The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

 

 

ITINERARY

The following itinerary lists a range of sites which we plan to visit. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in flight schedules, road and weather conditions. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches (usually boxed lunches) and evening meals as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, and D=evening meal. The duration of walks described below are approximate only.

 

Discovering Lemurs

Lemurs belong to the suborder Strepsirhini, which also includes bushbabies, pottos and lorises. These groups are the most basal living primates. Ancestral prosimians, possibly resembling today’s Mouse Lemurs, are thought to have colonised Madagascar from mainland Africa 50-60 million years ago. In the absence of competition from other non-primate mammals, these species diversified to fill a wide range of unusual ecological niches. There are five distinct families of lemurs: Lemuridae, Indriidae, Megaladapidae, Cheirogaleidae and Daubentoniidae. The Lemuridae comprises 10 species, divided into two subfamilies: the Lemurinae (‘true’ lemurs) and the Hapalemurinae (Bamboo or Gentle Lemurs). All species of lemurs are endemic primates of Madagascar. They are the smallest primate in the world, from Ms Berthe Lemur which weighs 30 grams to the Indri, which can weigh up to 9.5 kg. Recently extinct species were much larger. In 2010, five families, 15 genera and 101 species and subspecies of lemurs were officially recognized. Between 2000 and 2008 39 new species were identified. During this tour we shall study several beautiful species including the Indri Indri, Sifaka and some interesting nocturnal species.

 

Guiding in Madagascar and visits to the National Parks

Entry to national parks and reserves in Madagascar requires that you be accompanied by a local guide. During visits to the national parks there will be at least two local guides as well as our English-speaking national guide from Wild Madagascar. This will enable us, if necessary, to sub-divide into small groups according to preference and ability levels. If you feel you cannot keep up with the rest of the group or feel tired, you may return to the entrance of the national park, shorten your visit or take a short-cut to meet the rest of the group at a different place.

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 1: Monday 9 September, Arrive Antananarivo

 

Airport transfer for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight (from Mauritius MK288 1410-1505)
Orientation tour of Antananarivo
Welcome Evening Meal

We arrive in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city, affectionately known as ‘Tana’. We proceed immediately from the airport for a short orientation tour of the city including stops at the former Prime Minister’s and Queen’s Palaces.

The city of Tana was built in three stages; the high city was the first area occupied during the royal period, and it is here that the old Manjakamiadana Rova (Queen’s Palace) is located. This royal palace complex (rova in Malagasy) served as a residence for the kings and queens of the Merina Kingdom during the 17th and 18th centuries and the rulers of the Kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century. Its religious counterpart is the nearby fortified village of Ambohimanga, which served as the spiritual seat of the kingdom. Originally made of wood, in 1869 the palace was rebuilt in stone by order of Queen Ranavalona II. In 1995 a fire almost completely destroyed the palace sparing only the stone walls. From its high position the palace offers great panoramic views of the city and the Twelve Sacred Hills.

The Andafiavaratra Palace, also known as the Prime Minister’s Palace, is located north of the Queen’s Palace. The original wooden palace was built under the supervision of Queen Ranavalona I. In 1872, it was rebuilt according to the plans of British architect William Pool. The 3-storey palace centres on a large reception hall lit up by a glass dome. Each of the four corner towers includes a bell tower. From 1864 to 1895 the palace was the residence of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony, who married three queens and exercised ultimate power from here. After Madagascar became independent, the palace was used as army barracks, a court, school of fine arts, presidential palace and finally again as the prime minister’s office. In 1976 the palace burnt down. Following extensive restoration it now houses a museum displaying precious items which were saved from the fire of the Rova in 1995 including the red jacket of Radama I, the royal coral jewels, various royal portraits and the diadem of the last queen. Note: this palace is is currently closed for restoration and may not be open by September 2019.

We next drive down to mid-city Tana, or the administrative district, ending at the Rainiharo tombs. While poorly maintained, the tomb designed by Jean Laborde in 1835 for the deceased prime minster is nevertheless a significant example of French colonial architecture and the first structure in Madagascar to use carved stone. A three-year stay in Bombay, shortly before Laborde’s fateful shipwreck on Madagascar, gave a decided Hindu air to his design for this mausoleum.

Finally we visit the low city which is the commercial area of the town with its magnificent Avenue de l’Independence and its imposing colonial buildings including the old railway station. In the late afternoon we transfer to our hotel located in the heart of the government district. This evening we gather for a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Antananarivo) LD

 

 

Andasibe National Park – 3 nights

 

Day 2: Tuesday 10 September, Antananarivo – Marozevo – Andasibe

 

Peyrieras Reptile Reserve (Mandraka Nature Farm), Marozevo

Physical Endurance: Our visit to the reserve may include an optional ten minutes hike to the top of a nearby hill where a family of Coquerel’s Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) and a group of Common Brown Lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) reside. The hillside is quite steep. Duration: 2hrs

Early evening walk in the VOI Community managed forest of the Reserve of Indri d’ Analamazaotra. Physical Endurance: The night walk starts at around 1800 from the entrance to the VOI preserve. The trail, winding in the understory of the forest, is reasonably flat. Duration: 1.5hrs

This morning we depart Antananarivo for Andasibe, a region of primary forests and lakes. En route we stop at the Peyrieras Reptile Reserve, founded by the French entomologist and naturalist André Peyriéras, for a close-up look at some of Madagascar’s numerous reptiles and amphibians, including several species of chameleons, snakes, geckos and frogs.

We arrive at our atmospheric lodge, set on the edge of the rainforest, in the late afternoon. In the early evening we make our first visit to the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra with a stroll through the VOI community managed forest. Here we search for a number of nocturnal species including various tree frogs, chameleons, the Eastern Woolly Lemur (Avahi laniger), Furry-Eared Dwarf Lemur (Cheirogalus crossleyi) and Goodman’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus Lehilahitsara). (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

Day 3: Wednesday 11 September, Andasibe

 

Journey by 4WD
Birdwatching and nature tour of Mantadia National Park: The Tsakoka and Belakato Trails

Physical Endurance: Hiking trails in Mantadia can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. As our plan is to combine birdwatching and wildlife, lemurs in particular, we cannot limit walks to the lower elevation. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 4-5hrs.
Time at leisure

The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a pristine primary growth rainforest reserve, separated into two sections, each home to plants and animals found only in that part. The two protected areas are referred to as the ‘special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra’ (or Andasibe National Park) and Mantadia National Park. Mantadia National Park, located 21kms north of the Andasibe National Park, was created primarily to protect the Indri and also constitutes a habitat for the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegat). A quiet, beautiful area with numerous waterfalls, it is undeveloped and less visited than its popular neighbour to the south.

We spend today exploring this section of the park, looking for lemurs, reptiles and rare endemic birds. The terrain at Mantadia is ranked from rough to very rough and searching for wildlife will be physically demanding. We will dedicate four to five hours to following a combination of the Tsakoka and Belakato trails. We intend to be back at our lodge around mid-afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

Day 4: Thursday 12 September, Andasibe

 

Birdwatching and nature tour of the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra
Physical Endurance: Hiking trails in the reserve are steep in spots and can be sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 3-4hrs.

Lemur Island

This morning we explore the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra, world famous for its population of Indri whose unforgettable wail can be heard emanating from the misty forest throughout the day, most commonly in the early morning. There are about 60 resident family groups of two to five Indris each. In 2005 the Goodman’s Mouse Lemur was discovered here and identified as a distinct species. There are numerous other species to see as well, such as the Bamboo Lemur and the Brown Lemur, the Emerald-Green Parson’s Chameleon and a number of rainforest dependent birds.

In the middle of the afternoon, we visit Lemur Island, a tiny reserve owned by Vakona Lodge, home to three species of lemur including the Bamboo Lemur, the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur and the Brown Lemur. Here we may obtain a close-up view of these endemic creatures. (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

 

Antsirabe – 1 night

 

Day 5: Friday 13 September, Andasibe – Ambatolampy – Antsirabe

 

Aluminium Pot Workshops, Ambatolampy
Evening orientation walk of Antsirabe (time-permitting)

We spend most of the day travelling from Andasibe to Antsirabe. Our journey will take approximately seven to eight hours. South of Tana we make a brief visit to the charming and very typical plateau town of Ambatolampy, famous for its aluminium pots. A visit to a local foundry will enable us to view the workers who, out of the blazing hot metal, create small artworks, cutlery and cooking pots. Their skilful technique is interesting to watch. The metal is smelted by one worker in a crucible until it is molten. In the mean time, another member of the team creates the inverted shape of the inside of the pot on the floor of the workshop using a very fine-grained mixture of sand, laterite and powdered charcoal. Once this shape has been completed, a wooden mould is lowered carefully over the foundry sand, and more sand is packed around it. Finally, the molten metal is poured into the cavity between the two to create the pot. The pot is then left to cool – which is a surprisingly quick process – before the mould is removed and the foundry sand is gently swept away to expose the new pot. It is then sanded and burnished to remove the rough edges and reveal the characteristic silvery white colour of the metal.

Depending on the traffic, we hope to arrive into Antsirabe in time for a short evening orientation stroll along the Avenue de l’Independence. Colonial Antsirabe’s broad tree-lined avenue, which stretches from its handsome railway station to the Hôtel des Thermes was intended to achieve the goals of defining the resort as European and of making it a symbol of French rationality and modernity with which to impress the Malagasy. (Overnight Antsirabe) BLD

 

 

Ranomafana National Park – 3 nights

 

Day 6: Saturday 14 September, Antsirabe – Ambositra – Ambatovaky – Ranomafana

 

Rickshaw ride: visit to the semi-precious stone workshops and handicraft sector of Antsirabe
Wood carving of Ambositra
Blacksmith village of Ambatovaky

Early this morning we begin with a short tour of Antsirabe, the third largest city in Madagascar. Located on a high plateau, at an altitude of approximately 1500m, it has a relatively cool climate. Its name, meaning “where there is salt”, honours the large number of hot springs whose curative qualities were appreciated by the local population when French colonists decided to locate a thermal bath here in the 19th century. It is also renowned for having hundreds of registered rickshaws (or pousse-pousses in French) and specialises in the cutting of semi-precious stones. In the town’s thriving handicrafts sector we may view a variety of products including jewellery made from zebu horn, toys crafted from old tin cans, wood carvings, polished minerals, embroidered tablecloths and clothing.

Mid-morning we depart Antsirabe and continue 90km south to the Betsileo town of Ambositra, whose close proximity to the forest has made it the centre of Madagascar’s wood carving industry. Its name means “the place of the eunuchs” supposedly because the Merina tribe castrated all defeated warriors of the local tribe, the Zafimaniry. The cultural influence of this tribe can be found in the traditional motifs on the local houses with their intricately carved balconies, panels and shutters. We’ll encounter many specialized workshops in printmaking, wood carving and marquetry. Saturday is market day; raffia products are particularly plentiful.

The village of Ambatovaky, situated 24km from the entrance to Ranomafana National Park, consists of a small population of farmers and artisans. Here shall visit a local blacksmith before continuing to Ranomafana National Park in the mountainous highlands. (Overnight Setam Lodge, Ranomafana) BLD

 

Day 7 & 8: Sunday 15 September & Monday 16 September, Ranomafana National Park

 

Mornings: Birdwatching and nature walk along the Varibolamena Trails
Physical Endurance: One of the most difficult trails, it is taxing due to the rough terrain and humidity. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 4 hrs.

Afternoon: Birdwatching and nature walk along the Vohiparara Trails
Physical Endurance: The Vohiparara Trail is flatter than the Varibolamena Trail. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: dependent on bird species spotted; approx 2hrs.

Particularly rich in wildlife, this hitherto unprotected fragment of mid-altitude rainforest and higher-altitude mountain cloud forest first came to the world’s attention with the discovery of the Golden Bamboo Lemur in 1986; formal protection followed in 1991. Today this exquisite upland cloud forest is one of Madagascar’s top wildlife hotspots. The 12 lemur species that live here include all three Bamboo Lemurs: Grey Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur griseus), Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) and the Golden Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur aureus). The Bamboo or Gentle lemurs have grey-brown fur. Their muzzles are short and their ears are round and hairy. Lengths vary from 26 to 46 cm, with tails just as long or longer, and they weigh up to 2.5 kg. Bamboo Lemurs prefer damp forests where bamboo grows and as their name suggests they feed almost exclusively on bamboo. Completely dependent on this low-energy food source, the lemur must lead a very sedentary lifestyle and spend much of its time eating. As with many specialised species, this lemur is unable to adapt to its rapidly changing habitat. Widespread clearing of its rainforest habitat has caused populations to become isolated in the few remaining patches of forest capable of supporting the species. Other residents of the park include the striking Milne-Edward’s Sifaka and the robust Black and White-Ruffed Lemur. There are also scores of reptiles and beautiful chameleons.

We shall spend two days in Ranomafana National Park exploring the network of paths through the forests and dense stands of giant bamboo. Expect to see various lemurs, such as Red-Fronted Brown Lemur (Eulemur rufus), Red-Bellied Lemur (Eulemur rubriventer) and the shy Grey Bamboo Lemur. For the tree lover we will see some of the species of Dombeya with their heads of pink or white flowers. Ranomafana is also superb for birdwatchers as many of the rainforest dwelling endemics occur in the park. There are Brown Mesite, Blue Coua and the Velvet Asity. Ranomafana is a herpetologist’s paradise, with a variety of chameleons, geckoes, skinks and frogs. The floral diversity is bewildering, with numerous species of palm, bamboo and orchid thriving here.

The Ranomafana National Park trail is considered to be one of the most difficult walks included on this tour due to the roughness of terrain and the permanent humidity. Difficulty will undoubtedly arise while tracking wildlife, in particular Golden Bamboo Lemurs and Milne’s Edward Sifaka, the former being very often met only off track – which can be a strenuous endeavour. The terrain where birds are usually encountered is more even. (Overnight Setam Lodge, Ranomafana) BLD

 

Isalo National Park – 2 nights

 

Day 9: Tuesday 17 September, Ranomafana – Anja – Isalo National Park

 

Ring-Tailed Lemurs of Anja Community Reserve
Physical Endurance: Relatively easy trail with only slight uphill slopes. The narrow trails follow open vegetation through dry-deciduous forest. Duration: 2hrs

Leaving the rainforest early after breakfast we drive across the desolate central southern interior to the community-run Anja Reserve. Known for its superb scenery, the reserve covers eight hectares and is home to about 300 Ring-Tail Lemurs (Lemur catta), instantly recognisable by their banded tail, and some intriguing plants adapted to the dry southern climate. The region is sacred to the Betsileo; their ancestors are buried here and it has always been fady (meaning taboo in the traditional culture of Madagascar) to hunt the lemurs. The caves here have provided a useful sanctuary in times of trouble and were inhabited up to a century or so ago. We spend a couple of hours in the Anja Reserve following a relatively easy trail through dry-deciduous forest to spot groups of Ring-Tailed Lemurs and various species of reptiles.

In the afternoon we continue our drive to Isalo’s remarkable landscapes, with eroded ‘ruiniforme’ sandstone outcrops, giving hints of silver and green reflections of sunlight, and interspersed with endless palm savanna of the endemic Bismarkia Palms (Bismarkia nobilis). (Overnight Hôtel Le Jardin du Roy, Ranohira, Isalo National Park) BLD

 

Day 10: Wednesday 18 September, Isalo National Park

 

Morning nature trail, Isalo National Park
Physical Endurance: The path to the natural pool climbs steeply and there is little shade along the way. The hiking time for the uphill climb is approximately 1-1.5 hours at a leisurely pace with stops. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2-3hrs.

Afternoon at leisure OR optional trail to the Piscine Noire et Bleu, Isalo National Park.  Physical Endurance: This 4km walk begins with easy walking, but becomes more difficult towards the end of the canyon due to stream crossings on flattened boulders, cliff ascents on carved steps, followed by a descent to the pools along narrow steps and stepping stones. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 3hrs.

