mundaring is one of the major towns of the Perth Hills and makes a wonderful day trip or weekender for visitors to the region. In town, you can stop off at the Mundaring Visitor Centre where you can learn about the history of the region and pick up a variety of maps highlighting the large amount of activities and attractions to be found. Just out of town you will find the vast water reserve of the Mundaring Weir and the Perth Hills Discovery Centre where you can learn about native flora and fauna. You can also picnic at any number of stunning parks in the area.

Kalamunda town centre is also particularly appealing, with its gift stores, character eateries and quaint village feel. Art, music and history play a big part here with several heritage building sites in town and the Zig Zag Cultural Centre, where visitors can learn more about the history, culture and attractions of the area. A visit to the town library will reward you with views of the largest community-built stained-glass window in Australia, and if you are visiting on the first Saturday of the month, be sure to drop in on the village market or on Sunday morning’s, the Kalamunda Farmers Markets are held, showcasing fresh produce from local farmers and growers.

Kalamunda is also a great staging point for visiting the breathtaking Bickley and Carmel Valleys renowned for their wine and local produce. Considering its Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers and cool wet winters, and with the first vineyards in the region planted in the 1880s, it comes as no surprise that the Perth Hills now boasts a well-established wine scene with each part of the hills having their own distinct wine trails for you to discover.

The Mundaring Hills Wine Trail will lead you through the forests and gullies of Darlington, Glen Forrest, Mt Helena and Wooroloo to some of the oldest wineries in the region and continuing further south, the Bickley-Carmel Valley Wine Trail touts seven wineries including some fine examples of sparkling wine made in the French tradition. Cellar doors are open most weekends and public holidays and you can set your tastebuds dancing with a good selection of wine varieties.

Visitors to the Perth Hills will also be impressed by the range of excellent restaurants and the level of sophisticated accommodation to be found. There are gracious country bed and breakfasts, spa retreats and private luxurious hideaways. While you’re in the Hills, try retreating to the national parks and the cool of the forests to indulge your love of the natural environment. The hills are blessed with a series of more than 40 bike and walk trails, as well as scenic lookouts and picnic spots.

Ten things to do in the Perth Hills

• Enjoy a picnic or barbecue, canoe or swim at Lake Leschenaultia
• Experience the beauty of the area’s national parks and State forests
• Get on the Munda Biddi Cycle Trail in Mundaring which winds through some spectacular scenery on its journey south

• Follow the Perth Hills Wine Trail to sample some local wines
• Explore the Mundaring Weir Precinct and No 1 Pump Station
• Browse through the region’s arts and crafts studios
• Take a guided spotlight tour at Karakamia Wildlife Sanctuary
• Get ‘Nearer to Nature’ with a range of outdoor activities at the Perth Hills Discovery Centre
• Walk the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail, KEP Track or world-famous Bibbulmun Track
• Learn more about the colourful history of the area at the District Museum.

The Islands of Tahiti Are Happy!

March 19, 2014 on 10:52 am | In Beachbooker, Pacific Islands, Sailing, Scuba Diving, Tahiti | Comments Off

– GIE Tahiti Tourisme, Tahiti Tourisme North America’s head office, recently posted “Happy (We Are from Tahiti)” on YouTube. The video was created as a special version of Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy” to showcase the Islands of Tahiti’s beauty and people. Williams’ hit song has gone viral with different countries adapting it to showcase what makes their country “happy.”

As in the original clip filmed in Los Angeles, the videos use a lip dub concept. A lip dub is a type of video that combines lip synching and audio dubbing to create a music video. It involves filming individuals or a group of people lip synching while listening to a song or any recorded audio then dubbing over it in post editing with the original audio of the song.

From Paris, Tokyo and Sao Paulo, the concept has become a worldwide phenomenon and GIE Tahiti Tourisme embraced the “happy” concept to show what makes the islands and people of Tahiti so special.

Behind the camera were two local producers, who used the beautiful islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Taha’a in GIE Tahiti Tourisme’s version of “Happy.”

The video can be watched here

About the Islands of Tahiti:

Easier to travel than often imagined, Tahiti is eight hours by air from Los Angeles with daily nonstop flights. Tahiti is halfway between California and Australia, on the same side of the International Date Line as North America and in the same time zone as Hawaii. There are a total of 118 islands and atolls that comprise this beautiful South Pacific country. Tahiti’s varied landscape ranges from just-above sea level coral atolls to volcanic mountain peaks. Tahiti is renowned for warm waters, white-sand beaches and stunning turquoise lagoons. Find the Islands of Tahiti on Facebook at , Twitter @TahitiTourism
, Pinterest at Tahiti Tourisme North America and YouTube at TahitiTourism.

Sandals certified as one of world’s top dive companies

March 17, 2014 on 9:59 am | In Adventure Travel, Antigua Barbuda Anquilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Beachbooker, Caribbean, Grenada, Jamaica, Scuba Diving, St. Lucia | Comments Off

The Caribbean’s Sandals Resorts International has reached 50,000 certifications to become one of the premier dive divisions in the world.

The award was made by PADI Worldwide, the world’s leading scuba diving authority, and now sees Sandals become one of the world’s top five companies for scuba.

Each of the Caribbean-based company’s resorts offers scuba diving using custom-made Newton boats to Nitrox and ScubaPro equipment and the highest level of expertise.

Sandals Resorts International CEO Adam Stewart said: “Having world class partnerships such as we do with PADI is a major part of our business.”

Sandals and Beaches Resorts’ PADI Five Star operation offers more than 500 different dive sites from wreck and wall diving to night and shark dives.

“The best part is that, for accredited divers, it’s all included,” Stewart said.

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