We explore Isalo National Park’s fascinating plant community, including some very localised species of palm, aloe and the squat ‘elephant’s foot’ pachypodiums, which flourish on the rock faces. With luck, we’ll see some Ring-Tail Lemurs or Verreaux’s Sifakas in dense vegetation lining the canyon streams. Isalo offers several options for hikes into rocky canyons and verdant oases, with opportunities to take a refreshing dip in naturally formed pools at the base of hidden waterfalls. We shall look for Ring-Tail Lemurs, Verreaux Sifakas and Red-Fronted Brown Lemurs that have adapted to life in this dry desert climate.

Our early morning trail provides views of xerophytic and sclerophyllous vegetation as well as stunning sandstone runiforme scenery.

This afternoon is at leisure for you to enjoy the lodge’s facilities. Alternatively you may wish to join an optional walk to the ‘Piscine Noire et Bleu’ (Black and Blue Pools), both fed by narrow waterfalls, located at the end of the Namazaha Canyon. This canyon features riparian (riverbank) vegetation and shelters a variety of birds including the Benson Rock Thrush (Monticola bensoni). We begin the trail in a dry deciduous pocket forest that is home to birds, reptiles and insects. At the centre of this forest we may see Ring-Tailed Lemurs, the Red-Fronted Brown Lemurs and a Verreaux Sifaka. (Overnight Hôtel Le Jardin du Roy, Ranohira, Isalo National Park) BLD

 

Ifaty – 2 nights

 

Day 11: Thursday 19 September, Isalo – Zombitse National Park – Toliara – Ifaty

 

Zombitse National Park
Physical Endurance: An easy walk along the Mandresy Trail; terrain includes loose sand. Duration: 2hrs

Arboretum d’Antsokay, Toliara

We make a very early start to drive to Zombitse National Park. The forest is a very special transition zone between the southern flora and the western deciduous forest. Similar in appearance to the latter, it contains the baobab species of the former. Here we may find our first Angraecum orchids and see Rhopalocarpus, a large tree and a member of a family unique to Madagascar. The large white Verreaux’s Sifakas bound from tree to tree and often allow close views.

After lunch we visit the splendid Aboretum d’Antsokay, located 12km south-east of Toliara. Created in the early 80s on the initiative of a Swiss amateur botanist, Hermann Petignat, the arboretum is devoted to the conservation of plants from the south-western part of Madagascar. In close collaboration with many institutions including the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and WWF it presents a typical spiny thicket (also known as spiny forest) in a botanical garden preserving more than 900 species, of which 90% are endemic to the region and 80% have medicinal virtues.

In the late afternoon we drive to Ifaty, a small fishing village with idyllic palm-fringed white beaches on the southwestern coast of Madagascar. (Overnight Ifaty) BLD

 

Day 12: Friday 20 September, Ifaty

 

Reniala Reserve: Spiny Thicket
Physical Endurance: An easy walk; terrain includes loose sand.
Today we make an excursion to the Reniala Reserve whose name “mother of the forest” is the nickname of the baobabs endemic to this area. The reserve, which opened in 2001, functions as a botanical garden, ornithological park and baobab forest, and includes some of the last pieces of primary forests of the South. The spiny thicket or “spiny desert” of southern Madagascar, also referred to as deciduous thicket, is a globally distinctive ecoregion with 95 percent of the plant species endemic to the region. Members of the endemic Didiereaceae family dominate the thicket, which have similar xeric adaptations to New World cacti, such as small leaves and spines, but are woody rather than succulent. The reserve also features the the famous baobabs (Adansonia rubrostipa), Pachypodium and countless Euphorbia.

For bird lovers, you may see the Madagascar harrier-hawk (Polyboroides radiatus) or find the sickle-billed vanga (Falculea palliata), the white-headed vanga (Artamella viridisa) and Madagascar buttonquail (Turnix nigricollis) in their natural habitat. Reniala is also home to many endemic reptiles. A big population of the rare radiated tortoise and the smaller spider tortoise (Astrochelys radiata and Pyxis arachnoides) lives on the sandy ground and shares its territory with many Madagascar iguanas (Chalarodon madagascariensis). The forests are rapidly disappearing and becoming fragmented by charcoal production, agricultural expansion (for maize and cattle grazing), and wildfires associated with generation of new cattle pastureland. (Overnight Ifaty) BLD

 

Kirindy Forest Reserve – 1 night

 

Day 13: Saturday 21 September, Ifaty – Toliara – Morondava – Kirindy

 

Fly Toliara to Morondava via Antananarivo (MD713/MD702 0745-1230)
Nocturnal guided visit of Kirindy Forest Reserve
Physical Endurance: Trails are broad and mostly flat, making walking easy. Duration: 2hrs

Today we fly from Toliara to Morondava, and then drive to the Kirindy Forest Reserve. This 10,000-hectare reserve is a rare remnant of Madagascar’s threatened dry tropical deciduous forest. The reserve contains such oddities as the endangered Giant Jumping Rat collected by Gerald Durrell and now resident at the Durrell Wildlife Foundation, the Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) – Madagascar’s largest predator and a member of the mongoose family, and seven species of nocturnal lemur including the Fork-Marked Lemur, Coquerel’s Dwarf Lemur and the smallest of all primates, the Pygmy Mouse Lemur. Also present is the hissing cockroach. Kirindy boasts the highest density of primates of virtually any forest in the world. Diurnal lemurs include the acrobatic Verreaix’s Sifaka and Red-Fronted Brown Lemur.

Kirindy is part of the Manabe forests, also noted for their diverse botany which includes three of the island’s seven endemic baobabs, including the Giant Baobab and the smallest, the Bottle Baobab. Birdwatching is excellent, and we should see the Madagascar Jacana, Coquerels and Crested Couas and Sicklebill Vangas to name but a few. You may also see iguanids and the Flat-Tailed Tortoise – known as Kapidolo (ghost turtle), currently one of the most threatened of all the world’s tortoises.

This evening we take a walk through the reserve to spot some of these nocturnal species including the Giant Jumping Rat (Hypogeomys antimena). Accommodation is provided at the recently opened (April 2017) Relais du Kirindy. Your impressive nocturnal wildlife walk should leave you feeling that our night in Kirindy Forest was well worthwhile. (Overnight Relais du Kirindy, Kirindy Forest Reserve) BLD

 

Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Sunday 22 September, Kirindy – Belo Tsiribihina – Tsingy de Bemaraha

 

Return visit to Kirindy Forest Reserve
Journey by 4WD to Bekopaka via the Tsirbihina River and Belo Tsiribihina

Following an early return visit to the Kirindy Forest Reserve we drive northwards to the shores of the Tsiribihina River where a barge will transport us across the river to the town of Belo Tsiribihina. The river crossing takes about 45 minutes.

Following lunch in Belo Tsiribihina we make the four to five-hour drive to Bekopaka. Our journey takes us across savanna, a grassland home to the Madagascar Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides radiatus). One of the commonest raptors of Madagascar, this is a very large bird of prey. Aside from its size, it is unmistakable with its black and white stripes (called barring) on its underside, grey back, long bare yellow legs and bare pink or yellow skin patch around the eye.

A second barge will take our party across the river Manambolo to the village of Bekopaka; we shall spend the next three nights based at the Soleil des Tsingy. Located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tsingy de Bemaraha, the lodge is perched on the highest point in this region, offering spectacular views of the surrounding scenery. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Day 15: Monday 23 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

 

The Gorge of the Manambolo River by pirogue
Physical Endurance: The excursion by pirogueon the Manambolo River is not suitable for anyone with bad knees. Further details are provided below. Duration: 2hrs

The Petite (Small) Tsingy
Physical Endurance: The walk includes a short ascent following a series of iron ladders and wooden walkways. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2-3hrs.

The spectacular mineral forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha stands on the west coast of Madagascar. The area, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990, comprises 1575 square kilometres of canyons, gorges, undisturbed forests, lakes and mangrove swamps. The northern section is designated an Integral Reserve, and therefore off-limits to visitors, but we shall visit the southern section, declared a national park in 1998. This vast forest of rugged and eroded karst pinnacles supports about 90 species of birds, 8 species of reptiles and 11 species of lemurs. Scientists estimate that 86.7% of the flora and flora are endemic to Madagascar, and 47% are endemic to this region.

This morning we make an excursion by pirogue (wooden dug-out canoe) to the spectacular Manambolo Gorge, where the river has carved a deep channel through the limestone plateau. As we canoe past dry forest and sheer, vertical cliffs, craggy caves and overhangs, we shall view unusual vegetation, endemic water birds, and hear the shrill cries of black parrots resounding against the rock walls. Madagascar Fish Eagles can sometimes be seen perching in large trees edging the river. The park is generally divided into two parts – the Petit (Small) and the Grand (Big) Tsingy – a distinction based upon on area and also on the height of the pinnacles.

This afternoon we visit the Petit Tsingy. An easy walk through a dry deciduous forest (where you’ll get to see plenty of lemurs) takes us to the base of the karst formations. Here a short ascent – following a series of iron ladders and wooden walkways (designed by a French mountaineer) – takes us to the viewpoint that opens up to a vista of the surrounding Tsingy forest. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Day 16: Tuesday 24 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

 

The Grand Tsingy: Adjacent Forest Walk (Option 1)
Physical Endurance: Option 1: A leisurely forest walk. Duration: 2hrs

Climbing The Grand Tsingy (Option 2: strenuous)
Physical Endurance: Option 2: Climbing the Grand Tsingy is long and strenuous and can be very hot during the middle of the day. It includes many steps, cables, walkways, caves, and a fair bit of rock scrambling. You need to be okay with heights. A climbing harness is provided for those undertaking the cables and rock scrambling section. Duration: 4hrs.

Afternoon at leisure

We depart very early this morning for a one-hour drive to the Grand Tsingy; a packed breakfast will be provided. We may see lemurs and dozens of birds, orchids, aloes, pachypodium and baobabs. The endemic and medicinal plants make the flora of this park unique. On arrival we take a leisurely walk exploring the adjacent forest for birds: Decken’s Sifaka (Propithecus deckeni), Randrianasolo’s Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur randrianasoli). At the entrance of the Tsingy we may also search for the Western Ring-Tailed Mongoose (Galidia elegans occidentalis). Note: the Grand Tsingy, the outskirts of which are characterised by xerophyte vegetation, may be viewed from below, from quite short distance without needing to climb.

Alternatively you may wish to take an adventurous (and indeed strenuous) walk traversing the pinnacles either along a harnessed track or following the iron ladder way. A harness clipped to a steel cable is used for safety on the vertiginous and exposed scrambling sections amongst the rock. (Note: no technical climbing experience is necessary).

After visiting the park we shall return to our hotel for lunch and an afternoon at leisure to relax. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Morondava – 1 night

 

Day 17: Wednesday 25 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha – Morondava

 

Return journey to Morondava by 4WD
Avenue des Baobabs

We return to Morondava by road, viewing the sunset in the Avenue des Baobabs. This cluster of towering Grandidier’s Baobabs (Adansonia grandidieri) is one of Madagascar’s most famous views. In 2007 the avenue (together with about 300 baobabs of three species in the surrounding one kilometre) became an officially protected natural monument. Andansonia grandidieri is the most majestic and famous of the baobab species and may reach 30m in height. The best-known specimens form the Boabab Avenue. These trees would once have been surrounded by dense forest, but today their isolated silhouettes can be seen for miles across the flat, featureless rice fields. There is now an active program to plant saplings amongst the existing trees. The project suffered a setback late in 2012 when a fire engulfed 11ha of the 320ha reserve, destroying 99 of the 2220 newly planted trees, but no mature baobabs were affected. We overnight in Morondava, a relaxed coastal town located on the Mozambique Channel. (Overnight Morondava) BLD

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 18: Thursday 26 September, Morondava – Antananarivo

 

Flight Morondava – Antananarivo (MD702 MOQTNR 1355-1455)
Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

Following some time at leisure we take a flight back to Antananarivo. We spend the remainder of the day exploring this city, including the UNESCO heritage listed Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, one of the most important spiritual and historic sites for the Malagasy people. Occupied since the 15th century, it was a fortified political capital, royal palace and royal burial ground. In the nineteenth century, the French colonial authorities made several attempts to undermine the significance and national symbolism of Ambohimanga, all of which proved unsuccessful. (Overnight Antananarivo) BLD

 

 

Maroantsetra – 1 night

 

Day 19: Friday 27 September, Antananarivo – Maroantsetra

 

Flight from Antananarivo to Maroantsetra (flight details to be confirmed)
Orientation tour of Maroantsetra
The Tomato Frog, Dyscophus antongilii

This morning we fly to Maroantsetra. Located at the far end of the Bay of Antongil, near the mouth of the Antainambalana River, this charming town described as ‘Madagascar at its most authentic’, enjoys both river and ocean views.

This afternoon we make a short tour of the town which often smells of vanilla and cloves; looking around we may see tables of drying vanilla beans on colourful blankets or cloves drying on mats and plastic bags.

Vanilla is a major export from Madagascar’s east coast. The only fruit-producing orchid, it is one of the most labour-intensive crops in the world, taking as long as five years from planting the vine to producing aged extract. Production involves the entire family, who pollinate the vanilla by hand when it flowers after two years, and then collect, cure and dry the pods. World vanilla prices experienced a massive spike after a 2000 cyclone devastated much of the East Asia crop. The sudden drop in supply pushed vanilla prices to nearly $500 per kg. However, by 2010 prices had dropped to as low as $25 per kg. Today, vanilla prices are surging again due to drought, fungal attacks and low prices driving many producers out of the market. Vanilla now sells for $80-$120 per kg. Despite the establishment of a financial cooperative which allows farmers to access credit during the lean season that lasts for most of the year (vanilla is sold only between June and October), very few people are still interested in caring for their plantations. Many have moved away from vanilla to other cultivations. Seeing drying vanilla pods is therefore very much dependent on the year and whether vanilla plantations are still tended.

There is also an abundant market featuring food such as large jumping shrimp, rice, greens, coconuts and a variety of cooked dishes, housewares, clothing and jewellery. Among the local crafts are lovely handmade raffia hats and bags which are primarily used by the local women. Women with stately postures may be seen balancing raffia totes and baskets piled high with fruit, vegetables and other goods on their heads.

While in Maroantsetra we also visit an area dedicated to the breeding habitat of the Tomato Frog, Dyscophus antongilii, a conspicuous red-orange frog belonging to the Microhylidae family. Currently listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is present in eastern and north eastern Madagascar, with two main nuclei, one around and within the town of Maroantsetra, and the other in the surroundings of Antara, close to the town of Toamasina. (Overnight Maroantsetra) BLD

 

 

Masoala National Park – 2 nights

 

Day 20: Saturday 28 September, Maroantsetra – Nosy Mangabe – Masoala

 

National Park

Réserve de Nosy Mangabe: Physical Endurance: Hiking trails can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2hrs

Early this morning we travel by boat to the Masoala Peninsula. En route we make an excursion to the island nature reserve of Nosy Mangabe, a small island (520ha), located in Antongil Bay two kilometres offshore from Maroantsetra, and covered in humid dark-green thick forest.

The boat takes around 40 minutes before we wade ashore. The island is home to White-Fronted Brown Lemurs and Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs, Leaf-Tailed Geckos (Uroplatus fimbriatus), several species of chameleons, frogs and snakes, including the Madagascar Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagasciensis), some of which can usually be spotted easily on the forest trails during a day visit. There is also the nocturnal Aye-Aye Lemur, which in the past could be seen if one stayed overnight on the island. However, the Aye-Aye on Nosy Mangabe are now more elusive and night walks are no longer permitted on the island.

In the early afternoon we continue by boat to the Masoala Peninsula. Here we spend three nights based at the Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge offering accommodation in rustic, but quite adequate, thatched huts. (Overnight Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge) BLD

 

Day 21: Sunday 29 September, Masoala National Park

 

The Western Coastal Trail, Lohatrozona
Physical Endurance: Hiking trails can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels.

The Masoala Peninsula is truly exceptional: two percent of all of planet earth’s animal and plant species are to be found here. Some species like Aye-Aye, Red-Ruffed Lemur, Madagascar Red Owl and the extremely rare Serpent Eagle are endemic to the peninsula.

Encompassing 2,300 square kilometres of rainforest and 100 square kilometres of marine parks, Masoala is Madagascar’s largest protected area. The park was established in 1997 to preserve this unique ecosystem comprising coastal rainforest, flooded forests, marsh and mangroves from the serious threat of encroachment by local communities that depend on the area for agricultural land and firewood, and from international logging companies harvesting timber. The park forests, which abound with chameleons, geckos, frogs as well as several species of butterflies, tumble down to the edge of a pristine, unspoiled shore peppered with unexplored golden beaches.

The three marine parks protect over 10,000 ha of coral reefs, marine plants and mangroves around the peninsula. Presently, more than 3,001 fish species have been inventoried in the marine parks. Antongil Bay is also used as a shelter by humpback whales that gather here during the summer breeding season, when Antongil’s waters literally froth with cetaceans.

The region also supports one of the most diverse groups of palm species in the world. The park is home to a total of 102 species of birds, more than 60% of which are endemic. During our stay we shall be looking for, among others, the rare and localised Helmet and Bernierʼs Vangas, Madagascar Long-Eared Owl, Red-Breasted Coua and both Short-Legged and Scaly Ground-Rollers. There are also several rare species of lemur (Red-Ruffed, White-Fronted Brown, Fork-Marked) and chameleon. Among the carnivores, Masoala is the only locality where the Mongoose Salanoia Concolor or Brown-Tailed Mongooses have been observed since 1970. This species is the least known of the Malagasy carnivores. (Overnight Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge) BLD

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 22: Monday 30 September, Masoala – Maroantsetra – Antananarivo

 

Morning Charter Flight from Maroantsetra to Antananarivo (MD417 WMNTNR 1600-1715)
Farewell Evening Meal at La Varangue

We travel this morning by boat to Moroantsetra where we connect with our charter flight back to Antananarivo. The afternoon is at leisure. This evening we enjoy a farewell meal at La Varangue, one of the city’s top gourmet restaurants thanks to it’s chief Lalaina Ravelomana who is a kitchen maestro and chocolate specialist. (Overnight Antananarivo) BLD

 

Day 23: Tuesday 1 October, Antananarivo TOUR ENDS

Airport transfer for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight (MK289 1655-1940)
Following some time at leisure in the morning we transfer to the Antananarivo airport in order to check-in for our late afternoon flight for Australia (via Mauritius) B

 

 

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Mary-Lou Lewis

 

TOUR ITINERARY

 

Day 1 Sun 24 Sep Arrive in Kuching
Arrive in Kuching, Sarawak, check in to Hilton Kuching.

 

Day 2 Mon 25 Sep Kuching

Visit the famous Kuching Museum, ride sampans to cross the Sarawak River. Pass the white rajah’s residence, see the orchid garden on the other side of the Kuching Waterfront. Make an offering at a Chinese Buddhist temple. Visit the night market. Sample the famous offerings of satay, kolo mee and other Kuching favourites. After dinner stroll beneath wide trees along the romantic big lazy riverfront. Colonial buildings with the old shops of the bazaar enrich the experience. Overnight at Hilton Kuching. (B)

 

Day 3 Tue 26 Sep Kuching-Bako National Park

Bus to Kampong Bako. Take a long boat to Bako National Park arriving through the mangroves. Immediately encounter unusual plants, tropical littoral abundance. See wildlife such as naughty macaques and proboscis monkeys, wild pigs, an incredible variety of birds and insects. Spot light for shy jungle creatures at night. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (B,L,D)

 

Day 4 Wed 27 Sep Bako National Park

Walk the Lintang trail where practically all vegetation types at Bako can be seen. Forest types range from mangrove to kerangas (heath forest), tropical swamp vegetation, cliff vegetation and beach vegetation. There are several side trails to follow inside the park depending on level of fitness and interest. All the trails have a great variety of vegetation, from mighty 80-metre dipterocarp trees such as Shorea species to dense mangrove forest. Unusual carnivorous pitcher plants and interesting symbiotic relationships are found on the Lintang trail. The park’s coastline is dotted with small bays, coves and beaches. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (B,L,D)

 

Day 5 Thu 28 Sep Bako National Park

Hike the boardwalks through wetlands, swim in secluded jungle pools and on beaches of the South China Sea. Watch proboscis monkeys feeding on jungle fruits. Look for the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Red-crowned Barbet, Woodpeckers, Broadbills, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Babblers, and owls.
Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (B,L,D)

 

Day 6 Fri 29 Sep Bako National Park-Kuching

Proceed back to Kuching. En-route, we will visit to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre to catch the feeding time of the orang utans. Along the way, we will pass by the ethno-botanical gardens, with their unique collection of rain-forest plants. Arrive in Kuching and check in Hilton Kuching for overnight. (B,L)

 

Day 7 Sat 30 Sep Kuching-Mulu National Park

Morning flight to Mulu National Park. This World Heritage-listed area allows canopy walks and treks that reveal exotic creatures, spectacular caves and stunning limestone karst formations. There is Deer Cave, which can fit five cathedrals the size of London’s Saint Pauls. The massive caves here are home to millions of bats and cave swiftlets that swarm out into the jungle in great clouds every evening at dusk! It is an extraordinary sight.
Overnight and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 8 Sun 01 Oct Mulu National Park

After breakfast, we depart by longboat to explore Wind Cave with a stopover at the Penan Longhouse. Later we proceed to explore Clearwater Cave, the longest cave in Southeast Asia. Overnight and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 9 Mon 02 Oct Mulu National Park

After breakfast in the resort, we proceed to Mulu Canopy Skywalk. The Skywalk is the longest tree canopy walk in the world. Relax at the jungle café. Overnight and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 10 Tue 03 Oct Mulu National Park-Kota Kinabalu

Free at leisure until our flight to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (the Land Below the Wind). In the evening, we explore the Phillipino night Market. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu.(B,L)

 

Day 11 Wed 04 Oct Kota Kinabalu

Today is free for you to explore Kota Kinabalu at your own pace. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu.(B)

 

Day 12 Thu 05 Oct Kota Kinabalu-Mt. Kinabalu

Traverse along Sabah’s Crocker Range to Kinabalu Park, a World Heritage Site nominated by UNESCO. Enjoy the walks around the park headquarters. Climb through several ecological zones to experience plant communities ranging from tropical rainforest to the sub-alpine. Overnight and dinner at Kinabalu Pine Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 13 Fri 06 Oct Mt. Kinabalu

Trek through the rainforest and witness life in the treetops as you walk along the Canopy Walkway Venture along Jungle Trails to visit waterfall. Lunch at Poring Springs. There are steaming hot pools providing a relaxing place to unwind after trekking the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. Overnight and dinner at Kinabalu Pine Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 14 Sat 07 Oct Mt. Kinabalu-Kota Kinabalu

Visit the Kundasang War Memorial where the Sandakan Death March ended. The Memorial is made up of four beautiful gardens. Also visit the Kundasng vegetables markets before returning back to Kota Kinabalu. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu. (B,L)

 

Day 15 Sun 08 Oct Depart Kota Kinabalu

Our tour ends after breakfast. (B)

 

INCLUSIONS

 

Internal flights within Borneo; 11 nights’ accommodation at 4 star hotels/resorts with breakfast daily, 3 nights’ accommodation at Bako National Park Hostel*; private group transfers and touring with English speaking local guides; meals as stated in the itinerary.
* Bako National Park Hostel: the accommodation in Bako National Park has ceiling fan only and no air-conditioning. The shower rooms do have hot water and it is on sharing basis.

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China, with Angus Stewart

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China, with Angus Stewart

 

OVERVIEW

If you are interested in a tour that combines ecotourism with experiencing unique local cultures and their gardens, then this tour of Yunnan is for you.

Our tour follow in the footsteps of many English, French and American plant collectors who visited Yunnan province in Southwest China during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The French plant collecting Fathers, Père Delavay and Père David, British botanists George Forrest and Kingdon Ward, and linguist and botanist American Joseph Rock came and spent many years collecting plants, and experiencing and documenting the great variety of ethnic cultures. Their names are remembered in many of our favourite garden plants, like Magnolia delavayi, Davidia involucrata and Rhododendron forrestii.

 

YUNNAN TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 Wed 24 May Australia-Singapore
Fly from your capital city to Singapore.

Day 2 Thu 25 May – Singapore to Kunming
Fly to Kunming. On arrival, you will be met by our local guide and transferred to the hotel. Then we will visit Kunming Botanical Garden before our welcome dinner tonight. (Dinner)

Day 3 Fri 26 May – Kunming to Dali
Today we fly to Dali. After check in, we will visit Chongshen Monastery with the three tall pagodas for which Dali is famous. There are extensive Chinese gardens to explore around the pagodas. We will also take a leisurely walking tour in Dali Old Town in the evening. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Sat 27 May – Dali
Cangshan Mountain is one of the richest botanical locations on earth and was a favourite location for 19th century plant hunters, particularly for azaleas and rhododendrons which should be in peak flower. Today we will enjoy a full day scenic and botanic tour with chairlift on Cangshan Mountain. Enjoy a picnic lunch today. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 5 Sun 28 May – Dali
Today we will take a different chairlift route and enjoy a half day scenic walking tour in Cangshan Mountain. After a picnic lunch, we will travel to a local tea plantation to learn about the tea plant Camellia sinensis which is native to Yunnan Province. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6 Mon 29 May – Dali to Lijiang
Today we say Zaijian to Dali and drive by coach along the scenic road to Lijiang. Along the way we will visit the Ethnic Bai village and take stops for wild flowers. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 7 Tue 30 May – Lijiang
After breakfast, we leave our hotel to visit the Yuhu Village. Situated at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yuhu Village is the last Naxi minority village of the valley. We will call at the house (which is now a museum) of renowned plant hunter Joseph Rock, who lived here for many years collecting plants and studying the Naxi people. We will also explore the flora (including roses, rhododendrons, pieris and primulas) at the base of the famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. This magnificent mountain is the southernmost in the Northern Hemisphere that is snow-capped year round. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 8 Wed 31 May – Lijiang
Today we will visit the Black Dragon Pool Park with its stunning mountain back drop. The pool itself is of the proportions of a lake, complete with bridge, willow-lined causeways, traditional pavilions and ornamental plantings. Then we visit the Mu’s Mansion with its magnificent Penjing collection (the Chinese equivalent of Bonsai), terraced on the side of Lion Hill. In the afternoon, we will pay a visit to the Yufeng Lamasery to see, amongst other things, the 10,000-flower camellia and ancient michelias. (Breakfast)

Day 9 Thu 01 June – Lijiang
Today is at your leisure for shopping and individual exploration. (Breakfast)

Day 10 Fri 02 June – Lijiang to Tiger Leaping Gorge
After breakfast, it’s a spectacular drive alongside the Yangtze to the awesome Tiger Leaping Gorge. With a drop of 3900 metres it is said to be the world’s deepest gorge. Overnight at Tina’s Guest House at Travertine Pools Town. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 11 Sat 03 June – Tiger Leaping Gorge-Shangri-La
Today we will visit the breathtaking geological phenomena – White Water Terrace. Besides being a beautifully scenic spot, the White Water Terrace is also the birthplace of Dongba culture of the Naxi Minority Group. Later we continue travel to Shangri-La. Along the way we will make numerous flora stops. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 12 Sun 04 June – Shangri-La
Today in Shangri-La we will get used to the high altitude and visit Sunsanling Monastery, a large complex of Tibetan Buddhism built in 1679, set beside a beautiful lake, a haven for local water birds that we will explore. In the afternoon, there is a visit to the Napa Lake to see yaks grazing amongst the wildflower meadows. (Breakfast)

Day 13 Mon 05 June – Shangri-La to Deqin
A long but exciting day’s drive by the Upper Yangtze Gorge along the Yunnan-Tibet road with spectacular scenery via Baima Pass to Deqin. The Baima nature reserve is the highest reserve in China and an area for alpine medicinal plants and flowers. We pass the reserve on our way to Deqin and stop to walk amongst the spectacular scenery. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14 Tue 06 June – Deqin
We drive to the base of Kawakarpo Mountain to Meilungtse Village and walk to the base of its glacier on foot, this is a strenuous experience but it is well worth it to explore the wildflowers and Buddhist culture. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 15 Wed 07 June – Deqin
Today we will continue to explore the Tibetan Buddhist culture and botanical riches of Baima Mountain with a series of short walks visiting a unique local village and small monastery. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 16 Thu 08 June – Deqin to Shangri-La
After breakfast, we start our return journey to Shangri-La, stopping at the craftsmen’s village of Nixi Valley. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 17 Fri 09 June – Shangri-La to Kunming to Singapore
This morning we transfer to airport for flight to Kunming. Upon arrival, we will visit the Daoist Golden Temple and the famous Flower and Bird Market. Later we transfer back to the airport for our Singapore Airlines flight home. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 18 Sat 10 June – Arrival in Australia

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History & Birdlife Cruise

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History & Birdlife Cruise – Scotland, Ireland, Wales & England

 

Itinerary

Day 1. Arrive Edinburgh and Embark Ship
On arrival in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to the port of Leith. Board the MS Hebridean Sky after 4.00pm, your home for the next 10 nights. After settling in to your suite, enjoy a Welcome Dinner this evening.
Ten Nights: the MS Hebridean Sky (D)

Day 2. Aberdeen and Crathes Castle
Cruising along Scotland’s east coast, over the waters of the North Sea, today you’ll arrive at Aberdeen. Disembark and travel by coach through Royal Deeside, the picturesque valley of the River Dee. Absorb the lovely scenery as you head to Crathes Castle, a 16th-century castle that’s famous for its splendid landscaped grounds and gardens. Return to your ship for lunch before enjoying an afternoon visit to Pitmedden Garden. (BLD)

Day 3. Inverewe Gardens
Today your ship will drop anchor and you’ll enjoy a Zodiac ride to one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe. This botanical garden in the north-west Highlands, presents an amazing collection of exotic trees and shrubs that are sheltered by well-positioned windbreaks of native pine. After a tour, return by Zodiac to your ship and set off during lunch across The Minch and past the Isle of Skye. (BLD)

Day 4. Isle of Mull, Duart Castle, Isle of Iona, Freedom of Choice
After breakfast, set off to the Isle of Mull where you have two touring options. The first option is to visit a quaint private garden and the second option is Duart Castle, a 13th century clifftop castle set in the Millennium Wood and home to the MacLean clan. Later cruise to the Isle of Iona, a place of tranquility where more than 40 Scottish Kings, as well as Kings from Ireland, France and Norway are buried. (BLD)

Day 5. Isle of Gigha, Isle of Jura and Whiskey Distillery
This morning visit the beautiful Isle of Gigha. Privately owned by its 120 inhabitants, the landscape consists of heather-covered hills, deserted sandy beaches, clear green seas and just the one single-lane road, which meanders between quaint cottages and farms. Here, you’ll enjoy time to wander the gardens of Achamore House. Laid out by Sir James Horlick from 1944, this stunning garden boasts a wonderful collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and exotic plants. Returning to your ship for lunch, you’ll then cruise to the Isle of Jura, where you’ll enjoy the opportunity to visit the 200 year-old single malt Scotch whisky distillery. (BLD)

Day 6. Belfast and Mount Stewart, Freedom of Choice.
This morning enjoy a sightseeing tour of Belfast. This afternoon you can choose from two options, either the Titanic Exhibition or Mount Stewart, an 18th century house and garden in County Down. Planted in the 1920s by Lady Londonderry, the gardens today are owned by The National Trust and are of significant international importance. Here, a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and vibrant parterres contain many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Peninsula. Enjoy time to explore the gardens as well as the opulent house, which boasts a fascinating heritage and contains world-famous artefacts and artwork. (BLD)

Day 7. Portmeirion and Bodnant Garden, Freedom of Choice
This morning you’ll cruise into Holyhead to spend a full day exploring this spectacular part of Wales. Visit Portmeirion, an extraordinary Mediterranean-style village designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. Choose from a tour of the village and its gardens or the gardens of nearby Plas Brondanw, the family home of Williams-Ellis. Afterwards drive through the famous Snowdonia region to Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the United Kingdom. Spanning some 80 acres, the garden is set above the River Conwy and offers views to the Snowdonia range. Stroll through the Upper Garden, with its terraces and informal lawns, then continue into the Dell, the wild garden of the lower section formed by the valley of the River Hiraethlyn. (BLD)

Day 8. Dublin, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Dublin Bay this morning and enter the mouth of the River Liffey. From here, you have a choice of three activities. First option is to travel by coach into the Wicklow Mountains and visit the gardens of Powerscourt, with its charming walled garden, striking terraces, fine statuary, varied trees, carefully designed walking paths and more. The second option is to travel to Mount Usher, a lovely romantic garden on the banks of the River Vartry. The third option is to visit the private garden of botanical author, Helen Dillon. Enjoy a lecture with BBC Presenter Monty Don and free time in Dublin. (BLD)

Day 9. Waterford, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Waterford on Ireland’s south eastern coast. From here, you will have the choice of two full day tours. The first option is to travel to Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s most historic and attractive cities, and visit Kilkenny Castle and the design centre followed by a tour of the world-famous Waterford Crystal Factory. The second option is to travel to Mount Congreve Gardens, a vast and visually inspiring woodland garden set on the banks of the River Suir and later return to County Waterford for a visit to Lismore Castle, which features the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland. (BD)

Day 10. Isles of Scilly and Tresco
Today will see you cruising amid the beautiful Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off Great Britain’s south western tip. Disembark on the island of Tresco, considered by many to be the most attractive of the islands. It is leased by the Dorrien-Smith family, who have created a wonderful 40 acre sub-tropical garden near their Tresco Abbey home. You’ll have the opportunity to go for a relaxing stroll along the traffic-free lanes and wander along one of the lovely white-sand beaches where the sea colour has more in common with the Aegean than the North Atlantic. Back on board for lunch and afternoon tea before a special Farewell Dinner. (BLD)

Day 11. Portsmouth and Arrive London
After breakfast this morning, you’ll disembark the MS Hebridean Sky in the English waterfront city of Portsmouth. From here, you’ll be transferred by coach to London, arriving at Heathrow Airport at around 12.30pm or the St James Court Hotel which is in Central London at around 1.30pm. (B)

 

Birdlife of the British Isles

While taking in the spectacular coastal scenery of the British Isles, you’ll be joined by an ornithologist, who will share their expertise on the many species of birds that call the British Isles home. This is the season when they are at their most prolific.

 

Small Ship (100 guest) Cruising with Botanica

As you uncover the delights of the British Isles, you’ll enjoy a truly intimate and unique small ship cruising experience with only 100 guests aboard the MS Hebridean Sky, with a décor like a grand English country hotel. Experience great hospitality from the moment you step on board and relax, knowing you only have to unpack once before unwinding in your spacious home-away-from-home. While taking in the spectacular coastal and other remote scenery of the British Isles, you’ll be joined by expert onboard lecturers, including a dedicated ornithologist, who will share their expertise on the many species of birds that call the British Isles home, as well as history and garden lectures.

 

Highlights

• Enjoy onboard lectures about the history of the British Isles and learn of the castles and gardens you are visiting
• Wander the grounds and landscaped gardens of 16th-century Crathes Castle
• Visit one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe, in the Scottish Highlands
• Experience the 13th century Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull
• Marvel at Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK
• Explore the Isle of Iona and the Isle of Gigha, plus Tobermory
• Visit Mount Stewart, a famous 18th-century house and garden in Northern Ireland
• Cruise around the Isles of Scilly and explore the picturesque Tresco Garden
• Visit Plas Brondanw and Portmeirion
• Try some whisky on the Isle of Jura
• Arrive at some gardens by Zodiac
• Learn about the local birdlife from the onboard ornithologist
• Explore Helen Dillon’s private garden in Dublin
• Explore Belfast and the Titanic museum

 

Included

• Services of a Cruise Director, Expedition Team and Botanical Guide
• Airport transfers on first and last day, as well as tipping and port taxes
• 28 Meals – 10 Breakfasts (B), 8 Lunches (L) and 10 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board
• Ten nights on the small ship, the MS Hebridean Sky, which holds
a maximum of 100 passengers
• Onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide, Historian and Ornithologist
• Freedom of Choice touring some days included in the price

 

Experiences: History, Gardens, Music, Birdlife

 

To book call 1300 305 202 in Australia or 0800 525 300 in New Zealand

Mediterranean Wildflowers, History, Gardens and Architecture of the Gods Cruise

Mediterranean Wildflowers, History, Gardens and Architecture of the Gods Cruise

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1. Embark Ship, Athens
Embark the small boutique ship, Island Sky at 4pm at Piraeus Harbour and sail this evening towards the island of Crete. Enjoy a Welcome Dinner on board.
Eleven Nights: aboard MS Island Sky (D)

Day 2. Heraklion, Crete, Wildflowers
Step ashore this morning on the fascinating island of Crete and journey to Knossos, the ancient capital of the great king Minos. Discover the fantastic ruins of the ancient palace complex and then journey through the charming countryside of Crete and picturesque villages to one of the three great mountain ranges, Mt. Dikti where we hunt for spring flowering plants including wild tulips and anemones.
(BLD)

Day 3. Rethmynon, Crete Freedom of Choice
We visit the ancient Fortezza and enjoy a scenic drive to Gaios Kambos which is renowned for endemic Cretan plants and again we seek out the crown anemones, turban buttercups, narcissus tazetta, orchids, irises and Bulbocodium species, before a visit to the Monoan Cemetery at Armenoi. After lunch on board, you can enjoy a free afternoon to explore on your own or choose to take a scenic drive to a botanical park with 20 hectares of fruit trees, herbs, medicinal and ornamental plants to explore. (BLD)

Day 4. Peloponnese, Greece Freedom of Choice
Enjoy a scenic drive through the beautiful and fertile Peloponnese countryside to Agios Nilona where there is a riot of springtime Euphorbia and wildflowers. At Areopoli, one of the most attractive traditional villages in Greece, we stroll the cobbled lanes that wind through the village. Alternatively choose to visit the ancient Greek site of Sparta where the warrior society ruled in the Achiac and Classical periods. (BLD)

Day 5. Kefalonia
Made famous by the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin this Ionian Island has great charm. See the capital, Argostoli including the famous lighthouse and then drive to the nearby Botanical Gardens. We continue to Mt Ainos National Park renowned for its dense forest of Kefalonian Fir trees and endemic flowers including orchids. This afternoon you can enjoy a free afternoon in Argostoli, soaking up the atmosphere of this interesting place. (BLD)

Day 6. Corfu. Freedom of Choice
A half day visit to the historical village of Gastouri and the Achilleion Palace, the former residence of Empress Elizabeth of Austria and later Kaiser Wilhelm the second. Explore the museum with its royal treasures and enjoy the splendor of the landscaped gardens. Then return to historic Corfu Town which is on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) for a tour and some free time before returning to the ship for lunch. Alternatively take a full day trip taking in Mon Repos, the birthplace of Prince Philip, enjoy the scenic beauty of Corfu Island including Mouse Island and have an authentic Greek lunch at Agios Yannis and explore the old town of Corfu. (BLD)

Day 7. Lecce, Italy
Often referred to as the ‘Florence of Southern Italy’ Lecce’s Roman heritage is evident in the Amphitheatre built to accommodate 20,000 spectators. Our tour will include the Santa Croce Basilica and the Piazza Duomo. Later, a visit to Palazzo Tamborino-Cezzi, a privately owned 15th century palace has been arranged. This afternoon we cruise to Sicily. (BLD)

Day 8. Catania, Sicily, Private Garden
After a relaxing morning at sea, we arrive at Catania in Sicily for an exclusive private garden visit at the invitation of Princess Borghese, who will personally take us around her beautiful garden and extend her welcome hospitality to us. (BLD)

Day 9. Syracuse, Sicily, Private Garden
Our tour will begin in the Archaeological Zone and include the well preserved Greek theatre. Paradise Quarry is now a garden and orange grove and is famous for the curious ‘Dionysus Ear’, a vast grotto with an amplifying resonance. After lunch we enjoy a private visit to the gardens of the Marquess of San Giulliano. See the Mediterranean, Arabian and Tropical Gardens which owes much to the head gardener, Rachel Lamb. (BLD)

Day 10. Taormina and Stromboli
We visit Taormina, a walled town lying in the shadow of Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. The town has been a popular tourist destination since the 19th century and our guided tour will include walking the characteristic alleys before visiting the 15th century Palazzo Corvaja and the impressive Greek Theatre, from where there are marvellous views over the town and coast. This afternoon we sail towards Stromboli, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, in time to see it lit up in the evening light. (BLD)

Day 11. Naples, Ischia, Herculaneum Freedom of Choice
Arrive this morning in Naples to the sight of the Norman castle that protects the port and the backdrop of Vesuvius in the distance. You may choose to spend the afternoon on the island of Ischia to see La Mortella, a wonderful garden designed by architect Russell Page for Lord and Lady William Walton. Alternatively, enjoy an afternoon visiting the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum or enjoy a free afternoon in Naples. (BLD)

Day 12. Naples, Ninfa, Rome
Disembark this morning. A transfer from Naples to Rome is available with a visit to the romantic garden of Ninfa, arriving in Rome by 5.00pm. (BL)

 

M.S. Island Sky

Enjoy the intimate and personalized atmosphere of this small boutique ship with just 100 guests on board.
The décor resembles a grand English style country hotel with two lounges where a traditional afternoon tea is served, plus a bar. There are two restaurants for you to choose from including a fine dining room complete with white table clothes or the more informal on deck, Lido Restaurant where you can enjoy the passing coastal scenery and the fresh sea air. There is a Beauty & Massage Parlor, plus a lift to all floors. The large suites with wood paneling and brass features are spread over four decks and all have outside facing views, en-suite bathrooms, a sitting area and television. The 70 crew will attend to your every need in a friendly and efficient way making your Botanica cruise very special.

 

Highlights

• Learn about the history of the regions from local guides
• Enjoy the comfort of small ship cruising – unpack once
• See historical sights & villages on Crete, Peloponnese & Sicily
• Visit the Greek Islands of Crete, Kefalonia and Corfu
• See the Botanical Gardens of Crete
• Learn about ancient civilization and architecture
• See the birthplace of Prince Philip
• Explore Paradise Quarry in Syracuse
• Private garden visit to Marquess of San Giulliano’s garden
• Private garden visit to Princess Borghese garden
• Visit the beautiful Sicilian walled-town of Taormina
• Explore the Island of Ischia & La Mortella garden
• Discover the fascinating volcanic ruins Herculaneum
• Have a choice of touring options in selected locations
• Learn about the plants and gardens from your Botanical Guide, Dr. Toby Musgrave

 

Included

• Services of a Cruise Director and Botanical Guide, Dr. Toby Musgrave
• Airport transfers on first and last day, tipping and port taxes
• Meals – 11 Breakfasts (B) 11 Lunches (L) and 11 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board the ship
• Eleven nights on the boutique small ship, the MS Island Sky, with just 100 guests
• Learn about the Mediterranean plants with onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide
• Freedom of Choice Touring on some days at no extra cost

 

Experiences: Wildflowers, Private Gardens, History & Ancient Architecture

 

This tour can be combined with:

• Italian & French Gardens tour (BTIF9)
• Italian & French Gardens & Bordeaux Cruise (BTBIF16)

 

Nursery Cottage in Ojai Valley, California

Nursery Cottage in Ojai, California

 

The cottage is situated on the grounds of Australian Native Plants Nursery, a specialist nursery growing drought tolerant plants from Australia and South Africa.

The cottage sleeps 6 and is fully self contained and private from the nursery and owners next door. There are 3 bedrooms, one with a queen sized bed, one with a full/double bed, the third has a day bed and a single bed. The house has one bathroom, however, there is another toilet attached to the bunkhouse near the cottage. It has a kitchen-dining area and living room. Fast internet and Netflix available.

There is additional accommodation in the original small barn, “The Bunkhouse” (seasonal) that sleeps 2-4. The bunkhouse is available during the warmer months for an extra $100/night (additional $100 cleaning fee). This bunkhouse has 2 double beds (one a futon), a kitchen and toilet facilities.

There are plenty of outdoor sitting and eating areas.

The house is ten minutes from Ojai and 7 miles from Ventura and the beach. It is 40 minutes south of Santa Barbara and one and half hour (traffic permitting!) from LAX. Excellent location for day trips to Los Angeles Botanical Gardens and Art galleries and all that LA has to offer. Also close are the Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara wineries.

Please contact Jo O’Connell at jo@australianplants.com if you wish to check dates and book the cottage or visit the nursery.

Garden Tours to China – find and compare

TEA TOUR OF CHINA WITH STEPHEN CARROLL

 

Once again Australian On-line tea company Tea Total and China’s foremost professional tour company Easy Tour China bring you the Tea Tour of China for 2016.

Forget the “get on get off” coach tour. This experience will immerse you in tea culture and production in areas and with people that other tours never reach. This Tea Tour has been developed personally by Tea Total and Easy Tour China over many years. The tea farmers and artists we visit are now our friends and we want to introduce them to you. This tour will take you to places that are not seen by any other group.

This tour is aimed at the tea professional and serious amateur alike. All major tea areas are covered from an agricultural, processing and production view and also the cultural and local mores that locate tea as the special and unique phenomenon that it is. As each tea needs to be appreciated for its special qualities you will learn the essentials and more to good tea brewing from across China.

We also take the opportunity to include special cultural experiences local to where we are visiting. This ensures that we capitalise on your journey and give you glimpses of Chinese life.

The complete tour is escorted with Tea Total Tea Master Stephen Carroll and local Easy Tour China English speaking guides with a knowledge and interest in Chinese tea and tea culture.

Group size is kept small to allow personal interaction, education and experience to make this a remarkable tour. The small size also means we may respond to particular requests from guests.

Once you experience our Tea Tour you will understand why we are so proud.

What some of our past guests have said:

Tea Total’s Tea Tour of China is an extraordinary, up-close and personal adventure into all the main tea-producing areas. Led by two extremely knowledgeable (and fun!) tea and travel experts who are joined by local guides, the tour exceeded all my expectations!
Candice.

As far as I’m concerned the Tea Tour China 2015 was a resounding success. Being able to sample yancha in Wuyishan, phoenix oolong in Guangdong and puerh in Yunnan was extraordinary. Highly recommended.”
Richard.

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Sat 11-June-16
Arrival / Xi’an. Your own arrangements for travel to Xi’an. Easy Tour China will assist if requested.
Program: Be met at the airport and transfer to your hotel for check in.
Evening: Meet with your fellow travelers and hear about the tour.
Xi’an is an undiscovered delight and the home of Fu Cha fermented tea. You will visit the Fu Cha factory and tea shops and learn about this unique tea. This ancient city needs exploring and our hotel is located right inside the old city walls. Xi’an began the Norther Tea Horse Road transporting tea to Russia and into Europe.
Accommodation (4*): 3 nights.

Day 2 Sun 12-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an
Program: In the morning transfer to join the Tea Expo. After lunch, visit Ancient City Wall, Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Muslim Quarters.

Day 3 Mon 13-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an
Program: In the morning visit The Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. In the afternoon, enjoy your free time at leisure in this ancient city, or taste tea with us in the many Tea Houses of Xi’an.

Day 4 Tue 14-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an / Hangzhou
Program: In the morning, transfer (2hrs drive) to visit Famen Temple, you will see the excavated tea sets which were made circa 868-871AD. In the afternoon, transfer (1.5hrs drive) to visit Jingwei Fu Tea Factory. Have dinner, and then transfer to airport for night flight to Hangzhou. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in.
Accommodation (4*): 3 nights.

Day 5 Wed 15-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou.
Program: After breakfast, visit the Old Street with a Traditional Tea House still using the long spout tea pot the tea server is often called a Tea Doctor. Visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine (herbal) Pharmacy and then a traditional umbrella shop. In the afternoon, visit the traditional Arts and Crafts precinct followed by a cruise on the Grand Canal and then visit The Great Canal Museum. In the evening, enjoy the spectacular West Lake Water Show, this is a traditional Chinese story based on the “Tale of the White Snake”.

Day 6 Thu 16-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou.
Program: After breakfast, visit the world famous Tea Museum and Tea Research Center, Travel to the Longjin Tea Farms, taste and learn about this famous tea visit and the famous Dragon Well spring still used today for its high quality water.

Day 7 Fri 17-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou / Huangshan
Program: Pick up at the hotel and transfer to Huangshan (3.5hrs). Check in at hotel and later visit Tunxi Old Street. Sample tea at the many traditional tea shops, visit calligraphy and painting shops and other sites of cultural interest. There are special teas in this area as it is near to the Keemun Black tea producing areas, also many Oolongs of original production methods.
Accommodation (4*): 2 nights

Day 8 Sat 18-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning, visit the Base of Huangshan Maofeng Green Tea and participate in the tea-making process. In the afternoon we visit to Qiyun Taoist Mountain, ‘Cloud High Mountain’, one of the four sacred mountains of Taoism. Here we shall spend time with a Taoist tea monk to learn something of the Taoist culture and the importance of tea and tea production to their way of life.

Day 9 Sun 19-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning transfer to Huangshan. Huangshan is justly famous for its spectacular mountain scenery and views and is represented in many famous and historic ink paintings and scrolls. Take a cable car up to the mountain, then visit the Brush Pen Peak, Lion Peak, West Sea Grand Canyon and some other attractions. Down the mountain via Taiping cable car, transfer (1hr) to your hotel which located at Taiping Lakeside.
As we are so close to this mountain it was important to take a “Tea Break” day and experience this phenomenon of China’s cultural heritage.
Accommodation (5*): 2 nights

Day 10 Mon 20-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning a 1.5hr drive followed by a short walk to a tea production area making Taiping Houkui. The labour intensive production of this green tea assures its place as one of the Top Ten Teas of China. You will see tea plantations and processing on the way. After lunch, around 2hrs walking down the mountain through this area. Transfer back to hotel, enjoy the rest time at leisure.

Day 11 Tue 21-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan / Wuyishan
Program: Transfer to the Railway Station, take high speed train to Wuyishan (1.5hr). Be met and then visit a Rock Tea production center and other selected producers for tea tastings and education.
Accommodations (4*): 3 nights

Day 12 Wed 22-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan
Program: After breakfast we drive to the Wu Yi Mountain Reserve. This UNESCO World Heritage site has spectacular scenery and is the birthplace of rock oolong tea. We shall walk Tianyou Mountain and punt along the Nine Bends River in a bamboo raft through “Oolong Mountains and Cliffs”.

Day 13 Thu 23-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan
Program: Walk through the rock tea gardens to Dahongpao where you will see the 350 year old mother bush. In this area you will see many small tea gardens growing different tea plant varieties and cultivars for producing oolong tea. Walking on to the Great Water Curtain Cave we shall visit Qing Shi Yan and Green Lion Rock. Later we shall visit tea factories to learn about the process of oolong production and sample their teas. Evening weather permitting, you will enjoy the outdoor theatrical performance “Impressions of Dahongpao”, one of the greatest shows in China.

Day 14 Fri 24-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan / Xiamen
Program: In the morning we visit Xiamei, an ancient tea Village and part of the old Tea Horse Route. From here for centuries tea was transported north by horse up in to Russia. This is still very much a working village with many tea shops. Have lunch at the village. In the afternoon we shall visit local tea producers to learn the art and skill of tea judging and cupping. Take late afternoon flight to Xiamen. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in
Accommodation (4*): 2 nights

Day 15 Sat 25-June-16 (B, L)
Xiamen
Program: In the morning, drive about 2hrs to Anxi, and the capital of Tieguanyin. Visit Xiping Village, the home of the original Tieguanyin bush; then visit Tieguanyin Cultural Garden and a Tea Factory for the history and production methods of Tieguanyin. Later today drive back to Xiamen. Xiamen is a spectacular city that was once a Portuguese port and retains that charm and character.

Day 16 Sun 26-June-16 (B, L)
Xiamen / Nanjing
Program: Drive 3hrs to Nanjing County to visit the Earth Tower (Tulou). Building commenced in the 12-13th centuries by the Hakka people as accommodation and fortification, the largest of these can house 800 people. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area is also a tea growing area with cultivation on the mountain slopes. Stay overnight here and experience life in the Earth Towers.
Accommodation (4*): 1 night

Day 17 Mon 27-June-16 (B, L)
Nanjing / Chaozhou
Program: In the morning, drive to Chaozhou. Be met and transfer to have lunch and then visit the Kaiyuan Temple. We shall meet and spend time with Mr Wu, Provincial Cultural Master tea pot maker at his shop and studio. Chaozhou is the birth place of Gongfucha. Chaozhou tea pots are of a particular local clay and design to allow correct brewing and enhance the flavor of the local strip oolong teas. Mr Wu also stocks a large selection of Yixing tea pots and tea wares. As Chaozhou is also a leading porcelain area this is an ideal place to look at tea wares. Visit to the floating bridge, the city wall and other local sights if time permits.
Accommodation (4*):2 nights

Day 18 Tue 28-June-16 (B, L)
Chaozhou / Phoenix Mt tea tour.
Program: Following breakfast we drive to Phoenix Mountain (Fenghuang). Phoenix Mountain oolong tea are some of the most fragrant traditional oolongs still produced in China. We shall meet Mr Zheng, a renowned oolong tea farmer and processor. With him we shall spend the day learning about the farming, the processing and the tasting of these teas. Mr Zheng will take us to the original tea trees from the year 1200 (the Song Dynasty) from which many of his bushes are descended.

Day 19 Wed 29-June-16 (B, L)
Chaozhou / Guilin
Program: After breakfast take morning flight to Guilin. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in. After lunch we shall visit Mr Han junior and senior. Their knowledge of tea is unsurpassed. Sample their handcrafted teas and learn about ‘Tea In China’.
Accommodation (4*+): 2 nights

Day 20 Thu 30-June-16 (B, L)
Guilin / Yangshuo / Guilin
Program: After breakfast pick up at your hotel and drive 40mins to the Li River. Here we shall cruise for 3.5 hrs down the spectacular Li River surrounded by monumental karst mountains. We shall lunch on board. Arriving at Yangshuo we visit the local market and then drive back to Guilin (1.5hrs). Make sure you bring your tea and tea sets for drinking whilst on board.

Day 21 Fri 1-July-16 (B)
Guilin / Kunming
Program: After breakfast we shall visit a local, family run tea shop that specializes in Phoenix Mountain oolongs. Take the flight to Yunnan in the early afternoon. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in. Enjoy “Dynamic Yunnan” Show in the evening.
Accommodation (4*): 1 night

Day 22 Sat 2-July-16 (B, L)
Kunming / Jinghong
Program: After breakfast drive to the Lu Yu Tea House and Tea Culture Centre. Here we shall have a morning of introduction to Pu-er Tea culture. We shall have the opportunity to sample many types of pu-er tea and learn about this unique Chinese treasure. After lunch transfer to airport, take flight to Jinhong. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in.
Accommodation (5*): 3 nights

Day 23 Sun 3-July-16 (B, L)
Jinghong / Yiwu / Jinghong
Program: After breakfast, drive along a winding road through rubber plantation to Yiwu (4hrs). Arrive at Yiwu, walk along the Tea Horse Trail which begins in Yiwu village and goes all the way to Tibet, and see a small tea museum (opening times and days are not fixed). Visit local tea workshop where you drink tea and see the stone blocks used to press tea cakes and try your hand at pressing tea cakes. Drive up the mountains to see local aged tea trees and visit tea farmers. On the return road, visit Jinuo ethnic people and see the aged tea trees around village.

Day 24 Mon 4-July-16 (B, L)
Jinghong / Menghai / Menghun / Jinghong
Program: Drive to Menghun where we visit village of the Dai ethinic minority people, who still make paper in the traditional way with Mulberry tree bark. These products are mostly used for packing tea and tea products. Drive back to Jinghong via Mount Nannuo one of the most famous tea producing areas in Menghai. The Hani ethnic minority people have been producing tea here for 800 years and it is here we will meet the Hani and sample their tea. Return to Jinghong.
Evening: Group dinner and Big Goodbyes.
Day 25 Tue 5-July-16 (B)
Jinghong / Exit
Program: Morning transfer to airport for connecting flights to major exit cities of China. Your personal arrangements to your port of embarkation (Easy Tour China is able to assist with bookings). Don’t forget your big suitcase of memories and your head full of tea knowledge and skill!

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark

 

2017 Waitlisted – Now accepting bookings for the 2018 tour with Deryn Thorpe

Tour Itinerary

 

St Helier, Jersey – 7 nights

Day 1: Friday 26 May, Arrive Jersey

Welcome Meeting
Short Orientation Walk (time-permitting)
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer from the airport to the hotel in St Helier on the island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Pomme d’Or Hotel.

St. Helier stands in St Aubin’s Bay on the southern side of the island and is named after Jersey’s first and most famous saint, a 6th century ascetic hermit who was martyred on the island in c. AD 555. The town is the capital of Jersey and has a population of about 28,000 – roughly one third of Jersey’s total population. While St Helier has a distinctive British atmosphere, the town retains numerous French influences as attested by the many streets that carry old French names and numerous shop fronts still displaying the names of their island founders. Depending on arrival times, a short orientation walk of the town will be conducted before time at leisure for dinner. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 2: Saturday 27 May, Jersey

Walk around St Helier – Royal Square, Central Market & Church of St Helier
Le Clos du Chemin, St Peter
The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust with introduction by Lee McGeorge Durrell
Eric Young Orchid Foundation
Welcome Talk: An introduction to the unique ecology of the Channel Islands
Welcome Evening Meal
Today we begin with a short orientation walk around the cosmopolitan harbour town of St Helier. Our walk includes a visit to the Central Market where we may purchase ingredients for our picnic lunch. This Victorian covered market includes a stunning array of overflowing flower stalls, fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, wines and chocolates, dairy products made from the famous Jersey cow, and local specialties including des mèrvelles (small doughnuts), de nièr beurre (apple preserve) and cabbage loaf (bread baked wrapped in cabbage leaves). We also visit the Royal Square, where at its centre a stone commemorates the Battle of Jersey, which took place in 1781. We also visit the pink granite Church of St Helier, the largest of the parish churches. The seafront used to come right up to the church, and the square tower served as a useful observation post. The stretch of land between here and the sea was reclaimed from the end of the 18th century for town housing and warehouses.

Mid-morning we travel to St Peter to visit Le Clos du Chemin, the private garden of Mrs Susan Lea. Colour and texture reign in this garden, set on a hillside overlooking the bay. It features a glorious herbaceous border; a bed filled with plants in shades of silver; around twenty different types of magnolias, and an extraordinary ‘foxglove tree’ that sports vivid violet flowers in the spring.

We next visit the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, formerly the Jersey Zoo. Located in a 16th-century manor house and surrounded by 32 acres of park and farmland, Jersey Zoo was the realisation of a dream by naturalist and author Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) to create a safe place for his animals. From the outset the Jersey Zoo was dedicated to breeding endangered species to ensure their survival. Many zoologists denounced Gerald’s early efforts at captive breeding but they are now universally acknowledged as an important weapon in the fight to save animals from extinction.

In 1963, Gerald turned his ‘zoo’ into a charitable trust, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has established breeding groups of many species of endangered mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and has pioneered the return of their progeny to the wild. In Jersey, in the 50 plus years of the Zoo/Trust’s operation, Durrell’s has achieved many major breeding firsts. These include: Alaotran gentle lemurs, Rodrigues and Livingstone’s fruit bats, Rodrigues fodys, Madagascan flat-tailed tortoises, Round Island boas and Montserrat mountain chicken frogs. While most of us think of Gerald Durrell in connection with his best-selling book, My Family and Other Animals, which documented his earliest animal adventures and the antics of his family on the island of Corfu, Durrell’s greatest legacy has undoubtedly been in the field of animal conservation and the Trust he created on Jersey.

Durrell met his second wife, Lee McGeorge Durrell, in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University where she was studying for a PhD in animal communication. They married in 1979. She co-authored a number of books with him, including The Amateur Naturalist, and became the Honorary Director of the Trust after his death. Lee will talk about her late husband and his life’s work.

We end our day with a visit to the Eric Young Orchid Foundation. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful parish of Trinity and sitting within its own wonderful landscaped garden, this nursery and display complex houses one of the world’s finest collections of orchids. Jersey orchid breeders are considered amongst the best and this collection has won many awards.

This evening we will have a special evening lecture that introduces the unique ecology of the Channel Islands. This will be followed by a welcome dinner at the hotel, where we will enjoy a taste of Jersey’s marvellous local produce. (Overnight St Helier) BD

 

Day 3: Sunday 28 May, Jersey

Wildlife walk with Mike Stentiford: Le Noir Pré Orchid Field
National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre, St Ouen’s Pond
Lunch at Restaurant Corbière Phare, St Brelade
Tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens with brother of Seigneur
The favourable climate of the islands, warmed all year around by the Gulf Stream, ensures that the Channel Islands have dynamic ecosystems, and each provides a sanctuary for a rich variety of flora and fauna. This morning we take an environmental wildlife walk with the ‘Birdman of Jersey’, naturalist Mike Stentiford who will introduce you to some of Jersey’s abundant flora and fauna. Mike was awarded an MBE in 2000 in recognition of the work he has done in promoting and introducing Jersey’s natural heritage to visitors to the island.

We begin early this morning with a visit to Le Noir Pré Orchid Field, whose meadows fringing St Ouen’s Pond, burst into colour at the end of May with over 40,000 blooming orchids. Often known simply as ‘the Orchid Field’, this unique site is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Jersey or loose-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflora), which also occurs in Guernsey, but is absent from the rest of the British Isles. In addition, three other species, the southern marsh (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), common spotted and heath spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata), occur at the site. The meadows also contain a wide variety of other plant species, many of which have become increasingly uncommon in Jersey. During May and June, the meadows are a riot of colour, with the stunning deep purple of the Jersey Orchids contrasting with the various shades of pink, through to white, of the remaining species. Other notable wildflowers include the ragged robin, yellow bartsia, parsley water-dropwort, common knapweed, square-stalked St. John’s-wort and tufted vetch. A wide range of insects can also be seen in the meadows, especially butterflies of various species, including the orange tip, whose caterpillars feed on cuckooflower, and dragonflies, including the spectacular emperor dragonfly. Small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews attract predatory birds, including the kestrel and the barn owl, and the rare marsh harrier can sometimes be observed hunting over the site.

We also make a visit to the new National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre. Overlooking La Mare au Seigneur (St Ouen’s Pond), the centre acts as both a state-of-the-art bird hide and a wetland interpretation centre. The nature reserve contains an incredible mosaic of wetland habitats including reedbed, fen, wet meadow, dune grassland and the largest area of natural open water in Jersey. In addition to wildflowers, small mammals and green lizards, almost 200 bird species have been recorded at the site. It is one of the best places to view the majestic marsh harrier. Normally quite shy birds, at St Ouen they come very close to the viewing areas, and while they are present at the pond throughout the year, spring is a particularly good time to view their dazzling courtship ritual.

Midday we enjoy lunch at Restaurant Corbière Phare, known for its tasty food using fresh local produce, and magnificent sea views overlooking La Corbière Lighthouse.

After lunch we take a guided tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens. The traditional home of the Seigneur of St Ouen, and the ancestral home of the de Carteret family since the 11th century, the garden features an ancient Colombier (traditional dovecote) and walled garden. The walled garden and landscaped gardens are surrounded by a moat and stream flowing down to a wooded valley. The dramatic entrance arch next to the lodge leads to an avenue of majestic trees with huge trunks of ash, beach and oak above green verges. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

Day 4: Monday 29 May, Jersey

Introduction to Jersey’s Prehistoric Sites by archaeologist Olga Finch
La Hougue Bie: prehistoric mound and dolmen
La Hougue Bie Museum & the ‘Jersey Hoard’
Mont Orgueil Castle, Grouville
Jersey became an island at the end of the second Ice Age as the land that once linked it to France was flooded. Neolithic people from the Mediterranean started to move north through France up to the coast of Brittany and eventually settlements appeared around the coast of Jersey. These early settlers brought with them a megalithic tradition of erecting stone monuments, known as dolmens or menhirs. They also introduced ‘passage’ graves where a narrow entrance and passageway led to a burial chamber providing a focus for spiritual beliefs. This morning archaeologist Olga Finch joins us to explain what the various Neolithic sites on Jersey signified to the indigenous population.

We begin by visiting the 6000 year-old burial site at La Hougue Bie. This prehistoric mound and dolmen is one of Europe’s finest Neolithic passage graves. Particularly significant at La Hougue Bie is the placement of its entrance; it points directly east and during the Equinox sunlight penetrates the passageway illuminating the chamber deep in the mound. The discovery of the Equinox alignment signified how important this time of year was to this past farming community and how critical cycles of nature were to its survival.

Nearby we will have the special opportunity to visit the La Hougue Bie Museum with one of the conservators who has been working on one of the newest and most important discoveries to be made in the Channel Islands – the Grouville Hoard. More commonly known as the ‘Jersey hoard’, this is a collection of over 10,000 Celtic and Roman coins that was found in 2012 by two metal detectorists. Work on the find is ongoing, but at this stage it is believed that the hoard belonged to the Curiosolitae tribe from Brittany who came to Jersey fleeing the armies of Julius Caesar in approximately 50 BC.

From megalith structures we next turn our attention to a medieval site, Mont Orgueil Castle. This iconic landmark commands a prime position overlooking the picturesque harbour at Gorey and the Royal Bay of Grouville. Blue Badge Guide Sue Hardy will guide our visit here, explaining how construction of the castle was begun in the 13th century after King John lost control of Normandy and how for 600 years Mont Orgueil Castle protected the island against French invasion. Although Elizabeth Castle replaced Mont Orgueil as the island’s premier defence station when it was decided an inland setting was safer to protect, Mont Orgueil remained the island’s secondary defence until it was decommissioned in 1907. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 5: Tuesday 30 May, Jersey

St Matthew’s Church, (Glass Church), Millbrook
Creux Baillot Cottage Gardens, Leovill, St Ouen
Grey Gables, St Brelade
We begin today with a visit to St Mathew’s Church at Millbrook. While the exterior of this church scarcely merits a second look, its interior is a work of such beauty that even the Germans took care not to damage it during their occupation of the island. Often referred to as the Glass Church, St Matthew’s has wonderful Art Deco glass fixtures and fittings designed in 1934 by René Lalique (1860-1945). The work was commissioned by Florence Boot, Lady Trent, Lalique’s neighbour in the South of France. Lady Trent’s principle residence, however, was in Millbrook on the island of Jersey and the work was commissioned to honour her late husband Jesse Boot, founder of Boots the Chemist. Opalescent panels, a magnificent altar cross, a glass font – perhaps the only one to be found anywhere – the Jersey lily motif, and Art Deco angels make the church one of the Island’s treasures and arguably some of the finest work Lalique ever produced.

Mid-morning we visit the private garden of Judith Quérée at Creux Baillot Cottage. Judith and her husband Nigel bought the traditional stone house over 30 years ago. They’ve gradually created a glorious garden, crammed with unusual species of plants that thrive in the mild local climate. There are strange flowers that drip nectar, roses the colour of clotted cream, a burgundy-coloured buddleia and a mysterious mandrake: ‘Folklore says you should only pull it up at night when the spirit of the plant is asleep,’ says Judith. Her garden is divided into different ‘rooms’, with a cool boggy area complete with a rowing boat, and a hot, dry border that attracts scores of butterflies. Hanging from a mature tree are some ropes – a playground for the local red squirrels, which still thrive on the island. This garden is featured in both Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands and 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.

This afternoon we visit the extensive gardens of Grey Gables, located in a peaceful, elevated position above La Haule Hill in St Brelade. Developed by the late Mrs Celia Skinner, the garden consists of a mixture of terraced and formal gardens with large areas of natural wood banks featuring many mature indigenous and specie trees including Australian tree ferns. There is also a well-stocked greenhouse, a herb garden and a vegetable area with fruit trees.

In the late afternoon we return to St Helier for an evening at leisure. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 6: Wednesday 31 May, Jersey

Jersey War Tunnels, St Lawrence
Batterie Lothringen, Noirment Headland
Paris Church and Fishermen’s Chapel of St Brelade’s Bay
Le Coin, St Brelade (to be confirmed in 2017)
This morning we visit some of the German fortifications built on Jersey during World War II. The five years of German Occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II has had a significant impact on islander psyche. This, along with the material legacies left by the German Occupation, is now reflected in tourism on the islands. During their occupation the Germans built hundreds of reinforced concrete bunkers and gun emplacements, anti-tank walls and tunnels – all constructed for an invasion that never came. Such was Hitler’s belief that England would try to regain the islands, he sent to the Channel Islands over 20 percent of the material allocated to the so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’ – a line of massive defence works which stretched from the Baltic to the Spanish frontier – to turn them into ‘impregnable fortresses’. Following Germany’s defeat, islanders began the job of decommissioning and destroying this legacy, but now they are recognised as important heritage sites and considerable energy and money has been expended on conserving and interpreting them.

The Jersey War Tunnels were originally constructed as an ammunition store and artillery barracks, but were converted into a casualty clearing station known as Hohlgangsanlage 8 (often abbreviated to Ho8) or the German Underground Hospital. A huge workforce was needed to build the 1km network of tunnels and this was supplied by the Organisation Todt. More than 5,000 slave labourers were brought over to Jersey – Russians, Poles, Frenchmen and Spaniards. Conditions were terrible, although Russian and Ukrainian POWs were treated the worst, with cases of malnutrition, death by exhaustion and disease among them becoming common. Today the site is a museum, which through interactive displays tells the story of the Occupation.

Next, we head to the coast to Noirmont headland, the site of Batterie Lothringen, one of four naval artillery batteries installed by the Germans in the Channel Islands and bought by the States of Jersey after World War II as a permanent war memorial.

Following some time at leisure for lunch at St Brelade’s Bay, we visit the Parish Church and La Chapelle es Pecheurs (locally known as the Fishermen’s Chapel), which occupy the site of an original wooden church built by St Brelade in the 6th century. In the early centuries of Christianity it was common for a community, or a wealthy local family, to fund a chantry chapel. Here a priest could be paid to say prayers to keep the devil at bay and guarantee a path to heaven for the righteous. Originally it was thought that the name derived from the fishing guilds of the island, although it is also possible that pecheurs (‘fishermen’ in French) is a corruption of péchés (‘sinners’). A wooden structure may have existed on this site as the first church, however these churches were often burned down by pagan invaders. While the chapel appears older than the adjacent church, recent archaeological work suggests that it was constructed afterwards, probably during the 12th century. The chapel is built from the same material as was used in the parish church. Limpet shells from the bay were crushed and dissolved with boiling seawater. Until the 19th century, when the military fortifications were built in Jersey, it housed cannon for the local militia. It therefore survived the destruction of chapels at the time of the Reformation.

We end the day with a visit to the private gardens of Le Coin. Over the years Le Coin has been in the care of a number of notable owners including the Countess de Bretoy, who later bequeathed the property to Prince George Chasdervadzy. More recently it has been the home of the distinguished artist and collector Sir Francis Cook and his wife Lady Brenda. The grounds, which are entered via a magnolia tree lined driveway, extend over 5 acres and are based on the gardens of Monserrate in Portugal. They are also featured in Lynne Mary Jenner’s book Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 7: Thursday 1 June, Jersey

The Grove, St Lawrence (to be confirmed in 2017)
La Maison des Pres, St Peter
We spend today visiting two more private gardens. A unique and imposing mansion, The Grove, commands spectacular views down across its formal gardens to St Aubin and Les Minquiers Reef. Pathways and terraces lead to Mediterranean, Magnolia, Chinese and Japanese water gardens. With mature parkland trees, banks of rhododendrons and subtle planting, this is a truly remarkable garden to visit.

La Maison des Pres is the private garden of Lord and Lady Brownlow. Its fine selection of trees includes a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, and a Metasequoia (dawn redwood). A walk through the wildflower meadow allows us to note the lime trees around the border and the different windbreaks. After the informality of the meadow and orchard, there is a complete change as you enter the more formal garden. Here we find a giant Romneya coulteri (Californian tree poppy) and a delightful semi-circular summerhouse leading into Lady Brownlow’s ‘secret garden’, guarded by two actual-size reproductions of the celebrated terracotta warriors which were excavated in Xian, China. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7 nights

Day 8: Friday 2 June, Jersey – Guernsey

Fly from Jersey to Guernsey
Hauteville House, home of Victor Hugo / time at leisure in St Peter Port
This morning we depart Jersey and fly across to Guernsey, where we will be based for the next six days. From 933AD Guernsey was part of Normandy, forging a link between Britain and France that survives locally on the island in Norman Law, surnames and D’gernésiais, the local language. When in 1066 William of Normandy (‘William the Conqueror’) became King of England, Guernsey was linked to the English Crown. Guernsey remained an English possession after King Philippe Augustus of France took back the mainland of Normandy from King John in 1204. Guernsey prospered particularly from the 18th century when its port became free from British import duties. Wine and brandy were stockpiled here and taken to Britain in small quantities when prices were good. Referred to as ‘Free Trade’, the practice legitimated what was in effect little more than smuggling.

Our first visit this afternoon in St Peter Port is to Hauteville House, Victor Hugo’s home when he lived in self-imposed exile on Guernsey between 1856 and 1870 and again in 1872-73. Hugo arrived in Guernsey after he was evicted from Jersey, where he had lived for three years, because of his loudly expressed Republican opinions. While the poet produced some of his best work on Guernsey, as a Frenchman who brought his mistress into exile, installing her in a house at 20 Hauteville St, while he lived with his wife in the nearby Hauteville House, Hugo did not really fit into Guernsey society. While living here, Hugo saw his most famous work, Les Misérables, published in 1862. His novel, Toilers Of The Sea, written during the author’s stay on the island, is set in the ancient parish churchyard around St Sampsons Harbour. Note: access to Hauteville House is limited to very small groups. For this reason our group will be sub-divided with half the group visiting the house today, and the other half tomorrow morning. (Overnight Guernsey) B

 

Day 9: Saturday 3 June, Guernsey

Hauteville House, home of Victor Hugo / time at leisure in St Peter Port
Sausmarez Manor Saturday Farmers Market, St Martins (time-permitting)
Sausmarez Manor Sub-tropical Gardens, St Martins
For those who visited Hauteville House yesterday afternoon, we begin today with some time at leisure to explore the lively atmosphere of Guernsey’s capital, St Peter Port. With its cobbled streets, and picturesque seafront, this is considered one of Europe’s prettiest harbour towns.

Mid-morning we journey to the parish of St Martins, hopefully in time to visit Sausmarez Manor’s Farmers Market, which takes place on Saturday mornings. Here, fresh vegetables, free range eggs, chutneys, honey, hams, exotic plants and shrubs, vegetable plants, bric-a-braque, bedding plants, homemade cakes, antiques, books and health foods can all be found.

Following a picnic lunch, David Richards (to be confirmed in 2017) will give us a guided tour of the Sausmarez Manor Sub-tropical Garden. Rich in subtropical and Mediterranean plants, it also features over 300 camellias in an ancient woodland and a sculpture trail. Much discussed in the media, the camellias range from old to new varieties, including a cutting grown from the first ever imported into Europe and one that flowers right on into August. (Overnight St Peter Port, Guernsey) B

 

Day 10: Sunday 4 June, Excursion to Alderney/Burhou

Boat to Alderney
Boat cruise of the Alderney Ramsar Site: including Burhou Island for puffin watching & viewing of gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac
Today we cross to Alderney, the third largest of the Channel Islands, situated at the mouth of the Channel, 11 kilometres due west of Cap de la Hague in Normandy. From Alderney a boat trip takes us on a tour of the Alderney Ramsar Site (1500 hectares of important wetlands, accredited under the Ramsar convention in 2005) to view the Puffins on Burhou, as well as the impressive gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac and the Atlantic seal colony near Burhou Reef.

Burhou Island is just 2.25 kilometres northwest of Alderney. Despite being only about one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, Burhou is a bird sanctuary which is home to 11 species of breeding birds. The island is best known for its colony of Atlantic puffins which may be viewed between March and July. The Atlantic puffin is one of four species of puffin and the only one found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a member of the auks (Alcidae) family of sea birds which includes guillemots, the razorbill and auklets. Today there are 143 pairs of Burhou puffins, having declined from a total of many thousand birds in the last twenty years. The puffins spend most of the year out in the Atlantic Ocean. They only return to land at the end of March to breed and raise their young. On Burhou the puffins build their nests in old rabbit burrows or on the side of the cliffs. Once they have made a nest the male and female return to the same nest every year. Eggs are laid in the burrows in late spring/early summer. Incubation usually takes between 36 and 45 days. Then, after the egg has hatched the parents will take turns leaving the burrow in search of food for the puffling chick. The puffling chicks spend between 34 and 60 days in the nest before they fledge and swim out to sea to join the puffin colony. Other nesting birds on Burhou include the oystercatcher, storm petrel, shag, greater and lesser black-backed gull and herring gull.

Les Etacs and Ortac rocks support more than 2% of the world’s gannet population. These colonies are the most southerly within the gannet’s range, with over 6,000 breeding pairs recorded. Gannets feed primarily on fish such as mackerel, sand eels and herring, which they find by diving to depths of up to 20 metres or scavenging along the surface of the sea. In the late afternoon we return to Guernsey, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 11: Monday 5 June, Day Excursion to Sark

Ferry to and from Sark
Guest talk by Dr Richard Axton on Sark’s prehistoric finds and Sark in the 16th century
Guest talk by the Seneschal of Sark (subject to confirmation in 2017)
La Seigneurie Garden and lobster lunch at Hathaways Brasserie
Tour of island by horse and carriage
This morning we take a 45-minute ferry ride to Sark. The island is only 5 kilometres long and a little over 1.5 kilometres wide, but boasts 64 kilometres of picturesque coastline. Although it has a population of just 600, Sark is a self-governing Crown Dependency and was the last European territory to abolish feudalism in 2008. The Head of Government is the Seigneur, an hereditary position dating back to 1565 and currently held by John Michael Beaumont.

Sark consists of two main parts, Greater Sark and Little Sark to the south: they are connected by a narrow, razor-edged isthmus called La Coupée, which is 90 metres long and has a drop of 100 metres on each side. Two bays flank the isthmus: La Grand Grêve to the west and Convanche Bay, part of Baleine Bay, to the east.

We will be given a talk on two periods of Sark’s history – the Prehistoric era and the 16th century – by Dr Richard Axton. Subject to confirmation, we will also be joined by the Seneschal of Sark (President of Chief Pleas and Chief Judge), who will explain the history and politics of the island.

We will then visit the gardens of La Seigneurie, the home of the Seigneurs of Sark. With its colourful borders and stone walls, this is one of the finest gardens in the Channel Islands. There is also a potager, a pond, a restored Victorian greenhouse and a recently extended fruit and vegetable garden. The walled garden dates to the mid-19th century, complete with some of its original Victorian lay out. The high walls give protection from the wind and the island’s almost frost-free climate allows many tender and half hardy plants to thrive.

Sark is renowned for its local lobster, and we will partake of this delicacy at a special lunch in the beautiful surrounds of the gardens. We will spend the remainder of our time in Sark visiting sites on Greater Sark. As there are no cars on Sark, our tour of the island will be made the old-fashioned way – by horse and carriage. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 12: Tuesday 6 June, Excursion to Herm

Ferry to and from Herm
Guided tour of Herm’s Award-winning Gardens with chief gardener, Brett Moore
Crab sandwich lunch at The Captain’s Hotel, Guernsey
La Petite Vallee, St Peter Port
Cliff Path Walk of the South Coast
The Island of Herm is a 20-minute ferry ride from St Peter Port. Like Sark it has no cars, and visitors tour the island on foot. This tiny island, covering just 550 acres, is a subtropical paradise supporting beautiful gardens laden with native and exotic plants. From spring onwards wildflowers take over the island with violets, red campion, primroses and daffodils lining the coastal cliff paths and carpeting the woodland. The fragrance of Burnet rose drifts across the heathland by June whilst the southern cliffs are sprinkled with sea pinks, rock samphire and heather.

The island rarely suffers from frost and has few native trees, having been cleared for sheep grazing. After the First World War, Sir Compton Mackenzie took over the lease of Herm and set about restoring the gardens. Trees were then introduced by the next resident, Sir Percival Perry, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, who realised that Monterey pines, holm oaks and Monterey cypresses would offer shelter from the prevailing sea winds and allow subtropical plants to flourish. Today, all the displays and gardens on the island are successfully looked after by a head gardener with an assistant, who have won numerous awards for their efforts. This morning we join Herm’s head gardener, Brett Moore, for a private tour during which we will learn about the unique plant life and challenges associated with gardening on Herm.

Late morning we return to Guernsey for a crab sandwich lunch at The Captains, a traditional, so-called ‘gastro pub’ frequented by locals from all over Guernsey.

In St Peter Port we visit the collection of gardens at La Petite Vallee, with a wide range of exotic and traditional planting on terraces and slopes leading down to the sea. Here we will have the chance to explore the seasonal cloisters, herbaceous borders, woodland walk and a tropical area with a number of unusual plants and water flows.

We end our day with a cliff path walk along Guernsey’s south coast. The cliff paths of the south coast are splashed with colour and fragrance, right through to late summer, with sea campions, wild thyme, ox-eye daisies, seapinks and coconut-scented gorse. (Overnight St Peter Port) B

 

Day 13: Wednesday 7 June, Guernsey

Grange Court, St Peter Port
Small private garden, St Peter Port
Candie Gardens and afternoon at leisure
Evening Farewell Dinner
Today begins with a visit to Grange Court, the private gardens of Mr and Mrs Pat Johnson, which featured in the April 2013 edition of The English Garden magazine. Set in the heart of town, Grange Court is a 2-acre garden with a mix of formal and informal styles, containing many exotic and rare plants. A mature private town garden of approximately 2 acres with both formal & informal areas, it is shaded by majestic old trees, including a magnificent copper beech. Features of the garden include the remains of an elegant old stone orangery which forms the backdrop to the rose gardens, and an impressive Victorian ‘cactus’ greenhouse. Mixed shrub and perennial borders provide colour all year round in this immaculately maintained garden. Our morning’s program also includes a visit to a neighbouring small private garden.

Today’s program concludes with a visit to the award-winning, restored Victorian Candie Gardens that offer the best view across St Peter Port harbour and over to the sister islands of Herm, Sark and Jethou, along with a rare example of a late 19th century public flower garden. They are home to the oldest known heated glasshouses in the British Isles, which date back to the late 18th century. Inside the gardens, aside from the beautiful flowers, lawns, and fish ponds, you will find a museum, art gallery, and a café housed in a Victorian bandstand. There will be time to return to the hotel before we head out to a local restaurant to share a farewell evening meal. (Overnight St Peter Port) BD

 

Day 14: Thursday 8 June, Depart Guernsey

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour concludes in St Peter Port today. After breakfast, group members taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to Guernsey Airport. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in the Channel Islands. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Rowan Hayes

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Rowan Hayes

 

OVERVIEW
Borneo, the ‘Land Below the Wind’ as it was once called, has steamy jungles, exotic wildlife and extraordinary landscapes. It is still possible to meet the families of once head-hunting indigenes and to experience the Malay states that spawned adventurous romance from which the likes of Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling drew inspiration.

This tour exposes you to rainforest and other ecological niches that make the island one of the world’s plant hotspots. Teeming, noisy jungles, secluded beaches, mountains and rainforest are home to orangutan, hornbills, exotic plants, amazing caves, tribal village life.

There is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the colonial history with discussions about the ‘white Rajahs’ and visits to WW2 memorials.

Oriental cuisine and tropical fruit delights such as rambutan, jackfruit, salak, durian will add to your destination experiences.

Please note: Because we are seeking to find unspoilt environments and intact plant communities with abundant wildlife. Accommodation in remote national parks is basic, as illustrated.

Although this is not a trekking journey, we will, on occasions be walking on tracks and boardwalks for up to three hours. The walking tracks are not unlike a hike in our bushland. A reasonable level of fitness is necessary. Tropical temperatures can be challenging and it is necessary to maintain hydration.

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Sat 10 September Sydney-Singapore-Kuching
Depart Sydney to Kuching, Sarawak via Singapore. Overnight at hotel.

Day 2
Visit the famous Kuching Museum, ride sampans to cross the Sarawak River. Pass the white rajah’s residence, see the orchid garden on the other side of the Kuching Waterfront. Make an offering at a Chinese Buddhist temple. Evening meal in a night market. Sample the famous offerings of satay, kolo mee and other Kuching favourites. After dinner stroll beneath wide trees along the romantic big lazy riverfront. Colonial buildings with the old shops of the bazaar enrich the experience. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 3 Kuching-Bako National Park
Bus to Kampong Bako. Take a long boat to Bako National Park arriving through the mangroves. Immediately encounter unusual plants, tropical littoral abundance. See wildlife such as naughty macaques and proboscis monkeys, wild pigs, an incredible variety of birds and insects. Spot light for shy jungle creatures at night. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Bako National Park
Walk the Lintang trail where practically all vegetation types at Bako can be seen. Forest types range from mangrove to kerangas (heath forest), tropical swamp vegetation, cliff vegetation and beach vegetation. There are several side trails to follow inside the park depending on level of fitness and interest. All the trails have a great variety of vegetation, from mighty 80-metre dipterocarp trees such as Shorea species to dense mangrove forest. Unusual carnivorous pitcher plants and interesting symbiotic relationships are found on the Lintang trail. The park’s coastline is dotted with small bays, coves and beaches. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 5 Bako National Park
Hike the boardwalks through wetlands, swim in secluded jungle pools and on beaches of the South China Sea. Watch proboscis monkeys feeding on jungle fruits. Look for the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Red-crowned Barbet, Woodpeckers, Broadbills, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Babblers, and owls. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6  Bako National Park-Kuching
Proceed back to Kuching. Free at leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 7  Kuching-Mulu National Park
Fly to Mulu National Park. This World Heritage-listed area allows canopy walks and treks that reveal exotic creatures, spectacular caves and stunning limestone karst formations. There is Deer Cave, which can fit five cathedrals the size of London’s Saint Pauls. Another key attraction is Clear Water Cave, the longest cave in Southeast Asia. The massive caves here are home to millions of bats and cave swiftlets that swarm out into the jungle in great clouds every evening at dusk! It is an extraordinary sight. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 8  Mulu National Park
Explore the jungle, photograph elusive butterflies…. There are around 2000 species of plants in the park. As many as eight different species of Hornbill are to be seen, and over 27 species of bat etc. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 9  Mulu National Park
Take a longboat up river tributaries, swim in pristine jungle rivers. Try the Mulu Canopy Skywalk. The Skywalk is the longest tree canopy walk in the world. Relax at the jungle café. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 10  Mulu National Park-Kota Kinabalu
Fly to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (the ‘Land Below the Wind). Evening explore the Phillipino Market. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 11  Kota Kinabalu
Explore Kota Kinabalu – snorkel on tropical islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, visit Kampong Air, the water village, or take the old colonial train to Tenom for lunch. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 12  Kota Kinabalu-Mt. Kinabalu
Bus to the lower slopes of Mt. Kinabalu. Enjoy the walks around the park headquarters. Climb through several ecological zones to experience plant communities ranging from tropical rainforest to the sub-alpine. Stay at hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 13  Mt. Kinabalu
Visit Ranau War Memorial where the Sandakan Death March ended and then travel on to Poring Springs. There are steaming hot pools providing a relaxing place to unwind after trekking the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. Experience another incredible jungle canopy walk in the evening. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14  Mt. Kinabalu-Kota Kinabalu
Maybe see an orangutan. Venture along jungle trails to rarely visited waterfalls. Rest on the way back to Kota Kinabalu. Evening shopping in Kota Kinabalu. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 15  Kota Kinabalu-Singapore-Sydney
Overnight flight to Sydney via Singapore. (Breakfast)

Day 16  Arrive in Sydney

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China, with Angus Stewart

 

OVERVIEW
For those who are looking for a tour that combines ecotourism with experiencing unique local cultures and their gardens, this one will definitely fit the bill. Our tour will be following in the footsteps of a host of famous English plant collectors who, in the late 19th and early 20th century, visited Yunnan province in Southwest China. George Forrest, Kingdon Ward, Delavy and Joseph Rock were among the many who found it difficult to stay away from these parts. They collected a bounty of roots, seeds and cuttings of hundreds of plants which went onto become mainstays of English and indeed worldwide gardens.

Yunnan is one of the most isolated parts of China, and is also one of the most scenic. The mountains that form the eastern end of the Himalayan plateau are awe inspiring as well as botanically breathtaking. Yunnan is home to 25 Chinese minority nationalities, each with their own culture, customs and costumes. Our tour sets aside time to experience the cultural diversity as well as the natural wonders of this unique region.

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Wed 11 May Australia-Singapore
Fly from your capital city to Singapore.

Day 2 Thu 12 May Singapore-Kunming
Fly to Kunming. On arrival, you will be met by our local guide and transferred to the hotel. Welcome dinner tonight. (Dinner)

Day 3 Fri 13 May Kunming-Tengchong
This morning we will visit Kunming Botanical Garden accompanied by a botanist before taking a flight to Tengchong. Tengchong is a laid-back small town in a remote corner of western Yunnan province. This afternoon we will have an orientation tour of Tengchong. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Sat 14 May Tengchong
Tengchong is an old town at relatively low altitude though surrounded by mountains. Today we will visit the grave where the Scottish botanist George Forrest was buried. This is followed by a visit to one of the ancient temples, where we see ancient trees such as ginkgos and cypresses. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 5 Sun 15 May Tengchong-Baoshan
Today we travel by coach to Baoshan, en route we will explore the scenic sites of the Gaoligong Mountain National Nature Reserve, including the forest of the Mt Gaoligong, Yunhua, Qushi and Jietou of Tongcheng. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6 Mon 16 May Baoshan-Dali
Today we depart for Dali by road. Check in to hotel upon arrival. The rest of the day is at your leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch/Diner)

Day 7 Tue 17 May Dali
Cangshan Mountain is one of the richest botanical locations on earth and was a favourite location for 19th century plant hunters. We will have a full day scenic and botanic walk on Cangshan. Also visit Chongshen Monastery with the three tall pagodas for which Dali is famous. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 8 Wed 18 May Dali-Lijiang
Today we say Zaijian to Dali and drive by coach along the scenic road to Lijiang. Along the way we will visit the ethnic villages and Heqing Ancient Town. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 9 Thu 19 May Lijiang
Today we drive north along the eastern flank of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and take the chairlift to 3200m, descending again after a short walk around an alpine wildflower meadow. On the return journey we visit the Yufeng Lamasery to see, amongst other things, the 10,000-flower camellia and ancient michelias. We will also call at the house of the renowned plant hunter Joseph Rock, who lived here for many years collecting plants and studying the Naxi people, and go on to see the old frescoes at Baisha. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 10 Fri 20 May Lijiang
Today we will visit the Black Dragon Pool Park with its interesting plants, architectural features and stunning mountain back drop. This is followed by a visit of Mu’s Mansion, terraced on the side of Lion Hill. Later there will be time for shopping and individual exploration. (Breakfast)

Day 11 Sat 21 May Lijiang-Shangri-La
After breakfast, it’s a spectacular, all day drive alongside the Yangtze to Shangri-La. On the way you’ll visit the awesome Tiger Leaping Gorge. With a drop of 3900 metres it is said to be the world’s deepest gorge. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 12 Sun 22 May Shangri-La
Today in Shangri-La we will get used to the high altitude and visit Sunsanling Monastery, a large complex of Tibetan Buddhism built in 1679, and richly decorated with murals and woodcarving. In the afternoon, there is a visit to the Napa Lake. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 13 Mon 23 May Shangri-La-Deqin
A long but exciting day’s drive by the Upper Yangtze Gorge along the Yunnan-Tibet road with spectacular scenery via Dhondupling Monastery and Baima Pass to Deqin. The Baima nature reserve is the highest reserve in China and an area for alpine medicinal plants and flowers. The Yunnan golden monkey lives on the western part of the reserve near the Mekong River. We pass the reserve on our way to Deqin and stop to walk amongst the spectacular scenery. At Deqin we will see the Meili Snow Mountain, or the Sacred Kawakarpo Mountain as it’s called in Tibetan, which towers to 6,740 metres and is the second most important holy site for Tibetan Buddhism. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14 Tue 24 May Deqin
We drive to the base of Kawakarpo Mountain to Meilungtse Village and travel to its glacier by horseback or on foot, this is a strenuous experience but well worth the effort. For those who would prefer something less active we will also offer an alternative drive back to Baima Mountain where you can explore this area for alpine flowers accompanied by a guide. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 15 Wed 25 May Deqin
Today we will continue to explore the botanical riches of Baima Mountain with a series of short walks. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 16 Thu 26 May Deqin-Shangri-La
Return journey to Shangri-La stopping at the craftsmen’s village of Nixi Valley.
Farewell dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 17 Fri 27 May Shangri-La-Singapore
Transfer to airport for flight to Kunming and connect with Singapore Airlines flight home. (Breakfast)

Day 18 Sat 28 May Arrival in Australia

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Wildflower Tour of Western Australia with Helen Young

Wildflower Tour of Western Australia with Helen Young

 

ITINERARY

Day 1 Monday September 26, 2016 – Fremantle
On arrival in Perth Airport we will be met by our private coach for a guided city tour of the sights of Perth, including the Governor’s Residence, Parliament House and Perth University. We’ll continue to the historic port city of Fremantle to check into our hotel. This evening enjoy a welcome dinner to meet the other tour members and get to know Helen and your tour manager.

Day 2 Tuesday September 27, 2016 – Geraldton
Today we travel north to Geraldton, our base for three nights. On the way, we’ll visit Gingin to view a beautiful display of wild kangaroo paws, then continue to Nambung National Park, home of the Pinnacles, thousands of limestone pillars rising to three and a half metres. These peculiar geological formations were formed by calcified limestone thousands of years ago. From Cervantes, on the coast, we drive through Lesueur National Park, with over 2,000 species of flowering plants. It is the most wildflower-rich belt in the mid-west and offers flora as spectacular as it is varied. We’ll be on the lookout for smoke bush, black kangaroo paw, scarlet feather flower, scholtzia, cowslip orchids, banksias, blue and red leschenaultia and many more. This evening, those wishing to dine with the group can meet Helen and the tour manager in the lobby.

Day 3 Wednesday September 28, 2016 – Geraldton
We will travel to Mullewa, famous for its spectacular wildflowers, including the colourful wreath flower (leschenaultia macrantha), which grows only in this area. Carpets of everlastings are also a feature of the area along with orange bush pomegranate, bright pink native foxgloves, blue dampiera, fringe lilies and many species of orchids, grevilleas, wattles and banksias. We will take a walk around the area. We will also travel across the Coalseam Range, the site of Western Australia’s first coal mine. It comes alive with everlasting wildflowers after good winter rains. Seams of coal and ancient marine fossils are exposed where the Irwin River has cut through the layers of rock.

Day 4 Thursday September 29, 2016 – Geraldton
Today we take a day trip to the pretty fishing village of Kalbarri, travelling through the Kalbarri National Park, which boasts some 800 species of wildflowers. This area displays red river gorges and vast coastal sea cliffs. The Murchison River has cut a magnificent red and white gorge for eighty kilometres to the Indian Ocean, which includes the Z Bend, The Loop and Nature’s Window. At the Red Bluff Lookout, layers of sandstone form dramatic 100m-high cliffs, which loom over the crashing Indian Ocean.

Day 5 Friday September 30, 2016 – Perth
We travel south to Perth today, stopping to visit New Norcia, which was established as a mission over 150 years ago for Aboriginal people. Today it is a charming town and Benedictine monastic community, reflecting the influence of the early Spanish monks. We will have a tour of the monastery and church, and see the olive grove, established in the 1850s, still producing the community’s famous olive oil. Continuing on to Perth, we travel through Yanchep National Park, where many varieties of wildflowers flourish. We will stay in Perth for three nights. Helen and the tour manager will meet in the lobby those wishing to dine with the group.

Day 6 Saturday October 1, 2016 – Perth
We travel to Kings Park, where we will be able to admire the spectacular views over the city and the Swan River. Kings Park showcases an outstanding collection of West Australian flora. Nearly two-thirds of the park is natural bushland, with the balance superbly cultivated gardens and parkland. We will enjoy a guided tour of the remarkable local flora. The afternoon is free for individual exploration.

Day 7 Sunday October 2, 2016 – Perth
This morning we will visit Patsy Durack’s memorable rose garden. Located in the grounds of Kareela, previously owned by Archbishop Clune, it features more than 1,000 roses, including 300 David Austin roses, Delbard French roses and heritage roses. The perfumes are intoxicating. We’ll then visit Deryn Thorpe’s garden. Deryn is a Travelrite International garden tour guide and one of Perth’s most popular gardening personalities. She will take us on a private tour of the cottage garden designed to complement her 100 yearold federation home. The garden contains roses, including many climbers and heritage roses chosen because they have interesting and titillating stories, which Deryn will expand on during our private tour. The roses are underplanted with a variety of perennials and flowering annuals that thrive despite Perth’s sandy, water-repellent soils. The garden has many fruit trees, a herb garden, succulent garden and small vegetable patch.

Day 8 Monday October 3, 2016 – Albany
Our journey today is to Albany on the shore of the Southern Ocean. We’ll travel the Albany Highway, stopping to examine wildflowers en route to Stirling Range National Park, where we will enjoy stunning scenery and magnificent views. The park is a remarkable botanical reserve noted for its distinctive rugged beauty and wildflowers. Grass trees, pea flowers, leschenaultias, blue smoke bush, scarlet banksia and many orchid varieties are just a few of the wildflowers to be found in this area. We continue on to visit the farm garden of Cathy Wright. Cathy organised and created the Rose Maze, which is our next visit, and her garden is excellent. We will visit the Rose Maze at Kojonup, with time to enjoy the roses, have, lunch or buy locally produced handcrafts. The maze uses more than 100 species of Australianbred roses and weaves together the stories of three women to illustrate the hardship of rural life in the early 20th century. Back in Albany, those wishing to dine together can meet Helen and the tour manager in the hotel lobby.

Day 9 Tuesday October 4, 2016 – Albany
This morning we will have a tour of historic Albany, the site of the first European settlement in Western Australia, with its magnificent views of King George Sound. We’ll also view the impressive granite formations of The Gap and Natural Bridge in Torndirrup National Park. In the afternoon we’ll visit the five acres of display gardens at Banksia Farm, which boasts the world’s only complete collection of banksia species. A banksia expert will talk to us about this most distinctively Australian genus of plants. We return to Albany and the rest of the afternoon will be free for individual activity.

Day 10 Wednesday October 5, 2016 – Pemberton
At Bow Bridge, we’ll visit the garden of Tree Elle Retreat, where we’ll enjoy morning tea hosted by the owner. Privately owned, the retreat has different garden rooms in formal styles, including a vegetable potager. Then we will travel through the Valley of the Giants, where karri and jarrah trees tower majestically over the countryside and red tingle trees can have a base circumference of 16m. We’ll take the tree-top walk, through the canopy of the trees, 40m above the forest floor. Around the area we hope to see orchids, kangaroo paws, bottlebrush, flowering gums, dryandras and cone flowers. We will see the enormous Gloucester Tree, towering 72m above the ground. Used as a fire lookout, it has a cabin built 58m up the tree, accessed by 153 spikes that spiral the trunk. We continue to our hotel in Pemberton. Helen and the tour manager will meet those wishing to dine together.

Day 11 Thursday October 6, 2016 – Margaret River
Today we travel to Augusta and then Cape Leeuwin, where the Southern and Indian oceans meet. We then visit Boranup Forest, the prettiest karri forest in Western Australia. On the journey, we’ll look out for wildflowers, such as orchids, wild clematis, brilliant red coral vine, the karri hazel and wattle, before arriving at Margaret River, where we will stay for two nights.

Day 12 Friday October 7, 2016 – Margaret River
This morning the head gardener will show us around the beautifully designed Secret Garden. This is a very special, privately owned garden that is meticulously kept. In spring it features wisteria, clematis, iris and crabapples. Our special farewell lunch will be at Voyager Estate Winery, in its awardwinning restaurant. Around the Cape Dutch buildings, there are beautiful gardens to enjoy, including a large walled garden and two rose gardens.

Day 13 Saturday October 8, 2016 – Return
Heading back to Perth, we first stop at Busselton to see the largest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, then continue to Bunbury, Western Australia’s second largest city. If we’re lucky we will catch a glimpse of dolphins along the coastline. On arrival at Perth airport, we’ll join our return flights home.

Havelock House, Hawke’s Bay

Havelock House, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

 

This elegant colonial style home offers a quiet semi-rural oasis for leisure or business. Designed for relaxation and comfort, enjoy its spacious ensuite rooms, elegant gardens, personalised friendly service, and amazing breakfasts. Havelock North’s finest accommodation awaits you.

Luxurious suites and sitting room
Unwind and relax in one of the three luxurious and spacious king bed and ensuite guestrooms, in their own private guest wing, all enjoying wonderful quiet garden vistas.

Enjoy afternoon tea or a drink on the quiet verandas or by the fireplace in the comfortable guest lounge and browse through the brochures on Hawke’s Bay to plan your next day’s activities.

Snooker or swimming anyone?
The guest lounge is large and comfortable and for the sole use of the guests. A huge games room with full sized snooker table and many books and board games offers a place to relax. Enjoy a game of snooker, get some exercise on the all weather tennis court, or cool off and refresh in summer in the landscaped swimming pool.

Great breakfasts daily
Breakfast at Havelock House is a real highlight of the day and many of our guests return because of it! Breakfast is served in a lovely dining room overlooking the garden or outside on the veranda. The tables are set with crisp white table cloths, linen napkins and fine Wedgwood china. Start each day with a delicious cooked breakfast with eggs, from our own hens, served on individual tables overlooking the gardens.

Relaxing Gardens
The stunning gardens have been described as an oasis with lots of bird song, roses, shady gum and palm trees. With Hawke’s Bay known as “the fruit bowl of New Zealand” of course there are fruit and citrus trees in the 4 acres of garden which you are free to explore. Palm trees surround the swimming pool and there are lots of fragrant roses in the garden.

Location
Havelock House is approximately 4.5 Hours drive from Wellington and 6 hours drive from Auckland and 2.5 hours from Taupo. Havelock House is short 4 minutes drive from Havelock North village, and signed off Middle Road. There is plenty of parking, including for boat trailers.

Hawke’s Bay is a centre for visiting Te Mata Peak, great food – Hawke’s Bay is known as the ‘fruit bowl of New Zealand’ and offers superb dining experiences, lots of wineries, the art-deco city of nearby Napier, craft and food markets, overland safaris to see the gannet nesting grounds at Cape Kidnappers and, of course, loads of outdoor activities like cycling, swimming, walking and golf. And other gardens to visit!

Havelock House
77 Endsleigh Road
Havelock North 4130
Hawke’s Bay 4130. New Zealand

Mandulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge Sri Lanka

Mandulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge Sri Lanka

 

The Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is located on a picturesque 25 acre tea plantation just 30 km away from Sri Lanka’s hill capital of Kandy and approximately 150 km away from Colombo.

Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge commands a majestic view of the UNESCO World Heritage Knuckles Mountain Range – so called due to its shape similar to the knuckles of a clenched fist. It offers 18 secluded lodges with comfortable amenities, specially designed to make your next holiday in Sri Lanka a truly unforgettable one. All lodges are made of high quality tarpaulin canvas specially imported from South Africa. This is the very same material used by many world renowned safari camps especially in campsites all over Africa. Each lodge at the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge can hold a maximum of 3 people and feature:

A front porch with ‘out-of-this-world’ views, comfortable beds, full bathroom with walk-in shower and a separate private WC.

Guests staying at the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge will appreciate the many facilities and services on offer. Some of these facilities include;

  • A real colonial style “planter’s” estate house with:
  • Reception, welcome area and Information Desk
  • A Library with Internet Access and a Business Center
  • An English styled estate Lounge Bar with an impressive stock of beverages
  • A Grand Dining Room and Restaurant with a cozy fireplace
  • A stand alone Infinity Pool offering fabulous views of the Madulkelle Village as well as the majestic Knuckles Mountain range
  • Seating Areas placed within the tea estate, ideal for a quiet read, meditation or just to spend some quiet time alone with nature
  • An Organic Vegetable and Herb Garden yielding fresh vegetables and herbs all year round helps our Chef to prepare fresh and delicious meals daily
  • Drivers’ and guides’ live-in quarters with Onsite Parking
  • opportunities for adventure sports with our highly skilled team
  • hiking and trekking through lush tea plantations, forests, paddy fields and water falls. See unique birds and wildlife, plus overnight camping available.

 

 

Our Garden

We understand and respect your need for healthy meals. Therefore, our hotel has a special garden for fruits, vegetables and herbs. It is grown organically with our staff with the support of two gardeners. We do not use synthesized pesticides and fertilizers, and instead, organic pesticides (Neem extract), and manual methods of pest control and organic fertilizers are been used to produce a healthy harvest.

Around 60% of the vegetables and herbs used in the hotel kitchen are harvested from the garden with the careful supervision of our executive chef. We maintain year- round harvest of carrots, chili varieties, green veggies such as spinach, cabbages, gotukola and many more. The varieties of fruits we have are pineapples, avocados, papaya, guava, wild-strawberries and black-berries, mangos, locuts, and citrus-fruits.

Our Chef adopts food preparation methods in Native medicine called Ayurvedha, as he has family background of it, and he is careful to select the best parts of vegetable and fruits in the best levels of their maturity in order to prepare an excellent dish.

 

Experiments

Our garden is also a place for experiments and knowledge dissemination. We have established a demonstration model of a Micro-home garden suitable for estate line-rooms, which was developed collectively by the Extension department of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, our staff and the InGaDS Sri-Lanka, our advisor in social responsibility. Already, there are around six micro-home gardens established by the Line house dwellers (in our neighbor community) as a results of the knowledge dissemination trough the demonstration model.

Furthermore, we provide our staff the opportunities in gardening, which in turn become a recreational activity for them after their duties.

 

Contact us:

Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge
Madulkelle,
Kandy,
Srilanka.

Telephone: +94 (0)813801052
Fax : +94 (0)719378672
Email : info@madulkelle.com 
Web : www.madulkelle.com

Rosetta House, Durban

Rosetta House, Durban

 

Rosetta House is a gracious Edwardian homestead which has been beautifully restored and successfully established since 1998.

This is where perfect location, fine food, abundant hospitality and attention to detail are keynotes of a memorable stay.

 

Accommodation:
Four luxury en-suite bedrooms (three with own entrance and patio)

All rooms are bright and airy and beautifully decorated with a tasteful blend of specially selected antique and modern pieces.

 

All Rooms:

  • Serviced daily
  • Complimentary (free) Wi-Fi.
  • Flatscreen TV
  • MNET and own DSTV decoder offering The Lodge Bouquet and CNN
  • Ceiling Fan (3 rooms)
  • Low-Energy (Green) Airconditioning (all rooms)
  • Tea/Coffee facilities
  • Fridge
  • Clock radio
  • Hairdryer
  • Complimentary toiletries
  • Desk
  • Safety deposit box

 

Local area:

We offer well-lit, off-street parking and are centrally located in exclusive Morningside (adjacent to the Berea) with easy access to:

  • Florida Road (2 min)
  • International Convention Centre (10 to 15 min)
  • Major sports venues (5 to 10 min)
    (Rugby, Cricket, Golf; Horse Racing)
  • King Shaka International Airport (34 km / 35 min)
  • Beaches (5 min)
  • Clifton School, Durban Prep. and Gordon Road Girls’ School (2 to 5 min)
  • uShaka Marine World (15 min)

The Boomerangs at Johanna

The Boomerangs at Johanna

 

The Boomerangs at Johanna is Great Ocean Road luxury accommodation which is quintessentially Australian. Three award winning boomerang shaped cottages, each with 2 bedrooms, offer guests a truly memorable experience. Set within three acres of magical, landscaped gardens they provide guests with sensational, forest, valley and ocean views. Very quiet and very private. Architecturally designed, the cottages blend with the natural surroundings. Birdlife is prolific and privacy is assured. There is nothing like this in the rest of Australia.

This is an accommodation experience a little out of the ordinary. Come down and put your feet up and take in the spectacular views. Do nothing, go for walks on the beach, visit some of our local attractions, have a BBQ, dine out at a local restaurant or have a massage in the comfort of your own cottage. Free Wifi is available so you can stay in touch if need be. We recommend a stay of at least 2 nights. Anything less will disappoint. The Boomerangs is wheelchair accessible accommodation.

Located in the Great Otway National Park and midway along the Great Ocean Road on the Great Ocean Walk, The Boomerangs at Johanna are perfectly positioned to enable customers to take full advantage of all that the Otways and the Great Ocean Road have to offer. The Great Ocean Walk weaves its way along this rugged and beautiful Victorian coastline in Australia for 91 spectacular kilometres. Base yourself at The Boomerangs to explore sections or all of this incredible walk. Recover each evening in luxury accommodation and ready yourself for the following day’s activity.

Temperate rainforests and waterfalls, exquisite walks, deserted beaches, the 12 Apostles, the Otway Fly and the Cape Otway Lightstation are all just a short drive away. At home in the cottages – let nature reveal herself to you! Of course, natural attractions are not all that’s on offer down here. There are some great towns nearby which have some fantastic cafes and restaurants and shops of all description. Lavers Hill, which is just a few minutes away has numerous cafes where you can get a great cooked breakfast and superb coffee.

Kamahi Cottage, Otorohanga

Kamahi Cottage, Otorohanga

 

Whether you prefer the privacy of your very own self-contained romantic cottage or you’d like to join us over a meal in the homestead, the choice is yours.

Spend a night for a treat, plan a weekend escape or stay longer to relax, unwind and discover our exciting local attractions.

The valley views are breath taking, the location serene and totally private and the setting a beautiful country garden.

As New Zealand’s only 5-Star farm stay, we provide all the extras you expect from a luxury lodge. If you’d like to end your day with dinner delivered to the cottage, or you have a special occasion to celebrate, we can prepare a gourmet dinner complimented with fine New Zealand wines. (Please advise us early to avoid disappointment).

Relax and experience our wonderful scenery and local attractions. (We’re 30 minutes from Waitomo and 15 minutes from Otorohanga.) There’s so much to do in the Waitomo & Otorohanga area – Black Water Rafting, cave abseiling (rappelling), glowworm cave eco-tours, the Otorohanga Kiwi House, horse riding, walking trails, trout fishing, golf, farm and garden tours.

Quick facts:

– Single party occupancy – up to 4 guests

– Family friendly – we welcome children of all ages

– Rates include full gourmet breakfasts

– Queen bedroom upstairs

– Stylish Danish-design sofa converts to a super comfy double bed downstairs

– Modern downstairs lounge and dining area

– Spacious modern bathroom

– Fully equipped kitchenette (ideal for self-catering)

– FREE WiFi available in our home – it’s a short walk through the garden

– Complimentary fresh flowers and exclusive Linden Leaves toiletries, home baked treats, freshly ground coffee, tea assortments, port (and Evan’s potent and delicious home-distilled schnapps!)

– Gourmet dinners by prior arrangement (extra charges apply)